14 July 2015

Built on hype, deflated by reality

July 14, 2015

The Indo-U.S nuclear deal and its much-advertised energy, technological and strategic benefits for India still seem elusive. Given the heavy political investment in it, the returns seem to be little and one-sided.

Unveiled with great fanfare on July 18, 2005, the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal was touted as a major transformative initiative. But on its 10th anniversary this week, its much-advertised energy, technological and strategic benefits for India still seem elusive. Indeed, the deal has yet to be commercialised. The premise on which it was founded — that India could build energy “security” by importing high-priced, foreign fuel-dependent reactors — was, in any case, a pipe dream.

The deal, given the heavy political investment in it, will eventually be operationalised, however belatedly. It will take a minimum of 10 years thereafter for the first nuclear power reactor under the deal to come online. After all, the international plant construction time frame, with licensing approval, now averages at least a decade, with the vast majority of reactors currently under construction in the world plagued by serious delays and cost overruns.

India’s Vijay at Kargil: Lessons that Remain Unlearnt from the Past

By Brig Amar Cheema
13 Jul , 2015

“The Kargil Operation was an audacious attempt to seize an opportunity of historic proportions.”[1]

The 1999 military confrontation on the heights of Kargil was a perilous episode in the ongoing Indo-Pakistan conflict as unlike the past, this could have easily spiralled beyond Kashmir. The conflict has been characterized based on its scope, intensity and context. Mr. Peter Lavoy comments: “This crisis, in comparison to previous conflicts in the region, drew an unprecedented level of controversy, competing narratives and implications for domestic politics not specifically for Pakistan, but also for India and for the course of international relations in South Asia.”[2] The Kargil War, which has been described as a ‘limited’ war,[3] since the ‘ends’ and ‘means’ were limited, has also been classified as an escalation of the ongoing Indo-Pak ‘proxy war.’ In a way, it was all that, but more as it was fought with the added risk of a nuclear exchange. Nevertheless, it was also a war that should never have taken place, and the fact that it did, especially in the way it could have manifested, was a grim reminder that India was reacting, yet again, and this remains the nub of the questions that are being brought up in this article.

Kargil Controversy: An IAF Response

By Air Marshal RS Bedi
Issue: Vol 25.1 Jan-Mar 2010 | Date : 13 Jul , 2015

Lt Gen Harwant’s article “Kargil Controversy : Sorry State of Higher Defence Management”, published in October-December 2009 issue of the Indian Defence Review is laudable for its comprehensive and all encompassing critique. Though written with an advantage of hindsight after a long span of ten years, he somehow ends up making the issue still more controversial, especially with regard to the role of the Indian Air Force. One does not have to berate the other merely to prove a point, that the Chief of the Defence Staff is an urgent need of the hour if Higher Defence Management is to improve. I have no reason to believe that the article is a deliberate misrepresentation of facts. I am in fact inclined to attribute it to inadequate understanding of fundamental precepts of air power. I would therefore dwell on some of these issues raised by the General and hopefully set the records straight in the interest of inter service bonhomie.

India Preparing to Conduct Missile Test Launch From Homemade Ballistic Missile Sub

July 12, 2015

India’s Nuclear Triad in Sights as INS Arihant Preps for First Missile Test

The indigenously made nuclear submarine - INS Arihant - will fire its first missile, also made in India, this year to formally complete the nuclear triad for India, according to top defence research officials. Arihant will also go for its first deep sea dive soon, giving India the ability to launch a nuclear missile from air, land and sea.

In an exclusive interview to NDTV, the newly appointed Director General of Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO,) Dr S Christopher said that India is in the process of building two more Arihant-class-submarines.

The firing of the indigenously made missile is capable of delivering a nuclear pay load, an important milestone for India’s defence production. It signifies the completion nuclear triad. The missile code named B-05 will be India’s first Submarine launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM).

Vietnam After 2016: Who Will Lead?

Who is most likely to emerge from the next party congress as general secretary?

Every five years, the Vietnamese Communist Party holds its National Congress. Among other important policy issues, the party congress chooses the central leadership teams, to govern both the party and the country. If the 11th party congress (2011) is any guide, the new Central Committee, which will be elected by all delegates at the coming 12th party congress (to be held in 2016), will select a new general secretary (Tổng Bí Thư), a new Politburo (Bộ Chính Trị), a new Secretariat (Ban Bí Thư), and a new Central Commission of Inspection (Uỷ Ban Kiểm Tra Trung Ương).

Of particular interest is this: Who will emerge from the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam as the new general secretary?

Political Context

Poisoning the Well of U.S.-China Relations

Blaming “hostile foreign forces” for economic and social ills trades short-term gain for long-term pain.
It was bound to happen. As China’s stock market continued its wild ride, dropping 30 percent by early July from a seven-year high only a month prior, rumors started swirling that Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and George Soros, among other vague forces of international capital, were to blame for the stock market plunge. No matter that foreign investors have only limited access to mainland Chinese stock exchanges, the current Chinese leadership has become addicted to the foreigner blame game. The phrase “hostile foreign forces” has become a catch-all for Chinese officials, scholars, and media commentators who cannot acknowledge the reality of China’s current political and economic situation.

China Wants to Develop a New Long-Range Strategic Bomber

China needs to develop a new long-range strike bomber capable of attacking targets farther out in the Pacific. This is the principal conclusion of a meeting of Chinese military officials, according to AFP citing a full-page China Daily article published last Tuesday as its source.

In the meeting the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) was also referred to as a “strategic force” a title usually reserved for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Second Artillery Corps – Beijing’s “de facto strategic missile force,” according to China Daily.

The new bomber should be capable of striking targets as far as the “second island chain” – an area stretching from the Kurils in the North through Japan, the Bonins, the Marianas, the Carolines and Indonesia in the South – the paper further states.

The PLA’s definition of a long-range strategic bomber is a minimum range of 8,000 km (5,000 miles) without refueling and the capacity to carry a payload of more than 10 tons of air-to-ground ammunition.

Russia vs. China: The Race to Dominate the Defense Market

July 13, 2015

In the long run, who will have the upper hand?

China’s defense industry has long stood in the shadow of its Russian counterpart. Early in the Cold War, Soviet industry provided the foundations for the Chinese military-industrial complex through the licensing of technology, the transfer of assembly kits and the provision of advisors. Later, after the Sino-Soviet split, the Chinese struggled to keep pace, assembling usually inferior knock-offs of state-of-the-art Soviet equipment. After the end of the Cold War, Russian technology exports helped jump-start China’s defense industry, which had remained moribund for much of the Deng Xiaoping era.

Chinese industry can still learn much from Russia, but in many areas it has caught up with its model. The vibrancy of China’s tech sector suggests that Chinese military technology will leap ahead of Russian tech in the next decade. Historically, China’s military exports have occupied a different, lesser tier than Russian. Within the next decade, however, we should expect that Russia and China will fight hard for market share in the following five areas:

Fighter Aircraft

The Future of U.S. Intelligence: Adapting to Deal with China

July 13, 2015

The United States needs to reevaluate the way it approaches intelligence if it is to be effective in the 21st century. 
In an April interview with Charlie Rose, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told Charlie Rose that the U.S. intelligence effort should focus on problems that only the Intelligence Community (IC) can do—and China was not one of them. Morell said “Anybody can give you an opinion of who's up and who's down in the Chinese Communist Party.” The collapse of a China policy consensus, to paraphrase a recent commentator, however, demonstrates how wrong he is that anyone can evaluate China, its politics, and its future. It is quite possible the IC is the only place where China’s veil of secrecy can be pierced and the perceptive analyst is free from retribution. But if accurately understanding Beijing and its intentions could have prevented U.S. thinking on China from arriving at this tragic juncture, then intelligence policymakers need to reconsider the continuing importance of states and what it means to be an IC expert on China.

Assessing China remains one of the critical challenges for the U.S. Intelligence Community, even as many would-be intelligence reformers condemn states to the dustbin of history and irrelevance for the future of U.S. intelligence. As critical as I am of most writing on intelligence reform, the status quo for IC analysts and their careers, at least on China, cannot continue.

South Korea’s 'Good Neighbor' Initiative

July 13, 2015

To heal the wounds of the historical past between South Korea and Japan, President Park’s “two-track diplomacy” needs additional support.
Japan–South Korea relations are seeing a glimpse of hope for change. While the two countries have allowed mutual affront to obscure shared interests, values and geography in the past few years, a recent talk by South Korean president Park Geun-hye signaled that a change is underway. On May 4, 2015, President Park expounded that South Korea will pursue a “two-track diplomacy” toward Japan, separating current governmental relations from historical disputes deriving from Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Within two months after President Park’s talk, foreign ministers from Japan and South Korea met in Tokyo and agreed to resume dialogue to cooperate on certain issues and areas. In terms of advancing relations between Japan and South Korea, the Park administration’s diplomatic strategy so far is off to a good start.

The Limits of Chinese Soft Power

JULY 13, 2015

CAMBRIDGE – China has been making major efforts to increase its ability to influence other countries without force or coercion. In 2007, then-President Hu Jintao told the Communist Party that the country needed to increase its soft power; President Xi Jinping repeated the same message last year. They know that, for a country like China, whose growing economic and military power risks scaring its neighbors into forming counter-balancing coalitions, a smart strategy must include efforts to appear less frightening. But their soft-power ambitions still face major obstacles.

To be sure, China’s efforts have had some impact. As China enrolls countries as members of its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and doles out billions of dollars of aid during state visits abroad, some observers worry that, when it comes to soft power, China could actually be taking the lead over countries like the United States. The American sinologist David Shambaugh, for example, estimatesthat the country spends roughly $10 billion a year in “external propaganda.” By comparison, the US spent only $666 million on public diplomacy last year.

China and Russia Lay Foundation for Massive Economic Cooperation

JULY 10, 2015

China and Russia Lay Foundation for Massive Economic Cooperation

In the past decade, Beijing and Moscow have been more competitors than partners. But that relationship may now be changing as Russian and Chinese leaders are considering combining their two countries’ regional economic projects — the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt, respectively.

While meeting at a two-day summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Ufa, Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are reportedly discussing a framework that would merge China’s multi-billion dollar network of roads, railways, and pipelines through Central Asia with the Eurasian Union, the post-Soviet economic bloc that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia. The two projects would be combined under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and if the proposal is completed, it would make the opaque organization the preeminent economic body from Shanghai to St. Petersburg.


July 14, 2015 

In the past year, sensationalized media coverage of the Islamic State has reinvigorated discussions about how best to counter violent extremism (CVE). Though governments and organizations have been discussing and lightly implementing CVE efforts for years, it remains a concept whose parameters are notoriously ill-defined.

CVE’s largest challenge resides in its definition ― there is no consensus (international or domestic) on what CVE is and what efforts it encompasses. Ongoing efforts to counter violent extremism are beset by little or no research underlying their premises, misconceptions about drivers of radicalization persist, and ultimately there seems no easy way to measure the effectiveness of any given CVE program.

Despite its limitations, conducting CVE programs has merit ― assuming those undertaking it know what is feasible and what is not. For example, though CVE is touted as a longer-term tool for countering terrorism, one that focuses on the drivers of radicalization, it is too often wielded as a quick fix designed to counter the latest terrorist recruitment technique. This quick fix attitude uses CVE as a short-term solution to the detriment of understanding how recruitment and radicalization to violence actually happens. Nowhere is this issue more pronounced than when it comes to countering the terrorist narrative ― a much-heralded and oft-used CVE approach that is nearly boundless in scope.

Islamic State Releases New Footage Showing Scenes From Massacre of 1,700 Iraqi Troops

July 12, 2015 

The so-called Islamic State (IS) has released new video footage of the massacre it carried out at a military base near Tikrit in northern Iraq, where militants slaughtered an estimated 1,700 pro-government soldiers in June 2014.

The 22-minute film, made from a mix of old and new footage, shows militants tossing military recruits from Camp Speicher off the back of a truck on top of each other.

"These are not civilians, they are all military and special servicemen," an unidentified IS fighter says to the camera. "All are apostates who have come from cities of apostates to kill Sunnis here, we have more than 2,000 of them."

The recruits — most from the Shiite Muslim community — are then made to march bent over and with their hands tied behind their backs through the streets in single file to an execution site. There, they are lined up face down on the ground before militants open fire. Some cover their heads and tremble as their companions are shot.

Out Jihad the Jihadi

Iraq needs a political solution — but what does that mean?

Diane Maye is a former Air Force officer, defense industry professional, and academic. She is a PhD candidate in Political Science at George Mason University where she studies Iraqi politics. She is a proud associate member of the Military Writers Guild. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

In a lecture to field grade officers at the U.S. Army War College in 1981, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Maxwell Taylor described strategy as the sum of ends, ways and means; where ends are the objectives one strives for, ways are the course of action, and means are the instruments by which they are achieved.
Strategy = Ends + Ways + Means

Martin van Creveld says: To understand ISIS, see its history

Summary: To gain a perspective to understand the Islamic State, Martin van Creveld looks at the history of the Middle East for its origins. Although written last year it remains as apt today as then (despite the monthly clickbait announcements of turning points in this war).
Van Gogh sees the history of the Middle East

Van Gogh’s Wheatfield (1890).
By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 24 September 2014
Here with his generous permission
What went wrong? A brief history of the Arab world.

Missing in Action: Where Are the Arabs in the Fight against ISIS?

Arab armies "lack the capacity for logistics, campaign planning, and all the supporting arms and assets needed to undertake an offensive campaign."

Some argue that ISIS in Iraq is an Arab problem. Ergo, it should be Arab boots on the ground that kick the land-grabbing insurgency from the field.

That argument has an undeniable appeal here in the United States. America is exhausted with wars. Leading from behind seems an attractive option. There is also the matter of the end game. A security framework requiring endless U.S. intervention in the Middle East doesn’t seem like a very sound strategy. A near constant drain on resources and attention might exacerbate America’s overstretch. Moreover, an overly intrusive U.S. presence might start as many fires as it puts out.

And then there are the cautions of history. “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly,” wrote T.E. Lawrence “of Arabia” nearly 100 years ago in his famous “Twenty Seven Articles.” “It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.”

Tunisia Needs to Do More to Fight Terrorism

July 13, 2015

"Tunisia may not be at the epicenter of the global fight against ISIS, but it can no longer sit on the sidelines."
The June 26 resort massacre in Tunisia that resulted in thirty-eight deaths revealed that the only Arab democracy is woefully underprepared to take on the brutality of the Islamic State. Like the March attack at Tunis’ Bardo museum, the beach and hotel had very limited security and the response times of police were insufficient to prevent dozens of casualties. Many of these shortcomings can be addressed with material aid and expertise from Europe and the United States as well as the willingness of a cooperative Tunisian government to begin prioritizing wholesale security sector reforms. 

While Tunisia may be a small fish in the larger fight against the Islamic State, its fate remains important since it has been the only country to emerge from the 2011 Arab uprisings with a democratically elected government and a hard-fought constitution. Unlike its neighbors, Tunisia so far is passing the test of whether secular and Islamist political parties can coexist peacefully.

The New Containment: Changing America's Approach to Middle East Security

JULY 6, 2015

Securing the Middle East after an Iran nuclear deal is the next big challenge for both the region and the international community. The United States and its allies have engaged in tireless diplomacy with Iran over the past few years to produce an agreement that would limit Tehran's nuclear program for the next decade and a half. However, the hard work does not stop here; in fact, it may have just begun. To protect the deal (assuming one is finalized) and take full advantage of its potential benefits, which include the drastic reduction of the risk of nuclear weapons proliferating in the region, the United States needs a comprehensive strategy for regional security in the Middle East. A potential nuclear deal with Iran—as strategically significant as it is—is only one piece of the Middle East security puzzle.


July 13, 2015 

On June 26, 2015, Seifeddine Rezgui shot and killed 38 tourists, 30 of them British, in a resort in Tunisia before he was himself killed by local police. The attack was the second-worst terrorist attack against British citizens, behind the July 7, 2005 attacks in London, which had killed 52 civilians. Targeting European holiday-makers, the attack recalled the infamous al Qaeda attack in Bali in 2002, which killed 200 Australian tourists. The strategic and political implications of the attack are likely to be significant, therefore.

However, one of the most interesting aspects of the attack was not the political, and still less the military, response of the United Kingdom to this atrocity, but rather Britain’s cultural and specifically lapidary response. How did Britain choose to honor and memorialize the victims?

U.S. Must Come To Its Senses About Russia

July 12, 2015

Pres. Vladimir Putin at the opening of the International Military-Technical Forum ARMY-2015.
During his appointment hearing to become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Dunford told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that if they “want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia. And if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

As it became later known, the General’s opinion is not in line with John Kerry’s opinion. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the Secretary of State “doesn’t agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States, nor China, quite frankly.”

However, Toner acknowledged the fact that Dunford is “expected to provide his views, his assessment on which nations or entities pose a threat to the United States. And that’s his job.”

Putin’s erratic policy vs. Obama’s weak policy

A Brief Open Source History of the Syrian Barrel Bomb

July 8, 2015

Over the last 3 years one weapon has come to represent the brutality of the Syrian military’s campaign against its own people, the so-called “barrel bomb”. While now it is widely accepted as being a key part of the Syrian military’s arsenal there was a time when barrel bomb use in Syria was still somewhat of a mystery, with the use of barrel bombs being dismissed by supporters of the Syrian government as nothing more than a fantasy. Over the months and years since the first use of barrel bombs in Syria it was possible to collect compelling evidence through social media and open source investigation, and to track the use of barrel bombs over time.

On August 22nd 2012 two videos from the town of Batbo, Aleppo, were published on YouTube, showing the remains of what was described as a “hand-made bomb dropped by a helicopter”.

Shaping the Asia-Pacific Order: Don’t Count the US Out

With some foresight and leadership, the postwar system can survive.

For all the hand-wringing about China remaking Asia in its image – as evidenced in the recent controversy over Beijing’s new investment bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – reports of a U.S. retreat are greatly exaggerated.

Congress’s recent approval of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the likely approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Obama administration’s legacy trade deal, is the sort of economic statecraft that can update and sustain the open, ruled-based order. Yet as the pending demise of the EXIM Bank illustrates, such efforts have been all too rare.

Yes, a global diffusion of power from West to East is unfolding with potentially profound challenges to the international system under which the global economy has flourished since 1945. And yes, a shift in the center of economic gravity to the Asia-Pacific region has occurred.

Why Donald Trump Surged in the Polls (And Why It Matters)

"Large sectors of the American electorate are disgusted with the political establishment and will welcome any force that takes it on."

Donald Trump is not a pleasant man. He is egotistical, vain, bombastic, often mean-spirited. He revels in his financial superiority, which he conflates with human goodness. When he contorts his mouth into a kind of tube as he talks, you brace yourself for something outrageous—and it nearly always emerges as expected. His likability quotient, at least in terms of his public persona, is down somewhere in single digits.

And yet he has just taken hold of the American political system by the neck and doesn’t seem inclined to let go anytime soon. The political elites don’t know what to do or say about his sudden rise in the polls. The elite media default to their favorite hobby horse of political analysis—that any backlash to the current wave of immigration will simply destroy the Republican Party earlier than it would otherwise be destroyed, which is inevitable anyway so why bother?

Current State of the Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria

July 13, 2015

Nigeria: Trouble At The Top

Boko Haram violence has left over 600 dead in the last six weeks. Since Boko Haram began operating in 2002 they have caused over 13,000 deaths and they have little popular support even in the most conservative areas of the Moslem north. The army says it is still going after Boko Haram camps and bases. President Buhari unexpectedly ordered the army to stop using troops for manning highway checkpoints. This enabled Boko Haram gunmen to move more freely because the police did not replace all the abandoned army checkpoints. The early July checkpoint order was because the president felt that internal security is the job of the police and that the army was only helping out temporarily. Buhari is being criticized for the checkpoint order and for not acting to replace less capable military leaders and put more effective officers in charge. Buhari is a retired general and he knows how this works, but has said nothing about what he will do and when he will do it. This again raises questions about the ability of the government to coordinate army and police operations in the fight against Boko Haram. The new president now has to deal with accusations that the abandoned checkpoints played a role in the growing Boko Haram violence in the northeast. 

Why Russian Warplanes Keep Crashing

Matthew Bodner and Aaron Mehta
July 13, 2015

As the Kremlin continues to assert its air power in a bid to intimidate NATO allies in Europe and North America, its mostly Soviet-built aircraft are being pushed to their limits — a fact experts point to when attempting to explain the loss of five aircraft of different designs in just the past month.

The latest in the string of crashes came July 6, when a two-seat Su-24 strike fighter crashed at an air base outside of Khabarovsk, in Russia’s Far East, while trying to take off for a training exercise.

This follows the crashes of two MiG-29s, an Su-34 and a Tu-95, all in the last month — part of a larger trend of Russian aviation failures over the last several years as the Soviet-era fleets have fallen victim to age and substandard sustainment.

A source close to the Defense Ministry said on condition of anonymity that the crashes are the result of two key trends dogging Russia’s Air Force today — the overuse of old aircraft and a lack of qualified pilots.


July 13, 2015 

During his Senate confirmation hearing to replace Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Marine Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford was asked his opinion of the most serious threat facing the United States today. Given the continuing chaos across Syria and Iraq, one could easily assume his response would be “the Islamic State.” Another easy answer might have been China, especially considering its aggressive moves in the South China Sea and its proven ability to conduct costly cyberattacks on U.S. commercial and government computer networks. Conversely, the nominee for the nation’s top military position might have gone with something a little more unconventional, such as climate change.

But General Dunford didn’t choose any of these — instead, his answer was Russia. This may have come as a surprise to some. But when pressed by West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin to expand upon that response, Dunford cited a rather obvious reason for why Russia is at the top of his list. Specifically, he noted Russia’s nuclear arsenal makes it the only country in the world that poses an existential threat to the United States, and that its behavior lately has been “alarming.”

An Indian General Recalls How the World Failed Srebrenica 20 Years Ago

The UN created the illusion of ‘safe areas’ for Bosnia’s civilians without deploying the troops needed to protect them. The result was a tragedy of monumental proportions 

The 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide was commemorated worldwide on July 9. The United Nations Security Council observed a minute’s silence too, but a resolution condemning the 1995 massacre of 8,000 civilians in that small Bosnian town as a ‘crime of genocide’ was vetoed by Russia on the grounds that it was “politically motivated.” 

The UN’s failure to recognise and properly commemorate Srebrenica is fitting, if ironic, since it failed to prevent the crime in the first place. Why and how it failed is a story in itself. As the first Force Commander and Head of Mission of the United Nations Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia from March 3, 1992 to March 2, 1993, I can speak with some authority about a small part of that tragic tale. 

The cyber defense crisis

By Editorial Board 
July 11
A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

ANYONE WHO has ever filled out standard form 86 will attest that it is arduous. This 127-page “Questionnaire for National Security Positions” is part of the process of being cleared to handle the secrets of the U.S. government. It probes all kinds of sensitive moments in a person’s life: mental and emotional health, police records, alcohol or drug use, finances, employment history and friends overseas. For example, on page 62: “Do you have, or have you had, close and/or continuing contact with a foreign national within the last seven (7) years with whom you, or your spouse, or cohabitant are bound by affection, influence, common interests, and/or obligation?” A “yes” answer leads to more questions about the foreign contact.

Japan’s Robot Revolution

As the nation grapples with a shrinking workforce, are robots the solution?

Robots are serving customers in Japanese department stores and banks, as well as building advanced machines for the nation’s manufacturers. Has the future already arrived in Japan, or is the “robot revolution” sought by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe an impossible dream?
Opening Japan’s official Robot Revolution Initiative Council on May 15, Abe called on the nation’s corporate sector to “spread the use of robotics from large-scale factories to every corner of our economy and society.”

Backed by 200 companies and universities and chaired by Mitsubishi Electric’s Tamotsu Nomakuchi, the council aims to expand robotics throughout Japanese industry, with a goal of growing sales from 600 billion yen ($4.9 billion) a year to 2.4 trillion yen by 2020.

According to the council, robot technologies “possess the potential for solving social challenges, such as resolving labor shortages, releasing people from overwork, and improving productivity in a variety of sectors, ranging from production in the manufacturing industry, to medical services and nursing care, and to agriculture, construction and infrastructure maintenance.”

North Korea: A Passion for Propaganda Posters

Willem van der Bijl built an impressive collection of North Korean propaganda posters, until the regime had had enough.

Willem van der Bijl had an office in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, until in 2011 he was declared persona non grata. After twenty-four visits to the country, the North Korean government had enough of him. The Dutch stamp collector was placed behind North Korean bars in solitary confinement. He was interrogated for 15 hours a day for two weeks before eventually being expelled from the country. It not only put an end to Van der Bijl’s trips to North Korea, it also marked the end of his collection of North Korean propaganda posters.


When you pick up the phone, who you’re calling is none of the government’s business. The NSA’s domestic surveillance of phone metadata was the first program to be disclosed based on documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Americans have been furious about it ever since. The courts ruled it illegal, and Congress let the section of the Patriot Act that justified it expire (though the program lives on in a different form as part of the USA Freedom Act).

Yet XKEYSCORE, the secret program that converts all the data it can see into searchable events like web pages loaded, files downloaded, forms submitted, emails and attachments sent, porn videos watched, TV shows streamed, and advertisements loaded, demonstrates how Internet traffic can be even more sensitive than phone calls. And unlike the Patriot Act’s phone metadata program, Congress has failed to limit the scope of programs like XKEYSCORE, which is presumably still operating at full speed. Maybe Verizon stopped giving phone metadata to the NSA, but if a Verizon engineer uploads a spreadsheet full of this metadata without proper encryption, the NSA may well get it anyway by spying directly on the cables that the spreadsheet travels over.

5 Most Powerful Navies of All Time

July 12, 2015

There have been countless navies in the last three thousand years of human history. Built by seagoing nations or those wishing to expand into the realm of naval powers, multiple navies often compete to provide security and expand national influence.

The most powerful navy of each period of human history is always relative. The Greek Navy recounted by Herodotus is nowhere near as powerful as the U.S. Navy of Samuel Eliot Morison. Both made a sizable contribution to the security of their respective countries. Each was the most powerful navy of its time, and shaped the world around it to make the world we know today.

Greek Navy, Battle of Salamis, Second Persian Invasion (480 BC)

The Greek Navy at the time of Second Persian invasion was not the largest in the known world. Instead, it beat that navy and through its victory preserved western civilization.

Role of MI6 in Cold War Covert Action Operations Detailed

Dr. Rory Cormac
July 13, 2015

(W)Archives: “C’s List” — How the British Debated Covert Action in the Early Cold War

British archives contain little on covert action. The Secret Intelligence Service, (SIS, more commonly known as MI6) was only legally avowed in 1994 and is not well-known for transparency. It does not release files to the National Archives, and its own archive is exempt from the 1958 Public Records Act and is beyond the scope of the 2000 Freedom of Information Act. Moreover, the British state employs “weeders” to prevent other sensitive material from reaching the National Archives.

To be fair, a few years ago MI6 commissioned an excellent official history, written by Professor Keith Jeffery, to mark its centenary. As with many official histories however, readers remain unable to examine the sources for themselves. In addition, the history only went up to 1949 and primarily explored the service’s foremost task: intelligence gathering.

But what about covert action (a phrase used surprisingly often by British officialdom)? We know that MI6 has an event-shaping role today. However, popular wisdom dictates that during the Cold War Britain’s political leadership were fundamentally opposed to these kinds of “un-British” and ungentlemanly dirty tricks, which they associated with the Communists. Indeed, Ernest Bevin had placed severe constraints on MI6 special operations shortly after becoming Foreign Secretary in 1945 — especially those behind the Iron Curtain.

Cyber War Is Hell

July 06, 2015

Think cyber war is bad now? It is only going to get worse – much worse -- says security expert Bruce Schneier.

Cyber attacks like the one inflicted by the North Korean government on Sony are just the opening skirmishes before the outbreak of a hugely dangerous cyber war that is inevitable. Security expert Bruce Schneier issued this stark warning in his address at the recent InfoSec Europe security conference in London.

"We are in the early years of a cyber war arms race," he said. "We have seen China attack Github, we have seen countries attacking companies, and I think we are going to see much more of that in the future."

Countries like North Korea have a natural advantage in this type of cyber warfare, he warned, because of the basic level of technical infrastructure that they possess. "North Korea has natural cyber-defenses in that it only has about 1,000 IP addresses, and it has only very few computers so its 'terrain' is very defensible. By contrast the U.S. is extremely vulnerable because it has lots of computers and Internet infrastructure."
Cyber Attacks and Why Attribution Matters

The Reality of Cyberwar

July 09, 2015
This very same shift is underway in China. In 2011, the Communist Party-controlled China Youth Daily newspaper published an article by two scholars at the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences that summed up in direct terms how the Chinese military establishment viewed what had been going on in cyberspace, from the creation of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command to the revelation of Stuxnet, the damaging offensive cyber-weapon that the U.S. and Israel deployed against Iran’s nuclear program: “Of late, an Internet tornado has swept across the world...massively impacting and shocking the globe. Behind all this lies the shadow of America. Faced with this warm-up for an Internet war, every nation and military can't be passive but is making preparations to fight the Internet war.”

In real terms, this has translated into a buildup of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) cyber capabilities at just as rapid a pace as the U.S. military’s during the same period. Spending on cyber warfare became a “top funding priority,” up a reported 20 percent in the last year alone, and a host of new units were created with the responsibility of “preparing attacks on enemy computer networks.”

What US must do -- right now -- to combat growing cyber threat

By Van Hipp 
July 10, 2015 

FILE -- April 15, 2014: A lock icon, signifying an encrypted Internet connection, is seen on an Internet Explorer browser in a photo illustration. (REUTERS/Mal Langsdon)

The cyberattacks just keep coming. Our enemies are inflicting real damage on our national security and the American economy. Make no mistake, the United States has never been more unprepared for a conflict than it has been against the Cyber War.

Just this week, we learned that in addition to last month’s disclosure of a massive cyberattack that compromised the personal data of at least 4 million current and former federal employees, there was a second, related breach of U.S. government computer systems. This time, hackers stole social security numbers from more than 21 million Americans. And earlier this week, a computer “glitch” was blamed for the suspension of trading on the New York Stock Exchange for nearly four hours, the grounding of all United Airlines airplanes, and the malfunction of the Wall Street Journal’s homepage – all on the same day.