25 April 2015

Strategy for Cyber Warfare

1. President Obama is very demanding on his Secy of Defense. He already has some very fine professionals as his Defense Secy starting from Robert Gates, Leon Panetta an ex CIA Chief, A recipient of two Purple Hearts while an infantry squad leader in the Vietnam War Chuck Hagel and now the 25th Def Sec Ash Carter.

2. Carter's Bio is very impressive. Outside of his government service, Secretary Carter was most recently a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a lecturer at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He also was a Senior Executive at the Markle Foundation, helping its Economic Future Initiative advance technology strategies to enable Americans to flourish in a networked global economy. Previously Secretary Carter served as a Senior Partner of Global Technology Partners focused on advising major investment firms in technology, and an advisor on global affairs to Goldman Sachs. At Harvard’s Kennedy School, he was Professor of Science and International Affairs and Chair of the International & Global Affairs faculty. He served on the boards of the MITRE Corporation, Mitretek Systems, and Lincoln Laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and as a member of the Draper Laboratory Corporation. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspen Strategy Group.

Secretary Carter earned his bachelor’s degrees in physics and in medieval history, summa cum laude, at Yale University, where he was also awarded Phi Beta Kappa; and he received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He was a physics instructor at Oxford, a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University and M.I.T., and an experimental research associate at Brookhaven and Fermilab National Laboratories.

3. Within the Dept of Defense he has been DoD’s chief operating officer, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (ATL), Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, Secretary Carter also served on the Defense Policy Board, the Defense Science Board, and the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board.

4. Yesterday Ash Carter delivered a widely awaited and anticipated speech in Stanford University. I am reproducing the speech and Q&A below.

5. Mostly the talk is on Cyber. For the first time that his Dept was hacked by Russians came up : Earlier this year, the sensors that guard DoD’s unclassified networks detected Russian hackers accessing one of our networks. They’d discovered an old vulnerability in one of our legacy networks that hadn’t been patched.

6. As Carter was speaking, the Department of Defense released online its new cyber strategy based on three primary missions: to defend the Pentagon's networks; to defend the United States and its interests against cyberattacks of "significant consequences"; and to provide integrated cyber capabilities to support military operations and contingency plans.







7. DoD will pursue the following management objectives to govern its cyber activities and missions :

  • Establish the Office of the Principal Cyber Advisor to the Secretary of Defense
  • Improve cyber budgetary management.
  • Develop DoD’s cyber operations and cybersecurity policy framework
  • Conduct an end-to-end assessment of DoD’s cyber capabilities
8. Now where are we.

9. Our Honourable RM, an ex IITan is quick on the button. Already he has started giving some well deserved Hard Talks to the Services. That Cyber warfare will be very important in all future scenarios is well known for a long time. Establishment of a Joint services org of Cyber Command was announced long time back. As Arnab would like to tell, Nation wants to know what has happened to that. All over the world individual services never come to a mutually accepted decision on joint efforts. But Indian Armed Forces take the icing on cake on joint issues. It is always the executive which forces the issue. USA has already started talking about the modification of The Goldwater–Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986.

10. My recommendation to the Honourable RM would be :

  • Ask for the progress of Cyber Command.
  • Give them timelines. Don't leave it to the services or bureaucrats, After lot of studies and meetings they will arrive at status quo.
  • Good, bad, ugly at least something is better than having nothing but procrastination. One can always do some mid course correction. At least start doing something.
11. Is the RM listening?

     -- PKM


Remarks by Secretary Carter at the Drell Lecture Cemex Auditorium, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford, California

Presenter: Defense Secretary Ash Carter
April 23, 2015

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Thank you, President Hennessey, for that wonderful introduction. And thanks to all of the colleagues – many colleagues and friends here at Stanford for the opportunity to be with you today. It’s a special privilege for me to give the Sidney Drell Lecture, and I need to tell you why.

I began my career – as John Hennessey indicated – in elementary particle physics, and the classic textbook in relativistic quantum field theory, which described the first of what are known as gauge field theories, namely, quantum electrodynamics, was entitled Bjorken and Drell, Relativistic Quantum Fields. I’ve got my copy of Bjorken and Drell right here – it’s all marked up in the margins from those years ago.

For my doctoral thesis in theoretical physics, I worked on quantum chromodynamics, it’s also a gauge theory – field theory of the force by which quarks are held together to make nucleons. And at Oxford University’s department of theoretical physics, the external thesis advisor for my thesis was Sid Drell. I talked to Sid Drell earlier in this morning, and he can’t be here today, but that’s my thesis back in the days when they were bound.

When I visited the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in subsequent years as a post-doc, I remember sitting on the porch of the rambling ranch house right here on the Stanford campus that Sid and Harriet Drell lived in. As post-docs tend to do, I would hang around their house at dinnertime hoping that Harriet would invite me in to dinner, which she usually did. And sometimes their daughter Persis would be there, who is now, of course, the dean of engineering here at Stanford.

*** Five ways to reboot NATO


Think of NATO as a computer program. What was NATO 1.0? It was the Cold War–millions of troops facing each other across the Fulda gap in Europe, two huge fleets perpetually shadow-boxing across the global seas, massive nuclear arsenals on a hair-trigger alert.

Then falls the Wall, and we enter the very short lived “new world order.” Cue NATO 2.0–robust, expansive, willing to take on overseas operations like the Afghan war. New members join from the old Warsaw Pact, more than twenty additional nations become part of the Partnership for Peace operations, including Russia. The future seemed bright.

But after a decade of frustrations in “out of area operations,” I would begin to hear questions like these during my four years as NATO Commander: “Why are we operating beyond the borders of Europe? Isn’t NATO an irrelevant artifact of the Cold War? Why is it even still around?” European defense spending was deflating rapidly, especially after the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Skepticism was building.

Then comes the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, the insurgency clearly funded, supported, and stage-managed by Moscow. Old ghosts rattle through Europe, especially in the East. The Baltics and Poland raise defense spending, Russian long-range bombers ply the skies of northern Europe, and there are dark mutterings in Moscow of Russian nuclear capability.

China's economic march into Pakistan

23 April 2015

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is nothing short of a 'fate changer', said Pakistani Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal, the man behind the historic project. The excitement appears to be mutual, as China has shown equal enthusiasm for the project throughout a two-day visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Islamabad which culminated on Tuesday.

Over 51 agreements and MoUs were signed between the two countries worth over US$46 billion, the largest ever investment in the history of Pakistan by any country.

The major component of the CPEC includes power projects worth US$35-37 billion for energy-starved Pakistan, and massive infrastructure development throughout the country through concessional loans of US$7–8 billion, with the lowest interest rates in the international market. A chunk of the investment will be used for the development of a 3000km rail, road, and oil pipeline network stretching from Kashgar in China all the way down to Gwadar port on the Arabian sea, operated by the state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Company.

The Pakistani Pivot from Saudi Arabia to China

Bruce Riedel
April 23, 2015 

Saudi Arabia’s decision to launch a military intervention into Yemen represents a break with its past practice. Brushing aside the need for U.S. leadership or even participation, Saudi Arabia pushed it ahead with forming its own coalition from among its Arab and Muslim allies. But in dealing with Pakistan, traditionally one of its closest allies, Saudi Arabia is discovering that even close allies often have other priorities.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Rahel Sharif travel to Saudi Arabia again Thursday to explain why Pakistan won't join the war in Yemen. Saudi pressure has been behind the scenes but intense to get Pakistani troops into the war. Nawaz's brother Shabaz was pressed during a visit to Riyadh a week ago. The end of the air campaign may ease the pressure but that remains to be seen.

China Loves Pakistan … but Most Chinese Don’t

APRIL 22, 2015 

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Pakistan, and the $46 billion infrastructure and energy deal announced between the two countries on April 20, have headlined Chinese state media websites for days. The trade deal is part of China’s ambitious “New Silk Road” strategy to create an economic corridor linking western China with South Asia and the Middle East, and it’s meant to further deepen a bilateral relationship that China is eager to promote. On April 20, state news agency Xinhua characterized the relationship as an “ironclad friendship.” Communist Party mouthpiecePeople’s Daily quoted people on the street in Pakistan exclaiming, “We would rather give up gold than abandon the China-Pakistan friendship,” with the news outlet stating that this was the “heartfelt wish” of the people there. Pakistan’s government, for its part, is no less effusive, with officials there previously having described its relationship with the East Asian giant as “sweeter than honey,” one rising “higher than the Himalayas.” China-Pakistan diplomatic relations have indeed been strong for decades. Pakistan was one of the earliest countries to establish official relations with the People’s Republic of China, in 1951. China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and its top arms supplier, and in the past decade, the two neighbors have been swift to provide aid to each other after natural disasters.

Is Karachi’s Biggest Party on the Ropes?

Pakistan’s MQM faces an increasingly difficult set of challenges to hold onto power in the country’s biggest city. 

In Pakistan’s largest and most volatile city, Karachi, a sea change could be afoot. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has dominated municipal politics for decades, now faces government raids, foreign criminal investigations, and new competition that threaten its pole position. Is MQM on the ropes?

An analysis published in The New York Times by the paper’s Pakistan bureau chief, Declan Walsh, and Swat Valley-based journalist Zia ur-Rehman last week seems to lean in that direction. Last Friday, MQM’s leader Altaf Hussain, in self-imposed exile in London,resigned his post over pent-up frustrations with the Rabita Committee, the party’s central planning organism, only to roll back on that decision after conferring with party workers. That’s not the only bit of trouble that the party has faced this week: Hussain’s decision to flirt with resignation, the second time he’s done so in as many months, comes just two days after Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan, urged the party to “come clean” in the unsolved murder of Imran Farooq, a former MQM ally slain in a London stabbing in 2010.

Game Changer: China's Massive Economic March into Pakistan

April 23, 2015

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is nothing short of a “fate changer,” said Pakistani Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal, the man behind the historic project. The excitement appears to be mutual, as China has shown equal enthusiasm for the project throughout a two-day visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Islamabad, which culminated on Tuesday.

Over 51 agreements and MoUs were signed between the two countries worth over US$46 billion, the largest ever investment in the history of Pakistan by any country.

The major component of the CPEC includes power projects worth US$35-37 billion for energy-starved Pakistan, and massive infrastructure development throughout the country through concessional loans of US$7–8 billion, with the lowest interest rates in the international market. A chunk of the investment will be used for the development of a 3000km rail, road, and oil pipeline network stretching from Kashgar in China all the way down to Gwadar port on the Arabian sea, operated by the state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Company.

Watch Out, China: Asia's Dangerous Submarine Race Heats Up

April 23, 2015

Thailand is the latest country in maritime Asia seeking to build up its submarine force.

According to local media reports, the Thai Royal Navy has formally submitted a proposal to the cabinet asking it to fund a submarine program.

Admiral Kraisorn Chansuvanich, the commander of the Thai Navy, explained the rationale behind his service’s desire to acquire submarines.

"Neighboring countries like Vietnam, Malaydsia, Indonesia, and Singapore have had submarines in their arsenals for many years,” Kraisorn said, according toKhaosad, a local Thai newspaper. "Now that I am here, I think it is a part of the strategy to improve our armed forces. It's my duty to submit the request to the government for consideration. Whether the government will approve it or not is up to them."

China's New Investment Bank: A Premature Prophecy

April 22, 2015

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers wrote on April 5 that this month may be remembered as the moment the United States lost its role as the underwriter of the global economic system. His comments refer to the circumstances surrounding China's launch of a new venture, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Wary of China's growing ambitions and influence, the United States had advised its allies not to join the institution, but many signed up anyway. The debacle was undoubtedly embarrassing for Washington, but even so, Summers' prophecy is a bit premature at this stage.

Thus, the United States and the rest of the world have been locked in a symbiotic embrace for several decades, even as America's underlying fiscal position continues to deteriorate. But looking at its fiscal position alone misses the bigger picture.

China's Dangerous Debt Why the Economy Could Be Headed for Trouble

In September 2008, when Chinese President Hu Jintao got word that Lehman Brothers, then the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank, was on the verge of bankruptcy, he was traveling by van along the bumpy roads of Shaanxi Province. Surrounded by policy advisers and members of the Politburo, Hu asked them how China should respond to the inevitable spillover. According to one participant in the discussion, the group reached a clear consensus by the trip’s end: China would need to launch a massive stimulus program. And it could trust only state-owned enterprises (SOEs), rather than private firms, to carry it out.

That November, as other governments were still debating what to do next, Beijing announced that it would distribute nearly $600 billion in stimulus funds to SOEs and other institutions, principally to fund ambitious infrastructure and industrial projects.

The End of Reform in China Authoritarian Adaptation Hits a Wall

By Youwei

Since the start of its post-Mao reforms in the late 1970s, the communist regime in China has repeatedly defied predictions of its impending demise. The key to its success lies in what one might call “authoritarian adaptation”—the use of policy reforms to substitute for fundamental institutional change. Under Deng Xiaoping, this meant reforming agriculture and unleashing entrepreneurship. Under Jiang Zemin, it meant officially enshrining a market economy, reforming state-owned enterprises, and joining the World Trade Organization. Under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, it meant reforming social security. Many expect yet another round of sweeping reforms under Xi Jinping—but they may be disappointed.

The need for further reforms still exists, due to widespread corruption, rising inequality, slowing growth, and environmental problems. But the era of authoritarian adaptation is reaching its end, because there is not much potential for further evolution within China’s current authoritarian framework. A self-strengthening equilibrium of stagnation is being formed, which will be hard to break without some major economic, social, or international shock.

China's Expanding African Relations

This report explores China's rapidly expanding involvement in Africa in order to better inform U.S. thinking about its relations both with China and with African states. The report pays particular attention to geostrategic competition in Africa, potential security threats, and opportunities on the continent. It examines the economic, political, and security interests driving Chinese engagement with African states and assesses potential medium-term changes in Sino-African relations across these three dimensions. It then assesses how China's interests and behavior on the continent affect the interests of the United States. In this matter, misperceptions often result from faulty assumptions about the potential for conflict over resources, images of Cold War–style geopolitical competition, and the nature of China's economic engagement with the continent. The report concludes by offering policy recommendations for U.S. and Army leaders concerned with U.S. security relationships with African states and with managing Sino-American relations in Africa. In particular, the report recommends that the United States should view China's sometimes-unfavorable activities in Africa in context and continue to seek opportunities to engage Beijing on mutual interests, such as defeating violent extremists, improving African infrastructure to promote trade and development, and encouraging economic and political stability on the continent.
PDF file 0.7 MB 

Xi Jinping’s Problems Are ‘Monumental’

APRIL 16, 2015 

“This is a China where you can make at least as big a mistake exaggerating their strengths as you can in underestimating their potential.” On April 10, I spoke with Henry Paulson about his new book,Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower, released April 14. The former investment banker and U.S. treasury secretary told me that he wrote it because “I believe very strongly that this U.S.-China relationship is as important as any bilateral relationship we have in the world. And it’s becoming more difficult and more complex because we are dealing with a new China,” one that Paulson said “is much more assertive on the international stage.” But Americans continue to worry about a country that looks fearsome from the outside, yet is keenly aware of its challenges and limitations on the inside. “It’s important,” Paulson told me, “that we recalibrate this relationship.”

This Chart Explains Everything You Need to Know About Chinese Internet Censorship

APRIL 20, 2015 

What goes through a Chinese web user’s head the moment before he or she hits the “publish” button? Pundits, scholars, and everyday netizens have spent years trying to parse the (ever-shifting) rules of the Chinese Internet. Although Chinese authorities have been putting ever more Internet rules and regulations on the books — one famously creates criminal liability for a “harmful” rumor shared more than 500 times — the line between what’s allowed and what isn’t, and the consequences that flow from the latter, remains strategically fuzzy. And that’s just how Chinese authorities like it.

But a discerning observer can still sketch out the shadowy form of the (often unwritten) rules that govern the Chinese web. Before posting, a Chinese web user is likely to consider basic questions about how likely a post is to travel, whether it runs counter to government priorities, and whether it calls for action or is likely to engender it. Those answers help determine whether a post can be published without incident — as it is somewhere around 84 percent or 87 percent of the time — or is instead likely to lead to a spectrum of negative consequences varying from censorship, to the deletion of a user’s account, to his or her detention, even arrest and conviction. The flowchart below, based on my years following developments in Chinese cyberspace, provides a glimpse into the web of considerations that may determine the fate of a post — or its author. (Click image to enlarge.)

TEA LEAF NATION China, Start-up Nation

APRIL 22, 2015 

A start-up frenzy has gripped China. The smell of money is in the air, and inspirational rags-to-riches stories are seemingly everywhere. Texts abound purporting to teach the dark magic of successful entrepreneurship; Chinese online bookseller Dangdang.com lists more than 27,000 titles featuring the keyword “start-up,” while the same search on Amazon turned up just under 12,000. Some of those stories are already household lore. The top start-up book on Dangdang is called Never Give Up — 24 Lessons for Entrepreneurs from Jack Ma. Ma, the founder of Alibaba and China’s richest man worth something like $21.8 billion, began his career as an English teacher making $12 a month. An entire genre, known aschenggongxue, which literally means “success-ology,” takes up a large swath of the stuffed self-help sections in Chinese bookstores.

What to Expect From Abe's US Visit

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will arrive in the U.S. for a state visit on April 26, making him the first Japanese prime minister to pay an official visit to Washington since 2006 (there have been a number of “working visits,” however, including a trip by Abe himself to Washington, D.C. in 2013). There are a variety of issues on the agenda for Abe’s first state visit to the U.S., from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to new defense guidelines for the U.S.-Japan alliance. Speaking to journalists in Washington D.C., Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae called Abe’s visit “epoch-making,” saying the two sides will discuss their “common vision” for the future of the alliance.

Part of that discussion will center on how the alliance will function in the face of a changing regional and global security environment. Sasae said the new defense guidelines currently under discussion will aim to “update, modernize and strengthen the alliance framework, reflecting the changes” in the security environment (including new challenges in the space and cyber domains).

Alarm Over China’s S-400 Acquisition Is Premature

April 22, 2015

The confirmation last week that China has purchased between four and six battalions of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system has sparked alarmism in many circles, with experts stating that the new missile will allow China to strike aerial targets over major Indian cities, all over Taiwan, as well as within disputed areas in the East and South China Sea. But before we start calling the S-400 a “game changer,” a few comments are in order.

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-run agency in charge of export of defense articles, announced on April 13 that Moscow had agreed to sell China four to six S-400 battalions for the sum of approximately $3 billion. The confirmation ended years of speculation as to whether Russia would agree to sell the advanced air defense system to China, a “strategic partner” that on some occasions has bitten the hand that feeds it, advanced weaponry by reverse-engineering Russian products and producing copies—some intended for export—for a fraction of the price.

China, Japan Spar Over Future of Asia-Africa Cooperation

April 23, 2015

Xi Jinping is in Indonesia for a meeting commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. Over 100 representatives from different countries and organizations attended the conference, including 21 government leaders (out of an invited 109). There were a number of high-profile absences, including late cancellations by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Maithripala Sirisena, and South African President Jacob Zuma, according to The Jakarta Post. However, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did attend, setting the stage for him and Xi to present their countries’ competing visions for the developing world.

In his speech, Xi recommended three steps for continuing the spirit of the original Bandung Conference (“solidarity, friendship, and cooperation”) into the 21st century. First, promote Asia-Africa cooperation by having countries on the two continents “align their development strategies and translate their economic complementarity into a driving force for common growth.” Not coincidentally, those are also the main goals of China’s Silk Road strategy. The Maritime Silk Road, which will include a stop in Kenya, in particular would expand links between Africa and Asia.

Chinese Experts Sound Alarms on North Korea’s Nuclear Program

April 23, 2015

A report in the Wall Street Journal released on Wednesday notes that “China’s top nuclear experts” have upped their threat assessments of North Korea’s nuclear weapons production. Per the report, which is based off comments made by those experts at a “closed-door meeting with U.S. nuclear specialists,” these Chinese experts perceived North Korea to pose a greater nuclear threat than even most contemporary U.S. assessments. The report comes not long after the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies released a new report suggesting that North Korea could, in an extreme scenario, possess up to 100 nuclear warheads by 2020 (if you missed it, Shannon Tiezzi and I spoke to Joel Wit, one of the authors of that report, on The Diplomat’s podcast).

The Journal’s report suggest that the latest Chinese estimates place North Korea’s active nuclear arsenal as of April 2015 at 20 warheads. This number is unconfirmed as no one outside of North Korea—not even China, Pyongyang’s erstwhile closest partner—knows the specifics of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Interestingly, the report notes that the Chinese experts believe that North Korea is capable of producing sufficient amounts of weapons-grade uranium to “double its arsenal by next year.” 

Should the US Help India Defeat China's Navy?

April 23, 2015

A new study argues yes, and pushes for closer defense ties between New Delhi and Washington. 

A new paper by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues that India and the United States should collaborate on building New Delhi’s next Vikrant-class aircraft carrier, the 65,000 tons nuclear-powered INS Vishal, expected to enter service in the 2020s.

“Working in concert to develop this vessel would not only substantially bolster India’s naval combat capabilities but would also cement the evolving strategic bond between the United States and India in a truly spectacular fashion for many decades to come,” Ashley J. Tellis, the author of the Carnegie study, underlines.

How America Can Win Iran's Trust

Several days after Iran and P5+1–the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany–announced that they had reached an agreement on the political framework for a comprehensive nuclear agreement; Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei finally broke his silence.

Speaking on April 9, Khamenei expressed his typical lack of trust in the United States and skepticism toward the nuclear negotiations. He emphasized that his skepticism is not an illusion, but rather that history has taught him that American leaders deceive, lie, and break their promises.

But Khamenei also expressed his strong support for the nuclear negotiations, and called for finalizing the agreement. He said that he sees the negotiations as bargaining between two equal sides, not as one in which the U.S. dictates its wishes to Iran.

Aftermath: Preparing for a Post-ISIS Middle East

April 24, 2015

By uniting the international community against it, the Islamic State has managed to paper over many of the fault lines that crisscross the Middle East. This manufactured unity has underwritten the coalition of states and nonstate actors that have coordinated their military action against ISIS—a coalition that includes Iran and Saudi Arabia, the United States and Bashar al-Assad, and Iraq and the Kurds. All of these erstwhile rivals have been willing to cast their differences aside to meet the common threat posed by the Islamic State’s horrifying success.

As the threat from ISIS fades over time, though, these players’ rivalries will resurface and burn hotter than ever. To avoid a regional conflagration, the United States must recognize its responsibility to ensure a stable balance of power in the Middle East and articulate a firm commitment to doing so. ISIS must be defeated, but that defeat must not come at the cost of chaos or Iran’s destabilizing rise to regional preponderance.

Terrorism and Fundamentalism Are Not Exclusive to Islam

April 17, 2015

On April 15, amid a normalization of ties between the United States and Cuba, President Barack Obama revoked Cuba’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran, Syria, and Sudan will continue to hold the dubious designation that until 2008 also included North Korea. Such lists have a problem: there is no clarity as to what constitutes a ‘terrorist,’ which allows for states and organizations to criminalize any action, dissent, or criticism as suits their purpose. It was not always so.

In the 1970s, terrorism was confined to specific groups like the Red Brigades in Italy, Sendero Luminoso in Peru or even the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. The term applied to groups and organizations worldwide espousing ideologies ranging from racial supremacy to left-wing extremism. Nobody had the exclusive ‘rights’ to the term. Today, the term terrorism has unfortunately become intrinsically associated with Islam. A stereotype has consolidated within Western culture that all Muslims are terrorists, suicide bombers with the gene for evil in their blood. Terrorist attacks are always tragedies that affect all of us. It is true that there seems to have been a concentration of ignoble acts over the past 30 years in the Middle East and North Africa, seemingly involving violence in the name of Islam; however, the media and world opinion have been rather myopic.

Why Groups Use Terrorism: A Reassessment of the Conventional Wisdom

April 22, 2015

Over the past decade, political scientists have learned a great deal about terrorism. For a while, the conventional wisdom held that groups commit terrorism because it’s strategically effective. For this reason, the dominant paradigm is sometimes referred to as the Strategic Model of Terrorism. Its logic seemed self-evident: To avert additional pain to their civilians, governments were presumed to adopt a more dovish stance by granting the perpetrators their political demands. Prominent scholars from Robert Pape to David Lake to Andrew Kydd and Barbara Walter promoted this viewpoint until it became the conventional wisdom.

There was only one problem with this emerging scholarly orthodoxy. It wasn’t supported by the evidence. Increasingly, empirical evidence has revealed that terrorism is a remarkably ineffective tactic for groups to induce government concessions. In 2006, I published the first study to examine a sample of terrorist groups in terms of their political effectiveness. 

Exclusive: Pentagon Map Hides ISIS Gains


The U.S. military presented evidence that it was beating back the so-called Islamic State but it doesn't even count coalition setbacks. 

The Defense Department released a map last week showing territory where it is has pushed ISIS back, claiming that the terrorist group is “no longer able to operate freely in roughly 25 to 30 percent of populated areas of Iraqi territory where it once could.” This was touted as evidence of success by numerous news outlets. 

Pushing ISIS back is clearly a good step. But the information from the Pentagon is, at best, misleading and incomplete, experts in the region and people on the ground tell The Daily Beast. They said the map misinforms the public about how effective the U.S.-led effort to beat back ISIS has actually been. The map released by the Pentagon excludes inconvenient facts in some parts, and obscures them in others.

Yemen’s Shiite rebels are not Iran proxies: US intelligence officials

APRIL 23, 2015 
American intelligence officials have cautioned against the popular narrative that Yemen’s Shiite rebels are proxies or Iran, noting that Tehran actually counseled them against conquering Yemeni capital Sana’a last year. Known as Houthis, the group formally calls itself Ansar Allah (Supporters of God) and consists almost exclusively of Zaidi tribesmen, who follow an obscure form of Shia Islam. Their denomination, which distinguishes them from Yemen’s Sunni majority, shapes their ethnic identity and has helped fuel their 20-year insurgency against the Yemeni state. In September of last year, Houthi rebels, taking advantage of the chaos caused by the spillover of the Arab Spring into Yemen, marched into Sana’a, which had been virtually abandoned by the government’s security forces, and took it over.

The surprising move caused many in the Middle East to accuse Iran, whose Shiite government maintains strong religious and ideological connections with Yemen’s Zaidi community, of using the Houthis as a proxy army in order to destabilize Saudi Arabia’s southern regions. 

Iran Warned Houthis Against Yemen Takeover


WASHINGTON -- Iranian representatives discouraged Houthi rebels from taking the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last year, according to American officials familiar with intelligence around the insurgent takeover.

The seizure of the capital in September came as a surprise to the international community, as Houthi rebels demonstrating outside Sanaa realized the city was abandoned and effectively unguarded. Despite Iran's advice, the Houthis walked into the city and claimed it.

The newly disclosed information casts further doubt on claims that the rebels are a proxy group fighting on behalf of Iran, suggesting that the link between Iran and the Yemeni Shiite group may not be as strong as congressional hawks and foreign powers urging U.S. intervention in Yemen have asserted.

For Military Operations From Somalia to Saudi Arabia, Hope Is a 4-Letter Word

APRIL 22, 2015

Having “achieved its military goals” in a four-week bombing campaign in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has announced it would begin a new phase of its war there and pledged to halt airstrikes against rebels. The new phase of that war also has a new name — Operation Restore Hope — and if that sounds familiar, you don’t have to travel far from Yemen to locate the site of another military intervention, one whose legacy Saudi Arabia probably isn’t eager to recall.

In December 1992, the United Nations Security Council authorized a U.S.-led coalition to launch operations in Somalia aimed at restoring access for humanitarian relief operations. Clan warfare had left much of Somalia’s agriculture industry destroyed, and the resulting famine had left some 500,000 dead. The U.S. task was to provide the necessary security to allow for food to be delivered to needy Somalis. The mission was christened “Operation Restoring Hope.”

Is Russia Destined to Dominate the Arctic?

April 24, 2015

"Arctic states need to increase their military presence as a show of strength to send Russia a signal that it cannot come into the Arctic unimpeded."

A common refrain from those with interests in the Arctic, or as some call it, the High North, is “High North, low tension.” It appears that Russia did not get the memo. Recently, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who leads Moscow’s commission overseeing Arctic projects from 2015-2020, and has been sanctioned by the European Union, United States, and Norway,arrived unannounced in the Norwegian island of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle. Russia’s planes have also almost collided with commercial airliners in the skies above Sweden and Denmark and it has increased warplane flights off of the coast of Norway. Russia is also modernizing its equipment to deal with its share of the Arctic—about half—including the development of Arctic rescue robots. Russia, for worse, is starting to dictate the course of events in the Arctic.