22 March 2016

* India in America's Coils? BHARAT KARNAD

BHARAT KARNAD, Friday, March 11,2016
NEW DELHI: It is a devastating turn of events – the indication that the Bharatiya Janata Party government will soon sign the three so-called “foundational” accords with the United States that Washington has been fiercely pushing in the past decade. 
The Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) is first in line. The other two agreements are the CISMOA (Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement) and BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for geospatial information and data). 

LSA, the most significant of these, will permit the military forces of each country to resupply and replenish, and stage operations out of the other’s military air bases, land facilities, and ports. CISMOA will allow integration of the communications networks and systems enabling the two sides, for example, to mount military actions together, assist unit and higher echelon commanders to converse with each other in peacetime and war, using real time communications links, and to share classified data and information. BECA will, in the main, facilitate the exchange of sensitive information picked up by sensors on satellites and other space-based platforms. 
There are some tactical military advantages to accepting some of these accords, such as BECA which will, with digitized maps, cue Indian missiles and combat aircraft to target coordinates. But there are many more negative geopolitical and strategic consequences to becoming America’s military ally in all but name. These aspects have not been publicly discussed and the government is getting a free pass to drastically change India’s geostrategics and foreign policy. But first a bit of recent history to contextualize this development. 

In India ideology has always been conflated with foreign policy and suggests that elected governments in New Delhi are motivated only minimally by concerns of national interest. Thus, left-of-centre Congress party governments, besides “socialist” policy nostrums and statist solutions for socio-economic ills of the country, have invariably aligned foreign and defence policies with what used to be the Soviet Bloc and, post-Cold War, owing to inertia in official thinking, with Russia. 
Likewise, the ideologically right-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party when in power talked individual initiative and free enterprise at home and sported a US (and generally, West)-friendly attitude abroad. Even so, different party and coalition regimes never overstepped the bounds of the “consensus” view of not closing in with any great power. Balance of power has always been preferred in the external realm and, whenever possible, India has also acted as balancer in the global system to maintain equilibrium. It made for an accretion in India’s political, diplomatic, and military leverage and heft, and obtained a stable international “correlation of forces” which, because it was prevented from ever tipping over, did not end permanently favour any particular power and skew the game. 

This policy stance and world view began wavering in the last decade. The Congress Party government under Manmohan Singh in 2004-2014, instead of gently steering the policy back to mid-channel, as it were, followed up on the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government’s NSSP (Next Steps in the Strategic Partnership) initiative, made quite extraordinary concessions to the United States for the civilian nuclear cooperation deal. This deal predicated on New Delhi’s sticking with the so-called “voluntary moratorium” announced by Vajpayee after the 1998 Shakti series of nuclear tests, a decision made with little forethought even less strategic foresight, hobbled not just India’s thermonuclear weapons capability and the indigenous nuclear industry based on reactors run on natural uranium and the abundant locally available thorium to attain energy independence envisaged by the 1955 three-stage Bhabha Plan, but lofted America into the central position in the country’s geopolitics and foreign policy. 

The Judge Who Stood Up To Indira Gandhi And Whose Judgment Shook India

Today is the death anniversary of Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha, the former judge of the Allahabad High Court, whose judgment invalidated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s election in 1975.
A look at some untouched aspects of his life.
The internationally acclaimed American author Maya Angelou’s words that“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently” reminiscences me of the great spirited judge of the Indian judiciary who’s Judgment changed the discourse of the existing Indian Politics.
Yes, I am trying to hark back on the untouched aspects of the life of Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha, the former judge of the High Court of Allahabad, whose judgment of invalidating Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s election in the famous case of ‘State of Uttar Pradesh v. Rajnarain’ brought his courage, honesty and vitality to international recognition. The ‘Times of India’ had compared this judgment as “Firing the Prime Minster for a traffic ticket”. 

The Conclusion of arguments from both the sides 
With the conclusions of the arguments in this case, the long wait for the judgment began.Both sides were equally hopeful of winning the case. Shanti Bhushan, who had argued this case on behalf of Rajnarain believed that he had better chances of winning. 
Indira Gandhi’s counsels, on the other hand, ridiculed the idea of the case being decided against the Prime Minster. The general opinion outside the Allahabad High Court was that the judge would not have enough courage to declare the election void. 
The fact of the Prime Minster being the respondent overawed the people, who made their speculations independent of the merits of the case.

Justice Sinha’s confidential conversation with his Private Secretary 
Justice Sinha had constantly been taking notes of the arguments. Thus, as soon as the Court closed, he was ready to write the judgment. Before beginning to dictate it, he asked his Private Secretary gravely, “I don’t want the judgment to leak out to anyone, not even to your wife. It is a big responsibility. Can you undertake it?” The Secretary had been with the Judge for a long time and was a trusted man. He swore not to disclose the judgment even to his own wife. 
Justice Sinha went into seclusion to write the judgment 

The Judge wanted to write his judgment in peace. But as soon as the Court closed, he started receiving daily visits, from a Congress MP of Allahabad, which annoyed him immensely. He requested the person not to visit him. 
But when he persisted, the judge had to ask his neighbour, justice Parekh, to request the MP to stop bothering him. When even this didn’t succeed, he decided to disappear. He ‘disappeared’ inside his house, not appearing even in his own verandah. 
All visitors calling on him were told that he had gone to Ujjain, where his brother resided. He didn’t receive any phone calls either. So from 28 May till 7 June, no one was able to meet him, not even his closest friends.
Before he went into seclusion, however, the judge had another distinguished visitor. In the course of their conversation the distinguished visitor mentioned that he had been to Delhi recently and that he had heard Justice Sinha’s name being mentioned in high political circles there, for elevation to the Supreme Court. Justice Sinha was shrewd enough to understand the implications. He said that he is too small a man for that big chair. 

The loneliness of Mehbooba Mufti

March 21, 2016 
As the gulf between the Peoples Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party widens, and alienation grows in the Valley, a long spell of Governor’s Rule seems likely
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries…” — Shakespeare in ‘Julius Caesar’
On such a sea Mehbooba Mufti was afloat, and needed to take the tide as it served her. But she dilly-dallied after Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s passing away — four days, 15 days, 40 days of mourning were respected and granted to her, yet more than several weeks later she is still where she was, far more vulnerable. She did not seem to understand that time was not on her side and Delhi’s patience was wearing thin. Just as Mufti Sahab’s press conference on March 1, 2015 after his swearing-in as Chief Minister, in which he thanked the separatists and Pakistan for the success of the Assembly elections, got him into trouble with Delhi — something some people never forgave him for — so also Ms. Mufti has said or implied too much, widening the gulf between her and Delhi. And she is not Mufti Sahab.

Delhi’s hardened stance
Whatever reservations Delhi may have had about Ms. Mufti — and Delhi always has reservations about Kashmiri leaders — it was willing in the first flush after her father’s demise to accommodate her. She was then the undisputed leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and attracted sympathy. Since then, Delhi’s stance has hardened even as she has appeared more conciliatory at times. But too much time has passed, too much has happened, and distrust has grown between Delhi and the PDP. To dawdle in politics is to court trouble — in Jammu and Kashmir, it is asking for it.
The PDP rumour mill, fanned mostly by its ministers, has been working overtime to suggest that government formation was on the cards. First it was suggested that a new government may be sworn in on March 1, exactly a year from when Mufti Sahab became Chief Minister last year; then somebody said mid-March; and just the other day someone suggested March 27 even as the story was already over.
The argument in the PDP camp has been that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was more desperate for power. Possibly so, but not Ms. Mufti. When the PDP talks of confidence-building measures (CBMs), it has run out of opticians. The one unequivocal CBM that Ms. Mufti has sought but which has not been forthcoming is that Delhi trust her.

Embracing America’s war machines – F16 may roll out of an Indian factory

March 21, 2016 
APThere are currently 3.500-4.000 F-16s in service worldwide and with these planes expected to remain in service at least until 2030 and beyond, there will be a major market for servicing these aircraft.
The elephant in the room is not an economic question, but a strategic concern: if fighting broke out with Pakistan, would the U.S. withhold supplies
India has been up in arms, so to speak, over last month’s announcement that the U.S. proposed to sell eight F-16 combat aircraft to Pakistan.
Yet less than one week from that announcement, New Delhi got a hint that it might have a great opportunity to undercut Pakistan’s F-16 force posture – an offer from F-16 producer Lockheed Martin to add its prized fourth-generation fighter to the list of Make in India products.
Now discussions seem to be steaming forward between one of the U.S.’s top defence producers and the Government of India, with a statement to The Hindu from the office of Lockheed Martin’s India head Phil Shaw noting that they were “in discussions with the U.S. Government, the Government of India, and our Indian industry partners about potential new production F-16 aircraft to address India’s fighter recapitalisation requirements.”
While the company added that details about the aircraft and industrial offer would be determined in conjunction with the two governments in question, Lockheed Martin, and Indian industry, some within policy circles have not ruled out the possibility that the package could include “unprecedented” technology sharing or other favourable terms to woo the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Lockheed Martin’s initial expression of interest in moving its entire production line for the F-16 to India, made by Mr. Shaw at the Singapore Airshow 2016, got surprisingly meagre play in the media. The reason, perhaps, was a lack of clarity on what might in some ways be a quantum jump in bilateral defence cooperation, but in other respects may entail certain strategic-economic risks that would have to be carefully understood.

A different league from Pakistan
Rewind a few decades back to the 1980s and it is evident that U.S.-Pakistan defence cooperation in the F-16 sphere had resulted in about 76 aircraft being transferred from Washington to Islamabad. Yet for several reasons, the latest notification of sale to the U.S. Congress by the Obama administration ought not to cause Pakistan-focused panic in South Block. First, it is unclear if and how Pakistan will finance the sale. In past instances the U.S. tax payer has effectively footed the bill under the rubric of the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) facility.
On this occasion, however, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, whose committee has jurisdiction over foreign arms sales, said less than a fortnight ago that he intended to maintain a hold on the FMF subsidy for the jets over Pakistan’s “duplicity” in the U.S.-supported war against the Afghan Taliban.
Secondly, the U.S. has for the most part sold Pakistan the Block 50/52 of F-16s, whereas Block 60 is said to be on offer to India. Indeed the F-16IN Super Viper that was earlier proffered to India under the now-withdrawn Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender was said to be more advanced than the F-16 Block 60 delivered to the UAE around the same time.

Wahhabis are taking over Indian mosques, spending crores to grow: IB

August 01, 2014 
Vicky Nanjappa/Rediff.com
The Intelligence Bureau has sounded alarm bells in a secret report about the growth of radical Wahhabi ideology in India. Vicky Nanjappa/Rediff.com reports.
First up, two aspects you should know about the Wahhabis, the strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect, in India.

1. The current number of Wahhabi followers in India today stands at 18 lakh (1.8 million).
2. The sect has generated approximately Rs 1,700 crore (Rs 17 billion) in the past three years through funds pumped in from Saudi Arabia.
According to the Wahhabi rule book, many thousands of which are in circulation in India, its followers have to strictly adhere to the following: 
Men have to compulsorily grow beards. 
Shrines shall be forbidden. 
Every Muslim woman should wear purdah or be subject to severe punishment. 
All men should wear trousers which are above their ankles. 
Women should not be allowed to work. Exception can be made only if the family is in need. 
Men and women should not mingle together in public. 
No laughing loudly or listening to music; no dancing or watching television. 
No weeping loudly at funerals. 
Abide by the Shariat law; every offence committed shall be punishable under this law. 

The Intelligence Bureau, India's domestic intelligence agency which has been tracking the rise of Wahhabism in the country, presents a grim picture in its report.
The huge inflow of funds from Saudi Arabia is being utilised to nurture the Wahabbi sect.
According to the Intelligence Bureau report, Rs 800 crore (Rs 8 billion) is being spent to set up four Wahhabi universities; 40 mosques are being constructed at a cost of Rs 400 crore (Rs 4 billion); Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) is being spent to take over the administration of existing mosques, and Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion) to set up madrassas across the country.
An IB source told this correspondent, "We keep alerting the police and other agencies about it(the easy flow of funds); more needs to be done. We had issued a warning ahead of Eid, as this is the period when the donations peak," the IB agent added.
The radical Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, which first set up base in Kashmir, is spearheading Wahabbi operations across India. Having persuaded around 400 mosques in Kashmir to follow its ideology, the Wahabbis have now targetted Maharashtra and Kerala.

Although the Maharashtra government is in denial about the rise of Wahhabism in the state, Wahhabis control over 40 mosques in Maharashtra.
Wahabbis have taken over at least 75 mosques in Kerala, the IB report says.
Signs of a Wahhabi presence have also been reported from Hyderabad, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka.

Towards a Himalayan Consensus

Nirupama Rao, Mar 21, 2016, 
Let the shared history be a rough guide to the future
CONSENSUS eludes much of our political discourse, today. It would seem that polarisation is often the name of the game. The closed mind confines us.
Despite this, the concept of a Himalayan Consensus is compelling. The Himalayas are an abode of light, of sacred meaning, a mandala of integrated spaces and composite cultures from the Hindu Kush in the west where the Pamirs can be touched, to the trailing ranges of the borderlands of North-East India and Myanmar. This great fringe that marks the frontiers between South Asia and Central Asia, including Tibet, holds the secrets of our future — in terms of climate, water, sustainability, preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, transport and communications, disaster management and prevention and human security. Can we elude sovereignties and cartographic lines to protect and advance the interests of the people-in-between, the millions who inhabit the geography of the Hindu Kush Himalaya? 
How do countries like India and China forge a new idea of peaceful coexistence for this inner Asian heartland that accesses peace, tranquility and happiness — the essential meaning of the Sanskrit term ‘Shambhala’? The definition of an uninterrupted Asia should aspire to uniting Shambhala and Mahasagara — the Himalayan and ocean space that make our weather, have defined the movement of our peoples across history, have created empires of the mind, and of commerce, meeting at the crossroads of cultural values and material progress. 
In 1983, Sunderlal Bahuguna, summarising his 5,000-km 300-day walk through the Himalaya wrote the following in his report to the Unicef: “The Himalayan crisis is not an isolated event. It has roots in the materialistic civilisation, in the spiral of demands, ever-increasing but never satisfied. Even the renewable resources become non-renewable due to over exploitation. The air and water pollution, acid rains and barren stretches, familiar today in many countries, are the gifts of this civilisation.
“... the viable answer to the ecological imbalance is to adopt a new development strategy in which man and nature coexist in harmony. This in turn is possible only if small communities are allowed to meet their own basic needs. The perils of centralised production systems were anticipated at the beginning of this century. As we move towards its end, the challenge is to implement a programme of survival…to summon the blessings of science in the service of the people.”
Much remains to be done to fulfil this people-centred goal of sustainable development. Regional connectivity must advance local livelihoods. We aim for interconnected electricity grids and ambitious power generation projects that harness mountain rivers, but where are the peoples of the Himalaya, of the Hindu Kush? They inhabit divided homelands. Ambitiously conceived economic corridors to the sea, aim to bridge mountains and river valleys across ancient habitats, defying nature and traditional custom. Little attention is paid to the aspirations of local communities. 
Recently, the ICIMOD, which is headquartered in Kathmandu, brought out the Himalayan Climate and Water Atlas tracing the impact of climate change on water resources in five of Asia’s major river basins: Indus, Brahmaputra, Ganga, Salween and Mekong. It showed that the region’s climate, which has been changing rapidly, will continue to do so in the future, with severe consequences for populations locally and downstream. 

India's New Strategy For Pak Terror Attacks by Taboola Sponsored Links Sponsored

A general alert has been sounded across cities in India for a possible terror strike by a group of terrorists from the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan.
That warning originates in an unprecedented move from Pakistan- National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was told about the terrorists entering india by his counterpart, Nasser Khan Janjua.
However, across the border, the Sindh government has warned that "India will try to avenge the Pathankot (the airbase attack) incident" and that the likely target will be a military base.
Pakistan's move is seen as little more than a transparent and cliched attempt to press upon the international community that India is responsible for its share of cross-border attacks.
So are these twin developments pulling the India - Pakistan relationship in different directions at a time of vulnerability?

General Janjua's call to Ajit Doval does not mean that Pakistan has turned a new leaf and wants to be seen as "law-abiding, good boys" according to a government source.
This possibility can be ruled out is the general consensus.
Not withstanding its many denials, it is no secret that Pakistan uses the Lashkar-e- Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed as instruments of state.
Therefore, General Janjua's call to New Delhi is being read as a "mitigating" factor, most likely an effort to gain some acceptance in the international community at a time when Pakistan is negotiating the sale of F-16s from the USA.

It, however, opens a window of opportunity for India. It will be difficult for Pakistan to arm and train terrorist groups, while keeping India informed about when some of them infiltrate Kashmir or other border states. That would mean the Pakistani establishment risks being badly cornered within the country, in particular with the powerful military and ISI.
That leaves us with the alert issued in Pakistan. Is India, in a break from the past, leveraging all its advantages and international support to consider striking back in unconventional ways?
At one level, India has launched a massive diplomatic effort to isolate Pakistan from it old friends and allies especially in the Gulf - something that hasn't been done in the past.

** Osama bin Laden’s Files: The Pakistani government wanted to negotiate

BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | March 9, 2015 |
Recently released files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that parts of the Pakistani government made attempts to negotiate with al Qaeda in 2010. The letters were released as evidence in the trial of Abid Naseer, who was convicted on terrorism charges by a Brooklyn jury earlier this month.
One of the files is a letter written by Atiyah Abd al Rahman (“Mahmud”), who was then the general manager of al Qaeda, to Osama bin Laden (identified as Sheikh Abu Abdallah) in July 2010. The letter reveals a complicated game involving al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, the brother of Pakistan’s current prime minister, and Pakistan’s intelligence service.
“Regarding the negotiations, dear Sheikh, I will give you an overview, may God support me in this,” Rahman wrote. “The Pakistani enemy has been corresponding with us and with Tahreek-i-Taliban (Hakeemullah) for a very short time, since the days of Hafiz, may God have mercy on him.” Hakeemullah Mehsud was the head of the Pakistani Taliban at the time. The “Hafiz” mentioned is Mustafa Abu Yazid (Sheikh Saeed al Masri), who served as al Qaeda’s general manager prior to his death in May 2010. Rahman succeeded Yazid in that role.
“We discussed the matter internally, then we talked with Abu-Muhammad later once we were able to resume correspondence with him,” Rahman explained. “Abu-Muhammad” is the nom de guerre of Ayman al Zawahiri. As a result of these discussions, al Qaeda was willing to broker a deal in which the jihadists’ would ease off the Pakistanis so long as the military and intelligence services stopped fighting al Qaeda and its allies.
“Our decision was this: We are prepared to leave you be. Our battle is primarily against the Americans. You became part of the battle when you sided with the Americans,” Rahman wrote, explaining al Qaeda’s position towards the Pakistani government. “If you were to leave us and our affairs alone, we would leave you alone. If not, we are men, and you will be surprised by what you see; God is with us.”

Al Qaeda’s negotiating tactic was simple. Either the Pakistanis leave them alone, or they would suffer more terrorist attacks. Rahman’s letter reveals how bin Laden’s men sought to convey their message. They relied on Siraj Haqqani, the senior leader of the Haqqani Network, which has long been supported by the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment.
Rahman summarized al Qaeda’s plan thusly: “We let slip (through Siraj Haqqani, with the help of the brothers in Mas’ud and others; through their communications) information indicating that al Qaeda and Tahreek-i-Taliban [the Pakistani Taliban] have big, earth shaking operations in Pakistan, but that their leaders had halted those operations in an attempt to calm things down and relieve the American pressure.”
“But if Pakistan does any harm to the Mujahidin in Waziristan, the operations will go forward, including enormous operations ready in the heart of the country,” Rahman explained. This is the message al Qaeda “leaked out through several outlets.”

A Surprise Turnaround in Russia-Pakistan Relations

The future looks bright for bilateral trade and economic relations between Pakistan and Russia
Putin is expected to visit Pakistan in the coming months
Russia is immensely rich in natural resources and is well positioned, geographically, to trade with Europe as well as Asia. Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Russia has always suffered due to Pakistan’s long lasting orientation towards the US which stretches back to the Cold War. As a result, trade between Pakistan and Russia has remained relatively stagnant. From 2009-2014, Pakistan’s total share of exports to Russia has never exceeded 0.85%; its share of imports from Russia during this time frame is even less impressive, at 0.62%.
According to the Trade and Development Authority of Pakistan, in 2014, Pakistan’s trade with Russia made up only 0.07% of total exports to Russia. For comparison, China enjoys the largest share of the Russian market, at 17.95%.
However, 2014 proved to be a watershed year for relations between Pakistan and Russia; both countries started re-bridging diplomatic relations in reaction to western sanctions against Russia for the annexation of Crimea and the USA-led dual policy against Pakistan in South Asia. Since then, positive political and military cooperation developments between both countries has given a sudden rise to economic uplift and has opened new windows of bilateral investments in the fields of energy, leather, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and defense.
Mr. Alexey, Russia’s Ambassador to Pakistan, has stated that “Russia will spare no effort to boost the partnership in economy, trade and finance with Pakistan. The common task of both countries is to expand economic contacts to the level of an advanced political dialogue that Pakistan and Russia enjoy today.” Currently, the trade figure between both countries is not encouraging – around $400 million. The low figure certainly does not correspond to the potential trade of both countries which is around $ 1 billion, as per the FPCCI of Pakistan.
The year 2014-2015 has seen some results oriented initiatives from both sides to enhance trade: The first ever Pakistan-Russia Investment Forum held in Islamabad, as well as the Pakistan-Russia Business Council meetings in October 2015, show that cooperation is improving. Additionally, Russia’s interest in various energy-related projects in Pakistan is encouraging. CASA-1000, a new electricity transmission system between Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan, development of Gwadar Liquefying Facility and the construction of pipeline between Lahore and Karachi (North-South Cooperation Agreement) and other joint ventures among business communities of both countries indicate willingness from both Russia and Pakistan to increase investment opportunities in energy, oil/gas explorations, leather products, pharmaceutics, vegetables and fruits.

* I Love the U.N., but It Is Failing

I HAVE worked for the United Nations for most of the last three decades. I was a human rights officer in Haiti in the 1990s and served in the former Yugoslavia during the Srebrenica genocide. I helped lead the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haitian earthquake, planned the mission to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons, and most recently led the Ebolamission in West Africa. I care deeply for the principles the United Nations is designed to uphold.

And that’s why I have decided to leave.
The world faces a range of terrifying crises, from the threat of climate change to terrorist breeding grounds in places like Syria, Iraq and Somalia. The United Nations is uniquely placed to meet these challenges, and it is doing invaluable work, like protecting civilians and delivering humanitarian aid in South Sudan and elsewhere. But in terms of its overall mission, thanks to colossal mismanagement, the United Nations is failing.
Six years ago, I became an assistant secretary general, posted to the headquarters in New York. I was no stranger to red tape, but I was unprepared for the blur of Orwellian admonitions and Carrollian logic that govern the place. If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again.
The first major problem is a sclerotic personnel system. The United Nations needs to be able to attract and quickly deploy the world’s best talent. And yet, it takes on average 213 days to recruit someone. In January, to the horror of many, the Department of Management imposed a new recruitment system that is likely to increase the delay to over a year.
During the Ebola epidemic, I was desperate to get qualified people on the ground, and yet I was told that a staff member working in South Sudan could not travel to our headquarters in Accra, Ghana, until she received a new medical clearance. We were fighting a disease that killed many thousands and risked spinning out of control and yet we spent weeks waiting for a healthy colleague to get her forms processed.
Too often, the only way to speed things up is to break the rules. That’s what I did in Accra when I hired an anthropologist as an independent contractor. She turned out to be worth her weight in gold. Unsafe burial practices were responsible for about half of new Ebola cases in some areas. We had to understand these traditions before we could persuade people to change them. As far as I know, no United Nations mission had ever had an anthropologist on staff before; shortly after I left the mission, she was let go.
The heads of billion-dollar peace operations, with enormous responsibilities for ending wars, are not able to hire their immediate staff, or to reassign non-performers away from critical roles. It is a sign of how perversely twisted the bureaucracy is that personnel decisions are considered more dangerous than the responsibility to lead a mission on which the fate of a country depends.

One result of this dysfunction is minimal accountability. There is today a chief of staff in a large peacekeeping mission who is manifestly incompetent. Many have tried to get rid of him, but short of a serious crime, it is virtually impossible to fire someone in the United Nations. In the past six years, I am not aware of a single international field staff member’s being fired, or even sanctioned, for poor performance.
The second serious problem is that too many decisions are driven by political expediency instead of by the values of the United Nations or the facts on the ground.
Peacekeeping forces often lumber along for years without clear goals or exit plans, crowding out governments, diverting attention from deeper socioeconomic problems and costing billions of dollars. My first peacekeeping mission was in Cambodia in 1992. We left after less than two years. Now it’s a rare exception when a mission lasts fewer than 10.

China’s Economic Planning Dilemma

Authorities face a choice of maintaining control or continuing to unleash market forces.
By Sara Hsu, March 20, 2016
According to the National Development and Reform Commission’s (NDRC) Report on the Implementation of the 2015 Plan and on the 2016 Draft Plan for National Economic and Social Development, adopted March 16, considerable progress was made in 2015 and reforms were laid out for 2016. As China’s economy become more complex, planning has become more challenging.
In 2015, the government’s focus on major projects such as enhancing tourism, expanding online shopping, and promoting new energy vehicles helped to increase retail sales of consumer goods. Consumption, particularly of services, contributed much more than investment did to GDP. Urbanization rose to 56.1 percent of the population and 13.12 million urban jobs were created. Ten pilot projects for the reform of state owned enterprises (SOEs) were launched, and reforms were carried out in the electricity system, the petroleum and natural gas exploration system, the state forestry farms and forestry regions, water conservancy enterprises, rural supply and marketing cooperatives, and state farms on reclaimed land.
Core competitiveness was strengthened within the scope of a three-year action plan for manufacturing industries to encourage technology upgrading and expand the use of robotics. China’s leadership also emphasized entrepreneurship and innovation within the Internet Plus action plan, crowd funding, and technology transfer. Spending on research and development was lower than expected because sluggish growth placed pressure on corporate profits.
To promote market mechanisms, non-monopolistic pricing was enforced, and government approval and review was reduced. Most intermediary services for government approval were cancelled. Price controls for 40 goods and services were removed or passed on to lower level governments. Overcapacity was addressed to improve efficiency in the steel, cement, aluminum, and plate glass industries. China implemented policies to expand finance to underserved groups, to impose deposit insurance, and to encourage the internationalization of the RMB.

Bad news from Beijing Capital flight, at a rate of about $100 billion a month, threatens to deplete China’s hoard of $3.23 trillion in foreign exchange reserves in a couple of years.

Written by Minxin Pei | Published:March 21, 2016 
In slightly more than a month, its main stock market index (the Shanghai Stock Exchange) has fallen more than 20 per cent.
The year of the monkey did not start auspiciously for Beijing. In slightly more than a month, its main stock market index (the Shanghai Stock Exchange) has fallen more than 20 per cent. The Chinese currency renminbi is losing value. Capital flight, at a rate of about $100 billion a month, threatens to deplete China’s hoard of $3.23 trillion in foreign exchange reserves in a couple of years.
Among the factors responsible for China’s economic woes, the most important ones are domestic. Cyclically, the Chinese economy has just experienced one of the world’s largest credit bubbles. The massive creation of credit since 2008 took China’s debt-to-GDP ratio from 125 per cent in 2008 to around 280 per cent. Based on data provided by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), non-financial private-sector debt as of mid-2015 was 200 per cent of GDP. If one adds sovereign debt (about 40 per cent of GDP) and local government debt (another 30 per cent of GDP, according to Beijing’s estimate in early 2015), China’s total debt-to-GDP is at least 270 per cent, making China the most highly indebted emerging market economy.
Had China used its capital more efficiently during its debt binge, the country would not have been in its current plight. But like all other countries that gorged on credit during boom, China wasted a substantial chunk of its capital by shovelling investments into real estate, coal mines, infrastructure, steel mills, automobile plants and other capital-intensive industries. The consequence is costly. A colossal real-estate bubble has left ghost cities around the country while massive investment has created overcapacity in most manufacturing sectors at a time when domestic and external demands are both falling.

In a brutal struggle for survival, Chinese firms are engaged in price wars, underselling each other and creating a vicious cycle in which over-indebted zombie firms destroy the profitability of healthier companies. In most countries, a credit bubble of this magnitude alone should be enough to sink the economy. In the Chinese case, its cyclical downturn has been worsened by its longstanding structural imbalances. With investment accounting for nearly 50 per cent of GDP and household consumption under 40 per cent, even a slight decrease in investment activities, traditionally the engine of growth, can have disproportionate repercussions.

** Stratfor: The Refugee Crisis Redefines German Politics. It could get ugly.

Summary: Stratfor looks at this week’s regional elections in Germany. Much of the value of Stratfor’s analysis is their top-down analysis provides a window into the thinking of the West’s ruling elites (essentially their clients). Stratfor’s analysis suggests that German’s leaders remain delusionally complacent about the rising anger at their open borders policy and its resulting flood of immigrants. This suggests a great future for Germany’s far Right parties. Bet on increased social and political turmoil in Europe.
Stratfor, 14 March 2016
The election results suggest that some German voters are fed up with their leaders. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won in only one of the regions (Saxony-Anhalt) but with fewer votes than in the last round of elections held four years ago. The CDU’s campaign was marked by contradiction and internal conflict as some of its candidates criticized Merkel’s refugee policy. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) also won in one region (Rhineland-Palatinate) but was relegated to fourth place in the other two. Finally, the Greens managed to win a region (Baden-Wurttemberg) but saw negligible results in Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate.
The election results suggest that some German voters are fed up with their leaders. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won in only one of the regions (Saxony-Anhalt) but with fewer votes than in the last round of elections held four years ago. The CDU’s campaign was marked by contradiction and internal conflict as some of its candidates criticized Merkel’s refugee policy. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) also won in one region (Rhineland-Palatinate) but was relegated to fourth place in the other two. Finally, the Greens managed to win a region (Baden-Wurttemberg) but saw negligible results in Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Conversely, AfD {Alternative for Deutschland} performed well in all three regions. The party traditionally has been strongest in eastern Germany, where unemployment rates are higher and nationalist parties tend to be relatively popular. The March 13 elections confirmed this trend as AfD received 24.2 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt, only 5 points fewer than the CDU. But AfD also saw record performances in Baden-Wurttemberg, with 15.1 percent of the vote, and in Rhineland-Palatinate, with 12.6 percent. The party’s success there is an important development because it shows AfD has managed to expand its presence beyond its traditional strongholds in the east.
AfD managed to attract voters who were disappointed with the traditional parties, most notably the CDU. But AfD also managed to mobilize voters who had not participated in previous elections. In Saxony-Anhalt, for example, more than 100,000 of the votes for AfD came from people who had not voted in 2011. Opinion surveys show that many voters see AfD as a protest party, which means that support for it is not necessarily support for its ideas but a desire to punish the traditional parties. In essence, it shows that a sizable segment of the German population feels unrepresented by the mainstream parties.

** A View of ISIS’s Evolution in New Details of Paris Attacks

MARCH 19, 2016
Investigators found crates’ worth of disposable cellphones. All around Paris, they found traces of improved bomb-making materials. And they began piecing together a multilayered terrorist attack that evaded detection until much too late.
In the immediate aftermath of the Paris terror attacks on Nov. 13, French investigators came face to face with the reality that they had missed earlier signs that the Islamic State was building the machinery to mount sustained terrorist strikes in Europe.
Now, the arrest in Belgium on Friday of Salah Abdeslam, who officials say was the logistics chief for the Paris attacks, offers a crucial opportunity to address the many unanswered questions surrounding how they were planned. Mr. Abdeslam, who was transferred to the penitentiary complex in Bruges on Saturday, is believed to be the only direct participant in the attacks who is still alive.
Much of what the authorities already know is in a 55-page report compiled in the weeks after the attack by the French antiterrorism police, presented privately to France’s Interior Ministry; a copy was recently obtained by The New York Times. While much about the Paris attacks has been learned from witnesses and others, the report has offered new perspectives about the plot that had not yet been publicized.

The attackers, sent by the Islamic State’s external operations wing, were well versed in a range of terrorism tactics — including making suicide vests and staging coordinated bombings while others led shooting sprees — to hamper the police response, the report shows. They exploited weaknesses in Europe’s border controls to slip in and out undetected, and worked with a high-quality forger in Belgium to acquire false documents.
The scale of the network that supported the attacks, which killed 130 people, has also surprised officials, as President François Hollande of France acknowledged on Friday. As of Saturday, there are 18 people in detention in six countries on suspicion of assisting the attackers.
French officials have repeatedly warned that more strikes are possible, saying security and intelligence officials cannot track all the Europeans traveling to and from Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq. And Western intelligence officials say their working assumption is that additional Islamic State terrorism networks are already in Europe.

The French police report, together with hundreds of pages of interrogation and court records also obtained by The Times, suggest that there are lingering questions about how many others were involved in the terrorist group’s network, how many bomb makers were trained and sent from Syria, and the precise encryption and security procedures that allowed the attackers to evade detection during the three months before they struck.
Taken as a whole, the documents, combined with interviews with officials and witnesses, show the arc of the Islamic State’s growth from a group that was widely viewed as incapable of carrying out large-scale terror assaults. And they suggest that nearly two years of previous, failed attacks overseen by the leader of the Paris assault, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, served as both test runs and initial shots in a new wave of violence the Islamic State leaders have called for in Western Europe and Britain.

Focus on Explosives
Diners first saw the young man pacing back and forth in front of the bistro’s awning on Rue Voltaire. What drew their attention, they told investigators in accounts summarized in the police report, were the bulky layers of clothing he was wearing: an anorak on top of a coat with fur trim, over a vest that could be spotted through gaps in the clothing — excessive even for a chilly November evening.
Just after 9 p.m., he turned and walked into the bistro, past the covered terrace built around a curved bar.
“He turned and looked at the people with a smile,” the French police report said, offering previously unreleased details. “He apologized for any disturbance he had caused. And then he blew himself up.”
He turned out to be Ibrahim Abdeslam, a brother of the man arrested on Friday in Brussels, and his suicide bombing came near the start of a night of carnage that played out at cafes and restaurants, the national soccer stadium and a concert venue.

Accommodate the Kremlin

The West should support Russia's strategic interests in order to collectively bring peace to Syria.
We must recognize that contending parties have legitimate interests. 
By Colin P. Clarke and William Courtney, March 17, 2016
Russia’s drawdown in Syria comes in the wake of frustrations with the regime of President Bashar Assad, whose forces Russian airpower aided, and with Moscow's interest in being part of a wider political solution. A negotiated deal will need active support from Russia, the West and regional states, and thus must reflect their interests.
The crisis in Syria, a longtime Moscow client, has brought Russia more risk than opportunity. Since the overwhelming majority of the over 10 million Muslims in Russia are Sunni, the Kremlin runs risks siding with the Shiite-aligned Assad regime and its Iranian and Hezbollah Shiite allies in the fight against Sunni insurgents. Moscow saw its intervention as necessary to rescue Assad’s reeling forces and as a way to demonstrate Russian military power.
Then the Kremlin had to rebuke Assad. As the partial ceasefire was getting underway in mid-February, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations was asked about Assad's statement that Syria would continue the fight to defeat all rebels. The ambassador said it did "not chime with the diplomatic efforts that Russia is undertaking."

Russia’s frustrations are not unexpected. Former presidents Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq showed how weak and unpredictable leaders undermine outsiders’ ability to help end conflicts and stabilize societies. Moscow may also see a parallel to Afghanistan in the 1980s, when it struggled to prop up an illegitimate regime resisting a determined insurgency.
In announcing the drawdown, President Vladimir Putin claimed that the task of Russian forces had “on the whole, been fulfilled.” This is less than true. Last September at the United Nations General Assembly, he called the Islamic State group “more than dangerous,” but Russia has done little to counter it. The Islamic State group, which controls a wide swath in Syria, has been a destination for several thousand radical jihadists from Russia. Some will return home battle-hardened and spoiling to avenge what they consider to be mistreatment of Muslims in such areas as the North Caucasus.
As well, the al-Nusra Front – like the Islamic State group, not a party to the ceasefire – controls critical territory in Syria, including in eastern Aleppo. Although Russian strikes damaged several insurgent groups, including some backed by the West, the insurgents retain military capability, and some are supported from neighboring countries. Finally, large-scale civilian casualties caused by unguided bombs have damaged Russia's international prestige.
These problems along with economic weakness at home, isolation from the West and confrontation with Ukraine and Turkey have taken a toll on Russia. It is in strategic decline, and a drawdown in Syria might help abate it.
While Russian military intervention may have prevented the immediate collapse of the Assad regime, Moscow’s strategic interest is not Assad but retention of a strong and friendly government in populated western Syria. If Russia were able to insert a more effective strongman, it might be tempted. Moscow doubts that the Western goal of a democratic transition is achievable anytime soon.

Remote Drone Wars

16 March 2016
by Felix Richter, Statista.com
-- this post authored by Dyfed Loesche
The U.S. is waging more than one undeclared war around the world.
One of them takes place in one of Africa's most destitute countries in the Horn of Africa. This past weekend, the Pentagon reported that 150 people were killed by a combined aircraft and drone strike against the Islamist militant group al-Shabab in Somalia. Apparently a graduation ceremony at a training facility 120 miles north of Mogadishu was hit.
If correct, it would be the deadliest such attack since the covert campaign in Somalia began in 2001. Previous attacks concentrated on targeting leaders of the extremist group which is affiliated with al-Qaida. Al-Shabab carried out an attack on a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in 2013.
According to a Pentagon spokesperson, it was now planning a major attack on African and U.S. forces in the region. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, elite troops from the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are also routinely deployed on the ground in Somalia "for surveillance, reconnaissance, and assault and capture operations". JSOC has its own fleet of armed drones, which are flown from various bases in the region. Also, Kenya and Ethiopia have a military presence in parts of Somalia. U.S. drone strikes against targets in Somalia.

Is NIE still worth it?

Amber Corrin, C4ISR   March 16, 2016 
The Army’s ongoing series of Network Integration Evaluations seek to test-drive proposed capabilities on the Army network – and critics of the program say it costs money, time and effort in the many failed experiments along the way. But Army leaders defend NIE, even as the service prepares to launch a similar-but-different effort known as Army Warfighting Assessments.
They each will happen yearly and each aim to get better technologies into the hands of soldiers faster, but AWA is expected to be more open in experimentation while NIE tests how capabilities work – or don’t work – on the Army network. Army leaders say despite the criticisms of NIE, both efforts have their value.
“NIE’s a unique opportunity to evaluate a network that’s in an operational unit that’s in the field. It’s a unique capability. It’s also a testing event in which major programs of record go through their testing criteria with a combination” of the Army’s Test and Evaluation Command, Brigade Modernization Command and the acquisition, logistics and technology arm,” said Maj. Gen. Bo Dyess, deputy director and chief of staff of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Army Training and Doctrine Command. “In testing the variables are constrained so you can determine if the things that are going into major milestone decisions are going to meet hose milestones.”
Dyess spoke March 15 as part of a panel at the AUSA Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
AWA will be a different kind of test for would-be Army technologies, Dyess said. For example, in a recent NIE, an operator wanted to switch their headset combination during a major test, but was told no because it could interfere with the test, Dyess said.
“Now the difference in NIE and AWA is that you’re actually able to introduce variables and it makes it much more like an experiment than a test. And that way you can bring in a British brigade or n Australian brigade or Dutch platoon or a Canadian unit, or use a different type of robot,” he said. “That’s the major difference between the AWA and NIE, it’s that you can introduce different variables, you can see if you can pass voice and data on the network between coalition members, in between joint forces, in between different Army units with different types of capabilities sets.”

Artificial Intelligence: Blessing Or Curse?

Felix Richter, Statista.com
Earlier today, AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence software developed by Google DeepMind, won the fifth and final game of Go against human world champion Lee Sedol.
The computer's 4-1 victory in a week-long series of five games marks a major milestone for artificial intelligence: While computers have been capable of beating human world class chess players for many years now, the game of Go had been notoriously difficult for machines to master in the past.

While some people will undoubtedly be excited about science's victory over human skill, others are fearful of what artificial intelligence might be capable of in the future. A recent survey commissioned by the British Science Association once again showed that the public's view of artificial intelligence is by no means unequivocally positive. In fact, the attributes mistrustful, skeptical and anxious were among the most cited when 2,019 Britons were asked how they feel about AI. 36 percent of the respondents even believe that intelligent machines pose a threat to the long-term survival of humanity - a view that may at least in part be influenced by Hollywood's popular theme of robots turning on humans.

This chart illustrates the results of a survey on artificial intelligence.

Intelligence: Free Range Data Reveals All


March 10, 2016: National intelligence services (like the CIA and MI6) continue to find themselves relying more and more on civilian sources for the best data and analysis. A recent example was revealed because of all the anxiety over the huge numbers of illegal migrants trying to get into Europe and other Western countries, many of them by boat. Turns out that the best tool for reducing the use of ships for smuggling was an Israeli firm that built a business on creating a database of normal, and abnormal (and usually illegal) behavior by ships at sea for shipping and maritime insurance companies.
This data was easier to collect since the 1990s when all larger ships were required to use the AIS (Automated Identification System) which is essentially an automatic radio beacon (transponder) that, when it receives a signal from a nearby AIS equipped ship, responds with the ship's identity, course, and speed. This is meant to enable AIS ships to avoid collisions with each other. An AIS activity database makes it possible to identify patterns of normal and abnormal behavior. The abnormal behavior, like arriving outside a port and waiting for several days to enter, is what smugglers are often forced to do to avoid arrest. Same thing with travelling outside the most efficient (in terms of fuel used and weather encountered) routes. With enough of this data and a thorough analysis it is very difficult for seagoing criminals to escape detection. Now that navies and coast guards are increasing using this “maritime BI (Business Intelligence)” tool to more quickly shut down the criminal gangs making over a billion dollars a year from all this people smuggling.

AIS is also used to send ships important traffic and weather information. AIS is one of two ship tracking systems required, by law, for most ocean going ships. INMARSAT (International Maritime Satellite) is a more elaborate and longer range system. It enables shipping companies to keep track of their vessels no matter where they are on the planet. INMARSAT uses a system of satellites, which transmit AIS-like signals to anywhere on the oceans. It only costs a few cents to send an INMARSAT signal to one of your ships and a few cents more to receive a reply. Shipping companies have found the INMARSAT a useful business tool as well as a safety feature.
These two systems are now required by law (international agreements) for all sea going vessels greater than 300-tons. The technology has worked, and the U.S. Navy has found them particularly useful in counter-terror operations. Coast Guards the world over have also found the systems a big help. But apparently pirates in some areas have gained access to the systems (via bribes or theft) and a large number of pirate attacks appear to have been helped by technology meant just to safeguard ships at sea. Iran, and other nations involved in smuggling, learned how to have INMARSAT send a false signal, concealing where the ship actually is. This can work for a while but a nation with lots of recon satellites, warships, and cooperation from most of the world’s shipping can get around this.
The use of AIS data is part of a trend in dual-use intelligence tools that depend on OSINT (Open Source Intelligence). While the U.S. intelligence community long resisted recognizing the importance of OSINT, especially after the Cold War ended in 1991, the enthusiastic acceptance of Internet-based OSINT by so many individual military personnel and commercial information gatherers has led to enthusiastic official government acceptance of what many intelligence professionals now consider a crucial tool and one that can only grow in usefulness.

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

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on December 02, 2015 
WASHINGTON: Our regular readers already know the bad news about electronic warfare. Russia and China are rapidly catching up to the US in jamming, spoofing, and electronic eavesdropping. Senior Pentagon officials say the technological gap between them and us is shrinking, especially on those technologies that have made the biggest difference: GPS, drones, smart weapons, satellites, command networks, and more, all of which depend on uninterrupted electronic transmissions.
The influential Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has some good news. Technology close at hand — some in production, some well along in labs — could let the US surge ahead again and capture “an enduring advantage” in EW.
“This is not science fiction; it is within the state of the art of current technologies,” said CSBA co-author Mark Gunzinger this morning in a briefing on Capitol Hill.
What’s needed now, CSBA said in a study released this morning, is not new programs or massive technology investments. It’s new operational concepts and an overall strategic vision to make full use of the technology we already have.
Which brings us, of course, to the other bad news. The Defense Department doesn’t have a strategy for what to do about electronic warfare. Instead, CSBA argues, we have lots of scattered good ideas and underutilized innovations, with potentially revolutionary round pegs being forced into the square holes of outdated doctrine and bureaucracies.
Fielded or soon-to-be-fielded systems such as AESA radars on F-35s, the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer, and the SEWIP electronic warfare kit for warships all incorporate technology that could be used in far more versatile ways than current concepts take advantage of, said CSBA co-author Bryan Clark.
“These new systems are coming out with these new technologies, but they’re not necessarily being used in a way that exploits these new technologies, they’re going to be used in a way that simply mimics how the predecessor system was used,” Clark said this morning on Capitol Hill. “[So] new operational concepts are necessary to leverage the technologies we’re already fielding.”
CSBA offered it own vision and Pentagon electronic warfare experts agreed with much of it in a panel today at the Association of Old Crows annual EW conference. But that doesn’t make it easy to get to an actual Defense Department EW strategy, let alone to implement one.

Blunting The Impact Of A Knife Attack

-- this post authored by Scott Stewart
An American man was wounded March 10 in a knife attack in Fintas, Kuwait. A statement from the U.S. Embassy did not specifically label the attack an act of terrorism, but the wording intimated as much, warning of the threat of planned extremist actions against American and Western citizens.
The Fintas incident came on the heels of the March 8 killing of an American graduate student in Tel Aviv, the most recent episode in a long series of attacks in Israel that Hamas is calling the "knife intifada." This is not, however, something that happens only in the Middle East. Since December, there have been several attacks employing edged weapons in and around the New York subway system, and on Feb. 11 a grassroots jihadist wielding a machete attacked patrons at a Mediterranean restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Most recently, on March 14, a man with a knife attacked a Canadian armed forces recruitment center in North York, wounding two service members.
These incidents justify a close look at edged weapon attacks, strategies to avoid them and ways in which a potential target can protect themselves.
First Things First

It is important to recognize that, like any other criminal or terrorist attack, an edged weapon attack will follow the attack planning cycle. Obviously, the steps of the cycle for such an attack will manifest differently from those of a kidnapping, vehicle bomb attack or other more complex action. Most edged weapons attacks are crimes of opportunity not deliberately directed against a specific target. This means the attacker will operate more like an ambush predator than one that stalks. In an ambush, steps of the attack cycle such as target selection, planning and deployment are condensed - nevertheless, they are still present, and there are points during the attack cycle at which the attacker can be detected and avoided.

As in many other types of attacks directed indiscriminately against random targets, the most obvious warning sign is the attacker's demeanor as he or she selects a target and prepares to launch the attack. Similar to suicide bombers or other assailants, attackers preparing to strike with an edged weapon will usually exhibit behavior that is simply out of place. While not all attackers exhibit the same characteristics, signs such as abnormally tense body posture, a fixed stare, a nervous attitude or abnormal perspiration may indicate ill intent. These cues should then be considered alongside other contextual factors to help determine whether an individual poses a potential threat.

Theater: The True Asymmetric Power of Terrorism

The influence of emotion is the true asymmetric power of terrorism.
By Gregory Daniels, March 19, 2016
More than four decades have passed since Brian Jenkins, an expert on security, first represented “terrorism as theater” in a report for the RAND Corporation. Yet, to this day, leaders and policymakers countering terrorism implement strategies composed mostly of military and police actions—little is done to oppose the theatrics. Taking theater as a model, terrorism relies on live performers and unwitting live participants to present the experience of an imagined event, an event in which the perpetrators wield power over the victims. Each piece, or attack, is not meant to appeal to thought, but to feeling. The influence of emotion, is the true asymmetric power of terrorism and is key to developing effective strategies to prevent acts of violence.

The American public may identify terrorism as the most important problem facing the United States, but it is in fact a nominal risk in the U.S. and other advanced countries. Over the course of more than 40 years, from 1968 to 2010, terrorist incidents killed just 258 people in the U.S. (excluding the September 11, 2001 attacks, an outlier in both national and international data sets). By way of comparison, motor vehicle accidents killed more than 35,000 people in 2013 alone. In terms of reducing the national mortality rate, American policymakers would do significantly better to re-allocate resources to the prevention of texting and driving. For many people, however, this alternative use of resources simply would not feel right. What is this intuitive sense that the risk of terrorism should merit a substantial response?

In his 1994 book, Descartes’ Error, neurologist António Damásio wrote: “We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.” Damásio proposed that emotions guide, or bias, behavior and decision-making. As performance, terrorism uses killing in sensational and unpredictable ways to communicate threat. It appeals directly to emotion. Take as an example the decision-making of a Parisian, before and after the November 2015 Paris attacks by Islamic State. Before the incident, a Parisian would be unlikely to assess the probability of death prior to visiting a local café, restaurant, or theater, as their emotional input would simply be the desire to enjoy a pleasant evening out. After the terrorist attacks, even with the knowledge that the risk of an incident is negligible, a Parisian could find their rationality skewed by the specter of threat. Terrorism as performance is successful when a hum of uncertainty pervades society and causes people to think twice before behaving in ways typical of la vie quotidienne (everyday life).

​The vast divide between America and its military

March 20, 2016, 
The Pentagon says a U.S. Marine was killed yesterday by an ISIS rocket in northern Iraq. The attack occurred on the eve of an anniversary that many people might overlook . . . but which Iraq War veteran Matt Gallagher has not:
Thirteen years ago, the American military invaded Iraq.
Something for the history books? Not yet. Everything happening in that region -- from ISIS to airstrikes to Delta Force raids -- is connected to that decision, and the subsequent nine years of war and occupation.
According to recent polls, more than half of Americans support a ground invasion against the Islamic State. The same number would bar Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. That a ground war against ISIS would lead to substantially more refugees doesn't seem to matter -- and that such an invasion would ethically and legally be followed by a lengthy occupation also seems inconsequential, somehow.
Another recent poll revealed that 60 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds (military-age Millennials) support American combat operations against ISIS; nearly the same percentage would never join the fight, though, even if they were needed.
For too many Americans in 2016, war isn't a dire act turned to once all other options have been exhausted. It's a narcotic, a quick fix, something that happens in strange, faraway lands, where other people's sons and daughters do violent things for country.
As an Iraq veteran who spent a formative time in dusty, sectarian towns north of Baghdad, I've long wondered if America pays attention to its foreign affairs. These ugly contradictions and paradoxes don't help with that.

Which brings me to the presidential primaries.
We're a republic; citizens can support whomever they choose. But when legitimate candidates running for commander-in-chief suggest war crimes should be allowed, or that carpet-bombing makes for sound military strategy, I find myself wanting to find the supporters of these candidates and ask: "What if your son or daughter were given those missions? Would you still cheer?"
In the era of the all-volunteer force, service-members are abstractions and ciphers to many on the home front. It's easier to send abstractions and ciphers to war, and keep them there, than it is to send people we know, kids we've watched grow.
The divide between America and its military is vast. This should disturb us all, soldier and citizen. Republics don't behave like this.
Everything the military does abroad happens in our name. They don't just wear the patch of their unit; they also wear the patch of the American flag. They represent us all. It's well past time we remember that, and do right by them the way they've sworn to do right by us.

Thirteen years after Iraq, it's the least we can do.

Army Preps For Massive, Great Power Land War

March 17, 2016 ·
After more than a decade of counterinsurgency warfare, the Army is now emphasizing major force-on-force mechanized warfare against “near-peer” adversaries.
The Army’s “live-fire” combat exercises involve large-scale battalion-on-battalion war scenarios wherein mechanized forces often clash with make-shift, “near-peer” enemies using new technologies, drones, tanks, artillery, missiles and armored vehicles.
The Army is expanding its training and “live-fire” weapons focus to include a renewed ability to fight a massive, enemy force in an effort to transition from its decade-and-a-half of tested combat experience with dismounted infantry and counterinsurgency.
Recent ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created an experienced and combat-tested force able to track, attack and kill small groups of enemies — often blended into civilian populations, speeding in pick-up trucks or hiding within different types of terrain to stage ambushes.
“The Army has a tremendous amount of experience right now. It has depth but needs more breadth. We’re good at counterinsurgency and operations employing wide area security. Now, we may have to focus on ‘Mounted Maneuver’ operations over larger distances,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
While senior Army leaders are quick to emphasize that counterinsurgency is of course still important and the service plans to be ready for the widest possible range of conflict scenarios, there is nonetheless a marked and visible shift toward being ready to fight and win against a large-scale modernized enemy such as Russia or China.
The Army, naturally, does not single out these countries as enemies, train specifically to fight them or necessarily expect to go to war with them. However, recognizing the current and fast-changing threat environment, which includes existing tensions and rivalries with the aforementioned great powers, Army training is increasingly focused on ensuring they are ready for a mechanized force-on-force type engagement.
At the same time, while large-scale mechanized warfare is quite different than counterinsurgency, there are some areas of potential overlap between recent warfare and potential future great power conflict in a few key respects. The ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over a period of more than a decade, involved the combat debut of various precision-guided land attack weapons such as GPS guided artillery and rocket weapons.