27 April 2016

** A Detailed Look at China’s New Aircraft Carrier

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
April 24, 2016

How does China’s first aircraft carrier stack up?

The entry of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, into service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) attracted considerable attention from both the Chinese press and military observers around the world. For some, theLiaoning was a symbol of China’s global power; for others, it represented a significant first step toward a more muscular and assertive Chinese navy.

Originally built as a “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” for the Soviet Navy, the ship was laid down as the Riga and renamed the Varyag in 1990. A Chinese travel agency purchased the unfinished hull in 1998, and three years later the ship was towed from the Ukraine to China, where it underwent extensive modernization of its hull, radar, and electronics systems. After years of refits, the Liaoning was commissioned into the PLAN in September 2012 as a training ship unassigned to any of the Navy’s three major fleets. Two months after the ship was commissioned, the PLAN conducted its first carrier-based takeoff and landings. Although the Chinese have made significant progress in developing their carrier program, it will be several years before a carrier air regiment is fully integrated into the PLAN. Significant questions about the Liaoning’s capabilities and future prospects remain, the most important of which may be what the Liaoning means for the rise of China as a global power.



The Liaoning differs from the aircraft carriers of other countries in both size and capability. Although its overall capability is hindered by its comparatively inefficient power plant and underpowered aircraft-launching system, the Liaoningrepresents an important step in advancing China’s ability to project naval power.

Indian Airborne Troops Script History

By Danvir Singh
25 Apr , 2016

On the eve of April 22, 2016, at Bamanwali, 60 km from Nal Air Field near Suratgarh, the Indian Army and the Air Force displayed highest levels of joint-man-ship. The Agra based 50 Para Brigade created a history by conducting an Air Assault that involved 1900 paratroopers, one Infantry Combat Vehicle, three 105mm field guns and a Mobile Surgical hospital. The elements of this brigade group were air lifted from four different mounting bases in the Western sector, Agra, Bhatinda, Jodhpur and Suratgarh. This was the first time when such a force was air dropped.

The Indian Air Force employed three Russian made IL-76 and fourteen AN-32s. Their latest in inventory, the American Globe Master, C-17 and the Hercules, C-130 were also put to test. This manoeuvre was carried out simulating a 100 km deep strike air assault intended in the heartland of Pakistan, an aim being to secure the projection area.

Factors Affecting Outcome of War

By Air Marshal RK Nehra
25 Apr , 2016

What were the causes for Hindu defeats? The simple and short answer is ‘Military non-performance of the Hindus’.

To examine the reasons of that non-performance, we have first to understand the nature of war, i.e. the factors that determine the outcome of war.

‘War’ is a three-letter dirty word, involving death and destruction, murder and mayhem, and everything unpleasant and unpalatable. However, it is war, which determines the fates of nations, and their pecking order in the comity of nations. Civilizations rose to their glory and grandeur on the shoulders of war; that was the case with all major civilizations, e.g. Greek, Roman, Christian and Islamic. War has dominated the human affairs right from the dawn of history, which is essentially a chronicle of wars. Those civilizations who could not understand the centrality of war in human affairs fell by the wayside; unfortunately, the Hindu civilization falls in this category. The one unimpeachable lesson of history is that maintenance of the delicate balance of civilizations requires War, or the ‘Threat of War’; that is the only language the world at large understands.

Civilizations rose to their glory and grandeur on the shoulders of war; that was the case with all major civilizations…Those civilizations who could not understand the centrality of war in human affairs fell by the wayside; unfortunately, the Hindu civilization falls in this category.

The IS challenge: Europe needs to get its act together

By Jai Kumar Verma
26 Apr , 2016

Islamic State (IS) which has already overtaken Al-Qaeda is currently the most treacherous, wealthiest and better organized terrorist organization in the international arena. While the continuous bombarding in the IS-controlled region may have weakened the terrorist outfit, but the resolve of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his cohorts of retribution has not lessened and the danger of carrying out terrorist activities in Europe has enhanced manifold. Analysts mention that future attacks will be more sophisticated and devastating.

IS has emerged as a fulcrum of terrorism against Europe and America, hence several independent terror outfits as well as alienated people of the society have joined the outfit to settle their real or imaginary grievances.

The US-led ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’, as well as restrictions on international funding to IS, has had adverse impact on its recruitment drive as now it is not spending lavishly on its cadres. According to an estimate, the United States and other countries made more than 10,000 air raids in the IS-controlled areas in which more than 20,000 IS supporters were exterminated and the outfit lost 35 percent of its territory.

DPP – 2016: A New Face of “Make in India” in Defence

Author: Prakash Panneerselvam
April 18, 2016 

The much awaited Defence Procurement Procedure – DPP 2016 was unveiled by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar during the inauguration of DEFEXPO – 2016. The DPP – 2016 is an important step in restructuring the existing defence procurement and acquisition policy. Over the last two decades the government has failed to find a solution to the existing problem in Indian defence acquisition process, leading to several delays in acquiring much needed modern weapon platforms by the Indian armed forces. To resolve the issue, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has taken extra care in restructuring the DPP 2016, which he views as an important component in achieving self-reliance in the defence sector.

After assuming the office in 2014, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had constituted a team of experts under former Union Home Secretary, Dhirendra Singh to review Indian defence procurement policy and DPP -2013. The new DPP – 2016 incorporates the Dhirendra Singh Committee recommendations and brings in dynamic changes in the defence procurement process. The DPP lays emphasis on achieving enhanced self-reliance in weapon manufacturing. Many industry and strategic experts have opined the proposed change would speed-up the procurement process. At the same time, it is also important to analyse, how the DPP – 2016 would impact the “Make in India” initiative in the defence manufacturing sector.

Highlights of DPP – 2016

India and Vietnam Can Rescue Asia's Balance of Power

April 25, 2016

New Delhi and Hanoi must work together to stand up to Beijing.

India no longer hides its aspirations of playing an active political and security role in the Asia-Pacific. For political and commercial reasons, the region is critical to India’s strategic thinking. But India’s may not be able to deftly integrate itself in the region, due to lack of consistent political will, steady military modernization and the galloping pace of the regional economy. However, New Delhi has been slowly expanding its strategic and economic heft through its Act East policy, blue-water navy and multilateral diplomacy.

In the evolving security context of the Asia-Pacific, one country that is key to India’s sustained presence and role is Vietnam. In the last few years, Hanoi’s diplomatic profile has grown in New Delhi’s strategic calculus. At the intersection of India’s Act East policy and Vietnam’s Look West policy, both countries have a historic opportunity to shape Asia’s balance of power.

Afghanistan's spring harvest

KANDAHAR: As the world's largest opium producer, Afghanistan's steady increase has had a direct impact on global opium cultivation, which reached record levels last year, triggering “a large increase” in cheaper heroin supply around the world, the United Nations said in a report last year.

But this happened despite opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan decreasing 19 per cent in 2015 over the previous year, after rising six years in a row, says the latest available Afghanistan Opium Survey.

The area under opium poppy cultivation in 2015 is estimated to be 183,000 hectares (ha), compared with 224,000 ha in 2014. The cultivation area had decreased for the first time since 2009.

Almost 90 per cent of Afghanistan's poppy cultivation is in the south and the west, and provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar, longtime Taliban strongholds, have become synonymous for poppy cultivation.

As opium production rises, so does Afghanistan's own drug addiction problem.

Estimates put the number of heroin addicts in the country at between 1.5 million and 2 million in a population estimated at around 30 million.

And the unchecked Afghan opium production is also blamed for rising drug addiction in neighboring countries, including the former Soviet republics to the north, Iran to the west, and China and Pakistan to the east.

How US Intelligence Gets China Wrong

April 25, 2016

The first time I met Michael Pillsbury was in the 1990s. As fellow researchers at the Atlantic Council, we were participating in a sand-table simulation. The scenario: North Korea wages war on South Korea, dragging China and the United States into the conflict; nuclear confrontation seems imminent. Military experts from the United States, Japan, China, and Taiwan took part in the simulation.

While the conclusion of that simulation slipped out of my memory, I remember Michael Pillsbury as someone who not only knew more about his own country than the other American experts, but seemed to have more information on the behind-the-scenes workings of China than I did – Who are the decision makers in the Ministry of National Defense and the Central Military Commission? How are meetings held at the Central Politburo? I was honestly confounded.

My impression of him then was that he was relatively soft toward China. In fact, he had advised the United States to work together with China against the Soviet Union. However, his book published last year – The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower – established him as a leading American hardliner. In this book, he expresses regret at having encouraged the American government to appease China, and holds the view that Beijing has been secretly deceiving the United States, with the real objective of becoming the next superpower.

How to Get Tough with China

April 25, 2016

The United States’ approach to dealing with China from the Nixon-Kissinger era onwards resembles a forty-five-year science experiment—an experiment that has failed.

The underlying hypothesis was that an accommodating approach to the PRC would inevitably lead to a more liberal China that followed the established rules of the international system. It seemed so logical, as it was under that system that China would so handsomely benefit.

After four-plus decades, there is scant evidence this hypothesis is correct. In fact, the PRC’s relentless effort to create what might cheekily be called a “Greater South China Sea Co-Prosperity Sphere” belies any notion this view was ever correct. China’s island-building expansion across the South China Sea is just the latest evidence that most of the “experts” got China wrong.

Fortunately, the South China Sea is now properly getting attention. But the PRC’s objective is, at a minimum, regional hegemony. While the United States must hold the line in the region and make clear it won’t be bullied out of East Asia, the South China Sea problem will not be resolved in the South China Sea itself.

China’s Response to India’s Emergence as a ‘Swing Power’ in Asia

By Dr Subhash Kapila

China long used to exploit its ‘Swing Power’ status in Asia between United States and Russia seems concerned on being dethroned by India’s evolving emergence as the new ‘Swing Power’ in Asia’s transformed strategic calculus.

The above stands manifested in a recent Opinion Editorial of China’s official media organ, The Global Times of April 17 2016. Curiously, and not in mere coincidence, China seems to have deliberately calibrated the airing of its strategic irritation with India synchronising with the visit of the Indian Defence Minister to China, the meetings of Indian Foreign Minister with her Chinese counterpart at the Trilateral Meeting and the forthcoming visit of India’s National Security Adviser to China.

The very banner headline of the Chinese Opinion Editorial is negative when it says “India Seeks Interest from Geopolitical Tension” by playing-up and contextualising that the geopolitical tensions between United States and China and Russia have “provided India with admirable strategic opportunities.” Surely, India under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Modi in the last two years has been able to secure for itself on its own, an admirable niche and standing in global affairs. India did not have to wait for the worsening of relations of the China-Russia nexus with the United States to attain the mantle of Asia’s current ‘Swing Power’. India’s emergence as a ‘Swing Power’ arises from India’s current and potential national attributes of power awakeningly recognised by the United States and the Indo Pacific nations viewing India as the ‘nett provider of security’ in Asia.

For once China seems to have grudgingly and negatively conceded that India is a ‘Swing Power’ as China has arrogantly denied any sort of strategic equivalence equations to India.

China, the United States and the Future of Central Asia

On Wednesday night, the Foreign Policy Association hosted Dr. David Denoon, a professor of politics and economics at New York University, and director of the NYU Center on U.S.- China relations. Professor Denoon’s remarks stem from his new book China, the United States and the Future of Central Asia, to which he brought his extensive insight before a packed crowd at the U.S. Trust Building in New York City. Denoon previously served in the federal government in three positions: as program economist for USAID in Jakarta, Vice President of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.

Xi’s in Camouflage but Everything is in the Open Now

The recent military reforms in China are in sharp contrast to what is happening in India. The idea of jointness is formally upheld, but the fact is that the three Indian services remain separate in their organisation and doctrine.

Xi Jinping, president of China and now also commander-in-chief of the Peoples Liberation Army. Credit: Screengrab/CCTV

On April 20, 2016, Chinese president Xi Jinping decided to put on yet another hat – that of commander-in-chief of the People’s Liberation Army. Besides being the president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi is also the general secretary of the central committee of the Communist Party of China and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) that runs the PLA.

Clad in military camouflage fatigues, Xi’s new role was revealed through his inspection of the joint battle command centre which will direct the newly reorganised PLA. According to Chinese TV reports, besides the joint staff of the PLA, the commanders of the new north, south, east, west and central battle commands or ‘theatres’ gave their respective reports to Xi through video links. Though some parts of the video shown in the Chinese TV were deliberately blurred, the command centre itself did not appear to be particularly high-tech or sophisticated. Of course, the whole thing, complete with the C-in-C sitting in his chair, could have been a Potemkin affair.


Will China dominate the Pacific? Impossible. Or so we are told by M.L. Cavanaugh, a U.S. Army strategist and War on the Rocks contributor. In a unique article that uses Netflix shows such as “Daredevil” and “Sense8” to explain how we should view the rise of China, Cavanaugh tell us, “Even if China carves out some additional room for maneuver, it will never dominate the Pacific. China’s rise is therefore limited.” He points to China’s purportedly inauspicious demographics and lack of allies especially to explain why this is the case.

I am curious about what the U.S. military is teaching its strategists that one would use the word “never” in writing about the future and about strategy. If politics is about the art of the possible, I’d suggest that “never” should be reserved for changes in laws of physics — and even then, there are circumstances where it’s much more “extremely improbable” rather than “never.”

After all, Nazis and Communists would never align and cooperate with each other. And Sunni and Shia would never work together. In Asia, China could “never” work with Vietnam. The trouble is, all these nevers have happened.



APRIL 22, 2016

Editor’s Note: This piece is adapted from a new report published by the National Bureau of Asian Research. The full report, entitled “U.S.-China Relations in Strategic Domains,” is available online.

Senior Defense Department leadership clarified this week that China’s invitation to the 2016 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises still stands, despite calls from Capitol Hill for its withdrawal. Opponents to Chinese participation argue that the United States should impose costs for China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea. However, military-to-military (mil-mil) — which include multilateral and bilateral exercises but encompass a wide range of activities that serve as confidence-building and deconfliction measures — play an important role in the broader U.S.–China relationship, serving as a channel for sustained dialogue and conflict management.

Former head of U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Samuel Locklear, during a keynote address at an event this Tuesday co-hosted by the National Bureau of Asian Research, advanced this view, noting that China’s participation in RIMPAC 2014 was a “very big success” and that Washington “should do all that [it] can to keep the PLA engaged in international military forums.” His comments come at a time where mil-mil relations between the United States and China are growing ever more consequential, in light of recent developments in the Asia-Pacific. Increasing militarization in the region and Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea heighten the need for mil-mil contacts as a way to manage tensions, ensure stability, and communicate each sides’ respective interests to avoid miscalculations.


Author(s): Aymenn Al-Tamimi 
April 22, 2016

Abstract: Internal Islamic State documents, including documents obtained by the author and published here for the first time, shed new light on how the Islamic State has come under strain as it is degraded by coalition air strikes and loses territory. The internal records make clear these pressures have been felt in the group’s military, financial, and administrative domains, forcing it to take measures to react and adapt. But while the so-called Caliphate has come under pressure, there is little prospect of any collapse anytime soon. Populations under Islamic State rule are accustomed to poor living standards, exacerbated by years of civil war, and will likely stomach further decreases in quality of life for the time being rather than rebel and risk a brutal crackdown.

In assessing the success of the strategies of the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State, a crucial question is how the Islamic State’s statehood project is functioning on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Does it operate successfully as a self-proclaimed state that can endure? Or are there signs that the Islamic State is facing increasing internal challenges over time that may pose a risk of collapse from within? One may also posit that the reality lies somewhere between these two alternatives. The stakes are high. Since the Islamic State, unlike al-Qa`ida and its various regional affiliates, places such great emphasis on its image as state, the collapse of the project in Iraq and Syria may put the Islamic State’s entire future as an international movement into doubt.

Why Is America So Bad at Promoting Democracy in Other Countries?

April 25, 2016 

There’s no quick, cheap, or military-based way to bring peace to places like Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq. It’s time we changed our approach, and we can start at home. 

  If you’re a dedicated Wilsonian, the past quarter-century must have been pretty discouraging. Convinced liberal democracy was the only viable political formula for a globalizing world, the last three U.S. administrations embraced Wilsonian ideals and made democracy promotion a key element of U.S. foreign policy. For Bill Clinton, it was the “National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement.” For George W. Bush, it was the “Freedom Agenda” set forth in his second inaugural address and echoed by top officials like Condoleezza Rice. Barack Obama has been a less fervent Wilsonian than his predecessors, but he appointed plenty of ardent liberal internationalists to his administration, declaring, “There is no right more fundamental than the ability to choose your leaders.” And he has openly backed democratic transitions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and several other countries.

These Russian Nukes Are Better Than America's

April 25, 2016

U.S.-Russia relations (as well as Russia’s relations with NATO) have reached a dangerously low point over the last two years—by far their lowest point since the Cold War. As a result, the issue of nuclear weapons has again come to the fore. It has repeatedly been stated, in extremely serious declarations, that both parties are rehearsing nuclear strikes against each other. For example, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently released his annual report, which claims Russia’s air force conducted a training mission in 2013 that was actually a “simulated nuclear attack” on Sweden. The report also revealed that this mission involved Tu-22М3 Backfire long-range supersonic bombers, under cover of Su-27 fighters. Meanwhile, NATO member Turkey is just a few steps from war with Russia, which does not make the situation any simpler.

In this context it is instructive to evaluate the state of nuclear forces in both the United States and Russia. How is this situation affecting the strategic balance, and dissuading the parties from starting a conflict? And what are the prospects for these two superpowers’ development of nuclear forces?

Both Parties Are Committed to the New Start Treaty

Not Everything Is Munich and Hitler

April 25, 2016

IS OUR culture suffering from an excess of historical awareness? At first glance, it seems like an absurd question. Surveys have repeatedly revealed that when it comes to history, the American population is anything but well informed. According to a 2008 Common Core survey, more than half of American teenagers had no idea when the Civil War was fought, while a quarter believed Columbus came to the New World after 1750. In a video that deservedly went viral, Texas Tech undergraduates, interviewed at random in 2014, were unable to say which side won the Civil War, or from which country the United States gained its independence.

Besides, is it even possible to have too much historical awareness? Surely we can better face the challenges of our own time if we know as much as possible about the historical roots of these challenges, and about similar challenges in the past. For a professional historian like me, you would expect these propositions to be articles of faith.

In recent years, though, I have grown increasingly dispirited at the way certain historical references continue to dominate American political discourse, particularly on foreign affairs. The problem is not that the people who invoke these references get the history wrong (although they often do). It is that they get the present wrong, seeing it insistently through the prism of a history that has less and less relevance to the early twenty-first century. Indeed, even the vocabulary used to discuss foreign affairs—first and foremost the words “war” and “peace” themselves—comes freighted with historical meanings that are increasingly outdated and distracting. References that were already misleading a generation ago have become dangerously absurd. The putative lessons of history have become imprisoning, rather than enabling. In this sense, we really do suffer from an excess of it.

Modern Command & Control Critical to Maintaining U.S. Nuclear Deterrence

According to the U.S. National Security Strategy, the potential use of nuclear weapons poses the greatest danger to U.S. security. The U.S. strategic deterrent exists to deter a nuclear attack or blackmail against the United States and its allies. If deterrence were to fail, the president would make the decision whether to launch nuclear weapons based on information provided by the Nuclear Command and Control System (NCCS), and would communicate his decision through the system. NCCS must be modernized to provide survivable and reliable support of that process.

The NCCS depends on a collection of activities, processes, and procedures performed by military commanders to communicate leadership decisions to nuclear forces. Military and commercial satellite sensors transmit and receive voice, video and data through the NCCS via land-based secure and non-secure phone lines, undersea cables, and airborne relay like the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) and E-6B Airborne Command Post planes. The system is utilized by stakeholders at the White House, Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies.


When asked two weeks ago in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee whether the Army was “outranged” by any adversary, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said: “Yes … the ones in Europe, really Russia. We don’t like it, we don’t want it, but yes, technically [we are] outranged, outgunned on the ground.”

Given Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, this is sobering testimony. But is it accurate? Unfortunately, yes: Nearly two years of extensive wargaming and analysis shows that if Russia were to conduct a short-warning attack against the Baltic States, Moscow’s forces could roll to the outskirts of the Estonian capital of Tallinn and the Latvian capital of Riga in 36 to 60 hours. In such a scenario, the United States and its allies would not only be outranged and outgunned, but also outnumbered.

Outnumbered? While the Russian army is a fraction of the size of its Soviet predecessor and is maintained at a level of imperfect readiness, we found that it could — in 10 days or so — generate a force of as many as 27 fully ready battalions (30–50,000 soliders in their maneuver formations, depending on precisely how they were organized) for an attack on the Baltics while maintaining its ongoing coercive campaign against Ukraine.

Special Report: The Psychology of Terrorism

March 25, 2016
Five experts share recent studies, classical research and professional experiences that shed light on defusing the threat of extremism

Since September 11, terrorism has been an ever present threat gnawing at our collective peace of mind. In recent years those fears—particularly of domestic attacks by Islamic extremists—have spiked. They are up by 38 percentage points since 2011 in France, 21 points in the U.K. and 17 points in the U.S., according to a survey released by the Pew Research Center last summer. And that was before Paris, San Bernardino and Brussels.

But “fear itself,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt so famously pointed out, is not very useful. To contend with a threat, it is better to understand the forces that shape it. That is where science enters in. What can psychology tell us about the mind of a suicide bomber? What makes someone a fanatic in the first place? How is it that during the past five years, extremist groups in Syria and Iraq have managed to recruit some 30,000 foreign fighters to their cause—a number that doubled between 2014 and 2015? Can we reclaim some of them before it is too late?

The experts writing in this special report share some valuable insights from recent studies, classical research and professional experience. Social psychologists Stephen D. Reicher and S. Alexander Haslam make the casethat most terrorists are not psychopaths or sadists, much as we would like to believe. Instead the majority are ordinary people, shaped by group dynamics to do harm in the name of a cause they find noble and just. Critically, those group dynamics involve all of us: our overreaction and fear, Reicher and Haslam explain, can beget greater extremism, thereby fueling a cycle other scholars have termed “co-radicalization.”

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Inside the Devastation of America's Drone Wars

April 21, 2016.

In our part of the world, it’s not often that potential “collateral damage” speaks, but it happened last week. A Pakistani tribal leader, Malik Jalal, flew to England to plead in anewspaper piece he wrote and in media interviews to be taken off the Obama White House’s “kill list.” (“I am in England this week because I decided that if Westerners wanted to kill me without bothering to come to speak with me first, perhaps I should come to speak to them instead.”) Jalal, who lives in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands, is a local leader and part of a peace committee sanctioned by the Pakistani government that is trying to tamp down the violence in the region. He believes that he’s been targeted for assassination by Washington. (Four drone missiles, he claims, have just missed him or his car.) His family, he says, is traumatized by the drones. “I don’t want to end up a ‘Bugsplat’ -- the ugly word that is used for what remains of a human being after being blown up by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone,” he writes. “More importantly, I don’t want my family to become victims, or even to live with the droning engines overhead, knowing that at any moment they could be vaporized.” 

Normally, what “they” do to us, or our European counterparts (think: Brussels, Paris, or San Bernardino), preoccupies us 24/7. What we do to “them” -- and them turns out to be far more than groups of terrorists -- seldom touches our world at all. As TomDispatch readers know, this website has paid careful attention to the almost 300 wedding celebrants killed by U.S. air power between late 2001 and the end of 2013 -- eight wedding parties eviscerated in three countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen). These are deaths that, unlike the 14 Americans murdered in San Bernardino, the 32 Belgians and others killed in Brussels, and the 130 French and others slaughtered in Paris, have caused not even a ripple here (though imagine for a second the reaction if even a single wedding, no less eight of them and hundreds of revelers, had been wiped out by a terror attack in the U.S. in these years).

Military Needs Effective Social Media Ops

by Maj. Ian Bertram 

The United States military and government in general must effectively harness the power of social media.

Without this critical first step, the United States will continue to fall behind its foes in producing a constructive narrative. Right now, the military’s efforts are laughable at best, and often nonexistent due to an overabundance of operational security. This problem allows our opponents to set the public agenda, leaving us to respond with “nuh-uh!” in our best playground voice.

Social media is how the modern world communicates, and it happens almost instantaneously. Who can forget the Pakistani that unknowingly live-tweeted the Osama bin Laden raid? Facebook boasts that 1.55 billion monthly users, with one billion of those people logging on daily. As of 2013, Google Plus had over a billion users, and 500 million people were registered with Twitter. Many people worldwide now use social media as their primary mode of receiving news and information. The military is not blind to this phenomenon, and many major commands and senior officers have some social media presence. The problem is that these outlets rarely pass any useful information, and even general attempts to sell the U.S. military come across as flat.

The U.S. State Department showed how not to apply social media in their pathetic attempts to counter the Islamic State narrative in 2014. The best known video released played much like the group’s own recruiting ads. Since then, there has been little else that the government has pushed to the public in a prominent way. Therefore we have to question the effectiveness of the anti-Islamic State social media narrative. Why isn’t the military publicizing the bombing campaign whenever and however possible? Why aren’t Iraqi offensives covered and the counter-Islamic State operations broadcast far and wide? It seems the military is only good at sharing these stories with its own people and the defense community at large, if at all. The efforts to push the narrative to the public, both in the United States and abroad, are exceedingly lacking.


April 24, 2016

In armed conflicts of the past, the “fog of war” meant a lack of data. In the era of ubiquitous pocket-sized cameras, it often means an information overload.

Four years ago, when analysts at the non-profit Carter Center began using YouTube videos to analyze the escalating conflicts in Syria and Libya, they found that, in contrast to older wars, it was nearly impossible to keep up with the thousands of clips uploaded every month from the smartphones and cameras of both armed groups and bystanders. “The difference with Syria and Libya is that they’re taking place in a truly connected environment. Everyone is online,” says Chris McNaboe, the manager of the Carter Center’s Syria Mapping Project. “The amount of video coming out was overwhelming…There have been more minutes of video from Syria than there have been minutes of real time.”

To handle that flood of digital footage, his team has been testing a tool called Montage. Montage was built by thehuman rights-focused tech incubator Jigsaw, the subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet that was formerly known as a Google Ideas, to sort, map, and tag video evidence from conflict zones. Over the last few months, it allowed six Carter Center analysts to categorize video coming out of Syria-identifying government forces and each of the slew of armed opposition groups, recording the appearance of different armaments and vehicles, and keeping all of that data carefully marked with time stamps and locations to create a searchable, sortable and mappable catalog of the Syrian conflict. “Some of our Montage investigations have had over 600 videos in them,” says McNaboe. “Even with a small team we’ve been able to go through days worth of video in a relatively short amount of time.”

ISIS Targeted By Cyberattacks In A New U.S. Line Of Combat

APRIL 24, 2016

Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the commander of Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee this month in Washington.CreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images

LONDON – The United States has opened a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing the military’s six-year-old Cyber Command for the first time to mount computer-network attacks that are now being used alongside more traditional weapons.

The effort reflects President Obama‘s desire to bring many of the secret American cyberweapons that had been aimed elsewhere, notably at Iran, into the fight against the Islamic State – which has proved effective in using modern communications and encryption to recruit and carry out operations.

The National Security Agency, which specializes in electronic surveillance, has for years listened intensely to the militants of the Islamic State, and those reports are often part of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. But the N.S.A.’s military counterpart, Cyber Command, was focused largely on Russia, China, Iran and North Korea – where cyberattacks on the United States most frequently originate – and had run virtually no operations against what has become the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world.

U.S. Intensifies Cyberattacks on ISIS

David E. Sanger
April 25, 2016

ISIS Targeted by Cyberattacks in a New U.S. Line of Combat\

LONDON — The United States has opened a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing the military’s six-year-old Cyber Command for the first time to mount computer-network attacks that are now being used alongside more traditional weapons.

The effort reflects President Obama’s desire to bring many of the secret American cyberweapons that have been aimed elsewhere, notably at Iran, into the fight against the Islamic State — which has proved effective in using modern communications and encryption to recruit and carry out operations.

The National Security Agency, which specializes in electronic surveillance, has for years listened intensely to the militants of the Islamic State, and those reports are often part of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. But the N.S.A.’s military counterpart, Cyber Command, was focused largely on Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — where cyberattacks on the United States most frequently originate — and had run virtually no operations against what has become the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world.

A review of what should be done to confront the Islamic State is on Mr. Obama’s agenda on Monday, when he is scheduled to attend a conference in Hanover, Germany, with the leaders of Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Of these efforts, the cybercampaign is the newest. It is also the one discussed in least detail by officials of many countries, and its successes or failures are the most difficult to assess from the outside.


Desert Storm remains the benchmark for a modern air campaign. In 40 days, a diverse assembly of coalition airpower managed to shatter one of the world’s largest military establishments, paving the way for the mere 100 hours it took ground forces to eject the Iraqi military from Kuwait. The air campaign was preceded by the most effective defense suppression effort ever, dismantling the Iraqi air defense system in 72 hours. In the aftermath of this successful campaign, the Air Force doubled down on its commitment to electronic warfare, fielding replacements for the aging F-4G Wild Weasel and moving the mission systems from the EF-111A into a new airframe. The Wild Weasel school, scheduled for closure, was revitalized and staffed with a talented cadre possessing recent combat experience. By 1996, the Air Force had demonstrated that it recognized the reasons for its recent success and prepared itself for the advanced air defense developments sure to follow the unambiguously decisive use of airpower in the Gulf.

No it didn’t.

Prepared for Iran UAV Warfare?

The 1979 Islamic Revolution ushered in a period both of paranoia in Iran and, because of the revolutionary regime’s hostage-taking and support for terrorism, a broad array of international sanctions as well. Particularly scarring from the Iranian perspective was its vulnerability during the Iran-Iraq War due to its over-dependence on foreign weaponry.

Accordingly, in the 1980s, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps laid the groundwork for an indigenous weapons program. Iran developed its own chemical weapons capability after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq used chemical weapons against its forces, and demonstrated an impressive capability to cannibalize and modernize in order to add years of life to its aircraft. Take Iran’s F-14, for example — a platform long since retired in the United States. Nevertheless, Iran managed to keep many of its F-14s flying, modified them with new bomb racks and, just in the past year, upgraded its fleet with a new, more powerful radar system.

That indigenous weapons industry — one which will receive a major boost given how the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) disproportionately enriches the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its military industries — has been pushing full steam ahead on a number of fronts. The IRGC-Navy, for example, announced the development of a new generation of armed speedboats capable of 80 knots (twice the speed of an aircraft carrier) and has said that it is now working on a 120-knot armed boat. Earlier this year, Iranian defense websites and news portals highlighted the new, indigenous “Nour” cruise missile which the Iranian military successfully launched from both ship and shore.

NATO Must Strengthen Its Front Line Against Russia

April 25, 2016

On his visit to Estonia just before the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, President Barack Obama stressed the importance of collective defense. “The defense of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London,” he said.

The Wales Summit set up a process of enhancing allied presence in NATO’s central and eastern European frontline states. Important assurance measures outlined in Wales have begun to be implemented, resulting in improved regional security on NATO’s eastern flank. Some very concrete practical measures have already been undertaken, including the formation of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) to respond to possible hostile actions like those that took place in Crimea or the Donbass region, and allied forces have been dispatched on a rotational basis to central and eastern territories. Small integration units have been established with regional and non-regional forces working side-by-side on the ground.

How to Join a Ukrainian Militia

April 25, 2016

THE UKRAINIAN army was so pitiful when fighting broke out in the Donbas in April 2014 that President Petro Poroshenko had to outsource the nation’s defense to volunteers. By July, approximately fifteen thousand citizens and foreigners had joined “volunteer battalions.” There are two main types. Territorial units were raised throughout Ukraine’s twenty-four oblasts, including Donetsk and Luhansk. There’s a Lviv Battalion and a Kremenchug Company. The Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion is made up of several hundred Chechens who arrived in August to avenge Putin’s waging of the Second Chechen War. The second type is ostensibly ideological. Sankta Maria is Orthodox Christian. Sich Battalion is ultranationalist. The distinction between the territorial and ideological units quickly became trivial. Members of the Azov Battalion, based in the eastern city of Mariupol, are reputed to be Aryan racists. But most members I met were foreigners who joined because Azov—allegedly funded by Rinat Akhmetov, a Donetsk steel tycoon—pays five hundred dollars per month. If there is a shared sense of mission among the volunteers, it may be best described as anti-Putinism. Almost every volunteer I have met this winter at the Donetsk front bears a personal grudge against him.

The Post-Imperial Moment

April 22, 2016

Vulgar, populist anarchy will define the twenty-first century.

IN 1935, the anti-Nazi writer and Austrian-Jewish intellectual Joseph Roth published a story, “The Bust of the Emperor,” about an elderly count at the chaotic fringe of the former Habsburg Empire who refused to think of himself as a Pole or an Italian, even though his ancestry encompassed both. In his mind, the only mark of “true nobility” was to be “a man above nationality,” in the Habsburg tradition. “My old home, the Monarchy, alone,” the count says, “was a great mansion with many doors and many chambers, for every condition of men.” Indeed, the horrors of twentieth-century Europe, Roth wrote presciently, had as their backdrop the collapse of empires and the rise of uniethnic states, with Fascist and Communist leaders replacing the power of traditional monarchs.

Should America Build a Smaller, More Lethal U.S. Army?

April 22, 2016

In the Old Testament book of Judges, the Almighty tasks Gideon with leading the Israelites against their oppressor, the Midianites. In assembling an Israelite army, the Almighty commands Gideon to reduce his numbers. Gideon obeys and ultimately triumphs with the remaining force of three hundred men employing an elaborate ruse. Reducing the size of an armed force seems counterintuitive, but, as the story illustrates, organizational design, and not end strength, is critical to military effectiveness.

In the present day, headlines are replete with American Army leadership warning of risks arising from the reduction in the service’s end strength. Unfortunately, Army leadership indicated the risks could only be addressed by providing the service with more resources, namely appropriation dollars to afford additional personnel and new equipment.

Given the Department of the Army’s record in managing prior manpower increases and modernization programs, Congress is right to be skeptical as to whether simply providing more of both would best minimize the risks raised by the service’s leadership.

The Commission on the Future of the Army, tasked by Congress with an examination of these matters, concluded “in general terms, the Army is appropriately sized, shaped, and ready to meet the strategic guidance it has been given... but only just so.” [Emphasis added].