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Events: Week of 28 October

Events Week of 28 October – 02 November 2013

29 October 2013 – Washington, DC – Disruptive Thinkers.  Execution is the new innovation.  All of our innovative ideas won’t amount to much if we can’t find a way to implement them.  And this month we get a chance to hear from Rob Holzer, someone who knows how to do just that.

29 October 2013 – Washington, DC – Heritage Foundation“Examining US – Burma Military-to-Military Relations”.  The Obama Administration has frequently expressed interest in closer military-to-military relations with Burma – despite the Burmese army’s horrendous record of human rights abuses and close relationship with rogue regime North Korea. The Administration appears reluctant, however, to share its plans publicly. Join as we try to understand the state of American military engagement with Burma and the implications for broader foreign policy objectives.

29 October 2013 – Washington, DC – Atlantic Council“Regional Cooperation: An Imperative for Transatlantic Defense”.  Please join the Atlantic Council for an address by, and discussion with, Finnish Minister of Defense Carl Haglund, who will detail the importance of regional cooperation for transatlantic security.

Building on the successes of Nordic Defense Cooperation (NORDEFCO), Minister Haglund will make a case for NATO member and partner countries to follow a similar framework to sustain present-day interoperability levels and enhance military capabilities. NORDEFCO’s five members states—Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden—use regional networking to increase their interoperability via cross-border cooperation, build-up and maintain necessary military capabilities, and provide cost-effective contributions to international efforts.

29 October 2013 – Washington, DC – AEI – “American Strategy in the Asia-Pacific: Rep. Randy Forbes on the Need for a Congressional Rebalance”.  Despite White House assurances to the contrary, the rhetoric of the Asia pivot is increasingly overshadowed by grim budgetary realities in Washington. Looming sequestration cuts over the next decade have already forced the Obama administration to scale back its economic, diplomatic, and military investments in the Asia-Pacific, exacerbating fears of disrupted trade and rising tensions in the region.

Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA) is spearheading a bipartisan House Armed Services Committee effort to educate congressional members and the public about the important shifting security dynamics in the region and to identify resource and readiness shortfalls. Join us at AEI to hear Rep. Forbes elaborate on the congressional responsibility to define a US role in Asia that convinces US allies that the pivot is more than empty sloganeering.

30 October 2013 – Washington, DC – CIMSECMonthly Gathering.  CIMSEC’s DC chapter will be heading to Maddy’s Bar and Grille, near the Dupont Circle Metro stop, for our informal October meet-up next Wednesday the 30th.  We hope you’ll join us to meet some interesting people and discuss all things maritime.

30 October 2013 – London – King’s College“Geographic Information Systems and the Geographies of War”.

30 October 2013 – Washington, DC – Foreign Policy Association“Georgetown Conference: Iran and the South Caucasus”.

31 October 2013 – London – King’s College“Terror Attacks on Energy Infrastructure – A Growing Threat?”.  The European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) cordially invites you to the fifth and final roundtable discussion in a series on Resilient Energy Infrastructure co-hosted by acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering, Germany and the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in London, in partnership with KPMG.

31 October 2013 – Carlisle, PA – CNA“Asia’s Looming Hotspot”.  Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, U.S. Navy (Ret.) will discuss the increasingly contentious dispute between China and Japan concerning sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea and the implications this dispute has for U.S. foreign policy. This talk is one of a series on “Hidden Dangers: Emerging Global Issues of the 21st Century” sponsored with the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. – See more at:

01 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Atlantic Council“Tackling India’s Cyber Threat”.  India is becoming the second-largest victim of cyberattacks after the United States and earlier this year released its first national Cyber Security Policy. The purpose of this framework document is to ensure a secure and resilient cyberspace for citizens, businesses, and the government.

In particular, the policy aims to strengthen the role of the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) in coordination with crisis management efforts and awareness-raising activities on cybersecurity. Alongside protecting the country’s cyber infrastructure, the policy strengthens the significant role IT has played in transforming India’s image to that of a global player in providing IT solutions of the highest standards.


11 November 2013 – London – King’s College“New Nuclear Initiatives in Arms Control and Nonproliferation – Likelihood of Success?”.  President Obama’s renewed commitment to ‘a world without nuclear weapons’ along with ongoing challenges over Iran, North Korea, and within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, have given rise to numerous new initiatives in arms control and nonproliferation. A panel will discuss four such initiatives, including the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons initiative, the ‘P5 process’ with the five NPT-recognized Nuclear Weapon States, US-Russia arms control, and developments in Chinese nuclear policy.

12 November 2013 – Washington, DC – The Atlantic Council“NATO’s Deterrence and Collective Defense”.  This event is part of the Atlantic Council and IFS project on NATO in an Era of Global Competition. This eighteen-month project examines new ways of thinking strategically about NATO’s future role in the context of emerging security challenges, global power shifts, and disruptive technologies. The first conference in this series, NATO in a New Security Landscape, which took place in June, covered emerging trends in the global security environment and identified key challenges that NATO must confront to maintain strategic relevance in the future.

13 November 2013 – Washington, DC – 10th Annual Disruptive Thinkers Technologies Conference

14 November 2013 – India – The Diplomat“International Conference on Future Challenges in Earth Sciences for Energy and Mineral Resources”.

14 November 2013 – Washington, DC – Foundation for Innovation and Discovery “Implementing Innovation”.  This is the inaugural event for the Foundation for Innovation and Discovery (FINND), a non-profit whose center of gravity is the connection between mission users in the USG and innovators, technologists, industry providers and academics who follow those communities.

The event will showcase a FINND Talk and Mission Forum (see invite). It will also describe the Discovery Summits that the FINND will hold for the USG in 2014 and explain how the IT backbone of the FINND will serve as a resource for the USG and the FINND’s members.

Registration is required and space is limited, so please sign up per the invite (and feel free to forward this invitation to those you believe may have an interest). 

16 November 2013 – India – The Diplomat“Global Maritime International Conference”.

10 December 2013 – Washington, DC – USNI2013 Defense Forum Washington: Shaping the New Maritime Strategy and Navigating the Budget Gap Reality.

17-18 December 2013 – Washington, DC – Center for Strategic and International Studies – PONI Series: The PONI Conference Series, now in its tenth year, offers an opportunity for rising experts in the field to present findings from their research in order to advance the broader discussion on nuclear weapons issues. It also seeks to provide a venue for interaction among people from different sectors and for mid-career and senior members of the community to mentor their junior counterparts.

SC Episode 4: DEF Jam Midrats Tour

From the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum in Chicago, I speak to Eagle One and Commander Salamander on their Midrats podcast. We talk about sea swap, small ship leadership, how much I love USNI and Zumwalt, and actually mention quite a bit of game theory. It’s not exactly our typical fair of maritime policy… but seriously, I was busy disruptively ideating! SC Episode 4: DEF Jam Midrats Tour (Download)

What Does “War” Really Mean?

Tuning into the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on September 3, something Secretary Kerry said struck me as very interesting.  In response to a question, the Secretary of State said:

“We don’t want to go to war in Syria either. It is not what we are here to ask. The president is not asking you to go to war.”

This statement has received some harsh criticism.  See here and here. How we label our involvement directly affects the political perception of what that involvement will be.  I think what Secretary Kerry was trying to say was that we are not “putting boots on the ground.” But is there a difference between war and a TLAM strike into Syria?

Did you say war? Not so fast... DENNY CRANE!
Did you say war? Not so fast… DENNY CRANE!

Under international humanitarian law, or what is more commonly referred to as the law of armed conflict, there are two classifications of conflict: international armed conflict (IAC) and non-international armed conflict (NIAC). An IAC is a conflict between two or more nations. A NIAC is a conflict that only involves one nation and takes place within its own territory.  A great example of a NIAC is a civil war, which sufficiently describes the conflict in Syria at the moment.  But what happens when the United States uses military force? Does the civil war (a NIAC) evolve into an IAC?  Maybe not.

It is possible, under international law, that a TLAM strike into Syria would not be considered a trigger causing an IAC.  In the case Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice determined whether an armed attack had occurred by examining the “scale and effects” of the force used. So what are the “scale and effects” of a TLAM strike? To help determine this, it’s important to understand why the U.S. would launch the strike in the first place.

As heavily reported, the Syrian government used chemical weapons.  This is a violation of an international norm and an absence of action would undermine this important norm (notice the difference between “norm” and “law” – a topic for another discussion).  The purpose of the TLAM strike then would be to enforce the norm – not to intervene in the civil war or to topple the Assad regime.  The “scale and effects” of such a limited strike would be minimal and not likely rise to the level of “armed attack” that would trigger and armed conflict between Syria and the United States. And so long as Syria does not counterstrike, the U.S. would not be moving the conflict in Syria from a NIAC to an IAC. Hence, a “war” between the United States and Syria would still be avoided.

LT Dennis Harbin is a qualified surface warfare officer and is currently enrolled at Penn State Law in the Navy’s Law Education Program.  The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity.  They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Upcoming Events for Week of 08-15SEP

September continues to be a busy month in DC and abroad.  Check out these upcoming events while you monitor world events.  Also note we’ve added a new “favourite” for events – Rethinking Seminar.  Entering it’s 10th year, the wildly successful seminar that JHU/APL has organized and sponsored features a recurring series of seminars on national security and foreign relations topics.  These free events, held near the Pentagon, bring together distinguished speakers and those interested in exploring such important issues.  The evening seminars are open to the public with videos and related materials later posted to this website.

Upcoming Events:

09 September – Doha – This Brookings Doha Center discussion aims to address the underlying problems facing the political situation in Iraq. What are the key problems hindering national reconciliation? What are the effects of regional developments – especially the crisis in Syria – on the Iraqi political system? What is the role of outside powers in shaping the political future of Iraq?  Doha Center Director Salman Shaikh moderates Ali Al-Dabbagh, Former Government Spokesman, Republic of Iraq; Falah Al-Nakib, Former Minister of Interior, Republic of Iraq; and Nisar Talabany, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister, Kurdistan Regional Government.

11 September – Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Michael Turner, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Tactical Air and Land Forces provides the keynote address on invigorating U.S./ Japanese relationships through natural gas partnerships.  Sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute.

13 September – Washington, DC – The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a Technology-Strategy Seminar in their Washington, DC headquarters.  NATO’s culminating military strategy in the end-game of the Cold War was AirLand Battle. Tailored for deterrence and to win if deterrence failed, AirLand Battle was also structured to account for the political necessities of assurance and NATO cohesion. Cold War assurance and deterrence is essentially the only experience available on which to base thinking about extended deterrence in the future; although of course not all the Cold War lessons may be valid for the future. Dr. Jim Tegnelia and Dr. Rich Wagner were involved in helping to invent and implement AirLand Battle. They will discuss what it was, how it came to be, and how it worked, politically and militarily, and will speculate on lessons for the future.

10 October – Washington, DC – For the Rethinking Seminar Dr. Payne will examine and discuss the minimum requirements for U.S. nuclear weapons and the underlying assumptions behind the calls for nuclear weapons reductions, subjects which were recently examined in the NIPP monograph Minimum Deterrence: Examining the Evidence.  Dr. Payne acted as the study director along with his duties as President and CEO of NIPP, a non-profit research center.   If you have any additional events that might be of interest t our readers, please email