8 January 2019

On surgical strikes and Pakistan, this ex-Army general has some advice for Modi


I know of no other tactical action in history that has been politicised like the surgical strikes under Modi government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a wide-ranging interview to news agency ANI on 1 January, 2019. Three questions (Q31-Q33) pertained to the surgical strikes. Given the controversy related to the political and military aims of the surgical strikes, the results achieved and the politicisation of the event, the prime minister’s answers merit a critical analysis.

When a nation decides to use force in pursuit of national interests against another nation, it is done to achieve a political aim. The military aims and objectives are contingent upon it. The interviewer’s query was relevant and specific: “Q33: What were the objectives of this surgical strike? Terrorism has not abated, there is still cross border terrorism. Was it used just as a deterrent? Is there now a policy of hot pursuit?”

Art And Soft Power In Asia – Analysis

By John Zarobell*

Though the concept certainly predates his analysis, Joseph Nye’s work on soft power has opened a stream of claims regarding the exercise of power outside of the formal channels of governance. As globalization has distributed economic benefits around the world more broadly, emerging economies are stepping up to express their role as actors in the global sphere.

Two approaches are observed – one more organized and controlled in China and another more spontaneous in India, sponsored by individuals and corporations. 

Ambitious projects such as China’s Belt and Road initiative aim to remake global trade with a central position for the PRC. While China is shoring up its sphere of influence through economic partnerships, its leaders launched a five-year plan to build 3,500 museums in five years; they completed this in three years in 2012 and have added hundreds every year since. There is a hint of civic largesse, but China is also signaling its cultural centrality, aiming to demonstrate the enduring edifice of Chinese civilization and the authority it confers on the Chinese people and state to rule over an ever-widening domain.

Beyond “Debt-Trap Diplomacy”: The Dissemination of PRC State Capitalism

By: Hong Zhang

The narrative of PRC “debt-trap diplomacy” has gained increasing traction in some parts of the international media and US foreign policy-making communities. While useful in highlighting the adverse consequences of PRC-financed projects in developing countries, this narrative simultaneously overlooks the agency of the borrowing states and the sophistication of PRC corporate actors in implementing the economic strategy of the PRC party-state.

Close examination of the case of Sri Lanka, the most widely cited example in discussion of “debt-trap diplomacy,” suggests that the “debt-trap” narrative does not capture the nature of the sweeping change underway. By fixating on the debtor-creditor relationship, the “debt-trap diplomacy” narrative misses the bigger picture — namely, the penetration of the global economy by PRC “national champion” state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which will serve to entrench and legitimize the PRC development model.

The Maldives’ Games of Thrones

By JJ Robinson

Fans of liberal democracy had little to celebrate in 2018. But its recent and unexpected resurrection in the Maldives, reversing a half-decade decline into authoritarianism, gives cause for some cheer.

The architect of democratic deterioration, President Abdulla Yameen, lost elections on September 23 despite near absolute capture of all independent institutions, including the elections authority, security forces, and both the judiciary and its watchdog body. For much of his tenure the opposition was either jailed or forced into exile over sham charges of terrorism, to be joined by many allies fallen out of favor. Yameen himself was mired in corruption scandals, including a 2016 Al Jazeera investigation alleging his involvement in a money-laundering racket thought to be worth over $1 billion. He wielded his parliamentary majority to recriminalize defamation, while media critical of the regime found itself slapped with heavy fines.

Apple and China’s problems show that today’s titans may not rule the world tomorrow

Will Hutton

Our mental geography is bounded by what has gone before. What has happened in the recently remembered past is most likely to continue. Inflection points, when trends decisively change, are more infrequent than the many instances when things go on as they have done.

Two of today’s trends seem unstoppable. China’s astounding growth will continue, so the story runs, underwriting its arrival as the second economic superpower. To get a share in that China action, underpinning the entire growth of Asia, is one of the prime economic arguments for Brexit. Abandon sclerotic Europe, embrace the prosperity of Asia – even if it is a world of semi-democracy at best, authoritarian government at worst. It can be guaranteed to grow.

China Could ‘Weaponise Cities’ If It Controlled 5G Networks

China will gain a capability for mayhem and mass surveillance, Robert Spalding says in memo

Others suppliers will not be able to compete with government-subsidised offerings from Huawei and fellow Chinese gear maker ZTE Corp, he says

China’s desire to dominate new wireless technology poses a global threat that should be thwarted by a new, secure network, according to a former official in the Donald Trump administration whose call for an enlarged US government role caused an uproar last year.

China will gain a capability for mayhem and mass surveillance if it dominates advanced 5G networks that link billions of devices, retired air force Brigadier General Robert Spalding said in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News.

The Belt and Road Initiative Still Afloat in South Asia

By: Sudha Ramachandran

Chinese and Pakistani workers at a Belt and Road construction project in northern Pakistan.

On November 23, three militants of the Balochistan Liberation Army attacked the PRC consulate in Karachi, the latest in a series of assaults by Baloch militants on PRC projects and personnel in Pakistan (Global Times, November 24). Baloch opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a primary motivating factor for these attacks, with many Balochis alleging that CPEC, a flagship component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), exploits Baloch resources while only benefiting the Chinese and non-Baloch Pakistanis (Express Tribune, December 17, 2015).

South Asian governments are becoming increasingly discontent with BRI projects. In August, Pakistan’s new government expressed interest in reviewing the CPEC contracts that they perceive to be over-priced, unnecessary, or excessively in the favor of PRC companies (Dawn, September 11). Similar sentiments have been expressed by the new Maldivian government, which is reviewing BRI contracts signed during the rule of former President Abdulla Yameen (Economic Times, November 26). Such actions raise questions as to whether South Asian states might scale down or even cancel BRI projects.

A Game-Changer for Pakistan

Who are Xi Jinping’s Enemies?

By: Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Something unexpected took place during a recent four-day “southern tour” by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping in Guangdong Province, the province where Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of reform, launched his drive to “reform and open up” (改革开放) in 1978. As Party and government departments... MORE

Beyond “Debt-Trap Diplomacy”: The Dissemination of PRC State Capitalism

By: Hong Zhang

The narrative of PRC “debt-trap diplomacy” has gained increasing traction in some parts of the international media and US foreign policy-making communities. While useful in highlighting the adverse consequences of PRC-financed projects in developing countries, this narrative simultaneously overlooks the agency of the borrowing states and the sophistication of PRC corporate actors in implementing the economic strategy of the PRC party-state.

Close examination of the case of Sri Lanka, the most widely cited example in discussion of “debt-trap diplomacy,” suggests that the “debt-trap” narrative does not capture the nature of the sweeping change underway. By fixating on the debtor-creditor relationship, the “debt-trap diplomacy” narrative misses the bigger picture — namely, the penetration of the global economy by PRC “national champion” state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which will serve to entrench and legitimize the PRC development model.

'This is more than just a landing': Why China's mission at the far side of the moon should be a wake-up call for the world


China landed a spacecraft called Chang'e 4 on the moon's far side for the first in human history. A rover and lander will study lunar geology, look for water ice, scan the night sky for radio bursts, and even grow silkworms. But Chang'e 4 is just one mission leading to a sample return, crewed lunar landing, and perhaps even the construction of permanent moon bases. The moon mission can be seen as yet another sign in the erosion of US standing in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering.

After several weeks of coasting through the void between Earth and its moon, China landed a space mission called Chang'e 4 on the lunar surface.However, Chang'e 4 didn't touch down just anywhere: China parked the car-size lander and its rover on the moon's far side - an enigmatic region that, until now, humans have only explored from above.

WW3 WARNING: Chinese military strategist EXPOSES ‘Achilles heel’ of US defence


Both countries are currently competing to become the global superpower, as both regularly flex their military and economic muscles to fend off the other. However, Wan Xiangsui has revealed how China is a step ahead of its rival on a military basis, by exposing what he believes to be their biggest flaw. The military strategist for the People’s Liberation Army claims that satellites are Donald Trump’s biggest asset but also his biggest weakness.

In 2007, China blew up its own satellite in a test to prove its anti-spacecraft technology works. 

Mr Xiangsui thinks the same technology could prove devastating should war ever break out between the two countries, he revealed during Amazon’s Prime’s “China vs USA: Empires at War” documentary.

He said on the 2015 series: “Satellites are an American strong point but they can also be a weak point. 

A New Approach to China – and the World – From the US Department of Defense

By Bonnie Girard

It goes without saying that the biggest foreign policy challenge Patrick Shanahan faces in his new job as acting secretary of defense of the United States is the relationship with China. His 30-plus year career at Boeing may have been just the training job for exactly that role.

There are few American companies with a longer history in modern China; fewer still have had the impact on both sides of the Pacific that Boeing has had.

Boeing just delivered its 2,000th plane to China. More than half of Chinese commercial planes are supplied by Boeing. And according to the company, every Boeing plane in the world has at least some components which are made in China.

There has been much speculation since U.S. President Donald Trump chose Shanahan as an interim replacement for the legendary Jim Mattis that the former Boeing executive might not have the wherewithal or political savvy to deal with the prickly Chinese relationship.

The Increasingly Toxic Political Climate for American Analysts of US-China Relations

By Mark J. Valencia

Well-known economist Jeffrey Sachs has criticized the United States for having Canada detain executive Meng Wanzhou of China’s telecommunications giant Huawei. He argued in international media that this was hypocritical because U.S. law enforcement did not take similar action against executives of American companies for the same alleged violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran. Sachs also opined that the United States was “the greatest threat to the international rule of law.”

While controversial, he is certainly not alone in this view. But for expressing it, Sachs was swarmed with personal insults on social media, including the suggestion that his opinion was “bought.” Most attacked him personally or criticized China’s behavior in this and other spheres rather than rationally rebutting his view. This phenomenon is becoming far more common than is generally acknowledged and bodes ill for a healthy democratic system and its salient policymaking. Indeed, anti-China American researchers and pundits are becoming increasingly emboldened and shrill as they subtly attempt to intimidate those with contrarian views.

Does Sino-US Competition Mean a Zero Sum Game?

By Ben Lowsen

The United States’ policy on China is shifting to emphasize competition over cooperation, as described in its National Security Strategy. In response to the idea of competition, China has called on America to “discard the cold-war and zero-sum mindset.” But U.S. Vice President Mike Pence insists that “‘Competition does not always mean hostility,’ nor does it have to.” So whose definition is correct? And what does this mean for U.S.-China relations?

In English, “competition” primarily means “The act of competing, as for a profit or a prize; rivalry.” Merriam Webster cites its origin as:

Late Latin competere to seek together, from Latin, to come together, agree, be suitable, from com- + petere to go to, seek

The New Face of Terrorism in 2019


The way Westerners think about Islamist terrorism has grown dangerously outdated. For decades, officials have focused on attacks launched by Middle Easterners. Today, however, the real threat increasingly comes from further east. In the former Soviet states and beyond, militants who once harbored mostly local grievances are turning their attention to the West. They will be the menace to watch in 2019.

The threat posed by Middle Eastern terrorists has been shrinking for some time. Even during the war against the Islamic State, Russian speakers from former Soviet countries were already committing many of the major attacks in the West. Those included relatively simple lone-wolf events, such as the 2017 truck strikes on pedestrians in New York and Stockholm—both conducted by Uzbeks—but also more complicated operations, such as the 2016 suicide bombing of Istanbul’s airport—which was allegedly organized by a Russian national—and the 2017 attack on a nightclub in the same city, led by an Uzbek.

Iran—Suicide Attack in Chabahar Underscores Local Turmoil

Brian M. Perkins

A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden vehicle at a police headquarters in the Iranian port city of Chabahar on December 6. The bombing left at least two individuals dead and injured more than a dozen others (PressTV, December 6). The incident follows an earlier attack in Ahvaz on September 22, when several gunmen attacked a military parade, killing at least 29 and injuring more than 60 others (See TM, October 19).

Ansar al-Furqan—a Sunni Baloch militant group—claimed responsibility for the attack in Chabahar the following day (SITE, December 6). Ansar al-Furqan is based in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province and has claimed responsibility for several anti-regime attacks over the past several years, including an attack on an oil pipeline in Ahvaz in December 2017. Iranian authorities have reportedly arrested 10 individuals suspected of involvement in the attack and stated that more arrests would follow (PressTV, December 9).

This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combatting Terrorism

By Stephanie Savell 

Less than a month after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, U.S. troops—with support from British, Canadian, French, German and Australian forces—invaded Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban. More than 17 years later, the Global War on Terrorism initiated by President George W. Bush is truly global, with Americans actively engaged in countering terrorism in 80 nations on six continents.


Brandon Morgan

Since victory in World War II, the United States Army has leveraged the nation’s economic prowess to invest in increasingly heavy, technologically complex combat platforms. Our appetite for armor is clear, and comes from the belief that maximum protection, firepower, and technology, combined with the cognitive skill of the all-volunteer force, will produce the most supreme mechanized units on the battlefield. During Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, and portions of Operation Enduring Freedom, this concept proved valid, as American Abrams tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and later Stryker armored fighting vehicles twice devastated Saddam Hussein’s army and helped seize Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan. These campaigns, though, will likely be markedly different than the multi-domain battlefield against a peer adversary the Army anticipates in the twenty-first century. Rather, the struggle for temporary periods of supremacy in air, sea, land, cyber, and space, coupled with the increasing vulnerability of battlefield supply lines, will prove increasingly challenging for our current armored formations, requiring a fundamental shift in the acquisition, training, and employment of our mechanized forces.

The Challenges with Heavy Armor


Why Trump’s Generals Have Abandoned Ship


Admiral Stavridis (Ret.) was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and is an Operating Executive at The Carlyle Group.

After a couple of tumultuous years, President Donald Trump seems to have reached the conclusion that he has had quite enough of generals. Now, as a retired admiral, I have certainly been annoyed over the years by a number of generals. Yet by and large, I’ve found them quite effective as leaders, organizers, planners and strategists–the type one would expect from those who have proved their mettle in the long hierarchical climb up the ranks of the modern armed forces. Additionally, the vast majority are driven by integrity and the values of courage, honor, commitment–while having been tested in life-and-death situations. All in all, a pretty good selection of qualities. So why, after hiring quite a few, is the President turning on them?

U.S. Accuses Iran of Using Space Launch as Cover for Missile Program

By David E. Sanger and William J. Broad

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on Thursday against launching three spacecraft in the coming months, describing them as a cover for testing technology that is necessary to lob a warhead at the United States and other nations.

His statement seemed intended to build a legal case for diplomatic, military or covert action against the Iranian missile program. It was surprising only because Iran has been launching modest space missions, mostly to deploy satellites, since 2005.

Around the time that Mr. Pompeo issued the statement, a 12-year-old Iranian satellite that was launched by Russia was circling the globe, including in a path that took it close to New York. And Mr. Pompeo made no mention of the other country that, over the years, has aided Iran’s ballistic missile and space rocket program: North Korea, whose leader was praised by President Trump as recently as Wednesday for writing him a “beautiful letter.”

Japan finds a huge cache of scarce rare-earth minerals


Enough rare earth minerals have been found off Japan to last centuries

Rare earths are important materials for green technology, as well as medicine and manufacturing 

Where would we be without all of our rare-earth magnets?

Rare earth elements are a set of 17 metals that are integral to our modern lifestyle and efforts to produce ever-greener technologies. The "rare" designation is a bit of a misnomer: It's not that they're not plentiful, but rather that they're found in small concentrations, and are especially difficult to successfully extract since they blend in with and resemble other minerals in the ground. China currently produces over 90% of the world's supply of rare metals, with seven other countries mining the rest. So though they're not precisely "rare," they are scarce. In 2010, the U.S. Department of energy issued a report that warned of a critical shortage of five of the elements. Now, however, Japan has found a massive deposit of rare earths sufficient to supply the world's needs for hundred of years.

Oil Is At The Mercy Of Financial Markets – Analysis

By Nick Cunningham

Oil prices regained more ground on Wednesday, pushed higher after equity markets rebounded from an initial selloff at the start of 2019 trading.

The price gains are not entirely convincing. WTI and Brent posted strong gains, each up more than 3 percent by midday in New York, but come largely after U.S. equity markets shook off an earlier bout of pessimism.

In fact, the trajectory and health of the global economy has moved to the top of the list in terms of variables exerting influence on oil prices. On any given day, stock prices offer a clue into investor sentiment in this regard. “Energy markets are following lockstep with what the equity markets are doing here, and I think that’s going to continue to be the case,” Brian LaRose at ICAP Technical Analysis, told Reuters.

‘America First’ is only making the world worse. Here’s a better approach.

Antony J. Blinken and Robert Kagan

Can we find a foreign policy of responsible global engagement that most Americans support, that draws the right lessons from our past mistakes, that steers between the equally dangerous shoals of confrontation and abdication, and that understands the difference between self-interest and selfishness? Antony Blinken and Robert Kagan propose an approach in a piece originally published by the Washington Post.

Foreign policy was the last thing on voters’ minds in the midterm elections, but as we look toward 2020, one thing is clear: President Trump’s “America First” foreign policy—or its progressive cousin, retrenchment—is broadly popular in both parties. Trump’s recent decision to withdraw all troops from Syria and 7,000 from Afghanistan has been condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike in Washington. But it is not at all clear that Americans beyond the Beltway are equally outraged.

The fact is, whatever tolerance most Americans had for the global role the United States embraced after World War II began to fade with the collapse of the Soviet Union and was shattered by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the 2008 financial crisis. Whoever wins office in 2020 will have a hard time bucking a trend that preceded Trump and will likely survive him.


"I want to caution the fetishization of manufacturing," says R. David Edelman, currently the director of MIT’s Project on Technology, Economy, and National Security. "Because building things is great and important, but let's not have nostalgia for the days where my great grandfather would be on an assembly line losing a finger every four years."

YOU, LIKE ME, may sometimes (or all the time!) feel that the world is spiraling out of control—trade wars and political strife. And, oh right, climate change, arguably the greatest threat our species has ever faced. Or maybe artificial intelligence and robots will put us all out of work before the world actually ends.

Hackers Leak Details of German Lawmakers, Except Those on Far Right

By Melissa Eddy

BERLIN — After hackers, later determined to be working for Russia, broke into Parliament’s main computer network three years ago, the government vowed to fortify its cybersecurity. The authorities schooled lawmakers about changing passwords, using two-step identification and other measures to protect online data.

But on Friday, nearly 1,000 lawmakers and other prominent Germans, including rappers, journalists and internet personalities, awoke to find links to their street and email addresses, private chats from social media, bank account details and pictures of their children published on Twitter, in another major breach aimed at the country’s political establishment.

All those attacked had a history of criticizing the far right, whose politicians appeared to be spared, raising suspicion that the hacker or hackers were sympathetic to their agenda, though the authorities said they had no indication yet who was behind the attack.

Why Apple Is Now The Big Market Driver

by Rick Ackerman

Apple's Fall Spells Trouble for Everyone

Apple shares got sacked again Thursday, falling to a $142 low that is nearly 40% beneath the record $233 achieved a mere 90 days ago. What were Apple’s institutional sponsors thinking back then?

And why, as the stock began its wealth-vaporizing plunge, were the same giddy geniuses salivating over the prospect of adding massively to their positions if AAPL fell to a magic number somewhere around $170? Now, of course, with 20-20 hindsight, they will all tell you exactly why the stock has plummeted and why it could fall even further.

Google Artificial Intelligence Specialists May Help Military Pilots Breathe Better

By Oriana Pawlyk

A team of experts, part of the Air Force's Physiological Episodes Action Team, or AF PEAT, recently held a day-long event to trade ideas on how best to curb hypoxia-like events from happening to pilots across the ranks.

Pilots, physiologists, data scientists, engineers and maintenance personnel took part in the event, known as an AF PEAT hackathon, outside Washington, D.C., in December to find solutions to physiological phenomena that continue to plague pilots flying aircraft such as the T-6 Texan II, F-22 Raptor, F-15 Eagle, F-35 Lightning II and A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Surprising among the industry leaders at the table?


Healthy Skepticism About The Future Of Disruptive Technology And Modern War – Foreign Policy Research Institute

by Frank G. Hoffman

This blog is based on Dr. Hoffman’s opening remarks at the Modern Warfare Institute’s annual conference, held at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, November 4, 2018.

There are many candidates for examining the most salient changes in the emerging strategic environment. Many perceive the emerging era of great power competition as a mandate to prepare for large-scale, conventional wars. Others will examine smaller changes in context like urban warfare, the influence of social media or its weaponization, or potentially disruptive new technologies.

Some scholars are skeptical about our ability to think intelligently about the future. Sir Lawrence Freedman, in his latest book, is one of the skeptics, having seen too much optimism and too little humility in futurology. But I hope everyone here recognizes that it would be irresponsible to suppose that we can afford to stand pat with today’s legacy capabilities, outdated or stovepiped doctrines, and rigid mental paradigms. Sir Michael Howard noted that military organizations must conceive of themselves like ships moving forward into the fog of time with occasional glimpses at navigational aids––real world events and battles–– that permit them to adjust course in their doctrines and capabilities. To do otherwise, to stand still on the shore, would be standard practice for some armed forces, but it would also be strategically shortsighted.

2019 Forecast: Hard Choices On Invisible Warfare


After a quarter-century of post-Cold War neglect, the Department of Defense has once again become serious about electronic warfare: the art of detecting, disrupting, and deceiving enemy radio and radar. But battles between electrons are invisible, literally and often politically as well, and EW must fight for attention and resources with higher-profile efforts from hypersonic missiles and missile defense to combat readiness for everything from fighter jets to nuclear submarines.


James Long

The US Army’s announcement in October 2017 that it would form the Army Futures Command (AFC)—the “biggest reorganization in the Army since 1973”—was an acknowledgement of the need for significant institutional support to overcome innovation hurdles within the military. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley chose a permanent four-star command to manage this effort, instead of ad-hoc initiatives, because of the need to dedicate a single organization to “streamline and consolidate, and bring unity of command and purpose to the Army for the development of our future capabilities.”

As AFC expands and supplements its cross-functional teams (CFTs), it is vital that core design challenges are addressed or capability gaps will persist in modernization efforts. Specifically, there are four problems AFC needs to overcome to drive the modernization program the Army needs.

1. The Army’s Unbalanced Innovation Portfolio