6 September 2017

*** The Eastern Time Bomb

Robert D. Kaplan

Over the span of the decades since World War II, the United States Navy has made Asia rich but not altogether stable. It was only the security guarantee provided by the U.S. Navy that allowed Asian countries not to fear one another and thus to concentrate on building their economies instead of their militaries. The result has been the Asian economic miracle, which began to gather force in the late 1970s and has continued to the present day. Of course, Asians themselves have ascribed their success to “Asian values”—the emphasis on order and hierarchy embodied in the Confucian ethos. But “the region’s peaceful postwar coexistence, far from being somehow organic to local political cultures,” notes Richard McGregor in “Asia’s Reckoning,” “had been underwritten by the U.S. military.”

Now the situation is changing. The rise of the Chinese navy and the arms race that it has set off across Asia have made the region’s stability tenuous. “A single shot fired in anger” in the East China Sea (where China’s claims face off against Japan’s), or in some other zone of dispute, could send financial markets tumbling, Mr. McGregor notes, and affect “trade routes, manufacturing centers, and retail outlets on every continent.”

A former Financial Times bureau chief in Beijing and Washington, Mr. McGregor has written a shrewd and knowing book about the relationship between China, Japan and America over the past half-century. Among much else, he shows how the world’s top three economies are now imprisoned by increasingly unstable dynamics, and not only in the military realm.

** China’s PLA readying missiles to counter Indian air power

Every summer the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducts a major air defense exercise at its western theater command’s air force experimental training base. The anti-aircraft brigade of the 79th group army was the main participant in this year’s drill, on August 22.

The exercise evaluated the unit’s radar system, command and control network, intercept capabilities, electronic and cyber warfare abilities, mobility and logistics. The batteries engaged a variety of aircraft, including the J-10, J-11, Mil Mi-171, Harbin Z-9 and an assortment of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

Earlier this month, videoand photographic evidencesurfaced online that shows China moving trainloads of HQ-16 and HQ-17 missiles to Tibet as the standoff with India at Doklam continues.

The HQ-16 is a third-generation medium-range air defense missile system. Inspired by the Russian Buk, the HQ-16 has a 40 km maximum range of fire. Cold-launched vertically, it takes 13 minutes for a moving HQ-16 to load and fire missiles armed with 70kg warheads.

The transporting of HQ missiles to Tibet shows the PLA is reinforcing its layered air defense arrangement in anticipation of Indian air power


Manish Chand 

Doklam is out, Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is in. In the picturesque coastal city of Xiamen, better known for its delicious noodles, entrepreneurial drive and pretty beaches, the sound and fury that accompanied the stand-off between India and China on the Doklam plateau appeared a distant echo as India and China set differences aside to bolster the edifice of Brics. The focus was on convergences and looking ahead, rather than nursing grouse and conspiracy theories as China joined hands with India and other Brics countries to shape the strongest ever Brics joint declaration on terrorism.

Terror connect: It was a triumph of Indian diplomacy, but it was also a reflection of the pivotal role of Brics in fighting common threats and promoting regional stability. The 71-paragraph Xiamen Declaration, if implemented even partially, could be a potential game-changer in strengthening the counter-narrative of emerging powers on a host of geo-political crises and shaping a new global governance architecture that crystallises aspirations of developing countries.

The major takeaway from India’s point of view was a robust convergence on the scourge of terrorism that is proliferating in new guises across the region and the world. Shedding hesitations of the past, Brics countries have collectively backed India’s concerns over cross-border terrorism, with a Brics joint declaration naming for the first time Pakistan-based virulently anti-India terror groups, including the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT), Jaish e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Haqqani network.

Raja Mandala: Rearranging the BRICS

by C. Raja Mohan

The forum is less about ideological posturing, more about repositioning India in changing great power equations.

For more than two decades, building a multipolar world has been one of the central themes of India’s foreign policy. For nearly a decade, the BRICS, the forum that brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, has been the main forum for the pursuit of that objective. But China’s rapid rise has compelled India to rethink the virtues of a multipolar world.

As Beijing squeezes India’s space in the Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean and becomes a lot more assertive in the bilateral disputes with Delhi, the construction of a “multipolar Asia” — or balancing China — is turning out to be as important as the search for a “multipolar world”, for long the code words for hedging against American unilateralism. That Washington has become more empathetic to India’s regional and global concerns — ranging from terrorism in Pakistan to Delhi’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group — has made a recalibration of India’s great power relations inevitable.

After the Cold War, India faced a twin challenge. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the logic of adapting to a globalising world saw Delhi re-engage the United States and the West. Even as India reached out to the West after the Cold War, it was deeply wary of its interventionist policies on a range of issues — including human rights, Kashmir and nuclear non-proliferation. To insure against the negative fall-out from the unipolar world, Delhi chose to line up under Moscow’s banner for a great “strategic triangle” of eastern powers, involving Russia, China and India, to blunt America’s edge in the post-Cold War world.

What the Raksha Mantri needs to do

'It is the government's most important duty to ensure that when war breaks out, the armed forces are absolutely ready to face the adversary -- well equipped, well trained and in high spirits,' says Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd).

Prime Minister Narendra D Modi has handed over the reins of the ministry of defence (MoD) to Nirmala Sitharaman, a trusted colleague in the Union council of ministers.

The minister will require all her management skills to set the right priorities for the MoD and the armed forces.

She will need to lead from the front and work closely with the leadership of the armed forces, the bureaucracy and her counterparts in the other ministries to put defence preparedness back on the rails and give a fillip to the stalled process of military modernisation.

As a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security, the minister will play an important role in formulating policies to successfully manage the threats and challenges facing the country.

Surgical striker – BrahMos is India’s chance to be bold

Days before China-Pakistan cooperation was taken to the next level by side-stepping India’s concerns over Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Army chief General Bipin Rawat had played with a straight bat before an audience in the national capital.

On the morning of May 4, he exhorted the need to identify the “strategic deficiency” that was plaguing the country. The 27th chief of the Indian Army then lamented how an undivided India had even “reached up to the Middle East something that the creation of Pakistan put a break to”.

He highlighted the necessity of “developing alliances, developing friends to overcome this deficit”. It would be through the relentless pursuit of such partnerships that India would be able to create, in his words, not only “a two-front dilemma for our western neighbour (Pakistan), but also an encirclement of our northern neighbour (China) from the west”.

Most observers would agree that linkages develop through a variety of processes which have to be clear and consistent. Such associations encompass political support, or training of personnel, or supply of hardware, or all of the above.

While India has been achieving incremental progress by imparting training to friendly forces, exporting patrol boats, helicopters, spares, and radars notching up a high of Rs 2,000 crore in export value recently, the Army chief is not satisfied.

Sharper teeth and a shorter tail: How the Indian Army can be reformed to fight wars of the future

Source Link 

In December 2016, Lieutenant General DB Shekatkar submitted a report to Manohar Parrikar, who as defence minister at the time, detailing bold reforms to give the Indian Army sharper teeth and a shorter tail.

In military parlance, “teeth” refers to combat capability while “tail” is the logistics support that sustains an army in combat. The report prepared by Shekatkar’s 11-member committee recommended cutting the “flab” by identifying outdated Army organisations through detailed performance audits.

Shekatkar has extensive combat experience, having served in the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. He was also additional director general in the Directorate of Perspective Planning, which works on future plans for the Indian Army.

Parrikar moved to Goa as chief minister in March this year, leaving it to Arun Jaitley, the finance minister who was given the additional charge of defence, to try and implement the recommendations.

In mid-August, the government rolled out the first set of reforms, announcing that it was shutting down 39 military farms that had been in operation for nearly 140 years. These farms, set up by the British, were meant to supply quality food to the officers and men of the Army during peacetime and war. Today, when the military can easily procure food material from the market, these farms serve little practical purpose.

North East, Foreign Policy And Going Back To The Roots

Jaideep Mazumdar

Ram Madhav spoke to Swarajya on a wide range of important issues, from the growing influence of the BJP in the North East and its historic alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir to the shift in India’s foreign policy and the work of his think tank, India Foundation.

Ram Madhav, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary, is a man of many interests and persuasions. He has a deep interest in strategic affairs and geopolitics, interacts closely with the diplomatic community and public intellectuals, heads India Foundation, which has emerged as a front-ranking think tank that also formulates actionable policies for the government, and is a prolific writer and columnist.

Madhav, 53, became a full-time worker of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at a young age of 17. He held several key positions in the RSS and was the national spokesperson of the organisation for 13 years till 2014, before he was seconded to the BJP.

Madhav is the party’s key person in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast India.

He spoke extensively to Swarajya over two sessions at his India Foundation office and at the BJP national headquarters. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

You played an instrumental role in scripting the BJP's spectacular electoral success in Assam. How was the BJP's approach towards the Assam polls different from its earlier campaigns in that state?

Everyone Loves India’s Growth Potential Except Its Industry Leaders

Subhomoy Bhattacharjee

It is money that confounds the readers of Indian economy at this stage. There is a lot of it but at the wrong places. The government is flooded with cash in the till – 99 per cent of the demonetised sum has come back as gross domestic product (GDP) numbers are anaemic, but the worry is the reluctance of industry to just take out a loan.

Some of that consequential flow is parked with banks, but there are no takers. Data released on Thursday (31 August) about credit growth from banks show that till the end of July, banks have lent out less money to business (including retail) than last year. And last year was another dip year. Some of the slack has been cut by the rise in commercial paper, but that has not covered up for a Rs 1.37 lakh crore dip in bank lending on year to date.

The slowdown extends well before the demonetisation caper. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, bank credit grew by only 9.2 per cent. In the same period last year, bank credit had shrunk by Rs 1,900 crore. The slowdown had already set in.

To figure it out better, let us examine what makes up the GDP numbers. Looked at from the expenditure perspective, GDP is consumption plus investment. This investment depends on the use of fixed capital which, in turn, gets built by raising money from the markets. In India, this is mostly debt. So the dip in growth rate of bank credit from FY13 onwards means industry is not building up capital to add to its investment capacity. And why should this be the case? Clearly, one reason could be that the capacity which had been built in the years before are yet to be fully deployed for industry to want to take out more loans to add to capacity. In June, for instance, the factory production index slipped into red, a four-year low led by a 6.8 per cent contraction in the capital goods sector.

The gap between India’s richer and poorer states is widening

COUNTRIES find it easier to get rich once their neighbours already are. East Asia’s growth pattern has for decades been likened to a skein of geese, from Japan at the vanguard to laggards such as Myanmar at the rear. The same pattern can often be seen within big countries. Over the past decade, for example, China’s poorer provinces have grown faster than their wealthier peers. India is different. Far from converging, its states are getting ever more unequal. A recent shake-up in the tax system might even make matters worse.

Bar a few Mumbai penthouses and Bangalore startup offices, all parts of India are relatively poor by global standards. Taken together, its 1.3bn people make up roughly the third and fourth decile of the world’s population, with an income per person (adjusted for purchasing power) of $6,600 dollars. But that average conceals a vast gap. In Kerala, a southern state, the average resident has an annual income per person of $9,300, higher than Ukraine, and near the global median. With just $2,000 or so, an Indian in Bihar, a landlocked state of 120m people, is closer to a citizen of Mali or Chad, in the bottom decile globally.

The gap has been widening. In 1990, point out Praveen Chakravarty and Vivek Dehejia of the IDFC Institute, a think-tank, India’s three richest large states had incomes just 50% higher than the three poorest—roughly the same divergence as in America or the EU today, and more equal than in China. Now the trio is three times richer (see chart).

India and Pakistan are seeing more intense monsoon rains

WITH the giant Himalayas caging its towering clouds, the great basin where the Brahmaputra merges with the Ganges and Meghna rivers is prone not only to heavy rainfall but also to sudden deluges. Bits of the Indian state of Meghalaya receive over 11 metres (36 feet) of rain a year, making them the wettest places on the planet. Where there is so much water plus so many people—the basin, which covers just 1% of the world’s land area, is home to one in ten of its people—flooding is a perpetual hazard. In the thickening heat of every summer the locals greet the monsoon with both relief and trepidation.

This year’s monsoon has seen as many as 1,000 Indians killed in floods, half of them in the country’s poorest state, Bihar, where 12m people may have abandoned their homes. On August 29th 33cm of rain practically shut down Mumbai; on the 31st a building there collapsed.

In neighbouring Bangladesh, flooding killed more than 144 in August, with some 11m people affected. As much as a third of the country was briefly submerged when waters peaked late in the month. A similar number lost their lives in Nepal.

The region has seen worse. In 2007 floods killed 3,300 people in India and Bangladesh. In 2010 flooding killed 2,100 people in Pakistan, and in 2013 some 6,500 people died due to floods in India. Bangladesh saw catastrophic floods in 1974, 1987, 1988 and 1998, when the capital city, Dhaka, was inundated. In July 2005 Mumbai received almost a metre of rainfall in a single 24-hour period.

BRICS: Modi meets Xi in Xiamen


The BRICS summit in Xiamen is taking place in the immediate aftermath of a confrontation between its two largest economies and nations. Till it was resolved a few days ago, it was not even sure if the Indian Prime Minister would have traveled to beautiful Xiamen, from where on clear nights one can see the lights of Taiwan. Many observers in New Delhi believe that if Narendra Modi did not take part in the Xiamen, so soon after not participating in the OBOR meeting of twenty-eight countries, it would have meant an irreparable rupture between India and China. But if the Dokolam stand-off stayed, it would have been difficult for the Indian prime minister to visit Xiamen. 

The last meeting between Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping didn’t exactly exude good vibes. While the Indian side was at pains to explain that the two leaders met and spoke some about important matters of mutual interest, the Chinese side quite happily administered a snub nothing more than a handshake and a courteous smiles were exchanged. It now remains to be seen if India-China relations can go back to where they were before the OBOR summit? It is a widely held opinion in India that the Dokolam crisis was deliberately precipitated by China as a payback for not being present at a triumphant moment for China. India for its part does not see any economic value in OBOR for it and sees it mostly a Chinese play to generate business for its industrial over capacity and putting to work its zero yield investments in US securities, by putting them to work for it and transferring the debt to countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is good business from the Chinese perspective, but clearly India is not amused!

The U.S.-Pakistan Relationship Is on Life Support

Michael Kugelman

In the days since President Trump came down hard on Pakistan in his speechoutlining America’s new Afghanistan strategy, the reaction in Islamabad—and elsewhere across the country—has been predictably angry and defiant.

Pakistan’s National Security Committee, a group of top government and military officials, rejected Trump’s allegations—ones also made by many American leaders before him—that Pakistan provides sanctuaries to terrorists that destabilize Afghanistan and attack American troops. “To scapegoat Pakistan will not help in stabilizing Afghanistan,” the committee declared in a sharply worded statement. In a fiery interview with CNN, political opposition leader Imran Khan excoriated Trump for blaming Pakistan for U.S. struggles in Afghanistan and proclaimed that Trump’s criticism was “hurtful” and “humiliating” to all Pakistanis. Most recently, on August 30, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a resolution lambasting Trump’s accusations as “hostile” and “threatening.”

Pakistan’s anger is now affecting high-level diplomacy. Islamabad asked Alice Wells, a top South Asia official at the State Department, to indefinitely postpone a planned visit to Pakistan. Pakistan’s foreign minister, who had been scheduled to visit Washington, will now be going to China, Russia and Turkey instead—three countries with close or newly growing ties with Pakistan. Speaking to Parliament on August 30, Pakistani foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif called on the government to suspend all high-level bilateral visits with Washington.

Anatomy of a Taliban Ambush

Bill Roggio

In a recently released propaganda video, the Taliban provided extensive footage of an ambush on an Afghan logistics convoy in the eastern province of Wardak. The daylight ambush destroyed multiple Afghan vehicles, and despite the fact that US helicopters were nearby, the Taliban do not appear to have been targeted during the fighting.

The video, which is titled ‘Caravan of Heroes 13’ and was published on August 28, was produced by Manba al Jihad Studio, the media arm of the Haqqani Network, the Taliban subgroup that is closely linked to al Qaeda. Manba al Jihad Studio is “an official media wing of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Commission for Cultural Affairs Audio and Visual Sector,” according to the accompanying statement announcing the release of the video.

The video opens with a lengthy discussion of ambush tactics between two masked Taliban fighters, one who is wearing a black tee-shirt with the words “Quick Attack Force – Special Forces” and a Taliban logo printed on the front.

The video then cuts to footage of an ambush that targeted an Afghan military logistics convoy on a road in Sayyadabad district in Wardak province. The date of the attack was not given, however it appears to have taken place in the late spring or summer months. Sayyadabad was the district where Taliban fighters shot down a US Chinook helicopter in Aug. 2011 and killed 31 US and seven Afghan special operations forces, including several members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, which is more commonly referred to as SEAL Team 6. FDD’s Long War Journal has assessed Sayyadabad as Taliban-controlled, and the video demonstrates why.

Negotiating Afghanistan: The New US Strategy And The Pursuit Of A Deal – Modern War Institute

by Michael Baskin 

After sixteen years of war, President Donald Trump has outlined his administration’s new strategy to America’s longest running conflict in Afghanistan. So far, components like the promise to increase pressure on Pakistan, the encouragement of India to become more involved in Afghanistan, and a shift away from any time-based withdrawal plan have received the most attention. But a different element—what the president said about the prospect of negotiations—could potentially be among the most impactful. The president’s specific comments are likely to influence those negotiations—and their likelihood of success—in important ways. Specifically, the speech strengthened the US position in any political negotiations. But it also left several areas—including political will for an agreement, diplomatic capacity, and negotiation authority between US advisor forces and the State Department—unaddressed or unclear, and risks strategic drift by having the diplomatic negotiators inherit the debris of the US military’s efforts instead of guiding them from the start.

A negotiation analysis of the Trump administration’s approach helps us understand what, if anything, changed in the new strategy from a negotiation perspective, and what challenges may lie ahead. Before Mr. Trump’s speech, the default US position was that in the absence of a negotiated political settlement involving the Afghan government and the Taliban, the United States intended to leave Afghanistan. This was the posture in place over the second term of the Obama administration as it continued a drawdown of troops from late 2011 to 2014, dropping from over 100,000 and settling at 8,400 at the end of Mr. Obama’s second term. On the diplomatic front, the Obama administration created and staffed the Office Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the State Department. The SRAP office, as it was known, was allocated the authority, and organizational capacity (i.e., people) to conduct diplomatic initiatives in the region.

Braving security fears, Chinese seek 'Silk Road' riches in Pakistan

Drazen Jorgic, Brenda Goh

LAHORE, Pakistan/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Zhang Yang, a businessman from Chongqing in southwest China, is searching online forums for fellow stout-hearted entrepreneurs willing to cast aside security concerns and join him on a scouting mission to Pakistan.

Zhang, 48, is one of a growing number of Chinese pioneers sensing an opportunity across the Himalayas in Pakistan, where Beijing has pledged to spend $57 billion on infrastructure projects as part of its “Belt and Road” initiative.

Numbering in the thousands, this second wave of Chinese arrivals are following in the wake of workers on Belt and Road projects. Some are opening restaurants and language schools, while others are working out what products they could sell to a market of 208 million people, or what goods they could make cheaply in Pakistan to sell around the world.

“A lot of industries are already saturated in China,” said Zhang, who has worked in property, electrical appliances and household goods in China and says he wants to explore the potential for setting up factories or importing Chinese goods.

“Pakistan’s development is behind China, so it will hold better opportunities compared to home.”

I Was a Mercenary. Trust Me: Erik Prince’s Plan Is Garbage.

By Sean McFate 

For the past year, Erik Prince has been peddling an idea that should alarm anyone who has followed his career: We should replace U.S. troops in Afghanistan with mercenaries, preferably his.

For those who do not know Prince, he was a founder of Blackwater International, the private military contractor that became so toxic, he had to change the company’s name. Under his management, Blackwater committed perhaps the worst war crime of the Iraq war: A squad of armed contractors killed 17 civilians at the Nisour traffic circle in Baghdad. The incident sparked a political uproar in Iraq, vastly complicated the mission of the State Department diplomats the contractors were ostensibly there to protect, and set off multiple probes into Blackwater’s conduct. A FBI inquiry later found that 14 of the 17 deaths were unjustified. For Americans, the “Nisour Incident” was a stain on their country’s moral character. For Iraqis, Blackwater’s reckless behavior and callous disregard for Iraqi lives seemed emblematic of America’s handling of the war as a whole, and helped to hasten our exit.

Now Prince wants to privatize the Afghanistan war. And Afghans thought the worst we could do was bomb them.

The generals laughed at Prince, and thankfully the president went with the non-mercenary option. But Prince refuses to disappear, excoriating the generals in a recent op-ed for The New York Times, and pushing again for mercenaries, suggesting “it is not too late to alter the course.”

How Much Work Should the US Put Into Developing Cyber Rules With China?

By Robert Farley

How deeply should the United States engage China on the development of international norms and rules of cyber-security behavior? This question is most often asked in context of an assumption of Chinese bad faith; Beijing, as one of the world’s best-known practitioners of cyber-espionage, will not likely comply with established norms in any case. But in a recent essay, Julian Ku approaches the question from a different perspective: might China’s engagement change the nature of the rules established, possibly in the wrong direction?

As Ku details, China’s view of the right of self-defense may be at odds with the U.S. understanding of self-defense. Generally speaking, Chinese legal scholars and government officials have viewed the right of self-defense more narrowly than their American counterparts. While acknowledging both a right of defense in case of attack and a right to preempt in case of imminent attack, China’s position has been that “armed attack” must include a certain degree of gravity, and “imminent” requires a very short time frame.

China’s “restrictivist” view has emerged at least partially in reaction to what it believes to be U.S. oversteps; these include the Kosovo War, the Iraq War, and the overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddhafi. China fears that the U.S. approach to cyber conflict could enable preemptive or preventive cyber-attacks against a wide array of perceived threats, potentially with destructive consequences.

Here Is America’s Battle Plan For Destroying North Korea

Michael Peck
For years, the expectation had been that a second Korean War would resemble with the first, a big-unit conventional war with U.S. and South Korean forces first stopping the enemy and then counterattacking into North Korea. But OPLAN 5015 reportedly takes a more twenty-first century approach of limited war, special forces and precision weapons.

North Korea’s unpredictable leader Kim Jong-un has many ways of making war upon his neighbors. He can unleash commandos, or cyberweapons, or threaten to utilize weapons of mass destruction unless the world complies with his wishes.

Whether Kim Jong-un will live to see the results is another matter.

He might be assassinated by U.S. and South Korean special forces, or buried in his bunker by a bunker-buster bomb. Other smart bombs might take out his command posts and nuclear facilities. The authoritarian state of North Korea could become a state without authority, its leadership decapitated by precisely targeted strikes.

Or at least that seems to be America’s plan for fighting the next Korean War. And with North Korea conducting a new wave of ballistic missile tests, and U.S and South Korean forces practicing how to destroy North Korean nuclear sites, that plan is becoming more relevant.

At the Leading Edge of Counterinsurgency


Even before French soldiers left Vietnam in 1956 as France’s colonial rule came to an end, U.S. Army advisers were already working in the country. Small numbers of American advisers had been there since 1950. Then in 1962 the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, was activated and put in charge of all U.S. troops in South Vietnam. Soon thousands of MACV Army advisers were assisting the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. They were in every major ARVN unit, down to the battalion level.

U.S. advisers from the Navy, Air Force and Marines were also posted to relevant South Vietnamese units, but Army troops assigned to ARVN units were the most heavily involved in advisory activities. Beginning in late 1967, other Army advisers were formed into five-man teams with a special mission. Rather than being sent to units of the ARVN—the conventional, national military force responsible for the overall defense of the country—these Mobile Advisory Teams, or MATs, were dispatched to “territorial forces,” essentially local militias fighting in villages and hamlets against the Viet Cong guerrillas engaged in an insurgency to overthrow the South Vietnamese government. More than 300 MATs operated in South Vietnam and were the American agents of counterinsurgency in the Vietnamese countryside.

Coal's Future Looks Uncertain As Rival Fuels Grow

by Jonas Crews and Charles S. Gascon

The coal industry has experienced a significant decline over the past decade. This descent has been driven predominantly by the advent of cheap natural gas, along with policies to promote cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy. While the industry’s overall decline has been a more recent phenomenon, labor productivity in U.S. coal production has increased steadily for over three decades as firms move toward complete automation of the mining process. From January 1985 to May 2017, the amount of coal produced by the average mine worker increased 224 percent.

The outlook for coal, which once was the dominant fuel for electricity generation, is waning. This article analyzes the coal industry both nationally and within our region (the states that make up the Eighth Federal Reserve District[1]) and ponders its future as a source of both electricity and jobs.

Coal serves two main purposes in the global economy: It can be burned to create electricity, or it can be used to produce steel. In 2016, the U.S. electricity sector’s coal consumption was equal to 93 percent of domestic coal production.

The Benefits of Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty


“Wanting and not wanting the same thing at the same time is a baseline condition of human consciousness.”

Gary Noesner is a former FBI hostage negotiator. For part of the 51-day standoff outside the Branch Davidian religious compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, he was the strategic coordinator for negotiations with the compound’s leader, David Koresh. This siege ended in infamous tragedy: The FBI launched a tear-gas attack on the compound, which burned to the ground, killing 76 people inside. But before Noesner was rotated out of his position as the siege’s head negotiator, he and his team secured the release of 35 people.

Jamie Holmes, a Future Tense Fellow at New America, spoke to Noesner for his new book Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing. “My experience suggests,” Noesner told Holmes, “that in the overwhelming majority of these cases, people are confused and ambivalent. Part of them wants to die, part of them wants to live. Part of them wants to surrender, part of them doesn’t want to surrender.” And good negotiators, Noesner says, are “people who can dwell fairly effectively in the areas of gray, in the uncertainties and ambiguities of life.”

Maybe today’s Navy is just not very good at driving ships

By: Mark D. Faram

In the wake of two fatal collisions of Navy warships with commercial vessels, current and former senior surface warfare officers are speaking out, saying today’s Navy suffers from a disturbing problem: The SWO community is just not very good at driving ships.

The two collisions — and a total of 17 sailors lost at sea this summer — have raised concerns about whether this generation of surface fleet officers lack the basic core competency of their trade.

The problem is years in the making. Now, the current generation of officers rising into command-level billets lacks the skills, training, education and experience needed to operate effectively and safely at sea, according to current and former officers interviewed by Navy Times.

“There is a systemic cultural wasteland in the SWO community right now, especially at the department head level,” said retired Navy Capt. Rick Hoffman, who commanded the cruiser Hue City and the frigate DeWert and who, after retirement, taught SWOs ship handling in Mayport.

“We do not put a premium on being good mariners,” Hoffman said. “We put a premium on being good inspection takers and admin weenies.”



Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work recently announced that the core of the United States’ new “offset strategy” to counter emerging operational and technological threats from Russia and China will be a “centaur” approach of teaming humans with machine intelligence of varying levels of autonomy. The offset strategy, often described as a “competitive strategy,” aims to convince a putative group of future opponents that the cost of opposing the United States is too high by teaming humans and machines. The new offset, Work argues, is necessary to continue to militarily support larger U.S. policy goals imperiled by military-technical developments in competing states such as Russia and China. How do the fundamental components of Work’s efforts — competitive strategy and human-machine teaming — go together? What are the obstacles that Work and his colleagues will need to surmount to make the new offset strategically successful?

XO’s note to all watch-keepers at sea

By Commander Sudarshan Shrikhande, IN*

Author’sNote: This memo was written by the author in October 1998 while at sea in the Malacca Strait as a commander when he was Executive Officer of the Indian Navy’s then newest destroyer, INS Delhi. For all navies and indeed all mariners, the issue of collisions at sea always remains, quite unfortunately, a topical one . The recent collisions suffered by the USN have elicited many thoughtful, and some rather bizarre commentaries. Readers of this Memo, whether seamen with crows’ feet around their eyes or young bridge watchkeepers and personnel, may find some reiteration of basics. This is never a bad thing. Along with the adage that if something is too good to be true, it probably is, one can add that if your eyes tell you something is not quite right, it probably isn’t. The Memo was published in “Dhruv”, the IN’s journal periodically published by the Navigation & Direction School in 2011. It is slightly abridged and edited here.

This was written some years before AIS and further cluttering of bridge and ops room displays with labels and other contact info about merchantmen that makes it more difficult to assess how rapidly that label in the guise of a 200 m trader can close a warship or we close it

1. As the XO, I am for the first time at sea in a job that does not require prolonged presence in the bridge. The Captain spends long hours in the bridge and all you have watches to keep anyway. I do more unglamorous things like look after housekeeping, run the ship and be responsible for her fighting efficiency! However, based on what I have observed from and on the bridge, on my own experience as a watchkeeper (watches always give me a “high”) and on observations made by the Old Man to many of you, some tips and suggestions are made below. What I am trying to put across is neither a critique, nor a comprehensive guideline. It may justifiably seem “old hat” to many watchkeepers. It is old hat but may do with some repetition.


Sandhya Jain

A Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Bengaluru-based Col Matthew Thomas, a petitioner in the right to privacy case before the Supreme Court, reveals that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), custodian of Aadhaar data, signed contracts with foreign firms giving them “full access” to classified data and personal details of citizens, which they were allowed to store for seven years.

The Centre must direct the UIDAI to make a full disclosure of the project since its inception, including contracts signed, and who selected the firms recruited for the task. The then UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani must explain why the technology (hardware and software) for collecting and storing the data was not created domestically when India is supposed to be the hub for information technology services.

The RTI reply punctures the UIDAI’s assertion that no private entity had access to unencrypted Aadhaar data. The contract with US-based biometric service provider, L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company Private Limited (now owned by French transnational Safran Group), clearly says that the firm was given Aadhaar data access “as part of its job”. Other firms given identical contracts from 2010 to 2012 include Morpho and Accenture Services Private Limited.

Seeing Is Believing For Artificial Intelligence

By Robert K. Ackerman 

Several IARPA programs apply machine learning to improve perceptual processing.

Geospatial imagery as well as facial recognition and other biometrics are driving the intelligence community’s research into artificial intelligence. Other intelligence activities, such as human language translation and event warning and forecasting, also stand to gain from advances being pursued in government, academic and industry research programs funded by the community’s research arm.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is working toward breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, or AI, through a number of research programs. All these AI programs tap expertise in government, industry or academia.

IARPA is one of the biggest financial backers of AI research, states its director, Jason Matheny, and imagery is the biggest growth area for intelligence AI. Imagery, including video, is the area of machine learning in which the community is most overwhelmed by data. The sheer quantity of imagery makes it impractical for humans to analyze all of it, so some form of automation is necessary. Imagery also is the area in which machine learning tools are most mature and most able to produce results quickly and accurately to enable deeper analysis. “Image recognition is probably the most mature application of machine learning, and the gains for national intelligence are enormous,” he states.

National intelligence is fundamentally about the ability to learn, to adapt and to achieve goals, Matheny notes. “The reason AI is needed in intelligence is that the world has scaled up in complexity, and there are scaling limits to human intelligence to make sense of that complexity,” he says.

Future Spy Satellites Just Got Exponentially Smaller


By changing the way microchips measure light, researchers are shrinking the size of space-based telescopes. 

Future spy satellites may unfold like origami birds, collecting image data along long, flat sensor arrays that weigh almost nothing. By replacing the bulky telescopic lenses that make today’s spy sats among the biggest and most expensive things in space, light-sensitive microchips promise far cheaper access to orbital imagery.

Last month, Lockheed Martin released the first images from its experimental Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-optical Reconnaissance, or SPIDER, program. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, SPIDER is basically a telescope on a microchip. But it collects light data very differently from a conventional telescope.

A regular telescope, of the sort you might find in the Hubble Space Telescope or a Keyhole satellite pointed at North Korea, is fundamentally modeled on a human eye. The eye collects data on light intensity —or sees — by filtering the light through its lens and iris to the retina. Similarly, conventional telescopes and cameras collect light through lenses and pass it to detectors. In old cameras, that detector was film. In new digital cameras, the detector is a bed of capacitors. The number of photons that hits the detectors over a certain period of time gives you the light intensity. As that intensity varies across the area that you are trying to take a picture of, you see shapes and objects.

Putin: Leader in Artificial Intelligence Will Rule World

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says that whoever reaches a breakthrough in developing artificial intelligence will come to dominate the world.

Putin, speaking Friday at a meeting with students, said the development of AI raises “colossal opportunities and threats that are difficult to predict now.”

He warned that “the one who becomes the leader in this sphere will be the ruler of the world.”

Putin warned that “it would be strongly undesirable if someone wins a monopolist position” and promised that Russia would be ready to share its know-how in artificial intelligence with other nations.

The Russian leader predicted that future wars will be fought by drones, and “when one party’s drones are destroyed by drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender.”

Infographic Of The Day: A Visual Map Of The Social Media Universe

It's hard to believe that social media has emerged as such an expansive ecosystem in just the last 10 years.

The incredible growth of this social media universe can be largely attributed to the success of Facebook, which has recently hit two billion active users globally. But, of course, there are many other platforms that have helped to build the foundation as well – names like YouTube, Messenger, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram all create a powerful base for new apps and add-ons to plug into.

As of today, entrepreneurs have been able to use this foundation to build out new branches to the social media universe that are both exciting and diverse. The apps in these niches help to facilitate workplace collaboration, live events, dating, networking, user reviews, location-based marketing, livestreaming, expert Q&As, and many other functions – and the ecosystem continues to expand and multiply by the day. [click here to enlarge infographic]