Robert Farley

Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, University of Kentucky. He contributes to the blogs Lawyers, Guns, and Money and TAPPED.

Recent Articles

PAKISTANI NUCLEAR SEIZURE SCENARIOS.

The New York Times features expert commentary this morning on scary scenarios regarding Pakistani nuclear weapons . Rolf Mowatt-Larrsen and Karen Von Hippel focus on the most dangerous scenarios, including the collapse of the Pakistani state and infiltration of the Pakistani nuclear services by the Taliban. Mowatt-Larrsen points out that the latter has already happened: Pakistan has a demonstrated inability to control elements of its nuclear development program (the AQ Khan network), and Pakistani nuclear scientists have met in the past with members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Ellen Laipson preaches patience; Danielle Pletka complains about strategic confusion in the United States (which is true, but rather beside the point of the series); and Parag Khanna suggests institutional reform in Pakistan. The series is worth your precious time but doesn't effectively present any solutions to the Pakistani nuclear-weapon problem. The biggest take-away is that the United States needs to help...

NATO EXERCISES WITH GEORGIA TO GO FORWARD.

A few details are emerging on the failed coup against Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. At a minimum, the coup plotters appear to have expected Russian assistance, but there's no hard evidence of prior Russian involvement . This doesn't, of course, mean that such prior involvement is impossible or unlikely, although opposition figures in Georgia are questioning the Russia connection, and even that the coup existed at all. The Georgian opposition would not likely benefit from the revelation of close ties with Russia, or from indications that the coup plotters planned a bloody purge of the Georgian government. John Boonstra suggests that the Georgian government may be exaggerating the extent of the coup for public-relations effect. The news is a godsend for Saakashvili, as it allows him to discredit the democratic credentials of the opposition, tie that opposition to Russia, and paint Russia as an incorrigible aggressor. That's win-win-win, and if Saakashvili is good at one thing...

STATE SECRETS AND MILITARY PROCUREMENT.

The state-secrets privilege has been receiving an enormous amount of attention lately, mainly in connection with the Obama administration's invocation of the privilege in the Jeppesen case . This invocation, which recalled similar ones on the part of the Bush administration, incurred a substantial amount of criticism from civil libertarians and critics of Bush administration detention policies. Obama has also invoked the state-secrets privilege to protect the warrant-less wiretap program from scrutiny. While the administration has made positive noises about narrowing its use of the privilege, actions have yet to match rhetoric. As it happens, Professor Davida Isaacs and I have a paper coming out in the Summer 2009 Berkeley Technology Law Journal on the use of the state-secrets privilege in litigation on military procurement. Long story short, a small firm named Crater developed a coupler that could conceivably be used to help tap undersea cables. Lucent Technologies developed an...

ATTEMPTED COUP IN GEORGIA?

Details are sketchy, but the Georgian government claims that it has foiled a coup, and blames the event on Russia: Georgia said Tuesday that it had foiled a Russian-backed plot against the government as tensions rose a day before the scheduled start of NATO military exercises. Georgian forces surrounded a tank unit that was alleged to be involved in the plot and President Mikheil Saakashvili entered the base to negotiate the unit’s surrender. In a televised address, Mr. Saakashvili said the plot was an attempt by Russia to derail the planned exercises, which he called a “symbolic event.” Pending further information, I would stress that virtually anything is possible at this point. The idea that Russia would attempt to incite friendly elements in the Georgian armed forces to stage a coup is entirely plausible; Georgia is believed to be shot through with Russian intelligence assets, and some within Georgia remain sympathetic to Russia's regional aspirations. It's also possible that...

SPREADING THE FAITH IN AFGHANISTAN.

This is less than ideal: US soldiers have been encouraged to spread the message of their Christian faith among Afghanistan's predominantly Muslim population, video footage obtained by Al Jazeera appears to show. Military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram were also filmed with bibles printed in the country's main Pashto and Dari languages. In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley , the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him." The bibles were apparently paid for by a private organization. United States Central Command regulations forbid proselytizing, but it appears that some chaplains are either ignoring the rules or finding ways to circumvent them. The military can crack down on such activity within its ranks (it will be interesting to see if the Pentagon reacts to the footage), but of course it's impossible to police every...

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