8 April 2013

The Ghost in Uniform

Almost 50 years after his death, a soldier continues to serve in the Indian Army

Shortly after his death, Sepoy Harbhajan Singh appeared to a colleague in a dream and asked that a samadhi be constructed in his memory.

The information came to me from my editor at The Indian Express in Chandigarh. A local cop had tipped him off, but even so, the story seemed difficult to believe. Since I had nothing more pressing scheduled for the day, I set off for Kuka village in the neighbouring Kapurthala district.

It was barely 25 km from Jalandhar, an hour’s ride on my motorcycle. This was 14 years ago, but even today I can recall many of the details of that journey. There was very little traffic once we (the photographer was riding pillion with me) got off the main road. It was the end of October, the air had a slight chill and the paddy stood ready for harvest in the fields.

At the village, finding the Baba’s house was easy. Everyone seemed to know where he lived. The house lay on a narrow earthen street off the main village road, made of brick and concrete surrounded by high walls. I rang the bell and a grey-haired woman in a patterned salwar kameez opened the enormous metal gate. When we introduced ourselves she ushered us in.

She said she was the Baba’s sister-in-law, “My husband is away for the day. Only my mother-in-law is around but she is in bed, her knees give her a lot of trouble and she can barely see.” Not that it mattered, she seemed to suggest, visitors were always dropping in unannounced at any time of the day “especially when he is here on leave”.

She led us straight to his room. I found myself treading softly despite myself. There was a photograph of the Baba in one corner, broad of shoulder in his olive green Army uniform. With barely the trace of a beard, he looked younger than I had expected. On the bed, a new uniform had been laid out. His shoes and slippers lay at the foot of the bed along with a pair of snowshoes. “They are quite worn out,” she said, “the men who accompanied him have promised to bring a new pair next year.” That year, like every other year, a berth on a train had been reserved in the Baba’s name and two soldiers had accompanied him on the journey back from the Sikkim border. They had travelled with him to Jalandhar, where an Army vehicle was waiting for his arrival. It was adorned with four nishan sahibs, the flag that marks any Sikh religious shrine.

He arrived on 16 September, like any other year, and stayed overnight at the Army gurdwara with his regiment that happened to be posted at the Jalandhar Cantonment for the year. The next day, he was driven home in the vehicle that had picked him up from the train station. Mid-November, she told me, the same vehicle would take him back to join duty in the distant mountains.

India needs a federal foreign policy

Published: April 8, 2013
Manoj Joshi

Since most States share an international boundary, they need to be involved and consulted on external affairs that affect them

The competitive populism in Tamil Nadu over the situation of Tamils in Sri Lanka has generated a great deal of alarm in New Delhi over the manner in which political issues relating to a State have begun impinging on India’s foreign and security policies. Though somewhat over the top, the Dravidian parties have a point, but a general one rather than the specific case they are advocating.

The general point is that in any country, the people have a right to advocate and push for a particular foreign and security policy. Given our linguistic, ethnic, religious and ideological divisions, these views often come across as those belonging to this or that section. That, too, is legitimate. But at the end of the day, this diverse country must have a single policy and its execution must be the responsibility of its federal government.

Sectional interests

The government structure as such does not cater to these sectional interests; in other words, there are no constitutional or institutional mechanisms to relay those interests. So, with Union governments taking the form of coalitions, they have become vulnerable to party or sectional pressure which often takes the form of pure blackmail.

The withdrawal of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam from the United Progressive Alliance government could be seen as being part of the rough and tumble of coalition politics. Actually, it is more likely that the party has used the Sri Lankan crisis to push for a separation from the UPA, because it is politically expedient for it to do so. After all, what is happening in 2013 — or even what happened in 2012 — is not the worst that has befallen the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

But with general elections looming, competitive populism seems to be ruling the roost. The DMK wanted the UPA government to pilot a resolution in the United Nations demanding an international probe into alleged war crimes tantamount to “genocide” in Sri Lanka. Then with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa joining the fray, the demands escalated — a boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit to be held later this year in Colombo, a ban on Sri Lankan players in the Indian Premier League matches in Tamil Nadu and an Assembly resolution asking the Union government to get the U.N. to create a separate Eelam in Sri Lanka.

The DMK and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam are only a more extreme manifestation of a trend we have been witnessing recently in India where coalition constituents and States are bringing foreign and security issues to the bargaining table. Actually, the leader of this pack has been the Indian Left for which the United States is a permanent anathema. This is what led to the crisis in UPA-I in 2008 when the Left pulled out of the coalition because it opposed the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal. This move of the Left was also pitched as much on its belief that nothing good could come out of an agreement with “imperialist” America, as its attempt to cloak the decision in the garb of attacking America for its anti-Muslim policies.

The next instance of this “State-first” approach occurred when West Bengal Chief Minister and then UPA coalition partner, Mamata Banerjee, opposed the river waters agreement with Bangladesh. In September 2011, on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka, the Union government was forced to call off the signing of a pact that would have ratified a formula for sharing the waters of the Teesta with Bangladesh.

More than a leader, India needs a vision

Arun Maira

The pursuit of a GDP number does not inspire citizens because it does not tell them how their lives will improve but the idea of building a good society would

Diverse India needs much better processes for citizens to listen to each other and develop a shared thought of the country they want to build. 

Rahul Gandhi spoke to the captains of industry for the first time on April 4. He described his inclusionary vision for India. He said that when the people prosper, especially the poor and the youth, industry will prosper too. Thus he evoked a bottom-up vision of growth, in contrast to a top-down vision in which industry must first grow before people can prosper. His speech has been criticised by many for being merely visionary and not concrete. This raises questions about the role of vision in energising movements of change and what should be the content of a vision.

Democratic India is not a unitary battleship. With its many contending interest groups, its federal state structure, and jostling political parties, India is a flotilla of independent, but interdependent boats. For a flotilla of independent boats to advance together, they must wish to go to the same destination and follow the same course. The flotilla needs a shared vision of what it wants to achieve and how it will do it.

Relate it to lives

A vision cannot be merely numbers. It must be an evocative idea representing the aspirations of citizens for the quality of society and economy they want to be a part of and will help to shape. This is a lesson that business corporations have learnt. In the 1990s when the pursuit of shareholder value became a corporate mantra, many companies expressed their vision of the future as a number (revenue or market capitalisation) they aimed to achieve. However, such visions did little to inspire employees down the line to change their behaviour. Shop floor workers would not wake up in the morning looking forward to what they could do that day to increase shareholder value — an outcome far removed from their lives. Similarly, the pursuit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers inspires very few citizens. What do these numbers mean to them? What matters to them is how the quality of their lives will change and the opportunities they will have for better livelihoods.

India’s GDP growth rate has been stumbling. The Indian flotilla is muddling along. Sometimes it even seems to be falling apart in cacophonies of contention and confusion. The need of the hour is to rally the flotilla of boats and the people in them with a vision. This vision cannot be merely a number, or even just a slogan. It has to be an evocative story of the nation’s progress. We are far from our goals of becoming, in Tagore’s words, a nation in which every head is held high, and which is not broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls. Economic reforms had become imperative in 1991. Fortunately, India had leaders then with the courage and skills required to implement them. However, an inadvertent casualty of the era of economic reforms is that, since then, a vision of a large GDP seems to have overshadowed a shared vision of a good society. Those who point to the narrowness of GDP as a measure of good growth are accused of being “anti-growth” when in reality they are also calling for growth — the growth of a good society and inclusive economy.

For dialogue

The design of democracy’s structures — constitutions and electoral processes — is important for democracy to function smoothly. India can be proud of its Constitution and its ability to conduct elections on a scale no other country can. However, the nature of the dialogue and deliberations among citizens produces democracy’s quality. The structures are like the hardware of a computer. Dialogue and deliberations are the software of democracy. And, as in computer systems, given adequate hardware, the system’s performance depends entirely on the quality of the software. Diverse India needs much better processes for citizens to listen to each other, deliberate together, and develop a shared vision of the country they want to build.


The idea of India is not irrelevant, it just needs rejuvenation
Ananya Vajpeyi

About three quarters of a century ago, in the era of nationalist and anti-colonial struggles, constitutional debates, decolonization, Partition and democratization, many different visions of a possible India were at play and on the table. The debates over what India was, is and could or should be had unfolded over the course of the previous half-century, from at least the 1880s, and had involved the intellectual and political labours of thousands of men and women in the founding generations. Some thinkers and leaders were attracted to Western liberal and democratic models of politics and economics; others turned inwards to India’s religious and cultural traditions in order to imagine the future; still others looked to the new forms of bellicose nationalism, Marxism, communism or, in rare instances, totalitarianism that had emerged in other parts of the world, to deliver India from the thralldom of British rule into its own proper political modernity.

Figures like Gandhi, Tagore and Ambedkar suggested utterly unprecedented and original methods as well as goals of political thought and activity, which had the capacity to transform India not only into an entity very different from what it had been under colonialism, but also distinct from most, if not all, other nations of the world. There was a churning of literally an ocean of ideas that went on for a few decades. Even as late as 1946-47 or perhaps even 1950-51, the exact outcome of the freedom movement was not a foregone conclusion.

The Indian nation-state that emerged at the end of this process of self-reflection, self-criticism and self-transformation had many elements of continuity relative to the colonial state, true. But there was also a good faith commitment to a new set of values, ideals and norms that were intended to ameliorate India's political and economic condition, and to establish India firmly in its own sense of sovereign selfhood, swaraj. These values, ideals and norms included independence, equal citizenship, universal adult franchise, Parliamentary democracy, gender parity, secularism (in its peculiar Indian definition of the state’s impartial love of all religions and equal patronage of all religious communities), justice, compensatory discrimination, free speech, land reform, a planned economy, and a variety of other rights, entitlements, guarantees and so on that were seen as essential to building a better India.

Given mind-boggling differences, the Constitution was an attempt to create a minimal framework for moving hundreds of millions of people forward in their collective life as a nation, putting into place a republic that would be “righteous” in its fundamental principles of equality, dignity, pluralism, toleration and inclusiveness.

Now things began to go wrong from the very outset. The integration of the princely states into the Union of India was a violent and messy affair, incomplete to date. The linguistic divvying up and reorganization of states had its problems, which also continue. The aftermath of Partition compromised the secular State from the get-go and planted the seeds of majoritarianism and communal strife that would only grow and flourish in postcolonial futurity. Those populations that had been relatively sequestered from the depredations of the colonial State, like the tribals, or other groups that could be called non-modern, underwent and continue to undergo an extremely painful, even catastrophic, process of entry into the national mainstream with its developmental paradigm.

Anti-democratic instruments for the expansion of State power, like the Armed Forces Special Powers’ Act, either persisted from colonial times or got a new lease of life after Independence, delaying endlessly the prospect of self-determination for enormous numbers of people in different parts of what had come to be called, like it or not, India. Gandhi’s non-violence, Ambedkar’s fraternity, and Tagore’s unity in diversity, as also Nehru’s self-reliance, all gradually became vitiated, attenuated or fell by the wayside. At the end of the 1980s, India was still hungry, still fractious, still hierarchical, still unjust, and still not at peace with either its regional neighbours or its own minorities and vulnerable constituents.

Nonproliferation isn't all

Mon Apr 08 2013

Why the US needs a more measured appoach to the nuclear question

The deepening crisis in the Korean Peninsula and the stalled nuclear talks with Iran together are a powerful reminder to the United States that its nonproliferation policies are not working in Asia. If George W. Bush attempted muscular approaches — including preventive war and regime change — to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, his successor Barack Obama has put greater emphasis on coercive diplomacy through international sanctions.

Both approaches have failed. The American problem has less to do with the different stratagems that Bush and Obama adopted — the former emphasising unilateralism and the later multilateralism. It has everything to do with rigid American political assumptions about the meaning and implications of proliferation of nuclear weapons.

First, after the Cold War, the American strategic community has elevated the proliferation of nuclear weapons to the highest possible level — as an existential threat to international peace and security. American liberals and conservatives alike whipped themselves into a frenzy about the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

While the US managed to live with an expansive nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union that saw both sides build thousands of nuclear weapons and deploy them around the world, Washington convinced itself it just can't accept the spread of any nuclear weapon capability, especially to regimes like Iran and North Korea. Paradoxically, the proliferation alarmism in the US has turned into a powerful incentive for those regimes seeking to draw American political attention. The argument here is not for minimising the dangers from the spread of nuclear weapons. It is to suggest that a more measured approach to the nuclear question will make it much easier for the US to pursue its larger interests in different parts of Asia.

Second, America's obsession with nonproliferation has been made worse by the relentless demonisation of the regimes in Iran and North Korea. Calling them "rogue states" and projecting the rulers in Tehran as "crazy" has prevented the US from taking a political view of the proliferation challenge and building a pragmatic domestic consensus on how to deal with it. Seen from a comparative perspective, though, neither Tehran nor Pyongyang have been more deviant or threatening than the Pakistan army that has actively promoted proliferation and constantly used nuclear blackmail vis-a-vis India and the US.

Iran and North Korea have not always been opposed to engagement and reconciliation with the US. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and American intervention in Afghanistan, Tehran had cooperated with the US. North Korea, too, has been willing to negotiate its nuclear option at different times in the last two decades with the US. While the popular narrative is that North Korea is an unreliable interlocutor, Washington has also backed away from some of the commitments it made to Pyongyang. Fear of looking weak and "giving away too much", and the ideology of nonproliferation, have prevented Washington from fully exploring the prospects for reconciliation with North Korea.

Third is the near fundamentalist political canon in Washington today that America can't and shouldn't accept Iran and North Korea acquiring any nuclear weapon capability. Suggestions that Washington could productively focus on "containing" rather than "rolling back" the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes draws fierce bipartisan outrage in the US establishment. This refusal to accept containment is rooted in the proposition that the "non-Western" regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang will not abide by the rules of deterrence. History should help put things in a better perspective. If America deterred Stalin's Russia and Mao's China — regimes that once threatened to overthrow the international order — why won't deterrence work with Tehran and Pyongyang?

A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood

Published: April 6, 2013 

Nek Muhammad, center, was a Pashtun militant who was killed in 2004, in the first C.I.A. drone strike in Pakistan.

On a hot day in June 2004, the Pashtun tribesman was lounging inside a mud compound in South Waziristan, speaking by satellite phone to one of the many reporters who regularly interviewed him on how he had fought and humbled Pakistan’s army in the country’s western mountains. He asked one of his followers about the strange, metallic bird hovering above him.

Less than 24 hours later, a missile tore through the compound, severing Mr. Muhammad’s left leg and killing him and several others, including two boys, ages 10 and 16. A Pakistani military spokesman was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, saying that Pakistani forces had fired at the compound.

That was a lie.

Mr. Muhammad and his followers had been killed by the C.I.A., the first time it had deployed a Predator drone in Pakistan to carry out a “targeted killing.” The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies.

That back-room bargain, described in detail for the first time in interviews with more than a dozen officials in Pakistan and the United States, is critical to understanding the origins of a covert drone war that began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Obama, and is now the subject of fierce debate. The deal, a month after a blistering internal report about abuses in the C.I.A.’s network of secret prisons, paved the way for the C.I.A. to change its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organization.

The C.I.A. has since conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike. While it was not the first country where the United States used drones, it became the laboratory for the targeted killing operations that have come to define a new American way of fighting, blurring the line between soldiers and spies and short-circuiting the normal mechanisms by which the United States as a nation goes to war.

Neither American nor Pakistani officials have ever publicly acknowledged what really happened to Mr. Muhammad — details of the strike that killed him, along with those of other secret strikes, are still hidden in classified government databases. But in recent months, calls for transparency from members of Congress and critics on both the right and left have put pressure on Mr. Obama and his new C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan, to offer a fuller explanation of the goals and operation of the drone program, and of the agency’s role.

‘Drone strikes if Kashmir militants aren’t touched’

NEW YORK, April 7, 2013

Pak., U.S. entered into a secret deal: NYT

AP In this Jan. 31, 2010 file photo, a U.S. Predator drone flies over the moon above Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan.

In a secret deal, Pakistan allowed American drone strikes on its soil on the condition that the unmanned aircraft would stay away from its nuclear facilities and the mountain camps where Kashmiri militants were trained for attacks in India, according to a media report.

Under negotiations between the ISI and the CIA during 2004, the terms of the bargain were set, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

“Pakistani intelligence officials insisted that drones fly only in narrow parts of the tribal areas — ensuring that they would not venture where Islamabad did not want the Americans going: Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, and the mountain camps where Kashmiri militants were trained for attacks in India,” the paper said.

Pakistani officials also insisted that they be allowed to approve each drone strike, giving them tight control over the list of targets, it added.

The “secret deal” over drone strikes was reached after CIA agreed to kill tribal warlord Nek Muhammad, a Pakistani ally of the Afghan Taliban who led a rebellion and was marked by Islamabad as an “enemy of the state”, the NYT reported, citing an excerpt from the book The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth.

A CIA official had met the then ISI Chief Ehsan ul-Haq with the offer that if the American intelligence agency killed Muhammad, “would the ISI allow regular armed drone flights over the tribal areas”, the report said.

ISI-CIA bargain

The ISI and CIA also agreed that all drone flights in Pakistan would operate under the American agency’s “covert action authority”, which meant that the U.S. would never acknowledge the missile strikes and that Pakistan would either take credit for the individual killings or remain silent.

While Pakistani officials had in the past considered drone flights a violation of sovereignty, it was Muhammad’s rise to power that forced them to reconsider their line of thought and eventually allow Predator drones.

The ISI-CIA’s “back-room bargain” sheds light on the beginning of the covert drone war which “began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Obama”.

From capture to kill

The deal resulted in the CIA changing its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped “transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organisation”.

After Muhammad’s killing in a drone strike, a Pakistani military spokesman had told reporters that “al-Qaeda facilitator” Nek Muhammad and four other “militants” had been killed in a rocket attack by Pakistani troops, the paper said.

During the time when the negotiations were being held, CIA’s then Inspector-General John Helgerson came out with a critical report about the abuse of detainees in the agency’s secret prisons.

Mr. Helgerson’s report has been described as the single most important reason for the CIA’s shift from capturing to killing terrorism suspects.

CIA’s Counterterrorism Centre (CTC) had earlier focused on capturing al-Qaeda operatives, interrogating them in its jails or outsourcing interrogations to intelligence services of Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and using the information to hunt more suspects. Mr. Helgerson’s report raised questions about interrogation methods like waterboarding and sleep deprivation, raising concerns that it violated the UN Convention Against Torture.

The report “was the beginning of the end” for CTC’s detention programme.

“The ground had shifted, and counterterrorism officials began to rethink the strategy for the secret war. Armed drones, and targeted killings in general, offered a new direction. Killing by remote control was the antithesis of the dirty, intimate work of interrogation.

“Targeted killings were cheered by Republicans and Democrats alike, and using drones flown by pilots who were stationed thousands of miles away made the whole strategy seem risk-free. Before long the CIA would go from being the long-term jailer of America’s enemies to a military organisation that erased them,” the NYT report said.

New strings attached

By Ian Bremmer
April 4, 2013

China’s influence in Africa goes so deep that African leaders are starting to shape their own agendas after China’s. In February 2012, South African President Jacob Zuma gave his “state of the nation” speech in Cape Town, but he might as well have been in Beijing. “For the year 2012 and beyond,” he said, “we invite the nation to join government in a massive infrastructure development drive.” By October, Zuma was vowing $100 billion in Chinese-style infrastructure investment to help create jobs. In welcoming Xi Jinping, China’s new president, to South Africa last month for a BRICS conference, Zuma gushed, “We view China’s success as a source of hope and inspiration.” Apparently, he also views China as a model for his country’s development.

The infatuation is mutual. Xi Jinping recently made his first major foreign diplomacy trip, choosing to go to Africa (after a brief visit to Moscow), stopping in Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo as he made the rounds of one of China’s most important regions for investment. After all, China’s foreign direct investment in Africa stood at less than $100 million in 2003; today, it’s more than $12 billion. China is already responsible for more than a quarter of all foreign investment in Africa — and commerce is still growing at a rapid clip.

At the BRICS summit in South Africa, Xi explained that African leaders need not worry that China is the same kind of benefactor as the U.S. “China will continue to offer, as always, necessary assistance to Africa with no political strings attached,” he said. Of course, there may not be political strings attached, but there are plenty of economic strings, and China is keen to pull them.

It’s true that China doesn’t care what kind of government its investment partners have, or whether there’s systemic corruption, or if the balance of power between corporation and citizen is, well, balanced. But China cares very much what these countries can offer China and its emerging economy. For African countries, many of which are governed by authoritarian regimes, China might as well be an ATM. 

Despite China’s friendly rhetoric, however, there are expectations of what it means to be a Chinese economic partner. And those expectations are leading some on the continent to wonder whether China is a new colonial power, conquering with its money instead of its military. It was one thing when Hillary Clinton called China’s exploits a “new colonialism in Africa” in 2011. But just last month the governor of Nigeria’s central bank, Lamido Sanusi, wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times that argued:

China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism. The British went to Africa and India to secure raw materials and markets. Africa is now willingly opening itself up to a new form of imperialism. 

Not everyone shares this view. A few weeks ago, I met with Shamsuddeen Usman, the Nigerian minister for national planning, who told me the exact opposite. He said Nigeria loves the Chinese because China actually writes checks. So which is it? Is China a pillager or an enabler? 

The answer is tangled in those economic strings. Beijing is interested in these deals not just because they’re profitable but because they provide the oil, gas, metals and minerals needed to fuel China’s growth engine — and by extension, help China’s leaders maintain their hold on power. In addition, China can send its citizens to work on some of these infrastructure projects and can import surplus food from African countries. As long as China can have all that, everything’s great. But if a country wants to employ its own people instead of Chinese, or wants to send its surplus elsewhere rather than China, or can get a better oil price from another country … China might be less pleased and start pulling on some of the strings. 

North Korea and the Fallacy of Accidental Wars

April 05, 2013
By Robert Farley

Few wars happen by accident. Given the situation on the Korean Peninsula, a war seems unlikely, as none of the combatants stand to benefit.

Accidental wars rarely happen. Historians have demonstrated that most wars initially deemed “accidental,” (perhaps most notably the First World War), have in actuality resulted from deliberative state policy, even if the circumstances of the war were unplanned. While war seems discordant, it actually requires a great deal of cooperation and coordination. Fundamentally, two parties have to agree to conduct a war; otherwise, you have either a punitive raid or an armed surrender negotiation.

Consequently, the baseline for evaluating the chances for accidental war on the Korean Peninsula should be judged as quite low. South Korea, in all likelihood, views the prospect of decisive victory against North Korea as worse than the status quo. The United States has no interest in fighting a war against the DPRK at the moment. For example, the sinking of the Cheonan was obviously an act of war, but neither the United States nor South Korea were interested in fighting a war on the terms offered. While we know less about the strategic calculus of North Korea, there is little reason to think that North Korea was interested in war, either; it probed South Korean capabilities and resolve, but did not press the issue in ways that could have forced Seoul’s hand.

This said, there are conditions under which the chances for accidental wars increase. If the main parties do not communicate well (or at all) with one another, they may misunderstand messages designed to convey commitment or capability. Cultural differences can contribute to a lack of appreciation of how a potential foe thinks about the costs and benefits of war. Domestic conflict invariably complicates foreign policy, as state leaders often act according to a logic that places the dictata of their governing coalitions above foreign policy concerns. Finally, leaders do not have full control over their military organizations; a rogue artillery commander, fighter pilot, or sub skipper can effectively initiate hostilities on their own. All of these conditions can lead to situations in which states commit what they believe is limited force in service of what they believe are limited objectives, but in actuality threatens core interests of the enemy.

The potential for accidental war is highest in conditions where technology and doctrine overwhelmingly favor quick, offensive action, and produce quick, decisive outcomes. Wars that could de-escalate following a border skirmish and a few artillery duels can escalate beyond control if both sides understand the timing of offensive action to be critical. Arguably, the conditions on the Korean Peninsula currently match this description. Although there’s virtually no scenario in which North Korea could win a war, if allowed to mobilize and launch well prepared, coordinate offensive activities the DPRK could inflict severe damage on the South Korean military and South Korean civilians.

Similarly, a pre-emptive U.S.-ROK assault on the North Korean military, or an attack launched in the very early stages of a North Korean assault, could substantially undercut the power of North Korea’s first punch.

Such an operation would include a wide array of attacks, launched from sea, air, and land platforms, targeting North Korean airfields, communication nodes, and logistic chokepoints. These attacks would attempt to eliminate North Korean offensive capabilities, especially for direct attacks against the South (and presumably against Japan). The ability of the DPRK to provide any defense against a committed air offensive is in deep question, despite a large air force and an extensive SAM network. North Korea is the war that the U.S. Air Force (USAF) (and to a lesser extent, the U.S. Navy) have been dreaming about fighting since the 1970s, and they remain well prepared to fight it. The last major armored offensive to push forward under a condition of enemy air supremacy was the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive of 1972, which ended in disaster; the North Koreans would operate under considerably greater handicap.

Leslie H. Gelb on Obama's Dangerous Nuclear Dance

Apr 7, 2013 

There are serious consequences to the US threatening war with Iran if it goes nuclear while it takes a softer stance with North Korea's nukes. Are Israel and oil at the heart of it all? asks Leslie H Gelb 

The White House press corps should ask President Obama this question: You’ve told Iran’s leaders that if they come close to marrying a nuclear warhead with a missile that can hit the United States or our allies, they should expect a U.S. military attack on their soil. Specifically, Mr. Obama, you said your policy on Iranian nukes was “prevention,” not “containment” or “deterrence.” You were not nearly as tough, specific, and threatening to North Korea.

President Barack Obama makes an announcement during an East Room event at the White House on April 2, 2013.

Why?Is North Korea less dangerous than Iran, or more? Is President Ahmadinejad crazier than President Kim Jong-un, or less? Is Pyongyang so far down the line toward developing deliverable nukes that you can’t stop them anymore, while Tehran still has a ways to go? Is it that Israel is more important to American security than South Korea and Japan? The very questions are spooky, and the answers Mr. Obama eventually will have to supply, in one fashion or another, will be dangerous. But given, what he’s said about Iran and not said about North Korea, he’d better ready those answers now.Mr. Obama and his teamdeserve lots of credit for their handling of the crisis on the Korean peninsula. They’ve sent tough military signals, deploying bombers and missile defenses without any provocative bluster. They’ve avoided looking weak by begging for negotiations, but they’ve plainly not closed the door to talks initiated by Pyongyang. They’ve waited patiently for China, the one party capable of restraining North Korea, to grow frustrated with Pyongyang’s escalation. All quite skillful.But both Tehran and Pyongyang couldn’t help but notice the contradiction at the center of Washington’s anti-nuclear proliferation policies – and that awareness will make both countries less willing to compromise. Iran’s diplomats see that Mr. Obama is being much tougher on them than anyone else, especially North Korea. They’re thinking that Pyongyang’s pressing ahead with its nuclear weapons program has given pause to Washington’s hardline and made Americans more willing to live with nukes there than in Iran. So, expect Tehran to stiffen its own position, as seems to have happened already in the failed meeting with the major powers last week. And Pyongyang’s leaders will see that Washington’s treatment of them is much more careful than its handling of Tehran, and also attribute that to their unbending determination to go nuclear. They, like Iran, will be more resistant to compromise.

Europocalypse Now

April 5, 2013

What’s that shocking smell wafting around Europe?

Well, if you were sniffing in a Netherlandly direction on Wednesday, you’d have caught an unmistakable tang of fear among the thrifty Dutch, who for a brief moment during a banking technical malfunction thought they’d become the latest Eurozoners to have their hard-earned whipped from their accounts by incompetent bureaucrats.

Across the nation, many customers of ING Bank, one of Europe’s biggest banks, logged on – that is, when they could get online – only to discover that their credit balances had inexplicably turned into rather serious overdrafts.

“Are we Cyprus?” a concerned client implored of no-one in particular but of everyone gathering at ING Bank’s fast-filling Harlemmerdijk branch, in Amsterdam’s Canal Belt. Hassled staff handed out free water in bottles hued in Dutch-orange, and tried to mollify us with assurances that all was well in Dutch banking and, no, Amsterdam had not suddenly turned into Nicosia.

As bank runs go, this one was pretty pathetic; in this branch it consisted of about 25 confused punters sucking their ING-sourced H2O while lining up to punch their PINs into ATMs that weren’t working anyway. And the Dutch are a trusting lot, at least they became more so after news sites summoned on smartphones revealed there had been no announcement of The Netherlands having morphed into a Mediterranean basket case. Or, more to the point, when the headlines from those same sites reported that the Paniek! was prompted by a bank cock-up – technical and not state policy. It wasn’t quite panic on Harlemmerdijk on Wednesday, but it was heading toward that side of the straat for a little while there.

Protestors march through the streets of the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, on March 27, 2013.

As things got fixed and Dutch banking returned to his staid old self as Germany’s branch office, by the end of this befuddling day, it served to confirm that old adage that when suspecting a conspiracy, it’s best to plump for a cock-up every time.

But if there was a particularly bad time for a major European bank to have technical malfunctions, that time would be now, barely a week after Brussels and Berlin spooked Europeans by demanding that Cypriots – and their Russian banking clients – accept the trimming of as much as 60 per cent from their deposits held in the island’s banks, instead of the usual state-funded rescue now commonplace elsewhere. Interestingly, it was a Dutchman, the country’s finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who had expressed the view that the Cypriot ‘bail-in’ provided a useful template for future financial rescues in Europe, until he was roundly slagged for doing so, and duly backtracked.

Meanwhile, tiny Cyprus continued to rage that it had been bullied by Brussels, because that’s what bureaucratic Goliaths do to would-be Mediterranean Davids when given a chance; and the Russian oligarchs and the mates of Putin who had turned Cyprus into an offshore banking centre (maybe because they don’t trust that their own banks won’t be looted) reckoned they’d been ripped off.

Comprising less than 0.2 per cent of the collective Eurozone economy, Cyprus is in no position to punch back, and will be even less empowered as its economy contracts by a forecast 8 per cent this year. But Russia, with its Europe-bound oil and gas, can. And doubtless will exact revenge at a time of its choosing. Watch this space.
With such a precedent set in Cyprus, spooked Europeans elsewhere fret that it’s potentially open season on their own savings, too, if their economies were to get stuck deeper into the Euromire.

Arming for Virtual Battle: The Dangerous New Rules of Cyberwar

By Thomas Darnstaedt, Marcel Rosenbach and Gregor Peter Schmitz, SPIEGEL
April 7, 2013

Personnel of the 624th Operations Center, located at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, conduct cyber operations in support of the command and control of Air Force network operations and the joint requirements of Air Forces Cyber, the Air Force component of U.S. Cyber Command. (William Belcher/U.S. Air Force)

Now that wars are also being fought on digital battlefields, experts in international law have established rules for cyberwar. But many questions remain unanswered. Will it be appropriate to respond to a cyber attack with military means in the future?

The attack came via ordinary email, when selected South Korean companies received messages supposedly containing credit card information in the middle of the week before last.

Recipients who opened the emails also opened the door to the enemy, because it was in fact an attack from the Internet. Instead of the expected credit card information, the recipients actually downloaded a time bomb onto their computers, which was programmed to ignite on Wednesday at 2 p.m. Korean time.

At that moment, chaos erupted on more than 30,000 computers in South Korean television stations and banks. The message "Please install an operating system on your hard disk" appeared on the screens of affected computers, and cash machines ceased to operate. The malware, which experts have now dubbed "DarkSeoul," deleted data from the hard disks, making it impossible to reboot the infected computers.

DarkSeoul was one of the most serious digital attacks in the world this year, but cyber defense centers in Western capitals receive alerts almost weekly. The most serious attack to date originated in the United States. In 2010, high-tech warriors, acting on orders from the US president, smuggled the destructive "Stuxnet" computer worm into Iranian nuclear facilities.

The volume of cyber attacks is only likely to grow. Military leaders in the US and its European NATO partners are outfitting new battalions for the impending data war. Meanwhile, international law experts worldwide are arguing with politicians over the nature of the new threat. Is this already war? Or are the attacks acts of sabotage and terrorism? And if a new type of war is indeed brewing, can military means be used to respond to cyber attacks?

The War of the Future

A few days before the computer disaster in Seoul, a group led by NATO published a thin, blue booklet. It provides dangerous responses to all of these questions. The "Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare" is probably no thicker than the American president's thumb. It is not an official NATO document, and yet in the hands of President Barack Obama it has the potential to change the world.

The rules that influential international law experts have compiled in the handbook could blur the lines between war and peace and allow a serious data attack to rapidly escalate into a real war with bombs and missiles. Military leaders could also interpret it as an invitation to launch a preventive first strike in a cyberwar.

The Promise of Abenomics

Apr. 5, 2013 

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and University Professor at Columbia University, was Chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers and served as Senior Vice Pr… 

TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s program for his country’s economic recovery has led to a surge in domestic confidence. But to what extent can “Abenomics” claim credit?Illustration by Dean Rohrer

CommentsInterestingly, a closer look at Japan’s performance over the past decade suggests little reason for persistent bearish sentiment. Indeed, in terms of growth of output per employed worker, Japan has done quite well since the turn of the century. With a shrinking labor force, the standard estimate for Japan in 2012 – that is, before Abenomics – had output per employed worker growing by 3.08% year on year. That is considerably more robust than in the United States, where output per worker grew by just 0.37% last year, and much stronger than in Germany, where it shrank by 0.25%.

CommentsNonetheless, as many Japanese rightly sense, Abenomics can only help the country’s recovery. Abe is doing what many economists (including me) have been calling for in the US and Europe: a comprehensive program entailing monetary, fiscal, and structural policies. Abe likens this approach to holding three arrows – taken alone, each can be bent; taken together, none can.

CommentsThe new governor of the Bank of Japan, Haruhiko Kuroda, comes with a wealth of experience gained in the finance ministry, and then as President of the Asian Development Bank. During the East Asia crisis of the late 1990’s, he saw firsthand the failure of the conventional wisdom pushed by the US Treasury and the International Monetary Fund. Not wedded to central bankers’ obsolete doctrines, he has made a commitment to reverse Japan’s chronic deflation, setting an inflation target of 2%.

CommentsDeflation increases the real (inflation-adjusted) debt burden, as well as the real interest rate. Though there is little evidence of the importance of small changes in real interest rates, the effect of even mild deflation on real debt, year after year, can be significant.

CommentsKuroda’s stance has already weakened the yen’s exchange rate, making Japanese goods more competitive. This simply reflects the reality of monetary-policy interdependence: if the US Federal Reserve’s policy of so-called quantitative easing weakens the dollar, others have to respond to prevent undue appreciation of their currencies. Someday, we might achieve closer global monetary-policy coordination; for now, however, it made sense for Japan to respond, albeit belatedly, to developments elsewhere.

CommentsMonetary policy would have been more effective in the US had more attention been devoted to credit blockages – for example, many homeowners’ refinancing problems, even at lower interest rates, or small and medium-size enterprises’ lack of access to financing. Japan’s monetary policy, one hopes, will focus on such critical issues.

CommentsBut Abe has two more arrows in his policy quiver. Critics who argue that fiscal stimulus in Japan failed in the past – leading only to squandered investment in useless infrastructure – make two mistakes. First, there is the counterfactual case: How would Japan’s economy have performed in the absence of fiscal stimulus? Given the magnitude of the contraction in credit supply following the financial crisis of the late 1990’s, it is no surprise that government spending failed to restore growth. Matters would have been much worse without the spending; as it was, unemployment never surpassed 5.8%, and, in throes of the global financial crisis, it peaked at 5.5%. Second, anyone visiting Japan recognizes the benefits of its infrastructure investments (America could learn a valuable lesson here).

CSS Launches Strategic Trends 2013

18 March 2013
By Andrea Baumann and Jonas Grätz and Prem Mahadevan for the ISN

What are current strategic trends?

The Center for Security Studies has just published its annual Strategic Trends volume. Today, we speak to its authors about some of the issues they raise and the themes they stress. For the rest of this week, we will then feature a chapter-a-day from this well-regarded text.

Jonas Grätz, the first chapter of Strategic Trends 2013 (ST2013) is titled The De-Westernization of Globalization. How has globalization become less ‘Westernized’?

De-Westernization seeks to capture the fact that the world economy is now integrated to an unprecedented extent, yet economic governance shows signs of disintegration. It describes three interrelated developments in the world economy that have been accentuated due to the financial and fiscal crises of the West. The first one is rather obvious, the lesser weight of the developed West in the global economy. It now accounts for only 60 % of global economic activity, down from 75 % in 2005. Economic growth has shifted to Asia. At the same time, the very high indebtedness of many Western governments and private sectors means they can do little to boost the economy. However, De-Westernization does not mean that developed economies have become dispensable in the world economy as a whole. They are still needed as growth motors for other regions, although some diversification has occurred.

Second, the shift of economic activity also translates into greater direct influence of state actors in the world economy, as state-owned enterprises go global and Western corporations are more dependent on access to markets featuring stronger political controls. This contradicts the Western concept of a globalized world with a level playing field populated by private actors. Thus, economic globalization has not led to a convergence towards a Western-style liberal market economy all over the world.

Third, the financial crisis has also put the Western concept of globalization as a positive-sum game into a less favorable light, as the costs of de-industrialization have moved to the forefront in many countries. As the domestic economy has now taken precedence, Western governments have now started to contradict policies they advocated under the globalization agenda. This can be witnessed in growing barriers against investment and capital flows, a stronger regionalization of trade, and unconventional monetary policies that fuel currency volatility and provoke further intervention in emerging markets.

What does this trend mean for policy-makers in the West and elsewhere?

The lessons from the financial and sovereign debt crises are to be taken seriously. The problems of debt-driven economic growth have become clear. Continuing in the same way can only serve to diminish the economic health of Western economies. At the same time, political leaders have not yet found a new blueprint for the economic reforms that reduce debt while enhancing growth. It has to be built on a societal consensus that demands equal shares from all social strata. Otherwise democracies will grow even more unstable.

In foreign policy, the further development of the political relationship between emerging markets, most of all China, and Western countries will be central for the further development of the world economy. In this respect, it will be crucial how US policy-makers manage their security and economic rebalancing towards Asia. If the US will be successful in avoiding conflict and integrating its old allies in Europe into their “pivot”, it is likely to enhance its economic clout towards China as well.

Prem Mahadevan, the first of the two chapters you wrote for ST2013 is on maritime insecurity in East-Asia. Can you summarize the main findings of this chapter for us?

The chapter suggests that maritime tensions in East Asia derive from two main issues: territorial disputes between China and its neighboring states, and the status of Taiwan. Both are relevant to the US, in that they affect the credibility of its global military alliance system, which in turn forms the basis of American predominance.

Why Israel Needs Turkey (and Turkey Needs Israel)

by Mike Giglio Apr 7, 2013

Both countries fear spillover from the civil war in Syria, and are particularly concerned with the fate of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons, reports Mike Giglio.

John Kerry’s unexpected trip to Turkey and Israel, which began when the U.S. Secretary of State touched down in Istanbul on Saturday, signals a new optimism that the broken relationship between two critical American allies is finally on the mend.

A billboard on a main street by the Ankara municipality to thank Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reads: "We are grateful to you", in Ankara, Turkey, on March 25, 2013, three days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey over the death of nine Turkish citizens on board a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty)

Analysts say Kerry’s trip could put the final touches on a big U.S. diplomatic push for reconciliation between the two countries. America sees cooperation between the regional heavyweights as crucial to its attempt to contain the tumult set off by the Arab Spring—including the civil war raging in Syria and the lingering political instability in Egypt and elsewhere, on top of the looming threat of a nuclear Iran.

The rapprochement could also indicate that Israel and Turkey need one another far more than their famously strong-willed leaders might like to admit.

Relations between the two countries, once strong allies, have been in tatters since May 2010, when Israeli troops raided a flotilla of ships carrying aid from Turkey to Gaza. The raid killed nine Turkish citizens and prompted the Turkish government to expel its Israeli ambassador and recall its own from Israel. The countries’ two powerful militaries, once close partners, began to regard each other as hostile forces, and lucrative trade dried up. Even the number of Israeli tourists to Turkey, who once flocked there, dwindled amid fears that the country was no longer safe for travel.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, failed to ease the tensions, increasing them instead with a bitter war of words. As recently as late February, on the eve of Kerry’s last Turkey visit, Erdogan made international headlines when he referred to Zionism as “a crime against humanity.”

The two leaders “are both stubborn in their own ways,” says Yossi Mekelberg, a Middle East scholar at Chatham House in London. “Instead of dealing with things quietly and behind the scenes, these are politicians who like to hear their own voices and make great statements. And that’s escalated the situation over the last few years.”