For those not familiar with the title’s reference, Watchmen is a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons about an alternate version of US history of the 1950s and 1960s. One particularly interesting aspect of the story concerns the efforts of one of the main characters to persuade humanity that war and division are not the answer to world problems. In order to do so, he elaborately orchestrates a major catastrophe which succeeds in helping people to realise that they can be better off if united. Arguably, Europe is witnessing its "Watchmen moment", mutatis mutandis of course; no-one is advocating a catastrophe of such dimensions in order to come to our senses.
Cyber technologies have become deeply embedded into modern life within the last two decades. For the vast majority of uses these are benevolent but for states eager to censor content and restrict access, they face the challenge of staying one step ahead of their citizens. The British government recently hosted an international conference in London in which the future of the Internet was debated. British and American delegations used the conference to take a strong line supporting online freedom of speech and to criticise governments, such as China and Russia, who censor online content. David Cameron insisted that “governments must not use cyber security as an excuse for censorship”.
On 31 October, a clear majority of UNESCO members voted to welcome Palestine as a full member in the UN body. As a result both UNESCO and the Palestinians are punished hard by the US and Israel. Why this anger? And what next for Palestine’s UN membership bid? The vote was held in Paris where the headquarters of the UNESCO is located. Only 173 out of the 194 member states of the UN body came to the vote. Of these, a clear majority of 107 voted in favor – amongst them France, Spain and heavyweights Brazil, Russia, China, and India – 14 voted against (Israel, US and Germany) and 52 abstained. This was a clear victory for the Palestinian Authority (PA) which was thus granted the majority needed to become a full member of the UN organization.
The decision to postpone the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrates that North America has not yet defined a workable compromise between competing demands to increase energy security, and reduce the negative environmental impacts of energy. The US$7 billion proposal by TransCanada to build a 1,700 mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas has been delayed in the face of strong environmental protests and local opposition within Nebraska along the pipeline’s would-be route. The project, which has been strongly supported by the Canadian government, has now been pushed back until after the next US Presidential election.
The UK government is due to release the latest version of its Cyber Strategy – what opportunities exist for defence contractors? The UK has a privileged view of the cyber threat thanks to its signals intelligence relationship with the US and other allies. Both the US and UK have recently formed dedicated cyber units in their defence ministries to address this threat. During the formulation of the National Security Strategy (NSS), the government became increasingly aware that underlying every major threat was a discrete cyber threat. Consequently cyber was mentioned as one of four Tier one risks to the UK in the NSS. In the subsequent SDSR the government announced an additional GBP£650 million over 4 years to resource work on this threat. The new money is to fund a "transformative national cyber security programme".
As European warplanes took to the skies of Libya in March and French commandos swept confidently through the streets of Abidjan in April, one could easily have been forgiven for imagining that Europe may be starting to adopt a more assertive global military role. However, the former UK Defence Secretary’s recent admission that NATO operations in Libya would have been “impossible” without the assistance of the US tells the real story of Europe’s ongoing hard power deficit.
Zimbabwe’s Vice President, Joice Mujuru, recently called for a thorough probe to be conducted into a fire that killed her husband, Solomon Mujuru, at his farmhouse in Beatrice, just south of the capital, Harare, on the evening of 15 August 2011. Despite this, little – if any – independent investigation into the matter has taken place. Solomon was one of the most feared kingpins within President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF and was Zimbabwe’s most decorated post-independence army general. The circumstances surrounding the fire remain suspicious, yet Mugabe has failed to order a special inquiry into Solomon’s death.