from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action and Center for Preventive Action

You Might Have Missed: Cyber Attacks, Syria, and Donald Rumsfeld

December 2, 2011

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

 US President Bush escorts Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld from the Oval Office in Washington on August 11, 2006 (Courtesy Reuters/Kevin Lamarque).
US President Bush escorts Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld from the Oval Office in Washington on August 11, 2006 (Courtesy Reuters/Kevin Lamarque).

- Sari Horwitz, Shyamantha Asokan, and Julie Tate, “Trade in surveillance technology raises worries,” The Washington Post, December 1, 2011.

The products of what Lucas calls the “lawful intercept” industry are developed mainly in Western nations such as the United States but are sold throughout the world with few restrictions. This burgeoning trade has alarmed human rights activists and privacy advocates, who call for greater regulation because the technology has ended up in the hands of repressive governments such as those of Syria, Iran and China… But the overwhelming U.S. government response has been to engage in the event not as a potential regulator, but as a customer.

- Special Report: Women and Work, “Too Many Suits,” The Economist, November 26, 2011.

The main argument now being put forward is that there is a business case for having more women in senior positions. At its most basic, this says that since women make up 50% of the population and hence 50% of the talent, it would be absurdly wasteful to ignore them when so many businesses struggle to fill high-powered jobs—all the more so as women are now generally better educated than men… A number of studies have pointed to a strong correlation between significant numbers of women at the top of a company and its success in the marketplace.

McKinsey in 2007 studied over 230 public and private companies and non-profit organisations with a total of 115,000 employees worldwide and found that those with significant numbers of women in senior management did better on a range of criteria, including leadership, accountability and innovation, that were strongly associated with higher operating margins and market capitalisation. It also looked at 89 large listed European companies with high proportions of women in top management posts and found that their financial performance was well above the average for their sector. Other studies have come up with similar findings. Nobody is claiming evidence of a causal link, merely of an association, but the results are so consistent that promoting women seems like a good idea, just in case.

- Ellen Nakashima, “Water-pump failure in Illinois wasn’t cyberattack after all,” The Washington Post, November 25, 2011.

A water-pump failure in Illinois that appeared to be the first foreign cyberattack on a public utility in the United States was in fact caused by a plant contractor traveling in Russia, according to a source familiar with a federal investigation of the incident.

(3PA: Similarly, in 2009 government websites in the United States and South Korea were hit by denial-of-service attacks, which were widely believed to originate in North Korea but were later traced to a virtual private network in Miami.)

- UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (PDF), November 23, 2011.

The substantial body of evidence gathered by the commission indicates that these gross violations of human rights have been committed by Syrian military and security forces since the beginning of the protests in March 2011. The commission is gravely concerned that crimes against humanity have been committed in different locations in the Syrian Arab Republic during the period under review. It calls upon the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to put an immediate end to the ongoing gross human rights violations, to initiate independent and impartial investigations of these violations and to bring perpetrators to justice. (1)

In November, military and security forces carried out operations in Homs, Dar’a, Hama, Dayr Az Zawr and Rif Damascus, targeting public assemblies and funeral processions. In Homs, the operations were conducted in the residential areas of Alqaseer, Bab Amr, Bab Al Sibaa, Bab Hood and Karm Al Zaitoon. According to eyewitnesses, tanks deployed in and around the city frequently fired at residential buildings. It is estimated that, in a three-week period until 13 November, 260 civilians were killed. According to information received, a small number of defectors claiming to be part of the Free Syrian Army engaged in operations against State forces, killing and injuring members of military and security forces. (10)

- The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, World Economic Forum, November 2011.

Out of the 114 countries that have been covered in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, 97 countries (85%) have improved their performance over the last four years, while 17 (15%) have shown widening gaps. (7)

The most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human talent—the skills, education and productivity of its workforce—and women account for one-half of the potential talent base throughout the world. Closing gender gaps is thus a matter of human rights and equity; it is also one of efficiency. (27)

- Donald Rumsfeld, "Memo to Condoleezza Rice re: Iraq" (PDF), The Rumsfeld Papers, July 27, 2001.

"Iran will almost certainly have a nuclear weapon sometime within the next five years."

(3PA: Proven wrong on his initial estimate, over five years later, Rumsfeld predicted  (PDF) that Iran "likely will have nuclear weapons sometime before or in the next decade.")

- Herbert E. Meyer, Memorandum: Why is the World So Dangerous?, Central Intelligence Agency Historical Archive, November 30, 1983.

Now let us consider the implication of our assertion that if the Soviet Union doesn’t take the West in the next 20 years or so, it never will: it means that if present trends continue, we’re going to win the Cold War. That is, the US will continue to be the world’s pre-eminent power and the Free World will both survive and flourish…

It has long been fashionable to view the Cold War as a permanent feature of global politics, one that will endure through the next several generations at least. But it seems to me more likely that President Reagan was absolutely correct when he observed in his Notre Dame speech that the Soviet Union—“one of history’s saddest and most bizarre chapters”—is entering its final pages. (We really should take up the President’s suggestion to begin planning for a post-Soviet world; the Soviet Union and its people won’t disappear from the planet, and we have not yet thought seriously about the sort of political and economic structure likely to emerge.) In short, the Free World has out-distanced the Soviet Union economically, crushed it ideologically, and held it off politically. The only serious arena of competition left is military. From now on the Cold War will become more and more of a bare-knuckles street fight.

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