3 April 2016

*** Krishna in Mahabharata – Treachery at Kurukshetra

Mar 13, 2014

Of the many aspects of Krishna in Mahabharata, one of the most confusing is his use of deceit during the war. In this story, we look at the basis behind these actions through some vividly narrated incidents from the battle.

Of the many aspects of Krishna in Mahabharata, one of the most confusing is his use of deceit during the war. In this story, we look at the basis behind these actions through some vividly narrated incidents from the battle.

* Two Indias ‘An Uncertain Glory,’ by Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen

SEPT. 6, 2013

Children in a government lunch program at a village school in Madhya Pradesh.CreditLynsey Addario for The New York Times

In late June, a television reporter named Narayan Pargaien spent three days in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand to cover the region’s devastating monsoon floods, which have killed more than 5,700 people. Like most journalists covering the disaster, Pargaien dutifully described families who had lost everything, including their modest thatch-roofed homes. Unlike most journalists, Pargaien reported from the scene while perched on the shoulders of a flood victim in the middle of a swollen river. As the outrage poured in, Pargaien tried to explain himself. In an interview with the Indian Web site Newslaundry, he said the man who carried him had insisted upon it. “He was grateful to us and wanted to show me some respect,” Pargaien said, “as it was the first time someone of my level had visited his house.”

The India captured in that image — a preening consumer economy built on the backs of the destitute — is the subject of “An Uncertain Glory,” a new book by the economists Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen that aims to bring the poor to the center of public discussion about the country’s future. It’s an urgent, passionate, political work that makes the case that India cannot move forward without investing significantly — as every other major industrialized country has already done — in public services: “The lack of health care, tolerably good schools and other basic facilities important for human well-being and elementary freedoms, keeps a majority of Indians shackled to their deprived lives in a way quite rarely seen in other self-respecting countries that are trying to move ahead in the world.”

Intelligence Key to Fighting Terrorism

By Brig NK Bhatia, SM (Retd)
31 Mar , 2016

In a very significant statement in Parliament on 16 March 2016, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar stated that “intelligence build-up cannot take place overnight”. Referring to the setting up of a covert intelligence unit by ex-Army Chief Gen VK Singh, he stated “intelligence which was developed fell to political aspirations, to political policies and political point scoring”. He further stated that “military intelligence has been sacrificed at the altar of political goals”.

The statement by the minister is both blunt and timely, reflecting upon the need to introspect with regard to playing around with institutions created to take on asymmetric challenges confronting the nation. In the backdrop of the above statement it is necessary for us to formulate long-term strategies to better utilize available resources and ensure synergy between various stakeholders and establish mechanism for creating timely assets to identify the threat emanating from terrorism and strike at its perpetuators before they bring us to any harm.

Terrorism as War

Defence Procurement Procedure 2016: Rebooting Defence Production and Procurement

By Amit Cowshish
01 Apr , 2016

An incomplete version of what would be the ninth version of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 28 March 2016 to coincide with the opening of DefExpo 2016 in Goa. The document is incomplete because the chapter containing the revised standard contract document as well as various annexures and appendices have not been released. These are to be notified shortly. In addition, a new chapter on ‘strategic partners’ will also be notified separately.

The new DPP will be applicable to all cases that come up for Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) on or after 01 April 2016. Further, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) may permit its application to past cases also.

The document starts with a brief explanation of how the DPP has evolved over the years and a preamble which is clearly intended to reflect the thrust of the changes made in the procurement policy and procedures.

Chapters in DPP 2016

Quietly Effective, Vigilant Airborne ISR

By John Kiehle
31 Mar , 2016

Beyond India’s current deployment of large aerostats for wide area radar-based monitoring of border areas, airships, new cargo airships, mid-sized aerostats and tactical aerostats also hold great promise to be cost-effective force multipliers for the IAF, increasing manpower efficiency and simultaneously reducing operating expenses. While unmanned drones also offer many exciting opportunities in military ISR and security enhancement, they often present payload limitations or network operational cost challenges absent with modern unmanned LTA platforms. LTA assets can be cost effective alternatives to larger ISR designated aircraft or multi-role rotary aircraft (HAL Dhruv) in ISR missions, or complement UAVs such as the IAI Searcher II and IAI Heron now in operation, particularly when persistent and regional ISR mission support is required.

The application of aerostats for defensive area monitoring, or mobile airships for ISR patrol, can deliver mission effectiveness and cost containment while freeing IAF assets for other tasks…

Multi-Calibre Assault Rifle: Made in India vs Make in India

By Danvir Singh
31 Mar , 2016

Aping the philosophy of the West, the Indian Army wanted a rifle that would incapacitate a solider instead of killing him thus increasing the logistics burden for each soldier injured. However, as the Army started getting involved in Counter Insurgency especially in the North, the requirement for a gun with a higher kill capacity was felt. The infantrymen now prefer the famed AK-47 rifle over the INSAS.

Braving all criticism of an inefficient INSAS rifle to its credit, unbelievably though, the ARDE has simultaneously developed a Multi-Calibre Individual Weapon System (MCIWS)…

Amidst media reports of the Indian Army scraping the search for a multi-calibre assault rifle from foreign vendors, a team from the Indian Defence Review (IDR) visited the Armament Research Development Establishment (ARDE) at Pune recently. It was an exercise undertaken to understand the efforts made by Indian scientists in developing an indigenous assault rifle; a call unheard thus far. The Indian Army is conducting field trials on various assault rifles of foreign make at Northern Command. The world famous small arms manufacturers have entered the fray.

Emerging Security Scenario in AF-Pak Region: Implications for India

By Brig D S Sarao
01 Apr , 2016

The king who is situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the conqueror’s territory is termed the enemy.

The king who is likewise situated close to the enemy, but separated from the conqueror only by the enemy, is termed the friend (of the conqueror).

— Kautilya, Arthasastra: Book VI, “The Source of Sovereign States”

The question arises, why is Afghanistan, a landlocked country with not many resources of its own, so important? One of the reasons is its peculiar geography…

Af-Pak is an expression normally used within US foreign policy circles to designate Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single geographical, military and diplomatic theater of operations. The purpose of this paper is to identify and highlight the role which the US, China, India, Russia, Pakistan and Iran amongst others, perceive for themselves in this volatile region. Of special relevance are the India centric security concerns which make India a major stakeholder as far as political stability and economic development of Afghanistan is concerned.

It is quite obvious that the major stakeholders are following the Kautilian1 principles of saam (political reconciliation), daam (monetary inducement), dand (force) and bhed (split) in one form or the other to implement their national strategies.

To fully comprehend the relevance of the Af-Pak region viz-a-viz India, it needs to be appreciated that the economic, political and military related fallout of any event there has a direct bearing on India. All conventional, sub-conventional and terrorism related threats that India faces today have their roots in this region. Pakistan and India share a border of about 2,912 kilometers.

India’s Undersea Deterrent INS Chakra What role will India’s expanding submarine fleet play?

By Saurav Jha
March 30, 2016

In February this year, it was reported that India’s first ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), the indigenously built INS Arihant had successfully completed sea trials, including several weapon release tests. The Arihant is expected to be formally commissioned soon, and is likely to serve in a training and force development role as well as providing a limited deterrence, especially once a new intermediate range submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) becomes operational.

Three more ships of the Arihant class with enhanced features are planned, with two already under construction even as a new generation SSBN design is being readied. If the move to create back-up systems such as long-range communication facilities, dedicated hardened bases and support vessels is taken into account, it is clear that India is committed to achieving a nuclear triad, which would be in accordance with its doctrine. However, given the broad design characteristics of the initial Arihant class boats, India will adopt a bastion approach in the Bay of Bengal (BoB) for SSBN patrols. This in turn will provide added impetus for increasing naval force levels in the Andaman & Nicobar (A&N) archipelago. It will also mean that India is unlikely to extend unqualified support to the U.S. interpretation of freedom of navigation on the high seas.

While the weapon release tests mostly referred to launches of the operational K-15 SLBM that has a range capability of 750-1000 kilometers (km) depending on the size of the payload and flight profile, the Arihant’s tubes are also capable of fielding versions of the Nirbhay and Brahmos cruise missiles. The true enabler for the Arihant to carry out a limited deterrence mission vis-à-vis China is, however, the K-4 SLBM, developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) with a range capability of 3500 km. The K-4 would allow the Arihant to undertake patrol missions from the Eastern part of the BoB, far from the fulcrum of China’s anti-submarine warfare (ASW) web. The K-4, which underwent its latest test in early March, has a length of 10 meters, a diameter of 1.3 meters, can carry a one ton payload, and fits into the Arihant without any need for modifying the latter. Like the smaller K-15, the K-4 is also capable of boost-glide flight profiles designed to defeat emerging anti-ballistic missile systems. With the availability of satellite updates to remove accumulated errors from its inertial navigation system, the K-4 is claimed to be quite accurate.

Lets talk Self-Determination for Baluchistan.

Mohan Guruswamy

The Pakistani case for Kashmir no longer rests on religion; the Bengali rebellion and secession in 1971 did that argument in. It now rests upon the more exalted principle of self-determination. That is what their friends abroad and in India wax eloquent about. The Pakistanis no longer harp about Indian perfidies in Junagadh and Hyderabad. Free elections, full integration and the sheer fact of Hindus being the major community in these two onetime princely states has put paid to that. But Kashmir still dogs us. It is predominantly Muslim and the demand for self-determination has us confused. Isn’t that what democracy is all about? But the irony is that Pakistan is the champion of self-determination when its own people do not enjoy any democratic rights. The three pillars upon which the Pakistani state rests are Allah, Army and America. The people of Pakistan do not figure in this scheme at all. The Pakistani leaders want a diplomatic engagement with us on Jammu and Kashmir again. Their Prime Minister has once again donned the cloak of democracy that hangs outside Gen. Pervez Musharaff’s bunker. But we must not shirk from talking about self-determination with them. It’s a two edged and cuts both ways. Lets take the case of Baluchistan.

The Pakistani province of Baluchistan is a mountainous desert area of about 3.5 lakh sq.kms and has a population of over 7.5 million or about as much as Jammu and Kashmir’s population. It borders Iran, Afghanistan and its southern boundary is the Arabian Sea with the strategically important port of Gwadar on the Makran coast commanding approach to the Straits of Hormuz. Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan. The population consists mainly of Baluch and Pathans. Like the Kurds, the Baluch are also a people ignored by the makers of modern political geography. There is an Iranian province if Sistan and Baluchestan spread over an area of 1.82 lakh sq.kms. and with a population of over 2.5 million. Its capital is Zahedan.

Revisiting the Geopolitics of China

In 2008, Stratfor published The Geopolitics of China: A Great Power Enclosed, the second in a series of monographs describing the underlying geopolitics of key countries and explaining their current positions within that context. In the eight years since its publication, despite major changes in the global situation, the monograph has largely stood - largely, but not completely. Since then, a new imperative has emerged for China, one that is pulling it into a much more active global posture despite economic, social and political undercurrents at home.

At the core of the monograph is an assertion of China's strategic imperatives - the core compulsions and constraints on the state imposed by the interaction of geography, economics, politics, security and society throughout history. As we stated at the time, China has three overriding geopolitical imperatives:

Maintain internal unity in the Han Chinese regions. 

Maintain control of its buffer regions. 

Protect the coast from foreign encroachment. 

If we were to summarize the monograph (though we recommend reading it in its entirety), we could recount these three imperatives fairly succinctly.

China's Cyber War with the U.S.

March 28, 2016

Late Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced that Su Bin, a Chinese national living in Canada, had plead guilty to “participating in a years-long conspiracy to hack into the computer networks of major U.S. defense contractors, steal sensitive military and export-controlled data and send the stolen data to China.” Over several years, under Su’s direction, two hackers stole some 630,000 files from Boeing related to the C-17 military transport aircraft as well as data from the F-35 and F-22 fighter jets. The information included detailed drawings; measurements of the wings, fuselage, and other parts; outlines of the pipeline and electric wiring systems; and flight test data.

Su’s conspirators remain unidentified and at large. The 2014 indictment refers to the co-conspirators as “affiliated with multiple organizations and entities.” The plea announcement refers to them as “two persons in China” and says nothing more about them. But indocuments submitted as part of Su’s extradition hearing, the U.S. government identified them as People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hackers. The documents included intercepted emails with digital images attached that showed military IDs with name, rank, military unit, and date of birth.

China on strike

March 30, 2016

China's workers have driven the explosive growth of its economy in recent decades. Now, with record numbers of strikes across the country, the government views them as an existential threat, and it may just be right.

(CNN)The eight migrant workers gazed out at the crowd as the verdict was read out.

Flanked by two guards apiece and watched over by armed police they listened as the judge sentenced them to between six and eight months in prison.

Their crime: protesting for unpaid wages.

The scene looked like something out of the Cultural Revolution.

Hundreds of local residents massed in the public square, under banners denouncing the "crime of severely obstructing social-administrative order" and urging people to pursue "rational efforts in seeking unpaid wages", as judges and prosecutors gave those gathered what they called an "education in the law," according to state media.

But this was Sichuan province in March 2016, and a dark sign of how far labor relations have worsened in Communist China as economic growth has slowed to its weakest in a quarter of a century.

Country in revolt

China’s Nuclear Security: Progress, Challenges, and Next Steps

Author: Hui Zhang, Senior Research Associate, Project on Managing the Atom
March 28, 2016

In a new report from the Project on Managing the Atom, Senior Research Associate Hui Zhang finds that China has made important nuclear security improvements in areas ranging from its legal framework, to its approaches to physical protection and material accounting, to bolstering nuclear security culture.

But China also faces ongoing threats. The possibility of insider theft of nuclear materials in China cannot be ruled out, espe­cially as China increasingly grows into a market-oriented society contending with corruption. Zhang also notes that Beijing faces a growing terrorism threat from separatists in China’s autonomous Xinjiang region.

At the 2014 nuclear security summit, President Xi emphasized, that “the more we do to enhance nuclear security, the less chance we will leave to terrorists.” Converting Chinese leader’s stated commitment into practical, sustainable reality will require China to undertake a number of steps to further improve China’s nuclear security.The report recommends a number of measures including: 

Strengthening nuclear security and control by implementing a national “design basis threat,” updating and enforcing additional nuclear security regulations, and conducting realistic force-on-force exercises at its nuclear facilities; 

Improving cyber security requirements at nuclear facilities by incorporating cyber protection into nuclear security regulations and guidelines, integrating cyber security measures in physical protection and accounting systems, and making cyber security plans and threat assessments a part of nuclear regulators’ inspection routines; 

The Cost of Reprocessing in China

Authors: Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice; Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom,Hui Zhang, Senior Research Associate, Project on Managing the Atom, Li Kang
January 2016

As it expands its fleet of nuclear power plants, China faces an important decision: whether to make large capital investments in facilities to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and recycle the resulting plutonium in fast-neutron reactors, or continue to store nuclear fuel, leaving for the future decisions on whether to reprocess the fuel or dispose of it as waste. This report summarizes estimates of the cost of current proposals for building and operating reprocessing plants and fast reactors in China.

China has been considering both a reprocessing plant designed to reprocess 200 metric tons of heavy metal in spent fuel each year (200 tHM/yr) and one designed to process 800 tHM/yr. Both indigenous Chinese technology and purchase of a large reprocessing plant from France are being considered. At the same time, China is considering construction of a demonstration fast reactor and a commercial fast reactor. There, too, both indigenous Chinese technology and a purchase from abroad (in this case from Russia) have been considered. The background of China’s program and the facilities being considered are described in Chapters 1 and 2.

China’s dam boom stokes concerns in Asia

Brahma Chellaney

At a time when geopolitical competition in resource-poor Asia is sharpening over freshwater, mineral ores and fossil fuels, China’s expansionary activities in the hydrocarbon-rich South China Sea have drawn considerable international attention, especially because of their implications for the global maritime order. By contrast, China’s frenzy of dam-building to appropriate internationally shared water resources has not attracted a similar level of attention, despite the specter of potential water wars.

China is almost unparalleled as a source of fresh water. Most of the major river systems of Asia originate from the Tibetan plateau, which was annexed by the People’s Republic of China soon after its establishment in 1949. Xinjiang, another sprawling region it occupied forcibly, is the source of the Irtysh and Ili rivers, which flow to Kazakhstan and Russia. However, Beijing does not have a single water-sharing pact with the dozen countries located downstream of its rivers because it rejects the concept.

Most of Asia’s dams are in China, which boasts slightly more than half of the world’s approximately 50,000 large dams. Yet its great dam boom shows no sign of slowing. Indeed, its dam-building program is now largely concentrated in the borderlands on international rivers.

By quietly and opaquely building large dams on transnational rivers, Beijing is presenting a fait accompli to its downstream neighbors. Its latent capability to control cross-border river flows arms it with significant leverage over neighbors — a leverage it could employ to influence the behavior of those states, including deterring them from challenging its broader regional interests.

Indeed, by seeking to control the spigot for much of Asia’s water, China is acquiring such clout that smaller downriver countries in Southeast and Central Asia now use only coded language to express their concerns over Chinese dam building. For example, calling for transparency has become a way of referring obliquely to China, which smaller states are wary of mentioning by name.

On the Mekong river system — Southeast Asia’s lifeblood — China is building or planning a further 14 dams after completing six. It is also constructing a separate cascade of dams on the last two of its free-flowing rivers — the Salween (which flows into Myanmar and along the Thai border before entering into the Andaman Sea) and the Yarlung Tsangpo, also known as the Brahmaputra, which is the lifeline of northeastern India and much of Bangladesh.

Add to the picture China’s damming of other smaller rivers flowing to neighboring countries, as well as tributaries of major rivers, and it is clear that these dams are set to affect the quality and quantity of downstream flows.

Shift in focus

China recently completed ahead of schedule the world’s highest-elevation dam at Zangmu, Tibet, at a cost of $1.6 billion. It is now racing to complete a series of additional dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo, the world’s highest-altitude river. China is also turning an important Yarlung Tsangpo tributary, the Lhasa (or Kyichu), into a series of artificial lakes by building six dams in close proximity along a 20km stretch of the river.

Several factors are behind China’s drive to tap the resources of international rivers, including an officially drawn link between water and national security, the growing political clout of the state-run hydropower industry, and the rise of water nationalism at a time of increasing water stress in the northern Chinese plains. With dam-building reaching virtual saturation levels in the ethnic Han heartland, the focus has shifted to China’s ethnic minority homelands, where major rivers originate.

China’s centralized, megaprojects-driven approach to water resources is the antithesis of the situation in another demographic titan, India, where the constitution makes water an issue for state governments and where anti-dam nongovernmental organizations are powerful. Thanks to organized protests, the much-publicized Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river in western India remains incomplete decades after work began. The largest dam India has built since independence — the 2,000-megawatt Tehri Dam on the river Bhagirathi — pales in comparison to gigantic Chinese projects. These include the 22,500-megawatt Three Gorges Dam and Mekong dams such as Xiaowan, which dwarfs the Eiffel Tower in height, and Nuozhadu, which boasts a 190 sq. km reservoir.

Yet the water situation in India is far worse than in China, including in terms of per capita availability. China’s population is marginally larger than India’s but its internally renewable water resources (2,813 billion cubic meters per year) are almost twice as large as India’s. In aggregate water availability, including external inflows (which are sizable in India’s case but negligible for the People’s Republic), China boasts almost 50% more resources than India.

As China’s dam-builders increasingly target transnational rivers, concern is growing among downstream neighbors that Beijing is seeking to turn water into a potential political weapon. China pays little heed to the interests even of friendly countries, from Kazakhstan to Thailand and Cambodia.

To be sure, dams bring important socioeconomic benefits and help to deal with drought or seasonal imbalances in water availability through their water-storage capacity. A river can be dammed in an environmentally considerate manner. But what China is doing is over-damming rivers.

One manifestation of this aggressive approach is the construction of series of dams in close proximity to each other on international rivers such as the Mekong or the Salween just before they flow out of Chinese territory. These cascades of dams, looking like strings of beads on a map, aim to capture large quantities of water.

Keeping the silt

Major dams tend to change water quality and the rate at which it flows, and reduce the amount of nutrient-rich silt that is carried downstream. As the major Asian rivers flow down from forbidding Himalayan heights through the soft, sedimentary rock on the Tibetan plateau, they bring with them high-quality silt — a lifeline for agriculture, fisheries and marine life. Silt helps to re-fertilize overworked soils in downstream plains, sustains freshwater species and strengthens the aquatic food chain supporting marine life after rivers empty into seas or oceans.

China’s upstream damming of rivers originating on the Tibetan plateau is not just obstructing the silt flow to downstream plains; it is also causing the retreat of major deltas. Several scientific studies have underscored the link between extensive silt retention behind upstream dams and the retreat and subsidence of Asia’s big deltas, which are home to megacities like Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Kolkata and Dhaka. In addition, the fall in freshwater disgorged by rivers into the seas is disturbing the delicate balance of salinity needed in estuaries and beyond to support critical species.

China’s reluctance to bind itself to international rules or norms is rooted in the belief that as the source of these rivers it is in a position to reap the benefits of harnessing their water resources, with the costs borne by those downstream. After all, the river-flow hierarchy reflects the geopolitical one, with the most powerful country controlling the headwaters of Asia’s major rivers.

In reality, though, China is inflicting environmental costs not just on the states lower down these rivers but on itself. One example is the impact of its upstream water diversions on its own mega-deltas, which are economic centers, making up a substantial proportion of the country’s total gross domestic product. Thanks to the diminished amount of silt discharged into the seas, there is less sediment to add to the delta land formed and fortified through sustained release or to prevent underground seepage of saltwater into sweet-water aquifers along the coasts.

More broadly, the Asian delta regions have become “much more vulnerable” to the effects of climate change and sea-level rise, according to the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the gold standard in climate science.

In this light, the discussion of China’s damming activities on the Tibetan plateau should extend beyond the potential diminution of cross-border flows to the likely effects on the quality of river waters, including through silt-movement blockage. Such effects are already evident within China: the loss of nature’s gift of highly fertile silt due to the Three Gorges Dam and other upriver dams has forced farmers in the lower Yangtze basin to use more chemical fertilizers, accelerating soil and water degradation.

Renewed efforts are needed in Asia to co-opt China into institutionalized cooperation. Without China on board, it will not be possible to build water cooperation and protect critical ecosystems.

Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist and the author, most recently, of “Water, Peace, and War.”

A Nuclear-Armed ISIS? It’s Not That Farfetched, Expert Says

MARCH 29, 2016

A Harvard researcher says the terror group might be closer to wreaking some sort of radioactive havoc than we think. 

The murder of a security guard at a Belgian nuclear facility just two days after the Brussels attacks, coupled with evidence that Islamic State operatives had been watching researchers there, has re-ignited fears about ISIS and nuclear terrorism. Some experts, including ones cited by the New York Timesand others, dismiss the possibility that ISIS could make even a crude nuclear bomb. But Matthew Bunn, the co-principal investigator at the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard’s Belfer Center, says that the threat is quite real.

Belgium has seen numerous suspicious events related to nuclear material and facilities. In August 2014, a worker at the Doel-4 nuclear power reactor opened a valve and drained a turbine of lubricant. The valve wasn’t near any nuclear material, but the act caused at least $100 million in damage and perhaps twice that. Later, Belgian authorities discovered that a man named Ilyass Boughalab had left his job at Doel-4 to join the Islamic State in Syria. (His last background check was 2009.)

In November, shortly after the Paris attacks, Belgian authorities arrested a man named Mohammed Bakkali anddiscovered that he had video surveillance footage of an expert at Belgian’s SCK-CEN nuclear research facility in Mol. It now seems that the footage was collected by Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui, two of the suicide bombers in the recent Brussels attacks.

Then on March 24, a guard was found shot at Belgium’s national radioactive elements institute at Fleurus. A Belgian prosecutor declared the death unrelated to terrorism and denied reports that the guard’s security pass had been stolen and hastily de-activated.
No matter what happened at Fleurus, mounting evidence points to ISIS’s intention to cause nuclear havoc, whether by damaging a nuclear facility, spiking a conventional bomb with radioactive materials, or even building a fission bomb with highly enriched uranium.

The first concern is that sabotage could create a Fukushima-like environment in central Europe. But to pull that off, Bunn writes in a blog post obtained prior to publication by Defense One, militants, criminals or terrorists would need a lot of specialized knowledge of the plant’s security features and measures and how to defeat them.
Just before the most recent attack in Belgium, SCK-CENdeployed armed troops to Belgium’s four nuclear sites.

Dirty Bombs

But beefing up security at explicitly nuclear sites still leaves a lot of radioactive material less well protected. “Radiological materials are available in many locations where they would be much easier to steal, in hospitals, industrial sites, and more,” than at the SCK-CEN center, Bunn wrote Such materials can allow a terrorist to turn a regular-size blast into a catastrophe that renders an entire area essentially poisonous, greatly increasing the costs of cleanup and the long-term danger to survivors, first responders, etc. In 1987, four people died in the Brazilian city of Goiânia from exposure to cesium salt, derived from junked medical equipment.
Bunn points to a recent report from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which notes that the material to make a dirty bomb exists in “tens of thousands of radiological sources located in more than 100 countries around the world.”
In 2013 and 2014, there were 325 incidents of radioactive materials being lost, stolen, or in some way unregulated or uncontrolled, according to the report, which cites estimates from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation.

The French connection: Explaining Sunni militancy around the world

William McCants and Christopher Meserole 
March 25, 2016 

Editors’ Note: The mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Paris and now in Brussels underscore an unsettling truth: Jihadis pose a greater threat to France and Belgium than to the rest of Europe. Research by Will McCants and Chris Meserole reveals that French political culture may play a role. This post originally appeared in Foreign Affairs.

The mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Paris and now in Brussels underscore an unsettling truth: Jihadists pose a greater threat to France and Belgium than to the rest of Europe. The body counts are larger and the disrupted plots are more numerous. The trend might be explained by the nature of the Islamic State (ISIS) networks in Europe or as failures of policing in France and Belgium. Both explanations have merit. However, our research reveals that another factor may be at play: French political culture.

Last fall, we began a project to test empirically the many proposed explanations for Sunni militancy around the globe. The goal was to take common measures of the violence—namely, the number of Sunni foreign fighters from any given country as well as the number of Sunni terror attacks carried out within it—and then crunch the numbers to see which explanations best predicted a country’s rate of Sunni radicalization and violence. (The raw foreign fighter data came from The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence; the original attack data came from the University of Maryland’s START project.)

A Nuclear-Armed ISIS? It’s Not That Farfetched, Expert Says

MARCH 29, 2016

A Harvard researcher says the terror group might be closer to wreaking some sort of radioactive havoc than we think.

The murder of a security guard at a Belgian nuclear facility just two days after the Brussels attacks, coupled with evidence that Islamic State operatives had been watching researchers there, has re-ignited fears about ISIS and nuclear terrorism. Some experts, including ones cited by the New York Timesand others, dismiss the possibility that ISIS could make even a crude nuclear bomb. But Matthew Bunn, the co-principal investigator at the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard’s Belfer Center, says that the threat is quite real.

Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist for nine years. Tucker has written about emerging technology in Slate, The ...Full Bio

In, out, find a fib to shout

Voters want facts about Britain and the European Union—but these are elusive Mar 5th 2016 

“WHAT I want is facts…facts alone are wanted in life.” Thomas Gradgrind’s grim message in Charles Dickens’s “Hard Times” is echoed in the debate ahead of the referendum on June 23rd about whether Britain should leave the European Union. Voters confused by claims made by opposing sides and in the media are asking for plain facts on Britain’s EU membership so they can make up their minds. Sadly, hard facts are hard to find.

There is a good reason for this: nobody knows what would happen post-Brexit. That is especially true of the trade deal that Britain would have to negotiate with the EU—and how long that might take (the government this week suggested up to ten years). But there is also a bad reason: that the uncertainty lets all sides distort, exaggerate or simply make up their own facts.

Why Globalization Reaches Limits

by Gail Tverberg, Our Finite World
March 21st, 2016 

We have been living in a world of rapid globalization, but this is not a condition that we can expect to continue indefinitely.

Figure 1. Ratio of Imported Goods and Services to GDP. Based in FRED data for IMPGS.

Each time imported goods and services start to surge as a percentage of GDP, these imports seem to be cut back, generally in a recession. The rising cost of the imports seems to have an adverse impact on the economy. (The imports I am showing are gross imports, rather than imports net of exports. I am using gross imports, because US exports tend to be of a different nature than US imports. US imports include many labor-intensive products, while exports tend to be goods such as agricultural goods and movie films that do not require much US labor.)

Obama’s Record as Commander-in-Chief, By the Numbers


MARCH 30, 2016

He vowed to end America's wars, but has mostly just changed who’s doing the fighting.

In his recent cover story for The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg notes that when Barack Obama first entered the White House, with George W. Bush’s long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ongoing, “he was not seeking new dragons to slay.” Just the opposite: He fit the mold, Goldberg argues, of a “retrenchment president” elected to scale back America’s commitments overseas and shift responsibilities to allies. But you could be forgiven for thinking the dragons have stubbornly remained, and even multiplied, on Obama’s watch.

To cite just some recent examples: In October, the president authorized the first sustained deployment of U.S.special-operations forces to Syria to complement his air campaign against the Islamic State. In January, reports emerged that the Obama administration was rethinking its troop drawdown in Afghanistan, given the deteriorating security situation there, and considering sending more troops to Iraq and Syria. The next month, Obama released a defense budget that included an increase of $2.5 billion over the previous year to expand the fight with ISIS to North and West Africa, and billions more for sending heavy weapons, armored vehicles, and other equipment to Eastern and Central Europe to counter Russian aggression. In the past several weeks alone, we’ve learned of Pentagon plans to dispatch military advisers to Nigeria against the jihadist group Boko Haram and to launch an aerial offensive in Libya against the Islamic State. U.S. bombing raids recently killed 150 suspected militants in Somalia and over 40 in Libya. By one measure, in fact, the U.S. military is now actively engaged in more countries than when Obama took office.

In human rights reporting, the perils of too much information

Burundian refugees attend a rally addressed by Tanzania Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, at Nduta refugee camp in Kigoma, Tanzania in December 2015. (AP Photo)Editor’s Note: This post was produced as part of a graduate course on media writing and storytelling taught by the editors of Columbia Journalism Review.

Last month, the human rights organization Amnesty International revealed the exact location of a mass burial site on the outskirts of Bujumbura, Burundi. It allegedly held the bodies of at least 50 people who died from political violence in December of last year. International media outlets like The New York Times, Reuters, and Foreign Policy were quick to report on the site’s importance, saying it adds to the growing evidence of atrocities, including murder, violence, and gang rape committed by the Burundian security forces.

Amnesty’s evidence is important for other reasons, too. It shows how the use of open-source intelligence is becoming a common, yet underexamined, approach to human rights reporting in uncovering crimes against humanity. “Open-source intelligence” refers to a broad array of information generally available to the public, including Google Earth’s satellite imagery, content from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, online videos and images, and geo-referenced field documentation.

Amnesty is not the only organization involved in using new technology to document human rights. In South London, Forensic Architecture is using mobile phone technology from ordinary people to collect data, while Bellingcat, a site for citizen journalists to investigate current events using open-source intelligence, has previously investigated events such as the Syrian Civil War and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine.

Cyberwar, out of the shadows (Q&A)

Author Fred Kaplan details how the US has quietly amassed the power to hack the world but has failed to create a plan for deterring similar attacks on US soil.

A hacking attack on a Las Vegas hotel company. A power grid blackout in the Ukraine. A series of industrial accidents at an Iranian nuclear enrichment lab.

What do all these things have in common? They were likely the work of foreign governments with a political ax to grind.

Welcome to cyberwar. You likely will soon hear more about this new weapon, as the US government becomes more open about its ability to hack targets in other countries, damaging their power grids, dams, factories and key computer systems.

Slate national security reporter Fred Kaplan describes this world in "Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyberwar," a book released earlier this month. He charts the growth of the US government's hacking abilities, culminating in the creation of the US Cyber Command, which links the National Security Agency's spy prowess with the might of the US military.

Fred Kaplan charts the growth of the US government's hacking abilities in "Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyberwar."Carol Dronsfield

But for all the damaging hacks the US government could carry out, Kaplan contends with the startling reality that the US is at risk of all the same attacks. While it might not be the world of mutually assured destruction faced during the Cold War, cyberwar clearly presents as many dangers as it does opportunities for the countries that engage in it.

Kaplan spoke with CNET about why this world has remained in shadow for so long, what could deter cyberattacks in the future, and why public debate will help.

Q: Cyberwar is hard to define. Why do you think that is?

Kaplan: Right now there isn't much distinction between cyberwar and cybersecurity. It was decided a few years ago the best way to forestall an attack was to know when the attack is coming. You get inside the networks of your prospective opponents. It's the digital equivalent of having spies on the ground.

The dangerous thing is, it's only one step between that and launching a cyberattack. They could attack us with very little notice, and we could attack them with very little notice. If you're worried that the other side is going hack our infrastructure first -- making it much harder to defend ourselves -- there's an incentive to go first.

You write that there is no good strategy for deterring cyberattacks. Why is deterrence so hard?

Kaplan: Part of the problem is that all of these issues have been entangled from the beginning with the National Security Agency and similar agencies, which are all extremely secretive. Contrast that with the nuclear standoff of the 20th century. From the beginning, you had people engaging in conversation about strategy: "How do you not just fight, but deter another country from blowing us up?""If this technology had been around when Richard Nixon was president and J. Edgar Hoover was director of the CIA, they could have done things that would make what they really did look like tiddlywinks."

DNI: China Continues Cyber Espionage

BY: Bill Gertz9
February 9, 2016 

Clapper calls Beijing cyber theft ‘hemorrhage’

China is continuing to conduct cyber espionage operations against the United States, and Beijing’s commitment to a U.S.-China cyber agreement is questionable, the director of national intelligence told Congress on Tuesday.

“China continues cyber espionage against the United States,” James Clapper, the director, testified during an annual threat briefing to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Whether China’s commitment of last September moderates its economic espionage remains to be seen,” he added.

Clapper identified potential cyber attacks against critical infrastructure and advancing cyber warfare capabilities in nations such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran as the among the most serious U.S. national security threats.

FBI Says That It Has Cracked Apple’s iPhone Encryption With Help From ‘Third Party’

March 29, 2016

U.S. Says It Has Unlocked iPhone Without Apple

SAN FRANCISCO — The Justice Department said on Monday that it had found a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple, allowing the agency to withdraw its legal effort to compel the tech company to assist in a mass-shooting investigation.

The decision to drop the case — which involved demanding Apple’s help to open an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, a gunman in the December shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 people — ends a legal standoff between the government and the world’s most valuable public company. The case had become increasingly contentious as Apple refused to help the authorities, inciting a debate about whether privacy or security was more important.

Yet law enforcement’s ability to now unlock an iPhone through an alternative method raises new uncertainties, including questions about the strength of security in Apple devices. The development also creates potential for new conflicts between the government and Apple about the method used to open the device and whether that technique will be disclosed. Lawyers for Apple have previously said the company would want to know the procedure used to crack open the smartphone, yet the government might classify the method.

“From a legal standpoint, what happened in the San Bernardino case doesn’t mean the fight is over,” said Esha Bhandari, a staff lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. She notes that the government generally goes through a process whereby it decides whether to disclose information about certain vulnerabilities so that manufacturers can patch them.

Don’t Be a Sisyphus: How to Lead Productive Teams

MARCH 13, 2016 

Whether you are a hard-charging company commander or battalion-level “Iron Major”, we all want to lead productive and effective organizations. We don’t want to work late hours, waste people’s time, or create unnecessary workloads and hardships. Often though, the crush of administrative requirements and last minute taskings, mixed with our own leadership flaws, produces what I call “Sisyphus Syndrome”.

If you recall, Sisyphus is the character from Greek mythology who was sentenced by Zeus to roll a boulder up to the top of a hill. With back-breaking effort, he pushed the large stone up the incline. Just as he was about to reach the top, the boulder gets away from him and rolls back to the bottom. His hard work was all for not. This tragic scene plays out for eternity.

Most of us know what needs to be done, but that is not the problem. It is how we go about doing it that is all wrong. We invest our energy, time, and intellect in the wrong areas. In the end, we become a modern-day Sisyhpus and our flurry of activity, long hours, and super-awesome power point presentations, end up at the end of a long week as a boulder sitting at the base of a hill.

In his latest book, Smarter Faster Better, Charles Duhigg offers leaders insights into helping us figure out how to improve our organizations’ levels of productivity and avoid turning our staffs and companies into the trials of Sisyphus. He writes, “Productivity isn’t about working more or sweating harder. It’s not simply a product of spending longer hours at your desk or making bigger scarifies…Productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways.” In the book, he offers eight ideas that when connected together can lead to a greater increase in productivity for our organizations.