5 December 2015

The geopolitical hub of international maritime challenges

Posted on December 1, 2015

The U.S. naval and air force base at the British-controlled atoll of Diego Garcia is located strategically in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Brahma Chellaney, Nikkei Asian Review

The emerging centrality of the Indian Ocean for global trade and energy flows and for a stable balance of power in Asia is sharpening geopolitical competition in the wider region, home to prominent strategic chokepoints such as the Malacca and Hormuz straits. More than half of the world’s container traffic, 70% of its seaborne petroleum trade and a third of all maritime traffic traverses the Indian Ocean, the world’s third-largest body of water, which connects Asia with Africa and, via the Middle East, with Europe.

No less important, the Indian Ocean Rim may be poised to emerge as the world’s fastest-growing region in economic terms over the next decade, according to a recent assessment by the Center for International Development at Harvard University. After two centuries of Atlantic domination followed by the rise of the Pacific Rim, the Indian Ocean Rim could become the next growth engine, amid relatively slow growth in the mature economies and a relentless slowdown in China.

Meanwhile, as outside and local powers joust for access, influence and relative advantage in the region, the Indian Ocean is witnessing a maritime version of the 19th century Great Game — the rivalry between the British and Russian empires for influence in Central Asia. Four national strategies — China’s Maritime Silk Road project, America’s “pivot” to Asia, Japan’s western-facing approach, and India’s Act East Policy — intersect in the Indian Ocean.
China’s Maritime Silk Road — a catchy name for Beijing’s “string of pearls” policy of advancing strategic interests along its trade routes — is centered in the Indian Ocean, with China employing aid, investment and political leverage to pursue geostrategic objectives. A pet project of President Xi Jinping, its larger goal is to redraw Asia’s geopolitical map by pulling strategically located states closer to China’s orbit. It also seeks to deal with China’s problem of overproduction at home by winning lucrative overseas contracts for its state-run companies to build seaports, railroads, highways and energy pipelines in states located along the great trade arteries.

How the BJP lost the soldiers' vote

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 01, 2015 


Dale Carnegie wrote 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' in 1936 and the book continues to guide generations to date.
Going by its track record of the last eighteen months, BJP appears to be working overtime to perfect the art of 'losing supporters and alienating people'.

BJP's handling of the issues pertaining to the military community is symptomatic of the brazenness of its duplicitous and hypocritical mindset. En-block support extended by 50 lakh strong military community and their family members was a major factor in BJP's unprecedented victory. Soldiers expected Modi to deliver on his promises – construction of a befitting War Memorial, establishment of a Veterans' Commission and grant of OROP.

However, once in power, it started treating veterans with indifference. Even a chameleon takes longer to change its colours. Although the promises were explicit with no ambiguity of any nature whatsoever, Modi claimed that the promises were made to soldiers without knowing the complexities involved. Worse, veterans were advised to 'lower their expectations' and treated with loathsome homilies like 'election jhumlas'. Some effrontery!
A look at BJP's conduct while in power exposes it as a two-faced party. The War Memorial continues to remain a paper proposal with no work done on ground. Veterans' Commission has been a total non-starter. The government does not even talk about it. Finally, the government has offered a sham-OROP after gracelessly prolonged dithering.

A new world under construction: China and semiconductors


The ongoing transformation of the Chinese semiconductor sector requires all parties to raise their game.

November 2015 | byChristopher Thomas

Business in China has become a top-of-mind issue for semiconductor executives and investors over the past year. While traditionally an important consumption market for chips, three related factors have now made it more important for companies to understand the opportunity and proactively refresh their China strategies. First, the government is actively attempting to reshape the domestic semiconductor market and assist local companies in becoming national champions. Second, Chinese consumers and companies are becoming increasingly important to the growth of the global semiconductor market. Third, Chinese capital—from both government and private sources—is actively pursuing merger, acquisition, investment, and partnership opportunities worldwide.

These changes raise important questions for Chinese and multinational companies. How can they continue to capture growth in China? Do market and policy changes require new capabilities or approaches? And how can local and international players form mutually beneficial partnerships?
The factors behind China’s increasing prominence
It’s worth examining in detail the political, economic, and financial-market factors behind China’s growing role in the global semiconductor industry, as they may shape the market for years to come.
A supportive government
China’s national guidelines for the development and promotion of the IC industry



Monday, November 30, 2015

A map indicating the location of the Wa population within China's Yunnan province, which borders Burma.

China watchers are well aware of ethnic unrest involving Tibetans and Uyghurs, but little is known about independence movements and cultural rights activism among other ethnic minorities. Dui Hua research has explored the suppression of Christianity among China’s ethnic Koreans. Now, based on public security records obtained by Dui Hua (PDF 1.2MB), we expand our understanding of this topic to include the Wa and Lahu. 

The Wa and Lahu primarily inhabit mountain villages along the border between China's Yunnan Province and Burma. Today there are an estimated 1.2 million Wa people worldwide, with 800,000 in Burma and 400,000 in China, and 800,000 Lahu, of whom more than half reside in China.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, authorities in Yunnan's Simao Prefecture (or present day Pu'er City) targeted the Wa and Lahu people in efforts to suppress nationalistic sentiments. Official sources trace ethnic nationalism among these groups to Zhadie (扎谍), a Wa man born in a contested territory between China and Burma in 1924. Records describe him as an overseas separatist instructed by the United States and Kuomintang to carry out counterrevolutionary activities on the mainland. (Some Kuomintang forces refused to retreat to Taiwan and instead withdrew to Burma after the Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in 1949.) 

Looking Beyond the Tragedy in Paris:

Still No Clear Strategy and No Public Measures of Effectiveness for Dealing with ISIS, Iraq, and Syria 

By Anthony H. Cordesman, DEC 1, 2015 

It is time to look beyond the tragedy of Paris and the immediate threat of terrorism, and take a hard look at the lack of any meaningful public strategy for the broader fight in Iraq and Syria, and any meaningful measures of progress and effectiveness.
Vague Statements Focused on ISIS are Not a Strategy

So far, President Obama and the administration have implied that there has been far more progress in defeating ISIS than has actually occurred, and have only addressed the broadest trends in the current fight against ISIS. They have not provided a clear picture of the real world lack of progress in creating effective local forces on the ground, of how effective coalition airpower has been and could be in the future, or of the massive problems the United States had encountered by relying on Iraqi government and Arab rebel forces. The President has not indicated how and when a liberation of ISIS-occupied areas could actually take place, or give any hint as to how the United States planned to ensure successful recovery and reintegration of these areas in Iraq and Syria.

More broadly, the President has only addressed something like a third of the full range of issues a truly workable U.S. strategy must address. He has not addressed broader sectarian and ethnic divisions in Syria and Iraq that have led to civil war or near civil war – Sunni versus Shi’ite/Alawite and Arab versus Kurd. He did not address the fact it was their status as failed states in terms of politics, governance, economics, and dealing with population pressures that created the situation ISIS exploited.
More broadly, the President and the Administration have not seriously addressed:

· The problems in bringing some form of stability or security to either Iraq or Syria —much less both.

· The role of the Hezbollah or Iran, problems with Turkey, the different goals of Arab states, or the tensions between Arab and Kurd.

· The problems raised in rebuilding a Syria with more than half its population as refugees or internally displaced persons.

· How to resolve the fact that the main war in Syria is between the Assad forces and Arab rebels and not with ISIS.

· The fact many Syrian Arab rebels are part of other Islamist extremist forces like the Al Nusra Front.

· The deep divisions in Iraq, its weak governance, the growing role of Iran. 
The problems created by Shi’ite militias. 

· The fact the expansion of Kurdish controlled areas leaves a legacy of future tension or conflict with the Arabs.

· The problems raised by the limits to Iraq’s oil wealth and its inability to properly support its people or develop its economy.

· Iraq’s need to make major changes in its security forces, governance, economic, and politics to achieve security and stability.

What Does ‘Defeating ISIS’ Actually Look Like?

How many members of ISIS must be killed before victory can be declared and the mission accomplished?

Albert B. Wolf, December 3, 2015 

If we defeated the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), would we know victory when we saw it? We often talk about winning and losing without having any idea what these terms mean. As a new coalition of the willing gestates in the wake of Paris, before we speak of sacrifices to be made, we first need to ask what we want to achieve vis-à-vis the Islamic State. Each definition of victory carries separate sets of commitments and sacrifices. However, from brute force to outright surrender, the best way to defeat ISIS is to implode it.

Our definitions of “wins” and “losses” have a chameleon-like tendency to change. After 9/11, our definition of victory changed from removing the Taliban from power and eliminating Al Qaeda’s leadership to building a centralized, democratic Afghanistan. Now, victory means allowing the U.S. to save enough face to stave off a total Taliban victory while holding off new gains from ISIS throughout. Our ability to jump from one lily pad’s definition of triumph to another is a recipe for morass.

One renowned scholar identifies six ways terrorist organizations end: leadership decapitation, incorporating the organization into a peaceful political transition, allowing the terrorist group to succeed, changes in the group’s tactics, crushing the group through brute force, and fostering the enemy’s implosion through undermining its popular support.

God, Paris and Islam: How Salafism Challenges France’s Church-State Relationship


The horrible November 13 massacre in Paris perpetrated almost entirely by European passport holders has rallied European states to bolster security across the European Union, including tighter controls over migratory flows and cross border travel. The problem, however, goes beyond security and is, on the one hand, related to an unintegrated immigrant Muslim community, some of whose youthful members have fallen prey to the ideologies of Salafism. This has made them identify with global Salafi-jihadi organizations, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, at the expense of their allegiance to their countries. On the other hand, France’s crisis with members of its Muslim community is more or less linked to the country’s ambivalent Church-State relations.

French policy on church-state relations, including accommodation of religious practices, is governed by Laicite, or broadly speaking, the separation of church from state. Laicite originated as a form of political opposition to the monarchist Catholic Church under King Louis XVI. French revolutionaries outlawed most Catholic religious orders. Nevertheless, when Napoleon Bonaparte signed a Concordat with Pope Pius VII in 1801, Catholicism became the “religion of the great majority of French people,” and, therefore, not the established religion.

This changed when the French government issued the Separation Law of 1905, breaking with the Concordat and stipulating that central authorities would neither recognize nor pay salaries or other expenses for any form of worship, while at the same time banning religious signs or emblems in public space. But as French society, like those in Western Europe, has become more secular, French religious orders began to question the very concept of Laicite, especially as Paris and other European capitals directly or indirectly embraced the policy of multiculturalism as a societal vessel to accommodate the social needs of their growing immigrant community. Consequently, French society split over the concept of Laicite, whereby its interpretation fell along the lines of Strict versus Soft Laicite.

Saying ‘No’: Can the U.S. Credibly Commit to Restraint in the Middle East?

The Obama administration is facing a credibility problem, but it’s not the one most people think.

Robert Farley, December 3, 2015 

What if no one believes you when you say “no”?
The Obama administration is facing a credibility problem, but it’s not the one most people think. The policymakers during the Cold War believed that their key problem was convincing the Soviets that they would say “Yes”—yes to defending Germany, yes to using nuclear weapons, yes to the expense of maintaining global containment.

President Obama, however, wants to say “No”—no to permanent engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, no to leadership of the Libya operation, no to the war in Syria and, most importantly, no to the idea that the United States should permanently guarantee the military and political balance of power in the Middle East. The problem is that few believe Obama really wants this, and fewer believe that he can pull it off.

The traditional problem with credibility-led foreign policy involves positive commitment; the United States commits to defending Germany against the Soviet Union, but the Germans have reason to doubt the U.S. willingness to defend their territory. Washington can reaffirm the credibility of the commitment in several ways, such as developing a multilateral institutional linkage (NATO), forward deploying U.S. troops or adopting an aggressive nuclear posture. The United States also needs to mind its broader international reputation; if it fails to defend its friends in South Vietnam, for example, the West Germans may grow skeptical of the strength of U.S. commitment.
This logic, associated with extended deterrence, outlined much U.S. and Soviet foreign policy during the Cold War. It drove the United States into Korea and Vietnam, animated U.S. behavior in Latin America and undergirded the alliance system that Washington constructed in Europe and elsewhere.

Down, But Not Out How Saudi Arabia Will Avert an Oil Economy Collapse


 December 1, 2015, By Fahad Nazer

The September 11 collapse of a crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca provided a grave metaphor for Saudi Arabia experts. A number of observers, citing supposed infighting among senior Saudi royals, have predicted an unprecedented political upheaval. Other critics however, have focused on the precipitous drop in oil pricessince June 2014 to argue that the kingdom is in serious economic trouble. Indeed, the decline in oil prices from about $115 to below $45 today seems the more daunting challenge.

Of course, oil does play a central role in the functioning of the Saudi state. Riyadh, however, is no stranger to oil crises. The lessons Saudi Arabia learned from previous crashes have taught it to curtail public spending and maintain access to large foreign currency reserves when in trouble. As a result, Saudi Arabia is better positioned than ever to weather the effects of flagging oil prices. Although it will still face difficult decisions in the months ahead, the challenges alone are not enough to bring about the state’s demise.


Oil accounts for 90 percent of Saudi Arabia’s exports and 40 percent of its GDP. More importantly, it constitutes almost 80 percent of the Saudi government’s revenues. With the bulk of its wealth coming from the sale of its natural resources rather than taxation, its citizens have had relatively limited involvement in the political decision-making process.
The Saudi economy—like many of those across the Middle East—combines free market policies underlying its banking, healthcare, manufacturing, construction and telecommunications sectors with heavy state involvement in regulation, planning, and development funding. TheSaudi public sector remains immense; recent reports, including a poll conducted by Gallup, estimates that the Saudi government employs as many as eight out of every ten citizens. The government has pumped billions of dollars into education, housing, and healthcare in the hopes of preparing its young population to compete in a global economy.

Saudi policymakers readily admit that they have formidable economic and demographic challenges ahead of them. The nation’s population has quadrupled since 1970. It is estimated that 200,000 Saudis enter the workforce every year. Although the oil sector has powered the Saudi economy and the government for decades, it is not labor intensive enough to absorb the nation’s booming population.
Saudi planners have tried to expand development within the nation in order to address the looming unemployment problem, but the solution may exceed the dozen industrial and economic cities across the country that the government has already funded. Although a number of Saudi cities, especially the capital city of Riyadh, have the trappings of a modern metropolis, other regions are still relatively underdeveloped. Repeatedflooding in the port of Jeddah, for example, suggests that the kingdom’s physical infrastructure is still a work in progress.

The Middle East inches away from the inferno


Then-U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale, center in Lebanon on June 10. (Bilal Hussein/Associated Press)

A modest diplomatic breakthrough seems near in Lebanon, as the allies of Saudi Arabia and Iran appear to have tentatively agreed on a new president after an 18-month deadlock
Under a political deal blessed by the United States, the vacant Lebanese presidency would be filled by Suleiman Franjieh, a Maronite Christian politician who has long been friendly with the Iranian-supported regime in Syria. Saad Hariri, a Sunni Muslim leader strongly backed by Saudi Arabia, would become prime minister. 

The deal would mark another small step forward in the diplomatic process that has brought Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table in Vienna to explore a cease-fire in the Syrian civil war. In a bracing reminder of Lebanon’s past political torments, a Franjieh-Hariri alliance would bring together sons of two men killed by assassins. The pact, if it holds, would be a characteristic Lebanese political compromise, leaving “no victor, no vanquished.” 
Lebanon has been a battleground in the region-wide proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which claim to speak for Sunnis and Shiites, respectively. But over the past year, Beirut has hosted an intriguing effort at rapprochement, which I described in a column a year ago, bringing together Nader Hariri, the Sunni leader’s cousin, and a senior Hezbollah representative. Those contacts now seem to have borne some fruit. 

"How should we respond to the threat of ISIS? (part 2)"

November 25, 2015

Author: Rami Khouri
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Middle East Initiative

"Throughout many private and public encounters across the United States in the past two months, I have repeatedly heard Americans ask whether they are doing the right thing in their current policy to counter "Islamic State" (ISIS), and whether they should be doing other things besides military attacks. This is now even more urgent since the United States government has issued a worldwide travel alert for Americans traveling abroad. Existing policies to counter Islamist terror groups have not worked very well, it seems, to judge by the last 17 years of non-stop military attacks against Al-Qaeda which have seen Al-Qaeda persist and expand recently, and ISIS come to being and wage terror attacks in several countries beyond its borders.

Many Western and Arab governments also have attempted to slow down the flow of recruits to Islamist militant groups by using social media to offer "counter-narratives" on a range of issues that would prevent young men and women from joining ISIS or Al-Qaeda; but all these efforts have been an embarrassing waste of time and money. These groups did not exist 25 years ago, and now they are fast growing threats across the region and increasingly around the world.

What caused these groups to come into being? Why has the world's response to this problem been so incompetent? Why have these groups emerged primarily from within the heart of the Arab world? The world needs to grasp and address the relationship between these three questions, if this threat is to be dealt with once and for all in an effective manner. Bombing away for decades on end will not do that, and has not done that.




It was born in the ashes of World War II and grew rapidly during Les Trente Glorieuses, the 30 years of economic development that followed that conflict. It then matured, expanded, and acquired both a currency and a good deal of respect. By the start of the 21st century, it was feted as a great symbol of international cooperation. But 2015 may well be remembered as the year when the institutions of the European Union began to fail — when the world, and even Europeans themselves, began to view the body as weak and incompetent.

Ironically, the EU has been a victim of its own success. The founding aims of the European project were to bring peace to a continent devastated by war, create a common market, and reunify the continent’s east and west. By the early 1990s, those goals had been achieved. But half a century of peace and prosperity created complacency. Europe became so stable it decided that it didn’t need a foreign policy or a defense strategy of any gravity, that it could ignore or absorb the costs of its more irresponsible members’ financial mistakes, and that it didn’t need to worry about dysfunctional states to its south and east. Those decisions led directly or indirectly to some of 2015’s most memorable news stories: Greece’s economic and political crisis, the worst refugee emergency in 70 years, Russia’s intervention in Syria, the civil war in Syria, and of course the Paris terrorist attacks that Syria inspired.

The EU’s problems are often blamed on what Margaret Thatcher once called its “airy-fairy” ambitions to be a United States of Europe. This year, however, it became clear that most of its failures are caused by EU countries’ refusal to pool resources and share sovereignty — to behave like an actual union or even a group of states with common economic and security interests.
The euro crisis might have been avoided, for example, if the common currency’s members had decided to require the coordination of fiscal and banking policies before a new state could join. The eurozone would have had far fewer members, but Greece would have avoided bankruptcy and Spain, Portugal, and Italy would be in better condition too.

Top Economist: OPEC Is Preparing for ‘Long-Term Type of War’


DEC. 2, 2015, Thomas L. Friedman

When President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced he was setting up an air base in the middle of Syria to take on the Islamic State and bolster President Bashar al-Assad, more than a few analysts and politicians praised his forceful, game-changing, strategic brilliance, suggesting that Putin was crazy like a fox. Some of us thought he was just crazy.
Well, two months later, let’s do the math: So far, Putin’s Syrian adventure has resulted in a Russian civilian airliner carrying 224 people being blown up, apparently by pro-ISIS militants in Sinai. Turkey shot down a Russian bomber after it strayed into Turkish territory. And then Syrian rebels killed one of the pilots as he parachuted to earth and one of the Russian marines sent to rescue him. Many of the anti-Assad rebels in that area are ethnic Turkmens, with strong cultural ties to Turkey; Turkey was not amused by Putin bombing Turkmen villages inside Syria, because it weakens Turkey’s ability to shape Syria’s future.

Meanwhile, in Crimea, Ukraine, which Putin annexed, pro-Turkish Tatars apparently cut the power lines, plunging Crimea into a near total blackout. And in October dozens of Saudi clerics called for a “holy war” against the governments of Syria, Iran and Russia.
In sum, Putin’s “crafty” Syrian chess move has left him with a lot more dead Russians; newly at odds with Turkey and Iran; weakened in Ukraine; acting as the defense lawyer for Assad — a mass murderer of Sunni Muslims, the same Sunni Muslims as Putin has in Russia; and with no real advances against ISIS.

Other than that, it’s been a great success.

Truth be told, I wish Putin had succeeded. It would have saved us all a lot of trouble, because ISIS is not the “J.V. team” President Obama once called it. It’s actually the Jihadist All-Star team. It combines the military efficiency of Iraqi ex-Baathist army officers with the religious zealotry and prison-forged depravity of its “Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the Web-savvy of Arab millennials and a thrill-ride appeal to humiliated young Muslim males, who’ve never held power, a decent job or a girl’s hand.

A Vision for a Moderate, Modern Muslim World Creating an ideology of openness, optimism, and opportunity in the Gulf is a key component to defeating extremism.



In St. Petersburg and Sinai, Bamako and Beirut, Mosul and Paris, the world has been shocked by a murderous month of Islamic extremist violence. With a more sophisticated enemy and the return of radicalized fighters, the Middle East’s terrorism challenge has become a global challenge in a way not seen since the 9/11 attacks.

The Islamic State must be defeated on the field of battle but also in the war of conflicting ideologies. As Muslims, we have the most at stake and must be leaders on both fronts.
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), we are joined with the international community to bring new energy to the fight against the most destabilizing and dangerous force since fascism. For more than 12 years, from the air and on the ground, the UAE has been combating extremists in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. We continue to aggressively attack extremist support networks — blocking the flow of funds and foreign fighters, contesting extremists online, and devising new counterradicalization strategies.

But success on the battlefield may be the easy part. We know that to win, we must not only defeat what we are against, but we must also define what we as Muslims and Arabs are for.But success on the battlefield may be the easy part. We know that to win, we must not only defeat what we are against, but we must also define what we as Muslims and Arabs are for. True victory can only come when the more powerful forces of tolerance and progress prevail over the twisted ideology of the Islamic State and its kind.
Is this even possible in the Middle East? One hundred years after the Sykes-Picot agreement, can the region overcome its history of sectarian and ethnic division? Is there a new model of and for the Middle East built on hope rather than hate?

America’s Wingman Returns to the Fight


Britain approves airstrikes in Syria as fury over the Paris attacks jolts more countries into stepping up their fight against the Islamic State.

Prime Minister David Cameron sought Wednesday to reclaim Britain’s role as America’s wingman in the war on terror, securing parliamentary approval over a fragmented Labour Party for the United Kingdom to join the U.S.-led air assault against the Islamic State in Syria.

The decision marked an important political victory for Cameron, who was humiliated more than two years ago for failing to win enough domestic support to launch airstrikes and punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using deadly chemical weapons against his own people in the country’s civil war.
The conservative British leader’s case for war gained ground in the weeks following the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130. It also came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged NATO members to increase their military commitments to the fight against the Islamic extremists.

“We should answer the call from our allies,” Cameron said at the opening of Parliament’s hours-long debate on the use of force in Syria. He noted that the extremist group’s execution of British hostages in Syria, and its plots to commit “atrocity after atrocity” on the streets in Britain demanded a military response.

Daunting Challenges and Glimmers of Hope in Ukraine


JAMES F. COLLINS ,  November 20, 2015 

The turmoil in eastern Ukraine has shaken the post–Cold War order. But there is reason to hope a more effective approach to building regional security might be possible.
The hostilities in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists present the most serious challenge to Euro-Atlantic security and stability since the end of the Cold War. This worst military conflict since the Yugoslav Wars of the mid-1990s has undermined core elements of the post–Cold War order and consensus. 

Now well into its second year, this confrontation has challenged assumptions and arrangements about Europe’s future thought to have been central and stable since the end of the Cold War. The conflict has called into question the viability of the commitment by the signatories to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act to respect the sovereignty and borders of states in Europe. It has questioned the obligations undertaken by Euro-Atlantic states in the 1990 Charter of Paris, including to respect and develop democratic models of governance. And in a setback for efforts to prevent further nuclear proliferation, it has undermined the 1994 Budapest memorandum signed by Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States that provided security assurances to Ukraine in exchange for the surrender of its nuclear weapons.
The unrest in eastern Ukraine has inflamed and reignited historic conflicts and passions across the length and breadth of Eastern and Central Europe. Cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious divisions have been revived and sharpened as conflict has divided regions and groups: the return of ugly, often obscurantist nationalism has become a spark to pit neighbor against neighbor and legitimize hatred and intolerance. 

It's Time to Discuss Geoengineering


PAUL PILLAR, December 2, 2015 

Some observers of the climate conference in Paris, and of the preparations leading up to it, sense a greater degree of seriousness and commitment than they saw at earlier international gatherings on climate change. That's encouraging, although it remains to be seen what agreement, if any, will emerge from this conference now that the top leaders have given their speeches and gone home. Another ground for optimism is how, with enough of a stimulant from government in the form of subsidies for clean forms of energy, restrictions on dirty forms of it, and other incentives, market forces can provide momentum to keep going in the right direction. As President Obama noted in his press conference in France, this has already proven to be the case with the dramatic reduction over the last several years in the cost of photovoltaic cells (i.e., solar panels).

There still are plenty of grounds for pessimism about arresting climate change, however, given how apparent and widespread is small-minded thinking that focuses on the parochial and the pecuniary. In addition to any such thinking from abroad to which Mr. Obama was exposed at the conference, he need look no farther than his own capital to be reminded of it. The U.S. House of Representatives chose this moment to pass a resolution that would wreck rules reducing the amount of heat-trapping emissions from coal-fired power plants. It is remarkable that some of the same people who on other topics bemoan what they contend is insufficient exercise of U.S. leadership would do something like this, and that a member of Congress such as Edward Whitfield (R-KY) would say, “Why should this president penalize Americans and put us in jeopardy compared to other countries of the world and require us to do more than other countries are doing, just so he can go to France and claim to be the world leader on climate change?” The House's action also had much the same character as the notorious letter in March from Senate Republicans to Iran about the nuclear negotiations, in that both were designed to scuttle an international agreement by weakening U.S. credibility and bargaining power while the United States was trying to negotiate the accord.

These and other impediments to action mean that the world cannot afford to wait in considering seriously all available means to keep the warming of the planet from reaching levels that would be catastrophic and, within any time frame meaningful for human civilization, irreversible. This in turn means not only minimizing further damage of the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation but also considering other possible interventions that would counteract the globe-warming effects of the damage already inflicted and that will still be inflicted in the future. This includes measures that come under the heading of geoengineering.

Four fundamentals of workplace automation


As the automation of physical and knowledge work advances, many jobs will be redefined rather than eliminated—at least in the short term.

November 2015 | byMichael Chui, James Manyika, and Mehdi Miremadi6 minute read

The potential of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics to perform tasks once reserved for humans is no longer reserved for spectacular demonstrations by the likes of IBM’s Watson, Rethink Robotics’ Baxter, DeepMind, or Google’s driverless car. Just head to an airport: automated check-in kiosks now dominate many airlines’ ticketing areas. Pilots actively steer aircraft for just three to seven minutes of many flights, with autopilot guiding the rest of the journey. Passport-control processes at some airports can place more emphasis on scanning document bar codes than on observing incoming passengers.

What will be the impact of automation efforts like these, multiplied many times across different sectors of the economy?1 Can we look forward to vast improvements in productivity, freedom from boring work, and improved quality of life? Should we fear threats to jobs, disruptions to organizations, and strains on the social fabric?2

Earlier this year, we launched research to explore these questions and investigate the potential that automation technologies hold for jobs, organizations, and the future of work.3 Our results to date suggest, first and foremost, that a focus on occupations is misleading. Very few occupations will be automated in their entirety in the near or medium term. Rather, certain activities are more likely to be automated, requiring entire business processes to be transformed, and jobs performed by people to be redefined, much like the bank teller’s job was redefined with the advent of ATMs.

Al Qaeda Electronic: A Sleeping Dog?


By Eric Liu, December 2, 2015
Cyber warfare is a natural arena for al Qaeda. It allows a small number of covert and dispersed individuals to inflict disproportionate damage on a much stronger adversary.[i] Cyber warriors generally hail from the class of disaffected, educated, relatively-well-off radicals from whom al Qaeda draws its leadership cadres. Al Qaeda should have an advanced cyber-warfare capability to hurt the West and help recruit new followers, but it does not. The only hacking collective claiming affiliation with the group is al Qaeda Electronic (AQE), which was formed only this year and has shown limited and rudimentary capabilities. Al Qaeda does not seem to pose a significant cyber threat to the U.S. or its allies at this time.
Download the full report. 

Al Qaeda’s relative impotence in the cyber realm likely reflects the experiences of its leaders and the group’s history. Ayman al Zawahiri, its current leader, and his lieutenants have spent most of the past 25 years operating covertly and trying to evade the prying electronic eyes of Western intelligence agencies. They have seen information technology as a way to communicate securely to a small group of trusted leaders, which is why they still rely heavily on password-protected and tightly monitored closed internet forums and emphasize the virtues of encryption.[ii] They have a very defensive mindset when it comes to information technology.[iii]

The emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) is changing the landscape of al Qaeda-related cyber activities, however. ISIS is much more offensively oriented, and its declaration of an Islamic State shows its desire to operate in the open rather than the shadows. Its use of information technology follows the same pattern. ISIS relies heavily on social media to communicate among its leaders and to its followers, as well as to attract potential recruits. ISIS is creating competition within the jihadi world in cyberspace as well as in the arts of terrorism and atrocity.

Al Qaeda loyalists can evolve dangerous capabilities rapidly in response to this ISIS challenge, should they chose to. Tools for conducting advanced attacks are openly sold on the Dark Web. Cyber capabilities can be easily transferred from criminals to terrorists and among terrorist groups. The relative conservatism and cyber-backwardness of al Qaeda’s current leadership should not lull us into complacency. We must still closely follow the individuals and groups claiming to be al Qaeda’s vanguard into the cyber war space lest we be surprised one day by an attack that we could have predicted.

To read the full report, click here.

Anonymous #OpISIS: Can Cyber Warfare Win the War on Terror?

Posted by Alix Vadot
The horrors of the Paris attacks have prompted a new wave of hate and determination among the cyberwarfare group of unknown size. Anonymous will not forgive. Anonymous will not forget. Expect them.

With the news of this declaration of war, many questions are rising. Will Anonymous succeed? Are cyberattacks what is needed in the face of the ever-expanding terrorist organization? Will it do more harm than good?
Cyberattacks have taken many forms in the past, often focusing on taking control of online accounts, websites or databases and causing ridicule or putting a full stop to any of the targeted organization’s operations. The online hacker group has been famous for coming from all over the world to unite over one cause, be it the taking down of a government, as in their recent launch of Operation North Korea, or publishing and thereby shutting down harmful websites, such as child pornography websites in a ploy known as Operation DarkNet. Anonymous had a key role in kickstarting Arab Spring protests with their involvement in Operation Tunisia, which served to fight online censorship and awaken Tunisian activism in the face of their repressive government.

What are its plans to destroy Daesh?

Operation Ice ISIS, which vowed to execute “coordinated cyberattacks against extremist Jihadi websites and governments such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia who funded and supported ISIS”, had already been initiated in late September of last year. Among criticism and fear of putting the cyberattackers in extreme danger, however, this operation resorted to using knowledge as a weapon. The goal became to spread the fact that ISIS does not represent a religion, and that the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world do not condone the abominable actions being carried out by the extremist group.

Cyber, EW Are Secret Missile Defense Weapons Too Secret To Use

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.on December 04, 2015

WASHINGTON: The problem with secret weapons is that almost nobody knows about them — including people on your own side who might really need to use them. That’s the self-inflicted wound the Pentagon is struggling with as it tries to apply highly classified capabilities in cyber and electronic warfare to the notoriously tough challenge of missile defense.

Cutting-edge technologies hold the potential to hack into an adversary’s command-and-control network so his missiles never get the order to launch. They could jam his radars and navigation systems so the missiles that do launch go harmlessly off target. Such “non-kinetic” techniques — expending no ammunition except electricity — could reduce the number of incoming missiles and thus the number of multi-million-dollar interceptors the US has to fire at them.

No less a figure than Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work has said bluntly that EW and cyber held more promise for missile defense than the traditional method of shooting down one missile with another. “It doesn’t have to be a kinetic solution,” Work said in March. “Hell, I don’t really want a kinetic solution. It’s got to be something else.”

So that’s the promise — but when I’ve tried to get any specifics, I get polite demurrals that the topic is too classified to talk about. But it’s not just reporters who have this problem. People in the military who really need to know about these capabilities, as a matter of potential life and death, aren’t always allowed to learn about them either.

Winning The Airwaves: Sustaining America’s Advantage In The Electronic Spectrum

December 1, 2015 • By Bryan Clark and Mark Gunzinger 

The electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) is one of the most critical operational domains in modern warfare, but its use in military operations is rapidly changing. In the same way smartphones and the Internet are redefining how the world shares, shops, learns, and works, the development and fielding of advanced sensors and networking technologies will enable some militaries to gain significant new advantages over competitors that fail to keep pace.

Unfortunately, “failed to keep pace” is an appropriate description of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) investments in EMS warfare capabilities over the last generation. As a result, America’s once significant military advantage in the EMS domain is eroding, and may in fact no longer exist. This does not have to remain the case. DoD now has the opportunity to develop new operational concepts and technologies that will allow it to “leap ahead” of its competitors and create enduring advantages in EMS warfare.

CSBA’s report analyzes military use of the EMS over the last century and identifies how it is likely to change over the next several decades. The study then proposes operational concepts and technologies that will enable U.S. forces to dominate the next phase of EMS warfare. The report concludes with an assessment of the barriers DoD faces in implementing a new approach to EMS warfare and recommends a series of actions to overcome these barriers and allow the U.S. military to once again own the airwaves.

"Cyber Readiness Index 2.0" A Plan for Cyber Readiness: A Baseline and an Index

November 30, 2015

Authors: Melissa Hathaway, Senior Advisor, Cyber Security Project, Chris Demchak, Jason Kerban,Jennifer McArdle, Francesca Spidalieri

The Cyber Readiness Index 2.0 is expanded from theCyber Readiness Index 1.0, published November 2013.

Today, no country is cyber ready.

It is a given that global economic growth is increasingly dependent upon the rapid adoption of information communication technology (ICT) and connecting society to the Internet. Indeed, each country's digital agenda promises to stimulate economic growth, increase efficiency, improve service delivery and capacity, drive innovation and productivity gains, and promote good governance. Yet, the availability, integrity, and resilience of this core infrastructure are in harm's way. The volume, scope, velocity, and sophistication of threats to our networked systems and infrastructures are real and growing. Data breaches, criminal activity, service disruptions, and property destruction are becoming commonplace and threaten the Internet economy.

Global leaders understand that increased Internet connectivity leads to economic growth only if the underlying infrastructure and the devices connected to it are safe and secure. Therefore, countries must align their national economic visions with their national security priorities.

Until now, however, there has not been a comprehensive, comparative, experiential methodology to evaluate a country's maturity and commitment to securing its national cyber infrastructure and services upon which its digital future and growth depend. The Cyber Readiness Index (CRI) 1.01 represented a new way of examining the problem and was designed to spark international discussion and inspire global action to address the economic erosion caused by cyber insecurity.

LTG Alan Lynn on DISA's role in securing DoD networks


Army LTG Alan Lynn was named has been director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and commander of the Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Networks (JFHQ-DODIN) in July 2015 for three months, and as such he leads an organization and activities focused on organizing, training and equipping military and civilian personnel that secure, operate and defend the government’s crucial information networks. Overseeing a host of innovative security engineering and efficiency initiatives, he shared his thoughts and plans for the future in these written responses to questions provided by C4ISR & Networks.

C4ISRNET: What do you want to achieve in your tenure at DISA?

LTG ALAN LYNN: I’d like to increase the value of DISA and there are a number of ways we can do that. One is through reducing costs to our mission partners. We’ve been successful in doing that in the past year by reducing our costs by about 9.3 percent. I expect to get down by at least another 7 percent in the next year. But we’ve got to get more efficient.

I would also like to increase our partnerships with other agencies and industry to increase innovation. I have some ideas on that; for example, I’d like to build more resilient infrastructure to defend against cyberattacks.

I have a lot more energy and ideas than that, but my tenure here is short, so I want to get the biggest bang for the buck for the Department of Defense.

C4ISRNET: You have talked about two initiatives: resilient networks and 100-percent assured identity on wireless networks. Can you tell us more about that?

LYNN: This gets into the increased partnerships with other agencies and industry. We’ve been in contact with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and with the National Security Agency Commercial Solutions for Classified program and also our good partners in industry that we work with all the time on cyber protection. I think now is the time when industry is starting to think about how to better defend themselves from cyberattacks. Obviously, in the Department of Defense we’ve been ground zero for a lot of the attacks over many years and we’ve gotten very good at defending our networks from cyberattacks. We all are at a point where we can share new capabilities and innovate better network protection together.

There are a lot of interesting things that are being done in DARPA, by our partners at NSA and here in DISA. We just need to bring it all together to build something that not only can be used in the Department of Defense, but I believe can be used more broadly across the United States and with industry.

Mastering the Gray Zone: Understanding a Changing Era of Conflict

Mastering the Gray Zone: Understanding a Changing Era of Conflict - Strategic Studies Institute Monograph by Dr. Michael J. Mazarr


Discussions of an emerging practice of “gray zone” conflict have become increasingly common throughout the U.S. Army and the wider national security community, but the concept remains ill-defined and poorly understood. This monograph aims to contribute to the emerging dialogue about competition and rivalry in the gray zone by defining the term, comparing and contrasting it with related theories, and offering tentative hypotheses about this increasingly important form of state competition. The idea of operating gradually and somewhat covertly to remain below key thresholds of response is hardly new. Many approaches being used today—such as support for proxy forces and insurgent militias—have been employed for millennia. The monograph argues that the emergence of this more coherent and intentional form of gray zone conflict is best understood as the confluence of three factors. Understood in this context, gray zone strategies can be defined as a form of conflict that pursues political objectives through integrated campaigns; employs mostly nonmilitary or nonkinetic tools; strives to remain under key escalatory or red line thresholds to avoid outright conventional conflict; and moves gradually toward its objectives rather than seeking conclusive results in a relatively limited period of time. Having examined the scope and character of gray zone conflict, the monograph offers seven hypotheses about this emerging form of rivalry. Finally, the monograph offers recommendations for the United States and its friends and allies to deal with this challenge.

Armored vehicle lets troops use PowerPoint on the battlefield

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

The Washington Post, December 1, 2015

This prototype Stryker was integrated with Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Point of Presence capability.
The Stryker, an eight-wheeled armored vehicle used almost exclusively by the U.S. Army, has had a tumultuous history. But now, according to an Army release, it might have found a new calling as a specially outfitted command vehicle that will give troops inside unprecedented communications capabilities.
Fielded in the early 2000s, the Stryker first saw combat in Iraq and had to be modified after its armor was deemed too thin for some of the lower-tech weapons, such as improvised explosive devices, employed by Iraqi insurgents. Strykers are light armored vehicles and sort-of in between for military transportation: Not quite a tank, and not quite a truck, they are often used to move troops quickly with sufficient defensive armament. Traditionally the Stryker is mounted with either a heavy machine gun, a cannon or sometimes even a 105mm howitzer.

The Army's Mobile Tactical Communications Network to Enable Mission Command on the Move, which goes by the much shorter acronym MCOTM, is testing a Stryker that replaces its main armament with something much more sinister: PowerPoint.
The Army release is chock full of abbreviations and jargon that makes it pretty hard to discern what exactly this specially decked-out Stryker can do, but what's clear is that a general in the Army's I Corps requested "a robust tactical vehicle to get him around an active battlefield" and MCOTM obliged him.

The vehicle is designed for a commander at the corps level (so think around 20,000 troops) to be able to interact from the battlefield with both staff (somewhere in the rear) and active battlefield components-such as artillery fires or intelligence assets. This recipe for micromanagement is summed up in the release by Staff Sgt. Daniel Stack, an information staff NCO in the Army's I Corps.

How can Societies be Defended against Hybrid Threats?

6 November 2015

Indeed, how might defense planners come up with better strategies to protect against today’s hybrid threats? Aapo Cederberg’s and Pasi Eronen’s answers point to the patient strengthening of national capabilities, working with one’s allies to overcome capability gaps, etc.
By Aapo Cederberg and Pasi Eronen for Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP)

This policy paper was originally published by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) in September 2015.

Hybrid threats, hybrid operations and hybrid warfare have been widely discussed among political decision makers and security policy analysts, particularly during the past couple of years.
The latest round of discussions was sparked by Russia’s integrated use of military and other means in the Crimean peninsula during the early phases of the Ukraine crisis.[1]

While the descriptive and definitive sides of hybrid threats, operations, and warfare have been widely covered, there has been less discussion on what enables countries to engage in hybrid warfare and how to organise robust national defences to cope with hybrid threats.
This policy paper’s main contributions lie in introducing a framework to evaluate the strategic underpinnings for offensive hybrid operations and in listing suggestions for organising national defences to cope with the spectrum of hybrid threats.

Hybrid warfare - mobilisation of all national means to achieve political goals

In this paper, hybrid warfare is seen as a concept that is a Western attempt to categorise what was witnessed in Ukraine. The often cited Russian “Gerasimov doctrine” describes modern warfare as joint operations utilising a mix of military and nonmilitary means to achieve political goals, and taking full advantage of the intentionally blurred line between war and peace.[2] As has been pointed out earlier, in the history of warfare we have seen similar activities under various terms, including for example non-linear operations, low-intensity conflict, full spectrum conflict, political warfare, unconventional warfare, irregular warfare, asymmetric warfare, and unrestricted warfare. [3] Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that the art of war is developing all the time and we often encounter new mutations or rehashes of previously well-known doctrinal approaches.

Electronic Warfare: We Have The Technology – But Not A Strategy

on December 02, 2015

WASHINGTON: Our regular readers already know the bad news about electronic warfare.Russia and China are rapidly catching up to the US in jamming, spoofing, and electronic eavesdropping. Senior Pentagon officials say the technological gap between them and us is shrinking, especially on those technologies that have made the biggest difference: GPS,drones, smart weapons, satellites, command networks, and more, all of which depend on uninterrupted electronic transmissions.
The influential Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has some good news. Technology close at hand — some in production, some well along in labs — could let the US surge ahead again and capture “an enduring advantage” in EW.

“This is not science fiction; it is within the state of the art of current technologies,” said CSBA co-author Mark Gunzinger this morning in a briefing on Capitol Hill.
What’s needed now, CSBA said in a study released this morning, is not new programs or massive technology investments. It’s new operational concepts and an overall strategic vision to make full use of the technology we already have.

Which brings us, of course, to the other bad news. The Defense Department doesn’t have a strategy for what to do about electronic warfare. Instead, CSBA argues, we have lots of scattered good ideas and underutilized innovations, with potentially revolutionary round pegs being forced into the square holes of outdated doctrine and bureaucracies.
Fielded or soon-to-be-fielded systems such as AESA radars on F-35s, the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer, and the SEWIP electronic warfare kit for warships all incorporate technology that could be used in far more versatile ways than current concepts take advantage of, said CSBA co-author Bryan Clark.

Junior Leaders…Success Depends on a Proactive Mindset [Guest Post]

by Alan Hastings 

Recently, a West Point Cadet asked me what I, as a Troop Commander, expected from a Platoon Leader. I provided four traits that I believe define successful lieutenants: unquestionable integrity, an aggressively proactive attitude, a willingness to engage in open and candid communication, and a commitment to self-study.
I want to highlight the second trait, maintaining a proactive mindset, which in my mind separates mediocre and outstanding junior leaders. Being proactive, especially in the face of potential obstacles and failure, is a key determinant of one’s level of success.

Lieutenants share four common situations that can lead to failure: 
You don’t know how to accomplish a given task. 
You know how to accomplish a given task, but (you think that) you can’t. 
You know how to accomplish a given task, but choose not to. 
You know how to accomplish a given task, but make mistakes or errors that cause you to fail. 

For each cause of failure, there is a proactive response that leads to success. Let’s explore each of the reasons for failure and corresponding reactive and proactive responses.

1. You don’t know how

Reactive response: “But none of us have ever done that before. I don’t know how.”

Proactive response: Seek out advice from your non-commissioned officers, subject matter experts, and references and resources on the task at hand. This approach has many benefits. You begin creating apersonal learning network of professionals with whom you can solve problems, discuss ideas, and cooperate on future projects in the future. Additionally, by learning a new skill or gaining new knowledge in order to accomplish the mission, you add another tool to your tool kit bag.