Global Security Look Ahead: A Collection of Essays

The world is an increasingly messy place. Diplomatic relations between the major global powers – the United States, China, Russia, and the Europeans – are strained. Continued American leadership in military and economic affairs is uncertain: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) wobbles as a result. Armed brinkmanship in the Pacific, competition in the Arctic, and even open conflict in Europe remain distinct possibilities. Meanwhile, militant organizations control large swaths of territory in parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Mass-casualty terrorist attacks in the West have become a common occurrence. And cyber threats, from the exfiltration of sensitive data to attacks on critical infrastructure, continue to proliferate.

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Grasping the Future of Canadian Governance: Using Strategic Foresight to Explore Canada’s Evolving Political Landscape

This panel is a part of the Visions for Canada, 2042 Conference. You can learn more about the conference and register by visiting the conference webpage.

Strategic foresight provides a methodological toolkit for creatively and systematically exploring future environments, interactions, dynamics, challenges, and opportunities. Foresight allows governments and academics alike to peer concretely into the near and far future in order to explore and assess plausible, possible, and probable future scenarios that might challenge existing planning assumptions, policies, and strategies. The objective is not to predict the future. Rather, foresight provides users with the tools they need to contemplate emerging and future trends, assess the range of possible alternative futures, better appreciate how technology and complex socio-political, economic, and environmental issues might evolve, and altogether avoid strategic surprise. Our roundtable discussion will use strategic foresight and related tools, like scenario planning and visioning, to provide an interdisciplinary exploration of the future of Canada’s governance systems and structures.

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Defeating ISIS is Just the Beginning

On September 10, 2014, US President Barack Obama unveiled his long-awaited strategy for countering the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh. “Our objective is clear,” Obama noted, “We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.” Two years later, following the horrifying attacks in Nice, France, in which an aspiring ISIS militant rammed a cargo truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds more, President Obama reiterated: “We will not be deterred. We will not relent… [W]e are going to destroy this vile terrorist organization.”

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Terrorism in the West is rising

The global terrorism picture is grim. 

Rates of terrorism peaked in 2014 and have barely crested. For the past two years in a row, over 25,000 people have been killed by terrorism around the world. This is unprecedented. 

To put this number into perspective: when al Qaeda launched the 9/11 attacks in 2001, only 6,000 people died in terrorism that year, and half of them on that fateful September day in the United States. 

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ISIS is on the ropes — and extremely dangerous

In September 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled his long-awaited strategy for countering the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). “Our objective is clear,” Obama said. “We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive … counter-terrorism strategy.”

Two years later, the strategy seems to be working. In the past few months the group has retreated from the Iraqi cities of Ramadi, Tikrit, Abu Ghraib and Falluja, and an allied offensive is underway against its last major urban stronghold in Mosul.

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MLI Global Security Look Ahead Project

The world is an increasingly messy place. Diplomatic relations between the major global powers – the United States, China, Russia, and the Europeans – are strained. Continued American leadership in military and economic affairs is uncertain: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) wobbles as a result. Armed brinkmanship in the Pacific, competition in the Arctic, and even open conflict in Europe remain distinct possibilities. Meanwhile, militant organizations control large swaths of territory in parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Mass-casualty terrorist attacks in the West have become a common occurrence. And cyber threats, from the exfiltration of sensitive data to attacks on critical infrastructure, continue to proliferate.

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Advanced Technology, New Domains and the Future of Warfare

On day two of Canada’s Defence Perspectives 2020-2050: Recapitalization and the Canadian Forces conference,  the message was clear: “those who dominate materials, will dominate.”

The content of panel 3, “Advanced Technology, New Domains and the Future of Warfare”, included the understanding that changing demographics will determine the nature of a conflict. That said, we must be adaptable and sustainable in warfare.

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Terrorist Ransom: A lose-lose for any Government

The senseless killing of Canadian John Ridsdel by Abu Sayyaf terrorists is shocking. It's also insidious: No matter how a government responds to a terrorist ransom, it loses.

Mr. Ridsdel was kidnapped in September 2015 with fellow Canadian Robert Hall, alongside a Norwegian and Philippine national. The four were whisked from their holiday retreat in the southern Philippines by Islamist militants associated with Abu Sayyaf. The group, long blacklisted in Canada, was once a formidable terrorist organization, ostensibly seeking to establish a breakaway Muslim state in southeastern Philippines. It has, at one point or another, allied itself with both al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

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MetaScan 4: The Future of Asia – Implications for Canada

Over the next 10–15 years, the world will experience two influential sources of change: the rise of Asia and the accelerating advancement of digital technologies.This study uses strategic foresight methods to examine the potential surprises and disruptions that could result as these two forces collide and interact to shape the future of Asia and the world. The study does not predict a particular future, but explores a range of plausible futures to critically assess current assumptions about Asia and better understand the policy challenges and opportunities that could arise for Canada.

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Promises and pitfalls of our Islamic State mission

On Monday Canada tabled its new ISIL mission. There’s much to applaud. But questions remain.

Canada’s pledge of over a billion dollars in humanitarian assistance is the plan’s specialty. This is a generous and necessary offer. The money will go towards sheltering and assisting refugees fleeing the combined barbarity of ISIL and the Syrian regime.

Importantly, this initiative is rooted to a feasible, long-term strategy. The goal is to bolster frontline states, like Jordan and Lebanon, against the crush of refugees, and help alleviate Europe’s migrant crisis. Canada’s contribution makes sense.

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Libya must be part of the plan to beat Islamic State

Canada's new government will soon unveil its Islamic State strategy. But there's one issue we haven't yet heard much about: Libya. As Canadians continue to explore the scope and nature of our conflict with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, our allies are already moving on to a new front.

Canada needs to have an open and frank debate about whether and how Libya fits into our larger anti-IS strategy. What immediate and long-term risks and consequences do we face by confronting – or failing to confront – IS in Libya?

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Geostrategic Cluster Findings - The Future of Asia: Implications for Canada

Asia is characterized by the wide contrast between its deeply-entrenched system of discrete nation-states, and its high connectivity with the global economy. On one hand, this disparity explains much about the origins of its numerous simmering inter-state tensions; on the other hand, it exemplifies aspirations for greater regional and global economic integration. Finding a consensus on how to reconcile this gap to encourage further economic development is a primary pre-occupation for the region’s geo-strategists.

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Next steps following the Sinai terrorist attack

It now appears likely that an act of terrorism destroyed a Russian charter jet that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula two weeks ago, killing all 224 passengers and crew.

On Monday, Egyptian investigators analyzing the plane’s black box revealed that they were “90 percent sure…a bomb” tore the aircraft apart. That adds credible weight to warnings issued by several countries over the past week. The assessment is a dramatic volte-face for the Egyptians and should put a definitive end to Russian hand-wringing. Both Moscow and Cairo were reluctant to use the ‘T’ word, preferring that the crash be pronounced an unfortunate accident.

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The Promises and Pitfalls of Counterterrorism

This year Canadians will mark a solemn anniversary: the centennial of World War One. The prelude to the world’s most brutal war began on June 28, 1914 with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Tens of millions of souls perished in the ensuing years. But like all traditional wars, WWI also eventually ended. Canadians solemnly mark that date every single year.

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The challenge of counterterrorism

Last week, CSIS published its Public Report, detailing the scope and nature of today’s security environment. If one thing is blatantly clear, it’s that notwithstanding recent successes against al-Qaida and its supporters, terrorism remains CSIS’s “greatest preoccupation.” In light of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent declaration that “this war, like all wars, must end,” it’s evident that wishing it doesn’t also make it true.

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Why a Modi win in India will become a headache for Canada

Narendra Modi will likely become India's next prime minister. His victory in this month's general election raises hopes for India's sagging economic fortunes. But it also raises serious questions about India's bilateral relations with Canada.

For the last 12 years, Mr. Modi has been denied a visa to Canada. Ottawa has justified the ban by relying on a provision in Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that bars suspected human rights abusers. In 2002, as chief minister of Gujarat – an Indian state of more than 60 million inhabitants – Mr. Modi was in power during religious riots in which 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims. Though the Supreme Court of India eventually cleared Mr. Modi of any wrongdoing, his fervent Hindu nationalism and alleged support of what many see as anti-Muslim pogroms poisons his foreign relations.

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Ballistic Missile Defence: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Writing in FrontLine Defence magazine, MLI managing director Brian Lee Crowley and senior fellow Alex Wilner write that 10 years after Canada rejected a U.S. offer to co-operate on North American Ballistic Missile Defence, "we are about to discover whether emotion will finally yield to reason on the issue." Indeed, they argue, "in the intervening decade, much has changed regarding the politics, the threats and the technology such that BMD is today a far more compelling choice for Canada."

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Europe’s Hezbollah blacklist is a timely move

On Monday, the European Union finally listed Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist organization. The decision, taken unanimously by all 28 members of the EU, reverses years of European intransigence. By comparison, both the the United States and Canada proscribed Hezbollah, in its entirety, years ago (in 1995 and 2002 respectively). Nonetheless, the European decision should be lauded.

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