The CSS Blog Network

The Islamic State’s Internal Rifts and Social Media Ban

Image courtesy of wiredforlego/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) on 21 June 2017.

An important part of the Islamic State’s meteoric rise to power in Syria and Iraq was due at least in part to its creative use of social media tools to distribute propaganda and recruit new members. The group’s well-documented social media skills have attracted tens of thousands of foreign fighters to join the fight. As documented by the CTC weeks before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi established the caliphate in Mosul, the Islamic State propaganda machine also served a critical role in psychological operations during the group’s blitzkrieg advance into northwestern Iraq in June of 2014.

It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that the group has issued an official ban on social media for all of its soldiers. In a document (see below) produced by the Islamic State’s Delegated Committee a few weeks ago and disseminated via Islamic State distribution channels more recently, the group’s order to all of its soldiers stated: “effective from the date of this notification, using social networking sites is entirely and completely forbidden. Whoever violates this exposes himself to questioning and accountability.” The order was published by the group in both Arabic and English.

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How Brazil’s Political and Economic Crisis Affects its Military Spending

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This article was originally published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 22 June 2017.

SIPRI’s recently published data shows a decrease of 7.2% in Brazil’s military expenditure in 2016 compared to 2015. The reasons behind this cut are quite complicated, since the country is embroiled in a mix of a political and economic crises. This blog post briefly discusses some of the features driving Brazil’s military spending downwards and how the current context may affect the future.

Brazil’s economic growth—and crash

First, we need to understand why Brazil’s military spending went up in the first place. Between 2000 and 2010, Brazil had significant economic growth, especially during President Lula’s term in office. Not only did the country’s economy grow, but inequality dropped. For instance, in 2007 the national Gini coefficient–an index created to measure income inequality–reached its lowest level in 30 years. These outstanding growth results enabled the government to allocate large resources to military projects, like the KC-390 aircraft, the Integrated System of Border Monitoring (SISFRON) and the Guaraní armoured vehicle production. In fact, between 2002 and 2013—the year Lula took office and the beginning of Petrobras corruption scandal, respectively—Brazil’s military spending increased by 28%.

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Airbrushing Stalin and Mao’s Horrific Crimes

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This article was originally published by World Affairs in June 2017.

“It’s easy predicting the future,” an old Soviet joke went. “What’s difficult is predicting the past.”

There is a war going on over the interpretation of history. A search for a “correct” version of the past has been launched in a number of countries, often by embittered nationalist forces, as in Poland. But the most aggressive assault is being orchestrated by dictators like Vladimir Putin, and China’s Communist Party leadership.

There is much at stake in this revisionist enterprise. The most alarming goal is to reappraise leaders like Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, to whitewash their atrocities and ensure that, at least for a domestic audience, they are presented as heroic figures whose crimes were miniscule in comparison with their achievements. Another objective is to depict the country in question as both the ultimate victim and the ultimate winner.

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A Path to Free North Korea’s Political Prisoners

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This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 20 June 2017.

Circumstances are ripe for South Korea, the United States, and the international community to adopt a fresh approach to address the North Korean crisis. High-ranking officials in North Korea are disaffected to an unprecedented degree, and granting amnesty to them may ultimately lead to the removal of Kim Jong-un.

In an April 6 analysis, Bruce Bennett, a senior researcher at the RAND Corporation, listed ways President Donald Trump could attempt to deal with North Korea, which included conventional strategies such as intensifying sanctions, increasing pressure on China to enforce sanctions, and even preventive military strikes. However, he concluded saying that the safest option would be to negotiate “a peaceful end to the 60-year-standoff on the peninsula” by providing the North Korean elite with an alternative to their “murderous and unstable leader.” He added that such an approach “could be the safest and most realistic way to sheath North Korean nuclear weapons and safeguard the American people.”

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Modeling Peace and Security: The Future of Computer-Supported Policy

Courtesy of Anders Sandberg/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 13 June 2017.

Central Europe received a major increase in refugees fleeing Syria in 2015. With the region’s politicians initially overwhelmed and claiming the situation was unforeseeable, civil society had to step into the breach on humanitarian assistance. Eventually, politicians did propose a broad range of solutions to cope with the phenomenon, typically informed by their political persuasions. Naturally, these were widely debated, and none were able to be categorically proven as effective.

But what if there was a way to evaluate the proposed solutions? What if the means existed to analyze the challenges faced and provide support for decision-makers? Existing computer simulation models are, in fact, quite capable of doing just that in a range of fields. Though their capabilities are not taken full advantage of at present, the situation appears to be changing.

One field—and a big one at that—starting to adopt large-scale computer modeling is healthcare. With many national health insurance programs facing the challenges of demographic shifts (an aging population and fewer contributors to the pool of available funds), the quest for cost efficiency has opened the door to healthcare technology assessment (HTA).

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