All posts filed under: Security

How Long Before the Regime Falls in Iran?

The death of Iranian Quds Force commander General Quassem Soleimani has produced some truly bizarre media coverage. Some Western media outlets are framing Soleimani’s death as the loss of a deeply beloved hero, such in this January 7th episode of the New York Times The Daily podcast. The podcast spends more than 20 minutes describing how Soleimani was a beloved totem, a living security blanket that Iranians believe protected Iran from instability (by fostering instability in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, apparently). The closest thing in the podcast to an acknowledgement that Soleimani led a group of armed thugs that viciously suppressed dissent in Iran, including turning their guns on Iranian protestors less than two months ago, was a single sentence in the podcast: “To be clear, there are plenty of Iranians who did not love or respect Soleimani.” “Plenty” seems an inadequate way to characterize the majority of Iranians. Seventy-nine percent of Iranians would vote the Islamic Republic out of existence if given a chance, according to one poll. Yet somehow that torrent of …

‘The Report’ Review—A Careful Examination of the CIA’s Interrogation Methods

The Report, a new film from Vice Studios starring Adam Driver, feels somehow both timely and late. It tells the story of American Senate staffer Daniel Jones (Driver), who was tasked with investigating the U.S. government’s “enhanced interrogation” program in the late 2000s. The program, which many denounced as torture, was used to extract intelligence from suspected terrorist detainees at CIA black sites after Al Qaeda’s attack on September 11, 2001. It ended years ago and is no longer even legal—the McCain-Feinstein Amendment restricts prisoner interrogation techniques to those listed in the United States Army’s field manual, and it passed the Senate with a 78–21 vote in 2015, backed by majorities in both parties. Among the general public, however, the topic remains controversial, with almost half of Americans saying they think torture could be used to obtain “important military information” from “a captured enemy combatant” and only a little more than half saying they think torture is “wrong.” During and after his 2016 campaign, President Donald J. Trump, ever-sensitive to divergences between “elite” and “popular” …

Tensions in NATO and the Looming End of Pax Americana

As NATO leaders gathered in London this week to mark the 70th anniversary of history’s most venerable military alliance, it has been widely forgotten that not so long ago the specter of armed conflict haunted the European continent. When the Washington treaty establishing NATO was signed in April 1949, the Soviet Union occupied the captive nations of Eastern Europe and an invasion of Western Europe by the Red Army was not a remote possibility. On current trends, the Atlantic alliance may well suffer a premature demise as the world moves into another great power rivalry that is also an ideological contest between democracy and autocracy. A terse review of the historical record is in order here. In the aftermath of World War Two, the United States committed itself to a revolutionary foreign policy. The extraordinary task of maintaining some semblance of international order after two global conflagrations was premised on a controversial but compelling notion of enlightened self-interest. The guiding principle of U.S. statecraft was that the peace of the world was in grave and …

The Availability Heuristic and Mass Shooting Fears

Fear of mass shootings is becoming a source of pervasive anxiety for an increasing number of people in the United States. A recent APA survey of American adults found that 79 percent of respondents reported experiencing stress because of the possibility of a mass shooting; a third of the sample even said that this fear held them back from going to certain places and attending events. This widespread anxiety is starkly out of step with the level of risk presented by these events, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss it. It’s easy to cite statistics about the number of people who die in mass shootings each year (372 in 2018 according to the Gun Violence Archive) and to reassure people that their actual risk of falling victim to a mass shooting is exceedingly low, yet, on its own, this sort of thinking does little to assuage fears. But why? Why doesn’t focusing on the numbers alleviate fear? And why are people so frightened of an event that poses such a minor overall risk? Part of the answer to these …

Abandoning Malmö to Its Criminals

“I think they just shot someone right across from my balcony,” my friend told me.  The gunshot rang out even as we were texting about another recent act of violence here in the Swedish city of Malmö—a car bomb that went off in a residential area close to my home. Acts of violence occur so frequently in Malmö that news of one blurs into the next. This year, there already have been 29 explosions in a city of just 320,000. Sweden as a whole is on pace for about 150—or about three per week (as Quillette has reported previously). These are attacks by criminal gangs that usually target other criminals. But the victims are sometimes innocent bystanders. In one recent case, for instance, a female student was severely injured in the face when she happened to pass by a shop that exploded in Lund, a ten-minute car ride from Malmö. The more spectacular attacks have left whole cities such as Malmö fearful and traumatized, as a grandmother explained in a recent Facebook post about a …

Palestine Misunderstood

From my home on the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv, I hear the Muslim call to prayer every day as it issues from a mosque half a mile away in neighboring Jaffa. Jewish Israelis see Arabic on their money, on street signs, on buses, and on the labels adorning foodstuffs that provide consumers with nutritional information. They hear Arabic in the stores, shopping malls, and cafes they routinely frequent. And if they visit a clinic or hospital, Jewish Israelis will hear Arabic spoken by their fellow patients, and by the doctors and nurses who tend to them. Israel may be the world’s only Jewish state, but Arabs account for roughly 21 percent of its population, so the sounds and sights of the Arabic language are simply part of daily life in this corner of the Levant. So I was surprised to learn, from an article written by Michael Humeniuk for Quillette, that “when Jewish Israelis hear spoken Arabic, which they perceive as screams, they don’t know if a bomb is about to go off or …

Ramallah For Beginners

It’s Saturday evening, and we’ve crossed over to the Palestinian side of the Green Line. I’d always thought that entering the West Bank would be difficult, but it’s not. There are no security officers to ask you questions, no passports to show, no gates to be lifted; just an unobstructed road. Upon leaving Israel, the navigation app Waze displays a red box containing the words “high-risk area” at the top of the screen. (Of course, crossing back the other way is much more difficult.) As we go deeper into the West Bank, I grow tense, though there aren’t any apparent threats. After twenty minutes, we drive past a settlement where the entrance is guarded by Israeli soldiers peering out of concrete bunkers. One of them is a young woman. The barrel of her rifle rests on a pile of sandbags. She seems be looking through her scope at every passing car. I’m told that these guards don’t discriminate between Israeli and Palestinian license plates, because some attackers have used Israeli cars. The actual geography of …

A Shameful Betrayal

For the sake of America’s national interest, all communications between President Trump and Turkish strongman Tayyip Erdogan ought to be severed forthwith. Such conversations tend to spur flippant and ignominious decisions by the American president to diminish the American position in the Levant that simultaneously endangers America’s loyal friends and its strategic interests. Few will remember, but the disgrace in which President Trump is currently involving the United States in northern Syria was not only foreseeable but had actually been announced well in advance. Last December after a call with President Erdogan, Trump declared the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria on the grounds that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS] had been vanquished. This impetuous claim—is this president capable of any other kind?—was immediately belied by the Pentagon and the wider U.S. intelligence community, which insisted that ISIS was on the defensive but nowhere near defeated. The Islamic State still fielded thousands of fighters, operating throughout swathes of Syria and Iraq, and remained a lethal threat to U.S. national security. The next …

The Real Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This article does not reflect the views of the Transportation Security Administration.  It is most living Americans’ “Where Were You When” moment, the day we all watched looped film of airliners crashing into the Twin Towers, watched victims trapped by raging flames forced to choose between being burned alive and jumping to their deaths. Readers not old enough to remember the horror of that day can get a sense from audio of 9/11 released by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2018. The TSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that was created as a response to the 9/11 attacks to make sure nothing like that ever happens again. As that collective trauma fades into history, the TSA, where I work, enjoys about the same level of public support as a measles outbreak. The Threat and Why We Do What We Do If you worked for the federal government on 9/11 in any sort of national security capacity, you knew fear of further attacks were pervasive, particularly after the anthrax mailings …

When the Lion Wakes: The Global Threat of the Chinese Communist Party

China is a sleeping lion. Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world. ~Napoleon It has become something of a truism to say that China will rise to a position of global dominance in the twenty-first century. All the evidence seems to support the thesis and we are flooded with the most fantastic figures charting the rise. Harvard political scientist Graham Allison treats us to a selection of these in his recent book Destined for War. He tells us that China’s GDP was less than $300 billion in 1980, a figure that had risen to $11 trillion by 2015. The country’s total trade with the outside world came to just $40 billion in 1980, but in 2015 it was $4 trillion—a hundredfold increase. Allison has plenty more shockers up his sleeve: “For every two-year period since 2008, the increment of growth in China’s GDP has been larger than the entire economy of India. Even at its lower growth in 2015, China’s economy created a Greece every sixteen weeks and an Israel …