15 September 2017

*Central And Eastern Europe's Crisis Of Convergence

by Adriano Bosoni

As the European Union braces for reform, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are approaching a crossroads. Some are interested in drawing closer to the bloc: The leaders of Slovakia and the Czech Republic recently said that their countries belong in the "core" of the union, and a minister from Romania spoke about joining the eurozone within five years. But others are keeping their distance: The Hungarian and Polish governments insist that the European Union has no right to interfere in their domestic affairs. These developments show an increasing awareness in the region that strategic decisions are fast approaching.

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe have a complex relationship with the European Union. They rushed to join the bloc after the end of the Cold War, and since then, they have been among the fastest-growing countries in Europe. They are all net receivers of European funds, and their populations are for the most part supportive of EU membership. But many of them have only partially embraced Continental integration, remaining outside the eurozone and resisting Brussels' attempts to interfere with their domestic policies.

Several governments have accused the union of undermining their national sovereignty and identity. They see the bloc as a club of nations that cooperate in areas of common interest, but remain as sovereign as possible. Recently, several Central and Eastern European countries have tried to increase military, economic and energy cooperation from the Baltic to the Black seas to enhance their autonomy. The Visegrad Group in particular is a key tool for the region to express its views on continental affairs. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are members, and they also invite Romania and Bulgaria to some of their meetings. The group has been particularly critical of an EU Commission plan to distribute asylum seekers across the bloc, which they see as a confirmation of their misgivings about Brussels.

Modi Is Offering A 56-Inch Dartboard To Critics By Not Devolving More Power To States

R Jagannathan

Modi can change the discourse around him if he can shift powers down to states and cities. India will boom once states do not have the alibi of blaming the Centre for their misfortunes.

And in allowing this to happen, Modi has himself to blame as much as the constitution’s misplaced emphasis in giving the Centre primacy in too many things.

Narendra Modi has been the target of multiple criticisms, the most important of which relate to his tendency to centralise decisions in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the second being his links to the Sangh’s Hindutva agenda.

The second criticism is motivated by political ideology, and depends on who his critic is, while the first has a ring of truth around it. However, it is not the centralisation of power itself that is the problem. (Show me one state where power is not centralised around the chief minister (CM), especially when that CM has a majority of his own.) The real problem is that Modi’s rise has revived the average Indian’s belief that all answers lie with Delhi.

This is why Modi faces excess criticism for things going wrong anywhere, since the assumption is that he can do something about it. Thus, in the horrible murder of Gauri Lankesh, it is his party and ideologues that get the blame, while the Karnataka government’s administrative incompetence in enforcing law and order gets a pass.

After the 14th Finance Commission passed on more resources to states, 62 per cent of national revenues rest with states; but it is to Delhi we look for answers to growth and jobs. When land and agriculture are largely state subjects, and both these subjects are badly in need of reform and investment, we don’t even ask states to fix the problem.

Why Self-Reliance In Defence Must Top Nirmala Sitharaman’s Things To Do List

Keertivardhan Joshi

In a redefined role, the Minister of Defence must take up the responsibility of fast-tracking indigenisation of crucial defence platforms, besides giving a push to the scientific programmes of the ministry and sprucing up research development.

Nirmala Sitharaman has been given charge of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after the recent cabinet rejig. As she sets out to disperse her duties, she will have before her some long standing and seemingly insurmountable issues – issues that consecutive defence ministers have found onerous, to say the least. They include, rejuvenating the Make in India programme, forging partnerships for defence production under the Strategic Partnership model and, consolidating the Defence MSME (micro, small and medium enterprise) base and providing them with a level playing field. In all of these, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), which comes under the purview of the Commerce Ministry, will have a significant role to play. As someone who has previously handled the Commerce Ministry, Sitharaman is perhaps best placed to identify and iron out any contradicting interests that may arise between these ministries.

But, at the heart of all the issues lies an unfulfilled promise of every defence minister so far – to dramatically increase the self-reliance quotient of our defence production. Of course, it is not simple. Self-reliance is a sum total of a large number of measures with often contradicting objectives. Besides this daunting task, the ministry is also entrusted with wide ranging duties.

The ministry is responsible for disbursing a huge defence budget (Rs 3.6 lakh crore for 2017-2018) with which it has to take care of acquisitions, manage assets, supplies and logistics, offset management, budgeting, formulation and execution of programmes of scientific research, drawing service quality requirements in coordination with integrated defence staff (IDS), welfare of personnel, and so on. Giving precedence to such a diverse range of activities is always going to be a challenge.

Did We Need Piketty To Tell Us Indian Inequality Is Up? Here’s What We Need To Do About It

R Jagannathan

Inequality is real, but the answers lie not in soaking legitimately earned wage, salary and skill-related incomes, but unearned wealth passed on to the next generation which may have done little to create it.

We need to protect incomes and wealth creation, not wealth transfers.

The Left loves Thomas Piketty, a French economist, who has been hailed as the Karl Marx of the 21st century, for his work on inequality. In his 2014 book, Capital in the 21st Century, Piketty says that inequality is increasing again as old wealth accumulated over the years yields higher returns than the overall rate of economic growth, on which depend the incomes of the aam aadmi.

You don’t have to navigate the tense prose of Piketty’s book to figure out that wealth is getting concentrated, especially when Wall Street hits the stratosphere while the rest of the global economy is struggling to grow, and quality jobs are disappearing. In India, you only need to step out of your cosy 2BHK in some distant Delhi, Bengaluru or Mumbai suburb to notice the inequities.

Piketty’s equation is, in a sense, simple. He says if r is greater than g, where rrepresents return on wealth and g is economic growth, inequalities will rise. And when this is the case, governments must tax wealth.

BRICS was no victory for India: Why China won't break ties with Pakistan


After hitting Islamabad on the head with the BRICS declaration that named two outfits based in Pakistan for fomenting violence in the region, Beijing is now applying soothing balm on its “good brother and ironclad friend” by saying that it has fought the good fight against terrorism.

The Chinese aim, as indeed the US goal, is to gently nudge Pakistan in the direction of abandoning support for its proxies which include not just the Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, but the Taliban, which in turn shelters the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

No victory for India

Unlike India, which has an adversarial attitude and is happiest when Islamabad is humiliated, China and the US see considerable value in retaining good ties with Pakistan.

People in India who saw the BRICS declaration as some kind of victory for Indian diplomacy are delusional. China, as the host country, drafted the declaration and did so with its eyes open.

After all, China has been party to UN actions to proscribe the LeT and JeM in the past. It needs to be recalled, too, that the context of the statement was in relation to Afghanistan.

The Air Force's 'rods from god' could hit with the force a nuclear weapon — but with no fallout

Blake Stilwell

The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed or used from Earth's orbit. What they didn't count on was the US Air Force's most simple weapon ever: a tungsten rod that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

During the Vietnam War, the US used what it called "Lazy Dog" bombs. These were simply solid steel pieces, less than 2 inches long, fitted with fins. There was no explosive — they were simply dropped by the hundreds from planes flying above Vietnam.

Lazy Dog projectiles (aka "kinetic bombardment") could reach speeds of up to 500 mph as they fell to the ground and could penetrate 9 inches of concrete after being dropped from as little as 3,000 feet.

The idea is like shooting bullets at a target, except instead of losing velocity as it travels, the projectile is gaining velocity and energy that will be expended on impact. They were shotgunning a large swath of jungle, raining bullet-size death at high speeds.

That's how Project Thor came to be.

Instead of hundreds of small projectiles from a few thousand feet, Thor used a large projectile from a few thousand miles above the Earth. The "rods from god" idea was a bundle of telephone-pole-size (20 feet long, 1 foot in diameter) tungsten rods, dropped from orbit, reaching a speed of up to 10 times the speed of sound.

Myanmar's Rohingya insurgency has links to Saudi, Pakistan - report

Simon Lewis

YANGON (Reuters) - A group of Rohingya Muslims that attacked Myanmar border guards in October is headed by people with links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Thursday, citing members of the group.

The coordinated attacks on Oct. 9 killed nine policemen and sparked a crackdown by security forces in the Muslim-majority northern sector of Rakhine State in the country’s northwest.

At least 86 people have been killed, according to state media, and the United Nations has estimated 27,000 members of the largely stateless Rohingya minority have fled across the border to Bangladesh.

Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar’s government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, blamed Rohingyas supported by foreign militants for the Oct. 9 attacks, but has issued scant additional information about the assailants it called “terrorists.”

A group calling itself Harakah al-Yakin claimed responsibility for the attacks in video statements and the Brussels-based ICG said it had interviewed four members of the group in Rakhine State and two outside Myanmar, as well as individuals in contact with members via messaging apps.

Rohingya crisis: Myanmar key link to India's Look East policy

Subhomoy Bhattacharjee

There are more infrastructure projects connecting India with Myanmar than with any of New Delhi’s other neighbours, as the external affairs ministry has discovered. The largest of them — the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project — originates from the home state of the persecuted population of Rohingyas. Yet, since each of these projects needs government-to-government support to move even an inch, it is difficult for India to take a strident position without seriously compromising their viability.

These projects provide a crucial linkage to keep alive each of India’s Look East initiatives. Without Myanmar, India cannot engage with any of the Asian nations to its east, says Prabir De, professor, Asean-India Centre, Research and Information System for Developing Countries. Other than Kaladan, there are seven more projects, including a trilateral highway — a 1,600-kilometre highway to connect India with Thailand through Myanmar, which is slated to be completed by 2020. The highway is part of the larger Mekong-India Economic Corridor project that envisages development of ports and more than one special economic zones over an 8,000-hectare area. The project’s expected completion date is 2022, but most experts anticipate handsome delays. As of now only a small port has been made operational, while the construction of a road link from Dawei in Myanmar to the Thailand border has just begun.


By Dr. Ching Chang

The Coming Synchronization

As many political observers have already noted, the Nineteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China is expected to be held in Beijing soon, most likely in the late fall of this year. Generally speaking, this event may lead to a major power reshuffle within the top leadership of the Communist Party of China (CCP). According to the general precedent in Chinese Mainland politics so far, the majority of the members in the Politburo Standing Committee will retire right after this meeting.

Members of the delegations from various provinces, municipalities, and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) commands will elect members and alternate members of the Central Committee as well as members of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. The new members of these two Central Committees form the power basis for the CCP leadership in the future. The First Plenary Session of the Nineteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China will be held immediately after the CCP Nineteenth National Congress to elect General Secretary, members of Politburo, Politburo Standing Committee, endorse the members of the party Secretariat, and finally decide the members of the Military Commission of the Central Committee.

Per the political and strategic culture known as the principle of “the party commands the gun” established through the Sanwan Reorganization in 1927 and the Gutian Congress in 1929, the Communist Party of China is tightly linked with the military organizations of the People’s Liberation Army. As noted in the General Program of the Party Constitution of the Communist Party of China: “The Communist Party of China persists in its leadership over the People’s Liberation Army and other armed forces of the people, builds up the strength of the People’s Liberation Army, ensures that it accomplishes its historic missions at this new stage in the new century, and gives full play to its role in consolidating national defense, defending the motherland and participating in the socialist modernization drive”, the leadership over the People’s Liberation Army is absolutely non-negotiable to the Communist Party of China.

However, the party and military are interdependent in several aspects, including personnel career management and organizational alignment. Given the recent political reforms and consequences of the administrative power reorganizations in the mainland China, there are three issues concerning the synchronization of party and military that need to be well-managed in the coming CCP Nineteenth National Congress itself or the subsequent First Plenary Session of the Nineteenth National Congress.

Party Post and Military Billet

China, Russia and the US Are in An Artificial Intelligence Arms Race Unsplash

IN BRIEFChina, Russia, and the United States are engaged in a worldwide race to develop AI and define the future. How does each competitor stack up, and how is the race itself changing the stakes?

For Russia and Vladimir Putin, it is clear that planetary domination and artificial intelligence (AI) are inextricably intertwined. “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia but for all humankind,” he said via live video feed as schools started this month. “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Putin isn’t an outlier in his thinking; he is simply vocalizing to match the intensity a race that China, Russia, and the US are already running, to acquire smart military power. Each nation has formally recognized the critical importance of intelligent machines to the future of their national security, and each sees AI-related technologies such as autonomous drones and intelligence processing software as tools for augmenting human soldier capital.Image Credit: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Wiki Commons

“The US, Russia, and China are all in agreement that artificial intelligence will be the key technology underpinning national power in the future,” Gregory C. Allen, Center for a New American Security fellow, told WIRED. He is the coauthor of a recent report, commissioned by the Director of National Intelligence, that concluded: “As with prior transformative military technologies, the national security implications of AI will be revolutionary, not merely different. Governments around the world will consider, and some will enact extraordinary policy measures in response, perhaps as radical as those considered in the early decades of nuclear weapons.”

Indonesia & China: The Sea Between

Philip Bowring

Indonesia has long been cautious in confronting China’s claims in the South China Sea, so its announcement on July 14 that it was renaming a part of the area the “North Natuna Sea” may have come to many as surprise. The new name encompasses a region north of the Natuna islands that partly falls within the infamous “nine dash line,” by which China claims the sea stretching fifteen hundred miles from its mainland coast almost to the shores of Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Indonesia. China immediately demanded a retraction—which it will not get.

The naming was a reminder of how seriously Indonesia treats its position as the seat of ancient trading empires and location of some of the world’s strategically most important straits—Melaka, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar. Since he was elected in 2014, President Joko Widodo has made maritime issues central to Indonesia’s foreign policy, building up its navy, arresting dozens of foreign ships caught fishing illegally, and taking a quiet but firm stand on sea rights. Although not a populist vote-winner, the policy is generally approved, particularly by the military, which since the war of independence against the Dutch has seen itself as the guardian of the integrity of the nation and its internationally recognized status.

The naming also came shortly before the sixtieth anniversary of a pronouncement that has had a profound impact on the whole world. On December 13, 1957, the Indonesian government unilaterally declared that it was an “archipelagic state,” claiming sovereignty over all the waters within straight baselines between its thousands of far-flung islands. Though the young republic was in no position to enforce it, this was a revolutionary move: at the time, Western powers asserted that territorial seas were limited to three miles, and that otherwise foreign ships, military included, had complete freedom of movement.

Twenty-five years of international negotiation followed, culminating in the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, defining rights and obligations relating to sea boundaries and resources, and rights of “innocent passage”—not endangering the security of the coastal state—through straits and internal and territorial seas. It accepted the archipelagic state principle, and made twelve-mile territorial seas and two-hundred-mile “exclusive economic zones,” or EEZs—which give exclusive rights for fishing and exploitation of seabed resources—the global norm. (The United States in practice accepts the Convention, as clarified by a subsequent 1994 agreement, but has never ratified it.)

Is China leaping past us?


Sixty years ago this fall, the Soviet Union shocked the world by launching into orbit Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. The beach ball-sized spacecraft was an astounding scientific achievement, one previously thought beyond the reach of Moscow. As Sputnik circled the globe and emitted radio signals detectable by anyone with a short-wave receiver, the American public experienced a crisis of confidence over their country’s standing in the world and its Cold War competitiveness.

We know the rest of the story. American scientists and policymakers were shaken out of the complacent assumption that their technological edge was insurmountable. American government, universities, and industry mobilized for a competition of scientific innovation – and won.

In recent months, China has quietly given the United States a series of new “Sputnik Moments”—not as dramatic as a radio beacon from overhead, but just as significant as a challenge to American technological leadership. And as U.S. debates have focused on trade deficits and recovering manufacturing jobs, Beijing has achieved the scientific and technological feats that herald its arrival as an innovation superpower. These “Sputnik Moments” extend across multiple industries, from communications technology to renewable energy. Collectively, they pose a risk to America’s future economic dynamism, as well as its military superiority.

Infographic Of The Day: Is U.S. Or China The World's Economic Superpower

But while the U.S. has enjoyed its moment in the sun, the balance of power has been slowly shifting towards the inevitable rise of China. It's been a long time coming, but China now has the manpower, influence, and economic might to compete at a similar level

Sweeping change in China’s military points to more firepower for Xi

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s military is preparing a sweeping leadership reshuffle, dropping top generals, including two that sources say are under investigation for corruption.

The changes would make room for President Xi Jinping to install trusted allies in key positions at a key party congress that begins on Oct 18.

A list of 303 military delegates to the Communist Party Congress, published by the army’s official newspaper on Wednesday, excluded Fang Fenghui and Zhang Yang, both members of the Central Military Commission. The commission is China’s top military decision-making body.

Reuters reported this week that the 66-year-old Fang, who accompanied Xi to his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in April, is being questioned on suspicion of corruption.

Three sources familiar with the matter said Zhang, the director of the military’s Political Work Department, is also the subject of a probe. China’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

The personnel changes herald a clean sweep of the top-ranking generals heading up the department. All three of Zhang’s deputies - Jia Tingan, Du Hengyan and Wu Changde - were also missing from the list of congress delegates.

War must be last resort to settle disputes: Chinese General Qiao Liang

By Shaurya Karanbir Gurung

The settlement of the Doklam standoff was "one of the best possible results" and war must be avoided, as peace is the best outcome, says a senior Chinese military strategist. These words written in an opinion piece for China's state run media, Global Times, indicate a marked difference from the earlier string of articles in the Chinese media demanding strong action and even threatening war during the stand-off.

The author, Qiao Liang, who is a Major General in the People's Liberation Army says, "The reason why so many Chinese people paid attention to the China-India border standoff in the Doklam area is that they are unfamiliar with China's strategic positioning. If they had a clear understanding of China's strategic positioning, they would know that the settlement of the Doklam standoff was one of the best results possible."

Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a tense border stand-off for more than two months in the area of Doklam, seriously straining their relations.

Liang adds that, "China and India are both neighbors and competitors, but not all competitors must be treated in the toughest way."

China’s Communist Party Is About to Meet. Here’s What You Should Know.

The Chinese Communist Party will hold its 19th Party Congress on October 18, marking the end of the first term of General Secretary Xi Jinping. In a leadership reshuffle, Xi is expected to promote allies to the Party’s key decision-making body, the 25-member Politburo. What has the Party accomplished since Xi took power in 2012? And how can the Party maintain its legitimacy amidst flagging economic growth, increased dissatisfaction among the disenfranchised—especially in Hong Kong and Xinjiang—a major diplomatic challenge in North Korea, and increasing hostility from U.S. President Donald Trump? —The Editors

Xi Jinping’s power consolidation and anti-corruption campaign have brought decisive changes to the way the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) is run and to the way China is governed since he assumed the country’s leadership in 2012. Yet there are—at least for the moment—no obvious signs that Xi plans a radical break with long-established intra-Party rules. Instead, he seems determined to strengthen the Party by turning it into a disciplined organization that can govern efficiently. He has urged a stricter enforcement of existing Party rules, and initiated revisions to key procedures such as allowing the exceptional promotion of cadres. This revision allowed Xi to appoint his ally Cai Qi as Beijing’s Party secretary. Although Cai is not even an alternate member of the 18th Central Committee, it now seems very likely that he will be appointed to the Politburo. Other examples relate to the role of ideology, and the style and types of Party meetings.

‘I Want to Finish This’: US Special Ops Leaders Urge Washington to Stick by the Syrian Kurds


Commanders inside Syria say rebels are doing all they hoped for — and are the best shot to break the region's cycle of terrorism.

KOBANI, Syria – Talking with American special operators as we walk in the summer heat through the sprawling training facilities of the Syrian Arab Coalition, one sentiment is immediately obvious: relief.

It is not that these elite American troops are relaxed about the mission; it is that they make clear they think it’s working and see that the end is achievable. And for those of us who have written about and covered the post-9/11 wars, that is indeed a shift.

“My military guidance is clear; what we are trying to do here in terms of the campaign against Daesh is clear; the direction that we receive from CENTCOM is clear,” said one senior U.S.commander, a leader of the mission to train and assist the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which the Syrian Arab Coalition are a part. “We help the SDF clear territory, we help the internal security force hold territory, and to the extent we can within our authorities, there is a bit of building going on.”

The view from this dusty base in northern Syria is that the mission – and the Washington policy decision to fight ISIS “by, with, and through” local forces trained by elite Americans – is succeeding. But that mission is on a collision course with geopolitical reality. Washington has backed the Syrian Kurds’ central role in the SDF, while Turkey considers those forces to be separatist terrorists. U.S. special operations forces leaders here say they feel Syrian Kurds have a chance to help end the cycle of insurgency that has burned across Iraq and Syria since 2003, and turn at least part of a war zone into a governable peace. But if Washington turns its back on the SDF to placate a NATO ally, these leaders say the American-trained and -armed Syrian forces could be overrun, their gains lost – and this special operations mission will be for naught. 

The Future of the Global Economy

by John Mauldin

If you establish a democracy, you must in due time reap the fruits of a democracy. You will in due season have great impatience of public burdens, combined in due season with great increase of public expenditure. You will in due season have wars entered into from passion and not from reason…– Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister of England, novelist

In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control, and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.... In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions. [Pournelle's law of Bureaucracy]– Jerry Pournelle, prolific science-fiction writer, August 7, 1933 – September 8, 2017

This letter will be the first of a series in which I outline my vision for the next 5–10–15–20 years of global economics. I understand that there is a substantial amount of hubris involved in such an undertaking, so I will approach the topic gingerly.

Why even risk such prognosticating? As longtime readers know, I am actually writing a book on what I think the next 20 years will look like, technologically, geopolitically, sociologically, and economically. The book is called The Age of Transformation. The basic thesis is that we are going to see more change in the next 20 years than we’ve seen over the past century. Consider how much different the world will be if a century’s worth of change is compressed into the next 20 years.

If you do not resolve to adapt to that level of change in your life and in the lives of your loved ones, you will not be ready to fully participate in the society of 2038. You’ll also fail to reap the full rewards of all the years of hard work and dedication you have put in, preparing for your retirement.

Remember that 9/11 was the most effective military op, ever

Summary: Sixteen years later, with thousands of our troops dead in futile wars, few understand what happened on 9/11/01. It was a dagger at our minds, as are all effective 4GW ops. With a single strike al Qaeda changed America, the most powerful nation that the world has ever seen. Never before have so few changed so many with so little effort. We have crippled al Qaeda. But its leaders saw al Qaeda as the vanguard of the jihadist movement, not its body — and hence as expendable. Since 9/11 the jihadist movement has grown across the world, with no end in sight.

In previous eras decisive battles occurred where thousands fought to determine the fate of nations. 9/11 was a decisive battle of fourth generation warfare, as nineteen men with box cutters attacked our minds — exploiting our weakness and cowardliness to change the course of America. The multiple of force to effect is the greatest in history. Far greater than the nuking of Japan. Al Qaeda succeed not because of what they did — planes crash, buildings burn, life goes on — but because of what we did afterwards. As RJH said in the comments: “The purpose of an action is the reaction.”

Our foreign adventures helped set the Middle East aflame, as we invaded Afghanistan (because of the big lie) and Iraq (more lies), joined the Saudi’s war in Yemen, and helped destabilize other nations (e.g., Libya, Syria). Civil wars still burn in the nations we invaded and occupied and bombed. The more virulent and extreme Islamic State has replaced Al Qaeda. As we destroy that, a new and more virulent Jihadist 3.0 probably will arise somewhere.

Does the U.S. Trade Deficit Matter?

President Donald J. Trump has made reducing the U.S. trade deficit, which has expanded significantly in recent decades, a priority of his administration. He and his advisors argue that renegotiating trade deals, promoting “Buy American” policies, and confronting China over what they see as its economic distortions will shrink the trade deficit, create jobs, and strengthen national security.

While some economists do not believe that trade deficits hurt the economy, others believe that sustained trade deficits are often a problem. There is substantial debate over how much of the trade deficit is caused by foreign governments, as well as what policies, if any, should be pursued to reduce it.

What is a trade deficit?

A trade deficit occurs when a nation imports more than it exports. For instance, in 2016 the United States exported $2.2 trillion in goods and services while it imported $2.7 trillion, leaving a trade deficit of roughly $500 billion. Services, such as tourism, intellectual property, and finance, make up roughly one third of exports, while major goods exported include aircraft, medical equipment, refined petroleum and agricultural commodities. Meanwhile, imports are dominated by capital goods, such as computers and telecom equipment; consumer goods, such as apparel, electronic devices, and automobiles; and crude oil. (The deficit in goods, at $750 billion, is higher than the overall deficit, since a portion of the goods deficit is offset by the surplus in services trade.)

CIA to release huge cache of classified Osama Bin Laden files 'except his pornography stash'

Chris Baynes

A trove of al-Qaeda documents seized by US commandos in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden is to be released to the public - with the exception of his pornography stash.

CIA director Mike Pompeo said the wide-ranging cache of files retrieved by Navy Seals from the late al-Qaeda chief's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, would be declassified within weeks.

Millions of electronic and paper documents seized contain family letters, papers on Islamic history, books, and notes about al-Qaeda's operations. 

They also includes an extensive collection of modern pornography videos, according to US officials. 

The government has previously released hundreds of files seized from the compound, including letters that revealed bin Laden's fear of surveillance and obsession with attacking the West.

Mr Pompeo told Fox News he believed it was important for national security to make most of the documents public, but added the explicit material would remain under wraps.

"Once we are sure that there’s not classified material and that there’s not things that we can’t release, I want to make sure the world gets to see them so that we can have lots of hands touching them and making good judgments about how to make sure that we don’t have a 9/11, that we don’t have this kind of risk again," he said. 

NSA Quietly Awarded a Classified $2.4 Billion Tech Contract With More to Come


CSRA wins the NSA’s Groundbreaker recompete to modernize portions of the intelligence community’s IT infrastructure

The National Security Agency has awarded tech firm CSRAthe first of three portions of its classified Groundbreaker contract, which could potentially be worth as much as $2.4 billion over the next decade if all options are exercised.

CSRA announced the award through a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, where it acknowledged the value and duration of the contract without naming the customer agency or the contract’s name. Neither CSRA nor NSA offered comment to Nextgov for this story.

Details on Groundbreaker are sparse, but the NSA program dates back to a 2001 effort to outsource its IT operations.

At the time, then-NSA director Michael Hayden said the contract would allow NSA to “refocus assets on the agency’s core missions of providing foreign signals intelligence and protecting U.S.national security-related information systems by turning over several information technology infrastructure services for industry’s purview.”

The agency would later use the contract to develop its own private cloud, which acts as a modern repository for all the agency’s data.

NSA awarded the first Groundbreaker contract—reportedly worth as much as $5 billion over 10 years—to a joint alliance of contractors in 2001 called the Eagle Alliance, led by Computer Sciences Corporation, which is now CSRA. The Eagle Alliance, which includes companies such as Northrop Grumman, won NSA’s first recompete of Groundbreaker, which is set to expire in its current iteration on Sept. 30.

7 Habits of Smart Threat Intelligence Analysts

Cyber Threat Intelligence

A day in the life of a threat intelligence analyst is often hectic and ever-changing.

Threats and related data abound, and an analyst must look at all angles and scenarios before making recommendations.

As information security, in general, garners more interest throughout the enterprise, an analyst’s time is more in demand and he or she might be required to provide frequent updates or participate in meetings to which they’ve never previously been invited.

Collaboration with IT, incident response, SOC (security operations center), and architecture teams is increasingly important, too. And then there’s the constant need to keep abreast of new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of adversaries and geopolitical events that could impact the threat landscape.

How can a threat analyst keep up?

With so much to do each and every day, smart threat intelligence analysts practice habits that make them more effective and efficient. Below we’ve outlined seven of those habits so you can provide your organization even more value.
Turn Off to Tune In

One of the hardest things for most people is temporarily ignoring emails, instant messages, social media, and other digital communications while we work on projects and assignments throughout the day. It isn’t that we all have attention deficit disorder; we’re trying to be responsive and communicative, which are prized attributes of any co-worker, partner, vendor, or boss.

This “always-on” communication style, however, can be detrimental to the quality of our work. If there’s one thing smart intelligence analysts don’t want to do, it’s lose sight of the potential threats to our strategic assets because of trivial distractions.

Allotting dedicated research time allows threat analysts to focus on the task at hand without becoming distracted by external chatter. Sure, some chatter might be relevant to a project scope, but for the most part, emails can wait and social media posts will still be there at the end of the day. If an emergency arises, that antiquated technology called “the telephone” can be an alternate form of communication.

Can war games help us avoid real-world conflict?

By Jonathan Beale

North Korea has just fired off an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan. Japan is uncertain as to whether the US wants to start a war.

It's trying to find out why a massive American naval fleet has just arrived in the region. But it's not getting any answers. There's chaos in the White House as various factions try to influence the president.

Some of this might sound familiar. But this is not real life. It's the scenario in a war game called Dire Straits, set in 2020.

And it's being acted out, not on the world stage, but in a lecture theatre and seminar rooms at King's College, London.

Rules and referees

More than 100 people are taking part - academics, students, serving military officers and civil servants, as well as a few who do this for a hobby.

To an outsider, the game looks like chaos, but there are rules and referees.

Despite the myths, there is no such thing as winning militarily and losing politically


Nobody who wins a war indulges in a bifurcated definition of victory. War is a political act; victory and defeat have meaning only in political terms. A country incapable of achieving its political objectives at an acceptable cost is losing the war, regardless of battlefield events.

Bifurcating victory (e.g. winning militarily, losing politically) is a useful salve for defeated armies. The "stab in the back" narrative helped take the sting out of failure for German generals after WWI and their American counterparts after Vietnam.

Airfields in Tibet not ready for offensive operations: Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa

Chethan Kumar

BENGALURU: Just days after diplomatic efforts saw the Indian and Chinese armies withdraw their troops from the standoff point in Doklam, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Saturday said the airfields in Tibet across India's border with China lack requisite military infrastructure for the latter to carry out offensive operations, while pointing out that India itself needs to build critical infrastructure.

He said satellite images have shown that the available airfields in Tibet—where China maintains a continuous air presence—are not optimized for offensive operations as they lack military infrastructure.

"If you look at other airfields that are optimized for offensive operations, you will see that there is a difference among those which mean business and the ones (airfields in Tibet) which are optimised for ensuring regional connectivity," he said, delivering the Air Chief Marshal LM Katre memorial Lecture here.

Pointing out that other airfields across the border are more than 400kms away, Dhanoa said it was difficult to sustain air operations from where they (Chinese airfields) are located on the Indo-Tibetian border. "... In case the relationship deteriorates or something adverse happens, the buildup on infrastructure is going to be the first step anybody would take before envisaging an offensive operation in this sector," he said.

Non-State Actors Biggest Threat in War Against the West

French counter-insurgency expert David Galula once explained that protracted guerilla warfare was so cheap to maintain and so expensive to suppress that it even­tually could produce a crisis within the counter-insurgency camp.

In the context of tension between North Korea and the US, the “fire and fury” rhetoric from President Donald Trump sends a message to other nations as much as to North Korea: a war with the US would be so costly as to be ­inconceivable. As Republican senator Lindsey Graham has emphasised: “If thousands are going to die, they will die over there.”

More rational non-allied states will have calculated the calamity of a state-on-state war with the US and its allies. That is why the risk of future warfare will increase significantly from non-state actors working by, with and through other nations, and novel interactions between technology, terrorists, insurgents, international drug traffickers and cyber criminals.

Every attack on a Western country since the end of World War II has been conducted by a non-state actor.

A cheaper alternative to conventional conflict for opponents of the US and its allies like us is to engineer endless “wars of the flea”, as guerilla war authority Robert Taber described them. In the war against the flea, the state suffers the dog’s disadvantages: too much to defend against a small, agile, ubiquitous enemy.

Parallel Universes: ‘Beyond Snowden’ and the Two Sides of the Surveillance Debate

When Tim Edgar told his ACLU colleagues in early 2016 that he’d be leaving the organization to join the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, our reactions ranged from mute astonishment to outright dismay. It’s not at all uncommon for ACLU lawyers to go work in government. But to join the intelligence community during the Bush administration – the same gang that had brought us warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, and abusive watchlists – was really climbing into the belly of the beast.

It’s a good thing Tim was, and still is, thick-skinned enough to risk irritating former colleagues, first by charting his own path, and then by reflecting candidly on the full range of his experiences. “Beyond Snowden” is a unique and vital contribution to our ongoing debate about how best to ensure that powerful surveillance capabilities are constrained by laws and values.

Of course, I can’t pretend to be a neutral reader of a book that explores Edward Snowden’s role in setting in motion “the most significant reforms to surveillance…since those of the Church Committee in the mid-1970s,” and responds with an insider’s authority to the most common criticisms of Snowden’s actions. Chief among those is that Snowden should have pressed his concerns through internal channels, rather than sharing classified information with journalists. This particular critique has always puzzled me: internal channels may be effective when a government employee stumbles on an incidence of fraud or abuse unknown to superiors, but it’s ludicrous to suggest that there is an internal channel for complaints that a system of mass surveillance – authorized by the president, approved by the FISA court, and briefed to Congress – has been deployed in secret without the consent of the governed. Tim’s book provides another powerful rejoinder in the story of his own experience as “an authorized whistleblower for classified programs – a sort of official Snowden.” Unlike Snowden, Tim had “direct access to the officials who could have made surveillance reform a reality” – yet it was Snowden’s actions, not Tim’s years of internal advocacy, that led to widespread reforms.

U.S. Intelligence Agencies in a Race for Skilled Workers

By Sandra Erwin

A massive change happened in the U.S. intelligence community after the 9/11 attacks. Agencies were realigned and bureaucracies expanded. Congress created the Director of National Intelligence position and the National Counterterrorism Center amid growing fears that the nation was unprepared for the jihadist threat.

There is now a brewing debate on whether the intelligence community — a collection of 17 agencies with an annual budget of about $54 billion — may have become too narrowly focused and slow to respond to a changing world. Analysts and foreign policy experts have sounded alarms in recent years as U.S. intelligence largely failed to predict the Arab Spring, the emergence of Russia and China as military competitors to the United States, North Korea’s advances in nuclear weapons, Iran’s rise as a regional power and the surge of the Islamic State.

Intelligence officials insist they recognize the problem and believe it will persist until agencies can fix their talent issues: namely that the government workforce needs more technically skilled workers, and agencies have to change how they work with the private sector.

“These are critical decisions for us: What skills do we invest in for the next five to 10 years?” said National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, who also heads U.S. Cyber Command.

Netanyahu’s No-State Solution

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Roger Cohen

The leader is worried. He grows tetchy. Investigations are closing in on him. Former aides, even a family member, are suspected of corrupt dealings with a foreign company. He gets irritable, lashes out at “the left” and the “fake news media.” He claims there is a “witch hunt,” and raves about “a coup.” His tolerance for dissent is zero.

He takes to social media to lash out at detractors and exalt his brilliance. That gives him a rush. Then nagging doubt takes hold again. What has he achieved? Nothing really. He’s kept up the volume to disguise his ineptness but that will hardly secure his place in history. The leader has exploited fear, cultivated friends in the media prepared to genuflect, smeared with vulgarity an office once occupied by giants. He has shown a great love of walls.

Of course, he evades the truth. This is important because the truth is ugly. Nothing is going to change, least of all for those most oppressed. The point is the insidious corruption of society from above. Accuse the media of brainwashing while doing the brainwashing yourself. Power is showmanship. It’s about winning, nothing more. He’s kept his wife in the style to which she’s accustomed, and that does not come cheap. Losing is for losers.