Rapid Fire Sept. 10, 2013: Rhetorical Answer on Syria Becomes Tentative Policy Within Hours

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* US Secretary of State John Kerry’s off-the-cuff remark – meant to be rhetorical – that Bashar al-Assad could still avoid strikes by “[turning] over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week” was taken as a serious offer by the regime and its Russian backers. Or at least, as […]

* US Secretary of State John Kerry’s off-the-cuff remark – meant to be rhetorical – that Bashar al-Assad could still avoid strikes by “[turning] over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week” was taken as a serious offer by the regime and its Russian backers. Or at least, as a serious opportunity to stall. Either way, this seems enough of a lifeline for the Obama administration that Senate majority leader Harry Reid decided to postpone a vote on authorizing the use of force against Syria.

* After pressuring banks to stop financing companies that produce cluster bombs, activists trying to ban such weapons worldwide are saying that Canada’s failure to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is at odds with expressing moral outrage about chemical weapons. The USA, China and Russia are among the countries that did not sign the treaty.

* The US GAO has a report out on space launches planned for the next 5 fiscal years. DoD is ahead of NASA in procurement terms, while the reverse is true for research and development.

* South Korea has started construction work on a factory to build Haegung anti-ship missiles, starting in 2015.

* So far the UK has brought back more than 1,080 vehicles and 1,570 containers from Afghanistan, out of about 3,345 vehicles or items of equipment and 5,500 containers to be redeployed by the end of next year.

* Researchers from UC Irvine have created camouflage coating inspired by calamari: press release | Advanced Materials article [sub. req.].

* R&D: It’s not what you spend, it’s the way that you spend it.

* The European Defence Agency (EDA) released two data reports of interest: the first [PDF] to compare EU expenditure to the US, the second [PDF] to drill down into defense spending by country. Unfortunately the data stops at 2011. The gap between the European Union and the United States in terms of defense personnel spending is not that large (though it is increasing), but operations/maintenance and investment (i.e. the sum of R&D and procurement) are smaller roughly by a factor of 4.

* As Australians put back the center-right Liberal party back in power after 6 years of Labor, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute reviews in the video below the challenges that the new Minister for Defence will face, starting with the promise to put spending back on track to the 2%/GDP threshold:

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