Focusing Like a Laser Beam on Directed Energy

Soviet Ground-based Laser. Image: Edward L. Cooper/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 14 April, 2015.

Advocates have long argued that directed energy weapons — including high energy lasers, high power microwaves, and other radiofrequency technologies — may carry substantial operational advantages for U.S. forces. None other than Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work has called high energy lasers an example of the “fantastic, potentially game changing new technologies that we can more quickly get into the force,” and one candidate for the new “offset” strategy pursued by the Department of Defense. In principle, directed energy weapons can provide offensive and defensive non-kinetic attack options, serve as cost-effective force multipliers, and provide operational flexibility to the warfighter.

In parallel, skeptics point to a lengthy track record of overhyped promises and system underperformance. They note that the large-scale, high-profile developments of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s — programs such as the airborne, ground-based, or space-based lasers — were not only costly but ultimately failed to transition into the U.S. arsenal. They often argue that technically credible, operationally usable, and policy friendly directed energy weapons have been more the province of science fiction than reality. » More

In Northern Ireland and Beyond, Peace Takes Time: Q&A with Gary Mason

A Belfast mural attacking the British Government. Image: Miossec/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 10 April 2015.

It is now 17 years since the Good Friday Agreement brought what seemed to be a definitive end to the decades-long sectarian crisis in Northern Ireland. But, in a case that has repercussions for other peace processes such as Israel-Palestine, one of the architects of the agreement says there is still much work to be done before a line can be drawn beneath the conflict once and for all. » More

Cuba: The Embargo Continues

A ship leaving the port of Havana, Cuba. Image: Travel Aficionado/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 3 April, 2015.

Since the Obama administration announced the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, it’s common to hear people talk about what will happen “now that the embargo has ended.”  The new measures are significant for the tone that they set, and there are some concrete changes that will result.  It will be easier for certain limited categories of US citizens to travel to Cuba, and the tension between the two governments is somewhat reduced.  But the embargo is still very much in place. » More

An Irresistible Force? Arab Citizens of Israel after the Elections

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Arab-Israeli Hadash party. Image: Anan Maalouf/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by OpenSecurity/OpenDemocracy on 24 March, 2015.

Despite much pre-election euphoria among those hoping to bring down the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, a democratic political upheaval towards a new progressive era in Israel remains a receding horizon. And yet one political novelty stands out:  the increasing visibility of its Palestinian citizens.

For decades, they had to cope with a life at the margins of both Palestine and Israel, were largely excluded from the ‘peace process’ and were ascribed an ‘identity crisis’ as a people hopelessly stuck in political limbo. For the first time in Israel’s history, this month they voted collectively as Arab-Palestinians for a Joint List, reaching 13 out of 122 seats. Under the widely-respected leadership of Ayman Odeh, this now comprises the third-largest faction in the parliament. With increasing visibility of their grievances amid rising international recognition, their cause stands on solid ground. » More

Sick Defense: How to Foster an Affordable, Innovative Defense Industrial Base

Two fighter jets refueling while in the air. Image: Defence-Imagery/Pixabay.

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 19 March, 2015.

The U.S. defense industrial base provides America and its allies with the capabilities to deter, engage, and defeat adversaries decisively. This “arsenal for democracy” must be a source of technological advantage at a price tag the taxpayers can afford. A healthy U.S. defense enterprise has proven a decisive lever in America’s success in past conflicts and a critical tool to maintaining the peace. Yet the relative strength and vitality of our industrial base is at risk. The Department of Defense (DoD) has reacted with alarm at flagging research and development (R&D) across industry. This has motivated U.S. defense officials to increasingly reach out to commercial technology providers for solutions. However, as their recent visit to Silicon Valley demonstrated, not everyone is chomping at the bit to work with the Pentagon. » More

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