25 August 2015

The Daily Fix: Why the period just after failed India-Pakistan talks is the most dangerous for Modi

Above the Fold: Top stories of the day

1. Five people died and dozens were injured after a lorry collided with a train in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district early on Monday morning.

2. A new book from the Indian Army seeking to make stories about past wars more reader-friendly also attempts to insist that India won the 1965 war with Pakistan, which is generally remembered as ending with a stalemate.

3. A Supreme Court panel has said a massive Rs 2,300 crore project to put a railway line through the Western Ghats in Karnataka would cause "huge and irreparable damage" to the environment.

The Big Story: Picking up the peace pieces

Now to figure out what happens next. With India and Pakistan having cancelled the proposed National Security Advisor-level talks, and each side blaming the other for it, those hoping for actual discussions in New Delhi and Islamabad will have to carefully plan out their next moves to avoid the mess of the last few days. There are a few bright spots ahead: a proposed meeting of the chiefs of the Border Security Force and the Pakistani Rangers, a potential meet between the prime ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

New Tri-Service Commands

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
22 Aug , 2015

Newspapers on August 20 blared headlines ‘Govt gets cracking on three new Tri-Service Commands’. The “cracking” part was amusing for in 2004-2005 the same hype was created about the Aerospace Command, creating an impression it will be a reality next year. This was 10 years ago and much before the Naresh Chandra Committee was formed. Same hype was created about the Mountain Straike Corps that even the Chinese took notice and we know what its state is today, though not aware what state it eventually will come up in. Ditto for the National Defence University.

…what shape these new Tri-Service Commands will come up and how effective they will be?

All this is because the higher defence set up including the MoD is without military expertise, the very reason we don’t have a National Security Strategy, have not undertaken a comprehensive defence review and have not been able to establish credible deterrence against asymmetric wars that both Pakistan and China are waging against us. Unfortunately, the Modi government despite being in office for 15 months has made no move to undertake administrative reforms, particularly of the MoD.

Surrender as Prisoners of War & Birth of INA

By Maj Gen Gurbakhsh Singh
Indelible Reminiscences: Memoirs of Maj Gen Gurbakhsh Singh | Date : 24 Aug , 2015

All the Indian troops were to assemble in Ferrer Park, the Polo-ground of Singapore, to surrender as Prisoners of War. The white forces had to gather at the Changi Camp. Early on February 18, 1942, we set out for Ferrer Park leading the Battalion. As we were passing by the Cathey building, we saw Major General Keith Simmons, the General Officer Commanding of Singapore Fortress, waiting for us.

He joined up and started marching in step with me. Soon he opened his cigarette case which contained a card. Feigning to offer me a cigarette he showed me this card “rest assured, you won’t be forgotten,” ran the legend that was written on it. There was a Japanese sentry posted on our way, as we were marching. Spotting the Britisher, he spoke something in Japanese and tore him away from us.

One Rank One Pension correcting the 'distortions'

21 Aug, 2015

Please do not conveniently forget that after 1973 when OROP had its genesis, we have had the Vajpayee government too who prevaricated when it came to decide on OROP.
By Air Marshal SY Savur

One Rank One Pension has been misinterpreted by many to give a distorted picture of what exactly the Ex-Servicemen (20 lakh of them) and the widows (6 lakh of them) of ESM are raising their voices and resorting to means that normally are not their methods of drawing attention to grievances and seeking redressal.

What is OROP? Simply defined by the Parliamentary Committee headed by BJP MP Koshyiari is that an ex-serviceman of one rank (say Havildar) with similar years of service (say 20 years) should draw the same amount of Pension (say Rs 11000 per month) whether he retired from the Army in 1973 (3rd Pay Commission) or 1986 (4th Pay Commission) or 1996 ( 5th Pay Commission) as the one drawing pension (say Rs 13500) if he retired after 1.1.2006 ( 6th Pay Commission).

Now debunking some myths/distortions of truth

The Decline of the Taliban and the Rise of ISIS in Afghanistan

August 23, 2015

The Death of Mullah Omar and the Rise of ISIS in Afghanistan

Key Take-Away: The Afghan government announced the death of former Taliban leader Mullah Omar on July 29, 2015, and the Taliban confirmed the report the subsequent day. Widespread knowledge of Mullah Omar’s death will exacerbate existing fractures within the Taliban and accelerate a power grab among several prominent individuals who have fundamental disagreements over the objectives of the movement. This inflection could ultimately make permanent major divisions within the group. A unity shura, or council, is now arbitrating the leadership dispute. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued a video statement pledging allegiance to Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who had been Mullah Omar’s de facto deputy and is the preferred choice of Pakistan. Zawahiri likely pledged in order to reinforce this candidate and to preclude AQ groups from pledging to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). ISIS will likely exploit these tensions to gain fighters and resources as it expands its presence and operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some Taliban elements such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have already pledged to ISIS. Both conditions will likely accelerate violence in Afghanistan, undermine prospects for a negotiated peace settlement, and create a competitive environment among jihadist groups in Afghanistan that will threaten its future security. U.S. policy makers must consider the likelihood of these deteriorating conditions and re-evaluate planned troop withdrawal timelines.

India-Pakistan: With NSA Talks Aborted, What Next?

By Ali Ahmed
August 23, 2015

Referring to a “whole history of unproductive dialogues with Pakistan,” Kanwal Sibal, a former Indian foreign secretary, reflects negatively on whether a “more resolute government as that of Modi (should) get into the rut of sterile dialogues with Pakistan.” Sibal need not worry. Talks between the two countries’ respective national security advisers were aborted just a day prior to their scheduled start.

The talks were first mooted in the joint press statement of the two foreign secretaries at the Ufa meeting of the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers. The two NSAs were to meet in Delhi, potentially clearing the way for the Indian prime minister to travel to Pakistan for the SAARC summit next year.

Should Nepal Be Secular?

August 24, 2015

A majority of Nepalese supposedly want the term “secularism” to be removed from the draft of its new constitution, which will soon be put to the vote. Hopes are high among Hindu nationalists, who have been demanding that Nepal once again becomes a Hindu nation, a status it lost after the fall of the monarchy in 2006.

The Constituent Assembly has allegedly received millions of suggestions that the word “secularism” be dropped from the draft charter.

This is not surprising, as the Nepali word for “secularism,” dharm nirpekshta, carries a negative connotation. The term means “indifference” or “opposition” to religion – a phrase that could fit the French idea of secularism, calling for a complete separation of religion and state. However, the majority of Nepalese are religious, at least in their cultural manifestations, and are not keen to establish a state that is anti-religion.

U.S. Reconsiders Its Position in Sinai

By Stratfor
August 23, 2015

The study of the Middle East is a study of conflict. And for many years, that conflict was waged in the Sinai Peninsula, a land bridge that connects Israel and Egypt. Between 1948 and 1979, those two countries fought four full-scale wars and engaged in several other smaller skirmishes. The peace treaty of 1979 largely brought those conflicts to an end and, in doing so, transformed the peninsula into a buffer zone between the two belligerents.

In 1981, the United Nations established the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) to enforce the terms of the treaty. The peninsula was subsequently demilitarized and divided into four zones, each with its own limitations on how many Egyptian and Israeli soldiers could be stationed there. Several countries, most notably the United States, also have a troop presence in these zones. In 2011 and 2012, Israel approved Egyptian requests to station more troops and military equipment in the demilitarized zone to combat increased lawlessness and militant violence in the peninsula. (In 2013, Egypt placed heavy weapons in the Sinai without Israeli authorization, which created a minor diplomatic incident.)

It’s Time to Confront Beijing About the South China Sea

AUGUST 21, 2015

To allow China to continue to expand its role and expectations invites future conflict on a larger scale. 
China has continued its aggressive actions in the South China Sea. Events from ramming Vietnamese fishing boats to continued dredging and land reclamation demonstrate aggressive intent, bad faith and disrespect for their regional neighbors. It is clear from these actions that Bejing has no intent on reversing course or even finding a middle-ground, arbitrated approach to their territorial claims in the South China Sea. The United States, in cooperation with its allies and partners in the Western Pacific, needs to step up its response.

Jerry Hendrix is the director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security. A retired U.S. Navy captain, he is a former director of the Naval History and Heritage Command.Full Bio

China Rehearses for Massive Military Parade

August 23, 2015

The city center was closed to the public, but photos on social media showed Chinese missile carriers rolling through Tiananmen Square and troops carrying the flags of Cuba, Fiji, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Pakistan. Military helicopters flew over forming the figure "70."
More than 10,000 Chinese military personnel with more than 500 vehicles and some 200 aircraft took part in the rehearsal, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The Chinese military plans to show seven types of long-, intermediate- and short-range missiles at the parade, Xinhua said. It cited a military official as saying 84 percent of armaments to be displayed have not been shown in public previously.

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Mexico also plan to participate, according to state media.

China says the parade is about marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender and demonstrating its commitment to peace. But it comes as other governments are expressing unease at Beijing's confrontational stance toward territorial disputes. That has made taking part in the event politically charged.

China Wants Great Power, Not Great Responsibility

AUG 19, 2015 

Forty-three years after Richard Nixon made his famous visit to China, that country has seemingly decided to take a page from the former U.S. president's Treasury Department. As China lowers the value of the yuan, the country's economic policy makers are mimicking the blasé attitude of Nixon-era Treasury chief John Connally, who dismissed international complaints about U.S. monetary policy with a curt remark: "It’s our currency, but it’s your problem."
To be fair, Japan has acted with similar self-interest since late 2012, when its 35 percent devaluation began. But that raises a prickly question: What options do Asia's smaller economies have when the region's two biggest seem intent on passing their own vulnerabilities onto everyone else?

China will be watching closely for the region's response, for economic as well as political reasons. Beijing's designs for regional leadership have always depended on winning the loyalty of its neighbors in order to reduce America's financial, diplomatic and military role in Asia.Vietnam has already initiated a devaluation of its own, lowering the value of the dong by 1 percent on Wednesday in order to keep pace with China. Less clear are the potential responses of South Korea, Indonesia or the Philippines.

Russian and Chinese Navy’s Begin Large-scale Naval Exercise in the Pacific

Matthew Bodner
August 23, 2015

Russia, China Launch Largest Joint Naval Exercise In History

Russia and China on Thursday launched the second phase of their largest joint naval exercise to date against the backdrop of increasingly frequent and large-scale military exercises conducted by NATO and Russia, which some say are escalating tensions.

The exercise features 22 warships, submarines and assorted support ships, 20 aircraft, over 500 marines and 40 units of armored vehicles, Vice Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov, the deputy chief of the Russian Navy, was quoted by news agency TASS as saying Thursday.

Roman Martov, a spokesman for Russia’s Eastern Military District, which commands the Russian vessels taking part in the exercise, characterized the Joint Sea II 2015 maneuvers as the largest “in the modern history of cooperation between the [Russian and Chinese] navies,” TASS reported.

Martov said the active phase of the exercises will be conducted later next week, from Aug. 24 to 27, and will focus on “joint anti-sabotage, anti-submarine, anti-aircraft and anti-ship defense operations,” as well as a beach assault and various live fire exercises against simulated air, sea and underwater targets.

China Tests New DF-41 Mobile Ballistic Missile With Two Independently Targeted Warheads

Bill Gertz
August 22, 2015

China Tests New Long-Range Missile with Two Guided Warheads

China conducted a flight test this month of its newest long-range missile that U.S. intelligence agencies say lofted two independently-targeted simulated nuclear warheads, according to defense officials.

The launch of the DF-41 road-mobile missile Aug. 6 was the fourth time the new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has been test-fired in three years, and indicates that the weapon capable of hitting U.S. cities with nuclear warheads is nearing deployment.

The DF-41, with a range of between 6,835 miles and 7,456 miles, is viewed by the Pentagon as Beijing’s most potent nuclear missile and one of several new long-range missiles in development or being deployed.

As with earlier DF-41 flight tests, Pentagon spokesmen had no direct comment. A defense official, however, told the Washington Free Beacon: “We do not comment on PRC weapons tests but we do monitor Chinese military modernization carefully.”

Why China Is Its Own Worst Nightmare

August 24, 2015

For all the complexity of China’s interaction with the outside world as it has grown a larger geopolitical and economic player over the last three decades, the fundamental principles on which it operates are straightforward and dependable enough. From the time of Deng Xiaoping, China has sought one quality above all in its main partners, be they the United States, the EU, Russia, or China’s neighboring countries – and that is stability and predictability. The mindset of Chinese leaders is that of a victim; they see China as vulnerable, making up for time lost during the “century of humiliation,” and taking its moment to rectify the injustice of this modern history of imbalance. The two decade-long period of strategic opportunity that Jiang Zemin referred to in 2000, which is now three-quarters of the way over, refers precisely to this process of rectification.

America's Worst Nightmare: Russia and China Are Getting Closer

August 24, 2015

It was a brilliant stroke in 1971, when Nixon and Kissinger took advantage of China’s fears of the USSR with the historic U.S. opening to China. That chess move created a strategic triangle with the United States in the catbird seat and turned ideology on its head, dividing the two communist regimes. Now amid a surprising attention deficit in the United States, tensions with Russia are resulting in Washington getting the short end of the stick, with risky implications for the global order: Sino-Russian relations are closer than they have been at any time in the past fifty years, giving them the chance to reshape the global order to their liking.

Whereas Kissinger’s strategic logic was to gain advantage for the United States by having better relations with both Moscow and Beijing than they had with each other, it now looks like China will be the winner as the rift grows between Washington and Moscow. While there is a tendency to focus on historic differences, racial fears and geopolitical competition, the new Sino-Russian trend may be more of a marriage of convenience than anybody in the Washington foreign-policy elite will admit.


August 2015

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the country’s official military media have kept a discernible focus on the activities and exercises of the PLA formations deployed in Tibet in the past some months.

The recent round of promotions in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by China’s President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) Xi Jinping, on the occasion of the 88th anniversary of the PLA on August 1, 2015, continues the emphasis on professionalism and preference for either battle-field, or other operational, experience for elevation to the higher ranks of the PLA. Included in the list are some officers with experience of service in Tibet and identified affiliations to Xi Jinping. The promotions are also indicative of Xi Jinping having begun to prepare for the 19th Party Congress in 2017.

The ten officers now promoted to the highest rank of General are: PLA Deputy Chief of Staff Wang Guanzhong; Deputy Head of the PLA's General Political Department Yin Fanglong; PLA Navy Political Commissar Miao Hua; Commander of the Beijing Military Region Song Puxuan; Commander of the Lanzhou Military Region Liu Yuejun; Commander of the Jinan Military Region Zhao Zongqi; Commander of the Chengdu Military Region Li Zuocheng; and Political Commissar of the Nanjing Military Area Command Zheng Weiping. The others promoted were Zhang Shibo, President of the PLA National Defence University (NDU) and Wang Ning, Commander of the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF).


August 22, 2015

During a delightful lunch in Beirut a few days ago with a good friend and colleague from the United Arab Emirates, during which we discussed a wide range of current developments around our volatile region, he asked me a direct a simple question that is also on the minds of many people: “Who is prevailing in the current regional confrontation between the forces led by the Saudis and the Iranians?”

I took the opportunity of the time I needed to chew well on my mouthful of fine Lebanese hummus, washed down with a refreshing dose of tabbouleh salad, to ponder his important question. I replied, with a smile born of equally deep respect and suspicion about a loaded question, that I could not answer the question as it was posed, because I disagree with its fundamental premise that our region is largely defined by the confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

I replied that I did not agree with the primacy of a Saudi- and Iranian-led regional confrontation that has been heavily promoted by many people in the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and therefore by extension by most of the Arab and global media; I thought that analysis was too simplistic to explain the many tensions and armed conflicts around our region, and also that most Saudis and Iranians are too smart to waste their money, blood and time on a futile regional conflict that would only hurt them both by gradually destroying the region.

Iran’s ayatollahs will never be friends of the UK

23 Aug 2015

We are heading for disaster if we abandon our historic Middle East allies in favour of friendship with Tehran

Here we go again: another British foreign secretary in Iran with the hopeful expectation of forging closer ties with the ayatollahs. Ever since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, the holy grail of British foreign policy has been to reach out to the moderates in Tehran, thereby isolating the hardliners.

Back in the Eighties when, thanks to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, British hostages such as Terry Waite and John McCarthy spent five or so years chained to radiators in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, Sir Geoffrey Howe, our then foreign secretary, frequently told me that the hostage crisis could be resolved if only we could establish a working relationship with the moderates in Tehran. But for all our entreaties, the hardliners won the day, and the hostages were eventually released when the ayatollahs deemed them to be surplus to their agenda.

Could North Korea Benefit from Middle East Shifts?

By Samuel Ramani
August 24, 2015

On July 29, 2015, a South Korean intelligence official announced that Yemeni rebels had purchased 20 Scud missiles from North Korea. These missiles were subsequently fired into Saudi Arabia, in response to Saudi aggression in Yemen. While Saudi Arabia initially believed that the missiles came from Iran, a former North Korean security official confirmed South Korean intelligence claims in an interview with the Seoul-based news agency Yonhap.

North Korea’s history of missile shipments to the Middle East is well known, with Iran, Syria and Palestine among its clients. Nevertheless, the longevity and relative consistency of the DPRK’s relationship with Yemen is striking. The Yemen-North Korea partnership is based on a combination of the DPRK’s desperate need for foreign capital and Yemen’s insatiable thirst for arms to combat instability at home.

The Iran Issue and the Exploitation of Ignorance

August 23, 2015

Polls of American public opinion on the agreement to restrict Iran's nuclear program have produced widely varying results. One can find polls to support whatever position one would like to portray as the prevailing public view on this issue. Poll results on this subject are especially sensitive to the wording of the question that is asked. This has meant fertile ground for push-polls, in which questions are worded in a way designed to bring about the result that the sponsor of the poll seeks.

High sensitivity to the wording of the specific question a pollster asks reflects low public knowledge of the subject at hand. It means many members of the public have not focused on the subject enough to form a view that is either strong or well-informed, and that the responses of these people are thus easily swayed by the last words they hear from the poll-taker before answering. It is not surprising that this pattern should be true of opinion on the Iranian nuclear agreement, which involves numerous technical matters well beyond the normal cognizance of most Americans.

Realism Is an Attitude, Not a Doctrine

Realists agree that power is what drives international politics, but they disagree about exactly when and where it should be unleashed or husbanded.

FROM TIME to time pundits and professors find themselves enmeshed in remarkably testy disputes about the validity of “realism” in foreign policy. As someone usually seen as a realist, though an inconstant one, I have argued the matter as dutifully as any academic colleague. But is there any good reason for actual policy makers who have to get things done to be concerned with it? Many seem to think so. In the past few years, a number of commentators have pondered whether President Barack Obama fits the mold of realist or idealist.

In one sense the theoretical issue doesn’t matter all that much because in concrete cases, realists do not always provide definite answers, or answers different from those of idealists. Yet the theoretical question remains important because it calls attention to the difference between utilitarian or consequentialist moral concerns on one hand and absolute moral principles on the other—why the former should take priority when they conflict, and how the balance of power should drive states’ choices.

26/11: How India debated a war with Pakistan that November

The last of the 26/11 terrorists had been killed only a few hours back when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over an urgently called meeting of the country's security top brass. Present at that meeting on November 29, 2008, were Defence Minister A K Antony, the then National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, heads of both intelligence agencies and the three service chiefs — the Army was represented by its Vice-Chief Lt Gen M L Naidu as Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor was overseas — among other high-ranking officials. The key issue on the agenda — India's response.

By then, there was no doubt among any of those present at this meeting, which lasted for over two hours at the PM's residence, that the entire attack had been controlled, coordinated and plotted by the Lashkar-e-Toiba and its handlers in Pakistan. An undeniable body of evidence had already piled up from the calls monitored between the terrorists and their handlers in the course of the attack. More evidence was pouring in by the hour. There was no way any government in New Delhi could drag its feet — the Prime Minister knew he had to ask the dreaded question to all those responsible for the defence of India.

Russian Mole Infiltrated Australian Intelligence, Former MI5 Agent

Jonathan Perlman
August 23, 2015

Russian ‘mole’ infiltrated Western intelligence in Australia, says ex-MI5 spy

A Russian “mole” infiltrated Australia’s spy agency during the height of the Cold War, according to a British-born Australian intelligence agent who has revealed her concerns for the first time.

Molly Sasson, 92, worked for the Royal Air Force intelligence and MI5 before moving to Australia to work for Asio, the domestic spy agency.

She has now gone public with her claims that Asio was infiltrated by a spy in the 1970s but the agency ignored warnings from its own operatives and from the CIA station chief in Canberra.

It is believed Russia considered Australia an easier path to accessing Western intelligence than via agencies in the US or Britain.

“I have no doubt at all that ASIO was penetrated,” Ms Sasson told ABC News.

“The Soviets always seemed to be a step ahead of us. If we put on an operation, it failed. There must have been a tip-off. It can’t have been otherwise.”

Russia's Blast from the Past: Beware the Tu-95 Bear Strategic Bomber

August 22, 2015

At first glance, the Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber looks like a 59-year-old flying anachronism, a Cold War leftover that has outlived its usefulness in a century when stealth is king.
The Bear is showing signs of its age. In recent months, two Tu-95 crashes led to the grounding of the entire fleet of more than 50 aircraft to resolve mechanical issues. Besides, there is nothing stealthy about the Bear.

Even when the bomber is in top-notch shape, the turboprop-powered Tu-95 is loud … really loud. In fact, it’s so noisy that listening devices on submerged U.S. submarines can hear a Bear flying overhead.

Furthermore, it has the radar signature of a flying big-box store. The plane is huge.

Photos of lumbering Bear-H bombers intercepted by sleek U.S. or NATO warplanes as they flew toward protected airspace are some of the most recognizable images of the East-West nuclear stand-off during the 1970s and ’80s.

We Asked Paul Saunders: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 24, 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 defend and advance U.S. national interests, including preserving and strengthening American freedoms, facilitating continued economic growth and protecting the United States from attack.

Because the United States and our allies are the principal architects of an international system of which America is the primary beneficiary, it should be a central objective to maintain international order. This requires continuing U.S. leadership.

Moreover, the international system—and therefore U.S. national security as well as the stability necessary for expanding prosperity and promoting our values—is more vulnerable to conflict and tension between major powers than to local interstate or civil wars. Continuing intense competition between major powers both directly produces and indirectly facilitates local wars (not to mention regional or even world wars). And it generates wars in greater numbers, and of greater severity, than Washington can manage on an ongoing basis. It is thus far more efficient, and more humanitarian, to maintain stability by carefully managing great-power relations than by sequentially intervening in unending individual crises. Indeed, the latter approach has been exasperating for many Americans.

We Asked William J. Burns: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 24, 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 international landscape facing the United States is as crowded, chaotic and competitive as it has been in any of our lifetimes. American global preeminence may not last forever. Betting on its imminent demise, however, would be deeply unwise.

All the standard indicators of national power project that the United States will remain the most significant global player for at least several decades. During this window, the United States has a genuine strategic opportunity to shape a twenty-first-century international order that reflects new realities and dynamics; guards against regional hegemons and nonstate security threats; and updates the rules of the road and institutions essential to safeguarding the global commons and sustaining American interests and values.

We Asked Gideon Rose: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 24, 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.
I reject the premise of the question, because I don’t think the world is increasingly unstable. The purpose of American power today is the same as it has been for generations: to consolidate, protect and extend the liberal international order that emerged after World War II.

At the core of that order are democracies with mixed economies, peacefully cooperating and trading with each other while nestling closely under an American security umbrella. That core is embedded in a variety of overlapping institutional structures, from the Bretton Woods institutions and the United Nations, to NATO and the European Union, to an endless array of cooperative bilateral, regional and functional groupings. Because the order doesn’t discriminate, any country that wants to join and is prepared to play by the rules is allowed in, making it a potentially universal alliance that is constantly expanding. And because the order has so many aspects and points of entry, countries not ready to sign up for the whole package at once can ease in over time, starting on the margins and progressing toward the core at their own pace.

Federal cyber failure


The most fundament purpose of government is to protect the nation against outside attacks and to ensure the safety of its citizens. Our federal government is failing in this foundational duty. This month we learned of yet another federal failure to adequately secure American's private information. A hack of the Internal Revenue service first reported in May was nearly three times as large as previously stated, with hackers stealing information from as many as 334,000 taxpayer accounts.

This comes on the heels of the largest hack of Americans information in history with over 20 million individuals' records stolen from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. If the government cannot defend itself against cyberattacks, it should not demonize the private sector when, after good faith efforts, it cannot either. A private sector data breach is the only crime for which we punish the victim rather than the perpetrator. Business needs a robust government defender and adequate liability safeguards to protect free enterprise and cultivate innovation.

Update on Latest Developments at North Korea’s Sohae Missile and Space Launch Center

Jack Liu and Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr.,
August 23, 2015

North Korea’s Sohae Facility: No Sign of Launch Preparations; New Construction at Engine Test Stand

Despite speculation that Pyongyang intends to conduct its fourth long-range rocket launch on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea in October, with less than two months to go, recent commercial satellite imagery still shows no signs of launch preparations.

As of mid-August, a rail-mounted structure, intended to transport the space launch vehicle (SLV) stages and other equipment from a new processing building on the launch pad to the gantry tower has been completed and aligned with that building. Whether that activity is related to continued work to complete the structures-such as installing equipment inside and checking out the buildings-or launch preparations remains unclear.

While there are no visible indicators of launch preparations at the rest of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station-such as a general increase in the level of activity-if Pyongyang were to decide to move forward with a long-range SLV test and the new facilities were not yet fully operational, the North could still utilize existing facilities to support a launch.

FBI’s Cyber Division Gets a New Boss

James C. Trainor, Jr. Named Assistant Director of Cyber Division 
August 23, 2015

FBI Director James B. Comey has named James C. Trainor, Jr. as assistant director of the Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Mr. Trainor most recently served as deputy assistant director of the Cyber Operations Branch.

Mr. Trainor entered on duty as a special agent with the FBI in July 1996. Upon completion of his training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, he was assigned to the FBI’s Chicago Division, where he worked on a variety of criminal investigative matters. He was eventually assigned to the foreign counterintelligence squad, where he conducted counterintelligence operations and received numerous commendations for his performance.

In February 2001, Mr. Trainor was promoted to supervisory special agent at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he supervised investigations involving espionage and economic espionage.

He was assigned to the New Haven Division in March 2003, where he supervised the foreign counterintelligence squad and was responsible for all national security investigations conducted in Connecticut.

The Convention for Cyber Spies

Wesley Brown
August 23, 2015

Defense contractors to showcase cyber technology at TechNet Augusta

After a year that saw destructive cyberattacks on major U.S. companies, top defense and aerospace contractors will showcase new technology being developed to bolster America’s national security during a three-day conference in Augusta next week.

Among the new cybersecurity solutions being demonstrated at the third-annual TechNet Augusta conference include a wide range of “spectrum analyzers” designed and manufactured in the U.S. by AVCOM.

According to a news release, representatives from the Virginia-based company will be on hand to show how its analyzers, with software from the Atlanta-based firm, Crystal Solutions, can monitor wireless signals and data transmitted through smart phones and mobile devices to detect security threats.

The Army announced earlier this year it will grow Fort Gordon’s cyberdefense workforce by 1,000 more jobs for a new total of 4,700 government, civilian and contractor positions by the time its Cyber Command completes its move to the local post by 2019.

The Snoop 71 Disaster: Why Did RC-135 Spyplane Catch Fire With Crew Aboard at Offutt AFB in April 2015?

Steve Liewer
August 23, 2015

Disaster averted at Offutt, but major questions remain

The stench of stale urine lingered in the air as 27 airmen from Offutt Air Force Base’s 55th Wing climbed aboard the RC-135V Rivet Joint jet late in the afternoon of April 30, 2015.

Most of the crew sat at consoles in the rear of the aircraft — call sign “Snoop 71” — trying to ignore the odor.

Soon they would have bigger problems than a broken toilet.

As the plane began to accelerate down the runway, flames erupted like a blowtorch near the ceiling in the aft galley. Excited shouts of “Fire! Fire!” filled the crew’s headsets.

The pilot — newly certified as an aircraft commander — pulled back on the throttles and slowed the aircraft to a smooth stop in less than a half minute. The crew scrambled out of the smoke-filled fuselage and dropped to the runway as Offutt firefighters rushed to the scene.

A deadly catastrophe, averted.

Someone Is Planting Spyware on the Phones and Computers of Argentinian ‘Troublemakers’

Morgan Marquis-Boire
August 22, 2015

Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor known for doggedly investigating a 1994 Buenos Aires bombing, was targeted by invasive spy software downloaded onto his cellular phone shortly before his mysterious death. The software masqueraded as a confidential document and was intended to infect a Windows computer.

An investigation by The Intercept indicates that this targeting was likely not an isolated event. The person or persons behind the attempted monitoring appear to have run other surveillance operations involving various locations throughout South America, at least one apparently targeting a rabble-rousing Argentine journalist. In the process, they created at least four distinct spyware bundles, all communicating with the same server set to receive Nisman’s data. They also left traces showing that their operations were active as recently as March, raising the possibility that the online spying continues today.

Declassified MI5 Files Reveal New Details About the ‘Grandmother’ of the Cambridge Spy Ring Who British Intelligence Never Caught

Ian Cobain
August 22, 2015

How MI5 failed to expose matriarch of Cambridge spy ring 

The grave fascination that MI5 developed for an emigre photographer living in a small flat in north London – and the eventual realisation that she had been a key figure behind the Cambridge spy ring at the height of the cold war – has emerged from the secret files the agency compiled about her.

Declassified after 50 years, they show that MI5 subjected Edith Tudor-Hart to round-the-clock surveillance, opened her mail, tapped her telephone, bugged her home and eavesdropped on the conversations of her friends and associates. The agency even set up an observation post from which they could see her retiring to bed.

At one point in January 1952, after the defection of the Foreign Office spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean had dumbfounded the British government and threatened its intelligence relationships with the United States, two MI5 officers barged into Tudor-Hart’s home and interrogated her while she lay in bed.

The MI5 files detail the way in which the agency’s close scrutiny of Tudor-Hart’s life eventually drove her to a breakdown and serious mental illness. Its officers never caught her spying, however; the only time they witnessed her committing an offence was when she dodged paying her bus fare.

This Is How the Fear of Death Changes You

August 24, 2015

FOR THE heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops,” Karl Ove Knausgaard writes at the beginning of My Struggle. Death is the inescapable fate that awaits every human being. An immediate threat of death—from a terminal illness, an attacker, an oncoming minivan—can provoke panic, paralysis, rage or resistance. But what of Knausgaard’s removed, even abstract, contemplation of human mortality? What is the significance, the effect on us, of this sheer fact of our mortality and of the act of contemplating it?

Does this ontological exercise disturb, depress or even devastate us? Or does it merely leave a fleeting impression, like the tides or the color of leaves in autumn? Three psychologists, Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski, think that the contemplation of our eventual death has a profound effect on us—that it is the basis of religious belief, of our quest for wealth, fame and physical beauty, that it is the root of our fascination with celebrities and death-defying heroes, and our intolerance of other ethnicities, nationalities, religions and political philosophies, as well as of our desire to reproduce ourselves through children and immortalize ourselves through enduring social, physical and artistic creations.

How Google Could Rig the 2016 Election

August 19, 2015 

Google has the ability to drive millions of votes to a candidate with no one the wiser. 

America’s next president could be eased into office not just by TV ads or speeches, but by Google’s secret decisions, and no one—except for me and perhaps a few other obscure researchers—would know how this was accomplished.

Research I have been directing in recent years suggests that Google, Inc., has amassed far more power to control elections—indeed, to control a wide variety of opinions and beliefs—than any company in history has ever had. Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups—with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated, according to experiments I conducted recently with Ronald E. Robertson.

Given that many elections are won by small margins, this gives Google the power, right now, to flip upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide. In the United States, half of our presidential elections have been won by margins under 7.6 percent, and the 2012 election was won by a margin of only 3.9 percent—well within Google’s control.


AUGUST 20, 2015

In 2008, Scott Beale wanted to attend the Google party at South by Southwest Interactive (a 5-day conference featuring presentations and panels from rising stars and big names in the technology and entertainment fields); however, the line was way too long for his taste. Instead of wasting the night away standing outside, Scott and his group decided to throw their own party. The friends took to Twitter announcing they were hosting an “Alta Vista” party at a nearby bar. Within minutes, a crowd started gathering, and soon Scott and his buddies had their own line forming out the door. As Seth Godin points out in his book, Tribes: What You Need to Lead Us,

Twitter merely enabled the event; it didn’t cause it to occur. Unless Scott had earned the respect and permission of the tribe that follows him, he would have been all alone at the bar. The party didn’t take four minutes to organize; it took four years.