All posts filed under: Security

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 …

It’s Time for Sweden to Admit Explosions Are a National Emergency

The bomb exploded shortly after 9 a.m. Friday in a blast that ripped through two apartment buildings and could be heard for miles. Twenty-five people suffered cuts and bruises and 250 apartments were damaged. A nearby kindergarten was evacuated. Hospitals jumped into disaster mode. Photos from the scene show rows of demolished balconies and shattered windows. It was ”absolutely incredible” that no one was severely injured, a police spokesperson said. It is the kind of news we usually associate with war zones, but this bombing took place in Linköping, a peaceful university town in southern Sweden. Remarkably, it was not the only explosion in the country that day; another, seemingly unrelated, blast was reported in a parking lot in the city of Gothenburg earlier in the morning. Three explosions have been reported in Malmö since Tuesday morning. As of this writing, no arrests have been made. Sweden has experienced a sharp rise in explosions in recent years, predominantly related to conflicts between warring criminal gangs. The use of explosives in the Nordic country is now …

Denmark’s Blaspheming Mother

“This is a nightmare. We’re in shock,” Jaleh Tavakoli says. Last month, the 36-year-old Iranian-Danish critic of Islam received notification from Danish social services that she is no longer fit to care for the 8-year-old child she’s fostered since birth. Why? Tavakoli, a columnist and author, says it is because of her politically incorrect views on Islam. Social services maintains it is looking out for the best interest of a potentially vulnerable child. Tavakoli lives under security precautions, has been threatened on the streets of Copenhagen, and even survived a jihadist attack in 2015. As she prepares for the most difficult challenge of her life, Danish society must contend with the unprecedented challenge of where to draw the line when radical Islam intersects with free speech and children’s rights. Denmark, a kingdom of just 5.7 million people, consistently ranks among the top countries in the world in quality-of-life indexes. The small Nordic state is envied for its strong universal healthcare system, high levels of trust and extremely generous welfare benefits. In 2018, it ranked third …

China is Gearing up for a Long Fight

On February 18, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that a “sophisticated state-actor” had launched a cyber attack on Australia’s major political parties and parliamentary computer system. The Australian government has not yet identified which state-actor is responsible but suspicions almost instantly fell on China. The Chinese military maintains a dedicated unit (the People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398) for cyber attacks. While several other nations maintain the capabilities for this kind of attack, they do not have China’s record of interference in Australian politics. The Chinese Communist Party puts significant resources into neutralizing opposition to its interests within Australian politics and society. Its increasingly flagrant acts of interference prompted the nation to pass sweeping foreign interference laws in 2018. If China is responsible for the cyber-attack on Australian parliament, it fits a very clear pattern of increasing antagonism by China against the West. This points towards a worrying and unstable future for Western middle-powers with high economic exposure to China. Moreover, China’s increasingly threatening posture suggests that it no longer believes that it can radically …

How Sweden’s Blind Altruism Is Harming Migrants

The 15-year-old boy was standing outside the police station, late one night during the immigration wave of 2015. I was meeting youths like him almost every day, as they came to the station to apply for asylum. Sweden was the country in Europe that took in most immigrants per capita during the crisis, with numbers up to over 160,000 by the end of the year. 35,000 of them, mostly Afghans, claimed refugee status as unaccompanied minors. Linköping is a small town and I was the only police officer there who spoke their language, Dari. As we sat down to go through routine questioning, I started thinking about my own memories of coming to Sweden from Afghanistan with my parents and siblings. I was a few years younger than the boy sitting across the table from me. I wanted to tell him that he had come to an amazing country. I wanted to tell him that he had all the opportunity in the world to build a better future for himself. That he no longer had …

Agnès Bun’s Invincible Summer

Meeting Agence France-Presse photojournalist Agnès Bun is a disarming experience. She looks younger than her age, but her youthful appearance belies an intensity forged in her frequently dangerous and sometimes harrowing line of work. As we talked about her career and her reluctant memoir, There’s No Poetry in a Typhoon (translated from the French by Melanie Ho), she spoke quickly and wasted few words, which made our interview a challenge and a pleasure. What is a reluctant memoir? It’s one written as a result of benevolent pressure from her peers and admirers, who implored her to aggregate a series of blog posts she had written for the AFP website about her experiences in the field. Eventually, she agreed but she hasn’t looked back since. “I wrote most of the chapters in one go,” she says, “and I haven’t reread it since it was published.” She isn’t the type of person to be detained by self-aggrandizement—she seems to be endowed with more humility than egoism. Instead, she reports and moves on. But sometimes her work leaves …

Anxiety About Immigration is a Global Issue

Much has been written about anti-immigrant sentiments in the West in recent years. Brexit, Trump’s election, and the moderate success of political movements hostile to immigration in countries like Italy, Germany and Sweden have provoked much admonishment of Western societies by various intellectuals and commentators, usually of leftist leanings. What has not received much attention are contemporary attitudes to immigration in countries outside the Western hemisphere. What do Nigerians, Indians, Turks and Mexicans think about migrants coming to their countries? This we don’t hear much about. Two recent surveys on the issue provide interesting results. Pew Research queried respondents in 27 nations across six continents, asking whether they felt their countries should let in more immigrants, fewer, or about the same as they do at present. In European nations like Greece and Italy that have had huge influxes of migrants in recent years, the numbers wanting fewer or no more immigrants were high—82 and 71 percent respectively. But in several other Western countries, including some perceived as being hostile to immigration, people are more sympathetic …

The Pitfalls of Too Much Security

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. —Benjamin Franklin Earlier this year, my mother fell and broke her hip, requiring emergency surgery. The hospital at which the operation would take place was one to which I was no stranger. One of the specialists whom I saw as a child had been located there, so I had visited it many times growing up. This time, though, the sight that awaited me when I walked in the front door was very different from all those times before. What had once been a spacious corridor was now blocked off by gates. Visitors (and presumably outpatients) waited in line at a security desk where they stated their business at the hospital, showed their drivers’ licenses, and were issued temporary ID cards that they scanned at the gates to gain entry. Being familiar with the arguments made by Steven Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, I knew that it was highly …