31 October 2015

Services get back old financial powers; MoD says new rules were creating problems in daily functioning

Written by Pranav Kulkarni , Ritu Sarin 
October 29, 2015 

The MoD has acknowledged that restoration of the inherent financial powers to the DFP 2006 rules has come following pressure from the three forces.

Evidently, what the MoD has described as “problems in day-to-day functioning” has, in the past few months, been reflected in getting financial clearances for even small procurements, field formations, military hospitals.

Taliban Overrun Another District in Northern Afghanistan

October 28, 2015

Taliban Overrun Remote Northern District in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban have overrun a district in northern Afghanistan’s Takhar province, and intense battles were underway Wednesday as government forces fought to retake it, an official said.

Six Afghan security forces were killed in the fighting over Darqad district, which borders Tajikistan, according to Sonatullah Taimor, the spokesman for the provincial governor. The area was not affected by the earthquake that struck northern Afghanistan on Monday, with its epicenter in the neighboring province of Badakhshan, he said.

The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid emailed media organizations to say the battle for Darqad began at dawn Wednesday. Two Taliban fighters were killed, he said, as the insurgents captured government buildings, including police headquarters.

Afghan officials have said the Taliban have joined with other insurgents such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and are spreading across the north with the aim of infiltrating Central Asian states.

The 'Drone Papers' Do Not Reflect All Drone Programs, Especially in Pakistan


Recently, The Intercept announced that it had "obtained a cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military's assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia." According to The Intercept, the documents, which were illegally furnished to the news outlet by a so-called whistleblower, "offer an unprecedented glimpse into Obama's drone wars."

Despite the hype, the documents offer little that is new. In fact, major newspapers, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times and Los Angeles Times, did not bother reporting on it. Worse, members of The Intercept team continue to obfuscate the complex issues surrounding the various U.S. drone programs and these documents to promote what appears to be an anti-drone agenda.

The "Drone Papers" suffer from "selection bias." Selection bias occurs when the information that is available (the "sample") is not representative of all information about a particular subject ("the universe"). We would all recognize such bias if a polling firm claimed to offer insights into the "American voter" but only interviewed white males between the ages of 18 and 30. We would immediately understand that the survey could only speak to a particular slice of the American public.

China's Next Super Weapon: Is Beijing Developing Its Own Su-34 Fullback?

October 28, 2015

China appears to have started testing a new “indigenous” combat aircraft derived from the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker family. The aircraft would be the latest in a series of Chinese fighters that are unlicensed copies of Russian jets.

If a photo—posted on the Chinese internet site Weibo yesterday—is genuine, the new Chinese aircraft appears to be similar in concept to the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback. It appears to have a similar duckbill radome and side-by-side cockpit seating. However, the Chinese jet has much larger, broader canards that blend in with the aircraft’s wings. It also has a large sting that looks similar to the Su-34’s.

Russia is not thought to have sold the Fullback bomber variant of the Flanker to any other nation. Nor does the Chinese version of the aircraft appear to be a direct copy of the Su-34 or its earlier Su-32 predecessor. Rather, the new aircraft—while it is clearly a Su-27 derivative—appears to be a parallel development inspired by the Fullback.

The Real Meaning Behind America's FONOPS in the South China Sea

October 29, 2015

Late on Monday of this week the USS Lassen sailed within twelve nautical miles of Subi Reef, an artificial island built by the Chinese in the South China Sea. China’s Foreign Ministry responded to this Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) with vehement condemnation. U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus was summoned to meet Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, who told him the American patrol was “extremely irresponsible.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang went further, warning that if “any countries have delusions of…[obstructing] the Chinese side’s reasonable, fair, and legal activities in its own territory, then I must urge those countries to abandon those fantasies as soon as possible.”

Despite the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s trenchant language, these freedom of navigation patrols are not meant to be controversial or escalatory. Since 1979 they have been used for “navigational assertions,” demonstrations that some coastal nations’ excessive claims do not conform to international law, may interfere with the freedom of the seas and are thus not recognized by the United States. Neither are they new to the region; in fiscal year 2014, the United States conducted multiple FONOPs to dispute excessive maritime claims, including those of many U.S. partners and allies, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Having Some 'FON': Breaking Down America's South China Sea Patrols

October 29, 2015

After months of speculation and signaling, the United States Navy conducted Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS) earlier this week, to dispute China’s claimed rights of “artificial islands” in the South China Sea at Chinese-occupied Subi and Mischief Reef by sending the USS Lassen, accompanied by a P-8A, within 12 nm of the reefs. Several colleagues have written about thecontext, legal aspects, recent history and response to the FONOPS. All these pieces of analysis are worth reading but often miss an element or two required to fully understand the importance of this operation.

First, it bears emphasizing that the necessity of this particular operation was twofold: to uphold commonsense interpretations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and to reassure America’s allies and partners in the region of America’s commitment to doing so even-handedly, regardless of China’s growing military power. What many pieces of analysis gloss over is that even though UNCLOS is pretty clear that the reclamation doesn’t turn reefs into islands or give them the rights of islands, interpretations of international law, if contested, must be backed up by words and actions. Otherwise, the countervailing view gains acceptance as customary international law.

Six Reasons Why China's Economy Is Weaker Than You Think

The UK has rolled out the red carpet for Chinese president Xi Jinping on his five-day official visit. He is being given the royal treatment, including a stay at Buckingham Palace, a ride in a state carriage along The Mall and several banquets. The trip will also include plenty of time with the British prime minister, David Cameron, who is keen to discuss the trade and investment that the UK hopes to secure from the visit.

Britain's pivot to China is largely based on its economic strength. And yet there is cause for concern. Having been the locomotive for global growth following the financial crisis in 2008, Chinese growth has now slowed and its economy is looking increasingly fragile. The latest GDP figures came in at just under 7%, significantly down from the astounding annual rate of more than 9% per year between 1990 and 2010.

Exports from China have declined, and exports to China must battle against the depreciating yuan. China's slowdown has depressed global commodity prices, adversely affecting big exporting countries such as Brazil and Russia.

The Belt, the Road and the PLA

General Zhu Chenghu has argued that the PLA already has all the necessary capabilities to go abroad and protect the OBOR, but that diplomatic constraints related to the creation of military bases abroad prevent the Chinese armed forces from going global. (Image Source: Chinese Internet)

During his speech addressing the United Nations General Assembly in late September, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will take the lead in the creation of an 8,000-strong standby force for peacekeeping operations (FMPRC, September 29). Such a commitment will help cement Chinese military involvement in Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW).

These missions and other similar operations are what Sun Degang, Deputy Director of the Shanghai International Studies University’s Middle East Studies Institute, has called a “soft military presence” (柔性军事存在), meaning a limited deployment of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) units abroad, and mainly for peacekeeping and antipiracy operations. [1] Strongly echoing the interpretation of MOOTW provided by Chinese military academic texts, the goal of Sun’s “soft military presence” is to both defend China’s overseas interests and provide public goods to the international community. [2] Such operations and, importantly, presence, may pave the way for the PLA’s involvement in one of the biggest economic and political policies of Xi Jinping’s administration: the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.

Why the New ISIL Strategy is a Bad Idea

October 28, 2015

Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter delivered remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee detailing the administration’s latest plan for escalating the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

In his testimony, Secretary Carter outlined a tripartite strategy for defeating ISIL dubbed the “three R’s.” The proposed course of action calls for U.S.-led forces to focus their efforts on targeting Raqqa and Ramadi (ISIL’s major strongholds in Syria and Iraq respectively) and conducting raids against senior ISIL leadership. This plan will also expand the role of U.S. special operators and provide air support for the Syrian opposition. Of particular note, Mr. Carter stated in no uncertain terms that Washington and Moscow remain on separate pages in dealing with the Syrian Civil War. “To be clear, we are not cooperating with Russia, we are not letting Russia impact the pace or scope of our campaign against ISIL in Iraq or Syria.”

Hundreds of Russians From Dagestan Joining ISIS

October 28, 2015

Islamic State on Recruitment Spree in Russia

MAKHACHKALA, Russia — The Russian province of Dagestan, a flashpoint for Islamic violence in the North Caucasus, is feeding hundreds of fighters to the Islamic State in Syria — and now some are coming back home with experience gained from the battlefield.

The departures mean that the region itself has become markedly less violent recently with fewer bombings and shootings. And the returning fighters have either landed in jail or been kept under close police surveillance. But there are long-term concerns that the presence of radical Muslims trained in IS warfare could lead to greater instability and violence.

“We can’t allow them to use the experience they have just gained in Syria back home,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said recently.

Eduard Urazayev, a former minister in Dagestan’s provincial government, and now a political analyst, said that poverty and unemployment in the region made the IS recruiters’ job easier. “If the high level of corruption and unfavorable socio-economic situation remain,” Urazayev said, “it may further fuel protest sentiments and increase sympathy for the IS.”

The Islamist insurgency that has swept Russia’s North Caucasus after two separatist wars in Chechnya has a proclaimed goal of carving out an independent state governed by Shariah law. The Caucasus Emirate, an umbrella group comprised of rebels in several Caucasus provinces, has sworn allegiance to the IS.

How 4 US Government Lawyers Working in Complete Secrecy Ensured That Osama bin Laden Would be Killed, Not Captured

Charlie Savage 
October 28, 2015

How 4 Federal Lawyers Paved the Way to Kill Osama bin Laden

WASHINGTON — Weeks before President Obama ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, four administration lawyers hammered out rationales intended to overcome any legal obstacles — and made it all but inevitable that Navy SEALs would kill the fugitive Qaeda leader, not capture him. 

Stretching sparse precedents, the lawyers worked in intense secrecy. Fearing leaks, the White House would not let them consult aides or even the administration’s top lawyer, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. They did their own research, wrote memos on highly secure laptops and traded drafts hand-delivered by trusted couriers. 

Just days before the raid, the lawyers drafted five secret memos so that if pressed later, they could prove they were not inventing after-the-fact reasons for having blessed it. “We should memorialize our rationales because we may be called upon to explain our legal conclusions, particularly if the operation goes terribly badly,” said Stephen W. Preston, the C.I.A.’s general counsel, according to officials familiar with the internal deliberations.

More Mission Creep: SecDef Says U.S. Will Ramp Up Number of Airstrikes and Even Use Ground Forces Against ISIS

October 28, 2015

U.S. to intensify fight against Islamic State militants -Pentagon chief 

WASHINGTON Oct 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. military will intensify air strikes and may carry out more direct ground attacks as it steps up efforts against Islamic State militants following a failed bid to train Syrian rebels, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told lawmakers on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee just days after a U.S. soldier was killed participating in a Kurdish-led mission to rescue Islamic State hostages, Carter indicated that similar missions were likely in the future as U.S. forces adapt to the fight in Syria and Iraq.

“We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground,” said Carter, using an acronym for the militant group.

The Pentagon chief, who faced withering criticism over the administration’s handling of the Islamic State crisis, said while the Iraq mission was to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces, “where we have actionable intelligence and a capable partner force, we want to support our partners and we will.”

"ISIS as Revolutionary State"

Author: Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs; Faculty Chair, International Security Program
November/December 2015

New Twist on an Old Story

To many who have witnessed 
its brutal tactics and religious extremism, the Islamic State, or ISIS, seems uniquely baffling and unusually dangerous. According to its leaders' own statements, the group wants to eliminate infidels, impose sharia worldwide, and hasten the arrival of the Mahdi. ISIS' foot soldiers have pursued these goals with astonishing cruelty. Yet unlike the original al Qaeda, which showed little interest in controlling territory, ISIS has also sought to build the rudiments of a genuine state in the territory it controls. It has established clear lines of authority, tax and educational systems, and a sophisticated propaganda operation. It may call itself a "caliphate" and reject the current state-based international system, but a territorial state is what its leaders are running. As Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German journalist who visited territory in Iraq and Syria controlled by ISIS, said in 2014, "We have to understand that ISIS is a country now."

Yet ISIS is hardly the first extremist movement to combine violent tendencies, grandiose ambitions, and territorial control. Its religious dimension notwithstanding, the group is just the latest in a long line of state-building revolutionaries, strikingly similar in many ways to the regimes that emerged during the French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Cambodian, and Iranian revolutions. These movements were as hostile to prevailing international norms as ISIS is, and they also used ruthless violence to eliminate or intimidate rivals and demonstrate their power to a wider world....

Information Warfare: Facebook And Islamic Terrorism

October 28, 2015: Governments, be they Western or Moslem, are encountering some basic problems in countering Islamic terrorist groups using Internet social media (Facebook, twitter and so on) to publicize themselves, their message, and their goals as well as soliciting recruits and donations. The basic problem is that Western and Moslem governments cannot openly discuss the basic issues that make Islamic terrorists so popular with so many young Moslems. ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), for example sees itself as the new leader of the Islamic world and employs extreme violence in pursuit of that goal. As a result one thing everyone (Saudi led Sunnis, Iran led Shia, the West and even al Qaeda) can agree on is that ISIL is evil and a threat to all that must be destroyed.

The basic problem is the Islamic scriptures condone and encourage the use of force to defend Islam from non-Moslems and especially from Moslems who are heretics. This has been going on for over a thousand years but now it is different because the Islamic radicals have access to more money. ISIL and over two decades of growing Islamic terrorism are an unexpected side-effect of all the oil wealth Saudi Arabia (and other Moslem states) received after OPEC was formed and oil prices increased in the 1970s. This led to some unsurprising but ultimately tragic moves by newly wealthy Arabs.

USAF Captain Refused to Launch Nuclear Missiles at Height of Cuban Missile Crisis

Jon Schwarz
October 29, 2015

How One Air Force Captain Saved the World From Accidental Nuclear War 53 Years Ago Today

An event Wednesday at the United Nations made a powerful case that William Bassett, an unknown U.S. Air Force Captain, saved humanity from accidental nuclear obliteration 53 years ago today, on October 28, 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis.

The key figure in the U.N. presentation was John Bordne, who as the crisis began was an Air Force airman with the 498th Tactical Missile Group stationed at a U.S. base in Okinawa, Japan. According to Bordne, whose story is recounted in detail in an extraordinarily unsettling new article by Aaron Tovish in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Bassett was the senior field officer on Bordne’s shift for facilities capable of launching 32 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. Altogether the missiles had 35.2 megatons of destructive capacity — the equivalent of over 35 million tons of TNT, or about 1,000 times the combined yield of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Bordne, now 74, appeared in an introductory video, and then answered questions via Skype from his home in Pennsylvania. Recounting the atmosphere on the base that week, Bordne described all his fellow airmen crowding around a television to watch President John F. Kennedy discuss the standoff with the Soviet Union: “There was standing room only. There was dead silence during … and there was dead silence after. It was then that we really got the impression we would have to do what we were paid to do.”

Iran Considered Building Nuclear Weapons During Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s

October 29, 2015

Iran Considered Nuclear Weapons During 1980s Iraq War, Ex-President Says

DUBAI — Iran considered pursuing a nuclear deterrent when it began its nuclear program in the 1980s, during an eight-year war with Iraq, a former president has been quoted as saying.

Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s comments comes at a sensitive moment, as Iran implements an agreement reached with world powers in July aimed at curbing its nuclear program, to allay Western fears it was trying to build an atomic bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog, is investigating whether Iran’s nuclear program ever had a military application. It is due to issue a report by Dec. 15.

Throughout the negotiations, Iran insisted its program had only ever been for peaceful purposes.

In an interview with Iran’s Nuclear Hope magazine this week, Rafsanjani suggested that officials were thinking about a deterrent capability when the nuclear program first began but it never took shape.

Iran Confirms That It Is Boosting Its Military Support for the Assad Regime in Syria

Morgan Chalfant
October 29, 2015

General: Iran Increasing Military Presence in Syria to Help Assad

A top Iranian commander said Monday that Iran is increasing its military presence in Syria in order to help Syrian government forces fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad.

CNN reported:

Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said Iran is increasing the quality and quantity of its presence in Syria, according to Iranian media. He described their mission as an advisory role to help the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. He said the Iranian officers were providing tactical help for Syrian commanders of battalions in direct battles, as well as weapons and ordnance, operational assistance and help with strategic planning, according to a Tasnim report.

Salami did not confirm the number of Iranian troops currently in Syria. However, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers on Tuesday that officials believe there are somewhere under 2,000 Iranians on the ground in Syria.

Iran sent hundreds of troops to the country at the beginning of October to support Assad, just days after Russia began conducting airstrikes in Syria in an alleged attempt to combat the Islamic State (IS). However, U.S. officials believe that Moscow has been deliberately targeting CIA-backed Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime.

The Anatomy Of Anti-Corruption

The tradition of abusing political power for personal gain goes back to antiquity, as does the debate over whether corruption is a necessary cultural vice in a country's development or a cancer that must be obliterated for a society to progress. A topic less covered, however, is what is behind the counter-corruption current.

In the past year or so, a striking number of scandals have been exposed, anti-corruption campaigns launched, probes deepened and leaders toppled over corruption charges. Brazil's state-run oil giant Petrobras, now the most indebted company in the world, is at the center of the biggest corruption scandal in the country's history; dozens of business executives and politicians, including the heads of the upper and lower houses of Brazil's legislature and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, are under investigation. In Mexico, President Enrique Pena Nieto has been heavily scrutinized for granting big contracts to companies that also sold him houses on favorable terms and for abruptly canceling a contract with a Chinese-led consortium for high-speed rails because of corruption allegations, as well as after the brazen escape of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman from federal prison. In Guatemala, a U.S.-backed anti-corruption investigative committee forced the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina, while in Honduras, another U.S.-led anti-corruption investigation has taken down one of the country's wealthiest and most politically connected families.

Note to Donald Trump: Leadership Isn't Like Reality TV

October 29, 2015

Donald Trump and his left-wing Democratic allies have mounted a combined arms assault against George W. Bush. Trump, the real estate mogul and certified bully, together with self-styled "progressives," has challenged Bush's leadership and laid the blame for the events of 9/11 at the former president's doorstep. Leave aside the nastiness of the attack on a man who spent the remaining seven years of his presidency seeking to prevent what remains an ongoing threat to the safety and security of Americans both at home and abroad. At bottom, the question is whether Mr. Trump and his newfound allies could have done any better either before or after that September tragedy.

Senate Passes Controversial Cybersecurity Legislation

October 28, 2015

Senate passes bill to push sharing of info on hacker threats

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate passed a bill Tuesday aimed at improving cybersecurity by encouraging companies and the government to share information about threats. It took roughly six years to win approval for such a program.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act passed by a 74-21 vote. It overcame concerns about privacy and transparency from some senators and technology companies, such as Apple and Yelp.

The Senate rejected amendments, including one addressing concerns that companies could give the government personal information about their customers. Another failed amendment would have eliminated part of the bill that would keep secret information about which companies participate and what they share with the government.

The bill’s co-sponsors, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., said the measure was needed to limit high-profile cyberattacks, such as the one on Sony Pictures last year.

“From the beginning we committed to make this bill voluntary, meaning that any company in America, if they, their systems are breached, could choose voluntarily to create the partnership with the federal government. Nobody’s mandated to do it,” Burr said.


OCTOBER 29, 2015

As Charlie Winter noted recently at War on the Rocks, the Islamic State’s robust social media apparatus has been propagating a remarkably effective, multi-faceted communications strategy that incorporates narratives of statehood, military success, and religious legitimacy. The Islamic State’s success in using social media to disseminateits extremist ideas and mobilize tens of thousands of foreign fighters to join the caliphate has raised many questions about the relative efficacy of online radicalization and recruitment. Can social networking sites replace face-to-face communications in fostering the group dynamic that is so important to spurring people to engage in terrorist acts? How do online group dynamics differ from those of face-to-face networks? Does social media accelerate the process of radicalization, so that individuals may be ready to illegally support violent causes more quickly after exposure to extremist ideas than in the past? It is vital that we seek to understand these questions in order to counter the Islamic State’s social media outreach and more effectively respond to other groups that seek to emulate its successes.

Getting a sharper picture of social media’s influence

byJacques Bughin
July 2015 

New research shows that buzz plays a greater role than previously thought in getting consumers to buy and that the pool of the most effective influencers is largely untapped.

Over the past decade, marketers have increasingly turned to social-media networks like Facebook and Twitter to create buzz around their products. But what impact do tweets and other recommendations have on sales, and how can companies get a bigger return on their investments in these important channels?

To get a clearer view, we examined the purchase decisions of 20,000 European consumers, across 30 product areas and more than 100 brands, in 2013 and 2014. Respondents were asked how significantly social media influenced their decision journeys and about instances when they themselves recommended products.1 We found that the impact of social media on buying decisions is greater than previously estimated and growing fast, but that its influence varies significantly across product categories. Moreover, only a small slice of social influencers are creating the buzz.
A growing importance

Repelling the cyberattackers

byTucker Bailey, James M. Kaplan, and Chris Rezek
July 2015

Organizations must build digital resilience to protect their most valuable information assets.

For many businesses, the next wave of innovation and growth will likely involve intelligent analytics, rich mobile experiences, and “one touch” processes that require no further manual intervention. Success will depend on maintaining trust: consumers and business customers alike will accept nothing less than a complete assurance that the companies they engage with protect their highly sensitive data carefully in the hyperconnected information systems powering the digital economy.

When companies think about cybersecurity in such a world, most ask, “How can we protect ourselves and comply with standards or regulations?” instead of “How do we make confident, intelligent investments given the risks we face?” Many also treat cybersecurity primarily as a technology function rather than integrating it into business operations. As a result, they get the wrong answer about how to construct a cybersecurity program. The consequences are painfully clear: nearly 80 percent of technology executives surveyed report that their organizations cannot keep up with the attackers’ increasing sophistication.


OCTOBER 28, 2015

These three Army captains built a gun that kills drones. It took them ten hours and cost $150. What can the Army learn from them?

The recently concluded meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) has become a yearly tradition for senior military leaders, congressional staff, and members of foreign armies to meet and participate in professional development opportunities, while also providing visibility to over 500 members of the defense industrial base and their products and services. Drawing listeners with interactive displays and swag, vendors enthusiastically pitch their latest wares for supporting the warfighter.

As the incumbent power in a market of limited competition, the defense industrial base has enjoyed decades of unfettered access to government resources, assisted in part by both regulatory and technological barriers to entry for outside parties. Of course, there is a time and a place for large organizations creating complex systems; for example, creating a next-generation combat aircraft is beyond the reach of small groups or individuals. However, recent Defense Department pushes toward rapid innovation, such as those seen in Silicon Valley, are challenging the status quo.


The Real Benghazi Scandal Everyone Is Missing

October 28, 2015

The conventional story of Hillary Clinton’s eleven hours of testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi is that she bested her Republican foes. They came off as hackish inquisitors rehashing old issues in a failed effort to produce a scandal or a gotcha video clip harmful to her presidential campaign. Poised by contrast, Clinton won on points, if only for endurance. Her camp will cite it as evidence of her presidential qualification: her persistence, competence and scrappiness.

That story is probably right, but Benghazi as a campaign kickball distracts us from the fact that it was a tragic result of a foolish war, one which Secretary Clinton championed. If a tenth of the scrutiny Congress devoted to Benghazi went to the administration’s case for bombing Libya in 2011, that case would collapse. The flaws in the case were clear then, and Libya’s postwar disintegration, of which Benghazi’s chaos was symptomatic, just makes them clearer. The real scandal is the U.S. war in Libya and Congress’ failure to exercise its war powers and interrogate its rationales.


OCTOBER 29, 2015

In the fall of 9 A.D., two entire Roman legions were suddenly annihilated in the dark, rain-lashed depths of the Teutoburg Forest. Betrayed by their native allies, and encumbered by their heavy equipment, they were caught like penned cattle in the treacherous, muddy causeways that wound in between the region’s densely wooded ravines. Over the course of three days and nights, close to 15,000 of Rome’s finest troops — along with thousands of their civilian camp followers — were hounded and ruthlessly slaughtered by Germanic tribesmen. The news of this defeat rippled like a shock wave across the Roman world, shaking the Empire’s strategic elites to their very core. The Roman historian Suetonius, always one for entertaining anecdotes, recounts how the Emperor Augustus remained deeplytraumatized by the Teutoberg massacre even into his old age, shuffling around the empty marbled expanses of his palace halls and crying out for his lost legions.


OCTOBER 29, 2015

The United States is notoriously bad at predicting future conflicts and changes in the international order. From the bestselling The Coming War With Japan in the early 1990s to our failure to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union, even the near future has often remained elusive to scholars and practitioners. We have always gone to war with the force we had — which has inevitably been geared toward a different kind of war than the one we ended up fighting. Perhaps in the next few decades, we will see war with China and continued conflict in the Middle East — but if the past in any indication, your guess is as good as mine.

Given the lack of predictability of conflict, the human capital in the U.S. military is of paramount importance. Rarely if ever do we have time to shift the composition or technology of our forces, but the personnel we invest in can pivot strategically and adjust as needed. Retaining “the best and the brightest” is of the utmost importance for a simple reason: More so than any other factor, personnel make the U.S. military the best fighting force in the world.

Why The Military Is Moving On From The M16

October 28, 2015

The Marine Corps is replacing the M16 with the M4 carbine as the primary weapon for the infantry. Here's why.

The M16A4 may soon retire. This week, the Marine Corps announced via internal memo that the M4 carbine will become the primary-issued rifle in infantry and security units, as well as replace the M16 rifle in supporting training schools by September 2016. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller approved the change, which was first proposed to the previous commandant, Gen. Robert Dunford, according to Marine Corps Times. This decision falls in line with the Army’s phased transitionaway from the M16 over the past few years. The M16A4 is on the outs simply because it is outdated, and here’s why:

Fixed stocks no longer make sense for an standard-issue infantry weapon.

The fixed stock is a holdover from Cold War-era weapons design that doesn’t fit with other changes in training and equipment. The M4 retractable stock allows for an adjustable length of pull, helping troops with different body types to maintain good shooting fundamentals when they shoulder their weapon. The increasing use of body armor has underscored this, as comfortable length of pulls change once one dons a plate carrier or other protective system. Finally, the M4’s stock makes it easier to stow for transport; this is an important feature for vehicle and aircraft operations.

A New Cold War Deep Under the Sea?


Virtually all of the world's information moves deep under the sea. Well over 95 percent of everything moving on the global Internet passes through 200 or so highly active cables, some as deep under water as Mount Everest is tall. On a normal day, that information is safe and sound, humming along the protected fiber optic strands upon which moves the information that is the backbone of the world's economy.

But recent reports by a variety of sources indicate renewed interest by Russiansubmarine forces in surveillance of those cables, including detailed monitoring and targeting of the system. The tactical reasons for doing so are plain: in the case of heightened tensions, access to the underwater cable system represents a rich trove of intelligence, a potential major disruption to an enemy's economy and a symbolic chest thump for the Russian Navy.