An Attack on Freedom of Speech: What We Should Do As A Democracy To Protect Our Rights From Terrorists

Charlie Hebdo Cover

On January 7, two armed gunmen murdered twelve at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine. Before these attacks, the magazine had previously been targeted for its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammed. Following the publication of this Charlie Hebdo magazine cover in November 2011, Charlie Hebdo’s website was hacked and its office firebombed.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2015.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D

The January 7 terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris wasn’t just an attack on human beings, but also an attack on freedom of speech and democracy. The French people wish to live in a free system where journalists and cartoonists have rights, including the freedom to lampoon Muhammad, Jesus, the French President, or anyone else they wish to put in the spotlight. These freedoms are deeply rooted in the history and philosophy of all democracies, and will be defended at great cost in blood and treasure.

The terrorist attack resulted in 12 deaths, which included well-known cartoonists at the magazine and the magazine’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier. The act of killing journalists only strengthens the people’s resolve to protect their freedoms, especially freedom of speech. Indeed, the response to the Paris attacks should not be fear to publish images of Muhammad, but rather a resolution to do so in many more outlets in order to act as a movement, a school of fish, and thereby de-isolate and protect the freedoms of others to do the same. Equivocation in the name of cultural sensitivity, an acceptable response prior to these attacks, is no longer an option. Fear and equivocation are now indistinguishable and would set a horrible precedent for giving in to terrorism, and against freedom of speech and democracy.

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Tackling Corruption in Ukraine

Anti-government protest in Kiev, Ukraine - 20 Feb 2014

Shaky truce in Kiev. Police and demonstrators prepare for another day Anti-government protest in Kiev, Ukraine – 20 Feb 2014 At least 26 people have been killed and hundreds injured as violence once again flared between police and anti-government protesters, after several weeks of calm. The anti-government protesters are calling for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych over corruption and an abandoned trade agreement with the European Union (Rex Features via AP Images)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2015.

By Irene Kovalchuk and Matthew Michaelides

During the last year Ukraine has accelerated its transition toward democracy, started reforming its institutions, and introduced a package of anti-corruption laws. Nevertheless, the expelled ex-president, Viktor Yanukovich, accused of stealing billions from Ukraine and overseeing mass killings of civilians, has not been brought to justice. Only a small fraction of the equivalent of billions of dollars stolen by the “Yanukovich family” has been frozen.[1] At the same time, with mounting debts, the government needs the lost money more than ever. And Ukrainians will not have full faith in their new government without seeing those guilty of crimes punished.

Domestic and international actors must work diligently both to recover the government’s stolen assets and ensure that the level of government corruption witnessed under Yanukovich’s rule are never repeated. This would require effective cooperation among the Ukrainian government, the nation’s civil society and Western nations. But the consequences of insufficient action would be too costly for a country already under severe stress.

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Countering ISIS Recruitment in Western Nations

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2015. 

By Katherine Leggiero

Katherine Leggiero is currently getting her Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University. She is also a recipient of the Secretary of Defense’s Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Boren Fellowship.

Executive Summary

Personal grievances associated with political, economic, social and religious aspects of Western society in conjunction with naiveté of war, Islam and terrorism may expedite the radicalization process and motivate both Western women and men to participate in ISIS’s cause. ISIS incentivizes the bay’ah and hijra obligation by offering a recruit new identity and a part in the founding of the Caliphate. Participating in ISIS’s jihad and founding of the Caliphate may also provide individuals experiencing relative deprivation with employment, basic needs, or politics and religious practices that aligns with their expectations of how society should operate. Westerners with Somali and Palestinian heritage are frequently socially marginalized and believe the Caliphate can provide them with a new life and group identity governed by religious law. While recent Western converts to Islam find a sense of purpose as ISIS members in being a part of the founding of the Caliphate and will use media (e.g. suicide missions, burning passport, propaganda video, social media recruiter) to prove their allegiance.

In turn, ISIS encourages its Western members to use their smartphones to instruct, guide and recruit other Westerners on their social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Kik, Ask.fm, Skype, and blogs). ISIS facilitators recruit at community events (religious seminars and community activities) and schools (e.g. high schools and colleges), but require an ISIS sheikh recommendation and “jihad mentor” for Western recruits to be selected and to prevent US intelligence collection. ISIS keeps its messaging simple (“join the Caliphate”) within its branding and recruitment campaign on its Google Play App, The Dawn of Glad Tidings and its monthly electronic magazine, Dabiq. ISIS’s narrative uses group identity to prevent an individual from employing any other values that could disrupt ISIS’s group coherence and unified action. ISIS makes the sacred value (e.g. governance by Allah) incompatible with other values, which in turn prevents trade-offs and concessions from occurring within their in-group. When the value becomes non-negotiable, the individual relies on emotional processing opposed to complex reasoning processes. ISIS’s narrative uses group identity to prevent individuals from employing any other values that could disrupt ISIS’s group coherence and unified actions.

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Dear Raúl, querido Obama, dear Pope Francis

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 12, December 2014.

Tatlin's Whisper #6 is a performance art piece by Tania Bruguera first performed in 2009 in Havana. Ms. Bruguera invited audience members to speak their minds without censorship from a podium flanked by two persons in military uniform. In a reference to Fidel Castro's speech of 1959, in which a white dove alighted on his shoulder, a dove was placed on the shoulders of speakers when they spoke.

Tatlin’s Whisper #6 is a performance art piece by Tania Bruguera first performed in 2009 in Havana. Ms. Bruguera invited audience members to speak their minds without censorship from a podium flanked by two persons in military uniform. In reference to Fidel Castro’s speech of January 8, 1959, in which a white dove alighted on his shoulder, a dove was placed on the shoulders of speakers. Ms. Bruguera’s call for December 30 demonstrations by Cubans is detailed on the #yotambienexigo Facebook and Twitter sites.

Dear Raúl, querido Obama, dear Pope Francis,

First let me offer congratulations, because politicians are expected to make history and today, December 17th, 2014, has been a historic day.

You have made history by proposing that the embargo/blockade become empty words. With the restoration of diplomatic relations, you have transformed the meaning of fifty-three years of policies defined by one side (the United States) and used by the other (Cuba) to ideologically guide the daily lives of Cubans everywhere. I wonder if this gesture is not also a proposal to kill ideology itself? Cuba is finally seeing itself, not from the perspective of death, but of life. But, I wonder, what will that life be and who will have the right to that new life?

Very well then, Raúl,

As a Cuban, today I call for the right to know what is being planned with our lives and, as part of this new phase, for the establishment of a politically transparent process in which we will all be able to participate, and to have the right to hold different opinions without punishment. When it comes time to reconsider what has defined who we are, that it not include the same intolerance and indifference which has so far accompanied changes in Cuba—a process in which acquiescence is the only option.

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Opportunities in a New Era of US-Cuban Relations

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 12, December 2014. 

By Matthew Michaelides

Yesterday, American officials announced that the United States and Cuba would re-establish full diplomatic relations, ties that the U.S.  had broken off in January 1961. The United States will once again have an embassy in Havana, and Cuba an embassy in Washington. Travel and financial restrictions between the countries will be eased by executive order as everyone waits to see if Congress will accept President Obama’s recommendation and end the U.S. embargo of the island nation. Continue reading

History and Putin’s Russia: An Ideational Struggle for Preeminence?

Russia Supermoon

The supermoon rises behind a Red Star atop of a Kremlin Tower at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. The phenomenon, which scientists call a “perigee moon,” occurs when the moon is near the horizon and appears larger and brighter than other full moons. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 11, November 2014.

By Rhoads Cannon

The impact of history leaves an indelible handprint upon the construction of ideational beliefs. With the fall of the Soviet Empire in East and Central Europe, there was a mixed sense of jubilation among disparate peoples of the post-Soviet space. Former US National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, rightly stipulates that the disintegration of the Soviet Union “created a black hole in the center of Eurasia,”[1] and today’s post-911 world continues to endure the multifarious impact of this transitional paradigm. Undoubtedly, the dismemberment of 27,000 nuclear arms, three freshwater fleets, and four million men in arms was and chiefly remains a psychosomatic and socio-economic challenge of the highest degree.[2] Although Kremlin observers debate the extent to which Russian decision-making is conceptualized solely by the Kremlin, it is blatantly clear that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and his inner-coterie have not come to grips with the loss of largess via the Soviet legacy.

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Nuclear Deal: Iran Wants At least 7,000 Centrifuges, Rejects Verification, and Likely Already Tested a Nuclear Weapon Device at Parchin

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 10, October 2014.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks to his car with Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, right, as he arrives at Vienna International Airport, in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. Kerry meets Wednesday in Vienna with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to try and advance nuclear talks and meet the target date of Nov. 24. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks to his car with Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, right, as he arrives at Vienna International Airport, in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. Kerry meets Wednesday in Vienna with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to try and advance nuclear talks and meet the target date of Nov. 24. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

Iran wants at least 7,000 centrifuges for its uranium enrichment capacity, it made clear in negotiations with the United States and other members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany (the P5+1). Iran is currently spinning only 10,000 of its 20,000 centrifuges, and thus a drop to 7,000 centrifuges would not significantly slow its current rapid progress towards nuclear weapons capabilities. The current negotiations are hinging on a dispute between Iran, which wants at least 7,000 centrifuges, and the P5+1, which wants a limit of of 4,000 Iranian centrifuges.  Also impeding an agreement is that Iran is suspected to have already tested a nuclear weapon device, and has not agreed to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) request for full monitoring and verification, including at its nuclear military site in Parchin.

The Journal of Political Risk received this information during an exclusively interview with a reliable official source on Wednesday October 23. JPR could not verify the official’s information, since the official requested anonymity. The official followed up with a detailed explanation, quoted below. Continue reading

Putin Extends Influence in Latin America

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 10, October 2014.

By Darya Vakulenko

Proton-M rocket blasts off from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Russia's space agency says three GLONASS-M satellites have been put into orbit by the Proton-M rocket. The satellites launched Thursday will join Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS. (AP Photo)

Proton-M rocket blasts off from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Russia’s space agency says three GLONASS-M satellites have been put into orbit by the Proton-M rocket. The satellites launched Thursday will join Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS. (AP Photo)

Vladimir Putin’s most recent trip to Latin America is a sign of an ongoing Russian push to expand its influence and diversify foreign allies. In mid-July, the Russian president visited Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina and ended his trip in Brazil, where the BRICS countries gathered for their 6th annual summit.

Throughout his tour, Putin discussed similar topics: assistance in developing and exploring new energy sources; installation of Global Satellite Navigation System (GLONASS), the Russian response to the U.S. Global Positioning System (G.P.S.); and agreements on boosting the presence of official Russian media in Latin America.

On energy, Putin and his team showed real determination to strengthen Russia’s position in the region. In Argentina, Rosatom, a Russian state-owned nuclear agency, submitted a proposal to construct the third unit for the Atucha nuclear plant. [1],[2]  In Cuba, Russian state-oil companies were the most active of the delegation. Zarubezhneft  presented plans to develop oil fields west of Boca de Jaruca, and Rosneft will search for offshore deepwater oil.[3] Additionally, the Russian energy holding company, Inter RAO, will build four energy blocks for Maximo Gomez, an electrical plant in East Havana.[4]

The push to install the navigation GLONASS system in each visited country was clear, as Russia is determined to become independent from the United States’s GPS network. For that reason, Putin and his government have resolved to place more control centers in the Western Hemisphere and thus improve the quality of the GLONASS constellation. Currently, apart from former Soviet states, only Brazil holds a GLONASS earth control station, on the campus of the University of Brasilia. There are plans to increase cooperation with the Brazilian Space Agency and place two more control centers in Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Sul. [5] Continue reading

U.S. Foreign Policy in Peril: President Obama’s Worldview and the Democratic Ethos

A passer-by, right, departs a store that features cut-outs of President Barack Obama, left, and First Lady Michelle Obama, center, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard. President Obama and his family are returning to the island off the Massachusetts mainland Saturday. The president is doing something unusual with his summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard: He'll come back to Washington midway through the getaway to attend White House meetings. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

A passer-by, right, departs a store that features cut-outs of President Barack Obama, left, and First Lady Michelle Obama, center, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. President Obama and his family are returning to the island off the Massachusetts mainland Saturday. The president is doing something unusual with his summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard: He’ll come back to Washington midway through the getaway to attend White House meetings. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 8, August 2014.

By Priscilla Tacujan, PhD

Critics from all sides of America’s political spectrum are either angry or exasperated over President Obama’s handling of foreign policy. Major U.S. newspapers, including those that endorsed his presidency, have recently published scathing editorials about how weak U.S. leadership has become. In the face of unfolding international crises, Western allies are forced to take a stance ahead of the President, sensing a lack of U.S. leadership and resolve that used to be the hallmark of American power in the world. U.S. leadership has come to mean mobilizing the coalition of nations, lending credence to the phrase “leading from behind.”

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The Decision in Favor of Operation Neptune Spear: Presidential Leadership and Political Risk

Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Robert Gates

In this May 1, 2011, image released by the White House and digitally altered by the source to obscure the details of a document in front of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right with hand covering mouth, President Barack Obama, second from left, Vice President Joe Biden, left, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, right, and members of the national security team watch an update of the mission against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room in Washington. As the world now knows well Obama ultimately decided to launch the raid on the Abbottabad compound that killed bin Laden, though faced with a level of widespread skepticism from a veteran intelligence analyst, shared with other top-level officials, which nearly scuttled the raid. That process reflected a sea change within the U.S. spy community, one that embraces debate to avoid “slam-dunk” intelligence in tough national security decisions. (AP Photo/The White House, Pete Souza, File)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 7, July 2014.

By Lauren Hickok

I. Introduction

On May 1, 2011, President Obama declared: “Tonight I can report to the American people and the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”[1] The president had made a bold choice in authorizing Operation Neptune Spear.  His decision rested on an appraisal of several factors, which together determined the level of political risk associated with the mission: (1) the accuracy of the intelligence; (2) the ability of SEAL Team Six to succeed despite unexpected challenges; and (3) the costs to US national security, relative to the benefits. The president remained committed to countering al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, involved himself in the planning for Neptune Spear, and took on considerable risk in order to succeed. In final review, the president’s decision was not easy, or even prudent—but it succeeded.

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