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Ed Webb

What is so great about 'territorial integrity' anyway? - 0 views

  • the rules can leave people trapped in a country that they do not identify with and/or a government that abuses them. This was the justification for fudging the rules with Kosovo. Serbia did not agree to Kosovo independence. Yet, a referendum and a somewhat opaque advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice helped legitimize the secession. 

    Putin now claims that Kosovo set a precedent even though there is no comparable history of abuse in Crimea, and Russia has never recognized Kosovo. At the same time, the European Union and the United Staes are eager to argue that Kosovo did not set a precedent for other oppressed groups and that Kosovo is totally different from South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and so on. This is the kind of maddening but unavoidable inconsistency that led Stanford professor and former U.S. State Department director of policy planning Stephen Krasner to dub so-called principles of sovereignty “organized hypocrisy.”

  • Russia has always used buffer states as a way to shield it from the “West.” Putin clearly considers the break-up of the Soviet Union as recent territorial loss that ought to be rectified. And third, Russia is not (anymore) a liberal state, although it does have extensive trade and financial ties that may moderate its behavior.
  • territorial integrity principle is a terrific principle from the U.S. viewpoint (and from that of most states who value stability) but not necessarily from the perspective of Russia (and possibly China, although more on that some other time). Crimea’s annexation can thus be seen as a challenge to the principle itself and with that to the stability of the system as it is currently constructed
Ed Webb

BBC News - Wars, public outrage and policy options in Syria - 2 views

  • We've heard these pleas before. The BBC reports regularly from inside Syria, as do several American papers, and although coverage of the Syrian war is not wall-to-wall on American networks, it gets regular, consistent attention.

    So where is the public outrage about a war so chaotic and dangerous that even the UN has stopped keeping track of the death toll? Have we all become numb to the pain of others?

  • The world inevitably tires of complex, long conflicts where there are no clear answers about how to end the violence. This cartoon in the New Yorker is a harsh but perhaps accurate look at how the collective conscience deals with the relentless stream of bad news from Syria.
  • Spare a thought for the North Koreans, too. A UN report out last week, too horrific even to read, compares the abuses committee by the government to Nazi Germany. I have yet to see much outrage or calls for action
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  • When they discuss US policy options for Syria, administration officials repeatedly point to the fact that Americans have bigger concerns closer to home and that President Barack Obama is very mindful that the public has no appetite for interventions abroad, no matter how limited
  • The question is whether it would become more tenable for the president to take action if the public demanded it.

    Possibly, but that's not how public opinion works. People demonstrate to end wars and bring the troops home, like with Vietnam. They protest against invasions, like Iraq in 2003, when their country's troops are about to be shipped overseas. Or they support military action when their own country has come under attack. But people rarely rise up to demand action because of a sense of collective justice.

Ed Webb

Environment Magazine - September/October 2013 - 0 views

  • Environmental security is still viewed in Western countries that see climate change as a “threat multiplier” in already conflict-sensitive regions differently than in developing countries that consider security implications with regional neighbors when responding to extreme events.
  • operational risk analyses that focus on environmental systems supporting overall stability
  • The most crucial of these resources and critical nodes is water.
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  • In 2007, Congress placed language in the National Defense Authorization Act that requires the military to consider effects of climate change on facilities, capabilities, and missions
  • The challenge with integrating climate change hazards with military planning has been that “climate change” is at the same time too general a term of reference yet is also too limiting
  • Many systems rely on predictable delivery of water, and too much or too little at the wrong time can spell catastrophe for agriculture, power, transport, or other critical systems linked around the globe
  • through 2040, the best solutions to water problems are expected to be found in improved management strategies such as pricing, allocation decisions, and addressing international trade in “virtual water”—“water consumed in the manufacturing or growing of an export product”
  • the Chinese drive for water security may spark a series of actions that others may interpret as threats even while inside China they may be technical responses to very real risks
  • The regional security difficulty lies not only in Tibetan politics, but in the fact that the Yarlung-Tsangpo becomes the Brahmaputra once it crosses into India in Arunachal Pradesh, a territory disputed by India and China and heavily militarized. Diversions affecting the Brahmaputra would imperil India's own water security, including hydropower and irrigation projects, and would have further impacts downstream in Bangladesh. Although China may see its water projects as increasing its own security, India and Bangladesh view the Chinese actions as a direct threat to their national security. Specifically, China's actions have the potential to increase the risk of water-related population stresses, cross-border tension, and migration and agricultural failures for perhaps a billion people in India and Bangladesh, and its actions may be interpreted as a security threat by India
  • empirical cases of conflict between states directly over water supplies are historically rare
  • The connections between extreme heat/drought in Russia in the summer of 2010 and the subsequent Arab Spring revolts in late 2010 are an example of where changes in one system (in this case, water/moisture for food production) may contribute to existing instability in a far different geographical region.
  • The topic of environmental security also raises questions about what or who is driving policy priorities and how science is (mis)communicated to policymakers.
  • Complex risk assessments must take into account the multidimensional and interdisciplinary nature of the strategic environment. Providing adequate resources for these complex assessments requires knowledge not only of climate and weather systems, but of particular geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic factors that make environmental hazards unique to each region and community
Ed Webb

Russia needs Arctic presence to guard against U.S. threat: Putin | Reuters - 1 views

  • Putin has ordered a Soviet-era military base reopened in the Arctic as part of a drive to make the northern coast a global shipping route and secure the region's vast energy resources.

  • "It only takes 15-16 minutes for U.S. missiles to reach Moscow from the Barents Sea. So should we give away the Arctic? We should on the contrary explore it."
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