23 June 2015

Myanmar Operation: Why Pakistan is so rattled

Ever since India launched a targeted Special Forces action against two militant camps in Myanmar and announced it, the whole of Pakistani political as well as military establishment is repeating again and again that “Pakistan is not Myanmar” and India should not even think about any such action against Pakistan. Before the nature and actual potency of these threats is examined in a threadbare manner, it will be pertinent to examine how India has been responding in the past to Pakistan’s terror proxies attacking Indian military and civilian targets along the Line of Control and International Border.

Within hours of Indian Special Forces destroying (NSCN-K) camps in Myanmar, paranoid statements from Pakistani side started to come despite the fact that after the strike GoI has nowhere indicated or mentioned that such operation could be expanded to the western theatre.

Digitizing Defence & Security - beyond Digital India

There is no denying that the Digital India initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for transforming India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy has no parallel in India’s history. It can also be safely assumed that under his Chairmanship, Digital India should meet the overall transformation objectives despite the estimated costs of some Rs 113,000 crores, including Rs 13,000 crores for new schemes and activities, given the foreign interests for investing in India including developing 100 smart cities.

…Digital India is an umbrella covering many departments and Miniseries, the focus being on making technology central to enable change.

India’s Lagging Human Capital

By Asit K. Biswas and Kris Hartley
June 22, 2015

A new report shows India falling behind on human capital. Smarter government intervention is needed. 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has recently released its second Human Capital Report. The firstwas published in 2013. The report argues “talent, not capital, will be a key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century.” By this measure, India’s prospects are not encouraging. The country’s lagging performance is in part a product of poor strategy and ineffective leadership, leading to deterioration in the factors that improve human capital. Three of these – education, mobility, and environment – need serious and pragmatic attention from the Indian policymakers.

How India only cares about Northeast when it's a national security threat story


It's sad how we lecture our distant ethnicities and minorities on unity in diversity, but treat them as lesser citizens than the mainlanders.

The greatest tragedy of India's Northeast is that its story dies the minute its people stop dying. Or, let's put it more rudely and accurately, when we "Indians" are not dying.

Let me explain this by invoking a conversation with a Khasi civil servant in Shillong more than three decades ago, when the Northeast was the kind of story that wouldn't go off the front pages for nearly three years, coinciding precisely with my tour of duty there (1981-83). "So how many of you Indians do we Meghalayans have to kill to get you to write a story about us, Shekhar, even though you live here?" He was making a brutal point. In the three years that I covered the region, based in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, I did not write one serious news story on the state. The truth was, when Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura were on fire, and Assam so completely paralysed that even pipelines carrying its crude to "India" were blocked, Meghalaya was utterly calm and peaceful. It was the headquarters of the Army, Air Force, Assam Rifles, BSF and indeed IB and RAW for the region, as also for most journalists. But because it welcomed all of us affectionately rather than kill in ambushes and bombings, we didn't care for it.

Taliban vs. ISIS: The Islamic State Is Doomed in Afghanistan

June 21, 2015 

Five reasons why the Islamic State can't prevail.
The Islamic State (IS) has grown its fearsome global franchise beyond Iraq and Syria largely by convincing, inciting, or inspiring local, homegrown groups to swear allegiance to the “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Various groups in places like Nigeria—Boko Haram—Libya, and Southeast Asia are now affiliatesof IS.

However, one powerful Islamist group has not only rejected the Islamic State but has actively fought against it—the Taliban of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the Taliban are going to absolutely crush the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Here’s why.

The Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan was established on January 26, 2015 when renegade Taliban commanders swore allegiance to al-Baghdadi. This area was constituted as the “Khorasan Province” of the Islamic State. Khorasan is an old Iranian term for much of today’s Afghanistan as well as parts of Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asia. Most Taliban commanders who joined the Islamic State were dissatisfiedmid-level commanders who were impressed by the gains and bravado of IS in Iraq and Syria and frustrated with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

From cockfighting to buzkashi, Afghanistan’s pastimes are as brutal as the country’s history.

A chapandaz (horseman) on a white horse reaches for the calf carcass as two teammates, one on either side, protect him from rival riders during a buzkashi match in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, Jan. 2014; Dogs clash at a Friday dogfighting event in Company, on Kabul’s southwestern outskirts, Jan. 2014.

At the top of a dusty hill in central Kabul, Hasan walks his dog, Diwana, alongside an empty Soviet-era swimming pool. The leash in his hand is doubled for strength and attached to a body harness made out of a heavy leather. It is fastened around the dog’s neck and waist as if for a horse to pull a cart. Above them, a giant Afghan flag flaps in the cold air at the top of a flagpole that stretches some 260 feet into the sky.

In a few hours, Hasan and Diwana will drive half an hour to the capital’s eastern outskirts, where the Afghan National Security Forces’ presence runs thin, ceding to local strongmen who pay gunmen to provide at least a sense of security.

A new future for the Himalayan rivers

June 10, 2015

Major rivers of South Asia with origins in the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau. SOURCE: WATER DIPLOMACY

The question of whether and how to harness rivers for irrigation, hydropower generation, urban development and sustainability of ecosystems continues to be an issue of great concern, conflict, and cooperation for this region. While pessimistic speculation on the endemic nature of water stress within and between countries in South Asia occurs commonly, there is a void of suggestion on what to do next. 

We need informed conversations to hammer out the details required to act and move forward on how to develop and share the Himalayan rivers for an equitable and sustainable future. Complexity of transboundary water issues demands learning from other river basins – like the Nile, Jordan, and Danube - and adapting to local situations. Interconnectedness and interdependence of issues as well as competing and conflicting values and priorities for water allocation make the process of charting a path for the future difficult. 

Controversy over Lipu-Lekh Pass: Is Nepal’s Stance Politically Motivated?

June 08, 2015

After lying dormant for years, the Nepal-India border dispute over Kalapani has once again become embroiled in controversy. Nepal claims that the Lipu-Lekh Pass, which was mentioned in the joint statement of May 15, 2015 during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to China, is a disputed tri-junction in which Nepal has an equal share. The joint statement states: “…The two sides agreed to hold negotiation on augmenting the list of traded commodities, and expand border trade at Nathu La, Qiangla/Lipu-Lekh Pass and Shipki La.” Nepalese media, academia, civil society and ruling and opposition party leaders have all expressed concern over this development and have demanded that China and India should withdraw the mention of Lipu-Lekh in the joint statement. They have also argued that such a mention tantamount to disrespect for Nepal’s sovereignty and a threat to its territorial integrity. Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is under pressure from his coalition partners to lodge a formal diplomatic protest against section 28 of the 41-point India-China Joint Statement. The issue has intensified public debate in Nepal at a time when India and Nepal have agreed to resolve the existing border dispute amicably through bilateral mechanisms during Modi’s August 2014 visit to Kathmandu. In this regard, the two countries have already established a joint boundary technical committee to demarcate the border by 2019.

A Boost to Sub-Regionalism in South Asia

A landmark agreement is expected to pave the way for regional integration. 

At the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu, held in late November 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that regional integration in South Asia would go ahead “through SAARC or outside it, among all of us or some of us.” On June 15, 2015, the transport ministers of four South Asian neighbors – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, now better known as the BBIN – signed a landmark Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) in Thimpu. The agreement is expected to pave the way for a seamless movement of goods and people across their borders, encouraging regional integration and economic development.

Indian Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari commented, “This indeed is a momentous achievement for all the four neighbours. This historic agreement will further promote our cooperation in trade and commerce.” He added, “The Motor Vehicles Agreement is the ‘overarching’ framework to fulfill our commitment to enhance regional connectivity. The agreement will help in creating transport corridors linking the four countries into economic corridors as well as enable transit of passengers and goods along designated key routes in the four SAARC countries, thereby reducing the time-consuming exercise of disembarking of passengers.”

China is outflanking Russia in the struggle to woo Europe

Neither Russia and China like the EU, but they've each got their ways of dealing with its members.

Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia during its Victory Day celebrations is a sign that relations between Russia and China are becoming increasingly cosy – but the two countries' competition for influence in Europe is running as high as ever.

Both Russia and China share a suspicion of the EU’s integration project, a grand supranational organism that limits its member states’ sovereignty but combines their geopolitical heft. After all, both Moscow and Beijing carry more weight in bilateral dealings with small member states than they do when dancing with the EU behemoth – and they would prefer it to stay that way.

But their motivations for dealing with Europe in the way they do are very different.

Is North Korea's 'Byungjin Line' on the US-China Strategic Agenda?

June 20, 2015

Are the United States and China on the same page regarding North Korea’s Byungjin line? 

On Friday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the United States and China are planning on discussing North Korea’s nuclear program when senior leaders from both sides meet for their annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) next week. Yonhap based its report off comments made by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel during a recent press briefing ahead of the S&ED.

Russel implicitly referenced a joint U.S.-China opposition to North Korea’s “Byungjin Line”—the country’s policy of pursuing the parallel goals of economic development and a robust nuclear weapons program. Russel referred to that policy as a “fantasy,” noting that Pyongyang couldn’t “have its cake and eat it too.” Yonhap, thus, chose to call this out in its headline: “U.S., China to discuss ways to get N. Korea out of ‘fantasy’ of ‘byeongjin’ policy.” Russel notes that the United States and China will:

China: Africa's New Power Broker

June 22, 2015 

In South Sudan, China has established itself as a regional player.

When South Sudan achieved its independence from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s brutal rule in 2011, hopes were high as U.S.-led foreign investment and aid flooded into the world’s newest country. Yet, since a civil war broke out in December 2013, over 50,000 people are estimated to have died, over 1.4 million have been displaced, and 40 percent of the country’s population will face acute hunger in the next few months. Where did it all go wrong?

In July 2013, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir of the powerful Dinka ethnic group fired Vice President Riek Machar of the smaller Nuer tribe, claiming he was plotting a coup to oust Kiir from power. The army quickly split along Dinka-Nuer lines, as Machar fled the capital Juba along with Nuer soldiers to launch a rebellion from the oil-rich areas in the Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei States where the Nuer are based.

China’s Military Strategy

Challenge and Opportunity for the U.S.

China outlined a strategy to boost its naval reach on Tuesday and announced plans for the construction of two lighthouses in disputed waters, developments likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing’s maritime ambitions.

This post was provided by contributor Chad Pillai, an U.S. Army strategist. The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

China recently published its new Military Strategy. Within this strategy China must be given credit for clearly articulating its version of the “Monroe Doctrine” for the Asia-Pacific region and its desire to no longer play second fiddle to the U.S. globally. Unlike the current U.S. national security strategy, China’s strategy is more narrowly focused on securing its near abroad (the first island chain) while also expanding its military reach to secure its interests globally. Meanwhile, the U.S. faces a complex global landscape, and must confront threats perceived and real emanating from multiple angles while managing significant fiscal constraints.


20 Jun 2015

The bombshells just keep coming in the Office of Personnel Management’s hack, which is bidding to eclipse Obamacare’s launch as the most stunning example of Big Government incompetence in the Information Age. The latest bad news is that Chinese hackers had a full year to rummage around inside the OPM’s security clearance system–plenty of time to take just about anything they wanted.

The considerable lag time between breach and discovery means that the adversary had more time to pull off a cyber-heist of consequence, said Stewart Baker, a former National Security Agency general counsel.

“The longer you have to exfiltrate the data, the more you can take,” he said. “If you’ve got a year to map the network, to look at the file structures, to consult with experts and then go in and pack up stuff, you’re not going to miss the most valuable files.”

“This is some of the most sensitive non-classified information I could imagine the Chinese getting access to,” said Baker, who also is a former senior policy official in the Department of Homeland Security.

Tajikistan's Former Special Police Commander Appears in Second ISIS Video

June 19, 2015

In his second video, Gulmurod Halimov threatens his brother and a government cleric. 
Tajikistan has once again reportedly blocked access to various social media websites in response to the appearance of a second video featuring Gulmurod Halimov, the now-infamous (now former) commander of the country’s special police (OMON) who defected to ISIS in May.

According to Edward Lemon, who researches Tajik militants in Iraq and Syria, in the video Halimov is “lounging between two Tajik militants, and sporting a bushier beard than in his first video.” Ranting in Tajik, rather than Russian, Halimov threatens to behead his older brother Saidmurod and also makes threats against Hoji Mirzo, a government-sanctioned cleric who has spoken against ISIS.

Meet Saudi Arabia's Biggest (and Most Controversial) Twitter Star

Saudi Arabia continues to coddle extremist preachers like Saleh bin Awad al-Moghamsy while preaching brotherhood and tolerance.

Saudi Arabia is changing, some say. The authoritarian desert kingdom is becoming more responsive to the will of its people and the demands of the global information economy, say others. This idea is rooted in the notion that technology is forcing the austere monarchy to join the Internet age. Indeed, even Saudi Arabia’s oppressive religious police recently joined Twitter.

But, as it turns out, that same police force reportedly shut down 10,117 Twitter accounts in 2014 for “religious and ethical violations” online. Many Saudi citizens have been subjected to harsh sentences for online activism, including by terror courts; blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to an astonishing 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for a conviction just reaffirmed by the kingdom’s top court.

Information Warfare: What Islamic Terrorists Love And Hate Most Of All

June 18, 2015: In May 2015 Islamic terrorists in northwest India (Kashmir) carried out several days of attacks on the cell phone system. Some 40 percent of the 3,000 towers in Kashmir were damaged and cell phone stores were attacked and cell phone companies threatened. It took over a week to repair most of the damage but the threats are still hanging over those who sell the phones or maintain the service. This sort of attack was pioneered by the Afghan Taliban who were alarmed at how widespread use of cell phone service in the countryside made it easier for the security forces to find out where Taliban groups were and what they were up to. Simply attacking the cell phone towers and companies that maintained them was only a temporary solution. The cell phone service is very popular with the populations Islamic terrorists operate among and say they fight for. That popularity is why such anti-cell phone campaigns ultimately fail. The Kashmir Islamic terrorists, as is often the case, no longer care much about public support because they have lost most of it after two decades of violence and not much to show for it. Meanwhile the Indian government bought cell phone jammers to be deployed in border areas where Islamic terrorists are trying to sneak into Kashmir from Pakistan. The Islamic terrorists depend on the cell phones too and not just in Kashmir.

Is the Islamic State on the Rise in Gaza?

JUNE 17, 2015 

Hamas is fighting a group that’s even more radical and violent than it is. 

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Iyad al-Buzm leaned forward against his lavender desk and tried to sound reassuring. “Gaza is perfectly safe. You can walk anywhere at three in the morning,” said the spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry. “There is no Islamic State in Gaza.”

A few hours later on June 11, sirens went off in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, announcing the third barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian militants in less than two weeks. A group inspired by the Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility and promised more attacks. The rockets in the most recent attack fell short, but two previous rockets cleared the border and landed around Ashkelon. None caused any damage.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grown fond of comparing Hamas with the band of jihadis, which now controls much of Iraq and Syria. After his September speech at the United Nations, in which he called Hamas and the Islamic State “branches of the same poisonous tree,” an exasperated Yonit Levi, the anchor of Israeli Channel 2’s main news bulletin, was caught on camera exclaiming, “Dear God, it’s 45 minutes of ‘ISIS is Hamas, Hamas is ISIS!’”

BLOOD YEAR Terror and the Islamic State


Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

My driver pulls up to a resort in the Empty Quarter. It’s after dawn. We’ve been driving for hours across the desert from Abu Dhabi and are near the Saudi border now; past this point the sand stretches hundreds of empty miles. The place is all minarets and battlements – Classical Arabia, as imagined by a designer with grand tastes and an unlimited budget. We cross a causeway between dunes and enter a courtyard past BMWs, a Mercedes and two camouflaged jeeps.

Over the last mile we’ve been penetrating a series of tightening security layers. Helicopters hover beyond the crest, sniffer teams trawl the complex for bombs and bugs, and dogs bark from the checkpoint, half a mile out, where police search cars and bags. All but one entrance to the resort is sealed; there are no other guests. Inside are more dogs, a buzz of radios and a counter-assault team: burly guys with dark glasses and skin-tone earpieces, holsters visible below grey suits, machine-pistols discreetly within reach. Sentries step out of doorways to check credentials. Overhead a silver aerostat, a surveillance blimp positioned to detect the visual or heat signature of anyone approaching across the desert, glints in the sun. The sponsor is taking no chances.

Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America

Jun 20, 2015

Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason
The tragedy in Charleston last week will no doubt lead to more discussion of several important and recurring issues in American culture—particularly racism and gun violence—but these dialogues are unlikely to bear much fruit until the nation undertakes a serious self-examination. Decrying racism and gun violence is fine, but for too long America’s social dysfunction has continued to intensify as the nation has ignored a key underlying pathology: anti-intellectualism.

America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof's actions on America's culture of racism and gun violence, but it's time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation's culture of ignorance. 

The Odd American View of Negotiation

June 20, 2015 

One of the unfortunate corollaries of American exceptionalism is a warped and highly asymmetric conception of negotiation. This conception can become a major impediment to the effective exercise of U.S. diplomacy. Although the attitudes that are part of this view of negotiation are not altogether unique to the United States, they are especially associated with American exceptionalist thinking about the supposed intrinsic superiority of U.S. positions and about how the sole superpower ought always to get its way. The corollary about negotiation is, stated in its simplest and bluntest terms, that negotiation is an encounter between diplomats in which the United States makes its demands—sometimes expressed as “red lines”—and the other side accepts those demands, with the task of the diplomats being to work out the details of implementation. Or, if the other side is not going along with that script and acceding to U.S. demands, then the United States has to exert more pressure on the other side until it does accede.

This is markedly different from the rest of the world's conception of negotiation, in which each side begins with positions that neither side will get or expects to get entirely, followed by a process of give-and-take and mutual concession to arrive at a compromise that meets the needs of each side enough that it is better for each than no agreement at all.

The Agreement That Will Save Ukraine

Here's how the West and Russia might be able to peacefully resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

Despite the Minsk-II ceasefire agreement signed in February, the civil war currently being waged in eastern Ukraine between government forces and separatist rebels is all but frozen. In a pattern akin to the gradual collapse of the earlier Minsk-I Protocol, small-scale skirmishes have been frequent occurrences over the past five months, while more-recent battles foreshadow a return to larger, conventional military confrontations.

For those caught in the crossfire, the costs of the fighting continue to mount. To date, the conflict has claimed over 6,300 lives, wounded over 15,500 and displaced over 1.7 million people. The Ukrainian economy isn’t doing well, industrial production is collapsing and the value of the hryvnia hasplummeted.

Exposed: Iran's Super Strategy to Crush America in a War

June 20, 2015 

Iran would be able to impose prohibitive costs on the U.S. military, even before the occupation began.

Since assuming office in 2009, President Barack Obama has consistently held that the United States would carry out airstrikes to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This position is supported by the vast majority of U.S. policy makers, lawmakers and the political elite, regardless of political affiliation.

Nonetheless, it is also generally agreed that airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities would only have a limited impact on preventing Iran from acquiring the bomb. To be sure, a concerted airstrike effort against Iran would delay its ability to build a nuclear arsenal by several years. Nonetheless, Iran would be able to rebuild its nuclear facilities before long, especially given the windfall in economic relief it would undoubtedly receive once the sanctions regime against it unraveled in response to America’s military action.

Intelligence: Death By Cellphone

June 14, 2015: Cellphone cameras have become a major source of military intelligence and this is especially true with counter-terrorism operations. The United States recently revealed how a picture an Islamic terrorist took of himself with his cellphone (a selfie) revealed the location of an ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) headquarters, which was promptly bombed. Such incidents are more common with poorly trained irregulars, but even well trained troops have problems with “cellphone discipline”. This problem is a 21 st century one and it has been getting worse.

Incorporating cameras into cell phones first showed up in 2000 and the practice quickly spread. This proved to be very popular and as such phones became cheaper, and their cameras more capable military intelligence agencies warned that troops were taking a lot of pictures, especially when in combat zones. This was leading to a lot of pictures that could reveal military secrets. Efforts to ban troops use of cellphones in combat zones or inside classified areas had some success, but that only reduced the flood of useful (so intelligence experts) cellphone photos it did not eliminate it. This became particularly the case as cellphone networks entered the 3rd generation (3G) about the same time cellphone cameras were introduced. This enabled cellphone users to take photos and immediately send them to someone else, or post them to a website. By 2010 social networks were growing in popularity and cellphone users competed to take and post photos of all sorts of things, often getting newsworthy photos into circulation well before the traditional media. Cellphones with 3G capabilities became so cheap that even many Islamic terrorists and most military personnel had them.

Martin van Creveld explains why our actions in the Syrian civil war will fail

By Martin van Creveld
11 June 2015

Summary: Today Martin van Creveld, one of our generation’s most acute geopolitical analysts, gives a brilliant brief on the Syrian civil war, putting it in the larger context of America’s mad Middle Eastern policy. I recommend reading, especially his conclusions. (2nd of 2 posts today.

“Any wise enemy is better than an ignorant friend.” — Arab proverb.

For Bashir Assad, the bells have been tolling. If one believes the media, he and the regime he represents are on their last legs. Whether or not that is true is not at issue here — similar predictions have been heard ever since civil war broke out in Syria four years ago. What I do want to do is take a look at the origins of the war, the way it has been going, and what the future may look like in case the predictions come true.

The decisive fact about the Assad — meaning, in Arabic, “Lion” — family is that they are Alawites. The Alawites are a section within the Sunni Shia tradition. They do not, however, form part of the mainstream. Some Islamic scholars do not even regard them as Muslims; claiming that they are basically pagans who worship the moon and the stars. The community is scattered among Syria, Turkey and Lebanon. It is, however, only in Syria that they form a significant minority, counting perhaps one seventh of the population. That explains why Bashir’s paternal grandfather, Ali Suleiman al Assad (1875-1963), supported French colonial rule. He and his fellow Alawites knew well enough how majority Muslims deal with minority ones.

The Only Thing Worse than Misusing SOF is Policy Makers Misusing SOF Operational Methods as a Strategy

June 17, 2015

The Only Thing Worse than Misusing SOF is Policy Makers Misusing SOF Operational Methods as a Strategy

Special operations forces are a national grand-strategic asset: they are a tool of statecraft that can be employed quite surgically in support of diplomacy, of foreign assistance (of several kinds), as vital adjunct to regular military forces, or as an independent weapon. Colin S. Gray

For decades now Special Operations Forces have made numerous important contributions to the military services from equipment to tactics to actual operations. From pioneering night vision flying to development of advanced weapons, body armor, personal equipment and advanced communications, much of the military equipment that is now service common was once SOF unique. The room and building clearing techniques that are used by every Army and Marine squad and platoon were once classified tactics used by special mission units.

Stratfor has 11 chilling predictions for what the world will look like a decade from now

Russia will collapse ...

"There will not be an uprising against Moscow, but Moscow's withering ability to support and control the Russian Federation will leave a vacuum," Stratfor warns. "What will exist in this vacuum will be the individual fragments of the Russian Federation."

The New World Disorder

Not in our backyard: Islamic State militants stand behind what are said to be Ethiopian Christians in Wilayat Fazzan, in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website on April 19, 2015.

By any definition, the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, this week was an act of terror, no less so than Ku Klux Klan lynchings throughout the South in decades past. Yet without minimizing the act’s tragedy, horror, or broader social implications, it’s worth noting that—compared with the rest of the world—terrorism in America, or terrorism affecting Americans, is a rare occurrence.

On Friday the State Department released the latest edition of its annualCountry Reports on Terrorism. In 2014, according to its findings, 32,700 people were killed in terrorist attacks—of whom just 24 were American citizens.

The ISIS Twitter census: Defining and describing the population of ISIS supporters on Twitter

By: J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan

Although much ink has been spilled on ISIS’s activity on Twitter, very basic questions about the group’s social media strategy remain unanswered. In a new analysis paper, J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan answer fundamental questions about how many Twitter users support ISIS, who and where they are, and how they participate in its highly organized online activities.

Previous analyses of ISIS’s Twitter reach have relied on limited segments of the overall ISIS social network. The small, cellular nature of that network—and the focus on particular subsets within the network such as foreign fighters—may create misleading conclusions. This information vacuum extends to discussions of how the West should respond to the group’s online campaigns.

Berger and Morgan present a demographic snapshot of ISIS supporters on Twitter by analyzing a sample of 20,000 ISIS-supporting Twitter accounts. Using a sophisticated and innovative methodology, the authors map the locations, preferred languages, and the number and type of followers of these accounts.

Among the key findings:

Google, Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla team up to create faster browsers

Engineers at Google, Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla are partnering to createWebAssembly (a.k.a wasm), a bytecode for use in the browsers of the future that promises up to 20 times faster performance.

WebAssembly is a project to create a new bytecode (a machine-readable instruction set that’s quicker for browsers to load than high-level languages) that’s more efficient for both desktop and mobile browsers to parse than the full source code of a Web page or app.

Browsers currently use JavaScript to interpret code and enable functionality on websites such as forms and dynamic content. Improvements have been made to load times via asm.js, but bytecode-based systems like .NET are faster.

Japan: Controversy Over the National Anthem

June 22, 2015

Educators and bureaucrats take their fight over the national anthem to court. 

Tokyo’s district court recently ordered a school to pay 537 million yen ($4.4 million) in compensation to a group of former high school teachers on May 25, after the school refused to rehire them for not standing and singing “Kimigayo,” the Japanese national anthem at ceremonies. The school claimed that they did not hire the group since they were past employment age.

The Japanese national anthem has been a topic of controversy and debate for years, especially between teachers and school administrators. Japanese public schools hold many ceremonies over the school year, during which they are required to raise the Hinomaru flag and sing the national anthem.

The New MAD World: A Cold War Strategy for Cyberwar

Many will argue that cyber MAD is a bad idea. Here's why they're wrong.

In his memoir, retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Glenn Kent details how he and a team of researchers at the RAND Corp developed the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) in the early 1960s. As Kent tells the story, his team of researchers was tasked with identifying those systems the Department of Defense (DoD) should invest in to protect the population from Soviet nuclear weapons. The choices ranged from expensive ballistic missile defenses to inexpensive civil defense programs—those that taught children to hide under their desks, for example.

One Monetary Policy to Rule Them All

June 22, 2015 

"The best monetary policy for the aggregate is detrimental to some of the parts."

Differing regions of the United States benefitted unequally from the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing, and these regions will not react identically to less accommodative monetary policy. Further, quantitative easing (QE) and other extraordinary measures distorted the usual correlations between monetary policy and regional economies. By widening the disparity in economic conditions between regions, the aggregate statistics masked weakness in some areas with strength in others. This disparity in regional economies poses a problem for the Fed as it moves toward raising interest rates. The Fed designs one monetary policy to rule all, and the best monetary policy for the aggregate is detrimental to some of the parts.

The most iconic photos of the 20th Century

Alastair Sooke 

An exhibition at the Rijksmuseum documents the history of photography in the last century. Alastair Sooke discusses the growing importance of the medium.

“The 20th Century is the age of photography,” says Mattie Boom, curator of photography at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. “More than painting or sculpture, it is the century’s most influential art form by far. When the first Kodak camera was launched in 1888, it sold around 5,000 units. By the 1960s, Kodak was selling 70 million Instamatic cameras. So photography in the 20th Century was huge. And today we are drowning in an ocean of images.”

We are standing in the middle of Modern Times, a new exhibition charting the history of photography during the 20th Century. From the Rijksmuseum’s holdings of around 30,000 prints in this area, Boom and her co-curator Hans Rooseboom have selected 400 impressive photographs to lend coherent narrative shape to a vast and potentially sprawling subject.



THE ‘DARK WEB’ may be close to becoming a household name. After the conviction of Ross Ulbricht, the owner of the drug marketplace Silk Road, and a stream of articles claiming that the Islamic State is using secret websites to plan out attacks, this hidden part of the Internet is being talked about more than ever.

But for the most part, the story you’ve been sold about the dark web is a myth.

I know this because I’ve been there. Since 2013, I’ve interviewed the staff of drug marketplaces about theirpaid DEA double-agents, tracked how technologically sophisticated pedophiles cover up their tracks, and also discovered that active Uber accounts were being sold on the dark web for as little as a dollar each. I’ve also learned that the real story is not at all the one you commonly hear—the tale of a gigantic space below our usual web, where hard-to-find vices are traded among sordid individuals totally beyond the grasp of the authorities. That is not what the dark web is.

Burma Backslides on Freedom of the Press

JUNE 19, 2015

In August 2012, the Burmese government announced that it was abolishing the system of censorship that had been in place, more or less uninterrupted, for the previous half century. The period since then has witnessed a remarkable flowering of expression. Newspapers, magazines, and broadcast outlets have proliferated, and journalists have subjected hitherto taboo topics to close public scrutiny

Over the past few months, however, the tide seems to be turning for Burma’s newly self-assertive press.

Over the past few months, however, the tide seems to be turning for Burma’s newly self-assertive press. Reporters are complaining of growing pressure from the authorities. Journalists are landing in jail or facing lawsuits from disgruntled officials. Earlier this week, the human rights organization Amnesty International published a report that describes a “climate of fear” that was leading many members of the media to exercise “self-censorship” rather than face reprisals for reporting on sensitive topics.

IDF to unify cyber warfare units

Author: Ben Caspit
June 18, 2015

New Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot salutes during a handover ceremony at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, in which he replaced Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Feb. 16, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot recently decided to create a “cyber branch” within the Israel Defense Forces to consolidate all of Israel’s cyber capabilities into a single fist. This branch will identify the candidates it wants to become cyber specialists, train them, drill them, build up their skills and activate them. It will encompass all operational capacities pertaining to cyber warfare, including defense, offense and intelligence collection. Just like Israel’s air force, it will provide services to all of the IDF’s branches, divisions and commands that require its services.

For example, if the IDF decides to conduct a secret raid on some target deep in enemy territory, representatives of the cyber branch will participate in the planning of the operation.