28 February 2016

* The making of America's cyberweapons

Since Internet adoption accelerated in the 1990s, the US has proven it can successfully strike adversaries online, but in doing so we've ushered in a dangerous – and unpredictable – new military era.
By Michael V. Hayden, Contributor FEBRUARY 24, 2016
America hasn't militarized the cyberdomain more than other nations. But we certainly threw plenty of resources into our efforts and our natural tendencies toward transparency – and how we talk about defending cyberspace – has opened us up to charges that we have indeed militarized the digital world.
An example: The seminal American thought piece on cyber wasn't written by the deputy attorney general, deputy secretary of State, deputy secretary of Commerce, or even by the president's science adviser. The deputy secretary of Defense wrote it. People outside this country notice things like that.
In 2010, Bill Lynn wrote in Foreign Affairs that, "As a doctrinal matter, the Pentagon has formally recognized cyberspace as a new domain of warfare. Although cyberspace is a man-made domain, it has become just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space. As such, the military must be able to defend and operate within it."
It was as if Mr. Lynn had copied the notes from our discussions in the mid-1990s at my first cyber-related command in Texas.

The ideas we developed then and there eventually gained traction in the Department of Defense. In retrospect, however, we didn't appreciate that there was an entire generation growing up at that time believing that cyberspace was a global commons, a pristine playground, and not a potential zone of conflict among powerful nation-states. The debate over those competing archetypes continues today.
The digital Eden fallacy

Several years after I had left government, I was sitting in front of a Skype screen in Colorado arguing via video link with author Jim Bamford, who has made a living writing unauthorized books about National Security Agency, where I was the director from 1999 to 2005. One of my distant NSA predecessors, Lt. Gen. Lincoln Faurer, wanted to have him arrested over his first opus, "The Puzzle Palace," when it hit bookshelves in 1982.
The Skype debate was for a TV trade audience in Beverly Hills organized by PBS, which at the time was hyping an upcoming NOVA special on NSA. Mr. Bamford was a coproducer and was arguing that America had tragically militarized the cyberdomain through actions such as the Stuxnet worm, which he described as an American cyberattack on the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. America's intemperate behavior, he claimed, had legitimated an Iranian attack against the giant oil company Saudi Aramco and against American banks. The Internet was now a free fire zone and it was our fault.

Anatomy of US Plan to Sell F-16s to Pakistan

By Radhakrishna Rao
25 Feb , 2016

The short sighted US foreign policy initiative and flawed diplomatic strategy have proved to be instrumental in creating Frankenstein. Beginning from the covert intervention in Afghanistan in 1980s to counteract growing Soviet presence in this backward, mountainous country to the 2003 outright, naked aggression on Iraq, presumably to locate weapons of “mass destruction”, US has only succeeded in creating conditions conducive for the rapid growth of fundamentalist forces that continue to wreak havoc on the world.

The US justification that Pakistan needs F-16 to fight terrorism appears ridiculous and disingenuous… By all means, an advanced combat jet like F-16s equipped with a range of state of art weapons systems cannot be an ideal choice to hit terrorist hideouts.

Verily, the dreaded Taliban was an illegitimate, psychological offspring of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) joining hands with the Pakistani political and military establishment to train a militia of fighters inspired by the religious teachings to fight Soviet forces in Afghanistan. At the end of the day, Taliban proved to be the nemesis of US, as proven by the 9/11 devastating terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, in which more than 300 people were killed.

Afghanistan: Forecast 2016

By Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy*
FEBRUARY 26, 2016

In 2015, Afghanistan swung back and forth between several transitions. Insurgency reached levels insofar unseen since 2001. As late as December 2015, the Afghan Taliban, notwithstanding its internal problems, showed no signs of retreating for winters, as has usually been the case. Instead, their offensives intensified. The Islamic State (IS) too managed to establish itself as a player in the country. The incumbent National Unity Government (NUG) is struggling to convince the electorate of its efficiency, trustworthiness, and commitment to reforms, and rising insecurity, a bad job market, and declining confidence in the NUG prompted a massive outbound migration of 1,50,000 Afghans.

Nonetheless, in 2015, Afghanistan also witnessed some forward movement in important sectors such as women’s rights and their involvement in decision-making processes – especially towards peace-building – and regional cooperation vis-à-vis trade, energy and connectivity.

How to Oppose China's Bid for Maritime Dominance

February 26, 2016

Beijing has been busy. China has begun to deploy advanced surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to a contested island in the South China Sea. Missile launchers and a radar system are now installed on Woody Island in the Paracels, which were seized by China from South Vietnam in 1974 and remain a source of contention between the two nations. To underscore its commitment to retaining those islands, China sank three Vietnamese ships near the islands in 1988.

The Paracels are separate from another island group, the Spratlys, where China has constructed a number of artificial islands. But both the missile installations and the island building are part of a larger, integrated Chinese effort to establish dominance over the South China Sea.

Specifically, Beijing seeks to establish ownership of land areas encompassed by the so-called “nine-dash line,” which appears on maps drawn by the Nationalist regime in the 1940s. Land features within this area include the Paracels, Spratlys, Macclesfield Bank and Mischief Reef. China has laid claim to them all, and the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam oppose these claims. (Taiwan, as the Republic of China, also makes claims largely congruent with Beijing’s.)

The myth of the plucky Kurdish warrior

27 February 2016
On Nawroz, the Persian New Year, last March, Isis sent a holiday greeting to the Kurds. They published several videos of Peshmerga fighters, now prisoners, kneeling, handcuffed and wearing the usual orange jumpsuits. In one video, a prisoner is shot in the back of the head; the rest have their heads sawn off with a knife. In a deliberate twist, no doubt relished by the leadership of the so-called Islamic State, the killers were themselves Kurds. ‘You all know the punishment for anyone who fights the Islamic State,’ says one. ‘It is death.’

The executioners did not wear masks and were quickly identified by Kurdish intelligence. Retribution followed. In an incredibly risky operation, a small team of Kurdish special forces slipped into Isis-held Mosul and killed one of the men who had wielded the knife. ‘We sent them a message,’ said the Kurdish official who told me about the hit, a tight smile of triumph on his face.

400 Intel Pros Warn: ISIS Info Flawed

The “unusually high” number said that there were problems with the “integrity” of their reports as many have accused their bosses for skewing reports on ISIS.

Forty percent of analysts working at the U.S. military’s Central Command, which is running the war against ISIS, think there are problems with “analytic integrity” in their work, a top congressman said on Thursday.

Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, asked senior intelligence officials about the figure, which was discovered in a recent survey of analysts by the country’s top intelligence office. The survey was first reported by The Daily Beastthis month.

“To me, it seems like if 40 percent of analysts are concerned at CENTCOM, that’s just something that can’t be ignored,” Nunes told top intelligence officials testifying before the committee, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan.

“I would consider that unusually high,” Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said of the 40 percent figure. “We’ve already had requests where there’s been a dispute at CENTCOM where we’ve sent out an ombudsman there to look at the analytic rigor.”

House Intel Committee Chairman Says CENTCOM Officials Deleted Files and Emails Regarding ISIS Intel Assessments

February 26, 2016

House chairman: Military files, emails deleted amid probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Personnel at U.S. Central Command have deleted files and emails amid allegations that intelligence assessments were altered to exaggerate progress against Islamic State militants, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday.

“We have been made aware that both files and emails have been deleted by personnel at CENTCOM and we expect that the Department of Defense will provide these and all other relevant documents to the committee,” Rep. Devin Nunes said at a hearing on worldwide threats facing the United States. Central Command oversees U.S. military activities in the Middle East.

A whistleblower whose position was not disclosed told the committee that material was deleted, according to a committee staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly disclose the information.

Navy Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a spokesman for CENTCOM, said the combatant command was fully cooperating with the Defense Department inspector general’s probe into the allegations.

“While it would be inappropriate to discuss the details of that investigation, I can tell you that as a matter of CENTCOM policy, all senior leader emails are kept in storage for record-keeping purposes, so such records cannot be deleted,” Raines said. It’s unclear if emails written by lower-level staff were also maintained.

Yemeni rebels pose a rising threat in southern Saudi Arabia

By Hugh Naylor 
February 24, 2016
Source Link

Saudi soldiers fire artillery toward armed vehicles approaching the border with Yemen in Jazan, Saudi Arabia, in April 2015. The kingdom has been struggling to stop attacks by Yemeni rebels. (Hasan Jamali/Associated Press)

NAJRAN, Saudi Arabia — Thousands of Saudi troops have been deployed along these desiccated hills, struggling to halt cross-border attacks by Yemeni rebels who fire rockets and carry out lethal ground incursions.

The Yemeni fighters have killed and captured hundreds of Saudi soldiers in a conflict that presents Saudi Arabia with the biggest challenge to its territory in years. Thousands of mortars and crude rockets have slammed into schools, mosques and homes in Najran, a city of several hundred thousand people only a few miles from the mountains of northern Yemen.

The border assaults have come in response to a devastating air and ground war that a Saudi-led military coalition launched in Yemen last year. That conflict has in turn spilled across the border with devastating consequences, said Maj. Gen. Saad Olyan, who commands more than 20,000 Saudi forces along the 1,100-mile southern border.

The Last Gamble of Iran’s 'Man for All Seasons'

February 25, 2016

Fires are raging in the Middle East, from Syria and Turkey to Yemen and Iraq. Located at the heart of the region, Iran has been a true island of stability. But this stability could be threatened by the historic elections for the Assembly of Experts and parliament on February 26. While the battle over daily aspects of power between the reformists and the hard-liners in Iran has caught the attention of many Iran watchers, a more hidden, yet earth-shattering, process is shaping the trajectory of the domestic power struggle within the country.

The surprising victory of Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani in the Islamic Republic’s presidential election in June 2013 had many on the edge of their seats. Few predicted his victory in a regime-controlled milieu, especially in the atmosphere of disappointment that followed the controversial election of 2009. But just when many thought most Iranians would call for a boycott, objecting to what seemed like the regime’s decision to determine the outcome of the election, a wave of support for former presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani changed course and directed toward Rouhani.

Bringing a new tone to nuclear talks and the growing domestic economic crisis, Iran’s “Diplomat-Sheikh” convinced Iranians to vote for him. But he could not have been able to get this unexpectedly remarkable victory without his strategic alliance with the “Man of Shadows”: Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

2016: The Year Kurdistan Finally Breaks from Iraq?

February 26, 2016

In early February the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, called for a referendum on Kurdish independence. “The time has come and the conditions are now suitable for the people to make a decision through a referendum on their future,” wrote Masoud Barzani. He cautioned people that it did would not entail the “immediate declaration of statehood” but rather judging the will of the “people of Kurdistan” and to create the political landscape to “implement this will at the appropriate time and circumstances.”

On February 13, the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier took to Twitter to express “serious concern” about plans for a referendum, after reportedly meeting Barzani at the Munich Security Conference. Serious concern would be diplomatic speak for “no.” Critics abroad see the independence referendum as a mix of political strategy and long time policy. Ibrahim al-Marashi, a California-based history professor, wrote at Al Jazeera, “Not only does a call for independence appeal to Kurdish constituents, it serves as a tool to empower the KRG vis-a-vis the central government in Baghdad.” Some have suggested that the referendum is merely cover for the Kurdistan Democratic Party to renew its electoral mandate. Elections scheduled for 2013 and 2015 have been postponed to 2017, an issue that ruffles feathers among the smaller parties in Kurdistan. Currently the KRG is governed by the KDP, the largest party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

The Last Gamble of Iran’s 'Man for All Seasons'

February 25, 2016

Fires are raging in the Middle East, from Syria and Turkey to Yemen and Iraq. Located at the heart of the region, Iran has been a true island of stability. But this stability could be threatened by the historic elections for the Assembly of Experts and parliament on February 26. While the battle over daily aspects of power between the reformists and the hard-liners in Iran has caught the attention of many Iran watchers, a more hidden, yet earth-shattering, process is shaping the trajectory of the domestic power struggle within the country.

The surprising victory of Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani in the Islamic Republic’s presidential election in June 2013 had many on the edge of their seats. Few predicted his victory in a regime-controlled milieu, especially in the atmosphere of disappointment that followed the controversial election of 2009. But just when many thought most Iranians would call for a boycott, objecting to what seemed like the regime’s decision to determine the outcome of the election, a wave of support for former presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani changed course and directed toward Rouhani.

U.S.: Russia uses ceasefire process to seize key Syria territory

February 25, 2016

The moves could allow Russia to control a large section of Syria's western border with Turkey

U.S. intelligence indicates the Afrin Kurds are working with the Russians to attack moderate opposition groups

Washington (CNN)The Russian military has used the time while Moscow and Washington hammered out a ceasefire in Syria in recent weeks to take key territory that could dramatically increasing Russia's influence in the country, according to U.S. officials.

The moves could allow Russia to control a large section of Syria's western border with Turkey, raising critical questions about how reliable allies the groups inside Syria that the U.S. is supporting remain, the officials said.

"The Russians have used the last three weeks to press their position," a U.S. official said. This maneuvering is now leading to "general suspicion about Russia in the short term" and questions inside the administration about whether Moscow will fully back the ceasefire agreement.

Does Obama Want to Carve Up Syria?

A stray comment by John Kerry this week—laying out a last-ditch, now-don’t-hold-me-to-this prescription for ending a modern and globally transformative holocaust—acknowledges an unfolding reality.

A decade ago, the current U.S. vice president wanted to partition Iraq as a political solution to a civil war that ended militarily. Now the current secretary of state believes that partition may be the only viable course left for Syria if and when a ceasefire he co-brokered fails.

The odds of such a failure are high, as John Kerry admits, because the whole accord might well be a “rope-a-dope” exercise by Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to gobble up more territory and destroy more of the mainstream Syrian opposition under the guise of abiding by international diplomacy.

Testifying Tuesday before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the secretarysaid: “I’m not going to vouch for this. I’m not going to say that this process is going to work, because I don’t know. But I know that this is the best way to try to end the war, and it’s the only alternative available to us if indeed we’re going to have a political settlement.”

Why is Obama visiting Cuba?

Feb. 25, 2016

Only two months ago, U.S. President Barack Obama laid out the conditions under which he would visit Cuba before he leaves office. “If, in fact, I with confidence can say that we’re seeing some progress in the liberty and expression and possibilities of ordinary Cubans, I’d love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress,” he said on the first anniversary of his historic announcement of the renewal of U.S. diplomatic relations with the Communist holdout.

The world has become accustomed to Mr. Obama’s foreign policy flip-flops (see his “red line” in Syria) and desire to do away with the image of the United States as a meddling and moralizing superpower. But even critics of the five-decade U.S. policy of isolating the Castro regime were taken aback by news that Mr. Obama will next month become the first sitting president to visit to Cuba in 88 years.

In no material sense has Cuban President Raul Castro, who took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006, expanded the freedoms of ordinary citizens. Recent baby steps toward economic reform fit a pattern that seasoned Cuba watchers recognize all too well. The Castros are experts in diffusing the frustrations of average Cubans with their stultified economic conditions by offering up mini-reforms that, once the dust settles, never amount to much for average folk. Low expectations are now so integral to the Cuban condition that mere crumbs are welcomed.

See inside the underground bunker that could launch a nuclear war

February 24, 2016 
A missile launch-control facility near Minot Air Force Base. Day to day, each such facility is responsible for 10 Minuteman III missiles. But during an attack, a single facility could control up to 150 missiles if necessary, according to one former missileer. Minot’s missile fields were built during the 1960s and cover roughly 8,500 square miles. The missiles and their control facilities are spread out to increase their chances of survival during a nuclear war. Photo by Jay Olivier

MINOT, N.D. — During the Cold War, the United States developed a vast nuclear arsenal with weapons on aircraft, submarines and land-based missiles. These three ways of delivering nuclear weapons became known as the triad, with the Soviet Union was the primary target. The strategy was to deter an attack on the United States by having enough nuclear weapons that could survive a strike and retaliate.

Over the next three decades, the Pentagon plans to spend $1 trillion to rebuild the triad. Military commanders and civilian experts say nuclear weapons are used every day to deter a nuclear attack against the U.S. and that the current stockpile needs to be replaced because they are old. An example: the B-52H bombers began flying in the late 1950s early 1960s and are older than the crews that fly them.

The US Navy’s real China challenge: An anti-access ‘swarm’ strike

The United States Navy seems under siege from all sides when it comes to its inability to project power in Asia — thanks largely to the People’s Republic of China’s investment in various anti-ship weapons platforms.

Considering the challenge presented by China today, while not even factoring in the daunting nature of future threats that seem just over the horizon, US naval planners seem to have their work cut out for them.

Chinese artist’s conception of a PLA anti-ship ballistic missile attack on three USN CVNs.

Take for instance the most obvious example: the threat such weapons pose to America’s mighty aircraft carrier. The carrier is the very symbol of Washington’s power and influence around the world. Unfortunately, the US “flattop” seems to be under constant attack time and time again in article afterarticle, report after report, for their inability to counter the growing threat of anti-ship weapons that can be launched from land, sea and air by Beijing.

Pentagon Preparing to Send Dozens of Green Berets to Nigeria to Advise the Nigerian Army in Fight Against Boko Haram

Eric Schmitt and Dionne Searcey
February 26, 2016

U.S. Plans to Put Advisers on Front Lines of Nigeria’s War on Boko Haram

DAKAR, Senegal — The Pentagon is poised to send dozens of Special Operations advisers to the front lines of Nigeria’s fight against the West African militant group Boko Haram, according to military officials, the latest deployment in conflicts with the Islamic State and its allies.

Their deployment would push American troops hundreds of miles closer to the battle that Nigerian forces are waging against an insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians in the country’s northeast as well as in neighboring Niger,Chad and Cameroon. By some measures, Boko Haram is the world’s deadliest terrorist group.

The deployment is a main recommendation of a recent confidential assessment by the top United States Special Operations commander for Africa, Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc. If it is approved, as expected, by the Defense and State Departments, the Americans would serve only in noncombat advisory roles, military officials said.

DHS: Massive December 2014 Power Outage in the Ukraine Caused by Cyber Attack

February 26, 2016

U.S. government concludes cyber attack caused Ukraine power outage

A December power outage in Ukraine affecting 225,000 customers was the result of a cyber attack, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Thursday, marking the first time the U.S. government officially recognized the blackout as caused by a malicious hack.

Security experts had already widely concluded that the downing of utilities in western Ukraine on December 23 was due to an attack, which is believed to be the first known successful cyber intrusion to knock a power grid offline.

The published alert from DHS’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team does not confirm attribution of the attack. But U.S. cyber intelligence firm iSight Partners and other security researchers have linked the incident to a Russian hacking group known as “Sandworm.”

DHS said its assessment was based on interviews with six Ukrainian organizations affected by the blackout and said its investigators were not able to independently review technical evidence.

During the attack, hackers remotely switched breakers in a way that cut power after installing malware, DHS said.

Why Moscow Holds the Cards in Syria


February 23, 2016

It’s time to drop pretenses of U.S. forces or safe zones and persuade the rebels to accept Russia’s terms. Otherwise a new slaughter will start in Aleppo.

Can the shaky cease-fire announced this week avert a fresh disaster about to happen in Syria? The siege of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. That will be the key test for the pact, which is to go into effect on Feb. 27. For weeks now, Aleppans have felt a sense of impending doom. Recently, Syrian government forces with the support of Russian air power cut off the last remaining major supply route to rebels in Aleppo, setting the stage for a siege. Fearing the prospect of bombardment and starvation, tens of thousands of Syrians have already fled toward Turkey and the hope of safety. With Ankara refusing to let most of them into the country, a humanitarian crisis is already brewing on the border. Many thousands more are fleeing to other parts of Syria, including to regime-held areas. A not-small percentage of them will end up on the road to Europe this spring and summer.

Ironically, the talks are not even any longer about bringing relief to Aleppo. It was the Assad regime’s advance on the city in early February that pushed international negotiations forward. But the talks are less likely to have any meaningful impact there than in other parts of Syria because fighting has dramatically intensified in and around Aleppo even as negotiations have progressed. And the Russians have made it clear that even if a cessation of hostilities comes into effect, Aleppo and the neighboring province of Idlib will be excluded from the arrangement due to the direct presence of Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

Russia’s Hybrid War

Almost anything Vladimir Putin touches these days is perceived by the West as a weapon, and almost everything he does is seen as an attack, very often a successful one. The Kremlin can change facts on the ground, stage quasi cease-fires and create zones of influence to exert pressure on other nations. It has done so in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, and the pattern is now being repeated in Syria.

Meanwhile, the West goes on declaring one Kremlin success after another in ways that many Russians themselves cannot see. Under an editorial headline “Putin’s Syria Victory,” for example, The Wall Street Journal opined on Feb. 12: Negotiations can “‘freeze’ the conflict in place, a tactic Russia used to its advantage after the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and last year’s Minsk agreement over eastern Ukraine.”

It is not by crude force alone that Russia twists events to its advantage. By using its total control over the Russian news media to sow confusion in the West, Mr. Putin has managed, in the words of the journalists Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss, to “weaponize” information. In a report published in late 2014 by the New York-based Institute of Modern Russia, they outlined how the Kremlin manipulates the media, ethnic tensions and trade and financial transactions abroad to further its own ends.

The Fall of OPEC

February 23, 2016

Current low prices for oil will likely prove unsustainable and need to rebound somewhat in the next year or two to keep enough drillers in business. But it would not be wise for American producers to expect much help from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other exporting nations in restraining production to boost prices, as seemed to be the hope last week.

Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, speaking in Houston this Tuesday, threw cold water on the idea of production cuts, which should not come as surprise, given the predicament that the Saudi and other exporters find themselves in.

Whatever strategy OPEC adopts, it will face a long slough to regain a dominant position in the global pricing of oil. Market forces will likely overwhelm efforts to get the cartel back to its position of preeminence for many years, and perhaps decades.

Though many Americans view OPEC as a perpetual petroleum colossus, it’s actual record as a cartel is mixed. After the founding of the organization in 1960, its international impact for a long time was scarcely detectable. Beginning in 1970, individual OPEC members enjoyed some success wresting major price concessions from major oil companies, but coordination of production levels across the full membership did not occur until after the Arab Oil Embargo launched in October of 1973.

The exotic new weapons the Pentagon wants to deter Russia and China

By David Ignatius 
February 23,  

Little noticed amid the daily news bulletins about the Islamic State and Syria, the Pentagon has begun a push for exotic new weapons that can deter Russia and China.

Pentagon officials have started talking openly about using the latest tools of artificial intelligence and machine learning to create robot weapons, “human-machine teams” and enhanced, super-powered soldiers. It may sound like science fiction, but Pentagon officials say they have concluded that such high-tech systems are the best way to combat rapid improvements by the Russian and Chinese militaries.
David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. 

These potentially revolutionary U.S. weapons systems were explained in an interview last week by Robert Work, the deputy secretary of defense, and Air ForceGen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their comments were the latest in a series of unusual recent disclosures about what, until a few months ago, was some of the military’s most secret research.

Why America Should Welcome Australia’s Submarine Buildup

February 25, 2016

Despite the change of government and the recent downturn in its economy, Australia has just recommitted to a modest military buildup. This is welcome news. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced his intention to fully fund the purchase of up to twelve new submarines and buy or build a number of other ships, planes and other weapons systems as well. Australia’s military budget will reach the target level of 2 percent of GDP and the nation will reaffirm its status as America’s key ally anchoring the southern swath of the Pacific Ocean region. Simultaneously with his commitment to this investment plan, Turnbull announced his concern about China’s behavior in the South China Sea, leaving little doubt about one of the principal motivators behind his initiative. Yet the buildup is modest, measured and reasonable, and Beijing would be wise not to object too strenuously.

Embedding A De-Radicalization Plan Into The Road Map For Peace In Syria – Analysis

By Osman Bahadır Dinçer and Mehmet Hecan*
FEBRUARY 26, 2016

Given that Syria is now an internationalized and regionalized quagmire that has been free to evolve for more than four years while exerting increasingly negative effects on the region and on the idea of Middle Eastern peace overall, the political road-map to endorse the Syrian peace process resultant of the Vienna conference is certainly a positive development. Following the conference, the passing of the UNSC resolution on this road-map last December may also be seen in a similarly positive light, especially when considering that the last resolution on the transition process in Syria was adopted nearly four years ago in April, 2012. These developments at least give us hope, and thus galvanize, in spite of all the challenges and disruptions, us to talk about peace, a far-off notion which has been relegated to the distant corners of our minds ever since 2013 when the intensity of clashes and militarization peaked.

DoD Just Can't Resist Meddling In Private Companies' IR&D

February 26, 2016

The Department of Defense is desperate for innovative solutions to extremely challenging problems. Senior Pentagon leaders have repeatedly warned that the United States is losing its long-held advantage in critical technologies not only to prospective adversaries but to the private sector as well. Last year, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work announced the creation of a Third Offset Strategy intended to pursue leap-ahead technologies in such areas as robotics, advanced human machine teaming and semi-autonomous weapons hardened against electronic attack that would confer on the U.S. military the kind of long-term operational and strategic advantages provided in past decades by nuclear weapons and precision-guided munitions/ISR. Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter, has made several pilgrimages to Silicon Valley in the hopes of encouraging U.S. IT companies to devote some of their extraordinary talent and innovative spirit to meeting the Pentagon’s need for leap-ahead capabilities. The Pentagon is also considering ways of spending some $100 million Congress provided in the FY2016 defense spending bill for a Technology Offset Initiative that would accelerate the deployment of high-payoff capabilities.

Manned/Unmanned Teaming to Transform the MAGTF

Deus Ex Machina*
Volume 100, Issue 2

View slideshow

U.S. strategic guidance addresses the challenges of a future operating environment categorized by diverse and uncertain threats, distributed across the global commons. Violent extremism, transnational crime, failed and failing states, and emerging near-peer competitors are just a few of these challenges. Add to that the increasing proliferation of antiaccess/area denial (A2/AD) tools and the explosion of new and emerging technologies on the open market, those “other duties as the President may direct” become more complicated to execute.1 The MAGTF must possess the capability and capacity to meet that challenge.2

Expeditionary Force 21 (EF 21) (Washington, DC: March 2014) is the capstone concept guiding the development of the MAGTF of the future. Since its publication, the threat environment has already shifted, and should the Marine Corps maintain this vision for the next five years, we risk negative gains in our competitive advantage as potential adversaries find inventive ways to iterate capabilities inside our acquisition cycles. The Marine Corps must evolve in stride and adjust our concepts and capabilities in order to regain the advantage across the range of military operations, and meet the challenges of today and the future.

In Court Papers, Apple Says That FBI Seeking “Dangerous Powers” Regarding iPhone Encryption

February 26, 2016

Apple: FBI seeks ‘dangerous power’ in fight over phone

WASHINGTON (AP) — Apple Inc. on Thursday asked a federal magistrate to reverse her order that the company help the FBI hack into a locked iPhone, accusing the federal government of seeking “dangerous power” through the courts and of trampling on its constitutional rights.

The filing represents Apple’s first official response since the judge’s order last week and builds upon arguments voiced by the company’s chief executive and supporters. It marks the latest salvo in a court fight that could create meaningful precedent and establish new legal boundaries in the policy battle between national security and digital privacy — a clash FBI Director James Comey says is the “hardest question I’ve seen in government.”

“No court has ever authorized what the government now seeks, no law supports such unlimited and sweeping use of the judicial process, and the Constitution forbids it,” Apple said.

The Justice Department is proposing a “boundless interpretation” of the law that, if left unchecked, could bring disastrous repercussions, the company warned in a memo submitted to Magistrate Sheri Pym that aggressively challenges policy justifications put forward by the Obama administration in the last several days.

What the Presidential Candidates Get Wrong About the Middle East

FEBRUARY 23, 2016
John Kasich will likely never be the Republican nominee for president. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that he can’t get himself to go along with the inanities that his fellow candidates tend to proffer during debates.

“I gotta tell you, this is just crazy, huh? This is just nuts, OK?” he said in exasperation during the CBS News debate in South Carolina, when Donald Trump and Jeb Bush were in the middle of a heated argument about the Iraq War and things got very personal. Bush complained that Trump had gone after his mother, Barbara Bush, who he described as “the strongest person I know.” The billionaire replied that perhaps then she should run for president instead.

I’ve been covering the campaign trail, trekking in the snow from Iowa to New Hampshire, then to the warmer climes of South Carolina and Nevada, and I’ve watched the spectacle of the GOP race with occasional bewilderment. When I listen to most of the American presidential candidates, including the Democrats, speak about the Middle East, it also makes me deeply anxious about the future of my region.

Reviewing Success and Failure in Limited War

February 26, 2016

Spencer Bakich’s book Success and Failure in Limited War proposes a new international relations (IR) theoretical approach to describe what happens when countries engage in limited war and why. He offers his theoretical approach, the Information Institution Approach, as a more suitable one to explain success or failures in limited wars as opposed to other IR theories–specifically Organizational Culture Theory and the Democratic Civil-Military Relations Theory.

The Information Institution Approach, defined as simply as one can boil down a well-researched book into a single sentence, is this: “How a state performs strategically [in limited war] is determined by its specific capabilities to collect, analyze, and coordinate external and internal information.”[1] Bakich defines limited war as a one undertaken for objectives that are “vital but not existential.”[2] Further, he describes a limited war as one where there is essentially no question about who would be the victor in a total war. That is, for a war to be limited, the initial belligerents must have an obvious power disparity in favor of one side.

Fixing Both Sides of the U.S.-Mexico Border

February 25, 2016

Vice President Biden and a team of senior U.S. officials travel to Mexico City February 24–25 for a High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED). Why? We trade over a million dollars a minute with Mexico. It is our second-largest export market in the world. Over thirty-five million U.S. and Mexican tourists legally visited one another’s countries last year. Over thirty-four million American citizens are of Mexican heritage.

The criticism that we hear about Mexico too often misses the depth, breadth and strategic importance of the relationship with our southern neighbor and our essential interest in Mexico’s success. Certainly, we must tackle ongoing problems: criminal networks operate on both sides of the border, soaring drug demand in the United States wounds communities with drugs from Mexico and, fueled by drug sales, cartel violence and corruption wounds Mexican communities. Illegal immigration strains systems and worries citizens in both countries.

Strengthening the American partnership with Mexico and building mutual prosperity is the best way to achieve U.S. interests, however. That is what the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue and the Vice President’s visit are about. The shared objectives include building a more efficient and secure border while working together to fight crime and terrorism, enhancing our ability to compete in world trade and grow our economies and collaborating to address the situations which fuel immigrants heading north, now largely from Central America.


FEBRUARY 26, 2016

With the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) decision to deny Boeing’s protest of the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) contract, work is ready to begin in earnest on developing the next bomber. The GAO’s ruling focuses primarily on whether the LRS-B award to Northrop Grumman followed applicable rules, regulations, and procedures, and whether it followed the criteria laid out in the request for proposals. Needless to say, this leaves a number of important questions unanswered, including whether the Air Force correctly designed the competition and the development and construction program that will follow. Answering such questions is complicated by the fact that most information about the LRS-B remains classified, and it is hard at times to winnow fact from fiction. As I’vepreviously argued, the case for buying the LRS-B is compelling, but it is also important to address questions raised about the Air Force’s approach. Before proceeding, let me note that several of the contractors responsible for specific programs mentioned in this article are donors to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where I work. These companies did not sponsor the research discussed in this article, and I and my research team review both our methodology and our findings with other experts and researchers to ensure the objectivity of our analysis.