12 April 2016

*** MANTRAYA SPECIAL REPORT#04: 11 MARCH 2016 Expanding Chinese Infrastructure on the Indian border

Three key focus areas of China’s massive infrastructure build up along the Sino-Indian border are: integrating the border region to Chinese mainland, accessibility to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and strengthening counter offensive capabilities. This calls for an urgent attention from New Delhi as a reactionary policy would not suffice.


Some positive developments in past years notwithstanding, Sino-Indian bilateral relations continue to be marred by the war both countries fought 54 years ago. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) that divides both is not recognized by China. Many Indian thinkers acknowledge the LAC is drawn with an ink of perception. India’s perception of what constitutes part of its territory is vastly different from that of the Chinese. An extension of its unambiguous claim over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, Beijing in the past years has stepped up its border infrastructure projects. This enables the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to retain a clear advantage in military mobilization and capabilities vis-a-vis their Indian counterparts. Indian response, on the contrary, has been reactionary.

Beijing’s steadily growing infrastructure build up along LAC include roads, railway line, and fibre optics following a three pronged strategy.

Beijing’s steadily growing infrastructure build up along LAC include roads, railway line, and fibre optics following a three pronged strategy. Firstly, it aims at integrating its front lying region with Chinese mainland – a strategy most visible in China’s infrastructure projects in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which it occupied in 1949. A defense buildup for quick mobilization supported by a strong air defense system and an uncomplicated administrative framework, is the second objective of this strategy. And thirdly, the strategy is all about extending China’s accessibility to the LAC through rail networks, and in many cases using some of the bordering countries like Nepal and Pakistan to strengthen its strategic hold in the border areas.

*** china-could-adopt-different-approach-to-deal-with-india-rand

China could adopt different approach to deal with India: Rand
7 Apr, 2016

China is rapidly closing what was once a substantial gap between the People's Liberation Army's strategic weapons capabilities and its strategic deterrence concepts.
WASHINGTON: China could consider adopting a "different approach" to deal with India as anuclear rival as it does not want the Indian military on par with its own, a top US think tanktoday said.

Even as India has embarked on modernisation of its armed forces to meet its national security needs, China currently sees the US as its main potential adversary in determining its nuclear force structure and other strategic-deterrence requirements, the Rand Corporation said in a report on China.

"It is possible, however, that China could become more concerned about the nuclear capabilities of India, which could result in changes such as a larger arsenal of theatre nuclear missiles," Rand Corporation said.

"Indeed, China could consider adopting a different approach to deal with India as a nuclear rival, one that could diverge from China's longstanding focus on deploying a secure second-strike capability without matching the numbers of weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear superpowers," it said.

*** Iran's $10Bln Mega Canal Could be Game Changer in Global Trade Routes

Iran's $10Bln Mega Canal Could be Game Changer in Global Trade Routes

Russian experts comment on the prospects for the realization of Iran's ambitious 'trans-Iranian' canal, which would run from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf.

The prospects for the creation of a navigable canal between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf are being currently being reviewed by Iran and Russia, Mehdi Sanaei, Iran's ambassador to Russia, said Friday at a meeting with students at the St. Petersburg State University.

Intensified discussions on the possibility of a 'trans-Iranian' canal began in 2012, when then-Energy Minister Majid Namjoo told Fars news agency that the project would cost an estimated $7 billion US.

The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed inland body of water in the world, with a 7,000 km coastline shared by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan. Establishing a connection between the Caspian and the Persian Gulf would necessitate the creation of a canal running across almost the entirety of Iran from north to south.

*** Will Russia and China Become Allies?

Will Russia and China Become Allies?

Summary: The idea that Russia and China are going to become close allies fails to account for the constraints and geopolitical imperatives of both countries. Neither can be content in a situation where the U.S. has untrammeled power in the world. But that does not change the geography that makes the interests of Beijing and Moscow so different. In this case, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

The United States is the world's dominant power, and is without peer. But Russia and China are arguably the next two most significant world powers on the list. Russia's economy may be in shambles, and it is in the process of updating its military and rearming for 21st century conflict - but even so, Moscow boasts a formidable arsenal of nuclear weapons and just demonstrated in Syria how effective a limited deployment of Russian troops can be. China now has the second largest GDP in the world, and convulsions in the Chinese economy have global ramifications, asthe crisis of the exporters has demonstrated.

U.S. relations with Russia and China have become tense in recent years. The American "reset" of relations with Russia froze with the Ukrainian revolution of February 2014. The U.S.-China relationship is less hostile: there has been ostensible progress on economic issues, on isolating North Korea and levying sanctions against Pyongyang, and even on issues related to climate change. But China's saber rattling in the South China Sea is a challenge for America's Asian allies and a nuisance to the U.S. Nor can the U.S. be comfortable with Chinese President Xi Jinping's moves to affirm his status as Chinese dictator. On the surface, it would make sense for China and Russia to marry their fortunes together. An alliance would create exactly the type of Eurasian force that U.S. policy is designed to thwart. But here, geopolitics asserts itself.

Areas of Increased Cooperation

*** How China Is Building the Biggest Commercial-Military Empire in History

JUNE 9, 2015

China’s outsized latticework of global infrastructure is said to be rooted in a fierce competitiveness learned from 19th-century America.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the sun famously never set on the British empire. A commanding navy enforced its will, yet all would have been lost if it were not for ports, roads, and railroads. The infrastructure that the British built everywhere they went embedded and enabled their power like bones and veins in a body.

Steve LeVine, Quartz's Washington correspondent, writes about the intersection of energy, technology and geopolitics, a juncture of some of the most important and quickly developing events and trends on the planet. Most recently, LeVine founded and ran The Oil and the Glory, a blog on energy and ...Full Bio

Great nations have done this since Rome paved 55,000 miles (89,000 km) of roads and aqueducts in Europe. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Russia and the United States established their own imprint, skewering and taming nearby territories with projects like the Trans-Siberian and the Trans-Continental railways.

Now it’s the turn of the Chinese. Much has been made of Beijing’s “resource grab” in Africa and elsewhere, its construction of militarized artificial islands in the South China Sea and, most recently, its new strategy to project naval power broadly in the open seas.

*** Chinese-Pakistani Project Tries to Overcome Jihadists, Droughts and Doubts

By Saeed Shah 
April 10, 2016

Developing the fishing town of Gwadar into an economic hub is part of Beijing’s plan to forge new trade routes

Pakistan's leader, Nawaz Sharif, right, met with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping in Islamabad last year to discuss the planned economic corridor linking the two nations. Photo: Associated Press 

GWADAR, Pakistan—A Pakistani brigade of 2,000 soldiers guards a small contingent of Chinese workers here from the threat of jihadists and separatists, reflecting the challenge of turning this remote fishing town into the hub of an economic corridor between the two nations.

Developing Gwadar would give China a new trade link from its relatively undeveloped west to key Arabian Sea shipping routes at the mouth of the oil-rich Persian Gulf—giving it potentially strategic as well as economic leverage. 

Pakistan hopes that Chinese infrastructure investment will boost industrialization in a country that has struggled to provide for its 200 million people and give it a second major port besides Karachi—operating near capacity now, and blockaded by India in past wars.

** Europe: A Better Plan for Refugees

Refugees in line for food in a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border, March 31, 2016
The asylum policy that emerged from last month’s EU-Turkey negotiations—and that has already resulted in the deportation of hundreds of asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey—has four fundamental flaws. First, the policy is not truly European; it was negotiated with Turkey and imposed on the EU by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Second, it is severely underfunded. Third, it is not voluntary. It imposes quotas that many member states oppose and requires refugees to take up residence in countries where they don’t want to live, while forcing others who have reached Europe to be sent back. Finally, it transforms Greece into a de facto holding pen without sufficient facilities for the number of asylum seekers already there. 

All these deficiencies can be corrected. The European Commission implicitly acknowledged some of them this week when it announced a new plan to reform Europe’s asylum system. But the Commission’s proposals still rely on compulsory quotas that serve neither refugees nor member states. That will never work. European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans is inviting an open debate. Here is my contribution. 

** The True Origins of India's Military Strategy

The True Origins of India's Military Strategy

The modern Indian state has not been beyond using “ends justify the means” thinking for its geopolitical benefit, even right after the idealistic period defined by Gandhi.

India has two great, ancient epics that saturate its civilization, much like the Bible and Shakespeare in the West: the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. The Ramayana is simpler in structure and focuses on the ideal reign of a single ruler, Rama, who has traditionally been the model for political authority in South and Southeast Asia. On the other hand, like the Bible or Herodotus’ Histories, the Mahabharata describes a multitude of political and military situations from many perspectives. This makes it a broad, useful compendium of strategy, rather than just political authority, that was widely accessible to anyone throughout Indian history. Since it was composed around 400 B.C.E. (possibly loosely based on events that happened around 1000 B.C.E.), its contribution to the Indian worldview cannot be understated, not just as a story or religious text, but as a strategic text that has influenced Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and even Islamic states in South Asia. Indeed, it offers a central—and often overlooked—case for realism in foreign affairs.

** Pakistan: Russia's New Best Friend?

September 27, 2015 

We may be entering a period in which India’s tighter embrace of the United States brings Russia closer to Pakistan, and Russia’s bolstering of ties with Pakistan brings India closer to the United States.

As the U.S.-India embrace tightens, former Cold War foes Pakistan and Russia are bolstering ties with one another. Pakistan was an early Cold War partner of the United States, ultimately helping to evict the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989. While India proclaimed a policy of non-alignment, it was firmly allied with the Soviet Union, which served as its chief defense supplier for decades. Those strong ties continued following the end of the Cold War into recent years.

While India’s defense arsenal remains overwhelmingly Russian in origin, over the past four years, Washington has supplanted Moscow to become New Delhi’s top defense supplier. Moscow, realizing that its longtime partner is now seeing other people, has lifted an arms embargo on Islamabad, which is keen on modernizing its military and reducing its dependence on Washington.

** What a Waste, the US Military

By William Hartung, TomDispatch
10 April 16

Late last year, I spent some time digging into the Pentagon's "reconstruction" efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, countries it invaded in 2001 and 2003 in tandem with a chosen crew of warrior corporations. As a story of fabled American can-do in distant lands, both proved genuinely dismal no-can-do tales, from roads built (that instantly started crumbling) to police academies constructed (that proved to be health hazards) to prisons begun (that were never finished) to schools constructed (that remained uncompleted) to small arms transfers (that were "" in transit) to armies built, trained, and equipped for stunning sums (that collapsed). It was as if nothing the Pentagon touched turned to anything but dross (including the never-ending wars it fought). All of it added up to what I then labeled a massive "$cam" with American taxpayer money lost in amounts that staggered the imagination.

All of that came rushing back as I read TomDispatch regular William Hartung's latest post on "waste" at the Pentagon. It didn't just happen in Kabul and Baghdad; it's been going on right here in the good old USA for, as Hartung recounts, the last five decades. There's only one difference I can see: in Kabul, Baghdad, or any other capital in the Greater Middle East and Africa, if we saw far smaller versions of such "waste" indulged in by the elites of those countries, we would call it "corruption" without blinking. So here's my little suggestion, as you read Hartung: think about just how deeply what once would have been considered a Third World-style of corruption is buried in the very heart of our system and in the way of life of the military-industrial complex. By now, President Dwight Eisenhower must be tossing and turning in his grave. Tom

-Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch 

How Not to Audit the Pentagon

** China and Pakistan Join Forces Under the Sea

January 7, 2016 

Islamabad has often been touted by Beijing as its foremost “all-weather friend.”

While attention has been on the simmering tensions in the East and South China Seas letely, a small event took place in the East China Sea off the coast of Shanghai. Pakistan Navy (PN) guided missile frigate Shamsheer and fleet replenishment vessel Nasr drilled with a pair of PLA Navy Type-054A Jiangkai II frigates, Xuzhou and Yangzhou from December 31 to January 1.

According to Chinese reports, the fast-paced, high-intensity exercise involved day and night maneuvers including joint escort, counter-piracy and live-firing. This constitutes a logical progression from the limited scope when this bilateral exercise first began in 2003 as a simple search-and-rescue drill. The objectives of these exercises are to hone interoperability between the two navies, while affording PN personnel the opportunity to get acquainted with Chinese technologies.

What was new in this latest iteration, however, was the inclusion of an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) component for the first time. Shamsheer, Xuzhou and Yangzhou cooperatively tracked a simulated submarine threats in the exercises. The ships relied on close communication, information-sharing and passive sonar techniques to triangulate the position of the suspected ‘enemy’ submarine, eventually striking it with a simulated ASW torpedo by one of the Chinese frigates.

* The geopolitics of Ash Carter’s India visit – (II)

April 11, 2016 

The scheduling of diplomatic engagements and the sequencing carries much symbolism. The week begins in New Delhi with the visit by the US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.

It is a reiteration of the deepening and steady expansion of India-US strategic partnership, with a dynamic military-to-military dimension to it, which is poised for a historic leap.

However, glancing through the coming one-week period thereafter, it at once strikes the eye that India has also firmed up three high-level exchanges with China in rapid succession.

The National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will be traveling to Beijing for the India-China strategic dialogue, followed by a 4-day visit by the Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to China. Alongside, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is due to participate in the Russia-India-China trilateral meeting at foreign minister level next Monday in Moscow, where she plans a ‘bilateral with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

Can it be mere coincidence that India puts on display its multi-vector foreign policy? India is signalling that it gives the highest priority to its normalization process with China. On the flip side, India remains cautious about identifying with the US’ rebalance in Asia, whose barely-hidden agenda is the ‘containment’ of China.

Put differently, while India and the US may have common concerns with regard to China’s rise, New Delhi prefers to retain its strategic autonomy in addressing its concerns and to keep working on the normalization process with its big Asian neighbour so as to build a new type of relationship based on equality, mutual interests and mutual respect.

Top secret "28 pages" may hold clues about Saudi support for 9/11 hijackers

Bob Graham

Former Senator Bob Graham and others urge the Obama administration to declassify redacted pages of a report that holds 9/11 secrets

Current and former members of Congress, U.S. officials, 9/11 Commissioners and the families of the attack's victims want 28 top-secret pages of a congressional report released. Bob Graham, the former Florida governor, Democratic U.S. Senator and onetime chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says the key section of a top secret report he helped author should be declassified to shed light on possible Saudi support for some of the 9/11 hijackers. Graham was co-chair of Congress' bipartisan "Joint Inquiry" into intelligence failures surrounding the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that issued the report in 2003. Graham speaks to Steve Kroft for 60 Minutes report to be broadcast Sunday, April 10 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Graham and his Joint Inquiry co-chair in the House, former Representative Porter Goss (R-FL) -- who went on to be director of the CIA -- say the 28 pages were excised from their report by the Bush Administration in the interest of national security. Graham wouldn't discuss the classified contents, but says the 28 pages outline a network of people he believes supported hijackers in the U.S. He tells Kroft he believes the hijackers were "substantially" supported by Saudi Arabia. Asked if the support was from government, rich people or charities, the former senator replies, "all of the above."

"I think its implausible to believe that 19 people, most of whom didn't speak English, most of whom had never been in the United States before, many didn't have a high school education, could have carried out such a complicated task without some support from within the United States," says Graham.

Punjab’s militancy problem

The writer is a security analyst. 

A COORDINATED operation is under way against criminals and terrorists in the Indus delta, generally known as kacha areas, in south Punjab and upper Sindh. Apparently, the blatant terrorist attack in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Lahore, has prompted the government to launch this operation (although no direct link between these two events has been officially reported). The operation could be the beginning of an effort to secure ungoverned spaces, and uproot long-existing militant infrastructure, in the province.

According to media reports, more than 1,600 police officials, including personnel from the Elite Force, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), and the Punjab Rangers assisted by the Pakistan Army, are participating in this joint operation. The operation is going smoothly, and is expected to achieve its objectives.

However, there are unconfirmed reports that Ghulam Rasool alias Chotu, leader of the main gang operating in the area, has escaped to Oman via Gwadar, along with his commanders. His gang has been involved in robberies, kidnapping, car snatching and drug trafficking, and has a history of kidnapping police officials from security check posts. Five other gangs with similar credentials also operate in the Indus delta region, which provides a natural protective cover to criminal gangs.

‘British lost empire as they lost our Army’s support’

April 10, 2016

Forgotten Past: "I am most satisfied about discovering the voice of the Indian soldier.” Raghavan in his New Delhi office. Photo: R.V. Moorthy 

India was an unwilling participant in World War II, but those years provided the foundation for the Independence struggle.

Historian Srinath Raghavan in his latest book, India’s War: The Making of Modern South Asia, 1939-1945 (Allen Lane), details India’s contribution to World War II. The book explores the war’s impact on the Independence movement, how it was during this period that the Army saw its biggest expansion, and why this inquiry is important from a military history point of view. Excerpts:

The book is called India’s war. Yet, not one Indian was consulted before Viceroy Linlithgow’s decision to enlist the Indian Army.

Even if India was an unwilling participant in the conflict, the conflict had huge implications for India. So, even if we were dragged into it kicking and screaming, those years turned out to be foundational for India in the Independence movement.

But still not India’s war. The Army was treated like bonded labourers, bundled off to fight without any say…

Afghan forces face 'decisive' battle in Helmand

Justin Rowlatt South Asia correspondent 
7 April 2016 

Since 2001, 456 British military personnel have died in Afghanistan - all but seven of them in Helmand.

It is the most dangerous province in the country. 

The only way for foreigners to visit safely is with the military, but neither the Afghan army nor coalition forces have been keen to host journalists since Nato troops withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

The reason is pretty obvious. Since Afghan forces took over the battle against the Taliban, they have been steadily losing ground in Helmand. 

But, after months of nagging and cajoling Resolute Support - the ongoing Nato effort to "train, advise and assist" the Afghan military - I got a surprise call inviting me to travel to Helmand. 

That's how I found myself flying over the lush green poppy fields either side of the Helmand River in a Black Hawk helicopter.

Our destination was what is left of Camp Bastion. Bastion was the main British base in Afghanistan, the stronghold from which some of the most vicious fighting of the entire Afghan conflict was conducted. 

The base cost billions of pounds to build and operate and, at its peak, was the size of Reading. 
Camp Bastion

Issues & Insights Vol. 16 - No. 5 - 16,000 Problems: Recommendations for the new Myanmar

By Erik French, Tyler Hill, Joseph Lin, Maile Plan, Crystal Pryor, Aiko Shimizu, and Kyaw San Wai 
APR 8, 2016 

In 2007, writing for Foreign Policy on “Asia’s Forgotten Crisis,” Michael Green and Derek Mitchell reflected on the misplaced hope in the mid-1990s that Myanmar was undergoing substantive reforms. They observed western governments’ policies of diplomatic and economic sanctions on the one hand with Asian states’ economic and political engagement on the other following. They concluded that neither approach worked and that, “If anything, Burma has evolved from being an antidemocratic embarrassment and humanitarian disaster to being a serious security threat of its neighbors.”

Hopes for reforms are again sky-high. The military junta controlling the country released opposition leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi from house arrest in 2010, and Thein Sein used his presidency since 2011 to set out major goals for reforms. In response, the US government under Barack Obama has eased sanctions against the country, and in 2012 Obama was the first US president to visit. Finally, with the landslide victory of Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s party in Myanmar’s first and fair election late last year, the country has emerged from decades of political isolation onto the world stage.

What next? The potential upside of reforms is enormous. Myanmar carried out elections and tallied the results far more fairly and smoothly than anyone anticipated. The Parliament (Hluttaw) has become a real legislative force in recent years, and the military handed over power to Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), on Feb. 1, 2016. In addition to these political developments, Myanmar has great economic potential given its location, abundant natural resources, and favorable demographics. The economy is growing, urban spaces are rapidly modernizing, and more people have cars and cellphones than ever before.

The Crouching Tiger Interviews: David Lampton From A to Xi

As part of the research for my Crouching Tiger book on the rise of China’s military and its companion documentary film, I interviewed 35 of the top experts in the world from all sides of the China issue. These are key edited excerpts from my sit-down at the Johns Hopkins University with Professor David Lampton, author most recently of Following the Leader: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping. 

This interview was the last of those I conducted in Washington, D.C. (on my way to the US Naval War College for wonderful discussions with Toshi Yoshihara, Jim Holmes, and Lyle Goldstein), and it was a classic case of saving one of the very best interviews for last within the Beltway. 

I found Professor Lampton to be a highly engaging and joyous man, albeit neck deep in one of the most serious international relations issues facing the world. Here’s how Professor Lampton framed that issue:

Right now, I think Asia's one of the more unstable geopolitically central places in the world. You have competing nationalism between China and Japan. Korea and Japan. India and Japan. So, while this isn't the general perception, it is a volatile area in which people are basically strategically distrustful of each other. So we have this huge economic state in t this fragile security circumstance; and historically, and I think currently, the United States has tried to play a stabilizing role. I think that's essential.

So how can we play that stabilizing role, deter conflict among these potentially competing countries and at the same time maintain our economic advantage in the region? I think that's essentially the geopolitical problem.

The haunting Sichuan-Tibet Highway

By Brad Cohen 
20 May 2014 

A bus ride along one of the world’s riskiest roads leads to altitude headaches, near-death experiences and one of the last chances to see Tibet as it once was.

“Double rainbow!” a passenger on the bus yelled. “Look to the left!” We were somewhere in the Hengduan Mountains that stretch across the western portion of China’s Sichuan. Below us, twin kaleidoscopes of colour hung above a rushing gorge, hundreds of meters below. 

The sight was a bright spot on what had thus far been a punishing journey through one of the world’s most remote regions. Moments earlier, my fellow passengers and I had spent the better part of a half hour pulling our bus out of the mud with a rope attached to the bottom of the vehicle, more concerned about the driver toppling over the edge of the cliff than the rope’s perpetual tendency to break and leave us covered in mud. The mishap would be the first of many similar incidences, a two-week journey of breakdowns, police barricades, constant delays, headaches and altitude-induced vomit-stained windows.

But that is the price of witnessing the haunting beauty of the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, one of the world’s most dangerous, highest and most punishing roads.

Most of the 4,000km-plus loop between the Sichuan capital Chengdu and the Tibetan capital Lhasa cuts through the former region of Kham, composed mainly of the present-day Tibetan Autonomous Region, as well as of parts of former Tibet that were annexed into mainland China from the 18th Century until the mid 20th century. With mishaps included, a bus ride between any two cities in this remote region can take long enough for passengers to watch the sun both rise and set over the surrounding peaks, but winding along the precarious roads at altitudes that reach nearly 5,000m rewards the intrepid traveller with sweeping mountain views, studded with stupas, prayer flags, monasteries, otherworldly rock formations – and perhaps the occasional double rainbow.

Let’s end America’s hopeless war for the Middle East The country’s longest war is unwinnable, and the US has more important things to do.


A hundred years ago, the armies of World War I fought to a bloody stalemate on the Western Front and desperately searched for ways to break it and gain an edge. They field-tested tanks and poison gas, rolling barrages and storm-trooper tactics. Today, the United States is stuck in an analogous stalemate in the Middle East and Islamic world in general. And we are field-testing all manner of novelties, much like the great armies of Europe mired in the trenches: the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs and counterinsurgency, precision-guided munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles, not to mention such passing fancies as “overwhelming force,” “shock and awe,” and “air occupation.”

Yet as was the case a century ago, the introduction of some new battlefield technique does not necessarily signify progress. On the contrary, it only deepens the stalemate.

To reflect on this longest of American wars—why it goes on and on, and at such a cost of blood and treasure—is to confront two questions. First, why has the world’s mightiest military achieved so little even while absorbing very considerable losses and inflicting even greater damage on the subjects of America’s supposed beneficence? Second, why in the face of such unsatisfactory outcomes has the United States refused to chart a different course? In short, why can’t we win? And since we haven’t won, why can’t we get out?

Safe Water Is A Scarce Commodity Worldwide

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Dyfed Loesche

Water is the most valuable resources on the planet.

It's constantly making the headlines, whether it's lacking or abundant, during droughts and floods. In parts of the world where water is scarce it can become the cause for conflict. However, the ongoing story is that more than 650 million of the world's poorest are without access to good drinking water, according to the NGO WaterAid. The below infographic shows, where drinking water is costly and how it's distributed in different countries worldwide.

The State of the World's Water in 2016.

The Ugly Truth About Nuclear Terrorism

April 11, 2016 

We're half a step behind.

The fourth, and likely final, Nuclear Security Summit wrapped up last week, aimed at controlling nuclear bomb materials so terrorists can’t get them. To be sure, some real progress has been made. But if we take a step back and compare that progress to the immensity of the challenge, we are left with a nagging question: are we doing enough?

President Obama proposed the summits seven years ago, with a now-famous 2009 speech in Prague. Since the summits started in 2010, governments have removed or secured weapons-usable materials from more than fifty facilities in thirty nations. Over a dozen countries are now free of these deadly ingredients, including Ukraine—one less thing to worry about as that country struggles with internal chaos. Overall, 3.8 tons of material have been secured (enough for 150 nuclear weapons); fifteen centers of excellence created; radiation detectors at three hundred border crossings, airports and ports put in place—the impressive list goes on.

This is great stuff, and we can all appreciate the value of locking up nuclear materials that could otherwise be used by terrorists to build a bomb. And given the recent terror attacks in Paris, Brussels, Turkey, Pakistan and elsewhere, and reports that ISIS operatives were tracking a Belgian nuclear official, the danger appears to be real and growing.

Time for a world currency?

Apr 11 2016. 

In a world even more subject to destabilizing volatility, Robert Mundell’s proposal to create a global unit of account merits serious consideration 

The Fed chairperson is explicitly mandated to focus on the US economy, and not worry about what is happening in India or elsewhere. Photo: Reuters 

Do we need a single global currency?

That question would have seemed quixotic to many analysts of global economics and finance a few years ago. The suggestion that we do, indeed, need a global unit of account—made by a few brave mavericks over the years—would have been, in fact, was, scoffed at and derided as hopelessly unrealistic at best and highly undesirable at worst.

These maverick economists and bankers saw merit in eliminating the destabilizing and destructive volatility in global trade, investment and financial capital movement patterns induced or exacerbated by the excessive volatility of flexible exchange rate regimes—each of which tries to achieve its own national objective without regard to the potentially damaging spillovers caused to others. The greatest of these free thinkers is my own guru, the Nobel economist Robert Mundell. Taking a leaf from former Federal Reserve chairperson Paul Volcker, Mundell has often repeated the mantra: “A global economy needs a global currency.”

The geopolitics of Ash Carter’s India visit – (I)

to be combined with part II
The US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has outlined in some detail the purpose of his mission to India next week. Principally he hopes to discuss arms deals and explore the parameters of co-production of weapons feasible under American laws prohibiting technology transfer. His focus is on the “potential production of fighter aircraft”.

American diplomacy makes it a point to envelop arms deals with rhetoric couched in the idiom of ‘shared values’ – even when the US wraps up highly lucrative multi-billion dollar deals with countries such as Saudi Arabia. Thus, it comes as no surprise that in an address at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Friday, entitled ‘America’s Growing Security Network in the Asia-Pacific’, Carter endeavoured to habitate the upcoming “exciting new projects” with India within an proposed regional security architecture under US leadership.

From the US perspective, the growing “interoperability” involving the two militaries serves the purpose of anchoring India as a key non-NATO ally, which of course demands a fundamental shift by India away from its non-aligned policies and its aversion to military blocs. Carter saw the US-Indian co-production of weapons under the “Make in India”, the “burgeoning” military exercises as well as various other activities of military-to-military cooperation as ensuring the “interoperability” of the armed forces.

Carter outlined in his speech the US blueprint for creating a new alliance system in Asia that can tackle the challenges posed by the rise of China. Washington assigns an important role in it for India. Carter saw a “strategic handshake” already existing between the US and India, with Washington’s rebalance in Asia poised to “reach west” and New Delhi’s Act East “reaching east… that will bring it farther into the Indian and Pacific Oceans”.
Carter fleshed out a road map that involves the US “augmenting” its traditional alliances in Asia-Pacific (Japan, South Korea, Australia and Singapore) by coupling them with bilateral relationships (India, Philippines) and any other trilateral and multilateral arrangements existing at present.

The Global Vote of No Confidence in Pax Americana

Defense spending is rising around the world, and it’s not because people feel safer. Bloomberg:

Global military spending has begun rising in real terms for the first time since the U.S. began its withdrawal of troops from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Defense budgets rose 1 percent to $1.68 trillion in 2015, making up about 2.3 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, Sipri said in a report Tuesday. While the U.S. spent the most at $596 billion, that was down 2.4 percent compared with 2014, while China’s outlay increased 7.4 percent to $215 billion.Concern about a possible advance by Russia into North Atlantic Treaty Organization territory following the Crimea invasion and hostilities in east Ukraine led to a surge in spending in Eastern Europe, as Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea spurred arms purchases among Southeast Asian states.

What’s forgotten among all the grousing by President Obama and Donald Trump about ‘free riding’ allies is this basic fact of international life: the Pax Americana was intended to suppress global geopolitical and military competition by providing a framework for international security. That benefitted the world by making countries safer at a lower cost and by assuring people that their national defense and access to world trade and markets did not require them to build huge military establishments.

Marines put new cyber unit into play


APR 05, 2016
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The Marine Corps is stepping up its cyber game, with the creation of a new cyber unit as part of the U.S. military’s overall cyber force. The Marine Corps Cyberspace Warfare Group, activated during a March 25 ceremony, will execute a mission focused on manning, training and equipping Marine Cyberspace mission teams performing both defensive and offensive cyber operations in support of Cyber Command and Marine Forces Cyberspace Command.

The new unit is described as a firewall to prevent hackers from successfully targeting email, information storage, banking and other related activities. 

The MCCYWG Command Element – a measure of unit organization within the Marine Corps that provides operations, intelligence, logistics, communications, and administrative support – is responsible for the organization, training and equipping the 13 cyber mission force teams the Marines will contribute to the overall 133 across the joint Cyber Command Force. 

“The CMF teams conduct full spectrum cyberspace operations as directed by the Commander they are operationally responsible to (OPCON),” a Marines Corps spokesperson told Defense Systems by email. “The previously identified OPCON relationships are those relationships that have remained unchanged. The teams are geographically and functionally aligned to support both Service and Joint mission sets.”

“We’ve always had the means to communicate and the means to protect that communication, but today we’re in an environment where those methods are more and more reliant on a system of transmissions, routers and networks,” said Col. Ossen J. D’Haiti, the commanding officer of MCCYWG. “So, the ability to protect that, the ability to control that and deny an adversary to interdict that, is crucial to command and control.”

Research and Vision for Intelligent Systems for 2025 and Beyond

Research and Vision for Intelligent Systems for 2025 and Beyond 

Brett Piekarski, Brian Sadler, Stuart Young, William Nothwang and Raghuveer Rao

The current Army Operating Concept document, “Win in a Complex World,” lays out a future vision for Intelligent Systems out to 2040 as a force multiplier for improving the effectiveness and reach of Soldiers and units in complex worlds [1]. It indicates that these systems could be autonomous, semi-autonomous, have the ability to learn, reduce the cognitive burden of the Soldier, and assist in making rapid decisions [1]. Also, through their increased intelligence and autonomy they could perform tasks such as teaming of unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to conduct adaptive and persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) in areas inaccessible by human operators, operate dispersed over wide areas while possessing the mobility to concentrate rapidly, and develop situational understanding through action [1]. All of these concepts will play a significant role and impact the strategy and operational concepts for 2025 and Beyond in complex environments such as Megacities and Dense Urban Environments. But if we put on our Mad Scientist hats, this vision probably stops short of how far we could really push technology and a vision for 2025 and beyond. This paper examines the research challenges and ways we can augment that vision to enable even more capable systems and a larger impact on future operations through collective heterogeneous systems that exhibit distributed awareness, intelligence, adaptable and resilient controls and behaviors, and operational complexity.

Current roadmaps for UAS and UGV focus primarily on individual systems and multi-robot coordination is a future goal [2,3]. For the individual system they state that autonomous mission performance may demand the ability to integrate sensing, perceiving, analyzing, communicating, planning, decision making, and executing to achieve mission goals and adapt to changes as well as predict what will happen next by integrating cognitive behaviors [2]. But, most current unmanned robotic systems still rely heavily on teleoperation or have limited autonomy using GPS waypoint navigation. There is basic research ongoing within the DoD laboratories and academia to increase the levels of autonomy for both air and ground systems, increase the level of interactions with humans to create robotic teammates, and also demonstrate large numbers of collaborative systems. Commercial advancements are happening fast in driverless cars, large scale cooperation for logistics robots, small drones are becoming ubiquitous around the world, and advancements in Artificial Intelligence are happening for applications like IBM Watson. The vision put forth here builds off many of these advancements to integrate large numbers of heterogeneous systems to include; Soldiers integrated into the control architecture and as sensor nodes, large and small UAS and UGV, data from distributed unattended sensors, and information from knowledge bases into one large distributed and collaborative intelligent system. This vision is not so much about a singular system or technology but how to integrate varying levels of autonomy and intelligence across spatially and temporally distributed singular systems, small teams, and even swarm behavior under one robust and adaptable command and control architecture while augmenting the capability of the collective beyond that of any one component within it.

Rogers’ nightmare: weaponization of cyber by terrorists

By Mark Pomerleau 
Apr 07, 2016 

While non-state actors today are not on par with nation states as far as cyber capabilities are concerned, terrorist groups, criminals, hackers and the like could possess destructive capabilities enjoyed by a small circle of nations in the not-so-distant future.

According to Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, non-state groups using cyber as a weapon system to inflict harm is one of the things that keeps him up at night. “The challenge I look for or that concerns me when I look at the future is what happens if the non-state actor – [ISIS] being one example – starts to view cyber as a weapon system? That would really be a troubling development,” he told lawmakers April 5. 

Rogers said ISIS, which one of, if not the most adept, non-state terrorist organizations online, uses the Internet to expose its ideology, recruit on a global scale, generate revenue and coordinate activity. However, despite the minimal threat posed by non-state actors in cyberspace compared with formidable nations like Russia or China, Rogers called cyber “the great equalizer.” 

“Today what I would tell you is I have not seen groups yet make huge investments in [weaponizing cyber], but I worry that it’s a matter of time because it wouldn’t take long,” he said. “One of the challenges of cyber—and in addition we previously talked today about how it doesn’t recognize boundaries—it doesn’t take billions of dollars of investment, it doesn’t take decades of time, and it doesn’t take a dedicated workforce of tens of thousands of people like you see most nation states deal with.”

Rogers added that destructive cyber capabilities are not beyond the ability of groups such as ISIS or al-Qaeda if they made that decision. 

The next Cold War has already begun – in cyberspace

09 april 7, 2016 

Doctoral Researcher in Cyberwarfare, University of Birmingham 
Disclosure statement Conor Deane-McKenna does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

The world is fighting a hidden war thanks to a massive shift in the technologies countries can use to attack each other. Much like the Cold War, the conflict is being fought indirectly rather than through open declarations of hostility. It has so far been fought without casualties but has the potential to cause suffering similar to that of any bomb blast. It is the Cyber War.

When we think of cyber attacks, we often think of terrorists or criminals hacking their way into our bank accounts or damaging government websites. But they have now been joined by agents of different governments that are launching cyber attacks against one another.

They aren’t officially at war, but the tension between the US and Russia – and to a lesser degree China – remains high over a number of disputed decisions. Cyber attacks allow these countries to exert their power against each other in an often anonymous way. They can secretly make small gains but a wrong move could spell disaster, much like the operations of nuclear submarines during the Cold War.

There are numerous forms of cyber attacks that can be used. Malware, typically in the form of a Trojan horse or a worm, installs itself on a computer and takes control, often without the knowledge of the victim. Other attacks can disrupt computer systems through brute force. For example, distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks involve flooding a system with so many requests to access a website that it crashes the site’s server.

Why Virtual Reality Will Change the Way Our Military Prepares For War

by Patrick Van Horne 
April 9, 2016 

It was towards the end of 2014 when I first heard about Oculus Rift and the advancements they are making in the world of virtual reality (VR). Since then, I’ve made it a point to follow news about VR and understand the players in the industry. However, over the past few months since the releases of the 

Samsung Gear VR headset last November, 

Oculus Rift headset in March and the 

HTC Vive last week, the amount of press, blog articles and commentary about the future of virtual reality has increased to a staggering level. This trend initially had me worried because, while there are some truly incredible advancements happening in VR technology right now, the true opportunity that VR represents won’t be fully realized for a number of years ( 

As current press about this technology has led to increased awareness about what the technology will provide, the additional commentary has also resulted in increased expectations. This worries me as it might also lead people to become disillusioned about the true opportunity that VR has to offer as current technology will likely fail to deliver on those high expectations. Yesterday I was reading a blog post written by venture capitalist Fred Wilson where he posed the question to his readers of how they see the future of VR, and as I read the comments, I started to notice that exact trend of negative perceptions that has likely resulted from unfulfilled expectations. Because Wilson’s audience is made up of people who understand and follow the technology sector, I was a bit shocked at their overwhelmingly negative views about the prospects and opportunities that VR offers. As many of the comments were technical in nature and simply engineering challenges that will have to be overcome, as those improvements are made, virtual reality will offer the military a training capability that they have long sought, creating for an incredible opportunity for not only businesses, but also for deploying service members.