1 May 2013

The End of the Gandhis

Can Rahul Gandhi run India? Can anybody?

On Jan. 19, Rahul Gandhi, the 42-year-old heir apparent of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, the family that has ruled India for 37 of the 66 years since India gained independence, was appointed vice president of the All India Congress party, which his family has run for even longer than it has run India. A more honest way of describing this moment is that Rahul -- India is on a first-name basis with all members of the Gandhi family -- finally agreed to accept a senior position that had long been his for the asking.

In so doing, he implicitly acknowledged that he is the party's future and quite possibly its candidate for prime minister at a time when the world's largest democracy seems rudderless, with its meteoric economic growth leveling off and a suddenly aroused middle class taking to the streets to protest rampant corruption and a pervasive culture of abuse toward women. Elections are scheduled for 2014. And though voters have rarely, if ever, expressed such contempt for Congress in polls and state ballots, the Gandhi name still casts a powerful spell over the country. But even his closest associates don't know for sure whether Rahul wants to be prime minister or what he would do if he had the job. He may rejuvenate the longest-running dynasty in the democratic world -- or he may terminate it.

Rahul remains a mysterious and deeply private figure. He gives infrequent speeches; rarely rises in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, where he has served since 2004; and virtually never holds on-the-record interviews with reporters, whom he plainly distrusts. Although fireworks lit up the sky on the day of his ascension and party functionaries toted signs proclaiming, "You are our pride, the glory of youth power," Rahul seems determined to disappoint his most fervent and sycophantic supporters; he recently said that asking about his prime-ministerial ambitions was "a wrong question." A party spokesman quickly clarified that whatever Rahul's own view, "All Congress workers desire that Rahul Gandhi become the PM one day, and we are sure that our wish will be fulfilled."

Not long after Rahul's promotion, I contacted Kanishka Singh, a 34-year-old former Lazard banker who serves as Rahul's gatekeeper, to inquire about an interview. Singh said that he couldn't promise me anything. "We don't want to blow our own trumpet," he said, "because Rahul is not a trumpet-blowing kind of person."

Rahul ultimately granted me a brief, strictly off-the-record audience at the colonial-era white bungalow that serves as his personal office a few blocks away from the party's own New Delhi headquarters. I was brought to a small sitting room. Soon, Rahul came in, sat down on a white couch, and waited for me to speak. He wore sandals and floppy white kurta pyjamas; I had the impression that he could have bought the outfit in the market for $5 and gotten back change. He had been clean-shaven when he accepted his party post, but now sported a scruffy Che Guevara beard. The overall look was Gandhian revolutionary: virtuous, pure, a little fierce. We spoke, not about policy or personal ambition, but about Rahul's project of reforming the Congress party from within. On this subject he was passionate, even vehement. I had been led to expect someone shy and even tentative, but Rahul's manner was unceremonious, unsmiling, challenging, even abrasive, as if he expected a fight -- which perhaps he did. He seemed to have assigned himself Mahatma Gandhi's mission without possessing a grain of Gandhi's temperament. I wondered whether so wary a man was suited to the lunatic carnival of Indian politics.

And that is a very pressing question. After nine years in power, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's United Progressive Alliance, a coalition of Congress and nine smaller parties, has been rocked by one scandal after another, including the fraudulent allocation of cell-phone broadcast licenses, a boondoggle that has cost India somewhere between $6 billion and $35 billion. Congress was born in India's freedom struggle, but both the party and the government froze in the face of the recent mass protests, as if all the years in power had atrophied the party's political instincts. At the same time, the economic growth that has paid for Singh's rise and the expensive welfare programs Congress favors has sagged to 5 percent; nobody talks anymore about India "catching up" to China. No wonder, then, that Singh's poll numbers have sunk to an all-time low. India Today, a leading newsweekly, recently wrote that his government has devolved into "a global headline of corruption and bad governance." The country has reached an impasse.

"We don't have leaders in this government," Bimal Jalan, a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, told me. "There's no sense that the cabinet has the collective authority to govern." The only figure who can knock heads and force the government to act as one, he says, is Rahul, not because of Rahul's own skills but simply because he is a Gandhi. Dynastic rule has produced a pathology of dependence that the dynasty's latest member is trying, perhaps fruitlessly, to cure.

Postcard to Mr Khurshid

By Ajai Shukla in Bus Standard 30/4/13.

Dear Mr Khurshid,

I wish you a fruitful journey next week, when you visit China to apply ointment on the "beautiful face" of Sino-Indian relations, which you observe has been marred by the "acne" of China's military intrusion into the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector in Ladakh. You and the prime minister have wisely downplayed the intrusion so far; inflammatory public statements would only make a happy ending more elusive. But please do not display the same forbearance in your official conversations in Beijing.

Be certain that the Chinese will blame these occasional confrontations on the Indian army's insistence on building up forces and infrastructure on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). You will hear that the best way to de-escalate is an immediate mutual cap on troop numbers and military infrastructure. Such an understanding, your counterpart will sagely observe, can maintain the peace until a wiser generation can resolve the border dispute (or, as India calls it, the border question).

Hon'ble Minister, do not allow yourself to be sidetracked from the central issue of the moment: a flagrant violation of the status quo through the occupation of territory that both sides claim. This is no routine patrol incursion, which is common since both sides routinely patrol up to their perceived boundaries in order to keep alive their claims. Instead, this is an escalation that establishes "facts on the ground" that would materially affect an eventual territorial settlement. Remember the Wangdung intrusion, near Tawang, in 1986? That pocket, where the Chinese had pitched up a few tents, much like they did at DBO last fortnight, continues to remain with them.

In contrast to the furious Indian response at Wangdung, where the army built up forces aggressively to dominate the Chinese camp, the Indian army has fallen in line with orders from the top, refraining from a troop build-up or even tough talk that could shut the door to a face-saving de-escalation. But remember, the Chinese style is to keep testing an opponent's resolve. In DBO, China is "taking the temperature" again. You must make it clear that - even in the absence of a Wangdung-type troop build-up - all options remain on India's table. The "proportionality" that you have advocated could involve a similar occupation of disputed territory by Indian troops at a selected time and place.

Naturally Your Excellency would never use crude threats, but a man of your sophistication would find the diplomatic language to indicate to Beijing a red line - consolidation of the intrusion. If the Chinese patrol replaces tents with permanent shelters, the Indian army will conclude that they intend to remain there through winter. In that case, it will be difficult for the government to explain to voters why it is not reacting militarily to a Kargil-style occupation of Indian territory.

Your counterpart will undoubtedly repeat the statement that Chinese soldiers are on their own side of the LAC. Your response should be: "Well, what do you believe is the alignment of the LAC? You cannot claim simultaneously that your troops are on your side of the LAC; while also refusing to share with us your perception of that line."

The starkest lesson of DBO is that, without mutual agreement over where the LAC runs, or even "agreed disagreement" over both sides' view of their frontier, the uncertainty becomes unmanageable. There is the ever-present danger of routine patrols being seen as "intrusions", and a new encampment like the Chinese one at DBO being seen as territorial aggression, triggering an armed face-off.

Your Excellency, make clear to Beijing that it must exchange maps with India on which both sides have marked what they perceive as the LAC. For over 30 years now China has refused to spell out what it believes is the LAC despite repeated requests from New Delhi since December 1981, when the first round of boundary talks took place.

India sings peace to an occupier

By Brahma C in MINT 30/4/13. 
GOOD BOYS DO NOT WIN MATCHES. Today reports say Chinese pitched a 5th tent.

The same old scenario has unfolded again: China quietly occupies a strategic area and a diffident India is left preaching the virtues of diplomacy and peace. When China set out to eliminate the historical buffer with India by invading Tibet, New Delhi opposed Lhasa’s desperate plea for a discussion at the United Nations. And when China stealthily took control of the Switzerland-size Aksai Chin plateau and began building the Tibet-Xinjiang highway through it, India’s first response was to send a démarche asking Beijing naively as to how it despatched workers to Indian territory without seeking visas for them.

Whereas the People’s Republic of China was born in and built on blood, modern India was founded on a continuing myth—that it won independence through non-violence, not because Britain was in no position after the devastation wrought by World War II to hold on to its colonies. It was not until 1962 that India woke up reluctantly to Leon Trotsky’s warning: “You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you.”

But for the lesson of 1962, India’s leaders may still have mocked George Washington’s famous words: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” Even today, the leadership in ruling and opposition parties remains largely clueless on statecraft and national security affairs. A dysfunctional foreign policy is holding back India’s rise.

China now is working to alter the line of control bit-by-bit by employing novel methods—without having to fire a single shot. With India a mute spectator, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has brought pastoralists to Uttarakhand’s Barahoti sector and given them cover to range across the line. Using pastoralists in the vanguard and troops in the rear has also been tried elsewhere to drive Indian herdsmen out of their traditional pasture lands and assert Chinese control over those places.

In this way, China is encroaching, little by little, on Indian land in the Chip Chap and Skakjung regions of Ladakh. Chumar in Ladakh was raided last September by helicopter-borne PLA troops, who destroyed Indian bunkers before returning. Officials in Arunachal Pradesh are tired of complaining about the Union government’s nonchalant attitude to PLA’s aggressive activities along their state’s border.

Therefore, few should be surprised by India’s timorous response to PLA’s occupation of a border site near the strategic Karakoram Pass linking China to Pakistan. But even by its own standards of appeasement, India has outdone itself with its grovelling reaction to the deepest Chinese incursion in more than a quarter-century.

India initially blacked out the incursion, in the way it has suppressed its own figures showing a rising pattern of Chinese cross-border military forays. A whole week went by before New Delhi said a word on record about the PLA’s furtive ingress. The first public word, tellingly, came after Beijing issued a bland denial of the incursion in response to Indian media reports citing army sources. Another five days passed before New Delhi revealed the incursion’s true depth—19km.

The external affairs minister has stood out as the appeaser-in-chief. The incursion is just “one little spot” of acne in an otherwise “beautiful face” to be treated with “an ointment”. When not making such embarrassingly inane comments, he has grovelled, going to the extent of saying that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s planned visit will take precedence over ending the incursion. He hastily announced a trip to Beijing, as if paying obeisance at the Chinese foreign ministry—the weakest branch of China’s government—can get the intruders out.

It is a pity that India, instead of feeling insulted by Li’s plan to stop over in New Delhi on his way to his country’s “all-weather ally” Pakistan to bless the new government to be appointed there, is bending over backward at a time of aggression. Has an Indian Prime Minister dared to combine a Beijing stopover with a visit to China’s rival Japan? In fact, Taiwan should be to India what Pakistan is to China.

How the CIA’s Bags of Cash Undermined the Afghanistan War


Afghan President Hamid Karzai shows love to Secretary of State John Kerry during a Brussels meeting, April 26. 

It’s the most understandable, intuitive and tempting mistake in geopolitics: secretly pay a powerful foreigner to do what you want. The CIA, like many spy agencies, has done it throughout its history, and now we know it helped undermine the America’s longest war.

Nearly every month since the war began in 2001, the CIA has sent a guy over to Afghan President Hamid Karzai with a bag — sometimes a suitcase, sometimes a backpack, sometimes a shopping bag — full of cash. His former chief of staff says they used to call it “ghost money,” and it totals tens of millions of dollars, according to an eye-opening New York Times story. Quite the hypocritical twist from a sponsor country that so frequently hectors Karzai about corruption. “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” a U.S. official levels with the paper’s Matthew Rosenberg, “was the United States.”

When Iran pays off Karzai, it’s disruptive foreign meddling. But when the CIA does it, it’s supposed to be an insurance policy to entrench U.S. influence in the president’s office. Alas, there’s something more important than influence in geopolitics: leverage. When Washington most needed leverage with Karzai, it didn’t have much — at least not that it was prepared to use — and the CIA ghost money helps explain why.

Consider some of the U.S.’ goals in Afghanistan over the past several years. (Put aside whether you think they’re smart or stupid.) In 2009, the Obama administration began pressing Karzai to clean up his kleptocratic government and expand its institutional capacity to provide services to a dispersed population. Where once the U.S. hugged Karzai close and publicly praised him, diplomats and top officials began talking more about free and fair presidential elections. During that election season, someone decided to let slip that Karzai’s brother was on the CIA payroll.

Ultimately, Karzai won the race under dubious circumstances, now with the backdrop of a frosty diplomatic relationship with Washington. The general in charge of the war effort, Stanley McChrystal, has written about how he buttered Karzai up in order to keep Karzai on board with U.S. war aims, which involved Karzai displaying competent and energetic governance. The U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, saw the bigger picture. Karzai is “not an adequate strategic partner,” Eikenberry cabled home. “He and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further.”

Of course he wanted the U.S. to stay. The CIA, it now turns out, was his meal ticket. While it’s surely a mistake to presume Karzai is only motivated by money — human beings are more complex than that — whenever the U.S. came calling about reform, Karzai has always been able to nod politely, secure in the knowledge the CIA bag man will still make his rounds. Perversely, the money removes U.S. leverage over Karzai: the Afghan president is free to demand an end to U.S. night raids and air strikes or to denounce America or to claim that the Taliban kill Afghan civilians at America’s behest. If the secret money keeps flowing and the U.S. goes along with his reelection, Karzai is free to pursue his agenda, not Washington’s, defeating the purpose of the payments while undermining the public aspects of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

North Africa Is Becoming The New Afghanistan, And Only President Obama Can Stop It

Moroccan King Mohammed VI arrives at Dakar's airport, on March 15, 2013.

If the Boston bombings tell us anything, they shout that faraway conflicts can home to America in frightening and tragic ways.

Chechnya, in distant Central Asia, has suddenly commanded public attention. What other regions produce terrorists that threaten Americans at home? And what can the Obama administration do to prevent distant disputes from literally detonating on American streets?

North Africa should be front and center. Every warning light is blinking red. The Benghazi attack on an American diplomatic outpost, which led to the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. The tragic hostage crisis at a gas plant in Southern Algeria. The French incursion into Mali (with U.S. help) to fight jihadists. The rise of extremist groups across the region. Every one of these events can be traced back to al Qaeda, in one affiliate form or another.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration wants to disengage from danger zones—as if wars were 18th century gentleman’s duels that are only fought by mutual consent. Instead, what is desperately needed is for Obama to engage with Africa to prevent Al Qaeda from seizing control in North Africa. He should start with America’s strongest ally in the region, Morocco’s king Mohammed VI, forge a partnership, and begin to transform the region. For a president in search of a legacy achievement, here it is. The first American president with an African-born father can be the one to revolutionize U.S. relations with the so-called “dark continent.”

Obama and the king already have a strong relationship as shown by last week’s move at the United Nations, in which the president personally ensured that peace efforts between Morocco and the Polisario Front were not hijacked by activists and Obama supported the king’s autonomy plan.

The cost of ignoring Africa is immense—and may be ultimately measured in American lives lost. Left unchecked, Al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa will soon be able to strike at Americans overseas and at home. Ignoring North Africa today is like ignoring Afghanistan in 1998, as Bin Laden’s minions began to plan the September 11 attacks. North Africa is becoming the “new Afghanistan”—a string of toterring and largely ungoverned nations running from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

“It is very clear to me that al-Qaeda intends to establish a presence in Tunisia,” said U.S. General Carter Ham, following talks with the new government there. Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Al Qaeda is swarming across North Africa using a “southern strategy” of moving from the African Sahel through the Maghreb. Before the French push-back, Ansar Dine, the pro-Al Qaeda organization in Mali, had conquered 300,000 miles of territory in the north of the country.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, composed largely of Algerian Kabyle and Saharans, has holdings in Western Sahara, Niger, Chad, and now Libya. In Libya alone, AQIM leaders have allied with local jihadist movements and acquired massive amounts of weapons that belonged to the former Qaddafi regime.

Pakistan's abysmal religious tolerance score

By Knox Thames
April 30, 2013

Today, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued its 2013 Annual Report, focusing on Pakistan and 28 other countries around the world, including Afghanistan. As an independent U.S. government advisory body separate from the State Department, USCIRF's Annual Report identifies violations of religious freedom, as defined by international conventions, and provides policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.

Based on our monitoring over the past year, we have concluded that the situation in Pakistan is one of the worst in the world.

The report found that "sectarian and religiously-motivated violence is chronic, especially against Shi'a Muslims, and the government has failed to protect members of religious minority communities, as well as the majority faith." An array of repressive laws, including the much abused blasphemy law and religiously discriminatory anti-Ahmadi laws, foster an atmosphere of violent extremism and vigilantism. The growth of militant groups espousing a violent religious ideology that undertake attacks impact all Pakistanis and threatens the country's security and stability.

In the face of increasing attacks against Shi'as and consistent violence against other minorities, Pakistani authorities have failed to provide protection and have not consistently brought perpetrators to justice or taken action against societal actors who incite violence.

In light of these particularly severe violations, USCIRF recommends that Pakistan be designated a "country of particular concern," or CPC, by the U.S. Department of State for these systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom. The CPC designation is a special blacklist created when Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed in 1998 the International Religious Freedom Act. Unlike some other ‘blacklists,' the CPC designation does not carry any specific penalties for the countries on the list. What it does do is assign a framework through which U.S. officials can encourage the designated country's government to address the egregious violations of religious freedom. This can come in the form of a binding roadmap of agreed actions, a waiver, or punitive steps if progress is lacking.

Countries currently named by the State Department include: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. Pakistan represents the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated as "countries of particular concern," and USCIRF has concluded it overwhelmingly meets the threshold established in the Act.

Can China's Top Guns Fly?


The Chinese military is aiming high. But can its Air Force break through all the red tape?

The Chinese Air Force plane drifted past a city and seemed to float, like a leaf, before exploding onto a mudflat where the Shandong peninsula juts out into the Yellow Sea.

"It was floating, floating, floating then BANG, suddenly hit the ground," says a witness, according to video footage of the smoking wreckage on March 31 that was anonymously uploaded on the Chinese version of YouTube.

The huge plume of black smoke, still billowing from the wreckage 20 minutes after it exploded, suggests the tanks were full and the accident occurred not long after takeoff, probably from Jinan, the provincial capital.

Perhaps there had been a fuel blockage on one of the external wing tanks, leading to a weight imbalance that contributed to the Soviet-made Su-27 20 entering a flat spin before descending like a kite to earth, according to retired and serving Air Force officers.

The presence of what appear to be ejector seats just meters from the wreck suggests the two airmen died unnecessarily, because they failed to eject until it was too late. Whatever the case, the names of Yu Liang, 33, and Wu Yongming, 36, will be added to the 1,747 inscribed on the Heroes-and-Martyrs Wall at Beijing's Chinese Aviation Museum.

Crashes happen, even to the United States. But for professional military watchers, the more they see inside one of the world's most secretive air forces, it seems, the less they are impressed with the Chinese military's aerial wing.

Pilots are neither trusted nor properly trained. Drills are regimented, centrally controlled, and divorced from realistic combat conditions. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has nearly 2,000 thousand planes, compared with a little over 3,000 for the U.S. Armed Forces, but only a fraction of the peace-time accident rate, suggesting pilots are not spending sufficient time in the air or training under pressure.

While Chinese military enthusiasts saw the Shandong crash as an embarrassing setback, professionals saw it as a small sign that the PLA Air Force might be beginning to take the risks required to develop human "software" to match its expensive hardware and compete with their American, Taiwanese, or Japanese counterparts.

"They've got to take risks," says Robert Rubel, a graduate of the U.S. Navy's "Top Gun" academy and now dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the U.S. Naval War College. "I've lost control of every airplane I've ever tried to fly."

In the Chinese version of Top Gun, the equivalent of "Maverick" is a hotshot, risk-taking wing commander who arrives to drag the PLA Air Force into the 21st century. The lead characters in the 2010 film, Skyfighters,wear aviator sunglasses and chase attractive female instructors who drive motorbikes fast along military airstrips. The main difference from the original is that the red team is always the good guys shooting at the blue, rather than the other way around.

The moral of the film is that in the PLA's new "scientific" environment -- shown as a future ideal in contrast to a moribund status quo -- pilots will be rewarded for showing initiative, flying under combat-like pressure, and taking risks even if they occasionally scratch the paint work.

Pentagon Paying China — Yes, China — To Carry Data


A Long March 3B carrier rocket carrying the APSTAR-7 communications satellite lifts off at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province in March 2012. 

The Pentagon is so starved for bandwidth that it’s paying a Chinese satellite firm to help it communicate and share data.

U.S. troops operating on the African continent are now using the recently-launched Apstar-7 satellite to keep in touch and share information. And the $10 million, one-year deal lease — publicly unveiled late last week during an ordinarily-sleepy Capitol Hill subcommittee hearing — has put American politicians and policy-makers in bit of a bind. Over the last several years, the U.S. government has publicly and loudly expressed its concern that too much sensitive American data passes through Chinese electronics — and that those electronics could be sieves for Beijing’s intelligence services. But the Pentagon says it has no other choice than to use the Chinese satellite. The need for bandwidth is that great, and no other satellite firm provides the continent-wide coverage that the military requires.

“That bandwidth was available only on a Chinese satellite,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Doug Loverro told a House Armed Services Committee panel, in remarks first reported by InsideDefense.com. “We recognize that there is concerns across the community on the usage of Chinese satellites to support our warfighter. And yet, we also recognize that our warfighters need support, and sometimes we must go to the only place that we can get it from.”

The Apstar-7 is owned and operated by a subsidiary of the state-controlled China Satellite Communication Company, which counts the son of former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao as its chairman. But the Pentagon insists that any data passed through the Apstar-7 is protected from any potential eavesdropping by Beijing. The satellite uplinks and downlinks are encrypted, and unspecified “additional transmission security” procedures cover the data in transit, according to Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Defense Department spokesperson.

“We reviewed all the security concerns, all of the business concerns with such a lease,” Loverro said. “And so from that perspective, I’m very pleased with what we did. And yet, I think the larger issue is we don’t have a clear policy laid out on how do we assess whether or not we want to do this as a department, as opposed to just a response to a need.”

Every new drone feed and every new soldier with a satellite radio creates more appetite for bandwidth — an appetite the military can’t hope to fill with military spacecraft alone. To try to keep up, the Pentagon has leased bandwidth from commercial carriers for more than a decade. And the next decade should bring even more commercial deals; in March, the Army announced it was looking for new satellite firms to help troops in Afghanistan communicate. According to a 2008 Intelligence Science Board study (.pdf) — one of the few public reports on the subject — demand for satellite communications could grow from about 30 gigabits per second to 80 gigabits a decade from now.

The Chinese are poised to help fill that need — especially over Africa, where Beijing has deep business and strategic interests. In 2012, China for the first time launched more rockets into space than the U.S. – including the Chinasat 12 and Apstar-7 communications satellites.

Is China Carelessly Overextending Itself?

By Robert Farley
May 1, 2013

Over the past two weeks, Indian media has reported several border incursions along the two states’ disputed Himalayan border . While the Indian government has downplayed the incidents, Indian strategic commentators have suggested that China is moving to leverage its logistical advantages in the region.

At nearly the same time, China has upped the ante with respect to the Senkaku/Diaoyus, deploying additional maritime and aerial patrols to the area and declaring the islands a “core interest” of Chinese foreign policy.

In both situations, China has a plausible case for legitimacy. In the East China Sea, China is responding to provocative statements by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe . Border issues with India remain complex, but it is not immediately obvious that China is in the wrong by pressing its territorial claims.

Nevertheless, it is not clear why China has determined to assertively pursue both of these disputes at the same time. Historically, states with wide-ranging security problems are best advised to resolve those problems one at a time, hopefully in isolation with one another. In this case, it’s not completely clear that the same people are making decisions on policy in both the Himalayas and the East China Sea; the Chinese foreign and military policy-making process is sufficiently complicated that local authorities have some influence over border policy. However, it hardly makes sense for China to antagonize both of its powerful neighbors at once, even if it is in the right in both cases.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the strategic logic of a strong India-Japan relationship. Tokyo and New Delhi have each other on speed dial, and in any case Washington is surely eager to connect the call . Some Indian commentators have already called for more robust responses, including calibrating Indian support for China’s maritime disputants in accordance to the situation on the border. Japan’s moves to negotiate its long-running border disputes with Russia put the Chinese problem into stark relief. Whether or not Japan and Russia manage to finally secure a peace treaty, the effort indicates that Tokyo takes seriously the need to make its international crises manageable.

China is one of a very few countries for which “regional security” entails managing conflicts in widely dispersed parts of the globe. While a Japan-India axis may form absent any direct Chinese provocation, Beijing is best advised to ensure that efforts to win local disputes don’t end up creating global problems.

Chinese UAV Development Slowly Outpacing West

Apr. 30, 2013 - 10:24AM | By WENDELL MINNICK

TAIPEI — China’s UAV development appears to have bypassed the cottage industry stage where many Western UAV programs find their roots and has emerged onto the high-tech stage as if it appeared out a fog.

The staggering numbers of UAVs on display at the 2012 Zhuhai Airshow were too many to count. Just six years before, at the 2006 Zhuhai Airshow, you could count them with one hand.

Now there are UAV conferences and exhibitions in China along with a glossy magazine full of advertisements dubbed, “Unmanned Vehicles,” published by China Aviation Publishing and Media.

The 2012 Vanguard Wings — UAV Conference and Exhibition, Beijing, had more than 60 UAVs on display. In 2011, China held the fourth Beijing Police Equipment and Anti-terrorism UAV Exhibition with displays of smaller UAVs geared more for street surveillance. Information about these conferences, as well as a wide range of information on Chinese UAV companies, is available at uavdata.org in Chinese.

The Pentagon’s Defense Science Board (DSB) issued a “wakeup call” over Chinese UAV development. The report, “The Role of Autonomy in DoD Systems,” issued in October, said the military significance of China’s move into unmanned systems is “alarming” and China has a “great deal of technology, seemingly unlimited resources and clearly is leveraging all available information on Western unmanned systems development.” This might allow China to “match or outpace U.S. spending on unmanned systems, rapidly close the technology gaps and become a formidable global competitor in unmanned systems.”Due to transparency and language hurdles, many of China’s UAV programs remain unidentified. Chinese UAV manufacturers are not shy from showing off their equipment at aviation shows and on company websites. Once again due to language issues, China’s UAVs developments are widely misunderstood in the West.The proliferation of UAVs at Chinese aviation and defense exhibitions not just in China, but at international air shows such as Dubai and Singapore, demonstrate “China’s determination to catch up in this sector, but also its desire to sell this technology abroad,” the DSB report said.According to a 2010 Frost and Sullivan report issued to an unidentified “U.S. Embassy,” entitled, “An Overview of Asia Pacific Unmanned Aircraft Systems Market,” said the Asia-Pacific market alone for UAVs will keep China busy.Even Southeast Asian countries with small budgets will be buying an assortment of UAVs for different missions. Malaysia’s UAV market was estimated to be worth $90 million, with a focus on maritime operations and coast guard sales. Taiwan’s market was expected to be worth $600 million, with the threat of Chinese invasion serving as the driver. Indonesia was estimated at $125 million, with “ultra terrorist movement and territorial disputes” driving sales. Thailand could spend up to $300 million for UAVs, with “internal security threats” serving as the drivers.The Frost and Sullivan report believes that the UAV market in the Asia Pacific will experience sustained growth until at least 2016. “The UAV market in Asia Pacific will be led by Tactical UAVs (TUAVs), and followed closely by Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs.”The High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV market will be driven by more advanced countries, such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) “was inducted for usage for Japan in the early days,” but has not “garnered sufficient support from other countries in the Asia Pacific.” However, VTOL sales are expected to increase, said the report, “due to enhanced technologies handling capabilities and new naval defense article procurement.”China appears to be mastering UAV missions at sea. In 2012 photographs taken a Japanese military aircraft of a Chinese naval fleet passing between Miyakojima and Okinawa ended up on the Internet. Photographs show a VTOL UAV flying near one of the vessels; similar in design to the Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100.China’s new Liaoning aircraft carrier could be equipped with a new unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), said Richard Fisher, senior fellow, Asian Military Affairs, International Assessment and Strategy Center.Fisher said that in early March images emerged on the Internet of a reported flying wing UAV being built by the Hongdu Aircraft Corporation, reportedly in cooperation with the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. Shenyang is well known for their UCAV programs, he said. Additional reports out of China indicate that a Shenyang-designed UCAV prototype was completed in mid-December and that the Chinese navy is the key sponsor of the program.Fisher speculates that the Chinese navy is attempting to develop a unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike (U-CLASS) UAV. “But there is further Chinese-source speculation that Shenyang may move in another direction: building a larger stealthy flying wing UCAV similar in performance profile to a medium bomber.”During the 2010 Zhuhai Airshow, Chinese UAV companies displayed murals of UCAVs attacking U.S. aircraft carriers. Artistic renderings of UAVs providing targeting data for these UAVs were also evident.

Xi's War Drums


China's new leader is using the military to consolidate his power. But has he unleashed forces beyond his control?

Every morning at 6 a.m., more than two dozen of the world's leading submarine watchers, aviation experts, government specialists, imagery analysts, cryptanalysts, and linguists gather at the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. Their job is to probe the overnight intelligence reports to guide the activities and strategies of the five aircraft carrier groups, 180 ships, and nearly 2,000 aircraft that constantly patrol the Pacific and Indian oceans. The morning meetings are convened by the fleet's top intelligence officer, Capt. James Fanell, and cover activities emanating anywhere "from Hollywood to Bollywood," as the head of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Samuel Locklear, likes to put it. But the group never takes long before zeroing in on the country driving the United States' military and diplomatic "pivot" to Asia. "Every day it's about China; it's about a China who's at the center of virtually every activity and dispute in the maritime domain in the East Asian region," said Fanell, reading from prepared remarks at a U.S. Naval Institute conference in San Diego on Jan. 31.

Fanell, in comments that went largely unnoticed outside the small circle of China military specialists, spelled out in rare detail the reasons the United States is shifting 60 percent of its naval assets -- including its most advanced capabilities -- to the Pacific. He was blunt: The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is focused on war, and it is expanding into the "blue waters" explicitly to counter the U.S. Pacific Fleet. "I can tell you, as the fleet intelligence officer, the PLA Navy is going to sea to learn how to do naval warfare," he said. "My assessment is the PLA Navy has become a very capable fighting force."

Some were shocked to hear the extent and intensity of China's carefully orchestrated maritime provocations, especially coming from an officer whose job may make him more of an expert on Beijing's naval maneuverings than anyone outside China. Others wondered whether the Pacific Fleet was simply playing the Washington game, perhaps lobbying for a greater share of the U.S. military budget or wider authority to act by magnifying the threat.

But it may well be that the most contestable of Fanell's assertions were about the Chinese military's capabilities, not its provocations. For the question on many minds, both in Washington and Beijing, is this: Can China actually fight? And the person most anxious to find an answer happens to be the man who just became China's fifth leader since Mao: Xi Jinping.

FOR XI, this is no idle question. The 59-year-old new president is himself a veteran who launched his career in 1979 as personal assistant to Geng Biao, then secretary-general in charge of daily affairs at the Central Military Commission, the 11-member panel that runs the Chinese armed forces. And Xi has stated clearly that the military is central to his vision for China. "We must ensure there is unison between a prosperous country and strong military," he said in a pep talk to sailors on board a guided-missile destroyer in December. But his ambition to have a strong, professional fighting force is greatly complicated by an even bigger question that has occupied every Communist Party leader since Mao uttered his famous dictum that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." Can Xi be sure that the PLA will always be loyal to the party, and specifically to him?

"The people's army is not merely an organ for fighting; it is also an organ for the political advancement of the party," Mao once said, in another statement whose truth has been confirmed by all his successors. Xi may be able to build a military that is either modern and capable or loyal and political. But many in China now believe he can't have both.

It won't be for lack of trying. In the West, Xi's assumption of power has largely been covered as an economic and political drama: Can he keep China's booming markets on track? Will he tame the country's toxic levels of official corruption before demands for political reform derail him? Is he a reformer at all? What these accounts often miss are Xi's very deliberate moves to build a military power base for his presidency.

Even before formally taking office, Xi launched a wide-ranging program of inspecting troops, cementing key military relationships, and muscling up against Japan, his associates say. On Nov. 15, his preparatory work was rewarded by his appointment as not only general secretary of the Communist Party but also chairman of the Central Military Commission. The latter was a title that had eluded his predecessor, the lackluster Hu Jintao, for two years after Hu became party secretary, a symbolism lost on no one. Almost immediately after Xi's elevation, he announced a high-profile austerity campaign, attacking the military's culture of banquets, ceremony, and pomp. He demanded that his soldiers focus on their mission. "We must ensure that our troops are ready when called upon, that they are fully capable of fighting, and that they must win every war," Xi said during a tour of military forces in southern Guangdong province in December.

Cities on a Hill

Today's most intriguing utopias.

Almost since humankind was booted from the Garden of Eden, dreamers and visionaries have been imagining or trying to create perfect worlds, whether in Plato's Republic or Thomas More'sUtopia, 19th-century socialist experiments or 1960s hippie enclaves. The fall of the Berlin Wall may have given grand visions of the "radiant future" a bad name and science fiction has taken a decided turn for the dystopian in recent decades, but there are still those who dream of an idealized planet -- and they're not just worshippers at the altar of techno-utopianism. From seafaring libertarians to a free-market city-state in the Detroit River, here's a sampling of the future-perfect still pulsing in 2013.

Sim City's Magnasanti 

In the open-ended, alternately maddening and addictive world of SimCity, computer gamers create their own metropolises from scratch, designing systems for zoning, infrastructure, taxation, transportation, leisure, even sewage. But no one has quite mastered the art like Vincent Ocasla, an architecture student in the Philippines who spent nearly four years planning, building, and perfecting Magnasanti, his "optimum population" city of 6 million inhabitants, with "geometry inspired by the [Buddhist] wheel of life and death." And his virtual citizens approve, sort of: With zero congestion, zero water pollution, and zero crime, "they don't rebel or cause revolutions and social chaos," Ocasla told Vice magazine. (He did, however, admit that "they have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved, and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years.") A new version of SimCity has just been released and sold more than 1 million copies in its first two weeks on the market. The game has come a long way since its Atari days in the 1980s, when its rather unassuming working title was "Micropolis."


Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 
Sometimes it seems like the tiny, oil-rich United Arab Emirates has more money than sense, but with one of the world's highest per capita carbon-emission rates, it's planning to go green in a very big way. First announced in 2006, the government-backed Masdar eco-city, a 1-square-mile virtual postage stamp just outside the capital, Abu Dhabi, aims to be a low-carbon, low-waste oasis powered by the largest solar photovoltaic plant in the Middle East; the city itself will be raised 23 feet to capture desert breezes. Intended to house 40,000 residents and some 50,000 commuters, Masdar has faced setbacks in its scheme to become "The Global Center of Future Energy." Officials pushed the completion date from 2016 to 2025 and slashed the original $22 billion budget by 15 percent amid the financial downturn, forcing some compromises: A plan for electric, driverless cars may be restricted to only part of the city, while sandstorms and high prices could curb the use of solar panels. Masdar's backers aren't abandoning their eco-sanctuary. The site already hosts an MIT-affiliated, graduate-level computer science and engineering institute and aims to be a hub for clean-tech companies. "It is easier to build the perfect city," writes architect Norman Foster, whose firm is designing the project, "if you start with a blank canvas like the desert of Abu Dhabi and have oil money to finance it."

The Collapsing Arab State

Project Syndicate
Nawaf Obaid
25 April 2013 

The so-called Arab Spring generated a wave of hope among those fighting or advocating for democratization of the Arab world’s authoritarian regimes. Now, following leadership changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, and with a brutal civil war raging in Syria and increasingly fraught conditions in Bahrain, Sudan, Jordan, and Iraq, there is much talk of a major shift – and hope for improvement – in the nature and prospects of the Arab state.

But hope – “the thing with feathers,” as the American poet Emily Dickinson put it – often bears little resemblance to realities on the ground. Indeed, looking earthward, the beauty of the Arab Spring seems to have given way to an almost unbearable winter. For all the optimism ushered in two years ago, ominous political realities may be rendering the nation-state system incompatible with the emerging new Arab world. As a result, how the region can maintain stability without stable nation-states is becoming a burning question. Admittedly, Arab countries’ problems vary by degree and type. Some countries, such as Egypt and Tunisia, have historically entrenched institutions to help steer the post-conflict institution-building process and prevent a complete collapse of the state. Others, like Bahrain and Jordan, appear to be relatively stable.

But most are experiencing disastrous output contractions amid severe fiscal constraints and nearly collapsed monetary systems, thus undermining two integral components of a successful nation-state: economic independence and self-sustaining growth. Moreover, each country has elected leaders (or widely supported rebels) with ties to the pan-Arab revolutionary Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood (or, in the case of Bahrain, to Iran’s revolutionary Islamist objectives). They are thus subject to a religious ideology that transcends the nation-state, rather than to organizations with viable plans for social stability, economic prosperity, and political security within national borders.

The vulnerability that this implies already has resulted in Sudan’s recent disintegration into two states. Sudan’s authoritarian rule and social division along religious lines, together with economic difficulties and political ineptitude, precipitated the collapse of the central government’s authority in the country’s Christian-majority south. The same process appears to be playing out, albeit at a slower pace, in Iraq, amid an ongoing struggle to unite two ethnicities, Arabs and Kurds, as well as adherents of Sunni and Shia Islam, into a single nation-state. Central authority is gradually eroding as the country continues to splinter into ethnic and sectarian regions, with a de facto Kurdish sovereign state already well established in the north.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, the possibility of adequate central authority is slipping away as the country confronts several seemingly intractable problems – from internal divisions and separatist movements to Al Qaeda’s franchise in the Arabian Peninsula and a failing economy. The south (Aden) and east (Hadramaut) are both on a trajectory toward independence, dragging Yemen toward another secession struggle nearly 25 years after the country’s fragile unification.

In Libya, the collapse of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime has thrown the country into chaos and decimated central-government authority. The south remains lawless, while the east is ruled by the Benghazi regional council; only the west remains subject to the poorly consolidated government in Tripoli.

The situation is even worse in Syria, where the bloodiest of the Arab revolutions has already claimed more than 75,000 lives, owing mainly to the behavior of President Bashar al-Assad’s tyrannical regime. As the Syrian state melts away, the regime’s inevitable collapse will lead to the country’s permanent dismemberment, bringing a de facto Kurdish state in the northeast, an eastern autonomous enclave for the surviving Alawites, and a southern entity for the Druze.

Think Again: European Decline


Sure, it may seem as if Europe is down and out. But things are far, far better than they look.

"Europe Is History."

No. These days, many speak of Europe as if it has already faded into irrelevance. In the words of American pundit Fareed Zakaria, "it may well turn out that the most consequential trend of the next decade will be the economic decline of Europe." According to Singaporean scholar Kishore Mahbubani, Europe "does not get how irrelevant it is becoming to the rest of the world." Not a day went by on the 2012 U.S. campaign trail, it seemed, without Republican challenger Mitt Romney warning that President Barack Obama was -- gasp -- turning the United States into a "European social welfare state."

With its anemic growth, ongoing eurocrisis, and the complexity of its decision-making, Europe is admittedly a fat target right now. And the stunning rise of countries like Brazil and China in recent years has led many to believe that the Old World is destined for the proverbial ash heap. But the declinists would do well to remember a few stubborn facts. Not only does the European Union remain the largest single economy in the world, but it also has the world's second-highest defense budget after the United States, with more than 66,000 troops deployed around the world and some 57,000 diplomats (India has roughly 600). The EU's GDP per capita in purchasing-power terms is still nearly four times that of China, three times Brazil's, and nearly nine times India's. If this is decline, it sure beats living in a rising power.

Power, of course, depends not just on these resources but on the ability to convert them to produce outcomes. Here too Europe delivers: Indeed, no other power apart from the United States has had such an impact on the world in the last 20 years. Since the end of the Cold War, the EU has peacefully expanded to include 15 new member states and has transformed much of its neighborhood by reducing ethnic conflicts, exporting the rule of law, and developing economies from the Baltic to the Balkans. Compare that with China, whose rise is creating fear and provoking resistance across Asia. At a global level, many of the rules and institutions that keep markets open and regulate world trade, limit carbon emissions, and prosecute human rights abusers were created by the European Union. Who was behind the World Trade Organization and the International Criminal Court? Not the United States or China. It's Europe that has led the way toward a future run by committees and statesmen, not soldiers and strongmen.

Yes, the EU now faces an existential crisis. Even as it struggles, however, it is still contributing more than other powers to solving both regional conflicts and global problems. When the Arab revolutions erupted in 2011, the supposedly bankrupt EU pledged more money to support democracy in Egypt and Tunisia than the United States did. When Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi was about to carry out a massacre in Benghazi in March 2011, it was France and Britain that led from the front. This year, France acted to prevent a takeover of southern Mali by jihadists and drug smugglers. Europeans may not have done enough to stop the conflict in Syria, but they have done as much as anyone else in this tragic story.

In one sense, it is true that Europe is in inexorable decline. For four centuries, Europe was the dominant force in international relations. It was home to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. It industrialized first and colonized much of the world. As a result, until the 20th century, all the world's great powers were European. It was inevitable -- and desirable -- that other players would gradually narrow the gap in wealth and power over time. Since World War II, that catch-up process has accelerated. But Europeans benefit from this: Through their economic interdependence with rising powers, including those in Asia, Europeans have continued to increase their GDP and improve their quality of life. In other words, like the United States -- and unlike, for example, Russia on the continent's eastern frontier -- Europe is in relative though not absolute decline.

In Defense of Leading from Behind


So what if it's a terrible slogan? It's still the right strategy.

"Leading from behind," a quote from an unnamed Obama administration official highlighted by New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza, has been vehemently and repeatedly trashed in the Washington scramble to redefine U.S. power in the 21st century, becoming fodder for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign and a rallying cry for neoconservatives. But the concept behind the phrase deserves another look. President Barack Obama seems to have come to the same conclusion and already is leading in a new way -- not from behind, but as a partner.

When it was coined in April 2011, the phrase rested on indisputable, if uncomfortable, emerging realities: Americans had soured on playing Lone Ranger to a hopelessly messy world. The price tag had grown outrageous, the results dubious. America's allies were demanding a bigger say in the policy menu, though they still expected Washington to pick up the check. Forget not that they pushed the White House into dethroning Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya and now scheme the same for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. And remember the 2009 Copenhagen climate change conference, where erstwhile friends ditched the United States to join China's disgraceful bid to undermine global climate change efforts -- though they didn't fail to slip the bill (and the blame) under the U.S. door.

Due regard for these potent realities, however, was doomed by the word "behind." The idea was ill-named and ill-explained, and the foreign-policy gods descended with lethal fury. They likened the phrase to a military officer commanding his troops to charge while he sipped tea at headquarters. "Behind," they intoned, reeked of weakness and indecision, of fear to wield American power in a world still quietly craving U.S. leadership. Unsurprisingly, the slogan's originator remains anonymous, surely trembling that Bob Woodward might soon unmask him or her.

Here are the useful insights hidden within "leading from behind," and here's how they can be put together to fashion a new strategy for using international power in the 21st century. First, the "behind" must be banished. If foreign-policy hands the world over agree on anything, it is that only Washington can lead on major international issues for some time to come. Americans shouldn't shrink from this; it's still the best way to protect U.S. interests. If Washington is to lead effectively, however, it must do so in a new way -- through genuine partnerships. Unless others are treated as actual partners, they won't follow, and any resulting coalition will lack the power to prevail. From time to time, Obama has suggested that this is indeed his approach to foreign policy, but as in so many matters he has never proved the point.

These future partnerships must be grounded in the idea of mutual indispensability, wherein the United States is the indispensable leader and other countries are the indispensable partners. This is not the Lone Ranger and Tonto, nor many Tontos without the Lone Ranger. Rather, as Washington takes the lead on important matters, other countries will buy in because their interests are served. It works because all parties understand that a coalition provides the best opportunity to achieve common goals -- that mutual indispensability is a power multiplier. It doesn't take a Bismarck to see that most international problems can't be solved without such power partnerships.