Peace in Europe: Once a Distant Dream



Throughout our course of study this semester, we have frequently questioned the impact and significance of international organizations in relation to peacekeeping efforts. How and when are they most effective at mitigating conflict? Often times, the answer is far from clear. Looking at the successful and democratic elections in Liberia, we might conclude that the UN is an effective interventionist in regional conflict. However, in looking at the massacre of Srebrenica, we might conclude exactly the opposite. What then are some indicators of a international organizations merits in relation to proliferating peace? This post examines the success of the European Union.


First, it is crucial for us to recognize that the EU is heavily involved in the peacekeeping mandates of other international organizations. For example, when the united Nations created the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), many EU member states that are troop-contributing countries (TCC’s) immediately stepped up to bat to help provide support both in terms of logistics and manpower. In August of 2008, the EU led talks between Georgia and Russia, and was able to guide those two nations towards a ceasefire.


However, it is perhaps  more important for us to focus on the truly incredible efforts of the European union that led to its receipt of the 2012 Nobel Peace prize. Consider the violence and carnage of the continent of Europe between 1850 and 1950l. World War II alone resulted in nearly 80 million deaths with World War I resulting in nearly 40 million. Over the course of 100 years, Germany and France went to war 3 times, engulfing the continent in chaos and corpses. If one considers the possibility of war between these two nations today however, it is nearly unthinkable. This is a testament to the power of the European union and underscores the significance that economics can play in peacekeeping. The economic and social ties between European nations has grown at an exponential rate over the course of the past half century, accomplishing not only a stronger European economy, but also a stronger sense of shared interests. Said Jean Monnet, a founder of the EU, “It is better to fight around the table than on the battlefield”


This prize is but a bookmark in the many chapters or the unions evolution as perhaps the sole factor contributing to peace on the continent. It testifies not only to the power of diplomacy, but the power of carefully selected shared economic interests. The euro ties many member states together in a way that no other nations could achieve through any number of treaties. Indeed, the shared currency in many ways is a sink together or swim together ultimatum for participating member states. Few would argue that the European nations would have gone to such great lengths to save Greece during its financial crisis if they did not have such vested interest. The drive toward common markets also play a pivotal role as inter state private interests continue to evolve. The structure of the EU makes it comparatively easy to pursue inter-member state business endeavors far simpler than in individual international business. With these joint pressures from both the public and private sectors, governments have almost no choice but to assume diplomatic solutions as the sole method to inter-state conflict. Any action against another state has almost certain impact on the initiator, and indeed the rest of the Union. This incentivized participation and cooperation and strongly discourages dissent. As such, it is clear that economic unions strongly impact international conflict for the better. Some questions to consider researching are:


How might the EU improve its economic integration to further reduce the likelihood of international conflict?


What are ways in which the EU fails to prevent conflict between member states? What is the nature of these conflicts?


What are feasible scenarios in which a member state might act in gross departure from the rest of the Union? What would the impact be on that state and the Union as a whole?


Countering Insurgency In The Digital Age


November 13th 2015, Paris, France: 130 civilians were killed in a series of organized attacks carried out by the Islamic State. Shortly after, The “Hacktivist–Cyber-Insurgency” group Anonymous announced that it had “declared war” on ISIS, and planned to combat the terrorist group in an arena that has become omnipresent in the digital society of today – the Internet and social media. On the surface, the announcement of a group such as Anonymous to counteract an organization such as ISIS would not be taken seriously, especially considering that the most powerful nations of the world (The U.S, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, etc.,) have not to date been able to bring the extremist group to heel. Yet, ISIS has from the start shown themselves to be an entirely new generation of terrorist group. Indeed, president Obama has characterized ISIS as being “A group of killers with good social media skills.” The United States has recognized the importance of countering ISIS in the arena of Social media, forming a unique cell within the state department solely for that mission. However, Obama has noted that on this account, the American efforts have fallen short. Keeping in mind that sometimes history has shown that it can take an insurgency to defeat an insurgency (for instance the example of the Sunni Awakening in western Iraq to defeat Al-Qaeda,) perhaps one should give the Anonymous threat more credence.


Mao Zedong famously said, “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.” While Mao was referring to the guerrilla efforts in relationship to a physical presence among civilians, in this modern age the same principal can be applied to spreading and gaining support for an ideology using digital media. ISIS has proven to be able to effectively exploit social media outlets to spread its ideology and further its recruiting efforts among civilians. Government efforts to thwart this, known as counter-messaging have proven ineffective, primarily because they are reactive in nature as opposed to being pro-active, always trying to catch up, and back peddle what ISIS has already done. It is difficult to counter a message when that message is already in place. Whether Anonymous can prove to be more effective than governments at countering ISIS seems to rest on three issues. First in denying ISIS access to certain sites, and second to undermining community confidence in the credibility of the ISIS cause, and third in super imposing a competing ideology over that lauded by ISIS.


On the first there is no doubt that Anonymous has the skill set necessary to disrupt the physical access to social media sites by ISIS and its affiliates, Anonymous has proven its ability to hack into heavily secured government and commercial sites, and is very effective at breaking the very kinds of encryption that ISIS utilizes on the internet for secure communication. Anonymous specializes in DDoS, or distributed denial of service attacks, in other words flooding a site with information requests so that it crashes.

On the second- Anonymous has shown themselves to be capable of accessing, through malicious hacking and viruses, private and protected information that could prove potentially damaging (for instance, the hack into Ashley Madison.) While governments possess similar technical capabilities, these are often constrained by legal restrictions that anonymous does not adhere to.


On the third- Anonymous’ main ideology is that which supports anarchy-based freedom, which is not inherently compatible with the kind of moderate Muslim ideology most people believe is necessary to counter the fundamentalism of ISIS. In order for Anonymous to succeed on this front, they would need to make common cause with a group, moderate Muslims, (to quote president Obama in his speech on defeating ISIS.) On the surface, such an alliance is unlikely. However, if Anonymous proves itself to be capable in disrupting and undermining ISIS in the digital arena, their credibility with moderate Muslims might increase to the point that they could make common cause in countering the extremist ideology of ISIS, especially given the fact that Anonymous is well positioned to demonstrate through the vehicle of social media the horrific realities of ISIS and its ideology, negating recruitment techniques through that media.anonymous-declares-war-on-isis1

Will Anonymous succeed? Only time will tell. However, harkening back to Mao’s words, Anonymous has arguably more in common with the ‘ocean’ of the Internet than the governments of the United States and other world powers who are trying to counter ISIS.

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Climate Change Leading to War

In light of the attacks on Paris on November 13th, 2015, the nations of the world were marked to come together in Le Bourget, Paris only a few weeks later to discuss the conference objective of a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change. On December 5th, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had come to their final agreements on how to implement laws and policies to hold the global average short of a 2 degree Celsius increase, unfortunately many nations see climate change as a risk of aggravating conflicts between nations.

Climate change itself is not the issue however, it just multiplies the threat. A change in the climate exacerbates poverty and water scarcity, it compounds food and nutrition insecurity and it makes it even harder for poor households to secure their rights. As we’ve learned in class, grievances are one of the main reasons as to why people are up in arms against their respective country. Poverty, repression, discrimination, and exclusion are all factors that play into whether or not a country enters a civil war.

With climate change adding onto the stresses of life that these countries already endure, radicalization is much more likely. For example, the recurrent drought in Syria that began in 2010 has been awarded the key aggravating factor that led to the civil war that has destroyed the country from within. The drought, which broke record levels, was brought on by global warming and pushed social unrest to a breaking point causing the uprising in 2011 which has led to a major civil war with international involvement.


Disputes in the East China Sea


The East China Sea, a territorial dispute place between China and Japan over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Isalnds, continue to raise tensions. Mari Yamaguchi, a reporter of abcNEWS delivered information that Japan ministry officials said that Kenji Wakamiya, Japan’s deputy defense minister met the mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama of a southern island to support the plan about deployment troops to region nearby disputed East China sea islands for emergency response in case of infiltration on nearby islands. Tensions in the East China Sea have been there and China’s aggressive play with declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone seems continuing. This is quite not good news for not only East Asia’s security but is also dangerous international economy and security. Japan is not having good relationship with China and South Korea as before because of historical issues and Diaoyu and Dokdo Islands disputes continue to bother the relationship. Many people who live in the East Asia foresee that militaries action will happen by accidental acceleration rather than a planned attack.

Tensions in the East China Sea have risen sharply after Japan planned to deploy couple hundreds of Japanese Self-Defense Forces. SDF has long been preparing for East China Sea possible conflict with China. The fact makes me very discomfort that they are already ready to fight. Now SDF can operate military action anytime they want because Prime Minister Shinzo Abe enacted new security laws. According to the yearbook of Military Spending and Regional Security in the Asia-Pacific, Japan has been steadily increasing their defense budget and their moves towards increasing military spending and rearmament represent the reality that they are concerning with security situation in the region. The data shows that China’s military spending is also keep increased year by year.

According to the Japanese defense ministry, “China flew eight bombers, two surveillance aircraft, and one early-warning aircraft near Okinawa. Beijing said the flyby was part of a scheduled exercise to improve the long-range combat capabilities of the people’s Liberation Army Air Force.” If the plan to deploy hundreds of ground soldiers on the island in 2019 became real, China would press harder on its territorial claims that might increase the accidental escalation.


As I learned from the class that despite the diplomatic and territorial problems between the two nations, the economic ties them. These two largest economies countries in Asia should find out the way to solve their conflicts and securities problems for peace in the East Asia, however it seems hard to be solved soon that the latest incident represents distrust and tension still remain in their relationship. China and Japan, both countries are rapidly increasing their number of army and armaments and widening their military activities at the sea, in the air and on the space. Security dilemma explain that South Korea and North Korea also put more budget to military. If a window got cracked once, it would get damage easier than earlier with an even weaker impact. How long economic relationship will tie East Asian countries together?


NATO Increases Tensions With Russia Through Membership Invitation to Montenegro

With Isis, Syria and the Russia/Ukraine conflict making waves throughout the international community, NATO involvement (or lack thereof)  has been in the news often. Recently, NATO has extended an offer to Montenegro to join the alliance; this will be the first invitation in six years since Albania and Croatia joined in 2009. While adding a member to NATO would normally draw significant media attention, this offer is especially important due to the timing and location of Montenegro. NATO has been attempting to gain support from Russia to fight ISIS and solve the problems in Syria, especially after the Russian plane was taken down over Egypt. However, at the same time NATO has been extending further east making Russia extremely uncomfortable and ruining any efforts to unite against the Islamic State. Russia’s discomfort is due to the West imposing their influence on the countries surrounding Russia – which can potentially have a direct impact on Russian economy and national security (NY Times).


The tension with Russia and NATO has been building through the Ukraine conflict and annexation of Crimea has only been growing since. Just before the offer to Montenegro, Russian fighter jets had been entering NATO airspace over the Balkans and Turkey. Turkey did not respond kindly to this, shooting down a fighter jet headed to bomb Turkmen in Syria. Some believe this action was a sign the NATO no longer views Russia as a strategic partner but rather a full blown adversary. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of Duma’s defense committee, said “They are ready to admit even the North Pole to NATO just for the sake of encircling Russia.” John Kerry, who was present during the offer to Montenegro, denied this allegation claiming that this offer was simply another step in admitting all of Europe to NATO. It’s hard to be sure what the true motivations for inviting Montenegro into NATO is, especially since it has historically been an enemy of NATO members. In defense of John Kerry, Montenegro has recently made positive contributions to NATO, contributing 45 servicemen to a NATO coalition in Afghanistan and joining several European organizations.While the timing of the offer may support Komoyedov’s statement, the member countries of NATO claim they are unwilling to link NATO-Russian conflict, despite Putin’s attempts to, to the conflicts with ISIS. Many hope that keeping these issues separate will allow the countries to help each other where their interests overlap the most i.e. Syria and Isis. Russia’s full participation in the nuclear deal with Iran during some of the most intense times in the Ukraine conflict as an example, many are hoping that unification over the Islamic State will eventually come about (NY Times).



A Hot World Threat

United States President, Barack Obama took a trip to Paris to meet with leaders from 150 nations on Nov 30th and it was not just to discuss the recent terrorist attacks. There is another issue at large, and that is global warming. The meeting that took place in Paris was the COP21 climate conference. President Obama has said that climate change poses an enormous threat to the planet currently and for future generations.  No nation is immune to this and it is an issue that needs to be handled with urgency. With the US being the second largest contributor to the problem Obama has made it his duty to make change. At the conference he stated, “The United States not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”

The goal of the conference was to get countries on board with converting to clean energy and cutting carbon emissions. At the conference 181 nations pledged that they would combat man-made carbon dioxide pollution. For other nations that can not afford this switch president Obama has offered to help pay their share and is urging business leaders to contribute to this as well.

There is just one problem with all of this, none of it is legally binding. Getting a treaty to pass on this issue seems like it would be an easy thing considering it involves the entire planet but like most things it is more complicated than it seems. It is hard to get that many countries to agree on practically anything. Not to mention president Obama is fearful that the treaty would not pass with the house of representatives. Without something legally binding like a treaty will we see the necessary changes needed to save our planet?


The Unlikely Alliance Against ISIS

The Islamic State or ISIS has been a constantly growing threat in the Middle East for years but the international community has been at odds on how to deal with the situation. Russia on one hand thought that one of the best way to handle ISIS was through strengthening the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The U.S. though was supporting the rebels in Syria. With such different motivations in the struggle it is surprising that the international community has finally come together to form a coalition.

The main motivation behind this unification is the attacks in Paris in November. The attacks led France to draft a UN resolution stating that all able states should join the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. This resolution highlights a rare moment in it being unanimously accepted by the security council where both the U.S.and Russia have veto power.

The alliance between the two countries go even further though which only helps to emphasize the effect that ISIS has had on influencing the international community. After years of tension between Russia and the U.S., Putin has finally come out and said that Russia is ready to cooperate with the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group. This unlikely alliance between the two will go a long way towards keeping an open dialogue on how best to handle future situations in the region.