Israel’s Wall: 10 Years Justice Denied

Rianne Van Doevern/Flickr

This article was originally published 9 July 2014 by openDemocracy

“I spend up to five or six hours every day travelling just to get to university. Without the wall and the checkpoints, this trip would take 20 minutes.”

English Literature students Hala Liddawieh and Nagham Yassin, both 20 years old, live in occupied East Jerusalem and travel across the wall every day to get to Birzeit university, passing through the infamous Qalandia military checkpoint. Qalandia is one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank: to get past, residents have to walk through G4S-supplied body scanners, while Israeli soldiers check their identity cards.

A decade after its illegal construction, Israel’s wall casts a shadow over every aspect of Palestinian life. » More

The Geopolitics of Ramadan

Photo: DVIDSHUB/flickr

This article was originally published by Stratfor on 28 June 2014.

Ramadan for most people is a religious occasion when Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk. During this lunar month, the faithful also try to pray as much as possible and seek to maximize the practice of good deeds. However, Ramadan has a much less talked about geopolitical dimension.

Analysis

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, begins on June 28 in North America this year (2014 on the Gregorian calendar, 1435 on the Muslim Hijri calendar). As is always the case, there are variations in the calendar — usually of one or two days — for Muslims living in different parts of the world. For instance, Saudi Arabia has announced that it will start Ramadan on June 29.

The Koran is believed to have been revealed in this month. The last 10 days are considered the most blessed — especially Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power), which falls on the 27th night of the month. » More

Tags: ,

Virtual Conflict as Cultural Catharsis: Re-fighting Vietnam 2.0

Online Game Call of Duty, courtesy of Movistar Campus Party México

This article was originally published by Strife on 12 June 2014.

Storytelling is a core part of how we communicate with each other, understand complex issues and come to terms with the world around us. The prevalence of so-called ‘talking therapies’ show that such processes are important in helping to overcome and move past negative events and experiences. The experience of 9/11 left long-lasting and deep collective and cultural damage on the US/Western collective psyches. The ‘War on Terror’ has been compared to what Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson: ‘a vast, tragic distraction in which he must be seen to be winning, lest the domestic agenda he really cares about be derailed.’ Popular culture, in this case Western-developed video/computer games, have become a medium in which the cathartic and curative process of storytelling is taking place on a cultural level, to move past and overcome both of these ‘unfinished’ conflicts.

War and conflict have been staple thematic topics in games for decades, as far back as Space Invaders and Missile Command in the late 1970s. However, the games released after 9/11 show an interesting pattern indicating a marked swing in direction and focus. Between 2002 and 2005 there were two games released that were set during the first Gulf War (Conflict: Desert Storm I & II), at least nine games released set during the Vietnam War (Vietcong, Vietcong 2, Battlefield: Vietnam, Conflict: Vietnam, Shellshock: ‘Nam 67, Wings over Vietnam, Platoon, Men of Valor, Line of Sight: Vietnam) as well as many more set in the modern day in real or analogous Middle-Eastern theatres. One of the most stand-out titles from this period was America’s 10 Most Wanted, whose finale consists of the player fighting Osama Bin Laden in hand-to-hand combat, and subsequently bundling him into a helicopter that flies off into the sunset while the credits roll. From this period mainstream game development began to shift to reflect changing current events. From 2008 games in this thematic field have often adopted Private Military Contractors in both pro and antagonistic roles. after the details of Blackwater’s/Xe’s involvement in Iraq became wider public knowledge and a hot topic of the time.

The ability of popular culture to serve as a space for cultural catharsis and as a coping mechanism isn’t a new one; after the collective cultural trauma of Vietnam a similar process of mourning and understanding took place. The trajectory of tone and content in the ‘war is hell’ films from the 1970s such as Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter shifted dramatically to the restorative and cathartic films from the 1980s like Top Gun and Rambo. These films either painted the US military in a far more positive and victorious light or, in the case of Rambo, literally re-fighting Vietnam on-screen. » More

Hacking Defense: Changing How DoD Innovates

The Pentagon, January 2008. Image: Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published June 23, 2014 by War on the Rocks.

Product innovation in the U.S. Department of Defense follows an implicit rule: “Better, cheaper, faster—pick two.”

Today, the military is simultaneously confronted with declining budgets, skyrocketing system development costs, and a diverse spectrum of rapidly evolving, complex military threats. To mitigate this challenge, the Pentagon should place renewed emphasis on its corporate approach to technology innovation in order to identify and exploit opportunities to do more with less.

The Better Buying Power initiative focuses on DoD’s innovation problem, but to be successful, such efforts must eschew traditional notions of defense system development. From iterative, design-based product development approaches to open, distributed ecosystems of partners and suppliers, the techniques employed by Silicon Valley and the most innovative sectors of the global high-tech economy should inform a new model of defense innovation that enables better, cheaper, and faster outcomes. » More

LHD and STOVL – An Engineer’s View

F-35 Lightning

This article was originally published on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute‘s blog, The Strategist, on June 20, 2014.

As a military aircraft engineer, I’ve been associated with STOVL aircraft operations for around 30 years, and have worked on the F-35 program. So I’ve followed the current discussions around potential use of F-35B from the Canberra-class LHDs with interest.

In my view, it’s remarkable how much the debate focuses on the problems that the aircraft would face in operating from those ships rather than the potential benefits to be gained. Assertions abound about the ‘limited’ nature of F-35B operations from an LHD, and the ‘severe challenges’ involved in generating a militarily ‘decisive impact’ from ‘small’ platforms. And yet for 30 years or more the UK and US (using AV-8Bs and Sea Harriers) have delivered
significant operational effect from similar platforms. Clearly, STOVL at sea can work. So I’d like to offer a few observations that might assist and inform the debate. » More

Page 1 of 30