The author, Jamie Metzl, is Co-Chair of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared on Project Syndicate. Metzl is a former member of President Clinton’s National Security Council team and a current Senior Fellow of the Asia Society.
Reinvigorating the US-Japan Alliance
NEW YORK – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s current visit to the United States provides an ideal opportunity to reinvigorate the long-standing US-Japan bilateral alliance in the face of an increasingly aggressive China and persistent tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
For a half-century, the US-Japan alliance has been a cornerstone of Asian and global peace, security, and stability – and Japan has been an outstanding global citizen. Japan developed the economic-growth model that other Asian countries later emulated so successfully; actively contributed to global economic development; participated in the United Nations and other multilateral institutions (including paying a disproportionately high percentage of UN costs); and has helped to set a global standard for environmental protection and sustainable development.
As Abe arrives in Washington, DC, Japan and the US are both facing significant internal and external challenges, including rising tensions in Asia. In recent months, Chinese aircraft have repeatedly violated Japanese airspace over the East China Sea, and a Chinese naval vessel locked its weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese destroyer and helicopter.
Likewise, a Chinese military intelligence unit in Shanghai has reportedly hacked – and stolen from – a multitude of US businesses. And North Korea conducted its third nuclear test earlier this month, sending shock waves through the region.
This article was written by two Fall 2011 Fellows in PSA’s Congressional Fellowship Program. All CFP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Fellows that were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
Cyber-based threats against information infrastructures in the United States have generated an increasing concern for national security. According to a Congressional Research Service report, these emerging threats consist of cyber terrorism, debilitating U.S. command over the electromagnetic spectrum, facilitation of terrorist operations, cyber crimes involving theft of intellectual property, patent violations, or copyright laws, and identity theft. These threats also involve unauthorized probing of tests that target a computer’s configuration and its system defenses and, in some instances, the unauthorized viewing, copying, and extraction of data files. The low expense of access to the internet combined with the ability to operate anonymously, are strong key factors that make information operations enticing for those who are unable to combat the U.S. in conventional warfare. Understanding these real threats against our nation enforces the need for a shift in prioritization and funding to address any future cyber security threats in all capacities.
Advisory Board Member and former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, discusses his recommendations for U.S. Policy in Iran. His recommendations include greater cooperation with the United Nations, collaboration with regional partners, and intelligence sharing in addition to many other points of leverage and influence the United States could use. The article originally appeared here on CNN.
Washington (CNN) — Longtime observers of the Middle East are baffled by allegations that high-ranking officials in the Iranian government approved a plan to assassinate Saudi Arabia Ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, and blow up the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington. Commentators have described the plan as “brazen,” but “bizarre” and ‘bone-headed” might be more appropriate adjectives.
It’s difficult to comprehend either the motives or the means selected to carry out the plan outlined by the Justice Department in its criminal indictment of Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are not new, but Iran has been both cautious and clever enough to restrain its ambitions for regional dominance.
If the allegations of the assassination and bombing plot are true, and the covert operation had proved successful, Iran’s leaders would have invited retaliation on a scale far more vigorous than any they might have contemplated. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that the Iranian landscape would likely have been substantially altered.
Just a few years ago, conventional wisdom held that Google would be the vanguard of Internet freedom in China, transforming the way information flows throughout the historically closed society. But while the rapid expansion of the Internet in China has indeed served as a vital medium for political activism, Beijing has essentially kept pace with its extensive surveillance network to silence “cyber dissidents” and with its use of the Web as a pro-government propaganda machine to steer public opinion. At first glance, it appears that China’s censorship practices warrant a strong U.S. policy and a thorough condemnation from the Obama administration. But as Emily Parker, the Arthur Ross Fellow at the Asia Society, explains, U.S. technological innovation – not U.S. policy – is likely the most capable, effective, and politically sensible tool for chipping away at China’s Great Firewall.
Since Google’s departure, the Chinese government has taken action to tighten its grip on the Internet. Earlier this month, China quietly acknowledged the creation of a new “Internet news coordination bureau,” officially responsible for “guidance, coordination and other work related to the construction and management of Web culture.” And just this week, China’s legislature proposed an amendment to the Law on Guarding State Secrets that would require telecommunications companies to “detect, report and delete” leaks of “state secrets,” broadly defined by the government as “information concerning national security and interests that, if released, would harm the country’s security and interests.” These measures are just the latest pieces fastened to a massive regulatory system, much to the chagrin of the international human rights community and many of China’s 400 million Internet users. (more…)
As we continue to hurtle through the Information Age at breakneck speeds, a glance back at the early 1990s makes it ever clearer that everything we thought we knew about the way our world works has changed. Every day, millions of people ascend into a dimension of human interaction that did not exist – at least not at all the way it does today – just 15 years ago. Cyberspace, as this dimension has come to be known, is a transformative realm, transcending the traditional domains of air, land, and sea because it simply knows no boundaries. It breaks down physical barriers, blurs the borders of nations, and ignores the intrinsic concept of spatial separation. The social networking phenomenon has given rise to a global conversation unprecedented in human history. “For the first time,” Peter Daou writes, “we are thinking aloud unfettered and unfiltered by mass media gatekeepers . . . pouring the content of hundreds of millions of minds onto a global cyber-canvass, the commixture becoming something new and unpredictable.” Most significantly, information no longer flows linearly – it leaps randomly from one mind to the next and from one side of the globe to the other. One could say that the global exchange of ideas occurs in a purer way than ever before.
But there is a flipside to this coin. Our collective security is now in more danger than ever for the very same reason the cyber revolution is such an amazing achievement – we are all interconnected. Virtually every aspect of our lives has an uninterruptable link to the cyber world. Our electricity, water, oil, telecommunications, banking, public transportation, air traffic control, and defense systems all rely on computer networks. “For all these reasons,” President Obama has said, “it’s now clear this cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.” (more…)
Although President Obama may have found a way to keep his BlackBerry, he will not be able to use it while executing his new job. He might eventually be able to move to a phone-PDA certified by the National Security Agency to handle Top Secret voice, email, and website communications, but at the moment, the government is understandably wary of using handhelds for storing and transmitting classified information.
The threat of hackers and cyber thieves is very real and can be extremely dangerous. If a “Group” (terrorist organization, nation, state, non-state actors-pick your poison) could coordinate a cyber attack with some type of physical intrusion or ground offensive, the “Group” could do some serious damage. An example of such a scenario would be the controversy surrounding Russia’s invasion of Georgia last August. Georgia had been experiencing distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks targeting its government websites before and during the hostilities. These attacks disrupted Georgia’s communications, but no direct evidence links the Russian government to having orchestrated the attacks. It is also worth noting that a similar cyber attack happened in Estonia last year during tensions between Moscow and the Baltic state. Czech Business Weekly states, “while no one is pointing fingers openly at Russia, all heads are turned in that direction.” But, like the cyberattack on Georgia, no conclusive evidence points to the Russian Government. In the case of Estonia, no ground offensive was necessary to effectively shutdown servers and major infrastructure-including the banking industry-setting off massive panic and a “cyber-riot” that plunged the tech-savvy country in the cyber dark for over two weeks.
Although this scenario is unlikely to happen in the United States, America is certainly not immune to cyber attacks. America’s information systems have been targeted for decades. In 2007, the Pentagon’s systems were hacked. Although China was “blamed” for the attack via indirect channels, there is no conclusive evidence that they where behind the breach. Obama and McCain’s Campaign computers were hacked mid-summer 2008 by “a foreign government or organization” looking for proposed policy information. In November 2008, the Department of Defense acknowledged their systems had been infected by a virus and, subsequently, banned the use of all thumb drives. Just think: electricity, water, transportation, all major infrastructures, are run by computer. A well placed virus can cause a system to malfunction quickly.
Is this making anyone else a bit nervous?
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.