26 October 2015

The other oppressed minority

October 26, 2015

The Hindu ArchivesA file picture of a Muslim family whose hut was torched during the Tamil rebel attack on Palliyagodella village in Sri Lanka.

25 years since the eviction of 75,000 Muslims by the Tamil Tigers from Sri Lanka’s North, the livelihood concerns of this marginalised section remain neglected. It is time for the political elite — both Sinhala and Tamil — to probe their own consciences and evolve a more inclusive resettlement framework

About 25 years ago, on October 30, 1990, the Tamil Tigers evicted the Muslims from the Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. A politically marginal population of about 75,000 people, constituting five per cent of the Northern Province, was subjected to ethnic cleansing with military precision; the Muslims were given between two and 48 hours to leave with just their clothes and a meagre 500 rupees.

Having lost all that that they owned, most of them languished in refugee camps in districts outside the North, mostly in Puttalam in Sri Lanka’s North Western Province. The end of the war in May 2009 brought some hopes for a return, but the absence of a resettlement policy, an unwelcoming Tamil bureaucracy and severed relations with the Tamil community have effectively crippled the process.

JFK to the rescue

October 21, 2015

US President John F. Kennedy with Jawaharlal Nehru at the White House in 1961. 

India's border war with China was overlooked by the rest of the world for one very important reason in October 1962-it overlapped with the Cuban missile crisis, the closest the world has been to a nuclear Armageddon.

Bruce Riedel's book outlines the subterfuge and the frenetic diplomacy that accompanied the Himalayan struggle between India and China that month. How President John F. Kennedy's administration-already waging a covert war against China-leaned on its Pakistani allies not to attack India while arming India to resist the invasion. The ferocity of the Chinese assault startled Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru into a frantic plea for substantial military assistance-fighter jets, bombers and radars. The panic was understandable. Less than a decade ago, even the US army had recoiled under the weight of the Chinese army's assault on the Korean peninsula.

The sorry state of India’s Borders

By Claude Arpi
24 Oct , 2015

Sometimes, though it is rare, one reads some good news in the national press. One of these refreshing items, for me at least, was the visit of the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) posts in Gunji and Kalapani of Pithoragarh District of Uttarakhand.

According to Sushil Kumar, the District Magistrate, Rijiju went “to take stock of the defence infrastructure in these border areas.”

The young dynamic minister from Arunachal spent a night at Nabhidhang rest house, on the way to Lipulekh-la, no very far from the trijunction between India, Tibet and Nepal.

He is said to have walked the last eight kms from Kalapani to Nabhidhang to reach the last ITBP border post.

And guess what the minister discovered?

A ‘peculiar security concern’, said the local press.

Look East, Cross Black Waters India's Interest in Southeast Asia


The global security interests of India and the United States overlap far more than they clash, and this is particularly the case in Southeast Asia. India's core goals for Southeast Asia are all in basic harmony with those of the United States — including regional stability; prevention of any outside nation from dominating the politics or economy of the region; peaceful settlement of territorial disputes such as the South China Sea; secure shipping through the Straits of Malacca and other crucial transit points; increased land, sea and air connectivity infrastructure; Myanmar's democratic transition; and containment of radicalism in states including Indonesia and Malaysia. But America should not expect India to enter any sort of alliance (formal or de facto), nor join any coalition to balance against China. This does not indicate an anti-American outlook, but a determination to engage with Southeast Asia at a pace and manner of India's own choosing — and a deep caution about precipitating conflict with Beijing. The replacement of a Congress Party government with a Bharatiya Janata Party administration in May 2014 has resulted in a recalibration of India's foreign policy, but not a radical shift in its overall direction. For U.S. policymakers in the security arena, the challenge in building cooperation with India in Southeast Asia will boil down to four elements: (1) understanding India's own goals for the region better, (2) adopting strategic patience in working at a pace and manner comfortable to India, (3) finding specific areas on which to focus attention, such as technology transfer, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Myanmar policy, and (4) moving forward, laying the foundation for future progress.

The Taliban’s Tet Offensive and the Attack on Kunduz

OCTOBER 20, 2015

We cannot let Afghanistan suffer the same fate as Vietnam.

As 1968 unfolded, the North Vietnamese People’s Army and its Viet Cong allies launched what has come to be known as the “Tet Offensive” in South Vietnam. In a wave of attacks across the country involving 80,000 troops, the North Vietnamese forces surprised U.S. war planners with a series of strikes on 36 of 44 provincial capitals — including Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam.

Despite initial setbacks, the South Vietnamese forces, backed up strongly by the United States, eventually regained control. The casualties suffered by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong were significant; in every tactical sense, the Tet Offensive was a defeat. The North Vietnamese leadership was initially despondent and especially disappointed that it had not unleashed a general uprising in the South.

Yet the shock of seeing supposedly weak Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces actually taking and occupying cities — even temporarily — was profound on what turned out to be the principal audience for the offensive: the American public. As the reality of Tet sunk in — particularly that of a suddenly vibrant, resurgent insurgency — support in the United States waned rapidly. A public already intensely tired of the long war clamored for disengagement, arguing that Vietnam was a futile effort and it was “time to cut our losses.” President Lyndon Johnson was deeply disappointed, and the commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Gen. William Westmoreland, was replaced.

Pakistan and China's Almost Alliance

Staff raise Pakistan's flag in front of the Great Hall of the People ahead of a welcome ceremony for Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Beijing, July 5, 2013

“Sweeter than the sweetest honey in this world, deeper than the deepest sea in the world … ,” the suitor crooned, “higher than the highest peak … ” Soul singer Barry White? No, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, remarking on Pakistan's relationship with China in 2014, using words that had been repeated many times before over the past 40 years. Leaders of each nation routinely describe the other as its closest partner on earth, as its “all-weather friend.” But does the substance match the rhetoric? The two nations have virtually no shared culture, history, or economic ties. The glue sticking them together would appear to be military ties and an interest in keeping their common rival, India, off balance. But there is a great deal more to the Sino-Pakistani relationship than this. Policymakers in the United States and throughout Asia should take note of why this odd couple has endured for so long, what each partner gets from the other (particularly in the arena of airpower), and what inherent limitations prevent the union from developing into a true alliance.

What Pakistan gets out of its engagement with China is relatively easy to see. China hasprovided Pakistan with much of its nuclear weapons program, an even greater portion of its ballistic missile program, a steady stream of conventional arms, and steadfast diplomatic support that has spanned over half a century. This support justifies a lot of Pakistan's flowery rhetoric. In the nuclear realm, the substance of China's involvement has lived up to the hype: without China's assistance, Pakistan's nuclear capabilitywould certainly have been developed much later (if ever), and its missile delivery system for nuclear weapons might not have been developed at all. In all other spheres, however, the support Pakistan gets from China is less than comprehensive.

More Boots Isn't Enough to Save Afghanistan

by Jeff Eggers
October 16, 2015

NATO soldiers near a damaged NATO military vehicle at the site of a suicide car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 11, 2015
President Barack Obama's decision to leave some 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan—beyond the end of his second term—is hardly surprising given recent advances by the Taliban, especially the assault on Kunduz. The president's decision can be framed first as a pragmatic and conservative hedge to a fragile and uncertain environment, reflecting ominous (and misplaced) lessons from the 2011 Iraq withdrawal. Second, and more broadly, the decision reflects an ongoing shift to a “partnership” approach of securing U.S. interests abroad with the help of foreign governments, which the president has pursued as a more sustainable model.

The Growing Power of Pakistan’s Army Chief

Saeed Shah and Adam Entous 
October 22, 2015 

Powerful General Raheel Sharif Eclipses Pakistan’s Prime Minister 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—President Barack Obama met Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, at the White House on Thursday. But next month, top American officials will hold talks with the man many people say calls the shots on the issues Washington cares most about: Gen. Raheel Sharif. 

The chief of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Sharif has eclipsed the authority of the country’s elected leaders on critical security-policy matters, including the fight against Islamic extremists, the Afghan peace process and the country’s nuclear-weapons program, officials and analysts say. 

“The civilian entities don’t have the ability to deliver on a few things at this point,” a senior U.S. official said. As for Gen. Sharif, the official said: “He can deliver.” 

Gen. Sharif, who isn’t related to the prime minister, has turned himself into a cult hero by battling terrorism and restoring a measure of order in Pakistan’s biggest and most violent city, Karachi. That has bolstered the army’s standing and political power in a country where democracy has struggled to take firm root. 

Pakistan Is Failing Its Citizens, and Washington Offers Fighter Jets

October 22, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama meets Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on October 22, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters). 

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in Washington for long-awaited consultations with U.S. President Barack Obama. Press reports in the week preceding the visit flagged the possibility of a limited “civil nuclear deal” under discussion as a gambit to persuade Pakistan to stop developing battlefield tactical nuclear weapons, but that conversation ended when Pakistani officials told the media that “Islamabad will not accept limits on its use of small tactical nuclear weapons.” The strategic transaction from the Sharif-Obama meeting now appears, echoing the hoary past, to be another tranche of F16 fighter jets, only the latest in a long cascade of questionable hardware sales with unclear counterterror utility. 

Does anyone benefit from this exchange? It is hard to see any value to Pakistani citizens, apart from the limited coterie of military officials who would welcome such hardware. But F16s are not typically the first military resource to deal with terrorists, including those in urban environments, and tackling terrorism is Pakistan’s most urgent priority. The United States has provided F16s, and upgrades to them, to Islamabad for decades, but Pakistan remains a partner that has not fully acted against terrorists; designated individuals under UN sanctions continue to live openly in Pakistan. 

Time running out for Afghanistan

By Lt Gen Kamal Davar
24 Oct , 2015

War ravaged Afghanistan, the “graveyard of empires”, continues to descend into growing political instability and recurrent fratricidal conflict. That the overall security situation in the land of the ancient Hindu Kush has, regrettably only worsened, as President Ashraf Ghani’s National Unity Government (NUG) completes one year in office, is a cause of concern, both to the hapless people of Afghanistan and the international community. 

The overall internal security situation has gravely worsened after the draw-down of nearly 140000 US and NATO combat troops since Dec 2014, warranting international and primarily, UN introspection. 2015 has been the most violence and casualties ridden year in Afghanistan since the Operation Enduring Freedom was launched by the US and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops after the terrorist strikes in New York in September 2001.

It is an alarming fact that even years after rigorous operations by the US, ISAF and Afghan troops in the harsh Afghan hinterlands, only the district capitals are controlled by the Afghan government whereas the Taliban control most of the countryside, also imposing their own cruel interpretation of the Sharia ( Islamic law) on the scared peasantry.

US Will Sell 8 F-16 Fighter Jets to Pakistan

October 23, 2015

The United States is preparing to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan in order to bolster bilateral ties between the two countries senior American officials toldThe New York Times.

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif to the White House Thursday. As of now, it is unclear whether the weapon sale was discussed in any detail. So far, no public announcement has been made.

However, the United States Congress can still block the sale. Back in March 2015, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs froze $150 million in foreign military financing and put a hold on the delivery of a number of used U.S. Navy cutter vessels since they were not deemed essential in fighting militants in Pakistan.

“We remain deeply concerned that Pakistan has failed to take meaningful action against key Islamist terrorist groups operating within its territory,” the committee’s chairman noted in a letter sent to the U.S. State Department in March.

How Churchill Fought The Pashtuns in Pakistan

October 24, 2015

“Horrible and revolting” – that’s how 22-year-old British cavalry officer turned war correspondent forThe Daily Telegraph and Pioneer newspapers, Winston Churchill, described in a dispatch what he saw when entering the ruins of the village of Desemdullah in the Mohmand Valley in British India’s Northwest Frontier (today’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan) on the morning of September 22, 1897.

Pashtun tribesmen had unearthed the 36 bodies of fallen British and Indian soldiers, hastily buried a few days earlier in unmarked graves, and mutilated them beyond recognition. “The tribesmen are among the most miserable and brutal creatures on earth. Their intelligence only enables them to be more cruel, more dangerous, more destructible than the wild beasts. (…) I find it impossible to come to any other conclusion than that, in proportion that these valleys are purged form the pernicious vermin that infest them, so will the happiness of humanity be increased, and the progress of mankind accelerated,” a shaken and sulfurous Churchill jotted down in his notebook that day.

Pakistan and the United States: What You Should Be Reading

October 24, 2015

With murmurs of a potential U.S.-Pakistan nuclear deal and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the United States, there has been a lot of good writing on U.S.-Pakistan relations and Pakistani foreign and security policy recently. Looking ahead to the weekend, here are some of the articles you should be reading on U.S.-Pakistan relations.

A civil nuclear agreement? Much has been made of the prospect of the United States offering Pakistan a civil nuclear agreement like the one concluded with India in 2005. The story first came out courtesy of the Washington Post and the New York Times. In The Diplomat, there have been multiple pieces exploring the logic of such a deal (see here, here, and here). Elsewhere, in Foreign Policy, Dhruva Jaishankar writes on why U.S. policymakers simply don’t learn how to handle Pakistan over time. In Dawn, Pakistani columnist Cyril Almeida outlines the “working transaction” underlying U.S.-Pakistan relations. Also, in case you missed it, ahead of Sharif’s visit, Pakistan’s foreign secretary confirmed the conditions under which Pakistan would use its low-yield, short-range nuclear weapons against India.

As clearances turn into hurdles, Brahmaputra edge lost to China

Written by Anil Sasi 
October 21, 2015 

With China commissioning Zangmu Hydropower station on upper Brahmaputra earlier this month, India seems to have lost its shot.

The Zangmu Hydropower station is on the Yarlung Zangbo River — the Tibetan name for the Brahmaputra

Early into the summer of 2009, China kicked off construction work on a controversial project, the Zangmu Hydropower station on the Yarlung Zangbo River — the Tibetan name for the Brahmaputra. In six years flat, the Chinese managed to commission a gravity dam on the bend of the Yarlung Zangbo in the Tibet Autonomous Region, just before the river enters India via Arunachal Pradesh.

The ‘Road’ to Success for the “Silk Road Initiative” is via Aerospace

October 21, 2015

A Conveyor Belt for Progress and Influence

China's "Belt and Road" (B & R) initiative has been formulated to offer new opportunities for its economic growth. Like other Chinese projects in recent times, this is also a gigantic proposal linking China with Europe through Central and West Asian region. There are proposed linkages with Africa too. The actualisation of this initiative involves connectivity by road/rail and sea. It is obvious that maritime connectivity would play a major role in this project because today more than 90 per cent of global trade happens via sea routes. The connectivity using rail and road network is also of importance because it would help integrating China with various parts of the world for global commerce. With this project, China is seen using commerce as a tool to expand to its geopolitical and geostrategic influence.

Although the aerial medium is the fastest for travel, it has never been a preferred medium for cargo traffic owing to weight and cost considerations. However, this does not mean that China would not depend on ‘air’ as a medium for its B & R initiative. In fact along with ‘air’ China is also found significantly depending on ‘space’ as a medium to ensure the smooth progression of this initiative.

China's Lethal J-20 vs. Taiwan's F-16: Who Wins?

October 24, 2015

The balance of air superiority over the island of Taiwan is slowly shifting. Once assured by a fleet of sleek, modern Republic of China Air Force fighters, the rise of China—and the decline of Taiwan’s defense budget—has gradually changed the equation in favor of China.

Following the end of the Chinese Civil War, the government of the Republic of China evacuated to the island of Taiwan. Less than two hundred miles separate the island from a hostile Chinese mainland. Yet as long as Taiwan maintained a strong navy and air force, and more importantly, as long as China remained poor, Taiwan might as well have been on the far side of the moon.

But China is no longer poor, and it is building a military that matches its newfound wealth. China is able to build more combat aircraft than Taiwan can support, and has embarked on a two simultaneous fifth generation fighter programs.

The Chengdu J-20 “Soaring Dragon”—which is currently in development—will be one of the most dangerous threats ever posed to Taiwan’s national security. A large, twin engine aircraft with stealthy characteristics and long range, a version of the J-20 (and there may indeed be more than one) might be configured as a long-range air superiority fighter.

Should the West Be Worried About Britain As China's 'Advocate'?

October 23, 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping wraps up his visit to the U.K. today with a stopover in Manchester. He had aproductive time in London, where the U.K. and China signed deals on a nuclear power station (Chinese companies will hold a roughly one-third stake in the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant), cruise ships (Carnival will sell roughly $4 billion worth of ship to China), and jet engines (Rolls Royce won a $2.2 billion contract to design new jet engines). All told, China and the U.K. sealed over $40 billion worth of deals.

The scale of the deals is not so unusual – after all, when Xi was in the U.S., Chinese companies promised to buy aircraft worth $38 billion in a single deal with Boeing. From a political standpoint, what’s more interesting in the high-level (and explicit) commitment Britain has made to be China’s top partner in the West.

“I’m clear that the U.K. is China’s best partner in the west,” David Cameron said this week, repeating what seems to have become his government’s mantra.

China’s Lighthouses in the Spratlys

By Ting-Hui Lin
October 24, 2015

In May 2015, China began construction of lighthouses on two of the features it occupies in the Spratlys, Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef. The lighthouses, employing cylindrical and cone-cylindrical designs, respectively, are 50-meter-high towers constructed of reinforced concrete that officially began operation on October 9. Each tower has been designed to cast its white light out to a distance of 22 nautical miles on an eight-second cycle and has a 4.5-meter lantern on its uppermost level. During a press conference the day after formal operation commenced, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying stated that China would continue to construct other civilian and public facilities on relevant features in the Spratlys so as to better serve coastal nations in the South China Sea and passing vessels from around the world. Official statements clearly indicate the primary aim of erecting these lighthouses is to further navigational safety, but then why is it that China is constructing approximately 3,000-meter-long runways on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs while choosing to instead erect lighthouses on Cuarteron and Johnson South Reefs?

Top US Admiral: ‘Nobody Owns’ the South China Sea

October 24, 2015

In September, Chinese Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai, commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) North Sea Fleet, insisted that the South China Sea belongs to China.

“The South China Sea, as the name indicates, is a sea area that belongs to China. And the sea from the Han dynasty a long time ago where the Chinese people have been working and producing from the sea,” he said through an interpreter, at a conference in London (See: “South China Sea Belongs to China”).

The United States Navy’s new chief of naval operations (CNO) Admiral John Richardson, however, is prepared to challenge this assertion, according to an interview with Defense News.

“What is coming into clear focus is that the defendant of the guarantor of prosperity and access is the system of rules and norms that we all abide by,” the admiral noted. “It’s interesting that some of the folks that are making contrary claims now … are the very nations who prosper the most under the current system of international rules and norms.”

No, 'China' Did Not Just Give a Peace Prize to Mugabe

October 24, 2015

If you keep abreast of world news, as I’m sure most Diplomat readers like to do, you may have heard that Robert Mugabe, the unhinged president of Zimbabwe, has won something called the Confucius Peace Prize.

Of course, the notion that Mugabe could be deserving of anything that can remotely be described as a “Peace Prize” is laughable. Mugabe has cracked down on human rights and political opposition. He rules with an iron fist— and he’s driven Zimbabwe’s economy into the ground. If anything, he merits the a prize for adhering most closely to the archetype of irascible, power-mad dictator.

Give War a Chance Against the Islamic State

October 22, 2015

Give War a Chance Against the Islamic State

Gary Anderson

It is time for the United States to seriously consider a declaration of war on the Islamic State (IS); it has already declared war on us. The last time a foreign nation formally declared war on us was when Hitler announced belligerency several days after the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor. When Hitler signed the war declaration, he also sealed his doom. The American counter declaration was followed by a stated war aim of destroying the poisonous Nazi ideology and the destruction of the German Army that propped it up. We never did completely stamp out the Nazi movement, but we destroyed the army that allowed Hitler and his minions to keep most of Europe and parts of Africa in thrall. We cannot destroy the ISIS ideology, but we can destroy the army of jihadist foreign fighters that occupy much of Iraq and Syria and free the populations of those regions from bondage. The clear objective would be to force religious-political movement of ISIS back to the status of fugitive terrorists who would again lack a political sanctuary or a revenue base.

Breaking Down Hillary's Benghazi Testimony (And Some Unavoidable Truths)

October 23, 2015

There are two unavoidable truths at the heart of the Benghazi hearings, the eighth and latest of which yesterday placed Hillary Clinton before a House select committee chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) for a grueling 11 hours of questioning.

The first of these truths is that the Obama administration, including Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state, tried to minimize the political impact of the murder of U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012 by hastily blaming the attacks on crowds purportedly outraged by the release of an anti-Muslim film on the Internet. Correspondence from the private email server Mrs. Clinton used as secretary of state shows that she in fact knew on the day of the attacks that they were the work of an “an Al Qaeda-like group” (sic). By publicizing this fact, Gowdy’s committee may not quite have proved that the “spontaneous demonstrators” narrative was an outright lie—perhaps conflicting reports really did lead Clinton and other officials to believe different things at different times in rapid succession—but the case that the administration tried to spin away a national humiliation less than two months before Obama’s re-election has been strengthened.

This Is How Iran Just Raised the Stakes in Syria

October 23, 2015

The Russian Air Force, Syrian Arab Army, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-trained and led militias haveassembled a significant force in Syria. As part of a multi-front campaign to undermine the opposition forces’ 2015 gains, that force aims to recapture Aleppo (Syria’s second largest city). Russia’s new role in targeting the Syrian opposition is fairly clear. But the exact nature of Iran’s apparent escalation on the ground remains something of a mystery, with potentially significant implications.

Iran reportedly has sent as many as 2,000 Iranian and Iranian-backed militia fighters to the front lines in recent weeks. Officially Tehran continues to say its forces in the country are only advisors and not ground troops in a traditional sense. That has been true for Iran’s involvement in the civil war since it began in 2011. Experienced commanders and specialized personnel from the IRGC’s Quds Force, Ground Forces and Basij branches—experts in proxy warfare, counter-insurgency, and paramilitary operations respectively—have rebuilt the Syrian security forces into a hybrid conventional-militia army augmented by Lebanese Hezbollah and other Shia militias from Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iranians, though, are rarely the trigger-pullers maneuvering on the battlefield. Best to let others do the fighting, and the dying.

Putin Goes on the Offensive (And It's Not in Syria)

October 23, 2015

A decade ago, the focus of the Valdai Discussion Club, in the post-9/11 honeymoon that characterized U.S.-Russia relations, was to improve the quality of dialogue between Washington and Moscow. As relations between the two countries have soured, the Valdai group has widened its target audience, increasingly bringing not only more Europeans but civil society representatives of the rising powers of the south and east, especially from China, India and Brazil. So too has the audience shifted for the remarks delivered to the forum by senior Russian officials—including Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, this year’s Valdai offers a prime example of the change in tone. No longer is the emphasis on deepening and solidifying a U.S.-Russia partnership and overcoming remaining Cold War-era hangups that precluded a closer relationship. Now, the Kremlin wants to make its case to the larger world why resisting American dominance of the international system is justified. No longer is Russia seeking to win over American hearts and minds; it is a more global audience that Moscow is trying to reach and convince that Washington under the Obama administration—and most likely under any conceivable successor president—is unreliable and untrustworthy. (A related message is that Washington is also unsuccessful in its efforts; Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov, in related remarks, declared that U.S. efforts to isolate Russia have been a failure.)

Vietnam, Philippines Near New Strategic Partnership

October 24, 2015

On October 21, Vietnam and the Philippines convened the eighth meeting of their bilateral cooperation committee. The deliberations focused on specific measures for advancing collaboration as the two ASEAN states are expected to lift ties to a strategic partnership next month.

This iteration of the Vietnam-Philippines Bilateral Cooperation Committee, which is held biennially, was co-chaired by Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario and his counterpart Pham Binh Minh.

The holding of the meeting comes at an important time in the evolution of the relationship. As I reported earlier, Vietnam and the Philippines are expected to ink a strategic partnership on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leader’s summit in Manila next month (See: “Philippines, Vietnam to Ink Strategic Partnership By End of 2015”). Indeed, close observers know that parts of a draft joint statement had even been leaked earlier this year.

In addition, 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations between the two countries. Apart from the usual celebrations, such anniversaries also provide an opportunity to inject new vigor into ties and push through new avenues for cooperation.


OCTOBER 23, 2015

One of the more charming and frustrating aspects of American life is the endless pursuit of perfection. We tend to believe, as a people, that things can always be improved. For many aspects of life ­— science, medicine, transportation safety, etc. — this is a worthwhile approach. But for other aspects of life this pursuit is really a chimera; an illusory, unattainable goal. Indeed, pursuing such improvements may be even more costly than not pursuing them at all.

One of those areas where we should perhaps step back from the endless quest for perfection is intelligence analysis. Note that we said “perhaps.” We believe the issue is open to debate and is a debate worth having.

Since 2001, the intelligence community has been pilloried repeatedly for its “failed analysis.” Critics point to the 9/11 attacks, the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the unpredicted Arab Spring. We do not deny that these were analytic failures, but we also believe that it is important to look at the larger record of intelligence analysis and ask some fundamental questions: Is this as good as intelligence analysis gets? And, if so, is it good enough?

Assessing and Evaluating DoD Inform, Influence, and Persuade Efforts

October 22, 2015

Published in: IO Sphere: The Professional Journal of Joint Information Operations, Fall 2015, p. 43-49.

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.


This article is the second in a series for IO Sphere and excerpted from RAND/RR-809/2-OSD, 2015. This series of articles will continue in the Winter 2016 issue of IO Sphere. This excerpt is copyrighted by the RAND Corporation and reproduced with permission.

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

DepSecDef Work On The Future Of DoD-IC Space CooperaDtion

October 23, 2015 

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work

PENTAGON: It poses one of the thorniest problems for the United States national security establishment: how to get the nation’s spy agencies, especially the secretive National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the military to work together when someone attacks US spy and military satellites.

To offer some clarity on the way ahead for this relationship, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work agreed to an interview in his E-ring office at the Pentagon.

A rash of measures have been taken by both the military and the IC over the last 18 months to address what the Obama Administration clearly thinks is a fundamental change in the space domain. Where it was long a place where spy and missile warning satellites, GPS and communication birds provided services and data to the rest of the military, this administration sees space now as a battlefield that must be defended and whose capabilities must be made redundant and resilient. .

Pentagon: State Doesn’t Have Enough People Tweeting At ISIS

OCTOBER 22, 2015

In the war of online influence, the U.S. is gaining ground but is still hopelessly outmanned. 

To change the minds of more than 16 million Muslims who could support the Islamic State, almost entirely via social media, the U.S. State Department has a counter propaganda team of just about 20 people, according to a senior Pentagon official. Translation: the U.S. is not doing enough to out-tweet ISIS.

Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist for nine years. Tucker has written about emerging technology in Slate, The ...Full Bio

Michael Lumpkin, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, said the Defense Department provides 25 percent of them at State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, orCSCC that focuses on counter extremist rhetoric all over the world (an outfit of about 50 people). “In the CSCC, there’s 20 some odd people who are working that particular mission set and we’re providing about 25 percent of them, detailed at the Department of State to assist with that mission … The fact that we have 25 percent of the CSCC detail to fill critical positions over there tells me that they don’t have the manpower to put against the mission like they would,” he told Congress on Thursday.

Defeating ISIL in the Information Environment

October 23, 2015 

Defeating ISIL in the Information Environment


After two years, the United States has little evidence that efforts to degrade and subsequently destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is working. Although the Iranian aided Iraqi Army liberated Tikrit, ISIL remains firmly entrenched in Mosul and the entire Iraqi Anbar Providence. ISIL continues to consolidate and further gains in Syria in the midst of a fragmented opposition. Most alarming, however, is ISIL’s demonstrated ability to recruit a seemingly endless flow of new membership and grow its power through federations with other terrorist groups like Boko Haram. The campaign against ISIL will certainly extend over many years; General Martin Dempsey contends that the effort against ISIL may last 10 – 15 more years (Mora, 2015). The process of coalition synchronization and resistance group training will not happen quickly. However, the aforementioned efforts are destined to fail if the United States does not effectively strike at ISIL’s true center of gravity: its ability to conduct sustained and successful operations in the information environment. Ultimately, well-trained resistance forces and international coalitions will win kinetic fights and achieve operations successes, but strategic success will only spawn from our ability to out maneuver ISIL in the information environment, disrupt their information operations, and conduct an effective offensive information campaign. By first providing a model of the information environment and then establishing two lines of effort, this paper will outline specific effects based policy recommendations, outline obstacles to recommendation achievement, and discuss the potential impact of recommendation failure.

The Information Environment

Netanyahu's Stereotyping

October 23, 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu's bit of revisionist history about the origins of the Holocaust certainly deserves the outraged response it got this week. One wonders why he chose to push this line given the well-established and easily cited historical fact—which many of his critics did cite—that the Nazi regime's mass killing that would become known as the Holocaust was well under way before the meeting to which Netanyahu referred, between Adolf Hitler and the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. One further wonders why, given that if Netanyahu wanted to make a sharply negative comment about the mufti—who, as also has been well established, was a strongly anti-Jewish collaborator of the Nazis—he could have done so without adding his historically inaccurate twist about the significance of the meeting, and it would have been in order and unremarkable for him or any other prime minister of Israel to have done so.

Moving beyond denunciations of Netanyahu for playing fast and loose with history, this week's rhetorical episode invites some other observations, one of which goes well beyond Netanyahu himself. The comment does involve a crass exploitation of the Holocaust to make a point about current issues, and such usage tends to demean and diminish the significance of the Holocaust itself. (Critics of Netanyahu are less justified in charging that he was relieving the Nazis of responsibility; what Hitler did would still have been horrendously evil even if the mufti really had given him such ideas.) But cheap comparative references to the Nazis have long been the most grossly and inappropriately used historical allusions in circulation. The problem goes far beyond Netanyahu, and also beyond Israel. The usage is prevalent in foreign policy debates in the United States. And the usage extends not just to issues involving Israel. All manner of foreign foes who aren't at all equivalent to Hitler have been likened to him, and many policies and diplomatic transactions have been likened to Munich that aren't at all like a parley over the Sudentenland. It is likely that some of those waving their fingers disapprovingly at Netanyahu for the controversial passage in his speech this week have themselves been crass users of allusions to the Nazis.

The U.S. Military's $1,000,000,000,000 Question: Is Stealth Worth It?

October 23, 2015

The answers will vary depending on who you ask—and it depends on if one believes stealth is a baseline requirement to survive over a future battlefield or not.

The U.S. Air Force has publicly embraced stealth as the end all and be all, while the U.S. Navy has taken a more skeptical approach. While Air Force officials publicly pronounce that the F-35 will be able fight alone and unafraid, the Navy has argued for balanced survivability using a combination of assets including electronic attack, stand-off weapons and, yes, some measure of stealth.

Part of the difference in the two services’ diverging positions can be explained by different political messaging strategies. Publicly, the Air Force doesn’t want to admit the utility of electronic attack or support platforms because they seem to believe that might erode support for the F-35. Meanwhile, the Navy has bills to pay other than for aviation and that service doesn’t see the performance differential between the F/A-18E/F and F-35C as being worth the massive cost plus up.

Mission Impossible: Why Most Militaries Don't Build Their Own Jet Fighters

October 23, 2015

Recently, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter once again shot down South Korea’s request to transfer four key technologies for that country’s KF-X “indigenous” fighter project. The United States’ refusal to transfer those technologies highlights a fundamental problem with developing a homegrown fighter—most nations don’t have the technology to develop a jet on their own.

The technologies Korea wanted include the know-how to develop an active electronically scanned array radar, cutting edge electronic warfare systems, an infrared search and track system and an electro-optical targeting system. The U.S. also refused to help South Korea with a sensor fusion engine to tie all of those systems together into a single coherent picture for the pilot—all the keys needed to develop a modern fighter. Nonetheless, the U.S. is willing to transfer twenty-one other less important but vital technologies needed to build the KF-X—it’s just unwilling to transfer the crown jewels of American technology to anyone. Indeed, much of the technology for the indigenous KF-X will come from the United States—including its General Electric F414 afterburning turbofan engines.