24 August 2015

'The old soldier will survive, but will never forget this insult'

A selection of readers' opinions over the past week.

One Rank One Pension

The Narendra Modi government has insulted retired soldiers – a sin it should pay for by being relentlessly hounded out of power by concerted public action at all levels ("If Modi was going to let down OROP protesters, he should at least have appealed to their honour"). I never imagined that the Prime Minister would become so swollen-headed so quickly.

The old soldier will survive on whatever he has, but he will never forget the insult of passive protesters being physically assaulted. – Revti Raman

OROP is becoming a serious matter of national concern. I don't understand what pleasure the BJP is deriving by opposing the scheme. Keeping national interest at heart is what matters. The Prime Minister, his advisors and BJP leaders are enjoying watching a 'mela' unfold at Jantar Mantar.

The reality has been expressed by former Chiefs of Army Staff, who understand the pain of soldiers fighting wars without modern machinery and other provisions.

US-India Aircraft Carrier Working Group Meets

August 22, 2015

A few South Asia-focused defense and security-focused links to wrap up your week:
U.S.-India aircraft carrier working group meets for the first time. For the first time, a group comprising high-level officials from both the United States and India convened in Washington last week to begin what Reuters describes as “an ongoing series of meetings aimed at establishing broader cooperation on the design, development and production of aircraft carriers.” As I’ve discussed in The Diplomat before, both the United States and India have a lot to gain from collaboration on aircraft carrier. Specifically, should U.S. technology, including nuclear propulsion and electromagnetic aircraft launch systems (EMALS), find their way into India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier, the INS Vishal, the Indian Navy could have the most sophisticated carrier fleets in Asia. For the moment, U.S.-India carrier cooperation is in its preliminary stages–as part of this initial working group meeting, U.S. officials took their Indian counterparts to the U.S. naval shipyard where the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first U.S. Ford-class carrier, is being built.

India Seeks ‘Auspicious Re-Birth’ in Iran’s Energy Sector

August 21, 2015

After Iran had rejected India’s early May offer to develop of Iran’s Farzad-B offshore natural gas block, New Dehli is making a renewed new effort to woo Tehran’s approval. ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL), the overseas arm of India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation reportedly is now prepared to make concessions on cost recovery and capital expenditure to secure the Farzad-B contract. Under pressure from the United States during the sanctions regime, India delayed and ultimately relinquished Farzad’s development and also withdrew from the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project slated to bring 11.3 billion cubic meters of Iranian natural gas per year to India. In Persian, the name Farzad means “auspicious birth.” With a recently proposed Iran-Oman-India undersea gas pipeline potentially in the offing, New Delhi is hoping for an “auspicious re-birth” in Iran’s natural gas industry by seeking to regain the Farzad development project.


22 August 2015 

In its 16 March 2015 Resolution 2210 (2015) extending the mandate of United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA), the UN Security Council drew an optimistic scenario for the country.

From all angles, Afghanistan is a transformed place: a robust unity government; stronger security force; better living standards; higher GDP growth; better schools for children and greater presence of women in the workforce.

It further noted that Afghanistan is free of al-Qaeda training camps, the Taliban is subdued, and there is an improved atmosphere in its ties with Pakistan.

Not every observer is, however, convinced that Afghanistan is stable. The Unity Government, created to end the crisis set off by widespread election fraud, remains inherently divided and fragile. Power sharing among coalition groups remains hung up due to delay and differences.

The Hurriyat flip-flop: Why can't Delhi get its Kashmir policy straight?

Separatist politics cannot be wished away. If Delhi wants to steer the conversation, it needs to start engaging with separatist leaders once more

Delhi has a real talent for playing spoilsport when it comes to Kashmir. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, are scheduled to meet on Sunday, resuming a crucial bilateral dialogue after a year of stony silence. But when it was revealed that Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit had also invited Kashmiri separatist leaders to call on Aziz, Delhi suddenly looked stormy. The talks seemed uncertain. And now the meeting is being described as an operational exercise with only terror on the table, not a wide ranging diplomatic engagement.

August 2014 seems to be playing loop with a few plot changes. Back then, Delhi had called off foreign secretary level talks altogether when it learnt that Basit had rendezvoused with separatist leaders of the Hurriyat. The Centre had warned of the “red line” that should not be crossed. This year, security experts in the capital called the invitation to Hurriyat leaders an “irritant” to talks. Then on Thursday, the government took the mystifying decision to place Hurriyat leaders under house arrest for a few hours.

Captured militant Naved's interrogation report to figure in NSA level talks with Pak

Today's major developments.

Ajit Doval to be briefed on Pakistan militant’s interrogation
Ahead of the NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan, NIA chief Sharad Kumar will brief National Security Advisor AK Doval on the progress made in interrogating alleged Pakistani militant Mohammed Naved Yakub. Kumar flew down to Srinagar on Thursday to review the interrogation reports of Naved, who was captured by locals after the terror strike on a BSF bus at Udhampur in Jammu that killed two personnel of the border guarding force. "Kumar briefed the Governor about the working of NIA, which has been established as the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency of Government of India, and about the up-to-date status of the investigation in the recent Udhampur terror attack," a spokesman for the Raj Bhawan said. Meanwhile, Doval met Home Minister Rajnath Singh after it became clear that Sartaz Aziz will meet Kashmiri separatist leaders during his visit to New Delhi on 23 August.

Pakistan rejects India’s advisory over meeting Kashmiri separatists ahead of NSA’s visit

Today's major developments.

Separatists reaffirm intention to meet Aziz

Pakistan on Friday rejected India’s advisory asking it to not meet with separatist groups from Jammu and Kashmir, two days ahead of Pakistani National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz’s visit to New Delhi. Islamabad said that it was “deeply disappointed” with India over what it called the country's “pre-conditions” for talks between Aziz and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval. A senior Pakistani diplomat said that India could not expect its neighbour to “compromise on this central issue”. Meanwhile, separatist groups, including the Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference, reaffirmed their intention to meet with Aziz, saying that the Indian government had adopted an “unrealistic approach” to talks with Pakistan. Moderate Hurriyat chairperson Mirwaiz Umar Farooq further said that it made no sense for Pakistan to not meet with the separatists since Kashmir was the cause of the primary dispute between India and Pakistan. Later, while both neighbours ruled out cancelling the talks, Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the two countries were yet to decide on the agenda for the meeting between Aziz and Doval.

Modi says fighting climate change a ‘national priority’

Will the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Really Go Ahead?

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
August 21, 2015

Last month, Iran reached a landmark nuclear agreement with the P5+1. Speculation soon followed that the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline would benefit from the nuclear deal. The Economic Times meanwhile reported that India was “set to push for the proposed $7 billion gas pipeline from Iran via Pakistan,” now that restrictions were likely to ease in the wake of the nuclear deal.

However, the U.S. State Department said recently that sanctions on the Iran pipeline project still existed. A spokesperson also told reporters that, “We don’t consider Iran open for business yet, and there’s no new sanctions relief beyond the very limited relief under the joint plan of action that’s been in place since January 2014.” He added, “When Iran meets its key nuclear steps and we get to implementation day, then there will be commensurate relief of nuclear-related sanctions.”

Confirmed: Pakistan Is Buying New Attack Helicopters From Russia

August 21, 2015

In a move possibly inspired by the deepening of U.S.-India defense cooperation, Russia decided to approve the sale of four Mi-35M attack helicopters to Pakistan The Express Tribune reports.
“An agreement was signed between Pakistan and Russian authorities in Rawalpindi for the purchase of four Mi-35 helicopters,” according to a senior Pakistani military official quoted in The Express Tribune.

The military official did not offer details on the planned delivery date of the aircraft or the helicopters’ technical configuration. The deal was likely concluded during Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Russia in June of this year.

Initial talks over the purchase of the helicopters were already held last June. “We are currently holding consultations. We are talking about Mi-35 helicopters, we plan to supply them at the request of the Pakistani anti-drug trafficking agency,” a Russian official said back then. Pakistan plans to officially use the helicopters to fight drug trafficking.

Vietnam Warns of Coming Economic Bombshell for Mainland Southeast Asia

August 21, 2015

Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar are the poorest, least well-run countries within ASEAN. They are also notoriously publicity-shy. Anything negative that needs to be shared is usually served-up amid a flurry of bureaucratic dogma that tends to bury the bad news. The messages are still there, but one needs to pay attention.

And it’s worth adding that there is nothing that could be less appealing to a newspaper editor – even a communist one – than a gathering of bureaucrats for a discussion about “budgets and oversights” at a joint workshop for ASEAN’s most economically challenged.

Recently, it was at such a function that the head of the National Assembly’s Committee for Finance and Budget, Phung Quoc Hien, underscored that “any changes in the global economy would have huge impacts on developing countries like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.”

Yes, Hanoi said “huge impacts.” And it’s worth more than the passing notice it barely got while buried on the webpages of the state-owned Vietnam News Service (VNS).

Ready for Take-Off: China Steers Course Between Prestige and Profit

China's slowing economy has German industry worried about its exports to Asia. But as it goes about beefing up the transportation sector, the country poses a completely different threat in the longer-term.

For a military site, the Dachang Air Base in the northern part of Shanghai has a very civilian appearance, a little like the campus of an American university, with widely spaced bungalows and buildings, plane trees, ponds, lawns and the Volvos, Jeeps and Buicks of employees.

Along with several assistants, aviation engineer Li Jieke, 66, a tall, elegant man, is giving a tour of the grounds along with an assistant. Foreigners are an uncommon sight here, and foreign journalists are especially rare. "No photos, please," says Li, as we approach the airfield, where several People's Liberation Army jet fighter are parked in formation. "Let's take a drive over to our building instead, to the civilian aircraft."

In Dr. Li's hangar, photographs are only permitted in selected locations, and only from specific angles. The ARJ21 Xiangfeng is being assembled there. It is China's first domestically developed modern airliner, the pride of its engineers and the hope of its aviation industry. ARJ stands for "Advanced Regional Jet," and Xiangfeng means "Flying Phoenix." The number 21 stands for the 21st century.

Post-Soviet States Jostle For Role in China's New Silk Road Project

Aug 17, 2015

Following an initially cool reception, many former USSR republics have been lured by the sheer size of China’s investment in the OBOR project, with a number of them now keen to capitalise on the wider initiative in line with their own domestic interests

The goal of the Eurasianists

This article originally appeared at Hong Kong TDC. The author is Chairman of the deftly titled “Russia in Asia-Pacific Program” at the Carnegie Moscow Center

When Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, made his now famous speech in Astana [the capital of Kazakhstan] in September 2013, announcing the launch of the Silk Road Economic Belt, few post-Soviet leaders took notice. The language of the speech was too vague and the content of Xi’s proposals too imprecise to create any meaningful response. As the project matured, however, more attention was paid in all 15 capitals of the former USSR republics.

Questions were raised, though, both about China’s internal motivation and about the future routes. Chinese officials’ general responses to direct requests and the frequently changing maps of the future routes (published by Xinhua, China’s state-owned news agency) didn’t offer much in the way of transparency with regard to the initiative.

Should the Philippines’ South China Sea Case Against China Proceed?

By Sean Mirski
August 21, 2015

Two and a half years ago, the Philippines took an unprecedented step to shake up the territorial dispute roiling the waters of the South China Sea. For years, six nations – including the Philippines and China –have wrestled over control of a smattering of islands and reefs dotting the oceanic expanse. At times, the dispute has been heated, even violent, but it largely played out within the four corners of the sea itself. That changed when Manila brought the dispute into the halls of the Peace Palace, the home of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The island nation legalized the conflict by instituting arbitral proceedings against China, essentially suing Beijing for its allegedly aggressive and “unlawful” behavior in the South China Sea.

The case has meant much to many. To the Philippines, it bears out “the conviction that principles trump power; that law triumphs over force; and that right prevails over might.” Others have suggested that the suit implicates the vitality of the maritime dispute settlement system, or even that it is really a case about the validity of international law itself.

A Chinese Rights Revolution Reversed?

By Peter Lorentzen and Suzanne Scoggins
August 21, 2015

The recent roundup of over 200 rights lawyers in China was greeted with shock in the U.S. But to us, it is not surprising. For all its exhortations for citizens to “use the law as your weapon,” our research indicates that the Communist Party never meant to foster a bona fide rights movement.

For years many China watchers saw signs that China was moving in the direction of political liberalization, if slowly. While political reforms have been less dramatic than the better-known story of economic reform, these changes raised hopes that China would pursue a path of gradual political reform that would soften its autocracy and perhaps lead to real democracy.

Journalists began reporting on social problems once verboten. Legislators started to think of themselves as serving and representing constituents, not just the Party. Village heads are now (mostly) chosen by (more-or-less) fair elections. And lawyers became emboldened to help citizens defend their rights against the party-state.

Pentagon Denounces 'Excessive Maritime Claims' in the South China Sea

August 21, 2015

A new report from the U.S. Department of Defense, entitled “The Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy,” provides the clearest look to-date at the U.S. military’s view of the maritime situation in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly the maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

The report includes a detailed section on land reclamation in the South China Sea. While it references earlier efforts by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan, the bulk of the analysis focuses on China’s recent activities. The Pentagon reports that from December 2013 to June 2015, China “reclaimed more than 2,900 acres of land… accounting for approximately 95 percent of all reclaimed land in the Spratlys.” That’s up nearly 50 percent over a previous Pentagon estimate in May, which said China has reclaimed about 2,000 acres.

Will China Take Over US Military Facility in Djibouti?

August 21, 2015

Want China Times has the juiciest story of the week, with its report that the United States is being ordered to vacate the town in Djibouti that China is eyeing for a military base. Citing Global Times and Counter Punch, Want China Times says that “Djibouti reportedly ordered the U.S. to vacate the Obock military base so that it can be turned over the People’s Liberation Army.” The United States’ actual permanent base in Djibouti is at Camp Lemonnier; Obock is a port city with an existing airport and naval pier.

Washington is reportedly deeply concerned about the move, which would give China its first-ever overseas base — one that incorporates U.S.-built facilities. In 2009, the U.S. unveiled a new, $14 million naval pier facility in Obock, with both civilian and military sections. “The military portion includes a 90-meter maritime platform, a head office, an administrative and berthing structure, fully-automated gas and firefighting systems as well as water and fuel storage facilities,” the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa reported at the time.

Is This China and Russia's "Nonaggression Pact” for Cyberspace?

August 21, 2015

On May 8, 2015, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of international information security. The treaty, which some have dubbed a “nonaggression pact” for cyberspace, details cooperative measures both governments pledge to undertake, including exchange of information and increased scientific and academic cooperation. With this, Russia and China continue to advance their vision of “information security,” a view of security concerns in cyberspace that is markedly differentfrom Western approaches of “cybersecurity.”

Many observers have characterized the agreement as a largely political move at a time of heightened tensions with the United States and Europe. The alignment of Russia and China is seen as a response to growing Western pressure. Accordingly, Russia’s pivot to the East follows Western sanctions over its actions in Ukraine.

The Game-Changing Iran Report That Bibi Fears

August 21, 2015

Israel’s military intelligence corps has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a surprising report assessing the opportunities and threats that the Iran nuclear deal poses for Israel.

What’s startling about the report is not its substance, which is mostly a predictable mix of standard arguments presented for and against the deal: No nukes for 10 years, which gives Israel time to develop new countermeasures, but then a quick path to a nuke after a decade; an accelerated regional arms race, plus new legitimacy for pariah Iran, but also (surprisingly) a reduced likelihood of Iran attacking Israel. The upsides aren’t perfect. The downsides aren’t unmanageable.

No, what’s remarkable about the report is the fact that it exists. Netanyahu has ordered every level of Israeli officialdom to muzzle any discussion of the deal’s possible upsides. Central to his strategy is his insistence that the deal is an unmitigated catastrophe. Orders are to depict it as so ruinous that no outcome is acceptable short of its absolute defeat.

The prime minister and his allies insist Israel is united behind his unequivocal rejection of the deal. The cowering silence of the political opposition has helped him nurture the myth. But it’s a myth.

Tajikistan, Turkey and the Gülen Movement

By Samantha Brletich
August 21, 2015

Tajikistan has become the latest Central Asian country to close schools linked to the Gülen movement, a global religious and social movement founded in 1992 by the controversial U.S.-based Turkish Imam Fethullah Gülen. The charter schools, which have operated with the support of the Tajikistan-based Salale Education Institution, have faced considerable resistance over the last two years, and have been under investigation since January 2015. The decision to close the schools was announced by President Emomali Rahmon in May. It is a decision that signals further religious oppression and reflects the emerging partnership between Tajikistan and Turkey.

The Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet Service, opened its first school in 1982. Today, it is believed to operate more than 1,000 schools worldwide. That number is set to decrease because of school closures in Turkey and other countries. Fethullah Gülen was influenced by the teachings of Kurdish theologian Said Nursi and focuses on compatibility and cohesiveness between modernity, education, and Islam in Turkey and abroad. The movement is a form of cultural Islam. Gülen emphasizes math and science, and promotes entrepreneurism and capitalism. The schools are funded by Turkish businessmen and foundations (vakif).

Who Are Uzbeks in Syria Fighting For?

August 22, 2015

Some good Central Asia reads for the weekend:
First, Joanna Paraszczuk has an excellent report on a Taliban-aligned Uzbek militant fighter in Syria who reached out to RFE/RL (via Whatsapp of all methods) specifically to express his group’s opposition to ISIS. The man, who claimed to be a member of Imam Bukhori Jamaat, told RFE/RL “IS is a group with a false ‘aqidah’[Islamic creed]. Its leader [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi is a person who likes to indulge in pleasures, he is a depraved person.”

While the militant’s comments have to be taken with all due skepticism (for example, he boasts that Imam Bukhori Jamaat has 6,000 Uzbeks, a number that Paraszczuk notes is nearly impossible to independently verify), it does help illustrate the complex array of militant groups fighting in Syria to which Uzbeks from throughout the former Soviet Union are drawn.

Next, a brief from PONARS Eurasia by Caress Schenk looks at labor migration within the Eurasian Economic Union. Even established free labor zones, like the European Union, face some difficulties regarding actual freedom of movement between countries, but the Eurasian Economic Union countries have a history of domestic regulations blocking free movement even when multilateral agreements provide for it:

Russia and the Cold War Warriors

James NixeyHead, Russia and Eurasia Programme
21 August 2015
Source Link

Those who warn of a resurgent Russia are often accused of ignoring the fact that the Cold War is over. But it is those who still believe that Moscow is entitled to influence over post-Soviet countries that are stuck in the past.

Bottles of wine depicting former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on display in a shop in Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo by Getty Images.

‘Cold War warrior’ is a moniker often directed at those who are critical of Russia’s actions abroad and believe it is necessary to adopt a firm response. To hold such views is, for a vocal minority, to be living in the last century and to refuse to accept that the old Soviet enemy has gone.

Those who are uncomfortable with reproach and/or robust policies toward Russia can be grouped in four analytical categories, which sometimes overlap in practice and which all have one thing in common – they view the post-Soviet states as something ‘lesser’. Lesser than, say, Poland; and certainly lesser than Russia.
Four categories

U.S. Told Ukraine to Stand Down as Putin Invaded

AUG 21, 2015

As Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces took over Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in early 2014, the interim Ukrainian government was debating whether or not to fight back against the "little green men" Russia had deployed. But the message from the Barack Obama administration was clear: avoid military confrontation with Moscow.

The White House's message to Kiev was advice, not an order, U.S. and Ukrainian officials have recently told us, and was based on a variety of factors. There was a lack of clarity about what Russia was really doing on the ground. The Ukrainian military was in no shape to confront the Russian Spetsnaz (special operations) forces that were swarming on the Crimean peninsula. Moreover, the Ukrainian government in Kiev was only an interim administration until the country would vote in elections a few months later. Ukrainian officials told us that other European governments sent Kiev a similar message.

But the main concern was Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As U.S. officials told us recently, the White House feared that if the Ukrainian military fought in Crimea, it would give Putin justification to launch greater military intervention in Ukraine, using similar logic to what Moscow employed in 2008 when Putin invaded large parts of Georgia in response to a pre-emptive attack by the Tbilisi government. Russian forces occupy two Georgian provinces to this day.

Forget plagiarism: there’s a new and bigger threat to academic integrity

Aug 20, 2015

Managing the newest form of academic deceit will require hard work from established academia and a renewed commitment to integrity from university communities.

Academic plagiarism is no longer just sloppy “cut and paste” jobs or students cribbing large chunks of an assignment from a friend’s earlier essay on the same topic. These days, students can simply visit any of a number of paper or essay mills that litter the internet and buy a completed assignment to present as their own.

These shadowy businesses are not going away anytime soon. Paper mills can’t be easily policed or shut down by legislation. And there’s a trickier issue at play here: they provide a service which an alarming number of students will happily use.

Managing this newest form of academic deceit will require hard work from established academia and a renewed commitment to integrity from university communities.

Unmasking the “shadow scholar”

Rathin Roy: In Paris, abandon the status quo

Rathin Roy 
August 20, 2015 

India's status quo position with respect to climate changenegotiations appears to have three important "red lines". First, a uni-focal emphasis on adapation, with mitigation being addressed rather defensively and minimally; second, a static political alignment focusing on the BASICgrouping, and a reluctance to engage with fresh coalitions cutting across rich-poor dividing lines; and third, a focus on hectoring rich countries to provide climate finance to poor countries.

I believe the status quo does not serve India well, and we need different thinking that better serves our interests.

No sane person would argue against adaptation given the clear and present danger presented by global warming. However, I think this should not be the sole focus of India's negotiating interventions. The old-fashioned uni-focal emphasis on adaptation has meant that India's impressive track record on mitigation has been ignored.

India has quietly risen to the challenge of being the first country in the world to commit to economic transformation without substantial additional recourse to fossil fuels. That, in essence, is what generating 100 gigawatts of renewable electricity by 2025 means. India now effectively and significantly taxes fossil fuel consumption. Revenue rewards to states from afforestation in India, at Rs 36,000 crore, are much greater than those paid by any emerging economy. India is also the only G20 country to use significant renewable energy for lifeline (think lightbulbs), as opposed to lifestyle (think central heating) consumption.

Is East Timor Now a Rich Country?

August 22, 2015

Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Finance issued a press statement claiming that the small Southeast Asian nation is already among the richest countries in the world. It cited a report of the Global Finance magazine which ranked Timor-Leste’s GDP per capita on a purchasing power parity basis as the 87th highest in the world. The global survey involved 184 countries. In Southeast Asia, Timor-Leste ranked fifth behind Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Global Finance also factored the relative cost of living and the inflation rates of countries. It used figures from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook database for April 2013

But La’o Hamutuk, a non-government organization, made a simple fact-checking and discovered that the statistics used for Timor-Leste were already outdated. It made reference to the latest IMF World Economic Outlook published in April 2015 which gave Timor-Leste a rank of 122nd (not 87th) in the world in 2013. Furthermore, the country’s ranking is expected to decline by six places in 2014.

Kiribati and the Future of Coal

By Kumi Naidoo
August 21, 2015

The people of the low-lying islands of Kiribati in the central Pacific Ocean are possibly the least responsible for climate change, and yet the most exposed to the consequences of it. Every high tide now carries with it the potential for damage and flooding. These people know first hand that climate change is not just an environmental crisis; it is also a human rights disaster.

Last week I visited the president of Kirabati, Anote Tong. He is a man who is watching his nation slowly drown due to sea level rises brought on by climate change. I was present when he made the groundbreaking call to world leaders to end new coal mines. In a letter sent to world leaders attending the climate conference in Paris in November, the president said:

“Let us join together as a global community and take action now. The construction of each new coal mine undermines the spirit and intent of any agreement we may reach, particularly in the upcoming COP 21 in Paris, whilst stopping new coal mine constructions NOW will make any agreement reached in Paris truly historical.”

Bangkok Bombing’s Economic Fallout

August 22, 2015

The search is continuing for the perpetrators behind the devastating terror attack on Bangkok’s Erawan Hindu shrine, which claimed the lives of 21 people and injured 120 others. Yet with Chinese, Filipino, Hong Kong, Japanese, Singapore and Taiwan citizens reportedly on the casualty list, the economic fallout from the deadly blast on the nation’s vital tourism sector could be extensive.

As reported by The Diplomat, Monday evening’s blast was timed to cause major damage, with the shrine located on the city’s most popular shopping street being crowded at the time of the attack with tourists and worshippers.

Thai police have released a sketch of the suspect and sought assistance from Interpol in hunting a man described as a “foreigner,” with the investigation broadening from domestic to international terror organizations.

With tourism accounting for up to 20 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP), including indirect effects, the damage caused to the nation could extend well beyond the capital. Nearly 25 million foreign tourists visited Thailand last year, helping boost sectors including hotels, restaurants and other service industries.

The Secret to Donald Trump's Massive Rise in the Polls

August 22, 2015

The punditry’s reaction to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has come in three phases.

The first was annoyed indifference, accompanied by invocations of the Manny Ramirez Defense that this was “just Trump being Trump.” Most assumed the mouthy magnate was looking for a boutique issue to exploit so he could make a brief publicity splash and get out of the race, like he did with President Obama’s birth certificate in 2011. Responses were either blisteringly vitriolic or casually dismissive.

The second was anguished alarm, as Trump’s poll numbers surged and it became apparent that his candidacy was no hour-long reality show. Suddenly the Republican frontrunner was a former liberal Democrat whose chief conservative qualification was a tendency to spout politically incorrect platitudes. But how could someone so vacuous win the nomination? How could cheap insults substitute for policy? These questions occupied the commentariat for weeks, particularly after Trump’s spectacularly substance-free debate performance earlier this month.

Revealed: America’s Cold War Nuclear Satellite-Killer

August 21, 2015

In 1962, U.S. president John F. Kennedy was in a bind. He was eager to negotiate a nuclear test ban with the Soviet Union. But the Soviets had recently shattered a three-year test moratorium and now Kennedy was under pressure to respond with a display of strength.

One eventual result was America’s Cold War nuclear satellite-killer—a missile that could lob an atomic warhead into Earth’s orbit and fry enemy spacecraft. So-called Program 437 was active between 1963 and 1975 and remained a secret for a full year.

Bowing to pressure from his more hawkish advisers, Kennedy approved the Project Starfish atmospheric nuclear tests. The tests had an interesting and frightening side effect, as the Stimson Center’s Michael Krepon wrote:

At least six satellites were victimized by Starfish Prime: the British Ariel I, the U.S. Traac, Transit 4B, Injun I, Telstar I and the Soviet Kosmos 5. The most famous victim of Starfish Prime’s electromagnetic pulse effects was Telstar, which enabled the transmission of images across the Atlantic, just as the British music invasion of the U.S. airwaves was building.

The Next Level for Russia-China Cyberspace Cooperation?

August 20, 2015

On May 8, 2015, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of international information security. The treaty, which some have dubbed a “nonaggression pact” for cyberspace, details cooperative measures both governments pledge to undertake, including exchange of information and increased scientific and academic cooperation. With this, Russia and China continue to advance their vision of “information security,” a view of security concerns in cyberspace that is markedly different from Western approaches of “cybersecurity.”

Many observers have characterized the agreement as a largely political move at a time of heightened tensions with the United States and Europe. The alignment of Russia and China is seen as a response to growing Western pressure. Accordingly, Russia’s pivot to the East follows Western sanctions over its actions in Ukraine.

Forget Criminals, Police Now Fear Activists and the Media

August 22, 2015

The Black Lives Matter movement must guard against becoming an advocacy arm of gangsters and criminals. A recent pistol-whipping of a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama, occurred because police around the country are becoming too afraid to act like police. Portraying criminals as victims and the police as criminals will foster an atmosphere of lawlessness and criminality that will harm every American, particularly those hardest hit by crime.

Janard Cunningham is lucky to be alive. Pulled over by an Alabama police officer for erratic driving, Cunningham exited his vehicle during the traffic stop, aggressively approached the police officer and delivered a debilitating sucker punch to the officer’s head.

When any police officer is debilitated by a criminal’s blow to his head, it’s a life or death moment. Threatening deadly force against an attacker is perfectly reasonable. Even using deadly force to terminate the attack might be justified. But thanks to the fashionable demonization of police officers driven by activists and their enablers in the media, that’s not what happened next.


AUGUST 21, 2015

It’s that time of the week again — time to shift into weekend mode. Lucky for you, we’re here to help. Here are some of our recommendations for what you should be reading as you kick back this weekend.

7 things to think about before America’s post-9/11 wars end. That’s what we get from retired Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik in the latest issue of Army Magazine. One of those things is that all these wars are actually one war. Another is that our strategy sucks (which won’t surprise WOTR readers). See what else the good general has to say, including his call for boots on the ground.

What’s on the Chief’s Mind? Janine Davidson breaks down Gen. Milley’s inaugural remarks as Army chief over at her blog, Defense in Depth (which you should totally be following). His key themes? Families, warfare as a human endeavor, the size of the Army (shocker), and ground combat as the Army’s raison d’etre.

So, Mr. President, about that war you want to launch… Over at The Bridge, retired military officer Jason Howk offers some thoughts on military advice to civilian leaders aimed at “elected, appointed, and commissioned senior leaders and those who will stand in their shoes one day.” Lots of great stuff in here on civ–mil relations and a few historical nuggets.

Certified badass of the month. This veteran of our beloved Marine Corps, with a crucial assist by his Yorkshire Terrier, went head to head with a bear and lived to tell about it. Check it out!

Old Weapon Systems Still Serve The Military Well

By Christian Beekman
August 21, 2015

Sorry Mike Huckabee, but some old workhorses don’t need replacing.

During the recent Republican debate, presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee chose the venerable B-52 Stratofortress to exemplify how the military was being hobbled by declining defense spending. But as some commentators have explained, his example was a poor choice. The B-52 served well over the past decade, sporting a higher mission-capable rate in 2012 than newer bombers like the B-1B Lancer and the B-2 Spirit. Boeing estimates the B-52 fleet’s lifespan to last until the 2040s, but the Air Force hopes to begin replacing them in the next few years with a new aircraft developed from the Long Range Strike Bomber program, as well as another bomber project projected for 2037. When the B-52 finally retires, it will be around 90 years old; a testament to the aircraft’s capable design.

Huckabee may be surprised to hear that the B-52 isn’t the only seemingly geriatric weapon system still active; here are some of the oldest weapons still in service.

M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun

North Korea threatens war with South after artillery fire

August 21, 2015,

U.S. army soldier prepare for a military exercise at a training field near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Pocheon, South Korea, August 21, 2015. 

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday declared his front-line troops in a "quasi-state of war" and ordered them to prepare for battle a day after the most serious confrontation between the rivals in years.

South Korea's military on Thursday fired dozens of artillery rounds across the border in response to what Seoul said were North Korean artillery strikes meant to back up a threat to attack loudspeakers broadcasting anti-Pyongyang propaganda.

The spike in tensions prompted the U.S. and South Korea to briefly halt an annual military exercise that began this week, U.S. defense officials said Friday. However, the exercise resumed, Reuters reported, citing David Shear, assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.