17 September 2016

*** China’s Strategy

JANUARY 4, 2016 

The sharp decline in Chinese stock markets on Monday is a reminder of two things. The first is the continued fragility of the Chinese market. The second is that any economic dysfunction has political implications, both in Chinese domestic and foreign policy. This, in turn, will affect Chinese economic performance. It is essential, therefore, to understand Chinese national strategy.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been portrayed as an increasingly aggressive country prepared to challenge the United States. At the same time, aside from relatively minor forays into the South and East China Seas, China has avoided significant involvement in the troubles roiling in the rest of Eurasia. There is a gap between what is generally expected of China and what China actually does. To understand what China’s actual national strategy is, it is helpful to follow the logic inherent in the following five maps.

Let’s begin by defining what we mean by China. First, there is the China we see on maps. But there is also the China inhabited by the Han Chinese, the main Chinese ethnic group. Maps of the Chinese state and the ethnic group would look very different.

Han China is surrounded within China by regions populated by what are essentially other nations. The four most significant are Tibet in the southwest, Xinjiang in the northwest, Inner Mongolia in the north, and Manchuria in the northeast. The first three are recognized by Beijing as autonomous regions while Manchuria is a larger region made up of three northeastern provinces. Obviously, there are Mongolians who live in Han China and Han Chinese who live in Inner Mongolia. No region is homogenous, but these four regions, with the limited exception of Manchuria, are not dominated by ethnic Han Chinese. About half the territory of what we consider China actually consists of Han Chinese people.

*** Exclusive! How India reached out to the Afghan Mujahideen

September 14, 2016 

IMAGE: Ahmad Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance fighters near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, in 2001. Photograph: Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

'It was a mission undertaken in darkness in every sense -- literally, because Afghanistan had no electricity at that time; and, metaphorically because Delhi historically dealt only with the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and the foreign ministry's vast archives had nothing to offer on the culture and politics of the northern tribes in the Hindu Kush.'

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar, who played a stellar role in beginning India's systemic dealings in Afghanistan in 1994, reveals for the first time how he undertook that most important and risky mission.

One thing I learnt early enough in South Block was that as head of a territorial division, the success of a policy initiative almost always would lie in slipping it in innocuously when the superiors were overworked. Even if the idea were heretical, the chances of it finding habitation depended on the timing.

That was how the saga of India's systemic dealings with the Afghan Mujahideen began in 1994.

The fifteenth anniversary of the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary 'Lion of Panjshir,' becomes an appropriate occasion to reminisce.

But, first, it is necessary to summon some history from the attic of the mind. Circa 1991, it wasn't particularly difficult for an Indian diplomat to bump into an odd Afghan Mujahideen representative accidentally at an embassy reception in Islamabad.


SEPTEMBER 14, 2016

India’s Kashmir Valley has been the scene of a Pakistan-backed insurgency since the 1990s. The Indian army and its associated security forces have been engaged in fighting this insurgency and assisting the civil administration in maintaining law and order. On July 8, the Pakistani terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s commander in Kashmir,Burhan Wani, was killed in an encounter with security forces in Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Wani’s death plunged the state into deep turmoil, pitting Indian security forces against a large number of disenfranchised Kashmiri youth sympathetic to Wani’s anti-India resistance movement and calls for jihad. A full-blown confrontation between incensed youth and Indian security forces followed that resulted in 68 civilian deaths and over 2000 injured protestors, leaving an embarrassed Indian state facing a crisis of governance with no clear plan to prevent escalating violence. Exposing the fragility of the Indian state further, the Indian military publicly declared its frustration with political directives. In an unprecedented step, a strict curfew imposed in the Kashmir valley during Eid celebrationshas renewed a fresh cycle of violence between protestors and security force, killing two protestors and injuring several more. New Delhi appears to be running out of options to de-escalate levels of violence.

This precarious turn of events and the cyclical waves of violence affecting the Kashmiri state indicate that the Indian counterinsurgency approach in Kashmir is failing. New Delhi must conduct a fundamental reappraisal of its counterinsurgency strategy in Kashmir, as a predominantly military approach is unlikely to mitigate future violence. To prevent Kashmiri youth from becoming easy tools of radicalization by the Pakistani state, India should reduce its military presence in the valley, clearly separate the roles of its police and military, reformulate its military laws, and develop a robust political strategy that grants Kashmiris more autonomy and favors engagement over detachment.

Seeds of Unrest

*** The European Union: A Cautionary Tale

SEPTEMBER 12, 2016 

Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a seven-part series examining how the world's regional economic blocs are faring as the largest of them — the European Union — continues to fragment.

Britain's decision to leave the European Union is a lesson in moderation. The story of the Continental bloc began with the 1952 creation of the Coal and Steel Community, a common market for coal, steel and iron ore that encompassed France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Despite its modest beginnings, the organization oozed with ambition. As Winston Churchill put it in 1946, "We must build a kind of United States of Europe." The fervor that accompanied his call was understandable; Europe had been devastated by two World Wars, and nobody wanted to see that horrible history repeated. The Continent's attention, therefore, had to be shifted away from military matters and toward the common goal of economic prosperity.

Europe's core powers remained fixated on the idea of building an "ever closer union," moving beyond the foundation of the modern common market in 1992 to establish a monetary union a decade later, all the while holding out hope that they could someday create a political federation of European states. For the United Kingdom, however, this was too much to bear; it saw the dangers of institutionalizing away its sovereignty and preferred instead to stick to the virtues of market integration. London's concerns were only reinforced as the European Union expanded eastward, drawing scrutiny to the principle of the free movement of people. Considering the United Kingdom had always carefully held itself back from the bloc by refusing eurozone membership, it was only natural that it should also be the first to head for the exit when Europe's biggest powers tried to present ever-deeper integration as the answer to the union's existential crisis. After all, from the British perspective it was the overzealousness of the European Union's goals that got the bloc into its current predicament in the first place. A majority of British voters concluded that it would be better to bail out now than be stuck with a burden of Continental proportions later.

Now that the United Kingdom has made its choice, it will negotiate a new precedent in Europe, maintaining most of the benefits of the common market while placing tight restrictions on immigration. Euroskeptic forces across the Continent, in kind, will take note and make their own demands. Nations will reassert their interests, members will reclaim their powers and like-minded countries will band together, returning Europe to its more fragmented — and arguably more natural — former self. 

** East Asia: Where Eastern And Western Ambitions Meet

-- this post authored by Rodger Baker and Zhixing Zhang
13 September 2016

From their opposite ends of the Asia-Pacific region, China and the United States have distinct - though sometimes overlapping - strategic visions of East Asia. The respective hefts of the United States and China, and the interaction between the status quo power and the emerging power, naturally exert enormous influence on the region, though the countries between these two powers of course have roles to play in determining their fates.

Beijing has positioned itself since the global economic crisis as equal to the United States and Europe, at least in terms of economic weight. Hosting the recent G-20 Summit allowed China to highlight its growing regional and international stature. But Beijing still plays the dual role of economic power and developing nation. It considers itself the vanguard of the developing world, challenging the status quo established by the United States and Europe, something highlighted by Beijing's decision to invite numerous developing nations to have representatives present on the sidelines of the G-20.

Shortly after China hosted the G-20 summit, U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated his call for the implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos in a bid to assert a leadership role in the future structure of Asian trade relations. Though the Obama administration views the partnership as the cornerstone of U.S. trade relations in Asia, it faces strong political headwinds in the United States, where the deal's future is uncertain. Obama also had to cope with the appearance of strained relations with the new president of the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally situated at the point of collision between U.S. and Chinese strategic interests in Asia. These challenges highlight how Washington can no longer simply assert its right to lead in Asia, where the status quo is breaking down.
Opposite Poles

** Why the Rise in Wages Is Great News and a Problem

By George Friedman 
Sept. 14, 2016 

Seemingly positive economic news for the U.S. could actually portend a recession. 

I have been writing for a while about what I, and others, regard as the fundamental social and economic problem facing the United States: the crisis of the declining purchasing power of the middle and lower-middle class. I expect it to cause significant internal tension, which will to some extent be reflected geopolitically. The problem is not one of inequality. Historically, Americans have been comfortable with wide disparities of income.

The problem is the contraction of the purchasing power of those living at or below the median household income. As we calculated, the take-home pay for someone earning the median income, after taxes and other deductibles, and assuming health care from their employer, would run at about $3,600 a month and would be enough, at current interest rates, to purchase a house and a car and maintain them without savings. Someone at the lower-middle class level would be earning about $2,000 a month, after taxes and with employer-provided health care. The lower-middle class would no longer be able to do more than rent an apartment.

The middle class had been able to buy a house a generation ago, but no longer. The middle class has lost all frills and with any greater deterioration of purchasing power would be priced out of the housing market as well.

That is why today’s news that the median income rose dramatically, by 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, is extremely important. It raises the possibility that the decline in income, and therefore purchasing power, has been reversed. With inflation in key commodities somewhat contained and income surging, this could be the reversal of a trend that has been going on for almost 20 years. 

Mani Kaul interview on Ritwik Ghatak is a lesson in appreciating ‘Titas Ekti Nadir Naam’ and cinema

The filmmaker’s introduction to the broadcast of Ritwik Ghatak’s masterpiece is a primer on Indian cinematic forms.

In 2006, Channel 4 TV in the United Kingdom dedicated a season to renowned Bengali director Ritwik Ghatak. Four of Ghatak’s masterpieces were aired: Meghe Dhaka Tara, Subarnarekha, Komal Gandhar and Titas Ekti Nadir Naam. Filmmaker Mani Kaul, who was one of Ghatak’s students at the Film and Television Institute of India in the 1970s and regarded the director as one of his mentors, introduced Titas Ekti Nadir Naam. (Ghatak’s son, Ritoban, introduced the other films).

A Bangladeshi co-production made in 1973, Titas Ekti Nadir Naam follows the lives of fisherfolk living along the banks of the Titas river. For his introduction, Kaul spoke to Nasreen Munni Kabir about the meaning of the epic form in cinema, Ghatak’s approach to the subject, and the cultural differences between Indian and Western cinema. Kabir, the writer and filmmaker, is a Channel 4 consultant on Indian cinema and has been curating their annual season on Indian cinema for over 30 years.

Mani, you know people talk about the epic form, especially in Ghatak’s work. There are people who may not understand what is an epic form. Can you explain it very simply and tell me how it applies to Ghatak in his film ‘Titas Ek Nadir Naam’?I can explain it, but “simply” is the problem.

Traditionally there is the epic form, and in opposition, there is the dramatic form. When we speak of the dramatic form it is motivated towards a result, towards a goal. About ninety-nine percent of films, whether made by serious filmmakers or Hollywood, are actually dramatic films.

Letting Nepal be

It should be in India’s interest to leave Nepal free to sort out its own challenges. New Delhi should consider the need for economic growth in U.P. and Bihar when it sits down to strategise on Nepal

It is time for New Delhi to decide to what extent it is in the interest of India to deepen its intervention in the political affairs of Nepal. There is much to do bilaterally on the environmental, cultural, economic fronts, and the dangers of keeping Nepal constantly insecure and on the boil open up the possibility of societal instability leaching to adjacent Indian States.

One doubts whether New Delhi think tanks have considered the economic impact political stability in Nepal would have on the dispossessed northern regions of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The open border creates such an interconnected sociocultural web that a stable and prosperous Nepal will be a catalyst for this region. The weakness of Nepal Studies in Indian academia is astounding, and can only be the result of overwhelming preoccupation with geopolitics, with little interest in the welfare of India’s own peripheral populations.

The attention of South Block seems focused entirely on ‘correcting’ Nepal’s new Constitution through amendments, mainly relating to the configuration of federal units. Given the lack of active interest amongst Indian politicians, academia and civil society, the field has been left open for diplomats and intelligence operatives to determine the course of action, the latter having enjoyed increasing leeway in Kathmandu over the past decade.

The level of interference claimed by the writer is confirmed by authors and analysts celebrated in New Delhi circles, but there has been no pullback perhaps because of an unspoken acknowledgement of India’s ‘right’ to intervene in the neighbourhood.


Why the critics of LEMOA are wrong

Opposition to LEMOA channels deeply held strains of nationalism and anti-Americanism in Indian politics

Last week, the Congress party suffered one of its periodic bouts of calculated amnesia. It indignantly declared that the government had, in signing the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US in August, abandoned India’s “strategic military neutrality”. Simply put, LEMOA is a bilateral agreement that makes it easier for one side to offer logistical support—such as fuel for a ship—to the other, and for the recipient to pay in cash or kind. It is undoubtedly a big step forward in the US-India defence relationship, but hardly a transformative rupture for Indian grand strategy.

No fewer than three Congress prime ministers, from 1964-67, permitted the US’ Central Intelligence Agency spy planes to operate from Indian bases. It was a Congress prime minister who signed a 20-year treaty with the Soviet Union in 1971, promising “appropriate effective measures” in the event of war. In 1991, a Congress-backed prime minister agreed to let arms-bearing American transport planes refuel in Mumbai, Chennai, and Agra twice a day during the first Gulf War and supplied intelligence on Iraq’s Soviet aircraft. And it was a Congress prime minister—the fourth in this story, if you’ve lost count—who signed a 10-year defence “framework” with the US in 2005. So, the notion that India observed seven decades of neutrality, right up until a modest logistical agreement was signed in the summer of 2016, is nonsensical. It is an argument unworthy of a party that had the foresight and political courage to take similar steps that expanded India’s diplomatic room for manoeuvre.

Gradually burying non-alignment

New Delhi is showing signs of pursuing strategic autonomy separately from non-alignment under Narendra Modi

In a move of great significance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not attending the 17th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, currently taking place in Venezuela’s Margarita Island. Instead, India is likely to be represented by vice-president Hamid Ansari on 17-18 September. NAM was founded in Belgrade in 1961 by Jawaharlal Nehru, Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, Egypt’s second president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, and Yugoslavia’s president, Josip Broz Tito. This will be only the second time an Indian prime minister will give the summit a miss since the country co-founded the movement. The only other case was of Charan Singh in 1979; he was then a caretaker prime minister.

Modi’s explicit shift away from the legacy of Nehru is a significant departure from the traditional foreign policy approach of New Delhi. Indian policymakers’ fixation with non-alignment has remained a central component of Indian identity in global politics that is manifest in continuities: Since independence in 1947, India has been in pursuit of strategic autonomy, a quest that in practice has led to semi-alliances fashioned under the cover of non-alignment and shaped by regional dynamics. In this setting, the rise of China now raises an interesting conundrum for Indian policymakers as New Delhi seeks to balance the benefits and risks of an increasingly assertive neighbour and a network of alliances with like-minded countries.

The ‘Lost’ Operation Against Pakistan in Chorbat La

Sep 14, 2016

After Kargil, India secured an important peak and outwitted Pakistan. But officially, this operation never happened

When the Line of Control was demarcated after the Shimla Agreement, it was done with a “thick pen” on a small scale map – 1/4 inch to a mile or one centimetre to 2.5 kilometre scale. Once interpreted on a large scale map – one inch to a mile or one centimetre to 500 meters – the differences become glaring, with claims and counter claims by both sides on the ground. This problem came to the fore post-Kargil War as most of the area that was being secured now, was earlier not physically held by both sides.

In the Batalik-Yaldor-Chorbatla Sector, which was under the command of my brigade, we had four such tactical features that needed to be secured. All of them were on the formidable Ladakh range and heights varied from 5,200-5,300 meters or 17,000 to 17,500 feet. Post the Kargil War, these features were not secured by either side due to initial errors of judgment and the onset of winter. Out of the four, three features that were in the Batalik and Yaldor Sub Sectors were not a cause for concern as the approach from our side was easy and extremely difficult from the Pakistani side. Chorbat La Sub Sector had one feature, Point (Pt) 5310, which posed a peculiar problem. Pt 5310 was covered by the ‘thick pen’ used while demarcating the LOC, but the approach to it (particularly in winter) was arduous. The LOC beyond Pt 5310 took a ‘U’ turn of two kilometer towards us.

After that, the LOC ran along the base of the ‘U’ for six kilometres before turning north towards the Pakistani side for two kilometres. The area of the ‘U’ was known as Karubar Bowl (a nullah is known as a ‘bar’ in this area and a ‘bowl’ is the military term for a small valley) and a road from its northern end connected it to Siari on the Shyok River, opening an avenue to cut off Pakistani defences opposite the Turtok Sector. The feasible approach for us was over a glacier at the southern end of Karubar Bowl, but it involved a movement of two kilometres through Pakistani territory. Whoever controlled Pt 5310 also controlled the 12 square kilometres of Karubar Bowl – which meant that if we secured Pt 5310, we would also ‘tactically’ control 12 square kilometres of Pakistani territory. Domination of this area also threatened the Pakistani posts opposite Turtok Sector from the rear.

India’s growing federal fault lines

Inter-state disparities may set up a struggle between centrifugal and centripetal forces

In the year 1960, the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of Maharashtra, then India’s richest state, was twice that of Bihar, the poorest. By the year 2014, the gulf between the richest state (now Kerala) and Bihar, still the poorest, had doubled. In a recent briefing paper, Vivek Dehejia and Praveen Chakravarty, two senior fellows at the think tank IDFC Institute—the former also a Mint columnist—have thrown into sharp relief India’s inter-state income disparity.

The per capita incomes of the 12 largest states of India, the paper shows, have been diverging instead of converging, as would be predicted by the neoclassical models of economic growth. India’s experience is at odds with those of states/provinces in the US and China, and the member states of the European Union. The incomes of constituent units in the US, China and EU have either converged or at least have not diverged.

In India too, the level of divergence, the authors find, remained static between 1960 and 1990 and only began to increase after the economic liberalization of 1991. The two, however, do not blame the liberalization and justifiably so, as more evidence would be required to make a tenable claim.

India’s inter-state disparity is not just confined to income levels. The states diverge on several other economic, social and demographic indicators. But one particular indicator needs to be mentioned. That is total fertility rate (TFR)—or the average number of children a woman bears during her entire reproductive period. Interestingly, the three poorest states in the Dehejia-Chakravarty analysis are also the three with the highest TFR in India, and in the same order. The culprits, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with 2013 fertility rates of 3.4, 3.1 and 2.9, respectively, are behind the lower middle-income countries’ average, according to World Bank data.

Even The Supreme Court Agrees, NGOs Have Become A Problem

September 14, 2016

There is no love loss between the current government and the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Foreign funding of the NGOs has been a particular area of concern for the government as it believes that the NGOs run the agenda of those who bankroll them. And these foreign funders have no skin in the game or stake in India’s progress, so when the NGOs backed by them try to stall development projects, this further helps validates the government’s suspicions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had many run-ins with these NGOs, the most infamous being the row over his pet project, Sardar Sarovar Dam, when he was the Gujarat chief minister.

Last year, his government cancelled the registrations of over 10,000 NGOs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) which governs foreign funding of NGOs. Recently, it fired a Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry for the online renewal of FCRA license of Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s NGO.

The government has been heavily criticised for its high-handedness in dealing with the NGOs. But today, it has received the endorsement of none other than the highest court in the country.

Singur: A Sad Tale Of Lost Opportunities

September 14, 2016

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visits Singur today (14 Sept.).

No matter what promises she makes to them, the ‘Singur stigma’ will weigh heavily both on her and the locals there.

Singur could have been what today’s prosperous Sanand in Gujarat is. But thanks to Mamata’s fight against the Tatas, it remains beset by problems.

When Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee goes to Singur, about 38 kilometres north-west of Kolkata, today (14 Sept.), she will see a sea of faces that will reflect both remorse and hope. Remorse over their monumental mistake in supporting Mamata’s stir against the Tata small car project on their land a decade ago, and hope that Mamata will bring industry back where they will find employment.

But their collective hopes are bound to be dashed. The ‘Singur stigma’ weighs heavy on Mamata, whose continued pursuance of street politics keeps reinforcing her anti-industry and mercurial image. And despite all that she claims and promises to the people of Singur today, bringing industry back to Bengal will be tough, if not impossible, for her.

Though Mamata shed “tears of joy” when she learnt of the Supreme Court verdictat the end of last month, quashing the allotment of land at Singur to Tata Motors, there was really nothing for either Mamata, the people of Singur or the rest of Bengal to cheer about. Because at the end of the day, the land that was given to the Tatas is now hardly cultivable and the holdings are so small that growing crops on them will barely bring two square meals a day to the cultivators.

China ramps up military modernization with new logistics force

September 14, 2016

The online news portal of TV5

China's military has set up a new logistics support force as part of efforts to reform and modernize the world's largest armed forces, state media has reported.

President Xi Jinping's push to reform the military coincides with China becoming more assertive in its territorial disputes with Asian neighbors in the East and South China Seas.

China's navy is investing in submarines and aircraft carriers and its air force is developing stealth fighters.

In January, China created three new military units, including a missile force that controls its nuclear deterrent.

The new joint logistics force would better support military operations, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Tuesday.

The move "is a strategic decision by the Communist Party's Central Committee and Central Military Commission to comprehensively deepen national defense and military reform," Xinhua cited Xi as telling a ceremony in Beijing.

"It is of far-reaching significance to establishing a modern joint logistics support force with Chinese characteristics and building a world-leading military," he said.

*** China Is Still Really Poor

By Jacob L. Shapiro 
Sept. 15, 2016 

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics. 

China says it has lifted 700 million people out of poverty. What does that really mean? 

If you go to the World Bank’s country overview page for China, you will find a striking comment in the first paragraph: “Since initiating market reforms in 1978, China…has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty.” Speaking at the G-20 summit in Hangzhou at the beginning of this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China has lifted “more than 700 million people out of poverty” and improved the living standards for 1.3 billion people overall. So China and the World Bank agree, give or take a hundred million people.

Xi also noted in his remarks that this success is unprecedented in human history. He happens to be correct about that – no country has ever made the sort of developmental leaps that China has made in the last 38 years since opening up its economy, or in the last 67 years since the Communist Party came to power. The problem is that the World Bank’s definition of poverty in this case is extremely narrow, and the 800 million figure obscures, rather than reveals, that poverty is still a significant problem in China and one of the most important drivers of our forecast for the country. 

The World Bank began tracking poverty in China in 1981. In that year, 88.3 percent of China’s population lived on less than $1.90 a day (roughly 870 million people). Push the threshold up a little bit and poverty in China was even more striking: 99.1 percent of China’s population lived on less than $3.10 a day (over 980 million people). The last year for which the World Bank has official data is 2010, and the transformation, as you can see in the line graph above, is extraordinary. In 2010, only 11.2 percent (almost 150 million people) lived on less than $1.90 a day. Not shown above is that 27.2 percent (almost 360 million people) lived on less than $3.10 a day.

‘We Misled You’: How the Saudis Are Coming Clean on Funding Terrorism On his latest trip, a former senior U.S. official finds a new attitude in Riyadh. But will it stick? Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/09/saudi-arabia-terrorism-funding-214241#ixzz4KG0l2A2t Follow us: @politico on Twitter | Politico on Facebook

September 14, 2016 

On my most recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I was greeted with a startling confession. In the past, when we raised the issue of funding Islamic extremists with the Saudis, all we got were denials. This time, in the course of meetings with King Salman, Crown Prince Nayef, Deputy Crown Mohammad Bin Salman and several ministers, one top Saudi official admitted to me, “We misled you.” He explained that Saudi support for Islamic extremism started in the early 1960s as a counter to Nasserism—the socialist political ideology that came out of the thinking of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser—which threatened Saudi Arabia and led to war between the two countries along the Yemen border. This tactic allowed them to successfully contain Nasserism, and the Saudis concluded that Islamism could be a powerful tool with broader utility.

Under their new and unprecedented policy of honesty, the Saudi leadership also explained to me that their support for extremism was a way of resisting the Soviet Union, often in cooperation with the United States, in places like Afghanistan in the 1980s. In this application too, they argued, it proved successful. Later it was deployed against Iranian-supported Shiite movements in the geopolitical competition between the two countries.

But over time, the Saudis say, their support for extremism turned on them, metastasizing into a serious threat to the Kingdom and to the West. They had created a monster that had begun to devour them. “We did not own up to it after 9/11 because we feared you would abandon or treat us as the enemy,” the Saudi senior official conceded. “And we were in denial.”

Cyber Command leader: ISIS is 'most adaptive

September 13, 2016 

The head of Cyber Command told senators on Tuesday that the Islamic State group is "the most adaptive target" he's seen during his time in the intelligence community. 

“ISIL remains the most adaptive target I’ve ever worked in 35 years as an intelligence professional,” Adm. Michael Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee, using an alternative acronym for the group. 

ISIS has proven adept online using the internet and encrypted communications platforms to push propaganda, recruit and communicate. The use of encrypted applications, such as the German company Telegram, allows terrorists to communicate securely with fighters deployed outside the group’s traditional battlefield in the Middle East, as well as new recruits without fear of being monitored by government snooping. 

This encryption challenge has amplified the age-old security versus privacy debate. Rogers offered a different outlook on the problem noting that rather than focus on specific applications and users, applying a broad approach could expose vulnerabilities to generate intelligence. 

“The argument I’m trying to make from both the [National Security Administration] and the Cyber Command side is: 'Guys, we’re dealing with a whole new ecosystem out there,' ” said Rogers, who also directs the NSA. “Don’t focus on just one particular application as used by one particular target, think more broadly about the host of actors that are out there. … If we look at this more as an ecosystem — and we will find vulnerabilities — that we can access to generate the insights that the nation and our allies is counting on.” 

The Top U.S. Universities For International Students

by Felix Richter, Statista.com
13 September 2016

Which U.S. university can boast the most international flair?

974,926 international students were enrolled in U.S. universities last year, accounting for just under five percent of the total undergraduate population. NYU hosted the most of them, 13,178, according to Institute of International Education data published by the Wall Street Journal. It was followed by the University of Southern California (12,334) and Columbia University (11,510).

This chart shows the number of international students at U.S. universities in 2014/15.

You will find more statistics at Statista

Syrian Refugees, Who Is Taking Their Fair Share

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

Just over a year ago, images of a drowned Syrian boy who washed up on a Turkish beach shocked people across the world.

Britain pledged to take 20,000 refugees since then but so far, only 2,800 have been resettled in the UK. The following infographic is based on an Oxfam report showing how countries are progressing at taking in refugees in relation to the size of their economy. Britain is doing quite badly while Norway and Canada are progressing extremely well.

This chart shows pledged places as a percentage of 'fair share' based on size of economy.

You will find more statistics at Statista.

In overvaluing confidence, we’ve forgotten the power of humility

September 14, 2016

There's a lot we can learn from each other. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) 

“If I only had a little humility, I’d be perfect,” the media mogul Ted Turner supposedly said sometime in the 1990s, in a moment of narcissistic exuberance. While Turner has been much humbler since, today’s breed of tech entrepreneurs often display a similar arrogance.

Why be humble? After all, Aristotle said: “All men by nature desire to know.” Intellectual humility is a particular instance of humility, since you can be down-to-earth about most things and still ignore your mental limitations. Intellectual humility means recognizing that we don’t know everything—and what we do know, we shouldn’t use to our advantage. Instead, we should acknowledge that we’re probably biased in our belief about just how much we understand, and seek out the sources of wisdom that we lack.

The internet and digital media have created the impression of limitless knowledge at our fingertips. But, by making us lazy, they have opened up a space that ignorance can fill. On the Edge website, the psychologist Tania Lombrozo of the University of California explained how technology enhances our illusions of wisdom. She argues that the way we access information about an issue is critical to our understanding—and the more easily we can recall an image, word or statement, the more likely we’ll think we’ve successfully learned it, and so refrain from effortful cognitive processing. Logical puzzles presented in an unfriendly font, for example, can encourage someone to make extra effort to solve them. Yet this approach runs counter to the sleek designs of the apps and sites that populate our screens, where our brain processes information in a deceptively smooth way.

Can the vote really be hacked? Here's what you need to know

SEPTEMBER 14, 2016 

The Democratic National Committee breach and FBI warnings of hackers tampering with election boards has some officials on edge. But simple fixes could further safeguard the vote.

Recent cyberattacks on state voter databases and the Democratic National Committee are raising fresh concerns that hackers could manipulate the upcoming presidential election.

In Washington on Tuesday, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R) of Georgia said, "Rightly, we should be concerned about the integrity of our election system," during a congressional hearing in which lawmakers quizzed officials about the potential flaws at US polls. 

Indeed, the DNC hack and data dump, which cybersecurity experts andunnamed US officials have blamed on Russian operatives, and the recent FBI warning that unknown hackers tampered with state board of elections in Illinois and Arizona have surfaced troubling questions about the mechanics and processes that underpin American democracy. 

But should Americans really be concerned that hackers could tamper with – or even tip – the upcoming presidential vote? And if that's even possible, what are the precautions that election officials and law enforcement are taking to protect the vote?

"When people hear how the Russians have infiltrated political parties or state election sites, they immediately jump to, 'Oh, they can flip votes and change the result of an election,' " said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

A Response to “Cyber Proficient Force 2015 & Beyond”: Why We Will Continue to Lose the Cyber War

September 13, 2016 

A Response to “Cyber Proficient Force 2015 & Beyond”: Why We Will Continue to Lose the Cyber War

The United States is losing the cyberwar. We are losing the cyberwar because cyber defenses apply the wrong philosophy to the wrong operating environment. In order to be effective, future cyber defenses must be viewed in the context of an engagement between human adversaries.[1]

There is strong evidence indicating the cyber intrusion of the DNC was the work of hackers working on behalf of Russian intelligence, US officials said this week.


Cyberattacks fill the news. The story is always the same. Something bad happens, cybersecurity experts are brought in. After their investigation, an attribution is made.

The first wave of cyber security was focused on perimeter controls with tools such as firewalls, gateways and anti-virus protection. The second wave of security brought Security Information Event Management (“SIEM”) to bear. The volume of SEIM information which must be processed is driving the third wave of cyber security, termed “cyber threat intelligence,” in which analytic tools are used to observe data in real time and report deviations from known patterns. IBM is now promoting the next wave of cyber security, which it dubs “cognitive security.”[3] According to IBM, “Whereas the current generation of systems are reactive—detecting and responding to anomalies or attacks—cognitive security is proactive. Forward focused and continuously multi-tasking, cognitive systems scour for vulnerabilities, connect dots, detect variances and sift through billions of events to build upon a base of actionable knowledge.”

With national privacy debate unsettled, US intelligence officials back encryption

The debate over encryption on smartphones and messaging apps is poised to heat up again on Capitol Hill after it peaked last winter when Apple denied an FBI request to help unlock a terrorist's iPhone.

Senate Intelligence Committee leaders Dianne Feinstein (D) and Richard Burr (R) are apparently working on another push for their bill to compel companies to give law enforcement access to encrypted data if presented with a court order. When the senators initially circulated a draft bill earlier this year, however, privacy advocates and tech industry groups alike roundly criticized their proposal.

On Tuesday, senators returned to the issue of encryption, which many politicians and law enforcement officials such as FBI Director James Comey complain helps terrorists and criminals mask their communications, in an Armed Services Committee hearing with National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre.

Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said that if the military and intelligence agencies didn't act to address potential security blind spots when it comes to the Islamic State (known as both ISIS or ISIL) using private messaging apps to recruit and plan attacks, Congress would likely pursue legislation to regulate encryption.

"Ignoring the issue, as the White House has done, is also not an option," he said. "ISIL has utilized encrypted communications that just a few years ago were limited to a select few of the world's top intelligence services."

Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet

September 13, 2016

Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don't know who is doing this, but it feels like a large a large nation state. China and Russia would be my first guesses.

First, a little background. If you want to take a network off the Internet, the easiest way to do it is with a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS). Like the name says, this is an attack designed to prevent legitimate users from getting to the site. There are subtleties, but basically it means blasting so much data at the site that it's overwhelmed. These attacks are not new: hackers do this to sites they don't like, and criminals have done it as a method of extortion. There is an entire industry, with an arsenal of technologies, devoted to DDoS defense. But largely it's a matter of bandwidth. If the attacker has a bigger fire hose of data than the defender has, the attacker wins.

Recently, some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the Internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them. Moreover, they have seen a certain profile of attacks. These attacks are significantly larger than the ones they're used to seeing. They last longer. They're more sophisticated. And they look like probing. One week, the attack would start at a particular level of attack and slowly ramp up before stopping. The next week, it would start at that higher point and continue. And so on, along those lines, as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure.

The attacks are also configured in such a way as to see what the company's total defenses are. There are many different ways to launch a DDoS attacks. The more attack vectors you employ simultaneously, the more different defenses the defender has to counter with. These companies are seeing more attacks using three or four different vectors. This means that the companies have to use everything they've got to defend themselves. They can't hold anything back. They're forced to demonstrate their defense capabilities for the attacker.

DIU(X) Funds Brain-Hacking Headset; Boston Branch Opens

July 26, 2016 

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter (left) and DIU(X) director Raj Shah (right) speak to reporters at the opening of DIU(X) Boston.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.: Special operations troops will test a high-tech headset that “uses noninvasive electrical stimulation” to help the brain learn better marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat skills, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said here today. This cutting edge example of “enhanced human operations” — a highly controversial field — is just the first commercial project funded by Carter’s recently reorganized Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental), DIU(X).

Carter overhauled the original Silicon Valley DIU(X) 75 days ago, politely replacing the entire leadership and bringing the organization under his personal control. Today he’s in Cambridge — just blocks from MIT and 15 minutes from Harvard Yard — to formally open a long-awaited DIU(X) branch on the East Coast. He also announced new luminaries joining the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, including Amazon CEO (and Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos and pop science superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Both the Silicon Valley and Boston branches of DIU(X) will fall under F-16 pilot turned tech entrepreneur Rajiv Shah, the man Carter tapped to lead in June. DIU(X)’s role, Shah told reporters after Carter’s public remarks, is to work with the country’s most innovative companies “at the speed they are used to and are comfortable with.”

“DIU(X) is supposed to be a pathfinder here,” Carter added at the press conference. Ultimately, he said, it’s supposed to work itself out of business as its more agile, innovative approach spreads throughout the Pentagon.

Obama to be urged to split cyberwar command from NSA

September 13 2016

Adm. Michael S. Rogers is the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command. 

The Pentagon and intelligence community are expected to recommend soon to President Obama that he break up the joint leadership of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command to create two distinct forces­ for electronic espionage and cyberwarfare. 

The potential move is driven by a sense that the two missions are fundamentally different, that the nation’s cyberspies and military hackers should not be competing to use the same networks, and that the job of leading both organizations is too big for one person. 

Obama was on the verge of ending the “dual-hat” leadership in late 2013 but was persuaded to hold off when senior officials, including then-NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, argued against it on the grounds that the two organizations needed one leader to ensure that the NSA did not withhold resources from Cyber­Com. 

Three years later, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. are pressing for the split, with Carter seeking to build Cyber Command into a full-fledged fighting force that has its own network accesses to conduct attacks. Clapper, officials said, supports the idea in part to reduce tension over which force gets to use the networks — the spies or the war­fighters. 

Navy Information Warfare — What Is It?

September 14, 2016

Defining a warfare area’s mission and function is the foundation for all activities required to conduct mission area analysis to determine requirements, develop doctrine and tactics, and structure, train, and equip the fleet to accomplish the mission.

Within the U.S. Navy, the terms Information Warfare (IW),Information Operations (IO), and Information Operations Warfare are widely used but not well defined. Nor are they linked to provide coherent definitions from joint and service perspectives that are essential to successful communication regarding IW’s relationship to other warfare areas and supporting activities. The result is confusion and a lack of progress in structuring, training, and equipping the U.S. Navy to perform this emerging predominant warfare area.

The following are examples of how these terms mean different things to different groups:

Reference: Station Hypo, 14 Jul 16, “CWOBC, a Community’s Course“: “The Cryptologic Warfare Officer Basic Course (CWOBC) formerly known as the Information Warfare Basic Course (IWBC) is an entry level course for all officers, regardless of commission source, who are coming into the Cryptologic Warfare Officer (CWO) community. Six weeks in length with an average annual throughput of 154, the course focuses on Signal Intelligence (SIGINT), Electronic Warfare (EW), Cyber Operations, as well as security fundamentals and community history.” Inasmuch as the content of the basic course remained the same, the terms “Information Warfare” and “Cryptologic Warfare” appear to mean the same thing for this group.
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2015) Officers attending the Information Professional Basic Course at Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station listen to Rear Adm. Daniel J. MacDonnell, commander of Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) and Reserve deputy commander of Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR). Macdonnell spoke with them about career opportunities in the Information Dominance Corps and active and reserve integration. (U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy/Released)