7 January 2013

Af-Pak Diary: Are Regional Differences over Afghanistan Irreconcilable?

D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS E-mail: subachandran@ipcs.org

An earlier commentary on this issue asked the following: can there be a region-led and region-owned solution for stability in Afghanistan? Can the stakeholders be brought together? 

For any regional initiative to achieve success in stabilising and securing Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India and countries of Central Asia remain crucial stakeholders. In particular, Pakistan, Iran and India are three countries that have the potential to both stabilise and destabilise Afghanistan. All three hold larger strategic interests in Afghanistan; unfortunately, these interests have the potential to both build and break Afghanistan. 

Of the three countries, Pakistan is extremely apprehensive of the future of Afghan stability, in terms of external influences and investments in Kabul. Undoubtedly, Rawalpindi (and to an extent Islamabad) would like to have a stable, if not too strong Afghanistan. The military and the ISI in Pakistan would like to ensure that the future leadership in Kabul is not strong enough, either politically or militarily, to build Afghan resistance against Pakistan’s influence. More than Indian presence in Afghanistan, a strong Afghanistan antagonistic towards Islamabad, is not in Pakistan’s interests. While Pakistan is well aware of Karzai’s position, it cannot take the Taliban’s support for granted; given that if the Taliban come to power, they may have their own perspectives. 

The first and foremost strategic interest of Pakistan in Afghanistan is, to ensure that the regime in Kabul is under substantial influence of Islamabad. This has been the primary reason for the military and ISI getting upset when the US and some European countries, especially Germany, attempted to open a direct line with the Taliban, bypassing Pakistan. The fact that the Taliban also accepted to negotiate with the West, without the ISI’s knowledge, made Pakistan even more apprehensive. 

The second strategic objective of Pakistan in Afghanistan, aims to ensure that there remains no space for India in any future Afghan settlement. While the traditional belief on “strategic depth” is being repudiated by many within Pakistan, the contemporary Pakistani fear is over Indian presence in Kabul and in multiple towns in Afghanistan, closer to the Durand Line. Pakistan loathes Indian investments in economic and infrastructural projects in Afghanistan, for the following reasons – it provides much needed space for India to create a positive image in Afghanistan, especially in Kabul; allows the international community to entertain New Delhi to proceed further and expand Indian investments; it brings Kabul closer to New Delhi; and most importantly, Indian presence along the Durand Line will exacerbate the insurgency movements within Pakistan, especially in Balochistan. 

Just Missiles are not Enough

Issue Courtesy: CLAWS | Date : 07 Jan , 2013 

It was a red letter day for the DRDO when the Agni V ICBM was successfully test fired on 19 Apr 2012. Indeed, it was a landmark event for the country as far as its military security is concerned. The nation rightly was rapturous at this achievement and the Defence Ministry and the DRDO had reason to be proud. A statement made by some Chinese analysts, stating that the actual range of the missile was 8000 km and not just 5000 km as announced by the DRDO, added coyness to the happiness all around. “How modest of us?” many wondered. 

However, statements made by some ‘experts’ that the missile would act as a deterrent to aggression is perhaps misplaced. 

Great strides made in missile technology and development has been one of the rare success stories of defence research, development and production in India. One has to feel proud of this achievement of the DRDO. But how should the students of defence strategy view this capability in the overall context of India’s defence preparedness and her ability to impose credible military deterrence over those adversaries who might attempt to secure their political objectives through military means? 

The answer lies in examining as to what paradigm shift has this missile made in India’s favour. 

Political direction to this effect must be given and progress monitored to ensure bureaucratic red tape is removed and the modernisation process is expedited. 

Will the Agni V – and its earlier versions – subdue China’s outlandish territorial claims, or giving up the Shaksgam Valley which she received from her ‘all weather friend’, or stop her from making in-roads into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, or from propping up Pakistan to keep India down? Will a fear of this missile deter her should she decide to seal her claims by military aggression? The answer is in the negative. In fact, nothing short of a balanced and modernised conventional military force would achieve that aim. To that end, it is essential that the drive to modernise the Indian armed forces within affordable budgetary provisions, must not be allowed to flounder. Political direction to this effect must be given and progress monitored to ensure bureaucratic red tape is removed and the modernisation process is expedited. 

Will the missile at the least strengthen India’s ability to resist a military offensive, say by threatening to, or by actually destroying value targets, civilian or military, deep inside the Chinese mainland, while our armed forces are locked in intense, but perhaps unequal, combat? Will five, ten or twenty attacks with such missiles break the Chinese people’s will to fight? The answer is again in the negative; while most analysts are aware of this, only the soldiers, sea-warriors and air-warriors acknowledge it. A regime that condones mass killing and destruction of entire societies to build ‘great’ dams or to ‘revolutionise culture’ just to keep the ‘great helmsman’ and his ‘party’ in absolute power, is unlikely to be too concerned about the possible damage that Indian missiles can inflict. In any event, Chinese capability in this field far exceeds India’s. 

Though Indian missile capability can act as a deterrent against Chinese missiles, it is no substitute for conventional capability required to defend our land borders. While China is unlikely as of now to use force to press her claims along the McMahon Line and in parts of Ladakh, the deterrent required by India has to be based on conventional capability. This would require capability in the cyber domain, network centric warfare capability, air dominance over the Tibetan Plateau, improved artillery support, enhanced infantry capability and an improved logistic infrastructure. All of these are planned for as per the Army’s modernisation plan. It must now be ensured that slippages in the process do not occur. It would be a mistake to simply rely on missiles for our defence. 

For the missiles to make their mark, therefore, India has to have a strong conventional military capability. 

While the successful launch of the missile is a credible achievement, it cannot be a substitute for lack of capability in the conventional domain. The focus thus must not shift from the modernisation process in the vague hope that missiles can be appropriate instruments of deterrence. Military security of a nation is a multi-tiered structure, with each tier complementing the others to construct a strategic whole. Missiles of nuclear and conventional payloads and of varying ranges are at the top of that multi-tiered structure which must be supported by stronger structures from beneath – one cannot have a wonderful top floor when lower floors are tottering. For the missiles to make their mark, therefore, India has to have a strong conventional military capability. 

The successful development of the missile is certainly a feather in the cap of the DRDO. However, this success needs to be replicated in other projects too if India’s military is to become a force to be reckoned with. 

While the nation rightly celebrates the successes achieved in missile development, serious students of national security, civilian or military must certainly pause before doing so. They must continue to work for a comprehensive security architecture and workable deterrence that allows India to prosper in peace.

Are the Days of the Manned Combat Aircraft Numbered?

Issue Vol. 27.1 -Mar 2012 | Date : 07 Jan , 2013 

The Indian Navy uses UAVs for maritime surveillance mainly Herons and Searcher IIs 

UAVs are now making headlines as they are increasingly employed for missions that were hitherto the domain of manned aircraft. UAVs are perceived to offer two main advantages over manned aircraft – they eliminate risk to a pilot’s life and are arguably cheaper to procure. Ubiquity – one of the traits of the manned fighter now seems to have been gradually taken over by the UAV. So the question now arises – Will the UAVs and UCAVs take over the roles of the manned combat aircraft? 

On December 23, 2002, a Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) launched a Stinger air-to-air missile at an Iraqi MiG before being shot down by the target enemy aircraft giving rise to the speculation that armed UAVs or Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) could play a significant role in counter air operations in the future. 
Manned platforms and satellites are the two competing systems for UAVs in the regime of ISR missions. 

Traditionally, the role of UAVs has been restricted to Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance/Target Acquisition (ISR/TA). However, recent events have extended these into new missions such as armed reconnaissance and Special Operations support. The Predator is the first UAV to add a strike mission to its repertoire, stalking and striking Taliban and Al-Qaeda outposts in Afghanistan and Yemen. It carried out successful strikes in Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 wherein it was used to feed imagery to AC-130 Gunships and Special Operations teams on the ground. 

UAVs are now making headlines as they are increasingly employed for missions that were hitherto the domain of manned aircraft. UAVs are perceived to offer two main advantages over manned aircraft – they eliminate risk to a pilot’s life and are arguably cheaper to procure. Ubiquity – one of the traits of the manned fighter now seems to have been gradually taken over by the UAV. So the question now arises – Will the UAVs and UCAVs take over the roles of the manned combat aircraft? 


A reporter travels the treacherous Pakistan-Afghanistan border by truck. 

After days of negotiations, our truck, festooned with embossed metal decorations and hauling a navy-blue container of foodstuff marked WAN HAI, finally set off along the highway that skirts the northern edge of Karachi, carrying in its cramped cabin me and my friend Sardar as well as the two Pashtun truck-driving brothers who had agreed to take us all the way from Pakistan's port megacity over the Hindu Kush to Afghanistan. It didn't take long, however, before the four of us were introduced to two of the principal impediments encountered by anyone trying to go overland from Pakistan to Afghanistan: bribery and breakdown. 

As we connected onto the main highway heading north to Hyderabad, a Suzuki motorcycle swung in front of us, bearing two tubby traffic cops in white uniforms. The cop on the back got down and came over, and he spoke sharply to our driver, Jahangir, through the truck's window. Ignoring the folded 100-rupee note that Jahangir offered, the officer made him get out of the truck and began an angry pantomime. We watched them gesticulate -- the cop's motions domineering, Jahangir's placatory -- and finally, they exchanged the truck's documents for some cash, and Jahangir got back inside. "How much?" his brother and assistant Ahmad asked. "400," Jahangir replied. 

That was about $4, which was a little higher than normal, Ahmad explained, because their registration papers were for hauling an oil tank, not the shipping container they now carried. Nor, for that matter, did Jahangir have his driver's license, which the traffic police had taken from him earlier in the week, something neither of them seemed concerned about despite the fact that he was about to drive a truck 1,000 miles across the border into Afghanistan. "They don't need papers," Sardar said, seeing the expression on my face. "They know that the only thing that can solve their problems is money." 

The truck pulled onto the main four-lane highway that led north through Sindh province and, beyond that, the rich Pakistani heartland of Punjab, before starting to climb up into the Hindu Kush mountain range, into Afghanistan. Thousands of trucks and billions of dollars in supplies have passed over these roads since late 2001 to feed the 11-year war in Afghanistan. Outer Karachi's dilapidated factories and car dealerships quickly gave way to fields and strips of one-story shops. Before we had driven for even an hour, however, Jahangir pulled over onto a wide dirt lot in front of a mechanic's shop. The muffler, he explained. The truck, an old Nissan diesel, was generally in poor condition, flaps of rubber flaking off the tires on the trailer -- I knew it was going to be a long ride. 

Democracy in China: A Debate

January 7, 2013 

At the recently concluded 18th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao made some very candid remarks on corruption, social unrest, disparity and environmental degradation in China in his work-report speech. His statements attracted wide media attention, particularly the one on corruption, wherein he had stated that corruption, if it is not curbed, would prove fatal to the CCP. He also reiterated the need for the rule of law and political reforms. Since then these sentiments have been echoed by many others. 

Hu’s speech and the statements of some other participants conveyed a sense of serious introspection. But at the same time statements such as ‘China will never copy the western democracy’ or ‘rule of communist party is a mandate of history’ emanating from the 18th party congress obscured the stated commitment to the rule of law and political reforms. The leadership appeared not to be appreciative enough of the fact that the problems cited have close links with the lack of democracy and rule of law. 

The Chinese leadership need to realize that Deng Xiaoping’s model of political-economy is outliving its historical need. This model, which has delivered substantial growth and prosperity and in the process upheld CCP rule, is now grappling with accommodating people’s ideological and political aspirations that always grow with prosperity and appreciating the role of freedom of thought, expression and activities in creativity, innovation, growth and prosperity. 

At present, the CCP mainly faces three problems: the problem of representation, the problem of discredited privatisation and the problem of corrupt and repressive governance. These have very close connections with the overarching problem of the lack of democratization and rule of law. The phenomenal upsurge in “mass incidents” in which the public normally takes on the party cadres and local administration one way or another is a symptom of this overarching problem. Mass incidents can be identified as the most visible challenge to the system. Mass incidents and big business corruption cases in which most of the times the alleged beneficiaries are connected with the party place question marks on the legitimacy of the party’s rule and highlight the party’s unjust, corrupt, inefficient and repressive image. Unemployment, economic disparity and other issues of social unrest further aggravate the situation. 

‘Mass incidents’ may remain directionless for a variety of reasons in the short-term. But the contradiction between the society’s aspirations and the state’s political control will sharpen in the medium to long term. The CCP’s present carrot and stick “social management” philosophy is ad hoc. How far the idea of ‘deliberative democracy’ will go is also debatable, as democracy essentially lies in participation in decision making. 

Is China really going to start building these supersonic bombers?

Posted By John Reed 
January 4, 2013

While the Western media has been focusing a lot on China's sexiest new military toys -- stealth fighters, drones, ballistic missiles, and aircraft carriers -- we may have missed a relatively unsexy secret: the Chinese navy's supersonic bomber program. How is a supersonic bomber unglamorous? Because these "new" bombers, for which China is rumored to be developing a factory, are licensed copies of the Tupelov's 1970s-vintage Tu-22M Backfire nuclear bombers -- think of them as the Soviet Union's shorter-ranged version of the American B-1 Lancer. (The Backfire actually predates "the Bone," as the B-1 is called by its crews.) 

Although nothing official has been reported from either Moscow or Beijing, Chinese web forums have been buzzing since early 2012 about the emergence of a Tu-22M3 production line. In late December, this Chinese site claimed that Western bloggers had revealed China's "secret" bomber program. Apparently, the aircraft will be built by Xi'an aircraft corporation in China -- with engines imported from Russia since the Chinese haven't yet mastered the difficult art of making high performance jet engines -- for use by the navy. 

Why does a navy want supersonic heavy bombers? 

It would use them as a fast-moving ship killer capable of carrying large anti-ship missiles. (A role that the Soviet, now Russian, navy has long used the Tu-22M for.) Such a weapon fits with the Chinese military's expanding purchases of weapons that appear designed to keep other nations -- especially the United States -- at bay. The Backfires would replace the Chinese navy's fleet of Xian H-6s -- a version of the Soviet Union Tu-16 Badger nuclear bomber. (Interestingly, the Badger at one point carried the KS-1 Komet anti-ship missile, which resembled a MiG-15 fighter jet carrying a warhead instead of a pilot. Who wants to make the killer drone reference?) 

However, some are skeptical that China is really going to start building an old Soviet design that has been out of production for decades. This article quotes a Chinese military official who notes that the U.S. Navy's air defenses could spot Tu-22Ms coming from a long way off. 

While the jets fit the anti-access philosophy and would allow the Chinese navy to "project power" throughout the Pacific, maintaining a strategic bomber force gets expensive quickly, explains Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the aviation consulting firm, the Teal Group. 

Soft Power, A Strategic Theory Perspective

Not too surprisingly, soft power as an academic concept has gotten a lot of press almost since Prof. Joseph Nye first coined the term back in 1990. Since that time Nye has traveled the world giving lectures on soft power including one he gave back in 2010 for the organization I work for. 

The concept is easily misunderstood and sometimes intentionally so, especially by government bureaucracies engaged in budget/turf battles with other rival government bureaucracies. From a Clausewitzian strategic theory perspective, the concept has merit and a clear understanding of it can assist us in seeing the advantages to promoting soft power approaches and understanding what can be achieved by this approach and what cannot. Also, soft power fits within the larger spectrum of conflict which is part of a more extensive on-going project of mine. Finally, there are inherent tensions in the concept as I see it, so while the definition of soft power is clearly Nye's, this analysis of the concept is clearly mine, based on a strategic theory perspective. I will start with a definition of terms and how they interact followed by my own views on the practical application of soft power from a strategic theory perspective. While I have been employed as an English language teacher for almost 15 years by perhaps the leading soft power state institution, which as Nye states "has been practicing it effectively since 1934", the views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any particular organization. Let's start with the concept of power itself. Nye's definition agrees with the realist Weberian definition of power, that being "the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be able to carry out their own will despite resistance". It is important to stress here that for me power is a social relationship of varied degree, not a state of existence, nor a physical entity. Power can exist at various levels and involve individuals or whole nations. Force, coercion, economic incentives and "attraction" or soft power, are all types of power relationships. Power is also contingent, in that that each power relationship is unique involving the history, culture and personalities of the different actors. At this point a quick diversion . . . consider Hannah Arendt's concept of violence . . . Violence will remain the unmentioned reality throughout this essay, since violence alone defines the political, the willingness to use violence in pursuit of strategic aims . . . While soft power is the opposite of force, it still retains its political character which exists as a sort of tension within the concept. Soft Power is defined by Nye as: 

"the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced." Notice the link of soft power with policy and legitimacy. Here is where a whole series of tensions are introduced to the overall concept, which are not apparent with a casual reading. Power can involve simply two individuals, whereas policy involves distinct political communities, policy being simply seen as the collective interests of the political community (see On War, Book VIII, Chapter 6B). Legitimacy would require the targeted political community seeing the actions of the soft power wielding political community as "legitimate", which is obviously a difficult goal to achieve. This assuming of course that the policy actually reflects the national interests of the political community involved. Let's look at the source of this tension more closely. Power is related to "domination" another Weberian concept, which is defined as "the probability that a command with a given specific content will be obeyed by a given group of persons". Power can involve individuals, whereas domination is always about groups. Domination also has more the nature of a "state of existence" involving a larger group, whereas power remains a specific relationship between two or more individuals. The distinction is important, since too often people talk of exercising "soft power" when what they really mean is attempting to secure domination. For domination to be secure over the longer term, Max Weber argued that legitimacy was required. Brute force would not ensure compliance in the long run, the people obeying the dictates of the leadership had to believe that what they were doing was correct or "legitimate". Like power and domination, legitimacy is also something of a sliding scale. When a ruling elite loses all legitimacy, they are said to be "dead" from a social action theory/strategic theory perspective since it is only force against their own subjects which will ensure their continued existence as rulers. So, there is my introduction of the various terms/concepts. At the level of praxis, what can I say about soft power? Here is a list of six points: 

New Capabilities, New Constraints Call For New Concepts In 2013

Published: January 2, 2013 
Our 2013 forecast series continues with a call for new strategic thinking from the first man to serve as Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, Lt. Gen. (ret.) David Deptula.

Whatever happens with sequestration, Pentagon planners are now struggling to fit the services' myriad programs under a reduced budget topline. Advocates point to their particular project or personnel as vital to US warfighting capacity. Technologists point to new capabilities that will allow us to do more with equal or even fewer resources. Traditionalists encourage maintaining or even increasing manpower to achieve security objectives the old fashioned way, boots on the ground, airmen in the air, sailors at sea.

How can we resolve these competing paradigms of defense investment in an era of constrained resources? The answer lies in addressing three separate, but fundamentally related issues: 1) prioritization of our nation's security objectives; 2) how we organize to achieve those security objectives; and 3) optimizing the potential of what we already posses by exploiting our capabilities through new concepts of operation (CONOPS).

First, how should we balance our resources to achieve our nation's security objectives? Before we engage in additional cuts to national security spending, it may be wise to figure out our national priorities. Perhaps a starting point can be found in the preamble of our Constitution, which specifies it was established to "provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..."

Providing for the common defense is the US government's job one. Observing the debates over taxes, spending, and the deficit provides ample evidence that too many people in national leadership positions who should understand this, in fact, do not. Regardless, the issue of how much to spend on national security is directly related to what the American people want our Nation to accomplish in that respect. Do the American people want the United States to maintain its position as the world's sole superpower or not? Is having the capacity to prevail in a single regional conflict sufficient for America's security in the future? Or will that level of military capacity actually encourage adventurism from those with the capability to do so?

Absent an informed discussion on this topic, we are destined to have an ends/ways/means mismatch with respect to the number one mission for our government. One way to elevate this discussion to get some attention from the Nation's leadership would be to replace the upcoming Quadrennial Defense (Programming) Review with what was actually recommended by the 1994/1995 Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces: a Quadrennial Strategy Review. Given the record of governmental reform, don't hold your breadth, so let's assume that the upcoming national security cuts will be arbitrary and absent little, if any, strategic context.

Crafting A Pacific Attack & Defense Enterprise: The Strategic Quadrangle

Published: January 4, 2013 

Battle of Manila Bay, 1 May 1898. Colored print after a painting by J.G. Tyler. U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command. 

The pivot to the Pacific started more than a century ago. The United States first became a Pacific power in 1898, the year the US first annexed Hawaii and then gained Guam and the Philippines (as well as Puerto Rico) from Spain after a "short, victorious war."

The United States is at a turning point as it contemplates the way ahead for its defense and security policy in the Pacific. With the decline of the physical number of platforms and assets, our ability to project dominant power out from the West Coast of the United States and Hawaii is increasingly in question.

The simple, inescapable reality imposed by the sheer size of the Pacific Ocean is that the continental United States is many miles from the Western Pacific. In previous articles for AOL Defense, I have looked at the US and the Pacific seen from a perspective east of Hawaii, but now turning to Hawaii and further west, where the challenge is to shape a credible presence and projection of power in the region for the 21st century.

If the projection of power is seen to be about pushing platforms and capabilities out from the continental United States (CONUS), Alaska and Hawaii, we face significant challenges dealing with the growth of Chinese power and the needs for interoperability and support to empower both our allies and the United States operating in the region.

Fiscal Cliff: A Short History

How did the phrase become shorthand for Washington's embrace of budget brinkmanship? 

By now, you've probably heard enough about the "fiscal cliff" to know all about the steep, automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that U.S. lawmakers are now scrambling to prevent from taking effect. Even if financial catastrophe is averted, however, the term itself is likely to stick around; it has already become shorthand for the increasingly dramatic measures U.S. leaders have taken to force parties with increasingly divergent visions of the size and scope of government to resolve a steady drumbeat of high-wire budget crises. Think of the cliff as Washington's version of the poison pill: making it more painful for politicians to do nothing than to work together to reduce America's debilitating debt and deficits. And that kind of budget brinkmanship isn't going away anytime soon. If anything, the phrase may now be going global, a sort of unwelcome U.S. export to the rest of the democratic world. 

New York City nearly defaults on its debt, with last-minute federal loans and a teachers' union investment in municipal bonds pulling the city back from the brink of bankruptcy. (President Gerald Ford initially withholds federal aid, inspiring the famous tabloid headline "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.") Newsweek describes the debacle as "New York's fiscal cliff-hanger." 

The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act demands that automatic, across-the-board spending cuts take effect if the federal government misses budget targets, in the first congressional effort to build a fiscal time bomb that will compel both political parties to get serious about balancing the budget. "It's a kind of mutual-assured-destruction theory of fiscal policy," a House Budget Committee staffer explains of the radical new process, known as "sequestration." "What they're doing is they're creating a kind of artificial crisis." 

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who at the time heads a congressional subcommittee overseeing Medicaid, becomes the first major politician to use the precise phrase: Oregon, he warns, is "about to fall off the fiscal cliff" because of a decision to limit property taxes, which could reduce state revenues to the point where local leaders are forced to cut medical services to the poor under a Medicaid reform plan. 

Shortly after House Republican leader Newt Gingrich rides his "Contract with America" to victory in the 1994 midterm elections and a presidential commission releases a report on entitlement and tax reform, the media starts applying the term "fiscal cliff" to the U.S. federal budget. In an article on the enormous pressure entitlement programs will come under as nearly 80 million baby boomers retire, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the country will plunge "off a fiscal cliff around 2010" even if a Republican plan to balance the budget by 2002 succeeds. "The pain required to keep the deficit at zero is much, much bigger than anybody is talking about publicly," economist Laurence Kotlikoff tells the paper. 

During a period of dizzying economic growth, President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress balance the federal budget for the first time since 1969. Clinton vows to parlay the country's budget surpluses into reforming Social Security and Medicare. But the administration's costly proposals, including an ultimately unsuccessful prescription-drug benefit, anger deficit hawks. "Only in America could one define reform as increasing spending on a program known to be heading over the fiscal cliff," the Cato Institute's Doug Bandow laments

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) balks at President George W. Bush's proposal in his State of the Union address to make permanent a $1.3 trillion tax-cut package enacted in 2001, especially given the administration's free-spending ways. If the cuts are extended beyond their 2010 expiration date, he warns, their cost "will be far greater" than those of Social Security. When that happens, he adds, "we fall off a fiscal cliff." 

The Bush administration forecasts a record $455 billion budget deficit after initially predicting a $334 billion surplus for the year, angering deficit hawks like Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who warns that Bush's tax cuts will "explode" at the very moment when the baby-boom generation is retiring. "This president is running us right over the fiscal cliff," Conrad complains. "The president says he wants to go to Mars. He's taken the deficit to the moon." That same year, the White House launches a second round of tax cuts and the budget-crushing war in Iraq. 

Just weeks after the presidential election -- and only months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers sparks a global financial panic and plunges the United States into its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression -- the term's use as a rhetorical cudgel shifts parties as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) attacks President-elect Barack Obama and his economic stimulus plan for the first time. "We are trillions of dollars in debt and Obama's massive new spending program threatens to send our nation over a fiscal cliff, leading to higher taxes and fewer jobs," DeMint argues

November 2010 
An ascendant Tea Party movement -- led by DeMint, among others -- helps the Republicans retake the House in the midterm elections. "We are headed toward a fiscal cliff," Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) says a month later, when a bipartisan presidential deficit commission collapses. "I think Congress seems to have the political courage [to address the deficit] only when we are right at that cliff. The difficulty is we don't know where that cliff really is." 

December 2010 
Obama strikes a deal with Republican lawmakers to extend all the Bush tax cuts until Dec. 31, 2012, even though congressional Democrats want to limit the tax cuts to just the middle class. "I've said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts," Obama says. "In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed." 

July 31, 2011 
After a bitter standoff, Democrats and Republicans avert a sovereign default by reaching an eleventh-hour agreement to raise the country's debt ceiling. Drawing on the decades-old "sequestration" procedure, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agree that if a special bipartisan "supercommittee" can't get a deal by November that trims the budget by more than $1 trillion over 10 years, then steep, automatic spending cuts -- split evenly between defense and domestic spending, with exceptions for some major federal programs like Social Security -- will take effect on Jan. 2, 2013, just after the Bush tax cuts expire. 

Aug. 5, 2011 
Days after the debt-ceiling deal is reached, Standard & Poor's downgrades the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history. "[T]he effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges," S&P explains

November 2011 
The supercommittee fails to reach a deficit-reduction agreement, triggering the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline -- and a flurry of finger-pointing. 

February 2012 
In a congressional hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke helps popularize "fiscal cliff" as a catchall term for the deficit-reduction showdown that U.S. leaders have set in motion. "Under current law, on Jan. 1, 2013, there's going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases," he observes. "I hope that Congress will look at that and figure out ways to achieve the same long-run fiscal improvement without having it all happen at one date." By March, Bernanke will embrace the phrase as his own, referring to "what I've termed a 'fiscal cliff.'" 

May 2012 
The Congressional Budget Office reports that though the fiscal cliff would reduce the federal budget deficit by $607 billion, it would also heighten the risk of another recession by causing the U.S. economy to contract at an estimated annual rate of 1.3 percent in the first half of 2013.

November 2012 
The day after the U.S. presidential election, traders concerned about the fiscal cliff deal the Dow Jones industrial average its biggest decline of the year. As financial-news network CNBC adopts a new slogan -- "Rise Above" -- in support of a bipartisan deal on the fiscal cliff, liberals back away from the term "fiscal cliff," arguing that the loaded phrase is overly alarmist. The Economic Policy Institute suggests "fiscal obstacle course"; MSNBC anchor Steve Kornacki proposes "gradual fiscal slope"; and the Washington Post's Ezra Klein endorses "austerity crisis." Whatever you call it, the budget standoff has proved to be a pivotal test of America's paralyzed political system. 

Uri Friedman is an associate editor at Foreign Policy.

The Second Coming

What can the 44th president really achieve in his second term? Here are 10 ideas. 

If you were to print out all the white papers, op-eds, and think-tank reports urging U.S. President Barack Obama to do this or that in his second term, the sheer amount of paper produced would probably require chopping down the Amazon rain forest. There's a reason these well-intentioned ideas generally sit on the shelf: They're unrealistic. Wave a magic wand, and the president can do everything from make peace in the Middle East to reshape the entire world economy in America's favor. What follows is something different: advice he can actually implement. 

George Papandreou: Save Greece, Save Europe
John Prendergast: Get Kony
David E. Hoffman: Take the Nukes off Alert
Zbigniew Brzezinski: Get His Authority Back
Micah L. Sifry: Fix American Democracy

Previous: Micah L. Sifry on why Obama should fix American democracy.
Jody Williams: Stop Using Land Mines and Cluster Munitions 

In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize because, according to the committee, "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population." In his second term, Obama must embrace that promise -- by taking steps to ensure that the United States is no longer an outlier when it comes to global agreements on peace and disarmament. He should start by sending the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty to the Senate for approval and by taking action to do away with America's own arsenal of mines, whether the Senate approves it or not. 

Towards a ceasefire, slowly

Inder Malhotra : Mon Jan 07 2013

Why Ayub Khan took 12 days to accept the UN-sponsored ceasefire ending the war with India in 1965

SINCE Pakistan President Ayub Khan knew that with the collapse of his counter-offensive on September 11, 1965, the war with India was over for his country (‘Rude awakening for Pakistan’, IE, December 24, 2012), why did he take 12 tense days to accept the UN-sponsored ceasefire for which the Security Council and the then UN secretary-general, U. Thant, were working overtime? From all accounts, there were three main reasons for his dithering.

In the first place, he was deeply worried that his people, misled by his government’s false propaganda that Pakistan had won the war, might not accept a ceasefire on the terms set by the UNSC. Since Pakistan’s entire strategy was to use brief military action within Kashmir to force India to negotiate on this “core issue”, he insisted that the ceasefire be accompanied by an agreement to “settle the Kashmir issue through negotiations and, if necessary, arbitration”. Indeed, he seemed convinced that he could shame his American allies — who had “betrayed” him after the “Indian invasion” — into supporting Pakistan over the inclusion of Kashmir in the UN resolution.

He was in for a shock, however, because the United States refused to do so, emphasising that an unconditional ceasefire was imperative. Worse, the US ambassador to the UN, when approached by the Pakistani envoy with the request that India should at least be named “aggressor”, was told that the UNSC “wasn’t a court of law”. The American side had then added that the armed forces of both sides would have to withdraw to the positions they had held on August 5, the day that Pakistan’s infiltrations into Kashmir had been detected.

Second, on September 12, when Khan conferred with his military and civilian confidants as well as political leaders, he believed, to quote his biographer Altaf Gauhar, that if Pakistan couldn’t continue the war, neither could India. His judgement, therefore, was that “from now only ding-dong battles could take place here and there”, and consequently he would “prefer a prolonged struggle to a ceasefire that did not guarantee a settlement of the Kashmir dispute”.

This comforting view was also punctured before long. Nazir Ahmed, his defence secretary, who was a member of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s hardline coterie that had thought up Operation Gibraltar, reported to Khan that the army and air force were “facing acute shortage of spare parts, ammunition and petroleum, and that neither Turkey nor Iran (the two great allies) was willing to provide armour-piercing ammunition”. Gauhar adds: “Ayub was mortified. He was stunned to find that the GHQ had been importing the wrong kind of ammunition”. He became worried that the Indian army “might occupy Lahore”. To add to his woes, the US started hinting at the “possibility of sanctions being applied against Pakistan”, and the British prime minister, Harold Wilson, having initially delighted the Pakistanis by condemning “Indian aggression”, started pressing them immediately to accept the UN resolution.

Maha Kumbh mela: On the banks of the Sangam

Prashant Pandey : Sun Jan 06 2013

About 10 crore people are expected to take a dip in the holy Sangam as Kumbh kicks off next week. PRASHANT PANDEY visits Allahabad as it gets ready to host the 56-day mela. 

Sangam has its regular visitors, the winged Siberian variety that flock to the river every winter, hovering low over the chilled waters, flapping their wet wings. But this year, as Allahabad hosts the Kumbh—what the Guinness World Records calls the “largest-ever gathering of human beings for a single purpose”—the birds will have to share their territory. Visitors to the mela will squeeze into every inch of the city’s space, its hotels, benches, tents, the sandy ghats. They will also descend in hordes to take a dip in the Sangam, the fiery Naga sadhus first followed by the rest of humanity. 

With a week left for the 56-day Kumbh to begin, the river bed along the Ganga at Allahabad has turned into a city of tents. This is Kumbh Nagri, spread over 58.03 square km, where faith, religion, new-age spirituality, commerce and exoticism will mingle seamlessly over the next couple of months. The kumbh begins on January 14 this year and the devout will soon start spilling into the city’s bus and railway stations, most of them painfully poor and drawn to the mela in the belief that a dip in the Sangam—the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati—during the Kumbh will free them of the pains of rebirth. 

According to Hindu mythology, the gods and demons fought over a pitcher or kumbh that had the nectar of immortality. As they struggled, four drops of nectar spilled on to four locations along the Ganga: Allahabad, Ujjain, Nashik and Haridwar. The Kumbh is held in each of these cities by turn every three years, so each city hosts the Kumbh every 12 years. 

This year, an estimated 10 crore people are expected to reach Allahabad in time for Kumbh, a giant logistical challenge. As this multitude arrives in the city, the administration is taking no chances. So, this Kumbh there will be 30,000 policemen, at least 30 police stations, each with its own fire station. Nearly 800 km of electric wires and at least 48 power sub-stations. Water pipelines spread over 571 km, 2,200 fire hydrants, 40 water tanks of 18 kilolitres each. Some 300 km of kuchcha drainage, 35,000 toilet seats, around 1,000 sanitation and health workers (including doctors), hospitals with a total bed capacity of 370, 20 first-aid posts and over 100 ambulances for the rush days. Kumbh 2013 will be bigger in scale than any so far. While the 2001 Kumbh at Allahabad was spread over 2,802 acres, this year, the mela will be spread over 4,932 acres. 

Disaster management 

With 10 crore people expected to turn up, the health department of the state government has a medical emergency plan in place. They have prepared four kinds of kits, each marked ‘drowning’, ‘burns’, ‘stampede’ and ‘bomb blast’. “Each of these kits has injections and life-saving drugs, plus equipment that are needed during emergencies,” says additional director (health) 

Pakistan's new military doctrine shouldn't be misread

January 06, 2013
B Raman

Pakistan's new military doctrine to tackle domestic issues wouldn't lead to a re-examination of its traditional hostility towards India [ Images ], notes B Raman. 

Media reports emanating from Pakistan's civilian government as well as from the General Headquarters of the army speak of an on-going review of Pakistan's military doctrine in order to give priority to the creation of a sub-conventional warfare capability to fight domestically against non-state actors posing a threat to Pakistan's internal security. 

While these non-state actors have not been specifically named, it is apparent they have in mind the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Baloch nationalist elements which are waging a struggle for Baloch independence. 

The Pakistan Army [ Images ] has not been able to prevail over any of these organisations. The TTP has maintained a capability for fighting against the Pakistani security forces in the tribal as well as non-tribal areas and there have been indications of it extending its activities to Karachi, thereby adding to the instability there. 

The LEJ continues to indulge in large-scale massacre of Shias all over Pakistan -- and particularly in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, the Kurram Agency and Karachi. The freedom struggle of the Baloch nationalists continues to gather momentum. 

In the past, Pakistan's military doctrine had three components: 
  • A Chinese-aided nuclear-cum-missile capability against India. 
  • A US-cum-Chinese aided conventional capability against India. 
A covert action capability for keeping India bleeding and ultimately annexing Jammu & Kashmir [ Images ]. This covert action capability was acquired from the CIA in the 1980s for use against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. It is now being used against India and the Hamid Karzai [ Images ] government of Afghanistan 

The Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto government had succeeded in crushing the Baloch nationalists and the anti-Shia elements spearheaded by the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, which later metamorphosed into the LEJ, were actually created by the Zia-ul-Haq regime to counter the Iranian influence. 

The revival of the Baloch freedom struggle after the massacre of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and many of his followers by the Parvez Musharraf regime and the birth of the Mehsud-dominated TTP to seek vengeance against the Pakistan army after the bloody army action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad [ Images ] have confronted the Pakistan army and its Inter-Services Intelligence with serious threats to its internal security to counter which it does not have the required sub-conventional warfare capability. 

‘The role that India played should be played by other countries as well—to send help, not send bombs’

PranabDhalSamanta : Sun Jan 06 2013 

In this Idea Exchange, Shaida M. Abdali, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, speaks about post-2014 Afghanistan, engagement with the Taliban and the roles played by India and Pakistan in the region. This session was moderated by Deputy Editor Pranab Dhal Samanta 

Pranab Dhal Samanta: What are the major achievements in Afghanistan that inspire confidence for its future? 

Shaida M. Abdali: Afghanistan’s story is very long. We have achieved a lot in the last 10-11 years. I remember days in Kabul when life was almost nil in the city—no traffic, none of the signs of a normal life. Today, you will have traffic similar to that in Delhi. That means progress, more economic development, more people living in Kabul. It’s very different from the life we had in 2001. What have we achieved? On the political front, Afghanistan has a very progressive constitution. We have held elections over the last 11 years—presidential and parliamentary. We are now preparing for the next presidential elections. We have government institutions full of young talent coming back from India and around the world. We are spending thousands of US dollars on international experts in our ministries so that they can advise government officials on dealing with day-to-day business. So, we are gradually moving to our own human resources. Our healthcare services are now available throughout the country. Today, over nine million children go to school, 34 per cent of them are girls. On economic development, billions of dollars of investment is coming in from all parts of the world. Fortunately, Afghanistan is full of treasure. One reason why it has always been attacked is its economic potential: Afghanistan is full of minerals, 400 kinds of minerals, unexploited, untapped. We are so happy that we have Indian investors, major Indian companies coming in. Our natural resources will be exploited by countries around the world but preference will go to countries in the region, especially to India. The survival of Afghanistan is the survival of the region.2014 is looming ahead of us. The framework that ensures a transition came through lengthy negotiations. We now have 75 per cent of the transition complete. The places where we have Afghan control are doing much better than they were doing before, under foreign troops. That is because we have Afghans facing Afghans instead of Afghans facing foreign troops. Newspapers, think-tanks portray a grim scenario of the country and its future. That’s not true. The criticism is politically motivated. We are focusing on our problems to be solved within the region. We are glad India and Pakistan are taking some steps towards normalcy. The visit of our President to India was very successful. We are expecting a major Indian delegation of the business community led by high-ranking government representatives to come to Afghanistan. Things are normal. We have pockets of violence. But there is a good environment for investment. 

PRANAB Dhal Samanta: You put a lot of emphasis on the economy and on investments, specifically from India. But one big deterrent to investment is the unpredictability in the security environment. 

India wary as Turkey set to broker Afghanistan-Taliban peace

By Indrani Bagchi, TNN | Jan 6, 2013

NEW DELHI: Turkey is emerging as the new player in the unfolding Afghanistan peace process. As Afghanistan and Pakistan work on a peace roadmap, with the active assistance and blessings of London and Washington, Turkey has stepped in, even offering to host senior Taliban leaders released by Pakistan for reconciliation talks with the Afghan government.

Although India is not part of the deal, India will be deeply affected by the outcome of whatever political process is implemented in Afghanistan. And with a strong presence on the ground in Afghanistan, India will be keen to ensure its own red lines about the accommodation of Taliban in a future Afghan government are respected.

Therefore, Shivshankar Menon, national security adviser, will travel to Turkey in February for talks on Afghanistan with his counterpart, Muammer Turker, as well as foreign secretary, Feridun Sinirlioglu. India is likely to lay out a few of its own perceptions — first, that the US withdrawal should be accelerated.

During the December trilateral summit of Asif Zardari, Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Gul in Ankara, a proposal was floated to invite the Taliban to set up office in Turkey. This would be similar to the help given by Turkey to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. Sources said Turkey would probably not go as far as to allow the Taliban to open an office, but they would be willing to let peace talks between Taliban and Afghanistan happen in their country. But Turkey's involvement may not go down well with many groups inside Afghanistan. Certainly Dostum and the Uzbeks, as well as the Hazaras, say analysts, would have reservations, which would need to be managed if this initiative is to go through.

The Taliban tried, unsuccessfully, to open an office in Qatar in 2011-12. In the revived peace initiative through a roadmap, the west has pushed for a Taliban office in Saudi Arabia, given that country's old connections with the extremist group. However, sources said, Pakistan said they preferred Turkey as a neutral venue more than Saudi Arabia. This is significant, because Saudi Arabia is generally believed to be Pakistan's premier patron, apart from the US. But Saudi Arabia has been seen to be taking a tougher line on extremist and terrorist ideology of late, which may have tilted the balance for Turkey. Pakistan's comfort levels with Turkey is very high, its army taking inspiration from their Turkish counterparts for years.

Pakistan's army chief, General Kayani too is reportedly keen to achieve some kind of a peace breakthrough in Afghanistan, which would preserve Pakistan's interests. Kayani, just 9 months shy of retirement, has reportedly come under fire from his colleagues for the mess in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recent years, Turkey has also expanded its own foreign policy initiatives — through the so-called Arab uprising, Turkey has projected itself as a successful Islamic democracy. Muslim Brotherhood found an early home in Turkey, though Syria, a close neighbour, refused to legitimize the group.

Turkey is becoming an important partner for India as well, building convergences between two rising economies. Recently, Turkey offered to be a transit country for the international north-south corridor connecting South Asia with Central Asia and beyond to Russia and even Europe.