Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 79

From the Turkish border to Paris to the ground in Syria and Iraq. It is still too early to understand the consequences of the Turkish missile intercepting a Russian Su-24 allegedly flying in Turkish skies. But you can follow live the BBC updates. And start imagining what could happen next.

In the two weeks after the Paris attacks, there have been some attempts to dig deeper into its consequences. Rosa Brooks writes that we should learn to accept some uncomfortable truths. Including the recognition that there is probably no chance to achieve complete security from attacks.

Barry Posen argues that defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq is proving to be a very costly undertaking. And Western escalation might be actually what ISIS wants. Containment of the threat should be a more sustainable long term strategy.

Most analysts would agree, in any case, that better action against the ability of ISIS to extract resources would effectively weaken it. The Atlantic features an article on where ISIS money come from.

Finally, a bit off-topic. What is the role of scholarship in these hard times? Warontherocks contributes to the endless debate on the relationship between academia and defence decision-making.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 61

ISIS, again. Kobane was a great success in the reconquista that followed ISIS’ earlier pushes in Northern Syria. It seems that it has been just taken back by the armies of the Caliphate.

ISIS is also elsewhere, and it seems that it suffered a defeat in Libya in the last weeks. Foreign Policy reports on the battle in Derna, where ISIS was expelled by a (very) heterogeneous coalition including DMSC (Mujahideen Shura Council, linked to al-Qaeda) and the Libyan National Army.

In the meanwhile, in Europe, tensions are building up on the Eastern border. The US has been strengthening its NATO allies with increasing military support, by support meaning weapons. The last shipment involved about 250 tanks under a new plan devised by the Pentagon (or for) with allies.

Tensions in the real world, tensions in the virtual one. China is allegedly behind hacking the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in the US, with a wealth of data on government employees. But attribution, when it comes to China, becomes a delicate diplomatic issue and no final culprit is yet revealed.

Finally, we keep suggesting military vehicles that you might be desire to get to solve traffic problems, loading requirements, and so on. This comes directly from Star Wars.

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 41

While ISIS keeps killing hostages, admits the loss of the Syrian city of Kobani, and attacks Kirkuk, US President Barack Obama tries to place the threat posed by the Islamist group in context. It’s one of the many themes addressed in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

This comes in a period of thorough rethinking of American strategy in the past decade and beyond. Robert Grenier on The Atlantic tells his role in trying to prevent the US intervention in Afghanistan by convincing the Taliban to hand over Osama Bin Landen.

In the meanwhile, the US Administration is also rethinking about the state of its nuclear arsenal. Perhaps trying to re-pivot to Asia after events kept the attention on the Middle East, Obama wants to spend hundreds of million dollars  in renovating the nuclear triad, raising several critiques.

Australian Lowy Institute for International Policy features an interesting debate on how to deal with terrorism. Anthony Bubalo’s piece deals with the classic  dilemmas  of democracy balancing the fight on terror and civil liberties.

Finally, a lot of debates on military matters have been raised by recently released movies, starting with American Sniper. Walter Isaacson, well known for his biography of Steve Jobs, tells a part of Alan Turing’s story, celebrated by Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game.

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 23

As news of the first case of Ebola outbreak on American soil (in Dallas) spread, some experts are evaluating if Ebola can be weaponized and used as a WMD. It seems that the recent discovery of files related to biological weapons development in an Islamic State’s recovered laptop brought attention back to WMD as a tool that can fall into the hands of “terror”.

Re-emerging threats might lead to further expansion of surveillance by security agencies. Activist and software geek Brad Templeton talks on a BigThink video interview about the NSA’s attempt to access to so-called quantum computer technology, which might expand the agency’s ability to break cryptography and manage big data.

Focus on the Middle East sometimes distracts from events happening elsewhere. “Close encounters” between Chinese and US aircrafts in the South China Sea are small but important hints that international politics is on the move in the Pacific.

Defense industry is always on the move, even with budget cuts affecting the several armed forces and leading to downsizing of programs (Italy to begin with). Still, the US military at least is always tuned to exploit new technologies, such as 3D printing, to improve the effectiveness and/or efficiency of some of its processes and programs.

Western prisoners in the hands of IS, not to forget other cases where kidnapping is a consolidated strategy for armed groups, are everyday news. Jumping back in history, it is insightful to read about the experience of the longest held American prisoner of war, John Downey, recluded in a Chinese prison for two decades after the Korean War.

 

 

 

 

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