Terror Attack in France

Today, 3 gunman attacked the Paris office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The attack took place during an editorial meeting and killed 12 people and injured 11.

According to witnesses, the gunmen had black hoods and Kalashnikov rifles and  were heard exclaiming  “Allahu Akbar”, Arabic for “God is great”, and “We have avenged Mohammed”.  After the attack, the gunmen retreated to the street, where they engaged French police. Two officers were killed and the gunmen escaped in a car. However, they abandoned it several blocks later and hijacked another vehicle to escape. The remain at large.

The attacks have drawn condemnation from all around the world. President Obama “strongly condemn the horrific shooting”. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon described the attack as “a horrendous, unjustifiable and cold-blooded crime. It was also a direct assault on a cornerstone of democracy, on the media and on freedom of expression.” The Arab League has also denounced the attacks.

This is not the first time the Charlie Hebdo has been threatened for what it publishes. In 2011, after featuring a caricature of Mohammed, the building was firebombed with no injuries.

The rise and spread of ISIS has created concern that the group will eventually carry out attacks on the West.. The day before the attack the in newspaper ran a cartoon of the current leader of ISIS,

Another fear is that of ‘lone wolf’ terrorism, where sympathizers carry out attacks instead of ‘official’ group members. This type of terrorism is much harder to prevent and can occur at any time. The recent  hostage situation in Sydney seems to be the work of one such ‘lone wolf’.

Many in America have expressed that countries in the Middle East should be dealing with threats like ISIS on their own, and that the time of America presence/intervention is over. But this attack in Paris makes it seem that Western action is inevitable. The question is not if there will be more action taken by the West, but how much. We will all be watching as this develops. InterPol out.

The Olympic Games

Brazil was chosen to be the host for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, but it remains to be seen that the city of Rio is up to the challenge. But it is not the only country to have trouble with the Games.

In order to host the Games, the International Olympic Committee must judge weather a city has the capacity to do so. This means room for athletes, tourists, and stadiums and venues. The city must also be clean, since it will be the center of lots of international attention.

However, meeting these standards and preparing for the games can have some downsides. Making the necessary additions, like stadiums, can run high costs for the host.  But the real problem is that once the Games are over, the stadiums, built for high capacity, are pretty useless in their host cities.  In Vancouver, the Olympic village became housing to help pay for the costs, while 21 of the 22 venues built in Athens for the 2004 games are abandoned. Greece’s total cost for the privilege of host? $14.4 billion.

Sometimes to make room for everything, people have to be moved out the way. Almost every host city has this happen, but nothing tops the preparation for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, when the Chinese government evicted 1.5 million people to make room for the stadiums.

The main complaint the people of Rio have is that the government will not listen to their complaints, but will bend over backwards to try and make the city ready for international visitors. This recently manifested when Brazil hosted the World Cup. Months before hand, the police and army worked together to clean up favelas, or slums, of crime, again in anticipation of international attention.

Most recently, scientists examined the water in Rio’s bay and found a ‘super bacteria’, a bacteria invulnerable to most forms of treatment. This has lead many to speculate that potential athlete would not try to qualify for the Olympic teams to avoid exposure to the polluted waters.

The Olympic Games aren’t until 2016, but developments should be announced as progress continues.

InterPol out.

Russia’s Ruble Problem

The ruble, Russia’s currency, has dropped in value dramatically over the last few days.  The combination of Western sanctions and a drop in the price of oil are the main contributing factors in the recent economic stress.

The price of oil has nearly halved this year, from $100 a barrel to $60 per barrel. Russia’s main export is oil, around 39%, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. One theory is that rich oil exporting countries like Saudi Arabia are behind the change in oil prices.

The main reason countries like Saudi Arabia are rich from trading oil is that their oil reserves are cheap and easy to access. But new methods, fracking for example, can reach oil from harder to reach places. These alternative methods could increase the amount of oil that countries could produce domestically, namely the US and Canada. Thus, less oil would have to be imported from outside. This threatens the economic stability of oil-exporting countries. The less oil they sell, the less money they make.

So, the supposed action taken would be to deliberately lower the cost of oil. This would flood the make with cheap oil, and make the cost of fracking and other methods unnecessary. Saudi Arabia would be losing money, but is rich enough to keep oil cheap for a while. This slows down the development of alternative methods, but not forever. It would also play havoc with countries that heavily depend on oil exports.

While Russia likely was not the main target of the oil price drop, it is definitely affected. Russia’s oil is now too cheap for profit to be made. Without that income, the Russian government needs to hold out until the price of oil can rise again, or an alternative source of income.

We’ll see how the Russians handle this turn of events. Until then, InterPol Out.

No More Armies

Armies are on the decline. This sounds counter-intuitive. But warfare has changed to the point where the traditional army is no longer the mainstay of a military.

Traditionally, wars were fought by two armies meeting on the battlefield. One might think the side with the numerical advantage would win. This is not a bad guess, as with most endeavors, more people means more getting done. But victory is not simply whoever brought more people. The deciding factors are called force multipliers. Force multipliers are factors that increase the effectiveness of a given force. Moral , intelligence, experience and technology are some of the most powerful force multipliers.

But warfare has changed. Technology is party responsible. Tanks were once the center of the battlefield. Their thick armor and guns made them incredibly effective. Armored warfare was a key aspect of the Second World War. But the means of countering tanks increased while the number of uses of tanks declined. Battleships were also kings of the sea. But the rise of submarines and naval aviation meant the expensive ships could be sunk by a single torpedo. And finally, an tactical nuclear bomb could instantly destroy an army, while a strategic one could flatten a whole city.

But as long as one side has had an advantage, the other has done its best to counter it. And the best way to fight a conventional army is to use unconventional methods. It took 21 days to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s government. But America has spent over eight years in Iraq with limited success.

As warfare changes, it is becoming clear that the traditional ways wars were fought is over. It does not matter how smart your bombs are if the enemy is hiding inside a civilian population. We have also seen the rise of special operation units, working outside the normal procedures for an army used to great effect.

This greatly affects how countries approach conflict. Wars are can be incredibly destructive, even in short amounts of time. This means that it is in every countries interests to avoid conflict and attempt another approach. The rise in military technology, namely the bomb, has inadvertently made the nations more ready to find peaceful solutions.

InterPol, out.\

Into the Freezer

Recently, Sweden declared it was looking for what it called “foreign underwater activity” in its waters. There was suspicion that the sub was Russian, when a short broadcast in Russian was intercepted. Sweden has searched for the unknown vessel, but was unsuccessful. This was Sweden’s largest sub-hunt since the Cold War.

Mikhail Gorbachev has called the worsening relations between Russia and the Western world a new Cold War. The situation in Ukraine only made the gulf wider. Are we now in another Cold War?

First off, a ‘cold war’ is a conflict where two sides avoid military action against each other. Conflict between the main powers could be extremely devastating. Instead, they compete politically and economically. If any fighting is done, it is by proxy, again to avoid a massive conflict. In the Cold War, the fear was military action between the US and USSR could escalate to the use of nuclear weapons.

The Cold War is remembered as a time of high-tensions and fear. Any the push of a button, the world could be engulfed in nuclear fire. But in some ways, the Cold War was peaceful. Although paranoia and tensions where high, nuclear war did not break out. Nuclear weapons made the world safer. Both sides recognized that a nuclear response outweighed any advantages or benefits they could gain.

It’s also important to remember that the US ‘won’ with out doing much. It simply waited out the Soviet Union. The USSR needed to expand and spread communism. The US just surrounded them and waited. There was no big war, just waiting for USSR collapsed. We certainly sped that process up, but it was going to happen sooner or later. We did lose in Vietnam, but the fact we could fight the spread of communism anywhere in the world meant a lot more.

I expect the ‘New Cold War’ to go like the last one. The Soviet Union is no longer a superpower. But the US still is.

InterPol, out.

Operation: Destabilize

As the US carries out airstrikes on the Islamic State, many hope that tensions in the middle east will come to an end. The wars and conflicts have torn apart the people and the land. It seems that the conflict in the Middle East will never end. And that’s exactly what the US wants.

But how can you say that? If the Middle East region stabilizes, there will no longer be a need for costly and unpopular interventions. A democratic government might even form! But every time the US acts, it seems to make things worse. Fighting one group almost always leads to another group to attack in revenge. So a unending cycle of angry back-lashes and precision-bombing occurs.

Every time a new conflict arises, more and more people in the US want to let local nations deal with it themselves. Its a classic case of Vietnam Syndrome: a war-weary population against military action without any end in sight. It becomes progressively harder to sell the wars to the public.

But there is more to the game of international politics than just the immediate enemy. To live long and prosper, you must be in it for the long haul. You also must pick your battles. It does you no good to try to tackle an enemy outside your league.

This is exactly what the US has done. It has picked its fight and kept the future in sight.

So, there is some sort of motivation for the US to keep the Middle East in a constant state of chaos. What could it be?

Imagine this. A single government gains control of the Middle East region, much like how the United States controls North America (with Canada of course). That single government would have considerable power. Its location means it is an important trade center, and its population means a sizable market. Add the oil, and you have a nation to be reckoned with. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) hold considerable sway, as the member states produce over 33 million barrels of oil a day.

So lets weigh America’s options. If it brings stability to the region, or allows a single party to control the whole region, a nation/state with immense international influence emerges. If the US supports or allows chaos and destabilization to continue, it simply deals with it’s weary population instead of a unified Middle Eastern power. As we can see, the US has chosen a battle that will guarantee a future with one less rival on the world stage.

The United States will always be involved in the Middle East region. It is and indisputable geopolitical fact. By keeping the region unstable, the US never has to deal with a powerful force in the Middle East.

In the words of Sun Tzu: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

InterPol out.

One System to Rule Them All

Hello, InterPol here! Today I will look at how international laws influence the nations.

An international law is any law that is accepted by states as the frame for international relations. International laws, however, usually apply to states themselves, not individual citizens.

The United Nations is one of the best examples of international cooperation. Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly or Security Council, depending on the type of resolution, apply to all 193 member states.

One important fact is that a state cannot be forced to recognize or accept an international law or agreement. The very basic pillars of statehood rests on state sovereignty. This essential means can make their own decisions. Other states might not like of endorse the actions of another state, but it is that state’s right to as it pleases.

One example of this is America’s standing with the International Criminal Court. The ICC is another example of international law. All the member states have signed the Rome Statue and ratified it  in their own legal systems give the ICC the ability to preside over cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The trial goes the ICC if national courts can or will not prosecute criminals or the prosecution is deferred to the ICC by a state or the UN. There are currently 122 member states in the ICC.

The reason many Americans are unfamiliar with the ICC is that United States is a signatory of the Rome Statue, the legal basis for the Court, but has not ratified it. The argument was that the Rome Statue conflicted with the US Constitution. This also means that an American suspected of war crimes, genocide, or crimes against humanity would not be tried on the International Criminal Court, but by the US Supreme Court or whatever applicable military court.

The most well know international laws deal with wars. Specifically, the laws of war. War might not seem like a heavily-regulated activity, but many treaties and agreements exist. The most prominent example is the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Convention is really four sets of treaties, the most recent made in 1949, in the wake of the Second World War. The Geneva Convention aims to protect innocent people and property, prisoners of war, and make wars as short as possible.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, limited the amount of nuclear war heads, strategic bombers and Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and was a important advance in thawing the Cold War.

With new threats from international terrorism and organized crime, international laws will continue to guide the international community for the foreseeable future.

InterPol out.

War Never Changes

Hello, InterPol here.

They say war never changes. But has it? One might think yes, war has changed over time.

First were simple stone tools. Next came primitive knifes. Spears and swords soon followed. Bows, arrows and catapults then introduced ranged combat. Ships were fitted with battering rams, and siege engines battered city fortifications.

The invention of gunpowder lead to revolution in warfare. Early Chinese rockets spewed flames and smoke, terrifying foes. Cannons and muskets extended the reach of a single solider and provided ships extra firepower. Ironclad ships soon prowled the waves, armored against all but the heaviest of attacks.

The First World War marks the begging of a era of evolution in the art of war. Machine guns mowed down thousands of unprepared troops. Submarines attacked shipping lanes and dirigibles bombed cities from the air. Chemical weapons like chlorine and mustard gas were so horrible that the world agreed to never use such weapons ever again. Artillery pummeled the earth, creating the infamous No Man’s land between trenches, and the first tanks rumbled across the battlefield.

But no period in history can compare to that of the Second World War. Airplanes were once exotic new machines, made of wood and canvas. By the end of the war, jet powered planes screamed thought the sky and four-engine heavy bombers could fly over three-thousand miles and drop 20,000 pounds of explosives. Tanks became a mainstay of ‘modern’ armies, with sloped frontal armor and powerful  guns. Radar allowed early-warning and advanced fire-control on battleships and destroyers on the high seas. A brand new type of gun was introduced, the assault rifle, firing an intermediate cartridge. The first rocket weapon and guided bomb also made their first appearance in the Second World War And of course, the most memorable invention of the War, the atomic bomb. With the power of the atom, entire cities could be wiped of the face of the Earth.

But time marched on, and so did technology. More powerful bombs were made, and missiles could accurately deliver them to any point on the planet. Helicopters could fill a role airplanes could not. The SR-71 spy plane became the fastest airplane in the world. It could fly from Los Angles to Washington DC in sixty-four minutes.

Precision weaponry also made its mark. If one wanted to destroy a factory, it could be done with one precise missile, guided by satellites, instead of thousand of bombers dropping thousand of bombs. Stealth bombers can fly undetected and drop bombs onto unaware targets. And the art of war will continue to change.

As a quick aside, if you find these things interesting, check out War Is Boring.com. It also covers international events and relations, but with a more military focus.

Anyway, it looks like war will keep changing forever. But there is a critical distinction to be made. Warring does change, but War does not. We only covered the technological changes in warfare, but not how tactics and strategies have changed as well. From trench warfare to guerrilla, warring remains a complex and always-changing topic. But the reasons for war, the motivations and goals, have changed since the first caveman hit another with a stick. Why did he do that? For access to resources. Maybe regional security. Or to establish power as the dominate force in a relationship. These can be the same reasons a modern nation-state decides to use conflict to solve its needs.

War remains the most powerful way to interact in the international system. Even the threat of war is a useful bargaining chip. With the destruction of so much so easy, avoiding war is always a priority for nations

In short, the methods of war change daily as time marches on. But war, war never changes.

 

If you are interested in more things international, check out the United Nations blog. As the premier international organization with the mission of preventing another global conflict, the UN is the headquarters for all things International.

This has been InterPol. See you next time.

 

More Than Meets the Eye.

InterPol here! Today we will look at why international relations have as much to do with domestic affairs as foreign affairs.

International relations is how nations interact with each other. This is mostly done through diplomatic channels. This can be the use of ambassadors, speaking directly to the other government or through  international organizations like the United Nations.

But diplomats are usually playing a two-leveled game. One level is participating on the global stage, chiefly in the United Nations, and the other is domestic. Diplomats must simultaneously satisfy both international agreements but stick to the foreign policy set by their own country. For example, the International, Criminal Court was established in 1998 and entered force in 2002 with the Rome Statue. The ICC’s job is to preside over international war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although 139 UN member nations are signatories of the Rome Statue, the United States is one of 31 states that has not ratified it. The reason is that the US Constitution does not allow the cession of judicial authority above the Supreme Court of the United States.

Another example is the United Sates role with the League of Nations. The League of Nations. Created in 1920, in the wake of the First World War, the League’s goal was to prevent another world war. President Woodrow Wilson was a avid supporter, but Congress decided against America joining. Without the support of a nation like the United States, the League lacked the power to effectively prevent another global conflict.

We  can also turn to the example of American before its direct involvement in the Second World War. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was very supportive of aiding Great Britain, but the American public did not want to be dragged into another foreign conflict.  Only the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 convinced America to join the war on the side of the Allies.

In conclusion, while international relations seems like something that only deals with foreign policy, domestic policy has as much of an effect on how nations act and relate to each other.

InterPol out.

Welcome to InterPol

Hello. This is InterPol, short for International Politics, a blog all about international relations. The news is filled with what countries are doing. But why? What do they gain from this? Is there some ulterior motive? On InterPol, I will examine the motivations and backgrounds on why certain actors on the world stage behave the way they do. What does Russia want with Ukraine? Why does China stir up tensions with its neighbors?  And how does America fit in? I will explore all of these questions.

I have always been interested in how nations get along, and when they don’t. International relations have shaped our world since the dawn of mankind, influencing how we see our neighbors and allies to what we do in response to our enemies.

It also changes how one sees the world and their own nation. Domestic policy and foreign policy influence are not as exclusive as one might believe. Often, one is simply an extension of the other. At least, it is in democratic nations. So what about countries that don’t have democracies? How does their decision making process influence their choices? And how does the international community respond to them? Its this chain that fascinates me.  Every action or inaction has an impact on the whole world.

War is the most obvious and well know example of international relations. But  a war means much more than combat. Victory in battle does not always equal success, and defeat on the battlefield does not mean failure. Many times, the game is much larger than any outcome of a single skirmish. It can be as simple as resources and regional security to the high-stakes game of global-thermonuclear war.

International relations has always mattered since the first nation-states. And in a modern and globalized world, it will remain the one the most important endeavors ever undertaken by humanity. History is filled prime examples. The weak League of Nations could not prevent the Second World War. But the aftermath lead to the creation of the United Nations, whose mission is prevent another World War. International laws forbid the use of terrible weapons and try to minimize the effects of war. And successful international relations means more than ever,  especially with the rise of international terrorism.

I look forward to writing more. Thanks for reading!

Until next time, this has been InterPol.