Despite a recent CBS/New York Times poll that noted a clear majority of Americans do not wish to be involved in the Syrian conflict, the U.S. has significant interests in the struggle, primarily because of the regional instability caused by the war.
- Syria borders Turkey—a NATO member with which the U.S. has a military alliance and a mutual defense treaty—and Israel. The fighting could easily spill over into those countries, drawing the U.S. into the conflict.
- Syria also borders Lebanon and Jordan, two countries on already shaky political footing. The war is already causing internal security problems in those nations.
The Syrian conflict is creating a humanitarian crisis both inside and outside of the country.
- The UN estimated in April that 70,000 people have been killed in two years of fighting.
- The UN further estimated that the war has created 1.4 million refugees, with over a million of those in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.
The refugees are placing enormous pressure on these nations’ economies and infrastructure, potentially destabilizing them as summer approaches and water, food, and power resources are strained even further.
For more info, read our new policy memo: What is America’s Best Bad Option in Syria?
By Mieke Eoyang & Ed Gerwin
Last week, the Pentagon came out and said it: Cyberintrusions on Defense Department computer systems, as well as economic and defense industrial base sectors are “directly attributable to the Chinese government and military.” China’s cyberintrusions are a serious matter. But why does China’s hacking strike everyone as beyond the pale?
Of course China wants to steal our secrets – after all, espionage is considered the second oldest profession. It’s also hardly surprising that China is cyberspying on America’s defense industrial base to gain military advantage. Governments, no doubt including ours, do this all the time.
Critics call for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant, but this is ill-informed and counterproductive because:
- The Boston Marathon Bombers don’t fit the enemy combatant definition;
- Labeling them enemy combatants throws the case into legal limbo; and
- Law enforcement has a proven record of handling terrorism cases.
Our newest Making the Case memo offers recommendations on how to respond to criticism aimed at law enforcement and the Administration since the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
READ: Making the Case: How to Respond to Critics on the Boston Marathon Bombings
Counterterrorism Expert Aki Peritz Discusses Hunt For Boston Marathon Bombing Suspects
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) — Was it domestic terrorism, international terrorism, or could a lone bomber be responsible? Those are key questions now for the FBI after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Aki Peritz, a counter terrorism expert and author of “Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism campaigns that killed Bin Laden and devastated Al Qaeda,” talked to us on Tuesday afternoon.
Peritz told us, “We have to allow the professionals in the law enforcement community to make their decisions and not do it hastily. What we saw in previous instances was that people jumped the gun. People came to conclusions too fast. That’s not something we want to do in such a high profile case like this.”
He described some of the first steps law enforcement takes in the aftermath of this tragedy and others like it: “One of the things is we’re going to have law enforcement sort of make sure the area is secure. They’re going to have very, very trained individuals go through the crime scene and look for evidence. The next thing they’re going to do is they’re going to work with both federal, state and local organizations to determine whether there is a domestic nexus or international nexus. As you know, the government has not actually said who they think is culpable for this attack….we’re going to see this played out over the next couple of days or maybe weeks.”
Pertiz does not think law enforcement knows who is responsible for the attacks yet. “If they knew, let’s say, a terrorist organization that was a foreign terrorist organization, they would have said something by now. I think the smart thing to do is to let the law enforcement folks and the intelligence folks do their business, because this is what they’ve been doing for the last 10 years.”
We asked Peritz is he was surprised that something like this could happen at a Boston Marathon. His reply: “Not at all. The Boston Marathon is obviously a very high profile American event. A lot of people are there. Cameras are there. The media is there. And if Iwere a terrorist, I would want to attack something like this.”
About moving forward from the frightening experience, Peritz said, “The more important issue is looking at things through a prism of resilience. These things will happen, but we are a resilient nation and we will continue forward. At the end of the day, terrorists are not going to collapse American civilization. Only we have that power.”
Only seven people have been convicted in military tribunals between 2001 & 2010—two of them are already free, including Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver. Our newest memo will help you make the case for we should keep terrorists in the federal court system instead of in a military legal limbo.
READ: Making the Case: Why We Should Try Terrorists in Federal Courts
By Aki Peritz, Third Way
Egypt’s tenuous steps toward democratic governance are stumbling – badly. The country is lurching toward financial ruin, brutal street protests are erupting between political factions, the president indulges in anti-Semitism, and the Muslim Brotherhood continually cracks down on opposition forces and the media using tactics similar to those of the Mubarak government. Coptic Christians remain targets for discrimination and physical attack, and the number of women being publicly assaulted is exploding.
More ominously, bread rations will be slashed this summer, portending new riots. And depressingly, secular political forces do not seem to be coherently organizing to challenge the Brotherhood at the ballot box, as liberal opposition leader Mohammed el-Baradei has called for a boycott of upcoming elections.
Now, there is a steady drumbeat by certain members of Congress to reduce or withhold altogether $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt until Cairo gets its act together – or until the Muslim Brotherhood relinquishes power. This would be a mistake for America. Why? Because what some in the House and Senate and others forget is that we don’t really have a credible alternative for governance of the world’s largest Arab country.
By Mieke Eoyang and Aki Peritz
As regular as springtime allergy season is in Washington, the “China threat” is in the newspapers again. We’ve all heard about how China’s military is saber-rattling over disputed rocks off the coast of Taiwan, building up ports across the Indian Ocean, and even testing a new(ish) aircraft carrier.
All important developments, yes, but there’s an unspoken security threat emanating from China that, unlike a new Yuan-class submarine or a fleet of semi-stealthy jets, affects millions of Americans today. The more immediate national security threat is China’s continuing failure to address its health and safety problems through effective regulation.
“Huh?” you might ask. China’s systemic, continuing failure to clean up its industries affects the air Americans breathe, the food Americans eat, the drugs Americans take, and even the toys America’s children play with. Protecting the safety and health of our citizens is a core security challenge for US policymakers. This is the concern that should be addressed—now.
By Mieke Eoyang and Aki Peritz
We’re overdue for an updating of the missile defense debate. A lot of folks remember the Reagan-era missile defense system called the Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI, derisively known as “Star Wars.” At the time, Reagan promised a shield in space to defend against hostile attack, but multiple problems quickly emerged—for example, opponents said it would be technologically impossible to use missiles to strike incoming multiple Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles using a technology that did not yet exist.
Another challenge with SDI is that it undermined the theory of deterrence. After all, if one nuclear power had little to fear from another—Reagan promised in his second inaugural address that SDI would render “nuclear weapons obsolete”—the idea of nuclear retaliation would disappear and would allow for the first use of nuclear weapons. Finally, Reagan’s SDI was a huge financial sinkhole costing billions and billions of dollars. F or example, in 1987 the White House requested $5.4 billion for the system, while the next highest request was to procure F/A-18 jets for the Navy … for only $2.8 billion.
Defense Spending Over Time
This chart shows DOD spending in a historical context. During wartime, defense spending increases; following the end of conflict, America traditionally reduces its defense spending. As you can see, we are currently in a budgetary drawdown following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This graphic is from our new primer, “Defense Spending and Sequestration.”
To learn more about the consequences of sequestration to the national and state economies, read our new report: ”Cheating the Future: The Price of Not Fixing Entitlements.”
The Defense Budget Process
When all is working normally, Congress and the Executive Branch work together to set the annual defense budget before it starts. This diagram represents what should happen.
This graphic is from our new primer, “Defense Spending and Sequestration.”
By Aki Peritz
It’s welcome news to hear French and Malian troops have almost fully liberated northern Mali from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, and the other jihadists who turned much of the country into a neo-Taliban state. Let’s take this opportunity to reflect on how to wage war against al Qaeda in the post-Osama bin Laden era.
1. Let our allies shoulder the security burden.
For more than a decade, the United States has led the world’s efforts to crush al Qaeda. But let’s be honest: The United States has little experience in the vast, lawless Sahel, despite the much-ballyhooed stand-up of the Pentagon’s Africa Command a few years ago. America’s knowledge of the region remains sparse—chances are you can probably count the number of Bambara or Tuareg speakers in the U.S. government on one hand, if you lop off a few fingers.
Other allies—most notably France, but also Great Britain—know more about the region, the turf, and locals than we ever will. And remember: French and Malian soldiers are doing the fighting, the killing, and the dying. So in this fight, America should support them and provide them with assistance: reconnaissance drones, advanced munitions, refueling capacity, intelligence support—you name it.
They certainly need it. In this hot war, Paris has struggled to move men and materiel to the front lines. And Mali’s army is beset by numerous problems. But let’s not criticize our allies; now is the time to help them. After all, if we can hammer another nail into the coffin of an al Qaeda franchise, it’s certainly worth leasing France a few more C-17s.