Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Haiku of OSINT for 11/28/13

Iran agreement
Does not curtail nuke program
Diplomatic fail

World Affairs Council Recognizes Anthony Alfidi as Featured Member

There's no more appropriate way for me to celebrate Thanksgiving Day than to engage in shameless self-promotion.  The World Affairs Council of Northern California has recognized me as a Featured Member.  I have been very active in WAC events since they accepted me as a Veteran Fellow earlier this year at WorldAffairs 2013.  Read the summary of that conference I published here at Third Eye OSINT.  Check out this photo of me in action hosting a breakfast table during WorldAffairs 2013.

I don't know how long that Featured Member page will remain active so I'm reproducing the text below.  I contributed those answers myself and I'm confident the WAC will appreciate the publicity I'm sending their way.  I certainly appreciate the publicity they're giving me.

How long have you been a member?

I have been an active member since March 2013, although I did try a one-year membership in the Young Professionals Forum (now called Next Generation) from 2005-06.

What first drew you to the World Affairs Council?

I was a member of the first-ever class of Veteran Fellows at WorldAffairs 2013.  I wrote about my incredible experience on my blog Third Eye OSINT.

The speaker lineup was superb. I finished the conference determined to get the most out of Council membership and to be a speaker at a Council event someday.

What was your favorite lecture/speaker/event at the Council?

Somaly Mam! Hearing her speak about her efforts to mitigate human trafficking proved that the business community has a role to play in treating people fairly in developing nations. She has incredible courage and is the ultimate success story.

How has the World Affairs Council inspired you?

I have been a US Army officer for almost two decades, with significant time in Iraq and other countries. Military campaigns must comport with knowledge of geography, history, socioeconomic factors, and cultural specifics to fulfill our nation's strategy. The World Affairs Council has inspired me to make deep background research a priority in strategic planning. I am further inspired to seek membership in the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council on International Policy to contribute a military analyst's perspective to high-level policy dialogue.

If you could create your own tagline for the Council, what would it be?

“The World Affairs Council brings leaders in diplomacy, development, conflict, and governance to San Francisco from every spot on the globe.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Haiku of OSINT for 11/12/13

Al-Qaeda network
Running drugs in the Maghreb
Narco-terror link

BRICS Offer Hollow Talk On Development Bank And Reinsurance

It's hard to say just what the BRICS are all about.  They share no common culture or language.  They mostly have scarce natural resources with the exception of Russia's hydrocarbons, South Africa's minerals, and China's hydroelectricity.  They compensate for their differences by finding things to do together, proudly stating to the world they they do not subscribe to the Anglo-American financial hegemony . . . except of course when it's absolutely necessary.

The BRICS have proposed to create their own BRICS Development Bank.  They are not ready to launch it because they have not funded its contingent reserve, which would require them all to liquidate sufficient US dollar holdings.  Selling US$100B worth of Treasuries is no small task and would not escape the currency markets' attention.  It remains to be seen whether the reserve will be a mix of the participants' currencies or some instrument resembling the IMF's Special Drawing Rights.

They also seek to establish their own transnational reinsurance firm.  I believe the public stance that it will serve to underwrite infrastructure investments is only one rationale.  The reinsurance firm and development bank together could theoretically send transaction confirmations that will not be subject to US interdiction through its control of the SWIFT network.  This alternative financial regime would be one way to avoid punitive sanctions against the BRICS' trading partners.  Setting up an alternative communication network means designing protocols for encryption, transmission, and storage that the NSA cannot penetrate.  No alternative financial hegemony can emerge until the BRICS own a secure network.

The BRICS are not ready for prime time as a geopolitical bloc.  This is not to say they cannot eventually emerge as an alternative to the US-led Atlantic alliance but consensus will be difficult with no clearly dominant power.  They have difficulty coordinating policy because they do not share common cultures, borders, or history.  Contrast this with US leadership during the Cold War.  Its economic strength enabled it to control institutions like the IMF and World Bank that could enforce international norms.  The BRICS bloc is about as coordinated and purposeful as the Non-Aligned Movement in the Cold War, and it's proving to be just as ineffective.  They should stick to their original use as an acronym among Goldman Sachs' research ideas.