18 September 2016

*** China will fight India to the last Pakistani!

By Bharat Verma
16 Sep , 2016

The strategic triangle in Southern Asia is unique. Pitted against two closely aligned nuclear neighbors, China and Pakistan, puts India in an extremely hostile two-front security environment. Pakistan’s primary focus is India. India views China as a long-term security challenge. The Chinese reference point is targeted to achieve the status of a super power. Pakistan wants parity with India. To China any equation with India appears derogatory as an emerging world power.

Beijing therefore devised methods to tie down New Delhi in strategic knots south of Himalayas. New Delhi unwittingly walked into this trap. What India does in strategic terms to maintain parity with China impinges on Pakistan. China’s strategic moves for unrivalled power in the international arena have ramifications for India. Keeping in view the larger regional security portrait, particularly China, the nuclear tests conducted by India impacted on Pakistan. By the same token, our security canvas is affected by China’s ambition to achieve a super power status. Chinese realized two facts early in the game. 

To China any equation with India appears derogatory as an emerging world power. Beijing therefore devised methods to tie down New Delhi in strategic knots south of Himalayas. New Delhi unwittingly walked into this trap.

First, India is the sole Asian power that can frustrate Chinese design of unrivalled supremacy in Asia. To nullify this peer competition in Asia, it is imperative that India be tied down to sub-serve long-term Chinese policy objectives. 

** AFSPA in Manipur: Securing India’s Northeast

By Surbhi Moudgil
15 Sep , 2016

The 8 July 2016 verdict by Supreme Court on the Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association versus Union of India, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 129 of 2012, turned the spotlight back onto the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 (AFSPA) in Manipur.

The verdict clarified subsistence of continuous and constant watch of armed forces on issues of human rights. It mentioned so, based on adherence of ‘Dos’ and Don’ts’ (while dealing with militants and insurgents) prescribed by the Human Rights Division in the Army Headquarters and the ‘Ten Commandments’ issued by the Chief of Army Staff. It also highlighted that only 5000 militants were holding a population of about 23 lakhs in Manipur to ransom and keeping the people in constant fear. It further stated that the root cause of militancy in Manipur was the constant endeavour of insurgent groups to extort money so that their leaders could lead a luxurious life in foreign countries. [i]

The ruling also reiterates chunks from a past Constitution Bench verdict on the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights versus Union of India, (1998) 2 SCC 109, which had unanimously upheld the validity of AFSPA.[ii]

Though, the court observation pointed out that “…normalcy not being restored cannot be a fig leaf for prolonged, permanent deployment of the armed forces….”, but then again, prolonged failures of political participation and civic engagement are equally to be held accountable. Until constructive backing is provided to armed forces, how will they alone disentangle a multi-faceted issue of national liberation as well as an ethnic conflict in the state?

Consequently, to solely blame the armed forces for any kind of failure is not entirely justifiable; one needs to understand that repealing AFSPA under the present situation of limited futurist planning can push the issue back in time – which would be self-defeating. Therefore, it is important to understand the advantageous implication of the Act.

BrahMos Missile in North-Eastern State: Is Dragon Nervous?

By Sumit Walia
Issue: Net Edition | Date : 16 Sep , 2016

Last month Government of India decided to deploy 4th regiment of BrahMos Missile in our North-Eastern state – Arunachal Pradesh. CCS’s (Cabinet Committee on Security) approved the request of raising a new regiment of an advanced version of BrahMos missiles to be deployed in Arunachal Pradesh at a cost of Rs. 4300 crore. The regiment will be equipped with five autonomous missile launchers with command post. It would include 100 BrahMos missiles.

But this deployment has caused a lot of anxiety and nervousness in our northern neighbouring country. Few days after the news of BrahMos deployment in Arunachal Pradesh came out, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) declared it a threat to China and the boundary dispute. They went onto say that “missile with updated capabilities for stealth and mountain warfare could threaten Yunnan and Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) provinces, located across the border from Arunachal Pradesh.”

In an article in the mouthpiece of China’s armed forces, military naval engineer Cheng Yuyi declared India’s move as “beyond India’s `normal need for self-defence`. Playing tricks, they are bound to suffer the consequences.” Though he acknowledged in the article that the deployment can’t pose a great threat as it has a limited range of 290 KM and cannot hit any target in mainland China.

But then why China is making so much of fuss over this small step? After all, the range of the missile is just 290 KM and it can carry a warhead of just 200/300 KG.

Looks like Dragon is nervous. Brief introduction of the missile will help us understand – why.

BrahMos is a state of the art, highly advanced, supersonic one of its kind missile in the world. This short-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile was developed under a joint project of India & Russia that started in the late 1990s.

Why The Lutyens Elite Makes No Sense On Its J&K Posture Anymore

September 15, 2016

In a recent article for The Times of India, Indian academic and analyst Kanti Bajpai attempted to provide the reasons for the prolonged unrest in J&K.

This is a rebuttal to Bajpai’s logic and reasoning, which can be qualified as quintessential Lutyens thinking on such matters.

For quite some time, this writer has been baffled by how a motley party with 45 or so members in the Lok Sabha has managed to throttle the decisions and policies of a ruling coalition of 338 members.

While adverse Rajya Sabha numbers are one answer, the real roadblock comes from the fifth column, and one is not referring to the English-language media. What is at play here is a time-tested strategy. Basically, the Indian power oligarchy has ensured a survival mechanism for its venal and egregious roots that have become enormously resilient and shock-proof. Any amateurish and half-hearted attempt to reform the country’s inherited mess is as likely to succeed as old Canute dealing with the raging sea.

To be sure, it was unrealistic to expect a system created by 60-odd years of a Nehruvian regime to lie down like a meek poodle and slink under the table after the 2014 debacle. It is a mutated Rottweiler we are dealing with.

Leaving canine metaphors aside, consider the latest salvo from the Lutyens coterie against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) administration that has come via Singapore. Kanti Bajpai, now a Singapore resident, has a near-perfect pedigree for being a Lutyens oligarchy member. An Oxford man, he has, over a short span, done all the things that his tribe would have liked him to do. For a few years, he also presided over Doon School, an institution that trains future Lutyens coterie members. More relevantly, he belongs to a family that has effortlessly walked the corridors of power in Raisina Hill for three generations, serving the Nehru-Gandhi clan as faithfully as it did the British Raj. Before that, I am sure they would have been loyal factotums of the Mughal rulers in Delhi as well.

22nd Inter-Governmental Commission- Russia, India Agree To Create An ‘Energy Bridge’

September 15, 2016

India and Russia on Tuesday agreed to create an ‘energy-bridge’ for direct delivery of natural gas from Russia to India. The energy bridge, which will translate into an inter-regional gas pipeline, is aimed at easing India’s chronic shortage.

According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, India produces 1.03 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), while the country needs around 1.79 Tcf. With such a significant shortfall and a crisis in the Middle East (India’s most important source of crude oil and natural gas), the energy bridge will provide the country with a reliable source of energy. 

The pipeline could be a part of the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI), under discussion since 1995. With deteriorating security environment in Afghanistan and a sharp decline in India-Pakistan relations, the feasibility of this pipeline has often been questioned. 

Apart from the energy bridge, the two countries also identified the need for implementation of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project and the launch of the ‘Green Corridor’ project to better trade and connectivity in the region. Railways and Pharmaceuticals were identified as sectors of potential growth and the two countries agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in these fields. 

“India and Russia reiterated their strong desire to further broaden their strategic cooperation,” the Ministry of External Affairs stated in its statement.

Forging an Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan

Advice to the next U.S. president. 

Since the attacks of September 11, the United States has engaged in and with Afghanistan in pursuit of common strategic interests. Our cooperation with the Afghan government and Afghan people remains a key front in a generational conflict against violent extremists across the greater Middle East. Although the extensive turmoil there leads some to believe that the United States is incapable of playing a constructive role in stabilizing and transforming the region’s politics and security situation, we cannot escape this conflict. To succeed, we need, above all, allies in the region with whom we can partner militarily and politically. Our strategies and policies going forward should include ensuring the success of this American-Afghan partnership.

The Obama years have encompassed an intense, challenging period in Afghanistan policy. The U.S. role in the war in that country, dating back to 2001, has cost more than 2,300 American lives and $800 billion in American resources, most over the last eight years. We mourn the dead and wounded and grieve for their families, and profoundly cherish their service to the nation. The mission has demanded enormous military, diplomatic and economic attention and investment. The numerous complexities were made more challenging by difficult relations with former Afghan leader President Hamid Karzai during his latter years in office, from an unsettled Afghan political environment more generally, from the legacy of disintegration of an Afghan state that had historically never been strong, and from the dual role of Pakistan—part friend, part strategic challenge in the conflict. 

President Obama has attempted to use the prospect of possible American/NATO withdrawal from the country to induce Afghan reforms and an Afghan sense of self-reliance. But ultimately, while progress has been achieved, he concluded that he cannot end the U.S. role in Afghanistan and that he would have to hand off an ongoing mission to his successor. Fortunately, that U.S. role today is much more modest than before—less than 10 percent of earlier American troop levels, less than 20 percent of earlier financial costs, and less than 5 percent of earlier U.S. casualty rates, as of this writing late in the early fall of 2016.

Afghan President Slams Suspicious Pakistan, Thanks India For $1 Billion Aid

September 15, 2016

Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani sought greater regional cooperation in South Asia and took a swipe at Pakistan, saying it should not feel threatened by bilateral cooperation between India and Afghanistan.

“We do not have agreed rule of the game between states (countries). South Asia has this misfortune,” Ghani said today (15 September) while delivering a lecture on ‘Fifth Wave of Political Violence and Global Terrorism’ at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.

Taking a dig at Pakistan, he said: “If a country is feeling threatened by cooperation of two peace-loving nations, that country (Pakistan) has to change.”

“Afghanistan is no longer a land-locked country. Pakistan also has to embrace an open system. Pakistan is not a land-locked country. It has sea in the border but it often behaves like a land-locked country,” he said.

Ghani said collaboration between India and Afghanistan is for stability in the region and it is “transparent” and guided by “common values” and “common threat”.

Afghan Army Still Dependent on Thousands of US Special Operations Troops

September 13, 2016

Stealthy Support for Afghans

The U.S. recently revealed that American SOCOM (Special Operations Command) troops in Afghanistan accompany their Afghan counterparts on about ten percent of combat missions and also help plan most of the other 90 percent. American special operations troops now in Afghanistan are supposed to be concentrating on training Afghan commandos while also helping with planning and preparation for missions. It was also revealed that commandos from other NATO nations also get actively involved in some Afghan special operations missions. However it was noted that on 80 percent of their missions the Afghan special operations troops go out by themselves. U.S. and NATO special operations troops generally are not involved in combat but often provide armed backup and battlefield advice and assistance (calling in air strikes or receiving intel from American and NATO UAVs and intel troops back at a base).

Although most American combat troops left Afghanistan at the end of 2014 there are still several thousand SOCOM troops there and even more regular army personnel (mainly for support). There were still enough warplanes and helicopter gunships available in 2015 to carry out about 30 percent of the ground attack missions undertaken in 2014 and that has been increasing in 2016. American air support now takes longer to arrive as each one requires approval by more lawyers and politicians back in the United States. Occasionally the American SOCOM teams carry out a combat missions alone but these are kept quiet and need even more permissions from lawyers and politicians back in the United States.

Despite all this the Afghan security forces have survived, for the moment, the loss of all those foreign troops in 2014. The most serious problem is that the foreign troops and contractors who helped keep complex equipment going for the Afghan military have largely left. Without this support Afghan troops found that things soon began breaking down. There was often no one available to fix these problems until deals could be made to hire new contractors to replace the departed American and NATO specialists.

Central-South Asian Connectivity: New Security Panorama

By K.N. Pandita
15 Sep , 2016

Long before the partition of India, famous Urdu poet Iqbal praised the Himalayas in glowing words and called it “our sentry and our protector”.

Much water has gone down the river. The mighty Himalayas are no more the forbidding mountains; its crags and peaks are no more insurmountable; its blizzards are no more daunting, and its tranquil air is no more without the foul smell of gunpowder. Thanks to the highly advanced technology and engineering feats of contemporary times, and thanks to the rock-like will and grit of the Chinese plus their lust for border expansion.

…CPEC was a source of threat to our country’s security because, besides rail and gas pipeline, China was planning establishment of short and long range nuclear ballistic missiles firing ranges along this Highway.

When Karakorum Highway was under secret construction of China, only a couple of Pakistani top Generals, senior echelons of ISI and a few among political bigwigs of Pakistan knew what was brewing.

When India got the whiff of it, she exuded some feeble protest that soon evaporated in the thin air. The world woke up to the grandiose project of China only when huge military convoys, heavy war machinery, tanks and finally missile launchers began to rumble in the entrails of the icy Himalayas.

The KK Highway passes through the territory called Aksaichin after the Arab historians, and Pakistan’s erstwhile Northern Areas that actually belong to India being the territory of the Dogra Kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir but illegally occupied partly by China and partly by Pakistan. Taking shelter behind the agreement by virtue of which Pakistan ceded a chunk of nearly 5000 square kilometers of Aksaichin to China, Beijing cared not a fig for India’s protests.

Central Asia Is Crucial—But Nobody Seems to Care

September 15, 2016 

No great power is skillfully managing its relations with the region.

The death of Islam Karimov sparked discussions, not only on the future of Uzbekistan, but also on the geopolitical meaning of Central Asia. One thing is clear: despite the region’s importance, the major outside powers encounter significant difficulties when attempting to improve their standing there. The West, Russia, China, India, Turkey, the Gulf states and Iran all have reasons to engage with Central Asian republics, and all need to expend a great deal of effort to secure sustainable results for their policies. In this game, Russia might be proving itself to be the strongest player.

The Great Game of the nineteenth century—the competition between the Russian and British empires for dominance in Central Asia—had two main characteristics. First, Russia was a challenger to Great Britain already dominating India and South Asia. The British Empire pushed back against Russia’s efforts to extend its influence to the south from Central Asia, challenging British positions. Second, with the importance of India and the British fear of losing “the brightest jewel in the British crown,” this contest was to a significant degree secondary to European politics, defining the international relations of that age.

Today, while analyzing the modern Great Game in Central Asia, there is no clear dominating power or challenger—or, for that matter, multiple challengers. Several current players in the region have different advantages and shortcomings. Although it is hard to determine the central zone of today’s world politics, with the continued significance of Europe, and the prominence of the Middle East and the Pacific Rim in terms of global security, Central Asia’s importance is hard to underestimate.

The U.S. Military Isn't Ready for a War with Russia or China

September 15, 2016 

The United States military is not ready to confront a peer-level threat such as Russia or China in a high-end conflict. As it currently stands, while the United States would ultimately prevail in a hypothetical high-end war, Washington would pay a high price in blood and treasure. That’s what the nation’s top uniformed officers told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 15.

Gen. Mark Milley, United States Army chief of staff, reiterated his belief that his service does not have the resources and training to execute America’s national security strategy without ‘high military risk.’ Risk in Milley’s context is the ability for an Army unit to meet its objectives on time and at an acceptable price in terms men—dead and wounded—and materiel. “My assessment remains the same,” Milley told the Senate.

Chief of naval operations, Adm. John Richardson, said that the United States Navy faces the same problem. “I concur with Gen. Milley,” Richardson told the committee. “If we get into one of those conflicts, we’ll win, but it going to take a lot longer than we’d like and it’s going to cost a lot more in terms of dollars and in casualties.”

Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the United States Marine Corps, also agreed with his peers. “I agree, we’ve build a force that’s been focused on the counterinsurgency fight, and while we’ve been doing that effectively, our potential adversaries have recapitalized from the ground up and built a force that has very significant capability that grows everyday,” Neller said. “So we’re in the process now of getting ourselves back to where [we need to be] and looking at those capabilities we need to match that up.”

The NSA Is Using Bomb-Defusing Software to Grow the Next Generation of Analysts

SEPTEMBER 14, 2016

This year’s codebreaking contest has a twist: the college teams must remotely locate and neutralize a roadside bomb.

At this moment, cybersecurity students are scouring networks for a secret computer program designed to trigger a (prop) roadside bomb, in a twist on the National Security Agency’s annual coed codebreaking contest, according to NSA officials. 

A few days ago, the agency provided college undergraduates and graduate students with file downloads for solving the Codebreaker Challenge, which, in this case, is to locate, replicate or “reverse engineer,” and neutralize an improvised explosive device. 

According to a countdown clock on the competition website, you have 109 days left to deactivate the bomb: 

DISCLAIMER: The following is a FICTITIOUS story meant for providing realistic context for the CodebreakerChallenge and is not tied in any way to actual events. Terrorists have recently developed a new type of remotely controlled Improvised Explosive Device, making it harder for the U.S. Armed Forces to detect and ultimately prevent roadside bomb attacks against troops deployed overseas. The National Security Agency, in accordance with its support to military operations mission, has been asked to develop capabilities for use against this new threat. This will consist of six tasks of increasing difficulty, with the ultimate goals of being able to disarm the IEDs remotely and permanently render them inoperable without the risk of civilian casualties. 

NSA officials say they will confront young computer scientists with the kinds of threats the agency faces daily, partly as an intelligence analyst recruitment effort. 

Should the U.S. Continue to Guarantee the Security of Wealthy States?

September 15, 2016 

The Center for the National Interest partnered with the Charles Koch Institute to host a foreign policy roundtable. Among the issues addressed was: Should the United States continue to guarantee the security of wealthy states like Japan and South Korea?

The United States has been providing security for Japan since the U.S. occupation began at the end of World War II. At the time, Washington intended to transform the country into a parliamentary democracy and thwart Soviet influence in the Pacific. Similarly, the United States has been providing security for South Korea since the 1950s, when the Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. The United States viewed protecting South Korea—then a poor and underdeveloped state—as necessary to preventing the spread of communism.

However, decades after the Cold War’s end, is it still necessary for the United States to protect two friendly democracies that have grown economically prosperous and militarily capable?

In this portion of the Center for the National Interest and Charles Koch Institute foreign policy round table, Richard K. Betts and a panel of foreign policy experts debate this question. Their discussion emphasizes the potential rise of China, the realities of potential buck-passing, the spread of nuclear weapons, and the United States’ role in Asia.

Let Russia Own Syria

September 15, 2016 

The Syrian agreement recently concluded by Secretary of State John Kerry has spurred guarded optimism for a solution to the five-year-old conflict. In exchange for a ceasefire between the Assad regime and U.S.-backed rebels, the United States and Russia have agreed to coordinate airstrikes against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, the local Al Qaeda affiliate.

While the likelihood is slim that the ceasefire will hold, the fundamental problem isn’t the deal’s implementation. Rather, the reality that in a shattered Syria, neither airstrikes nor rebels will achieve America’s chief goal of dislodging ISIS.

From the beginning, our policy in Syria has suffered from an inherent contradiction. The United States insists on Assad’s ouster as a condition of peace, but the groups that have proven most effective against his forces are hardline Islamic militias, which are themselves anti-American.

For years, the United States has ignored this fact and continues to arm and train “moderate” rebel groups. This has fed costly failures, such as a $500 million Pentagon project which trained only five fighters.

In other cases, U.S.-sponsored groups saw many members either defecting toNusra or transferring U.S.-supplied weapons to them. By continuing to arm and support the opposition, despite clear signs of the regime’s resilience, the United States ultimately helped transform the initial uprising into a bloody stalemate that destroyed the country and produced millions of refugees.

What Are North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Capabilities Today

Siegfried S. Hecker
September 12, 2016

On September 9, 2016, seismic stations around the world picked up the unmistakable signals of another North Korean underground nuclear test in the vicinity of Punggye-ri. The technical details about the test will be sorted out over the next few weeks, but the political message is already loud and clear: North Korea will continue to expand its dangerous nuclear arsenal so long as Washington stays on its current path.

Preliminary indications are that the test registered at 5.2 to 5.3 on the Richter scale, which translates to an explosion yield of approximately 15 to 20 kilotons, possibly twice the magnitude of the largest previous test. It appears to have been conducted in the same network of tunnels as the last three tests, just buried deeper into the mountain. This was the fifth known North Korean nuclear explosion; the second this year, and the third since Kim Jong Un took over the country’s leadership in December 2011.

Unlike previous announcements, such as the claim of having detonated a hydrogen bomb in January 2016, the current statement can no longer be dismissed. This time, KCNA reported North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Institute claiming:

The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable the D.P.R.K. to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power with a firm hold on the technology for producing and using various fissile materials. This has definitely put on a higher level the D.P.R.K.’s technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.[1]

This statement brings up some fundamental questions.

Somalia Is Still a Failed State Despite Billions of U.S. Dollars

September 13, 2016

AT THE Coconut Beach Hotel, which opened last month, new guests are served coconut smoothies when they arrive. The rooms do indeed have a view of the ocean. What betrays where the hotel is, in Mogadishu, the war-torn capital of Somalia, are the two dozen guards in football shirts loafing around the doors clutching AK-47s. At the top of the stairs sits a machine-gun nest pointing at the gate. Aisha Abdulle Hassan, the proprietor, explains that she has invested $2m in the business. She is confident that it will soon be highly profitable. But she is taking no chances: “Our security is as tight as we could make it,” she says. “Only Allah knows if it is enough.”

Hotels are booming in Mogadishu. This is not thanks to tourists—only the most daring or idiotic would take a holiday in Somalia. Rather, the demand comes from power-brokers, who meet in them to discuss how to create a new government. This year Somalia is meant to hold elections, as part of the UN-led reconstruction effort. But even as peacemakers blather inside air-conditioned conference rooms, battle continues to rage outside. Hotels have become a target for militants. On August 30th a car bomb blew up outside one in Mogadishu, killing at least 15 people. After a quarter-century of costly foreign intervention, Somalia is still Africa’s most-failed state.

At no point since 1991, when the despot Siad Barre was overthrown by rebels, have Somalis had a government worthy of the name. Officials from Mogadishu cannot safely visit much of the country, let alone govern it (even excluding Somaliland, a region in the north that has been de facto independent since 1991). War, famine and terrorism have prompted legions of Somalis to flee. A sixth of them—2m out of a population of perhaps 12m—now live abroad. For those who remain, life expectancy is just 55 years, and barely a third can read.

Realizing the potential of Africa’s economies

By Jacques Bughin, Mutsa Chironga, Georges Desvaux, Tenbite Ermias, Paul Jacobson, Omid Kassiri, Acha Leke, Susan Lund, Arend Van Wamelen, and Yassir Zouaoui

Africa’s economic fundamentals remain strong, but governments and companies will need to work even harder to keep the region’s economies moving forward. 

Many observers are questioning whether Africa’s economic advances are running out of steam. Five years ago, growth was accelerating in almost all of the region’s 30 largest economies, but the recent picture has been more mixed: while growth has sped up in about half of Africa’s economies, it has slowed in the rest. 

Between 2010 and 2015, Africa’s overall GDP growth averaged just 3.3 percent, considerably weaker than 4.9 percent a year between 2000 and 2008. But average growth hides a marked divergence, finds a new McKinsey Global Institute report Lions on the move II: Realizing the potential of Africa’s economies. A much less robust economic performance by two groups of African economies dragged that average down—oil exporters hit by the decline in oil prices and countries affected by the political turmoil of the Arab Spring (Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia). For the rest of Africa, growth actually accelerated to 4.4 percent in 2010 to 2015 from 4.1 percent in 2000 to 2010 (exhibit). In addition, long-term fundamentals are strong, and there are substantial market and investment opportunities on the table.

Russia’s Middle East Offensive

SEPTEMBER 13, 2016 

Even before Russian bombers launched strikes into Syria from an Iranian air base last month, it was clear that one of President Barack Obama’s more dubious foreign policy legacies would be the resurrection of Moscow’s great power status in the Middle East. Lacking a significant military footprint in the region since being unceremoniously expelled from Egypt in 1972, the Russians are back with a vengeance, potentially bigger than ever. Indeed, moving into the void created by Obama’s years-long retreat from Pax Americana, Russian President Vladimir Putin now stands poised to make major geopolitical advances into areas that his predecessors — czars and communist party general secretaries alike — coveted for centuries, but never realized. Areas, it should be stressed, where blocking the expansion of Russian influence has been among America’s highest national security priorities for the entire post-World War II era, from the Truman Doctrine to the Carter Doctrine and beyond. Until the age of Obama, that is.

Across the eastern Mediterranean and Levant, through Turkey, Iran, and the broader Gulf region, the trend line is obvious to anyone with eyes to see it:

Russia’s star is waxing while America’s wanes.

Russia’s star is waxing while America’s wanes. In strategic theaters where successive generations of U.S. statesmen have consistently maintained that American military dominance is essential, a resurgent Russia increasingly poses challenges. Slowly but surely, Washington’s freedom of action is being constricted. And as sure as night follows day, Russia’s successful flexing of military power has led to the rapid expansion of its political clout as well. And not just among America’s adversaries. From Israel to Saudi Arabia, from Egypt to Turkey, traditional U.S. partners are also increasingly compelled to curry favor with Moscow.

Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, and America Is Behind the Power Curve in Countering It

September 13, 2016

As Washington investigates alleged Russian hacking of U.S. political systems, Russian propagandists are also at work across a wide front, aiming a firehose of falsehoods at ill-informed audiences, foreign and domestic. A recent RAND study reveals how this disinformation — intentionally false — leverages psychological vulnerabilities to sway audiences. U.S. leaders should raise public consciousness about its nature and dangers.

In January 1981, days after his inauguration, President Ronald Reagan showed the way. Soviet leaders, he said, “reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat” in order to further their cause. His words gained worldwide notice. They were effective, because they meshed with other evidence in the public mind of Soviet wrongdoing, such as the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and heightened nuclear missile threats in Europe. An egregious example of Soviet disinformation from the 1980s was the claim that the HIV/AIDS epidemic emerged from U.S. biological weapons research (PDF).

The explosion of new media is a boon for propagandists.

The explosion of new media is a boon for propagandists. RT, formerly Russia Today, spends over $300 million per year purveying a toxic mixture of entertainment, real news and disinformation across cable, satellite and online media. Dozens of Kremlin-backed proxy news sites blast propaganda while hiding or downplaying their affiliation. Russian trolls and hackers manipulate thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. This volume and multiplicity of media and modes has an effect; research in psychology shows that multiple sources are more persuasive than a single source.

North Korea’s Weapons

By George Friedman
Sept. 13, 2016

Pyongyang has launched more nuclear tests but it has a long way to go before developing a nuclear weapon.

Recent weeks have seen the North Koreans launching missiles from submarines and, this weekend, testing another nuclear device, apparently the largest one they have tested to date. There are two questions to be answered. First, how significant are these tests militarily? Second, what are North Korea’s political intentions in launching the tests? The military capability comes before the political intention, since capability defines what is possible. The tendency of analysts to reverse the order has always puzzled me, save that understanding the capability is harder than speculating on political intent.

We know that the North Koreans have acquired both land-based and submarine-based missiles. The range of the former appears to include all of the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The range of the latter is uncertain. The range matters of course because it determines the targets that are at risk. Since the North Koreans have launched a satellite, at least some of the missiles must be robust enough to reach escape velocity and the satellite must be orbiting something. They have reached the threshold of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, but have not clearly gone beyond that level.

We do not know very much about a critical element: the guidance system. Some rockets, like the Scud, have no guidance system. You fire the rocket and wait to find out where it lands. Advanced nuclear countries have superb guidance systems that allow missiles to strike within meters of the target. The difference between a rocket and a missile is that the latter has a guidance system. This is needed to attack missile silos that are extremely protected against a blast.

Social media will shape the future of news

And that means difficult questions about editorial responsibility and news consumption

On 8 June 1972, the South Vietnamese air force dropped a load of napalm on the village of Trang Bang, about 25 miles north-west of Saigon. Outside the village, Associated Pressphotographer Nick Ut saw soldiers and children fleeing the carnage—among them, a naked, screaming girl. Nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phúc had napalm burns over 30% of her body. Ut took her to hospital after taking a photo of her that sparked a heated debate among The New York Times’ editors: Should they print a photo containing nudity? The next day, they ran it on the front page, putting it at the heart of the conversation about the US role in the war.

Over four decades after the photo was taken, it has sparked another important debate about censorship and editorial responsibility. Last week, Norway’s largest daily,Aftenposten, published the photo—only to have Facebook remove it from the newspaper’s Facebook pages. The reason: The photo violated the social media site’s guidelines governing acceptable content, which include a no-nudity rule. A strong pushback that included Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg led to Facebook capitulating.

But the debate, as Solberg put it, “is about more than this one picture…. It is about the responsibilities large media institutions and platforms have to not pervert or distort reality.” In other words, the same editorial responsibility to accurately present news and facts that traditional news media is tasked with.

There’s the kicker: Facebook now falls under the rubric of a media organization for all that co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg insists it is not. According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s annual Digital News Report—a survey carried out in 26 countries in Europe, Asia, North America and South America—released earlier this year, more than half of online users use Facebook and other social media sites such as Twitter as their news sources; the former dominates with 44%.

Can ICITE and JIE work together?

September 14, 2016 

Without a doubt, technological advancements have been critical in getting information to commanders and troops to make clear decisions and execute missions. As the government writ large moves to more streamlined IT architectures, efforts within the intelligence community and the Defense Department seek to integrate and synchronize information while also hardening the defenses of information systems from outside – and inside – intrusions.

The technological advancements, however, have not come totally without problems – some that can be described as potentially self-inflicted.

“The biggest challenge we have right now is when we fight a war, we fight it across top secret information, secret information and unclassified information,” Lt. Gen. Robert Otto, Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said earlier this year. “The further forward somebody is, the soldier that’s carrying a rifle on the front end, [they need] unclassified information. At the operational level they can deal a lot in secret, but some of it they need the top secret stuff.”

For Otto, this is where differences arise within the two relevant IT architectural advancements in the intelligence and defense communities. The Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise, or ICITE, is designed to allow for more seamless information and data integration and sharing across the agencies within the intelligence community, and handles top secret information. The Defense Department’s Joint Information Environment, designed to get all components of the department together on a common operating picture, has been described by CIO Terry Halvorsen as a concept rather than a program. DoD has taken the approach of allowing the services implement the JIE “concepts” themselves as there is no joint program of record.

DoD unveils new IT ‘way forward’

August 19, 2016 

Defense Department officials in a document released Aug. 18 outlined a new plan for getting ahead in information technology, focusing heavily on commercial capabilities, cybersecurity and updates to how the Pentagon manages IT.

The DoD “Information Technology Environment Way Forward to Tomorrow's Strategic Landscape” includes eight core goals Pentagon leadership is targeting amid “a decision cross-road facing an IT future that is fast moving, connected, and highly contested,” the document states.

In a briefing with reporters, DoD CIO Terry Halvorsen emphasized the glaring need for change in how the military handles and executes IT, and promised that the document and new efforts such as a partner environment, currently in the early planning stages, is only the beginning.

“This is absolutely a living document. If it’s still the same in a year we’ve screwed up. The tactics, techniques [and] technology all will change,” he said. “We have to take into effect technology, but also the harder things, the cultural and societal changes. And it’s not just U.S. based. We have to make sure what we’re doing fits not only our allies’ technology, but also their cultural and societal norms.”

Much of the document targets cybersecurity, both directly and indirectly. One of the core goals is titled “Ensure Successful Mission Execution in the Face of the Cyber Threat,” and another is to “Provide a Resilient Communications and Network Infrastructure.” Another aims to “Exploit the Power of Trusted Information Sharing.”

The pervasive focus on cybersecurity, explicit and otherwise, isn’t an accident, Halvorsen said.

SecDef Carter Wants YOU For The Defense Digital Service

September 14, 2016 

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the TechCrunch conference in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO: Uncle Sam wants you, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a skeptical tech community yesterday. It’s part of an all-out effort by the military’s civilian leader to get the technologically best and brightest to work with or even for the often-hidebound Pentagon.

Carter has created the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUX) and the Defense Digital Service, both of which report directly to him, he emphasized at the TechCrunch conference here. In essence, Carter is trying to build the same kind of bridge between the military and the information technology world that existed between the military and the physics community during the Cold War.

“When I started this business, I was doing physics,” Carter recounted. “I had no real knowledge or interest in public service, (but) somebody gave me a chance… ‘hey, Ash, just give it a try for one year, this is a really important problem.’…I did and I got hooked.”

“People are doing what they’re doing out here because they want to make an impact, they want to do something of consequence,” Carter told the TechCrunch audience. (The stock options help too). “If I come and meet you halfway, you can participate in something of really great consequence… providing security for our people.”

“They may not all want to serve in the military, but they may want to serve the public purpose,” he told reporters later.

UK moves to ‘active cyber-defence’

By Gordon CoreraSecurity correspondent
13 September 2016 

Britain is moving towards more active defence in cyberspace, the head of the UK's new National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has said.

Speaking in Washington, Ciaran Martin was giving his first public comments as the chief executive of the NCSC.

The centre, which launches next month, will absorb existing roles such as protecting government and critical infrastructure.

It will also look at new ways of engaging with business and the public.

Among its plans are developing automated defences to offer protection from high-volume but relatively unsophisticated cyber-attacks.

The NCSC will take a lead on protecting government networks and those of national level importance, but Mr Martin also outlined ways in which it would be more ambitious in improving the UK's overall cybersecurity.
Digital economy dependence

One-eighth of the UK's gross domestic product (GDP) comes from the digital economy, the highest in the G20 group of industrialised economies, and Mr Martin said retaining public confidence in online transactions and ensuring economic growth was a priority in the same way as protecting national security.

McCain to White House: If You Won’t Establish a Cyber Defense Policy, Congress Will

SEPTEMBER 14, 2016

‘Ignoring the issue, as the White House has done, is not an option,’ said the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman on Tuesday.

The federal government, including the Defense Department, needs a clearer plan about how to respond to attacks on civilian systems, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee argued Tuesday. 

Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., suggested drafting a policy about “what the United States’ actions would be in the case of a threat, in the case of an actual attack,” he said during a hearing on encryption and cybersecurity.

“If you don’t act, I guarantee you Congress will act,” he said, addressing witnesses Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, and Marcell Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

The hearing illustrated disagreements between members of Congress, senior cyber officials and private technology companies about the best way to cooperate on preventing not only future cyberattacks, but physical attacks planned using encrypted communication such as WhatsApp.

In response to McCain’s suggestion, Lettre argued during the hearing that “new legal and regulatory approaches are not as potentially productive as robust” conversations between the public and private sectors.

Did You Know Your Phone is Infected?

Sep 14, 2016 

I Get Your Product to Market | Business Development, New Technology & Wireless Consultant | Africa

Is your phone infected with some type of malware or virus? Most people cannot say definitively, yes or no. The assumption is that if the phone is still working, it is probably not infected.

I think back to the early days of home computers and the internet. As soon as you got your computer home, the first program you loaded on to your computer after installing your system was an anti-virus program. Most did this before they would ever attach the computer to the internet. Some would even disconnect their computers from phone lines in the evening or shut their computers off so no outside force had access to their computer.

Now what you carry in your pocket is 100 times the computer. Yet, it may be connected to the outside world by cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Infrared Data Association (IrDA), Near Field Communication (NFC) and Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST). That is an amazing number of entry/exit points in your phone.

Think about what is in your phone---your contact list, music with passwords, video with passwords, business info, personal info, banking info, appointments, mobile wallet info, social media accounts with passwords, GPS with information of your current location and where you have been, housing and gate security codes, photos with geotags, text messages, voice mails, cameras and microphones, notes and many other things. What if others had access to some or all of this information? Or, do they already?

Harsh Lessons That Will Make You More Successful

Sep 14, 2016 

Everyone fails in life, and failure can be a crushing experience. The only thing that separates successful people from the rest is how they respond after they fail.

When facing obstacles, you have to decide if you’re going to let them be the excuse for your failure or if you’re going to make them the story behind your success.

"There is no failure. Only feedback." -Robert Allen

When you adopt the right attitude, failure is a great teacher. Failure interrupts your routine and gives you an opportunity to explore new solutions, but only if you have the right attitude.

Psychologist Albert Bandura conducted a study that showed just how great a role our attitudes play in the face of failure. In the study, two groups of people were asked to complete an identical management task. The first group was told that the purpose of the task was to measure their management abilities. The other group was told that the skills required to complete the task were improvable and that the task was merely an opportunity to practice and improve. The trick was that the researchers made the task so difficult that all participants were bound to fail, and fail they did. The first group—feeling like failures because their skills weren’t up to snuff—made little or no improvement when they were given opportunities to repeat the task. The second group, however, saw each failure as a learning opportunity, and they performed at progressively higher levels each time they attempted the task. The second group even rated themselves as more confident than the first group.

Just like the participants in Bandura’s study, we can either view our failures as reflections of our abilities or as opportunities for growth. The next time you catch yourself wallowing in the self-pity that often accompanies failure, focus on what you can control: your attitude.