16 September 2017

*** In Canada, Deep Divisions Brilliantly Managed

By George Friedman

I spent the past two weeks in Canada, north of a town called Nelson in British Columbia. One evening, while nearing sleep, I heard a rumbling that sounded like a train. In the morning, I woke and people were taking about an enormous fireball that had passed overhead. The rumbling had been the result a meteor crashing to Earth.

A bit later, I headed out for a hike. The country north of Nelson was beautiful and very lightly inhabited. That morning it was covered with what seemed like a thick and eerie mist. It was in fact the result of massive forest fires that had ravaged British Columbia.

Where I was, I had a sense of both extremes that nature presents in Canada and also its loneliness. A meteor could fall and not disturb anyone. I had been to Canada many times before, but always in the south. Here I got a sense of loneliness that I had never quite experienced in the United States. The roads were sparse, as were the people. It was that loneliness amid beauty that riveted me. I have, of course, visited most major Canadian cities and they are simply cities, as inviting and confining as most. Obviously, every country has the paradox between the rural and urban, but the first thing you notice about Canada is the profound division between human life and the absolute solitude of most of the country.

A Country Is Its People

*** When the Islamic State Comes to Town The Economic Impact of Islamic State Governance in Iraq and Syria

by Eric Robinson

How effective is Islamic State governance?

At its peak, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) controlled vast portions of territory in Iraq and Syria with several million inhabitants. ISIL's territorial ambition and desire to conduct state-like governance over this territory are integral to its global ideological appeal. By examining ISIL's impact on local economic activity in Iraq and Syria, this report seeks to assess the effectiveness of ISIL's governance over its self-styled caliphate.

This report leverages remote sensing data and commercial satellite imagery to offer a unique, data-driven look inside areas controlled by the Islamic State. It paints a bleak picture of economic life under ISIL, replete with shortages of electricity, massive refugee flows, reductions in agricultural output, and upticks in violence all associated with ISIL control.

At times, ISIL was able to build a dense governing apparatus that helped maintain stable local commercial activity, particularly in its strategic capitals in Raqqah and Mosul. At other times, ISIL mismanaged key resources or sought to punish its citizenry rather than govern it. However, this report suggests that decaying economic conditions in ISIL-held territory are also a product of ISIL's inability to insulate its territory from opposing military forces. Outside pressure against ISIL successfully prevented the group from realizing its governing ambitions across significant parts of its caliphate, with major consequences for its ability to support functioning local economies.

This report is important for those trying to understand the group's impact on local populations in Iraq and Syria, for those seeking to counter its financing or conduct post-conflict stabilization, and for broader efforts to understand the economic impact of insurgent governance.

Key Findings

***How dangerous is hybrid war? “Netwar”: The unwelcome militarization of the Internet has arrived

Jonathan Zittrain

The architecture and offerings of the Internet developed without much steering by governments, much less operations by militaries. That made talk of “cyberwar” exaggerated, except in very limited instances. Today that is no longer true: States and their militaries see the value not only of controlling networks for surveillance or to deny access to adversaries, but also of subtle propaganda campaigns launched through a small number of wildly popular worldwide platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This form of hybrid conflict – launched by states without state insignia, on privately built and publicly used services – offers a genuine challenge to those who steward the network and the private companies whose platforms are targeted. While interventions by one state may be tempered by defense by another state, there remain novel problems to solve when what users see and learn online is framed as organic and user-generated but in fact it is not. 

In 1993, before WiFi, indeed before more than a small fraction of people enjoyed broadband Internet, John J. Arquilla and David F. Ronfeldt of the Rand Corporation began to develop a thesis on “Cyberwar and Netwar” (Arquilla and Ronfeldt 1995Arquilla, J. J., and D. F. Ronfeldt. 1995. “Cyberwar and Netwar: New Modes, Old Concepts, of Conflict.” Rand Review, Fall.https://www.rand.org/pubs/periodicals/rand-review/issues/RRR-fall95-cyber/cyberwar.htmlarchived athttps://perma.cc/NNT3-C6U3. (Excerpted from “Cyberwar Is Coming,” by Arquilla and Ronfeldt.” Comparative Strategy 12: 141–165. 1993. doi:10.1080/01495939308402915 archived athttps://perma.cc/8RQY-S3SW.)[Taylor & Francis Online], [Google Scholar]). I found it of little interest at the time. It seemed typical of Rand’s role as a sometime management consultant to the military-industrial complex. For example, Arquilla and Ronfeldt wrote that “[c]yberwar refers to conducting military operations according to information-related principles. It means disrupting or destroying information and communications systems. It means trying to know everything about an adversary while keeping the adversary from knowing much about oneself.” A sort of Sun Tzu for the networked era.

The authors’ coining of the notion of “netwar” as distinct from “cyberwar” was even more explicitly grandiose. They went beyond bromides about inter-military conflict, describing impacts on citizenries at large:

** America’s Afghanistan Strategy

Pakistan Is the Source of the Stalemate, Not the Scapegoat for It​

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. " – Sun Tzu

"Afghanistan is a marathon, not a sprint. The surge was a sprint. And America got winded too quickly." – Kael Weston

Late this August, it was encouraging to hear that U.S. policy will not be to quit Afghanistan, not be to fire the commander, and not be to use mercenaries. In Afghanistan, defeat would indeed be worse than persevering with what will now be a modest increase in capacity and an ostensibly genuine regional strategy. Quitting the field would have meant giving up the potential for some form of victory and potentially seeing the Taliban overwhelm the Afghan security forces and the government in Kabul. And, if the Taliban were to revive an Islamist emirate in Afghanistan, there is reason to suggest a future with more attacks against the West, planned and prepared, with increasing scope and intensity, from Afghanistan and from Pakistan’s Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Although detail in the President’s speech was lean, it was reassuring to hear that the U.S. policy is to work with the Coalition and its Afghan partners in pursuit of a winning regional strategy. War without strategy is violence without end and without meaning, so it is a positive sign that the senior U.S. leadership intends to give strategy a chance. Absent thus far, a regional strategy is imperative for success. A measured increase in American and Coalition troops to advise and assist the Afghan security forces was part of the policy mentioned in the speech on August 21st. Though this increase alone will not break the strategic stalemate, it will support the theater commander’s operational design to grow the Afghan special security forces, build the capacity of the Afghan Air Force, and improve all Afghan security forces by employing more advisors with tactical units, where the fighting occurs.

** The evolving threat of hybrid war

As has often been pointed out, the term “hybrid war” is used imprecisely enough that it could be (and has been) attached to any combination of irregular and regular armed conflict, going back to the American Revolution and even the Napoleonic wars.11. See, for example, http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/hybrid-war-old-concept-new-techniquesand http://www.nato.int/docu/review/2015/Also-in-2015/hybrid-modern-future-warfare-russia-ukraine/EN/.View all notes And in the twentieth century, the United States certainly used covert and sometimes lethal action by its security services and various proxies to influence events and governments around the world, from Iran22. See http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB435/#_ftn1.View all notes to Chile33. See http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB470/.View all notes to Vietnam44.http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/.View all notes and beyond, in what some might call hybrid ways.

The current sense of “hybrid war,” however, was introduced in 2005, when James N. Mattis, now the US defense secretary, and National Defense University researcher Frank Hoffman called it “a combination of novel approaches – a merger of different modes and means of war.”55. See this issue’s “Thinking clearly about China’s layered Indo-Pacific strategy” by Zack Cooper and Andrew Shearer and (Mattis and Hoffman 2005Mattis, J. N., and F. Hoffman. 2005. “Future Warfare: The Rise of Hybrid Wars.” Proceedings 131: 11. [Google Scholar]).View all notes The term reached wider prominence in the aftermath of the 2006 war between the state of Israel and the Shiite militia group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. There, Hezbollah fighters experienced remarkable success, using rockets and other arms supplied by the Iranian and Syrian governments, advanced communication systems, and a vast network of tunnels to attack advancing Israeli tanks and infantry units. “Hezbollah fighters use tunnels to quickly emerge from the ground, fire a shoulder-held antitank missile, and then disappear again, much the way Chechen rebels used the sewer system of Grozny to attack Russian armored columns,” the New York Times’s Steven Erlanger and Richard Oppel Jr. wrote.66. See http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/07/world/middleeast/07hezbollah.html.View all notes

How to make Indian courts more efficient

Better case management and procedural reforms can go a long way in reducing case pendency

The Indian judicial system has a pendency problem. This is known—a staple of every governance reform and economic growth debate. That makes the news that lower courts in Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Chandigarh have disposed of almost all cases that had been pending for a decade or more as welcome as it is surprising. Today, there are only a total of 11,000 cases pending for over 10 years in these four states and the Union territory of Chandigarh. This is impressive given that the national pendency count is pegged at around 2.3 million cases. Delhi, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka are also close to clearing out long-pending cases.

These figures are only for the lower courts but there are still valuable lessons to be learnt—especially since the lower courts are where most cases get stuck. Take, for example, the high court of Punjab and Haryana which has jurisdiction over the lower courts of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. Almost a decade ago, it set up a case management system—i.e. a mechanism to monitor every case from filing to disposal. It also began to categorize writ petitions based on their urgency. In addition, it set annual targets and action plans for judicial officers to dispose of old cases, and began a quarterly performance review to ensure that cases were not disposed of with undue haste. All these measures ushered in a degree of transparency and accountability in the system, the results of which are now apparent.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons and the Indian Nuclear Doctrine

Sanjana Gogna

For long, the international literature on the nuclear dynamics in South Asia has disregarded the role of China. Indian scholars have consistently highlighted this lacuna in the past. Many experts continue to ignore the Chinese factor in their analyses and advance clichéd assessments and raise alarmist concerns about the nuclear situation in the region.

Lately, there has been a renewed debate in Western academic circles about India’s growing predilection for an offensive nuclear posture. This supposed shift in India’s position is often interpreted as a response to Pakistan’s acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons or even to India’s inability to deter Pakistan from employing cross-border terrorism. Whatever may be the reason that is attributed, analysts alleging such a shift in India’s nuclear posture warn about the consequent heightening of nuclear risks and recommend that India demonstrate responsible nuclear behaviour.

Frank O’Donnell’s recent article, ‘Reconsidering Minimum Deterrence in South Asia: India’s Responses to Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons’ published in Contemporary Security Policy (2017), falls in this category. It strives to place in perspective the Indian responses generated by the introduction of the Nasr missile by Pakistan. O’Donnell delineates two ‘official’ (military and the civilian policy-makers), along with three streams of ‘strategic elite’ responses’.

O’Donnell begins by analysing Pakistan’s launch of the ‘Nasr’ and its concept of the full-spectrum deterrence. However, he seems to give credence to Pakistan’s argument that it developed tactical nuclear weapons and conceived of the concept of full spectrum deterrence in response to India’s ‘new pro-active’ military approach in the form of the so-called ‘Cold Start’ doctrine. Needless to assert that there is nothing called a Cold Start doctrine or a new ‘pro-active’ conventional war fighting approach. Each country has the right to retaliate when a war is waged against it, including a proxy war. This is certainly not a ‘new stage of regional nuclear competition’, as O’Donnell puts it.

The Priority List For Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Nirmala Sitharaman’s elevation as the Union Minister of Defence was met with deserved applause for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and, more predictably, a spate of news stories highlighting the “gimme” attitude of the military, with each armed service pitching its set of wants. Television channels meanwhile indulged in symbolism, portraying her – as a strappy, no-nonsense, ‘Durga’, presumably, ready to lay waste adversaries. There are the Mahishasuras to slay, many of them, she’ll find lurking in her own ministry and in the military. That should keep her busy for a long time. But, hopefully, Sitharaman will bring to her job the attributes that high-achievers of her gender are justly appreciated for – practical good sense, capacity for multi-tasking, and natural tact to make the demons smile even as she plunges the Trishul into them.

Firstly, the new defence minister has to inoculate herself against being overwhelmed and beguiled by technical jargon and minutiae and military pressure – all of which can get brains to freeze, as has regularly happened with her predecessors.

Secondly, she needs to set her goal. Does she mean to be transformational, or merely fill a South Block ministerial chair?

If transformation is what she has in her mind then it will require her to radically change the way the Ministry of Defence and the Indian military think, prioritise, and make decisions.

She’ll be upending a hoary system that, astonishingly, has been persisted with despite routinely making the wrong choices, misusing scarce national resources, and digging the country ever deeper into a strategic hole. It will require her to stomp and repeatedly on a whole bunch of very big toes. But the rewards of doing so for national security in the medium and long term will be immense.

Why oil can spoil India’s budget math

Tadit Kundu

A spike in oil price to around $70 per barrel is enough to strain public finances and add 0.4% to the Centre’s fiscal deficit. Photo: Bloomberg

Mumbai: One of the biggest drivers of India’s superlative macro-economic performance in the recent past has been a relatively under-appreciated element: oil. Since 2014, the dramatic fall in crude oil prices has helped India contain her twin deficits, and tame inflation. But with oil exporting countries planning to curtail oil supply, raising the possibility of a rise in oil prices, the Indian economy might soon have to deal with another pain point besides demonetisation.

The extent of the gains from lower oil prices since mid-2014 is under-appreciated as the benefits have not been evident in the retail prices of petrol or diesel. However, the government did improve its finances, using the opportunity to increase the amount of taxes collected on petroleum products, as the charts below illustrate.

The excise duty collected by the Union government on petrol and diesel has been hiked nine times since November 2014. The Union government’s tax collection from petrol and diesel has increased from 0.4% of GDP in 2013-14 to 1.1% in 2015-16, i.e. an increase of 70 basis points (bps) in two years. To put this in perspective, this is more than the 60 bps reduction achieved in gross fiscal deficit (from 4.5% of GDP to 3.9% of GDP) over the same period. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.

In other words, the entire reduction in India’s fiscal deficit could be attributed to the increase in Centre’s tax revenue from petrol and diesel alone. Hence, it is fair to say that falling crude oil prices have driven the improvements in India’s public finances over the past couple of years. Looking at more recent data for the first half of the fiscal year ending March 2017 (April-September 2016), and combining taxes with other oil-linked receipts such as dividends from public sector petroleum companies and states’ VAT collection on petroleum products, we find that the total receipts of the Centre and state governments’ from the petroleum sector have risen by about 50 bps since fiscal 2015 to 3.14%.

Afghanistan and Pakistan: Feeling the Pain

President Trump has decided to follow the lead of his military advisers in Afghanistan, choosing not to pull out the U.S. troops that candidate Trump had pledged to withdraw. Rather, he’ll send more troops, with the express purpose of training and supporting the Afghan security forces. Also, he emphasized that he won’t engage in nation building. Instead, he will simply defeat the Taliban.

As part of this approach—not all that different from that of his predecessors—Trump plans to eradicate ISIS and other terrorist groups. He will seek greater commitment from India to assist in Afghan economic development and, of course, get tough with Pakistan, a sentiment that has sparked an alarming reaction in Islamabad.

There is a popular argument that there are no good alternatives in Afghanistan, and this may be true. But now, more than ever, the United States must do what it can to support the government of Ashraf Ghani. Just as many have wondered whether the United States has learned critical lessons over the last sixteen years of engagement in Afghanistan, they may also wonder if U.S. leaders might seek to better understand what the country wants and what is possible—especially it those leaders plan to get “tough with Pakistan.”

In 2011, I vividly recall when a member of the National Security Council staff in Washington, frustrated with the apparent duplicity of the Pakistani army, phoned me in Islamabad, which is where I was serving as U.S. ambassador. The staff member asked me to “dial up the pain” on Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief of staff at the time. To many, it may have appeared that Kayani and the Pakistani military richly deserved such pain. But I asked: Isn’t the point of diplomacy and a farsighted policy to try to take action that will lead to a desired result? Methodically, what would even be the sequence of events that would follow once the pain was “dialed up”? It begged the larger question: what did we want from Pakistan and how do we reach our objective in cooperation with the country?

The same questions apply today.

Jihad to the finish in Afghanistan?

The US will hereafter forego foreign adventurism and wars to “rebuild countries in our own image”. But in Afghanistan, American forces, the US President Donald Trump announced, will fight on and finish the job of eliminating the terrorists. He would not make the mistake he said of his predecessor Obama’s of withdrawing the American military prematurely because that will lead to the al-Qaeda and ISIS filling the vacuum as happened in Iraq. Moreover, his strategy he said will be dictated by “the conditions on the ground” not “arbitrary timetables”. This could mean interminable war except, Trump contrarily asserted, that “our commitment [to Afghanistan] is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check.” The conclusion then is that the US commitment to the Abdul Ghani regime in Kabul is in fact limited.

In the event, should the Taliban be prepared for rapid attrition of its leadership ranks with precision US kills, and manage to wage a sustained drag out fight to wear down the US fighting capabilities, deplete the US Treasury of its wealth, and test Washington’s patience and increase its frustrations with “a war without victory”, they may still end up winning against America as they had done against the Soviet Union in the early 1980s. This is enough of an incentive for the Taliban and assorted Islamic terrorist groups that will now be attracted to its standard, one would assume, to engage in a jihad to the finish against America. Trump has indicated that because “Micromanagement from Washington, DC, does not win [faraway] battles”, the US military commanders will be given a free hand to devise battlefield strategies, hunt down and kill the Taliban, and to call in more forces if necessary to bring the fight to a conclusion. So Afghanistan may soon witness a dizzying pace of US military operations once the build-up is completed and, as reaction, heightened terrorist activity inside Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Inflection point in Kabul The strategic rewards in Afghanistan might be as large as the risks.

India’s current plans to intensify strategic cooperation with Afghanistan could well mark an inflection point in its regional security politics. If its approach to Afghanistan has long been marked by excessive caution, Delhi now seems ready to make bold.

India’s new activism in Afghanistan could turn out to be of a piece with its much acclaimed management of the recent Doklam crisis on the China frontier. Yet, there is no denying India’s manoeuvre in Doklam was essentially defensive. It was about raising the military and political costs for China and deterring Beijing from escalating the confrontation and persuading it to accept a negotiated settlement.

In Afghanistan, Delhi is entering a very different domain. It is now preparing for involvement in a conflict that is once removed from its own borders. The lack of geographic access has always reinforced independent India’s tentativeness in Afghanistan. The NDA government, led by Narendra Modi, seems open to testing the limits of that geographic constraint.

Delhi’s renewed activism comes at a moment when Kabul and its international partners are fighting with their backs to the wall. The Taliban, with its sanctuaries in Pakistan, has gained considerable ground in Afghanistan over the last few years. On the positive side of the ledger, President Donald Trump has certainly reaffirmed US military and political commitment to Afghanistan last month. But many fear that it might be too late to reverse the negative dynamic in Afghanistan.

To Win Afghanistan, Get Tough on Pakistan


The aftermath of a 2016 drone strike in Baluchistan Province in Pakistan in which a Taliban chief, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, was killed. 

President Trump’s review of American policy in Afghanistan should involve adopting a tougher approach to Pakistan. Although the Taliban are said to control or contest 40 percent of Afghanistan’s territory, Taliban leadersoperate from the safety of Pakistan. United States incentives since the Sept. 11 attacks have failed to dissuade Pakistan from supporting the Taliban, and Mr. Trump must now consider alternatives.

Reading Pakistan correctly has not always been easy for American officials. Pakistan was a key American ally during the Cold War, the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and the post-Sept. 11 operations against Al Qaeda. But for Pakistan the alliance has been more about securing weapons, economic aid and diplomatic support in its confrontation with India. The United States and Pakistan have both disappointed each other because of divergence in their interests in South Asia.

The George W. Bush administration erred in ignoring the regrouping of the Taliban in Pakistan after their defeat in Afghanistan in the aftermath of Sept. 11, considering Pakistan’s cooperation in capturing some Qaeda figures as sufficient evidence of its alliance with the United States.

President Barack Obama’s administration tried to deal with a resurgent Taliban with a surge in troop numbers for a specific period. Mr. Obama deployed armed drones to strike at Taliban targets inside Pakistan, but that proved insufficient in dealing with the leadership living in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former military dictator, had secretly authorized the drone strikes, and some of the drones operated from bases inside Pakistan — a policy that continued under his civilian successors. Under his rule, Pakistan audaciously denied having anything to do with the Afghan Taliban or its most sinister component, the Haqqani network.

No simple solution to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar

Lex Rieffel

Reporters on the scene are saying that 300,000 or more members of the Rohingya community (of Muslim faith) in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have fled across the border into Muslim-majority Bangladesh in the past two weeks. The refugees have been describing to reporters a litany of human rights abuses: homes burned, women raped, men beheaded, and more. 

Editorial writers and columnists around the world have slammed Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor and leader of the National League for Democracy of Myanmar, for allowing the atrocities to occur and have even demanded that the Nobel Committee withdraw the Peace Prize awarded to her in 1991.

As a scholar focusing on Myanmar for the past 10 years, during which I have visited the country more than a dozen times, I know how horrible the situation is. I have been to Rakhine state and have seen the Rohingya confined to a refugee camp on the outskirts of the state capital of Sittwe. At the same time, I believe that much of the media commentary is misdirected. It fails to describe the complex origins of the problem and explain how intractable it is.


Why is Aung San Suu Kyi, the political leader of Myanmar, being “dethroned” by the international media and denounced by people who once idolized her? 

She has not publicly condemned the operations of the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, that prompted the flight of Rohingya to relative safety in Bangladesh. I will explain later why “Daw Suu,” as she is referred at times by Burmese citizens, has not done this.

Why is the Tatmadaw conducting these operations?

Far Away Myanmar Triggering Rise of Political Islam in Russia

The reaction of Russia’s Islamic community to the ongoing prosecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar occurred suddenly and unexpectedly. Groups organized unsanctioned rallies in front of the Myanmar embassy in Moscow, in Makhachkala (Dagestan) and in Grozny (Chechnya), on September 3 and 4. Some demonstrators were heard shouting “Allah Akbar” and “Buddhists are terrorists.” Reportedly, the authorities were afraid to disperse the protesters by force, and the Russian government and law enforcement agencies were paralyzed by total confusion. The official response displayed a marked contrast to the way Russian security services normally deal with opposition-organized rallies (Politcom.ru, September 7).

The protests notably occurred while the head of state, President Vladimir Putin, was outside the country, traveling to China to attend a summit of the BRICS (a loose political grouping of developing economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Without his involvement, no one in the government seemed ready to make any decisive moves. Strikingly, the national TV channels were all silent about the rallies.

The reaction within Russia to these protests varied widely, but fell into five main categories. First, some blamed the United States for being behind the rallies and fueling the Russian Muslims’ reaction via the Internet (Cont.ws, September 4). A second group pointed to the political and regional motivations Chechen republic head Ramzan Kadyrov to support the rally in Grozny and position himself as a “guardian of Muslims” as well as take up the mantle of “leader” of Russian Muslims (Carnegie.ru, September 4). Third, certain commentators accused Saudi Arabia and Turkey of stirring “emotional hysteria.” According to one prominent member of this group, Maxim Shevchenko, Russian Muslims should “cool their heads” (Realnoevremya.ru, September 4).

Pungyye-ri blast — Time India resumed thermonuclear testing (re-titled)

North Korea did it. Exploded at the Punggye mountain site a genuinely full-bore thermonuclear weapon. The Richter scale registering 6.3 level seismic shock wave followed by a 4.1 level quake and huge rockslides, translatable to around 250 KT yield, though Western sources who have always underestimated North Korean nuclear prowess, claim these seismic reading denote yield in the 50-120 KT class. It leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that Kim Jun-Un now possesses the mighty Hydrogen Bomb. That should quiet the “fire and fury” talk by Trump and still the doubts Western strategic circles have to-date feasted on about Pyongyang still lacking the critical staged weapon threshold tech.

Indian government/Indian Ministry of Defence have finally taken note, evident from some newspapers who get their regular feed on security matters from MOD reporting the disquiet especially about the North Korea- Pakistan angle, and how this would result in Pakistan soon being in possession of the essential two-stage fusion weapon design. “Der se ayai, per durust ayai”. Welcome to the real world, babu-log. Something this analyst has been belabouring in my books ‘India’s Nuclear Policy’ [2008] and ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’ [2015].

Zev Chafets: If Israel played by America's rules, Iraq and Syria would have nuclear weapons

Israel and North Korea are on opposite sides of the Asian landmass, separated by 5,000 miles. But Israelis feels close to the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang. They have faced this sort of crisis before, and may again.

In the mid-1970s, it became clear to Israel that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was working on acquiring nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Saddam had already demonstrated an uninhibited brutality in dealing with his internal enemies and his neighbours. He aspired to be the leader of the Arab world. Defeating Israel was at the top of his to-do list.

After coming to office in 1977, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin tried to convince the U.S. and Europe that Saddam was a clear and present danger to the Jewish state, and that action had to be taken. Begin was not taken seriously.

Israelis feels close to the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang

But Begin was serious, and in 1981 he decided that Israel would have to stop the Iraqi dictator all by itself. His political opponents, led by the estimable Shimon Peres, considered this to be dangerous folly. Foreign minister Moshe Dayan, the legendary former military chief of staff, voted against unilateral action on the grounds that it would hurt Israel’s international standing. Defense minister Ezer Weizmann, the former head of the air force (and Dayan’s brother-in-law) was also against a military option. He thought the mission would be unacceptably risky.

Sixteen Years After 9/11, How Does Terrorism End?

In the run-up to the 9/11 anniversary, I reached out to experts who identified the ways terrorism evolves, fades, or dies—and under what conditions it succeeds.Photograph by Kevin Trageser / Redux

The current spasm of international terrorism, an age-old tactic of warfare, is often traced to a bomb mailed from New York by the anti-Castro group El Poder Cubano, or Cuban Power, that exploded in a Havana post office, on January 9, 1968. Five people were seriously injured. Since then, almost four hundred thousand people have died in terrorist attacks worldwide, on airplanes and trains, in shopping malls, schools, embassies, cinemas, apartment blocks, government offices, and businesses, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The deadliest remains the 9/11 attack, sixteen years ago this week, which killed almost three thousand people—and in turn triggered a war that has become America’s longest.

I’ve covered dozens of these terrorist attacks on four continents over that half century. After the Barcelona attack and the U.S. decision to send more troops to fight the Taliban, I began to wonder how terrorism ends—or how militant groups evolve. In her landmark study of more than four hundred and fifty terrorist groups, Audrey Kurth Cronin found that the average life span of an extremist movement is about eight years. Cuban Power carried out several other bombings, but, in the end, it didn’t last a whole year.

I’ve also witnessed some transitions that I never thought would happen. I interviewed Yasir Arafat several times when the United States considered him a notorious terrorist. He was a paunchy man of diminutive height, a bit over five feet, with a vain streak. He always wore plain fatigues, crisply pressed, and a checkered kaffiyeh headdress to conceal his bald pate. He was linked, directly or indirectly, with airplane hijackings, bombings, hostage-takings, and more. Israel thought that Arafat was defeated after its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. I watched from the Beirut port as the chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization and his fighters sailed off to new headquarters in Tunisia, a continent twenty-five hundred miles, by land, from the frontlines.

Hamza bin Ladin: From Steadfast Son to Al-Qa`ida’s Leader in Waiting

Abstract: Hamza bin Ladin was among his father’s favorite sons, and he has always been among the most consistently fervent of his siblings in his support for violent jihad. Now in his late 20s, Hamza is being prepared for a leadership role in the organization his father founded. As a member of the bin Ladin dynasty, Hamza is likely to be perceived favorably by the jihadi rank-and-file. With the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ apparently on the verge of collapse, Hamza is now the figure best placed to reunify the global jihadi movement. 

One day in early November 2001, on a hillside south of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Usama bin Ladin bade farewell to three of his young sons.1 a In the shade of an olive tree, he handed each boy a misbaha—a set of prayer beads symbolizing the 99 names of God in classical Arabic—and instructed them to keep the faith. The scene was an emotional one. “It was as if we pulled out our livers and left them there,” one of the boys would later recall in a letter to his father.2 Having taken his leave, bin Ladin disappeared into the mountains, bound for a familiar redoubt known as the Black Cave, or Tora Bora in the local Pashto dialect.

The three boys who received the prayer beads that day would face three very different destinies. One, Bakr (also known as Ladin), would distance himself from al-Qa`ida, both geographically and ideologically. Another, Khalid, would die protecting his father at their compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. The third, Hamza, would vanish for years before reemerging in 2015 as the most likely candidate to reunite a fractured jihadi movement and lead al-Qa`ida to a future still more violent than its past.

Groomed to Lead 



Immigration is inevitable. When will the West learn that it promises salvation — not destruction?
On Oct. 1, 1977, my parents, my two sisters, and I boarded a Lufthansa plane in the dead of night in Bombay. We were dressed in new, heavy, uncomfortable clothes and had been seen off by our entire extended family, who had come to the airport with garlands and lamps; our foreheads were anointed with vermilion. We were going to America. 

To get the cheapest tickets, our travel agent had arranged a circuitous journey in which we disembarked in Frankfurt, then were to take an internal flight to Cologne, and onward to New York. In Frankfurt, the German border officer scrutinized the Indian passports for my father, my sisters, and me and stamped them. Then he held up my mother’s passport with distaste. “You are not allowed to enter Germany,” he said. 

It was a British passport, given to citizens of Indian origin who had been born in Kenya before independence from the British, like my mother. But in 1968 the Conservative Party parliamentarian Enoch Powell made his “Rivers of Blood” speech, warning against taking in brown- and black-skinned people, and Parliament passed an act summarily depriving hundreds of thousands of British passport holders in East Africa of their right to live in the country that conferred their nationality. The passport was literally not worth the paper it was printed on; it had become, in fact, a mark of Cain. The German officer decided that because of her uncertain status, my mother might somehow desert her husband and three small children to make a break for it and live in Germany by herself. 

So we had to leave directly from Frankfurt. Seven hours and many airsickness bags later, we stepped out into the international arrivals lounge at John F. Kennedy Airport. A graceful orange-and-black-and-yellow Alexander Calder mobile twirled above us against the backdrop of a huge American flag, and multicolored helium balloons dotted the ceiling, souvenirs of past greetings. As each arrival was welcomed to the new land, the balloons rose to the ceiling to make way for the newer ones. They provided hope to the newcomers: Look, in a few years, with luck and hard work, you, too, can rise here. All the way to the ceiling. 

Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen: Once Again, Is Half a Strategy Better than None?

By Anthony Cordesman

The United States seems to be adjusting the military half of its strategy in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan to the point where it can be successful. The estimates of the overall patterns in global terrorism in the semi-official START data base continue to rise, but the U.S. does seem to be on the edge of defeating ISIS's physical Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. At some point before the end of 2017, the issue will no longer be defeating ISIS, it will be what comes next?

The U.S. is correcting the critical mistakes it made in setting a "deadlines" strategy for withdrawing from Afghanistan without first laying the ground work for the Afghan security forces to survive: it is now committed to providing them with the support that is needed instead to trying to leave by a fixed deadline. It is providing major amounts of combat air support, strengthening the U.S. element of the Afghan counterterrorism force, and sending what could be an adequate number of train and assist personnel to the forward roles where they are really needed.

The problem is that the U.S. has no apparent strategy for the civil side of the Iraq-Syrian or the Afghan conflicts, and no clear strategy for conflict termination. Worse, it has no clear strategy of any kind—military or civil—for its lesser involvements in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, the two Sudans, and Yemen—or for dealing with violent Sub-Saharan extremism.

The "war on terrorism" has become a series of counterinsurgency campaigns where the U.S. has no clear strategy for encouraging stability, and countering extremism in the MENA region or South Asia in the countries where it does not have active involvement in counterterrorism and counter insurgency. Worse, it now plans to cut back on its already weak and largely ineffective aid efforts, and it has made no meaningful efforts at helping "nation building" in the other countries which are most vulnerable to extremism and terrorism.

North Korea: In Deterrence We Trust

By James M. Acton

Over the last week, war between the United States and North Korea has begun to seem like a real possibility. Within hours of the test, on Saturday, of what Pyongyang claimed was a thermonuclear weapon, President Donald Trump tweeted that the North Koreans “only understand one thing.” On Monday, his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, claimed that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, was “begging for war.” Then on Thursday, Trump described military action – using “new and beautiful equipment, the best in the world” – as “something certainly that could happen.”

The Trump administration seems to be considering military action because it is concerned that “North Korea might not be able to be deterred.” As a result, U.S. National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster has stated that Trump “will not tolerate” Kim’s acquisition of nuclear weapons that could threaten the homeland.

Yet, the Trump administration appears to be focused on the wrong question. The right question is not whether North Korea can be deterred, but how the risks of trying to do so compare to the risks of preventative military action. When these risks are weighed up, deterrence turns out to be the less dangerous option.

Military action would run the risk of nuclear strikes against U.S. bases in South Korea, Japan, and Guam, as well as American cities. The U.S. intelligence community has reportedly assessed that North Korea is now capable of fitting a nuclear warhead onto a ballistic missile. Launching military action in the hope that Kim did not yet have a functioning nuclear arsenal would be insanity.

Russia’s Balancing Strategy in South Asia

By Samuel Ramani

Russia’s ability to maintain cordial security partnerships with both India and Pakistan is highly beneficial for its broader geopolitical aspirations. 

On August 13, 2017, a senior Russian military official announced that Moscow would host comprehensive joint military drillswith India from October 19 to 29. This announcement gained widespread international attention, as Moscow’s October drills will coordinate with India’s army, navy and air force in a synchronized fashion for the first time. The timing of Moscow’s decision to expand its military cooperation with India is also intriguing, as the drill announcement occurred just days after Pakistan held negotiations with Russia on the purchase of S-35 war planes.

Russia’s decision to deepen its military cooperation with India and Pakistan simultaneously is a compelling example of Moscow’s balancing strategy in South Asia. Russia’s ability to maintain cordial security partnerships with both India and Pakistan is highly beneficial for its broader geopolitical aspirations.

Moscow’s successful balancing strategy in South Asia highlights Russia’s great power status to the international community, as it demonstrates that Russia can directly compete with the United States and China for influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Russia’s South Asian balancing strategy also ensures that both New Delhi and Islamabad support Moscow’s efforts to prevent instability in Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Why power matters in the digital world

Digital networks are a proxy for the digital economy of the future. Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint

In 1994, Mitchell Kapor, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, summed up the idealism that pervaded the dawn of the consumer internet era: “The first-order issue ought to be: What are we shooting for as a society? How are we conceiving of this great project that we are engaged in? My hope is that we reach a consensus for the system to be open, inclusive, egalitarian, and decentralized...”. The fundamental assumptions underlying this idealism—the inherent egalitarianism of the internet, its potential to upend pre-digital political, economic and social hierarchies—continue to shape public debates.

Last week, the Supreme Court directed Facebook and WhatsApp to file affidavits stating what user data they shared with third parties. Legal challenges to the Aadhaar programme are pending. Both are part of the broader privacy debate that will now be informed by the Supreme Court’s landmark decision reading the right to privacy as a fundamental right. Net neutrality remains a perennial issue in India, the US and elsewhere. European Union courts continue to subject tech giants to withering antitrust scrutiny. There are multiple principles at stake here: individual rights, free market functioning and fair competition, among others. But they are ultimately aspects of the central issue Kapor raised: power and its distribution.

In a new Foreign Affairs essay, “The False Prophecy Of Hyperconnection”, historian Niall Ferguson has analysed this within the framework of network theory. Any social network consists of nodes (individuals) connected by edges (relationships). Not all nodes are equal; “Some nodes have a higher ‘degree’, meaning that they have more edges, and some have higher ‘betweenness centrality’, meaning that they act as the busy junctions through which a lot of network traffic has to pass.”

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War

How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century — and why it may be impossible to stop.

Martin Steltner showed up at his office in the state courthouse building in western Berlin. Steltner, who has served for more than a dozen years as the spokesman for the Berlin state prosecutor, resembles a detective out of classic crime fiction: crisp suit, wavy gray hair and a gallows humor that comes with having seen it all. There was the 2009 case of the therapist who mistakenly killed two patients in an Ecstasy-infused session gone wrong. The Great Poker Heist of 2010, in which masked men stormed a celebrity-studded poker tournament with machetes and made off with a quarter-million dollars. The 2012 episode involving the Canadian porn star who killed and ate his boyfriend and then sent the leftovers home in the mail. Steltner embraced the oddball aspect of his job; he kept a picture of Elvis Presley on the wall of his office.

But even Steltner found the phone calls he received that morning confounding. They came from police officers from towns far outside Berlin, who reported that protests were erupting, seemingly out of nowhere, on their streets. “They are demonstrating — ‘Save our children,’ ‘No attacks from immigrants on our children’ and some things like that,” Steltner told me when I met him in Berlin recently.

The police were calling Steltner because this was ostensibly his office’s fault. The protesters were angry over the Berlin prosecutor’s supposed refusal to indict three Arab migrants who, they said, raped a 13-year-old girl from Berlin’s tight-knit Russian-German community.

Steltner, who would certainly have been informed if such a case had come up for prosecution, had heard nothing of it. He called the Berlin Police Department, which informed him that a 13-year-old Russian-German girl had indeed gone missing a week before. When she resurfaced a day later, she told her parents that three “Southern-looking men” — by which she meant Arab migrants — had yanked her off the street and taken her to a rundown apartment, where they beat and raped her.

But when the police interviewed the girl, whose name was Lisa, she changed her story. She had left home, it turned out, because she had gotten in trouble at school. Afraid of how her parents would react, she went to stay with a 19-year-old male friend. The kidnapping and gang rape, she admitted, never happened.


WASHINGTON — The federal government moved on Wednesday to wipe from its computer systems any software made by a prominent Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, that is being investigated by the F.B.I. for possible links to Russian security services.

The concerns surrounding Kaspersky, whose software is sold throughout the United States, are longstanding. The F.B.I., aided by American spies, has for years been trying to determine whether Kaspersky’s senior executives are working with Russian military and intelligence, according to current and former American officials. The F.B.I. has also been investigating whether Kaspersky software, including its well-regarded antivirus programs, contain back doors that could allow Russian intelligence access into computers on which it is running. The company denies the allegations.

The officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiries are classified, would not provide details of the information they have collected on Kaspersky. But on Wednesday, Elaine C. Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, ordered federal agencies to develop plans to remove Kaspersky software from government systems in the next 90 days.

Wednesday’s announcement is the latest instance of the apparent disconnect between the Trump White House, which has often downplayed the threat of Russian interference to the country’s infrastructure, and front-line American law enforcement and intelligence officials, who are engaged in a perpetual shadow war against Moscow-directed operatives.

Kaspersky’s business in the United States now appears to be the latest casualty in those spy wars. Best Buy, the electronics giant, announced last week that it was pulling Kaspersky Lab’s cybersecurity products from its shelves and website, and the Senate is voting this week on a defense-spending bill that would ban Kaspersky Lab products from being used by American government agencies, effectively codifying Wednesday’s directive into law.

Artificial Intelligence and the Military

The Department of Defense (DoD) is increasingly interested in Artificial Intelligence (AI). During a recent trip to Amazon, Google, and other Silicon Valley companies, Secretary of Defense James Mattis remarked that AI has “got to be better integrated by the DoD.” What do we mean by the term AI? In particular, what does “deep learning” mean? What are the advantages, disadvantages, and risks of using AI? What are potential additional military applications for AI?

What is AI?

AI is poorly understood in part because its definition is constantly evolving. As computers master additional tasks previously thought only possible by humans, the bar for what is considered “intelligent” rises higher. Recently, one of the most productive areas in the field of AI has been in technologies that can train software to learn and think on its own. This area is moving swiftly and appears to be accelerating. Simultaneously, “old school” AI using rule-based approaches are being abandoned. In the next decades, AI systems that can be trained, learn, and think independently will likely dominate the field of AI. This brings us to deep learning, a field that has made tremendous strides in recent years and generated considerable excitement.

What is deep learning?

Deep learning is a powerful set of techniques for learning with Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs). ANNs are software loosely modeled after the neuronal structure of the mammalian cerebral cortex. They are currently much simpler; ANNs such as AlphaGo are powerful because of their laser-like focus on just one thing. Processing units (referred to as nodes) are organized into layers: input, hidden, and output. Input layers roughly correspond to photoreceptors in the retina. Hidden layers are like the neurons that process signals from the retina and pass those signals to the visual cortex. Output layers correspond to the visual cortex. Simple ANNs have a single hidden layer. ANNs with two or more hidden layers are capable of deep learning; such ANNs can process more complex data sets than ANNs having only one hidden layer. Deep learning currently provides the best solutions to problems in image and speech recognition, and natural language processing (NLP). The key to deep learning is access to large, high-quality datasets for training ANNs. No data, no (deep) learning.

Army Upgrades Future Tanks, Artillery & Helicopters

By Kris Osborn 

“No matter what weapon system -- whether you're talking about a tank and the amount code such as software code that’s now resident in our main battle tank or our newest troop carriers -- they're all very software-defined because of the platforms that we've integrated into their systems,” said Major General Bruce Crawford, Commander of Communications-Electronics Command. 

Crawford explained that software has increasingly played a central role in the maturation and combat effectiveness of weapon systems over the last 15 years of war. 

“The capability that we have today in our formation, especially at the tactical level, is night and day, to be honest with you, compared to what we had in 2003,” he said. 

Emphasizing that there is not really a weapon system of relevance on the modern battlefield that does not heavily draw from software components, Crawford said the evolution of software applications has changed tactics, techniques and procedures in combat. 

“The industrial base that supports the Department of Defense has been using software to modernize, instead of focusing on just hardware as the mechanism by which they've been able to increase capability,” Crawford said.