9 June 2015

Pigeons need not fly across the Indo-Pak border !

F.S Aijazuddin
Jun 9 2015

When Pakistan and India are not warring neighbours, they coexist as wary friends, threatening each other daily at the Wagah border. Real soldiers enact a theatre of national machismo during the flag-lowering ceremony.

NO two nations in the world are as proud of their armed forces as Pakistan and India. These armies are more than swords; they are sceptres of national sovereignty.Wars bring out the worst in humans, and the best in singers. World War II produced the British Vera Lynn, whose poignant song “We'll meet again,” gave hope to those who feared they might never see their families or motherland again.

In the subcontinent, Lata Mangeshkar, to honour Indians martyred in the 1962 Sino-Indian war, sang, “Aye mere watan ke logo,” before a New Delhi audience, including Prime Minister Pandit Nehru. He was moved to tears, declaring: “Those who don't feel inspired by ‘Aye mere watan ke logo’ don't deserve to be called a Hindustani”. 

Misplaced martyrdom

Jun 09, 2015

When India’s national mood pays a tribute to its war dead by calling them “martyrs”, it perhaps perpetuates an unintentional disservice. The term “martyrs” is misplaced in the context of Indian soldiers, because by training and inclination, the Indian Army is not passive “martyr material”. If and when their time comes, they do not passively accept their fate, but go down fighting, “Last Man, Last Round” and try and take as many of their enemies with them as they can.

Captain Saurabh Kalia of 4 Jat Regiment is a case in point. An officer of the Indian Army, he was taken prisoner on May 15, 1999, during the very initial stages of the Kargil War of 1999, after his five-man reconnaissance patrol probing Pakistani intrusions in the Kaksar sector of Kargil was ambushed by Pakistani paramilitary troops.

He and his troops were undoubtedly surprised, but were able to inflict as many casualties as they could, before being physically overpowered after their ammunition ran out. The survivors remained in Pakistani custody from May 15 to June 7, during which they were tortured. Thereafter, they were shot dead and their grossly mutilated bodies were handed over to India.

Take Israel with a pinch of Palestine

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray
Jun 09, 2015

Israel can be of immense help to India. But one cannot endorse the annexation of the Golan Heights, the stranglehold Israel maintains on the Gaza Strip, and its encroachments in the West Bank.

Somewhere among my papers is an Indian passport valid for only six months enabling me to pay a private visit to Israel. It was issued in London in 1970 for two reasons. First, the Israelis decided after the 1967 war to dig in their toes and stamp Indian passports which had previously been waved through. Second, Arab governments refused entry to foreigners who had visited Israel. So my trip had to be concealed.

Now, with Narendra Modi scheduled to become the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, there should no longer be any need for duplicity. But for all his highly publicised foreign policy initiatives and considerable sense of self-importance, Mr Modi must not forget that his Bharatiya Janata Party won only 31 per cent of the national vote. That leaves 69 per cent of Indians who may feel very differently about Israel.

My own feelings remain mixed. If I hadn’t been a profound admirer of all that the Israelis have achieved, I wouldn’t have gone there at my own expense 45 years ago. I also recognise now that Israel can be of immense help to India. But unlike the lobbies in Delhi and Mumbai that the Israelis have won over through deft diplomacy and generous hospitality, I cannot endorse the annexation of the Golan Heights, the stranglehold Israel maintains on the Gaza Strip, and its steady encroachments in the West Bank.

Manipur Ambush was orchestrated by the ISI

By RSN Singh
08 Jun , 2015
The attack on Army convoy in Moltuk valley at Parolong in Chandel district of Manipur bordering Myanmar at 0830 hours on June 04, 2015 in which 18 personnel of 6 Dogra were martyred is being ascribed to the NSCN (K). Even the name of the insurgent leader (Starson Lamkang) who led the attack is doing rounds. Inspired leaks to the media also allude to collusion of Military Intelligence of Myanmar. These inputs are misleading and detract from the real perpetrators and their objectives. At best the NSCN (K) may have played a marginal or collusive role.

It could not have happened without the orchestration of the ISI and indulgence of proxies like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

The real culprit are Islamic groups based in Manipur, particularly the Peoples United Liberation Front (PULF). The objective of the attack was to sabotage Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh. It was therefore directed both against Modi and Sheikh Haseena. It could not have happened without the orchestration of the ISI and indulgence of proxies like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

The Renaissance of the Sultans

In 1610 an itinerant Dutch Mannerist painter named Cornelis Claesz Heda arrived at the court of an unlikely but most enthusiastic patron. Ibrahim Adil Shah II, who ruled the central Indian kingdom of Bijapur, was an erudite scholar, lute player, poet, singer, calligrapher, chess master, and aesthete. In many ways he was an Indian version of Duke Federico da Montefeltro of Urbino, and comparable to the Tuscan poet-princes who had filled their palaces with masterworks a century earlier. 

Since Ibrahim came to the throne in 1580, he had overseen a remarkable explosion of artistic activity, attracting to his court the greatest painters and poets of his day, from as far afield as Abyssinia, Turkey, and Central Asia. These included Zuhuri, the Persian poet laureate, whom he lured all the way from Isfahan, and one of the most celebrated artists of the Mughal court, Farrukh Husain, who traveled to Bijapur from Shiraz, by way of the courts of Kabul and Agra. But the Dutch artist was certainly Ibrahim’s most exotic catch. As soon as word reached court that a European painter had crossed the border, Ibrahim summoned him straight to his capital. 

Strategic Context Of Ashton Carter’s India Visit – Analysis

By C. Uday Bhaskar

The visit of US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to India (June 4) has resulted in a modest $2 million agreement that includes relatively low-end equipment such as protective clothing and battlefield generators. Concurrently, Dr. Carter and his Indian counterpart Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar extended the bilateral defence cooperation agreement mooted in June 2005 by another decade.

However, more than the fiscal value of the deals that have been inked – the strategic context in which the Carter visit has taken place and the issues that have been identified for further deliberation and potential bilateral cooperation, are of much greater long-term import.

Dr. Carter came to India after attending the Shangri-la dialogue in Singapore where China and the South China Sea imbroglio was the main issue under contested scrutiny between Washington and Beijing. Tangled territoriality and divergent interpretations of the existing legal provisions by the claimants – namely China and some of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) states – has resulted in a tense impasse, and the more muscular Chinese response has caused predictable anxiety among the smaller regional states.

India’s Environment Policies: A Year Of Change – Analysis

By Rajendra Shende
June 7, 2015

The only legacy of the previous government that India’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar carries with him is the name of the building from which he operates – Indira Prayavaran Bhavan (Indira Environment House). Everything else about him portrays a refreshingly stark Indian aspirations and sculpting of a new heritage of environmental governance.

There are clearly two camps. One, proclaims that in total disregard for value of nature and care for the ecosystem on which lives of many poor depend, the clearance for the industrial projects have been given primarily to display the speed of clearance. The other camp, though appreciative of the faster clearances, would like to see further acceleration though they are uncertain (and even worried) about how the monitoring of the conditions of clearances would be implemented.

Why Mao attacked India in 1962

By Claude Arpi
08 Jun , 2015
There is an angle of the 1962 Sino-Indian that conflict has been insufficiently studied. What were Beijing’s motivations to go to war? Who decided to inflict the worst possible humiliation on India?

Historical sources are still sparse, but going through some available documents, one can get a fairly good idea of the Chinese motivations or more exactly the ‘political’ compulsions which pushed the Great Helmsman into this venture.

Mao Temporarily Leaves the Stage

It is fashionable to speak of crimes against humanity. One of the greatest, known as the ‘Great Leap Forward’, began in China in February 1958 and resulted in the largest man-made starvation period in human history. By initiating his Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s objective was to surpass Great Britain in industrial production within 15 years. For the purpose, every Chinese had to start producing steel at home, with a backyard furnace. In agriculture, Mao thought that very large communes would achieve manifold increase in the cereal production, turning China into a heaven of abundance. Introduced and managed with frantic fanaticism, it was not long before the program collapsed.

Is India's Heatwave a Freak Event? A Statistician Investigates

June 5th, 2015 

A heatwave over India that started on May 21 and has produced India’s highest recorded temperatures in two decades has claimed more than 2,000 lives and caused widespread devastation. It would be easy to dismiss this as a freak event, something so far out of the norm that there’s little chance of preparing for it. But this isn’t quite true. Even the most extreme events can be predicted – and prepared for.

I specialise in a statistical approach called extreme value theory which draws inferences about very rare events. Among other uses, it can be used to estimate theprobability of a heatwave occurring.

Determining U.S. Commitments in Afghanistan

by Stephen Watts and Sean Mann
May 01, 2015

As the Obama administration's tenure winds down and the United States withdraws nearly all of its troops from Afghanistan, debates about the nature and scale of future U.S. involvement in Afghanistan continue.1 President Obama has committed to withdrawing all but a minor residual force by the end of 2016. On the other hand, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called for a sizeable U.S. military presence long after President Obama leaves office, and recent setbacks in Iraq have strengthened the hand of Congressional leaders,

U.S. military officers, and others who call for an enduring commitment.2

Skepticism in the United States about an ongoing U.S. military role in Afghanistan abounds among both the public and many foreign policy experts; indeed, such skepticism was recently labeled the “conventional wisdom.”3 In 2014, for the first time since the United States first committed troops to Afghanistan, a plurality of Americans (49 percent) thought it was a mistake to have ever sent forces to that country.4 As of July 2014, only approximately one-quarter of Americans thought President Obama was withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan too quickly; nearly three-quarters thought the current timeline of withdrawal by the end of 2016 was either appropriate or too slow.5

The Future of the Afghan Local Police

The Afghan Local Police (ALP) began as a small U.S. experiment but grew into a significant part of Afghanistan’s security apparatus. In hundreds of rural communities, members serve on the front lines of a war that is reaching heights of violence not witnessed since 2001, as insurgents start to credibly threaten major cities. The ALP also stand in the middle of a policy debate about whether the Kabul government can best defend itself with loosely regulated units outside the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) structure. The mixed record suggests that the ALP contribute to security where local factors allow recruitment of members from the villages they patrol and where they respect their own communities. But such conditions do not exist in many districts. The ALP and pro-government militias are cheap but dangerous, and Kabul should resist calls for their expansion. Reforms are needed to strengthen oversight, dismiss ALP in the many locations where they worsen security and incorporate the remaining units into the ANSF.

Making of the ransom state

Written by Khaled Ahmed
June 5, 2015 

The kidnapping of Warren Weinstein, later killed by a US drone, is part of a spreading pattern in Pakistan.
Weinstein was kidnapped three months after the US Navy SEALs raided a compound in Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden.

only Muslim country where the media is free and where journalists get killed straying into grey areas where the state interfaces with terror. The Muslim mind in Pakistan, as elsewhere, is “bicameral”. There is a part that believes in conspiracies and communicates in Urdu; there is another that is rational and uses English, which doesn’t lend itself to conspiracy-weaving. The self-loathing seen daily in the media is owed to this partitioning of the national mind.

Ideology is coercive and usually produces a uniformity of mind, as was evidenced in the Soviet Union. Among Muslims, it produces the power to disagree with professional seniors on the basis of the “certitude” of ideology. The Soviet man obeyed. The Muslim believer may disobey on the basis of the difference of stringency of faith. A Sunni soldier or officer may disobey after sensing “superior” ideology in al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the IS, simply because they are more hardline. While all ideologies have been coercive, they have also tended to lose their intensity over time. But the faith of Islam becomes more hardline with time. Pakistan, from Jinnah to Zia, appears to prove it.

Has China’s Stock Market Joined the Big Leagues?

June 08, 2015

China’s stock market has been roaring in the last several months, as investors search for yield. Anecdotes abound of friends and family making impressively large gains. Television news anchors are buzzing with market updates. University students are trading stocks using their parents’ money, with little knowledge about how the stock market works. Does all of this mean that China’s stock market has arrived in the big leagues?

First, some facts. The Chinese stock market is the second largest in the world by equity value. The Shanghai Composite Index last week closed above 5,000 for the first time since 2008. Companies primarily listed in China were valued at the close on Friday at $9.7 trillion. The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect has created additional trading opportunities with funds soon to be added to sales of cross border shares, and a Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock connect is expected open at the end of 2015.

Abe Heads to G-7 with South China Sea, Asian Security on his Mind

June 08, 2015
On Sunday, leaders from the Group of Seven (G-7) arrived in Germany, where they will meet to discuss global issues for two days. The G-7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, in addition to the European Union. For Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the G-7 presents an important forum for conveying Japan’s concerns about regional security in the Asia-Pacific to a like-minded group of Western industrialized nations. As the Japan Times notes, at the top of Abe’s agenda for the G-7 will be China’s ongoing island-building and so-called land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. As Abe told reporters in Japan before his departure, he will emphasize Japan’s role as the sole “G-7 member from Asia” and push for “substantial discussions on Asian affairs.”

Chinese Submarines in Sri Lanka Unnerve India: Next Stop Pakistan?

By: Vijay Sakhuja
May 29, 2015 

The sighting of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean has unnerved India. A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Song-class conventional submarine along with Changxing Dao, a Type 925 submarine support ship, docked at the Chinese-run Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) in Sri Lanka last September (China Military Online, September 24, 2014). The two vessels made a stopover in Colombo harbor for refueling as well as rest and recuperation for the crew before heading to the Gulf of Aden in support of international efforts to fight piracy (Times of India, November 2, 2014). A few weeks later, a submarine (presumably the same submarine) and the Changxing Dao were again docked in Colombo harbor (Colombo Mirror, November 3, 2014). Reports on the presence of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean are not new. According to an Indian media report, during December 2013 and February 2014, a Chinese nuclear submarine was deployed in the Indian Ocean on patrol for two months in the (India Today, March 21, 2014). Although details of the submarine deployment are not known, apparently, the Foreign Affairs Office of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense had informed India of plans to send a submarine in the Indian Ocean. Likewise, the United States, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan and Russia were also told of the planned PLA visit (India Today, March 21, 2014). It has now emerged that a Chinese nuclear submarine completed a two-month escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and returned to Qingdao, its home port (South China Morning Post, May 3).

The Chinese Strategic Tradition: A Research Program (II)

T. Greer

This post is the second in a series. It was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on the 26th of May, 2015. I strongly recommended readers start with the first post in this series, which introduces the purpose and methods of this essay. That post focused on what is published in English on Chinese strategic thought. This post focuses on what has been written about Chinese strategic practice–that is, the military, diplomatic, and political history of China’s past. 

A map depicting the most famous military campaign in East Asian history, decided at theBattle of Red Cliffs (208 AD) in modern-day Hubei.

The Secret History of SEAL Team 6: Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines

Mark Mazzetti, Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew, Serge F. Kovaleski, Sean D. Naylor and John Ismay
June 6, 2015

They have plotted deadly missions from secret bases in the badlands of Somalia. In Afghanistan, they have engaged in combat so intimate that they have emerged soaked in blood that was not their own. On clandestine raids in the dead of the night, their weapons of choice have ranged from customized carbines to primeval tomahawks.

Around the world, they have run spying stations disguised as commercial boats, posed as civilian employees of front companies and operated undercover at embassies as male-female pairs, tracking those the United States wants to kill or capture.

Those operations are part of the hidden history of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, one of the nation’s most mythologized, most secretive and least scrutinized military organizations. Once a small group reserved for specialized but rare missions, the unit best known for killing Osama bin Laden has been transformed by more than a decade of combat into a global manhunting machine.

That role reflects America’s new way of war, in which conflict is distinguished not by battlefield wins and losses, but by the relentless killing of suspected militants.

Mosul: One Year On

It's one year since the fall of Mosul into the hands of the so-called Islamic State. Since then, the militant organisation has dominated headlines and has reportedly taken control of territory across a region the size of Belgium. Mina Al-Lami of BBC Monitoring has been following the propaganda arm of Islamic State and Basher Al-Zaidi has reported on their operations in his home city.

Notable Banknotes

As the Bank of England searches for a new face for the twenty pound note, the Fifth Floor hears some of the more surprising and unusual tales of currencies past and present. BBC language service journalists share stories of monarchs replaced by mountains, banknotes with secret messages and hidden meanings and bills that sell for many times their real value.

Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, Washington's Great Game and Why It's Failing

June 7, 2015.

It might have been the most influential single sentence of that era: “In these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” And it originated in an 8,000 word telegram -- yes, in those days, unbelievably enough, there was no email, no Internet, no Snapchat, no Facebook -- sent back to Washington in February 1946 by George F. Kennan, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Moscow, at a moment when the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was just gaining traction.

The next year, a reworked version of Kennan’s “Long Telegram” with that sentence would be published as “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” in the prestigious magazine Foreign Affairs under the pseudonym “Mr. X” (though it was common knowledge in Washington who had written it). From that moment on, “containment” of what, until the Sino-Soviet split, was called the Soviet bloc, would be Washington’s signature foreign and military policy of the era. The idea was to ring the Soviet Union and China with bases and then militarily, economically, and diplomatically hem in a gaggle of communist states from Hungary and Czechoslovakia in Eastern Europe to North Korea on the Pacific and from Siberia south to the Central Asian SSRs of the Soviet Union. In other words, much of the Eurasian land mass.

Leave It to Europe: Why Iran Is Not (Solely) America's Responsibility

Cornelius Adebahr
June 8, 2015

"...it is up to the European Union as the often-overlooked mediator of the nuclear talks to make a push for regional cooperation after a possible deal."

Even before a nuclear deal with Iran has been signed, the debate in Washington has shifted to the regional implications of a possible accord. But lessons learned from the success of the nuclear negotiations so far help explain why the United States should not lead international efforts to bring about regional cooperation with Iran. Instead, Washington should let its European allies take the initiative.

After all, it was the European Union—particularly France, Germany and Britain—that laid the diplomatic groundwork since 2003. They brought China, Russia and the United States on board and, in close transatlantic coordination, pursued a two-track approach of sanctions and diplomacy that led to the current nuclear talks.

Russia's Deceptively Weak Military

Andrew S. Bowen
June 7, 2015

"Despite the technical improvements and selective increase in operational capability, the Russian military remains a shadow of its perceived capability."

Professional soldiers, equipped with the latest weaponry and body armor, quickly and efficiently seized Crimea. A rebellion, with “indigenous” rebels suddenly equipped with heavy weaponry and sufficient coordination, quickly metastasized into a full blown insurgency. New, modern and impressive equipment paraded before Moscow and the world in the largest Victory Day Parade since the fall of the Soviet Union.

If You Knew Then What You Know Now

JUNE 3, 2015 

At least two presidential candidates — Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton — are being flayed with the question, "If you had known in 2003 what you know now, would you have supported the Iraq invasion?"

Each has answered in a different way; indeed, Jeb Bush seems to have answered in more than one way. As a law professor accustomed to tormenting students with hypotheticals, how would I grade the politicians' answers?

The "C" answer would be the frank assertion that while mistakes were made, the politician being asked — Dick Cheney, perhaps — would have gone to Baghdad anyway because we are better off now than we were before. This answer might also include the additional reminder that the end of the Iraq War is not yet in sight, so the ultimate judgment on its wisdom cannot yet be made. This is a poor, though not unreasonable, answer because it exhibits signs of "Parmenides' Fallacy," or the mistake of comparing the present state of affairs with a past state to assess the outcome of a decision. This is fallacious, though we often do it, because contra Parmenides, who believed all change was an illusion, the world doesn't stand still. Regardless of the decision made, today's world will be different from yesterday's world. To judge a policy correctly, we must instead ask whether we would be better off now had we made a different decision in the past.

Everything You Think You Know About Spying Is Probably Wrong, Book

Stephen Grey
June 5, 2015

Lifting the lid on modern day spies

The 21st century has seen espionage shift from the field to the office, which is why everything you know about spying is probably wrong, writes Stephen Grey.

At Fort Monckton, the secret service training base just outside Gosport, Hampshire, new recruits to Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) still get taught the art of pistol shooting by retired sergeant-majors. The chances are, however, is that they will never get to use this skill, because the world of spying is almost nothing like its popular portrayal.

Real-life James Bonds, for instance, don’t get to run around like mavericks these days - engaging in car chases, or getting into gunfights like Captain Francis Cromie, a British intelligence officer who was gunned down in a pool of blood by Bolshevik Red Guards in 1918 on the grand staircase of the old British Embassy in St Petersburg. Nor do many intelligence officers get to have sex with their sources of intelligence. “It isn’t normal to sleep with a target. If you have to, it means you are not in control,” said one former British operative I spoke to.

A Practical Vision of a More Equal Society

by Anthony B. Atkinson 

Anthony Atkinson occupies a unique place among economists. During the past half-century, in defiance of prevailing trends, he managed to place the question of inequality at the center of his work while demonstrating that economics is first and foremost a social and moral science. In his new book, Inequality: What Can Be Done?—more personal than his previous ones and wholly focused on a plan of action—he provides us with the broad outlines of a new radical reformism. 

There’s something reminiscent of the progressive British social reformer William Beveridge in Atkinson’s reformism, and the reader ought to enjoy his way of presenting his ideas. The legendarily cautious English scholar reveals a more human side, plunges into controversy, and sets forth a list of concrete, innovative, and persuasive proposals meant to show that alternatives still exist, that the battle for social progress and equality must reclaim its legitimacy, here and now. He proposes universal family benefits financed by a return to progressive taxation—together, they are intended to reduce British inequality and poverty from American levels to European ones. 

Cyberwar: hacking attacks between nations are difficult to prove

James Ball
5 June 2015

Following the large-scale hack of US federal personnel databases, governments need to build up their defences to minimise the impact of future attacks 

It is a story that is becoming all-too-familiar: the US government had to admit on Thursday that one of its key personnel databases, containing the records of up to 4 million staff, had been compromised in a large-scale hacking attack. Officials speaking off the record laid the blame at China’s door, though did not immediately provide any evidence for this claim.

The full scale of the information the attackers accessed remains unknown but could include highly sensitive data such as medical records, employment files and financial details, as well as information on security clearances and more.

The Office of Personnel Management attack is merely the latest of a number of high-profile hacking attacks in the US. Within the last few months, State Department officials had to abandon their email systems for several weeks after a long-term hack was discovered, while Sony executives spent a miserable few weeks watching their internal emails get reported across the world after their own attack.

New Revelations About Secret NSA and FBI Counter-Hacker Operations Raise Serious Legal and Privacy Concerns

June 7, 2015

The scope and sophistication of recent cyberattacks on American government, business and personal accounts are chilling. The latest, a breach of federal personnel records that could affect more than four million current and former employees, is a reminder that enhancing the nation’s cyberdefenses has to be an urgent priority.

Yet, in tailoring new programs and policies to fight hackers, members of Congress and the Obama administration should not allow a siege mentality to take hold.

The disclosures by Edward Snowden about the abuses of the National Security Agency have led to important reforms that have sought to prevent the government from collecting information about Americans in unlawful ways and to strengthen privacy safeguards. But that process still has a long way to go, and it would be unwise to let the rising threat of cyberattacks snarl it or roll it back.

This week, The New York Times and ProPublica, relying on documents leaked by Mr. Snowden, reported that the N.S.A. and the F.B.I. have cooperated closely on cyberthreat investigations in recent years.

Twitter Kills: How Online Networks Became a National-Security Threat

James Jay Carafano
June 8, 2015

Terrorist groups are using social media more and more to promote their causes. What should we do about it?

There is nothing social about using social networks to help slaughter innocents and disseminate murder porn. But that kind of activity is merely symptomatic of the fundamental challenge that social media poses to national security. The key to winning cyberwars has more to do with securing physical space than dominating cyber space.

Exclusive interview with the director of Israel’s Digital Diplomacy Unit

MARCH 30, 2014

Israel has one of the most active Digital Diplomacy units in the world. In a recent survey I conducted of 86 countries spanning the globe, Israel’s MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) was found to be the tenth most active MFA on twitter. It was also the fifth most popular MFA in the sample.

Yoram Morad, Director of Digital Diplomacy Unit, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

But since we should always be cautious of the “tyranny of numbers”, I wanted to speak to the people managing Israel’s Digital Diplomacy and understand how Israel practices this new kind of diplomacy.

The following are highlights from my interview with Yorm Morad, Director of the Digital Diplomacy Unit at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

How do you define Digital Diplomacy?

The Guardian view on cyberwars: enter the trolls Editorial

5 June 2015

The great breach in the US government’s database is a classic case of informational smash and grab. But operations to plant misinformation are also worrying for states which care about truth 

Digital wars are being fought in many theatres around the world – and in many forms. In the light of the Snowden revelations, citizens who guard their privacy may already feel that it has been occupied by a hostile force. But on Thursday, the Obama administration conceded that the US federal government had itself fallen victim to a hack on an unprecedented scale, with the security of the details of up to four million former and present employees apparently breached.

A ‘Disaster’ if China was Behind OPM Cyber Attack


A ‘Disaster’ if China was Behind OPM Cyber Attack

Chinese hackers are suspected to be behind a cyber attack on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Hackers gained access to four million records of current and former federal employees. The intrusion happened in December, but OPM only discovered it in April. (Reuters/Edgar Su)

If the Chinese government is in fact behind the cyber attack on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) it would be a “disaster” in terms of counterespionage, says the Atlantic Council’s Jason Healey.

“The kind of information that OPM has is a goldmine for intelligence agencies,” Healey, a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, said in an interview.

“For senior government officials, this is particularly worrying on the counterterrorism side,” he said, adding that hackers could use the information they glean from their attack to pinpoint targets at top levels of the US government.

Russia's Greatest Weapon May Be Its Hackers

MAY 7, 2015 

In hacker jargon, it’s called a “cyber-to-physical effect.” It’s when a hacker reaches out from the virtual world into the real one—often with catastrophic consequences. The Americans and Israelis pioneered the technique back in 2009 when the Stuxnet program infiltrated Iranian computer systems and wrecked thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges. But now other players—especially the Russians and Chinese—are getting into the game of remotely using computer networks to destroy infrastructure and threaten human lives. Last year, according to a report by Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security, a blast furnace melted down in an unnamed industrial city in Germany after a digital attack on its control systems, causing “massive damage.”

It nearly happened in the United States too, when unknown hackers succeeded in penetrating U.S. electrical, water and fuel distribution systems early in 2014. While old-fashioned, relatively low-tech data hacks make headlines—for instance, high-profile break-ins over the last 12 months to the email systems and databases of the White House, State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and Sony Pictures Inc.—what has security officials seriously worried is the new and dangerous world of cyber-to-physical infrastructure attacks.

The Internet Is Gradually Replacing Traditional Media

June 5th, 2015 

According to data published by ZenithOptimedia this week, people around the world now spend more than eight hours a day consuming media, with the Internet taking up an increasingly large chunk of total media consumption.

In 2014, people spent 110 minutes a day online, up from just 60 minutes in 2010. Meanwhile traditional media usage, i.e. TV, newspapers, magazines, radio and cinema declined from 402 to 376 minutes a day.

While television consumption fell by just 6% between 2010 and 2014, the print industry is suffering most from the new digital competition. Newspaper and magazine consumption dropped by 26% and 19%, respectively, since 2010 and is expected to see further declines in the next few years.

Company Offers NSA-Type Surveillance Software to Companies to Monitor Hackers

June 6, 2015

Hackers Are Next on Government-Spyware Company’s List of Targets

A company that helps governments monitor their citizens is now peddling its expertise to corporate America.

Verint Systems Inc., which makes software that sifts through communications such as text messages, phone calls and e-mail to help combat terrorism and crime, is touting its intelligence expertise to help companies defend themselves against hackers.

“Advanced cyberattacks are well-planned, targeted and stealth,” Chief Executive Officer Dan Bodner said on a June 3 conference call with analysts. “The mitigation approach needs to be based on intelligence tactics.” Bodner said he plans to unveil the new cybersecurity products for corporations at a conference in Las Vegas this week.

Chinese Hackers Easily Defeated EINSTEIN-3 Security System to Break Into OPM Computer Databases

China Hackers Got Past Costly U.S. Computer Security With Ease

The hackers who stole personal data on 4 million government employees from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sneaked past a sophisticated counter-hacking system called Einstein 3, a highly-touted, multimillion-dollar and mostly secret technology that’s been years in the making.

It’s behind schedule, the result of inter-agency fights over privacy, control and other matters, and only about half of the government was protected when the hackers raided OPM’s databases last December.

It’s also, by the government’s own admission, already obsolete.

Digital Journalism: The Next Generation

It was with great anticipation that I arrived for my appointment at the editorial offices of BuzzFeed on West 23rd Street in Manhattan. Among journalists, no other website has stirred more interest, resentment, or envy. “Why BuzzFeed Is the Most Important News Organization in the World,” ran the headline atop a recent post by a widely read tech blogger. The answer boiled down to BuzzFeed’s having found a business model that allows it to enjoy “true journalistic independence.” (That model is “sponsored content”—copy that is produced jointly by BuzzFeed and an advertiser to blend in with editorial copy, with a small, inconspicuous identifier of the sponsor.) In 2014,BuzzFeed’s revenues surpassed $100 million (or so the company says—it’s privately held and publishes no financial records). Its post in February asking people to vote on the colors of a woman’s dress—was it white and gold or black and blue?—became a national sensation, attracting more than 38 million views. 

Cybersecurity center in SC heads off hackers, brings ‘information dominance’ to the battlefield


SPAWAR Atlantic workers monitor a communication system for an aircraft carrier at a Test and Integration Facility at the center near Charleston | Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

In a heavily cloistered complex on the old Charleston Naval Weapons Station here, young engineers, mathematicians, analysts and technicians are keeping watch on the world.

From battling terrorist hackers, monitoring combatant countries or installing the technology to launch an “end-of-the-world” nuclear missile strike, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic – or SPAWAR – is the Navy’s first line of defense in the increasingly dangerous realm of cyberwar.

The Middle East is falling apart


A Syrian refugee tries to extinguish a fire at an unofficial Syrian refugee camp in the al-Marj area, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, June 1, 2015 | EPA

As news out of the Middle East goes from bad to worse — the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, Libya’s disintegration, the fall of Ramadi to ISIL, take your pick — the inevitable American tendency, especially in the political season, is to attribute all these developments to U.S. policy choices. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in May the United States has “no Middle East Strategy at all,” the Washington Post editorial page explains the fall of Ramadi not as the result of an Iraqi dynamic but as a consequence of U.S. strategy and Republican candidates are of course tripping over each other to attribute the region’s unraveling to the “weakness” and lack of resolve of the Obama administration.

First Wave at Omaha Beach

When he was promoted to officer rank at eighteen, S. L. A. MARSHALL was the youngest shavetail in the United States Army during World War I. He rejoined the Army in 1942, became a combat historian with the rank of colonel; and the notes he made at the time of the Normandy landing are the source of this heroic reminder. Readers will remember his frank and ennobling book about Korea, THE RIVER AND THE GAUNTLET, which was the result of still a third tour of duty.

UNLIKE what happens to other great battles, the passing of the years and the retelling of the story have softened the horror of Omaha Beach on D Day. This fluke of history is doubly ironic since no other decisive battle has ever been so thoroughly reported for the official record. While the troops were still fighting in Normandy, what had happened to each unit in the landing had become known through the eyewitness testimony of all survivors. It was this research by the field historians which first determined where each company had hit the beach and by what route it had moved inland. Owing to the fact that every unit save one had been mislanded, it took this work to show the troops where they had fought.
How they fought and what they suffered were also determined in detail during the field research. As published today, the map data showing where the troops came ashore check exactly with the work done in the field; but the accompanying narrative describing their ordeal is a sanitized version of the original field notes.

Welcome to Tunisia's Resource Wars

Allison Good
June 8, 2015
"Even though it remains unclear whether the frustration associated with and directed at the country’s natural resource sector can become cohesive enough to overwhelm the current regime remains unclear, it is certainly a viable risk." 

Beleaguered by economic and security issues since 2011, Tunisia has so far managed to avoid another episode of mass social unrest. As the Islamic State’s rise and expansion have demonstrated, however, Tunisia lacks the sustained stability it needs to function optimally. Security issues are certainly important, but the seemingly myopic focus on counterterrorism by both the Tunisian government and its allies overlooks the role that Tunisia’s natural resources is playing in creating a new wave of dissent.


T.X. Hammes
June 8, 2015 

Today’s Pentagon struggles to adapt to an increasingly disorderly and potentially dangerous world with ever more constrained resources. This requires it to shed outdated thinking and apply clear-headed logic to resolve real world operational challenges. In the case of the arguments for increased investment in independent deep strike warfare, it appears that clear-headed thinking is in short supply. As a first step, we should question whether independent strike has significant value.

However, the Department of Defense does not seem inclined to ask this basic question. Instead it continues to push for purchasing over 2400 F-35s, even as it commits major funds to develop a new long-range bomber. Proponents use a variety of arguments for why we are making these investments but the basic one is that the United States must maintain a viable manned long-range strike capability. In rebuttal, a number of authors(Pournelle, Hendrix, Hammes) have pointed out that aircraft are not required to conduct strike operations.


Al Mauroni
June 8, 2015

The recent announcement that Dugway Proving Ground may have shipped live anthrax organisms through the mail to more than 20 laboratories and three foreign countries (Australia, Canada, and South Korea) has a lot of people excited right now. People are no doubt flashing back to the fall of 2001 when the specter of anthrax in the mail resulted in draconian mail screening processes and vigorous sales of antibiotics. The thousands of “white powder” scares over the years (and that continue today) have contributed to the dread we have seen in much of last week’s media coverage. To the great many people who are wondering how the Army laboratory got into the business of shipping out one of the most deadly biological organisms through FedEx, I want to say, in the spirit of the closing scene of “Animal House,” remain calm! All is well!