31 December 2016

*** Stratfor 2017 Annual Forecast

By Stratfor

The convulsions to come in 2017 are the political manifestations of much deeper forces in play. In much of the developed world, the trend of aging demographics and declining productivity is layered with technological innovation and the labor displacement that comes with it. China's economic slowdown and its ongoing evolution compound this dynamic. At the same time the world is trying to cope with reduced Chinese demand after decades of record growth, China is also slowly but surely moving its own economy up the value chain to produce and assemble many of the inputs it once imported, with the intent of increasingly selling to itself. All these forces combined will have a dramatic and enduring impact on the global economy and ultimately on the shape of the international system for decades to come.

These long-arching trends tend to quietly build over decades and then noisily surface as the politics catch up. The longer economic pain persists, the stronger the political response. That loud banging at the door is the force of nationalism greeting the world's powers, particularly Europe and the United States, still the only superpower. 

Only, the global superpower is not feeling all that super. In fact, it's tired. It was roused in 2001 by a devastating attack on its soil, it overextended itself in wars in the Islamic world, and it now wants to get back to repairing things at home. Indeed, the main theme of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's campaign was retrenchment, the idea that the United States will pull back from overseas obligations, get others to carry more of the weight of their own defense, and let the United States focus on boosting economic competitiveness.

*** Best Of 2016: The Next War


M1 tank at the National Training Center in 2015.

What will the next war look like? Robots, lasers, hypersonic missiles, and stealth aircraft figure prominently, but what matters most isn’t the technology: It’s the concepts of operation that bring them all together — just as the German blitzkrieg combined tanks, aircraft, and the radio, or the Japanese at Pearl Harbor combined aircraft and ships. 2016 saw tremendous intellectual ferment among all four armed services and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The emerging vision of future war is frightening — but some bold ideas are taking shape for how to win it.

[All this week we’re reprinting some of our best stories of 2016 on the biggest issues: future warfare (today), robotics & artificial intelligence, China, Russia, & the defense policies of Donald Trump.]

*** National Cyberspace Security Strategy

The broad application of information technologies and the rise and development of cyberspace has extremely greatly stimulated economic and social flourishing and progress, but at the same time, has also brought new security risks and challenges. Cyberspace security (hereafter named cybersecurity) concerns the common interest of humankind, concerns global peace and development, and concerns the national security of all countries. Safeguarding our country’s cybersecurity is an important measure to move forward the strategic arrangement of comprehensively constructing a moderately prosperous society, comprehensively deepening reform, comprehensively governing the country according to the law, and comprehensively and strictly governing the Party forward in a coordinated manner, and is an important guarantee to realize the “Two Centenaries” struggle objective and realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. In order to implement Xi Jinping’s “Four Principles” concerning moving forward reform of the global Internet governance system and the “Five Standpoints” on building a community of common destiny in cyberspace, elaborate China’s important standpoints concerning cyberspace development and security, guide China’s cybersecurity work and safeguard the country’s interests in the sovereignty, security and development of cyberspace, this Strategy is formulated.

** A Meaningless UN Security Council Resolution

By George Friedman

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has condemned Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The interesting part is that the United States abstained from the vote, which is why it passed. It is likely that President-elect Donald Trump, taking office in less than a month, will pursue a very different policy on Israel than recent administrations have. Neither the United Nations resolution nor Trump’s shift is of great significance. Over the years, throughout the world, UNSC resolutions have been met with indifference. It does not matter what the UNSC says. It matters what the permanent members of the UNSC do. In the case of Israel and Palestine, no one on either side can do very much of significance. As for public opinion, that is fairly well locked into place. There are four camps: those who are pro-Israeli, those who are pro-Palestinian, those who wring their hand and express pieties and those who couldn’t care less. Nothing that happened at the U.N. will change anyone’s mind.

Moral arguments are made, of course. The moral argument for the existence of the state of Israel is that it rectifies an injustice committed by the Romans 2,000 years ago. But 2,000 years is a long time, and the half-life for moral rectification seems past. The claim that the Israelis wanted peaceful coexistence with the Arabs was true, but limited by the fact that they wanted that peace to be on Israeli terms. The claim that this was merely the return of a people to a land where their rights were morally unambiguous strains credibility.

* Dark Web: The smart person's guide

By Dan Patterson

Nefarious profiteers use the encrypted internet to sell stolen data, drugs and weapons. Facebook and the UN use it to protect dissidents and journalists. This guide shines a light on the Dark Web. 

Hacking is a fact of life for business and consumers alike. Often, leaked data surfaces and is sold to miscreants—hackers, shady government organizations, and other bad actors—on the Dark Web.

The Dark Web—or darknet, backweb, onionweb—is frequently misunderstood. The network is used by legitimate actors like law enforcement organizations, cryptologists, and journalists as often as by malefactors and criminals.

TechRepublic's smart person's guide is a routinely updated "living" precis about how the Dark Web works, the content that populates the encrypted internet, and the encryption tools needed to safely navigate the network.

Executive summary 


PK Mehrishi

India’s response to provocations from the across the border must not be along predictable lines, which it has been over the decades. It must take the enemy by surprise with its, often, out-of-proportion retaliation

Since our independence we as a nation are often at our wits end in adopting measures to deal with a hostile and errant neighbor like Pakistan. We have gone through four wars, achieved decisive victory in all, held 93,000 prisoners of war after 1971, and yet the attacks by way of ceasefire violations and terror proxies continue unabated at Pakistan’s behest. Do we have a national doctrine to respond to challenges thrown at us?

Our basic problem always has been the predictability of our response. Sample the following: We have a no first-use of nuclear weapon policy; we are a responsible nuclear power; we are a professional Army that do not commit barbaric acts (like mutilation of a soldier’s body); in thousands of years of our history, we have never attacked another nation nor coveted the other’s land or territory.

The overall narrative has been to speak/posture from a high moral ground with predictable responses. Anger and over the top exhibition of emotions (whenever we are attacked), raucous debates in the media and finally acceptance of casualties as an act of god (karma/ kismet), has been the template.

Corridor Of Uncertainty

by Khaled Ahmed

General Riaz’s invitation to India to join CPEC is conditional on India calling off its Afghan proxy warriors mobilised expressly to disrupt CPEC because it “endangers India’s security”.

The only big thing going for an isolated Pakistan is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Unable to tackle its internal security problems — for which it now wrongly blames India — it prefers focusing on the good times the world thinks the Chinese investment of $46 billion will bring. However, speaking at an awards ceremony at the Balochistan Frontier Constabulary Headquarters in Quetta on December 20, Commander Southern Command Lt General Amir Riaz thought he should send a clear message to arch-enemy India: “Join CPEC and share the fruits of future development by shelving your anti-Pakistan activities and subversion.”

There was a time, not long ago, when Patrade utopia of CPEC will remain incomplete if India is kept outkistan blamed America for acts of terrorism inside Pakistan. After its flawed “strategic depth” made shipwreck and America got together with India against China in the region, Pakistan took a close look at what India was doing in Afghanistan and joined the dots. It accepted that Pakistani Taliban ensconced in Afghanistan were killing people inside Pakistan but added the more dangerous detail about India actually funding the Taliban.


Sanjay Kaul

It's only a matter of a few years when on-line education becomes the most sought-after mode in the world. Age will no longer be a barrier and everyone will be able to join the learning curve from wherever they want

Today out of every five people living on the planet, two have access to the internet and what’s even more amazing is that nearly all of them have a smartphone.

Pushed by the likes of edX, Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity, Udemy et al, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) has emerged as a popular genre, growing into a full-fledged “for- profit” and “not-for-profit” industry. Two main formats are now available, one based on the connectivist approach known as cMOOC, where content could be repacked as per need and requirements. The other goes by the name of MOOCx, an extension of traditional and blended thinking with a clearly specified syllabus driven by recorded lectures and films through expert providers.

Not much of mixing, re-purposing is possible here. Ever expanding TED lectures and Khan Academy videos are the apt examples. MOOC is no longer a trend, it’s the future. Two in every three US universities offer MOOC, so it’s only a matter of a few years when on-line education is the most sought after mode in the world. Age will no longer be a barrier and everyone will be able to join the learning curve from wherever they want. In the times of virtual reality not just one session but the entire curriculum and a classroom experience on and off campus is delivered to students within their individual comfort zones.

Is India Dropping Its Cruise Missile Program?

By Franz-Stefan Gady

India’s nuclear-capable Nirbhay long-range cruise missile program will likely be shut down following yet another failed test launch, a source within the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) told local media.

No official announcement has been made to date and the program reportedly will be reviewed momentarily by the Indian Ministry of Defense, after which a decision will be made.

The project was originally launched in 2004 and projected to be completed by the end of 2016. The Nirbhay is a subsonic land attack cruise missile armed with a 300-kilogram warhead capable of reaching speeds of 0.6-0.7 Mach, and designed to be launched from air, sea, and land.

Since March 2013, three Nirbhay test launches have been classified as failures. “The project has been plagued with difficulties as the scientists are still struggling to fix the problems in the flight control software and navigation system while some others point fingers at the hardware,” The New Indian Express reports.

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy in 2016: Flashbacks, Challenges, and Opportunities

By Hamzah Rifaat Hussain

Did 2016 represent a foreign policy turning point for Pakistan? 

This week marks the end of an important year for Pakistan with several significant developments in the realm of foreign affairs. With many of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s various deliverables taking off, as well as a slump in terrorist attacks, and a marginal improvement in economic indicators, the country’s profile does look promising going into 2017 despite significant challenges that remain.

Possibly, the most important event this year was the retirement of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif in November. He presided over a term that was characterized by greater domestic stability, a crackdown on militants, and the indiscriminate use of force against terrorist groups. The peaceful transition from one chief of army staff to another is also indicative of political stability in the country as 2017 approaches.

Russia and the Taliban: A Closer Look

By Samuel Ramani

Why is Putin reaching out to the Afghan Taliban? 

On December 8, 2016, Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Alexander Mantyskiy, announced that the Russian government had made a diplomatic outreach to the Taliban’s leaders. In a press conference, Mantyskiy countered international criticism of Russia’s Taliban links by insisting that Moscow’s contacts with the extremist group were limited and aimed at ensuring the safety of Russian civilians.

Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic engagement with the Taliban has strained Moscow’s relationship with the Afghan government, the Kremlin has continued its dialogue with the Taliban for two main reasons. First, Kremlin policymakers believe that engagement with the Taliban is necessary for the preservation of long-term political stability in Afghanistan. Second, Russian diplomats believe that they can strike a deal with the Taliban on drug trafficking and use the Taliban’s opposition to Islamic State (ISIS) to further Russia’s counterterrorism objectives.

Taiwan, Trump, & The Pacific Defense Grid: Towards Deterrence In Depth


Taiwan lies deep inside the kill zone of Chinese land-based missiles, let alone air and naval forces, as shown in this CSBA graphic.

The phone call between President-elect Trump and the President of Taiwan sent shock waves through the diplomatic community. But it is time to turn the page and include Taiwan in shaping a 21st century deterrence strategy for Pacific defense.

A good year for Xi Jinping – but trouble is heading his way

Tom Phillips

After domestic victories in 2016, China’s president must deal with a worsening economy and Trump in the White House 

In his 2016 new year message the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, promised his 1.3 billion citizens that the coming 12 months would be a time of “openness and sharing”.

“The future is encouraging and inspiring,” Xi enthused in his upbeat annual address.

In fact, 2016 was a year of continued economic slowdown and political tightening as the leaders of one-party China sought to further assert their control over the country with one eye on economic storm clouds ahead.

Free speech was increasingly curtailed while prominent activists continued to languish in jail after the launch of a major crackdown on human rights lawyers in 2015. Beijing continued to ignore muted international calls for their release.

In Hong Kong, the former British colony that returned to Chinese control in 1997, the mood was scarcely more upbeat, with renewed street protests after Beijing moved to bar two pro-independence politicians from taking up their seats in the city’s parliament.

Best Of 2016: China Rising


That China is a growing threat — even an “enemy” — is one thing incoming president Donald Trump and the Washington national security establishment agree on. But just how dangerous is China’s increasing military strength and international assertiveness? What painful historical experiences drive Chinese thinking in ways a Westerner might not understand? And what’s the best way to handle China’s rise? 2016 saw major developments that illuminated all these questions, from an international tribunal ruling on the disputed South China Sea to increasing US outreach to not-officially-allied nations like Singapore and Vietnam.

[All this week we’re reprinting some of our best stories of 2016 on the biggest issues: China (today), future warfare, robotics & artificial intelligence, Russia, & the defense policies of Donald Trump.]

Leading Republicans hastened today to denounce China’s deployment of anti-aircraft missiles to the South China Sea. But what can the US actually do about it? The arrival of the sophisticated HQ-9 missiles in the Paracel islands — claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan but occupied by China — is just the latest step in Beijing’s steady extension of military power into the Pacific, and it won’t be the last.

White paper sets out China's vision as a space power

China aims to become a space power, according to a white paper on the nation's space activities issued on Tuesday.

The white paper, titled "China's Space Activities in 2016," was the fourth white paper on the country's space activities issued by the State Council Information Office, following the previous three in 2000, 2006 and 2011.

"The white paper sets out our vision of China as a space power, independently researching, innovating, discovering and training specialist personnel," said Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the China National Space Administration at a press conference.

China's space industry took off 60 years ago and April 24 was declared National Space Day in 2016 as a focus for pioneering spirit and enthusiasm for innovation, Wu said.


China always adheres to the principle of the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and opposes the weaponization of or an arms race in outer space, the white paper said.

Is China's Economy Past the Point of No Return?

Gordon G. Chang

The most important driver of events in 2017 could very well be the Chinese economy, which is shaking the country’s political system and affecting its external policies.

Beijing, which once thought it would dominate the world, has been playing defense for the last year and a half as almost no economic trend has been going its way.

Next year, China’s economy will more resemble the turbulent 2015 than the relatively calm 2016. The measures employed to stabilize the situation, which looked like they worked in the beginning of this year, have only made it more difficult for Chinese technocrats to rescue the situation in the longer term.

We start on the 14th of this month, when Janet Yellen inadvertently highlighted China’s fragility. The Federal Reserve’s hawkish comments on interest rates—the central bank signaled three rate increases next year instead of the expected two—along with the quarter-point rise in rates forced bond prices down across the world. In China, the damage was historic.

US on South Asia

The writer is a foreign policy expert based in Washington, DC.

THERE is a lot of curiosity about how the Donald Trump administration may deal with Pakistan and the broader South Asian region. But there is too much uncertainty still for political analysis to produce anything truly meaningful in response. More useful would be to explain the various nodes of uncertainty and narrow down the focus of the discussion to developments that would matter most in terms of shaping the US’s South Asia policy.

The most obvious unknown is Trump’s approach to policy issues. If one is to believe the greats who have held this or equivalent offices around the globe, being in such positions compels one to adapt and change. Each individual tends to respond to the demands of the job differently but few manage to march on exactly as they want to. The uncertainty is bound to be greater when dealing with a candidate who has never held public office before.

Policy management styles can provide early indication of how important issues may be tackled. But we don’t know enough. One is unsure of the nature of the interaction between the Trump White House and agencies like the State Department, Pentagon, CIA and USAID. Will the president’s national security council take a hands-on approach to key national security and foreign policy issues? If so, it may make the other agencies somewhat less important. Or will the vice president’s office be more empowered? The idea has made the rounds and would be fairly novel. But it would leave us with even less to predict comfortably.

Mykola Kapitonenko: What Is wrong with Kissinger’s formula for Ukraine?

By Mykola Kapitonenko.

Back on March 5, 2014, 11 days before the so-called “referendum” in the Crimea, Henry Kissinger, the U.S. secretary of state in 1973-77 and the world’s No. 1 balance-of-power thinker, put forward a set of guidelines for settling the crisis in Ukraine. The key points envisaged Ukraine’s freedom to associate closer with Europe in exchange for a non-NATO status; and preserving Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea together with providing a greater autonomy for the republic.

In a nutshell, Kissinger’s plan was about “Finlandization” of Ukraine and saving the global balance of power for that price. In 11 days Crimea’s annexation was formalized, which made the plan obsolete.

A new world order had arrived.

Almost three years have passed. The world is experiencing a dramatic rise of violence. Europe doesn’t seem safe and secure any more. Destabilization has reached far beyond Ukraine’s borders and is likely to grow. Ukraine and Russia are in a deadlock over Donbas, Crimea and Ukraine’s sovereignty overall. Hostilities are increasing between Russia and Europe. Military budgets are rising, while mutual trust is at record-low levels. All that combined does not sum up to a safer world. Can it be fixed through a calculated, 19th century-style, deal of great powers over spheres of influence?

Russia to Launch 2 Nuclear Subs in 2017

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The Russian Navy is expecting to launch two new nuclear-powered submarines in 2017, according to the Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice-Admiral Viktor Bursuk. “In 2017, the first improved Project 955-A submarine and the Yasen-M will be floated out,” Bursuk told TASS News Agency on December 23.

The two new boats belong to the Russian Navy’s two most advanced classes of submarines, the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Project 955A Borei II-class (“North Wind”) aka Dolgorukiy-class and the nuclear-powered multipurpose attack submarine Project 855 Yasen-class. The Project 955A Borei-II class is an improved variant of the Project 955 Borei-class, the new sea leg of Russia’s nuclear triad replacing Soviet-era Project 941 Typhoon-class and Project 667 BDRM Delta IV-class subs.

The Project 955A Borei II-class Knyaz Vladimir was laid down on July 30, 2012 at the Sevmash shipyards in Severodvinsk, a port city on Russia’s White Sea in Arkhangelsk Oblast and will likely be commissioned in 2018. According to Bursuk, the Russian Navy expects delivery of the new subs “within the time limits stipulated by the contract.” Russia plans to operate a total of eight Borei-class boomers–three Borei-class and five improved Borei II-class SSBNs–by the 2020s.

Is Russia Really 'Winning'?

On last Friday, Vladimir Putin held his annual press conference, capping what many have described as an extremely successful year for the Russian president. Indeed, if you’re a regular consumer of today’s media, you could be forgiven for believing that Russia has supplanted the United States in the Middle East, that Russian hackers single-handedly placed Donald Trump in the White House, and that Trump is poised to act as a Kremlin mole inside the U.S. government. Russian troops are probably on the verge of coming ashore somewhere near Washington, D.C.

Though this narrative is obviously exaggerated, a version of it has dominated discussion of U.S.-Russian relations since before the election. Indeed, President Obama’s recent assertion that Russia is “a smaller country… a weaker country, and their economy does not produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms…” was largely met with derision.

But while Putin may have had a good year from a PR standpoint, Obama’s version is far closer to reality: Russia’s purported victories are not as great as they appear, and will contribute to Russia’s structural weaknesses in the long-term.

Why 2017 is the most dangerous year for Britain since the Cold War

The ashen-faced prime minister blinked in the candlelight and looked again at the paper the Russian ambassador had slapped onto her desk. ‘I am not here to negotiate,’ the envoy said. ‘Sign this now or face the consequences.’

The terms were stark. Britain was to pay £100 billion in ‘reparations’ for damage caused by sanctions and the brief and disastrous war in the Baltic states.

This payment was to be guaranteed by the immediate transfer to Moscow of the Bank of England’s gold reserves. Britain was also to nationalise its energy industry and hand controlling shares to Russian companies.

On the military front, the surrender was even more humiliating. The Royal Navy’s ships and submarines, including the Trident nuclear deterrent, were to be transferred to Russian command with immediate effect. An admiral operating from a new Russian naval base at Portsmouth would implement other terms of the ‘Friendship Pact’, including the disbanding of the Army and closure of the RAF.

Britain’s intelligence establishment was to be gutted, too. MI6, MI5 and GCHQ would be dissolved forthwith, with their files transferred to Russian control. Russian ‘advisers’ would be placed in all government departments.

Pulling Back Now Won’t Absolve American Involvement in Yemen

A. Trevor Thrall

Roughly two weeks ago, the Obama administration announced it was planning to block certain arms sales to Saudi Arabia as a rebuke to the Kingdom’s over 20 month long war in Yemen. The Saudi air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has already displaced millions, claimed thousands of civilian lives, and cut the country off from its food supply, prompting the United Nations to ask whether the Saudis’ indiscriminate bombing constitutes war crimes. Despite the carnage—and a lack of a pressing national security justification—the United States has continued to provide arms, refuel coalition planes, share intelligence, and assist with targeting for the Saudis. Given our involvement to this point, it is high time for the United States to stop enabling Saudi Arabia’s campaign.

Unfortunately, the administration’s decision to dial back its support is too little, too late.

Pulling back now won’t absolve American involvement in Yemen while the sales allowed under the restrictions will continue to pour gasoline on an already raging fire. The Foreign Military Sales program oversees the approval process for every proposed weapons sale. Despite its mission statement to “strengthen the security of the U.S. and promote world peace,” it’s hard to see how enabling the destruction of Yemen accomplishes either of those goals.

India: Air Force Chief Wants 200-250 New Combat Aircraft

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The outgoing head of the Indian Air Force says the service needs 200-250 new fighter jets to maintain its edge. 

The most senior officer of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha, set to retire on December 31, told reporters on December 28 that the service needs to add 200 to 250 new aircraft in the medium-weight fighter jet category to maintain its edge over regional rivals.

“Over the next 10 years, we must have 200­-250 aircraft. It has to be balanced out. In the heavy-weight spectrum, we have enough. But in the medium-weight category, we need to have more. Yes, about 200 will be very good,” Raha said.

The IAF is currently operating 272 Sukhoi-30 MKI heavy-weight fighters. India and Russia are also in talks to upgrade the aircraft to ‘Super Sukhois’ beginning in 2017, which will entail fitting the Su-30s with new weapons systems and more advanced avionics.

The 'Super' Plane That Could Replace the F-35 Stealth Fighter

Dave Majumdar

President-elect Donald Trump’s tweet on Dec. 22—where he stated that he had asked Boeing to “price out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet” because of the sheer expense of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—was met with derision by journalists and Washington’s political elite.

While it is true that no version of the F/A-18E/F will ever be able to offer an exact analogue of the F-35’s capabilities, the reaction inside the Beltway was typically biased. Trump’s statement cannot be interpreted exactly literally. More likely, the President-elect was suggesting that a variant of the Super Hornet airframe could meet many of the capabilities that the F-35 offers at a more reasonable price.

For the U.S. Navy, there is a strong argument to be made that an Advanced Super Hornet derivative could offer an 80 percent solution for a lower price than the F-35C. And while such an F/A-18 derivative would not precisely meet all of the U.S. Air Force’s requirements as embodied in the F-35A, the Super Hornet is a perfectly capable shore-based strike fighter as the Royal Australian Air Force demonstrates on a daily basis. Only the U.S. Marine Corps—with its insistence on the short takeoff/vertical landing capability found on the F-35B—would have to completely revamp its air arm in the exceedingly unlikely event that Trump were to cancel the Joint Strike Fighter program. That being said, all three flying branches would have to give up on the notion of penetrating strike and rely on standoff weapons—the F/A-18E/F is not and will never be a stealth aircraft.



So much has been written about Tom Schelling’s enormous intellectual contributions. I would like to supplement these articles with a more personal account.

I first “met” Tom in print. As a junior at Oberlin College, I ran across The Strategy of Conflict. Without seeing all of its implications and nuances, I found it eye-opening. This is what politics, especially international politics, was all about: strategic interaction, which meant that each side was trying to anticipate how the other side would respond to its moves, knowing that the other side was doing likewise. One didn’t need formal game theory to grasp this or to follow out many of its leads. Among the most famous concepts he developed were the strategy of commitment and the reciprocal fear of surprise attack. Fifty years later, it is easy to forget how radical these ideas were at the time. The pre-Schelling literature on bargaining had noticed that actors sometimes staked out positions in public that made retreat much more difficult, but these incidents seemed aberrations, errors, or the product of emotions.



History teems with brutal ironies. The printed program for the November 29, 1941 Army-Navy football game included a photo of the USS Arizona with the caption, “It is significant that despite the claims of air enthusiasts no battleship has yet been sunk by bombs.” Just eight days before the Pearl Harbor attack, the destruction of several battleships by aircraft seemed impossible.

“Science fiction cyber-war is here”: Alex Gibney on “Zero Days” and Stuxnet, the secret weapon that got away

Salon talks to Oscar-winner Alex Gibney about his new film "Zero Days" and a new era of war

Alex Gibney has made documentaries about Enron and the Church of Scientology and pioneering gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Abramoff, the über-lobbyist who corrupted American politics more than any other individual. (That film went almost unnoticed by the larger world, which tells you something. It isn’t something good.) Most notably, Gibney won an Oscar for blowing the whistle on the Bush administration’s torture policies with the devastating exposé “Taxi to the Dark Side,” one of those “Inconvenient Truth” moments when a documentary can shift public opinion and shape policy.

But none of Gibney’s movies since that one, and perhaps none at all, have explored a secret as deeply buried or as important as the one he explores in “Zero Days,” which just opened in New York and Los Angeles with wider national release to follow. As he explains it now, Gibney set out to make a “small film” investigating a strange news story that many of us noticed around 2010 and rapidly forgot about again. (Quite likely because it was too troubling, and too difficult to understand.) That was the discovery of an anomalous piece of computer malware that data engineers dubbed Stuxnet, which was far more sophisticated than those used in ordinary cyber-crime attacks and had shown up in computer systems all over the world.

Stopping The Slide Towards A War In Space: The Sky’s Not Falling, Part 2


Yesterday, Joan Johnson-Freese argued that complicit and compliant media have helped the Pentagon overhype the threat of war in space — to the point that exaggerated US efforts to prepare for conflict might help start one. In today’s article, she outlines how US policy got to this point and how to correct it. — the editors

The Pentagon’s recent aggressive focus on fighting and winning a space war may make for great news stories and science fiction, but it’s lousy policy. While the situation in space has changed, in many ways for the worse, moving to an offensive strategy is a dangerous overreaction.

How did we get here? Both the tenor of public comments and the details of policies about space war shifted considerably after the 2014 Space Strategic Portfolio Review (SPR). Senior Pentagon officials argued that the strategic environment had changed, requiring a different approach to maintain the stability required by all space actors — most of all the US — to fully utilize their space assets. That’s right — as far as it goes: The environment has changed, but in more ways than considered by the narrowly focused SPR. The aggressive approach undertaken by the military rests on incomplete premises and carries a significant chance of being counterproductive if space stability is the goal.

Full Text: China's Space Activities in 2016 (1)

The Information Office of the State Council on Tuesday published a white paper on China's space activities in 2016.

Following is the full text:

China's Space Activities in 2016

The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China

December 2016

First Edition 2016



I.Purposes, Vision and Principles of Development

II. Major Developments Since 2011

III. Major Tasks for the Next Five Years

30 December 2016

*** The Soviet Union and Russia: Tragedy and Farce

By George Friedman

Russia’s recent military adventures have mostly aimed to create an illusion of strength. 

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union. Its collapse was inconceivable at the time. The Soviet Union loomed as a stone colossus astride the world, the equal of the United States, and in the minds of some, its superior. In fact, it was built on a base of sand, held together during its hardest times by the secret police. But as the KGB weakened from careerism and corruption, the glue dissolved and the regime collapsed. It was a surprise to the outside world and perhaps even to much of the Politburo. But it couldn’t have been a surprise to the people within the KGB. They knew what was coming and readied themselves to take advantage of the new world.

We now find ourselves in a new confrontation with Russia. For me, this is not a surprise, as I had forecast a resurgence of Russia in a book that was published eight years ago called “The Next 100 Years.” Russia was not going to do the world the favor of remaining in the chaos of privatization that President Boris Yeltsin had presided over. The men who had enriched themselves in the 1990s would emerge as the new elite in the 2000s. Their roots would be in the past, and their wish would be to return Russia to its former greatness, both out of nostalgia and to preserve their positions. Russian culture celebrates strong leaders, and leaders strengthen themselves with this admiration. The issue now is what shall we make of this second confrontation. 

*** The Rules of the Game: A New Electoral System

Source Link 
Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen

‘The Electoral Vote: Now Let Us Look at It from Another Point of View’; illustration by Thomas Nast, 1876

Americans have been using essentially the same rules to elect presidents since the beginning of the Republic. In the general election, each voter chooses one candidate; each state (with two current exceptions) awards all its Electoral College votes to the candidate chosen by the largest number of voters (not necessarily a majority) in that state; and the president-elect is the candidate with a majority of Electoral College votes. 

Primary elections for president have also remained largely unchanged since they replaced dealings in a “smoke-filled room” as the principal method for selecting Democratic and Republican nominees. In each state, every voter votes for one candidate. In some states, the delegates to the national convention are all pledged to support the candidate getting a plurality of votes (again, possibly less than a majority). In others, delegates are assigned in proportion to the total votes of the candidates. 

These rules are deeply flawed. For example, candidates A and B may each be more popular than C (in the sense that either would beat C in a head-to-head contest), but nevertheless each may lose to C if they both run. The system therefore fails to reflect voters’ preferences adequately. It also aggravates political polarization, gives citizens too few political options, and makes candidates spend most of their campaign time seeking voters in swing states rather than addressing the country at large. 

** 2017 Annual Forecast: South Asia

As in so many other regions, nationalism is on the rise in South Asia, and leaders there will use it to advance their political agendas. This will be particularly pronounced as India and Pakistan prepare for elections. And because this is India and Pakistan, nationalist rhetoric in one country will often demonize the other.

But they have very different domestic agendas. India will try to add to the modest progress it has made toward reform, particularly tax reform. And it will do so as its economic growth slows, thanks in part to recent demonetization schemes.

For its part, Pakistan's military will use the threat of India as an excuse to maintain the status quo in its civil-military balance of power. It will also ensure that Pakistan's ties with Afghanistan remain weak as instability in that country undermines progress on transnational energy projects, including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline.

** An Oilman's Guide To Foreign Affairs

Regardless of politics, everyone seems to agree that Donald Trump will be an unconventional U.S. president. It comes as little surprise, then, that many of his picks to fill Cabinet posts are also unorthodox. Chief among these selections is Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Trump's nominee for secretary of state.

At first glance, Tillerson may seem a strange choice to fill Washington's top diplomatic post; after all, the past several secretaries of state have had backgrounds in government or diplomatic service. But Tillerson's experiences in the oil and natural gas industry have doubtless prepared him for the weighty and often delicate duties of the job. Though he lacks a diplomatic track record, Tillerson's actions as head of the world's largest oil company bespeak a pragmatism and view of reality that will guide him - and the future of U.S. foreign policy - if he is confirmed.

* Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time

On the evening before All Saints’ Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year.

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research — a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master’s degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.

Lethal neglect

At Nagrota and Uri, flaws in security and training led to loss of lives of Indian soldiers. Lessons must be learnt.

Behind the grim toll 2016 has inflicted on Indian soldiers and police personnel in Kashmir lies one, little-noticed fact: Almost half of the 87 fatalities, the worst since 2009, can be attributed to events like the Uri and Nagrota attacks, which involved flaws in basic training or poor perimeter security at bases. This newspaper has revealed that the terrorists who attacked the XVI Corps headquarters scaled its wall simply by climbing a tree growing alongside the officer’s mess. The technique was almost identical to that used by terrorists in Pathankot, where they took advantage of Eucalyptus trees next to the boundary wall. Even though J&K Governor N.N. Vohra had ordered a security review of all bases after the Pathankot attack, the military experts who audited the Nagrota base were either careless or remiss. That terrorists wish to kill Indian soldiers does not surprise; the failure to address glaring problems, though, is shocking.

Lapses like these could be condoned if they did not involve the lives of women and men who serve the country — and if the means to protect them were not so easily available and affordable. In the wake of the Pathankot attack, the ministry of defence had tasked former army Vice-Chief Lieutenant-General Philip Campose with studying the problem. General Campose’s report recommended rectification of the training of base security teams, as well as acquisition of technologies like night-vision devices and movement sensors. These technologies were not purchased when the Uri attack took place; they were not available at Nagrota either.

Is the Naga peace deal dead?

Sudeep Chakravarti

The ongoing fracas in Manipur has raised a related question. Is the Naga peace process, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi revived in mid-2015 with fanfare, dead? Or stalled?

Admitting this is tricky: there is simply too much loss of face involved, but the process has a default bug of failure. It’s just too darn complicated, this chess game of lives and futures.

The “framework agreement for peace” signed on 3 August 2015 between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), or NSCN (I-M), is the flimsiest of deals to boost a ceasefire signed nearly 20 years ago, in 1997. A ceasefire that permits I-M to recruit, train, and arm—and for all purposes run a parallel administration that collects tax and interferes in elections!

The government and I-M have deflected calls to make the agreement public, while throwing in key words like “shared future” and “honourable”. Meanwhile, Modi got to project himself as peacemaker. And this largest Naga rebel group raised its profile, claiming pre-eminence. By extension, both became deciding factors in the future of the Naga people, whose homelands extend beyond Nagaland to contiguous areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.