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ICT Conference Monday Afternoon’s 1st Plenary Session

The speakers for Monday afternoon’s first plenary session were: Professor David Passig, Futurist and Head of the Graduate Program in ICT and Education, Bar-Ilan University, Israel; Mr. Michael Balboni, Principal and Senior Vice-President, Government Solutions Group, Cardinal Point Strategies, Fellow, George Washington Institute, and former Homeland Security Advisor for the State of New York, U.S.A.; Professor Bill Banks, Director, Institute for National Security and Counter-Terrorism, Syracuse University, U.S.A; and Lt. Gen. Giovanni Marizza, Former Deputy Commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq, Italy.

Dr. David Passig – spoke on “The Next Possible Major Land Maneuver in the Middle East”. There are, he maintained, a series of intersecting driving forces; “fears driven by geography, fears driven by topography, by demography, by new science, by etc.” The first trend he discussed was that of exponential population growth. In 2010, there are approximately seven billion people on earth and initially, according to Passig, 11 – 15 billion are expected by 2050. However, he notes, there is likely to only be nine to ten billion. By the end of the 21st century, Passig states, the human population will shrink back to five to six billion. One problem is the world’s gender ratio. Worldwide, for every 100 females, there are approximately 117 males. This, he argued, is the first time in human history that there are more males than females. This phenomenon, he believes, will impact societies, particularly when they don’t have a biological future. Looking to the past, he noted that such situations generally bred cruelty, invasion, slaughter, and slave-taking. (This trend, he noted, is not true for all countries, as most of the democratic states are fairly gender balanced). A second issue is that, for every 100 mothers, there are only 64 young girls up to the age of 18. This he interprets to mean that human kind is not producing enough females for the future. Egypt, he noted, has 5% more males than females, Jordan 6%, and Saudi Arabia 20%. This is a reversal, he said, given that, in the past, there were always more females than males in Islamic countries. Fundamentalism, he believes, is partly a result of this trend. Moreover, the world is now entering into, what he termed, a “demographic winter.” For millennia 15% of the population was under 5, and 15% over 65, but estimates show that by 2030, a drastic change will be seen, with 17% over 65, and 4% under 5. While it is still unknown what this trend will mean in society, it is clear, he claimed that the world population will be on the decline, particularly given that worldwide fertility rates have dropped by around 50% from 1950 to 2050. Most of the world, he noted, has dropped below 2.1, which is the replacement rate. This, he argued, will lead to the destruction of cultures. This fear, he believes, will likely result in “devastating actions.” Looking at world Jewry, he noted that in 1800, there were approximately three million Jews, and 18 million in 1938. In 2010, there are 13 million Jews, and by 2050, there are expected to be 18 million Jews. Regarding Israel, in 1948 there were 600,000 Jews in Israel, six million in 2010, and by 2050 there are expected to be 15 million. In the past, he claimed, the patterns of invasions due to population growth occurred first out of Africa, but since then, from East to West. This pattern, he believes, is still occurring, which is resulting in a clash in Eurasia. In conclusion, he believes that Turkey will, once again, become a regional superpower, after it awakens from an 80 year sleep. Syria and Lebanon, he stated, will be backed by Russia to start an asymmetric war against Israel, in which Israel will fight back, and Turkey, backed by the U.S., will eventually contain Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, as failed states, which will result in a regional peace treaty between Israel and her neighbors with Turkey as the guarantor.

Mr. Michael Balboni – wore a blue hard hat for his presentation (Awesome!). Balboni argued by arguing that a precaution which is a minimal cost for the benefit potentially gained is not always a good idea. Just as it appears foolish that one would wear a hardhat while presenting because five years prior a bolt had fallen onto a speaker’s head, so too is it foolwing that the U.S. (and only the U.S.) still requires airline passengers to remove their shoes in airports, because five years ago Richard Reid attempted to detonate a shoe bomb. So why does the U.S. do this? In Balboni’s opinion, it is because the U.S. is fighting a reactive war, preparing for the last attack. After 9/11 there was this sense of panic and overnight, every first responder in “every home, town, and village, in the US,” was expected to make the country safer, and immediately, no matter the cost. There are two side of the Homeland Security coin, according to Balboni, “hardware (gates, guards, guns, and gadgets),” and “software (planning, training, exercising).” The goal was to “make every firefighter, sherriff, deputy, etc. ready and able to respond to and/or prevent a terrorist attack. “But when you try to protect everything, you end up protecting nothing.” In the United States, he noted, there are 17,000 law enforcement agencies, 30,00 fire dept, 15,000 ERs, 5,500 hospitals, 18,000 county and parish government, all of which have some autonimity, resulting in a lack of uniformity. This is a prime example, he argued, of why there needs to be federal administration of the capabilities required for the different locations. The private sector, he believes, can offer some excellent solutions to protecting the nation. Many local governments do not understand some of the problems facing counter-terrorism and “the private sector can close that gap and add value to the discussion.”

Prof. Bill Banks – discussed the ways in which the United States has attempted to counter the terrorist threat since 9/11. The United States took 9/11 as an act of war which, according to Banks, resulted in a war paradigm. Congress’ determination to do something (or anything) led to the passing of the AUMF (the Authorization for the Use of Military Force), authorizing the Commander and Chief to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those responsible for September 11 in order to prevent any future acts of terrorism against the us by such persons”. AUMF, however, Banks contends, has become a bunt instrument. The absence of location and time limit contributes have resulted in ambiguities regarding its scope. While some changes have occurred, in actions taken over the last nine years, the majority continue to rely upon the same mechanisms of military force, drone strikes (“in numbers far outstripping previous administration, including the targeting of an American citizen), extraordinary rendition, the State Secrets Clause to keep secrets, the maintainence of the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, military commission trials (which, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Bush military order to try enemy combatants by military commission violated the Geneva conventions, Congress counteracted by creating the Military Commissions Act), and Predator drone strikes.

Lt. Gen Giovanni Marizza – Italy, Marizza noted, has suffered from terrorism in the past. In 1969 there was a big bank bombing in Milan. In 1978, the Red Brigades kidnapped and murdered the chairman of some political party. From 1968 to 1986, Palestinian terrorist groups carried out 565 terrorist attacks worldwide, with 64 of them, 11%, being perpetrated in Italy. Separatist violence in Italy, from 1956 -1988, included 361 bombing attacks, resulting in the deaths of 21 people, four of whom were terrorists, and 57 injuries Italy has experienced leftist terrorism, nationalist terrorism, and separatist terrorism. In contending with these threats, Italy has, according to Marizza, adopted a carrot and stick approach. The carrot, he stated, has been to grant privileges to those who renounced terrorism and provided intelligence to government agencies. The stick, he explained, was criminal prosecution, with courts issuing sentences of life imprisonment. Today, in Europe, the primary task, Marizza argued, is to contend with the terrorist threat without infringing upon human rights. Hard power on its own, he contended, is insufficient, just as is soft power; the answer lies in a combination of the two. Turning to the Middle East, Marizza mentioned the need for multinational initiatives in order to help persuade states like Lebanon and Syria from avoiding a war with Israel in 2020. Concluding with Afghanistan, the problem, he said, is that NATO is using a small stick and big carrot. NATO, Marizza argued, should have “promoted regime change and given it immediately to the local people but instead pretending to export democracy in a Stone Age-like country and staying there for decades provokes a feeling of occupation, [and] feeds insurgency.”

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