21 July 2013

By Land and By Sea***

Balanced Forces for a Complex Region

July 19, 2013

The United States has increasingly preferred to base its combat aircraft in the Middle East on aircraft carriers in and near the Persian Gulf. But now it should change course, moving more of them on land to bases in Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
U.S. Navy seamen stand by to de-arm weapons systems during air wing recovery operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Persian Gulf, May 5, 2008. (U.S. Navy / Flickr)

Protecting U.S. interests in the Middle East has never been easy, but recent developments have made it only harder. Iran’s buildup of missile forces and its pursuit of a nuclear capability have destabilized the region. The Arab Spring led to the ouster of key allies in Egypt and Yemen and weakened the Bahraini monarchy. And cuts to the defense budget will leave the United States with fewer resources to meet its security commitments.

Under these conditions, how can Washington achieve its objectives? In a recent article for Foreign Affairs (“Land Warriors,” July 2, 2013), Michael O’Hanlon and Bruce Riedel offer a solution: stationing land-based fighter aircraft in several Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations. In theory, this posture would enable Washington to deter Iran, reassure Gulf partners, divest expensive aircraft carriers, and reduce its dependence on the beleaguered monarchy in Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is headquartered. 

It is true that the military needs to rethink its posture, given the shifting strategic and economic landscape. But there are three major problems with O’Hanlon and Riedel’s proposal.

First, stationing additional fighter aircraft in close proximity to Iran would increase the vulnerability of high-value U.S. forces to missile attacks. Although Iran does not have the capability to strike distant locations with precision, it could surely strike nearby airbases in GCC nations. O’Hanlon and Riedel are correct that hardened bases would mitigate this threat. But countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which already have hardened aircraft shelters, do not allow the United States to use them. Moreover, since the end of the Cold War, the Pentagon has proved unwilling to invest in extremely expensive base resiliency measures, despite the growing missile threat in several parts of the world.

O’Hanlon and Riedel argue that wealthy GCC nations could build new bases or improve existing facilities to support U.S. forces. After all, they have done so in the past. In fact, they might not be willing or able to foot the bill. Few countries in the region want more U.S. military forces permanently stationed on their soil. And with domestic unrest on the rise in the Middle East, Gulf countries are laying down hundreds of billions of dollars per year for social welfare. That means that they have less cash to underwrite a U.S. military presence.

Second, although the authors’ call to reduce U.S. dependence on Bahrain seems prudent, deploying additional aircraft to bases in the region could create new dilemmas. Namely, by trading offshore military presence for land-based air power, the United States might not be able to use its fighter aircraft when it needs them most. 

For Mumbai, Justice If Not Peace

February 5, 2013 


A final chapter closed last week in Chicago. Fifty-two year old David Coleman Headley was sentenced to 35 years in prison for helping plan what many call India's 9/11. Over one hundred and sixty people died, including six Americans. Yes, one of our own designed a terrorist attack overseas.

It was November 26th, Thanksgiving weekend, when the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar e-Tayyiba laid siege to the city of Mumbai for three days. Any doubt as to LeT's suicidal strategy was put to rest when Indian authorities released intercepted cell phone communications between the militants and their Pakistan-based handlers.

Even while intercepting the assailant's communications, Indian authorities were not prepared for a fight this vicious and well planned.

That was largely due to David Headley. He was born in the United States to an American mother and a Pakistani father. He changed his name from Gaood Gilani in 2006 so that he could map and videotape the Mumbai targets without raising suspicion. 

Perhaps that is what is most frightening about David Headley. He did not simply participate - he played a critical role in making the attacks as lethal, bloody, and media-ripe as possible. His preparations turned what would have otherwise required a precision Special Forces assault into a commodity that any ragtag group could accomplish. 

All The World's A Stage

In an unprecedented documentary, HBO films created a one hour special entitled Terror in Mumbai, hosted by CNN's Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria is a native of Mumbai and his mother still lives there. The entire documentary can be viewed onlinehere. It could make a good master class into the changing nature of terrorism in the information age.

The film utilizes video and photographs, as well as excerpts from some of the 284 intercepted cell phone calls between the militants and their handlers. These are not actors - the voices are the actual LeT leaders directing the militants from their safe haven in Pakistan. 

It is a window into how otherwise normal people can easily be turned into an assault force capable of crippling a major city. The young men were stunned by the opulence of the Taj Mahal hotel, yet deferential when their handler demanded to hear them murder a Jewish woman while he listened on the phone.

This dichotomy of sophisticated masterminds and mindless drones both coming out of Pakistan is disturbing and could potentially be just starting.

Along the Afghan-Pakistan border is a lawless, ungoverned area euphemistically called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA. Unfortunately, there’s very little administration. Many, if not most, of the tribes don’t acknowledge a border even exists – they transit the area without concern or pause. 

Yet Pakistan's major cities have every modern convenience, with internationally recognized thought leaders driving innovations in science, mathematics, medicine, and the arts. These two polar extremes can exist in a single nation because they are quite literally worlds apart. But this social separation may soon be ending.

FATA administrators have a difficult task. Tribes do not value nationality so much as they do ancestry. A degree of shared citizenship is not as important to them as a shared infrastructure of laws, courts, and basic services. The Political Agents in tribal lands must extol government accountability to those with little national identity to negate the militant's marginalization of the government, the foundation of their recruitment efforts. 

India in Transition

Guarding the Nuclear Guardians

By Christopher Clary

We are just weeks beyond the fifteenth anniversary of the 1998 nuclear tests, and less than a year from the fortieth anniversary of India’s 1974 “peaceful nuclear experiment.” India is justly proud of what its nuclear scientists have accomplished. In the face of an international regime to slow their progress, Indian scientists, engineers, and even bureaucrats and politicians collaborated to find a way to build an increasingly diverse nuclear energy infrastructure and the ability to produce nuclear weapons. To overcome these obstacles, India built a closed, close-knit nuclear enclave. Now that it has done so, will that establishment open up?

Fifteen years after Pokhran-II, it is possible the world knows less about India’s nuclear weapons program than any other nuclear state except North Korea. This is not proud company for the world’s largest democracy to share. The Indian public has settled mostly for quiescence about the program, punctuated by a handful of commentators eager to cheerlead the program’s accomplishments. This lack of inquiry could be unfortunate. Closed organizations develop pathologies that are often harmful to the broader public interest. They sometimes accept decrements in safety to achieve other organizational goals. Whether India’s nuclear stewards have avoided dangerous practices is unclear based on the scant public record.

The Indian government has only shown the barest of glimpses of what steps it believes are necessary to ensure deterrence while maximizing safety. By far, the most information we have on the topic comes from a one-page press release issued in 2003. Ten years is a long time to go without additional public comment by India’s political leaders, particularly since there are signs of major developments in the nuclear program during that time. Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran did reveal a bit more in a speech he gave in New Delhi in April, where he announced the existence of a Strategy Programme Staff to support the Nuclear Command Authority and a Strategic Armament Safety Authority to review storage and transport procedures for nuclear weapons.

Other than the existence of a body charged with safety, there is much that is not known. There are isolated, anecdotal reports that the Department of Atomic Energy and the Defence Research and Development Organisation have personnel screening programs to prevent potentially dangerous individuals from access to nuclear materials, but no information on the program has been offered in the public domain. Nor is there information on whether the Indian armed forces have a similar program.

This is not just an academic concern. India’s armed forces are not immune to mental illness, suffering a little over 100 suicides within their ranks each year. Nor are they immune from violent insubordination, as separate episodes with Army units at Samba and Nyoma in 2012 demonstrate. Nor is the Atomic Energy establishment invulnerable to bad actors. After an episode in which someone spiked drinking water at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station with tritium, one nuclear power official told The Hindu, “Scrutiny of staff is totally missing in our power stations.” There appears to be more screening for those working on nuclear weapons issues, but what that scrutiny entails is not clear. It is worth emphasizing that, as far as is known in public, no individual has been held accountable for the Kaiga episode. Elsewhere, DRDO’s record is not without blemishes. We still know very little about how one of its junior researchers was arrested in a terror plot despite having passed his background checks. The National Investigative Agency has recently dropped charges against the researcher, but the episode is still troubling.

Fears that personnel screening programs are insufficient have led most nuclear weapons states, including Pakistan, to develop some sort of “permissive action links” that prevent nuclear weapons from being launched or detonated absent a code available only after authorization of political leaders. Does India have permissive action links? Again, we do not know. If India has them, are they robust and tamper-resistant? Absent a cryptic reference in a 1998 press release to “safety interlocks,” there is no public information. Vice Admiral Verghese Koithara, in his 2012 study of India’s nuclear arsenal, concluded the National Command Authority had a “lack of confidence” in its ability to exercise control over nuclear weapons through electronic means, suggesting that permissive action links are absent or rudimentary.

Tough Times for Afghan Hindus and Sikhs

Dwindling community struggles to maintain identity.

11 Jul 13

“We aren’t treated as human beings,” Sikh businessman Amrit Singh said as he sat in his small grocery shop in the Kabul neighbourhood of Shor Bazaar. “When we are alive, we are disrespected, insulted and beaten…. And when we take our dead to the crematorium, which is our personal property, they won’t let us burn the bodies, saying it stinks.” 

“Do we have any rights in this country or not?” the 45-year-old asked.

Hindus and Sikhs form a miniscule community in today’s Afghanistan. Historically playing an important role as traders and entrepreneurs, they lived in Afghanistan in relative harmony for hundreds of years, mostly in the capital Kabul and in the southeastern Khost province.

According to Avtar Singh, chairman of the national council of Hindus and Sikhs, the community now numbers only 395 families. Before the collapse of the pro-Soviet regime in 1992, he said, there were around 200,000 people from the two communities.

During the civil war that followed, many sought refuge in other countries, India in particular. For those who remained, things got worse under the Taleban government of 1996-2001. Their freedom to practice their religion was restricted, and cremation was banned altogether.

Although that ban is no longer in place, Avtar Singh said funeral rites remained a major issue, noting public opposition to the use of the 120-year-old crematorium in Qalacha, southeast of Kabul.

“When we take our dead bodies to the crematorium, we take the police with us. Even so, local people throw stones at us. They disrespect our dead,” he said, adding that despite appeals to the Afghan parliament, the Independent Human Rights Commission, the United Nations mission and the United States embassy, his community had received little help.

Daud Amin, deputy police chief in Kabul city, said that his forces were doing their best to protect the minority.

“We have always worked with them,” he said. “We have accompanied them and we haven’t allowed anyone to insult them. Members of the public threw stones at them only once, and we stopped it. We have helped them whenever they’ve asked us for help.”

Residents of Qalacha insisted they had no problems with Hindus and Sikhs, only with the cremations.

Gholam Habib Fawad, deputy chairman of the community council in Qalacha, said the crematorium used to be located far from residential areas, but that had changed as more homes were built in its vicinity.

“When they burn bodies there, the smell goes into the houses,” he said. “Many people react and fall sick. The children are scared. Some families need to leave their houses for several days and go and live with relatives.”

Avtar Singh denied that the cremations had any impact on the environment.

“Representatives from the municipality and the police have been present when we burned the bodies, and even they said they didn’t smell anything,” he said.

China and Russia: The Jt Sea 2013 Ex

Vijay Sakhuja, Dir Research, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi

The ongoing China-Russia naval exs code-named Jt Sea 2013, dubbed by the PLAN as the ‘single biggest dply of mil force in any jt foreign ex’, merits attn. The Chinese flotilla comprising of seven ships, three heptrs and a special warfare unit sailed through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan and then to the Port of Vladivostok. The stated aim of the ex is to simulate ‘recapturing ships seized by pirates, as well as search and rescue ops [SAR] and a No of AD, anti-sub and anti-ship exs’. The Chinese def ministry has been quick to clarify that ‘the drills are not targeted at any third pty and that the aim is to deepen coop between the two mils’.

China and Russia have conducted reg bilateral and multilateral mil exs since 2003. These incl:-

(a) Coalition 2003.
(b) Peace Msn 2005.
(c) Peace Msn 2007.
(d) Peace Msn 2009.
(e) Peace Shield 2009.
(f) Peace Msn 2010.
(g) Jt Sea 2012.
(h) Peace Msn 2012.

The Coalition-2003 and the Peace Msn series are anti terror exs under the aegis of the Shanghai Coop Org (SCO), while the Peace Shield 2009 (held on 18 Sep 2009 in the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean where both navies were dply for counter piracy ops) and the Jt Sea series which started in 2012 are naval exs.

The China-Russia jt mil exs are being watched with great interest by the US and its alliance partners, i.e. Japan and Republic of Korea. There is a belief that the Jt Sea 2013 is in response to the unprecedented US-Japan amphibious wargames code-named Dawn Blitz conducted in Jun 2013 on San Clemente Island off the coast of California which were apparently designed and conducted with China as the tgt. Interestingly, the exs began two days after the 8 Jun 13 summit mtg between President Obama and President Xi Jinping in California.

There is also a perception that the exs are in response to the USs’ rebalancing strat to Asia and China’s maritime disputes with Japan over the uninhabited Sankaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea and Vietnam and Philippines over the Spratly Islands in South China Sea. Further, these exs provide China and Russia the opportunity to reaffirm as significant regional powers and proj power at sea.

Russia and China coop security partnership appears to be pitted against the US led collective security alliance in the Asia Pacific region. There were a No of reasons that resulted in the China-Russia rapprochement after the end of the Cold War. The two sides signed the Sino-Russian strat partnership and in 2001 the Treaty for Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Coop. Besides consolidating their partnership, China and Russia pushed forward their common agenda of a multi-polar world apparently to bal US hegemony emerging in the post Cold War pd. The synergy also arose from the Chinese and Russian perception that the US had contd to deal with these states with a Cold War mentality. For instance, the RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exs that began in 1971 had China and Russia simulated as ens. However, in recent times, these two countries have participated in RIMPAC and this is a good eg of competition and engagement.

One blunder after the other in Foreign Policy

By Laksiri Fernando 

( July 17, 2013, Sydney, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka is making one blunder after the other in its foreign relations with India quite reminiscent of the days of President J. R. Jayewardene which finally resulted in strengthening the separatist forces in the country and the Indian intervention in 1987. Whether this is happening without provocation or reason is a debatable matter. Even if the tug of war with India is understandable on the human rights resolution at the UNHRC or the 13th Amendment, there is no reason to repeat a similar confrontation on the Nuclear Issue. It is absolutely a dangerous sphere to enter and only the fools would rush in where the angels fear to tread.

In the 1980s, the US was not behind India. Now the situation has dramatically changed particularly with the Indo-US Nuclear Deal (2005) and the present Russia is not exactly the Soviet Union of the Cold War period that a country like Sri Lanka can completely count on. Whatever the long term intensions or prospects of China, in the current period, it would drop Sri Lanka like a hot potato if the stakes with the US are high.

This is not to say that Sri Lanka should not have an independent foreign policy but to say exactly the opposite that Sri Lanka should be independent from all dubious patrons by firmly following its age old non-aligned and neutral policy in foreign relations whatever the short term temptations or impulsive and subjective urges of short sighted military advocates.

Strained Relations

The immediate prompt for this article is the news item that “Sri Lanka ignores Indian nuclear pact, looks to Pakistan” (The Island, 15 July 2013). When it says that “Sri Lanka is moving in the direction of a nuclear pact with Pakistan after India voted against it at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)” it is as if nuclear power is something that you utilize in confronting human rights issues. At least that is the impression created in New Delhi as reported by S. Venkat Narayan. Voting at the UNHRC is something that you can discuss, negotiate and make them understand if they have done something wrong. If that has failed then that is an utter failure of our constructive diplomacy with India. But a Nuclear Pact is completely a different ballgame especially with a country like Pakistan, India’s well known competitor if not the arch enemy in the region.

The situation is much worse especially when there had been discussions with India even before 2010, during Prof Tissa Vitarana’s time as the Minister of Science and Technology, to seek Indian assistance in developing Sri Lanka’s atomic capabilities in utilizing them for purely civilian purposes. The correct word to use in the context of civilian purposes is atomic energy and not NUCLEAR. There is nothing wrong in that kind of an effort and all countries have legitimate rights in that direction if those are governed by international norms and accepted safety practices. The Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) of Sri Lanka is much older, formed in 1969 as a Statutory Body under the Atomic Energy Authority Act No. 19 of 1969 and all these years its pursuits were conducted completely under the terms of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna and without ruffling any feathers in the regional or international players. This is not to be the case under the present Minister, Patali Champika Ranawaka, who is well known for his anti-Indian stance on many matters as the leader of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a Sinhala extremist political outfit nevertheless within the ruling UPFA.

The government on the one hand says that India was lukewarm in their response to the Sri Lankan proposals and that is what reported by the Ceylon Today in its top story on the 15th July. However, the Indian understanding or the claim is completely different as Narayan has reported which says that India in fact offered a Comprehensive Draft Pact last October and was eagerly awaiting Sri Lanka’s response. For this question, the government sources have given a dubious and a contradictory answer, quite intriguing and rather worrying. The following was what Gagani Weerakoon reported.

The View from the Sitting Room

Photo by Malalai Abdali, via Internews.

One morning, the women in the Kabul house awoke with a particular sense of purpose. After the dawn prayer, when Nazo would usually roll back into bed and sleep in as long as she could, Nafisa nudged her sister-in-law and marched her toward the kitchen. As foreigners and guests of the family, my two American colleagues and I were exempt from early risings, but I heard Amina’s voice in the kitchen, not an everyday occurrence at this early hour, and my curiosity got the better of me.

Amina was the sister of an Afghan-immigrant professor I’d first met three years earlier, right after 9/11 in Portland, Oregon, when I had been tasked with reporting a story that, in my editor’s words, would put a “human face on the country we’re about to bomb.” That human face turned out to be that of a man I’ll call Daoud Shirzai, who was then more than thirty years into an “involuntary exile” in the U.S., and that initial interview evolved into a friendship with Daoud and his patchwork family in Portland, his brothers Yusuf and Maiwand, and his nieces and nephews. Three years later, Daoud invited me to Kabul, where he had at long last returned to play a part in the post-Taliban Karzai government.

Now I had come, with Daoud’s niece Laila as translator and my colleague Stephanie, a photojournalist, to document Daoud’s work in the new government, his family’s story, and, by extension, Afghanistan’s confounding past and precarious present. But most of my time was spent with – and most of my insights gleaned from – the women who managed the Shirzai household in Kabul: Amina, her daughter Nazo, and her new daughter-in-law Nafisa. They opened unexpected windows onto Afghanistan for me, taking me to see the first girls’ schools in a decade and Bollywood-inspired dress shops that glittered with post-Taliban women’s fashion. This morning would be no exception.

I came into the kitchen, blinking away sleep. In the dawn light through the windows white clouds of flour swirled. Nafisa and Nazo squatted on the kitchen floor, their strong, limber legs supporting them with their sleeves rolled up, each kneading a glossy, pale mass of dough on cloth laid on the linoleum. The air was thick and yeasty. They began forming balls the size of large grapefruits. This continued without their usual chatter. Nazo, who looked decidedly groggy, never liked being up this early in the morning. Amina, tall, solid, and with her neat white headscarf on, paced between them, checking on their progress.

She noticed me looking on and asked me something in Pashto. I shook my head, wishing Laila were awake. Amina said something else to me that began with “Laila,” and I answered, “Wo,” hoping I had just said “yes” to agree that she should ask Laila. I knew this much about Amina: She was the Shirzai family’s stronghold in Afghanistan, the one who had stayed in Kabul through the Soviet War, the civil wars, the Taliban, and the U.S.-led invasion. Her younger brother Mohammed had been imprisoned by Afghan communists before the Soviet War, and was never heard from again. Because no body was recovered, the family still said he was “lost.” After Mohammed was taken, three of her brothers – Daoud, Maiwand, and Yusuf – fled to the United States, fearful that they were in danger too. They believed that, as a woman, Amina would be safer in Kabul than they would be, so she remained behind with the family’s property and a family of her own. She was illiterate, with no formal education, and she and I could barely communicate without Laila’s help. But I sensed from the start I had a lot to learn from her, both about life in Afghanistan and the Shirzais.

I also knew she was one of the only family members who had been present the day Mohammed was taken from his home, in front of his wife and young children. The youngest Shirzai brother Yusuf, who now lived in Portland, had been there too. But here in Afghanistan, I wanted to know what Amina’s memory of that day in 1979 had been. I didn’t know how to ask her. Mohammed’s loss was something the family rarely talked about or acknowledged, as if doing so would have the same effect as calling him “dead.” It was in unexpected places that I sensed the outlines of his absence, the gaping negative space that his loss created in the Shirzai family. Only a couple days before, we had visited the family’s rural compound in the Ghazni province, where Laila and Nazo’s still-living grandmother – Amina’s mother – kept a room with Mohammed’s framed black and white portrait in it, like a shrine. In it, he had a thick side sweep of pomaded hair, horn-rimmed glasses, and a serious, close-lipped expression.

Legendary General James Mattis Just Gave One Of The Best Talks On Middle East Policy We've Ever Seen

Jul. 20, 2013

Aspen InstituteRetired Marine General James N. Mattis gave an insightful talk to a packed crowd at the Aspen Security Forum on Saturday.

The four-star general, who recently retired after leading U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for Iraq and Afghanistan (among others), spoke at length with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Syria, Iran, Israel, and Egypt.

He offered commentary on U.S. foreign and military policy, what is happening in the Middle East, and what he sees going forward.

On what's happening now in Syria:

Mattis made clear that without the support of the Iranians, Syria's Bashar al-Assad "would have been overrun" by rebel forces. The reason Iran props up the regime, Mattis reasoned — is that if Assad falls, it would be Iran's biggest political setback in 25 years.

He also expressed dismay over Iran's free usage of Iraqi airspace to shuttle arms into the country, saying "when we pulled out of Iraq, we certainly didn't expect" anything like that.

On whether the U.S. should go into Syria:

Mattis continued to harp on having a political end state and clear goals before any military action — whether that be boots on the ground or no-fly zone — or else he said, "you invade a country, pull down a statue, then say 'now what do we do?'"

The general told Blitzer the military "is not worn out" and can carry out any mission, but "we should not fight wars without a clearly defined end state ... when you go to war, it can't be a half-step" — meaning, you have to be fully committed to winning.

On going into Iraq:

When asked whether it was "worth it" to go into Iraq, Mattis was reluctant to directly answer. "There's a big 'if'," he said, on whether Iraq continues with their democracy and flourishes. If that happens, Mattis reasoned, "then yes."

Force Modernization and Readiness: A Zero Sum Game?

July 19, 2013  

On June 25th, General Ray Odierno announced that the U.S. Army would cut ten brigade combat teams due to reductions in the defense budget. Combined with cuts that have been previously announced, the Army stands lose 12 brigades totaling 80,000 soldiers. When the drawdown is complete in 2017, the Army will have 490,000 active duty soldiers, slightly more than it had on September 11, 2001.

Odierno was quick to note, however, that these cuts did not take into account sequestration – the automatic $500 billion in cuts that will be applied equally across the Pentagon’s accounts. Should sequestration play out over the next eight years as planned – and there’s currently no reason to believe it won’t – the Army will be looking at additional budget cuts equivalent to 100,000 soldiers.

The Marine Corps is also on track to shrink. The Commandant of the Marine Corps recently announced that sequestration would reduce the Corps by an additional 8,000 marines, down to 176,000.

Having made the decision not to size the military for large-scale, protracted ground combat, policymakers are attempting to prioritize modernization and readiness at the expense of personnel. There are, however, worrying signs that readiness is being sacrificed, and that budgetary pressure will result in the very thing we wish to avoid: a hollow military, which will make it impossible to project real power.

There is an inherent tension between three pillars of defense spending: personnel, modernization and readiness. Finite resources make it impossible to avoid tradeoffs among the three. Thus, planners must balance between the competing needs of each. By reducing Army and Marine ground forces by 108,000, policymakers have decided not to size the force for long-term, protracted ground combat operations. Not only do policymakers appear to have lost their appetite for such campaigns, planners have justified the decision with the not unreasonable assertion that raising manpower will be easier and faster than, say, designing and building an aircraft carrier, tank or fighter. Moreover, a decade of combat operations has left the force with used and abused equipment that badly needs refitting and replacing.

But even as the Department reduces active duty end strength, personnel costs continue to rise. Personnel costs mostly appear in two different accounts within DoD’s budget: personnel and operations and maintenance (O&M). The personnel account is basically military compensation and consists of active duty pay and other cash benefits such as housing and food allowances, special pay and bonuses. O&M includes the many non-cash benefits like healthcare, childcare services, subsidized food and clothing (commissaries and exchanges), and fitness and recreation. Then, there are the deferred benefits for pensions and healthcare for retirees.

Future of Manned Combat Aircraft

20 Jul , 2013


Boeing AH-64D Apache

It has long been known that the forte of an unmanned device is to undertake “dull, dirty and dangerous” missions. No pilot can ever hope to equal the staying power of a UAV while orbiting a target for several hours at a stretch, just waiting for something to happen. UAV endurance may soon be specified in days. Then there are other dirty missions such as flying over areas suspected to be affected by radiological, chemical or biological contamination. Dangerous missions include probing enemy air defences or operating over a target where the risk of the pilot being shot down is high. To these three Ds, “difficult and different” are sometimes added. If there is a mission considered too difficult for a pilot to undertake, a UAV is often the machine of choice. And any new or different mission that a pilot may not have trained for may also be assigned to a UAV. All-in-all it seems the future of UAVs is assured.

Currently, only manned combat aircraft have the capability to penetrate sophisticated air defences…

Fixed wing aircraft were first used in war in 1911 when the Italian Army Air Corps bombed a Turkish camp at Ain Zara, Libya. A hundred years later, questions are increasingly being asked about how much longer manned combat aircraft will remain relevant to the war-fighting capabilities of major militaries.

The US, by far the world’s foremost military, economic and technological power, is grappling with its latest combat aircraft, the fifth generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The product of the most expensive military-industrial programme in history, the F-35 is needed to replace a host of long-serving combat aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the F/A-18 Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier II that are nearing the end of their useful life. These iconic aircraft have proved their worth in many operational theatres yet the US Air Force (USAF) demanded and obtained vastly enhanced capability for the F-35A conventional version. The US Marine Corps wanted a Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) version designated as the F-35B, while the US Navy opted for the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version. However, over the years, this exposed the F-35 programme to the criticism that it was too ambitious and complicated and that the fighter’s optimum performance had been compromised in an attempt to meet far too many specifications and roles. For instance, the supposedly highly stealthy combat plane was quickly downgraded from “very low observable” to “low observable”.

Besides, the F-35’s design and production schedule was overly optimistic. It is now expected to enter service only in 2016, seven years behind schedule. The average cost per plane has zoomed from $69 million in 2001, the year the programme was launched, to over $137 million today. If development costs are added, the cost per aircraft would touch $160 million. Criticism is growing louder. Some observers even believe the F-35 may be entering the “death-spiral”. In order to keep the cost low, a manufacturer needs to build and sell a large number of machines. But the US government and most other foreign buyers of the F-35 are facing tough choices. Their instinctive response is to slash orders in an effort to cut costs. That, in turn, forces the manufacturer to increase unit cost resulting in even more cancellations which in turn, leads to further cost escalation.

UAVs are generally far more fragile than manned aircraft and their attrition rates are still fairly high…

The Pentagon still insists that it plans to buy 2,443 F-35s over the next 25 years or so and together with projected foreign sales, the total order could exceed 3,150 aircraft. But if recent history is anything to go by, the signs are ominous. The USAF initially ordered 120 Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit long-range stealth strategic bombers but had to be content with just 24. It planned to buy 750 Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors but production of these extremely stealthy air-superiority fighters was terminated at 187. Why should the F-35 fare any better when Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are knocking at the door?

Top Intelligence Lawyer: 'I Don’t Know What’s In Every NSA Database'

By Shane Harris 
July 19, 2013 


The intelligence community's top lawyer mounted a full-throated defense of the National Security Agency's global surveillance programs in a speechon Friday, insisting that the agency goes to great lengths -- unique among most nations -- to ensure that it's not inappropriately monitoring the communications of Americans. But after the prepared remarks were over, Robert Litt undermined his own case a bit when he admitted that he wasn't completely sure how, technically, the NSA kept Americans out of the surveillance dragnet.

In a speech at the Brookings Insitution in Washington, Litt said that when the NSA wants to monitor an individual's email account under a program he described as one of the most valuable tools for detecting terrorist plots, analysts first determine whether the sender is a U.S. citizen or legal resident, and whether he is located inside the United States. If he meets either of those criteria, the government is supposed to obtain a warrant before reading the email.

But this is no easy task. The NSA has a very difficult time knowing whether an email sender is, in fact, a U.S. person, and therefore afforded additional privacy protection under the law. Asked to elaborate on how the NSA makes this determination, Litt acknowledged that the process is "technically very difficult." But he said he was not at liberty to divulge "NSA analytic tradecraft."

Litt did offer that analysts have a variety of other databases that they can consult, separate from those that contain data collected through the PRISM system and the bulk collection of telephone records, the two programs that Litt addressed in his remarks. 

But when asked what information that was, Litt said the he didn't know. "I do not know what's in every one of NSA's databases."

The acknowledgement by the intelligence community's top lawyer that he doesn't know what data the NSA is using to make a crucial legal determination undermines assurances that the agency's spying is robustly monitored and that privacy abuses hadn't occurred.

Exactly what's in the NSA's many electronic repositories -- most of which are still classified -- is at the heart of the debate over whether the agency has gone too far in collecting and storing unprecedented amounts of personal details on millions of people.

Yes, Litt is a lawyer, and not a technical expert. But he's the lawyer who's supposed to oversee the NSA's surveillance work. He's one of the lawyers who defended that surveillance in front of Congress. Previously a senior official at the Justice Department, his office is today partly responsible overseeing applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes the NSA's collection of electronic communications. Those applications are approved by the Director of National Intelligence, Litt's boss, and the Attorney General.

If Detroit Were a Country, Would It Be a Failed State?

July 19, 2013 


The city of Detroit has sorrows to spare. Its government -- officially, as of Thursday -- can't pay its bills. Its police don't arrive in time to stop criminals, and its ambulances don't arrive in time to save lives. Its citizens are fleeing in droves. It's likely the most dysfunctional municipality in the United States. All of which got us wondering: If Detroit were a country, would it be considered a failed state?

To answer that question, we reached out to the folks at Fund for Peace, who put together our annual Failed States Index (FSI), for help. They applied their CAST framework and methodology (the same set of indicators they use for the index) to Detroit and -- after pointing out the risks of comparing apples to oranges, and that scoring a country is very different from scoring a non-state entity -- came back with this: With its score of 59.5, Detroit falls into the category of "borderline" states (the higher the score, the worse off the state).

If Detroit were a country, it would be doing slightly better than states like Brazil (62.1) and Kuwait (59.6). But it would be slightly worse off than Mongolia (57.8), Romania (57.4), and Panama (55.8). Still, Motown remains a long way from the ranks of failed states like Somalia (113.9) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (111.9). Overall, it would be ranked 128th on our index; the United States as a whole (33.5) ranks 159th.

How did the Fund for Peace come up with these results? Its scoring system assesses countries (or, in this case, a city) using primary-source data across a series of 12 indicators of different types of pressures on government institutions. While the group decided that one of those indicators -- "refugees/internally displaced persons" -- did not apply at the city level (despite the city's serious homelessness problem), all of the other potential pressures -- bad demographics, poverty, human flight and brain drain, among them -- are, in fact, factors in the Motor City's current woes.

"Any jurisdiction will face certain pressures, and that is what this -- albeit rough -- analysis of the city of Detroit has attempted to capture," Failed States Index Co-Director J.J. Messner said in an email to Foreign Policy.

Here's a closer look at some of the reasons Detroit landed where it did in the rankings:

It faces serious human flight/brain drain issues

In this category, Detroit scores a 6.5 (the U.S. as a whole scores 1.0). For context, that makes it worse off than Syria (6.2) and at the same level of South Sudan (6.5), according to the Fund for Peace's analysis. In a recent poll commissioned by the Detroit News, 40 percent of respondents said they planned to move away from the city within the next five years; more than half said they would live in another city today if they could.

Flash Point in the Eastern Mediterranean

Will conflict in the Middle East trigger the next great power war?

JULY 19, 2013


We need a strategy for the Eastern Mediterranean.

New crisis. The Greek poet Constantine Cavafy lived and wrote in Egypt a century ago. One of his short, evocative poems is entitled "In Alexandria, 31 B.C." It is about an itinerant peddler who comes to the city to hawk his wears and is beaten badly by the crowds. The poem ends:

And when he asks, now totally confused, 'What's going on here?' 
someone tosses him too the huge palace lie: that Antony is winning in Greece.

Here, in a few lines of poetry, is a metaphor not just for Egypt, but for the entire Eastern Mediterranean: crowd violence, confusion on the ground, economic disruption, and failing strategic communications.

In the midst of such frustration and seemingly intractable hatreds, it may feel like time to simply disengage and walk away. There is enormous Middle East fatigue in the United States -- the majority of Americans oppose intervening in Syria, and few even try to comprehend it all: Palestinians and Israelis, Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Jews, Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf, Christians and Druze. To analysts, the region is an arc of crisis; to the public, it is just a mess.

But sailing away would be a huge mistake. Like the Balkans in the years leading up to World War I, the Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean are a pile of tinder that could ignite a much wider conflict. As with the assassin's shot that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, it is difficult to predict precisely what could broaden the conflict, but it is impossible to ignore the possibility. 

Conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites are bubbling over. Old tensions persist and new ones have arisen over economic resources, notably natural gas fields -- portions of which are claimed by Cyprus, Israel, Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon. And great power interest remains as high as ever, with Russia and the United States routinely operating warships in the region. China and India have also sent naval assets to the Eastern Med, where they join traditional NATO deployments from the navies of the 28-nation alliance. The ships merely reflect a broader military presence.

Today, the Syrian civil war is ground zero, with Iran, Russia, and China on one side, and the United States, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and much of NATO on the other. The spark could come with a confrontation between warships, a major terrorist attack by Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah, or the use of chemical weapons, either in the civil war itself or, worse, in Europe.

So the question with which the United States must grapple is what is our strategy in this complex part of the world, lying as it does next to one of our closest allies, Israel, and on the edge of our strongest alliance system, NATO?

Mob Rule

Why organized crime is a growing force in world politics.

JULY 19, 2013


Mexicans are celebrating a victory over the drug mafia this week. The arrest of Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, the head of the Zeta drug cartel, is big news. Treviño, alias Z-40, made a name for himself as one of the most brutal gangsters in a country that has become sadly inured to violence. One can only hope that his imprisonment will put an end to at least some of the stomach-turning brutality he was accustomed to inflicting on his enemies. (At one point, it’s been revealed, he even considered shooting down the plane of then-President Felipe Calderon.)

But will Z-40’s arrest put an end to Mexico’s drug wars? There’s reason to doubt it. Demand for drugs from the cartels’ customers in the United States remains strong, and until that underlying structural cause is addressed, this lucrative trade will continue to thrive. Some experts point out that one of the biggest beneficiaries of Treviño’s downfall is likely to be Joaquín Guzmán Loera (“El Chapo”), the head of the rival Sinaloa cartel, who can revel in the elimination of one of his most energetic competitors.

Analysts put the value of the global drug trade at some $350 billion a year -- and that’s probably a conservative estimate. And yet narcobusiness comprises only one relatively small slice of the much larger world of global criminality. According to the World Economic Forum: “The cross-border flow of global proceeds from criminal activities, corruption and tax evasion is estimated at over US $1 trillion, with illegal drugs and counterfeit goods each accounting for 8% of world trade.”

Organized crime lurks behind many of the stories in the headlines today, though the connection rarely becomes explicit. Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was just convicted on probably spurious charges of embezzlement, made a name for himself by targeting the corruption that is so deep-seated in today’s Russia that it’s often hard to see where the government leaves off and the mob begins. European Union law enforcement officials warned recently that mobsters are capitalizing on the European financial crisis by taking advantage of black markets in goods and services. Meanwhile, the increasing prominence of the Internet in the global economy is fueling worries about the rising power of organized cybercriminals.

* Greece, Portugal and the euro

In the dumps
Two bailed-out countries still struggle to stick to their programmes

Jul 20th 2013 


ONCE again a fragile Greek government has pushed delayed reforms through parliament at the behest of the European Union and the IMF even as angry protesters in the square outside demand its resignation. At stake was a desperately needed €6.8 billion slice of Greece’s bail-out. The vote on July 17th to cut 15,000 civil-service jobs and overhaul the tax system was close, mainly because Antonis Samaras, the centre-right prime minister, has seen his majority cut to just five seats after the small Democratic Left party pulled out of his three-party coalition.

Mr Samaras had to produce a last-minute ace to win over dissidents. Hours before the vote, he announced that an unpopular 23% value-added tax on restaurants, cafés and bars would be temporarily cut to 13% on August 1st. If this produces more revenue, as the finance ministry predicts, it will stay. The EU and IMF are sceptical but ready to try it. The announcement came just before Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, visited Athens to urge the Greeks to stick to reforms and to unveil a German-Greek fund to back small Greek companies. 

Mr Samaras’s slimmed-down coalition of his New Democracy party and the PanHellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) under Evangelos Venizelos, who is now deputy prime minister and foreign minister, may prove more forceful than its predecessor. Mr Venizelos is busy preparing for Greece’s turn in the EU presidency in the first half of 2014. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the public administration minister, must sack 4,000 public employees this year and another 11,000 in 2014. First to go will be 2,000 state-television staff, followed by municipal police officers, hospital workers and vocational-training teachers. The old life in the civil service, with higher salaries and fewer hours than in the private sector, is over. “The game has changed for good,” says Mr Mitsotakis.

Yet there are few signs of an economic recovery. IOBE, a think-tank, says GDP will shrink by as much as 5% this year, worse than its earlier forecast of 4.6%. Unemployment is expected to rise from 26.9% today to 30% next year. And privatisation receipts are disappointing: Greece will miss this year’s target by a wide margin.

The picture is only a little better in Portugal, where the costs of two years of unremitting austerity have pulled Pedro Passos Coelho’s ruling coalition apart, triggering a political crisis. The latest twist came when President Aníbal Cavaco Silva intervened ineptly to ask the two coalition parties and the centre-left Socialists, the main opposition party, to hammer out a “national salvation” pact. Yet the gulf between the centre-right ruling parties and the Socialists is so wide that the chances of their meeting a self-imposed deadline of July 21st for an agreement are small.

The president’s aim was to give investors and Portugal’s lenders—the “troika” of the EU, IMF and European Central Bank—some guarantee that the mainstream parties, supported by about 80% of voters, remained committed to the country’s bail-out programme and that future governments will stick to fiscal discipline. Yet the danger is that, after prolonging Lisbon’s political crisis for a few more weeks, it could produce nothing at all, leaving the country as it was: ruled by an unstable coalition and facing the threat of a snap election with unpredictable results.

They Hate Us, They Really Hate Us

When anti-Americanism is this popular in Egypt, Washington should stay as far away as it can.

JULY 19, 2013


This week, Hosni Mubarak's old media boss, Abdel Latif el-Menawy, published an astonishing essay on the website of the Saudi-funded, Emirati-based satellite television station Al Arabiya. Menawy described a wild conspiracy in which the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, directed Muslim Brotherhood snipers to murder Egyptian soldiers.

It would be easy to dismiss the ravings of an old Mubarak hand if they were not almost tame compared with the wild rumors and allegations across much of the Egyptian media and public. Even longtime observers of Egyptian rhetoric have been taken aback by the vitriol and sheer lunacy of the current wave of anti-American rhetoric. The streets have been filled with fliers, banners, posters, and graffiti denouncing President Barack Obama for supporting terrorism and featuring Photoshopped images of Obama with a Muslim-y beard or bearing Muslim Brotherhood colors.

A big Tahrir Square banner declaring love for the American people alongside hatred for Obama rings somewhat false given the fierce, simultaneous campaign against CNN and American journalists. The rhetoric spans the political spectrum: veteran leftist George Ishaq (Patterson "is an evil lady"), the Salafi Front (calling for demonstrations at the U.S. Embassy against foreign interference), the reckless secularist TV host Tawfik Okasha (whipping up xenophobic hatred), leaders of the Tamarod campaign (refusing to meet with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns because the United States "supports terrorism"), and Brotherhood leaders (blaming the United States for the military coup).

The tsunami of anti-American rhetoric swamping Egypt has been justified as a legitimate response to Washington's supposed support for the now-deposed Muslim Brotherhood government. There is no doubt that many Egyptians on both sides are indeed enraged with U.S. policy toward Egypt. Nor is there any doubting the intensity of the anti-Brotherhood fever to which Washington has so effectively been linked. Nor, finally, could anyone really disagree that the United States has failed to effectively engage with or explain itself to the intensely polarized and mobilized new Egyptian public.

Still, there is clearly more going on than just a response to current U.S. policies. Hostile media campaigns and anti-American sentiments long predate the rise of Mohamed Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak's regime made an art form of using the state media to bash America while pliantly going along with American policies. Those legacies have left enduring habits of political thought. Today's rhetoric and methods feel eerily familiar, even with their turbocharged energy and distinctive tropes. The overall effect is High Mubarakism, in which state and "independent" media churn up anti-Americanism, anti-Islamism, and extreme nationalism to legitimate the state's rule.

What's new is the intensity of the anti-Brotherhood views around which the campaign is built. This cements a widespread acceptance of these populist messages and methods among many Egyptians who would have angrily scorned them under Mubarak. The polarizing dynamics are fueled, at least among the politically engaged public, by jingoistic media and by the amplifying, accelerating effects of social media. A handful of liberal voices andveteran revolutionaries are pushing back on this trend, but they are swimming against a fierce tide for now. They will likely seem prescient should those activists who try to challenge the new government find themselves targeted through use of the same discourse, just as they were under Mubarak and by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in 2011.