International Security & Defense

503 Items

A helicopter is seen monitoring the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, December 23, 2018.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza (AP)

Analysis & Opinions - The Boston Globe

Trumpman's Winning Wall

| Jan. 14, 2019

As so often, “South Park” saw it coming. In “The Last of the Meheecans”— which first aired back in October 2011 — the obnoxious Cartman joins the US Border Patrol, only to find himself facing the wrong way as hordes of disillusioned Mexican workers seek to flee the economically depressed United States back to Mexico.

Undaunted, Cartman makes it his business to stop them leaving. After all, without Mexican labor, the US economy would grind to a halt.

Very often the Trump presidency feels as if it’s being written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the comic geniuses who created “South Park” more than 20 years ago. In this week’s episode, Trump/Cartman shuts down the federal government in retaliation for the Democratic Party’s leaders’ refusal to approve the border wall he campaigned for in 2016.

The net result is that the government employees responsible for controlling the vastly larger flow of people into the United States through airports don’t get paid. Desperate to end the shutdown, for which he is being blamed, Trumpman declares a national emergency under legislation that permits redirection of Department of Defense construction funds, provided it’s for purpose of military defense.

Trumpman’s attempt to use Defense money to build his wall is challenged and struck down in the courts, but he goes ahead anyway, only to run into a shortage of construction workers. The episode ends with the arrival of the “caravan” of Central American asylum-seekers (last seen in the November midterms episode), who gratefully accept jobs to build Trumpman’s wall.

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Analysis & Opinions - The Denver Post

Trump Left an Opening in his Wall to Actually Discuss Border Security

| Jan. 11, 2019

During his oval office address, President Trump painted a dire picture of the southwest border, which has left him no choice but to shut down the government. The president’s speech was, however, a sleight of hand that obscures the real dispute and misrepresents the issues at the border.

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Analysis & Opinions - The Hill

Migrant Activists and Human Smugglers Collaborated at the Southern Border: Innocents Lost

| Dec. 29, 2018

Over the past generation, migrant smugglers — at the outset known as "polleros" (or chicken herders) — have been viewed as a necessary evil by migrant advocacy groups. Smugglers acted illegally, to be sure, but for a worthy cause: To assist migrants to arrive at their destination and achieve a better life. Migrant activists, including church groups and human rights organizations, not only turned a blind eye to the law-breaking but affirmatively extended their support networks (and credibility) both to the smuggled migrants and to the (perceived) Robin Hoods who were smuggling them.

In what might have once seemed a marriage of convenience for a noble purpose, smugglers operated hand-in-hand with human rights advocacy groups along Mexico’s migration corridors. All of them viewed their activities as akin to the pre-United States civil war Underground Railroad: A network of safehouses, finances and routes through which slaves could be smuggled out of the South and brought to freedom.

Though it may have started out innocently enough, over the past ten years, the smuggling enterprise has changed dramatically and become thoroughly criminalized.

As security conditions improved steadily on the Southwest border and irregular entrance into the United States was further restricted, the price charged by smugglers rose disproportionately. In turn, as the amount of money generated by human smuggling grew, criminal groups operating along the migration routes — including drug cartels and corrupt law enforcement authorities — became major participants, and human smuggling became a central feature of their criminal businesses.

News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Election Officials Discuss Midterm Interference and Security Plans for 2020

| Dec. 18, 2018

“It was too quiet.”

That was the sentiment expressed by a number of the 45 election officials from 23 states who gathered earlier this month at Harvard for a Belfer Center Defending Digital Democracy (D3P) Midterm After-Action Conference to discuss problems around their November midterm elections.  Most said they experienced significant but mostly unintended misinformation – and some disinformation – along with a number of other challenges to their electoral processes, but not the extensive foreign cyber and other attacks that took place during the 2016 presidential election.

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Analysis & Opinions - San Diego Union-Tribune

What U.S. can do to reduce, deter illegal migration

| Nov. 21, 2018

President Donald Trump has talked tough on border security and immigration enforcement, with extreme rhetoric and harsh actions. Yet his administration has not materially changed the situation at the southwest border.

As measured by apprehensions of those who cross illegally, the southwest border today looks similar to what it was under the Obama administration. In fiscal year 2017, President Trump’s first year, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 310,531 people. Apprehensions were up in fiscal year 2018 to 396,579. By comparison, apprehensions during the Obama administration’s last six years ranged from 340,252 to 486,651. President Trump’s numbers are toward the lower end, but they are not materially different.

His failure to drive down the number of unauthorized migrants results from policy prescriptions that are not grounded in the reality attendant to illegal crossing. To the contrary, the administration’s policies — zero tolerance, troops at the border, prohibiting asylum claims — have been geared to stir political effects not achieve operational results.

There are effective steps that can be taken to further reduce and deter illegal migration. Migrants continue to arrive at the border because they succeed in entering the country in a legal way by claiming asylum, establishing credible fear (a low standard), and then being granted entry to await immigration proceedings. These proceedings, however, occur years later because of a hopelessly backlogged immigration court system.

The immigration courts require an infusion of resources to hire more judges and expand capacity so that cases can be fairly resolved in weeks — not years. Since the majority of cases that go to a decision result in a denial of asylum, fair but expedited proceedings would create an effective deterrent to irregular migration. The costs of undertaking a dangerous journey more likely than not to end in deportation would close the loophole that is the essence of the illegal migration problem today. The president’s current gambit of restricting asylum by executive decree, by contrast, is both legally questionable and does not address the underlying court-capacity problem.

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Analysis & Opinions - Forbes

Now That The Democrats Have Won The House, Who Will They Investigate And How?

| Nov. 07, 2018

With the Democrats’ capture of a House majority in the November 6 midterm elections, Washington will look very different next year. Although the Democrats’ ability to implement their policy agenda will be limited by a Republican-controlled Senate and White House, the House Judiciary Committee and other investigative committees are expected to launch vigorous oversight and investigations into executive branch activities and even private industry as well.

Why do the Democrats need a majority to do it? First, only the majority party can schedule congressional hearings. Second, in the House only committee chairpersons have subpoena power, which comes in two flavors: demands for witnesses to testify and demands for documents.

With the power of the majority, Democrats are expected to focus on several issues including protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election, alleged violations of government ethics by executive branch officials, and the president’s personal business dealings. Also expect the Democrats to focus on certain public policy issues such as health care.

Don’t expect the Trump administration to roll over and give House Democrats everything they want.  Just because Congress asks for documents or witnesses doesn’t mean they will get them quickly, or even at all. Congressional requests and subpoenas often lead to public and private showdowns between Congress and the executive branch until both sides arrive at an agreement. Administrations often want to appear cooperative without getting hauled before Congress to answer questions publicly. Administrations are also loath to turn over documents that may reveal internal deliberations, especially if those documents reveal embarrassing facts—or worse.

A makeshift memorial on Saturday outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were fatally shot on Oct. 27. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

Keith Srakocic/AP

Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

We’ve declared war on foreign terrorism. Why not do the same for domestic threats?

| Nov. 05, 2018

In the span of a week, our nation experienced a torrent of hate-fueled attacks: the slaying of two African Americans in a Kentucky supermarket , the  mail-bomb assassination attempts and the mass slaying in a Pittsburgh synagogue . These attacks tragically demonstrate that domestic terrorism is on the rise as political polarization and hateful echo chambers on social media radicalize people.

As we mourn those who died in Kentucky and Pittsburgh, we should recognize that such tragedies highlight a dangerous counterterrorism gap that has developed over time: an insufficient focus by the federal government on the threat of domestic terrorism.