Commentary Series

The Commentary Series is intended to promote better policy by fostering constructive debate among leading policymakers, academics, and observers.  Designed to be timely and relevant, these commentaries seek to illuminate the issues of the day by raising important questions and challenging underpinning assumptions.  Opinions expressed in Commentaries are those of the author(s) alone. Comments should be directed to [email protected].

Managing Complexity in a WikiLeaks World (PDF)

December 13, 2010

In a virtual world with multiplicity of threat and seeming absence of control, the playing field is leveled and the few can take on the many or the once mighty. In response, a thoughtful national dialogue is needed to help recalibrate for today's world our notions of ethics, privacy, economic competitiveness and national security.

Eurovision? Let's Hope It's Farsighted (PDF)

October 08, 2010

As news of an alleged plot to stage a number of coordinated “Mumbai-style” attacks in Europe and possibly the United States continues to unfold, there looms in the background an important but complex matter between the United States and the European Union (EU) that is neither well understood nor resolved: the sharing of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data. What is PNR and why does it matter?

Supply and Demand: The Case for Community Medical Resiliency (PDF)

September 17, 2010

Events such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and pandemic flu have led emergency response professionals to recognize the urgent need to plan for catastrophic medical events. How could the medical system deal with a large number of casualties—due to a nuclear detonation, massive earthquake, biological disease (intentional or novel), etc.—when the majority of hospitals operate at peak capacity normally and overcrowding is common during the normal flu season?

Baghdad Surprise? (PDF)

August 20, 2010

HSPI’s recent Commentary “Baghdad Surprise?” – coupled with the President’s upcoming address on the future of the US mission in Iraq – led us to pose three questions to key foreign policy and counterterrorism experts: What are the security implications of the transition, both short- and long-term? How can these implications be best managed? What's needed to achieve "success" in Iraq in the long run?

Critical Lessons from the Federal Response to the Gulf Oil Crisis (PDF)

August 10, 2010

One of the primary challenges federal officials faced during the Gulf disaster was not operational but political. To address the challenges that local, state, and federal officials faced, the Oil Pollution Act (and associated plans) should be amended to conform to the predominant disaster response policy, the Robert T. Stafford Act.

Hammami the Jihadist Pop Star--Bridging Worlds: From Mobile to Mogadishu (PDF)

August 09, 2010

An indictment unsealed Thursday names Hammami as part of a massive FBI US-Somali terrorism case. The operation also includes the arrests and indictments of 14 individuals on charges of providing support to the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab. These developments highlight the growing trend of radicalized individuals seeking to fight abroad in jihadist conflict theaters, to support those who do, or to receive training to carry out the murder of innocents in their host countries.

The Gulf Oil Disaster: Three Steps to Federal Leadership (PDF)

July 07, 2010

Hurricane Alex should serve as a wake-up call for the President that the Gulf oil response requires broad support from throughout his Administration. The efforts of Thad Allen and his unified command organization are commendable given the seemingly indomitable challenges they face on ground, but the President cannot reasonably expect any one individual or organization to alone succeed given the present situation.

Flooded With Help - But Still Flailing (PDF)

June 24, 2010

Prior to Katrina, the U.S. had never accepted aid from foreign countries. As a result of the lessons learned from Katrina, the Federal government revised its response plan and developed an interagency process to coordinate offers of foreign assistance for a domestic response. But today it is unclear if any of these mechanisms are being utilized.

All Hands—and Eyes—Needed on Deck (PDF)

May 28, 2010

Proactive measures, building upon existing international partnerships, are needed to regularize the sharing of visa revocation, watch list, and no fly data between and among countries to enhance our capacity to prevent terrorism. A good base to leverage would be the so-called “five eyes”—the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—which already share a close and productive working relationship which has yielded valuable benefits over time.

Stopping Terror In and On Its Tracks (PDF)

March 31, 2010

Defensive measures undertaken by public authorities can only take us so far, however. As a result, community engagement and citizen awareness remain important elements of the equation. Vigilance is a team sport. Solid intelligence underpins safety and security, and helps make sure that our last line of defense does not become our first.

Disaster Diplomacy (PDF)

February 26, 2010

Like the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia or the 2003 earthquake in Iran, there are times when the scale of devastation wrought by Mother Nature is simply so great as to dwarf whatever traditional interstate rivalries, animosities, or mistrust that may exist. While these times may be few and far between, they are arguably proof positive that nations and people can, and will, rise to the occasion when urgency demands, and reflect their better angels.

Cons Gone Wild? (PDF)

January 28, 2010

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report released this month announced that up to three dozen Americans who converted to Islam in prison have traveled to Yemen, possibly to train with al-Qaida. Though blockbuster news, it was largely drowned out by other headlines. Despite limited public appetite and attention span for more bad news, we ignore such developments at our peril.

No Longer On Auto-Pilot: Aviation Security and Intelligence Reform (PDF)

January 09, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama made the latest in a series of statements regarding the attempted Christmas Day bombing. Over time more details will undoubtedly become available as investigations continue and efforts to remedy the defects in this case unfold. What is clear, however, is that there was a multilevel systemic failure, in terms of both aviation security and our intelligence architecture.

Fighting Piracy and Protecting National Interests (PDF)

September 23, 2009

Although the attack on the Maersk Alabama focused US attention on piracy in East Africa and specifically Somalia, we have yet to have in this country a serious, strategic discussion about what resources should be committed to fighting piracy, or which other priorities may suffer as a result. Considering next steps in larger context would bring to the fore significant questions and issues, such as possible opportunity costs to the US Navy, given the size of the fleet.

Next Generation National Security (PDF)

September 11, 2009

On the eighth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, it is worth taking stock of just how far we have come. Over and above changes in policies, procedures, and so on, our mindset and conceptual parameters have evolved and adapted.