Focal Points Blog

Former U.S. Nukes Commander’s Steps to Keep Ukraine Crisis From Mushrooming Into Nuclear War

101203-A-0193C-004

The Ukraine crisis has renewed calls by retired Gen. James Cartwright, former U.S. nukes commander, to wean the United States and Russia from launch on warning. (Photo: D. Miles Cullen / U.S. Dept. of Defense)

 

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, whose last job was Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served as the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (nukes, et al) from 2004 to 2007. In recent years, he’s served in capacities as, uh, as diverse board member of Raytheon and chairman of the Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction. Those of you who follow nuclear weapons news may recall that, in the latter capacity, he called for reducing the U.S. nuclear-weapons arsenal to 900 warheads with none of them set to launch on warning.
Read More

European Union Slow to Address Migrant Smuggling and Rescue

The EU has offloaded migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean on to merchant ships. (Photo: Noborder Network / Flickr Commons)

The EU has offloaded migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean on to merchant ships. (Photo: Noborder Network / Flickr Commons)

The captain of the migrant-smuggling boat that capsized Sunday in the Mediterranean not far from Libya has been charged with multiple homicide. In the New York Times Dan Bilefsky reports that he drove his boat into the Portuguese merchant ship coming to its rescue, though if it’s unclear if that was intentional and to what extent it contributed to the actual capsizing.

Why was a merchant ship tasked with a rescue operation? At the Daily Beast, Barbie Latza Nadeau explains: “Maritime law dictates that every vessel must respond to a maritime distress call whether they have rescue equipment or not.”
Read More

Kenya’s Sorrow and How the U.S. Fueled Al-Shabab in Somalia

Conspicuous by its absence from the mainstream U.S. media is an examination of the role the U.S. played in fueling Al-Shabab in Somalia. (Photo:  Abayomi Azikiwe / Flickr Commons)

Conspicuous by its absence from the mainstream U.S. media is an examination of the role the U.S. played in fueling Al-Shabab in Somalia. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe / Flickr Commons)

The systematic murder of 147 Kenyan university students by members of the Somalia-based Shabab organization on April 2 is raising an uncomfortable question: was the massacre an unintentional blowback from U.S. anti-terrorism strategy in the region? And were the killers forged by an ill-advised American-supported Ethiopian invasion that transformed the radical Islamic organization from a marginal player into a major force?
Read More

Is Al Qaeda Waxing or Waning?

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri may be deferring to the Islamic State. (Photo: Andres Pérez/ Flickr Commons)

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri may be deferring to the Islamic State. (Photo: Andres Pérez/ Flickr Commons)

In Politico Magazine, David Gartenstein-Ross and Bridget Moreng make the surprising claim Al Qaeda Is Beating the Islamic State. They write that, though the Islamic State “still controls more overall than Al Qaeda—most prominently, Tikrit and the southern half of the Salah al-Din province. … [it] has lost territory during this period.” The “jihadist group that has won the most territory in the Arab world over the past six months is Al Qaeda.”
Read More

Diplomacy Is the Only Plausible Solution to Syria and Yemen

Saudi Arabia is the de facto face of the Gulf. (Photo: Marviikad / Flickr Commons)

Saudi Arabia is the de facto face of the Gulf. (Photo: Marviikad / Flickr Commons)

When it comes to the Middle East, everything happens at a pace that is too fast to comprehend. Proxy wars, manipulations and unjustifiable violence — unfortunately, a region so blessed and so beautiful is nowadays mostly known for all the wrong things.

As of now, Iran-Arab relations are turning from bad to worse with sectarian rhetoric and regional rivalries resulting in a weird form of power struggle that will have many losers, and probably zero winners. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have entered into a stare-down in Yemen, and with nearly all the major states of the region taking sides, the flames of these tensions are reaching as far as Turkey and Pakistan. Add to it the fact that the recent nuclear deal between P5+1 and Iran can affect regional strife even further, and the chances of a zero sum game look even bleak.

At this point, one needs to wonder: what can be the possible solution for Middle East?
Read More

Will Israel “Bounce the Rubble” in Gaza?

Not much for the IDF left to bomb in Gaza. (Photo: Andlun 1 / Flickr Commons)

Not much for the IDF left to bomb in Gaza. (Photo: Andlun 1 / Flickr Commons)

Winston Churchill said: “If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce.” By which he apparently meant that nuclear war would devastate everyone and everything so completely that, after a while, a blighted landscape itself is being bombed.

In an article in Foreign Policy titled Gaza Is a Tomb, Bel Trew provides us with a poignant image of homes bombed by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces):

People paint their names and phone numbers onto the concrete heaps, in case an aid agency bothers to turn up and start the reconstruction efforts.

Read More

How Aggression Went From an Act of War to a Pathology

Viewing a state’s aggression as pathology incurred punishment, not the understanding one might expect. (Photo: Bettman / Corbis)

Viewing a state’s aggression as pathology incurred punishment, not the understanding one might expect. (Photo: Bettman / Corbis)

I’ve been re-reading Sir Lawrence Freedman’s landmark work The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy (Third Edition) for a book I’m attempting to write about the rationalizations and counterintuitive strategies that inevitably attend a state’s development of nuclear weapons. (For his part, Freedman has written around 20 books.)

In the first part of The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, Freedman chronicles the rise of air power during the 20th century. He writes that, in the nineteenth century, the concept of aggression referred to a “‘military attack by the forces of a state against … another state.’” But, even before World War I, “the term had become pejorative, referring to a military attack that was not justified by law.”
Read More

Providing Future Generations With a Voice at the Table

Future generations will wonder why we didn’t take their rights into consideration when failing to stop environmental wastelands from being created. (Photo: Raed Qutana / Flickr Commons)

Future generations will wonder why we didn’t take their rights into consideration when failing to stop environmental wastelands from being created. (Photo: Raed Qutana / Flickr Commons)

At Aeon magazine, in a piece titled Once and future sins, Stefan Klein and Stephen Cave ask, as the sub-head reads: “In 2115, when our descendants look back at our society, what will they condemn as our greatest moral failing?” In the course of identifying likely candidates they raise the issue of rights for future generations.
Read More

Naypyidaw: Burma’s Potemkin Capital

Naypyidaw MAE:F : Flickr

There are few signs of life in Naypyidaw, the capital Burma built, in part, to thwart demonstrations against the government. (Photo: MAE/F / Flickr)

 

In the Guardian, Matt Kennard and Claire Provost write about Naypyidaw, the grand capital city that Burma’s military regime unveiled in 2005.

In recent years, the city’s bizarre urban plan and strange emptiness has become something of an international curiousity.

The effect is accentuated by its size. 
Read More

Disarmament Activists Need to Keep an Eye on What Defense Would Replace Nuclear Weapons With

Early electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) system of the sort that might replace muclear weapons. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Early electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) system of the sort that might replace muclear weapons. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

On April 8, I posted on one of Five Scenarios of Giving up on Nuclear Weapons created by Jamais Cascio at Reinventors, which describes its mission thusly: “Reinventors provides a new way to accelerate innovation and help solve complex challenges using the powerful new medium of interactive group video.”

The fourth scenario, titled “Sticks and Stones,” is especially disturbing. It’s easy to say “Watch out what you wish for?” about nuclear disarmament, because disarming, no matter how thoroughgoing the verification program, inevitably opens a window of national-security vulnerability, if only a crack. But “Watch out what you wish for?” has other implications as well. Cascio:

It’s important to recognize that, historically, the primary reason for relinquishing a form of military technology has been the introduction of a superior form.

Read More

Page 10 of 204« First...89101112...203040...Last »