4 April 2016

What are the Panama Papers? A guide to the biggest leak in history

What is Mossack Fonseca, how big is it, and who uses offshore firms? Key questions about one of the biggest ever data leaks
Luke Harding, Monday 4 April 2016
What is Mossack Fonseca?
It is a Panama-based law firm whose services include incorporating companies in offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands. It administers offshore firms for a yearly fee. Other services include wealth management.
Where is it based?
The firm is Panamanian but runs a worldwide operation. Its website boasts of a global network with 600 people working in 42 countries. It has franchises around the world, where separately owned affiliates sign up new customers and have exclusive rights to use its brand. Mossack Fonseca operates in tax havensincluding Switzerland, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, and in the British crown dependencies Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
How big is it?
Mossack Fonseca is the world’s fourth biggest provider of offshore services. It has acted for more than 300,000 companies. There is a strong UK connection. More than half of the companies are registered in British-administered tax havens, as well as in the UK itself.
How much data has been leaked?
A lot. The leak is one of the biggest ever – larger than the US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010, and the secret intelligence documents given to journalists by Edward Snowden in 2013. There are 11.5m documents and 2.6 terabytes of information drawn from Mossack Fonseca’s internal database.
Are all people who use offshore structures crooks?

No. Using offshore structures is entirely legal. There are many legitimate reasons for doing so. Business people in countries such as Russia and Ukraine typically put their assets offshore to defend them from “raids” by criminals, and to get around hard currency restrictions. Others use offshore for reasons of inheritance and estate planning.
Are some people who use offshore structures crooks?
Yes. In a speech last year in Singapore, David Cameron said “the corrupt, criminals and money launderers” take advantage of anonymous company structures. The government is trying to do something about this. It wants to set up a central register that will reveal the beneficial owners of offshore companies. From June, UK companies will have to reveal their “significant” owners for the first time.
What does Mossack Fonseca say about the leak?

The firm won’t discuss specific cases of alleged wrongdoing, citing client confidentiality. But it robustly defends its conduct. Mossack Fonseca says it complies with anti-money-laundering laws and carries out thorough due diligence on all its clients. It says it regrets any misuse of its services and tries actively to prevent it. The firm says it cannot be blamed for failings by intermediaries, who include banks, law firms and accountants.

* What might happen in China in 2016?

By Gordon Orr

Millions of people being relocated from cities, fewer jobs, greater centralization, and more movie blockbusters are just some of the author’s predictions for the year.


In debates about whether growth is a percentage point up or down, we too often lose sight of the absolute scale of China’s economy. No matter what rate the country grows at in 2016, its share of the global economy, and of many specific sectors, will be larger than ever. My snapshot of China in 2016? An increasingly diverse, volatile, $11 trillion economy whose performance is becoming more and more difficult to describe as one dimensional.

What’s in store for China in 2016?

The reality is that China’s economy is today made up of multiple subeconomies, each more than a trillion dollars in size. Some are booming, some declining. Some are globally competitive, others fit for the scrap heap. How you feel about China depends more than ever on the parts of the economy where you compete. In 2015, selling kit to movie theaters has been great business, selling kit to steel mills less so. In your China, are you dealing with a tiger or a tortoise? Your performance in 2016 will depend on knowing the answer to this question and shaping your plans accordingly.

* The American hug Fundamental military alignments with US, taking place without open debate, may foreclose India’s options.

Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Apr 2, 2016

Pratap Bhanu MehtaPratap Bhanu Mehta is President, Centre Policy Research, New Delhi, one of India's top think tanks.read more...
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Barack Obama.

Is India approaching a pivotal moment in its foreign policy? Will the emerging shape of Indo-US relations help or hinder India’s prospects? There has been a great deal of momentum in Indo-US relations beginning with the nuclear agreements. The depth of the economic, cultural, scientific and intellectual relationship between the two countries can be of unprecedented benefit to both. The question is: To what extent should this relationship be transformed into a deep strategic and military partnership? The debate in government over signing three possible agreements with the US — the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) — has once again focused attention on this question. Will these agreements be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parting gift to President Barack Obama? Radical breaks in Indian foreign policy are rare. These agreements are in line with the trends the UPA initiated. But are we at that moment when, inchoately, quantity becomes quality, and we go down on a path that prematurely forecloses options?

India jumps to fourth spot in defence spending

India’s rise from sixth position last year is a result of an increase in expenditure to $50.7 billion, combined with military spending cuts by Russia and Saudi Arabia 
A file photo shows Assam Rifles jawans marching during the Republic Day parade. The Indian defence budget is expected to reach $64.8 billion by 2020, IHS said. Photo: HT 

Mumbai: India has become the world’s fourth largest spender on defence, following a 13.1% increase in its 2016-17 defence budget, according to US research firm IHS Inc.

India’s rise in the rankings from sixth position last year is a result of an increase in expenditure to $50.7 billion, combined with cuts to military spending by Russia and Saudi Arabia, where low oil prices have put considerable strain on their finances

The Pathankot paradigm

How does one make sense of the current state of India-Pakistan relations? Is there an unstated, underlying storyline to the many seemingly chaotic, paradoxical and pointless events and initiatives that appear to constitute the ongoing bilateral engagement process? The first ever visit of a Pakistani joint investigation team (JIT) to the site of a terror attack in India, to investigate the assault on the Pathankot airbase, is indicative of a new-found rhythm in the India-Pakistan relationship. The domestic spaces of both countries have been restive: while India is reeling under a belligerent nationalistic onslaught, Pakistan hasn’t yet recovered from last week’s terror attack in Lahore and the siege of Islamabad by the supporters of a convicted, and hanged, terrorist. Sensationalist media on both sides continue to blame each other’s governments of fomenting trouble, and the “prize catch” of an alleged Indian spy by Pakistani agencies almost took the relationship to the precipice. And yet, the India-Pakistan relationship seems to have pulled through the rough weather.

Out of the Pathankot mess

While the discreet conversations between the two National Security Advisers have established the ground rules for the engagement, the buoyancy generated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lahore and the personal bond between him and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, seem to have brought about a certain sense of purpose to the bilateral equation. The January terror strike was an “unsurprising” irritant, but the two sides have skilfully managed to navigate the relationship out of the Pathankot mess.
By Laura Cesaretti and Silab Mangal
April 01, 2016

ACHIN, AFGHANISTAN. It is nearly breakfast time in the governmental office of the Achin district, in the far east of Nangarhar province. The road from Jalalabad, the provincial capital, is a Mediterranean landscape interrupted by mud-brick fortresses topped by an Afghan flag. Less than two months ago, these very check points were constantly attacked by the Islamic State of Khorasan, the South Asian branch of the Iraq and Syria-based group. Their aim is to conquer Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Central Asia countries.

Haji Ghalib Mujahid, the district governor, was appointed six months ago to contain their advances. This morning, he has asked his guards to bring the traditional chai and Afghan sweets to the table for him and his guests, all officials from the district of Bati Kot: the police chief, the district governor, the district National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief, and another member of the Bati Kot district NDS. Despite the ongoing clashes between Taliban and IS militants in their area, they are all here to pay respects to Haji Ghalib and inquire about his health. It was not a bullet at the front line, however, that harmed his right eye and forced him to be hospitalized in Kabul for four days. A car accident on the infamous Kabul-Jalalabad highway, where fatal accidents are all too common, is to blame for the latest injury to this middle-aged man with a long history of fighting.

Breaking Cover: New Book on the CIA’s Secret Operations in Afghanistan and Syria by Former CIA Case Officer

Ken Dilanian
April 1, 2016

Spy Kid: A Young CIA Officer Breaks Cover and Spills Secrets

Behind the wire of a secret camp on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the CIA base chief had a problem.

He needed to debrief his best source, a wizened Pashtun warlord. But he wasn’t sure he could trust his Afghan interpreters.

Let’s bring in Doug Laux, another American suggested.

Laux, then 27, a steelworker’s son from Indiana, was one of the few CIA operators on the ground who spoke Pashto, the local language. Five minutes after they met, Laux and the warlord were holding hands and chatting like old friends. A few weeks later, the warlord called in the location of a top al Qaeda operative, who was “taken off the battlefield,” in the CIA’s euphemistic phrase for killing human targets with drone strikes.

Laux didn’t weep for the dead jihadi. But now Laux - whose first-ever television interview will air Saturday on NBC Nightly News – wonders if the CIA should have done the riskier thing by capturing and interrogating the target.
Doug Laux’s book “Left of Boom” is his account of serving on the Afghan/Pakistan border and in Syria as a young CIA officer. St Martin’s Press

That sort of ambivalence dogged Laux throughout his eight-year CIA career, Laux writes in a memoir to be published Tuesday. “Left of Boom” is the first inside account by a front-line CIA counter-terrorism operator of the post 9/11 generation.

Madrasa muscle Jihad has made the Pakistan state powerless before the monster it has created.

Written by Khaled Ahmed

Published:Apr 2, 2016

Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the bodyguard arrested for the killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, shouts religious slogans while being taken away by the police after he was presented at a court in Islamabad, in this January 5, 2011 file picture. (Source: Reuters)

Moment of hope: February 29, Pakistan finally hanged the policeman Mumtaz Qadri who riddled Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer with bullets in 2011. Moment of despair: March 3, a mammoth gathering mourned Qadri and buried him as a “martyr”. The state cowered as the clergy, empowered to act like warriors over many years, condemned the supreme court for allowing the hanging, instead of beatifying Qadri as a blasphemer-killing saint.

The court had observed that the governor had not blasphemed, and that, even if he had, Qadri criminally took the law into his own hands and must hang for it. Five years after the killing, the masses that gathered to mourn Qadri called him a “defender of Islam” and cursed the state. At Qadri’s funeral, the mourners were around 1,50,000, frighteningly disciplined, as directed by their religious leaders. The 39 Barelvi parties, blasphemy-obsessed, were there in strength; the Deobandi jihadi seminaries, empowered by training for assaults on India and Iran, blessed it.

Trucks at the Indo-Bangladesh border

It's déjà vu all over again. Pakistan has once again backtracked on its support for the trans-South Asian road connectivity project after suggesting that it needed more time to consider the implications of this project. And with this, Pakistan has managed to scuttle a pact that would have allowed free movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation nations. After Pakistan had refused to sign this pact at the Kathmandu summit of Saarc in November 2014, India along with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh had decided to move ahead of their accord. In June 2015, these four nation states signed a landmark motor vehicles agreement for the regulation of passenger, personnel and cargo vehicular traffic among the four South Asian neighbours in Thimphu, Bhutan. This major initiative is expected to pave the way for a seamless movement of people and goods across their borders for the benefit and integration of the region, thereby galvanizing economic development in South Asia at large. India only has bilateral motor vehicle agreements with Nepal and Bangladesh but a multilateral pact would go a long way in boosting trade in the region. The agreement opens up the possibility of turning border roads into economic corridors which could increase inter-regional trade within South Asia by 60 per cent.

Don’t Let China Steal the US Military’s Logistical Edge

By John Adams 
March 31, 2016 

It's time to harden defenses against hackers seeking data and state-owned companies buying up key suppliers. 

Our defense industrial base depends on supply chains freely moving into and through the U.S. But while adequate cybersecurity safeguards are in place to protect our most advanced defense systems, the movement of cargo in and out of U.S. ports and the technology that powers our broader defense industrial base is less vigorously defended. This constitutes a critical vulnerability that our adversaries routinely exploit.

John Adams, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, is the president of Guardian Six Consulting and a former deputy U.S. military representative to NATO's Military Committee. As China develops a modern, indigenous defense industrial base, it endeavors to better understand our own. Studies by the RAND Corporation have found that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is studying the logistical patterns of the U.S. military, as their Army, Navy, and Air Force face persistent challenges in logistics and maintenance as they seek to expand operations beyond their territorial waters. The Chinese intend to close this capabilities gap by any means necessary. Today, subcontractors in the logistics and cargo distribution industry are top targets for network intrusions. A 2014 probe by the Senate Armed Services Committee revealed that the Chinese government had hacked more than 20 transportation companies that serve U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). Even more disturbing, the Defense Department was aware of only two of these attacks.

China’s Military Wants to Put Its Nukes on a Hair Trigger

By Gregory Kulacki 
March 31, 2016 

If Barack Obama gets one thing done at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, it should be dissuading Xi Jinping from doing this. 

Even as Chinese President Xi Jinping strides into the final Nuclear Security Summit today in Washington, D.C., he is considering a dangerous policy change: The Chinese military is asking to put its nuclear missiles on hair-trigger alert so they can be launched immediately upon detecting an incoming attack. President Barack Obama should encourage his counterpart to carefully consider such a change, because it would dramatically increase the risk of an accidental or mistaken nuclear launch against the United States or its allies.

Gregory Kulacki is China Project Manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists. An expert on cross-cultural communication between the United States and China, he has promoted dialogue between experts from both countries on nuclear arms control and space security. China’s previous political leaders believed prudence demanded they wait and ride out a nuclear attack—should it come—before retaliating later at a time and place of their choosing. Their strategic patience was celebrated, at home and abroad, as a responsible expression of confidence that would discourage any enemy, including the United States, from attacking China with nuclear weapons in the first place.


MARCH 31, 2016

In a tragic example of foreshadowing, French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve stated in remarks at theGeorge Washington University earlier this month that the terrorist threat level had never been so high. Last week’s attacks in Brussels plainly reinforce the point while begging the question of how they were possible. The city is, after all, home to a throng of European Union entities and other international organizations such as NATO, which are not the softest possible targets. The latest attacks place at the top of the Belgian and European agendas the matter of how best to proceed. Clearly, the status quo isn’t working — and we say this with all due regard for the dedicated efforts of counterterrorism officials who have been applying themselves to an increasingly large and complex problem.

Russia’s Secret Weapon of the ISIS War


In the battle with ISIS for storied Palmyra, Russian forces unleashed their flying tank.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces battling to recapture the ancient city of Palmyra had a lot of help from above. At least one Russian Mi-28 attack helicopter—Moscow’s answer to the U.S. Army’s fearsome Apache gunship—flew top cover as Syrian tanks and infantry stormed the modern city adjacent to the UN World Heritage Site.

Video posted online by a pro-regime group clearly shows an Mi-28 firing a rocket from beneath one of its stubby wings. The battle for Palmyra, which ended this week as ISIS militants fled the city, apparently represented the two-seat, gun- and missile-armed Mi-28’s combat debut.

The Russian gunship’s appearance over Palmyra underscores Russia’s continuing support for the regime of Assad, Syria’s president. In a surprise move on March 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had ordered Russian forces to withdraw from Syria, around six months after thousands of Moscow’s troops and scores of its best warplanes deployed to western Syria to help bolster Assad’s own embattled forces.

Stop Turning a Blind Eye to Geopolitical Reality in the Mideast

News from the Middle East has focused attention among policy makers over the past five years. The rise and fall of the Arab Spring, the slow dissolution of Syria, conflicts rising in Yemen and Libya and, of course, the rise of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria all play a part. Through all of this, American policymakers, as those elsewhere, have worked to find targeted responses to events -- ideally to defuse conflict, but where necessary to manage or contain it.

However, a far bigger and more fundamental strategic change has been taking place: the re-emergence of Iran into the international community. The consequences of this change will be profound, and yet many in Washington have been blind to them. While the rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the last few days should have clarified the importance of Iran's regional rise, the proverb "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" seems still to be Washington's overriding response.

Networked Transparency: Constructing a Common Operational Picture of the South China Sea

Van Jackson, Mira Rapp-Hooper, Paul Scharre, Harry Krejsa, CDR Jeff Chism 
MARCH 21, 2016 

As tensions rise in the South China Sea, five CNAS experts have written a report arguing in favor of, and creating a roadmap for, a shared maritime domain awareness (MDA) for the South China Sea. The report, “Networked Transparency: Constructing a Common Operational Picture of the South China Sea,” argues that creating such an MDA network would alleviate the opaque nature of operations in the South China Sea and therefore lower the

Sociologist Wolfgang Streeck explains the politics of the migrant crisis reshaping Europe

By Wolfgang Streeck
London Review of Books, 31 March 2016

Summary: This essay by German sociologist Wolfgang Streeck provides a look at the the political crisis of Germany — and Europe — created by its leaders open of their borders, and more broadly about the new form of political leadership in the West (as Bush Jr. demonstrated for America after 9/11). He provides a different perspective than we see in the US news media. It is brilliant (the title is sarcasm).
One way nations are re-shape

Migrants enter Germany on 20 October 2015. By Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images.

Europe is falling apart, destroyed by its most devoted fans, the Germans. In the summer of 2015, having humiliated the Greeks by forcing another reform diktat down their throats, Angela Merkel started a new game, aimed at diverting attention from the economic and political disaster monetary union had become.

Abrupt changes of policy are nothing new to Merkel, who is best described as a postmodern politician with a premodern, Machiavellian contempt for both causes and people. Having made her party adopt a radically neoliberal, deregulationist anti-labour platform in 2003, she barely escaped defeat two years later at the hands of Gerhard Schroeder. When she became chancellor, she used her office and the Grand Coalition with the post-Schroeder Social Democratic Party (SPD) to purge her own party of neoliberalism and neoliberals, and social-democratise it beyond recognition.

Lest We Forget, American Nukes Are Still in Europe

William Arkin
April 1, 2016

America’s Nuclear Weapons in Europe Are the Nuclear Elephant in the Room

A little more than 60 miles from Brussels Airport, Kleine Brogel Air Base stands as one of six overseas repositories in the world where the United States still stores nuclear weapons. The existence of the bombs is officially neither confirmed nor denied, but it has been well-known for decades.

Yet the presence of these weapons — an estimated 20 American B61 nuclear bombs to be carried and delivered by the Belgian Air Force’s dwindling inventory of F-16 fighter jets — did not come up in the news coverage following the Islamic State (IS) bombings last week in Brussels, or in the run-up to President Barack Obama’s fourth and last Nuclear Security Summit, being held this week.

Nor was Kleine Brogel mentioned in reports about the shooting death, days after the bombings, of a security guard who worked at a Belgian nuclear facility, or in stories about vulnerabilities at Belgiam’s nuclear facilities and power plants. In a prominenteditorial entitled “Keeping Nuclear Weapons From Terrorists,” the New York Times didn’t mention that US nuclear weapons are stored in Belgium while arguing that “even if the chances are small that terrorists will acquire a nuclear weapon,” the potential consequences are so devastating, we should plug any “possible security gaps.”

Russia Has Deployed ISKANDER Missile System to Syria

Jeremy Binnie
April 1, 2016

Iskander missile launcher spotted in Syria

Russia has deployed at least one Iskander missile system to its Humaymim Air Base in Syria, although it is unclear if it is the ballistic or cruise missile variant.

The Iskander transporter erector launcher (TEL) was spotted in footage broadcast by Russia’s Zvezda TV channel on 27 March. The system could be seen on the east side of the runway at Humaymim as an An-124 transport aircraft took off from the base.

The TEL, which is 13 m long, can be seen at the same location in Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery taken on 20 March.

Like numerous other Russian military systems, the Iskander is mounted on an 8x8 MZKT-7930 chassis. However, the one at Humaymim does not match any other known systems, including the K-300P Bastion-P anti-ship missile system, which is in Syrian service. The superstructure needed to accommodate the Yakhont missiles launched by the Bastion-P is notably longer than that of the Iskander.

Russia Doubling the Size of Its Strategic Nuclear Warhead Stockpile

Bill Gertz
April 1, 2016

Russia Doubling Nuclear Warheads

Russia is doubling the number of its strategic nuclear warheads on new missiles by deploying multiple reentry vehicles that have put Moscow over the limit set by the New START arms treaty, according to Pentagon officials.

A recent intelligence assessment of the Russian strategic warhead buildup shows that the increase is the result of the addition of multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, on recently deployed road-mobile SS-27 and submarine-launched SS-N-32 missiles, said officials familiar with reports of the buildup.

“The Russians are doubling their warhead output,” said one official. “They will be exceeding the New START [arms treaty] levels because of MIRVing these new systems.”

The 2010 treaty requires the United States and Russia to reduce deployed warheads to 1,550 warheads by February 2018.

Japan Is Not The Only Country Worrying About Population Decline Get Used To A Two-Speed World

-- this post authored by Stuart Gietel-Basten, University of Oxford

The past century has been one of unprecedented global population growth. While the number of people in the world doubled from 0.8 to 1.6 billion between 1750 and 1900, the 20th century saw a near quadrupling to 6.1 billion. In the past 15 years alone, more than 1.2 billion have been added to that. Worries about "overpopulation" can be seen everywhere from the UK to Sub-Saharan Africa.

So it may have been a surprise to some to see Japan, the world's third largest economy, posting the first population decline since 1920, falling 0.7% from five years earlier. A persistently low birth rate is the main reason.

Japan has been worrying for a while now about whether its population may one day become extinct. In 2006, the Japanese National Institute of Population and Social Security Research predicted that by the end of the present century, population would decline to around 50m, falling further to 10m by the end of the next.

The SCARAB Subs and Underwater Fiber-Optic Cable Tapping

Kelsey D. Atherton
April 1, 2016

NSA Used Submarine Probes To Listen In On Undersea Cable Communications

LinkedIn is the stodgy, respectable sibling to the business-casual feel of Facebook or the teens-past-curfew chic of SnapChat. Filled with work-centric blogposts aimed at thinkfluencers and colleagues, the network is a soft, focus-grouped level of gray, as thrilling as a watercolor conversation about quarterly reports. That blandness is deceptive: sometimes people’s resumes reveal secret programs, like that time the NSA used submarines to splice into underwater cables. Minor, resume-building stuff.

The program was first noticed by Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the ACLU, in the profile of James Atkinson, the CEO of Granite Island Group. Granite Island bills itself as “the internationally recognized leader in the field of Technical Surveillance Counter Measures (TSCM), Bug Sweeps, Wiretap Detection, Communications Security, Technical Counter-Intelligence, and Spy Hunting,” and Atkinson himself has a similarly elaborate profile description: “Student, Soldier, Spy Hunter, Scientist, Electronics Engineer, Computer Programmer, Cyberoperations, Computer and Digital Devices Forensics.”

Atkinson lists “SCARAB Remotely Operated Vehicle Design Work” as his focus from 1992-1996. Here’s the part on thrilling submarine spycraft:

Inside the Pentagon's Future Weapons Strategy

U.S. Air Force

The Pentagon's future weapons and technology strategy is referred to as the "Third Offset."

There’s been a lot of talk about a Third Offset Strategy at the Defense Department lately. It’s part of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s plan to make sure the U.S. military remains the world’s finest fighting force.

The Third Offset Strategy has a number of parts to it, so at first glance, it may appear complicated. Lucky for you, my job was to break down some of the more technical aspects into layman’s terms.

The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Starfire Optical Range resides on a 6,240 foot hilltop at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. The Army and Navy are developing their own laser weapons systems. (Air Force photo)


APRIL 1, 2016

Kingston Reif says nothing new in his recent article at War on the Rocks, in which he argues that the United States should not invest in a new air-launched nuclear cruise missile. We’ve heard this all before from the disarmament community’s view. Unfortunately, Reif distorts the realities surrounding the military’s development of a necessary capability for nuclear deterrence. In Reif’s article, advocates for a robust nuclear deterrent are reduced to rabid planners who “make a hoarder seem frugal” with their nuclear funding demands, supporters of a weapon system rather than defense professionals within the Pentagon’s acquisition program. We are dismissed as “devotees” of the missile, as if we were worshipers of a South Pacific cargo cult and not serious defense analysts.


MARCH 31, 2016

Earlier this year, we marked the 25th anniversary of the Gulf War and the beginning of 25 years of continuous U.S. military operations in the Middle East. Many forget the beginning of this involvement: Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait because he thought that he could get away with it. Hussein, however, was wrong. An international coalition led by the United States pushed his forces out of Kuwait. Was the problem a failure of communication? And if so, was it possible to correctly communicate to Hussein that the United States would respond with force if he invaded Kuwait?

While some would argue that better cultural understanding would have made the difference, it is likely that the strategist will always struggle to get inside the enemy’s head. The challenge for any analyst or practitioner of strategy lies in coping with the reality that strategy nonetheless demands that we try.

Strategy and Other Minds

Techniques for Effective PowerPoint

New Release: ATP 1-23.4, Techniques for Effective PowerPoint (1 April 2016). ATP 1-23.4 provides detailed techniques for developing dynamic presentations to win in a complex world. ATP 1-23.4 establishes the Army Tenets of PowerPoint, providing the intellectual foundation and framework for knowledge transfer from speaker to audience. It also provides staff officers the tools to mystify and amaze senior raters with colorful pics, humorous animations, moving bubbles, and embedded bangs at the joint, combined, and service levels.

The target audience for this publication is Soldiers and staff officers responsible for providing “I’ll know it when I see it” products to satisfy even the most discerning of leaders and disinterested audiences.

You can access ATP 1-23.4 at: http://armypubs.army.mil/notrealdoctrine.html

Sweden re-militarises island off Russian coast as top army commander asks: 'What is Moscow up to?'

4 February 2016 

An analysis of war games predicted it would take less than three days for Russian forces to occupy the Estonian and Latvian capitals 
Russian forces could reach the outskirts of the Baltic capitals in less than 60 hours because Nato lacks the forces to defend its eastern-most members, new analysis has shown.

According to several war games scenarios conducted by a US think-tank, it would take between 36 and 60 hours for Russian battalions to occupy the Estonian and Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga.

It highlights, the report says, how ineffective Nato's forces have become, as they would be entirely under-prepared for any potential attack launched by Moscow.

The report comes amid rapidly declining relations between Putin and the West.

A Framework for Developing Military Strategists

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect any official capacity or position.

Frankly, I am troubled when I observe aparently competent officers who apply the tools of our trade inappropriately in operational situations, or who fail to scrutinize rather basic but critical assumptions underlying our plans, or who substitute program guidance in situations which clearly demand military judgment.

General Edward C. Meyer, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (1979-1983)[i]

The topic of identifying strategic thinkers in the ranks has been a topic of no small interest as the United States emerges from its longest period of combat operations in over a century. One catalyst for the inquiries on strategic thinkers and how to make them has been hindsight from errors of strategy and campaigning in Afghanistan and Iraq. Another has been the difficulties that military leaders experienced attempting to reconcile strategy with the policy goals set out for the military instrument of national power. One observation that emerged from those conflicts is that a singular focus on tactics is simply not enough to achieve more than localized success in engagements and battles. Conflict termination, on the other hand, highlighted the broader role of the military instrument of national power at the strategic level, where success in combat operations is only a transition to establishing a more stable set of conditions after combat nominally ends.

Strategists who are trained, educated, and experienced in the competencies of thinking, visualizing, and acting at the strategic level are an important part of the conduct of military strategy in both operational and institutional settings. Those military strategists provide a capability for their organizations and nations that officers trained in tactical methods alone cannot provide. The U.S. Army has formally designated officers by career field for such duties, but those officers do not command organizations as a matter of institutional policy.[ii] Thus, its future commanders will also need development as strategists, even if not to the same degree as their staff officer counterparts. This article offers a framework for preparing commanders and staff officers over a career for duties roles in military strategy and its related disciplines and tasks, using the U.S. Army’s experience as a case study.

Why Military Strategists?

The efforts to create military strategists have included empowering generalists to conduct strategy duties, and creating a body of general staff officers dedicated to the conduct of strategy and its related disciplines. The literature that has guided those efforts has been largely constant since the mid-1990s.

Since the mid-1970s, the U.S. Army has had an additional skill identifier (coded “6Z” in its personnel system) to recognize military officers of any basic branch or specialty who were “qualified for high-level staff positions requiring an understanding of the international environment and the ability to analyze strategic problems.”[iii] Several programs conferred that identifier, but the pressures of maintaining proficiency in traditional military skills in a limited career timeline eroded the expertise that it connoted—making the credential effectively unequal to the task. One of the attempts to address the capability shortfalls of military strategists in public debate remains relevant today.

That attempt appeared in the pages of Parameters, the journal of the U.S. Army War College, as General John Galvin’s article “What’s the Matter with Being a Strategist?” Galvin, an infantryman whose experience spanned airborne, air assault, and mechanized units, also served in a number of positions at service staff, joint, and allied organizations, culminating in duty as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander-in-Chief, U.S. European Command from 1987 to 1992. Originally published in 1989, the article was reprinted in 1995 and 2010. Galvin’s description of what a military strategist remains a concise articulation of what such an officer should be:

A military strategist is an individual uniquely qualified by aptitude, experience, and education in the formulation and articulation of military strategy (making strategy and articulating strategy are equally important). He understands our national strategy and the international environment, and he appreciates the constraints on the use of force and the limits on national resources committed to defense. He also knows the processes by which the United States and its allies and potential adversaries formulate their strategies.[iv]

In spite of fundamental changes in the security environment from 1989 to the present day, Galvin’s description of a military strategist remains as equally true now as it was then.

The next element of the body of work on the essence of what a military strategist must do appeared in 1995, when Major General Richard Chilcoat, the commandant of the U.S. Army War College, penned “Strategic Art: The New Discipline for 21st Century Leaders.” Informed by the theoretical work on operational art at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in the 1980s and the development of joint doctrine in the early 1990s, Chilcoat sought to define a comprehensive approach to “a distinct discipline that every strategic leader must master,” and defined it as “the skillful formulation, coordination, and application of ends (objectives), ways (courses of action), and means (supporting resources) to promote and defend the national interests.”[v]

Chilcoat envisioned three roles for those responsible for strategic art: strategic leader, strategic practitioner, and strategic theorist. While those three roles overlap each other, they are all skills that require long study and development over a career. More troublingly, he also observed that the U.S. Army’s officers were reluctant to look outside of their tactical comfort zones, compounded by a lack of understanding of the other instruments of national power, reinforced even further by a career path that overwhelmingly weighted tactical experience above all others up to that point.[vi] Chilcoat’s observations of those officers’ shortfalls in strategic art were undoubtedly a function of his own observations of students at the U.S. Army War College, but also during his previous assignments at Headquarters, Department of the Army and at the Joint Staff.

In 1998, the U.S. Army, recognizing the limitations of the additional skill identifier 6Z officers in the force, introduced a new functional area called Strategy and Force Development as part of Officer Professional Management System XXI, the redesign of its personnel system. By 2000, that functional area had been split into two parts, the second of which was designated as Functional Area 59, or Strategic Plans and Policy, its first cohorts arriving in 2001. That career field effectively became a body of general staff officers who were specially trained in the conduct of strategic art.[vii] Those officers would in turn serve as trusted advisors and practitioners for those commanders who may not have had the same kind of formal training, but were responsible for leading units through situations where tactics alone were not enough.

Lessons of combat operations

U.S. military combat operations since 2001 offer examples of shortfalls in policy, strategy, and operational art, one of the most disastrous was related to the establishment of Combined/Joint Task Force-7, near the outset of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The joint task force was formed around V Corps, a unit that had been organized and trained primarily for large unit tactical operations. When its higher headquarters at the Combined Forces Land Component Command was broken up at the nominal end of major combat operations in May 2003, V Corps was left as the nucleus of Combined Joint Task Force-7. In the absence of any other headquarters short of U.S. Central Command, the joint task force’s responsibilities spanned theater strategy, operational art, and tactics. Instead of the bevy of talent that had been provided for its previous higher headquarters, the joint task force headquarters was heavily under-resourced with structure and personnel, to include its commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the most junior officer of that grade in the U.S. Army at the time, who had served predominantly in tactical assignments.

To make matters worse, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) or its successor in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) were unable to exercise any effective civilian governance, while military forces initially defaulted to heavy-handed cordon and search operations that may have been tactically sound, but actually fanned the flames of what became a full-blown insurgency. The failure to manage actions on the ground, combined with the dearth of effective policy direction during that time, almost resulted in catastrophic failure of the campaign.[viii]

One of the first documents to highlight those shortcomings was Decade of War, Volume I, produced by the Joint and Combined Operational Analysis division of the Joint Staff J-7 Directorate. Among its observations was one on the strategic failures of conventional combat operations early on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the need for a broader response than what the military was prepared to provide. A related, but more pointed observation cited that “failure to adequately plan and resource strategic and operational transitions endangered accomplishment of the overall mission. While military forces were well-prepared for combat operations, they were not well-prepared to integrate non-military instruments of national power.[ix] While some of these failures stemmed from drastic failures of policy, a cultural bias on tactical operations within the U.S. military delayed the adaptation to the circumstances that occurred in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

A subsequent RAND Corporation study, led by Linda Robinson, further identified a number of lessons that explicitly highlighted some general shortcomings in strategic art - not the least of which was that the failures of understanding and applying strategic art occurred across the entire U.S. government. Ends, ways, and means did not align, and in the study’s words, “the strategies typically failed to envision a war-ending approach and did not achieve declared objectives in a definitive or lasting manner.” Another one of its observations was that there was no established civilian-military process that would rigorously identify assumptions, risks, possible outcomes, and second order effects—in essence, a rigorous method for strategic planning. Another one of their observations specifically highlighted a failure to think in terms of the political aspects of a conflict, and desired outcomes of a conflict that are inherently political in nature. One of the symptoms of that failure was a reluctance to address the political aspects of war, and a tendency to focus on tactical issues rather than strategic factors.[x]

Joseph Collins, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense now at the National Defense University, noted after the end of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM that military participation in national decision making is necessary but inherently problematic. However, no party could be held blameless. Civilian national security decision-makers had limited understanding of the complexity of military strategy, let alone operational art, and were generally unable to provide useful planning guidance. Concurrently, the military had grown an organizational blind spot to anything that was not conventional warfare, especially after Vietnam. The predilection of the former for an iterative approach to policy and strategy did not mesh well with the latter’s desire for a more linear process more suitable for campaign planning.[xi]

Lessons of institutional strategy

Errors of strategy are not limited solely to operational settings. The inappropriate application of tactics to strategic problems also occurred within institutional settings, as the epigraph notes. While the first part of General Edward C. Meyer’s ire was directed to the failures of officers to frame operations in their proper strategic context, the second part was directed inwards to the institutional Army. As the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans and later as the Army Chief of Staff, Meyer had been witness to officers who had responsibilities to the Defense Acquisition System and the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution System. He had seen those officers make budgetary or programmatic decisions uninformed by any appreciation by strategy and based primarily on short-term, tactically parochial, or solely fiscal considerations.[xii]

One of the most striking examples came from the time when Meyer was a captain. While the U.S. Army was involved in internecine fights over its budget and future force structure in the 1950s, it had failed to produce a coherent strategic concept for its role within the U.S. defense establishment. Instead, it had chased acquisitions programs based on doctrinal and technological fads, such as continental air defense and abortive weapons such as the Davy Crockett nuclear mortar. As a result, the U.S. Army revolved through a series of force structures and delayed critical acquisitions such as the M113 armored personnel carrier, eroding the institution’s combat effectiveness.[xiii]

These historical anecdotes are but samples for a general observation that a singular focus on tactics and military operations alone does not enable attainment of the strategic ends that are inherently the servant of policy. Instead, a broader set of education, training, and experience is needed to develop the skills necessary to bridge military strategy upwards to policy and downward to operational art.

General Competencies of the Military Strategist

A military strategist has obligations reaching both higher and lower, neither of which can be performed in isolation from each other. First, a military strategist must be able to interpret policy into strategy - the domain of strategic art, which imparts rigor to policy.[xiv] Tacticians can artificially separate themselves from policy considerations; military strategists cannot. Second, a military strategist must turn that strategy into purposeful action—the domain of operational art, which bridges strategy and tactics. Those who only deal with policy do not directly face that challenge; military strategists ignore that challenge at their peril. Expressed another way, the conduct of competent operational art requires understanding strategy for its rationale. The informed conduct of strategic art requires knowing the tactical implications of that strategy to properly balance ends, ways, means, and risk. That relationship can be described as three general competencies of a military strategist: 
Provide military advice to policymakers to inform their understanding of the military instrument of national power and its relationship to policy goals and other instruments of national power.[xv] 
Formulate strategy, through the practice of strategic art, informed by policy guidance and a net assessment of strategic ends and means.[xvi] 
Implement strategy through the practice of operational art (to include campaign planning), whether institutional or operational, to guide tactical action in the pursuit of strategic ends.[xvii] 

By design, these general competencies are not intended to be the same as the core competencies of a Functional Area 59 Strategic Plans and Policy officer. While that career field exists specifically to address those general competencies, the role of a military strategist is not necessarily limited to general staff officers. Indeed, given that future commanders will be drawn from what the U.S. Army calls basic branches (or regiments in Commonwealth militaries), the general competencies of a military strategist span any officer career field. Given the increasing civilianization of defense establishments, it is also possible that some of these functions may also be performed by career civil servants, such as the U.S. Army’s Career Program 60, many of which are former strategic plans and policy officers.

It is critically important to distinguish between training and education, a distinction that certainly receives too little attention in the U.S. military. Training emphasizes the employment of established procedures and skills that are applied against circumstances that are usually known. Not surprisingly, training is seen to have immediate utility, and is easy to justify, especially when resources are constrained. In contrast, education emphasizes the application of intellectual and cognitive skills to address circumstances that training cannot. In contrast to training, education often appears to have little direct relevance to immediate demands, and is sometimes seen as an ornament. In general, the demands of tactical operations heavily emphasize training to address the known, while the demands of strategy heavily emphasize education to address the unknown.

The development of a military strategist normally rests upon three foundations: civilian education, professional military education, and relevant experience. The three complement each other in providing the intellectual and experiential basis for greater facility with military strategy. Civilian education is foundational knowledge for a military strategist. It provides the intellectual basis to address the unknowns that training, doctrine, or experience cannot answer. Professional military education contextualizes civilian education in a common framework for application. Finally, relevant experience is the crucible for a military strategist’s application of civilian education and professional military education. It is where the theory and practice come together in the application of military strategy. Without the foundations provided in civilian education and professional military education, relevant experience is brittle, with little utility outside its immediate circumstances. It is for that reason that experience exclusively at the tactical level is not always relevant, and may even be counterproductive in the conduct of policy, strategy, or operational art.

Developmental Milestones for Military Strategists

The development of military strategists, like any other discipline, must occur over time. It is unrealistic, if not dangerous, to think that a military strategist will emerge from a lifetime of service spent overwhelmingly at the tactical level, then become a competent strategist solely through reasoning by analogy. Similarly, it is equally unrealistic that a competent military strategist can be developed overnight from civilian and military education alone. Rather, characterizing the professional development of a military strategist can be done through four developmental milestones: untrained, apprentice, journeyman, and master. These milestones are not tied to a given rank, but to the capabilities that he or she brings and provide an indicator of relative capability among military strategists.

While such a statement may be considered heretical, it is entirely possible that a commander, who will have had to alternate tactical command and staff assignments with those developing strategic art, may be a less experienced strategist than some of his staff. It is in that capacity that strategic plans and policy officers become critically important general staff officer advisors to their commander.


The untrained military strategist is typically in their first assignment in a strategic art capacity. While he or she may be a graduate of a program that teaches strategic art, such as a senior service college, the U.S. Army’s Basic Strategic Art Program or the U.S. Air Force’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, it is more likely that the untrained strategist will have only instruction focused on operational art, such as the U.S. Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies or the U.S. Marine Corps’ School of Advanced Warfighting. In some cases, those officers may only have the benefit of elective coursework offered at the staff college level such as that required for the 6Z additional skill identifier.[xviii] At this point, the untrained military strategist lacks the relevant experience to properly contextualize what basis may have been received through professional military education.

He or she may be cognizant of the relationship between strategy and policy, but may not recognize the implications between the two. The untrained military strategist should be proficient with the conduct of deliberate planning processes at tactical level such as the U.S. Army’s Military Decision Making Process, but will not likely be familiar with planning methodologies as they apply to joint forces. He or she may be aware of the linkage of strategic ends to operational planning, but cannot yet articulate the linkage between the two. The untrained strategist can participate as a member of a strategy working group or operational plans team but does not have the capability or skills to lead it effectively.

Written and oral communication skills are commensurate with the staff college level, but the untrained strategist will require substantial guidance to distill strategic concepts into short papers. One hazard for the untrained strategist is the trap of trying to reason through strategic issues by tactical analogy without considering the factors that affect strategy. The hazard exists because he or she will not have had the experience to inform judgment at that level.


The apprentice military strategist will have served one or more assignments in one of the general competencies (policy, strategy, or plans) in either an institutional or operational setting. He or she will have completed a formal training/professional military education program in strategic art and may hold an advanced degree in a strategy-related field.

The apprentice can clearly draw the relationship between strategy and policy or operational art and strategy. The apprentice should be proficient with both service and joint planning methodologies and capable of leading small groups to address strategy or campaign planning problems. They will have conversancy in one of the general competencies of a military strategist, and are aware of the others.

The apprentice must be a strong writer, capable of writing commensurate to the senior service college level, and should be able to deliver briefings to general officers at the joint task force level. He or she still requires additional guidance to consider the full scope of a problem, whether related to policy, strategy, or operational art.


The journeyman military strategist will have served in sufficient assignments to gain fluency in two or more military strategist general competencies. He or she will have completed multiple training programs in strategic art and holds an advanced degree in a strategy-related field.

The journeyman may be a subject matter expert in one or more of the general competencies (possibly at the expense of others) but is now capable of leading strategy development or campaign planning efforts. He or she will clearly be able to identify strategic implications across the general competencies ranging from policy to operational art. The journeyman must be familiar with joint, interagency, and multinational structures, and will often have had a developmental assignment in one of those organizations. They will be familiar with the entire joint force and its capabilities but may not be able to articulate the reasons why certain services or organizations approach strategic issues the way they do.

He or she has strong oral and written communication skills, and is fully capable of distilling staff products for general/flag officer consumption, as well as advising untrained or apprentice military strategists. The journeyman is capable of limited predictive analysis spanning multiple general competencies.


The master military strategist will have been educated in multiple academic disciplines, giving a wide range of intellectual methodologies. He or she will have experience in all three general competencies, in both operational and institutional settings, and can oversee multiple groups in the conduct of campaign planning or strategic art, or inform policy formulation at the national level. They will have a solid basis in the theory, doctrine, and practice of policy formulation, strategy development, and operational art, and can clearly articulate the implications across all the general competencies. He or she is fully familiar with not only with operational planning methods such as the U.S. military’s Adaptive Planning and Execution system (formerly the Joint Operations Planning and Execution System), but also strategic planning frameworks like its Joint Strategic Planning System and the Defense Acquisition System. The master strategist clearly understands and can predict the effects that operational and institutional strategy and campaigning will have on each other. Commensurate to their abilities and background, he or she will routinely write and speak for 4-star general/flag officers serving as service chiefs, unified combatant commanders, or national-level joint task force commanders, or their civilian equivalents.


In spite of the changes in the security environment and the adversaries that the United States has faced since the end of the Cold War, the role of the military strategist has not changed. In the U.S. Army, that role is not limited solely to career Strategic Plans and Policy officers who are specially trained and educated in strategic art, but must also include future general officers who will become the ones charged with making decisions that reach into future decades.

The identification of military strategists by milestone offers two benefits, one inward, one outward. Internally, this framework can guide the individual career development of those officers who will be responsible for the planning and conduct of policy formulation, strategy development, or campaign planning, whether they occur in an institutional or operational setting. Looking outwardly, that framework can provide a resource to enable the employment of the military instrument of national power in a manner that is strategically effective.

Ultimately, building true military strategists cannot occur overnight, and certainly not through the hasty application of tactical reasoning by analogy. In light of Chilcoat’s roles for military strategists, namely the strategic leader, strategic practitioner, and strategic theorist, master strategists must be capable of all three, and inappropriate employment of tactical thinking against strategic problems is a recipe for failure if not disaster. While the skillful practice of policy guidance, strategic art, and operational art is no guarantee of strategic success, the absence of such competent practice virtually guarantees that the military instrument of national power will not best serve its nation’s interests. Military strategists, properly developed, are a hedge against that outcome.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect any official capacity or position.