30 July 2016

*** Stratfor: China Is Building Its Future on Credit

Stratfor, 20 July 2016

Summary: China, like the US, has surprised the bears by the resilience of its economy. Here Strafor examines one source of its economic strength, one that might haunt its future — massive and imprudent accumulation of debt.

China Is Building Its Future on Credit

As China tries to overcome slowdowns in its industrial and trade sectors, the country’s banks have continued to increase the pace of lending, issuing 1.38 trillion yuan ($205.8 billion) worth of loans in June. The figure confirms some economists’ expectations that lending will keep rising as China’s central government attempts to revive economic growth and boost property markets that showed signs of another slump in May. It also indicates that despite Beijing’s repeated pledges to reduce the economy’s reliance on credit and state-led investment, the easy flow of financing from state-owned banks remains the country’s primary bulwark against widespread debt crises among corporations and local governments.


*** Author: William S. Lind The View From Olympus: Pussycats–Martin van Creveld’s Important New Book

Martin van Creveld’s latest book, Pussycats: Why the Rest Keeps Beating the West and What Can Be Done About It, is so important that it re-defines the military reform agenda. Previously, military reform has focused on the problems that have led to America’s repeated military defeats. The issues van Creveld raises in Pussycats suggests we are moving from an American military that can’t win to one that won’t even fight.

The essence of Creveld’s argument is that we (both the U.S. and Western Europe) have de-militarized our military. The introduction of women is one of the factors, but not the only one, although if a military is to fight it must have an aggressively male culture. That is unacceptable not only to the women in the military but to a broadly womanized society and culture. It would not surprise our ancestors to hear that a womanized society can’t fight.

But Creveld looks at influences well beyond womanization. The de-militarizing of our armed forces begins, he argues, with the way we now raise children, especially boys. No longer do they “go out and play”, get into fights, get into difficulties they have to find their own ways out of. Rather, they live controlled, “safe” lives where they always have adult supervision and are instructed in how to do everything before they have to do it. Instead of growing up, they are forever infantilized.

This problem is very real. Recently, I recommended to a friend, a lieutenant colonel at the Marine Corp’s Basic School for new lieutenants, that they reinstitute the “Zen patrol”. In the Zen patrol, which TBS used to do, new lieutenants are simply taken out on a patrol, without having received any instruction in patrolling. They have to figure it out for themselves, which means they also learn how to learn.

** Shia Massacre in Afghanistan – Reason not Always Simple

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
29 Jul , 2016

On July 23, two suicide bombings ripped through a protest march by Hazaras in Kabul’s Dehmazang Square killing 80 and wounding 260. The Hazaras were protesting rerouting of the Asian Development Bank and World Bank funded Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TUTAP) power project which was originally planned through the Hazara dominated Bamyan Province. The rerouting puts the Hazaras at a disadvantage in terms of electricity. Thousands of people attended the demonstration and the protestors were returning when two terrorists detonated their explosive belts killing 80 and injuring some 260.

As per UNAMA report: some 5,166 people were killed or maimed in Afghanistan in the first six months of this year…

A third suicide bomber was reportedly killed before he could detonate his bomb, otherwise the casualty rate would have gone up further. President Ashraf Ghani described the dastardly terrorist attack as the deadliest since 2001 in a televised address, declared July 24 as a day of national mourning and promised action against the culprits. The ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the VOA, the ISIS also said the attack was meant to warn the Hazaras to stop fighting alongside the Syrian government.

It may be recalled that when Kabul was truck bombed on 7 August 2015, killing 15 and wounding 400 on August 7, 2015, Afghan clerics had given a call against Pakistan saying Jihad is eligible against Pakistan’s military intelligence (ISI) and Punjabi military because of their direct involvement in ongoing violence and savagery in Afghanistan. This was after the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) had stated that the attacks were carried out by elements of the Pakistani army with the help of the Haqqani Network.

* Not Much Is New in This Election

By George Friedman
July 28, 2016

The impression that this election cycle is unique is a common feature in American politics.

The United States now knows who the candidates of the two major political parties are. One of these two will most likely become president of the United States in January. As usual, each candidate and their partisans are predicting total catastrophe if the other wins. There are also claims that there has never been an election like this in history. As is normally the case, the candidate of the party out of power is claiming that the United States has reached a catastrophic point because of the current government. The other candidate is saying that the country is not collapsing but that it will collapse if the opposition’s candidate is elected. 

This is pretty normal stuff, including the belief by much of the public that there has never been such an election before. But that is wrong. There have been others with much more at stake. The 1861 election resulted in a civil war that killed 600,000 soldiers on both sides. In 1968, the leading candidate of the Democratic Party, Robert Kennedy, was murdered after winning the California primary. Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered a few months before and the Democratic Convention was held amid massive riots outside the convention hall. In the end, Richard Nixon was elected, about which no more needs to be said. In the 2000 general election, there was a recount in Florida and the case wound up in the Supreme Court. The Democrats continue to claim the election was stolen. 

On a minor note, John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic running for president and some people seriously believed that he would be controlled by the Pope. Some also believed Ronald Reagan was a hack actor without any knowledge of the world and unqualified to be president. The same thing was said of Harry Truman when he ran in 1948, after serving as president for over three years. Chevy Chase portrayed Gerald Ford as too stupid to walk without falling over during the 1976 election. Barry Goldwater, in 1964, was accused by a bunch of psychiatrists who had never met him of being psychologically unstable. Lyndon B. Johnson was accused of being a criminal in 1964 because he became a multi-millionaire without ever holding a job outside government.

It is Time to Call Pakistan’s Bluff on Kashmir

By Jai Kumar Verma
29 Jul , 2016

The party in power in Islamabad, Pakistan, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), won 31 out of the 49 seats (direct election is held for only 41 seats) in the assembly elections of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) held on July 21, 2016. A total of 26 political parties and 423 candidates participated in this farcical elections. The performance of other political parties was very dismal as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won 2 seats, while All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference (AJKMC) and Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had to be content with 3 seats each. 

2.674 million people had cast their votes in these assembly elections, which were held under the supervision of the Pakistani army. Nawaz Sharif congratulated the people of Kashmir for the conduct of peaceful elections. However, the residents of PoK have claimed that they were not allowed to cast their votes and were stopped from entering polling booths under the garb of security or other flimsy pretexts.

After the declaration of the election results violence has erupted in many districts of PoK, as local people came out in the streets and started widespread protests against rigging during July 21 elections. Protesters also claim that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency from Pakistan were the one responsible for the elections being rigged.

Pakistan claims that it holds free and fair elections but in reality the elections were totally rigged and people of PoK have no right of self-determination. However out of 49 seats in Legislative Assembly, 8 seats are filled by elected members while Kashmiris settled in other parts of Pakistan elect 12 members on the basis of fraudulent list of voters, which includes several non-Kashmiris. Hence, election in PoK was held only for 29 seats. Pakistan government has excluded 20 seats from election process with ulterior motive of keeping its control over PoK.

Psychological warfare on social media our new threat: Rathore

Jul 26, 2016

In the backdrop of ongoing unrest in Kashmir, Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore today said "psychological wars" waged in cyberspace are the "new threat" of our times, and urged people to turn into "social media soldiers" to counter this new-age warfare.

"The world is changing. First there was traditional war, then nuclear war, and then limited intensity war (like Kargil). But, today's threat is of cyber war and through that psychological warfare. And, this psychological war is the biggest war," he said.

The Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting was addressing a gathering at a function organised by Jammu and Kashmir People's Forum to mark 'Kargil Vijay Diwas' at the Constitution Club of India here.

"Recently a terorist was gunned down in Kashmir like many other terrorists have been killed...And, talking about this psychological warfare which is being waged in the realm of social media, what followed on Twitter after that terrorist was shot dead...

"There were 1,25,000 tweets on that terrorist, out of which only 49,000 were from India, 52,000 from unknown locations and 10,000 from Pakistan," he said.

Rathore lauded the sacrifices made by soldiers and officers of the Army in Kargil war of 1999, but cautioned that nature and realm of warfare has now assumed different proportions.

"Therefore, I say, our soldiers are there on the front, but it's not adequate. We need thousands of people who can play the role of a 'sainik on social media' and also become soldiers," he said.

GST ‘Door Ast’: Even If Bills Passed In August, Pain Will Be Frontloaded

R Jagannathan
July 28, 2016
Source Link

The pain in GST is frontloaded, while the gains may be backloaded. 

The NDA government has been brave to undertake this monumental task where the upfront risks are high and payback period long.

With the Union Cabinet clearing amendments to the Goods and Services Tax Bill, based on a wider consensus among states, there is a reasonable probability that the 122nd Constitutional Amendment Bill will be passed during the ongoing monsoon session of parliament. It is a huge leap of faith, both by the centre and states, on an initiative that is touted as the single largest tax reform ever attempted.

The problem is the benefits have been oversold in advance when the costs of GST implementation have not been properly calculated. There is loose talk of GST adding two percent to GDP, and how it will revolutionise indirect tax collection by reducing the sheer number of interfaces for businesses. With the GST Network now being put in place, the bulk of the indirect tax system could thus be digitised and become essentially paperless. India will become one common market for most goods and services. Ease of doing business will go up several notches.

When implemented, all central excise and indirect taxes, including service taxes, and cesses and additional duties will be subsumed in GST. At the state level, octroi, entry taxes, luxury tax, entertainment tax, and value-added tax will be subsumed into State GST. The unified GST will be Central plus State GST.

But that’s some time off. Before the gain comes the pain. The pain in GST is frontloaded, while the gains may be backloaded.

The pain will be both macro-economic and micro-economic, at the level of budgets, businesses and individuals. And we certainly should not rule out fights between centre and states when glitches come early.

The needless quest for NSG membership

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Tamil Nadu

Instead of further attempts to enter the NSG, India would do better to simply give this club a wide berth, write M.V. Ramana and Suvrat Raju

Over the past decade, successive Indian governments have made engagement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group a central element of their foreign policy. In its recent ungainly attempt to enter the NSG, the Narendra Modi government was simply continuing the policy of the United Progressive Alliance government that first initiated trade in uranium and nuclear reactors with NSG members in 2008. But what costs has the country paid for this "seat at the nuclear high table"? As we describe below, both the NSG waiver of 2008 and membership of the group - if it materializes - are largely irrelevant to electricity generation in the country. And the price that the country has paid, in terms of diplomatic concessions and expensive reactors that it has agreed to purchase from the United States of America and international nuclear suppliers, far outweighs the stated benefits of this engagement. Instead of further attempts to enter this club, the country would do better to simply give the NSG a wide berth.

Political Transition, Tatmadaw and Challenges for Myanmar’s Democracy

By Sampa Kundu
29 Jul , 2016

The year 2016 marked a major power transition in Myanmar as democratic forces led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) under Daw Aung Saan Suu Kyi assumed office on March 30. The transition came almost four months after the NLD’s victory in the November 2015 election. With this, Myanmar has taken another step forward towards its transition to democracy, a process that was specifically initiated in 2011 under the reformist leadership of President Thein Sein, a former army general.1

The electoral success and assumption of office by Daw Suu and her party has resulted in huge expectations, leading to the single-most crucial question: would the five-year term of the government be sufficient to meet all the expectations? The answer lies in the capacity and the capability of the new government to deliver on the promises made to the people; the approach of the new leadership towards resolving several continuing as well as emerging issues of concern, and finally, the future role of the Tatmadaw (the military) in politics and government. The crux of the issue is that Myanmar still has many hurdles to overcome before it completes the journey towards democratic transition.

This backgrounder offers an overview of the two most challenging concerns for Myanmar’s democracy – ethnic unrest and economic hardships – and how the new government is planning to address these issues in particular and also more generally the influence of the Tatmadaw in politics.2 It begins with a brief discussion on the trajectory of Myanmar’s transition to democracy. Next, it details the two crucial challenges of ethnic unrest and economic hardships facing Myanmar. And, finally, it draws some relevant references on the changes in Myanmar’s relations with the major global powers under Suu Kyi.

A Brief Overview of the Political Transition

Ethnic polarisation: Afghanistan's emerging threat

There are vivid and recent examples that show no country is immune from the poisonous politics of hatred and division, writes Moradian [EPA]

Davood Moradian is the director-general of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies and former chief of programmes in President Hamid Karzai's office and chief policy adviser to Afghanistan's ministry of foreign affairs. 

In Afghanistan's "theme park of challenges", ethnic politics is becoming a key contested debate, alongside the usual and known issues.

The Saturday terrorist attack that targeted predominantly the Hazara community has heightened political tension.

From harsh exchanges among growing Afghan social media users (PDF) to the controversy over how to name universities, the disputed 2014 presidential election to the stalled electoral reforms, ethnic politics is polarising political elites and the state bureaucracy.

While most Afghan political actors engage in one way or other in ethnic politics, they are hesitant to publicly and openly articulate their ethnic views - particularly to their external interlocutors.

Such a polarisation and, more importantly, its collective denial, could take the country into unchartered territory.

The land of a thousand cities

The Growth of the Elite Afghan Special Operations Forces

July 27, 2016

Special Operations: Afghan Operators Are Calling

One of the less publicized changes in the Afghan military has been the slow, but steady, development of Afghan special operations capabilities. These specialists are used, like their American counterparts, for collecting intelligence on the ground, developing working relationships with local armed groups and carrying out raids on key targets. By 2016 the Afghan special operations troops proved capable of doing it all. This meant collecting accurate information on where key Islamic terrorist, especially Taliban, bases and leaders where, merging that with American intel from satellite and UAV surveillance and electronic monitoring. The American intel specialists helped, but the Afghan commandos knew the ground and the people and they were able to plan raids or UAV strikes on key Islamic terrorist personnel and that has done more damage to the Taliban than any amount of patrols and attacks using police and regular army units. The Afghan commandos had the element of surprise and better information on where the enemy was and what they were capable of. These efforts were so successful that the United States allowed, for the first time, UAVs to make attacks on Taliban leaders in southwest Pakistan, a Taliban sanctuary that the Pakistanis had long insisted didn’t exist and was off limits to American UAVs. But it was not off-limits to satellite surveillance and electronic monitoring. So the Americans compiled more and more very detailed evidence of how the Taliban had been using their sanctuary for over a decade.

Creating Afghan special operations forces was first proposed in 2002. But it took several years before recruiting and training could get started. Progress was slow, but steady. In late 2010 Afghanistan deployed its first Special Forces teams, and they were an immediate success. Many Afghans were familiar with American Special Forces, but while these foreign troops spoke the language and knew the culture, they weren’t Afghan. Despite that, the American Special Forces often established rapport with the Afghan villagers, and were usually very successful. But the Afghan Special Forces take that rapport to a new level. Afghan villagers admired the skills of the American Special Forces, both as warriors and experts in many other areas. But now they see Afghans doing the same things. This makes a big impression, and the Afghan Special Forces get even more cooperation and trust.

Obama Worsening Afghan-Pak State

July 23, 2016

Obama Worsening Afghan-Pak State

SWJ Note: Small Wars Journal was pointed to this 10 May 2009 Saudi Gazette op-ed via email. It is reposted here with the kind permission of the author. So little has changed.

For all the talk of “smart power,” President Obama is pressing down the same path of failure in Pakistan marked out by George Bush. The realities suggest need for drastic revision of US strategic thinking.

Military force will not win the day in either Afghanistan or Pakistan; crises have only grown worse under the US military footprint.

The Taleban represent zealous and largely ignorant mountain Islamists. They are also all ethnic Pashtuns. Most Pashtuns see the Taleban -- like them or not -- as the primary vehicle for restoration of Pashtun power in Afghanistan, lost in 2001. Pashtuns are also among the most fiercely nationalist, tribalized and xenophobic peoples of the world, united only against the foreign invader. In the end, the Taleban are probably more Pashtun than they are Islamist.

It is a fantasy to think of ever sealing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The “Durand Line” is an arbitrary imperial line drawn through Pashtun tribes on both sides of the border. And there are twice as many Pashtuns in Pakistan as there are in Afghanistan. The struggle of 13 million Afghan Pashtuns has already enflamed Pakistan’s 28 million Pashtuns.

India is the primary geopolitical threat to Pakistan, not Afghanistan. Pakistan must therefore always maintain Afghanistan as a friendly state. India furthermore is intent upon gaining a serious foothold in Afghanistan - in the intelligence, economic and political arenas - that chills Islamabad.

Of Indian tanks and Chinese investments

28 July 2016

The deployment of Indian tanks near the India-China border has hurt the Chinese, and the latter is bound to bully its neighbour. India has to take measures to counter the Middle Kingdom’s tactics, investment or no investment

They were furious after the announcement of the verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). The International Tribunal in The Hague had given its ruling on a reference by the Philippines over the South China Sea: China has no historic ‘rights’ over the natural resources in most of the areas of the South China Sea; further any right must not exceed what’s permitted by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Now, China is upset again. This time because the Indian Press reported the deployment of T-72 battle tanks in Ladakh. Quoting official sources, The Tribune, whose correspondent visited Ladakh, spoke of a possibility for China and Pakistan to launch a collusive two-front war against India: “In the past four-five years, ground troops have been added to pre-positioned locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), or the de facto border, that is not marked on the ground.”

Since the past 36 months, ground forces and artillery guns have been backed by T-72 Russian-origin tanks and another tank unit is slated to move to eastern Ladakh facing China: “This adds a new dimension to any future war in the area that is marked by an average height of 14,000 feet, where oxygen is scarce,” says The Tribune.

The South China Sea ruling and China’s grand strategy

Richard C. Bush III
July 13, 2016 

The International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea has ruled on the case that the Philippines brought in 2013, challenging China's claims and behavior in the South China Sea. International lawyers and the policy commentariat has judged the ruling as a sweeping victory for the Philippines and a significant loss for China, which refused to acknowledge the tribunal's jurisdiction or to take part in the proceedings.

The question going forward is how China will respond. Will it double down on the aggressive and coercive activities of the past six years, behavior that has put most of its East Asian neighbors on guard? Will it continue to interpret the Law of the Sea in self-serving ways that very few countries accept? Or, might China recognize that its South China Sea strategy has been an utter failure and that its best response is to take a more restrained and neighborly approach? 

What got us here?

Critical as the next weeks and months will be, it is also useful to take a look back and examine recent events in the broad context of Chinese foreign and security policy over the last four decades. The premise of that reform policy, initiated in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was that a weak China could best ensure its security by engaging and accommodating the international community, in order to gradually build up all aspects of its national power. The most clear-cut feature of this strategy was to join the global economy: China accepted the leadership of the IMF and World Bank; opened the Chinese economy to international trade and investment; carved out critical roles in global supply chains; accepted the liberalization disciplines of the World Trade Organization; and, more recently, began to provide public goods to other developing economies. Not everyone has benefitted from China's economic engagement, but on balance it has been a signal success.

How the Chinese Government Became the World’s Hacking Superpower

In January of 2010, Google made a shocking announcement: The Chinese government had broken into its systems to steal sensitive data.

This was the first time an American company had the guts to publicly stand up and point the finger at the government of China.

“We detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google,” the company wrote in a boringly titled blog post.

Those were different times. Six years later, a mantra among cybersecurity experts is that there’s only two types of companies: those that have been hacked by China, and those that don’t know they’ve been hacked yet.

Countless companies have accused China of hacking them. A whole industry has benefitted from this, offering defensive tools and forensics investigations to potential and actual victims. The reason why China has become such a superpower when it comes about hacking is because it wants to be the world’s biggest superpower, and the fastest way to get to the top is steal secrets from the current leader.

But the current leader, the United States, has also decided to stand up. In 2014, the Department of Justice announced the indictment of five hackers who work for the country’s military. The officers have practically no chance of ever seeing an American courthouse, but it was a way to make what’s still the loudest stand against Chinese corporate espionage. Then, a year later, US and China announced a ceasefire of hacking operations, at least those against corporations. It was the beginning of a new era.

Sustaining Britain's Role in NATO After Brexit

(The National Interest)
August 4, 2016
The Royal Navy destroyer HMS Diamond alongside the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower conducting maritime security, November 4, 2012

Britain is entering a period of increased uncertainty and political change which could have far reaching implications for its relations with Europe and ultimately the Atlantic Alliance. The Brexit referendum calling for the UK to leave the EU unleashed one of the most chaotic and serious political crises in the postwar period in Britain.
Fortunately, the Tory Party's rapid selection of former Home Secretary Theresa May to replace David Cameron as prime minister has enhanced the prospects that the divorce from the EU can be managed in a mutually productive fashion. A tough negotiator, Prime Minister May has a reputation as a moderate and a pragmatist more interested in achieving concrete results rather than political grandstanding. In the weeks since assuming the post of prime minister she has moved swiftly and decisively to assemble a new cabinet and put her stamp on foreign policy.

Reducing immigration will be at the top of her list of priorities in the withdrawal negotiations. However, May has yet to fully clarify where she stands on the issue of restricting freedom of movement of European citizens across national borders — a fundamental EU principle — while maintaining a degree of access to the single European market. She has said limits on movement would be obtained as part of future negotiations with the EU. This is likely to be one of the most difficult and contentious issues. The EU officials have warned British leaders that they cannot expect to have all of the economic benefits of membership without sharing some of the risks of immigration.
The new government's defense policy has been marked by continuity. It reaffirmed the Cameron government's commitment to building a follow on to the Vanguard submarine fleet armed with Trident II missiles — the core of the UK independent nuclear deterrent.
It also reaffirmed its support for the Cameron government's decision to forward deploy a British Army battalion battle group to Estonia as part of a larger NATO deterrence and reassurance package announced during the Warsaw Summit in July 8–9....
The remainder of this commentary is available on nationalinterest.org.

F. Stephen Larrabee holds the Distinguished Chair Emeritus in European Security at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and was a member on the National Security Council staff in the Carter Administration. Peter A. Wilson is an adjunct senior defense analyst at RAND and professor at the Security Studies Program, Georgetown University.
This commentary originally appeared on The National Interest on August 3, 2016.

France’s Doomed War On ‘Islamist Terrorism’ – OpEd

JULY 28, 2016

Days after a truck ploughed its way into throngs of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, the Los Angeles Times reported that “[Daesh or the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] later claimed indirect responsibility for the attack”. The clearly deliberate act killed 84 people, many of whom were children, and a third of whom were Muslims.

But knowing what we know about Daesh and its appetite to promote global violence, ‘indirect responsibility’ likely means that they had no direct involvement in the attacks or links to the attacker, Mohammad Lahouaiej Bouhlel.

In fact, Bouhlel’s profile doesn’t exactly fit the typical profile of ruthless ‘jihadists’, as is so often repeated in the media and by ‘terrorism experts’.

The 31-year-old Nice resident of Tunisian origin was already known to the local police, if only for petty street crimes. However, he was not even on the French intelligence’s terror watch list. In fact, till now there is no evidence to link the July 14 attacker to Daesh or to any other militant group.

Since that is the case, what is one to make of French Prime Minister Francois Hollande’s remarks that he will “strengthen [his country’s] actions” in Syria and Iraq?

If the deadly Nice attack is clearly an outcome of internal French societal dynamics, why should Iraqis and Syrians pay the price of France’s vengeance? Clearly, the correlation lacks evidence or even logic.

World As Global Sin: Terrorism ‘Sine Qua Non’ – Essay

JULY 27, 2016

There have always been pressure and attacks on freedom, ever since man first crawled from out of the cave there have been attacks on individual freedom, regardless if we are talking about male and/or female freedom. Nations and religions came later.

But, what is the Freedom? To do whatever I want, whenever I want? No, Freedom is the ability to use the right and obligation in 50/50% manner, while at the same time trying to safely swim the waves of life, whatever we consider under the term of “life” within this and current World. So, when my Freedom jeopardizes somebody else’s Freedom that is a pressure and attack on others who are different from me.

How does this happen?

1. Let us try to put aside usual non-intellectual and degrading statements that this or that religion is the base for jeopardizing and instead focus on all the outcomes of the current world that focuses on terrorism on behalf of the state:

a. Corruption within the each and every state of the world shows that democracy in the current form that we know, does not work at all;
b. As the Majority rules within each and every state of the world, this shows that democracy in a way we now know it, does not work at all;
c. The control of elected officials, after the election period and during their ruling, in each and every state of the world shows that democracy in the way we know it, does not work at all;

All Jihad is Local What ISIS' Files Tell Us About Its Fighters

JULY 20, 2016

Until now, the threat posed by ISIS’ foreign fighters has been understood mainly through rough estimates of their countries of origin: 36,500 recruits have come from at least 100 countries since 2012, including 6,900 from the West, according to Senate testimony in February 2016 by U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Analysts have also examined, albeit roughly, what factors drive militants to join extremist groups, such as joblessness and the spread of radical, violent ideology. 

But to understand the nature of the global threat of violent extremism, the focus must be set on the local politics that created it in the first place. By using personal information volunteered by over 3,500 foreign fighters to ISIS officials—nearly 10 percent of the intelligence estimate—All Jihad is Local conducts the first quantitative analysis on the subnational origins of some of these fighters. 

The data analyzed in this report come from foreign fighter registration forms collected by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) officials on the Syria-Turkey border between mid-2013 and mid-2014. These data, leaked in early 2016 by a defected ISIS fighter who stole the records before fleeing to Turkey, represent an unprecedented cache of personal information about foreign fighters, including names and phone numbers of family and friends and notes about fighters’ potential roles within ISIS.

The report finds: 


Most critics of the White House’s proposed U.S.-Russian cooperative arrangement against terrorists in Syria, the terms of which were recently leaked, have focused on what could go wrong. Russia may simply violate the terms of any agreement reached thereby undermining the mission, embarrassing the United States, and hurting its local partners. I am far more troubled, however, by what would happen if the agreement goes as planned. A successful Joint Implementation Group (JIG) would likely weaken or eliminate a strong component of the insurgency without compensating for the lost capacity, further tilting the military balance in the regime’s favor. Unless the United States can prevent that, the JIG would make a lasting negotiated settlement in Syria more difficult than it already is, setting the stage for open-ended civil war and further radicalization.

The JIG’s terms do not overwhelmingly favor Russia, at least not on paper. They place constraints on its military action in Syria in return for intelligence sharing and possible direct operational cooperation against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. Russia would also refrain from targeting jointly designated (and presumably opposition-controlled) areas. Russia would compel the regime to ground its air force across much of Syria. Indeed, Russia might find the JIG’s terms too onerous. It can after all continue its own unrestrained war on al-Nusra and the broader insurgency alike without U.S. cooperation.

If Russia does accept the JIG proposal, it could later derail it through cheating. It could simply violate the terms, especially over target designation and rules of engagement. The document does not mention any penalties for violations, but there appear to be none. Russia may fail (or fail to try) to prevent regime aircraft from operating over “safe” areas, just as it has failed to stop the regime from violating the Cessation of Hostilities, which broke down after a few weeks. Of course, there is little goodwill between the United States and Russia over Syria anyway, meaning intelligence sharing is inherently problematic.

Anger Erupts Over Plan To Settle Two Million Central Asians In Russian Far East – OpEd

JULY 28, 2016

The Russian Ministry for the Development of the Far East says that it is preparing to announce before the end of 2016 a new demographic policy for that region over the next 15 years, one designed to boost the current population of that Chinese border area from six million to eight million.

Igor Romanov, the editor of the Beregrus portal, says that “it is obvious” on the basis of the documents that have been released so far that the ministry intends to meet this target primarily by bringing in immigrants from Central Asia, a development that he and others in the region very much oppose (beregrus.ru/?p=7470).

He says that experts have subjected such ideas to “the harshest criticism” but that the government continues to believe that moving cheap labor resources to the region, which will supposedly “solve” the needs of the raw materials extraction industry there is the best way to proceed.

What Moscow should be worried about but isn’t, Romanov says, is the quality of life of the people who live in the Russian Far East rather than their number. Life in the region has been rapidly “degrading in all relations but above all moral, educational and cultural,” and the introduction of Central Asian gastarbeiters will only make the situation worse.

By inviting them to come to the Russian Far East, he continues, “we will not in any way compensate for our democratic losses but simply ensure the replacement of the current population with another. Instead of the Russians who remain here will come other people, bearers of an alien culture, the so-called ‘new Russians’ [‘rossiyane’].

Ukraine: The Line

18 Jul 2016

The 500km line of separation between Russian-supported separatist districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and the rest of Ukraine is not fit for purpose. The ceasefire negotiated at the February 2015 Minsk talks is being violated daily and heavily. Tens of thousands of well-armed troops confront each other in densely populated civilian areas. The sides are so close that even light infantry weapons can cause substantial damage, let alone the heavy weapons they regularly use. This presents major risks to civilians who still live there – about 100,000 on the Ukrainian side alone, according to an unofficial estimate – often next door to troops who have taken over unoccupied houses. It also heightens the risk of an escalation. Kyiv, Moscow and the separatists all bear responsibility for the security and well-being of civilians living along the front line.

Likewise, Kyiv’s European allies, Washington and Moscow all have crucial roles to play in addressing the overall situation. They should insist that both sides withdraw their heavy weapons, as Minsk requires, from the front line to storage areas monitored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). They should also press their respective allies – the Ukrainian government on one side, and the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR and LNR) on the other – to separate troops from civilians and to substantially widen the line of separation. Russia’s role in this is vital. It insists it is not a party to the conflict, but its military intervention in early 2014 triggered the crisis; two major incursions by its armed forces in 2014 and 2015 deepened it; and it is now the sole source of military, economic and other assistance to the two entities. Its officers train and largely command the separatist forces, and it continues to assure the separatists that it will intervene again if Ukraine attacks. Given Russia’s continued role in the conflict, international sanctions need to be maintained.

There is little doubt that the death toll is significantly higher than either side admits. Fighting takes place daily along large parts of the line, much of it unreported. Both sides often use howitzers, heavy mortars and rocket systems or park them menacingly in the centre of large urban areas where they risk at the least becoming targets for the other’s artillery. The Minsk agreement to withdraw heavy weaponry, meanwhile, is violated daily.

Russia's Continuing Cyber Warfare

JUL 26, 2016

I cover conflicts, frontiers and upheavals mired in history. 

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. 

With relentless operators like Russian President Vladimir Putin, if you don’t stop them elsewhere you’ll soon find them inside your own walls. His unpunished 2008 invasion of Georgia launched a multi-year momentum that culminated in a leak-attack on the levers of American democracy yesterday.

You know about the open warfare stepping stones in Crimea, Donbass and Syria. You likely don’t know about the many more cyberwar incidents in between. Many experts already blame Russia for the flood of Wikileaks documents aimed at dividing the DNC opposition to Trump. In fact, Moscow has honed its skills up to this point by imposing on the elections of numerous countries, most of them American allies, through sophisticated digital and media interventions at critical moments. Should you harbor doubts about Russia’s hand in the recent document dump, consider other comparable examples.

I covered the Georgian national election in 2012 for Newsweek and saw the KGB’s handiwork close-up in Tbilisi where, some ten days before the vote, television channels broadcast mysteriously leaked videos of prison abuse. Pre-incited crowds hit the streets blaming the pro-Western government, creating chaos and instability. Meanwhile, on Russian-language channels, Russian military officials talked darkly of preparing to intercede in Georgia to restore order. Ultimately, conclusive information emerged linking the leaked video to pro-Kremlin Georgian mafia abroad–but too late to save the election for President Saakashvili’s anti-Kremlin party.

Facing North Korea's Nuclear Reality


-- this post authored by Rodger Baker

After announcing that it would cut communications with the United States, North Korea launched three missiles (two Scuds and a No Dong) last week. In some ways, there is little unexpected in North Korea's actions. Since the early 1990s, the North Korean nuclear and missile programs have been a focus of greater and lesser international attention, and there is no reason to predict that a resolution satisfactory to the United States (or North Korea) will emerge any time soon. Similarly, the United States followed a familiar script in its reaction to the recent launches, threatening additional sanctions and further isolation.

But that doesn't mean nothing has changed. North Korea once treated its nuclear weapons programas a bargaining chip - a way to raise the stakes with the United States to wheedle concessions and aid. Now, however, nuclear weapons development is no longer something Pyongyang is willing to trade away for economic support and promises of nonaggression.

North Korea has ramped up the testing cycle for its various missile systems, and it may be preparing for another nuclear test. If Pyongyang has no intention of stopping or reversing its nuclear weapons program - the two outcomes that U.S. policy has been geared to achieve - then perhaps it is time for Washington to reconsider its strategy for dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea.
From Bargaining Chip . . .

The Worst US Foreign Policy Blunder - Vietnam Or Iraq?

by Elliott Morss, Morss Global Finance
26 July 2016


Inasmuch as the US is the world's leading power, any major foreign policy mistakes it makes are felt globally. The US and Russia wisely did not go to war back in 1962 over Russian missiles in Cuba. Great choice! But Iraq and Vietnam were clearly huge foreign policy mistakes. Which was worse? This question is examined below.


What yardsticks can be used to measure the magnitude of the blunder? Certainly, the information used to launch the war is important as are strategies used in waging war. Beyond that, casualties, costs, and the extent to which objectives were realized should also be considered. The Vietnam War was limited to Vietnam and Cambodia. The Iraqi invasion has had "spread" effects that have to be considered.


When Mao came to power in China, he asked the US for recognition. He said he did not want to be dominated by the Soviet Union. Rather than recognizing Mao on a timely basis, the US delayed. Shortly thereafter, China, with the backing of the Soviet Union, entered the Korean War. Ho Chi Minh asked the US to recognize him. He said China has invaded Vietnam 11 times and US recognition would stem the tide. The US said no.


The US saw a Cold War domino effect taking place in Asia: Russia dominates China, China dominates Vietnam, and through these actions, Russia controls much of Asia. As just suggested, the US could have broken the domino effect had it recognized Mao and Ho Chi Minh. Incidents in the Tonkin Gulf were used to justify launching the war. It now appears the Tonkin incidents did not actually happen.[1]The war strategy was based on heavy bombing. The testimony from Vietnam officers following the war suggests that the bombing was having a devastating effect. And had the US continued it much longer, Ho Chi Minh would probably have been forced to surrender.


Fight Against Islamic State Not COIN, Increasingly High Tech: Carte

July 27, 2016 

18th Airborne Corps soldiers meet Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

FORT BRAGG, NC: The US is not practicing traditional counter-insurgency (COIN) warfare in Iraq and Syria. Instead, the US is providing high-tech firepower, cyber power, and other “enablers” to local allies who don’t have them, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said here today. That approach, which ranges from stealth fighters to “cyber bombs,” has a lot in common with how the US would oppose Russian aggression in Europe.

Next month, the commander of the Bragg-based 18th Airborne Corps, Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, and about 450 of his HQ staff will deploy to Kuwait to take over the war against Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State). His advance team is on the ground, Townsend told reporters on the runway next to Carter’s plane. But other 18th Airborne elements just came back from the Russian-focused Anakonda wargames in Eastern Europe, while still others man the Global Response Force, required to respond to crises anywhere on Earth in 18 hours.

Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and soon commander of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fight Against Islamic State Not COIN, Increasingly High Tech: Carter

July 27, 2016 

18th Airborne Corps soldiers meet Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

FORT BRAGG, NC: The US is not practicing traditional counter-insurgency (COIN) warfare in Iraq and Syria. Instead, the US is providing high-tech firepower, cyber power, and other “enablers” to local allies who don’t have them, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said here today. That approach, which ranges from stealth fighters to “cyber bombs,” has a lot in common with how the US would oppose Russian aggression in Europe.

Next month, the commander of the Bragg-based 18th Airborne Corps, Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, and about 450 of his HQ staff will deploy to Kuwait to take over the war against Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State). His advance team is on the ground, Townsend told reporters on the runway next to Carter’s plane. But other 18th Airborne elements just came back from the Russian-focused Anakonda wargames in Eastern Europe, while still others man the Global Response Force, required to respond to crises anywhere on Earth in 18 hours.

Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and soon commander of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.


JULY 28, 2016

Without wading into the politics of the imbroglio over former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails, an important yet overlooked point is that U.S. policymakers rely heavily on unclassified email systems to conduct their daily business. According to an article by Steven Myers of The New York Times, a review of policymaker email practices revealed that officials throughout the Obama administration routinely exchanged sensitive information — whether genuinely classified or not remains hotly debated, regardless of the FBI’s recent decision — over unclassified networks. The practice may not be exclusive to the Obama team, either. When confronted with allegations that some of his sensitive emails had been post-marked classified, President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Colin Powell exclaimed that “we might as well shut the department down” if ambassadors are not allowed to provide their private insights to the secretary over unclassified email.

Rightly or wrongly, routine use of unclassified email systems to share sensitive (but hopefully not classified) information is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how policymakers seek to leverage the tremendous insights they receive from their staffs and the U.S. intelligence community. In the particular case of the intelligence community, the reality is that while most policymakers greatly appreciate classified intelligence assessments, the utility of those assessments is limited unless intelligence agencies can keep up with policymakers’ operational tempo and adapt their work to the policymaker’s work environment. Thus, the intelligence community should consider remodeling its intelligence assessments to fit the new paradigm. Specifically, I argue here that whenever possible, the intelligence community should append unclassified assessments to its classified products — let’s call this the “unclassified tearline.”

A Walker That Works Using Artificial Intelligence Is Created For Elderly

JULY 28, 2016

Due to the physical deterioration that the human body experiences when reaching old age, Mexican scientists designed a walker, which is a machine that works through a computer and allows elders who have cognitive or physical impairments, to complete their daily routines by helping them to walk. Additionally, it can send through the internet an alert that notifies the help system in case of any emergency.

The benefit of the walker is to eliminate the risk of falling in the elderly, as well as avoiding dangers for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

This walker is characterized by its artificial intelligence, which is defined as the set of disciplines that try to understand the mechanisms that allow a machine to think. It is with its assistance that robots are built, and through programming they generate a reasoning similar to that of the human brain, said Ulises Cortes, professor of the Universidad Politecnica de Cataluña (UPC).

The improvement is built on a normal walker for the third age, but in each one of the rear wheels, a movement is generated by an engine with a power similar to that of two electric bikes. To measure the strength used by the person to lead his walk and know if he is in contact with the walker, the normal handles were omitted and substituted by a micro system sensor.

Everything is connected to a little computer and to a bicycle battery that allows the system to have internet connection, through which the information of the handle sensors and wheels is controlled. Hence, the walker analyzes the gait pattern of the elder and knows if it is his normal one, and in case of an anomaly, it tries to help him.