Are you familiar with Sgt Alexander Blackman? Blackman was a British Marine that was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for killing a Taliban soldier. In the past few weeks, the former soldier has had his sentence reduced, and he is about to be released.
What is shocking about this story is the line that it draws. On the one hand, the evidence that he killed a man is irrefutable. In fact, Blackman himself is happy to admit that he pulled the trigger. However, the clamour for his release has been fervent, to say the least.
The public and politicians alike seem to agree that his sentence was harsh. To be honest, there aren’t too many people that aren’t firmly on his side. So, why was he jailed for murder? The consensus is that the line between the military and civilians is blurred. Experts say people expect too much in times of war – are they right?
Experience Vs Idealism
Soldiers are combat veterans, and they understand what it takes to win a war. The public is, well, it’s a bunch of people that can only imagine the horrors of combat. There is no doubt that everyone is entitled to their opinion on the matter because we live in a civilised society. But, for the values of those without experience to take precedent does seem illogical. The same goes for the politicians. Yes, the Geneva Convention is a helpful piece of legislation. However, it doesn’t appear to comprehend what happens on the battlefield. The cold hard truth is that people on the battlefield are the only people that know how to act. Should we, from our ivory towers, pass judgement? Alexander Blackman wouldn’t say so, and neither would 1000 marines that gathered in Parliament Square.
What Goes On Tour Stays On Tour
The obvious retort to that argument is to say that legislation must exist to hold people to account. No one is saying that our troops and our allies’ troops can’t be trusted. Most people would trust them with their lives, and the lives of their loved ones. Regardless, an environment shouldn’t exist where they can do as they please. Logically, there are people in the Armed Forces that will break the law. In fact, former members will argue that the environment encourages this behaviour. If and when it happens, the public needs to know that the culprits won’t escape justice. War is war, but it isn’t a blank cheque. That would make us no better than the people we’re fighting.
There is no doubt that we live in an era where the media dominate. One only needs to look at the history of the newspapers to see that they are king makers. They also have the ability to influence how people think and feel about certain topics with their agenda. Did Blackman suffer this fate? The stats seem to show that he was one of the unlucky ones. At the time, the media coverage wasn’t unbiased. The way they portrayed his actions without any proof was quite shocking. And, the shock permeated throughout society. In Britain, marches were held by people to show their displeasure at the murder of another person. It didn’t matter that he was an injured Taliban fighter. It also didn’t matter that he was putting lives at risk – a life is a life. The media frenzy shouldn’t have any bearing on the process, but that would be being naïve. Everyone from the lawyers to the Court Martial Judge felt the pressure, and it reflected in the sentence.
We Expect The Best
The Western world is a place where people are free to act and speak as they please. Places like Britain, the USA, and even Russia fought for these rights. And, our forces continue to do so in 2017. To say that they should act differently isn’t helpful. Why? It’s because we expect the best, and we have every right to fight for this expectation. The time when our military personnel lowers their standards is the time when society starts to collapse. That might seem like an over exaggeration, but it is frighteningly close to the bone. A glance around the world shows the power of the military. With their help, dictators and autocrats rule in plain sight without fear of justice. At the minutes, Erdogan is taking it to extremes in Turkey, and the Thais are constantly in turmoil. We don’t have to worry about that because we instil a culture into our forces.
But They Are The Best
Soldiers have to go through a lot if they want to stay on the right side of the law. Apart from regular appraisals, they have to train every day and move away from home. Plus, they have to take a hair follicle drug test to ensure they’re in peak physical condition. And what’s more, they are never expected to make a mistake. Oh, and they do all of this while fighting insurgents and evading gunfire. Any observer should be able to see that the world expects the best and that they deliver. Ninety-nine percent of the Armed Forces perform with dignity and honour. In fact, Blackman’s case was the first of its kind in Britain since the Second World War. Even then, it wasn’t clear cut. What is clear cut is that the Armed Forces deserve a modicum of trust. They are trained to within an inch of their lives and uphold the highest standards – who else can relate?
It Only Takes One Mistake
The final thing to remember is that a soldier only needs to make one mistake. One wrong decision is the difference between life and death. In most careers, an error might lead to a telling off from the boss. In the military, it leads to fatalities. To hold them to account is necessary to continue the current trend. Otherwise, the stats might make for unpleasant reading.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that the military has to put up with a lot. In most cases, it’s what’s required to keep them at the top of their game. But, in the case of Alexander Blackman, it condemned an innocent man to prison.
Peace Talks – North Korea is Ready for negotiations, but only with Russia
North Korea will enter negotiation talks with its rhetorical foe, the United States, over its nuclear weapons program and on the so-called “security guarantees” – only if Russia will come to the table.
During an international conference in the Austrian capital (Vienna), Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, delivered a message to his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, that the reclusive communist regime wants a peace talk with America over its nuclear ambitions.
“We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations. Our American colleagues, including Rex Tillerson, have heard this.”, said, Lavrov, as reported by the Interfax news agency.
However, there was no immediate response from the state department which has long insisted that the US will only consider direct talks unless North Korea stops testing ballistic missiles and agrees to denuclearize – an expectation that was defied by North Korea.
In an interview with Russia’s state-run Russian Information Agency (RIA) news agency, Lavrov added that his country is ready to step in because Russia and North Korea have diplomatic relations.
“We call on partners to focus on solving specific problems of the Korean Peninsula on the basis of negotiations. And for this, it is necessary not to rupture contacts with Pyongyang, but, on the contrary, develop it.”
However, it seems very unlikely that Lavrov’s offer will convince the US, as Trump has long indicated that he has no plans on negotiating with Kim Jong-un.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”, said Trump on his tweet in October after dismissing a reported effort by Tillerson to pursue back-channel negotiations.
Moreover, aside from deriding the North Korean leader as the “Little Rocket Man”, the US President Donald J. Trump, called him a “sick puppy” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and that the country “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”.
The amid heightened tension between the US and North Korea reached its peak after the hermit kingdom tested its new and “most powerful” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the “Hwasong-15” missile, November 29 of last year; claiming that it was capable of striking the US mainland – a missile launch that followed the test of what was apparently a hydrogen bomb last September.
This was followed by Trump’s furious tweets, saying that “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
The said “Hwasong-15”, as estimated by South Korea’s military, flew ten times as high as the International Space Station and twice as high as any satellite in low orbit after finally landing in the Sea of Japan – 210 kilometres west of Aomori prefecture, in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
It can be remembered that North Korea has also issued an explicit threat to Japan after the country, together with the US, spearheaded the United Nations security council sanctions in response to the regime’s recent nuclear test – saying that, “The four islands of the Japanese archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche.” and “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.”
A cue for the allied countries, Japan and the US, to call on China, North Korea’s sole major ally which accounts for more than 90 percent of trade; to fully implement the UN security council sanctions against the isolated country and other steps to pressure it.
However, although China has agreed to do so and has also been angered by Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests; it also sees that the US, along with South Korea, share responsibility for the rising tensions. Also, speculations are – China won’t pressure North Korea as much as Japan and the US want, primarily because while Xi Jinping does not trust Kim Jong-un, it trusts Trump less. In addition, Japan is China’s major rival – which history can be traced back to the ancient wars up to the recent issues such as the Nanking massacre and territorial disputes.
As of the moment, the US and North Korean positions are currently very far apart – with Washington wanting Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament to be on the table while Pyongyang wants Washington to recognize it as a nuclear weapons power.
“I think the US would be best served by putting aside the focus on denuclearization and instead look at ways to prevent accidents, reduce risks and de-escalate.”, suggested Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America think tank who has played a leading role in peace talks between Iran and North Korea.
Struggling over Water Resources: The case of India and Pakistan
Have you heard about conflicts over water? Have you ever wondered how hard it is to ensure water access in a conflicted area? Well, what I can tell is that you have certainly heard how people are dying from thirst and hunger or how they getting sick because of lack of water. What you might not know is that sometimes it is hard to ensure adequate access to water. What are the reasons? In fact, there are many, but this article will focus on one of the reasons: a conflict. We will take a specific example of India and Pakistan, explain the reasons for the water dispute and evaluate the current situation with water resources.
To begin with, do you know that it has been only seven years since the recognition of the right to water and sanitation? Before that there was a long debate whether this right exists at all. Neither the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights nor the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) address water. Not earlier than 2010, the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have finally adopted resolution which recognized access to clean water, sanitation as human right (GA/10967).
To ensure this right is not an easy job. First of all, water situation in some regions is aggravated by its geographic position. Increasing population, the impact of economic development, climate change only makes it harder. These factors results in scarcity of fresh water. Moreover, water has another quality that makes it even more significant – its irreplaceability. Secondly, some regions are additionally involved into conflicts which make access to water more difficult. What makes it even more complicated is the fact that many river basins and aquifer systems are being shared by different states.
When something is shared, it sometimes gives precedent to a dispute. In case of two countries, it definitely does. This is the case between India and Pakistan which share the Indus basin. Currently both countries are experiencing lack of water, whereas water demand is rising and water resources of the Indus River continue to deplete. Some say that the situation in Pakistan is even worse, where the flow of river is dropping at seven percent yearly (See Baqai 2005, at 77). Thus, the river basin is giving rise for a dispute. Given the history of long-rivalry, it may result into a war.
The water dispute between Indian and Pakistan dates back to the early 20th century, but at that time it was a provincial conflict over the river to be resolved by British India. In 1947 India and Pakistan were partitioned, and the natural borders of river Beas, Chenab, Jhelum and Sutlej have been neglected. Many dams stayed in India, while their waters irrigated a major part of Pakistan. The geography of partition left the source rivers in India, and Pakistan felt threatened by its control. Moreover, the situation with Kashmir presented additional difficulties. Apart from its strategic value, the Eastern waters of Kashmir are significant for Pakistan in terms of resource access (its irrigation system largely depends on it).
Soon after the partition, a major crisis occurred when the Government of the Eastern Punjab (India) took its sovereign rights over the territorial waters and blocked Sutlej river, stopping water flow to Pakistan and causing agriculture of Pakistan severe damage. This precedent stayed in the collective memory of Pakistan, leaving fear that India could repeat its actions. India yet claimed that it was caused by Pakistani actions in Kashmir. Even today Pakistan feels insecure by its neighbour’s power over the Indus river.
By 1951 the conflict became more dangerous as both states refused to discuss the matter. That’s why, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (today’s World Bank) was approached to mediate the conflict. It was not until 1960 when the parties finally reached an agreement and signed the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).
To ensure the best solutions the Permanent Indus Commission represented by both sides was established. Until 2015 the meetings were held regularly once a year to resolve problems, but after that none of them happened because of the tensions in the relations of India and Pakistan.
Only in March 2017 the meeting took place with Pakistan welcoming the Indian delegation. The World Bank was asked again to intervene but it refused, leaving two countries for a face-to-face dialogue. Even though the meeting did take place, it was decided to suspend further talks.
The current water dispute between two states is shaped by the following factors. First of all, it is fast growing population rate which puts enormous pressure on resources. Secondly, there is inefficient and inadequate use of water resources as well as increased demand for water as a result of economic growth. Thirdly, water stress is becoming more severe and it is further aggravated by climate change. Apart from this, one can see a reason for a dispute in inability and reluctance of political leaders of India and Pakistan to resolve the issue. As it is heated by the public opinion from both sides, the issues continues to be on the agenda. Additionally, there are grievances caused by the IWT which influence the dynamics of the dispute.
However successful the Indus Water Treaty may be, it remains to keep low profile and failed to reach its full potential. Both parties did agree on a partition of the Rivers, yet they did not pay specific attention to the other challenging parts of the agreement such as optimization of the use of the Indus waters (Chari 2014, at 5). Further, there is little information in regards to the groundwater use. It also does not address such issues as the division of shortages during dry years and technical specifications of hydropower projects of India, particularly impact of storages on the flows of the Chenab River to Pakistan .
Such weaknesses of the Treaty are consequently becoming a source of tension. It gives space for different interpretation, and this is used by both countries to their advantage. The IWT lacks its dynamics towards water resource sharing and has to be adjusted accordingly. Though the Indus Water Treaty did prevent a possible escalation over the water resources, it did not foresee the future depletion of the Indus River caused by population growth, new developments in industry, and more importantly by climate change and global warming. Back into 1960 it was not well-studied or discussed as often as now, hence, it was not given required attention. That is why many call to rethink the agreement and include new pressing issues into the Treaty.
Moreover, there has been an intensive debate in India to revoke the Treaty. It was the Uri attack that laid ground for it. An Indian analyst of water disputes and geostrategic developments, Chellaney suggested India should draw a clear line between the right of Pakistan to water inflows and its responsibility not to harm its upper riparian neighbour . In response, Pakistan warned that any attempts to review and/or exit the treaty would be deemed “an act of war” . Regardless, the Government of India remained mostly silent. The parties are not willing to cooperate; therefore the ITW is weakened by it.
In September 2016, the Prime Minister of India, Narenda Modi, referring the ITW, said that “blood and water cannot flow together” . It was also stated that only in “atmosphere free of terror” the meeting of Indus Water Commission was possible (Ibid.). India has repeatedly mentioned altering and/or exiting the ITW, although there is no exit close in the Treaty.
It should be noted that in case of a conflict the UN Watercourses Convention of 1997 gives special attention to the “requirements of vital human needs” (Article 10, part 2). International Law Commission clarifies these needs and say that there should be “sufficient water to sustain human life, including both drinking water and water required for the production of food in order to prevent starvation” . This refers to the right to water of individuals, and the fact that States should respect and protect these rights.
Political tensions between India and Pakistan have worsened and made it difficult to settle even water issues. In this sense, the Kashmir conflict is inseparable from a water conflict. Many cooperative decisions were impossible because of parties’ inability to make any progress on the Kashmir question.
There is also a high level of securitization of water issues. To securitize means to construct a certain threat (for example, by means of authority). These threats are being dramatized and usually presented as a high-priority for a nation. Political leaders of Pakistan securitize this issue to the extent that it is described as a threat to national security. That makes a dispute more dangerous because water issues are being constructed as threat to a country.
Pakistan has more than once declared that if Pakistan’s need for water is used by India to pressure them, the country will consider it as a direct threat against Pakistani people. Environmental security is intertwined with the risks of violent conflict, mostly because stress in resources (e.g. water scarcity). It is also usually associated with the growing population rate and inequitable distribution of resources.
Sometimes the Kashmir dispute is also explained through headstreams of the Indus. Indian control over it likely pressures Pakistan especially during dry periods of the year. Indian Power projects in Kashmir (like Baglihar Dam) only make Pakistan to securitize water issue even more and treat it as security problem.
All in all, both countries are experiencing an enduring rivalry in regards to many aspects. This rivalry deteriorates the cooperation on water share issues. A high level of mistrust guards many countries’ decisions, that is why cooperative mechanisms usually fail. Moreover, the water issues are being regarded as a matter of national security that may escalate the situation. As water quality and quantity continues to be influenced by climate change, population rate continues to increase, demand for water continues to rise, and both countries continue to blame and accuse each other… it does not look like countries are ready to have a face-to-face dialogue over water resources any time soon. But let’s wait and see.
- P. Chadha, “Indus Water Treaty may not survive, warns UN report” India Water Review, 1 March 2017. Available from [http://www.indiawaterreview.in/Story/Specials/indus-water-treaty-may-not-survive-warns-un-report/2013/3#.WUUusut97IU].
- A. Parvaiz, “Indus Waters Treaty rides out latest crisis” Understanding Asia’s Water Crisis, 15 September 2016. Available from [https://www.thethirdpole.net/2016/09/25/indus-waters-treaty-rides-out-latest-crisis/].
- Dr. Jorgic, T. Wilkes, “Pakistan warns of ‘water war’ with India if decades-old treaty violated” Reuters, 27 September 2016. Available from [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-india-water-idUSKCN11X1P1].
- Express Web Desk, “Blood and water cannot flow together: PM Modi at Indus Water Treaty meeting”, The Indian Express, 27 September 2016. Available from [http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/indus-water-treaty-blood-and-water-cant-flow-together-pm-modi-pakistan-uri-attack/].
- International Law Commission, “Draft Articles on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses and commentaries thereto and resolution on transboundary confined groundwater” (1994) Part II Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 89. Available from [http://legal.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/commentaries/8_3_1994.pdf].
3 Advanced National Security Technologies
When it comes to national security, our government spends millions on keeping us safe every year. Innovators work around the clock to develop systems and technologies that stop our enemies from progressing. Today, we’re going to take a look at three of the most useful advancements during the last few years. We’ve also included an infographic at the bottom of this page that provides more information.
Global surveillance system
The global surveillance system has been in place for many years. It was designed to keep a watchful eye on the Soviet Union. However, since its collapse, the tech is used to monitor suspicious communications all around the world.
Geospatial science technology
Geographic data tech helps to keep us safe from harm every single day. Since the events of 9/11, it has contributed towards stopping hundreds of terrorist attacks. You can learn more by taking a look at the infographic below. It offers some excellent information.
Drones and UAVs
Since the war in Afghanistan and Iraq began, military experts have used drones and UAVs for a variety of different tasks. However, our government uses them at home to spot any issues before they arise. They help to monitor communications and keep a watchful eye over us from the sky.
Without the technologies mentioned on this page, the world could turn into a much more dangerous place. Thankfully, we have experts working hard every single day to come up with the next advancement. So, we should stay ahead of our enemies as we have always done before.
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