The Register - Security

IEEE Spectrum Computing Channel

Nov 24, 2014

Algorithms, key size and parameters report 2014 — ENISA

The “Algorithms, key size and parameters” report of 2014 is a reference document providing a set of guidelines to decision makers, in particular specialists designing and implementing cryptographic solutions for personal data protection within commercial organisations or governmental services for citizens. This report provides an update of the 2013 cryptographic guidelines report (link below) on security measures required to protect personal data in online systems. Compared with the 2013 edition, the report has been extended to include a section on hardware and software side-channels, random number generation, and key life cycle management, while the part on protocols, for 2014 is extended and is a stand-alone study on cryptographic protocols (link included below). The EC Regulation 611/2013 (link below) references ENISA as a consultative body, in the process of establishing a list of appropriate cryptographic protective measures for personal data protection
 Nov 21, 2014
Read more . .
Algorithms, key size and parameters report 2014 — ENISA: Algorithms, key size and parameters report 2014 — ENISA

Study on cryptographic protocols — ENISA

Cryptographic algorithms, when used in networks, are used within a cryptographic protocol. Even if the cryptographic primitives and schemes (discussed in the “Algorithms, key size and parameters” report of 2014, see link below) are deemed secure, their use within a protocol can result in a vulnerability which exposes the supposedly secured data. The report focuses on the current status in cryptographic protocols and encourages further research. A quick overview is presented on protocols which are used in relatively restricted application areas such as wireless, mobile communications or banking (Bluetooth, WPA/WEP, UMTS/LTE, ZigBee, EMV) and specific environments focusing on Cloud computing. The main emphasis of the report is on guidelines to researchers and organisations in the field. The key problem with protocols today is that many result from cryptographic design many years (even decades) ago. Thus cryptographic protocols suffer more from legacy issues than the underlying cryptographiccomponents. The goal should be to work towards a better cryptographic protocol infrastructure which does not exhibit such problems. Thus we provide in this report guidelines to organisations which are developing new protocols.
 Nov 21, 2014
Read more . .
Study on cryptographic protocols — ENISA: Study on cryptographic protocols — ENISA

Nov 5, 2014

Traveling Through Multiple Europes

Traveling Through Multiple Europes

   
"Traveling Through Multiple Europes is republished with permission of Stratfor."
By Adriano Bosoni
Europe is overcrowded with people and with nations. Six decades ago, the need to suppress the dangerous forces of nationalism led to the unprecedented political, economic and social experiment now known as the European Union. The hundreds of thousands of EU citizens working across the Continent and the lack of border controls between member states s
how that the experiment has been successful in many ways. However, rising nationalism, pervasively high unemployment and a growing sense of frustration with governing elites also highlight the serious limitations of the European project. Over the past 12 months, I have traveled extensively throughout Europe, observing firsthand how the global economic crisis is reawakening dormant trends along the Continent's traditional fault lines.

The crisis is having an uneven effect on EU member states because the eurozone locks countries with different levels of economic development into the same currency union. Europe's geography helps explain these differences: Countries in the south have traditionally dealt with high capital costs and low capital-generation capacity, while countries in the north have seen the opposite.

In December, I drove from Barcelona to Madrid. The endless succession of mountains along the route encapsulates Spain's traditional struggle against geography: Merely moving people and goods from point to point on the Iberian Peninsula has always posed formidable challenges for governments and traders. This rugged geography also led to the development of small pockets of populations with strong national identities, creating tension between Madrid and the Basque Country as well as Catalonia. Spain has traditionally been a resource-poor country that has had to look to the Atlantic to find wealth while frequently resorting to violence to secure unity.

In contrast, most of Germany is flat. In May, I drove north along the Rhine, one of the country's major economic arteries. The river and its tributaries have blessed all of the people living near them, bringing incalculable wealth to trading cities such as Frankfurt and Cologne. The same holds true for the two other major German waterways, the Elbe and the Danube. But wealth does not necessarily mean peace. Both sides of the Rhine host multiple castles and fortifications, a reminder of the state of fragmentation that defined the Germanic world for centuries. The lack of any real physical borders to the east and west also helps explain Germany's historical conflict with its neighbors.

Highways in Spain and Germany highlight a more significant difference. During my journey between Barcelona and Madrid, I barely saw any cars, let alone trucks. At times, it was hard to believe I was traveling between the two major cities in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy. By contrast, Germany's autobahns are crowded with vehicles going from one point to another. The same geography that made Germany a place of conflict also explains its economic power: Germany is the center of Europe from almost every possible point of view.

The farther one moves from Germany, the more evident the crisis becomes. Traveling by train from Thessaloniki to Athens lets one see Greece's complex geography firsthand. Greece is a rugged country with narrow coastal plains that swiftly give way to mountains. Complicating matters, the country has some 6,000 islands and islets, only a handful of which are inhabited. Greece's extremely fragmented geography and its strategic position on the eastern Mediterranean helps explain why it has struggled throughout history to get anything done. Developing an integrated economy and collecting taxes has proven difficult, especially while repelling a never-ending series of invasions.

Walking down the streets of Athens reveals that this is where the crisis struck first and has had the deepest impact. The city's downtown is full of closed shops with broken windows, graffiti and other signs of long-term neglect. In Athens, I saw far more police than in any other major European city. But at no time did I feel unsafe. Police are not out in force because of crime but because of social unrest. Though Greece is relatively tranquil these days, the social situation is still a ticking time bomb.

At the other end of the Continent, Portugal looks similar. I arrived in early October, excited by recent figures showing a drop in unemployment and an improvement in the economic outlook. What I found, however, was a place where only tourism seemed to be working while everything else remained static. Lisbon and Oporto are bittersweet places where magnificent monuments and spectacular views coexist with poverty and economic depression. Though Lisbon ended its rescue program with the European Union and International Monetary Fund early this year, for many Portuguese, life remains hard.

Talking Politics Across the Continent

Whenever I'm in a foreign country, I make an effort to visit bookstores because the books people read and write offer insights into the social mood. Bookstores in Southern Europe are a reminder that the Continent's economic problems have become political ones too. The gap between voters and traditional elites keeps widening as people are becoming increasingly tired of the policies designed by Brussels and backed by domestic politicians.

Perusing the shelves, I saw numerous books with significant anti-austerity and anti-establishment themes, which in some cases took an anti-German flavor. In an Oporto bookstore, among the bestsellers was a book called We Are Not Germans, while a Rome bookstore had a book calledIt's Not Worth a Lira, a plea to leave the euro and return to Italy's old currency, that appeared to be quite popular.

Southern Europeans fear and admire Germany at the same time. On one hand, Germany is seen as a country where everything works and governments are efficient. On the other hand, it is also seen as a hegemon that doesn't understand or care about the situation in the nations it is trying to lead.

Europe's economic crisis is particularly puzzling for the center-left. Social Democrats have traditionally embraced the process of European integration because it offers economic prosperity based on big welfare states and strong labor legislation. But this model is in crisis in many countries, and even center-left governments are applying spending cuts under pressure from the European Union.

In Italy, I had dinner with a former union leader as the center-left's Matteo Renzi -- who had just been appointed prime minister -- was proposing reforms in several areas, including labor. "I don't like the direction Renzi is going," the former union leader told me, "but I will vote for the Democratic Party again because it's either them or the (anti-system) Five Star Movement." While conservative forces are moving to the right and nationalist forces are gaining strength, the center-left is going through an identity crisis that is generating frictions within the parties and confusing their traditional voters -- something French President Francois Hollande is learning the hard way.

In Athens, a journalist told me she did not share the views of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, but at least it had never been involved in a corruption scandal like those that have traditionally surrounded the country's mainstream parties. Along with the concept of democracy, Ancient Greece also developed the concept of kleptocracy. Whenever you talk with Greeks about politics, a word comes to their mouths almost immediately: "kleptes," which literally means "thieves." Most Southern Europeans have similar views of their governments. And while there is a big gap between what people say in conversations and the way they vote, these anti-establishment sentiments are not going away anytime soon -- and will keep threatening the survival of the European Union.

. . Read more Traveling Through Multiple Europes 

Oct 21, 2014

The Similarities Between Germany and China

The Similarities Between Germany and China

By George Friedman

"The Similarities Between Germany and China is republished with permission of Stratfor."

I returned last weekend from a monthlong trip to both East Asia and Europe. I discovered three things: First, the Europeans were obsessed with Germany and concerned about Russia. Second, the Asians were obsessed with China and concerned about Japan. Third, visiting seven countries from the Pacific to the Atlantic in 29 days brings you to a unique state of consciousness, in which the only color is gray and knowing the number of your hotel room in your current city, as opposed to the one two cities ago, is an achievement.

The world is not getting smaller. There is no direct flight from the United States to Singapore, and it took me 27 hours of elapsed travel to get there. There is a direct flight from Munich to Seoul, but since I started in Paris, that trip also took about 17 hours. Given how long Magellan took to circumnavigate the world, and the fact that he was killed in the Philippines, I have no basis for complaint. But the fact is that the speed of global travel has plateaued, as has the global economic system. There is a general sense of danger in Europe and Asia. There is no common understanding on what that danger is.

I was in Seoul last week when the news of a possible wave of European crises began to spread, and indications emerged that Germany might be shifting its view on austerity. It was striking how little this seemed to concern senior officials and business leaders. I was in the Czech Republic when the demonstrations broke out in Hong Kong. The Czechs saw this as a distant event on which they had opinions but which was unlikely to affect them regardless of the outcome.

There has been much talk of globalization and the interdependence that has flowed from it. There is clearly much truth in arguing that what happens in one part of the world affects the rest. But that simply was not evident. The eastern and western ends of the Eurasian landmass seem to view each other as if through the wrong side of a telescope. What is near is important. What is distant is someone else's problem far away.

Germany and China as Economic Centers

There is symmetry in this view. Europe cares about Germany and Asia about China. In some fundamental ways these countries have a substantial amount in common. China is the world's second-largest economy. Germany is the world's fourth-largest exporter. Both countries are at the center of regional trade blocs -- Germany's formal, China's informal. Both trade on a global basis, but both also have a special and mutual dependency on their regions. China and Germany both depend on their exports. Germany's exports were equivalent to 51 percent of its gross domestic product, or about $1.7 trillion, in 2013, according to the World Bank. China's exports equaled 23.8 percent of a larger GDP, or about $9.4 trillion.

The two countries at the center of their respective regional systems have both been extremely efficient exporters. . . .

Read more: The Similarities Between Germany and China 

Sep 16, 2014

The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum

The Origins and Implications of the Scottish Referendum

By George Friedman
The idea of Scottish independence has moved from the implausible to the very possible. Whether or not it actually happens, the idea that the union of England and Scotland, which has existed for more than 300 years, could be dissolved has enormous implications in its own right, and significant implications for Europe and even for global stability.

The United Kingdom was the center of gravity of the international system from the end of the Napoleonic Wars until World War II. It crafted an imperial structure that shaped not only the international system but also the internal political order of countries as diverse as the United States and India. The United Kingdom devised and drove the Industrial Revolution. In many ways, this union was a pivot of world history. To realize it might be dissolved is startling and reveals important things about the direction of the world.

Scotland and England are historical enemies. Their sense of competing nationhoods stretches back centuries, and their occupation of the same island has caused them to fight many wars. Historically they have distrusted each other, and each has given the other good reason for the distrust. The national question was intertwined with dynastic struggles and attempts at union imposed either through conquest or dynastic intrigue. The British were deeply concerned that foreign powers, particularly France, would use Scotland as a base for attacking England. The Scots were afraid that the English desire to prevent this would result in the exploitation of Scotland by England, and perhaps the extinction of the Scottish nation.

The Union of 1707 was the result of acts of parliaments on both sides and led to the creation of the Parliament of Great Britain. England's motive was its old geopolitical fears. Scotland was driven more by financial problems it was unable to solve by itself. What was created was a united island, acting as a single nation. From an outsider's perspective, Scotland and England were charming variations on a single national theme -- the British -- and it was not necessary to consider them as two nations. If there was ever a national distinction that one would have expected to be extinguished in other than cultural terms, it was this one. Now we learn that it is intact. We need a deeper intellectual framework for understanding why Scottish nationalism has persisted.

The Principle of National Self-Determination

 

The French Enlightenment and subsequent revolution had elevated the nation to the moral center of the world. It was a rebellion against the transnational dynasties and fragments of nations that had governed much of Europe. The Enlightenment saw the nation, which it defined in terms of shared language, culture and history, as having an inherent right to self-determination and as the framework for the republican democracies it argued were the morally correct form of government.

After the French Revolution, some nations, such as Germany and Italy, united into nation-states. After World War I, when the Hapsburg, Hohenzollern, Romanov and Ottoman empires all collapsed, a wave of devolution took place in Europe. The empires devolved into their national components. Some were amalgamated into one larger nation, such as Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia, while others, such as Poland, were single nation-states. Some had republican democracies, others had variations on the theme, and others were dictatorships. A second major wave of devolution occurred in 1992, when the Soviet Union collapsed and its constituent republics became independent nation-states.

The doctrine of the right to national self-determination drove the first wave of revolts against European imperialism in the Western Hemisphere, creating republics in the Americas. The second wave of colonial rising and European withdrawal occurred after World War II. In some cases, nations became self-determining. In other cases, nation-states simply were invented without corresponding to any nation and actually dividing many. In other cases, there were nations, but republican democracy was never instituted except by pretense. A French thinker, Francois de La Rochefoucauld, said, "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue." Even while betraying its principles, the entire world could not resist the compulsion to embrace the principles of national self-determination through republican democracy. This effectively was codified as the global gold standard of national morality in the charters of the League of Nations and then the United Nations.

The Imperfection of the Nation-State

 

Languages and Dialects of EuropeThe incredible power of the nation-state as a moral principle and right could be only imperfectly imposed. No nation was pure. Each had fragments and minorities of other nations. In many cases, they lived with each other. In other cases, the majority tried to expel or even destroy the minority nation. In yet other cases, the minority demanded independence and the right to form its own nation-state. These conflicts were not only internal; they also caused external conflict over the right of a particular nation to exist or over the precise borders separating the nations.

Europe in particular tore itself apart in wars between 1914 and 1945 over issues related to the rights of nation-states, with the idea of the nation-state being taken to its reductio ad absurdum -- by the Germans as a prime example. After the war, a principle emerged in Europe that the borders as they stood, however imperfect, were not to be challenged. The goal was to abolish one of the primary causes of war in Europe.

The doctrine was imperfectly applied. The collapse of the Soviet Union abolished one set of borders, turning internal frontiers into external borders. The Yugoslavian civil war turned into an international war once Yugoslavia ceased to exist, and into civil wars within nation-states such as Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. At the same time, the borders in the Caucasus were redrawn when newly independent Armenia seized what had been part of Azerbaijan. And in an act that flew in the face of the principle, NATO countries divided Serbia into two parts: an Albanian part called Kosovo and the rest of Serbia.

The point of all this is to understand that the right to national self-determination comes from deep within European principles and that it has been pursued with an intensity and even viciousness that has torn Europe apart and redrawn its borders. One of the reasons that the European Union exists is to formally abolish these wars of national self-determination by attempting to create a framework that both protects and trivializes the nation-state.

Scotland's Case

 

The possibility of Scottish independence must be understood in this context. Nationalism, the remembrance and love of history and culture, is not a trivial thing. It has driven Europe and even the world for more than two centuries in ever-increasing waves. The upcoming Scottish election, whichever way it goes, demonstrates the enormous power of the desire for national self-determination. If it can corrode the British union, it can corrode anything.

There are those who argue that Scottish independence could lead to economic problems or complicate the management of national defense. These are not trivial questions, but they are not what is at stake here. From an economic point of view, it makes no sense for Scotland to undergo this sort of turmoil. At best, the economic benefits are uncertain. But this is why any theory of human behavior that assumes that the singular purpose of humans is to maximize economic benefits is wrong. Humans have other motivations that are incomprehensible to the economic model but can be empirically demonstrated to be powerful. If this referendum succeeds, it will still show that after more than 300 years, almost half of Scots prefer economic uncertainty to union with a foreign nation.

This is something that must be considered carefully in a continent that is prone to extreme conflicts and still full of borders that do not map to nations as they are understood historically. Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, the second-largest and most vibrant city in Spain, has a significant independence movement. The Treaty of Trianon divided Hungary so that some Hungarians live in Romania, while others live in Slovakia. Belgium consists of French and Dutch groups (Walloons and Fleming), and it is not too extreme to say they detest each other. The eastern half of Poland was seized by the Soviet Union and is now part of Ukraine and Belarus. Many Chechens and Dagestanis want to secede from Russia, as do Karelians, who see themselves as Finns. There is a movement in northern Italy to separate its wealthy cities from the rest of Italy. The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia is far from settled. Myriad other examples can be found in Europe alone.

The right to national self-determination is not simply about the nation governing itself but also about the right of the nation to occupy its traditional geography. And since historical memories of geography vary, the possibility of conflict grows. Consider Ireland: After its fight for independence from England and then Britain, the right to Northern Ireland, whose national identity depended on whose memory was viewing it, resulted in bloody warfare for decades.

Scottish independence would transform British history. All of the attempts at minimizing its significance miss the point. It would mean that the British island would be divided into two nation-states, and however warm the feelings now, they were not warm in the past nor can we be sure that they will be warm in the future. England will be vulnerable in ways that it hasn't been for three centuries. And Scotland will have to determine its future. The tough part of national self-determination is the need to make decisions and live with them.

This is not an argument for or against Scottish nationhood. It is simply drawing attention to the enormous power of nationalism in Europe in particular, and in countries colonized by Europeans. Even Scotland remembers what it once was, and many -- perhaps a majority and perhaps a large minority -- long for its return. But the idea that Scotland recalls its past and wants to resurrect it is a stunning testimony less to Scottish history than to the Enlightenment's turning national rights into a moral imperative that cannot be suppressed.

More important, perhaps, is that although Yugoslavia and the Soviet collapse were not seen as precedents for the rest of Europe, Scotland would be seen that way. No one can deny that Britain is an entity of singular importance. If that can melt away, what is certain? At a time when the European Union's economic crisis is intense, challenging European institutions and principles, the dissolution of the British union would legitimize national claims that have been buried for decades.

But then we have to remember that Scotland was buried in Britain for centuries and has resurrected itself. This raises the question of how confident any of us can be that national claims buried for only decades are settled. I have no idea how the Scottish will vote. What strikes me as overwhelmingly important is that the future of Britain is now on the table, and there is a serious possibility that it will cease to be in the way it was. Nationalism has a tendency to move to its logical conclusion, so I put little stock in the moderate assurances of the Scottish nationalists. Nor do I find the arguments against secession based on tax receipts or banks' movements compelling. For centuries, nationalism has trumped economic issues. The model of economic man may be an ideal to some, but it is empirically false. People are interested in economic well-being, but not at the exclusion of all else. In this case, it does not clearly outweigh the right of the Scottish nation to national-self determination.

I think that however the vote goes, unless the nationalists are surprised by an overwhelming defeat, the genie is out of the bottle, and not merely in Britain. The referendum will re-legitimize questions that have caused much strife throughout the European continent for centuries, including the 31-year war of the 20th century that left 80 million dead.

Aug 19, 2014

Europe's Malaise: The New Normal?

Europe's Malaise: The New Normal?

Russia and Ukraine continue to confront each other along their border. Iraq has splintered, leading to unabated internal warfare. And the situation in Gaza remains dire. These events should be enough to constitute the sum total of our global crises, but they're not. On top of everything, the German economy contracted by 0.2 percent last quarter. Though many will dismiss this contraction outright, the fact that the world's fourth-largest economy (and Europe's largest) has shrunk, even by this small amount, is a matter of global significance.

Europe has been mired in an economic crisis for half a decade now. Germany is the economic engine of Europe, and it is expected that it will at some point pull Europe out of its crisis. There have been constant predictions that Europe may finally be turning an economic corner, but if Germany's economy is contracting (Berlin claims it will rebound this year), it is difficult to believe that any corner is being turned. It is becoming increasingly reasonable to believe that rather than an interlude in European prosperity, what we now see is actually the new normal. The key point is not that Germany's economy has contracted by a trivial amount. The point is that it has come time to raise the possibility that it could be a very long time before Europe returns to its pre-2008 prosperity and to consider what this means.

Faltering Europe

The German economy contracted despite indications that there would be zero economic growth. But the rest of Europe is faltering, too. France had zero growth. Italy declined by 0.2 percent. The only large European economy that grew was the United Kingdom, the country most skeptical of the value of EU membership. Excluding Ireland, which grew at a now-robust rate of 2.5 percent, no EU economy grew more than 1 percent. Together, the European Union scarcely grew at all.

Obviously, growth rate is not the full measure of an economy, and statistics don't always paint the full picture. Growth doesn't measure social reality, and therefore it is important to look at unemployment. And though Europe is fairly stagnant, the unemployment situation is truly disturbing. Spain and Greece both have around 25 percent unemployment, the level the United States reached during the Great Depression. While that's stunning, 15 of the 28 EU members have unemployment rates of more than 10 percent; most have maintained that high rate now for several years. More alarming, these rates are not falling.

Half of all EU residents live in four countries: Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy. The average growth rate for these countries is about 1.25 percent. Excluding the United Kingdom, their economies contracted by 0.1 percent. The unemployment rate in the four countries averages 8.5 percent. But if we drop the United Kingdom, the average is 9.2 percent. Removing Britain from the equation is not arbitrary: It is the only one of the four that is not part of the eurozone, and it is the country most likely to drop out of the European Union. The others aren't going anywhere. Perhaps the United Kingdom isn't either, but that remains to be seen. Germany, France and Italy, by population if nothing else, are the core of the European Union. They are not growing, and unemployment is high. Therefore, Europe as a whole is not growing at all, and unemployment is high.

Five to six years after the global financial crisis, persistent and widespread numbers like this can no longer be considered cyclical, particularly because Germany is running out of gas. It is interesting to consider how Germany has arrived at this point. Exports continue to grow, including exports to the rest of Europe. (That is one reason it has been so difficult for the rest of Europe to recover: Having lost the ability to control access to their markets, other European countries are unable to compete with German exports. It may be free trade, it may even be fair trade, but it is also a trade pattern that fixes failure in place.) Employment remains strong. The German financial system is viable. Yet consumer and corporate confidence is declining. As we look at the situation Germany is facing, confidence should be decreasing. And that in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: German employment has been supported by exports, but there is a limited appetite for Germany's exports amid Europe's long-term weakness and a world doing better but still not well enough to float the German economy.

One of the things that should concern Germans is the banking system. It has been the obsession of the European financial elite, at the cost of massive unemployment, and there is the belief, validated by stress tests, that the financial system is sound. For me, there has been an ongoing mystery about Europe: How could it have such high unemployment rates and not suffer a consumer debt crisis? The climbing rate of unemployment should be hitting banks with defaulted mortgages and unpaid credit card debt. Given the fragility of the European financial system in the past, it seems reasonable that there would be heavy pressure caused by consumer debt.

The known nonperforming debt situation is sufficiently concerning. Four countries have nonperforming loan rates surpassing 20 percent. Six have rates between 10 and 20 percent, including Italy's, which stands at 15.1 percent. The overall EU rate is 7.3 percent. Obviously, the situation in Italy is the most dangerous, but there is the question of whether these numbers capture the entire problem. Spain, with 24 percent unemployment, is reporting only an 8.2 percent nonperforming loan rate. Portugal, with lower unemployment rates, has an 11 percent nonperforming loan rate. France (with more than 10 percent unemployment) is reporting only a 4.3 percent nonperforming loan rate. The devil is in the details, and there may be an explanation for these anomalies. But the definition for a nonperforming loan has been flexible in Europe and other places before, and the simple question remains: How can such long-term high unemployment rates not produce significant problems in consumer debt?

It is simply unclear how Europe untangles this Gordian knot. Considering the length of Europe's economic malaise, a strong argument would be required to say this is a passing phase. Given Europe's unemployment, Germany's need to export to the rest of Europe, and persistent weak growth rates now spreading to Germany, it is simply not obvious what force will reverse this process. Inertia is pointing to a continuation of the current pattern. It is hard to see anything that will help Europe recover its vibrancy.

A Political Question

The question that follows is political. If the economic premise of the European Union -- prosperity -- is cast into doubt, then what holds Europe together? This is particularly relevant as the fault line between Russia and the European Peninsula comes alive and as Europe is measuredly asserting itself in Ukraine. Poland's and Romania's interest in Ukraine is clear. Spain's interest is less obvious. The idea of pursuing common goals to preserve EU prosperity doesn't work when the bloc is economically crippled and when signs of divergence are already evident. These include British threats to withdraw from the European Union and the loss of common interests that united the countries when prosperous.

One of the most important signs of divergence is the emergence of anti-establishment and Euroskeptical parties, which did remarkably well in recent European Parliament elections. This political shift has been dismissed by many as merely the result of a protest vote rather than a harbinger of the future. In my view, protest votes of this breadth and magnitude are significant in and of themselves. They remind us that the most dangerous source of social unrest is not the young and unemployed but rather middle-aged men and women who have suffered unemployment and lost their investments. They live in a world of shattered hopes, convinced that others engineered their misfortune. The young throw rocks and then go home. The middle-aged and middle class, having lost their dreams with no hope of recovery, are at the heart of fascism and are the real threat posed by the new European reality.

Russia is important, and so is radical Islam. But the fate of Europe is a vital force that will shape the world. Russian power grows as Europe fragments. Europe has its own internal confrontation with Islam. With long-term sclerosis of the economy and persistent unemployment, how do the Europeans deal with the immigrants among them? How does the Continent accept open borders? The implications are profound, and it is time to consider that a Europe without growth, with high unemployment and with no way out might be the reality for a much longer time than anyone expected.

Jul 29, 2014

Gaming Israel and Palestine

Gaming Israel and Palestine

By George Friedman
We have long argued that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inherently insoluble. Now, for the third time in recent years, a war is being fought in Gaza. The Palestinians are firing rockets into Israel with minimal effect. The Israelis are carrying out a broader operation to seal tunnels along the Gaza-Israel boundary. Like the previous wars, the current one will settle nothing. The Israelis want to destroy Hamas' rockets. They can do so only if they occupy Gaza and remain there for an extended period while engineers search for tunnels and bunkers throughout the territory. This would generate Israeli casualties from Hamas guerrillas fighting on their own turf with no room for retreat. So Hamas will continue to launch rockets, but between the extreme inaccuracy of the rockets and Israel's Iron Dome defense system, the group will inflict little damage to the Israelis.

War Without a Military Outcome

The most interesting aspect of this war is that both sides apparently found it necessary, despite knowing it would have no definitive military outcome. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers followed by the incineration of a Palestinian boy triggered this conflict. An argument of infinite regression always rages as to the original sin: Who committed the first crime?
For the Palestinians, the original crime was the migration into the Palestinian mandate by Jews, the creation of the State of Israel and the expulsion of Arabs from that state. For Israel, the original sin came after the 1967 war, during which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. At that moment, the Israelis were prepared to discuss a deal, but the Arabs announced their famous "three nos" at a meeting in Khartoum: no negotiation, no recognition, no peace. That locked the Israelis into an increasingly rigid stance. Attempts at negotiations have followed the Khartoum declaration, all of which failed, and the "no recognition" and "no peace" agreement is largely intact. Cease-fires are the best that anyone can hope for.
For Hamas, at least -- and I suspect for many Palestinians in the West Bank -- the only solution is Israel's elimination. For many Israelis, the only solution is to continue to occupy all captured territories until the Palestinians commit to peace and recognition. Since the same Israelis do not believe that day will ever come, the occupation would become permanent.
Under these circumstances, the Gaza war is in some sense a matter of housekeeping. For Hamas, the point of the operation is demonstrating it can fire rockets at Israel. These rockets are inaccurate, but the important thing is that they were smuggled into Gaza at all, since this suggests more dangerous weapons eventually will be smuggled in to the Palestinian territory. At the same time, Hamas is demonstrating that it remains able to incur casualties while continuing to fight.
For the Israelis, the point of the operation is that they are willing to carry it out at all. The Israelis undoubtedly intend to punish Gaza, but they do not believe they can impose their will on Gaza and compel the Palestinians to reach a political accommodation with Israel. War's purpose is to impose your political will on your enemy. But unless the Israelis surprise us immensely, nothing decisive will come out of this conflict. Even if Israel somehow destroyed Hamas, another organization would emerge to fill its space in the Palestinian ecosystem. Israel can't go far enough to break the Palestinian will to resist; it is dependent on a major third-party state to help meet Israeli security needs. This creates an inherent contradiction whereby Israel receives enough American support to guarantee its existence but because of humanitarian concerns is not allowed to take the kind of decisive action that might solve its security problem.
We thus see periodic violence of various types, none of which will be intended or expected to achieve any significant political outcome. Wars here have become a series of bloodstained gestures. There are some limited ends to achieve, such as closing Palestinian tunnels and demonstrating Palestinian capabilities that force Israel into an expensive defensive posture. But Hamas will not be defeated, and Israel will make no concessions.

Sovereignty and Viability Problems

The question therefore is not what the point of all this is -- although that is a fascinating subject -- but where all this ends. All things human end. Previous longstanding conflicts, such as those between France and England, ended or at least changed shape. Israel and Palestine accordingly will resolve their conflict in due course.
Many believe the creation of a Palestinian state will be the solution, and those who believe this often have trouble understanding why this self-evidently sensible solution has not been implemented. The reason is the proposed solution is not nearly as sensible as it might appear to some.
Issues of viability and sovereignty surround any discussion of a Palestinian state. Geography raises questions about the viability of any Palestinian polity. Palestine has two population centers, Gaza and the West Bank, which are detached from one another. One population center, Gaza, is an enormously crowded, narrow salient. Its ability to develop a sustainable economy is limited. The West Bank has more possibilities, but even it would be subordinate to a dynamic Israel. If the Palestinian workforce is drawn into the Israeli economy, both territories will become adjuncts to Israel. Within its current borders, a viable Palestine is impossible to imagine.
From the Israeli point of view, creating a Palestine along something resembling the 1967 lines (leaving aside the question of Jerusalem) would give the Palestinians superb targets, namely, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Given its history, Israel is unlikely to take that risk unless it had the right to oversee security in the West Bank in some way. That in turn would undermine Palestinian sovereignty.
As you play out the possibilities in any two-state solution, you run into the problem that any solution one side demanded would be unbearable to the other. Geography simply won't permit two sovereign states. In this sense, the extremists on both sides are more realistic than the moderates. But that reality encounters other problems.

Israel's High-Water Mark

Currently, Israel is as secure as it is ever likely to be unless Hamas disappears, never to be replaced, and the West Bank becomes even more accommodating to Israel. Neither of these prospects is likely. Israel's economy towers over its neighbors. The Palestinians are weak and divided. None of Israel's neighbors pose any threat of invasion, a situation in place since the 1977 neutralization of Egypt. Jordan is locked into a close relation with Israel, Egypt has its peace treaty and Hezbollah is bogged down in Syria. Apart from Gaza, which is a relatively minor threat, Israel's position is difficult to improve.
Israel can't radically shift its demography. But several evolutions in the region could move against Israel. Egypt could change governments, renounce its treaty, rearm and re-enter the Sinai Peninsula. Hezbollah could use its experience in Syria to open a front in Lebanon. Syria could get an Islamic State-led government and threaten the Golan Heights. Islamists could overthrow Jordan's Hashemite monarchy and pose a threat to the east. Turkey could evolve into a radical Islamic government and send forces to challenge Israel. A cultural revolution could take place in the Arab world that would challenge Israel's economic superiority, and therefore its ability to wage war. Iran could smuggle missiles into Gaza, and so on.
There is accordingly an asymmetry of possibilities. It is difficult to imagine any evolution, technical, political or economic, that would materially improve Israel's already dominant position, but there are many things that could weaken Israel -- some substantially. Each may appear far-fetched at the moment, but everything in the future seems far-fetched. None is inconceivable.
It is a rule of politics and business to bargain from strength. Israel is now as strong as it is going to be. But Israel does not think that it can reach an accommodation with the Palestinians that would guarantee Israeli national security, a view based on a realistic reading of geography. Therefore, Israel sees little purpose in making concessions to the Palestinians despite its relative position of strength.
In these circumstances, the Israeli strategy is to maintain its power at a maximum level and use what influence it has to prevent the emergence of new threats. From this perspective, the Israeli strategy on settlements makes sense. If there will be no talks, and Israel must maintain its overwhelming advantage, creating strategic depth in the West Bank is sensible; it would be less sensible if there were a possibility of a peace treaty. Israel must also inflict a temporary defeat on any actively hostile Palestinian force from time to time to set them back several years and to demonstrate Israeli capabilities for psychological purposes.
The Palestinian position meanwhile must be to maintain its political cohesion and wait, using its position to try to drive wedges between Israel and its foreign patrons, particularly the United States, but understanding that the only change in the status quo will come from changes outside the Israeli-Palestinian complex. The primary Palestinian problem will be to maintain itself as a distinct entity with sufficient power to resist an Israeli assault for some time. Any peace treaty would weaken the Palestinians by pulling them into the Israeli orbit and splitting them up. By refusing a peace treaty, they remain distinct, if divided. That guarantees they will be there when circumstances change.

Fifty Years Out

Israel's major problem is that circumstances always change. Predicting the military capabilities of the Arab and Islamic worlds in 50 years is difficult. Most likely, they will not be weaker than they are today, and a strong argument can be made that at least several of their constituents will be stronger. If in 50 years some or all assume a hostile posture against Israel, Israel will be in trouble.
Time is not on Israel's side. At some point, something will likely happen to weaken its position, while it is unlikely that anything will happen to strengthen its position. That normally would be an argument for entering negotiations, but the Palestinians will not negotiate a deal that would leave them weak and divided, and any deal that Israel could live with would do just that.
What we are seeing in Gaza is merely housekeeping, that is, each side trying to maintain its position. The Palestinians need to maintain solidarity for the long haul. The Israelis need to hold their strategic superiority as long as they can. But nothing lasts forever, and over time, the relative strength of Israel will decline. Meanwhile, the relative strength of the Palestinians may increase, though this isn't certain.
Looking at the relative risks, making a high-risk deal with the Palestinians would seem prudent in the long run. But nations do not make decisions on such abstract calculations. Israel will bet on its ability to stay strong. From a political standpoint, it has no choice. The Palestinians will bet on the long game. They have no choice. And in the meantime, blood will periodically flow.

Jul 14, 2014

Gaza Situation Report

Gaza Situation Report 

"Gaza Situation Report is republished with permission of Stratfor."

By George Friedman
The current confrontation in Gaza began June 12 after three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the West Bank the month before. Israel announced the disappearance June 13, shortly thereafter placing blame on Hamas for the kidnappings. On June 14, Hamas fired three rockets into the Hof Ashkelon region. This was followed by Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the Jerusalem region. On July 8, the Israelis announced Operation Protective Edge and began calling up reservists. Hamas launched a longer-range rocket at Tel Aviv. Israel then increased its airstrikes against targets in Gaza.

At this point, it would appear that Israel has deployed sufficient force to be ready to conduct an incursion into Gaza. However, Israel has not done so yet. The conflict has consisted of airstrikes and some special operations forces raids by Israel and rocket launches by Hamas against targets in Israel.

From a purely military standpoint, the issue has been Hamas's search for a deterrent to Israeli operations against Gaza. Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009 disrupted Gaza deeply, and Hamas found itself without any options beyond attempts to impose high casualties on Israeli forces. But the size of the casualties in Cast Lead did not prove a deterrent. 

Hamas augmented its short-range rocket arsenal with much longer-range rockets. The latest generation of rockets it has acquired can reach the population center of Israel: the triangle of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. However, these are rockets, not missiles. That means they have no guidance system, and their point of impact once launched is a matter of chance. Given these limits, Hamas hoped having a large number of rockets of different ranges would create the risk of substantial Israeli civilian casualties, and that that risk would deter Israel from action against Gaza.

The threat posed by the rockets was in fact substantial. According to senior Israeli Air Force officers quoted on the subject, Israel lacked intelligence on precisely where the rockets were stored and all the sites from which they might be launched. Gaza is honeycombed with a complex of tunnels, many quite deep. This limits intelligence. It also limits the ability of Israeli airborne munitions from penetrating to their storage area and destroying them. 

The Israeli objective is to destroy Hamas' rocket capacity. Israel ideally would like to do this from the air, but while some can be destroyed from the air, and from special operations, it appears the Israelis lack the ability to eliminate the threat. The only solution would be a large-scale assault on Gaza designed to occupy it such that a full-scale search for the weapons and their destruction on the ground would be possible. 

Hamas has been firing rockets to convince the Israelis that they have enough to increase casualties in the triangle if they choose to. The Israelis must in fact assume that an assault on Gaza would in its earliest stages result in a massive barrage, especially since Hamas would be in a "use-it-or-lose-it" position. Hamas hopes this will deter an Israeli attack.

Thus far, Israel has restrained its attack beyond airstrikes. The extent to which the fear of massed rocketry was the constraining factor is not clear. Certainly, the Israelis are concerned that Hamas is better prepared for an attack than it was during Cast Lead, and that its ability to use anti-tank missiles against Israel's Merkava tanks and improvised explosive devices against infantry has evolved. Moreover, the occupation of Gaza would be costly and complex. It would take perhaps weeks to search for rockets and in that time, Israeli casualties would mount. When the political consequences, particularly in Europe, of such an attack were added to this calculus, the ground component of Protective Edge was put off.

As mentioned, a major issue for the Israelis is the intelligence factor. It is said that Iran provided Hamas with these rockets via smuggling routes through Sudan. It is hard to imagine the route these weapons would take such that Israeli (and American) intelligence would not detect them on their thousand-plus mile transit, and that they would move into Gaza in spite of Israeli and Egyptian hostile watchfulness. Even if Iran didn't provide the weapons, and someone else did, the same question would arise.

The failure of the Israelis to detect and interdict the movement of rockets or rocket parts has an immediate effect on the confidence with which senior Israeli commanders and political leaders calculate their course. Therefore, to this point, there has been a stalemate, with what we assume is a small fraction of Hamas' rockets being fired, and limited operations against Gaza. The ground operation is being held in check for now.

While there have been a few public attempts to mediate between Hamas and Israel, most of these efforts have been lackluster, and the condemnations of violence and calls for peace have been more perfunctory than usual. Rather than leaving Egypt as the principle mediator, Turkey and Qatar have also weighed into the cease-fire discussion.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also reportedly contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, offering assistance in mediating a truce. Meanwhile, high-ranking diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany discussed truce efforts on the sidelines of talks on Iran, and Israel’s government has began mulling a plan to offer development aid in exchange for a demilitarization of Gaza.

There is good reason for the slow pace of these cease-fire efforts, however. As evidenced by Hamas' ability to replenish its rocket supply through routes traversing Sinai, Israel cannot rely exclusively on Egypt to uphold a cease-fire agreement -- nor does it trust Qatar and Turkey to do so. Instead, Israel is attempting to place responsibility for cease-fire enforcement on its main external patron, the United States. Of equal importance, Hamas shares a deep distrust of the current regime in Egypt, given Hamas' past links to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose brief reign in Egypt ended with a military coup. As these negotiations move slowly forward, Israel's focus is on trying to degrade Hamas' military capabilities enough to compensate for the weaknesses implicit in any cease-fire agreement. But tackling the problem primarily through the air has limits, and Israel's questionable confidence in its own intelligence is what has prevented a ground incursion so far.

The problem for Israel in any cease-fire is that it would keep the current status quo in place. Hamas would retain its rockets, and might be able to attain more advanced models. Israel was not able to stop the influx of this load, so Israel can't be confident that it can stop the next. A cease-fire is a victory for Hamas because they have retained their rocket force and have the potential to increase it. But for Israel, if it assumes that it cannot absorb the cost of rooting out all of the rockets (assuming that is possible) then a cease-fire brings it some political benefits without having to take too many risks.

At this moment, we know for certain that Israel is bombing Gaza and has amassed a force sufficient to initiate ground operations but has not done so. Hamas has not fired a saturation attack, assuming it could, but has forced Israel to assume that such an attack is possible, and that its Iron Dome defensive system would be overwhelmed by the numbers. The next move is Israel's. We can assume there are those in the Israeli command authority arguing that the Gaza rockets will be fired at some point, and must be eliminated now, and others arguing that without better intelligence the likelihood of casualties and of triggering a saturation launch is too high. 

We have no idea who will win the argument, if there is one, but right now, Israel is holding.

Jul 9, 2014

The Inevitability of Foreign Entanglements

The Inevitability of Foreign Entanglements 

 "The Inevitability of Foreign Entanglements is republished with permission of Stratfor."

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By George Friedman
The Fourth of July weekend gave me time to consider events in Iraq and Ukraine, U.S.-German relations and the Mexican borderland and immigration. I did so in the context of the founding of the United States, asking myself if America has strayed from the founders' intent with regard to foreign policy. Many people note Thomas Jefferson's warning that the United States should pursue "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none," taking that as the defining strategy of the founders. I think it is better to say that was the defining wish of the founders but not one that they practiced to extremes.
As we know, U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants to decrease U.S. entanglements in the world. Ironically, many on the right want to do the same. There is a common longing for an America that takes advantage of its distance from the rest of the world to avoid excessive involvement in the outside world. Whether Jefferson's wish can constitute a strategy for the United States today is a worthy question for a July 4, but there is a more profound issue: Did his wish ever constitute American strategy?

Entangled in Foreign Affairs at Birth

The United States was born out of a deep entanglement in international affairs, extracting its independence via the founders' astute exploitation of the tensions between Britain and France. Britain had recently won the Seven Years' War with France, known as the French and Indian War in the colonies, where then-Col. George Washington led forces from Virginia. The British victory didn't end hostilities with France, which provided weapons, ammunition and other supplies to the American Revolutionaries. On occasion, France landed troops in support of American forces, and its navy served a decisive role in securing the final U.S. victory at Yorktown.
America's geopolitical position required that it continue to position itself in terms of this European struggle. The United States depended on trade with Europe, and particularly Britain. Revolution did not change the mutual dependence of the United States and Britain. The French Revolution of 1789, however, posed a deep dilemma for the United States. That later revolution was anti-monarchist and republican, appearing to share the values of the United States.
This forced the United States into a dilemma it has continued to face ever since. Morally, the United States appeared obligated to support France and its revolution. But as mentioned, economically, it depended on trade with the British. The Jeffersonian Democrats wanted to support the French. The Federalist Party, cautious of British naval power and aware of American dependence on trade, supported an alignment with Britain. Amid much tension, vituperation and intrigue, the United States ultimately aligned with its previous enemy, Britain.
When Jefferson was elected president in 1800, he did not reverse U.S. policy. By then, the French Revolution had grown vicious, and Napoleon had come to power in 1799. Besides, Jefferson knew as well as Washington had that the United States required trade relations with Britain. At the same time, Jefferson was more aware than others that the United States was a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic and Appalachians. With minimal north-south transportation and dependence on the sea, the United States needed strategic depth.
The conflict between France and Britain was intensifying once again, and by 1803, Napoleon was planning an invasion of Britain. Napoleon's finances were in shambles, a fact Jefferson took advantage of to solve America's strategic problem: He negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France. Although this strengthened France against Britain, Jefferson was confident that the British would not be sufficiently displeased to break off trade relations.
Jefferson thus used the Franco-British conflict to take control of the continent to the Rocky Mountains, gaining control of the Missouri-Mississippi river complex, which would serve as the highway for Midwestern agricultural products to Europe. The Federalists condemned him for violating the Constitution by not obtaining prior congressional authorization. He probably did just that, but either way he had managed to expel the French from North America and achieve strategic depth for the United States, all without triggering a crisis with Britain. For a man who didn't care for entanglements, it was a tangled, but brilliant, achievement.
Moreover, Jefferson waged two Middle Eastern wars against what were then called the Barbary pirates. He was actually waging war against the Ottoman Empire, and in particular, the Barbary States, which comprised the Ottoman provinces of Tripoli, Algiers and Tunis and the independent state of Morocco. They had claimed the right to regulate commerce in the region, seizing ships flying flags that hadn't made treaties with them and holding the crews for ransom. The Americans had been protected before independence because they had treaties with Britain, but the treaties did not apply to the independent United States. Rather than negotiate a treaty, Jefferson chose to go to war, fighting on the same Libyan soil that is so discussed today: The Marines' Hymn, which references the shores of Tripoli, is talking about Benghazi, among other places.
The geopolitical reality was that the United States could not maintain its economy on domestic trade alone. It had to trade, and to trade it had to have access to the North Atlantic. Without that access it would fall into a depression. The idea that there would be no entangling alliances was nice in theory. But in reality, in order to trade, it had to align with the dominant naval power in the Atlantic, namely, the British. Self-sufficiency was a fantasy, and avoiding entanglement was impossible.

The War of 1812 and the Monroe Doctrine

All of this culminated in the War of 1812. By then, the Napoleonic wars were raging, and the British were hard-pressed to maintain their blockade of the European continent for lack of manpower. Its interest in blockading Napoleon led London to try to prevent the United States from trading with anyone but Britain. The British lack of manpower led London to order the seizure of U.S. ships and the impressment of British-born sailors into the Royal Navy. The British were also allied with Indian tribes to the west, which could have led to a reversal of the achievements of the Louisiana Purchase.
The British were not particularly interested in the Americans. Instead, it was their obsession with the French that led them to restrain trade and impress seaman. Their policy of allying with the Indians and expanding Canadian power was, however, a residual result of their distrust of the United States, and it could well have become a major focus of their follow-on strategy after the defeat of Napoleon.
The United States could not tolerate having the British control trade routes in the North Atlantic. Nor could it live with the British maneuvers in North America. Regardless of desires for peace with everyone and the avoidance of war, the United States accordingly declared war on Britain. Although the war resulted in the burning of Washington, the ultimate strategic outcome of the war is generally regarded as satisfactory to the United States. The British stopped threatening the Midwest from Canada, ended impressment (having defeated Napoleon, they didn't need it anyway) and returned to a distrustful but amicable trade relationship with the United States.
This account wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention the Monroe Doctrine, issued in 1823 with the goal of regulating the extent to which European powers could be involved in the Americas. Originally considered a joint U.S.-British document, the United States ultimately decided to announce the principles itself. (It wasn't called the Monroe Doctrine until much later.) Interestingly, the United States was in no position to enforce the doctrine; it could do so only in cooperation with Britain. Yet even so it asserted its unwillingness to allow European powers to intrude in the Western Hemisphere.

A History of Inevitable Alignments

Where Jefferson spoke of entangling alliances, it might be said that no alliances were signed, but alignment was pursued. From the beginning of the American project, entanglement in Europe was inevitable. The republic was born from that entanglement and survived because of the skill and cunning with which the founders managed their entanglement. What is important for today is that economic self-sufficiency was a dream of the founders, albeit one they could never achieve. They had to have trade, and from the beginning, trade brought conflict and war.
In his farewell address, frequently cited as an argument for avoiding foreign adventures, George Washington had a much more complex and sophisticated approach than Jefferson's one-liner did (and Jefferson himself was far more sophisticated than that one-liner). It is worth extracting one section:
"Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
…Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies."
Washington noted that American distance gave it the hope that "the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance." For him, this was a goal, not a reality. But he could not make it a reality because the United States was economically entangled with Europe from the start, and its geography, rather than protecting it from entanglement, forced it into trade, which had to be protected against pirates and potentates. As a result, the United States was fighting in the Middle East by the turn of the 19th century.
It is important to distinguish what the founders wished from what they did. Unlike the French Revolutionaries, who took the revolution to its bloody reduction ad absurdum, the Americans had modest expectations for their revolution: They wished for a time when they weren't drawn into conflict. But as we have seen, they were neither surprised nor reticent when conflict proved necessary. It was Jefferson, after all, who led the country to its first Middle Eastern adventure.
For me, the crucial line from Washington is the search for the time "…when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel."
It's not clear that that time has come or that it will come. What undermined the peace Washington and Jefferson craved was the need for trade. It made the United States, weak as it was, vulnerable to Britain and France and even the Ottomans and forced the United States to engage in the very activity Washington and Jefferson warned against. Indeed, Washington and Jefferson were forced to engage in that activity. The United States is much more powerful today, and its gross domestic product constitutes more than 20 percent of the GDP in the world. The vastness of the American economy causes it to intrude everywhere, and American interests and foreign resentment constantly create threats and challenges.
The desire of the president, the left and the right to limit our engagement is understandable. The founders wanted their prosperity without paying the price of foreign entanglements, but prosperity depended on careful management of foreign relations. Today the vulnerabilities of the United States are much more subtle and complex, but the principle remains the same. You cannot be economically entangled in the world without also being politically and militarily entangled. What you can do is what Washington and Jefferson did: have a clear sense of the national interest and justice and avoid all entanglements but those that are necessary against this measure. Unfortunately, the national interest and justice are not always easily defined, and it is harder still to reach a consensus on what is to be done.
The idea of withdrawing from the world is appealing to any reasonable person. But Washington and Jefferson couldn't do it even though they extolled it. It is unlikely that it can be achieved today. The best we can do is to be ruthless in deciding which entanglements are valuable and which will drain us.
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