7 June 2015

China's Real South China Sea Mistake

If the recent Shangri-La Dialogue demonstrated one thing—aside from the fact that Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong can deliver an important speech that is both strong and subtle—it is that mitigating tensions in the South China Sea remains a problem with no solution in sight. As the Chinese have continued with their reef reclamation and low-level militarization of small islands in the South China Sea, a number of Chinese scholars and foreign policy officials have sought to clarify the reasons behind Beijing’s actions. Yet what emerges from all the disparate voices is a sense that there is no compelling rationale—or at least not one that the foreign policy community can acknowledge. Instead, there is significant effort to impute an acceptable rationale to the country’s destabilizing behavior.

Here is a brief sampling:

Will Nagaland Ever Have Peace?

By Mukesh Rawat
June 04, 2015
After six decades, a resolution to India’s insurgency remains elusive. 

Ever since Independence, peace and stability have been treasured luxuries in the Indian states of Nagaland and Manipur. In the last two decades, however, while peace talks may have produced little in the way of progress, ceasefire agreements with the various warring groups have at least provided a relative peace.

The Naga issue is the major threat to peace in India’s Northeast. Broadly speaking, the insurgent groups National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang (NSCN-K) and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM), which claim to represent the Nagas, demand that a territory known as Nagalim (or Greater Nagaland) – which would include the present state of Nagaland along with roughly four districts of Manipur and parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where Nagas live – be carved out to address the Naga issue. The proposed region of Nagalim would also include a not insignificant chunk of Myanmar, making this an international issue.

Narendra Modi Prepares to Visit Bangladesh

Narendra Modi will visit Bangladesh for the first time since becoming prime minister.

Narendra Modi’s first year in office was defined largely by his jet-setting diplomacy across the world. When he was inaugurated, he foreshadowed that the primary target of his government’s diplomatic attention would be India’s neighborhood. In an unprecedented move, he invited the leaders of all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member states to his inauguration. He visited 18 states in his first year, but neglected Bangladesh, an important and populous neighbor for India. Acknowledging this oversight, Modi’s first trip abroad in his second year is to Dhaka, where he will arrive on June 6, 2015.

Modi’s visit will be a show of appreciation for Sheikh Hasina’s beleaguered Awami League government, which has continued to maintain close ties with India despite growing criticism from opposition parties. Hasina has taken care to improve a relationship that suffered during the previous Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government, from 2001 to 2006. Recently, India and Bangladesh concluded the resolution of their long-standing border dispute, and last year, an international court helped the two neighbors resolve a similarly long-standing maritime dispute.

Are Pro-Government Militias Helpful in Defeating the Taliban?

June 05, 2015

According to a new report by the International Crisis Group, the answer is an unequivocal no. 

The Afghan government is deliberating whether to expand a U.S. funded pro-government militia force, known as the Afghan Local Police (ALP). The ALP, deployed in 29 of 34 provinces, has a mixed track record in stemming Taliban attacks and has been repeatedly accused of human rights violations.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani is considering adding 15,000 more militiamen to the force’s roster — upping the fighting strengths from approximately 29,000 to 45,000 men –and is seeking American tax dollars to fund the program past its expiration date in September 2018.

Can Pakistan Abandon the Taliban?

By Hekmatullah Azamy
June 05, 2015

There will be significant regional implications if Islamabad rebuffs the overtures of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. 
Given Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s “pivot” to Pakistan, many expect that Pakistan will have to reciprocate by either bringing the Afghan Taliban to peace talks or undertaking military actions against the group. In late May, reports surfaced that Pakistan hadwarned the Afghan Taliban to call off their spring offensive or face “consequences.” Media reports subsequently revealed that Ghani sent Pakistani authorities a letter asking Islamabad to cease its support for the Taliban and gave it three weeks to prove Pakistan’s commitment to stability in Afghanistan. Ghani’s current approach towards Pakistan seems to be putting all of his eggs in one basket, and there are serious doubts as to whether Pakistan will be as committed as the Afghan president wants.

America's Shocking Ignorance of Afghanistan

June 5, 2015 

Afghanistan is much more complex than Western stereotypes of its "tribal" culture would have us believe.
In 1815, Mountstuart Elphinstone, the first British ambassador dispatched to the court of the Afghan shah in 1809, published an abridged version of his eighty-eight volumes of notes from the mission. The result was the two-volumeAn Account of the Kingdom of Caubul. Two hundred years later, foreign understandings of the modern Afghan state and its inhabitants have been largely molded by this book. Western policy has largely failed the Afghans and the international community because its current (mis)understandings of Afghanistan remain uncritically and often unconsciously shaped by this vision from the past.

Spy Game in Afghanistan

Vikram Sood 
June 4, 2015

The MoU between the espionage agencies of Afghanistan and Pakistan is a case of the latter showing India the finger, never mind that it flies in the face of history and logic

Cooperation between the intelligence agencies of two countries is nothing new. Even during the Cold War, the CIA and KGB maintained communications. But the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the spy agencies of Afghanistan and Pakistan – for long at loggerheads – is a first. 

There is something of an “in your face” attitude in it. There is a message for India as well as for the neighbourhood with an approving nod from the Americans and the Chinese. 

Exclusive: ‘By signing this MoU the Afghan president has actually portrayed us as half-culprit and half-perpetuator’

Sadiq Naqvi 
June 4, 2015

Amrullah Saleh, former chief of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s domestic intelligence agency, is an outspoken critic of the recent MoU between the NDS and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Having headed the agency from 2004 until 2010, Saleh commands a great deal of insight into the working of the Taliban and the ISI, which, he says, has been working to destabilise Afghanistan through the Taliban. Excerpts from an interview: 

How do you perceive the MoU between the NDS and the ISI? 

Shadow Banking Cases Threaten to Overwhelm China's Courts

By Susan Finder
June 05, 2015

Disputes over private lending in China are making their way into the courts, bringing a host of legal issues. 

Many bankers and economists have been looking at shadow banking in China. But what happens when debtors fail to pay their debts or challenge the lending arrangements? When parties to shadow lending end up in dispute resolution, it raises unique issues for the institutions that hear those cases.

What few outside of China have noticed is that shadow lending disputes account for an increasingly large proportion of civil cases in the Chinese courts and involve increasingly large amounts of money. The law on shadow lending is particularly unclear and fluid, causing uncertainty for debtors, lenders, and judges.

South China Sea: It’s About More Than Rocks

The disputes are the first major postwar challenge to the order that led to a secure and growing Asia. 
Security and prosperity have largely prevailed in the Asia-Pacific for the better part of the last seven decades. Today, however, the region is faced with the first major challenge to the very order that led to a secure and growing Asia. On the one hand, the United States is committed to preserving a long-standing alliance system, access to the air and maritime commons, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. One the other, China seeks to impose a new system that better supports its own view of China’s cultural and historical significance in the region.

Tajik and Chinese Forces to Engage in Joint Exercises

June 05, 2015

A flurry of meetings and exercises in Tajikistan highlight prevailing worries about Afghan spillover and ISIS infiltration. 
This weekend Tajik and Chinese special operations forces will conduct joint counter-terror drills at a mountain training center outside Dushanbe. Asia-Plusreports that over 100 servicemen from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security will join special operations forces from the Tajik Interior Ministry and practice coordinating in a mountainous counter-terror operation.

Interior ministers from Shanghai Cooperation Organization members are in Dushanbe for a meeting this week and will observe the exercise. Those expected to attend include the Interior Ministers of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Uzbekistan. The Chinese Minister of Public Security is also expected.

Asia-Plus reported in May that the SCO meeting would focus on cybercrime, as well as law enforcement coordination on transnational crime and trafficking–both of weapons and drugs.

China's Testing Asia's Largest Warship

June 4, 2015 

China is getting prepared to test what Asia’s largest surface warship since World War II, new satellite data reveals.

On Thursday, Popular Science’s terrific Eastern Arsenal blog reports, citing new satellite images, that China’s “Type 055 cruiser test rig in Wuhan is well on its way to opening for business.”

Photos of the test rig first appeared on Chinese internet in April of last year. January 2015 images showed the rig nearing completion. According to Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, who together author the Eastern Arsenal blog, the Type 055 rig is “a rough approximation of the actual cruiser, with enough physical similarity to help training crew for procedures like helicopter landings and layout familiarization.”

This Country Should Fear China's Rising Military (And It's Not America)

June 4, 2015 

Last week, China's State Council released a new White Paper on Military Strategy. Although somewhat overshadowed by heightened tensions in the South China, the document has deep long-term implications for Australian defense. For the first time since World War II, a regional state is officially developing the full suite of conventional military capabilities, and now also the doctrine, to pose a direct threat to Australia and its vital interests. This is a big change.

For more than seventy years, the defining feature of Australia's strategic environment has been the absence of a threat against which to plan its defense. It's been a good problem to have, and one that many countries would be only too happy to trade for their more exacting circumstances. But such a benign environment has also made things tricky when it comes to discerning what kind of military forces to build.

How America Should Wage 'Lawfare' in the South China Sea

June 4, 2015 

"The United States has not employed international law as effectively as it could to stop China’s scramble for mastery over the South China Sea."

In the last several months, China has set an expansionist and escalatory strategy into motion in the South China Sea. The embattled region has long played host to a fierce territorial dispute between six nations—China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam—powered by nationalism, energy, and great power politics. But in the last year, Beijing has inflamed an already tense dispute through an unprecedented policy of land reclamation. This latest tactic comes on the heels of a number of other aggressive moves by Beijing.

Col. Liu and Dr. Pillsbury Have a Dream: The Inevitable Showdown Between China and America

JUNE 4, 2015

On Monday night in a tony mansion in Washington’s leafy Georgetown district, two China hawks held a book party together. Unusually, one of them was Chinese: Liu Mingfu, a retired colonel in China’s People’s Liberation Army and author of The China Dream, a book about how China can displace the United States to become the world’s most powerful country. Liu suggests that Beijing should pour resources into its military, so that the United States won’t dare meddle with China in the seas off of its coast. “Turn some money bags into bullet holders,” he writes. Published in China in 2010, the book probably played a role in influencing Chinese President Xi Jinping to adopt the book’s title as his favorite slogan.

Should Beijing Establish an Air Defense Identification Zone Over the South China Sea?

JUNE 4, 2015

Chinese military officials are hinting that they might. But it only makes sense if Washington keep playing the heavy.

In November 2013, Beijing surprised everyone — both inside and outside China — by declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea.

An ADIZ extends a country’s airspace, allowing it more time to respond to foreign, and possibly hostile, aircraft. Almost all analysts inside China, including many affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, opposed the East China Sea ADIZ: They saw it as an unnecessary provocation — and one that could further destabilize China’s already tense relationship with Japan. But China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), seems to have dominated the decision-making process, ensuring a more aggressive posture.

The Who, What, and Why of ISIS' Bombings in Saudi Arabia

June 5, 2015 

The recent suicide bombings signal a disturbing escalation in ISIS activity.

If, after the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the May 22 suicide bombing at a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia’s Qatif region, you pointed out that this was neither their first attack nor was it likely to be their last, you would have been right. On May 29, Wilayat Nejd (Nejd is a name that refers to central Saudi Arabia) claimed another suicide attack in front of another Shia mosque—the al-Anoud Mosque—in Dammam. Three were killed and four wounded. These two incidents, both during Friday prayers precisely one week apart, represent the most sophisticated attacks thus far, with the Qatif bombing by far the most deadly. When taken in the context of previous attacks, arrests and threats that can be traced back to the fall of 2014, they also represent a significant escalation.

The “Who”

Western mothers use social media to plead for their children to leave Syria

3 June 2015

Mothers for Life counter online extremists’ recruitment with quotes from the Qur’an to stop their children joining Isis and ‘dishonouring’ them

A group of western mothers whose children have joined Islamic State and other extremists in Syria and Iraq have appealed for them to return home, quoting from the Qur’an.

In an open letter posted on social media websites, members of Mothers for Lifecalled on their sons and daughters to recall that Islam requires them to honour their parents and spare them suffering.

“Even if you think death will give you that ‘better’ life, remember that even the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘Paradise lies at the feet of your mother’,” the group said. “By leaving us against our will to give up your own life and take those of others, you have put our struggle, pain and honor under your feet and walked over it.”

Creating a Strategy for Iraq, Syria, and the War Against ISIL: a Need for Change, Integrity, and Transparency

By Anthony H. Cordesman
JUN 3, 2015

Statement before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa

A meaningful strategy is not a set of concepts. It is a detailed plan, with a clear net assessment of the situation, an examination of the available options and their relative cost benefits and risks, an explanation of why given options are chosen, a plan of action that sets clear milestones and calls for specific resources, meaningful metrics and measures of effectiveness, and a review cycle that ensure the strategy and plan to implement remain valid or are changed to reflect emerging realities.

A meaningful strategy is not a public relations exercise. It must be honest in its analysis and in its objectives. In the case of ISIL and other Islamic extremist groups, Iraq, and Syria, a meaningful strategy must provide a meaningful and in-depth explanation of the course of the fighting, a realistic assessment of the problems the United States faces and in the uncertainties in its plans for reacting. It must be honest about the risks the U.S. faces and the fact it might take years for even the best option to succeed.

The Need for Transparency, Integrity, and Content

Kurdish Troops at the Edge of Empire

June 3, 2015

Our SUV passes ripe wheat fields swaying in the gentle breeze. The occasional signs poke out where the fields meet the highway warning travelers that Islamic State has planted improvised explosives along the road.

No one will harvest these fields for a long time.

We’re headed toward the front line in the city of Sinjar to meet Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. Islamic State stormed the northwestern Iraqi city in August and massacred the Yezidi residents. The militants looted the city of valuables and kidnapped thousands of women and girls — forcing them into slavery.

The residents who could escape fled to Mount Sinjar, home to the Yezidi people’s holiest shrines. The Yezidis held out on the mountain for months.

British Actor Takes Up Arms Against ISIS

June 3, 2015

BEIRUT — A British actor who has had minor roles in Hollywood films has joined Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State group in Syria and appeared in an online video Tuesday.

Michael Enright, who played a deckhand in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” appeared in a video released by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the YPG. The video showed him in a trench with other fighters firing an assault rifle.

“ISIS are dangerous to every human being alive,” Enright says in the video, posted on the YPG’s Facebook page on Tuesday, referring to the IS group.

He called for weapons and medical aid for the Kurdish fighters, describing them as “my havals,” the Kurdish word for comrades.


The fall of Ramadi, capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, to the Islamic State last month has frayed nerves in Washington, but what few appear to grasp is that ISIS’s May offensive has given Ramadi back to its former owners — the ex-Baathist Sunni terrorists known as the Former Regime Loyalists. The FRLs, as they’re called, were Saddam Hussein’s most ardent followers, the same fighters whom the United States fought non-stop for eight years. Their resurgence has implications not just for the United States but for ISIS itself. For while these forces may fly the ISIS flag today, their ultimate plans for Iraq are quite different than those of the “caliphate.”

ISIS’s roots in Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party are deep — many of the group’s most devoted commanders, advisers and fighters started out as Baathists. The ex-Baathists essentially run ISIS, and their past is evident in the tactics they are using now.

REPORT The Islamic State’s Best Weapon Was Born in the USA How the militant group is turning the Iraqi security forces’ Humvees into their worst nightmare.

JUNE 4, 2015

When the United States gave more than 3,000 armored Humvees to Iraqi security forces over the past 12 years, U.S. officials could not have imagined that the humble utility vehicles would become a decisive weapon in the hands of Washington’s enemies from the Islamic State.

But that is exactly what has happened. Humvees were some of the 30 vehicles converted into mobile suicide bombs that the Islamic State used to blast through Iraqi security forces’ defenses during its three-day conquest of Ramadi in mid-May. The militants also used an armored bulldozer and at least one U.S.-made M113 armored personnel carrier. There’s a simple reason the militants are using Humvees and other armored vehicles as rolling bombs: Their protective armored plating prevents defenders from killing the trucks’ drivers before the militants can detonate their loads, while the vehicles’ capacity to carry enormous amounts of weight means the Islamic State can sometimes pack in a ton of explosives. Some of the bombs used in Ramadi contained the explosive force of the deadly Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that devastated a federal office building and killed 168 people.

India Should Not Miss Out On Chabahar Opportunity In Iran

By Monish Gulati
June 3, 2015

Recently India and Iran have signed an inter-governmental MoU on India’s participation in the long delayed development of the Chabahar port in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan Province. The MoU involves a joint venture (JV) investment of $85.21 million that will allow operation of the port for 10 years. The Indian JV will develop two berths at Chabahar, one to handle container traffic and the other a multi-purpose cargo terminal. In the second phase,

India will reportedly invest $110 million to further upgrade and expand the port. With sea-land access to Afghanistan as part of the MoU, New Delhi has plans to build a road-railroad network from Chabahar to Milak in Iran in order to link it with the Indian-built 223-km Zaranj-Delaram road in Afghanistan. The Chabahar port, on the Gulf of Oman, is 72km from Pakistan’s Chinese-constructed port of Gwadar, India and Iran had first agreed to look at developing the port in 2003. It is now expected to be operational by December next year
Lawrence J. Korb
June 3, 2015

As a result of the fall of Ramadi and other Sunni areas in Iraq to the forces of ISIS, many critics are blaming President Obama for “losing Iraq.” According to his critics, for example, people like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and columnist Charles Krauthammer, if Obama had only left thousands of American troops in Iraq after 2011, there would be no ISIS or Iranian-dominated Shiite militias in Iraq. The Iraqi military would be a well-trained, well-disciplined, and well-equipped fighting force, willing and able to defend their country. This view, though widely-shared by the more hawkish conservatives, is an exercise in wishful thinking and trying to cast blame on Obama, rather than a serious counterfactual. Let’s review the false claims:

Obama failed to get an agreement to leave troops in Iraq past the 2011 deadline. Wrong.

Obama’s hands were tied by the agreement President Bush signed. Obama withdrew American troops from Iraq in 2011 according to the timetable that President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki had agreed to in December 2008, when the UN mandate that allowed the United States to occupy Iraq after the 2003 invasion expired. And even though President Obama was willing to leave between 5,000 and 10,000 American troops in Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament was not willing to modify Bush’s withdrawal agreement to allow this residual force. Malaki even claimed that “we have repelled the invaders.”

OECD: World Economy Only ‘B-Minus’

June 05, 2015

The Asian picture is mixed, with downgrades for China and Japan. 

The OECD has cut its forecasts for global growth, giving the world economy only a “muddling-through” B-minus grade amid weak investment and poor productivity.

Releasing its latest “Economic Outlook” report Wednesday, the Paris-based international economic organization said the world economy would expand by 3.1 percent this year and 3.8 percent in 2016, down from its November forecasts of 3.6 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. In 2014, the world economy grew by 3.3 percent, after an average growth rate of 3.9 percent a year in the decade to 2011.

Russia's Ukraine Game: Will Putin Go All In?

June 4, 2015 

"Ukraine may be out of the headlines for now—but it is still very much in play."

Predicting what the Putin government will do when it comes to the crisis in Ukraine is fraught with peril. I myself did not anticipate the rapid annexation of Crimea last year. At the time, I believed that there was no real danger to the Russian strategic position on the peninsula and that Moscow's long-term interests weren’t served by amputating the most reliably pro-Russian part of the country from Ukraine.

With that caveat in mind, however, let us assess some of the factors currently in play.

The White House’s Game Plan for Iraq: Run Out the Clock

JUNE 3, 2015

The administration's messaging on its Iraq strategy has basically been: No ground troops—at least until 2016—so stop asking.

The general Republican question for President Obamawhen it comes to the self-described Islamic State in Iraq is simple: Where’s the strategy?

Obama should have left behind some combat troops rather than bringing them all home. He should have reacted more aggressively to the extremist group, and much earlier. He should even—in the view of a few—send thousands of troops back now, or risk “losing” Iraq.

“We need a strategy,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. “We don’t have a strategy right now.”

3 Ways To Boost the US-Vietnam Security Relationship

JUNE 3, 2015

After a successful visit by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, it's not a question whether the U.S. can improve its ties with Vietnam, but how to best do it. 

After this week’s Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, which featured the U.S.-China war of words that has come to characterize the security meeting, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter traveled on to Vietnam to meet with Hanoi’s defense minister. Carter visited Vietnam’s Naval Command and the city of Haiphong, becoming the first U.S. Defense Secretary to do so. Haiphong harbor famously—or infamously—was mined by the U.S., in 1972, during the Vietnam War.

EPA Finds No Major Water Impacts From Fracking (Sort Of)

JUNE 4, 2015

Since the “fracking” revolution began in the United States several years ago, environmentalists have warned that blasting open underground shale formations with concentrated chemical cocktails could threaten water supplies.

On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency appeared to give fracking a clean bill of health, concluding in a long-delayed study that hydraulic fracturing has not produced evidence of any “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

The draft study, which has been in the works for four years, doesn’t address all the possible environmental impacts from fracking, focusing instead on the potential threat it poses to drinking water. But the generally favorable report, coming from the Obama administration’s always zealous environmental regulatory arm, seems to sweep away the threat of any new federal regulations to control fracking’s impact on water supplies.

Delays in US Navy UCLASS Carrier-Based Drone

June 4, 2015

US Navy sees possible risks in delay in competition for carrier drone

U.S. Navy officials this week voiced rare dissent with the Pentagon over a long-delayed competition for a new armed, carrier-based drone that could be worth billions of dollars to industry, and said the U.S. Defense Department’s foot-dragging posed risks to the Navy’s future aviation forces.

Rear Admiral Mike Manazir, director of air warfare for the Navy’s chief of naval operations, on Wednesday said the Navy’s requirements for the new unmanned aircraft had been locked in for well over a year, but the Navy could not release the terms of the competition until the Pentagon completed its study.

Manazir echoed growing frustration voiced by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus during a speech at a Washington think tank on Tuesday.

Russian Naval Rearmament Program In Trouble Because of No Ukrainian-Made Gas Turbine Engines

Matthew Bodner
June 4, 2015

Ukraine Crisis Torpedoes Russia’s Naval Expansion

Moscow’s breakup with Ukraine has forced the Russian navy to suspend construction of a variety of next-generation warships, throwing the future of Russia’s naval rearmament campaign into question.

A major part of Russia’s communist-era military shipbuilding industry is located in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, but Moscow’s support for Ukrainian separatists over the past 18 months has prompted Kiev to curb defense industry trade between the two countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday the disruptions would paralyze Russia’s navy construction program: “Due to the termination of supply [of gas turbines from Ukraine], we cannot complete the construction of surface vessels for the navy,” he was quoted by news agency TASS as saying.

Vinod Khosla: Be Wary of “Stupid Advice”

by Bill Snyder
May 28, 2015

A Silicon Valley VC shares his thoughts on persistence, the importance of believing, and when to ignore the spreadsheet.

Leadership, says Vinod Khosla, “is about having a point of view, an internal compass.” And Khosla, a cofounder of Sun Microsystems and one of Silicon Valley’s best known venture capitalists, has a point of view — and then some.

He gives short shrift to his fellow VCs, saying, “90% really add no value, and I truly believe 70% of them reduce the potential of a company.” Business consultants? Less accurate than a bunch of monkeys throwing darts. Journalists? Why pay attention to an English major? asks Khosla, a 1980 Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus.



Recently, I wrote a guide explaining how to encrypt your laptop’s hard drive and why you should do so. For the benefit of Windows users, I gave instructions for turning on BitLocker, Microsoft’s disk encryption technology.

This advice generated an immediate backlash in the comments section underneath the post, where readers correctly pointed out that BitLocker has been criticized by security experts for a number of real and potential shortcomings. For example, BitLocker’s source code is not available for inspection, which makes it particularly vulnerable to “backdoors,” security holes intentionally placed to provide access to the government or others. In addition, BitLocker’s host operating system, Microsoft Windows, provides an algorithm for generating random numbers, including encryption keys, that is known to have been backdoored by government spies, and which the company’s own engineers flagged as potentially compromised nearly eight years ago. BitLocker also lost a key component for hardening its encryption, known as the “Elephant diffuser,” in the latest major version of Windows. And Microsoft has reportedly worked hand-in-glove with the government to provide early access to bugs in Windows and to customer data in its Skype and Outlook.com products.

U.S. Officials: Stronger Encryption Hurting Intelligence Monitoring of Terrorist Groups

June 4, 2015

US officials: Encryption hinders monitoring extremists 

WASHINGTON (AP) – The growing use of encrypted communications and private messaging by supporters of the Islamic State group is complicating efforts to monitor terror suspects and extremists, U.S. law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Appearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, the officials said that even as thousands of Islamic State group followers around the world share public communications on Twitter, some are exploiting social media platforms that allow them to shield their messages from law enforcement.

“There are 200-plus social media companies. Some of these companies build their business model around end-to-end encryption,” said Michael Steinbach, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. “There is no ability currently for us to see that” communication, he said.

Is It Time For Finland to Join NATO?

June 4, 2015 

Last week, Finland's new government announced that they will explore the possibility of NATO membership. While wariness is still evident in Finland's public and membership likely a ways off, the government's clear focus on NATO underscores the serious threat they face from an aggressive Russia. Helsinki's stance makes a full exploration of the benefits of future Alliance membership by its policy makers more crucial than ever.

For Finland, NATO membership would first and foremost satisfy the desire for the collective defense power of the alliance through its Article V language. While Finland boasts a reserve size of 900,000, its standing armed forces number just 35,000. The hardware that it would bring to a fight on its own - 60 combat aircraft and 250 battle tanks and fighting vehicles - is impressive for a country of that size but would not be enough to withstand the brunt of Russia's forces, whether through a traditional invasion or hybrid warfare incursions as seen in Ukraine. By joining an alliance that collectively numbers 3.3 million troops and whose combat equipment numbers in the thousands, Finland would greatly bolster its territorial defense capacity.

Foreign Incursions Expose Stockholm's Military Shortcomings

June 3, 2015

At the end of the Cold War, Swedish submarine hunters commanded an arsenal featuring depth charges, torpedoes, and anti-submarine-warfare grenades, and surface submarine hunters were aided by a large number of helicopters, which easily spot movements in the water. Now, however, "we've got rid of our more modern weapons," says Göran Frisk, a naval commander and top submarine hunter until his retirement 12 years ago. "The Russians can do whatever they like in Swedish waters as long as they're not careless, because in that case a Swedish warship can shoot and disable them."

Israel and Hamas Preparing for Next Gaza War

Yaakov Lappin
June 4, 2015

IDF, Hamas prepare for next conflict

A little under a year since the outbreak of the 50-day conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the Egyptian-mediated truce still holds, but both sides are preparing for renewed hostilities.

Hamas fighters are training intensively in the Gaza Strip and detonating explosives right next to the border so they can be heard by local Israeli residents. Hamas is also building a road along the border that it says will be used for combat operations.

Meanwhile, the group’s rocket workshops are busy replenishing the stockpiles that were depleted or destroyed during the 2014 conflict.

Reviewing “U.S. Naval Institute On Naval Command”

Jack Curtis is a Naval Aviator who graduated from the University of Florida and the Naval War College. He is a proud member of the Tailhook Association as well as the Military Writers Guild. Views contained in this post do not represent the United States Navy, the Department of the Navy, or the Department of Defense.

Continuing its series of Wheel Books, USNI recently released Naval Command, and in light of many contemporary debates surrounding the title topic, it could not have come at a better time. Lieutenant Commander Thomas Cutler, USN (ret), a prolific author and accomplished Naval Officer with small-craft command experience in Vietnam, has assembled a collection of fourteen essays and book excerpts that effectively balances prescriptive recommendations with more philosophical reflections. Authors featured in Naval Command include Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, USN; Admiral James Stavridis, USN (ret); and Rear Admiral James A. Winnefeld Sr., USN (ret). These officers add tremendous senior level insight; however, Cutler also wisely included essays by officers who were more junior at the time their writings were originally published. Of particular note in this category are the contributions of Commander Robert E. Mumford, USN, and Major E.J. Markham, USMC.

Why Influential Junior Service Members Must Know Their Limits

By Carl Forsling 
June 3, 2015

The military’s young innovators can foster change by knowing how to stand out while respecting the boundaries of the system.

I’ve said it myself, the military is an institution for and by conformists. As the cliché goes, “The military exists to protect democracy, not to practice it.” Even though we sometimes talk about flattening organizational charts and incorporating the management fad of the week, in the end, the military has to be a dictatorship. The battlefield requires it. When cannons are firing, there’s no place for second guessing and no time for open-ended discussions.