2 September 2017

*** It’s Time to Shift Gears in Afghanistan

Source Link 
Anand Arni, Pranay Kotasthane

A year ago, we had written this with regards to India—US collaboration in Afghanistan:

The US still remains the most influential geopolitical actor in Afghanistan, but one that is in a mode of consolidation. If India lets go of this chance to act as a bridge between the US and Afghanistan, the US could find its options further constrained. In such a case, India would then have to shoulder more responsibilities in Afghanistan on its own, a situation that India is underprepared for.

Trump’s Afghanistan strategy, announced on August 21, has indicated that the principle of consolidation will not apply to Afghanistan just yet. The new strategy, which stresses on a ‘fight to win’ military effort aimed at ‘killing terrorists’, can open up opportunities for India to act, not only as a bridge between US and Afghanistan, but as a fulcrum on which the Afghan State can be built.

The Context

Trump’s Afghanistan strategy is different from recent American strategies on two counts: one, it makes South Asia a part of its Afghanistan policy and raises the level of direct warnings to Pakistan to an unprecedented presidential level. Two, the policy shifts from relying on the State department, which has traditionally been counseling restraint to the Department of Defense.

*** North Korea: Latest Missile Test Overflies Hokkaido, Lands in Pacific

At around 5:58 a.m. local time, North Korea launched a ballistic missile that flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the Pacific Ocean. Early indications are that the missile had a flight time of around 14 minutes, had an apogee of 550 kilometers (340 miles) and splashed down some 2,700 kilometers from its launch point. While these numbers point to a medium-range ballistic missile, the possibility remains that the North Koreans either tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with an early engine cutoff or were experimenting with a heavier warhead. Alternatively, the missile could have failed before reaching its full theoretical range. The latter possibility is reinforced by reports that the missile broke into three parts before landing.

The launch site of the latest missile test is believed to be near Sunan, where Pyongyang's international airport is located. Launching from this site continues the trend of North Korea testing its missiles from diverse locations across the country. This makes it harder to predict where and when the next North Korean weapons test will occur. It also adds to the difficulty of targeting North Korea's dispersed missile arsenal in a conflict scenario.

North Korea is heavily constrained by geography when it comes to testing long-range missiles. There is virtually no direction in which North Korea could launch an IRBM or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at a standard or minimum-energy trajectory without overflying another country's territory. Previously, Pyongyang sought to sidestep this constraint by testing its long-range missiles at a lofted trajectory, which minimizes the flight distance from the launch point by maximizing the apogee of the missile's flight. North Korea has done this with its latest ICBM and IRBM tests this year. This type of flight profile places more stress on its missiles, but Pyongyang wants to test its long-range missiles in a standard trajectory because it is the trajectory that it would rely on for missile attacks against Guam, Hawaii or the continental United States.

Lessons of Doklam to prepare for the future

Syed Ata Hasnain

Those trying to label it a ‘victory’ for us must be cautioned about what victory involves — that it’s not the end of conflict with China.

At Doklam, the Indian Army took its precautions, didn’t show undue aggression and held its ground in as risky a situation as Nathu-La, allowing New Delhi to execute quiet political handling and deft diplomacy.

The 72-day Doklam standoff had a vague initiation and an equally diffused termination. That signifies the nature of modern confrontations between nations where the ability to cut through the grey zone is vital to safeguard a nation’s interests. Tracing these issues through the extended logjam would help reach a little more clarity. But it’s also important to acknowledge the mature handling of what could have turned into a very dangerous situation. While this applies primarily to India’s political, military and diplomatic players, in some measure it can also be said for the Chinese. Despite raising the temperature to an unacceptable level, the Chinese too had some pragmatic and reasonable people with a sensible outlook, and their perception did influence the outcome.

The Chinese gambit was possibly intended to pressure India, projecting its supposedly weak military capability, showing the rest of Asia and the world the inability of even a large nation in securing its interests in the face of Chinese intimidation, and forcing India to reassess its emerging strategic relationships with the United States and Japan. The possibility of strategic equations and blocs to counter China has always worried it, not realising that in its quest to seek robust power, there would always be nations whose interests were not served by its blatant intimidation.

Will China resume building roads in Doklam?

'While overall this is a face saving deal just before the BRICS meeting in Xiamen, any forward military movement at Doklam once again could bring the two Asian giants at loggerheads,' says China expert Srikanth Kondapalli.

In a surprise move, India announced on Monday, August 28, afternoon that the 'ongoing' and 'expeditious disengagement of border personnel' from the Doklam area which witnessed a standoff between an estimated 200 to 300 troops each at the tri-junction area of India-Bhutan-China since mid-June.

India's ministry of external affairs stated that this is an outcome of the 'diplomatic communications' between the two countries for the past more than two months.

The modus vivendi of withdrawal and the context for such withdrawal, while not clear at the moment, suggest to some significant victories for India, even as China has a face saving solution.

To begin with, when India sent troops to the Doklam area, it was mentioned that it is doing so to observe Article 2 of the 2007 agreement with Bhutan which has territorial claims on this area, and secondly that the security of the Siliguri Corridor would be questioned if China continues to build a road for military purposes.

India then suggested that both China and India should withdraw troops and observe the status quo as mentioned in the bilateral discussion between India and China and China and Bhutan in 2012 and 1988 and 1998 respectively.

Doklam: Who won?

BY Rory Medcalf

North Korea's latest missile outrage has stolen the global headlines from a potentially even more significant turn of events in world security. That is the seemingly sudden resolution of the border confrontation between Chinese and Indian troops in an area known as Doklam in disputed Himalayan territory.

The Indian government has been careful to let China save face and has not declared victory since this risky, months-long deadlock came to an end. See India’s initial official statement, crafted with all the excruciating minimalism that Ministry of External Affairs officers spend years mastering (this was followed by a gentle clarification that both sides were withdrawing forces). The Chinese state media, meanwhile, has been quick to brag that the outcome involved the withdrawal of Indian forces, but conspicuously silent on the apparent cessation of the Chinese road-building activity that started the whole crisis.

This was the sharpest confrontation between the armies of the world's two most populous nations since a bitter 1962 war and a nasty 1967 skirmish. At one stage, elsewhere on the disputed border, relations degenerated to a stone-pelting melee, caught here on video. These are two nuclear-armed mega-states, neither of which seeks or can afford war. So how they found themselves in the Doklam crisis, managed it and then de-escalated it holds important lessons for nothing less than peace and stability in their shared Indo-Pacific region, indeed globally.

Why a Nuclear War Between India and Pakistan Could Mean in Millions Dead

Sebastien Roblin

India and Pakistan will of course retain their nuclear arms, and continue to see them as vital deterrents to attack. However, for such policies to remain tenable in the long run, the longtime adversaries must seek to bring an end to a pattern of recurring conflict that is entering its seventh decade this year.

While the United States is preoccupied by the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of potential adversaries such as Russia, China or North Korea, the danger of nuclear conflict may actually be greatest between two of its allies, Pakistan and India. The two nations have engaged in four wars starting since their partition along religious lines in 1947. A fifth could be drastically more costly, as their nuclear capabilities continue to grow and diversify.

Several years ago I made the acquaintance of a Pakistani nuclear science student in China. Curious about the thinking behind his country’s nuclear program, I asked if he really believed there was a possibility that India would invade Pakistan. “There’s still a lot of old-school thinkers in the Congress Party that believe India and Pakistan should be united,” he told me.

I doubt there are many observers outside of Pakistan who believe India is plotting to invade and occupy the Muslim state, but a feeling of existential enmity persists. The third conflict between the two countries in 1971 established India’s superiority in conventional warfare—not unexpectedly, as India has several times Pakistan’s population.

Doklam standoff: China’s understanding of India has increased

by Lu Yang
After two and a half months of a tense standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam area in the Sikkim sector of the India-China border, both countries finally agreed to disengage their border personnel on August 28. The play came to an end shortly before the BRICS Summit, creating a better atmosphere for all its participants.

According to Chinese sources, China’s road construction activity in Doklam is part of the Chinese Western Theater Command’s efforts to improve infrastructure in the region, and not specifically aimed at India. However, India was afraid the completion of the Chinese road would change its military advantage in the Sikkim Himalayas sector of the border, as pointed out by India’s ministry of external affaris on June 30, 2017. The MEA had said that “such construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India.”

For India, the whole of South Asia constitutes a strategic entity, which is India’s natural and rightful sphere of influence. Any great power presence in the region is viewed both as a threat to regional security and as a challenge to its own pre-eminent position. This frames India’s security concerns in the region. As for China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative — and its flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – it intentionally does not aim at containing India, but is rather an economic plan that is expected to benefit both China and related countries.

Carnegie Endowment in India: Promoting US Leadership With Indian Corporate Wealth


The influential think tank, whose goal is to safeguard ‘American interests’ globally, is also seen by Indian businesses with strong US partnerships as a way of lobbying the Indian government.

In 2016, India had 280 think tanks, ranking as the country with the fourth largest number of think tanks after the United States, China and Britain. The number of think tanks in India has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

Think tanks conduct research on government policy, organise conferences and produce publications. In doing so, they engage with the government, private sector, academia and media.

They try to inform and influence government policy and their sources of funding are from the government and private sector. The Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis and Indian Council of World Affairs are examples of government- funded institutions. Prominent private sector funded think tanks include Observer Research Foundation, which receives funds from Reliance Industries, and Gateway House, which is funded by the Mahindra group.

Most claim to be independent and not subject to influence from their funders. Such claims merit investigation especially since these institutions try to exert influence on the government. When think tanks with origins in one country open offices in other countries, it is worth asking why.

Lessons from Doklam

Happymon Jacob

The resolution of the Sino-Indian military stand-off at Doklam, that lasted close to two and a half months, is a much-awaited and welcome development where patient statecraft and deft diplomacy seem to have paid off. Even as several significant questions remain unanswered about the terms and conditions of the resolution, it provides New Delhi and Beijing an opportunity to reflect over what went wrong and rejig this important bilateral relationship. The upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China to attend the BRICS summit will provide the two sides such an opportunity.

“War is the continuation of politics by other means,” observed the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz in his classic work, On War. In other words, military strategy should flow from carefully considered political thinking. Now that we have arrived at a peaceful resolution at Doklam, we need to examine the political strategy guiding India’s military deployment at Doklam. Moreover, are there any lessons we can learn from this military stand-off with China?

India’s public health and the looming threat of US pharma giants

D. Ravi Kanth

India has an opportunity to squash criticism to squash criticism of global health pressure groups by issuing a compulsory licence to Pfizer vaccine. Otherwise, it would be seen as ready to genuflect to the diktats of American lobbies

More than 1,200 people lost their lives due to floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal last week. This year’s monsoon season destroyed thousands of homes, schools and hospitals and affected up to 40 million people. The increased rainfall and deadly flooding in South Asia is linked to climate change. In his book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Amitav Ghosh offered a chilling account of how climate change is going to wreak havoc in India and elsewhere.

Worse still, the floods caused by climate change have left a trail of water-borne and other diseases. The people who are subjected to these diseases are invariably the poor of India. With more than 1.2 billion people, India, according to several studies and estimates by the World Health Organization, carries the highest disease burden. The country, for example, ranks first among nations in incidence of tuberculosis and pneumonia, malnutrition, and other contagious diseases. That there is an obvious relationship between the social determinants such as water sanitation, nutrition, air pollution, and health is well known. The recent ghastly death of children in Uttar Pradesh is a grim reminder of the deteriorating state of public health in India.

Aid and Advice Won’t Be Enough for Afghanistan

Walter C. Ladwig III

The American experience in Iraq demonstrates the limits of friendly persuasion via conditional aid.

Donald Trump’s long-awaited speech on Afghanistan has been rightly criticized for its failure to define a clear objective for sustained U.S. commitment to the country and its recitation of the same interim goals of preventing a Taliban takeover and denying terrorist safe havens. Beyond these significant flaws, however, internal inconsistencies in his vision suggest that enhanced American engagement has a low likelihood of success.

The president declared that the United States “will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.” Unfortunately, this injunction ignores the fact that the United States and whatever local government it is attempting to assist often have very different interests at stake. Both parties may agree that defeating the insurgent group in question is important, but the way they prefer to go about it can diverge significantly.

This might not be a problem if the local partner in question is highly capable. However, effective, legitimate governments rarely lose control of substantial portions of their country. Regimes needing external assistance to combat terrorists or insurgents are almost by definition flawed in some key respects—be they weak, incompetent, fraudulent, abusive, or all of the above. In turn, the same governmental shortcomings that facilitate the emergence of an insurgency also undercut the effectiveness of a counterinsurgent response.

Pakistan’s New Big Threat: A Bulging Population

By Umair Jamal

Pakistan is one of the most populated countries in the world. Last week, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics released a provisional report of the country’s sixth population census. According to the report, Pakistan’s population now stands at well over 200 million, which is almost 60 percent more than what it was during the last census that took place in 1998.

Unchecked population growth in Pakistan is among one of the serious challenges which the country faces today. Arguably, this rapid rise in population poses the biggest threat to the state’s plans to achieve self-sufficiency in different human development indicators.

While the current population census was conducted after a long delay, the country’s ruling elite has never used the census results beyond how it can or cannot help them in politicking, power grabs, undermining smaller provinces’ rights, and the redrawing of constituencies to ensure that the established political power sharing structure remains intact.

Since Pakistan’s independence, the country’s smaller provinces have always protested against not receiving their due share in resources. They claim this has been due to the country’s politics being dominated by Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. The ruling elite in Pakistan have not made any determined policy efforts to expand the country’s domestic economy by effectively increasing agricultural and industrial output. It’s one of the primary reasons that Pakistan remains unprepared for rising challenges that uncontrolled growth in population brings such as poverty, a strain on resources, unemployment, and terrorism.

Afghanistan and Its Neighbors


Seven months after taking office, President Donald Trump finally announced how his administration plans to fight the longest-running war in American history. “My original instinct was to pull out—and, historically, I like following my instincts,” Trump told the nation in a prime-time address outlining his strategy for Afghanistan. But after studying the situation—and weeks of dithering in the face of vicious infighting on the subject among his staff—he came to understand why withdrawal wasn’t wise: “9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.”

The course he chose is little different from the status quo, with one exception: The president called out one of Afghanistan’s neighbors for providing protection to those destabilizing the country. “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” Trump noted. “No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials.” It was a direct rebuke to his predecessor, Barack Obama, who declared in his Afghanistan strategy speech that “we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust.” Obama didn’t mention Pakistan’s neighbor and rival, but Trump did; working more with India, he said, was a “critical part of the South Asia strategy.”

Despite Risks, Trump Administration Moves Forward With Afghanistan Mining Plan


The United States has already spent almost half a billion dollars on Afghanistan’s mining industry with little to show, but the Trump administration still appears determined to move forward with plans to tap the country’s buried wealth.

Describing the country’s mineral deposits as potentially transformative for a country its size, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Foreign Policy that he has delivered a plan to President Donald Trump to get the Afghan economy back on its feet. “The whole idea of it is to try to figure out how to make Afghanistan a self-sufficient country that can provide jobs for its people and its own budget,” Ross said in an interview.

Trump, who last week announced that he would be sending more troops to Afghanistan, believes the country’s estimated $1 trillion in mineral resources can be used to repay the United States for what it has spent there. “As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us,” Trump said in an Aug. 21 speech at Fort Myer in Virginia.

In fact, Afghanistan doesn’t have a prime minister, but that wasn’t even the most concerning issue for veteran Afghanistan watchers.

Bogus Concerns over Brahmaputra Waters


This is the season to hate the Chinese. China has done much to bring this upon itself. Its action in Dokolam was deliberate and inexcusable. This also gives an opportunity to an ever-growing band of China baiters, Tibetan propagandists, New Delhi’s pro-western lobby and long list of ever-incensed “patriots” to add half-truths and untruths to the narrative. Dokolam will pass, but the untruths in the narrative will stay for a very long time and blight our understanding of issues. This is the season when the lunatic fringe emerges from the woodwork. The RSS wants a ban on Chinese imports. Yet another bunch is blaming China for the Assam floods. The alleged diversion of the Brahmaputra (Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet) at Zhangmu is often cited by as yet another clear sign of Chinese perfidy and the risks it poses India. But does it? Lets look at the facts. 

The Zhangmu Dam is a gravity dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo River just northwest of Gyaca in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. It is a part of the Zhangmu Hydropower Project and supports a 510 MW power station. Construction began in 2009 and the first generator was commissioned in November 2014. The last became operational on 13 October 2015. It is the first dam on the Brahmaputra/Yarlung Tsangpo River and has caused so much of quite unnecessary controversy in India

China’s arrogance and the logic of strategy

Recent developments in the border standoff saga reaffirm the observations made in Edward Luttwak’s 2012 book, The Rise of China vs The Logic of Strategy

China continues to move — quickly and defiantly — in its pursuit of a self-defeating aim: alienate a new generation of peoples in its neighbourhood, simultaneously and purposively.

Three developments related to the India—China border standoff took place last week. One, Xinhua News Agency, China’s official mouthpiece engaged in blatantly racist propoganda against Indians. Not only was this crude caricature aimed at going viral, Chinese media controllers even took down articles on the internet that criticised the cheap humour.

Two, Japanese Ambassador to India spoke—albeit guardedly—on China’s unilateral attempts to change status quo at Doklam by force. Not many countries have spoken up on the border standoff and hence, this statement is significant.

Three, Economic Times reported that India might be tightening the rules for Chinese businesses entering the power transmission and other critical sectors in India.

All three events reaffirm the Logic of Strategy articulated by Edward Luttwak in 2012. His essential contention was that China’s economic and military rise is bound to coalesce some of its neighbours against China. And this will happen regardless of the cultural impediments, ideological fixations and political hesitations of these countries.

Losing the perception war at Dok La

by Bharat Karnad

At around a quarter-to-two in the afternoon today (Aug 28), a joint statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi and the Zhongnanhai in Beijing announced the “expeditious disengagement” by troops eyeballing each other on the disputed Bhutanese border with China on the Doklam plateau that India is treaty-bound to protect. So far so good. Except, the Chinese spokesperson Hua Chunying also said Chinese troops would continue to patrol the Doklam region, thereby giving the impression that while the Indians had withdrawn, the PLA unit hadn’t. She then gave the rhetorical middle finger to India by adding that “China will continue to exercise sovereignty rights to protect territorial sovereignty in accordance with the rules of the historical boundary” and, by way of turning the knife, gratuitously declared that “China hopes India respects the historical boundary and works with China to protect peace along the border on the basis of mutual respect of each other’s sovereignty.” ( http://in.reuters.com/article/india-china-doklam-idINKCN1B80IC )

How China Plans To Win A War In The South China Sea

Last year China’s defense minister, General Chang Wanquan, implored the nation to ready itself for a “people’s war at sea.” The purpose of such a campaign? To “safeguard sovereignty” after an adverse ruling from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The tribunal upheld the plain meaning of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ruling that Beijing’s claims to “indisputable sovereignty” spanning some 80-90 percent of the South China Sea are bunk.

A strong coastal state, in other words, cannot simply wrest away the high seas or waters allocated to weaker neighbors and make them its own.

Or, at any rate, it can’t do so lawfully. It could conceivably do so through conquest, enforced afterward by a constant military presence. Defenders of freedom of the sea, consequently, must heed General Chang’s entreaty. Southeast Asians and their external allies must take such statements seriously—devoting ample forethought to the prospect of marine combat in the South China Sea.

That’s the first point about a people’s war at sea. A clash of arms is possible. Statesmen and commanders in places like Manila, Hanoi, and Washington must not discount Chang’s words as mere bluster.

How a Russian Submarine Almost Started World War III

Sebastien Roblin

There is some disagreement over how close Savitsky really came to launching the nuclear torpedo. The nuclear warhead required a certain amount of preparation, and some maintain Savitsky's order reflected a momentary loss of temper under stressful conditions rather than a commitment to following through. Nonetheless, it seems clear that a nuclear exchange was averted for reasons far more circumstantial than any would care to stake the fate of humanity on.

It is commonly accepted that the world has never come closer to nuclear war than during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the United States confronted Soviet Union over its deployment of ballistic nuclear missiles to Cuba. But in popular imagination, the decisions for war would have come from national leaders sitting in the comfort of executive offices in Washington or Moscow.

In fact, that decision was nearly taken out of Khrushchev and Kennedy’s hands by a group of men in the throes of dehydration and CO2 poisoning as they sat in a malfunctioning submarine surrounded by U.S. destroyers, unable to consult with Moscow.

Two officers gave the order to prepare a nuclear weapon for launch.

“And Pray, Sir, What Does Italy have to Offer?“

What has not been said about President Obama’s failure to deal with Pyonjang and its ballistic missiles? That he did not have what it takes. That he was hesitant. That he was unsure of himself. That he was weak, weak, weak. Too weak for this particular job, too weak for holding the presidency in general.

After January 20th 2017, we were told, all that would change. A new and decisive, albeit mentally somewhat disturbed, president would take over in the oval office. He would not allow his hands to be tied by political correctness. To provide advice, he would surround himself not by nancy-pancy Department of State types but by tough, no-nonsense, former generals (including one who had been nicknamed “Mad Dog” by his fellows). He would disregard diplomatic niceties. He would call a spade a spade, and a punk a punk. And he would take action, decisive action. Including, if nothing else worked, military action.

Two thirds of a year have passed. Kim-Jong un has continued to “provoke the world” by testing his ballistic missiles. Here it may be worth mentioning, in parenthesis, that there is really no reason why North Korea, a sovereign state that has long been under siege, should not own and do what other states, the U.S included, have owned and done for several decades. Also that, for a small state like North Korea, virtually the only way to defend itself against the great bully, the U.S, is to acquire nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles.

Stratfor: about the latest jihadist attack in Europe

Summary: Stratfor reports on the latest attack by ISIS in Europe. It’s a drumbeat of terror, slowly increasing, rooted in Europe’s large and rapidly growing Islamic population. So far the region’s governments have responded with traditional police and security measures. These have failed. What will they do next?

The Islamic State struck again on Aug. 17, when a van ran over people in downtown Barcelona, killing at least 13 and leaving over a hundred injured. {The Islamic State claimed responsibility.} Then in the early hours of Aug. 18, police killed five suspected terrorists after they plowed into people in the city of Cambrils, killing one person. Investigations are underway after the two terrorist attacks in Spain’s Catalonia region. Security forces have arrested four suspects, and they are trying to determine whether the driver of the Barcelona van was among them.

The attackers’ original intention was probably to conduct a large truck bombing in Barcelona. In fact, a safe-house in Alcanar (about 203 kilometers or 126 miles south of Barcelona) exploded on Aug. 16 while at least two people were making the explosives for vehicle bombs. {The explosion killed a woman and injured six other people. An explosion while clearing debris injured several more people. There were over a hundred butane gas containers. Details here.}



It was the end of Ramadan, a few days before Eid al-Fitr, a time of feasts and family. But the housewives shopping in a Gaza City market were buying just a few handfuls of vegetables and small pieces of meat. “Nobody can use their refrigerators,” one vendor explains; the power is out for much of the day, and food spoils quickly here. It was the start of a typically harsh summer, with daytime temperatures in the 90s, and in one office after the next, politicians and professors apologized to visitors for the heat—their air conditioners were useless.

After three wars and a decade-long military blockade, Gaza's nearly 2 million people are familiar with hardship. This summer’s power crisis is merely the latest in a long list of shortages of everything from drinking water and cooking gas to cement and cars. But this time, one thing is different: The problem has been created by other Palestinians.

Until recently, Israel provided Gaza with about half of its electricity, paid for by the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognized body that governs the West Bank. But in April, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, decided to reduce those payments by 40 percent, and on June 11, at the request of the PA, the Israeli security Cabinet approved a commensurate cut in the supply. Most Gazans received just four hours of electricity at a time, followed by 12-hour blackouts; now, they get about two and a half hours at a stretch.

Time to Terminate Washington's Defense Welfare

Doug Bandow

The spectacle of South Korean president Moon Jae-in proclaiming that the United States cannot attack North Korea without his permission is an embarrassment for a country that believes it has taken its place among the nations. He undoubtedly realizes that no American president, especially the present one, would give another nation a veto over U.S. security.

At most the Seoul government could forbid the Pentagon from using bases in the Republic of Korea, but Washington has multiple options for launching military operations. And Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke for many Americans when he declared that a war would be awful for the South Korean people, but at least “it will be over there.” The ROK, not the United States, would provide the battleground if full-scale war erupted as a result of American strikes. So why should the Trump administration worry?

No wonder President Moon is almost frantic over the possibility of a unilateral U.S. attack. The late President Kim Young-sam claimed to have dissuaded President Bill Clinton from assaulting the North’s nuclear facilities. An attack plan was drafted with the assistance of former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, when he was serving as an assistant secretary under Defense Secretary William Perry, though Clinton aides denied it was put in motion.

The East India Company: The original corporate raiders

William Dalrymple

One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north Indiauntil the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle.

The last hereditary Welsh prince, Owain Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, built Powis castle as a craggy fort in the 13th century; the estate was his reward for abandoning Wales to the rule of the English monarchy. But its most spectacular treasures date from a much later period of English conquest and appropriation: Powis is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century.

There are more Mughal artefacts stacked in this private house in the Welsh countryside than are on display at any one place in India – even the National Museum in Delhi. The riches include hookahs of burnished gold inlaid with empurpled ebony; superbly inscribed spinels and jewelled daggers; gleaming rubies the colour of pigeon’s blood and scatterings of lizard-green emeralds. There are talwars set with yellow topaz, ornaments of jade and ivory; silken hangings, statues of Hindu gods and coats of elephant armour.

The New Era of Counterforce: Technological Change and the Future of Nuclear Deterrence

Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press

Nuclear deterrence rests on the survivability of nuclear arsenals. For much of the nuclear age, “counterforce” disarming attacks—those aimed at eliminating an opponent's nuclear forces—were nearly impossible because of the ability of potential victims to hide and protect their weapons. Technological developments, however, are eroding this foundation of nuclear deterrence. Advances rooted in the computer revolution have made nuclear forces around the world considerably more vulnerable. Specifically, two key approaches that countries have relied on to ensure arsenal survivability since the dawn of the nuclear age—hardening and concealment—have been undercut by leaps in weapons accuracy and a revolution in remote sensing. Various methods, evidence, and models demonstrate the emergence of new possibilities for counterforce disarming strikes. In short, the task of securing nuclear arsenals against attack is far more difficult than it was in the past. The new era of counterforce challenges the basis for confidence in contemporary deterrence stability, raises critical issues for national and international security policy, and sheds light on one of the enduring theoretical puzzles of the nuclear era: why international security competition has endured in the shadow of the nuclear revolution. 


Nuclear deterrence is based on the threat of retaliation. A nuclear arsenal designed for deterrence must, therefore, be able to survive an enemy first strike and still inflict unacceptable damage on the attacker. For most of the nuclear age, the survivability of retaliatory forces seemed straightforward; “counterforce” attacks—those aimed at disarming the enemy's nuclear forces—appeared impossible because the superpower arsenals were large and dispersed, and were considered easy to hide and protect.1 Today, analysts tend to worry more about the dangers of nuclear terrorism or accidents than the survivability of retaliatory arsenals.2 Nuclear deterrence appears robust.

Why Do U.S. Warships Keep Having Accidents?

By Sam Bateman

James Goldrick has identified possible systemic problems in the US Navy that help explain recent accidents involving US warships. These problems may not be unique to the US Seventh Fleet and there has to be sympathy for Vice Admiral Aucoin, the Commander of the Seventh Fleet, who was made the scapegoat for recent accidents and sacked ‘due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command'. This was just a short time before he was due to retire.

James pointed to a possible need for the US Navy to reconsider its 'unrestricted line officer' concept, whereby its surface warfare officers are expected to gain experience as platform and combat system engineers at the expense of seamanship and navigation. He also addressed the very real issue that the younger generation of officers and sailors are being ‘captured’ by their electronic displays at the expense of actually looking out the window. Modern technology is no substitute for alert eyes and the experience to handle a potentially dangerous situation.

American naval commentators frequently allude to the importance of compliance with the the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) to ensure navigational safety. This is certainly important but any ‘holier than thou’ implication (ie. that the US Navy sticks to the rules and other navies don’t) should be avoided. Rule 5 is a basic rule in COLREGS. It states ‘Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision’. Bridge personnel with their heads in screens are not keeping a proper look-out ‘by all available means’.

AI cyberattacks are coming — but what does that mean?

By: Jeremy Straub 

The next major cyberattack could involve artificial intelligence systems. It could even happen soon: At a recent cybersecurity conference, 62 industry professionals, out of the 100 questioned, said they thought the first AI-enhanced cyberattack could come in the next 12 months.

This doesn’t mean robots will be marching down Main Street. Rather, artificial intelligence will make existing cyberattack efforts — things like identity theft, denial-of-service attacks and password cracking — more powerful and more efficient. This is dangerous enough — this type of hacking can steal money, cause emotional harm, and even injure or kill people. Larger attacks can cut power to hundreds of thousands of people, shut down hospitals and even affect national security.

As a scholar who has studied AI decision-making, I can tell you that interpreting human actions is still difficult for AI and that humans don’t really trust AI systems to make major decisions. So, unlike in the movies, the capabilities AI could bring to cyberattacks — and cyber defense — are not likely to immediately involve computers choosing targets and attacking them on their own. People will still have to create attack AI systems, and launch them at particular targets. But nevertheless, adding AI to today’s cybercrime and cybersecurity world will escalate what is already a rapidly changing arms race between attackers and defenders.

Ship collisions raise specter of Chinese electronic warfare


China’s military has developed advanced electronic warfare capabilities capable of disabling ships, aircraft and missiles and there are signs the People’s Liberation Army is preparing to use exotic electronic attacks in a future conflict with the United States.

Two recent collisions between US Navy warships and commercial ships have raised the specter that China was behind the accidents, using electronic means to disrupt or fool radar or navigation systems into creating deliberate collisions, according to military experts.

China has developed some of the world’s most advanced military electronic warfare weapons, including jammers, disruptors and cyber tools that can cause electronics to malfunction mysteriously, or to operate in ways that can cause them to self-destruct.

On July 30, the PLA showed off some of its new electronic warfare gear at an annual military parade in Inner Mongolia. Among the hundreds of armaments on display at the event was equipment used to disrupt enemy radar and communications in air defense and ground combat.

“Electronic warfare has now become a key means of combat in modern warfare,” Wu Yafei, head of the electronic confrontation formation at the parade, told Xinhua. “The enlisting of the new electronic warfare equipment in the PLA has significantly enhanced its capability in this field.”

Digital platforms—the new commanding heights?

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha

Think Facebook or Amazon or Google. Their market shares in their respective markets would qualify as markers of monopoly in the traditional economies. Photo: Mint

Is the internet a private good, a public good or a club good? This technical question strikes at the heart of the regulatory issues that are likely to grow in importance as the digital economy expands in the coming years.

The distinction between these three categories of goods depends on two core underlying issues. First, does the consumption of a good by one person reduce its availability to others? Second, is anyone excluded from using a good? A motoring analogy could help. A car is a private good because its use by one person means that others cannot use it. A highway is a public good because more than one person can use it at the same time while nobody can be excluded from using it. A toll road is a club good because only those who pay can use it but it is then equally accessible to all users who have paid.

Why does all this matter in the digital economy? Regulatory economists are now grappling with the challenge of analysing dominant players in various parts of the digital economy. Think Facebook or Amazon or Google. Their market shares in their respective markets would qualify as markers of monopoly in the traditional economies. Also, these digital companies have emerged as multifaceted platforms on which other participants in the digital economy operate. Economic theory suggests that such platform markets tend towards monopoly.

Even Artificial Neural Networks Can Have Expoitable Backdoors; AI-Enhanced Malware Likely To Emerge By The End Of 2017 — Potential Disastrous Consequences For Businesses, Consumers, Intelligence, Military, and Law Enforcement

You just had to figure it. Anything and everything that is connected to the Internet, or the Internet of Things (IoT). Now comes a report on WIRED.com that “even artificial neural networks can have exploitable back-doors,” and thus — be hacked, or a hidden vulnerability. Tim Simonite writes in the August 25, 2017 edition of WIRED, that “in early August, New York University (NYU) professor Siddharth Garg checked for traffic; and then, put a yellow Post-it [note] on a stop sign outside the Brooklyn building where he works. When he and two colleagues showed a photo of the scene to their road-sign detector software, it was 95 percent sure the stop sign in fact displayed the speed limit.”

“The stunt,” Mr. Simonite wrote, “demonstrated a potential security headache for engineers working with machine learning software. The researchers showed it’s possible to embed silent, nasty, surprises into artificial neural networks, the type of learning software used for tasks such as recognizing speech or understanding photos.” 

“Malicious actors can design [artificial neural networks] so that kind of behavior will emerge only in response to emerge only in response to a very specific, secret signal, as in the case of Garg’s Post-it,” Mr. Simonite wrote. “Such “back-doors” could be a problem for companies that want to [or have to, due to a lack of expertise] outsource work on neural networks to third parties. or build products on top of freely available neural networks online. Both approaches have become more common, as interest in machine learning grows inside, and outside the tech industry,” he noted. “In general, it seems that no one is thinking about this issue,” said Dolan-Gavitt, an NYU professor who works with Garg.