Category : Defense, National Security, Military

(FT) ‘We are now living in a totally new era’ — Henry Kissinger

We are now [faced with] with technologies where the rapidity of exchange, the subtlety of the inventions, can produce levels of catastrophe that were not even imaginable. And the strange aspect of the present situation is that the weapons are multiplying on both sides and their sophistication is increasing every year. But there’s almost no discussion internationally about what would happen if the weapons actually became used.

My appeal in general, on whatever side you are, is to understand that we are now living in a totally new era, and we have gotten away with neglecting that aspect. But as technology spreads around the world, as it does inherently, diplomacy and war will need a different content and that will be a challenge.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Uncategorized

(Economist) The spy in the sky that sees backwards in time

But there is a problem. Explosions are easy to see. For many tasks other than bomber-hunting, however, an awful lot of staring at screens looking for things that are out-of-the-ordinary is involved. People are bad at this—and there is, besides, a lack of willing eyeballs. A study published last year by researchers at the rand Corporation, a think-tank, showed that America’s air force has responded to the flood of data from wami sensors by archiving most of it without inspection. Better means of sifting wami footage are needed. And technology is starting to provide them.

Chips called graphic-processing units, borrowed from the video-game industry, are helping. So is machine learning, the basis of much modern artificial intelligence. But special tricks are also being deployed—for example, a mathematical technique called higher-order moments anomaly detection that can distinguish moving objects reliably from background clutter by looking at groups of pixels in a video and deciding whether their changes from frame to frame are the result of actual movement or just electronic noise.

Meanwhile, wami devices themselves are becoming yet more effective. The latest, announced on April 25th by Transparent Sky, a firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, promises to take the technology to another dimension. Literally. The video images it shoots are 3d rather than the 2d of a normal wami feed.

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Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, Science & Technology

(FA) Sue Gordon and Eric Rosenbach–America’s Cyber-Reckoning: How to Fix a Failing Strategy

A decade ago, the conventional wisdom held that the world was on the cusp of a new era of cyberconflict in which catastrophic computer-based attacks would wreak havoc on the physical world. News media warned of doomsday scenarios; officials in Washington publicly fretted about a “cyber–Pearl Harbor” that would take lives and destroy critical infrastructure. The most dire predictions, however, did not come to pass. The United States has not been struck by devastating cyberattacks with physical effects; it seems that even if U.S. adversaries wanted to carry out such assaults, traditional forms of deterrence would prevent them from acting.

Behind those mistaken warnings lay an assumption that the only alternative to cyberpeace must be cyberwar. But in the years since, it has become clear that like all realms of conflict, the domain of cyberspace is shaped not by a binary between war and peace but by a spectrum between those two poles—and most cyberattacks fall somewhere in that murky space. The obvious upside of this outcome is that the worst fears of death and destruction have not been realized. There is a downside, however: the complex nature of cyberconflict has made it more difficult for the United States to craft an effective cyberstrategy. And even if lives have not been lost and infrastructure has mostly been spared, it is hardly the case that cyberattacks have been harmless. U.S. adversaries have honed their cyber-skills to inflict damage on U.S. national security, the American economy, and, most worrisome of all, American democracy. Meanwhile, Washington has struggled to move past its initial perception of the problem, clinging to outmoded ideas that have limited its responses. The United States has also demonstrated an unwillingness to consistently confront its adversaries in the cyber-realm and has suffered from serious self-inflicted wounds that have left it in a poor position to advance its national interests in cyberspace.

To do better, the United States must focus on the most pernicious threats of all: cyberattacks aimed at weakening societal trust, the underpinnings of democracy, and the functioning of a globalized economy. The Biden administration seems to recognize the need for a new approach. But to make significant progress, it will need to reform the country’s cyberstrategy, starting with its most fundamental aspect: the way Washington understands the problem.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

(TLS) Niall Ferguson reviews ‘The Age of AI: And Our Human Future’ by by Henry A Kissinger, Eric Schmidt and Daniel Huttenlocher

It had never occurred to me until I read The Age of AI that what differentiates AI from HI – human intelligence – is that even the most brilliant human chess player rules out ex ante certain moves that involve very high sacrifice. But AlphaZero plays chess “without reflection or volition, with strict adherence to the rules”. It is unbeatable partly because it has inferred from the rules certain tactics – and hence, cumulatively, a strategy – that HI would never consider.

The other obvious difference is that AI is much, much faster than HI. As the authors note, “An AI … scanning for targets follows its own logic, which may be inscrutable to an adversary and unsusceptible to traditional signals and feints – and which will, in most cases, proceed faster than the speed of human thought”. The idea of an AI program waging war, rather than playing chess, with the same ruthlessness and speed is deeply frightening. No doubt DeepMind is already working on AlphaHero. One imagines with a shudder the programme sacrificing entire armies or armadas as readily as its chess-playing predecessor sacrificed its queen. No doubt the reader should feel reassured that the United States has committed itself to develop only “AI-enabled weapons”, as opposed to “AI weapons … that make lethal decisions autonomously from human operators”. “Created by humans, AI should be overseen by humans”, the authors declare. But why should America’s undemocratic adversaries exercise the same restraint? Inhuman intelligence sounds like the natural ally of regimes that are openly contemptuous of human rights.

If the foe of the future is literally inhuman as well as inhumane, how shall we be able to defend ourselves? The varieties of deterrence that evolved during the first Cold War, up to and including Mutually Assured Destruction, seem unlikely to apply to AI war. Because, unlike nuclear weapons, AI will be widely used in multiple ways and at multiple scales, “the achievement of mutual strategic restraint … will be more difficult than before”. That seems an understatement. I have thought for some time that there may simply be no deterrence in the areas of cyberwar and information warfare.

We are left with only two possibilities. “For nations”, the authors note, “disconnection could become the ultimate form of defense.” This makes sense. The past five years have vividly revealed the dangers of a hyperconnected world. Without effective circuit-breakers that sever network links at the first indication of hazardous contagion, we are as vulnerable to cyberattack as we were to fake news in 2016 or a novel pathogen in 2020.

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Posted in Books, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Military / Armed Forces, Science & Technology

(Economist Leader) What would America fight for?

Unfortunately, America is tiring of its role as guarantor of the liberal order. The giant has not exactly fallen asleep again, but its resolve is faltering and its enemies are testing it. Vladimir Putin is massing troops on the border with Ukraine and could soon invade. China is buzzing Taiwan’s airspace with fighter jets, using mock-ups of American aircraft-carriers for target practice and trying out hypersonic weapons. Iran has taken such a maximalist stance at nuclear talks that many observers expect them to collapse. Thus, two autocratic powers threaten to seize land currently under democratic control, and a third threatens to violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty by building a nuclear bomb. How far would America go to prevent such reckless acts?

Joe Biden can sound forceful, at times. On December 7th he warned Mr Putin of severe consequences if Russia were to launch another attack on Ukraine. He has maintained sanctions on Iran. And in October he said that America had a “commitment” to defend Taiwan, though aides insisted policy has not changed. (America has long refused to say whether it would send forces to repel a Chinese invasion, so as not to encourage any Taiwanese action that might provoke one.) China was left wondering whether Mr Biden misspoke or was craftily hinting at a more robust stance. On December 7th America’s House of Representatives passed a big boost to the defence budget. Also this week Mr Biden was to hold a “Summit for Democracy”, to encourage countries that respect the rules to club together.

And yet, as our Briefing explains, America has become reluctant to use hard power across much of the world.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Politics in General

(WSJ) China Seeks First Military Base on Africa’s Atlantic Coast, U.S. Intelligence Finds

Classified American intelligence reports suggest China intends to establish its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean in the tiny Central African country of Equatorial Guinea, according to U.S. officials.

The officials declined to describe details of the secret intelligence findings. But they said the reports raise the prospect that Chinese warships would be able to rearm and refit opposite the East Coast of the U.S.—a threat that is setting off alarm bells at the White House and Pentagon.

Principal deputy U.S. national security adviser Jon Finer visited Equatorial Guinea in October on a mission to persuade President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his son and heir apparent, Vice President Teodoro “Teodorin” Nguema Obiang Mangue, to reject China’s overtures.

“As part of our diplomacy to address maritime-security issues, we have made clear to Equatorial Guinea that certain potential steps involving [Chinese] activity there would raise national-security concerns,” said a senior Biden administration official.

The great-power skirmishing over a country that rarely draws outside attention reflects the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The two countries are sparring over the status of Taiwan, China’s testing of a hypersonic missile, the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and other issues.

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Posted in Africa, America/U.S.A., China, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Bloomberg) In America’s Next War, Machines Will Do the Thinking

TH: Where do you think that the Pentagon most needs to engage these innovative companies and people? Is it AI? Unmanned systems? Communications networks?

CB: All of it, but primarily autonomy. Autonomy — enabled by artificial intelligence, edge computing and other technologies — allows you to operate at scales and speeds that you simply cannot do under the traditional model of big, expensive, heavily manned systems that, no matter how much money you throw at them, will only be able to do a limited number of things. The problem is that China has been developing very precise capabilities to disrupt, disable, degrade and destroy those limited numbers of big things. This is our strategic problem. This is why our future force needs larger numbers of cheaper, more autonomous systems.

We’re not talking about photon torpedoes and intergalactic space travel. We’re talking about systems that are already in existence; that are imminently fieldable if we move with the right sense of urgency.

TH: In your book, you wrote a bit about the ethics of this and taking the human out of the “kill chain.” Is that something that’s going to happen?

CB: Yes, in time human beings will need to rely more on intelligent machines to help them understand, decide and act in warfare.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Books, China, Defense, National Security, Military, Science & Technology

(NYT) Why Australia Bet the House on Lasting American Power in Asia

When Scott Morrison became Australia’s prime minister three years ago, he insisted that the country could maintain close ties with China, its largest trading partner, while working with the United States, its main security ally.

“Australia doesn’t have to choose,” he said in one of his first foreign policy speeches.

On Thursday, Australia effectively chose. Following years of sharply deteriorating relations with Beijing, Australia announced a new defense agreement in which the United States and Britain would help it deploy nuclear-powered submarines, a major advance in Australian military strength.

With its move to acquire heavy weaponry and top-secret technology, Australia has thrown in its lot with the United States for generations to come — a “forever partnership,” in Mr. Morrison’s words. The agreement will open the way to deeper military ties and higher expectations that Australia would join any military conflict with Beijing.

It’s a big strategic bet that America will prevail in its great-power competition with China and continue to be a dominant and stabilizing force in the Pacific even as the costs increase.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NY Times front page) U.S. Built the Afghan Military Over 20 Years. Will It Last One More?

The Taliban attack on a police outpost at the edge of the city began at dusk, with the muted chatter of machine-gun fire and the thud of explosions. The men under attack radioed Capt. Mohammed Fawad Saleh at his headquarters, several miles away, desperate for help.

The police captain replied that he would send more men, along with one can of machine-gun ammunition — 200 rounds, not enough for even a minute of intensive fire.

“One can?” the voice on the other end of the radio responded, incredulously.

Ammunition shortages are just one of the serious and systemic issues plaguing soldiers and police officers who will soon have to defend Afghanistan — and themselves — without U.S. aircraft overhead or American troops on the ground.

“We’re holding the weight of the war,” Captain Saleh said as the attack unfolded in January. Yet one ammunition can was all he could spare.

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Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(Noema Magazine) James Crabtree–China’s Radical New Vision Of Globalization

But then came the interesting part. “Since the beginning of this year, I have said on many occasions that we must promote the formation of a new development pattern, in which domestic and international cycles are the mainstay, and the domestic and international dual cycles promote each other,” Xi said. To an outsider, this might seem unremarkable, cloaked as it is in the elliptical phraseology that often marks Chinese economic ideas. But the “dual circulation” strategy Xi outlined actually represents a radical new understanding of globalization and of China’s place within it.

More than just a buzzword, dual circulation describes the deeply pessimistic worldview that has settled over Beijing. Once China’s leaders saw opportunity in globalization. Now, they expect the U.S. and its allies to deny China the technology it needs to build “a modern socialist country” by mid-century, meaning a wealthy superpower fit to rival the U.S. Although likely to be less pugilistic, Beijing rightly believes an incoming Biden administration will also press forward with policies designed to stop advanced technologies finding their way into Beijing’s hands. Chinese thinking has long valorized self-reliance, dating back to ideas developed by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong during the country’s civil war, which ended with the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Now, Trump’s tariffs, as well as his campaigns against companies like Huawei and TikTok, have given new impetus to the modern form of self-reliance Xi dubs “internal” development.

Many experts have noted a changing Western consensus on China, as leaders in Washington abandoned the idea that economic modernization would inevitably lead to political liberalization in Beijing. But there has been a comparable shift in China’s internal conversation on the West too. Beginning with semiconductors but potentially expanding to all manner of other areas, China now expects it will have to develop technologically on its own. Xi’s new theory now sits at the heart of the country’s 14th five-year plan, which covers development from 2021 to 2025, and was unveiled in draft form in October. The result will accelerate China’s decoupling from the West, while also increasing the importance of trading links forged with other parts of the world — for instance, via Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative. Put more bluntly, while the world was distracted by the drama of the U.S. presidential election, Xi quietly unveiled an economic strategy fit for a new Cold War. Both for China and for globalization itself, the results are likely to be profound.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Al Jezeera) Sudan to strike peace with rebels after decades of war

Sudan’s government and rebels are set to sign a landmark peace deal in a bid to end decades of war in which hundreds of thousands have died – an historic achievement if it holds.

Ending Sudan’s internal conflicts has been a top priority of the transition government in power since last year’s removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir amid a popular uprising.

Both sides are due to sign the deal in full on Saturday in Juba, the capital of neighbouring South Sudan, after putting their initials on the agreement at the end of last month.

The location of the ceremony holds great significance – South Sudan’s leaders themselves battled Khartoum as rebels for decades, before establishing the world’s newest nation-state.

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Posted in Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Sudan, Violence

(BBC) Dozens of world leaders attend the the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp at the Yad Vashem remembrance centre

The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is the largest diplomatic event in Israel’s history.

More than 40 dignitaries attended and laid wreaths, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, US Vice-President Mike Pence and the Prince of Wales, who is making his first official trip to the Holy Land.

In the opening address, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin thanked them “for your commitment to remembering the Shoah [Holocaust], for your commitment to the citizens of the world, to those who believe in the dignity of man”.

He said their countries should not take for granted the common values that people fought for in World War Two, such as democracy and freedom, saying that Jewish people “remember because we understand that if we do not remember then history can be repeated”.

“Anti-Semitism does not only stop with Jews,” he warned. “Racism and anti-Semitism is a malignant disease that dismantles people and countries, and no society and no democracy is immune to that.”

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Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, History, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NBC) How U.S. troops helped this young Afghani pianist pursue his dreams

Here is the NBC blurb:

Elham Fanous grew up in Afghanistan. At the time, the Taliban had made playing or listening to music a crime, but American forces put an end to that in 2001, when Elham was four. He is now headed to grad school at the Manhattan School of Music, and says none of it would have happened without the U.S. troops who gave music back to the Afghan people.


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Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Immigration, Music, War in Afghanistan, Young Adults

(Local Paper) From making fighter jets to food rations, war is big business in South Carolina

War is big business in South Carolina.

A Post and Courier analysis of five years’ worth of the most recent spending data from the Pentagon’s Office of Economic Adjustment shows $13.1 billion worth of Department of Defense contracts were performed or awarded in the Palmetto State.

Also: One out of every 12 jobs in the state can be traced back to the military.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy

(PAW) Exploring the Ecological Cost of War

In the Nature study, they found that between 1946 and 2010, conflict had occurred in 71 percent of protected areas in Africa. During that time, animal populations in conflict-free areas were roughly stable. As conflict levels increased, however, wildlife populations fell dramatically. To quantify this, the researchers calculated the frequency of conflict in each location and compared it with corresponding wildlife populations. Even one outbreak of violence every 20 to 50 years could push animal populations into decline. Every 10 percent increment in conflict frequency added another 2 percent to the annual rate of wildlife population decline — meaning the longer conflicts went on, the greater the effect.

“Even a small amount of conflict can be severely destabilizing to locals’ livelihoods, in ways that end up having detectable negative effects on wildlife,” [Robert] Pringle says. The researchers examined other factors, such as climate change, drought, corruption, and socioeconomic welfare, and no other factor came close to having the same effect.

On the other hand, even in areas with the most conflict, wildlife populations rarely went extinct, they found. That’s consistent with the idea that populations declined due to poaching, rather than wholesale habitat destruction. That fact offers some hope for even the continent’s most severely affected areas, implying that when the conflicts subside, the remaining animals can seed new populations. “Governments and conservation areas shouldn’t give up on these post-conflict landscapes as totally lost,” says [Joshua] Daskin.

In fact, adds Pringle, restoring them can help rebuild the country in more ways than one….

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Posted in Africa, Animals, Defense, National Security, Military, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Violence

Watch CNN’s ‘1968’ and Relive a Tumultuous Year

The most exciting thing on TV this Memorial Day weekend is the documentary series 1968: The Year That Changed America, produced by Tom Hanks, 61, who besides his movie star gig rivals Ken Burns, 64, as America’s leading historian onscreen. Hanks should get his 16th Emmy nomination for this two-night, four-part, deep dive into a year that outdoes 2018 for tumultuous changes — many of which have a familiar ring.

There’s a controversial game-changer president (Lyndon Johnson) with historically low approval ratings, bloody political riots, a crisis in Korea, a fractured nation at endless war abroad (and also with itself) and an unprecedentedly close — and ugly —presidential election nearly upended by charges of illegal foreign interference.

And it all looked so promising when 1968 began. In the documentary, we hear Johnson crowing about his Medicare and Medicaid programs helping 25 million Americans, and Jesse Jackson noting, “In terms of civil rights, no tree in the forest is as tall as Abe Lincoln, except Lyndon Johnson.” Then all hell breaks loose, cities erupt in flames, George Wallace leads a third-party candidacy that fails (yet also forged the new coalition that now rules America) and Johnson wonders why the people he did so much for turned on him so bitterly.

1968 clarifies why Americans turned on each other in ways that still affect us today.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Vietnam, Violence

(CNBC) The next 9/11 will be a cyberattack, security expert warns

A cyberattack of devastating proportions is not a matter of if, but when, numerous security experts believe.

And the scale of it, one information security specialist said this week, will be such that it will have its own name — like Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

“The more I speak to people, the more they think that the next Pearl Harbor is going to be a cyberattack,” cybersecurity executive and professional hacker Tarah Wheeler told a panel audience during the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) annual forum in Paris.

“I think that the most horrifying cybersecurity attack is going to have its own name and I think it’s going to involve something more terrifying than we’ve thought of yet.”

Wheeler is CEO and principal security advisor at Red Queen Technologies, a cybersecurity fellow at Washington, D.C.-based think tank New America, and former cybersecurity czar at multinational software firm Symantec.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Defense, National Security, Military, Ecology, Ethics / Moral Theology

(NYT) Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey of Americans Finds

For seven decades, “never forget” has been a rallying cry of the Holocaust remembrance movement.

But a survey released Thursday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, found that many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened — and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18 to 34.

Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. Only 39 percent of Americans know that Hitler was democratically elected.

“As we get farther away from the actual events, 70-plus years now, it becomes less forefront of what people are talking about or thinking about or discussing or learning,” said Matthew Bronfman, a board member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which commissioned the study. “If we wait another generation before you start trying to take remedial action, I think we’re really going to be behind the eight ball.”

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Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Judaism, Poland, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Violence

(NPR) Stanislav Petrov, ‘The Man Who Saved The World,’ Dies At 77

Stanislav Petrov was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Defense Forces, and his job was to monitor his country’s satellite system, which was looking for any possible nuclear weapons launches by the United States.

He was on the overnight shift in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 1983, when the computers sounded an alarm, indicating that the U.S. had launched five nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it,” Petrov told the BBC in 2013.

It was already a moment of extreme tension in the Cold War. On Sept. 1 of that year, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Air Lines plane that had drifted into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including a U.S. congressman. The episode led the U.S. and the Soviets to exchange warnings and threats.

Petrov had to act quickly. U.S. missiles could reach the Soviet Union in just over 20 minutes….

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, History, Russia

An Interesting Look Back in History–President Woodrow Wilson’s April 1917 Speech to Congress urging them to join the allies in World War I

We are accepting this challenge of hostile purpose because we know that in such a government, following such methods, we can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what purpose, there can be no assured security for the democratic governments of the world. We are now about to accept gage of battle with this natural foe to liberty and shall, if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to check and nullify its pretensions and its power. We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretence about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Just because we fight without rancour and without selfish object, seeking nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to share with all free peoples, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we profess to be fighting for.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Germany, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President

(CT) Drone Dilemma: Should Christian Aid Groups Use a Military Symbol?

If someone gets ill in Contanama, Peru—a remote village in the Amazon rainforest—the nearest pharmacy is 50 miles away. The journey takes six hours by road. But medicines can be delivered by a small drone—or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)—to the local doctor in 35 minutes.

This technological breakthrough, like many others in history, was originally designed for use in war. Developed by the United States and the United Kingdom during the Iraq conflict, drones are becoming a mainstay of organizations delivering humanitarian aid to remote developing world communities. For example, last month drones surveyed the damage from coastal flooding in Peru, sending video footage otherwise too difficult to obtain.

The same month, President Donald Trump rolled back rules in order to make drone strikes even easier, including lowering the threshold for civilian casualties and pushing against the theology behind just war theory. Punctuating this shift from Obama-era policies, a disputed drone strike in Syria killed 42 people in mid-March. (The US government says it killed al Qaeda militants, while activists and local residents maintain that it attacked civilians at a mosque.)

Christians have debated whether drones should be used in war at all. The wartime reputation of drones means they are not always welcomed in aid efforts either.

Read it all.

Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(FT) US and North Korea on collision course, says China

China’s foreign minister has warned the Trump administration that it is on a collision course with North Korea and called on Washington to halt military exercises with Seoul to avoid conflict.

While Wang Yi also called on North Korea to suspend its missile and nuclear programmes, his direct challenge to President Donald Trump — who has warned Pyongyang that its goal of building a nuclear warhead that can reach US soil “won’t happen” — was unusual in its bluntness.

“The two sides are like two accelerating trains coming towards each other with neither side willing to give way. The question is, are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision?” Mr Wang told reporters in Beijing. “Given the situation, our priority now is to flash the red light and apply brakes on both trains.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, North Korea, Politics in General

(ABC Aus) South Sudan famine declared as 100,000 people face starvation

It takes a lot to declare a famine.

If a population can’t find enough food it’s not strictly a famine. Nor is it famine if one third of the population is severely malnourished.

The United Nations’ definition of famine is when three conditions coincide: at least 20 per cent of a population faces extreme food shortages, 30 per cent of people experience acute malnutrition, and at least two people per 10,000 die every day.

This week both the UN and the World Food Program agreed with South Sudan’s decision to declare a state of famine in parts of the country’s south.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --South Sudan, Africa, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Poverty, Sudan, Theology

([London] Times) Dementia patients in Austria and Germany are still fighting the war 75 years on

Pensioners in Germany and Austria are suffering from delayed trauma caused by their experiences in the Second World War, resulting in assaults and threatening behaviour towards care home staff.

The problem is getting worse because the generation of children born after 1929, who were too young to fight in the war but old enough to witness its horrors, are now entering homes and hospices where suppressed memories are resurfacing, home managers and psychologists said.

Last month, an 83-year-old man pulled a pistol on two nurses in a care home in Altheim, Austria, after they found him in a corridor in his wheelchair during the night. They fled and called the police, who overpowered him. Last August, in the western German city of Münster, an 83-year-old man in a care home killed a 74-year-old man with whom he shared a room.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Austria, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Health & Medicine, History, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Violence

(The Hill) Evangelical leaders buy ad denouncing Trump refugee ban

“As Christians, we have a historic call expressed over two thousand years, to serve the suffering. We cannot abandon this call now.”

The evangelical leaders acknowledge the world is dangerous, adding that they “affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and in setting in terms on refugee admissions.”

“However, compassion and security can coexist, as they have for decades,” the ad says. “For the persecuted and suffering, every day matters; every delay is a crushing blow to hope.”

“While we are eager to welcome persecuted Christians, we also welcome vulnerable Muslims and people of other faiths or no faith at all,” the ad says.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(FT) David Pilling–Nigeria’s president is missing in action

There are signs that Nigerians ”” among the most resilient and adaptive people on the continent ”” are losing patience. This week, there were small, but rowdy, protests in Lagos and Abuja, at which demonstrators complained about their “missing president”.

There is an irony that Mr Buhari, a retired major general, is missing in action. He ran the country as a military ruler in the mid-1980s after seizing power in a coup. In civilian guise, his leadership style has verged on the invisible. After winning power in 2015 on the fourth attempt at the ballot box, he set out at a pace that has marked his presidency: it took him six months to name a cabinet. Hopes that he had surrounded himself with a lean team of capable technocrats empowered to get policy cranking have come to naught. Policymaking ”” such that it is ”” has been crafted instead by a tiny cabal of loyal, less qualified, stalwarts. Mr Buhari has failed to articulate anything approaching a vision.

During his campaign, Nigeria’s soldier-turned-politician promised to train his sight on three main objectives: to improve security, crack down on corruption and diversify the oil-dependent economy. Progress on the first two has been patchy, and on the third dismal.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theology

(Telegraph) ISIS recruiting child refugees as they head to Europe

Hundreds of asylum-seeking young people are going missing from care once they arrive in Britain, amid concerns they have been targeted for radicalisation by extremist groups during their journey to the UK, a think tank report has warned.

Militant groups such as Islamic State are deliberately preying on vulnerable young people for recruitment, as they make the perilous journey across the Middle East and north Africa, to Europe.

Extremists try to “buy” the allegiance of migrants and make them feel indebted, by working with people traffickers and funding their travel, the research by the Quilliam Foundation found.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Immigration, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Theology, Violence

(WaPo) Trump wants to push back against Iran, but Iran is now more powerful than ever

President Trump’s tough talk on Iran is winning him friends in the Arab world, but it also carries a significant risk of conflict with a U.S. rival that is now more powerful than at any point since the creation of the Islamic republic nearly 40 years ago.

With its warning last week that Iran is “on notice,” the Trump administration signaled a sharp departure from the policies of President Barack Obama, whose focus on pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran eclipsed historic U.S. concerns about Iranian expansionism and heralded a rare period of detente between Washington and Tehran.

Many in the region are now predicting a return to the tensions of the George W. Bush era, when U.S. and Iranian operatives fought a shadow war in Iraq, Sunni-Shiite tensions soared across the region and America’s ally Israel fought a brutal war with Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, Theology

(CC) Philip Jenkins–Ethiopia's Martyred Monks

Italian television recently broadcast a heartrending documentary about one of the largest single acts of mass Christian martyrdom in the 20th century. This happened in 1937 when soldiers and militias slaughtered some 300 Ethiopian monks at one of the country’s holiest religious houses. In this instance, the perpetrators were neither communists nor Islamists but Catholic Italians, serving the fascist regime of Benito Mus­solini. That massacre at Debre Libanos was one in­stance in a larger campaign of several years’ duration in which Ethi­o­pian monasteries and churches were systematically bombed and subjected to mustard gas attacks. Outside Ethiopia, the persecutions remain largely unknown.

In popular memory, fascist Italy has always been regarded as a less pernicious member of the Axis powers, but in his colonial policies Mussolini yielded nothing to Hitler. In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia, and in the words of its local commander, Rodolfo Graziani, “the Duce will have Ethiopia, with or without the Ethiopians.”

The savage Italian campaign ultimately killed several hundred thousand Ethio­pians””some sources say a million. Graziani envisaged the extermination of all local chiefs and elites, much as Hitler would later attempt in Poland. Given the profound identification of the Ethiopi­an church with national spirit, Italian forces particularly targeted religious establishments….

A global church must have a global memory. Let’s never forget Debre Libanos.

Read it all (this appeared in the Christian Century print edition of January 18, 2017 on page 45).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anthropology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ethiopia, Europe, Italy, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Violence

Who will protect Nigeria’s northern Christians?

Another day in northern Nigeria, another Christian village reeling from an attack by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen who used to be their neighbours ”” and who are now cleansing them from the area. The locals daren’t collect the freshest bodies. Some who tried earlier have already been killed, spotted by the waiting militia and hacked down or shot. The Fulani are watching everything closely from the surrounding mountains. Every week, their progress across the northern states of Plateau and Kaduna continues. Every week, more massacres ”” another village burned, its church razed, its inhabitants slaughtered, raped or chased away. A young woman, whose husband and two children have just been killed in front of her, tells me blankly, ”˜Our parents told us about these people. But we lived in relative peace and we forgot what they said.’

For the outside world, what is happening to the Christians of northern Nigeria is both beyond our imagination and beneath our interest. These tribal-led villages, each with their own ”˜paramount ruler’, were converted by missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. But now these Christians ”” from the bishop down ”” sense that they have become unsympathetic figures, perhaps even an embarrassment, to the West. The international community pretends that this situation is a tit-for-tat problem, rather than a one-sided slaughter. Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the press fails to report or actively obscures the situation. Christians in the south of the country feel little solidarity with their co-religionists suffering from this Islamic revivalism and territorial conquest in the north. And worst of all, the plight of these people is of no interest to their own government. In fact, this ethnic and religious cleansing appears to be taking place with that government’s complicity or connivance.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence