30 December 2015

Led from front, even as Punjab Governor Former Army Chief OP Malhotra passes away at 93

Dec 30 2015 
General Om Prakash Malhotra
Sandeep Dikshit
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 29General Om Prakash Malhotra, a warrior to the core who was never shy of fighting for principles even out of uniform, passed away today in Gurgaon. He was 93 and is survived by his wife Saroj, son and former diplomat Ajay and a daughter who lives in London, said sources close to the family.
The General was part of that exceptional band of Indian Army officers whose field experience spanned continents and epochs. He was part of a still rare breed of men and women who chucked sinecures on the matter of ethics, as he did as Governor of Punjab in 1991, when his opinion and efforts were overlooked by the Centre.
In the pages of military history, Punjab remembers Gen Malhotra with gratitude for the ‘Battle for Sialkot’ during the 1965 war. The thrust by the 1 Artillery Brigade under his command forced Pakistan to thin forces from its main attack column that had overrun Khemkaran and was making a bid to drive a wedge through the heart of Punjab.

But in the annals of political Punjab, Gen Malhotra’s commitment to ethics and morality of governance stands tall over his military exploits at a time when a sharp wedge was again being driven through the state’s heart. It was 1990 and Punjab needed a firm and bipartisan person as Governor to battle militancy and navigate the state to democracy at the same time
This Srinagar-born soldier, who had done field service on both of India’s unruly flanks of North Western Frontier Province and the Burma border even before Independence, fitted the bill.

Gen Malhotra was not just another officer with a glittering career in the military. He had served as Defence Attache in Moscow and as Ambassador to Indonesia after retiring as the Indian Army’s 13th Chief of Staff.
Taking over as Punjab Governor, Gen Malhotra brought about operational seamlessness among difference security forces deployed in the state. He also ordered an amnesty that allowed militants with weapons to surrender. The initiative helped at least some who had picked up the gun to get absorbed into the mainstream.

At the same time, the General nudged the state towards elections and tested the waters with municipal polls. Encouraged, the Chandra Shekhar government sought conduct of Assembly elections in Punjab and Chief Election Commissioner TN Seshan gave the go-ahead. 
As Punjab went into the election mode, the political scene in Delhi changed. PV Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister didn’t want the elections to take place because his party had already announced a boycott. Seshan seemed to have sensed the political wind and cancelled the polls.

“I have been through three wars, I have been a General in the wars, but I have never felt as defeated as I feel today after this announcement by the EC that the elections have been postponed," commented a dejected Gen Malhotra while walking out of his office into the sunset and to lasting acclaim.
He then took to charitable causes. “He lived a full life. No regrets. It was only in the last three-four days that he had stopped eating,” said a family source.

BJP Can’t Afford To Sacrifice Jammu And Ladakh’s Interests To Appease Kashmir

Hari Om Mahajan, Hari Om Mahajan is former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Jammu.
29 Dec, 2015 A lopsided policy on the Kashmir issue will surely boomerang and create more problems than resolving the existing ones.
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is not a normal state; it is complex, and a mini India. It consists of three historically, politically, culturally, ethnically and economically distinct regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Jammu, which was at the helm of affairs in the state between March 1846 and October 1947, is Hindu-majority. Its population is at least equal to that of Kashmir, if not more. Muslims constitute nearly 30 percent of this strategic region’s population. The land area of Jammu is two times that of Kashmir. The people of the region — Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs included – represent the most neglected segment of Indian society, despite the fact that they contribute more than 70 percent of the state exchequer’s revenue every year. It has little or no say in the governance of the state. It’s a region which is sitting on a volcano of discontent. There are many reasons for that. A reference here to at least four of them would be quite in order.

One is that the office of the Chief Minister has been with a leader from Kashmir since 1947 and it is being held by a particular religious sect that constitutes only about 26 percent of the entire state’s population. The other is that Kashmir has excessive and a bigger share of representation in the J&K Legislative Assembly and Council of Ministers, which takes policy decisions and decides questions of supreme importance to the well-being and happiness of the people. Jammu has only 37 seats in the Assembly, as against Kashmir’s 46, and its share in the all-powerful state cabinet is a little more than 30 percent. Besides, all the portfolios with political weight, considerable funds and patronage are the sole preserve of Kashmir after the state’s accession to the Indian Dominion in October 1947.

Time to Leave Afghanistan?

Tom Mockaiti International security analyst/military historian. Prof. of History, DePaul University, teaches counter- terrorism courses around the world.
Posted: 26/12/2015
The death of six U.S. soldiers near Bagram Airbase on December 21 serves as a grim reminder that while Americans worry about ISIS, the country's longest war is now entering its fifteenth year with no end to it in sight. The tragedy also underscores two additional but often forgotten truths. First, getting into conflicts is much easier than getting out of them. Second, the cost in blood and treasure of virtually every major war that has ever been fought has far exceeded the optimistic estimates of the political leaders who started it. Following this most recent attack it may, therefore, be worth considering a few important questions. What has the war cost us? How did we get into it, and, most important of all, how will we get out?

Over 2,000 U.S. servicemen and women have lost their lives fighting in Afghanistan. Thousands more have been wounded, some of them so badly that they will need medical care for the rest of their seriously impaired lives. The American taxpayers have spent more than $700 billion on the conflict and billions more on aide to Afghanistan, much of it wasted on graft, corruption and unsustainable projects. Adding the legacy costs of the war (long-term medical care and disability benefits, etc.) drives the total even higher. In December 15, 2014, when the war was supposed to have ended, the Financial Times reported that it had already cost $1 trillion. The loss and brokenness suffered by the families and friends of the casualties are beyond counting and compensation.

Ironically, the war began as one of the most justifiable in recent history. Following 9/11, the U.S. got the support of both NATO and the UN before beginning hostilities. Even then, the Bush administration did not rush headlong into the conflict. It sent Mullah Mohammed Omar, leader of the Taliban government, an ultimatum: turn over Osama bin Laden or face invasion. Omar refused, and the U.S. conducted a swift campaign making excellent use of Special Forces supporting the Northern Alliance of anti-Taliban Tajiks. Military operations began in early November, and by the end of the year, an interim government had been set up in Kabul.

Egypt’s Escalating Islamist Insurgency


Mokhtar Awad, Mostafa Hashem
Paper October 21, 2015

Egypt could be facing a dangerous Islamist insurgency unless the state formulates proper strategies to tackle the fragmented Islamist political scene.
Egypt is facing what is shaping up to be the deadliest and most complex insurgency in its modern history. The military-backed ouster of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency in July 2013 fragmented Egypt’s Islamist landscape and set the stage for an unpredictable struggle between Islamists and the Egyptian state. In this environment, some Islamists, specifically the youth, have turned to violence, and the trend could continue. The pro-Brotherhood nonjihadi violent groups these youth have founded could evolve into an armed jihadi rebellion. There are steps, however, that the government and the Muslim Brotherhood can take to head off this long-term insurgency in the making.
Fragmentation and Violence on the Rise 

The state crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist group, in addition to divisions within the organization have weakened the Brotherhood leadership and have paved the way for its loss of control over a growing number of members.
Various Salafists, ultraconservative Islamists, have rallied around the Brotherhood, framing the struggle with the regime as one between a secular state and Islam.

Two increasingly distinct Brotherhood factions have emerged. One embraces confrontational tactics and violence while the other emphasizes nonviolence. In reality, however, many leaders tolerate escalating levels of violence, stopping short of endorsing murder.
Brotherhood and Salafi radicals justify political violence as a legitimate tool of protest and encourage youth to adopt violence under the guise of self-defense, religiously justified retribution, and defending Islam.

Nonjihadi violent groups mainly composed of Islamist youth began to rely on anarchic violence starting in late 2013. Two years later, these groups have not only persisted but have also grown more sophisticated, conducting armed ambushes and improvised-explosive-device attacks against security forces.

Jihadi groups tirelessly attempt to tap into brewing anger and to recruit Islamist youth for their budding insurgency. 

Lessons for Egypt and the Brotherhood
Disavowing torture, investigating allegations of sexual abuse, ending forced disappearances, and generally improving prison conditions are critical steps the government should take to ensure that radicals cannot exploit such conditions for recruitment.

Bill Gates: Only Socialism Can Save the Climate, ‘The Private Sector is Inept’

Tom Cahill | October 26, 2015
Bill Gates explains why the climate crisis will not be solved by the free market.
In a recent interview with The Atlantic, billionaire tech magnate Bill Gates announced his game plan to spend $2 billion of his own wealth on green energy investments, and called on his fellow private sector billionaires to help make the U.S. fossil-free by 2050. But in doing so, Gates admitted that the private sector is too selfish and inefficient to do the work on its own, and that mitigating climate change would be impossible without the help of government research and development.
“There’s no fortune to be made. Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems,” Gates said. “Without a substantial carbon tax, there’s no incentive for innovators or plant buyers to switch.”

Gates even tacked to the left and uttered words that few other billionaire investors would dare to say: government R&D is far more effective and efficient than anything the private sector could do.
“Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area,” Gates said. “The private sector is in general inept.”

“When I first got into this I thought, ‘How well does the Department of Energy spend its R&D budget?’ And I was worried: ‘Gosh, if I’m going to be saying it should double its budget, if it turns out it’s not very well spent, how am I going to feel about that?'” Gates told The Atlantic. “But as I’ve really dug into it, the DARPA money is very well spent, and the basic-science money is very well spent. The government has these ‘Centers of Excellence.’ They should have twice as many of those things, and those things should get about four times as much money as they do.”
In making his case for public sector excellence, the Microsoft founder mentioned the success of the internet:

Japan Approves Record Defense Budget

Japanese defense spending will increase 1.5 percent during the next fiscal year.

By Franz-Stefan Gady, December 28, 2015

The cabinet of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a record 5.05 trillion yen ($41.4 billion) defense budget for fiscal year 2016/2017 and slightly below the 5.09 trillion yen requested by Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD), The Japan Times reports. This marks the fourth consecutive rise in defense spending since Shinzo Abe assumed office in December 2012.

The rise in the defense budget is primarily driven by a weakened yen, higher personnel costs and an increase in expenses for the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corp’s Futenma air base in Okinawa Prefecture, which increased from 24.4 billion yen for the current fiscal year to 59.5 billion yen under what is known as “SACO (Special Action Committee on Okinawa)-related expenses.”
When you take “SACO-related expenses” out of the equation, the actual spending that JMOD has proposed for itself is approximately 4.93 trillion yen ($41.4 billion) — comparable to what Tokyo spent on defense in 2002.

Jaitley, like Singh When a good man finds himself in bad company.

Written by Ramachandra Guha
Published:Dec 28, 2015, 0:04

In many ways, Arun Jaitley is the Manmohan Singh of the BJP. Like Singh, he was a successful and much-admired professional before he became a member of Parliament and Union minister. Like Singh, he has a calm demeanour, and friends across the political spectrum. Like Singh, he sees the Rajya Sabha as his natural parliamentary home — like him again, he was once persuaded to fight a Lok Sabha election and lost, confirming the aptness of his own preferred choice. Finally, like Singh, Jaitley has a reputation for honesty and probity.

These comparisons are strengthened by the recent controversies that Jaitley has found himself in. In the 10 years that he was prime minister, Manmohan Singh retained his individual reputation for integrity. No one could accuse him of having diverted a single paisa of public funds for personal use. However, all around him, nepotism and cronyism flourished. In 2011-12, as the corruption scandals gathered force, the PM came increasingly under the scanner, not because he was personally involved, but because he was head of a cabinet some of whose members were seen as having a hand in the till.

It has been claimed that the UPA government of 2004-14 was the most corrupt in the history of independent India. And it is widely known in cricketing circles that, even when judged by the lamentably poor standards of our sporting bodies in general, the Delhi and District Cricket Association has been deeply mired in cronyism, nepotism and corruption. It is among the worst managed cricket associations in India.

*** Military power will win battles in Syria and Iraq, but only soft power can win the war.

By James Stavridis, December 28, 2015
As we grapple with the continuing challenges of the Islamic State, it is clear that significant military efforts will be required. There are times when hard power has to be at the center of a campaign, especially against an apocalyptic cult that believes in burning, drowning, and torturing its victims while selling children into sexual slavery, among other horrors.

In terms of the military campaign, there are a series of clear steps that we should collectively undertake: building a robust command and control network; increasing intelligence sharing across the coalition; doubling the scope of the bombing campaign; upping the level of cyberattacks; cutting off financing; formalizing a special forces task force; putting in 15,000 troops to train local forces; conducting a multi-axis ground campaign against Mosul with Kurdish Peshmerga from the north and Iraqi security forces from the south; and drawing on the nascent Arab security coalition led by the Saudis to conduct ground operations in Syria.
There’s a growing consensus on the outlines of this military campaign, though admittedly, it won’t be easy to execute. What is far more difficult to outline is what tools and strategies will comprise the long game against the Islamic State.

In their seminal 2007 report, Professor Joseph Nye and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage correctly pointed out that to solve the biggest problems we need a mix of hard and soft power — which they termed “smart power.” Of note, that commission included members like former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel; Sen. Jack Reed, now the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Rep. Mac Thornberry, now the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; and Marine Gen. Tony Zinni, a former Centcom commander. The most important line in that report is simple: “Soft power is the ability to attract people to our side without coercion.” That is the contest we are currently losing, and bombs and troops can’t comprehensively defeat the Islamic State without it.

Facebook in India: Can Mark Zuckerberg's plan really help the poor?

Social-media giant Facebook has come under fire in India for its Free Basics plan, which would offer access to some online services, including Facebook, for free.
By Lisa Suhay, Correspondent December 28, 2015
In defending the company's Free Basics Internet service offered in India, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has called Internet access a basic human right. But critics say the plan is less about lifting the needy out of poverty, and more about Facebook's marketing goals.

"Who could possibly be against this?" wrote Mr. Zuckerberg Monday in an op-ed published in the Times of India about the service which would offer limited access to online services to feature-phone users, for free. Zuckerberg says the platform will be open to all software developers, and the version of Facebook offered will include no advertisements. Internet access like that offered by the company, he argues, could lift some Indians out of poverty.

Free Basics provides information on health, travel, jobs, and local government. By offering a limited number of apps and transmitting as little data as possible, costs are minimized.
Recommended: 40 iPhone tips and tricks everyone should know
Zuckerberg made his appeal after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India asked Facebook's partner, Reliance Communications, to stop providing the service until its legality could be determined.

India Is On Track In Afghanistan, But There Are No Miracles Waiting To Happen

Jai Menon,  A Cypriot citizen of Indian origin, Jai is based in East Africa and is a keen observer of Eurasian and South Asian developments.
28 Dec, 2015
New Delhi must continue to strengthening Kabul in every possible way but it should not expect any miracles to happen.
The inauguration of the new Afghan parliament building by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a hopeful thing. It symbolises the way India sees Afghanistan: a friendly country, with great economic and cultural potential, as well as inherent characteristics including tenacity, ability to overcome circumstances and a fiercely independent population.

It also is a recognition of the promise of democracy which, if sustained, can have a deeply positive impact on the future of a country that has a range of sectarian, ethnic and tribal differences. Left to themselves, and perhaps with a little benign guidance, the people of Afghanistan will be able to find a way to live together.
For the foreseeable future though, there is close to zero possibility that Afghans will be left to themselves. The reported Taliban takeover of Sangin in Helmand province (and the government fight-back) is just an example. Here is a brief recount of what has been happening in Afghanistan for just the last couple of months (by no means exhaustive).

The old nemesis of stability in the country, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been sending out feelers, saying he wants a “real and fair” peace, withdrawal of foreign troops and elections in 2016. Hekmatyar is nothing if not a survivor, and if he’s come out of the shadows there’s a reason – most likely that he has a powerful patron. Who it is is anyone’s guess. Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Taliban’s new leader and regarded as Pakistan’s man, has been killed or seriously wounded – according to various reports. Again, no one knows for certain (remember his predecessor Mullah Omar was “alive” until 2015 though he was dead two years prior).

The Price of Secularism in Bangladesh

In support of gender equality, human rights and civil liberties, a group of
bloggers is doing battle with Islamists online — and paying dearly for it.

U ntil he was stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife and forced to flee to Europe two years ago, Asif Mohiuddin was a leading member of Bangladesh’s ‘‘freethinker’’ movement and the country’s best-known secular provocateur. We met last June at a cafe on a pedestrian promenade around the corner from his apartment, a sunlit space in a shabby-­chic neighborhood in northern Germany. (He asked me not to name the city.) Mohiuddin, dressed that day in jeans and a green T-shirt that proclaimed ‘‘American Atheists Convention, Memphis, April 2-5, 2015,’’ was still getting used to the tranquillity of his new surroundings. Shortly after he secured a fellowship at a German institute and left Bangladesh, extremists serially murdered four of his friends — all secular bloggers who had criticized fundamentalist Islam and whose names appeared on ‘‘hit lists’’ assembled by hard-­liners and disseminated on social media. ‘‘Everybody is wondering who will be next,’’ Mohiuddin told me while picking halfheartedly at the kiwi slices on his plate.

Mohiuddin, who is 31, grew up in a Muslim family in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city of 14 million. The son of a middle-­ranking civil servant, he studied religion after school at a mosque. ‘‘I learned many ridiculous things — that I would get virgins in heaven, or that I would suffer the ultimate punishment in hell for eternity,’’ he said. At 13, he declared himself an atheist. Muslims make up 89 percent of Bangladesh’s population (Hindus, Buddhists and Christians constitute most of the rest), and belief in God is near universal; for a child to profess such lack of faith was unheard-­of, and his father was deeply shamed. While in high school, Mohiuddin read ‘‘A Brief History of Time,’’ by Stephen Hawking, which he calls ‘‘a major influence.’’ At 16, he picked up a Bengali science magazine that used relativity theory and other scientific principles to explain miracles described in the Quran. He felt compelled to challenge the article in print. ‘‘I wrote that it was scientifically impossible for the Prophet Muhammad to ascend to heaven on a horse,’’ he said. The science magazine barred him from its pages, but he began contributing to the religion section of Dhaka newspapers, sharing the space with believers. ‘‘The Islamists would write during Ramadan that fasting is very good for health, that it creates new brain cells, and I would write back, ‘This is [expletive],’ ’’ he told me.

In 2008, after earning a degree in computer science, Mohiuddin turned to blogging. Writing in Bengali for a website called Somewhere in ... Blog, he drew upon the thinking of Bangladeshi philosophers and agnostics like Humayun Azad, whose most ­famous work, ‘‘Nari,’’ criticized the chauvinistic attitude of Islam toward women and was banned by the Bangladeshi government in 1995. (The ban was lifted five years later.) Mohiuddin’s online writing grew even more strident. His posts — advocating women’s rights and secular education, criticizing a law banning marriages between Hindus and Muslims, condemning communal violence targeting Hindus and questioning the infallibility of the prophet — attracted as many as one million views. They also enraged the country’s ­Islamists, a relatively small but increasingly vocal part of the country’s population of 168 million. Mohiuddin was sometimes challenged by the Islamists to debates in Dhaka, packed public forums during which he would only anger them further. ‘‘They said, ‘You should say the prayer to Muhammad before we start,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘And I said, ‘Why should I?’ ’’ Gradually, the invitations stopped, and the threats began.

What Difference Will 10,000 Troops Make in Afghanistan?

Daniel L. Davis, December 27, 2015

It has been a common refrain since America’s armored bashing of Saddam Hussein in Desert Storm that the United States has the greatest military in the history of the world. Aside from being questionable in its accuracy, this hubristic belief among American political leaders and opinion makers reveals a deeply flawed understanding of what combat power can actually achieve. It also exposes a troubling difficulty many have with understanding the difference between strategy and tactics. Together the two misconceptions result in continuously flawed policy decisions, and American interests continue to suffer as a result.

The latest example came last Tuesday when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) if he felt the United States should leave 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Rep. Sherman’s response exposed a common and deeply held misunderstanding of what combat troops can accomplish. When asked if troops should stay, the congressman replied, “I think so,” and then explained why the troops were necessary. “If we ignore the Middle East, the Middle East will still not ignore us," he said, adding, "We have been dragged into this civil war. . . for the future of Islam.” There is in this exchange a wholly unquestioned assumption that 10,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan will make a positive strategic impact. It will not

I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011 at the height of the famous surge when the United States had 100,000 troops on the ground. At that time Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south and Kunar province in the east were three of the most contested areas of Afghanistan and had the highest concentration of U.S. forces. In a certain operation I joined an American infantry unit on a patrol to a remote combat outpost in Kunar province. At one point I asked the young lieutenant leading the patrol how hard it was for the Taliban to operate in his zone. “Well, basically we own no more than one hundred meters on either side of this road. The Taliban have free reign everywhere else.” As an afterthought he added, “Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say we influence things one hundred meters either side of the road.”

The Battle for Pakistan's Schools

Schools vary widely in quality and radicalism.
21 Dec 21, 2015,  By Editorial Board
In the year that's passed since the Pakistani Taliban murdered 134 children at a military-run school in Peshawar, the army has successfully driven many of their fighters across the border into Afghanistan. To win its wider battle against radicalism, however, Pakistan will need not only to protect its schools but also to reform them.

The sorry state of public schools in Pakistan has encouraged a great proliferation of religious madrassas -- estimated to number anywhere from 18,000 to 33,000 and to graduate at least 200,000 students a year. These schools vary widely in quality and ideology, from mud-walled classrooms where children learn little but a few verses from the Koran to the sophisticated Al Huda schools for women that Tashfeen Malik attended before taking part in the San Bernardino shooting, to outright jihadi factories funded by militant groups. Under the "national action plan" formulated after the Peshawar massacre, authorities were supposed to map all madrassas, audit their accounts and regulate any foreign funding. But progress has been slow.

In any case, it isn't enough just to know where the madrassas are and who's financing them. Police need greater authority to investigate schools suspected of instilling violent ideologies or providing material support to jihadi groups. Thus far, madrassas affiliated with "good" militants -- the ones focused on combating India and Afghanistan, rather than the Pakistani state -- appear to have escaped such scrutiny. Efforts to introduce more secular subjects into the curricula at religious schools have been worthwhile, though they're unlikely to help students learn religious tolerance.
More important than trying to impose reform on the madrassas is for Pakistan to provide children with good public-school alternatives. As of 2013, more than half of public schools in the country lacked electricity and 42 percent had no working toilets. As many as 25 million children may be out of school altogether. Combined, the national and provincial governments spend only about 2.5 percent of gross domestic product on education. That share, among the lowest in the world, should be raised closer to 4 percent to pay for more schools and better-trained teachers. Businesses and nongovernmental organizations, some of them foreign-funded, have made worthy attempts to sponsor affordable charter-like schools, or to "adopt" individual public schools. But the problem is too big for the private sector to solve.

ISIS remains lethal and alluring

Dec 27, 2015. Talmiz Ahmad

The Al Qaeda and ISIS will in time come together under the spiritual umbrella of the caliphate, while their local units in far-flung areas will wreak violence and vengeance for several years to come

Attacks launched by the Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its affiliates have now increased in lethality and expanded in geographical reach. Over the last two months, there has been a train attack in Ankara, the downing of a Russian passenger jet, a suicide bombing in Beirut, several coordinated attacks in Paris, and early this month the attack on an office party in San Bernardino in California by a young couple acting in the name of ISIS.
These tales of wanton violence have led to military action: Russia has been carrying out major air attacks on ISIS leaders and facilities since September and is backing ground action by Syrian government forces and their allies. These are in addition to the US-led air attacks going on over the last year.

Policymakers and commentators have been struggling to understand the wellsprings of this group that has in just one year set up a proto-state the size of Britain, with a population of over three million, an armed force of several thousand fighters, federal, provincial and municipal administrations having judges, bureaucrats and security officials, and access to funds estimated at over $500 million, obtained mainly from oil sales. Surprisingly, with all its barbarity, the ISIS continues to attract new recruits in the hundreds every month from several countries of West Asia, Europe and other Western nations.

The ISIS’ progenitor is the ferocious jihadi in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who began attacks in 2003 on the US occupation forces and the newly-empowered Shia community, with beheadings, ambushes, raids, roadside explosives and above all suicide bombings. Zarqawi was imbued with a deep animosity for the Shia whom he described as “the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the penetrating venom”.

ISIS in Gaza

Sarah Helm, January 14, 2016 Issue
  A still from a video released by ISIS militants in June 2015 called ‘A Message to Our People in Jerusalem,’ in which they threaten to overthrow Hamas in Gaza because the group is not extreme enoughIn a house in Rafah, at the southern edge of Gaza, I met Sheikh Omar Hams, fifty-one years old, a slender figure dressed in a simple white robe and seated on a mattress on the floor. Hams is director of the Ibn Baz Islamic Institute, based in Rafah, where it also runs a bakery and charity outlets. His mission, he says, is to spread the word of the Prophet Muhammad and to give bread and other aid to the homeless and the poor.
Hams is a Salafist sheikh. “A Salaf means an original ancestor—one of those who lived close to the Prophet and observed his actions intimately, followed his ways and his words literally,” he explains. The sheikh teaches his students how to return to those ways, and they in turn spread the word. Unlike many Salafis, who abhor any rational argument about the literal meaning of the Koran, Hams is open to at least some debate. And though sometimes willing to support violent jihad, he accepts that violence is often not justified, preferring instead to secure a return to original Islam through the use of prayer, study, and preaching.

Pulling his legs underneath him, the sheikh prepares for questions on how the Prophet might have viewed the methods of Daesh (ISIS)—also Salafists—and on the battle to contain its influence across the world, most particularly here in Gaza.

Bidding farewell to a quiet and peaceful year

- In spite of the festering violence in the Middle East, 2015 has been a pretty good year for most people in most places, writes Gwynne Dyer
Positive signal

If historical ingratitude were a crime, most of the people writing year-end pieces this month would be in jail. This year was not like 1919, when 3 per cent of the world's population died of influenza, or 1943, when the Second World War was killing a million people each month, or 1983, when we came very close to World War Three (though the public didn't realize it at the time). For most people, in most places, 2015 has been a pretty good year.

Yes, of course, there is the war in Syria, and millions of refugees, and the downturn in China dragging the world economy down with it, and terrorism here, there and everywhere. And, of course, climate change waiting around the corner to drag us all down. But if you are waiting for a year with nothing to worry about, you'll be waiting a long time.

The war in Syria is four years old and still going strong. In late summer, it looked for a time as if the Islamist rebels were going to destroy the Syrian army and take over the whole country, but the Russian intervention restored the stalemate. There is even talk of a ceasefire now, so that everybody else can concentrate on fighting the Islamic State.

BARRON’s Sits Down With Noted Historian/Author Niall Ferguson Who Looks Ahead To 2016 And Beyond — And Sees Troubled Waters Ahead; Is Saudi Arabia, The Iran Of 1979?

December 28, 2015 ·
Noted Historian And Author Niall Ferguson Looks Ahead To 2016 And Beyond — And Sees Troubled Waters Ahead; Is Saudi Arabia, The Iran Of 1979?

Vito Racanelli, a writer for Barron’s had an interview with Niall Ferguson, historian, Harvard professor, and author of more than a dozen books on the nexus of economies, finance, and geopolitics, in this weekend’s (Dec. 28, 2015) Barron’s. Professor Ferguson “argues that America’s abdication of its role as the world’s policeman is one cause of the global economic malaise. U.S. policies, or lack thereof,” he contends, “have allowed terrorism to breed; and dictatorial states such as Russia and China to assume a larger role in world affairs.”

“The author of “Civilization: The West And The Rest,” Professor Ferguson told Mr. Racanelli that “China’s attempt to move to a true market economy probably will fail, potentially causing serious disruptions to other markets. He likens Saudi Arabia to Iran in 1979 — a state ripe for destabilization. In the U.S., he sees tax reform coming, but worries that America’s love affair with regulation will continue to dampen its growth prospects. India gets a thumbs up; but, Europe’s prospects are bleak,”

Professor Ferguson recently announced that he’ll leave Harvard next year to become a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution,” Mr,. Racanelli wrote. Professor Ferguson spoke with Barron’s staff at their offices just after the November terrorist attacks in Paris,” and, “was every bit as thoughtful and provocative as he was three years ago,” Mr. Racanelli added, when he previously spoke to the publication.

BARRON’S: The U.S. economy has been growing by only 2 percent, or 3 percent a year. Why isn’t it firing on all cylinders?
Professor Ferguson: “There are at least three theories. The seven-year hangover theory suggests that the U.S. will shake off the effects of the 2008 financial crisis next year. The secular-stagnation theory posits that, for a variety of reasons, the economy is in a depressed state. That is most obviously [expressed] in interest rates.”

Why Big Oil Should Kill Itself

Anatole Kaletsky
Anatole Kaletsky is Chief Economist and Co-Chairman of Gavekal Dragonomics. A former columnist at the Times of London, the International New York Times and the Financial Times, he is the author of Capitalism 4.0, The Birth of a New Economy, which anticipated many of the post-crisis transformations o…DEC 23, 2015 12
LONDON – Now that oil prices have settled into a long-term range of $30-50 per barrel (as described here a year ago), energy users everywhere are enjoying an annual income boost worth more than $2 trillion. The net result will almost certainly accelerate global growth, because the beneficiaries of this enormous income redistribution are mostly lower- and middle-income households that spend all they earn.

Of course, there will be some big losers – mainly governments in oil-producing countries, which will run down reserves and borrow in financial markets for as long as possible, rather than cut public spending. That, after all, is politicians’ preferred approach, especially when they are fighting wars, defying geopolitical pressures, or confronting popular revolts.

But not all producers will lose equally. One group really is cutting back sharply: Western oil companies, which have announced investment reductions worth about $200 billion this year. That has contributed to the weakness of stock markets worldwide; yet, paradoxically, oil companies’ shareholders could end up benefiting handsomely from the new era of cheap oil.
Just one condition must be met. The managements of leading energy companies must face economic reality and abandon their wasteful obsession with finding new oil. The 75 biggest oil companies are still investing more than $650 billion annually to find and extract fossil fuels in ever more challenging environments. This has been one of the greatest misallocations of capital in history – economically feasible only because of artificial monopoly prices.

Where Is America in Japan and India's Plans for Asia?

Now is the time to leverage stronger ties between Tokyo and New Delhi in the interest of peace and stability.
Richard Fontaine, December 28, 2015

 The recent visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to New Delhi marks a new step forward in the quickly deepening ties between India and Japan. Each led by a conservative prime minister with a muscular foreign policy, the two countries are motivated by a desire to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific region. They are also united by a concern about rising Chinese power and assertiveness and a determination to balance against it. Washington should welcome the new links between its Japanese ally and its Indian strategic partner and encourage their further growth.

The new warmth serves American interests in profound ways. By balancing China and ensuring that it rises in a region where the democratic powers are also strong and working together, closer ties between Tokyo and New Delhi help anchor a peace that is favorable to prosperity and liberal values. They demonstrate that, contrary to Beijing’s claims, the story of Asian security is about much more than an American fixation with “containing” China. And at a time of declining U.S. military resources and rising commitments in the Middle East and Europe, Indo-Japanese cooperation helps reduce gaps that would otherwise emerge in the rebalance of U.S. policy toward Asia.

Even before Abe’s trip—his third visit to India as prime minister—the two countries had established what their leaders described as a “special strategic and global partnership.” Prime Minister Narenda Modi has placed special emphasis on building closer ties with Japan since taking office, while Mr. Abe has sought both to increase economic relations with India and to enlist New Delhi in his plans to foster connectivity across the Asian landmass.

8 Shades Of Crisis – Russia’s Year Of Economic Nightmares

By Peter Hobson, Dec. 25 2015

Imagine Russia as a combustion engine. Oil and gas pumped from its vast territories wash through the economy as taxes, government spending and investment. Foreign currency from oil and gas sales is used to fund imported equipment and products on shop shelves. Cash from the energy industry flows through companies and into pay packets. Whether directly or indirectly, Russians have oil money in their pockets.

So while on the face of it, the energy industry accounts for only around one-quarter of Russian output, in reality it is the source of up to 70 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product, according to research by Andrei Movchan, an associate at the Carnegie Center in Moscow.
That helps explain how, in the late 1980s, a halving in the price of oil precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The current shock engulfing Russia is even more serious, Deputy Finance Minister Maxim Oreshkin told a conference hosted by Vedomosti, a business newspaper, in December.
Russia’s isolation from the world economy due to sanctions imposed over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine last year have worsened the impact of an oil price crash.
The Moscow Times looked at eight aspects of the crisis.
If the oil price falls to $50 per barrel it would cost Russia some $160 billion in lost annual exports, Oreshkin said. By mid-December, the price of oil had fallen not to $50, but to less than $40, following a collapse of the market last year amid chronic global oversupply.
Russia’s response was to maximize output, raising oil production to its highest since the end of the Soviet Union and ramping up exports of gas and metals, prices of which have also fallen sharply.

Source: State Statistics Service
This strategy has brought in extra money and preserved jobs, helping the country weather an economic contraction of around 4 percent this year. But it also undermined the future development of Russia’s oil industry.

DARPA looks to help utility companies survive power grid cyberattacks

By Mark Pomerleau , Dec 16, 2015
U.S. government officials and experts have been warning for some time of the vulnerability of the nation’s critical infrastructure, particularly the power grid. A successful cyberattack on the grid could take power offline, rendering an unthinkable scenario of chaos and expense.
The Defense Department’s research arm is seeking to do something about this vulnerability with regard to both prevention and response. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has released a Broad Agency Announcement for its Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization Systems program to research methods for enabling early detection of cyber threats to the power grid infrastructure as well as reduce the time for power restoration.

RADICS seeks to not only address today’s key dependencies on the grid, but focus on how they will evolve over the next 10 years. As the solicitation notes, industrial control systems for utilities have been hosted on an infrastructure that made it immune from cyber threats. However, over the past two decades, costs have driven a convergence of conventional information technologies with industrial control systems, opening up ICSs to cyber vulnerabilities via Internet connections and connections to other systems.

DARPA maintains that the goal of the program is to enable the restoration of power within days of an attack that overwhelms the recovery capabilities of affected organizations. “Although utilities are increasingly focused on their cyber-defense needs, the process of identifying, purchasing and installing commercial host-defensive technologies across the industry may take many years,” a release from DARPA said regarding the need for the RADICS solicitation. Currently, the restoration process could take weeks, a time period DARPA wants to significantly reduce.

White House promotes whole-of-nation cyber deterrence strategy

By Mark Pomerleau , Dec 23, 2015

Following criticism from lawmakers regarding the lack of a cyber deterrence strategy, the Obama administration recently presented its view on the matter to relevant congressional committees, recommending an across-the-board approach to defending against threats.

According to the document, made available by FedScoop, the administration is emphasizing a whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approach toward deterring cyber threats. The strategy calls for raising the costs and reducing the benefits of conducting malicious cyber activity against computer networks, communications systems, data and infrastructure.

The document outlines various methods adversaries use to access friendly networks and critical infrastructure, including:
Remote cyber operations that exploit technical vulnerabilities to gain access to target machines, networks and information through cyberspace.
Supply-chain operations that seek to exploit access to products and services provided to the intended victim and can occur during any point in the product lifecycle.
Close-access operations, which may attempt to intercept unprotected wireless communications and other emanations near a targeted system such as hidden emissions from compromised hardware or hosts.
Insiders that either knowingly or unwittingly provide knowledge about networks, solicit information from other people, corrupt systems or data, or influence decisions by the target organization.

Terrorism in 2016

December 27, 2015 | Matthew Olsen
Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center
As the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen oversaw the integration and analysis of all intelligence related to terrorism. As he looks ahead to 2016, Olsen told The Cipher Brief the West faces the difficult challenge of countering terrorist plots more in line with the attacks that recently took place in Paris and San Bernardino.

TCB: Where do you see the threat from homegrown terrorism heading in 2016?
Matthew Olsen: There is every reason to expect that the threat of terrorism here in the U.S. will increase in 2016. The year 2015 is, by many measures, a record year in terms of the number of terror plots and terror suspects who have been identified. This year around 50 people have been arrested for their connection to ISIS – the most that we’ve had since 9/11. That trend, given ISIS’s continued focus on the West as demonstrated in Paris and in San Bernardino, is likely to continue into the next year. That’s obviously posing a huge challenge to our counterterrorism community going forward.

TCB: Do you expect the focus to be more on soft targets or do you think ISIS has the aspiration to conduct a big event like a 9/11?
MO: My sense is that ISIS has adapted, like other terrorist groups have adapted, to our increased capabilities. Since 9/11, we’ve invested in intelligence and hardening of our infrastructure. We are much better at identifying and disrupting major plots along the lines of a 9/11. What we’ve seen is that terrorist groups, like ISIS, have adapted their tactics to look at smaller scale plots targeting more vulnerable locations. That really was one of the takeaways from Paris, where they targeted restaurants and bars. The expectation should be that those are going to be the types of terrorist attacks we’ll see in the next year.

** The Irony: An Unequal Application of Gender Equality



At a time when gender equality in the military stands on such contentious ground, I think there exists an ironic disparity between the contemporary manifestations of this debate. The specific topics that have recently drawn the most attention are the integration of females into Army Ranger School and combat Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). And for these particular microcosms, there are those who have evenly championed for female inclusion in combat roles with the condition of equal standards for males and females. Grounds for female integration include: The term “Soldier” is a gender-neutral concept, regardless if females biologically and physiologically differ from males; if a woman can meet the standards, then inclusion should be permitted; and finally, the main goal of physical fitness tests and standards is to build the most talented and combat effective team — regardless of gender. It seems ironic that the manner in which we apply these three justifications is discriminatory in and of itself.

Presently, we apply this gender equality reasoning to the less than 1% of the female population in the military who would both qualify and desire to serve in a combat arms capacity. These women are outliers. While I applaud the efforts and victories of the 1%, the partiality that has been applied to the subject of female equality is problematic. Furthermore, this discriminatory application of the gender equality movement is ultimately detrimental to the goal: maximize talent and combat effectiveness. A matter that deserves equal or greater concern is gender equality for the remaining 99% of females in the military who — due to their sheer number — have more impact than the 1% of the outlying females who would be willing and able to serve in a combat arms capacity. If we take these gender equality justifications, in their simplest form, they are:
The term “Soldier” should be gender-neutral — everyone is a Soldier first.
As long as women can meet the same standard, they should serve in any capacity they are able.
The endgame is to maximize talent and combat effectiveness.

How To Best Lead At Every Level Of Your Military Career

By Jason Criss Howk, on December 28, 2015

In part one of this two-part series, Jason Howk offers advice for future leaders of small teams.
While leadership is best described as an art that takes years of practice, trial, and error to improve, it also requires an important mathematical technique: addition. Every stage in your development as a leader requires you to master certain skills and avoid various pitfalls. A productive and selfless senior leader is someone who is able to build upon their skills at every level but also retain the previous lessons they learned. Let’s “add up” some techniques, lessons, and ideas that make leaders respected, emulated, and successful.

After I was a major for a couple of years, I finally felt like I had learned everything I needed to know about leadership to go back in time 10 years and command my first platoon successfully. The aim of this article is to outline some of the things I wish I knew about leadership at different stages of my career as a leader in the Army as I transitioned from infantryman to noncommissioned officer and then from cadet to company-grade officer. In a second article, I will discuss leadership techniques for field-grade officers and also give some insights into leadership skills required of senior field-grade and flag or general officers from my years as the right-hand man to three generals.

The Training Period
This chunk of time covers the initial training environments before you join a permanent team at your first job. It might be in high school, basic military training, or college when you are just one among many trying to prepare for the next stage of life.
Things to do

Listen more and speak less as this is the period to absorb the lessons on teamwork and leadership by watching. No one expects much of you; so listen, try, and fail and then try again. Better to learn from your mistakes at this point then when your leadership is truly needed.
Help others to get to your level and even surpass you. This is really the teamwork phase of life. Practice with people who need help to improve because you learn a lot from teaching others. Likewise train with those people who are excelling so you can learn from them.

Things to avoid
Don’t always try to take charge. This is the time to prove you are a good follower too. Teams don’t need 10 leaders. So when someone else is in charge be a good teammate and listen to their ideas and directions. If you constantly try to stop them to rewrite the plan and show how capable you are, they will never get to learn some valuable leadership lessons.

Lone-actor terrorism

Lone-actor terrorism is not a new phenomenon; however, research suggests the threat is increasing as pressure from security services forces a tactical adaptation and groups call on those who share their ideology to act alone without direction or support

Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series No. 1 – download the paper here (PDF)

This paper is the first publication in the Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism (CLAT) project, which aims to improve understanding of, and responses to, the phenomenon of (potentially) violent lone actors through analysis of comprehensive data on cases from across Europe.

Despite recent depictions within the media, lone-actor terrorism is not a new phenomenon; however, research suggests the threat is increasing as pressure from security services forces a tactical adaptation and groups – including Daesh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) – call on those who share their ideology to act alone without direction or support. This paper examines the current state of knowledge surrounding the phenomenon, assessing the limitations of the literature and identifying where further research should focus to add real value to countering the threat. Three recommendations are made: first, increased methodological rigour in empirical research; second, focus on process as well as perpetrators; and third, specific examination of the confluence between returning foreign fighters, domestic Daesh supporters, and the lone-actor threat.

Not Sure How To Use Linkedin To Find A Job? Start Here

By J.p. Lawrence, on December 28, 2015
If you’re transitioning out of the military, it’s critical that you know how to optimize your Linkedin profile.
Corner a corporate recruiter, and you’ll hear a small truth: job searching, like fishing or dating, is as unexplainable as voodoo. Some things work for people, and others doing the same thing will be ignored. Some have natural gifts or advantages when job searching, and the rest of us are simply stuck doing our due diligence.

That said, Linkedin is a tool that offers possibilities for veterans looking for jobs. In June, I learned a bit more about these possibilities at a workshop at the UBS headquarters in Manhattan, facilitated by the vet group, American Corporate Partners.
On Linkedin, like other forms of social media, you create an identity to appeal to a certain audience. The goal is to place the version of yourself online that will gain the attention of the job recruiters searching on Linkedin.

In many ways, Linkedin, like other forms of social media, is much like being a wedding DJ. To get the response you want, you have to play the songs you know the bride and groom are looking for (Note: don’t promise songs you don’t have).
Having a nice photo, for example, is important. Profiles with photos are 14 times more likely to be viewed, according to Linkedin. A well-lit portrait makes you look professional, and ensures your profile doesn’t look like a teenager’s Myspace account.