29 January 2018

The arc to Southeast Asia

Harsh V. Pant

This week India will host heads of state or government of all 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the Republic Day celebrations in a dramatic declaration of intent by New Delhi to boost India’s ties with Southeast Asia. The year 2017 was an important landmark as India and the ASEAN commemorated 25 years of their partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction, and five years of strategic partnership. The challenge now is to map out next steps in the India-ASEAN partnership at this time of unprecedented geopolitical flux in the wider Indo-Pacific.

Overcoming disillusionment

India’s One Belt, One Road-Block

By Jacob L. Shapiro

It’s been a busy week for Indian foreign policy. In the past, that statement would have been an oxymoron. The Himalayas isolate India from developments in the rest of the world. Internal diversity makes it hard for India to govern itself, let alone to influence others (though the irony of an American writing that a few days after the U.S. government shutdown is not lost on me). The scope of India’s poverty makes China look like a uniformly rich society by comparison.

The USAF Expands MQ-9 Reaper Drone Force in Afghanistan to Its Largest Size Ever

Joseph Trevithick

The U.S. Air Force says its force of MQ-9 Reapers at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan is now the largest deployment of the type to a single base ever. The drones are part of a larger surge in the air war over the country, which could still include yet more unmanned aircraft in the near future as other services, such as the U.S. Navy, consider their own unmanned contributionsThe Air Force says there are now nearly three squadrons worth of Reapers at Kandahar, though it declined to give specific numbers, according to a report by Stars and Stripes on Jan. 26, 2018. The size and scope of American presence there had steadily shrunk since the NATO-led coalition officially ended combat operations in 2014. It has begun to grow again as the United States has reinvigorated its efforts against the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other militant groups in the country, deploying additional ground forces, including elements of the U.S. Army’s first ever dedicated advisory unit, the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade, or 1st SFAB.

Why the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable: American war aims in Afghanistan have been, and remain, riddled with contradictions and illusions

Steve Coll

“The United States is not losing in Afghanistan, but it is not winning either, and that is not good enough,” reads the opening sentence of a top-secret review of the war in Afghanistan commissioned by President George W. Bush in 2008, according to multiple participants in that review. Subsequent classified reviews of the American strategy in the war have repeated that conclusion. The Trump administration undertook the latest rethinking of the war in August. President Trump’s advisers again reviewed its causes: opium, corruption, ethnic factionalism and, above all, the support and sanctuary provided to the Taliban by Pakistan, through the covert action arm of its powerful spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.  Why is this problem so hard? Why, since the Sept. 11 attacks, has the United States been unable to prevent Pakistan, a notional ally that has received billions of dollars in aid, from succoring the Taliban at such a high cost in American lives and Afghan misery?

We Can’t Win in Afghanistan Because We Don’t Know Why We’re There

By Steve Coll
Source Link

“The United States is not losing in Afghanistan, but it is not winning either, and that is not good enough,” reads the opening sentence of a top-secret review of the war in Afghanistan commissioned by President George W. Bush in 2008, according to multiple participants in that review. Subsequent classified reviews of the American strategy in the war have repeated that conclusion. The Trump administration undertook the latest rethinking of the war in August. President Trump’s advisers again reviewed its causes: opium, corruption, ethnic factionalism and, above all, the support and sanctuary provided to the Taliban by Pakistan, through the covert action arm of its powerful spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

Secretary of Defense Mattis’s Trip to Southeast Asia: A Few Thoughts

by Joshua Kurlantzick

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis traveled to Southeast Asia this past week, and during his first stop in Indonesia signaled a desire to improve strategic aspects of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship including on the South China Sea, training, and defense modernization. Visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shakes hands with Indonesia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi at the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta, Indonesia on January 22, 2018. Darren Whiteside/Reuters

China’s Understanding of Global Order Shouldn’t Be Ours


Niall Ferguson is a prolific public intellectual who has made a career out of shattering shibboleths. At various points he has defended the achievements of the British Empire, argued that the United Kingdom’s entry into the First World War was “the biggest error in modern history,” and made the case at length that Henry Kissinger is a misunderstood idealist. Ferguson is at it again. In a recent op-ed, he takes on what he describes as the prevailing “myth of the liberal international order.” This piece appeared in China’s Global Times, a pugnacious nationalistic tabloid published by the official People’s Daily. It is not surprising, then, that the view it presents happens to conform quite closely with the official Chinese Communist Party line. It is also, in important respects, mistaken and misleading.

Washington’s New Defense Strategy: Keep Russia, China Down

By F. William Engdahl

One thing can be said about the new Pentagon National Defense Strategy document just released under the name of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It is honest about what the target of US military policy is going forward. Washington military policy is explicitly aimed to keep China and Russia from developing any alternative counter-pole to unchallenged US military and political supremacy. The new document lays this out in no uncertain terms. The details are notable and show the disarray that is Washington today, as its once-firm grip on world power disintegrates.

How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power

By Joseph S. Nye Jr.

Washington has been wrestling with a new term that describes an old threat. “Sharp power,” as coined by Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig of the National Endowment for Democracy (writing for ForeignAffairs.com and in a longer report), refers to the information warfare being waged by today’s authoritarian powers, particularly China and Russia. Over the past decade, Beijing and Moscow have spent tens of billions of dollars to shape public perceptions and behavior around the world—using tools new and old that exploit the asymmetry of openness between their own restrictive systems and democratic societies. The effects are global, but in the United States, concern has focused on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and on Chinese efforts to control discussion of sensitive topics in American publications, movies, and classrooms.

Is the United States the new Saudi Arabia?

Samantha Gross

In its January Oil Market Report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts “explosive” growth in U.S. oil production, in reaction to rising oil prices. In a recent congressional hearing, Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, described the United States as “the undisputed oil and gas leader in the world over the next several decades.” U.S. production is forecast to exceed 10 million barrels per day in 2018, surpassing Saudi Arabia and behind only Russia.

Turkey’s Attack on Kurds Tops USConcerns in Syria, Even as ISISKeeps Fighting


Over the past three days, the leader of U.S. Central Command and other American military commanders in the region have sounded increasingly alarmed. CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait ­– Turkey’s assault on Kurdish fighters around the northwest Syrian town of Afrin is now the top concern for U.S. military leaders in the region, who have sounded increasingly alarmed over the past three days. “Yeah, it certainly is. Definitely,” Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters Wednesday aboard a military aircraft traveling from Kuwait City to the United Arab Emirates. Senior leaders from U.S. Central Command, which Votel leads, and U.S. European Command are watching to see if Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan will make good his threat to send forces eastward from Afrin toward Manbij.

In Europe, Subtle Signs Of A Softening On Putin's Russia

 Alexei Druzhinin

MOSCOW — European leaders continue to accuse Russia of spreading disinformation, with a recent European Parliament forum billed as a probe into the "efficiency" of Moscow's propaganda efforts. But the Jan. 17 debate also featured some members of Parliament who defended Russia, blaming Brussels for restricting freedom of speech and accusing Western countries of "paranoia.” In light of evolving positions in Europe about the issue, several Russian experts told Kommersant they do not foresee new restrictions of European policy in regards to Moscow. The point of view of most of the European deputies has not changed since November 2016, when the European Parliament adopted a resolution charging Russian authorities with using "a wide range of mechanisms and tools, such as think tanks, foreign language channels, pseudo-information agencies and multimedia services, social networks and Internet trolls to attack democratic values, to divide Europe and make it seem like the EU's eastern neighbors have adopted a failing approach."

UK warned that Russian threat requires increased defence spending

Ewen MacAskill

Britain’s defence chief of general staff, Sir Nick Carter, is to warn that the UK is trailing Russia in terms of defence spending and capability. Carter is to use a speech in London to enter publicly into the debate over defence spending, which military chiefs and Conservative MPs claim has dropped to dangerously low levels. Failure to keep up with Russia will leave the UK exposed, particularly to unorthodox, hybrid warfare of the kind practised by Russia and other potentially hostile states, according to Carter. One of the biggest threats posed is from cyber-attacks that target both the military and civilian life.

Trump’s National Defense Strategy Has the Pentagon Popping Champagne


Bearing the imprimatur of Pentagon chief James Mattis, the NDS—at least the unclassified summary that we citizens are permitted to see—is in essence a brief for increasing the size of the U.S. military budget. Implicit in the document is this proposition: more spending will make the armed forces of the United States “stronger” and the United States “safer.” Simply put, the NDS is all about funneling more bucks to the Pentagon. Remarkably, the NDS advances this argument while resolutely avoiding any discussion of what Americans have gotten in return for the $11 trillion (give or take) expended pursuant to the past 16-plus years of continuous war—as if past performance should have no bearing on the future allocation of resources.

Foresight Africa: Top priorities for the continent in 2018

In this year’s Foresight Africa, AGI scholars and invited experts delve deeply into six overarching themes that highlight areas in which African countries and their citizens are taking the lead to achieve inclusive growth. In a world where China and other emerging economies are ascendant, where cooperation on global governance is under challenge, and where free trade faces headwinds, Africa needs its own institutions to play a more assertive role in advancing the continent’s agenda. The potential for a more unified Africa to create never-before-seen opportunities for trade and economic prosperity is gaining traction. Through our exploration, we hope to emphasize that Africa’s future lies in its own hands and that it already has the power to reach its goals.

Russian military was behind ‘NotPetya’ cyberattack in Ukraine, CIA concludes

By Ellen Nakashima

The CIA has attributed to Russian military hackers a cyberattack that crippled computers in Ukraine last year, an effort to disrupt that country’s financial system amid its ongoing war with separatists loyal to the Kremlin. The June 2017 attack, delivered through a mock ransomware virus dubbed NotPetya, wiped data from the computers of banks, energy firms, senior government officials and an airport. The GRU military spy agency created NotPetya, the CIA concluded with “high confidence” in November, according to classified reports cited by U.S. intelligence officials.

Facebook should be 'regulated like cigarette industry', says tech CEO

Alex Hern

Social networks would be regulated “exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry”, Benioff told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Here’s a product – cigarettes – they’re addictive, they’re not good for you, maybe there’s all kinds of different forces trying to get you to do certain things. There’s a lot of parallels.“I think that, for sure, technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and that product designers are working to make those products more addictive, and we need to rein that back as much as possible,” he added. Benioff, who founded B2B cloud computing company Salesforce in 1999, and is now worth more than $4bn, suggested that regulation of some form was inevitable for the technology industry.

Why digital strategies fail

By Jacques Bughin, Tanguy Catlin, Martin Hirt, and Paul Willmott

Most digital strategies don’t reflect how digital is changing economic fundamentals, industry dynamics, or what it means to compete. Companies should watch out for five pitfalls. The processing power of today’s smartphones are several thousand times greater than that of the computers that landed a man on the moon in 1969. These devices connect the majority of the human population, and they’re only ten years old.

Biden doesn't want cyber war with Russia

By Derek B. Johnson

The former vice president thinks that awareness is the best weapon against Russian "active measures" and information warfare. Former Vice President Joe Biden supports consequences for Russia for its role in the 2016 U.S. election, but rejected calls to start a tit-for-tat cyber war. Speaking at a Jan. 23 Council on Foreign Relations event, Biden addressed a question of whether the U.S. should consider "going on offense" -- in particular, by waging a similar concerted cyber campaign against the Russian government. Biden said yes, "but not necessarily in the cyber space."

The next cyber arms race is in artificial intelligence

An Army sergeant launches a RQ-20 Puma Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) while conducting UAV training during exercise Combined Resolve V at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany in 2015. The Army is investing in artificial intelligence to help protect its drone systems from cyber attacks. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Cress Jr./Released) In theory, the only technology capable of hacking a system run by artificial intelligence is another, more powerful AI system. That’s one reason why the U.S. Army incorporated a powerful AI capabilities into its drone systems that is expected to provide the ultimate cybersecurity — at least, for now. “It’s an arms race,” said Walter O’Brien, CEO of Scorpion Computer Services, whose AI system runs and protects the Army’s UAV operations. “Now I have an AI protecting the data center, and now the enemy would have to have an AI to attack my AI, and now it’s which AI is smarter.”

Hacking: Another Weapon in the Asymmetrical Arsenal

By Scott Stewart

Iran's Islamic Revolution could play out, in part, online. On Jan. 4, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published a report describing the country as a "third-tier cyberthreat." The report's authors note that despite Iran's success with cyberattacks such as Shamoon and a spear-phishing campaign that hit Deloitte and several other companies, Iranian attacks generally feature poor tradecraft. As a result, investigators haven't had much trouble tracking cyber operations back to the Islamic republic, whether because the attack code contained Farsi terms or because its associated IP address traced to Iran. Iranian spear-phishing attacks, likewise, frequently suffer from their perpetrators' poor command of the English language.

Missile Defense Vs. China, Russia: Decentralize, Disperse, & Hide


WASHINGTON: China or Russia could all too easily detect and destroy US Army missile defenses, exposing American forces to devastating attack, a forthcoming study finds. Patriot and THAAD units are big groups of big objects — launchers, radars, command posts — that emit lots of heat and radio/radar waves, are hard to camouflage, and can’t relocate quickly. To ensure our missile defenses can survive against near-peer threats, argues study lead author Tom Karako, the Army needs to decentralize its missile defense batteries, disperse the radars and launchers, and hide them in the terrain — a concept he calls “distributed defense.”

Mattis: Pentagon Shifting Focus to Great Power Competition — ‘Not Terrorism’


The Trump administration’s long-awaited National Defense Strategy declares a decisive shift in America’s security priorities, away from the age of ISIS-level terrorism and toward a return to great-power competition with regional giants China and Russia. This shift, Pentagon planners say, will require a “more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating” military that can regain the overwhelming advantage the United States once held over those rivals and lesser adversaries such as Iran and North Korea.

Teaching Multi-Domain Operations: The Case of British Field Marshal William Slim

By James D. Campbell

Just as the leaders and thinkers within the joint force are becoming more dedicated to the notion that a post-joint understanding of complex future military operations should be framed by the concept of multi- or cross-domain operations, the Joint Warfighting Department at the Air Command and Staff College has similarly altered its instruction of joint capabilities and planning. The department exchanged the traditional service-centric presentations, and discussions of capabilities and employment of forces, replacing them with a series of seminars covering military operations within the various domains of battle. So, instead of viewing military operations through the lens of a service structure, the department is emphasizing holistic joint force capabilities; the manner in which these capabilities facilitate access to, and maneuver within, the battlespace; and the various effects they can achieve by combining and synchronizing actions within and through the land, air, maritime, space, and cyber domains.

CSA MiIley Bets On ‘Radical’ Tech, Promises No More FCS


CRYSTAL CITY: The Army needs revolutionary technologies from robot tanks to a long-range super-rifle, the Chief of Staff said today — and it can get them without repeating the mistakes that doomed high-tech programs in the past. By reforming the acquisition bureaucracy, embracing commercial technology and rigorously prototyping new tech to work out bugs, Gen. Mark Milley said, the Army can improve 10-fold on its current weapons without falling into the pitfalls that doomed its last attempt to leap ahead, the canceled Future Combat System.