Category Archives: Stratfor

Articles reposted from Stratfor, with their generous permission.

Stratfor: we can learn to fight jihadists by studying the anarchists

Summary: We have difficulty dealing with present problems because we have forgotten so much of our past. Here Stratfor seeks lessons for our long war with jihadists by examining our long struggle with anarchists during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is rich with lessons for us.  The subject of this analysis is “nihilist and anarchist terrorism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”  Also read my similar analysis in 2009: Are Islamic extremists like the anarchists?Stratfor

Jihadism: An Eerily Familiar Threat

By  Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 23 February 2017.

As part of my day-to-day job, I read a lot of news reports, books and scholarly studies. Though the never-ending avalanche of information sometimes feels like a mild version of electronic waterboarding, it also allows me to pick out interesting parallels between different events. Not long ago I re-read Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, an excellent book by historian Michael Burleigh that outlines the cultural history of terrorism. As I flipped through the chapters on nihilist and anarchist terrorism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I couldn’t help but notice some intriguing similarities to jihadism. This week I’ll share them with you to put the modern threat that jihadists pose into better context.

The technological tools today’s jihadists use are certainly new; after all, the internet and social media only emerged over the past few decades. But many of the tactics they rely on are as old as terrorism itself. And despite the more primitive means at their disposal, anarchists were often far more successful than their jihadist counterparts in using propaganda and the media to recruit, radicalize and equip their followers.

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Stratfor: can Europe’s banks break free from their doom loop?

Summary: Banks are the financial heart of modern nations, and Europe’s are in trouble. One of its greatest, Deutsche Bank, has severe problems. Here Stratfor looks at the perilous state of Europe’s banks, looked in a doom loop by their holdings of government bonds.

Stratfor

Can the Eurozone Break Its ‘Doom Loop’?

Stratfor, 16 February 2017.

In 2012, Europe’s sovereign debt crisis exposed the “doom loop.” Created by European banks’ tendencies to hold their home government’s debt, the vicious cycle, in theory, starts when markets lose faith in a government’s ability to pay back its debt, precipitating a sell-off of its bonds. The resulting drop in bond prices would then hit the balance sheets of the banks that still hold those bonds, making them more likely to need a bailout from their governments. This, in turn, could further erode investor confidence, leading to additional sell-offs that damage the banks even more. Despite the danger that banks’ practices pose, eurozone regulators have yet to find a way to sever the loop.

In the years since a doom loop nearly led to the eurozone’s collapse, authorities have tried (but failed) to break the bond connection between banks and their governments. A German proposal to limit the amount of their own government’s debt that banks can hold has been hotly contested by Italy and Spain, since implementing it would cause massive disruptions to their economies. Another German-led measure involved the creation of “bail-in” rules, which were adopted at the start of 2016. They required that a troubled bank’s private debtholders absorb its losses first, essentially losing their investment, before government money could be used to bail it out.

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Stratfor looks at the next phase of terrorism: ISIS drones

Summary: Stratfor looks at the videos of ISIS using drones and discusses their potential applications of this new weapon. Will we see ISIS drones in the skies of America? Stratfor

Beyond the Buzz: Assessing the Terrorist Drone Threat

By  Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 9 February 2017.

The Islamic State is taking to the skies as the fight for Mosul wears on. Over the past several weeks, the extremist group has been flaunting its use of unmanned aerial vehicles against Iraqi army and Kurdish forces in and around the city. Propaganda videos feature dramatic aerial footage of the precision attacks, and they have produced their intended effect, receiving heavy coverage in mainstream media outlets. So far, the Islamic State has deployed this technique only in Iraq and Syria. That’s likely soon to change, though, considering the attention the group’s drone attacks have been getting and the prevalence of drones in the West. Drone attacks are coming. But they do not necessarily portend death from above.

The Islamic State’s use of drones is nothing new. Since 2014, the group has been using the technology to conduct reconnaissance on enemy defensive positions and to capture aerial footage of attacks for use in propaganda videos. It has also used drone video feeds to adjust fire from mortars, artillery guns and rockets against static targets. And though the group still employs drones for these purposes, over the past year, it has started using them offensively as well, either as guided airborne bombs or as vehicles to carry and drop ordnance on enemy targets. This new development has caused a stir in the media and stoked fears that Islamic State operatives could use the tactic in terrorist attacks outside the group’s core territory.

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Stratfor looks at the stupidity and evil of collective punishment

Summary:  This essay by Strafor comes at a critical time for America, reminding us about the folly and evil of collective punishment. Asides from the bad ethics, demagogues use allegations of collective to arouse public passions for their own political gain — which distracts us from focusing on our actual enemies.

Stratfor

Striking a Balance Between Security and Freedom

By Anisa Mehdi at Stratfor, 4 February 2017.

In the winter of 1917, the French freighter Mont Blanc, laden with picric acid and TNT destined for the European war effort, headed into the great harbor of Halifax to join a convoy bound for Bordeaux. A Norwegian ship, the Imo, was leaving Halifax at the same time, destined for New York. Its mission was to bring food and supplies back to people in German-occupied Belgium and northern France.

On that cold December day, it should have been an ordinary passing of two ships. But as a result of miscommunication, navigational protocols were violated. Seamen, civilians and members of the Royal Naval College of Canada looked on in horror as the Mont Blanc and the Imo collided. The impact caused a fire on the French ship that eventually caused its explosive payload to ignite. For Haligonians, all hell broke loose. As well as destroying much of the harbor, the resulting blast killed almost 2,000 people. The captain of the HMCS Acadia, located 15 miles (24 kilometers) outside of Halifax that day, estimated the smoke rising from the seat of the explosion to be more than 2 miles high.

The Halifax disaster {Wikipedia} was the largest man-made explosion on Earth until World War II, when the United States’ atom bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The small German population of Nova Scotia came under attack as the slogan “Place the Blame” riled people toward vengeance. Because who else could be responsible for the calamity besides the Kaiser? And weren’t all Germans, therefore, collectively culpable? At first, reports emerged of rampaging crowds stoning neighbors with German-sounding names. But less than a week after the explosion, before the fires were even put out or all the bodies recovered, let alone buried, the Canadian military ordered the arrest of every German citizen.

Collective guilt {Wikipedia} is all too common throughout history, regardless of whether punishment is meted out because of political, economic or religious differences. The Jews, cruelly oppressed by Pharaoh. The Christians, persecuted by Nero. Non-Catholics on the Iberian Peninsula, tortured by inquisitors, and the reverse: Catholics, tormented by Oliver Cromwell. The consequences of collective blame and punishment — people leaving their homes en masse in search of freedom and safety — are also familiar. We see them today as people flee Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and as refugees flood into Europe or knock at America’s door. Can looking back inform our present and mitigate the problems ahead?

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Stratfor: The Hurdles to Building Trump’s Border Wall

Summary:  Building a wall is one of Trump’s major campaign promises. Under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 America spent $6 billion to build 690 miles of fences and walls along the 1,900 mile border with Mexico (in addition to existing walls of unknown length). Here Stratfor examines the mechanics of fulfilling Trump’s promises.Stratfor

The Hurdles to Building a Border Wall

Stratfor, 23 January 2017.

The building of a border-length wall between the United States and Mexico is a campaign promise that U.S. President Donald Trump continues to nurture. But the construction of such an edifice is no small matter, assuming Congress would even approve or agree to fund the endeavor in the first place. Not only must the Trump administration deal with internal complications — legal opposition, issues of land ownership and physical geography — but there is also the matter of U.S.-Mexico relations and the fluid, adaptive nature of the migrant flow from South America.

The need to build a complete border barrier between the United States and Mexico was a consistent feature of Trump’s campaign trail rhetoric. Even after winning the election, Trump continued to tout the wall’s necessity. Now, it is well within the new administration’s power to seek legal justification and funding to build additional barriers along the border. This could mean additional fencing, but actually building a substantial wall is no small matter. It is relatively straightforward to reinforce places where barriers, such as pedestrian fencing, already exist. But when it comes to the substantial reaches of borderland without fencing, such as the winding path of the Rio Grande as it makes its way through Texas, things become more complicated.

It would be difficult for the incoming administration to justify constructing additional barriers along parts of the exposed Texas border, in part because of the natural barrier posed by waterways, and because much of the land along that section is privately owned.

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Stratfor: Trump risks a trade war with China that cannot be won

Summary: Trump’s big promises won him the Presidency, much as Obama’s promises of “hope and change”. Here is a second article by Stratfor looking at Trump’s ability to do better than Obama at delivering on them. Will Trump fail gracefully, like Obama, or catastrophically?Stratfor

A Trade War That Cannot Be Won

Stratfor, 11 January 2017.

Forecast

  • Protectionist trade policies toward China would do little to achieve the incoming U.S. administration’s stated goal of reviving U.S. manufacturing.
  • Beijing would use various means — in particular, harassing U.S. companies that operate in China and depend on the country’s growing consumer market — to retaliate against protectionism in the United States.
  • President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will likely focus on curbing Chinese steel imports, a policy that could boost U.S. manufacturing without doing much damage to China’s economy.

Analysis

The trade relationship between the United States and China is a cornerstone of the global economy and a linchpin of the economic, social and political order in both countries. But in recent years, and particularly during the runup to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the partnership has come under fire in the United States. Leaders such as President-elect Donald Trump have criticized Washington’s trade ties with Beijing as unfavorable, since China’s exports to the United States exceed its imports from it. Trump has decried the negative effects of this trade imbalance and promised to correct it, for instance by imposing a 45% tariff on Chinese imports. Despite the backlash that such a drastic measure would invite from Beijing, Trump argues that the United States is better poised to weather a prolonged trade dispute than is China, thanks to their lopsided trade relationship.

A closer look at U.S. trade activities with China casts doubt on this idea, however. Changes in the composition of Chinese exports to the United States, the structure of manufacturing supply chains and the aims of U.S. corporate investment in China have evened the field between Washington and Beijing. As each side tries to achieve increasingly contrary political and economic goals, neither would be immune from the fallout of a trade war. China has just as many options to retaliate against protectionist U.S. policies as the United States has to punish Beijing. The challenge is to understand which tactics the countries’ leaders are likely to choose — and to what end.

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Stratfor Predicts that the Islamic State Will Rot From Within

Summary: Remember the hysteria in 2014-15 about the Islamic State? Our geopolitical experts debated whether they would be stopped at Cairo, Paris, or Chicago. Fast forward to today, where Stratfor predicts the rapid decay of ISIS. But even after it fades to irrelevance, a Jihad 3.0 will arise.Stratfor

The Islamic State in 2017: Rotting From the Outside In

By  Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 12 January 2017.

The Islamic State has entered into a slow decline that will continue throughout 2017. After its inception, the group energized the jihadist movement and drew thousands of enthusiastic foreign fighters by announcing the creation of a caliphate and assuring its followers that the end of the world was near. This enabled the Islamic State to rapidly amass manpower and capabilities — at least at first. But both time and geography have worked against the organization since its initial proclamation of a caliphate and an impending apocalypse.

Despite the Islamic State’s frequent and pointed criticism of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group has roughly followed the plan al-Zawahiri laid out in a 2005 letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was then the head of the Islamic State’s predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq. Nevertheless, there are significant differences between the timeline al Qaeda and the Islamic State have set for that plan’s execution. As we noted last week, al Qaeda argues that the caliphate can be established only after the United States and its European allies have been defeated so thoroughly that they can no longer interfere in Muslim lands, having lost either the ability or desire to do so.

The Islamic State, by comparison, has adopted a more urgent approach based on the belief that the time for taking, holding and governing territory is now. But this strategy hinges on being able to use the territory conquered, resources captured and fighters recruited for greater expansion. This sense of immediacy explains the Islamic State’s decision to quickly trumpet the foundation of a caliphate after it seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria. The group’s message to the Muslim world was plain: The caliphate is a historical fact whose spread cannot be stopped, and all Muslims should migrate to it to help support the Islamic State’s rise. The group thought that it could leverage its initial success to quickly conquer more territory in much the same way the Prophet Mohammed and his followers did.

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