Do Ceasefires Kill?

When violent conflicts erupt, the international community inevitably calls for a cease-fire.  But is it possible these ceasefires actually worsen later violence?  Yes, according to John A. Stevenson, a political science doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago.  Here's an excerpt of Stevenson's recent article for Slate:

My research on all 174 of the internationally recognized new states that have emerged since 1900 and scores of mass killings reveals that international involvement to temporarily address the symptoms of the violence—the mass death of civilians—increases the likelihood of greater violence and destruction. That is because cease-fires do nothing to eliminate the root causes of violence against civilians. Instead, both sides use the pause in killing to solicit diplomatic and military aid while planning and preparing their next wave of attacks.

According to the 2012 Human Security Report, between 1950 and 2004, 62 percent of cease-fires succeeded with no resumption of conflict in the next five years. The success of two-thirds of cease-fires would seem to support their use. Yet, in the civil wars that begin in new or young states, cease-fires typically succeed only after many that do not. In the interim, the belligerents busy themselves rooting out or killing their civilian rivals.

(HT: The Daily Dish)

When Hacking Is the Smaller Crime

Here's a fascinating article in the Yale Journal of International Affairs, by Paul Rexton Kan of the U.S. Army War College, about cyberwar between non-state agents -- in this case, Anonymous versus Los Zetas, the Mexican drug cartel. Read the whole thing; here's the first paragraph:

In the fall of 2011, two clandestine non-state groups—a hacktivist collective and a Mexican drug cartel—stared each other down in the digital domain, with potentially fatal real world consequences for both sides. Los Zetas, a Mexican drug trafficking organization composed of former members of Mexico’s Special Forces, kidnapped a member of Anonymous, the global hacking group, in Veracruz on October 6th. In retaliation, Anonymous threatened to publicize online the personal information of Los Zetas and their associates, from taxi drivers to high-ranking politicians, unless Los Zetas freed their abductee by November 5th. The release of this information on the Internet would have exposed members of Los Zetas to not only possible arrest by Mexican authorities, but also to assassination by rival cartels. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Los Zetas then attempted to “reverse hack” Anonymous to uncover some of its members and to threaten them with death. As a consequence, a few members of Anonymous sought to call off the operation and disavowed those members who wanted to go forward. With time running out and locked in a stalemate, Los Zetas released their kidnap victim on November 4th with an online warning that they would kill ten innocent people for each name that Anonymous might subsequently publicize. Anonymous called off its operation; each side appeared to step back from the brink.

(HT: LTC Scott Kelly)

You Know a Reporting Situation Is Dangerous …

... when you see a byline like this:

A Year in the Life of an American Soldier

In honor of Memorial Day, Foreign Policy  published a fantastic photo essay on a year in the life of an American soldier.  "It has been a tumultuous year for the U.S. Armed Services," the magazine writes, "one that included the complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq and preparations for a dramatic drawdown of combat troops in Afghanistan, the end of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, the removal of a dictator in Libya, and a strategic pivot to Asia. At the same time, the American military has weathered a scandal over burning Qurans in Afghanistan and stared down the barrel of a looming budget fight in Congress."  The essay includes images of soldiers training in the U.S. and elsewhere, patrolling and in combat in Afghanistan, and returning home.

A Memorial Day Post

It’s a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, marked at the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands by American and Dutch flags on the graves.  There are many visitors, almost all Dutch, on this solemn occasion, with the only Americans apparently us and the U.S. military personnel here for the occasion. 

The site brought to mind the commonality of culture and purpose that prevailed in America during World War II, and that many Americans seemed to feel again after 9/11.  The role of a common culture and mutual trust in facilitating the operation of markets by lowering transaction costs cannot be overestimated. Their effect on the civility of political discourse is also crucial.  It’s sad that we moved away so rapidly from that commonality so quickly after 9/11.

Cities, Before and After

A site called Oobject features juxtaposed shots of cities before and after major events like war, natural disasters, and "property speculation."

War Is Over?

The 21st century could represent the end of war as we know it, writes political scientist John Mueller in a new paper for Political Science Quarterly. He notes that there have been no wars between developed nations since 1945, and that other international wars that fit the classic definition — the violent resolution of a […]

Surprising Facts About Child Soldiers

The problem of children used as soldiers has been gaining visibility since, among other things, former child soldier Ishmael Beah published his memoir. But the image of the child soldier as a young African boy with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder isn't as descriptive of the problem as you might think.

How Are Gliders Like Nuclear Deterrence?

In the years since the Cold War, the threat of imminent global thermonuclear war has receded in the popular imagination. Computer hackers are buying up abandoned missile silos. It's been almost a decade since a major Hollywood film revolved around a U.S.-Russian nuclear exchange. But that doesn't mean deterrence has succeeded in finally staving off nuclear war. Stanford University Professor Emeritus Martin Hellman, comparing his love of gliders with his interest in nuclear deterrence, wants to remind you that when a system is 99.9 percent safe but the remaining 0.1 percent contains an absolutely catastrophic outcome, it's not a great system. Sound familiar?

Embracing the Meshugganah

This piece from Tom Ricks, the military correspondent at the Washington Post, has some excellent stories about creative anti-terrorist strategies used by the British to fight the I.R.A., including a laundromat where they run the clothes through a machine that tests for bomb residue before they dry clean the clothes. To pin down where the […]