4 November 2012

On Eve of CPC Congress, China examines its Digital Image

Paper No. 5278 
Dated 3-Nov-2012

By B.Raman

1. What the people think of their leadership and government will be increasingly reflected not in the traditional print and TV media, but in the digital media and in the blogs and micro-blogs of the digital world. The digital image of China in the international net community will increasingly influence governmental and non-governmental perceptions of China. Future prejudices of China will be born not in the columns of the print media and in the radio and TV reports, but in the mushrooming blogs and micro-blogs of the digital world. It is important for leaders and policy-makers to pay attention to what is being discussed in the digital world and to be able to interact with the digital world. Future stability will depend not only on what happens in the real world, but also on what happens in the digital world.

2. These are some of the features of the world of the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) being highlighted by the analysts of the prelude to the Congress which is starting at Beijing on November 8,2012. An article by Dennis Pamlin of 21st New Frontiers, a consultancy organization in Sweden, carried by the “China Daily” on November 2,2012, says:

“In the coming years China's image will be increasingly shaped in a connected world, a world in which people will not only be passive consumers of information, many of them will be active providers of information through different social media. In a connected world people will trust their social networks more than traditional media, and the social networks with the most trust will create a virtual image of China.

“This digital image of China will be determined by the images, stories, comments, blogs and videos posted online, rather than through the print media, television and radio. So China must pay attention to its "digital twin".

“In a connected world it is no longer enough to do good things and tell people about them, it is also necessary to engage in dialogue with people around the world. If China does not engage in these dialogues, its digital twin will end up distorted.

“We are rapidly moving into a hyper-connected society where transparency and enormous amounts of information are creating new opportunities and new challenges. In order to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities it is important that China, and those with an understanding of China, explore new ways to encourage dialogue so that its digital twin is not shaped to suit others' agendas.”

3. According to the “China Daily”, on November 1,2012, many party functionaries opened their own micro-blogs in their real names and started interacting directly with party cadres and people. One of those who has thus started interacting is Yu Zhengsheng, Secretary of the Shanfghai Municipal Committee of the CPC and a member of the CPC Politbureau, who is being tipped to join the new Standing Committee of the Politbureau as one of its seven members.

4. In a message posted on his micro-blog, he said: "It is the responsibility, instead of the power, that the official position gives to us. We're not special. We cannot be above the law. Assuming the responsibility of serving the people is the key of an official's work.” According to the “China Daily”, this is not the first time he is directly interacting through the web with party cadres and the general public. He has been doing it before.

5.Zhang Qingli, secretary of the Hebei Provincial Committee of the CPC, said in his microblog: "We should provide a chance for people who have a desire to work, a stage for people with working capabilities, and important posts for those who have had achievements before. What we should do is to encourage diligent officials, criticize the ones who can only deliver lip service, and deal with those who create disorder on our team. We cannot arrange idle positions and feed idlers. The key is to implement what we say in conferences and write on documents."

6.Zhang Baoshun, secretary of the Anhui Provincial Committee of the CPC, microblogged: “Officials at all levels should be modest and close to the public. Our posts and power are not for showing off. We'd better have more closeness to residents and avoid bureaucracy. As for fact-finding trips to grassroots areas, high-level officials should not ask people to accompany them. Instead, we should dispense with all unnecessary formalities, and not burden and disturb local people."

7. The China Daily has quoted Zhou Xiaopeng, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Sina, an online microblogging service, as saying that though many Chinese officials and governmental departments began to use micro blogs to interact with netizens two years ago, "it is only now that so many high-level officials interact with Web users via a popular online platform.”

8. In addition to encouraging the party functionaries and officials to use the social media sites for direct and continuous interactions with party cadres and the public, the Chinese Government has also been closely monitoring the use of these sites by foreign embassies in Beijing for digital interactions with the people in order to influence their perceptions.

9.The “China Daily” reported on November 3,2012:

“ The micro blogs have become an important platform for foreign governments to promote public diplomacy in China and pose an increasing influence on China's Internet, said the first research report on foreign governments' micro blogs in China, which was released on Friday. ( November 2)

“According to the report, the number of foreign government micro blogs surged in 2011, bringing the total by the end of June to 165 on the top four micro-blogging sites - Sina, Tencent, Netease and Sohu. Those of the United States and Britain were the most influential, said the report. "These micro blogs have cast enormous influence on the Chinese public, especially the Chinese netizen. The foreign governments promote not only their culture, education and tourism resources through the micro blogs, but also forge close interaction with Chinese netizens and opinion leaders on ideology," said Zhang Zhi'an, associate professor of the School of Communication and Design under Sun Yat-sen University. "Social media evokes public passion to talk about some serious issues which we don't often talk about in our daily life, and that's the way these foreign governments' micro blogs influence Chinese netizens in a subtle way that they didn't even notice," said Zhang, who led the research.

10.A t\rigidly-controlled State like China has realised the importance of direct interactions between policy-makers and social media users for perception management, for identifying and addressing the grievances of the people and for creating a greater level of trust and comfort between the people and the leadership. Because of our over-cautious and conservative policies relating to the use of social media networks for direct and active interaction with the people, we in India continue to treat them more as a source of danger than as an asset for building public confidence in the leadership and the policy-makers. There is an urgent need for a change in our attitudes and policies.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Evolution of China’s Military Strategy

 Issue Book Excerpt: Modernization of Chinese PLA | Date : 02 Nov , 2012

Some of the major events of the recent past, that have influenced Chinese strategists in seeking a contemporary military strategy have been the Tiananmen incident of 1989; the weakening and then the fall of the Soviet Union; the Gulf War; the NATO operation in Kosovo and bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade; the imposition of the “No Fly Zone” in Iraq coupled with the punitive air strikes; and the creation of the state of East Timor through international intervention.

The traditional model for the sequential evolution of doctrine through the stages of weapon development, procurement and its effective deployment is as given below:

Traditional Model of Evolution of China's Military Doctrine

The major events can be analyzed one by one to assess the impact on Chinese strategic decision-makers:

China had seriously objected to NATO’s unilateral intervention into Kosovo on the pretext of humanitarian ground. China feels that it can also be targeted by Western countries on such-like pretexts.

Tiananmen. The strength and duration of the student occupation of the Tiananmen Square in 1989 were profoundly disturbing to the Chinese leadership and had several consequences. One was the dismissal of the moderate leadership of Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang bringing into the open inner Party conflicts on major policy issues. Second, was the sense among the hard-liners that the aim of the demonstrators was to bring down the Communist Party and this was being instigated by certain western powers. They blamed it on Deng’s policy of opening China to foreigners which ‘polluted’ the minds of the youth with ideas such as democracy and freedom of the press.31 Post-Tiananmen analysis indicated what the party called the “three belief crisis” as mentioned above. This resulted in a renewed definition of nationalism, which came to be linked to Party loyalty.

The Fall of the Soviet Union. The weakening of USSR freed Beijing from the confines of a strategic relationship with the US. However, the fall of the Soviet Communist Empire brought with it some lessons. The political reforms, especially the tolerance of free debate allowed by Mikhail Gorbachev and his willingness to dilute the Communist Party’s monopoly on power, had led to the ousting of the Soviet Party altogether. The Chinese felt that to be soft was to lose power.32 The other lesson emerging from the break-up of the Soviet Union was that its military might had been created on a non-self-sustaining and weak economic base.

The Gulf War. Military and strategic experts around the world stress the importance that China attached to the awesome technical-military power shown by the US in this war. It gave a new focus to China’s military modernization involving such developments as the reprioritizing of the modernization program to give priority to developing the air force and the navy and its missile development program. The immediate result was the enhanced accuracy of medium range missile of the sort that was fired near Taiwan in March 1996.33

These events served to reinforce and even increase the PLA’s sense of urgency in pursuing the notion of “active defense” and pre-emptive strikes, as also developing a credible second strike nuclear capability.

NATO Operations in Kosovo. China had seriously objected to NATO’s unilateral intervention into Kosovo on the pretext of humanitarian ground. China feels that it can also be targeted by Western countries on such-like pretexts. From the military point of view, the operation in Kosovo showed a degree of sophistication beyond that evinced during the Gulf War. Chinese analysts contrasted the two by saying that, whereas the former had some characteristics of modern high-tech war, the latter was a truly modern high tech war with “hyper-conventional” features that must be analyzed and digested if the PRC were to be able to defend itself properly. Information warfare (xinxi zhanzheng) was the wave of the future.34 The bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was considered a deliberate act by the US to expose China’s inability to react.

After the NATO bombing raids against Yugoslavia began, PLA’s deputy Chief of the General Staff General Xiong Guangkai hosted a one-day seminar to debate the strategy against an “increasingly unstable international environment.” The approximately 100 attendees including economists and foreign policy experts as well as retired and active military figures were said to have reached consensus that “unholy military alliances” were being strengthened and gun-boat policies are once again running rampant, and concluded that “China must develop plans to protect itself”.35

Imposition of No-fly Zone. China saw such actions as being those that could be replicated in the event of a deteriorating situation on the issue of Taiwan or the South China Sea.

Intervention in East Timor. The international force led by Australia coming to the aid of the East Timorians at their behest, resulting in the dismemberment of a segment of Indonesian territory, augurs ominous portents for China. This only strengthened its resolve to safeguard its sovereignty at any cost.

These events served to reinforce and even increase the PLA’s sense of urgency in pursuing the notion of “active defense” and pre-emptive strikes, as also developing a credible second strike nuclear capability. Many officials in the PLA view the Kosovo conflict as the first example of a purely “no contact” war, in which control of aerospace and information system were the deciding factors.36


31 Richard Bernstein and Ross H Muntro, The Coming Conflict with China, (Vintage Books, Random House, Inc, New York, 1998), p. 40.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid., p. 41.

34 June Teufel Dreyer, The PLA and the Kosovo Conflict US Army War College, May 2000, pp. 4-5.

35 Ibid., p. 5.

36 n. 29., p. 7.

National Security Guard: Are we destroying its elitism?

V Mahalingam

The Times of India reported that the National Security Guard (NSG) has pulled out around 900 of its commandos from VIP guarding duties and sent them for training in counter – terror operations as part of their original charter. The news would have cheered the Indian public on two counts. Firstly, guarding of VIPs by trained commandos is a monumental waste, such tasks being within the ambit of local police forces. Personnel from the NSG are specially selected and trained at great expense for a specialised counter terrorism role and using them for mundane security duties was counter-productive. The second count would pertain to the belief that this step would increase the counter terrorism capability and enhance the security of the environment. The latter hope is however misplaced.

Reinventing a role for the Special Rangers Group

The original charter of NSG visualised an organisation consisting of five major units each with approximately 900 personnel besides other minor units. Of these, two were the strike elements designated as the Special Action Groups (SAG), one for counter terrorism and the other on a counter hijack role. These units are capable of interchanging their roles if the situation so warrants. Both these units were to be manned by handpicked army personnel with on ground soldiering experience from the combat arms of the Army. The other three major units titled the Special Ranger Group (SRG) wereto be manned by personnel selected from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). These units were meant to provide combat support to the SAGs by establishing cordon or a firm base as deemed necessary.

The hidden aim of inducting the CAPF in the NSG stems from a desire of the bureaucracy and the political class to maintain a balance between the Army and the Police Forces in the elite force. The fabrication of the outfit in the present form was at the cost of the tax payers’ money without any tangible benefit in terms of counter terrorism capability. The absurdity and impracticality of the idea were too overwhelming to be missed or ignored.

NSG is a federal contingency force meant for employment anywhere in the country. Every time an operation is planned, a huge SRG contingent, at least four to five times the strength of the strike elements will be required to be airlifted for establishing the cordon. In certain situations, a cordon may have to precede the surgical strike. Their actions may require police powers and local expertise in terms of knowledge of the area and the local language, all of which the SRGs lack. NSG is dependent on local police for logistic support, follow up investigations, legal actions in terms of filing FIRs, as well as producing witnesses and evidences. The security implications of mobilising such a huge force for a Special Forces operation are manifold. These issues have all along been an impediment in employing SRGs in counter terrorism operations. It is precisely for these reasons, that the assistance of the local Army formation was sought to establish a cordon during the Hazratbal crisis in 1993. They were also not employed during the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai.

Consequently, at one point in time the SRGs were jobless and the VIP security duties were invented to keep them going as a part of the NSG, a turf requirement. The fact that VIP security duties and Special Forces operations had nothing in common was of no consequence. Now that some of the VIP security duties have been withdrawn, an effort is being made to re-reinvent a role for the SRGs by putting them through the counter terrorism training.

Need for restructuring NSG

NSG’s strength at present is very nearly ten thousand troops with four hubs spread around the country. Two regional centres are also proposed to be raised. Additional squadrons each have already been added to the SAGs and SRGs. Can we equip them with state of the art weapons and equipment? The efforts required to train and maintain the skills of such a large force are colossal.

We still do not appear to have grasped the essence of structuring or employing Special Forces. Strength of these forces does not lie in numbers as the powers that be seem to think. They are not meant to be employed on routine law and order or insurgency situations. It is not meant for neutralising common tactical targets like a militant, a criminal or capture weapons in an insurgency area and that too without any intelligence back up. They are the instruments meant to carry out surgical strike to neutralise or secure strategic objectives and undertake missions of national importance. One of the reasons why this force is losing sight of its raison d'êtrefor creation is its CAPF status as part of the Home Ministry. Their demands for weapons and equipment get diluted when viewed collectively with the other forces. It is time this force is shifted under the Cabinet Secretariat preferably under a body created to coordinate Special Operations.

Hubs and Numerical Strength

Considering the number of operations launched by the NSG since its raising, troops employed in each of them and their time plot, do we really need such a huge force, the hubs and the regional centres? Are they meant to handle both counter hijack and counter terrorist situations? Is it practicable? Will the time gained by positioning the hubs in various parts of the country make any difference in the launching of a major terrorist operation of the type envisaged for Special Forces? Will they improve the counter terrorism capability in the country? Delivering the NSG raising day lecture, MK Narayanan the erstwhile National Security Advisor felt that creating four NSG hubs were redundant and unnecessary.

Time Frame for Launching Special Operations

When a mission is conceived, tremendous amount of effort and time is required to gather process and produce the intelligence inputs needed to launch an operation. Forces require time to study the information, carryout reconnaissance, understand the objective, plan the operation, choose the weapon systems for the envisaged task, carry out rehearsals where necessary, deploy their strike elements and protective elements at selected places and be sure of certain critical issues before carrying out the strike. The strike will always be at a time of their choosing for tactical reasons. Operations cannot be rushed or pressure brought on the Force to act instantaneously. There are battle procedures and other means available to gain time in situations like the 26/11 which needs to be applied scientifically and diligently. Operation “Neptune Spear” conducted by the DEVGRU of the US SEAL to get Bin Laden took over five years to mature and execute. We can take a few lessons from the operation.

Need for Coordination and Support

However talented a special force may be, it needs the support and the backup of the state government, local police and the intelligence community besides the other security forces and agencies within the country. All these elements need to be trained alongside to achieve synergy. An apex body like the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the US with necessary authority is needed to requisition and coordinate all the necessary efforts. The confusion that prevailed outside the Taj Hotel in Mumbai during Operation Black Tornado cannot be allowed in the future.


Another important aspect pertains to the leadership of this Force. While junior leaders will have to have adequate operational experience besides professional training, the head of this organisation will have to have practical on ground experience of leading troops and conducting operations at the formation level. Police officers undoubtedly have very good knowledge of law and order and security issues, but lack practical experience in conducting military operations which an Army Officer especially from the Infantry gain right through their service starting from the platoon level. There can be no compromise on experience in a Special Force.


Special Forces cannot be allowed to multiply or bloat the way CAPF have expanded in our country. Turf issues and aspirations of empire building cannot be allowed to determine their role or the structure. Elitism, superior skills, state of the art weapons and equipment and not numbers will dictate the outcome of their operations. These Forces are of no value if they are not supported by every single organ of the country. That will require the creation of an authority to demand, coordinate and employ such resources.

The strike elements in the NSG are as good as, if not better than some of the world’s best Special Forces. Failure to keep politics out in the matter of structuring, training, employing and providing resources to the elite Special Force will cost the nation very dearly at a crucial moment.

Brig V Mahalingam (Retd) is a Defence Analyst based in New Delhi

Views expressed are personal

What is Hezbollah’s Role in the Syrian Crisis?

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 20
November 2, 2012
By: Nicholas A. Heras

Ali Hussein Nassif (Source Yalibnan)

Recent reports of an increase in Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria’s civil war as combatants alongside the Syrian military represent a potentially sharp escalation in the regional impact of the ongoing conflict. Accusations concerning Hezbollah’s military support for the Assad government leveled by the party’s Lebanese political opponents, the Syrian opposition and pro-opposition states have been persistent since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in March 2011. Hezbollah’s leadership has replied that it is protecting Lebanese Shi’a villagers living along the Lebanese-Syrian border from attacks by Syrian rebels and that the Syrian opposition is actively being funded and armed by anti-Assad international actors, including Hezbollah’s Lebanese opponents in the March 14 political bloc (Daily Star [Beirut], October 15).

On October 3, Free Syrian Army (FSA) chief Colonel Riyad Musa al-As’ad stated that the FSA had killed a senior Hezbollah military commander named Ali Hussein Nassif (a.k.a. “Abu Abbas”) and two of his bodyguards near the restive city of Qusayr on the Lebanese-Syrian border. Colonel al-As’ad further asserted that Nassif’s activities in the area had been monitored for two weeks, and that his death was the result of a carefully planned FSA targeted assassination intended as part of a larger FSA offensive against Hezbollah in and around Qusayr (The Daily Star, October 3). Hezbollah officials simply stated that Nassif had died “performing his jihadi duties” (AP, October 2). Several weeks after Nassif’s death, the FSA claimed it had killed an additional 60 Hezbollah fighters and captured 13 in the vicinity of Qusayr (al-Mustaqbal [Beirut], October 12).

Lebanese newspapers (some of them antagonistic to Hezbollah) have recently begun publishing stories describing a deeper military commitment by Hezbollah to the Syrian regime. According to one such report, an agreement between the Syrian Defense Ministry and Hezbollah calls for the latter to provide over 2,000 “elite” fighters to Syria in the event of a foreign invasion. The report also claimed that Hassan Nasrallah offered the Assad government the full use of Hezbollah’s military capabilities in the event that “urgent assistance” was needed (al-Jamhouria [Beirut], July 26).

Another Lebanese publication claimed that Unit 901, an alleged elite Hezbollah military unit, had crossed into Syria to fight in the cities of Qusayr, al-Rastan, Talbiseh, and Homs, all near the Lebanese-Syrian border (An-Nahar [Beirut], July 27). This movement of Hezbollah troops into Syria was reported to be the result of the Syrian military’s need for assistance in the campaign to defeat rebels in Aleppo (Majalla, August 23). Hezbollah, along with the Iranian Quds Force, was also alleged to be training a 60,000-person Syrian military division modeled after the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to protect the Alawite-majority Latakia Governorate of Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat, September 30).

Hezbollah’s soldiers were recently reported to have been participating as shock troops in several of the most intense battles of the conflict, including in and around Homs, Hama, suburbs of Damascus such as Zabadani and in the vital northern city of Aleppo (al-Sharq al-Awsat, October 20). FSA units operating in Qusayr claim they have killed over 300 Hezbollah and Iranian fighters (AFP, October 7). A defected member of the powerful Syrian Air Force Intelligence Branch has asserted that Hezbollah has 1,500 fighters supporting the Syrian military inside the country (Times UK, October 6).

Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, has refuted these allegations, stating that his party only supports the al-Assad government politically and that it was assisting 30,000 Lebanese Shi’a villagers living in 20 villages in Syria near the Lebanese border. [1] The villagers, in close vicinity to Qusayr and the city of Hermel in Lebanon, had, according to Nasrallah, been the victims of targeted assaults by the FSA and deserved the right to self-defense and support from the party (Ahul Bayt News Agency, October 12).

Shi’a refugees from the embattled villages claimed that over 5,000 armed men, the majority with ties to Hezbollah, were protecting the villages from attack (AFP, October 17). Hezbollah is alleged to have used Katyusha rockets against Sunni villages on the Syrian side of the border (Independent, October 26).

In spite of Hezbollah’s strong support for the al-Assad government, the presence of thousands of Hezbollah fighters actively participating in Syrian battlefields would be a significant departure from the established understanding of the party’s force capabilities. At present, the most consistent reports of direct Hezbollah military involvement in Syria occur in regions of the country that border Lebanon and have a significant Shi’a population, or in areas that are of strategic interest to Hezbollah because of their use as routes for moving weapons from Iran through Syria, such as the route through the Zabadan District of the Rif Dimashq Governorate.

Hezbollah’s active-duty military force is widely estimated to stand at between 2,000 and 4,000 fighters. These fighters are thought to be deployed mainly in southern Lebanon as a deterrent to Israeli invasion and throughout Hezbollah-controlled or monitored areas of Lebanon to guard the party’s exclusive “security zones” and weapons caches. Predominately Shi’a regions of Lebanon, such as in the southern suburbs of Beirut, southern Lebanon, and the Beka’a Valley, are secured by a mix of Hezbollah full-time fighters, auxiliary village-level militias and armed members of the Lebanese Shi’a AMAL movement [2]

A Lebanese Army source with extensive knowledge of Hezbollah’s war-fighting abilities states that any large-scale deployment of Hezbollah forces in Syria would most likely be the result of a severe strain being placed upon the Syrian military’s ability to overcome rebel activity in the larger cities of Syria, such as Aleppo and Homs. [3] Hezbollah’s specialization in reconnaissance and intelligence operations and doctrinal emphasis on the use of guerilla warfare would be of limited use in the current context of the Syrian theater of operations and its demand for mechanized capabilities that Hezbollah does not possess. Hezbollah Special Forces, such as the “Scorpions,” could be used in limited engagements to disrupt the Syrian rebels’ lines of support near the Turkish border or to perform rural ambush operations.

As a result of Hezbollah’s limited resources and specialized doctrine of warfare, deploying a large force in active combat alongside the Syrian military would present an enormous strain on the party’s ability to combat Israel and overcome its internal enemies inside of Lebanon. The presence of thousands of Hezbollah fighters in Syria would indicate either that the party has far more active-duty fighters than was previously believed, or that in order to execute a strategy of supplementing the Syrian military, Hezbollah is drawing significantly from its village-level reserves.

Potentially, Hezbollah could also convince its March 8-bloc allies in Lebanon, particularly AMAL, but also the Free Patriotic Movement, the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party and the Marada Movement, amongst others, to provide armed support for the Syrian military to supplement its efforts. Although this is a possibility, there is no convincing evidence at this time that Hezbollah’s Lebanese allies are mobilizing for combat duties in support of the Syrian military. This type of broad, March 8-bloc deployment would indicate that the parties in the bloc are confident in their ability to resist Israel in the event of another invasion of Lebanon and to overcome internal Lebanese rivals such as the Future Movement and Salafist militant groups in the event that an internal conflict were to erupt.

Further, the Syrian civil war presents anti-Hezbollah factions in Lebanon with a convenient opportunity to strike at the party and potentially minimize the risk of Hezbollah’s retribution against them. Reports indicate that more than 300 Lebanese fighters, mainly Sunnis, have been actively supporting the Syrian rebels in Homs Governorate, including an all-Lebanese military unit (Daily Star, May 31). Some of these Lebanese fighters state that they have fought with veteran rebel units such as the “Standard of the Free Orontes,” which claims to have faced Hezbollah soldiers in action in and around Homs (NOW Lebanon, October 19).

Areas of the Syrian governorates of Homs and Rif Dimashq that border Lebanon are now a battlefield where the Syrian military and Hezbollah are arrayed against fighters from the FSA and Lebanese anti-Hezbollah factions. The March 14 Bloc, frustrated in its ongoing efforts to reduce the political power of Hezbollah inside of Lebanon and to force the party to relinquish its heavy weapons, would benefit if the defeat of the Assad government forced Hezbollah to renegotiate its armed presence in Lebanon.

Nicholas A. Heras is an M.A. Candidate in International Communication at the American University (DC) and a former David L. Boren Fellow.


1. The United States Department of Treasury designated Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah as a sponsor of terrorism for “providing training, advice, and extensive logistical support to the government of Syria; directly trained Syrian military personnel and facilitated training efforts by the Iranian Quds Force; coordinating efforts with the Syrian military and the Quds Force to expel Syrian rebels” (U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 13, 2012, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1709.aspx).

2. The author would like to thank Dr. Carl Anthony Wege, professor at the Coastal College of Georgia, for his insight into the structure of Hezbollah’s military forces. 3. Interview conducted by the author with a Lebanese Army source with extensive operational experience throughout Lebanon who requested anonymity due to being on active duty. Interview conducted on October 24, 2012.

A Tale of Two Asias

 November 01, 2012

Whatever happened to the "Asian Century?" In recent months, two Asias, wholly incompatible, have emerged in stark relief.

There is "Economic Asia," the Dr. Jekyll -- a dynamic, integrated Asia with 53 percent of its trade now being conducted within the region itself, and a $19 trillion regional economy that has become an engine of global growth.

And then there is "Security Asia," the veritable Mr. Hyde -- a dysfunctional region of mistrustful powers, prone to nationalism and irredentism, escalating their territorial disputes over tiny rocks and shoals, and arming for conflict.

In today's Asia, economics and security no longer run in parallel lines. In fact, they are almost completely in collision.

In the one domain, Asian economies have come in recent years to depend increasingly on China -- and one another -- for trade, investment, and markets. And this trend toward regional economic integration has been reinforced over the last four years by austerity in Europe and slow growth in the United States. But these same economies now trade nationalist barbs, build navies, and acquire new arms and power projection capabilities. With the exception of China, all major Asian states, though their economies are increasingly integrated within Asia, are tacking hard across the Pacific toward the United States for their security.

So much for the new East Asian community of which many in Asia have dreamed.

What explains the change? Put bluntly, Economic Asia and Security Asia have become increasingly irreconcilable. But where Economic Asia was winning the contest in the decade and a half after the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, Security Asia has begun to overwhelm those recent trends.

Indeed, so powerful was the rise of Economic Asia that it had challenged even the longstanding American role in the region. Intra-Asian trade and investment took off fast with the end of the Cold War, but Asia's growing web of economic and political connections was particularly reinforced by the 1997-98 financial crisis, which hit hardest in places like Indonesia and Thailand. Across the region, elites came to view the United States as arrogant and aloof, and groped for their own solutions to regional economic challenges. The United States, which bailed out Mexico in 1994, refused to bail out Thailand just three years later, fueling perceptions that it neglected Southeast Asia. To many in Asia, Washington appeared to be dictating clichéd solutions. And, in the ensuing years, preferential trade agreements, regionally based regulations and standards, and institutions created without American involvement advanced. These have threatened to marginalize the United States over time.

But after two years of nationalistic rhetoric over rocks and islets in the East and South China Seas, Security Asia has roared back. Rampant and competing 19th and 20th-century nationalisms have moved again to the fore as pathologies that seemed frozen in time raise the specter of renewed conflict. A recent study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies reports that defense spending in China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Taiwan has doubled in the past decade, reaching $224 billion last year. Asians have worked for decades to develop a pan-Asian identity and enhance their collective clout in the global system. But economic integration has thus far yielded no basis for collective or cooperative security in the Pacific. Instead, the world's new center of economic gravity looks fragile and conflicted.

Politics Unbound?

Could Security Asia actually overwhelm, or even destroy, the economic gains that were beginning to pull the region away from its debilitating past? Some have argued that this is a temporary phenomenon -- a cynical ploy by Asia's politicians to build support at a time of domestic weakness.

But it is too easy to write off these recent developments as the product of domestic politics. Yes, China, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam, among others, are focused on internal economic or political developments. Seoul, for example, is in the midst of a presidential campaign. Japan's governing party faces a stiff test, and probable defeat, at the hands of a resurgent Liberal Democratic Party next year. China is in the midst of a once-in-a-decade political succession, and, what is more, Beijing has hit the upper limit of its existing growth model, which is delivering diminishing returns and threatens to become a major political vulnerability for the government. Vietnam and others in Southeast Asia face domestic pressures to supercharge their economies and reinvigorate reforms.

Yet while it is true that popular chauvinism is a useful tactic for Asia's beleaguered politicians, such tactics will yield significant costs and enduring damage. Nor are such passions easily turned on and off. Economic and political nationalism is deeply rooted in all Asian countries. It will survive and thrive even after these various political transitions are complete.

Just take the Vietnam-China relationship. Nayan Chanda wrote in his classic history of Indochina, Brother Enemy, that events after the fall of Saigon demonstrated that "Instead of being the cutting edge of Chinese Communist expansion in Asia that U.S. planners had anticipated, Vietnam proved to be China's most bitter rival and foe."

"History and nationalism, not ideology," he noted, powerfully shape Asia's future.

Just as these nationalisms threatened ideologies of Communist solidarity in the late 1970s, so do they now threaten ideologies of pan-Asian integration. Economic Asia is increasingly at risk.

Look, for example, at the recent events in China: As protestors took to the streets this fall in dozens of Chinese cities, Japanese businesses were attacked, thousands of China-Japan flights were canceled, and Honda, Toyota, Panasonic, and other popular Japanese brands closed factories. Sales of Japanese cars in China fell nearly 30 percentin September. The Chinese government, which aspires to a prominent role in international institutions, allowed nationalist passions to overwhelm expansive global ambitions: Beijing scaled back its participation in the 2012 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank simply because they were held in Japan.

The ghosts of history are visible elsewhere too. South Korea and Japan have traded nationalist recriminations over even tinier rocky islets. The result is that America's Northeast Asian allies, despite a robust trade relationship and a powerful shared interest in countering North Korean threats, could not sign even a straightforward intelligence-sharing agreement to enhance cooperation in the face of a common threat from Pyongyang.

Asia's Schizophrenia

Such developments belie much of what has been written about Asia's recent evolution. Many have argued, for instance, that Japanese strategy is now motivated principally by realpolitik instincts -- specifically a desire to balance rising Chinese power. But if this is true, then it is difficult to understand Tokyo's festering spat with South Korea.

What is more, Tokyo has long been an exemplar of Economic Asia and a motive force behind the quest for greater regional economic integration. Postwar Japan, a strong U.S. ally with a powerful sense of trans-Pacific identity, has incubated a variety of pan-Asian regional ideas and ideologies, especially with respect to Asian monetary integration. It was Japanese officials who in 1997 proposed the establishment of an Asian Monetary Fund, which helped give rise to today's Chiang Mai Initiative of bilateral swaps among ASEAN Plus Three countries (the ten Southeast Asian members of ASEAN, plus China, Japan, and South Korea). And it was Junichiro Koizumi, a prime minister with especially robust ties to the United States, who helped to push forward a China-Japan-South Korea trilateral mechanism and, with a competitive eye on China, other trade arrangements on the basis of ASEAN Plus Three.

Amazingly, even amid this autumn's high geopolitical drama over contested islets, talks among Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul for a trilateral free trade agreement rolled along. The same phenomenon can be seen in Southeast Asia. As fears of confrontation rose last summer, ASEAN Plus Three, which includes the South China Sea's three most vocal antagonists (China, Vietnam, and the Philippines), announceda strengthening of the Chiang Mai initiative through pledges that double the arrangement's size to $240 billion in the event of another financial crisis and the establishment of an implementation office. In November, ASEAN and six partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea) launched negotiations for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that could be worth $17 trillion in trade and will be a counterpoint to Washington's preferred pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Strategic Dilemmas

It is difficult to avoid analogies to Europe in 1914. Norman Angell's 1910 bestseller, The Great Illusion, argued that war would prove impossible because Western economies were so interdependent as to make conflict suicidal. But Thucydides' rationales why men go to war -- interest, honor, and fear -- have tended to prevail in international history.

The current push and pull between Economic Asia and Security Asia thus raises a number of powerful questions.

For one, Asia's major multilateral institutions have proved to be almost irrelevant to practical problem-solving. Is it, therefore, time to rethink these experiments in regional architecture?

Pan-Asian regionalism has failed to quell Asia's nationalist demons, and existing institutions, including those that involve the United States, have been largely missing in action throughout the turmoil of recent years. Last summer, ASEAN cohesion collapsed at a meeting in Phnom Penh, with the Cambodian chair at loggerheads with Vietnam and the Philippines over how sharply to confront Beijing. The new East Asia Summit (EAS) has done nothing to consolidate an agenda in between its annual meetings. And the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) has, similarly, become an arena for accusations and counterclaims. Indeed, the ARF is perhaps the most pregnant example of institutional failure. ARF is Asia's leading security forum, yet all of the major sources of prospective conflict -- Korea, Asian maritime claims, China-Taiwan, and India-Pakistan -- are largely off the table.

Revisiting Asia's regional institutions could help to fashion mechanisms better able to address the real problems while buttressing the U.S. position. Inertia and "process-centered" rituals continue to predominate at regional meetings. Diplomats rack up frequent flyer miles but little else.

Certainly, it can be useful for heads of state to meet regularly. But it would be wise for a group of like-minded countries, including the United States, to think through a modest but substantive operational agenda for the next EAS meeting to decide priority issues. Then, depending on the issue, leaders could ask that ARF or the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, or another relevant body, follow up with practical actions. This would begin to inject greater relevance into regional institutions and more connectivity among them.

Whither Washington?

A second question concerns the American role in Asia.

The U.S. role as Asia's security provider has been reinforced even as the region's economy has become increasingly pan-Asian, with the U.S. role shrinking in relative terms. This begs the question of whether the U.S. security role is sustainable without a significantly increased American economic profile in Asia, not to mention substantially greater leadership from Washington in driving regional trade and investment arrangements.

At present, Washington faces two strategic dilemmas:

First, the triumph of Security Asia would benefit the United States by assuring its centrality. After all, Washington is Asia's essential strategic balancer and is becoming more so against the backdrop of growing Chinese naval power and projection capabilities. The dilemma, then, is that a security-dominant Asia will, at the same time, be a vastly more volatile region. And such volatility and instability are precisely what the United States has worked for two decades to avoid.

Washington could find itself navigating uncomfortably between competing territorial claimants. It will find it difficult to avoid choosing sides not just on matters of principle, such as freedom of navigation, but also on this or that specific sovereignty claim -- for example, in the South China Sea between China and the Southeast Asian countries whom it has courted (some of whom have disputed claims with one another). An American president could ultimately find himself pulled into a military conflict over tiny shoals to which the United States has no claim.

A second dilemma is that Americans seek a stable, dynamic Pacific Rim for the long term and, in that sense, need Economic Asia to prevail. But economically, Asia is increasingly pan-Asian, meaning that American centrality could actually shrink as trade and investment patterns come to further reflect intra-Asian economic and financial integration.

U.S. economic involvement in Asia is growing in absolute terms but receding in relative terms. Trade with the United States comprises a diminishing share of nearly every East Asian country's total trade. Yet the U.S. response has been deeply inadequate. Thus far, Washington has focused mainly on security "rebalancing" to the exclusion of economic rebalancing. Asians are providing ever more economic public goods to one another, while the U.S. role in this sphere has ebbed.

If present trends persist, America will only continue to recede. Thus the United States needs to raise its economic game in the region. And that will require revitalizing the U.S. economy and fiscal fundamentals. More than any factor, these could make a difference in demonstrating that the United States has staying power in Asia for the long term.

If history is any guide, it may take a crisis or game-changing shift for Asia to move more fully onto the positive path of Dr. Jekyll. Greater American involvement with Economic Asia will help. But there are few scenarios likely to produce a more dramatic shift through which Economic Asia could overwhelm Security Asia.

If China stumbles in its efforts to rebalance its economy, concerns will mount that China is falling into the middle-income trap, potentially risking its political stability. That could bring Asians together through a shared interest in avoiding a downward spiral in China. Similarly, a sudden collapse of North Korea could threaten all of Asia, precipitating a sobering crisis and leading nervous Northeast Asians to work together to manage the transition to a reunified Korea.

But Dr. Jekyll faces a very uphill battle. Even under such dramatic scenarios, nationalistic responses could ensue, leading Mr. Hyde to prevail. Evan A. Feigenbaum is nonresident senior associate in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Robert A. Manning is senior fellow with the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council of the United States. Both served in the U.S. Department of State from 2001 to 2009. This piece was originally published on Foreign Policy.

Pakistan's Heavyweights

November 01, 2012

Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's national hero who peddled nuclear weapons secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya (under Moammar Gadhafi), now has his own political party to promote his presidential ambitions. He is also a media columnist and his anti-U.S. lucubrations are read in both English and Urdu.

Khan's close ally Hamid Gul is the former intelligence chief who invented (two weeks after Sept. 11, 2001) the world's most preposterous canard: The CIA and Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, staged the terrorist attacks against New York's Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

The objective: global agitation against the United States and Israel.

Defying the logic that three people can keep a secret provided two of them are dead, and that a conspiracy of that magnitude would have required scores of players, Gul's canard is believed to this day by an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis -- and countless hundreds of millions in scores of countries.

Books by French and German authors, with the same inane thesis, sold millions of copies all over Europe.

Last September, a Pakistani Cabinet minister offered al-Qaida and Taliban $100,000, presumably out of government funds, to kill the California-based producer of a crude low-budget video that insulted Prophet Muhammad.

Under pressure from the prime minister and his Cabinet colleagues, the offer was withdrawn.

Khan is the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, based on plans stolen from a Dutch nuclear research facility.

His new political party -- Movement for the Protection of Pakistan, or Tehreek Tahaffuze Pakistan -- is the platform he is using to get himself elected to Parliament next April. He claims to have 2 million party members.

The national hero thinks of himself in the role of Lee Kwan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, known as the Henry Kissinger of Asia, who turned a steamy tropical swampland into a vibrant city nation that is the envy of countless other countries.

As for Khan's nuclear black market activities in favor of America's sworn enemies, he explained recently that it was the late Benazir Bhutto, when she was prime minister, who gave him the order to sell nuclear secrets to America's enemies.

This triggered an avalanche of protests from Bhutto's myriad supporters. Two days later, Khan corrected his statement to say it was one of Bhutto's military assistants who had relayed the order. The assistant wasn't named.

The deal with North Korea made strategic sense for Pakistan. In exchange for nuclear wherewithal, North Korea gave Pakistan missile technology. Khan told Simon Henderson, as he reported in "Foreign Policy" magazine, that the North Koreans set up a plant in Pakistan to produce the Nodong missile, the delivery vehicle Pakistan sought for its nuclear warheads.

Successive Pakistani governments, Khan said, knew what he was doing. Former President Pervez "Musharraf gave all our highly classified and secret information to the U.S., the U.K., Japan and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and sent invaluable centrifuge samples to the U.S. and IAEA. He even gave them centrifuge drawings worth billions of dollars just to gain their patronage. For that, he is a traitor."

Then, Khan says defiantly, "I don't care what Western leaders think about me."

But wasn't he a rogue agent? Henderson asks Khan.

"The traitor," he responds, "was Musharraf," now in self-exile in Dubai and London. "He gave away all our highly classified and secret nuclear information."

"Nobody in Pakistan doubts my integrity, honesty, sincerity or patriotism," he tells Henderson.

Then, in a fit of modesty, Khan adds, "Pakistan historians will remember me by the nickname they have given me: Mohsin-e-Pakistan (Savior of Pakistan)."

There are two years left on the clock in Afghanistan to total U.S. and NATO withdrawal. There is no face-saving deal without Pakistan. But there isn't one with Pakistan, either.

In recent years, China has quietly and gradually displaced U.S. influence in Pakistan. From the building of a new port and naval base at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea to a deal under negotiation for 250 JF-17 fighter bombers at $20 million per aircraft, two nuclear power plants at almost $1 billion each (all on long-term credit), China has moved quietly to become the dominant foreign power in Pakistan.

India doesn't like what it sees as an emerging geopolitical horizon of Chinese power that would stretch in a semicircle from northwest to northeast. India doesn't forget China invaded its northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in 1962.

China's strategic planning is 20 years ahead of Western thinking.

The average uneducated Afghan knows NATO is leaving. Thousands of heavy-duty items are being weatherproofed for shipment back to the United States. Many items are also being left behind for the Afghan army, already heavily infiltrated by the Taliban; witness the green-on-blue assassinations of their U.S. military trainers and advisers.

There are arguments about the proposed renaming of streets with the names of heroes of the anti-Soviet war in the 1980s and the anti-Taliban guerrilla campaign of the past decade. Why insult possible future friends and leaders?

Phase-out plans state Congress is expected to vote each year for 10 years $7 billion in economic aid and $4 billion in security assistance for the Afghan army -- a grand long-range commitment of $110 billion.

A similar commitment to South Vietnam in 1973 lasted two years. Congress then pulled the plug and North Vietnam's Communist army marched into Saigon.

The second Obama administration or the first Romney Cabinet will have to plan for a different ending.

Arnaud de Borchgrave, a member of the Atlantic Council, is editor-at-large at UPI and the Washington Times. This column was syndicated by UPI.

Top Five Threats to National Security in the Coming Decade

November 2012

By Sandra I. Erwin, Stew Magnuson, Dan Parsons and Yasmin Tadjdeh

Defense technologists are most successful when they hone in on specific problems. The Pentagon’s research agencies and their contractors were asked in 2003 to come up with ways to foil roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and although they did not defeat the threat entirely, they did produce a number of useful detectors, jammers and other counter-explosive systems. More recently, military researchers received marching orders to help tackle the so-called “anti-access area-denial” threats, which is Pentagon-speak for enemy weapons that could be used to shoot down U.S. fighters and attack Navy ships.

The next wave of national security threats, however, might be more than the technology community can handle. They are complex, multidimensional problems against which no degree of U.S. technical superiority in stealth, fifth-generation air warfare or night-vision is likely to suffice.

The latest intelligence forecasts by the Obama administration and other sources point to five big challenges to U.S. and global security in the coming decades.

Biological Weapons: The White House published in 2009 a National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats with an underlying theme that biological weapons eventually will be used in a terrorist attack. To prevent deadly viruses from being turned into mass-casualty weapons, officials say, one of the most difficult challenges is obtaining timely and accurate insight on potential attacks. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency has a team of researchers working these problems. But they worry that the pace of research is too slow to keep up with would-be terrorists.

Nukes: Large stockpiles of nuclear weapons are tempting targets for nation-states or groups set on attacking the United States and its allies, officials assert. Black-market trade in sensitive nuclear materials is a particular concern for U.S. security agencies. “The prospect that al-Qaida or another terrorist organization might acquire a nuclear device represents an immediate and extreme threat to global security,” says an administration report. No high-tech sensors exist to help break up black markets, detect and intercept nuclear materials in transit and there are no financial tools to disrupt this dangerous trade. A much-hyped Department of Homeland Security effort to detect radioactive materials at U.S. ports has been plagued by technical hiccups. Analysts believe that although a full-up nuclear weapon would be nearly impossible for an al-Qaida like group to build, a more likely scenario would be a low-yield “dirty bomb” that could be made with just a few grams of radioactive material.

Cyber-Attacks: The drumbeats of cyberwarfare have been sounding for years. Network intrusions are widely viewed as one of the most serious potential national security, public safety and economic challenges. Technology, in this case, becomes a double-edge sword. “The very technologies that empower us to lead and create also empower individual criminal hackers, organized criminal groups, terrorist networks and other advanced nations to disrupt the critical infrastructure that is vital to our economy, commerce, public safety, and military,” the White House says.

The cybersecurity marketplace is flooded with products that promise quick fixes but it is becoming clear that the increasing persistence and sophistication of attacks will require solutions beyond the traditional.

Climate Change: The national security ramifications of climate change are severe, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. While the topic of climate change has been hugely politicized, Panetta casts the issue as a serious security crisis. “In the 21st century, we recognize that climate change can impact national security — ranging from rising sea levels, to severe droughts, to the melting of the polar caps, to more frequent and devastating natural disasters that raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Panetta said. The administration projects that the change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources and catastrophic natural disasters, all of which would require increased U.S. military support and resources. The scientific community, in this area, cannot agree on what it will take to reverse this trend. There is agreement, though, that there is no silver bullet.

Transnational Crime: U.S. defense and law-enforcement agencies see transnational criminal networks as national security challenges. These groups cause instability and subvert government institutions through corruption, the administration says. “Transnational criminal organizations have accumulated unprecedented wealth and power through the drug trade, arms smuggling, human trafficking, and other illicit activities. … They extend their reach by forming alliances with terrorist organizations, government officials, and some state security services.” Even the United States’ sophisticated surveillance technology is not nearly enough to counter this threat, officials say.

In this special report, National Defense examines the top five threats in greater detail.


The public health community’s dream is to make the arrival and spread of communicable diseases as easy to predict and track as the weather.

Just as a meteorologist spots the seeds of a hurricane off the African coast, and begins to plot its possible path as it makes its way toward the Caribbean, a global bio-surveillance network would allow officials to detect a bio-weapon or the emergence of a deadly flu virus in China and track it as it spreads throughout the world. Measures could then be taken to quickly develop and distribute vaccines.

Despite the onset of the information age, where a doctor in Asia could theoretically inform a centralized information clearinghouse on the other side of the world of a new virus within seconds, realizing this dream is years away, experts at a recent National Defense Industrial Association Biosurveillance conference said.

Making diseases as predictable as the weather is a lofty goal, but the weather analogy is an imperfect one, said Steve Bennett, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Biosurveillance Integration Center. To start, the medical community doesn’t have all the prediction models that weather watchers can use to plug data into. They just don’t exist.

“Prediction is a pretty difficult thing to achieve,” he said. “Real-time situational awareness, I think we can get close.”

Congress established the center in 2007 to pull together the efforts of 12 federal agencies and departments that are charged with tracking diseases. Its goal is to “rapidly identify, characterize, localize and track a biological event of national concern; integrate and analyze data relating to human health, animal, plant, food, water, and environmental domains; and to disseminate alerts and pertinent information.”

The Defense Department’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture are all among the entities that track diseases.

“I think there was this idea in 2007 when that law was stood up … there was this thought that there were these databases all around the federal government and the states and all we had to do was put $100 million into an IT system and hook it all together, and out comes wisdom,” Bennett said.

The databases don’t exist, or they exist in spreadsheets on different systems, and they are not structured at all, he said. Five years after the law was passed, Bennett still spends the bulk of his time visiting other agencies to keep tabs on what is happening.

“It is people and relationships. I wish there was a more technical solution, but that is kind of the way it is,” he said.

As far as developing a real-time global picture of what diseases are spreading and where, there seem to be more questions than answers.

“Right now the sum of biosusurveillance is based on ambiguous data. And to go from ambiguous data to a decision is a very difficult thing to do,” said C. Nicole Rosenzweig, a research biologist at the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland.

How do analysts take something that is at some level, research, and assess it as though we have complete confidence in it? she asked. “A lot of research will have to go into this,” she added.

Information technology systems that could collect and coordinate the data and give public health officials a picture of where diseases are emerging is only one part of the problem.

The main issue is that the policies and procedures on how to do this have yet to be worked out.

Harshini Mukundan, a scientist in the chemical division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said diseases emerge in food, humans and animals.

“They are all interconnected and having separate agencies monitoring each [one] defeats the cause,” she added.

Who owns the biosurveillance data? she asked. Is it going to be governments or the World Health Organization? “It is hard to envision what the system will look like and how exactly it will function. … We need some direction on that from the government to start imagining how it will be implemented,” Mukundan added.

Bennett said: “There are lot of systemic issues that we need to fix, process issues, authority issues, things that can make decisions faster.”

Laurie Garrett, a policy analyst and senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said all the technical problems could be solved in five to 10 years, “but I don’t believe we have the capacity or the will to implement” them.

The political crisis in the United States today means it is difficult to get any kind of decision from the federal government. Many state legislatures are suffering from similar gridlock, she said.

“Are the problems bureaucratic, financial or policy? The answer is ‘yes,’ [to] all three,” she said.

Transparency has been an issue on the federal government’s end. For example, it issued a gag order on federal scientists during the 2001 anthrax attacks.

“As a result, on the local level, they were operating almost blind and did not have vital information,” she said.

Meanwhile, the government may be turning to the public for help.

Health and Human Services recently sponsored a grand challenge asking competitors to use Twitter to create a web-based application that would compile the top five trending illnesses in a geographic area and distribute the findings to state and local public health officials.

Bennett said there is valuable data contained in insurance claims. Such forms have geo-location tags and could help public health officials to see where diseases are cropping up. But then there are privacy issues.

“I don’t need to know specific patient information. ...I need to know general trends.”

The national security community may not need to know the kinds of data that would intrude on personal privacy, he added.

Jason Pargas, special assistant to the director at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s chemical and biological technologies directorate, said he believes that these issues will all be worked out in five to 10 years. He is in the research-and-development community, so he has to be an optimist, he said. Prediction models, applied math and computing may converge to where disease forecasts could become possible, he said.

But governments need to see the public as a partner.

“If you engage the public, you will have a much more redundant, highly, highly effective system,” he said.

 Nuclear Weapons

Still at the top of the list of the most terrifying threats to the United States are nuclear weapons.

The nation has spent an almost incalculable amount of money over the past six decades to find them, monitor them, and destroy the means by which they are delivered.

Open source information suggests there is still a lot of work to be done.

Research into hitting an intercontinental ballistic missile bearing a nuclear warhead with another missile began in the Eisenhower administration 50 years ago. Yet today, this can still only be accomplished under the most controlled circumstances with questions remaining on whether decoys could easily defeat the “hitting a bullet with a bullet” scenario.

President Reagan’s dead-end effort to shoot down missiles from space, better known as Star Wars, came to naught. The Airborne Laser program, which envisioned destroying missiles on the launch pad by using directed energy shot from an aircraft, also came to a halt.

The mutually assured destruction doctrine offset these defensive shortcomings. But as many analysts have noted, non-state actors such as terrorist groups, if they were to get their hands on a nuke, don’t play by those rules.

More recently, the Department of Homeland Security abandoned a program to develop Advanced Spectroscopic Portals that could detect a smuggled warhead inside a shipping container. The congressional mandate to scan every container entering the United States means that this effort will continue, although on a smaller scale.

Less overt is the detection problem. Who has nukes? And where are they?

The answer is: underground.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is hidden deep in its mountains, as are Iran’s alleged efforts.

Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in his annual threat assessment released in February before his retirement, said underground facilities that may hide missiles and weapons of mass destruction are “spreading.”

Finding, assessing, mapping and ultimately destroying a hard and deep buried target — HDBT in military lingo — has become an increasingly difficult challenge for the military and spy communities, Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Baker, wrote in an Army War College paper, “The Strategic Importance of Defeating Underground Facilities.” The two communities have placed a great deal of emphasis on tackling this problem during the last decade, he wrote. Most of it has been carried out with little attention. Despite the low profile, the military has been taking the problem seriously.

“America’s potential adversaries have realized that current non-nuclear penetrating weapons are relatively ineffective in destroying underground facilities,” Baker wrote. Weapons of mass destruction programs are now underground in an effort to remain out of reach. New commercial tunneling technologies have also made underground bunkers less expensive to build, he noted.

The National Reconnaissance Office, National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency and the Air Force all need sensors to detect nuclear weapons, as well as the underground bunkers where they are hiding. The Air Force’s Technical Applications Center, based at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., has been tasked with searching for nuclear weapons and verifying treaties.

Much of its work is classified. If the U.S. is to preemptively destroy a nuclear weapons program, it will require intelligence on where these weapons are located and how deep underground they are stored.

An effort to destroy an underground complex may require repeated bombings by massive ordnance penetrator. These can only be carried by B-2 bombers, and only one at a time.

Jeffrey Richelson, senior fellow at the National Security Archives, a research institute that pries secret documents out of the government through Freedom of Information Act requests, said, “We obviously need weapons that can penetrate through certain depths, through certain hardness. But whether they can even build them to attain certain levels of destruction, I just don’t know … I’m not even sure the people in the Defense Department know. They are guessing, trying to figure it out using various models.”

Then comes the difficult question of battlefield damage assessment. Some things could be determined from outside, such as whether a bombing campaign collapsed an entrance. But since there may be an incomplete picture of what was inside a deeply buried bunker in the first place, it would be hard to know if a strike was successful, he said.

Documents show that the Defense Department and intelligence community over the past decade have been taking this problem seriously. “It has become more prominent and more important in recent years,” Richelson said.

Baker’s paper identified more than $1 billion being spent tackling underground facility defeat issues during fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

There is some good news. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed by most countries, has yet to be ratified. But it has helped create a robust global network that can monitor clandestine underground nuclear weapon detonations. A National Academies report released in 2000 spelled out the shortcomings signees would have in attempting to detect tests. On a typical day, the Earth experiences hundreds of earthquakes and large mine blasts. The seismic clutter made it difficult to detect underground nuclear explosions, said Paul Richards, a Colombia University emeritus professor of geophysics and seismology at a Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy briefing on Capitol Hill.

A follow-up report released this year showed remarkable progress over the last decade. Hundreds of seismic and air-sniffing sensors have been placed all over the world, and countries have done a better job of sharing their legacy seismic sensor data with those who monitor the treaty, he said.

The radioactive particles released by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant accident last year were detected all over the globe and as far as South America, said Robert Werzi, who maintains the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s 80 radionuclide air monitors. If a sensor detects a manmade radioactive particle, analysts can then determine how many days old it is, backtrack the weather patterns, and pinpoint its origins, he said.

Officials believe the network of seismic sensors is good enough to detect 90 percent of any clandestine attempt to test a nuclear weapon that is over 1 kiloton. The lower the yield is on a test, the less effective it is.

Richards said it is necessary “to consider how well nuclear tests can be carried out evasively.”

There is a need for a continuing research-and-development program to improve the network of sensors, he added.

“The goal of the monitoring effort is to drive ever downwards the yield of anything that might go undetected or identified,” he said.

 The Future of Cyber-Wars

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, sees a day in the not too distant future when attacks on computer networks cross the line from theft and disruption to “destruction.”

And this chaos will not all take place in the digital world of ones and zeroes. He is referring to remote adversaries taking down infrastructure such as power grids, dams, transportation systems and other sectors that use computer-based industrial controls.

The last decade has seen mostly exploitation by adversaries, or the theft of money and intellectual property. Next came distributed denial of service attacks when hackers overwhelm networks and disrupt operations of businesses or other organizations, Alexander said at a recent Woodrow Wilson Center panel discussion on cybersecurity.

Other than intercontinental ballistic missiles and acts of terrorism, an adversary seeking to reach out and harm the United States has only one other option: destructive cyber-attacks, Alexander said.

This could result in loss of life and damage to the economy on par with what occurred after 9/11.

“All of that is within the realm of the possible,” he said. “I believe that is coming our way. We have to be out in front of this,” Alexander said.

How to thwart such attacks is the problem the nation is facing.

Most of the Internet’s infrastructure through which malware is delivered is in the private sector’s hands. So too are the banking, energy, transportation and other institutions that are vulnerable to the attacks.

During the past year, there have been 200 attacks on core critical infrastructures in the transportation, energy, and communication industries reported to the Department of Homeland Security, said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Undoubtedly there are more that have not been reported,” she said during the panel.

“In this case, the dots have already been connected. The alarm has already been sounded, and we know it is only a matter of when, not whether we have a catastrophic attack,” she said.

Alexander, Collins and others are advocating for a more coordinated national effort to share information on cyberthreats. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency have loads of expertise, but can’t always share classified information, or cross lines when it comes to the privacy of U.S. citizens. The rest of the federal government has bits and pieces of information, and different responsibilities. Private sector companies are sometimes reluctant to disclose attacks for fear of upsetting shareholders or opening themselves up to lawsuits. Legislation co-sponsored by Collins to help pave the way for better information sharing died in Congress last summer.

Despite having poured countless amounts of money into cybersecurity on both the federal and private levels, there is still a lot to be learned about the threat, said one analyst.

“Why do we have a cyberwar community? Because we haven’t mastered cyber,” said Martin Libicki, senior management scientist at Rand Corp. The main problem is that computers were originally seen as something to be “tinkered” with, Libicki said.

“We’ve built the most important infrastructure on things that were made to be toys,” said Libicki. Being toys, computer systems from the start have gaps and vulnerabilities needing to be patched.

“Every cyber-attack is a reflection of some vulnerability in the system,” said Libicki.
Greg Giaqunito, an analyst at Forecast International, said it’s not enough to defend the nation from attacks, offensive capabilities are required.

Increasingly, the United States is taking more proactive measures against adversaries and initiating activity, Giaqunito said.

“We are actually taking proactive action against other adversaries, so it’s not only protecting ourselves, but the U.S. taking more proactive stances and actually initiating some activity against U.S. adversaries,” he said.

Over the next few years, the hackers will become more sophisticated, said Charles Croom, vice president of cyber security solutions at Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the technologies are becoming more advanced — even the most sophisticated threats often use known vulnerabilities and malware, Croom said — but the adversaries have become more effective.

Lockheed Martin’s Security Intelligence Center has over the last 10 years compiled a database of patterns and hacking groups. This information can help analysts as they work to stop threats.
While innovation in technology is important, Croom said the backbone of its security system is its analysts.

A shortage of network security experts continues to be a problem in both government and the private sector. Alexander said because of the poor economy, he isn’t having a problem attracting and retaining service personnel and civilian employees to Cyber Command now, but that won’t always be the case. Incentives and bonuses may be needed to retain experts, he said.

Duke Ayers, program manager of SAIC’s CyberNEXS initiative, a live-training program that focuses on cyber education, said, “We know that we’re not developing people fast enough in cyber or the technical skills.” SAIC, along with other partners such as the University of Texas at San Antonio, developed the CyberNEXS program that gives immediate feedback to participants as they pursue cyber-education.

Industry, the Defense Department and the Air Force Association have also teamed up to work on the CyberPatriot program, a nationwide high school-level competition intended to motivate high school students to get involved in the cybersecurity sector early and to cultivate talent.

Industry has also formed partnerships with academia to help stop attacks. In 2009, Northrop Grumman started its Cybersecurity Research Consortium, which includes Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Purdue University. There they investigate the various security threats that face the economy and national security and work on solutions that can help stop them, said Mike Papay, vice president of Cyber Initiatives at Northrop Grumman Information Systems.

With cybersecurity, Papay said, government and industry need to work together from the beginning during the procurement process. This, he said, is one way to reduce costs and achieve better cybersecurity.

“It’s not just about acquiring pure cybersystems anymore; it’s about acquiring UAV’s, radars, ships, etc, where cyber needs to be embedded to ensure mission success. Government and industry need to consider cyber in almost everything they do,” said Papay.

Despite all these initiatives, Collins struck a pessimistic tone, especially when it comes to the federal government’s response.

“In all the years that I have been working on homeland security issues, I can’t think of another area where the threat is greater, and we have done less,” she said.

 Climate Change

For the U.S. military, climate change is a “ring-road” issue that surrounds its future strategic planning.

No matter which way the Defense Department turns, U.S. global interests will eventually intersect with the effects of a warming planet, analysts said.

While politicians debate the legitimacy of climate science, the Defense Department has recognized it has a practical, hard-security interest in tackling issues like its energy footprint, said David Michel, director of environmental security at the Stimson Center.

“There’s no tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, granola eating aspects to the military’s approach,” Michel told National Defense. “The water-food-energy nexus of issues caused by climate change is going to be a rising challenge for the military and the national security strategy reflects that.”

The military will have an ever-increasing need for sensors and observation platforms to keep constant watch on how climate change manifests itself through weather and ecological phenomena, said Michel.

“These technologies are increasingly particularized and specialized,” he said. “We need to make sure that all of our eyes in the sky are not only looking at North Korea, for instance, but gathering a wealth of data from many areas. We need an inclusive data network to which many different observation technologies contribute.”

At the ends of the Earth, where climate change is already noticeable in receding ice caps, the same technologies are needed to monitor the melt, said Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Coast Guard will also need new ships that can patrol the cold waters of the Arctic, to provide a constant presence in what could become the world’s newest contested open ocean, she said.

The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review lists resource scarcity, climate change, disease, and demographics as “enduring trends” that threaten national security.

The challenge for the U.S. military, as it shifts its primary focus to the Pacific Ocean, will be balancing its response to acute events with a chronic, sustained preparedness for the long-term effects of climate change, Michel said. The Pacific already averages 70,000 annual deaths to natural disasters ranging from floods to typhoons and earthquakes.

“We’re likely to see more of those sorts of acute events,” Michel said. “But even at the same frequency and strength as we see them today … as populations continue to grow, as urbanization along coastlines continues, more people will be exposed.”

The U.S. military has a unique ability to provide infrastructure at nearly a moment’s notice when disaster strikes. A single carrier strike group can provide medical supplies, lift capabilities and communications to a country devastated by a catastrophic event, as it did after a massive earthquake ravaged Haiti in 2010. The Marine Corps, along with the Navy, has pledged that disaster relief and humanitarian aid will be two of their main duties within a Pacific-centered security strategy.

The chronic results of climate change are more challenging. Funneling resources to combat a problem that might not manifest for decades is a hard sell, especially with constrained budgets, Conley said. But phenomena associated with climate change like persistent drought, violent flooding and agricultural disruption are real and immediate concerns for many of the nations the United States partners with around the world, Michel said. The effects are also causing the most disruption in some of the world’s most politically unstable regions — Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America.

“To the extent that climate change is an issue for our partners … it is going to become an issue for us,” Michel said. “The military is also aware that … climate impacts could be accelerants of instability in the countries where we have political interests or strategic concerns.”

There are opportunities also associated with a warming planet. Some effects like the melting polar ice caps are regrettable ecologically but potentially a windfall for global commerce, said Conley. A receding Arctic icecap could mean the Northwest and Northeast passages and Russia’s Northern Sea Route could remain open longer in summer. Eventually they could remain navigable to commercial shipping year-round.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center in September announced that the polar ice cap shrank over the summer months to the smallest area in the 33 years that records have been kept — just 1.5 million square miles at its nadir.

“We’re really seeing a dramatic acceleration of Arctic ice melt,” Conley said. “As the ice recedes, there are increases in commercial and other human activity. It also opens new sources of oil and gas and tourist opportunities in new waters.”

The implications of the sudden availability of natural resources and shipping lanes through the Arctic have drawn much attention from nations spanning the globe. The obvious players — the eight-member Arctic Council, which includes the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Iceland — are concerned about border security where a sea of ice once did the work for them.

Other nations as far away as India and China are trying to gain admission to the council to advocate for their interests in shipping through an open Arctic, which could lessen by a third the time and cost of trans-oceanic shipping, said Conley.

For those and other reasons, the U.S. military “is just as interested in the decline of polar ice as the polar bear people,” Michel said.

It is another instance where the military, by addressing a practical challenge to national security, can have a positive ecological impact, like the Navy being a champion of biofuels. Navy officials view renewable energy as a means of bringing down the cost of operations. The Marines care less about curbing global warming than they do about keeping fuel and water convoys off vulnerable roads. But the net result of sustainable resource programs is a significant reduction in the military’s carbon footprint, Michel said.

In the Arctic, however, the United States is woefully unprepared for the challenge. The Coast Guard has a single operational icebreaker and the military hasn’t built one for more than 30 years.

“This summer, when Shell Oil attempted to drill offshore in the Arctic, they were able to bring more assets to bear than the U.S. Coast Guard could ever hope to muster,” Conley said. “When we need resources, we borrow them from other countries. By the time there is a crisis there, we won’t have the ability to address it.”

There are other strikes against U.S. polar preparedness. Because the disappearance of the ice cap is a long-term issue that may not have consequences for decades, it is difficult to interest policymakers and even more difficult to pin down funding for infrastructure and ships, Conley said.

The Arctic is also an area where 20 federal agencies have some role, creating headaches for strategists and diplomatic efforts to manage competition there.

“Coordination of Arctic policy is a nightmare on a good day,” she said.

In the Arctic, as in Asia and the Pacific, the United States will be forced to acknowledge and address climate change, if it is to uphold its professed role as a global power to secure and maintain the free-flow of public goods, Michel said.

“If we say climate change is one of our major concerns that is going to shape the 21st century and then we ignore it, the international community will notice,” he said.

 Transnational Crime/Terror

Well before the May killing of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs, the terrorist organization he headed had become a dispersed, loosely linked network of international terror and criminal groups.

Add to that the existing transnational trafficking in narcotics, weapons and people, and the recipe yields a complicated problem for U.S. military and law enforcement agencies at home and abroad.

“We’re going to continue to have this transnational, non-standard set of threats and everything that goes with that,” said Garry Reid, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations, during a discussion of future SOF operations at the annual Air and Space conference in September. “Those threats are going to persist in multiple environments over the next 10-plus years.”

Countering those threats is made all the more difficult given that the U.S. military can’t take its eye off state-level actors to fight non-state, non-standard actors.

“Our national defense focus and clearly the focus of our Special Operations Command has got to equally be on … high-end threats and state competitors of the future,” Reid said.

Events like the Arab Spring have created power vacuums and ungoverned lands where criminals and terrorist groups are able to operate with impunity.

While much of the U.S. military’s attention has been on the Middle East, anti-U.S. terror groups and al-Qaida sympathizers have spread elsewhere.

Today, the arc of instability, from West to East Africa to Pakistan to Bangladesh has any number of al-Qaida copycat sympathizers, Arnaud de Borchgrave, senior adviser and director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in January.

Illegal trade is “increasingly converging with ideologically-motivated networks, fostering a new generation of hybrid threats,” according to information from the project’s website.

Mali and Libya were two examples given by Reid of places where those two forces are converging. A coup last year in Mali left the country’s inhospitable north largely ungoverned. “Bandits and kidnappers” have since set up shop.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has reared its head in Mali, operating without constraint in the arid north, some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth.

“Al-Qaida branched into there a few years ago and showed mixed results with proselytizing their ideology,” Reid said. “They have not posed a transnational threat per se to attack the United States homeland, but they are of growing concern to our interests in the region.”

The group draws its origins from desert bandits and smugglers taking advantage of a power vacuum to advance their and al-Qaida’s interests. The instability in Libya has afforded them an opportunity to spread their beliefs there also, Reid said.

They gain a significant amount of resources from kidnapping for ransom — tens of millions of dollars go into their treasure chests. For al-Qaida, kidnapping to fund terrorist activities is a relatively new brand of criminality, he said.

These are small-scale crimes with regional implications for which military intervention is not well suited. They call instead for foreign military engagement by special operations forces, which have been overstretched this last decade, and for which no respite is in sight, Reid said.

“We see ourselves being pretty busy in the future,” he said.

The situation calls, as many others do, for technologies that are force multipliers, like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms that are easily deployed and operated by militaries short on resources.

There are “issues of partner-nation absorption,” of what portion of the enforcement burden native societies and militaries can take on, Reid said. Technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles and persistent border surveillance can enhance that absorption, he said.

But it is “not as simple as providing a piece of kit and waving goodbye,” he said. “How do we allow a small nation to have the advantage of these capabilities? These technologies will have to be scalable.”

Simply handing over or lending the U.S. military’s large and complicated unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance systems won’t do. Once criminal activity is detected, the host nation must be have the will and training to curtail it.

That will require a steady presence of SOF personnel in remote parts of the world. Distributed operations of that nature and scope call for a secure communications network the United States doesn’t currently have, Reid said.

The transnational threat also hits close to home. The United States is the world’s primary market for illicit drugs. They flow over the nation’s land and maritime borders by the ton and government agencies catch only about a third of what’s smuggled, Gen. Douglas Fraser, then the commander of U.S. Southern Command, told defense reporters in March.

An estimated 1,200 to 1,500 metric tons of illegal drugs are produced in South and Central America each year, Fraser said. Of that, about 60 percent eventually makes it to the United States, he said.

Here again, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies can help. But eyes in the sky can only spy, and in South America are often hampered by rain forests.

In countries like Colombia and Honduras, criminals hide beneath a triple-canopy rain forest through which current sensors cannot penetrate, Fraser said. “That’s really a [research-and-development] effort right now. ... We have not gotten to a penetrative capability yet.”

UAVs, however, cannot interdict drugs or smugglers once they are found. The Coast Guard and Navy need more ships for that task, or other weapon systems that both spot and stop illegal drug and gun trafficking, he said.

But technology is not always the silver bullet, Fraser said. Just as in North Africa, countering transnational threats in South America is accomplished by using some technologies like maritime radar but is best done through direct cooperation with regional allies and old-fashioned word-of-mouth intelligence gathering, he said.

While UAVs have developed rapidly because of successes in Iraq and Afghanistan — Reid credits many of SOF’s “most public successes” on their spying abilities — they aren’t necessarily the best platform for every job, Fraser said.