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A Multiplicity of Threats: Notes on James Clapper's Testimony to Congress
March 13th, 2013
Yesterday, the nation’s top intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., briefed Congress on the most important security threats facing our nation. Clapper didn’t bother to hide his disdain for the annual event, calling an open hearing on intelligence matters a “contradiction in terms.” In a more subtle critique, Clapper also noted that it is virtually impossible to “rank—in terms of long-term importance—the numerous, potential threats to U.S. national security.” In that vein, Clapper said it is the “multiplicity and interconnectedness of potential threats—and the actors behind them—that constitute our biggest challenge.” On that critique, I couldn’t agree more. One of...
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Poverty, Sanctions, and North Korea's Nuclear Ambitions
February 20th, 2013
This week North Korea released an inflammatory new propaganda video showing President Obama and United States troops in flames. The video then credits America’s “gangster-like policy of hostility” for the country’s decision to become a “strong military power” and conduct its latest nuclear test. Like many other North Korean propaganda videos, this one also blames the nation's overwhelming poverty—including chronic food shortages—to the imperialist bullying of America. Although the video and its sentiment is far from new—North Korea has been releasing such propaganda for years—the implications of this one are a little more pressing this time around. That’s because North...
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Pulling the Wool Over Our Eyes: How North Korea uses Arab Bank to avoid the world's sanctions
October 8th, 2011
With some notable exceptions, most scholars and politicians believe the world should limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons. For the overwhelming majority of countries, this is not a problem. Most countries do not have the resources—or more importantly the aspirations—to gain nuclear capabilities. But the problem with nuclear weapons is that even one of these weapons in the wrong hands could inflict overwhelming injury to thousands. Which is why the world doesn’t just need a majority consensus; it needs a complete consensus. The international community has a few tools to limit nuclear proliferation. The most notable of these is...
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Do sanctions work?
October 20th, 2010
Sanctions are penalties imposed by a single country—or a group of countries—on a state which has taken a troublesome economic or political action. They can be economic, for example bans on exports, or they can be financial, which often bar banks from maintaining accounts in the offending country. Trade sanctions, which are often rooted in economics and not politics, include import duties, tariffs, and import or export quotas. The idea behind these restrictions is that a sanction will cause economic harm to the recipient, thereby pressuring that country into compiling with international or bilateral will. ...
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