The High Ground – With Harvey Sapolsky

In The High Ground Professor Harvey M. Sapolsky shares his observations on international security issues, and the role of the US in the 21st century. Harvey is Professor of Public Policy and Organization, Emeritus at MIT and was formerly the Director of the MIT Security Studies Program. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Michigan and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In the defense field he has served as a consultant or panel member for a number of government commissions and study groups.

ICH BIN EIN ARIZONIAN

The state of Arizona recently enacted a statute which allowes police officers to inquire about the immigration status of individuals they stop for other infractions of the law such as speeding or failure to yield for a pedestrian.

THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP IS STILL SPECIAL

A House of Commons committee recently claimed that the UK had lost its “Special Relationship” with the US. The committee argued that the UK had few of the benefits attributed to the Special Relationship, especially the ability to influence US policy, and therefore Britain should to say no to the relations’ obligations.

RIGHT WAR OR WRONG WAR?

It is seven years since a US led coalition invaded Iraq, deposing Saddam Hussein and becoming involved in a long, costly stabilization operation that is supposedly about to end soon with the withdrawal of US combat units. More than 4,700 coalition troops, 4,385 of them Americans, have died so far in this effort.

TIME TO WRAP UP NATO

It is getting boring. American officials make a stout plea for NATO assistance in some out of area effort, praising the alliance as vital to the security of the members and the globe. Meetings are held at which NATO officials underline the importance of the mission and its relevance to the alliance.

THE MASSACHUSETTS ELECTION

A special election in Massachusetts held to select the replacement for Ted Kennedy as US Senator has had great political impact in the US with the victory of Scott Brown, the Republican candidate. The Kennedys, first JFK and then Teddy (with retainers inserted when technically required), had controlled the seat for 57 years.

OBAMA’S B+

Answering a question from that professor of the airwaves Oprah Winfrey, President Obama gave himself a B+ as a grade for his first year in office. This proved, as a friend said, that he did indeed attend Columbia and Harvard, Ivy League universities renowned in America for their grade inflation and self-congratulatory style.

OBAMA ALMOST MAKES THE RIGHT DECISION

A recent report indicated that President Obama had finally made a security policy related decision—not on his Afghanistan strategy which is yet to be announced– but rather on whether or not his administration would seek to have the US sign the treaty banning the production and use of anti-personnel land mines, a treaty that 156 other nations have already signed.

NORWAY’S CRUEL JOKE

The selection of Barack Obama as the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize belittles the President. Everybody knows that with just a few months in office that he has not had time to accomplish anything significant. His speeches may be inspiring, but they are likely written by others and usually express broad, vague aspirations that are neither unusual nor likely to be fulfilled soon.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE NATION BUILDERS GONE?

Six months ago the US military was being praised by many security specialists as finally having gotten it – understanding that its future was counter-insurgency best practices which means nation building under fire from insurgents in the world’s toughest neighborhoods. Yes, it had taken a while, but the military’s top leadership had finally seen the light.

NEW SECURITY IDEAS

I believe in making security a lighter, more fun topic. In this quest to bring stand up comedy to what is basically a sit down field, I offer the following new ideas in part gleaned from conversations with colleagues who surely will not mind my skipping the attributions.

AMERICA’S COMMAND STRUCTURE

I think the geographically based commands should be eliminated with one exception, replaced in part by additional functional commands. As some may know, I stand against our willingness to manage global security as well as our own, a willingness allowed by our great military power relative to others and the encouraged free riding of nearly all our “allies”.

STRATEGICALLY LOST IN AFGHANISTAN

The Obama administration seems to be having big second thoughts about Afghanistan. President Obama in his election campaign promised to make Afghanistan the central front in our unnamed war.

TIME TO LEAVE — KOREA

There is talk about US forces leaving Iraq early, in 2010 rather than the scheduled date of 2011.Terrific.But before one gets too enthusiastic about that prospect, one should consider the Korean case.The war in Korea started in 1950 and is still technically on although shooting incidents are rare events.

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