7 March 2013

Gentle Giant

MARCH 6, 2013 

Why isn’t India spending more on its military?

India, as FP's James Traub recently discovered, is comfortable living with contradictions. A country that is the world's largest, and possibly its most competitive, democracy has seen its national politics dominated by a single party. A rising international player, India often appears less willing than ever to exercise its power globally. And while India's economy feels like it's in the doldrums, it has more than doubled in size over the past seven years. 

There is perhaps no bigger contradiction than India's military. In terms of personnel, India, with some 1.3 million active troops, has for many years boasted the world's third-largest armed forces -- after the United States and China. It is a full-spectrum force, possessing nuclear weapons, remaining active in international peacekeeping missions, and confronting a range of domestic insurgencies. India is also the world's largest importer of conventional weapons systems, sourcing advanced combat aircraft, missile systems, and submarines from Russia, Israel, France, and the United States. 

Yet given its enormous size, India's military has relatively little political or bureaucratic clout -- particularly when compared to China's People's Liberation Army -- and consequently less say in resource allocations. While the army, air force, and navy each enjoy considerable autonomy, the trade-off has been a diminished role for the armed services in influencing national security policy. Since a disastrous intervention in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990, New Delhi has also evinced little interest in undertaking foreign military operations, other than occasional humanitarian or U.N. peacekeeping missions. But what is perhaps most striking given the nature and scale of the threats it faces is the country's anaemic military spending. 

As late as 2000, India's spending on defense, at $15.9 billion, outstripped China's official military budget of $14.5 billion, although China's actual expenditure that year was estimated at three times that amount. The disparity has only increased with the growing resource gap between China and India. In its most recent budget, the Indian government's spending on defense stands at $37 billion (excluding military pensions), keeping it on track to be the fourth-largest defense spender by 2020, surpassing Britain, France, and Japan. But such expenditure increases have not even kept pace with the overall growth of India's economy, let alone the military modernization of its competitors. Defense now accounts for just 1.7 percent of India's GDP, which is less than in many European countries, and down from almost 3 percent in the late 1990s. And while China's defense budget this year is more than three times larger, its actual spending will undoubtedly be even higher. 

India’s USAID

By Rohit Bansal 
06 Mar 2013

The headline is to grab your attention! The essay hereafter aims that you trackserious money that’s been committed on Thursday for aid to the world outside (development assistance, DA,and partnership are the politically correct formulation). 

This allocation, proposed by P Chidambaram in his budget, is a serious Rs7,018 crore.

For context, that’s nearly double of Rs3,508 crore our government actual spent just a while back in 2011-12.

Before we gripe into the ‘Bihar-versus-Bhutan,’ argument,ie, why a relatively poor country like us, with a slowing growth engine,should be handing out tax payer’s money, let’s first be informed of government’s ambitions. 

Since nearly a year, largely unreported, we have under Salman Khurshid in the ministry of external affairs (MEA), the Development Partnerships Administration (DPA). Its job is to handle New Delhi’s aid projects through the stages of concept, launch, execution and completion. DPA owes its origin to Jaswant Singh’s budget of 2003-04, albeit Singh called it India Development Assistance. Semantics apart, DPA is finally up and running under PS Raghavan, a mandarin and former PMO man. It is Raghavan’s mandate now to manage the present allocation of Rs7,018 crore and the whopping Rs75,000 crore ($15 billion) we expect to commit over the next five years. 

With our limited capacities, Chidambaram has committed a large portion of the Rs7,018 crore in the immediate neighbourhood.

The idea? If we fix polio, but our neighbour doesn’t, we might as well not have fixed it! 

So, Thimpu has been allocated Rs2,525 crore of which Rs1,468 crore will be a loan. Kabul where Chidambaram has budgeted Rs2,875 crore for plan and Rs548 crore for non-plan. Dhaka will get Rs580 crore (the figure was only Rs30 crore in budget estimates for 2012-13 and a puny Rs8.8 in actuals of 2011-12). Colombo gets Rs500 crore against Rs290 crore last time. The folks in Male have been punished. Their budgetary estimates of Rs286 crore in 2012-13 had already become Rs30 in the revised estimates of 2012-13; Rs30 crore is where the allocation stays in the 2013-14 budget. Kathmandu is up at Rs380 crore (revised estimates in 2012-13 were Rs270 crore). Colombo gets Rs500 crore. (Revised 2012-13 Rs290 crore). Islamabad, if you still wondered, doesn’t appreciate our development overtures, unmindful that without mutual stakes, conflict is imperative. I have complaints against the tiny amounts allotted to Africa, only Rs300 crore for a land of the future! 

The Taliban Peacemakers

Mar 6, 2013

In a dramatic reversal, the Afghan insurgents now want to make friends with the U.S. By Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai. 

Nearly one year after announcing it was “suspending all dialogue” with the U.S. over its “ever-changing position,” the Taliban seem keen to enter into preliminary peace talks once again. The Taliban’s sudden desire to reopen talks with the U.S., and perhaps even with the government of President Hamid Karzai, whom the insurgency has consistently denounced as an unrepresentative American puppet, represents a sudden and dramatic U-turn. Over the past month a number of high-ranking Taliban officials have been traveling between their Pakistani safe haven in Quetta and the Gulf state of Qatar, the scene of the previous talks, apparently in an effort to set up shop and to rekindle the dialogue. “Our leaders are now regularly running between Qatar and Quetta,” says Zabihullah, a Taliban political operative whose information has proved reliable in the past.

Former Taliban militants who have turned in their weapons stand during a ceremony with the Afghan government in Herat, Afghanistan, on February 17, 2013. About 35 former Taliban militants from Herat province handed over their weapons as part of a peace-reconciliation program. (Hoshang Hoshimi/AP) 

Amir Khan Motaqi, the important head of the insurgency’s propaganda office recently made the trip, and reported back to Quetta. Abdul Wasi, the former deputy head of the Taliban’s Red Crescent Society, who was released from an Afghan jail one year ago, arrived in Qatar last month in order to set up a permanent office for negotiations. Several Taliban officials who are now in Qatar living in guesthouses are in the process of moving into apartments and houses. Some are bringing their families. 

Roadmap to ‘new’ Afghanistan

Mar 07, 2013 

If there is a regime breakup in Kabul before the election, and state institutions fracture on ethnic lines, it is doubtful if the 2014 election can take place 

With US combat forces leaving Afghanistan in 2014, much attention has focused on the capabilities of the Afghan Army to repulse a possible military push from the Pakistan side (by soldiers of extremism or official troops camouflaged as such) aimed at reinstalling the Taliban in power in Kabul. 

The concern is valid. However, an Afghan lack in the security area can conceivably be made up with regional and international assistance.

In February 2007, when the Afghan National Army was still being built from scratch, a key leader of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told this writer in his Kabul headquarters that a mainly Afghan force had beaten back an assembled Taliban host of nearly 10,000 men in Panjwayi, Kandahar, just months before in the course of Operation Baaz Tsuka (Falcon’s Summit). The Taliban, on that occasion, had departed from their trademark guerrilla tactics to engage in open warfare, a serious tactical mistake, and had committed fighters in such numbers.

In an interview published in the American journal Foreign Policy last September, recently retired Gen. John Allen, who commanded the ISAF and US forces in Afghanistan, noted that the Afghans were now capable of leading operations “from the squad to the corps level”, and were now running “the entire spectrum of operations”. The Afghans “are really stepping up to the task”, the general said, though he noted the obvious difficulties — the need for the Afghan Army to have “sustainment” and “resupply” capabilities.

This provides room for guarded optimism. What can be way more troubling is the state of the country’s internal cohesion to which thoughtful Indians, and others (evidenced, say, in recent Delhi Policy Group confabulations involving regional interlocutors), have alluded. It is clear that the enemy at the gate can be pushed back only if a country stands united. This was also the lesson of March 1989.

Military Decides You Shouldn’t See Key Data on Afghan Insurgency


U.S. and Afghan forces discuss wartime detention operations at Pol-e-Charki, Afghanistan, January 2013. Photo: International Security Assistance Force/Flickr

One of the major metrics for the decade-long Afghanistan war is seriously flawed. Rather than fix the problem, the U.S.-NATO military command in Kabul has decided that you simply shouldn’t see the data. 

Late last month, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) conceded that it misreported the 2012 statistics on Taliban attacks. Its explanation was that a data-entry error had discounted attacks reported by Afghan forces — so much so that a statistically insignificant change in the level of so-called “enemy initiated attacks” became a 7 percent decline from 2011 levels. 

ISAF’s response, the Associated Press recounts, is to end public reporting on enemy-initiated attacks. It’ll still record attack levels, according to spokesman Jamie Graybeal, but it won’t publish any of the data it collects — all because it’s losing confidence in the veracity of its information. As Afghan forces take increasing control of the war, ISAF will cede control of overseeing the attack data collection. “We have determined that our databases will become increasingly inaccurate in reflecting the entirety of enemy initiated attacks,” Graybeal told the Associated Press’ Bob Burns, who broke the story. 

This means ISAF is denying you a major metric for assessing the durability and the lethality of the insurgency, as well as, by inference, its freedom of movement. When U.S. officials in the future claim that they’re making progress, you will not be able to access the data underlying their claims. Indeed, ifISAF has lost confidence in its “increasingly inaccurate” attack data, then those generals themselves will have little basis for their own assessments. And all this data vanishes at the awfully convenient moment when the U.S. is increasingly handing over the majority of the fighting to a dubiously capable Afghan force. 

Graybeal told Burns that a measurement ISAF used to tout as significant actually isn’t that significant. “At a time when more than 80 percent of the [attacks] are happening in areas where less than 20 percent of Afghans live, this single facet of the campaign is not particularly accurate in describing the complete effect of the insurgency’s violence on the people of Afghanistan,” Graybeal argued. But that assumes a confidence in the overall attack reporting data that ISAF itself is saying it lacks, and will increasingly lack as time goes on. As more of those sparsely-populated areas come under the control of Afghan forces, how will ISAF be confident in the attack data from those regions? 

Was Afghanistan Worth It?

March 06, 2013

As his Marines prepare to leave Helmand Province, General James Amos, the commandant, says the mission has "paid off." He cites several metrics: 
  • "The number of violent events, from gunshots to roadside bombs, has dropped in almost every district since 2010."
  • "Roads have been paved and markets secured, allowing commerce to grow in places like Marja, Nad Ali and Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital." 
  • "Civilian casualties are down by 20 percent."
  • "[T]he Afghan National Army has grown, to almost four brigades with more than 16,000 soldiers." 
These are positive developments. The situation in Helmand is doubtless better off than when the Marines doubled down their effort there, making it "the defining battleground" of the campaign. 

Was it worth the 360 dead and 4700 wounded Marines it cost to get to that point? That's a metaphysical question, not one of public policy. Certainly, though the answer will be a resounding no if the gains "turn overnight" once NATO forces leave the country, as Amos acknowledges is possible. 

More importantly, though, it makes little sense to measure success based on the situation on the ground in 2010. The war started, after all, in October 2001 in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, and success should be measured against the objectives set forth at the outset. 

Indeed, all the metrics cited by Amos are much worse now than they were when the war began. The U.S. invasion set off the gunshots, roadside bombs, and civilian casualties. Eleven years ago, few Americans much cared about the conditions of the roads or the state of commerce in Marja and Lashkar Gah, places they never knew existed. And the expansion of an army that Afghanistan can't independently afford would be universally hailed as a setback absent a continuing insurgent threat. 

So, what were American war aims way back on October 7, 2001?

As declared by President Bush, "These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime." This, he explained, was after the Taliban government failed to accede to "a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps. Hand over leaders of the Al Qaeda network, and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens unjustly detained in our country." 

China’s Central Asia Problem

 27 February 2013

China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable. 


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, China and its Central Asian neighbours have developed a close relationship, initially economic but increasingly also political and security. Energy, precious metals, and other natural resources flow into China from the region. Investment flows the other way, as China builds pipelines, power lines and transport networks linking Central Asia to its north-western province, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Cheap consumer goods from the province have flooded Central Asian markets. Regional elites and governments receive generous funding from Beijing, discreet diplomatic support if Russia becomes too demanding and warm expressions of solidarity at a time when much of the international community questions the region’s long-term stability. China’s influence and visibility is growing rapidly. It is already the dominant economic force in the region and within the next few years could well become the pre-eminent external power there, overshadowing the U.S. and Russia. 

Beijing’s primary concern is the security and development of its Xinjiang Autonomous Region, which shares 2,800km of borders with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The core of its strategy seems to be creation of close ties between Xinjiang and Central Asia, with the aim of reinforcing both economic development and political stability. This in turn will, it is hoped, insulate Xinjiang and its neighbours from any negative consequences of NATO’s 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan. The problem is that large parts of Central Asia look more insecure and unstable by the year. Corruption is endemic, criminalisation of the political establishment widespread, social services in dramatic decline and security forces weak. The governments with which China cooperates are increasingly viewed as part of the problem, not a solution, as Chinese analysts privately agree. There is a risk that Central Asian jihadis currently fighting beside the Taliban may take their struggle back home after 2014. This would pose major difficulties for both Central Asia and China. Economic intervention alone might not suffice. 

There are other downsides to the relationship. Its business practices are contributing to a negative image in a region where suspicions of China – and nationalist sentiments – are already high. Allegations are growing of environmental depredation by Chinese mines, bad working conditions in Chinese plants, and Chinese businessmen squeezing out competitors with liberal bribes to officials. Merited or not, the stereotype of China as the new economic imperialist is taking root. 

Navigating US-China Relations: Complicated by China's "Unrelenting Strategy"

By Jenny Lin
MAR 5, 2013

Wonder why the Chinese government, especially the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has appeared more aggressive, self-confident, and assertive in dealing with the US and its allies? The answer could lie in an ancient Chinese strategy called the "unrelenting strategy" - a part of the "thirty-six political military strategies" derived from the I Ching. Mao Zedong incorporated this ancient teaching into his strategic thinking, and it was recently discussed in Chinese media as having made the Japanese miserable over the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute. Use of this strategy suggests that Beijing has taken the US-China relationship onto an adversarial path, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) systematically seeks to reduce Washington's influence in Asia. 


February 21, 2013 

Over the last five years, Chinese submarines have been going to sea a lot more, at least the diesel-electric boats have been. This is worrying to other nations in the region, and the U.S. Navy, because it means China is training its submarine crews for war. Previously the Chinese kept their fleet in port most of the time. This was cheaper, although in wartime it meant that Chinese warships would not last long in combat against a better trained fleet (like the Americans, Japanese, South Koreans, or Taiwanese). Now the Chinese are building better quality subs and feel they may have a fighting chance, if they have better prepared crews as well. 

For China one downside of all this training is that the U.S. Navy has more opportunity to practice hunting Chinese subs. This is particularly true for American subs, which are well equipped with passive (listen only) sonar and are even more effective if they have a lot of sound samples for enemy subs operating underwater or on the surface. The U.S. has discovered that Chinese diesel-electric boats are rapidly getting quieter, apparently because the Chinese have learned more about advanced techniques for “silencing” subs. Still, most of the 60 Chinese subs in service are pretty noisy and easy to find. 

Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy has been designing and building a rapidly evolving collection of "Song" (Type 39) class diesel-electric submarines that emphasize quietness. The changes have been so great that the latest four Songs have been called Yuan class (Type 39A or Type 41). The original design (Type 39) first appeared in 2001, and 13 have been built. But in 2008, a noticeably different Type 39 appeared. This has been called Type 39A or Type 41. Two of these Type 39As appeared before two of another variant, sometimes called Type 39B, showed up. The evolution continues, and there are now six or seven "Type 41 Yuan Class" subs (of at least three distinct models). These latest models appear to have AIP (air independent propulsion system) along with new electronics and other internal improvements. 

This rapid evolution of the Type 39 appears to be another example of China adapting Russian submarine technology to Chinese design ideas and new technology. China has been doing this for as long as it has been building subs (since the 1960s). But this latest version of what appears to be the Type 41 design shows Chinese naval engineers getting more creative. Two or more Yuans are believed to have an AIP that would allow them to cruise underwater longer. Western AIP systems allow subs to stay under water for two weeks or more. The Chinese AIP has less power and reliability and does not appear to be nearly as capable as Russian or Western models. The Chinese will keep improving on their AIP, just as they have done with so much other military technology. 

The Songs look a lot like the Russian Kilo class and that was apparently no accident. The 39s and 41s are both 1,800 ton boats with crews of 60 sailors and six torpedo tubes. This is very similar to the Kilos (which are a bit larger). China began ordering Russian Kilo class subs, then one of the latest diesel-electric designs available, in the late 1990s. The first two Type 41s appeared to be a copy of the early model Kilo (the model 877), while the second pair of Type 41s appeared to copy the late Kilos (model 636). The latest Yuans still appear like Kilos but may be part of an evolution into a sub that is similar to the Russian successor to the Kilo, the Lada. The Type 39s were the first Chinese subs to have the teardrop shaped hull. The Type 41 was thought to be just an improved Song but on closer examination, especially by the Russians, it looked like a clone of the Kilos. The Russians now believe that the entire Song/Yuan project is part of a long-range plan to successfully copy the Kilo. If that is the case, it appears to be succeeding. 


February 10, 2013

It was rather surprising to Westerners that China managed to get jet aircraft operating from their new aircraft carrier (the Liaoning) last November just two months after the ship was commissioned (on September 25th). Training of carrier pilots began nearly a decade earlier but perhaps the smartest move the Chinese made was to arrange for Brazil to have its carrier sailors show the Chinese how it’s done. This was particularly important in the case of how the deck sailors on a carrier operate to get aircraft ready for takeoffs and how the air control specialists in the carrier “island” handle landings. While Russian carrier expertise was for sale, the Chinese wanted to learn how Western navies did this, since carrier operations were invented in the West a century ago. 

Four years ago Brazil agreed to this deal so that Chinese sailors could learn carrier operating skills on the Brazilian Navy's carrier, the "Sao Paulo." It was 13 years ago that Brazil bought the 32,000 ton French aircraft carrier Foch (which was still in service) for $12 million, updated it, and renamed it "Sao Paolo". The navy has not been able to get much cash out of the government to further refurbish the 51 year old Sao Polo, and apparently the Chinese deal will change that. 

The 33,000 ton "Sao Paolo" was headed for decommissioning and has been used mainly to train carrier pilots when Brazil bought it. The "Sao Paolo" entered service in 2000, and the Brazilians retired the 20,000 ton "Minas Gerais", a World War II era (British) Colossus Class carrier, a year later (after 40 years of service). So the Brazilians have a long tradition of carrier operations and sufficient experienced carrier sailors to teach the Chinese some useful things. Brazil has long been the only South American nation to operate a carrier. The Sao Polo has a crew of 1,900 and was designed to carry 35 warplanes (smaller, older models like the A-4) and four helicopters. This load can vary depending on aircraft type. 

The first Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning is a 65,000 ton, 305 meter (999 feet) long ship that had spent over a year on sea trials. During that time Liaoning was at sea for about four months. This was all in preparation for flight operations. Last year China confirmed that the Liaoning will primarily be a training carrier. The Chinese apparently plan to station up to 24 jet fighters and 26 helicopters on the Liaoning and use the ship to train pilots and other specialists for four or more additional carriers that are to be built. 

Six years ago the Chinese Navy Air Force began training carrier fighter pilots (or "aviators" as they are known in the navy). In the past Chinese navy fighter pilots went to Chinese Air Force fighter training schools, and then transferred to navy flight training schools to learn how to perform their specialized (over open water) missions. Now, operating from carriers and performing landings and take-offs at sea has been added to the navy fighter pilot curriculum. The first class of carrier aviators has finished a four year training course at the Dalian Naval Academy. This included learning how to operate off a carrier, using a carrier deck mock-up on land. Landing on a moving ship at sea is another matter. The Russians warned China that it may take them a decade or more to develop the knowledge and skills needed to efficiently run an aircraft carrier. The Chinese are game and are slogging forward. The first landing and takeoff was apparently carried out in calm seas. It is a lot more difficult in rough weather (when the carrier is moving up and down and sideways a lot) and at night. The latter, called “night traps”, is considered the most difficult task any aviator can carry out, especially in rough weather.


February 4, 2013 

The Chinese Navy has faced a serious problem with feeding its crews on long voyages. This is because traditional Chinese food is time consuming to prepare and uses more water than Western chow. You can cut corners and provide simple (and unappetizing) meals on short training voyages and get away with it. That does not require much manpower or lots of water but does little for morale. The officers usually get fed better but the sailors expect that. 

On longer voyages quality food is an important element in maintaining morale for the entire crew. This was discovered over the last four years as China sent 13 Task Forces (3-4 ships each) over 4,000 kilometers to Somalia for anti-piracy duty. These ships were away for six months or more and the navy was forced to innovate to keep the food appealing. The solution turned out to be more Western style food. This worked mainly because most of the sailors were young and keen to try Western food. This stuff is still relatively expensive (but very popular) in China, if only because a lot of it relies a lot on meat (burgers and chicken). Chinese officers had studied food service in Western navies and noted that the Western navies were able to use more equipment and automation as well as pre-packaged items to greatly reduce the manpower (and fresh water) needed to prepare attractive and nutritious meals. 

All this was seen on the new Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, which has a crew of 2,500 and is expected to go on training cruises lasting a week or more. Operating a carrier, especially one conducting a lot of takeoffs and landings, is very stressful for the crew. So burgers, fried chicken, and reheated frozen Chinese dishes are served. This is expensive but it maintains morale and the ability to keep the busy schedule going. The Chinese Army has also been forced to use pre-packaged foods (like Western MREs) for combat operations where time consuming food preparation was not practical. Of course the Chinese have long (for thousands of years) used rice balls for emergency rations. The new prosperity in China has led to entrepreneurs developing traditional Chinese dishes in storable form. This has provided the armed forces with a constant supply of new ideas on how to keep the troops supplied with satisfactory food while on the move.


By M K Bhadrakumar 
March 5, 2013

Two years back at a rare colloquium with Delhi’s China watchers, when I mentioned that from an Indian perspective China should be regarded as a ‘factor of stability’ in relation to the worsening Afghan situation, eyebrows were raised and vague traces of condescending smile began spreading on many familiar faces suggesting I was an innocent abroad trespassing into a mystique land where I might lose my way. 

Today, we are a lot closer to that maverick idea, which was obviously struggling to be born. No doubt, the proposed idea of an ‘Afghan dialogue’ between India and China took its time to mature, but its raison d’etre was never in doubt. 

This may sound a paradox, but India and China do share a lot of common ground on the Afghan problem. First and foremost, both are stakeholders in Afghanistan’s stabilization. Both have searing experiences of terror radiating from the Afghan-Pakistan border regions and they shudder to think of Afghanistan becoming a revolving door for international terrorists. 

Neither India nor China abhors Islamism as such but both are acutely conscious of the dangers posed by radical Islamist groups. Thus, Afghanistan as a country of observant Muslims is an idea that neither would have a problem with, but both India and China disfavor a takeover in Kabul by the Taliban. 

Neither is a great game player in the big league, associated with the rival projects of Russia’s Eurasian Union or the United States’ New Silk Road Initiative, but both could take advantage of the regional stability and development that these enterprises of the great powers may come to offer. 

Most important, neither India nor China will get involved on the ground militarily in Afghanistan, while the anticipated post-2014 security vacuum worries them. Arguably, both countries would tacitly welcome the continued commitment — military and civilian — of the ‘international community’ to the stability and security of Afghanistan although they remain sceptical about long-term military presence by outside powers. 

But then, there is also going to be an element of competition. India seems destined to ‘lose’ in the competition over accessing the vast resources of Central Asia and Afghanistan. The dismal truth is that India has no transportation route connecting Afghanistan. And none is likely to be available for the foreseeable future. 

This is where China scores. The fact remains that China has an integrated regional vision whereas we seem to lack it, as evident from the volatile ties with Pakistan and the indifferent relationship with Iran. Thus, Gwadar becomes not only a fantastic gateway for Xinjiang (and Central Asian countries) but also holds the potential to create a template in the overall matrix aimed at harmonizing the Chinese and US regional objectives in Central Asia. 

A New Great Power Relationship"

By Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor
March 4, 2013

Throughout history, the rise of a new power has been attended by uncertainty and anxieties. Often, though not always, violent conflict has followed. As Thucydides explained, the real roots of the Peloponnesian war in which the ancient Greek system tore itself apart, were the rise in the power of Athens and the fear it created in Sparta. The rise in the economic and military power of China, the world's most populous country, will be one of the two or three most important questions for world stability in this century, and some think that conflict with the US is inevitable. But it is a mistake to allow historical analogies determine our thinking. Instead, we should be asking how China and the US can create a new great power relationship. 

Many analysts also compare the rise of China to that of Germany at the beginning of the last century. The rise in the power of Germany and the fear it created in Britain was one of the causes of World War I, in which the European system tore itself apart. This year China's economy will grow by nearly 7 to 8 percent and its defense spending will grow even more. Chinese leaders have spoken of China's "peaceful development", but analysts like John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago have flatly proclaimed that China cannot rise peacefully, and predicted that "the United States and China are likely to engage in an intense security competition with considerable potential for war." 

Who is right? We will not know for some time, but the debaters should recall both halves of Thucydides' trenchant analysis. War was caused not merely by the rise of one power, but by the fear it engendered in another. The belief in the inevitability of conflict can become one of its main causes. Each side, believing it will end up at war with the other, makes reasonable military preparations, which then are read by the other side as confirmation of its worst fears. In a perverse transnational alliance, hawks in each country cite the others' statements as clear evidence. One way to make East Asia and the world safer is to avoid such exaggerated fears and self-fulfilling prophecies. 

Moreover, while China has impressive power resources, one should be skeptical about projections based solely on current growth rates, political rhetoric, military contingency plans, and flawed historical analogies. It is important to remember that by 1900, Germany had surpassed Britain in industrial power, and the Kaiser was pursuing an adventurous, globally oriented foreign policy that was bound to bring about a clash with other great powers. In contrast, China still lags far behind the United States, and has focused its policies primarily on its economic development. 

China has a long way to go to equal the power resources of the United States, and still faces many obstacles to its development. At the beginning of the 21st century, the American economy was about twice the size of China's in purchasing power parity, and more than three times as large at official exchange rates. All such comparisons and projections are somewhat arbitrary. Even if Chinese GDP passes that of the United States in the next decade, the two economies would be equivalent in size, but not equal in composition. China would still have a vast underdeveloped countryside, and it will begin to face demographic problems from the delayed effects of the strict family planning policy it enforced in the 20th century. Moreover, as countries develop, there is a tendency for growth rates to slow. China would not equal the United States in per capita income until sometime in the second half of the century. 

What Fracking Means for Southeast Asia

March 07, 2013

Despite the rhetoric, Southeast Asian governments have been slow to tap their oil reserves. Fracking could make progress even slower.

Oil and gas have long held the promise of untold riches for Southeast Asian countries. Yet, success in the region has been mixed: Brunei has flourished and Malaysia has seen steady progress, but Burma, Cambodia, the Philippines, Vietnam and East Timor have struggled to exploit their reserves. 

Negotiations with oil companies and powerful neighbors are already tough as it is. However, the advent of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) will make this process even more difficult, especially when it comes to developing reserves in the South China Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, the Timor Sea and the Andaman Sea. 

Fracking is the process by which water is pumped into the ground to flush out oil and gas trapped in shale deposits. This innovative technique for tapping reserves has revolutionized the oil and gas industry. To be sure, many harbor deep concerns for the damage it can cause to the environment. Nonetheless, its ability to extend the life of existing oil fields has changed the industry’s outlook. 

The use of fracking is most suitable for mature energy producers with established markets, developed oil fields and infrastructure already in place. Countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, and in Europe and Central Asia will benefit most from this innovative method. For example, disused oil refineries on the U.S. East Coast are being reopened to accommodate producers whose fields were once thought spent. 

Alongside extending the life of existing oil fields, fracking has helped to substantially lower oil prices. According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, fracking could keep oil prices up to 40 percent lower than the levels they were previously expected to reach by 2035. 

This means crude could be valued at less than U.S. $90 per barrel, compared with the current price of about U.S. $100 a barrel and the peak oil price of U.S. $145 per barrel that producers were earning in 2008 amid dwindling supplies. 

Interference in guise of friendly intervention

By Ashok K Mehta 
06 mar 2013

People in Kathmandu believe that the Baburam Bhattarai-led Government is India-appointed, and that Chief Justice Regmi as caretaker Prime Minister is primarily an Indian idea. We need to change the perception 

Nepal’s perpetual crisis may be blowing over. But we will know for sure on March 7 whether Chief Justice of Nepal Khil Raj Regmi will head the caretaker Government to hold another election to the Constituent Assembly. 

Amongst those who have opposed the idea are the usual suspects and the breakaway Maoists under Mohan Baidya, who remain committed to capturing state power and upholding Nepal’s ‘national independence’, a euphemism for Indian interference in the country’s internal affairs. 

Anyone who has followed the winds of change in Nepal for the last six decades will know that India has played a pivotal role in its smaller neighbour’s political transformation: From autocracy to monarchy to multiparty democracy to a federal republic, which is a work in progress. Given Nepal’s land-lockedness, shared history, religion, culture and geostrategic location which dominate the Indo-Gangetic heartland, New Delhi has maintained a balance between its strategic concerns rooted in Nepal and a uniquely open border with huge economic benefits for Nepal that does not have a parallel anywhere. China and its friend Pakistan have driven these security concerns. The complexity of managing this special relationship only briefly acknowledged by Nepal creates challenges for Kathmandu to maintain its sovereignty and independence, and opportunities for Indian interference — even intrusiveness — to protect its national interest. 

King Tribhuvan offered to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1951 that India takes Nepal into its fold. The intimacy between the two countries led many, including actor Madhuri Dixit, to believe that Nepal was a part of India. Students at Kansas University in the US told me that India was lucky that Nepal was part of it, an impression I quickly disabused. 

Given the brand new political canvas in ‘new’ Nepal, with new political actors shaping the social and economic landscape, India was seen to be overly intrusive while trying to retain its political primacy and strategic anchorage. Two events, both interlinked and illustrative of these priorities, come from books published last year. The first relates to an article by Professor SD Muni in Nepal in Transition, in which he narrates how the Maoists at the height of the insurgency, wrote identical letters to many countries explaining their political objectives, but the missive to New Delhi was different: An assurance that in Nepal under their charge India’s interests will be taken care of. Former Indian National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra was known to have enquired: “What do the Maoists want from us?” 

DoD panel recommends special bomber-armed cyber deterrent force

By John Reed 
March 6, 2013 

This is interesting. The Defense Science Board's new report on protecting the Pentagon's computer networks calls for the development of a special force armed with its own bombers, cruise missiles, and cyber weapons to respond to a devastating cyber attack. Kind of like a mini, conventionally-armed Strategic Command for cyber deterrence. 

We've heard Pentagon leaders acknowledge that they are building up their offensive cyber capabilities to deter destructive cyber attacks that could harm thousands or even millions of Americans. However, the new report says that the U.S. must go further to "ensure the President has options beyond a nuclear-only response to a catastrophic cyber-attack." 

That's right, the report, written by the DSB's Task Force on Resilient Military Systems, implies that the United States might have to rely on nuclear weapons to retaliate after a large-scale cyber attack. 

As one Pentagon official tells Killer Apps: "It's the responsibility of the Department of Defense to provide a range of options for policy leaders to deal with potential threats. In doing so, we must take into account the full range of capabilities at our disposal and how to engage if and when necessary." 

To avoid going nuclear, the report calls for the Pentagon to develop a cadre of cyber and conventional forces that are heavily protected against cyber attack and dedicated to retaliating after such a strike. 

"Cyber offense may provide the means to respond in-kind," reads the document. "The protected conventional capability should provide credible and observable kinetic effects globally. Forces supporting this capability are isolated and segmented from general-purpose forces to maintain the highest level of cyber resiliency at an affordable cost. Nuclear weapons would remain the ultimate response and anchor the deterrence ladder." 

Growing Black Market for Cyber-Attack Tools Scares Senior DoD Official

By Stew Magnuson 

A growing black market for zero-day vulnerabilities is allowing almost anyone with the cash to buy the means to launch destructive cyber-attacks against U.S. industrial control systems, a senior Defense Department official said Feb. 22.

Zero-day vulnerabilities are previously undiscovered security holes in software such as Microsoft products. There has been a black market for those willing to sell knowledge of them for years. That market has now moved into the world of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that run power plants, said Eric Rosenbach, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy.

The black market for potentially destructive malware is being made easier by Google-like search engines that connect those who have discovered the vulnerability with customers who have the money to buy the knowledge. That may include nation states, terrorist groups or even individuals who want to make their mark on history, he said. They connect on the so-called “darknet,” a loose term for underground communications on the Web.

“That to me is scary,” he said at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Washington, D.C. chapter cybersecurity symposium.

Zero-day vulnerabilities were famously used in the so-called Stuxnet operation that attacked SCADA systems attached to Iran's nuclear program. In that case, malware disrupted the normal operation of centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

Stuxnet brought attention to how industrial control systems can be used to cause physical damage to such facilities as power plants, dams, and other critical infrastructure. This tactic may allow an adversary to cause physical and economic damage to a target country without launching a military operation. They may also be able to do so without being detected.

Attributing such attacks has been a problem in the past, but Rosenbach said that is changing. A recent report by cybersecurity company Mandiant was able to nail down the exact location of a concerted effort on the part of the Chinese military to steal intellectual property from U.S. corporations.

“Attribution is getting a lot better inside and outside the government,” he said.

SCADA systems were generally designed before cyber-attacks became a problem, and therefore, did not have security features built in. They were made with programs that could be easily changed on purpose, and their coding was once widely shared, he added.

Drones, Covert Action, and Counterterrorism: Why UAV Strikes should be Exclusively Military

March 6, 2013

The recent confirmation hearings for John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director occasioned an extended discussion--and unusually a rather public one at that--on the role and organizational identity of the CIA. Brennan’s predecessor General Petraeus was a military man, perhaps the consummate military man of the age in terms of bearing, demeanor and vision; but he was sent to run a place which has always held itself apart from the military in its conventions and mission. Yet the tension between the proximity of the CIA to military matters, and its inherent “otherness” has given rise to a debate amongst practitioners and observers alike, and has adopted as shorthand for the CIA’s various roles the idea that paramilitary operations and covert action are the central matter in dispute. The most visible manifestation of these activities are the activities surrounding counterterrorism, and the most visible example of those are a supposed program run by CIA to conduct UAV strikes against terrorist targets outside of active combat zones. 

So much more the case recently, as memoranda from the Department of Justice have reached media outlets, laying down the rationale behind the use of UAV strikes even against U.S. citizens, presumably in operations conducted by the Department of Defense, whose program is acknowledged. But more than that has been the confirmation hearing for Brennan, a former CIA officer whom President Obama nominated to become the Agency’s 21st Director. During the Senate confirmation hearings, many questions from the Senators had to do with the practice of targeted killings and other CIA activities that are essentially military in nature. Mr. Brennan was very careful not to confirm or deny any supposed covert action operations, but the questions from the Senators on the Senate’s Select Intelligence Committee made it seem to the even the casual observer that they were talking about the alleged Drone program, and some of the very serious issues surrounding it. 

One of the more interesting dimensions to this issue has been reported by both the Washington Post, several weeks ago, and more recently by Michael Hirsh of the National Journal on February 7, which is the notion that Brennan feels “the [drone] program has run its course as a CIA operation” and that moving such a program to the Defense Department is the way forward in the future. If true, this would be an important idea worth exploring, not least because it comes to us from a career CIA man. Such men are not known for being eager to give away programs to the Defense Department. It is also worth exploring because when the whole matter is considered, Brennan’s position would absolutely be the right one. Any program of UAV strikes against high value targets being run from CIA is bad for covert action, bad for the CIA, bad for counterterrorism operations, and none too good either for war policy or the Law. 

It is important to acknowledge from the outset that some very relevant practical questions are involved. Recent articles in the Washington Post and in syndicated wires reported that the CIA’s supposed use of UAV strikes is meant to be exempted for two years from new restrictions and procedures in the “Counterterrorism Playbook”. For the time being at least, it appears that policymakers are not willing to transfer the program. The reasoning goes that such supposed operations are too expedient to be stopped now or transferred immediately to a more structured program with greater oversight. It is an argument with powerful momentum. It will be difficult to overcome. It may also be the case that Brennan’s priorities upon assuming the Directorship of the CIA will not at first include laying the groundwork for such a transfer. Directors who arrive at Langley with major shifts in mind about how the Agency does its business tend not to last very long. Even those who do, often run up against great amounts of bureaucratic inertia in trying to accomplish their goals. All that aside, however, Brennan did remark at his hearing that “The CIA should not be doing traditional military activities and operations”, so at least he appears to have the right intentions, and the goal of placing a UAV strike program entirely within Defense is entirely right and worth pursuing. 

Reassessing the All-Volunteer Force

By Karl W. Eikenberry
DEC 18, 2012

The retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General and former ambassador to Afghanistan argues that, despite its overall success, the All-Volunteer Force has developed liabilities in its weak political oversight and internal accountability of its senior leadership with widely unacknowledged consequences for civic virtue, an insulated defense spending debate, and potentially increased deployments overseas. 

Challenges and Opportunities in the CENTCOM AOR

MAR 4, 2013 

The US needs to comprehensively reexamine its strategy and force posture in the USCENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR). America faces multiple challenges with a fiscally constrained environment at home, and a demanding mix of rising strategic concerns across Asia and the Middle East. This requires a level of strategic triage where the US does not overcommit its resources, as well as a new emphasis on cooperative security efforts with both traditional allies and emerging regional partners. 

The Burke Chair at CSIS has developed a comprehensive new briefing that highlights the key issues involved. This report is titled “Challenges and Opportunities in the CENTCOM AOR”, and is available on the CSIS web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/130304_challenges_opportunities_centcom_aor.pdf

The USCENTCOM AOR now involves four major functions where the US must modernize and adapt its current force posture: 
  • The US must shift away from a focus on terrorism per se to the much broader mix of threats posed by Islamic extremism and the struggles within the Islamic world. These no longer are driven by Al Qa’ida central, or by terrorism. They involve civil conflicts, insurgencies, symmetric warfare, and uncertain mixes of state and non-state actors. They are driven by struggles between more secular and more religious elements, struggles between Sunni factions, and struggles between Sunnis and Shi’ites. 
  • The US must withdraw from Afghanistan and reshape its role in Central Asia, the Caspian, and Pakistan. The new strategy the US issued in early 2012 recognized that the US is now sharply overcommitted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. The US needs to rethink its posture in the entire region, and probably reduce its role to one where strong country teams work to help individual countries reach stability and security while making the necessary political reforms. The US has little to gain from attempting to play a new “Great Game” in a natural Russian and Chinese sphere of influence, or becoming indirectly involved in Pakistan and India in ways that could affect a future conflict in South Asia. 

U.S. Need for Foreign Oil Falls Dramatically

March 6, 2013 

Over the last seven years, the United States has dramatically reduced its dependence on oil imports. From their peak in 2006, imports have fallen 40% as a result of declining demand (see Figure 1) and strong growth in domestic production of liquid fuels, leading to predictions that the US could reach oil self-sufficiency within 15-20 years. 

The role of imports in meeting the country's oil needs is still substantial. But their rapid decline has been a major surprise. Expectations of continued growth in oil imports were based on the premise that domestic oil production had peaked in the early 1970s and was declining irreversibly. It was also believed that it would be politically impossible to tax oil products to a level that would arrest growth in demand, let alone reverse it. (Tax rates on oil products in most European countries are about five times higher than those in the US.) 

Instead, both the fall in US oil production and the rise in consumption have been reversed (see Figure 2). As a result, monthly imports(expressed as a 12-month moving average to suppress seasonal effects) peaked in September 2006 at 12.7 million barrels per day (mb/d) and had declined 40% by November 2012 to 7.6mb/d. 

Declining demand

Lower demand accounts for 40% of the total decline in net oil imports since 2006. After the financial crisis of 2008 the US economy suffered a sharp contraction, followed by growth at a much slower pace than before the recession. However, economic performance does not explain the phenomenon by itself. 

As a result of fuel substitution and improvements in energy efficiency, oil consumption per unit of gross domestic product has declined sharply. This metric, called the 'oil intensity of GDP', has been going down for decades, but since 2006 it has declined approximately 25% faster on average than during the previous ten years. There are two reasons for this: oil has to some extent been displaced by cheaper natural gas in industrial uses and power generation; and energy demand has fallen in the most oil-intensive sectors, especially transport. 

The transport sector, which represents 70% of US oil consumption and had been responsible for most of the growth in demand since 1990, accounts for about half of the decline since 2006. Industry, representing less than a quarter of total oil consumption, accounts for 40% of the decline and power generation 10%. 


March 06, 2013

The number of U.S. troops U.S. Central Command chief Marine General James Mattis has recommended remain in Afghanistan after 2014, when all U.S. combat forces are slated to be gone. That's 20% of the 66,000 now there. They would consist of trainers for the Afghan military and special-operations units designed to keep the Taliban in check. Mattis’ figure is now under review at the White House, which has made clear it wants fewer troops left behind. Mattis retires soon, but President Obama doesn’t, which suggests a smaller post-2014 U.S. footprint may be in the offing. 

U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 5.

Over $8B of the Money You Spent Rebuilding Iraq Was Wasted Outright


The never-completed Khan Bani Sa’ad Prison in Diyala, Iraq. Ultimately, the U.S. spent $40 million on the aborted project. Photo courtesy of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction 

The legacy of all the money the U.S. wasted in Iraq might be summed up with a single quote. “$55 billion could have brought great change in Iraq,” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently told the U.S.’s Iraq auditor. In fact, the U.S. spent $60 billion in its botched and often fraudulent efforts to rebuild the country it invaded, occupied and recast in its image. 

With the 10-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion looming, Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, considers $8 billion of that money wasted outright. And that’s a “conservative” estimate, Bowen tells Danger Room. 

“We couldn’t look at every project — that’s impossible — but our audits show a lack of accountability,” Bowen says. “We are not well structured to carry out stability and reconstruction operations.” 

That isn’t nearly the whole story of the Iraq War’s expense. Bowen is only looking at reconstruction money, not the cost of military operations in Iraq, which totaled over $800 billion. But on Wednesday, Bowen’s office released a mammoth, final report into the botched reconstruction, which cost the U.S. taxpayers, on average, $15 million every day from 2003 to 2012 — all for dubious gain. 

It turns out there wasn’t just one way to waste all that money. Some projects got started and never finished, like a prison in Diyala province, shown above, that languishes unbuilt nearly nine years after the government spent $40 million to build it. Other contracts went to cronies: the top contracting officer in Hilla awarded $8.6 million to a contractor, Philip Bloom, in exchange for “bribes and kickbacks, expensive vehicles, business-class airline tickets, computers, jewelry, and other items.” Still others got needless cash infusions: one unspecified school requested $10,000 for refurbishments and got $70,000. Government contracting databases didn’t even have “an information management system that keeps track of everything built,” Bowen recounts. 

“You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad or other cities,” Iraq’s acting interior minister told Bowen, “but you cannot point a finger at a single project that was built and completed by the United States.” Shoveling money into a chaotic warzone created a “triangle of political patronage” that ensured corruption would be an “institution unto itself in Iraq,” in the view of the acting governor of the Iraqi central bank. (Iraq consistently ranks at the bottom of Transparency International’s index on corruption.) By contrast, David Petraeus, the U.S. general who led the 2007-2008 troop surge, told Bowen that reconstruction provided “colossal benefits to Iraq.” 

Vision for Global Prosperity

By Johanna Nesseth TuttleDaniel F. Runde,Carly FiorinaThomas J. Pritzker, Thomas A. Daschle, and Vin Weber 
Contributor: Foreword by John J. Hamre 
MAR 4, 2013 

One year ago CSIS convened the Executive Council on Development—a bipartisan group of leaders from government, business, nongovernmental organizations, and philanthropy—to explore how the U.S. government and private sector can work together to support the economic success of developing countries. In their final report, Our Shared Opportunity: A Vision for Global Prosperity, the Council provides a targeted set of recommendations for the U.S. government and private sector, calling for a greater reliance on business, trade, and investment tools to achieve better development outcomes.