I wanted to provide a cursory analysis of the most significant threats to American territorial security, national sovereignty and interests abroad, as evidenced by foreign state actors. The Cold War may be over, Osama bin Laden dead, and al-Qaeda weakened, vulnerable and displaced. However, we can all agree that threats remain, and must be identified, analyzed, and resolved.
These threats take on a variety of forms and function: global terror exists, simultaneously, beyond the grasp of legitimate government and as a proxy of that authority, through state-sponsorship abroad. Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons (CBRN) threaten American lives, both at home and abroad, and state actors aren’t the only one with their fingers on the trigger. Rather, there is a serious and legitimate concern surrounding rogue scientists and the potential that states are providing, or will provide, technological assistance to terrorist organizations. Moreover, financial crisis, narco-terror and deteriorating state solvency threatens lives around the world. Increasing interventionism will engender prompt reaction from a host of local, regional and national political actors. And as always, American interests will be targeted as the world’s hegemon and lonely superpower.
The Cold War is over, but Russia still maintains the largest arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in the world. Some 4650 nuclear warheads are buoyed by an existing doctrine of “limited nuclear war” to protect pressures against Russia and her allies. The sheer scope of the illicit arms trade, in a country run by billionaire oligarchs and their political pawns is alarming. Regional conflagrations in South Ossetia and Abkhazia threaten NATO member states. Vladimir Putin, no friend of the United States, is set to return to the presidency next year, and will undoubtedly continue to confound American directives in the U.N. Russia will remain a troublemaker in international affairs, and the threat of military intervention in Ukraine and direct conflict in Georgia looms. Cold Peace remains chilling.
Sudan’s threat to American interests is well known. The erstwhile home of Osama bin Laden and the site of a vicious embassy bombing, the US has been focused on Sudan since Clinton lobbed dozens of cruise missiles towards Khartoum, to ward off Lewinski headlines. The state recently split between the north and south, but the former remains on the U.S. government’s list of state sponsors of terror — a spot it has occupied since 1993. Despite recent coordination between the U.S. and Sudanese leadership, terrorists remain active in the country, and have proven their ability to harm American targets.
American troops in Iraq are generally safer than they have been in years; however, they remain targets of Shi’a militia activity and Sunni terror tactics. Moreover, nearly a decade of Iraqi insurgency and jihad has shaped a new generation of terrorist leadership. The mission in Iraq has bred a deep resentment of American involvement in the Muslim world, and cultivated support for international terror syndicates and the global jihadists movement. Thus, as long as America is intent on maintaining a billion-dollar embassy compound and a protracted troop presence, conflict in Iraq will remain a cause célèbre and a transnational rallying cry.
From the al-Shabab terror network — which merged with al-Qaeda in 2008 — to piracy on the high seas, the failed state of Somalia presents a clear and present danger to American security interests and international shipping commerce. Ethiopian forces invaded the “state” as recently as 2007 to disrupt the brutal orthodoxy of Islamic Courts government. Puntland and Somaliland demand international support for secessionist aspirations, while clan and militia fighting creeps over the borders into East African neighbors sovereign territory. High-profile pirate activities has already cost American lives, and experts agree that Somalia’s maturing “al-Qaeda in East Africa and the Horn” is actively seeking out Western targets…and membership. Recently, two New Jersey men were arrested at JFK airport for planning to travel to East Africa to join the terror network. Some 20 Somali-Americans have left Minnesota over the past several years to enlist. One of the groups leaders, Omar Hammami (who grew up in Alabama) declared his allegiance to bin Laden. Remember, many of these folks are U.S. passport holders. Alarming, to say the least…
It’s strange to consider that a friendly, southern neighbor and popular vacation getaway could present a material threat to American national security. But the fact is that paramilitaries employed by powerful Mexican drug cartels are guilty of indiscriminate killings, political assassination, and, frequently, targeted beheadings of rivals, civilians, and government agents. Sorta sounds like Iraq a few years ago. The U.S. Justice Department announced in 2009 that Mexican gangs are the “biggest organized crime threat to the United States.” The violence has increased since that time. It now threatens to engulf Mexico’s fragile democracy. So far, 40,000 Mexicans have died in the militarization of conflict between the cartels and government forces. We’ve got a civil war on our border, and we’re hardly aware of it. Violence, corruption and narco-trafficking will increasingly impact Mexico’s neighbor to the North, who supplies the guns and consumes the drugs.
To be continued…