Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

Relax, America! Not everything is as dire as you think

Bernd Debusmann
Mar 9, 2012 17:16 UTC

The world is becoming ever more dangerous. Threats to the United States are multiple and complex. Just think of terrorists, rogue states, dangers arising from Middle East revolutions, cyber attacks, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the rising power of China. The list goes on.

It makes for a world “more unpredictable, more volatile and more dangerous,” as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has put it. According to polls, most of America’s foreign policy elite thinks the world is as dangerous, or more dangerous than it was during the Cold War.

This belief, write the foreign policy analysts Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen, shapes debates on U.S. foreign policy and frames the public’s understanding of international affairs.

“There is just one problem,” they write in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, “it is simply wrong. The world that the United States inhabits today is a remarkably safe and secure place. It is a world with fewer violent conflicts than at virtually any other point in history.”

They add: “The United States faces no plausible existential threats, no great power rival, and no near-term competition for the role of global hegemon. The U.S. military is the world’s most powerful.” And though there are a variety of international challenges, they pose little risk to the overwhelming majority of American citizens, say the two scholars.

More drones, more robots, more wars

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 31, 2012 15:44 UTC

Sometime in the next three decades, the U.S. military will be able to field robots that can make life-and-death decisions, operating without human supervision thanks to software and superfast computers.

But the technology to get to that point is running far ahead of considerations of the ethics of robotic warfare.

Or, as Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written widely on military robots has put it — technology grows at an exponential pace, human institutions at a linear, if not glacial, pace. That echoes an observation by the late science fiction writer Isaac Asimov that “science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

After U.S. departure, a bloodbath in Iraq?

Bernd Debusmann
Nov 4, 2011 18:20 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

As the clock ticks towards the end of America’s military presence in Iraq, there are increasingly dire warnings of a humanitarian disaster unless steps are taken to protect more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents living in a camp in Iraq. How closely is Washington listening?

Gloomy forecasts for the fate of the exiles at Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad near the border with Iran, have come from Amnesty International, a long string of prominent former U.S. government officials, retired generals, and members of the European Parliament. One of them, Struan Stevenson, predicts “a Srebrenica-style massacre,” a reference to the 1995 killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims during the Bosnian War.

Stevenson, who is head of the European Parliament’s delegation on Iraq, issued his warning this week in an op-ed in the conservative Washington Times newspaper. Also this week, Amnesty International said there was a “serious risk of severe human rights violations” if the Iraqi government went ahead with plans to force the closure of the camp by the end of December.

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