20 August 2015

The Unfruitful Talks of India and Pakistan

By Neha Kumar Tiwari
19 Aug , 2015

The National-Security Advisers of both India and Pakistan decide to meet each other in the midst of Gurudaspur attacks, which were later followed by several ceasefire violations across LOC. Indian government has faced lots of criticism for adopting ‘talks’ as a diplomatic tool to end the stalemate with Pakistan’s side.

The withdrawal of India’s ‘cold war doctrine’ clearly manifest that Pakistan’s policy of using terrorist attacks under a nuclear umbrella has worked against the favor of India.

It is important to remember here that it is not just the terrorist attacks or ceasefire violations but their linkages with the nuclear weapons of Pakistan, which has made such a kind of ‘talks’ as the only available alternative to Indian government. Since the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan, India has stood in a disadvantage position as it is facing terrorist attacks and constant ceasefire violations which it cannot escalate to the conventional or limited war because of the presence of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons of Pakistan are further combined with the Policy of First Use (FU) which makes things complicated for India. The withdrawal of India’s ‘cold war doctrine’ clearly manifest that Pakistan’s policy of using terrorist attacks under a nuclear umbrella has worked against the favor of India.

The Heart of the Common Man: The Battleground of Asymmetric Conflict

By Dr Ajit Maan
19 Aug , 2015

Modern warfare has taken on a decidedly un-modern cast. Militaries worldwide are engaged in an entirely different kind of combat – of the asymmetric variety – that renders the military technologies of modern states relatively ineffective.

Military force alone cannot defeat the enemy in asymmetric conflicts…

Military force alone cannot defeat the enemy in asymmetric conflicts like the ones that dominate the world’s attention now. Tactical victories are meaningless without civil victory. Technology cannot overcome the human dimension.

Who wins in an asymmetric battle is whoever has influence over the local population. And in that kind of fight, military exploits do the opposite of winning over hearts and minds: they hand victory to the enemy.

The goal that the state and extremists share, is that both want to establish their legitimacy and get the support of the population behind them. Therefore the population should be courted, not abused.

Battles for Zoji-La and Namka Chhu

By Lt Gen Baljit Singh
19 Aug , 2015

A non-combatant who witnessed and filmed the first flight to Leh & Battles For Zoji-La and Namka Chhu.

“…the fall of Leh will be a strategic blow to India. It has to be saved at all cost….. I will be on that flight in your cock-pit. So let’s go.” Major General K S Thimayya, DSO, 23 May, 1948.

“An eye witness to two stunning Himalayan Battles fought at either end of the range… had savored the joy of victory at Zoji La ……. And the sadness of withdrawal at Se La, from poor preparedness …” W M (Bill) Aitken, 2009.

“ … very special thanks are due to Serbjeet Singh for his kind permission to reproduce the spectacular panorama of the Namka Chhu Valley and Thagla ridge which he was still painting, perched on a hill over-looking the Battle-field, when the Chinese launched their attack on 20 October, 1962.” Major General D K Palit, Vr C, 1991. 

India Finally Faces Up to an Ugly Reality

AUG. 16, 2015 

NEW DELHI — Every society has its articles of faith: “This is a free country”; “Islam is a religion of peace.” The strength of a society depends on the extent to which its articles of faith match the reality on the ground. In the India I grew up in, one such article of faith was: “India is a beautiful country.” It was what we said about ourselves; it was what others said about us, too. It seemed unassailable.

But it was not true: The India of the 1980s became every day an uglier country. It was a place where the very elements of life — earth, water, air — had been poisoned. The land was strewn with garbage, the rivers and urban waterways were choked with plastic bags and white chemical foam. The streets were buckled, the footpaths broken, the air thick and unbreathable. To look out at an Indian city or small town was to be greeted by a bleak sprawl of shoddily constructed low-lying buildings, shrouded in a mantle of brown smoke. It was an apocalyptic landscape with no underlying design save for an ever more urgent need to accommodate greater numbers of people.

Revisiting India’s foreign policy under Modi

By Col. R. Hariharan
Paper No. 5987 Dated 14-Aug-2015

[This article answers questions raised in a radio interview on August 12, 2015.]

Q: It is about fifteen months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power. During this period foreign relations appear to have been given great importance. What do you think are the changes in India’s foreign policy now?

A: I am no expert on foreign policy; but as a strategic analyst I find that the basic tenets of our foreign policy enunciated after independence still continue to be the same. Our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was a visionary; he evolved the foreign policy to further his holistic vision for India. It emphasized peace and harmonious relations with all countries and India finding its rightful place in the post-colonial world in keeping with its size and geostrategic location. He understood economic and industrial development as the keys to freeing the country from the shackles of colonial dependency and improving the lives of ordinary people. The five-year development plans were fashioned to achieve this.

From Nehru’s time foreign policy became prime minister-centric and has continued so, though the practice of appointing separate minister to look after external affairs came in vogue in 1964. Under Nehru’s stewardship, India played a leadership role among the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa. He chose to develop close relations with Peoples Republic of China (PRC) which was shunned by the Western powers. He led the non-aligned movement with emphasis on five principles of panch sheel to avoid Cold War contretemps. Probably, China’s aggression in 1962 was a moment of truth to Nehru as much as the nation bringing home the world of real politick in which we exist.

Iran and Pakistan: Back to Business

By Arif Rafiq
August 19, 2015

Last Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Pakistan as part of a multi-country tour to explore opportunities for greater economic and security cooperation in the region following the landmark nuclear deal with the P5+1.

The July nuclear deal likely clears the way for the completion of sanctions-delayed energy projects between Islamabad and Tehran, bringing relief to energy-starved Pakistan. It also creates an opportunity for cooperation between Iran and Pakistan to promote peace in their respective Balochistan regions, creating a virtuous cycle of economic growth and improved security.

However, while Pakistan stands to be a major beneficiary of the nuclear deal, other countries, including Pakistan’s archrival India, will also gain from Iran’s opening to the outside world. Nonetheless, speculation of an Indian-Iranian entente, perhaps even including the United States, is overblown. The India-Iran relationship will continue to grow, but with China’s big bet on Pakistan – in the tens of billions of dollars – and Pakistan’s distancing itself from the regional sectarian war, Iran appears keen to partner with Pakistan rather than playing an antagonistic role in the country.

The First Order of Business is Business

The violent, self-destructive legacy ISI chief Hamid Gul leaves behind


He really came into his own as his friend, idol, mentor and military-spiritual guide, General Zia-ul-Haq rose to the top.

It is interesting that a soldier who served 36 years in his country's army should be remembered for just two of these. Such is the mystique of Lt General Hamid Gul, the malevolent Pakistani spymaster who died of a cerebral stroke on Saturday. He had an interesting life before his two years at the head of the ISI (1987-89) and after, when he chose to retire voluntarily from the army, unable to stomach his sidelining to what he described as a menial job, to head the "ordnance factory complex" at Taxila.

Gul joined his army in 1956, as a cavalryman, just like his friend, idol, mentor and military-spiritual guide, General Zia-ul-Haq. I did not find much reference, surprisingly, to what he did in the 1971 war, but in 1965, he commanded a squadron of tanks in the Sialkot sector where his regiment, the very old and legendary 19 Lancers (called King George V's Own in British times), was deployed. In that war too he didn't do much of note, not enough even to excite the usually fertile imagination of the citation writers of subcontinental armies.

The US is needed to battle terror in Afghanistan

18 Aug 2015 

Afghan's experience shows that Pakistan-based terror groups continue to operate from their safe havens.

"Any man and any nation that seeks peace and hates war, and is willing to fight the good fight […] will find the United States of America by their side, willing to walk with them - walk with them every step of the way."

More than five decades ago, the 36th president of the US, Lyndon B. Johnson addressed the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed the US' commitment to global peace and stability.

But fast-forward 52 years, and this commitment is exactly what Afghanistan - a country the US has been engaged with militarily for 14 years - is waiting to see fulfilled. 

Now, more than ever before, the absence of a genuine US commitment with Kabul in its "good fight" against terrorism is pushing Afghanistan and the region further into turmoil.

For years, Afghanistan has been crying out for US action against state-sponsored terrorist attacks from Pakistan on its soil.

Afghanistan-Pakistan: Strategic Folly – Analysis

By Ajit Kumar Singh*
August 17th, 2015

Among a range of indicators of deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan came the announcement of the death, at least two years earlier, of Mullah Omar, the so-called Amir ul Momineen (Leader of the Faithful) and ‘supreme commander’ of the Taliban; a contested succession for leadership of the group; and the rising spectre of the Islamic State (IS, formerly Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, ISIS) in the Af-Pak region. These developments promise enduring troubles, even as they give signs of the unraveling of Pakistan’s strategy of orchestrated negotiations and proxy war against Afghanistan.

On August 8, 2015, terrorists carried out a suicide attack killing at least 21 people and injuring another 10 in the Khanabad District of Kunduz Province in Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

On August 7, 2015, terrorists carried out a series of attacks across the national capital Kabul, killing at least 51 people. In the first attack, a suicide bomber dressed in Police uniform detonated his explosive vest in a crowd of trainees outside the Kabul Police Academy, killing at least 27 and injuring over 25. Later, militants detonated an explosives laden truck near an Army complex, killing 15 and injuring over 240. In the last of these series of attacks, terrorists attacked Camp Integrity, which houses US and coalition troops that help train Afghan forces, killing nine and injuring 20. The victims included eight civilian military contractors and a US serviceman. The Taliban claimed responsibility for two of the three attacks – on the Kabul Police Academy and Camp Integrity. Though the attack near the Army complex remained unclaimed, the Taliban is suspected to have been responsible.

Afghanistan Stability 2015 and the Pakistan-US-China Triangle

By Dr Subhash Kapila
Paper No. 5989 Dated 17-Aug-2015

Afghanistan’s stability in 2015 is far from the offing despite the Pakistan-United States-China triangle’s flawed convergence of interests in co-opting the Taliban for Afghan reconciliation post-US military involvement exit from Afghanistan, oblivious to the reality that the Taliban is not part of the solution but the major problem itself.

The United States is the odd-man out and can be faulted for being a part of an unholy trinity where Pakistan and China have not only constantly destabilised this region but also worked directly against and undermined American strategic interests in Greater South West Asia.

In a recent article published on August 15, 2015, noted US expert on South Asia aptly observed that “The United States must get over the idea that Pakistan can be a force for good in this region when the preponderance of evidence speaks to the contrary. Once the United States rids itself of this preposterous notion, perhaps it can get down to the real business of crafting policies that will contain the multifarious threats that Pakistan poses to United States interests in South Asia and beyond.” Christine Fair also rightly observed that with every change of Pakistan Army Chief “Unfortunately, Americans are constantly looking for signs that Pakistan has turned a new leaf.”

What Countries Will March in China's WW2 Anniversary Military Parade?

August 18, 2015

With Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of World War II in the books, those interested in Asia’s “history wars” are turning their focus to the next big event: China’s commemoration of the anniversary of the end of the war, which falls on September 3. The highlight of those celebrations will be a major military parade in Beijing, the first time China has held such a parade to celebrate the end of the war.

Ever since China’s Ministry of Defense announced that the parade would be an international one, with soldiers from other countries invited to participate, the world has wondered which countries will take part. Russia’s Victory Day parade on May 9 featured troops from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India, Mongolia, and Serbia. China will be hoping to at least match that tally. China’s Ministry of Defense confirmed in June that Russia and Mongolia would be sending troops to take part in China’s parade.

We Asked Les Gelb: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 19, 2015

Editor’s Note: The following is part of TNI’s special 30th anniversary symposium. We asked twenty-five of the world’s leading experts: What is the purpose of American power? You can find all of their answers here. You can also find our exclusive interview with Henry Kissinger here.

There will be no consensus on the purposes of U.S. foreign policy for a long time. Half of the explanation is that while international problems were always very difficult, now they are eye-crossingly so. Key issues today—like combating terrorism, China, Russia and global warming—defy traditional calculations of what American power can accomplish and how. The other half of the explanation is the diminished clout of realists in U.S. national-security debates. For sure, extremists on the left and right always have had their say, but there was usually enough strength in the pragmatic center to put together viable policies at critical junctures. Today’s “debates” flow almost exclusively from extremist ideology, uncompromising politics and faint comprehension of the meaning of strategy.

China's Crisis: The Price Of Change

Last week was an eventful one for China. First, the People's Bank of China shocked the financial world when itcut the yuan's reference rate against the U.S. dollar by nearly 2 percent, leading to a greater than 2 percent drop in the value of the yuan in offshore trading. The decline triggered a frenzy of speculation, including some expectations that the Chinese move would trigger a race to the bottom for Asian currencies.

Beijing said the adjustment was designed to fix distortions between the trading rate of the yuan and the rate it should have been at according to speculation, and that subsequent large shifts were unlikely. The International Monetary Fund, however, noted that the move could lead to a freer floating yuan - something the IMF has asked of Beijing before the organization considers including the yuan in its Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies. In comments made on the sidelines of its annual report on the Chinese economy, released later in the week, the IMF also noted that the yuan was not undervalued, despite the decline.

Also last week, Chinese state media issued a warning to retired officials to stay out of politics and not misuse their former networks and prestige. The warning followed reports in state media suggesting that the annual unofficial gathering of current and former Party officials at Beidaihe was canceled and would not serve as a policy-making venue in the future. The reports noted that Party officials had already held several additional sessions in Beijing and that decisions were being made in the open, not in some secretive gathering of Party elders. Other reports circulating in Chinese media warned that former Party and military officials were involved in real estate speculation along with other economic mismanagement and needed to stop.

Is China About to Plunge the World into Recession?

AUGUST 18, 2015

FP asked four experts to weigh in on the RMB devaluation and China's sinking stock markets.
On Aug. 18, China’s stock market plummeted by a vertigo-inducing 6.2 percent in one day of trading, part of a months-long decline that’s erased over $3 trillion worth of market value from the country’s equity markets. That followed last week’s surprise decision to allow the value of the renminbi (RMB), China’s currency, to fall several percentage points against the U.S. dollar, which some view as a move intended to aid Chinese exports as the country’s economy flags. Global markets have appeared rattled, with major media outlets repeatedly invoking the specter of financial “contagion” from falling Chinese stocks and with major equity indices of the world’s biggest economies mostly retrenching in the days following the recent RMB devaluation.

China Turned to Risky Devaluation as Export Machine Stalled

AUG. 17, 2015 

Across China, millions of workers and thousands of companies are feeling the pain of the country’s slowing economy, as sales slip and incomes drop. CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

HONG KONG — When Prime Minister Li Keqiang convened the Chinese cabinet last month, the troubled economy was the main topic on the agenda.

The stock market had stumbled after a yearlong boom. Money was flooding out of the country. Most ominously, China’s export machine had stalled, prompting labor strikes.

In a little-noted advisory to government agencies, the cabinet said it was essential to fix the export problem, and the currency had to be part of the solution.

With the government keeping a tight grip on the value of the renminbi, Chinese goods were more expensive than rivals’ products overseas. The currencies of other emerging markets had fallen, and China’s exporters could not easily compete.


AUGUST 18, 2015

From government hacks to industrial theft, Chinese intelligence operations are making more headlines now than ever before.

Discussion of China’s intelligence threat often seems over-hyped if not disconnected from reality. Apart from cyber intrusions, little evidence suggests Chinese intelligence deserves the credit for quality that it has received. The most common anecdote of Chinese collection, repeated since the 1990s, is a Chinese official dipping his tie in a chemical solution to get a sample at a tradeshow, and one of the most recent Chinese intelligence success in the United States resulted from the hustling of a Louisiana furniture salesman. This is not the kind of operational sophistication and savvy one would expect of Sun Tzu’s successors.

China: Second Aircraft Carrier Base in Hainan- What it means for India?

By D. S. Rajan
Paper No. 5988 Dated 17-Aug-2015

It is a known fact that the first aircraft carrier base of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is located at Dalian, in Liaoning province; the carrier ‘Liaoning’ was commissioned into China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy on September 25, 2012. 

Open information emanating from China now confirms the completion of construction of a second aircraft carrier base at Sanya, off Hainan Island. These events need examination from a broader perspective as they have potentials to generate questions of geo-political importance as in the following - how to contextualize the events in terms of changes happening in China’s naval strategy? What could be the likely implications of such changes for the military situation in the Asia- Pacific region which remains affected by an acute territorial contest between China and other nations in South and East China seas? How these changes will impact on India’s sphere of influence, especially the Indian Ocean Region ? What follows is an attempt to find answers to these questions.

Should the United States Negotiate with Terrorists?

August 16, 2015

Editor’s Note: No one wants to give terrorists even a shred of legitimacy through negotiations, but even hardline counterterrorist countries like Israel have at times recognized the need to cut a deal with their enemies. This issue has come up again and again for the United States, particularly as it searches for allies in Syria: Some of the most effective forces against the Assad regime and the Islamic State are those of the Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), an al-Qaida affiliate. Longtime jihadist-watcher and FPRI fellow Clint Watts offers a provocative and novel idea: trying to splinter Nusra as a prelude to effective negotiations with it.

In July, President Obama dropped a policy bombshell, announcing that the U.S. government would communicate and negotiate with hostage takers—many of whom today happen to be terrorists. Negotiating with terrorists over kidnappings remains a tactical exchange, one that does not significantly alter the broader conflict between the two parties. At the strategic level, the United States remains staunchly in the macho mantra of “We’ll never negotiate with terrorists!” During the heyday of the Global War on Terrorism, ripe with venom after the fall of the twin towers on 9/11, this position seemed noble and just. But 14 years later, the al-Qaida that perpetrated the atrocities of September 11 hardly exists aside from Ayman al-Zawahiri and a few remaining disciples. The dwindling number of al-Qaida affiliates show fewer ties back to the original perpetrators of these attacks.

India’s Call Of The Gulf – Analysis

Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi visited the United Arab Emirates from 16-17 August 2015 at the invitation of His Highness Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed AI Nahyan. 
One of the long-term outcomes from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates is the prospect that India might actively contribute to the balance of power in the Gulf. It was the British Raj that provided security to the small and vulnerable Arab kingdoms of the eastern Gulf from the early 19th to the mid-20th century.

The relationship of the Raj with the Sheikhdoms of the eastern Arabian Peninsula was not too different from that with the Indian princely states. The Raj provided security guarantees to the Gulf regimes and guided their external relations while leaving them with considerable internal autonomy. The memory of this expansive Indian role had largely faded from New Delhi’s strategic consciousness after independence. There was nothing in the worldview of our first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, which prevented India from undertaking a significant security role in Asia and the Indian Ocean. Nehru certainly accepted the responsibilities he inherited from the Raj for protecting the Himalayan kingdoms. He also sought to build military strategic partnerships with such important post-colonial nations as Egypt and Indonesia.


AUGUST 19, 2015

The seven-decade anniversary of the end of the Second World War gives us good reasons to reflect on the use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict and what has changed since 1945.
Seventy years ago, Japan offered its unconditional surrender to the United States and Allied Powers. The surrender was predicated, at least in part, on the first usage of nuclear weapons in war. The two U.S. nuclear detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki helped convince the Japanese strategic leadershipdefeat was inevitable and broke the empire’s will to fight. In addition to being the first time nuclear weapons have been used in conflict, it was also the last, even as there are now at least nine states confirmed or suspected to possess nuclear weapons. As the U.S. Congress debates the viability and wisdom of an agreement intended to stop Iran from becoming the world’s tenth nuclear-armed state, it is worth considering the political and legal context of nuclear weapons in the modern international order.

Russia Beats China in This Year’s International Army Games

August 18, 2015

The 2015 International Army Games, organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense and held on 11 different firing ranges throughout Russia, came to a close on August 15 with the Russian team winning the most prestigious competition of the 14-day games — the tank biathlon — RT reports.

“The Russians overtook Kazakhstan, which had led the pack earlier, at the beginning of the second stage, and remained in front till the end, clocking an impressive time of 1 hour and 14 minutes,” according to RT. “The Chinese team came in second for the day, with the Serbian tank crew completing the podium.”

Overall, 13 teams participated in the tank biathlon with 12 countries using Russian-made colored-coded T-72B3 tanks to compete in the event. Only China brought its own tank force – four third-generation ZTZ-96A main battle tanks.

However, at the end of last year’s competition, Chinese soldiers admitted that the Type 96A is underpowered in comparison to its Russian counterparts (See: “Russia to Host World Military Games: China Brought its Own Tank”).

The Interview: Henry Kissinger

August 19, 2015

The National Interest’s editor, Jacob Heilbrunn, spoke with Henry Kissinger in early July in New York.

Jacob Heilbrunn: Why is realism today an embattled approach to foreign affairs, or perhaps not as significant as it was when you had figures such as Hans Morgenthau, George F. Kennan, Dean Acheson, then yourself in the 1970s—what has changed?

Henry Kissinger: I don’t think that I have changed my view on this subject very much since the seventies. I have always had an expansive view of national interest, and much of the debate about realism as against idealism is artificial. The way the debate is conventionally presented pits a group that believes in power as the determining element of international politics against idealists who believe that the values of society are decisive. Kennan, Acheson or any of the people you mentioned did not have such a simplistic view. The view of the various realists is that, in an analysis of foreign policy, you have to start with an assessment of the elements that are relevant to the situation. And obviously, values are included as an important element. The real debate is over relative priority and balance.

Heilbrunn: One of the things that struck me in the new biography of you by Niall Ferguson is his quotation from your personal diary from 1964. You suggested rather prophetically that “the Goldwater victory is a new phenomenon in American politics—the triumph of the ideological party in the European sense. No one can predict how it will end because there is no precedent for it.”

Senator Corker and the Nuclear Agreement

August 18, 2015

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has long given us hope for reasonableness even when he and we have been surrounded by partisan rabidity and a lack of reason. Corker was one of the few Republican senators to refrain from signing the Tom Cotton letter that lectured the Iranians on how they cannot count on the United States sticking to any agreement that Iran may reach with it. When others in Congress were looking for ways to use new sanctions to torpedo preemptively any agreement on restricting Iran's nuclear program, Corker was working on legislation to provide structure to Congressional review of any agreement that emerged from the negotiations. The initial version of his bill was studded with poison pills, but Corker showed the flexibility, working with acting ranking Democrat Ben Cardin, to revise it into something balanced enough that it was enacted with broad bipartisan support and signed by the president.

It has been a fairly safe bet for some time that Corker would eventually oppose the nuclear agreement; with Jeff Flake, the only Republican senator who was possibly in play on the issue, having announced his opposition the other day, the GOP ranks in the Senate will be completely closed. But still one might hope to see signs of well-informed reasonableness, especially as a welcome contrast with the bombast of the presidential campaign, in which those vying for primary votes from the party base are striving to outdo each other in denouncing the agreement with comparisons to genocidal ovens and the like. We will have enough to worry about concerning the future of the agreement and thus the ability to restrain Iran's nuclear activities if one of those candidates, laden with such campaign baggage, makes it to the White House.

A TNI Symposium: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 19, 2015

Editor’s Note: The following is a TNI special 30th anniversary symposium. We asked twenty-five of the world’s leading experts: What is the purpose of American power? Each day we will post multiple responses to this important question. Please check back daily. Below you will find a schedule of when each response will be posted (and a link when live):

Thursday, August 20: Ian Bremmer, Paul Kennedy and Joe Nye.

Friday, August 21: John Mearsheimer, Ruth Wedgwood and Robert Zoellick.

Monday, August 24: William J. Burns, Gideon Rose and Paul Saunders.

Tuesday, August 25: Paula J. Dobriansky, Yoichi Funabashi and Robert W. Merry.

Wednesday, August 26: David Bromwich, Gary Hart and Zalmay Khalilzad.

Thursday, August 27: Michael Lind, Kishore Mahbubani, Ferdinand Mount, Paul Pillar and Gideon Rachman.

What Is America’s Purpose?

We Asked Graham Allison: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 19, 2015

Editor’s Note: The following is part of TNI’s special 30th anniversary symposium. We asked twenty-five of the world’s leading experts: What is the purpose of American power? You can find all of their answers here. You can also find our exclusive interview with Henry Kissinger here.

The primary purpose of American power should be to “preserve the U.S. as a free nation with our fundamental institutions and values intact.” This sturdy one-liner from the Cold War captures the big idea. It also reminds us of our too-often-forgotten yet most vital national interest. In the twenty-first century, such a bold assertion of “America First”—without apology—offends many postmodern sensibilities. For many U.S. citizens today, “American leadership” means serving as a global 911, defending those unable or unwilling to defend themselves, bearing any burden, paying any price. Abroad, any intimation that Americans at home should come first invites criticism for short-sighted selfishness unworthy of a great power.

But brute facts are hard to deny: the survival and success of the United States as a free nation is the essential prerequisite for America’s power being applied to achieve any larger objectives in the world.

We Asked Tom Cotton: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

Editor’s Note: The following is part of TNI’s special 30th anniversary symposium. We asked twenty-five of the world’s leading experts: What is the purpose of American power? You can find all of their answers here. You can also find our exclusive interview with Henry Kissinger here.

In no region of the world is U.S. influence greater than it was six years ago. In fact, in many regions, it’s greatly diminished. The post–Cold War consensus is under threat in Europe. The balance of power in the Asia-Pacific is tipping toward China. And the Middle East has entered a period of upheaval and possible realignment that threatens the United States and our allies. On the strategic challenges of our time, we’re hard-pressed to identify any major achievements under our current commander in chief that are not eclipsed by broader failures.

These are the bitter fruits of a foreign policy premised on strategic retreat. President Obama has ceded levels of regional influence to competing powers despite the immediate consequences for the interests of the United States and our partners.

We Asked Grover Norquist: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 19, 2015

Editor’s Note: The following is part of TNI’s special 30th anniversary symposium. We asked twenty-five of the world’s leading experts: What is the purpose of American power? You can find all of their answers here. You can also find our exclusive interview with Henry Kissinger here.

The purpose of American power is to protect the independence of the government and the liberty of the American people from threats from hostile states or political movements.

And what is the United States? Germany is a place and a people. France is a place, a language and a culture. America is a people of the book: the Constitution. We are not united by race or religion. We come from everywhere in the world. Even our language is fluid: an English base with new words and phrases flowing in from around the world. We are united by a commitment to individual liberty and the structures created by the Constitution that have ensured that liberty through our history.

We Asked Anne-Marie Slaughter: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 19, 2015

Editor’s Note: The following is part of TNI’s special 30th anniversary symposium. We asked twenty-five of the world’s leading experts: What is the purpose of American power? You can find all of their answers here. You can also find our exclusive interview with Henry Kissinger here.

The purpose of American power is to advance American interests in the world. The real question, then, is how to define American interests. First are defensive interests: the protection of American territory and citizens and the safety and security of our allies. Second are the affirmative goals that we pursue in the world, which President Obama has identified as an open global economy, respect for universal human rights and a rule-governed international order. A world in which all human beings can trade and compete with one another openly and fairly; can think, speak, write and worship as they please; are free from both fear and want; and profit from the stability and predictability of an international as well as a domestic order is a world in which Americans can flourish.

What the Expansion of the Suez Canal Shows About Shifts in Global Shipping

August 17th, 2015 

Egypt has opened a second lane to the Suez Canal amid much fanfare. The US$8 billion dollar expansion adds 35km of new channels to the existing canal and another 35km where existing bodies of water were dredged to make way for larger ships.

This will supposedly increase capacity from 50 transits a day to 97 and cut waiting times from 18 to 11 hours, which the Suez Canal Authority claims will more than double annual revenue to US$13.2 billion by 2023.

By cutting the distance between Europe and Asia by 43%, the Suez Canal’s opening in 1869 dramatically lowered the cost of moving goods between the two continents. Suez – like the Panama Canal, which is also currently undergoing expansion – drew distant places together, facilitated the expansion of national economies, and accelerated globalisation.

'Drinkable book' could give millions access to clean water

AUGUST 17, 2015

With pages that can filter out bacteria, the drinkable book may solve a major public health problem for the 750 million people worldwide without access to clean drinking water.

Normally, pouring water onto a book is an unfortunate accident. Aside from using the Yellow Pages to mop up a spill, there aren’t many reasons to intentionally get a book wet.

Scientists have just come up with a really good reason, one that could be an answer to water scarcity around the world.

The “drinkable book” is not just a manual on why and how to drink clean water; the pages themselves are imbued with silver and copper particles that act as water filters, making even the filthiest water potable when torn out and used with a special holding device. With 750 million people worldwide lacking access to clean water, an easy and inexpensive solution has been a pressing yet elusive need.

This GOP Presidential Hopeful Says America Needs 15 Aircraft Carriers

August 18, 2015

Republican presidential hopeful and Ohio Governor John Kasich says the United States should build five more aircraft carriers.

Speaking at a forum on national security in South Carolina on Monday, Governor Kasich argued that the United States should try to have around 15 aircraft carriers.

“We have about 10 carriers now, my goal would be to get closer to 15. And you’ve got to have the ability to project power when you get there,” Kasich said, theColumbus Dispatch and Politicoreported.

Speaking to reporters after the forum, Kasich clarified his remarks by saying that the project to build five additional aircraft carriers would have to be done “over time. It’s not going to be done in a day. It has to all be done calmly and over time.”

Bad Guys Are Already Compromising Chip and PIN Cards

17 AUG 2015 

The adoption of chip-and-PIN technology for payment cards is starting to happen in North America, in the name of improving security for consumers, merchants and card issuers alike. Unfortunately, this is also forcing the bad guys to innovate, as evidenced by a new kind of ATM “shimmer” found in Mexico.

A shimmer is a type of skimmer, which acts a shim that sits between the chip on the card and the chip reader in the ATM — recording the data on the chip as it is read by the ATM.

Brian Krebs noted in a blog that the chip-reading component is inserted from outside the machine; no access is required to the ATM internals. In this case the device was found inside a Diebold Opteva 520 with dip reader (the kind of card reader that requires you to briefly insert your card and then quickly remove it).

This revelation shows that physical proximity and access to the card itself has once again become highly important to criminals, according to Ricardo Villadiego, founder and CEO of Easy Solutions.

Military Cybersecurity: Evolution Is The Only Business Model That Makes Sense

AUG 17, 2015

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

In 1932, British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin evoked fear throughout Europe when he warned Parliament that “the bomber will always get through.” Baldwin couldn’t imagine a technology that would blunt the danger posed by air power, and thus he argued any defense was futile. The apprehension his remarks engendered made it easier for Hitler to cow the West into appeasement. But by the time Baldwin made his bleak forecast, scientists in several nations were well on their way to developing radar — the technology that would make effective air defense feasible.

As Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work has observed, America’s military today finds itself in a similar state to that prevailing during the interwar years. New technologies are proliferating at a rapid pace, creating unprecedented challenges and opportunities at the same time. The most important such technologies are those centering on digital computing and the internet. Initially, there was great optimism that these new tools could transform the world in America’s image. Now the mood has shifted to one of profound pessimism as extremists of every stripe embrace the digital revolution and U.S. networks come under continuous attack from intruders.

Indonesia Sinks 34 Foreign Ships in War on Illegal Fishing

August 19, 2015

Indonesia sank 34 foreign vessels on Tuesday in conjunction with its independence day celebrations in its latest bid to deter vessels from illegally fishing, local media outlets reported.

The mass public sinking itself comes as no surprise. As I’ve written previously, Indonesia under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has launched a tough crackdown on illegal fishing in Indonesian waters, which he says causes the country to suffer annual losses of over $20 billion (See: “Explaining Indonesia’s ‘Sink the Vessels’ Policy Under Jokowi”). That has resulted in a series of highly public sinking of boats from neighboring countries over the past year – part of what Jokowi has described as a “shock therapy” approach in spite of concerns among some of Indonesia’s neighbors.

Tomgram: William Astore, Time to Hold Military Boots to the Fire

Posted by William Astore
August 18, 2015.

On July 24th, highlighting the first Turkish air strikes against the Islamic State and news of an agreement to let the U.S. Air Force use two Turkish air bases against that movement, the New York Times reported that unnamed “American officials welcomed the [Turkish] decision... calling it a ‘game changer.’” And they weren’t wrong. Almost immediately, the game changed. Turkish President Recep Erdogan promptly sent planes hurtling off not against Islamic State militants but the PKK, that country’s Kurdish rebels with whom his government had previously had a tenuous ceasefire. In the process, he created a whole new set of problems for Washington, including making life more difficult for Kurdish rebel troops in Syria connected to the PKK that the Obama administration was backing in the fight against the Islamic State. Erdogan’s acts also ensured that chaos and conflict would spread to new areas of the Middle East. So game-changer indeed!

The question is: Why does Washington do it time after time? Why has just about every militarized move made in the region been quite so hapless and clueless since the initial invasion of Iraq? If such actions didn’t involve lives (and deaths) and one of the grimmer Islamic extremist movements on the planet, much of this would qualify as theater of the absurd or a comedy of errors. Take the so-called New Syrian Forces. That’s the moniker the Obama administration gave the thousands of “moderate” Syrian fighters it wanted to train and equip to take on the Islamic State (but not the Assad regime) at a cost of $500 million. In other words, Washington was determined to have its own fighting force of non-extreme Syrians with their distinctly Syrian boots on the ground in that chaotic war zone, even if they were American-supplied. What could possibly go wrong?