• Qaddafi family split over next move

    Two of Gaddafi sons, Seif and Saadi — Gaddafi has seven sons — have floated the idea of having their father retire and for a transitional government to over see a transition to constitutional democracy; it is not clear whether Col. Gaddafi himself endorses the idea, but it is known that two other sons, Khamis and Mutuassim, who are considered hard-liners and who head their own militias, oppose the move; since the rebellion is fueled as much by tribal rivalry as by a desire for a more democratic Libya, rebel leaders were quick to announce that they were not interested in any solution which would include Gaddafi family members involved; on the ground, the low quality of the rebel forces and their lack of discipline and organization prevent them from exploiting the gains the coalition air strikes have made against Gaddafi’s heavy weaponry

  • "An act of extreme intolerance and bigotry"

    Florida pastor Terry Jones made good on his threat to burn a Koran; the backlash has begun: in Afghanistan, demonstrators attacked a UN building, killing twenty and wounding eighty-three; among the dead are Norwegian, Romanian, Swedish, and Nepalese nationals; experts worry that the wave of protest will sweep the Muslim world; last year, Obama, Clinton, Gates, Petraeus, Muller and others warned of the pernicious consequences burning the Koran would have; they were criticized in some quarters for having a “chilling effect” on free speech — but they were right; fighting for the hearts and minds of more than a billion Muslims is difficult enough without Jones’s reckless and narcissistic action

  • Analysis: Support for, opposition to, Gaddafi is tribal in nature

    The biggest danger to Col. Gaddafi is not the disorganized rebel forces, not even the destruction of the Libyan air force. Rather, the one thing that will bring him down is the loss of support from the tribal coalition that has kept him in power for four decades; the key to the success of the coalition in its efforts to persuade Gaddafi to abdicate is thus the coalition’s ability to persuade the tribes which have supported Gaddafi so far that they are betting on a losing horse; the tribal support for Gaddafi has thus far held, but high-level defections by members of historically supportive tribe — for example, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa and Ali Abdel-Salam al-Treki, former foreign minister who had been representing Libya at the U.N.— may be an indication that the Gaddafi’s tribal coalition is fraying

  • Eyeless in Libya -- and a Swiftian border security solution

    Everyone knows what the Libyan rebels are against — Gaddafi — but there is no way tell what they are for; this lack of information is not good; first, the United States and its allies may be pushing for the replacement of the devil we know with the devil we do not know; this is akin to giving Michael Phelps a three body length advantage at a swim meet: not a good idea; second, the lack of knowledge about the rebels is like a Rorschach test: outsiders look at them and see what they want to see; Jonathan Swift suggests that impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies; should we consider a Swiftian solution to problem of securing the U.S.-Mexico border?

  • Coalition faces unappealing choices in Libya

    The Obama foreign policy and national security team has concluded that the poorly equipped opposition is probably incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention — either an all-out U.S.-led military assault on regime forces or a decision to arm the rebels; even though an invasion of Libya will be smaller in scope than the invasion of Iraq, the United States and the Europeans have no stomach for it, and the coalition’s Muslim members will not support it; a decision fully to coordinate Western air power with rebel ground movements would place Washington openly on the side of the rebels, whose goals and makeup are murky and whose chances of winning — even with more air support — are questionable

  • NATO to take command over stalemated campaign

    Agreement has been reached for NATO to take over command of the Libya campaign from the U.S. Africa Command; the question of command and control has been resolved, but the questions about strategy and direction of the operation have not; it is not easy to see how, short of a ground intervention by an outside force, the operation can escape the current stalemate

  • Keeping it in perspective

    The question we should ask about nuclear power is not whether or not it has risks; every mode of power generation comes with its own risks; rather, the questions we should ask are: How do the risks of nuclear power measure relative to the risks of other power generation methods? Was the disaster in Japan proof that nuclear power plants are riskier than we thought — or did the disaster provide evidence for the opposite conclusions: aging plants absorbed unprecedented blows — a double whammy of an 8.9 earthquake, followed by a massive tsunami; a series of mistakes by plant operators — mistakes which came on top of years of wrong decisions about back-up systems and redundancy — and yet, the plants survived: there was no meltdown; there was but little release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere; some would be moved to say this is a pretty good record under the circumstances

  • Obama: Coalition cannot militarily force Gaddafi to leave

    The Obama administration is continuing to send mixed messages about the direction, purpose, and effect of the U.S.-led missile strikes on Libya, with conflicting statements from the top about Col. Qaddafi’s grip on power five days into the campaign; the coalition’s air dominance has been achieved, but administration officials have not offered a clear picture as to what the no-fly zone is expected to yield; the president reiterated that the coalition does not “have military tools at our disposal in terms of accomplishing Qaddafi’s leaving,” though he has said it is U.S. policy that Qaddafi should go; Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa spoke by telephone Sunday night with assistant secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman; no details were released

  • Air dominance is achieved, but confusion of goals deepens

    As the coalition forces achieve air dominance over Libya, the lack of clarity over the campaign’s goals becomes even more apparent; the Security Council authorized the use of force to prevent Gaddafi from killing a large number of civilians, and U.S. and French planes were thus within the UN mandate when they attacked Libyan ground units trying to attack rebels’ positions; but if the rebels go on the attack against the Libyan military, would coalition forces provide close air support? Would the coalition begin to arm and train the rebels — because if they do not, then Gaddafi will not be dislodged from power; as importantly: the support for Gaddafi comes from certain tribes, and the opposition to him is also tribal, although not exclusively so; we should not delude ourselves: if the rebels gain the upper hand, we should expect massacres and atrocities to be committed by some rebel groups against members of tribes loyal to Gaddafi; what do the coalition forces do then? Their mandate is the prevent the wholesale killing of civilians, but does this mean killing by Gaddafi loyalists only, or is the mandate broader than that?

  • Military action continues, operation's goals still unclear

    The military operation against the military assets of Col. Gaddafi continued Monday, but with lesser intensity than the attacks over the weekend; it is still not clear what the end goal of the military operation is — and it now appears that one of the reasons for the lack of clarity are divisions within NATO over the aims of the operation and who should be in charge; there are two camps within NATO which are uncomfortable with the idea of the organization running the campaign: Turkey and Germany — the former is the only Muslim member of NATO, the latter, owing to its past, always reluctant to support the use of force — are worried that NATO, under the leadership of England and France, would push for more expansive goals for the operation; France is worried that NATO — an organizations operating on the basis of unanimity, so all twenty-eight members have to agree on every move — would be swayed by those members who are not enthusiastic about the operation to limit the operation’s scope

  • Analysis: More questions than answers

    It is not clear, exactly, what targets have been attacked — and what is the overall goal of the campaign; Libya does not have an army the size of Iraq’s circa 2003, but an attack by 124 cruise missiles is on the limited side — and the numbers of planes involved is also on the small side; if what we know about the weekend air campaign is accurate, then there is not enough in it materially to weaken Gaddafi and his forces, nor is there anything in it to strengthen those who oppose him; we must conclude, then, that the campaign is more a part of a complex bargaining process with Gaddafi than a serious effort to topple him from power; it would be wise for NATO leaders to be clearer about the goal of the campaign against Gaddafi: democratic public opinion would demand it, and the Arab world, watching the West’s every move, should not be allowed to have unrealistic expectations about what it is we are trying to achieve

  • Studying counterterrorism in Israel upsets Cambridge residents

    Some residents of Cambridge, Massachusetts are upset that sixteen law enforcement and emergency services officials from the city went to Israel in an Anti Defamation League-sponsored trip to observe Israeli counterterrorism methods; the trip was funded by a local businessman; in a city hall meeting residents expressed discomfort with a privately organized trip for public officials — and with the fact that these officials chose Israel as the place to study counterterrorism tactics; one local resident said that what Israel calls “counterterrorism” is “a mechanism of oppression suited to employment in a police state, a status I do not regard our city as having obtained. At least not yet”

  • ME turmoil offers both problems and hope for U.S. counterterrorism efforts

    In a few short weeks, popular uprisings in the Islamic world have upended counterterrorism relationships that the United States spent much of the past decade trying to build; the turmoil is a source of concern for U.S. counterterrorism officials, scrambling partnerships that have been critical to operations against al Qaeda; U.S. officials say, though, that the long-term prospect of democratic reform in the region will likely be a setback to the terrorist group, because the uprisings — and the prospect that more democratic and representative governments could emerge — will do significant damage to al Qaeda’s appeal

  • Boston Dynamics developing humanoid and robot cheetah

    Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Boston Dynamics, an advanced robotics developer, a contract to build “Cheetah,” a fast and agile robot capable of chasing and evading; the eighteen year old engineering company is also working on a humanoid robot named “Atlas” based on the design of “PETMAN,” an anthropomorphic robot for testing chemical protection clothing used by the U.S. army

  • Gratuitous insults: The staying power of bad ideas

    The state of Tennessee will consider a bill which will make supporting Sharia law a felony; Oklahoma already has a similar measure of the books, but it is currently under judicial review; burning the Koran and declaring Sharia law to be a felony are not going to help in our war against terrorism; they will have the opposite effect; they are provocative measures which will inflame Muslims around the world; without the active support of Muslims around the world, the war against the terrorists cannot be won; one way to make sure we do not receive such support is by burning the Koran or by declaring support for Sharia law to be a felony; legislating that support for Sharia law is a felony is unnecessary; we outlaw polygamy without declaring support for Mormonism to be a felony; Hassidic Jewish men believe that they can divorced their wives simply by repeating “I divorce you” three times; we do not allow that – without declaring support for Orthodox Judaism to be a felony