All posts filed under: Security

What We Talk About When We Talk About Immigration

My father moved to the UK from Iran in the 1970s to study engineering when he met and married my mother, who is from a small town in the Welsh valleys. Many people from that town would not have met a non-white person before they met my father. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, my parents made the eminently sensible decision that they would build their life together in Wales and not Iran. To this day my father remains the hardest working person I know. He always worked two jobs, became a successful engineer and I recall watching him take part in publicity photos in the 1990s as the first non-white retained fireman in Wales, which he went on to do for 25 years. He is by any measure a credit to his community and can easily be held up as a model for “integration.” However, he is just one person. I sometimes wonder how different things might have been if there had been even one or two other Iranian families living on our street. …

Google’s China Ambitions Threaten U.S. National Security

A month before the 2024 elections the Chinese dictator issues an ultimatum to the U.S. president: Abandon defense of Taiwan or Google will politically destroy you. If your navy does not immediately leave the Taiwan Strait, Google’s algorithms will send each American the news articles that would make them the most likely to vote against your party. But why, you might ask, would Google ever help China blackmail the American president?  Google has probably discussed altering search results to influence U.S. elections. The tech giant is also probably willing to censor information in China as the price of admission to that country’s market. It doesn’t seem too great a leap forward to imagine Google biasing search results in the U.S. to appease the Chinese Communist Party. While today China might be satisfied putting spy chips on hardware used by American tech companies, in the future it could use its economic power to dictate what these businesses do during times of international crisis. I don’t blame Google for being willing to bend its ethical standards to …

Resolving the Venezuela Crisis: Is There a Case for Outside Military Intervention?

For the past four years, in plain sight of the world’s media, and just a few hours by plane from the world’s most powerful democracy, a criminal regime has been inflicting a humanitarian catastrophe on its own people, provoking widespread hunger and impoverishment, the spread of disease and death, and an exodus of Biblical proportions to neighboring countries that threatens regional stability. The national health system has collapsed, fostering the outbreak of infectious diseases, which, given the flight of millions of the country’s citizens abroad, poses a growing health risk to the continent. (Polio, long ago eradicated in the country, has returned.)  The same regime’s most senior members (as well as those of lower rank) have been credibly accused of narcotics trafficking and personally profiting therefrom. Even relatives of the president have been involved and given long prison sentences. The regime also commands a police force implicated not only in the drug trade, but in kidnapping, extortion, and corruption. Not surprisingly, the population it is supposed to protect is left subject to the highest homicide …

In Defence of Combat Robots

Next week in Geneva, diplomats will assemble to discuss Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). The precise definition of LAWS is contested but the Pentagon speaks of “weapons that once activated can select and engage targets without further human intervention.” Activists striving for a ban on LAWS call them ‘killer robots,’ language some find emotive but which is nevertheless useful for grabbing headlines. To illustrate, Disney/Lucasfilm’s K2SO is a ‘killer robot’ as is R2D2. In the Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One, K2SO—a reprogrammed Imperial droid fighting for the Rebel Alliance—kills about a dozen Imperial Stormtroopers with a grenade, a blaster, and his bare robot hands. More pertinently, existing systems like Aegis and Patriot running in ‘auto-fire’ mode also qualify as LAWS under the Pentagon’s definition.  Unsurprisingly, nations fielding Aegis and Patriot think that banning LAWS would be premature. Some analysts have suggested that we drop the word ‘lethal’ and speak instead of non-lethal as well as lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS). In what follows I will discuss AWS or ‘combat robots’ that can deter, capture, wound, or kill. A …

The World According to Realism

The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington argued in the 1993 Foreign Affairs article “The Clash of Civilizations?” (later expanded into a book with the question mark removed) that post-Cold War conflict would precipitate over differences in identity, religion, and culture. Fareed Zakaria, a former Huntington student, wrote of his mentor’s thesis, “While others were celebrating the fall of communism and the rise of globalization, he saw that with ideology disappearing as a source of human identity, religion was returning to the fore.” Huntington was writing in response to the argument of another former student, Francis Fukuyama, that a Hegelian “End of History” was upon us. In the heady days following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Huntington held the minority opinion that geopolitics and power still mattered, and worried that American foreign policy was entering a new era of history with its eyes half shut. Stephen Walt points out that at the time of Huntington’s article liberal internationalism was ascendant, al Qaeda was a minor threat, the Middle East was healing, and America was king. …

Toxic Masculinity and Gender Equity in the Australian Defence Force

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is comprised of the three military services: the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army, and the Royal Australian Air Force, all of which have been subject to increasing criticism in recent years for being dominated by straight white men. This, it is alleged, makes them, ipso facto, a petri dish for ‘toxic masculinity.’ That allegation has been lent apparent weight by the reporting of multiple gender-related scandals including the ADFA sex scandal, Jedi Council, various hazing rituals, death symbols, and HMAS Success, to name a few. Some of this criticism has been so strident that past and present military leaders have had no choice but to commission reports and inquiries into standards and practices within the ADF, and to implement various culture change initiatives including Pathway to Change, New Generation Navy, Adaptive Army, and New Horizon. All of these initiatives place significant emphasis on greater integration of women into the respective services but offer limited reasoning other than catch-phrases like ‘diversity,’ ‘equity,’ and ‘modernising.’ All three services are now working toward …

Hashtags and Terror Narratives in Toronto

On April 15, 2013, hours after the Tsarnaev brothers set off explosives at the Boston Marathon, the #bostonstrong hashtag went viral on Twitter. A week later, at the first home Red Sox game following the tragedy, the Fenway Park public announcer declared, “We are one. We are strong. We are Boston. We are Boston strong.” Since then, the same meme has been adopted by numerous other cities in the wake of local tragedies—including my own, Toronto, which proclaimed itself #TorontoStrong following a deadly van attack that took 10 lives in April. The idea that communities become stronger in the wake of mass murder is attractive. And sometimes, it’s even true—because outside threats stimulate a spirit of collective defiance and solidarity. But many acts of mass murder are perpetrated by mentally ill killers who have no political motive. In these cases, tragedies can actually widen fissures within society, because different factions co-opt the crime to advance their own agendas. Collective strength can exist only when citizens have a sense of common purpose. On Sunday, Toronto suffered …

Zero Tolerance at the Mexican Border

Under a new ‘Zero Tolerance’ US border policy, 1,995 children were separated from 1,940 adults between 19 April and 31 May in an attempt to deter further illegal crossings. The pitilessness of such a policy was bound to provoke outrage, and widespread expressions of revulsion have only intensified with the circulation of photographs of distraught children. News outlets, public figures, and people all over the world have rushed to condemned the inhumanity of the Trump administration. Is the outrage misplaced or is it justified? By any reasonable account, it’s necessary to have and enforce immigration laws. The cultural, political, legal, and economic stability of nations depend on their ability to define and control their borders. Enacting policies that provide additional border control isn’t a problem in and of itself. Immigration policies are only a problem if and when they go too far. The new policy states that “if someone caught at the border illegally has a valid asylum claim, they could have a federal criminal conviction on their record, even if a judge later decides …

Khalistan’s Deadly Shadow

The New York City police officers looked bored, unable to understand a word, as they eyed the angry crowd at Madison Square Garden. A sawmill worker from the Canadian province of British Columbia took the stage with a retinue of robed warriors toting curved swords. He wore an ornate turban and sliced the air with his hand as he promised a massacre of Hindus. “They say that Hindus are our brothers!” he declared in Punjabi. “But I give you my most solemn assurance that, until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest!” In response, the crowd erupted in slogans: “Hindu dogs! Death to them! Indira bitch! Death to her! Blood for blood!” “Indira” referred to Indira Gandhi, then prime minister of India. She lived for only three months after this scene unfolded. It was July 28, 1984—the founding convention of the World Sikh Organization (WSO), created to carve an independent Sikh state out of India. The millworker, Ajaib Singh Bagri, was number-two in the Babbar Khalsa International, a terrorist group engaged in an armed …

Why We Say ‘Islamism’ and Why We Should Stop

‘Islamism’ is a word that refuses to die. Conceived by a group of French academics who have since disavowed their creation, it has been criticized by many on the Left and the Right. Yet it still appears in scholarship, the media, and political discussions, jostled alongside terms like ‘fundamentalism,’ ‘political Islam,’ ‘radicalism,’ etc., ‘Islamism’ seems to offer the possibility of distinguishing Islam, the religion of over a billion Muslims, from the actions and ideas of violent movements that act in its name. But this distinction, however desirable, is untenable. The scholars who invented the term decades ago are today the first to regret its use. The Iranian Revolution of 1979, greeted with optimism by intellectuals such as Michel Foucault, chilled more critical observers in France. A rising generation of anthropologists, sociologists, and other scholars noticed that the new regime in Tehran was not alone in its fusion of modern mass politics and Islam. Doctoral students and junior professors researching the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, revivalist groups in North Africa, and anti-Communist rebels in Afghanistan searched …