10 August 2015

Privacy, a non-negotiable right

August 10, 2015

The Hindu"A trade-off between Aadhaar and the right to privacy is incomprehensible." Picture shows biometric particulars being collected in Tamil Nadu. Photo: K. Ananthan

Whether it was required of the Attorney General to question the citizen’s right to privacy to defend the legality of Aadhaar is indeed questionable as the constitutional status of this right has been decisively answered in successive and lucidly articulated judgments

This piece seeks to contest the Attorney-General’s somewhat startling assertion before the Supreme Court that Indians do not have a constitutional right to privacy.

This is the background. Posed the question on whether making a citizen part with vital personal data under the Aadhaar scheme does not amount to intrusion of privacy, the Centre replied in the Supreme Court last month, on July 22, that privacy was not a fundamental right. Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi said the right to privacy had been a “vague” concept all these years, a subject of varying conclusions from the Supreme Court. He told a three-judge Bench that the Constitution-makers had never intended to make it a fundamental right. He then quoted a majority 1962 judgment of the Supreme Court in the Kharak Singh case that held that privacy was not a “guaranteed right” under the Constitution. The submissions came during the hearing of a batch of petitions seeking to stop the implementation of the scheme. The government said it was too late to do that as Rs.5,000 crore had been spent on Aadhaar, which had accessed 80 crore people.

Interpretation of rights

Human capital: Where does India stand?

by Devika Kher and Nidhi Gupta. 
August 4, 2015

The skew in India towards younger generations highlights the disconnect between today’s education system and the skills required in the labour market.

Upon analysis of the Human Capital Report – 2015, released recently by the World Economic Forum (WEF), it is clear that for India to tread on the path of long-term economic success, the nation’s policymakers need to give serious attention to improving its human capital. Out of the 124 countries, studied and ranked in the report on the basis of Human Capital Index (HCI), India gets an overall ranking of #100. This low ranking combined with the fact that the country’s overall HCI ranking in 2015 is down 22 places from its overall ranking of #78 in 2013 is a cause for grave concern. It is thus imperative that over the next few years India invests in building the nation’s human capital endowment — the skills and capacities of people that can be put to productive use.

This Is How America Plans to Sink China's Warships

August 8, 2015
This week the U.S. Navy detailed its plans to rectify the advantage China holds in the area of sophisticated anti-ship missiles.
Starting in fiscal year 2017, the U.S. Navy will begin the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) Increment II program aimed at fielding a more advanced anti-ship missile to replace the aging Boeing RGM-84 Harpoons the navy current relies on.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC on Wednesday, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the deputy chief of naval operations warfare systems (N9), said that the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) will compete with the new Tomahawk Block IV for OASuW II.

“What I would like to see happen is take those capabilities that we need and start inserting those into a Block IV [Tomahawk], and [compare that] to what we have with LRASM Increment 1, and have those two compete for the next-generation strike weapon,” Aucoin said,Breaking Defense reported.

Joint Air Patrols in the South China Sea: A Good Idea?

August 7, 2015

In examining recent suggestions for joint patrolling of the South China Sea, analysts have tended to focus on the surface vessels of various nations’ coast guards and navies. Yet the flight of a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon hosting a CNN film crew over disputed waters in the South China Sea in May highlighted the potential of air power – specifically maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) – in executing the possible missions of joint patrols. To explore the potential effectiveness of South China Sea joint air patrols it is important to first be clear about the often overlooked distinctions in missions, locations, and concepts.

Proposed joint air patrol missions broadly fall into two categories. One seeks to counter excessive claims and rights not in accordance with international law (i.e. maritime freedom of navigation and overflight, or FON, operations). A second, exemplified by the Eyes-in-the-Sky(EiS) component of the Malacca Strait Patrol (MSP), is geared towards enhancing maritime domain awareness (MDA) and enforcement.

In addition to objectives, it is critical to understand the proposed operating areas. Dzirhan Mahadzir, a defense journalist based in Malaysia, notes “many forget that the South China Sea is a sprawling area. People got excited at May’s International Maritime Defense Exhibition (IMDEX) when the Republic of Singapore Navy Chief called for patrols in the South China Sea to deter piracy, but he was referring to just a small zone off Johor and Singapore.”

Economics of Influence: China and India in South Asia

Authors: Ashlyn Anderson, Research Associate, India, Pakistan, and South Asia, and Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia
August 7, 2015

India has enjoyed substantial regional influence across South Asia due to its size, comparative economic might, and historical and cultural relevance to the region. China’s history of involvement in South Asia is limited in comparison, though its long-standing ties to Pakistan are a notable exception. But over the past decade, China has become a significant economic partner to countries throughout the region, forging particularly strong ties with smaller states through trade, diplomacy, aid, and investment. 

Russia and China fuel Asia’s other ‘Great Game’

5 August 2015 

The 19th century central Asian rivalry between the British and Russian Empires was known as the Great Game. But there's a new and little remarked upon Great Game emerging between Russia and China with potentially enormous consequences for the whole of Asia

Asia watchers have spent years divining the growing competition between the U.S. and China in East Asia, seen by some as a new version of the 19th century Great Game -- the Central Asian rivalry between the Russian and British empires.

Those predicting conflict feel justified by recent tensions in the South China Sea, while others argue confidently that the depth of economic relations between the two modern rivals will forestall any type of clash.

However, those interested in Asia’s long-term geopolitical trends should turn away from the sea and focus on the Siberian steppes. There, a still-growing and needy China is eyeing Russia’s riches covetously.

For years after World War II, it was Japan that flirted with investment projects in Siberia, in part as a political sop to Moscow as it sought to settle a territorial dispute over the Russian-controlled Kuril Islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories.

Profile of China’s Elite Cyber Spying Organization

Tai Koppan

Chinese cyber espionage group caught hacking defense, industrial base 

Washington (CNN)A highly trained group of Chinese hackers is targeting defense, commercial and political organizations worldwide, pulling off sophisticated heists of sensitive information, according to new research out Wednesday.

Though Chinese cyberespionage has been well-documented, researchers from Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit – a division of Dell tech company – say this group, nicknamed Emissary Panda by another research firm, has pulled off cyberattacks at a level of sophistication and specialization rarely seen before among Chinese hackers.

“In the instances we were able to observe them, they had very specific organizations and projects in mind that they were pursuing, and the broad spectrum of industry verticals they targeted indicated they were more of a surgical tool used to take specific things from specific organizations, rather than the smash and grab, take everything type,” said Aaron Hackworth, Dell SecureWorks senior distinguished engineer.

The research contradicts the conventional notion of Chinese cyberthieves, who are typically described as taking everything they can get their hands on.

US-China: Civil Space Dialogue

Included on the long list of “outcomes” at the conclusion of the seventh round of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meetings in June 2015 was a section on Science, Technology & Agriculture. Included in that section was a short paragraph on … space.

“101. Space: The United States and China decided to establish regular bilateral government-to-government consultations on civil space cooperation. The first U.S.-China Civil Space Cooperation Dialogue is to take place in China before the end of October Separate from the Civil Space Cooperation Dialogue, the two sides also decided to have exchanges on space security matters under the framework of the U.S.-China Security Dialogue before the next meeting of the Security Dialogue.”

The inclusion is remarkable given that other agencies of the U.S. government that deal with space, specifically NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), have been legislatively banned from using federal funds “to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company” since 2011. That ban was also interpreted to mean that NASA could not host “official Chinese visitors” at NASA facilities. Which raises the question of why one part of the U.S. government would consider dialogue with Chinese officials regarding space important and useful, while another wants to give China the silent treatment. The answer might well be realism versus political theater.

How to Make Compromise Compelling: Christensen and Goldstein on U.S.-China Relations

By Elizabeth C. Economy
August 08, 2015

Sitting on the beach—or less fortuitously in an office—with nothing better to do in the last weeks of summer than read a few books on U.S.-China relations? You might want to pick up the new books by Thomas Christensen and Lyle Goldstein, The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power and Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging U.S.-China Rivalry, respectively. They are not light reading, but they will situate you well for the barrage of media attention sure to accompany the late September summit between Presidents Xi and Obama.

On the face of it, Princeton Professor Christensen and Naval War College Professor Goldstein are cut from the same cloth. They are both serious China scholars, with a particular expertise on security issues. Their books address many of the same issues in the U.S.-China relationship, such as maritime security, North Korea, and the environment, among others. (Surprisingly, neither book addresses the critical issue of cybersecurity.) And they both speak from the same gospel: the United States and China can find common ground and realize a more stable and productive relationship.

Did China's Anti-Corruption Fight Give the US an Intelligence Windfall?

August 08, 2015
The New York Times reports that Ling Wancheng, the brother of Ling Jihua, has apparently fled to the United States, and China badly wants him back. Ling Jihua was a top aide to former Chinese president Hu Jintao; he was ousted from the Chinese Communist Party in July after a corruption investigation. Even before Ling Jihua was officially expelled from the Party, there were rumors that his brother, businessman Ling Wancheng, had escaped Chinese authorities and traveled to the United States – bringing with him potentially damaging insider information on the CCP. The Times cited anonymous U.S. government officials as confirming as least part of these rumors: Ling is in the United States and China is pressuring Washington to deport him. As for whether he actually has a wealth of intelligence on current CCP leaders, the jury’s still out. But “the [Chinese] leadership would want this guy badly,” Christopher Johnson of CSIS told NYT.

The Los Angeles Times has its own story on Ling’s life in California, where he went by the name Jason Wang. He was well-liked by his neighbors, who were shocked when Department of Homeland Security agents showed up asking about Ling and his wife. Ling’s current whereabouts are unknown.

Iran Isn’t Nazi Germany

AUG 6, 2015

Mike Huckabee’s sin was being too vivid.
Last week, after the Republican presidential hopeful said that by signing the Iran nuclear deal, President Barack Obama “would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven,” a parade of organizations and politiciansaccused him of inflammatory language and bad taste. But in both the United States and Israel, Huckabee’s core assumption—that the Iranian government is genocidally anti-Semitic—is mainstream. In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that “The ayatollahs in Iran, they deny the Holocaust while planning another genocide against our people.” Last month, Fox News host Sean Hannity called the Iran deal “the equivalent of giving Adolf Hitler weapons of mass destruction.” The fact that a nuclear attack on Israel would also kill Palestinians, argued Texas Senator Ted Cruz recently, would not deter Tehran because “they would view the murder of those Palestinians” as “perfectly acceptable collateral damage to annihilating millions of Jews.”

Far from being marginal or extreme, Huckabee’s claim—that Iranian leaders seek another Holocaust—sits at the emotional core of the debate over the nuclear accord with Tehran. But the closer you look, the weaker that claim is.

Artificial intelligence decodes Islamic State strategy

By Chris BaraniukTechnology reporter
6 August 2015 
Artificial intelligence has been used to gain insights into the tactics of IS

Researchers in the US have used artificial intelligence to better understand the military strategy of Islamic State extremists.

Analysis established a causal link between air strikes and roadside bomb attacks as well as a connection with the jihadists' use of military tactics.

The algorithmic system analysed 2,200 recorded incidents of IS activity from the second half of 2014.

A paper on the findings will be presented at a conference next week.

One feature they noticed was spikes in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Shifting strategies

Paulo Shakarian at Arizona State University, one of the co-authors of the paper and a former US army officer who served in Iraq in 2006, told the BBC: "When they experience a lot of air strikes against them they shift away from a large infantry-style operation and use IEDs."

Saudi Arabia may go broke before the US oil industry buckles

07 August 2015

It is too late for OPEC to stop the shale revolution. The cartel faces the prospect of surging US output whenever oil prices rise

If the oil futures market is correct, Saudi Arabia will start running into trouble within two years. It will be in existential crisis by the end of the decade.

The contract price of US crude oil for delivery in December 2020 is currently $62.05, implying a drastic change in the economic landscape for the Middle East and the petro-rentier states.

The Saudis took a huge gamble last November when they stopped supporting prices and opted instead to flood the market and drive out rivals, boosting their own output to 10.6m barrels a day (b/d) into the teeth of the downturn.

Bank of America says OPEC is now "effectively dissolved". The cartel might as well shut down its offices in Vienna to save money.

ISIS Continuing to Grow in the Middle East, North Africa and South/Central Asia

August 7, 2015

ISIS in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia: July 2015

Institute for the Study of War

Reports that the U.S. is considering establishing forward bases to counter ISIS’s affiliates in Libya and Afghanistan reflect the increasing regional capability and momentum of the group in the Near Abroad. ISIS likely will gain new support in Afghanistan and possibly globally due to the death of the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Omar. ISIS is also expanding operations in Yemen, Libya, and Egypt, which may provoke direct conflict between ISIS and al Qaeda. ISIS likely will intensify regional operations, possibly within Turkey, as it faces pressure within Syria and Iraq from Turkey and other anti-ISIS forces. ISIS will also likely attempt to open other border crossings between ISIS’s Interior and Near Abroad positions.

3 U.S. Defeats: Vietnam, Iraq and Now Iran

AUG. 7, 2015

The purpose of war, military or economic, is to get your enemy to do something it would rather not do. Over the past several years the United States and other Western powers have engaged in an economic, clandestine and political war against Iran to force it to give up its nuclear program.

Over the course of this siege, American policy makers have been very explicit about their goals. Foremost, to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Second, as John Kerry has said, to force it to dismantle a large part of its nuclear infrastructure. Third, to take away its power to enrich uranium.

Fourth, as President Obama has said, to close the Fordo enrichment facility. Fifth, as the chief American negotiator, Wendy Sherman, recently testified, to force Iran to come clean on all past nuclear activities by the Iranian military. Sixth, to shut down Iran’s ballistic missile program. Seventh, to have “anywhere, anytime 24/7” access to any nuclear facilities Iran retains. Eighth, as Kerry put it, to not phase down sanctions until after Iran ends its nuclear bomb-making capabilities.

Russian Regions Are Running Out of Money

August 7, 2015

The potential for regional instability will grow as Russia's economic crisis drags on.
Many of Russia's regional governments will default unless the Kremlin steps in.
Russia's focus will shift inward as its economy worsens, limiting its bandwidth to act abroad. Analysis

Russia has entered its second recession in six years. The effects of the country's economic downturn have begun to trickle down from the federal level, spreading to Russia's regions, cities and people. The federal government has long relied on the regional and municipal governments to carry their own burdens, and many are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy or collapse as Moscow siphons off a growing share of their funds. The Russian people are also beginning to feel the economic pressure more acutely as an increasing number of citizens fall under the poverty line and watch their savings dry up.

GOP Presidential Debate: Rand Paul in Combat Mode

August 7, 2015

Presidential primary debates are supposed to be placid affairs. Somebody forgot to notify Rand Paul.

The Kentucky senator was in combat mode literally from the first minute of Thursday’s Republican candidates forum, when he interrupted Donald Trump to accuse him of gaming his party affiliation. And that was just an appetizer to the volcanic clash between Paul and New Jersey governor Chris Christie over the NSA’s metadata collection. “Get a warrant!” Paul shouted, before taunting Christie for his post–Hurricane Sandy embrace of President Obama.

Paul’s truculence seemed odd when juxtaposed with his answers later in the debate, which were generally calm and thoughtful. So why the initial pugnacity? Why did Paul, usually a laconic and rumpled presence, emerge as the debate’s attack dog?

For the answer, we need to review what’s happened to Paul over the past couple months. To say he’s had a rough ride is to commit an understatement akin to observing that Donald Trump may have overstepped on Thursday. Once paraded across the pages of Politico as the Republican frontrunner, Paul’s poll numbers have tumbled into single-digit territory. It isn’t game over—Marco Rubio, a more mainstream candidate than Paul, is stuck in a similar rut—but it does create a sense of urgency. How can Paul lure back tea party voters with Donald Trump fulgurating at the center of the conservative solar system?

Here Comes Carly Fiorina: Breaking Down the Fox News GOP Debates

August 7, 2015

Presidential debates are like Rorschach tests. What people see tends to reflect what’s going on in their minds more than what’s happening on stage, something to keep in mind when reading most post-debate analyses.

How else to interpret confident assertions that Jeb Bush, Scott Walker or Ted Cruz won the first Republican presidential debate when each of them disappeared for long stretches of time? Did any of them say anything as memorable as Ben Carson’s closing statement, when after looking lost for most of the evening he reminded the audience that he was actually the smartest person on the dais?

But these events aren’t entirely subjective because they inevitably produce big moments about which there is widespread agreement. So let’s get the consensus views of the Republican debate(s) out of the way first.

Carly Fiorina was the star of the first debate, really more of a candidate forum or joint press conference, for the seven Republicans who are prominent enough to be considered major candidates but who weren’t polling well enough to be included among the top ten.

Battle of the Elephants: Making Sense of the Fox News GOP Debates

August 7, 2015

The most revealing moment in the Fox News Republican presidential debate last night was when Donald Trump reacted to loaded questions and oppositional comments about his provocative statements regarding illegal immigration. For a moment the New York real estate mogul looked as if he might actually be feeling some slight quiver of defensiveness over his suggestion that Mexico was fostering this flow of its citizens to America in order to get rid of some of its most undesirable people. Clearly, he didn’t have an answer when Fox’s Chris Wallace asked him to back up his allegation with some hard evidence.

But then the scowl left his face and he declared in a tone of defiance and triumph: “We wouldn’t be talking about this if it weren’t for me.”

This reflected more than just Trump’s absolute conviction that he is utterly correct in everything he thinks or says. The fact is, Trump had inserted the immigration issue into the campaign in a way that most Republicans have been trying to avoid. In doing so, he touched a nerve in the American body politic and forced the issue onto the stage.

Trump Rocks Cleveland GOP Debates

August 7, 2015

Ronald Reagan would not have been pleased. His eleventh commandment—“thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”—was wantonly flouted last night in Cleveland as ten candidates vied with each other to claim leadership of the GOP.

There was libertarian senator Rand Paul laying into Chris Christie for supporting violating American freedoms by espousing big government when it comes to national-security surveillance and remonstrating that he had given President Obama a“big hug” right on the eve of the 2012 election, something that a good number of Republicans continue to hold against the New Jersey governor. Christie punched back by, essentially, playing the patriot card—accusing Paul of being a dangerous blowhard when it comes to protecting innocent Americans from the machinations of foreign terrorists intent on attacking the homeland.

Russia Creates Powerful New Military Branch to Counter NATO

August 07, 2015

Russia has created a new military branch, the Aerospace Forces, by merging the Russian Air Force with the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces, TASS reports. The $60 billion reorganization appears to be a direct response to the perceived increased risk of NATO air and missile attacks on Russian soil — in particular, the United States military’s Global Strike program has the Kremlin worried.

The new service branch, officially called the Aerospace Forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, became operational on August 1, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

“On August 1, the Russian president signed decree No. 394 on appointing the Colonel-General [Viktor Bondarev] as the commander-in-chief of the Aerospace Forces, Lieutenant-General [Pavel] Kurachenko as chief of the Main Staff and first deputy commander-in-chief of the Aerospace Forces, Lieutenant-General [Alexander] Golovko as deputy commander-in-chief of the Aerospace Forces and commander of the Space Forces,” Shoigu said.

Boeing and DARPA Aim for Mach 10

August 7, 2015

Boeing’s Phantom Works has scored a $6.6-million contract to continue working on a hypersonic drone aircraft as part of a program overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s fringe-science wing.

The XS-1 — short for “Experimental Spaceplane One” — is meant to test out a new way of quickly and cheaply launching satellites into low orbit. That requires the space plane to fly at hypersonic speeds up to Mach 10, essentially acting as the first stage of a rocket, lending velocity to a single-stage rocket carrying a small satellite.

The military hopes that using a hypersonic plane to help boost spacecraft into orbit will be cheaper and easier than traditional rocket launches. “Quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for both national and economic security,” DARPA stated in a press release.

DARPA wants to test an XS-1 prototype no later than 2019. It’s actually possible that other companies could end up getting military funds to build prototypes. In the summer of 2014 DARPA gave Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Masten Space Systems $4 million apiece to do “phase one” design work.

Cyberattacks as Significant as Traditional Threats, Says Battleship Manufacturer


Members of the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster spray water with a hose to clean the ship after arriving at a port in Gibraltar August 19, 2013. The wars of the future may not be fought on the high seas but behind computer screens, according to cyberwarfare experts.Jon Nazca/Reuters

Warfare is increasingly being fought from behind computer screens rather than on the battlefield, forcing weapons manufacturers to consider the myriad of threats posed by cyberattacks. Now, the prospective manufacturer of the Royal Navy's next generation of warships has warned that cyberattacks pose a very real threat to the vessels.

Cyberattacks pose "an equally important threat to the more traditional threats," such as missiles and torpedoes, according to Geoff Searle, programme director at BAE Systems, the company which is currently negotiating with the Ministry of Defence to manufacture their new warships.

‘Drug Free’ ASEAN by 2015?

They called it “Drug-Free ASEAN by 2015.” It was proclaimed many times by ASEAN leaders: We would be ushered into a miraculous new era of the only region in the world where the scourge of narcotics had been banished.

By setting this 2015 deadline for the elimination of drugs, ASEAN leaders seemed to believe that the “war on drugs” in Southeast Asia could mysteriously triumph through an orthodox mix of zealous eradication, enhanced crackdowns on drug trafficking, and ruthless law enforcement

Now that we are well into 2015, we can consider the reality. Thailand’s prisons are bursting at the seams thanks to harsh sentences for minor drug offences. Meanwhile, Indonesia has carried out a string of executions, and yet the flow of methamphetamines trafficked in the region has almost quadrupled since 2008.

Fergana: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

August 08, 2015

Some Central Asia links to head into the weekend:
Earlier this week, Kyrgyz and Tajiks clashed along the border in the Fergana Valley. The events themselves may seem unremarkable, just another episode in a on ongoing string of incidents. But these small events have regional watchers worried because the causes–an undelimited stretch of border, growing populations, and competition for limited water resources and fertile land–are not going to settle themselves. Solving the Fergana Valley’s jigsaw puzzle requires political will absent in Bishkek, Dushanbe, and Tashkent.

Elena Kosolapova, writing for Trend, argues this week that some solutions used elsewhere to alleviate these tensions–such as relocating villages or fighting it out–will never work in the Fergana Valley, one of the most densely-populated areas in the region. Relocation would require moving thousands of people from their ancestral homes. Kosolapova also notes that such an exercise would be extremely expensive and Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are two of the region’s poorest states.

US Army seeks Stinger-based defence against cruise missiles

Gareth Jennings
05 August 2015

A Lithuanian dual-mount Stinger launcher team seen during in-country training. The US Army is looking to use the Stinger as the basis for a new cruise missile defence system. 

The US Army issued a request for information (RfI) for a Raytheon FIM-92 Stinger-based air defence system to counter cruise missiles on 4 August.

The RfI, which was posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website, calls for sources with the capability to provide engineering services in support of the Stinger missile in relation to the development of the Cruise Missile Defense Systems (CMDS) for both United States and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers.

As highlighted in the RfI, the Stinger is a short-ranged fire-and-forget shoulder-launched man-portable air defence system (MANPADS) designed to provide point-defence for ground forces against attack or observation by low-flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), helicopters, and fixed-wing threats out to 4.5 km.

The Radio Broadcast That Ended World War II

AUG 7, 2015
Seventy years ago, on the morning of August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A short time later, other B-29s began dropping leaflets on Tokyo. “Because your military leaders have rejected the 13-part surrender declaration,” the leaflets said, “we have employed our atomic bomb. ... Before we use this bomb again and again to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, petition the emperor now to end the war.”

There was no way that Japanese civilians could petition Emperor Hirohito to accept the terms of the July 26 Potsdam Declaration outlining the Allies’ surrender demands—among them the complete disarmament of Japanese forces and the elimination “for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest.” But the leaflets reflected reality: Only the emperor could end the war. To do that, though, he would have to defy his military leaders, knowing that his call for peace would almost certainly inspire a military coup.

5 weapons that don’t need a human to pull the trigger

 August 6, 2015

The Phalanx close-in weapons system, seen here aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, is essentially a large machine gun that can detect and automatically destroy anything coming its way. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Monford
How close are we to fully automated weaponry? Are there actual killer robots out there right now, ready to fight wars?

Last week a group of high-profile robotics scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs warned in an open letter that without a blanket international treaty outlawing autonomous weapons systems — aka military machines capable of selecting and engaging targets without the need for human intervention — an artificial intelligence arms race could be upon us within years, not decades. In the letter they call for the immediate ban of these weapons. To date, more than 18,000 people have co-signed.

Welcome to Australia's Renewable Energy Wars

August 7, 2015

In the last month, the future of Australia's energy system has emerged as a major battleground for the next Australian election. The Abbott Government made further incursions in its long campaign against renewable energy and in favor of fossil fuels, while Labor opened a new front, backing a renewables-based energy system for Australia by declaring an aspiration to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2030 and to (re-)introduce an emissions trading scheme.

This three-part series provides a global climate, economic and political perspective on Australia's coming renewable energy wars.

In climate change terms, the global perspective is straightforward: Australia ought to be aiming for a zero carbon energy system well before 2050, with the electricity system the first to be fully decarbonized.

The logic is quite simple. To have even a vaguely reasonable chance of restraining average warming to below 2°C (the internationally agreed goal), the world must be at net-zero greenhouse gas emissions before the end of this century (a goal recently endorsed by the G7); the earlier the world gets to net-zero, the lower the climate risks. That means all countries and all sectors ultimately need to move strongly toward zero emissions (or close to zero, if we allow for some negative emissions).

5 Most Lethal Aircraft Carriers of All Time

August 8, 2015

The first true aircraft carriers entered service at the end of World War I, as the Royal Navy converted several of its excess warships into large, floating airfields. During the interwar period, Japan and the United States would make their own conversions, and all three navies would supplement these ships with purpose-built carriers. Within months of the beginning of hostilities in September 1939, the carrier demonstrated its worth in a variety of maritime tasks.

By the end of 1941, carriers would become the world’s dominant capital ship. These are the five most lethal carriers to serve in the world’s navies, selected on the basis of their contribution to critical operations, and on their longevity and resilience.

USS Enterprise

The U.S. Navy supplemented Lexington and Saratoga, the most effective of the interwar battlecruiser conversions, with the purpose-built USS Ranger. Experience with all three ships demonstrated that the next purpose-built class would require a larger hull and flight deck, as well as a heavier anti-aircraft armament. This resulted in USS Yorktown and USS Enterprise, which along with their third sister (USS Hornet) would play a critical role in stopping the Imperial Japanese Navy’s advance in 1942. Capable of cruising at 33 knots, Enterprise displaced around 24,000 tons and could carry up to 90 aircraft.

What Companies Can Learn from Military Teams

AUGUST 06, 2015

When Gen. Stanley McCrystal took charge of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2003, he recognized that traditional tactics of warfare were failing in Iraq. Leading this inter-service team — which included Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and Delta Force — he needed to find new ways to disrupt Al-Qaeda and get these disparate branches of elite U.S. soldiers to work cohesively. In the new book Team of Teams, McChrystal describes the lessons he learned (and applied) in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as research and examples from other fields (including sports, aviation, and emergency medicine) on how teams have learned to work more effectively. (The book is co-authored by his colleagues Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell.)

Since his retirement in 2010 — brought about by intemperate remarks about Obama officials made by McChrystal and his aides in a Rolling Stone article — the former general has taught leadership at Yale University. He’s also founded a consulting firm called CrossLead. I talked to him about what businesses can learn from the military model. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Why More Military Spouses Need To Share Their Stories

August 6, 2015

Part of the 21st century's war story belongs to the military spouse. Their stories need to be heard.
I’m a 21st century military spouse. I am a college-educated, working woman who has been supporting my service member’s commitment to our country for more than a decade.

I gave birth in an overseas Navy hospital. I’ve been a solo parent during a six-month deployment. I vote via absentee ballot in presidential elections. I shop at the commissary. I’ve lived on-base in privatized housing. I’ve lived off-base in neighborhoods where our house was the only house with an American flag hanging in front.

Am I a typical military spouse? Maybe.

Or maybe not.

The story of my military spouse experience is one story among the nearly 700,000 military spouses currently carrying a dependent ID card.

How Fiction Can Reveal the Horrors of Future Wars

The fact that he couldn’t feel the drill going into the back of his skull made the noise all the more terrifying.
His eyes darted around the room. He tried to turn his head, but he couldn’t move. A computer display in front of him was all that he could see; the screen showed a surgeon drilling into a shaved skull. A puff of bone dust smoked up from the metal boring through the skull on the screen. Then the screen itself was covered with a fine white powder that wafted in from behind him. His vision blurred as some of the powder fell into his eyes. He tried to blink but couldn’t. Someone outside his field of view squirted a liquid into his eyes and dabbed the corners as the liquid dripped out.

P.W. Singer is Strategist at New America. August Cole is Non Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council. They are the authors of Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War.

A second and third time, the drill bored through the skull on the video screen, sending more puffs of bone dust wafting over. He wanted to close his eyes to stop watching, but he couldn’t. After the second squirt of liquid into his eyes, he realized it was because his eyelids were no longer there. He couldn’t do anything, in fact, but watch as the surgeon began to insert thin fiber-optic wires into the three holes in the skull. He knew the wires were filled with over five hundred electrodes, each as thin as a human hair, that would link the interrogator’s computer with the electromagnetic signals of his brain.
The Power of What Ifs

Was Nuclear Weapon Use in Hiroshima Really a Turning Point in World War 2?

August 06, 2015

U.S. President Harry S. Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons against the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki stands as one of the most consequential uses of weaponry in human history, a watershed moment in the twilight days of World War II, and a perennial question of moral and strategic ambiguity. In fact, all contemporary conversations about the dangers of nuclear weapons and their proliferation inevitably evoke their two uses in wartime on August 6 and August 9, 1945.

What is commonly overlooked, however—and I don’t put this forward as an attempt at revising history—is the influence the bombings themselves actually had on Japan’s decision to surrender on August 15. Indeed, the conventional understanding of the use of the bombs is that they shocked the Japanese leadership so much that they could not help but surrender in the face the awesome might of these new weapons. Those who argue in favor of Truman’s decision to use the bomb build off this to note that countless lives—Japanese and Americans—were saved by the fact that Allied forces did not proceed with Operation Downfall, the planned amphibious invasion of Japan, which in some estimates would have cost millions of lives for the Allies and tens of millions for the Japanese.