Friday, May 08, 2020

Spring 2020 Final Exam

Diplomacy 750: Defense Statecraft
Final Exam
May 8, 2020

Please answer one of the following three questions, and return your essay to Dr. Farley by 12:30pm:

1.     Discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on defense planning in the United States.  How will the economic and demographic effects of the pandemic change how the United States manages its defense budget and its military services?
2.     The COVID-19 pandemic has generated considerable ill-will between China and the United States.  How will the pandemic affect the balance of power between Washington and Beijing?  What military risks and opportunities now face each of the two competitors?
3.     The Spanish Flu of 1918 had an important, but not decisive, impact of fighting on the Western Front.  Have the character and nature of warfare changed such that the modern COVID-19 pandemic will have different effects on conflicts around the globe?

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Iran’s “Crushing Response” to Embargo Extension

        Since 2007 Iran has been under an arms embargo mandated by the U.N. Security Council. Iran is currently subject to many different types of sanctions, but this arms embargo invoked a recent controversy. For starters under the terms of the JCPOA, the embargo is set to expire in October, showing that Iran has been cooperating with the terms of the deal. The JCPOA itself is subject to scrutiny after the U.S. pulled out of the deal because Iran was not holding up its end of the bargain. Even though the U.S. is not a party to the JCPOA, the U.S. is still seeking to have the embargo extended, which caused an explosive response from the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iran’s President said that if the U.S. continues to push for the extension of the embargo, then Iran will have a “crushing response” which has spurred the latest look into the debate of arms control and trade in Iran.
           Form Iran’s perspective, the U.S. has lost all rights to the extent to the sanctions. Some doubt that the U.S. will be able to get the votes necessary to extend the embargo. China and Russia, who hold veto power, have expressed disinterest in extending the embargo. Both countries would be able to sell arms to Iran once the embargo is lifted. Rouhani stated that if the U.S. wants to get involved, then it should re-enter the deal and lift all the sanctions as compensation for leaving the agreement. From the U.S. perspective, it is still a permanent member of the U.N. security council and JCPOA or not, Iran should have the embargo extended because they are not following the terms. Plus, the U.S. can snap back all sanctions. Actions and words do not match up on either side. Iran says it wants the deal to stay in place but at the same time has “rolled backs its commitments.” At the same time, the U.S. pulls out of the agreement but still wants oversight and control.
           One of the questions that this brings to light is the trade-off between nuclear and conventional weapons.  European nations want the embargo extended but fear that by doing that, it would null the rest of the JCPOA, which is a trade-off that those nations are not willing to do. The U.S. seems to have taken the stance that conventional weapons are more of a threat right now. At the same time, other nations, especially in Europe, believe that regulating nuclear weapons is more important. This trade-off is not one that can be made lightly. Another thing to question is with all the other sanctions in place, even if the U.N. Embargo ended, it would still be challenging for Iran to procure arms, which could point to political grandstanding by both nations.

U.S. Campaigning to Extend Iran Arms Embargo

The latest fallout from the U.S.'s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran could be coming to pass soon. Iran has been banned from exporting or importing conventional weapons for over a decade now, but this arms embargo is set to expire this October. This expiration was predicated upon Iran's honoring of the JCPOA. However, tensions between Iran and the West in recent times has led the country to progressively roll back its commitment to the treaty.

In response, the U.S. is now threatening to extend the arms embargo on Iran set to expire this fall. In response to the U.S.'s campaigning to extend the arms embargo, Iranian officials have stated that such actions will result in a permanent end to the nuclear treaty. It is not difficult to understand Iran's perspective that a nation who has unilaterally withdrawn from a treaty should not have the audacity to further meddle with the matter. 

Iran's sentiment appears to not be unique if several sources within the U.N. are to be believed. There are reports that European diplomats agree with the fact that the United States has forfeited its right to renew such embargoes when it ended its participation in the JCPOA in 2018. Even if the U.S. could convince its European allies on the U.N. Security Council, it is unlikely that China or Russia would side with this action. 

The U.S. is trying to drink its soup and keep its mustache dry at the same time, withdrawing from a nuclear treaty it disagrees with except for when it decides to pressure those still attempting to uphold it in order to exact its own will. The economic burden that Iran is already under due to the US's sanctions would not be much altered by a renewal of the arms embargo, but the US's antics could permanently jeopardize international negotiations with Iran. 

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Fly Overs

The military recently joined public efforts to show respect for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past week, Air Force and Navy jets performed fly overs to “salute” frontline workers, with more planned in the near future. Initial fly overs took place in large cities, such as Atlanta, New York, and Washington D.C, but more cities are scheduled to participate soon.  Some of the jets focused on city centers while others made special trips to hospitals. The act of solidarity was met with mixed reviews. Some felt the costly act was ill timed and represented a premature declaration of victory over the virus. Others felt grateful for the unifying experience and sign of respect.

These fly overs do not run cheap. Reported costs range from $36,000 to $50,000 per hour of flight depending on who is reporting. Critics of the fly overs argue that the money could be better spent, perhaps on personal protective equipment for military personnel or research for vaccinations. Others explain they would prefer the government to display their gratitude in direct monetary forms, such as pay increases for frontline workers or continued stimulus checks.

However, for those who enjoy and appreciate the show, it is a special honor for them to be the honorees of a long standing military tradition. It is a reminder to them that their efforts are not in vain and that America supports and needs them.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The UN Arms Trade Treaty

It's been just over a year since President Trump announced the US withdrawal from the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the annual NRA meeting in Indianapolis. The withdrawal was heralded on stage by Trump and Second Amendment activists as a major win for protecting American sovereignty and the right to gun ownership. The statement released by the Whitehouse labeled the treaty as a "misguided agreement" that "infringed upon the sovereignty of the US". In the same statement, it championed US export controls as the "gold standard for engaging in responsible arms trading" adding that the treaty was simply "not needed."

What is confusing about these statements is that the treaty itself holds no authority over domestic gun control laws.  The already existing "gold standard" in the US meant that the signing of the treaty would not require any change to US laws to remain in compliance. The US was also the second largest financial contributor to the negotiations behind Japan. The original intent of the treaty was not to bring the US into compliance.

The ATT treaty in reality was meant to limit the capabilities of regimes such as North Korea, Syria and Iran to procure weapon systems and other military technologies. It could also have served as a means of pressuring other regimes accused of human rights abuses such as Saudi Arabia and Israel to be more compliant with international norms. The implications are effectively none for the Second Amendment. To put it bluntly, this treaty was meant to regulate weapons that are worth more than your house, not your Winchester rifle. If any, regulation could fall on the actions of major weapon manufacturers abroad (i.e. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon), but they are already heavily regulated by the government for national security purposes. The Trump Administrations actions instead of being viewed as a defense of national sovereignty should be viewed as an attack on multilateralism. The treaty was simply taken as an opportunity to publicly reject global institutions and consensus from the realm of US foreign policy.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Selling out on Freedom

Britain has drastically increased arms sales. In 2018, Britain reported £310 million in arms sales. In 2019, that figure increased to £1.3 billion. This is great news for the British economy, which is still finding it's sea legs after the recent separation from the EU. However, it has not come without controversy.

A new report indicates that British arms sales have increased to nations rife with claims of human rights violations and oppression. The report shows that 26 of the 48 countries who received British arms are classified as "not free" on the Freedom House's freedom scale. Human rights groups are working to bring this revelation to light, but the issue has gone largely unreported in the media due to the worldwide focus on COVID-19.

This controversy follows on the heels of a 2019 court of appeals ruling that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful. Red flags were raised with this ruling, sparking criticism that the British government valued profits and economic success over human rights and freedom.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Defeated National Champions

In the movie Finding Forrester, two characters discuss the origins of Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW). One character says that his car, a BMW, is “more than just a car”, and receives a history lesson from the other. He discusses the origins of the company, naming Franz Popp as the founder. He goes on to mention the production of aircraft engines during World War One and Two, namely the BMW 801, a powerful engine used by the Luftwaffe in the later years of the war. This character also claims, “And if they had more time, they would’ve been bombing the shit out of England, and maybe even won the war.”
Though the scene then continues with an apocryphal origin of the company’s logo (“white propellers on a blue sky”) for cinematic purposes, the other statements about BMW are true. Franz Josef Popp was, indeed, one of three founders of the company and served as its First General Director from the interbellum period into World War Two. BMW was heavily involved in the German war effort, producing aircraft, motorcycle, and automobile engines. This was done through the utilization of slave labor under the Nazi regime. After the wars, BMW was disallowed from producing engines which could be used for military operations. In the case of World War One, the production resumed in the 1930s. After World War Two, BMW would cease to produce aircraft engines and not return to automobile or motorcycle engine construction until the end of the 1940s and early 1950s. Before this resumed, the company survived on supplying kitchenware and survived attempts at acquisition from competitors. 
The company, to its credit, has not shied from its dark past, going so far as to proclaim its regrets during celebrations of the BMW centennial in 2016. BMW’s survival as a company is impressive, and likely the best possible scenario for a defeated country’s national champions. 

Friday, May 01, 2020

The Arms Industry and the Upcoming Recession

The world is facing a global recession that will affect nearly every industry. Investors are scrambling to find stocks that are stable. One such option are arms companies such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Raytheon. This industry generates almost 700 billion USD per year, the equivalent of a sixth of the federal budget. It is unlikely the arms trade will decline during the upcoming recession because there is primarily only one customer-the US government. The government will continue to buy arms no matter what in order to maintain the military. Even if demand does decrease, it would not be a noticeable dip. Currently stocks have fallen, but much, much less than other companies such as Boeing. Companies will still continue to sell abroad although it is likely countries will try to purchase from their own domestic arms industry when possible in order to boost their economies. 

The most pressing issue for investors is the ethics of the industry. Unlike other industries, the arms trade is actively engaged in weapons and killing. For many potential investors, this may be a moral quandary with which they are unable to reconcile. This also is not necessarily an opportunity for the common consumer; it is limited mainly to those who have access to hedge funds.