Forum Comments

Space Overview
In Space
Crystal Lin
Spring 21
Spring 21
Apr 24, 2021
The UN Programme on Space Applications document reaffirmed how the maritime domain is parallel to space like I've previously mentioned. They can all have spillover effects to each other, such as when it explained how space science & tech could benefit areas like maritime. When it also included disaster management, that evoked how my relevant experience with Crisis Communications class would probably need to be further expanded upon in this field. Space is fickle with public interest. The moment something goes wrong, that's it for funding. Programs and proposals will be perforated off. So storytelling in the narrative, aka PR in general and not just limited to Crisis handling, would be extremely important in lifting space programs off the ground (pun intended). This document did confuse me when listing out the relevant conferences had seemed to contrast the Montreal website post about 2014 being the first since the 60s & 70s to comprehensively deal with space, which was why I was skeptical in the last post. When stating on page 5, "cooperation will enhance applications in fields such as geodesy, mapping, surveying, geo-information, natural hazards mitigation, and earth sciences," how does the information-sharing work? I ask this because China had blocked the satellite imagery of Uyghur camps a year or two ago, which inadvertently led to more scrutiny and investigation from the media. The space technology's intersection with health was of particular interest to me, since knowing about the infectious diseases and highlighting the need for combating epidemics with an integrated global alert system would have greatly helped in alleviating COVID. That being said, that implicates further questions reflecting back on to this idea now that we have actual history played out. How likely would achieving this global alert system be when China deliberately muddies transparency? This goes back to how their satellite imageries are already painstakingly opaque. Seeing the document end with "curricula are being developed for space law, basic space technology and human space technology" makes me think that what we just saw was a glimpse into future courses with a syllabus. If you think about it, this document is basically a summarized syllabus with rationale explaining why it would teach future courses in the aforementioned categories Minor question & thoughts: - Why is the titling inconsistent when naming these sorts of conferences? They went from date (UNISPACE 82 held in 1982) to chronological meeting order (UNISPACE III in 1999). - I was also surprised to see that GPS is, in fact, not the universal navigation system term everywhere. I appreciate this document for clearing that up for me. Now I know that China's navigation system is called "Compass/BeiDou". - The Regional Centres are conceived as the best possible education & research programs in their respective regions, so why is it that they're only incubating university educators and scientists? They didn't mention "students", so I'm guessing it's either an issue of semantics (like how the BIED Society refers to interns as specialists) or that the best possible and limited resources can only prioritize experts. - After reviewing different jobs this semester and seeing this document underscore the need for GIS tools to study disease epidemiology, I see geographical/data visualization tools as a very expansive skillset readily applicable to pivot across multiple fields. As such, I think it would be rather appropriate if the BIED Society were to try and implement this skillset to the Fellowship program in upcoming semesters.
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Space Overview
In Space
Crystal Lin
Spring 21
Spring 21
Apr 22, 2021
The Montreal Declaration 2014: When it said, "Recognizing that the current global space governance system that was created during the 1960s and 1970s has not been comprehensively examined by the international community since its establishment," was that just an exaggeration or was Montreal in 2014 really the first time in decades for a comprehensive overview? If it's the latter, I appreciate the more modern update. Have they established the frequency of occurrences for these meetings? I assumed that international and regional meetings are usually conducted every few years at most. Naturally, one has to wonder what sort of developments the website was talking about to finally prompt another global, albeit only 22 states, meeting? I've always been interested in sci-fi, but in terms of governance, it was only the mention of Space Force that caught my attention. I know that space developments in the past decade was bolstered by Elon Musk's SpaceX along with other private competitors, but which were the moments in accumulation that finally led to the Montreal Conference? Basically, I'm wondering about the context behind it. Talking about "global public interest" really does make one wonder as to what sort of public goods can result from space? Someone has to carry the inevitable free riders, but once certain stages of progress are accomplished, what would be classified as the free public goods that can be near unlimited and inexpensive for everyone to partake in? Satellites and knowledge can still be exclusive. Unlike the prior document about ISRU making parallels with territorial mining, I see space, maritime and cyber domains as the three closest types of existing and emerging trends that would usher in an uncertain and near-eternal Era. It'll definitely reshape history in the Anthropocene forever, but norms setting, formulation, implementation and diverse sectoral impacts are all similar to each other at the core. These three are all unknown domains (maritime is oldest in an anarchic system but has the emerging Arctic) that I think there should be close consultation of technocrats in these domains collaborating with each other. Not so much as to discuss the idiosyncrasies of each kind, but with seeing common themes and actions taking place (legal, operations, justification, normative power, exploration, juggling diverse actors like commercial interests, etc.). At least, that's what comes to mind when I see the mentioned Working Group being formed. The ICT field also had DARPA and other international exchanges to determine radio frequency ownership distribution and other rules of the road for communications in general. Bridging the YouTube video that BIED Society had on interviewing the Space Force members had also shown parallels with maritime. It's all about the "next frontier", so these three dimensions are it. In fact, I believe we know less about the ocean than we do about the universe. So there's so much potential value in all of these (and I'm not just talking about for exploitation's sake, but the sheer awe of just being). In the end, I feel like space is such a dangerous domain, that it really does necessitate a supranational entity to force its sovereignty over this domain, especially taking into account the document on space weapons that states are actively calculating despite the source being a think tank report.
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Space Overview
In Space
Crystal Lin
Spring 21
Spring 21
Apr 22, 2021
It's ironic we're considering the use of space weapons in this document considering that the space Treaty one we had to read placed emphasis on peace (actively guarding against operations that cause harm/have weapons there). It's also funny that the agency most focused on space, NASA, isn't the one mentioned in this report, instead it's the DOD as befitting the nature of weaponization. I find that weapons can be apt for two situations: making sure actors (state & nonstate) don't do space crimes in the very far-off future wherein you'd need to defend territory. Though for that, I feel that legal action back on Earth in the meantime is more appropriate, not to mention realistic. The other justified situation is a general, all-purpose defense system guarding against space debris or larger ones like the very off-chance natural disasters could occur such as asteroids and/or planet phenomena. To consider installing other defense weapons/militarization provides more incentive to create an unnecessarily tenser environment when it's so far remote and untouched by conflict yet. I understand the history of Low Earth Orbit defense considerations being used in the Cold War, but to consider space weapons in general would mean 1.) Second Strike Capability similar to Cold War concerns and 2.) Security Competition Dilemma wherein all states claim defense (I.e. "The latest space policy document from the Department of Defense...supports 'ballistic missile defense and force projection.'"), but it really just adds on to reciprocal defense action from other states. Therefore, offensive capability and tension is increased overall. If an adversary were to create space weapons first, I think the US should take admonishing actions here on Earth while there's still time to stave off a highly active space future (military or otherwise like commercial) rather than a tit-for-tat reciprocation in the space domain. Even the use of jammers would be incredibly dangerous in space when communication can be so fraught in such an extreme and isolated environment. The document on Monday had spoken about how the states needed to come to each other's defenses in case of emergencies, and those can foreseeably occur naturally without the help of deliberate jammers. That being said, I do appreciate the Rand Corporation as a think tank for neutrally participating in the hypothetical discussion even if that does add in to normalizing the idea of weapons in space, thereby allowing easier credence to taking forceful action in decision-making down the road. Still, it was a very clear run-down and introduction to the weapons field I was unfamiliar with. "This would mean having either a great many weapons in low orbits to have one within reach of a tar­get whenever needed or a smaller number at higher orbits with longer times to reach targets." This was an interesting tidbit to me since Elon Musk is implementing the Starlink project right now with a network of satellites in low Earth orbit. Since it's planned on having some sold to various entities, like the military, the former seems feasible. "...kinetic-energy weapons could be desirable for countries that seek global power projection without having to duplicate the U.S. invest­ment in terrestrial forces," I can see this as a hint to Asian neighbors' power projection desires like China. It follows the logic of "If you can't beat them in this domain, go elsewhere to match them". Logistically speaking, I think we wouldn't need to worry about a coalition of non-state actors using space weapons for the foreseeable future (the 21st Century) that RAND had mentioned. Questions: - By any chance, if anyone plays sci-fi video games here, is the boost phase of the Directed Energy lasers akin to the laser guns that accumulate a brighter and brighter laser before releasing it all in one shot? The imagery in my head on how this works is based off the Halo series with the Spartan Laser gun. - I'm still confused on the nature of what "conventional weapons" mean for the last category. - I was also surprised to see that weapons launched from ships and aircrafts can take up to weeks. Aren't missiles able to fly very quickly in a matter of hours? Wasn't that the case for the Cold War Era with nuclear missiles? - It's weird that Article VI is being cited here for protecting the state from liability with some wiggle room claim for "legitimate self-defense". Article VI was more about the state being responsible for activities conducted by various actors (like nonstate) instead. I would rather think Article IV & V is what can propel up that liability protection instead. - The report had warned of how the space missiles would undermine maritime response. Did it mean that adversaries would respond back with hyper effort towards space weapons, thereby lowering the value of relative maritime effectiveness when states are moving to the space realm?
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Space Overview
In Space
Crystal Lin
Spring 21
Spring 21
Apr 22, 2021
Space Resources document: "...expands human exploration in phases starting with missions that are reliant on Earth" seems like astrobiology courses where you study possible life based off the extreme conditions found on Earth and project those likely similar conditions into the far-flung pockets of the Universe. To study the elsewhere, you first start with home. "This is particularly challenging for space applications since NASA will be working with space agencies around the world. Therefore, product quality, common standards, and common interfaces will need to be defined and implemented. As with terrestrial mining, ISRU must provide a return on need to be defined and implemented." This quote really puts an extra oomph, or justifying layer, into the Space Treaty's document on the need for cooperation. Rather than just for the sake of establishing values of general cooperation or for more specific morals in preserving life (emergency assistance), here you see literal pragmatism in the reality of logistics to create the operations successfully. The section with ISRU & Terrestrial Mining Common Areas of Interest repeats the sentiment that different domains have commonalities. You can add this category amongst others like the parallels between maritime and space law, in astrobiology to study the extreme conditions on Earth for life adaptability before transitioning to akin conditions in space, etc. Lots of norms-setting and legality are found upon precedents, just like any scientific progress and research in general. I agree with the Remote/Autonomous Operations subsection as very true based on the Arctic module's similar logic. Thus, it seems like there's a natural progression of research that can already be applied eventually/simultaneously towards space based off the gradual ventures into extreme environments and conditions in general. "Because astronaut time is valuable and limited, remote and autonomous operation of ISRU is required." The US strategy amongst others had also highlighted need for human resource quality to train better in the Arctic for extreme conditions, but space would be too costly for its initial learning curve (economy of scale), so autonomous tools and operations does make sense. It would've been nice to see the accompanying presentation to this PowerPoint of brief notes (it's a little hard to understand without context). It's also really interesting how not once was AI mentioned. I can't tell if that's a glaring gap in options they could utilize, or if the highly technical nature of these slides were lost on me and had implicitly contained AI in certain mentioned technology. The PowerPoint had mentioned "Permanent Sunlight". To add on to what they should look out for, you got to watch out for dust that can block out the sun. Could backup generators might help last out months that this potentially planet-wide occurrence could happen? Honestly I'm just basing this off the show "Mars" I watched on Netflix (a mix of documentary with fictional TV set in the future for anyone who wants to check it out). Though the "reliable thermal mechanical cycle units" drawing energy from planets could solve the question of dust blocking out sunlight. The PowerPoint keeps talking about the dangers of debris and the need to reduce waste, but how do you avoid inevitable waste that comes from all kinds of construction, mining, and accidents with chipping product assemblies and whatever else? Especially in autonomous operations without human supervision to immediately correct it all? It's kind of hard to imagine. We also see stages of the Mining cycle among others for a few slides, but what is the time estimation for each stage going to take? The answer would heavily be vague and general along the lines of "it depends", but I'd like to get a similar synopsis like the Norwegian paper did with the Uncurbed vs. Curbed scenarios of climate change. In the slide with the ISRU Technical Challenges, it makes it apparent that the long-term lifespan of infrastructure concerns is a commonality between the Arctic and outer space.
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Space Overview
In Space
Crystal Lin
Spring 21
Spring 21
Apr 22, 2021
Just like every other document that concerns the establishment of something new (usually a treaty), the space Treaty contained the element of cooperation here as usual. Basic taglines for this treaty could be as followed: Transparency, cooperation/reciprocity, logistics, and precaution & peace. They really should come up with an acronym from the very beginning to categorize this instead of repeating the phrase "outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies" for every article though. They had wise long-term planning with the UN in 1963 prohibiting the placement of WMDs into space, which gets emphasized quite a couple times from Article IV to the introduction. It does seem to be the opposite of the militarization of the Arctic when being cautious of implementing weapons in space. On the other hand, having freedom of scientific investigation in outer space seems to echo the maritime spirit in the polar regions. Despite the explicit language prohibiting the weapon placements in Article IV, however, there still seems to be wiggle room for how the "military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited" and so on and so forth (concerning the necessary equipment) can make way for gray zone operations. Article V seems to give off the impression, "Put away sovereignty and let us land on your territory due to emergency. Put aside the politics, because an astronaut represents the human race, not a single country." I like this article as it gives astronauts a sort of diplomatic immunity. I do question whether giving all possible assistance to them - no matter the state they belong to - would be as duty bound, or binding, as NATO assures for its own members, comparatively speaking? Article VI: Despite prohibiting sovereignty in space like claiming territory, the state is still recognized and reinforced as the central actor in the system since it is responsible for the actions of everyone despite their being potentially not attached to the state in official capacity (i e. NGO activity). It's kind of like how an embassy would be responsible in case anything happens to tourists going abroad. This can pair up with Article VIII, in which the only claim to ownership is the personnel, activities of nearest NGO/INGO, and objects into space, yet not space territory itself. Article VII had gave a very helpful distinction in vocabulary between air space and outer space. Article X: When it said "to be afforded an opportunity to observe the flight of space objects launched by those States" can be read as "share your findings based on principles of transparency and cooperation for the good of humankind" narrative I'm sensing here. Though, of course, it's still like any other international organization with the more powerful members sometimes setting the rules since these opportunities to observe are still determined by whether those States agree in the first place. Article XIV: Seems like this treaty doesn't give much restrictions compared to other international or regional organizations with requirements and/or voting in place for new entrants.
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New Frontier: The Arctic
In The Arctic
New Frontier: The Arctic
In The Arctic
Crystal Lin
Spring 21
Spring 21
Apr 08, 2021
US Army Strategy (Regaining Arctic Dominance) Food for thought: what about Antarctica? I've always heard of Antarctica more so than the Arctic with scientific research purposes and bases established there. Why is the Arctic gaining more traction than Antarctica in a geopolitical sense? Perhaps it's because the ice is melting and is smaller than Antarctica for opportune access. Perhaps it's also because it's situated in the Global North for more powerful states like Russia and China to take advantage from. However, could the Global South take advantage of Antarctica for resources too? Maybe not with trade since the location isn't as useful. While we're on the topic of the two polar regions, China is also under worried scrutiny from surrounding neighbors regarding the "Third Pole" with the Tibetan Plateau (located within China's borders) as the 3rd largest freshwater source in the world. It's the main source for many of Asia’s great rivers (Brahmaputra, the Irrawaddy, the Mekong, the Salween, the Sutlej, the Yangtze, and the Yellow). Most of these rivers are shared by neighboring countries, where they greatly serve the daily lives of many millions of people. According to Mearsheimer, "In recent years, Beijing has shown much interest in rerouting water from these rivers to heavily populated areas in eastern and northern China. Toward that end, China has built canals, dams, irrigation systems, and pipelines. This plan is in its early stages and has yet to change the flow of these rivers in a meaningful fashion." Neighboring countries downstream could receive sizeable reduction in their water supply over time and have economic and social consequences. Example: China's interested in re-routing the Brahmaputra River northward into the dying Yellow River. If this happens, it would cause major problems in India and especially in Bangladesh. China is also working to redirect water from the Mekong River, which would negatively impact the Southeast Asian countries (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam). Since water is increasingly scarce in Asia, the situation may get worse and produce conflict between the neighbors. Going back to the Arctic, the last IAA document had stated it won't replace the southern channels' significance, usage and priority, but I find that the Polar Silk Road Initiative as an ingenious way of connecting everything for a greater synergy. It looks like a complete picture where everything is connected to each other full circle. They managed to connect most of the major sea routes, though didn't quite mention the Lombok or the Sunda Strait that acts as other southern Indonesian alternatives connecting to the Indian Ocean (though the Strait of Malacca is top choice). China heavily relies on the Persian Gulf for oil too, so having to connect near with the Suez Canal does accomplish a comprehensive plan. It'll be worth watching Russia's and China's relationship with each other in the future. The document mentioned Russia will provide about 20% of China's total energy consumption by 2050. As of 2019, Russia accounts for 15% of crude oil imports; the Middle East making up the biggest bloc with 44% (Saudi Arabia at 16% more specifically). Coal remains to be China's biggest energy consumption source, but China is attempting to cut down on it and transition more to energy efficiency and anti-pollution measures. Due to future geopolitical uncertainties, it makes sense China is trying to diversify their consumption sources. Perhaps with this Arctic, China won't have to choose between Russia and the Middle East, as the Polar Silk Road seems to connect everything with one fell swoop. To say, "These systems create a 'protective dome' across Russia’s vast Arctic coastline and improve its overall operational ability to detect and track vessels and aircraft. These systems give Russia almost complete coverage of its northern coastline and adjacent waters," is like the same logic as gray zone operations and security dilemma when you invest in capabilities for other purposes like security (search and rescue), yet can simultaneously have dual-capabilities for offense if a state switches intents in the future. Realist IR theory approaches this with fundamental mistrust between states. Similar example includes South Korea acquiring US THAAD missiles against potential future North Korean threats, but China was mad about its security concerns. Question: In terms of pros and cons, or under which situations to use these routes, what are the differences between the Northern Sea Route, Northwest Passage, and the new Transpolar Sea Route?
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New Frontier: The Arctic
In The Arctic
Crystal Lin
Spring 21
Spring 21
Apr 07, 2021
For the Climate Change and Security in the Arctic document, it's interesting to see how the document reaffirms that the Northern Sea Route, though it will gain more prominence in upcoming decades and already has been, still doesn't hold a candle compared to the southern routes strategically speaking. However, due to the recent Suez Canal incident with Ever Given, the Russians did use that opportunity to promote the Arctic sea routes for trade. On the other hand, it probably would still be easier to expand and improve the Suez Canal rather than have the Arctic as the game changer route. Further, I would think that if companies were to prioritize oil and shipping route potential for purely economic gains, an Uncurbed Scenario would maximize those prospects. So this report was a bit counterintuitive to me. After all, Russia was projected to suffer from a Curbed Scenario more than an Uncurbed one. Though I do understand the destabilizing effects of everything else, even the economic long-term costs like needing to maintain infrastructure more in a rapidly shifting environment. In addition, I think there's less certainty in the importance of the Arctic under a Curbed Scenario since gas and oil is the reigning supreme for the Arctic right now, yet the Curbed Scenario won't place emphasis in that dimension due to shifting to renewable energy. Shipping routes also means downplaying the strategic interests of going to the Arctic in the Curbed Scenario since the ice won't melt as much to become as accessible as possible like the Uncurbed Scenario. A truly Curbed Scenario basically encourages less activity there. What I mean is with examples like The Arctic Shipping Corporate Pledge to not send ships there, and the overall activity there will obviously cause further impact to the environment when you lay down infrastructures. Activity in the Arctic and climate change, or more downscale regional environmental degradation, feed into each other as a feedback loop after all. "But mineral extraction, including potentially sub-sea extraction, commercial fishing and tourism are also emerging as areas for commercial expansion" does make me think that Asian diets (Chinese, Japanese, etc.) have a huge appetite for seafood. The Chinese in particular have become major tourists of the world in the past decade or so, thus I could see China gaining interest here too for their people with consumer needs, desires, travel, etc. "...increased activity also makes the region more prone to accidents, which can not only lead to loss of life, but also be a source of misunderstanding between states" also reminds me of the fear of militarization to potentially destabilize the South China Sea. In the past, similar accidents happened with the Hainan Island incident in 2001. There was a collision between American and PRC pilots that resulted in the Chinese pilot's death. Both countries had disagreed on the legality of the flights by US naval aircraft in the area. The US remained neutral in the Paracel Islands dispute with Vietnam, but patrolled the sea regularly with military ships and planes under "freedom of navigation" notion. Both sides blamed each for the collision, but this is one example of accidental incidents that could result from many players in the same area without good communication (thus the report's recommendation for the military to adopt a diplomatic apparatus). Regardless, I predict that China will also operate under the same "gray zone" operations that Russia has been doing with the Arctic. In the meantime, China, South Korea, Japan and Singapore are all observers to the Arctic Council since 2013. Speaking of the Arctic Council, the 2011 "Arctic SAR Agreement notes that 'Parties shall ensure assistance be provided to any person in distress' but does not specify the resources that parties are obliged to provide" reminds me of how NATO conducts a similar leeway. Article 5 of NATO has a clause at the backend that no one really talks about (at the insistence of Congress I believe) on how “each member state shall respond as they see fit”. So it could mean “we’re behind you with troops” or “we’ll support you and stand on the sideline to applaud”. So both the Arctic Council and NATO have similar language in their documents that could leave ambiguity of how member states shall support a broader cause. Questions: What happened in 2011 to make the Russians decrease their cargo tonnage in the Russian Arctic? What does "Track II dialogues" mean on page 15? Other thoughts: - It was interesting to see "This is especially important because we know from other theatres – e.g., Georgia and Ukraine – that military tactics are evolving towards relying on hybrid and 'gray zone' operations" as it connects to our NATO meeting we held with Juanita and Jay discussing these items. - In the future, I bet there will probably be another founding regional alliance documents regarding the Arctic for the BIED Society to analyze like prior IAA documents (ASEAN, AU, MERCOSUR, etc.). - I agree with how "Seemingly stable states can be overburdened by the combined pressures of climate change" since I've heard of multiple professionals (from a documentary with a Bangladesh professional concerned about climate refugees and my professor who knew someone from FEMA) that society is basically only 3 meals away from anarchy. If the state cannot produce 3 meals for people, then people will take matters into their own hands for survival. Putting that into perspective (and its logical sense for the basic necessities of human survival), state legitimacy and monopoly of power/force/violence could be easily threatened enough in the face of the 21st Century's stressors.
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Crystal Lin
Spring 21
+4
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