15 November 2013

War Room Obama vs. the Generals


After a spate of news stories this summer citing tensions between President Barack Obama and his top military commanders over the possibility of U.S. intervention in Syria, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough hastened to assure the Washington Post that everything was, in fact, copacetic: The president “appreciates” candid military advice “above all else,” McDonough insisted, and has “close, and in some instances warm, relationships with his military chiefs,” as thePost put it. During my own time at the Pentagon, where I worked as an Obama appointee from the spring of 2009 until mid-2011, few seemed to hold this view. I recall asking one general, recently back from Afghanistan, if he’d shared his experiences and insights with the president. Rolling his eyes, he told me grimly that the White House preferred the military to be seen but not heard.

Curious about whether things had changed since then, I asked a dozen serving and recently retired senior military officers with high-level White House access, many of whom were not comfortable speaking on the record, if they knew of any military leaders with whom the president had a close and warm personal relationship. In every case, the initial response was a long silence. “That’s a great question,” said one retired senior officer, after a lengthy pause. “Good question. I don’t know,” said a second. “I don’t think he’s close to anyone,” commented a third. He just doesn’t seem to have any interest in “getting to know” the military, a retired general concluded.

Of course, there’s no law that requires the president to invite his top generals for pajama parties or rounds of golf, and being “close” to military leaders is no guarantee of sound decision-making. But all of this raises an increasingly relevant question: How has the president—the man who promised to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, close the door on the unpopular Iraq War and “end the mind-set that got us into the war in the first place”—managed a military he often seems to regard with mistrust and unease?

Russia's Pipelines of Empire

November 14, 2013

At this juncture in history, the fate of Europe is wound up not in ideas but in geopolitics. For millennia, eruptions from Asia have determined the fate of Europe, including invasions and migrations by Russians, Turkic tribes and Byzantine Greeks. Central and Eastern Europe, with their geographical proximity to the Asian steppe and the Anatolian land bridge, have borne the brunt of these cataclysms. Today is no different, only it is far subtler. Armies are not marching; rather, hydrocarbons are flowing. For that is the modern face of Russian influence in Europe. To understand the current pressures upon Europe from the east it is necessary to draw a map of energy pipelines.

One-quarter of all energy for Europe comes from Russia, but that statistic is an average for the whole continent; thus, as one moves successively from Western Europe to Central Europe to Eastern Europe that percentage rises dramatically. Natural gas is more important than oil in this story, but let us consider oil first.

Russia is among the top oil producers worldwide and has among the largest reserves, with vast deposits in both western and eastern Siberia. Crucially, Russia is now investing in the technology necessary to preserve its position as a major energy hub for years and decades to come, though it is an open question whether current production levels can be maintained in the long term. Russia's primary gateway to Europe for oil (and natural gas) is Belarus in the north and Ukraine in the south. The Druzhba pipeline network takes Russian oil through Belarus to Poland and Germany in the north and in the south through Ukraine to Central Europe and the Balkans, as well as to Italy. Russia certainly has influence in Europe on account of its oil, and has occasionally used its oil as a means of political pressure on Belarus and Ukraine. But moving westward into Europe, negotiations over Russian oil are generally about supply and pricing, not political factors. It is really with natural gas that energy becomes a useful political tool for Russia.

Russia is, after the United States, simply the largest producer of natural gas worldwide, with trillions of cubic meters of reserves. Europe gets 25 percent of its natural gas from Russia, though, again, that figure rises dramatically in Central and Eastern Europe; generally, the closer a country is to Russia, the more dependent it is on Russian natural gas. Central Europe (with the exception of Romania, which has its own reserves) draws roughly 70 percent of the natural gas it consumes from Russia. Belarus, Bulgaria and the Baltic states depend on Russia for 90-100 percent of their natural gas needs. Russia has used this dependence to influence these states' decision-making, offering beneficial terms to states that cooperate with Moscow, while charging higher prices and occasionally cutting off supplies altogether to those that don't. This translates into real geopolitical power, even if the Warsaw Pact no longer exists.

The Yamal pipeline system brings Russian natural gas to Poland and Germany via Belarus. The Blue Stream pipeline network brings Russian natural gas to Turkey. Nord Stream, which was completed in 2011, brings Russian natural gas directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea, cutting out the need for a Belarus-Poland land route. Thus, Belarus and Poland now have less leverage over Russia, even as they are mainly dependent on Russia for their own natural gas supplies by way of separate pipelines.

The next major geopolitical piece in this massive network is the proposed South Stream pipeline. South Stream would transport Russian natural gas across the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Austria, with another line running to Italy via the Balkans and the Adriatic. South Stream could make Central Europe and the Balkans more dependent on Russia, even as Russia does not require Ukraine for the project. This, combined with Nord Stream, helps Russia tighten its grip on Ukraine.

Bill Gates: Here’s My Plan to Improve Our World — And How You Can Help

By Bill Gates

I am a little obsessed with fertilizer. I mean I’m fascinated with its role, not with using it. I go to meetings where it’s a serious topic of conversation. I read books about its benefits and the problems with overusing it. It’s the kind of topic I have to remind myself not to talk about too much at cocktail parties, since most people don’t find it as interesting as I do.

But like anyone with a mild obsession, I think mine is entirely justified. Two out of every five people on Earth today owe their lives to the higher crop outputs that fertilizer has made possible. It helped fuel the Green Revolution, an explosion of agricultural productivity that lifted hundreds of millions of people around the world out of poverty.

These days I get to spend a lot of time trying to advance innovation that improves people’s lives in the same way that fertilizer did. Let me reiterate this: A full 40 percent of Earth’s population is alive today because, in 1909, a German chemist named Fritz Haber figured out how to make synthetic ammonia. Another example: Polio cases are down more than 99 percent in the past 25 years, not because the disease is going away on its own but because Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk invented polio vaccines and the world rolled out a massive effort to deliver them.

Thanks to inventions like these, life has steadily gotten better. It can be easy to conclude otherwise—as I write this essay, more than 100,000 people have died in a civil war in Syria, and big problems like climate change are bearing down on us with no simple solution in sight. But if you take the long view, by almost any measure of progress we are living in history’s greatest era. Wars are becoming less frequent. Life expectancy has more than doubled in the past century. More children than ever are going to primary school. The world is better than it has ever been.

Dan Winters

But it is still not as good as we wish. If we want to accelerate progress, we need to actively pursue the same kind of breakthroughs achieved by Haber, Sabin, and Salk. It’s a simple fact: Innovation makes the world better—and more innovation equals faster progress. That belief drives the work my wife, Melinda, and I are doing through our foundation.

We went on a Safari to see wild animals but ended up getting our first sustained look at extreme poverty. We were shocked.

“India’s Look East Policy, Act East and South China Sea: Politico-Strategic Dynamics

Paper No. 5603 Dated 14-Nov-2013
By Dr Subhash Kapila

(The Paper was presented by the author at the “5th International Conference on South China Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development” on November 11 2013 at Hanoi, Vietnam. The Conference was attended by over 35 international strategic and legal analysts including China) 

Introductory Observations

Politico-strategic and economic imperatives impelled India to launch its ‘Look East Policy’ in 1992. From the initial political and economic underpinnings, two decades later, India’s ‘Look East Policy’ has matured into a comprehensive political, economic, and strategic and defence relationships between India and ASEAN and India and East Asia.

In the two decades of India’s ‘Look East Policy’ existence, the politico- strategic dynamics stand significantly transformed. The first decade marked India’s concerted efforts to integrate itself with ASEAN and East Asia economically and politically. India was adapting to the post-Cold War era and its economy badly needed repair and resuscitation.

Politico-strategic dynamics in play in the Asia Pacific in the second decade hastened the process of the strategic discovery of each other between ASEAN and India and between East Asia and India.

In the second decade of India’s ‘Look East Policy’ the politico-strategic dynamics in play need to be briefly stated. In the opening years of this Century, India stood tall as an economic power and a military power. India’s nuclear weaponisation had taken place. The United States made a political and strategic reach-out to India and forged the US-India Strategic Partnership.

Contextually, the Asia Pacific by middle of the last decade witnessed the phenomenal rise of Chinese military power and naval build-up. The use of this power for conflict escalation and military brinkmanship by China created strategic distrust in East Asia and ASEAN about the not too benign strategic intentions of China.

Both in East Asia and in ASEAN there were growing expectations that India should emerge as the strategic regional balancer and hence the moves for strategic engagement by both sides.

On the verge of the third decade of India’s ‘Look east Policy’ , ASEAN accepted India as a full-fledged “Strategic Partner” at the 11th India –ASEAN Summit held in New Delhi in December 2012. The validity of India’s ‘Look East Policy’ and its record of ‘Act East’ stood validated.

India’s ‘Look East Policy’ initiated in the early 1990s was a well-crafted and visionary foreign policy strategy initiated by then Indian Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao. To him and him alone goes the credit of reversing India’s economic and foreign policy directions which put India on the path of economic liberalisation and divesting India of its erstwhile idealistic foreign policy mind-sets.

India’s ‘Look East Policy’ fortunately enjoyed consistent political support of all political dispensations that followed the Late Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao.

Ordinarily, a presentation on India’s ‘Look East Policy’ and ‘Act East’ initiatives would have sufficed with enumeration of statistical data and listing the political and economic achievements of the last twenty years. Thee in any case stand well documented in writings by policy analysts.

Leader’s Death Plunges Pakistan Taliban Into Dangerous Disarray

November 14, 2013

ISLAMABAD — The killing of one of Pakistan’s most wanted Islamic militants in a U.S. drone strike has exposed centuries-old rivalries within the group he led, the Pakistani Taliban, making the insurgency ever more unpredictable and probably more violent.

Hakimullah Mehsud’s death this month has set off a power struggle within the outfit’s ranks, which could further unnerve a region already on tenterhooks with most U.S.-led troops pulling out of neighbouring Afghanistan in 2014.

When a tribal council declared Mullah Fazlullah as the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban last week, several furious commanders from a rival clan stood up and left.

"When Fazlullah’s name was announced, they … walked out saying, ‘The Taliban’s command is doomed’," said one commander who attended the November 7 ‘shura’ meeting in South Waziristan, a lawless Pakistani tribal region on the Afghan border.

Others at the shura declared loyalty to the hardline new leader and stayed on to map out a plan to avenge Hakimullah’s death through a new campaign of bombings and shootings.

"This is the start of our fight with the Pakistan government, an American puppet," the Taliban official said.

"Those who forced the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan are capable of breaking up Pakistan," he added, alluding to senior commanders whose rite of passage into war started with the rebellion against Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The Pakistani Taliban have always been divided, a loose alliance of militant bands united only by jihadist beliefs and their hatred of the government and all things Western. The group operates independently of its Taliban allies in Afghanistan, who are fighting U.S.-backed forces there.

But the death of Hakimullah, a member of the dominant Mehsud tribe, and the rise of Fazlullah, a Swat Valley native and hence an outsider in the eyes of tribesmen, changes the picture in the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban.

Under Hakimullah, the TTP had been open to the idea of peace talks with the Pakistani government, even though no meaningful negotiations had taken place.

Fazlullah ruled out any talks and declared the start of a new campaign to attack government and security installations in Punjab, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political base.

"Mehsuds are not only not happy with this appointment but there are reports of serious infighting among them that might come to the fore in the near future," said Saifullah Mahsud, director of the Pakistani think tank FATA Research Center.

"I think for now the anti-peace talks group among the TTP has prevailed and hence the appointment of Fazlullah," said Mahsud, who compiles data based on information provided by his sources on the ground in the tribal Pashtun areas.

New Nuclear Notebook: Chinese Nuclear Force Modernization

By Hans M. Kristensen

Launch pads for DF-21 mobile medium-range ballistic missile launchers have been added to a Second Artillery base in southern China.

China continues to upgrade bases for mobile nuclear medium-range ballistic missiles. The image above shows one of several new launch pads for DF-21 missile launchers constructed at a base near Jianshui in southern China.

A new satellite image* on Apple Maps shows the latest part of a two-decade long slow replacement of old liquid-fuel moveable DF-3A intermediate-range ballistic missiles with new road-mobile solid-fuel DF-21 medium-range ballistic missiles.

Similar developments can be seen near Qingyang in the Anhui province in eastern China and in the Qinghai and Xinjiang provinces in central China.

This and other developments are part of our latest Nuclear Notebook on Chinese nuclear forces, recently published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 

New Nuclear Notebook

In the Nuclear Notebook, Robert Norris and I estimate that China currently has roughly 250 warheads in its nuclear stockpile for delivery by land- and sea-based ballistic missiles, aircraft, and possibly cruise missiles.

This is a slight increase compared with previous years that reflects the introduction of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). China is the only nuclear weapon state party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty that is increasing its nuclear stockpile, which might grow a bit more over as more missiles are fielded over the next decade.

Even so, the Chinese nuclear modernization is very slow, as in the case of the introduction of DF-21 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) at Jianshui and the apparent (temporary?) leveling out of ICBM deployments; China is clearly not in a hurry to reach parity with the United States or Russia anytime soon (if at all) but instead seems focused on safeguarding its minimum retaliatory nuclear deterrent. Even so, the breadth of Chinese nuclear capabilities is widening with introduction of a class of ballistic missile submarines and cruise missiles that might have nuclear capability. With these come new scenarios and command and controls issues that are not yet apparent or understood.

Several interesting publications have made contributions to the public debate on China’s nuclear force operations and modernization over the past few years. Most valuable has been the work by Mark Stokes at Project 2049, most noticeably his 2010 report on China’s nuclear warhead storage and handling system. Also in 2010, M. Taylor Fravel and Evan Medeiros provided valuable analysis of China’s search for assured retaliation. Retired Russian general Victor Yesin claimedin 2012 that China has 1,300-1,500 nuclear warheads more than assumed by the U.S. intelligence community – a Georgetown University study even imagined 3,000 warheads (we consider these estimates exaggerated; see here and here). And renowned scholars John Lewis and Xue Litai described last year what they view as an increasing complexity of Chinese nuclear war planning.

Why Is China Giving the Philippines the Cold Shoulder?


Embroiled in a nasty legal fight over the South China Sea, Beijing is putting Manila on notice -- even in the midst of tragedy.

In the wake of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, international aid is flowing to the Philippines. The United Nations released $25 million from an emergency fund and the United States pledged $20 million in immediate relief. But, for the moment at least, precious little assistance is coming from the region's behemoth. The Chinese authorities announced a paltry $100,000 in humanitarian aid (along with another $100,000 via the Red Cross Society of China). Beijing's cold shoulder fits with a broader diplomatic isolation of Manila, which China has shepherded. In recent months, China's foreign minister has met with all 10 counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) member-states -- except the Philippines. A key point of friction has been the Philippines' willingness to challenge Beijing's maritime claims.

The most dangerous flashpoint came in the spring of 2012, when vessels from the Philippines and China engaged in a weeks-long standoff over waters near the Scarborough Shoal, a rocky formation little more than 100 miles from the Philippines' Subic Bay, the once (and perhaps future) home of a U.S. Navy base. The incident began when Filipino sailors boarded a Chinese vessel fishing in what the Philippines considers its own maritime economic zone. After an unnerving naval escalation, the confrontation ended a few months later with China in effective control of the disputed waters. 

The incident revealed just how badly the Philippines is outmatched at sea. Partly in response, the Philippines wants to upgrade its military cooperation with the United States. "We stand ready to tap every resource, to call on every alliance to do what is necessary to defend what is ours," Filipino Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said in August. The government is also snapping up second-hand vessels to bolster its own fleet. But these moves won't change the archipelago's lack of wherewithal to challenge China's claims. Beijing boasts an expanding and modernizing naval fleet, and in August, Chinese president Xi Jinping inspected the country's first aircraft carrier. A Ministry of National Defense spokesman said "there will surely be more in the future."

But if on the high seas Manila is at a profound disadvantage, the courtroom may level the playing field. In the realm of international law, the power balance is often less tilted, and that is where the Philippines has turned. In January, the Philippines foreign minister informed China's ambassador that the country was filing suit against China. Beijing angrily rejected the claim and has vowed not to participate in the case, insisting on its "indisputable sovereignty" in the area. But the case is moving forward nonetheless, and every state with an interest in Asia's troubled waters is watching closely. For all Beijing's bluster, the Philippines stands a good chance of denting China's maritime claims.

Choking on China

The Superpower That Is Poisoning the World
April 8, 2013

China is the world’s worst polluter -- home to 16 of the 20 dirtiest cities and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Recent headlines have been shocking: 16,000 decaying pig carcasses in Shanghai’s Whampoa River, dire air quality reports in Beijing, and hundreds of thousands of people dying prematurely because of environmental degradation. Most recently, the country has been shaken by a mysterious virus, H7N9, which has already killed six people and has spurred health authorities to order the slaughter of thousands of pigeons, chickens, and ducks thought to carry it. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has begun work on an H7N9 vaccine.

The dangers of China’s environmental degradation go well beyond the country’s borders, as pollution threatens global health more than ever. Chinese leaders have argued that their country has the right to pollute, claiming that, as a developing nation, it cannot sacrifice economic growth for the sake of the environment. In reality, however, China is holding the rest of the world hostage -- and undermining its own prosperity.

According to the World Bank, only one percent of China’s 560 million urban residents breathe air considered safe by EU standards. Beijing’s levels of PM2.5s -- particles that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and can penetrate the gas exchange regions of the lungs -- are the worst in the world. Beijing’s 2012 March average reading was 469 micrograms of such particles per cubic meter, which compares abysmally with Los Angeles’ highest 2012 reading of 43 micrograms per cubic meter.

Such air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. The unrelenting pace of construction of coal-fired power plants is only making matters worse. In his recent monograph, Climate Change: The China Problem, environmental scholar Michael Vandenbergh writes, “On average, a new coal-powered electric plant large enough to serve a city the size of Dallas opens in China every seven to ten days.” The lack of widespread coal-washing infrastructure and scrubbers at Chinese industrial facilities exacerbates the problem.

Understanding China: The Real Key to Avoiding War

Mark Safranski
November 13, 2013 · in Hasty Ambush

In his article, “How Not to Go to War With China”, Scott Cheney-Peters correctly posits that a war between the United and China would not be, in a rational sense, in the interest of either country, nor of the rest of the world. He further elaborates that relying on the unprecedented level of Sino-American economic interdependence is not a sufficient guarantee in itself for future peace.

Cheney-Peters draws on the Cold War doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD) as an example of a “constraining factor” that prevented a Soviet and American nuclear war, yet argues that the global economic catastrophe that would result from a Sino-American war may not be enough to sustain peace. Cheney-Peters further notes that we therefore have a duty to “find other means of prevention and ways to manage risk.”

A place to begin our efforts in avoiding war with China might be avoiding engagement in some of the same incorrect mirror-imaging assumptions we once made about the Soviet Union, not least of which was MAD. As a doctrine, Soviet leaders never accepted MAD and the Red Army general staff ignored it in drafting war plans to fight and prevail in any nuclear war. While the Soviets had no choice but to tackle the logic of deterrence as we did, the operative Soviet assumptions were predicated on a different strategic calculus, a different force structure and above all, different policy goals from their American counterparts. A dangerous gap between American assumptions of Soviet intentions and the reality of these intentions came to light when in 1983 the Reagan administration discovered to their alarm that Soviet leaders had interpreted the NATO exercise Abel Archer 83 as preparations for a real, imminent nuclear first strike on the USSR and ordered Soviet nuclear forces on high alert.

The military-to-military confidence-building initiatives outlined by Cheney-Peters intended to construct “habits of cooperation” are not entirely useless. There is some value in ensuring that high-ranking American military officers have personal and limited operational familiarity with their Chinese counterparts in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), but as potential game-changers, they need to be taken with a grain of salt. Such a policy misses the essential strategic and political centers of gravity in the Sino-American relationship. Namely that for the first time in 600 years, China is building a blue water Navy that will foster power projection as far away as the Indian ocean and Australia. Secondly, this naval expansion, coupled with a new Chinese foreign policy, aggressively presses grandiose territorial demands on nearly all of its neighbors, including India and Japan. These are fundamental conflicts with American interests that cannot be explained away or papered over by banquet toasts with visiting delegations of Chinese admirals.

Congratulations, America. You're (Almost) Energy Independent

Now what?

Read more: Source Link

For four decades, whenever the American political debate turned to energy, the discussion was all about shortage and scarcity, a reality that haunted the United States ever since the global oil crises of the 1970s.

That conversation is over.

And now the unconventional energy revolution—newly accessible supplies of shale gas and oil—is creating a new discourse on energy that is changing politics and policies. All of this represents what Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz calls a “new mentality” about America’s energy position, with a new political language to match.

Exactly 40 years ago, in November 1973, President Richard Nixon went on television to promise the American people energy “independence” within 10 years. Just three weeks earlier, on Oct. 17, 1973, Arab petroleum exporters had instituted an oil embargo to punish the West and, in particular, the United States, for its support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

Americans were shocked by the embargo—and by the quadrupling of oil prices that followed. Six years later, the Iranian Revolution toppled the shah, one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, further disrupting the global oil supply. All this was completely at odds with the pervasive American assumption of abundance that had been shaped by decades and decades of ample supply. As late as World War II, six out of every seven barrels of oil used by the Allies had been exported from the continental United States. In 1973, most Americans did not even know that the United States imported any oil. Given that, many assumed that the price increases caused by the embargo had to be the result of manipulation. It was just hard to accept that global markets could become so vulnerable to disruptions that could send prices spiraling up.

The shortage theory certainly seemed to be borne out by what happened in the decades after 1973. When Nixon made his energy independence speech, the United States was importing 35 percent of its oil. By 2005, it was importing 60 percent. Over the same period, U.S. oil production fell by more than a third. Natural gas output alsodeclined. By 2005, it looked as though the United States was going to become a huge importer not only of oil but also of natural gas in the form of more costly liquefied natural gas (LNG). Nixon’s promise of energy independence became a standard pledge of every succeeding president, but with imports rising, it seemed an ever more distant hope—indeed, even fodder for late-night comedians—not the stuff of political reality.

Then came shale gas and tight oil. Although the technological breakthroughs enabling this production boom occurred from 1998 to 2003, the results did not show up in the numbers until 2008. But it’s now clear that a revolution has occurred: U.S. crude oil production is up 50 percent since 2008. Thanks to that increase, as well as more efficient automobiles, petroleum imports have fallen from their high of 60 percent in 2005 to 35 percent today—exactly what they were in 1973! And as domestic production increases and gasoline mileage improves, imports will continue to go down. North Dakota, the center of the now-famous Bakken Formation shale, has overtakenAlaska and California to become the second-largest oil-producing state in the country, outpaced only by Texas. U.S. natural gas production has increased by nearly a third since 2005, and shale gas has gone from 2 percent of output in 2000 to 44 percent today.

Last One Standing


The pundits told us “the rest” would rise. Now they’ve fallen, and America is on the cusp of an astonishing geopolitical comeback.

Not so long ago, it was easy to believe that a rising tide of growth in developing countries would lift all boats. No matter that the United States was mired in the deepest recession since the 1930s, that it would take years for U.S. growth and its job market to recover, and that Europe appeared to be well past its prime. The so-called BRICs—Brazil, Russia, India and China—and many other expanding economies were poised for a long and steady “rise of the rest” that would buoy growth everywhere and ease the West gently into its golden years. “Emerging markets” were the hot new thing.

Yet humbling crises in America and Europe over the past five years hid a crucial reality: Just as the world discovered a dozen years ago that not all high-flying tech stocks were made of gold, so too is it now belatedly realizing that only some of the emerging markets will actually emerge, at least along a predictable path. Others face a more uncertain future. Still others are headed for trouble.

At the same time, a strange thing happened along the road to American decline. While emerging markets started to fizzle, and Europe remained an economic and political mess, the United States re-emerged as an energy superpower, thanks to technological breakthroughs such as hydraulic fracking and new horizontal drilling techniques that have made much more oil and gas accessible. The result has been a revolution in energy production—and a useful new weapon in the American economic and foreign-policy arsenals. It’s a world in which the United States, despite its extreme political dysfunction, has more options than most Americans realize, but one in which traditional allies and an increasingly troubled set of next-generation heavyweights won’t offer much help, because they are more deeply preoccupied with problems of their own.

The BRICs once appeared set to challenge the old industrial-era G-7 leaders for global influence. And certainly they have had quite a run. In 1977, China was responsible for less than 1 percent of global trade. Last year, it became the world’s largest trading nation, and it’s now the lead trade partner for 124 countries; the United States is the top partner for just 76. In India, growth rates that had remained stagnant for decades surged past 10 percent. Russia’s per capita income rocketed from about $1,500 to more than $13,000, an astonishing rise in just over a decade.

But here’s what happened next: Political leaders in many of these countries, intoxicated by their own success, believed they could put off painful reforms. No need to raise taxes or cut subsidies on food and fuel to ensure that the state had enough revenue—not while times were good. Yet during this period, the middle classes in many of these countries expanded dramatically. Citizens began to expect better government, better services and relief from chronic crime and corruption.

Once Upon a Time in North Dakota

How oil is scrambling politics in the Roughrider State.
By Margaret Slattery
The Wild, Wild North

Cities and towns in North Dakota’s northwestern “oil patch” are working to keep order among the tens of thousands of young men who have flocked there for jobs. Since 2008, the city of Williston, for instance, has passed ordinances requiringliquor license holders to be “legal and bona fide” North Dakota residents, banning the sale of alcohol after 1 a.m., prohibiting RVs in residential areas and limiting “adult cabaret and sexually oriented businesses” to the town’s heavy industrial district.

Sharing the Spoils
In 2013, North Dakota lawmakers used their entire 80-day legislative session for the first time ever, to decide how to spend the state’s $1.3 billion surplus. Majority Republicans—even those from the oil-rich northwest—called for fiscal restraint, while Democrats pushed to give more money to local governments for roads, hospitals and other services under strain from population growth. The legislature passed a record $13.7 billion two-year budget—30 percent higher than the last one—including $1.14 billion “to address the needs associated with the rapid economic expansion related to the oil boom” in western North Dakota.

Red State Rising

Thanks to an influx of job-seekers that has bumped up the state’s population to 700,000, North Dakota—the only state without voter registration—had nearly 30,000 additional eligible voters in the 2012 election. Voter turnout was up by only 4,500 from 2008, but all 53 counties voted more Republican in the presidential contest, with a slightly larger shift toward the GOP among the nine counties at the heart of the Bakken Formation (already the most conservative part of the state). Still, North Dakotans also elected moderate Democrat Heidi Heitkamp to the U.S. Senate, albeit by just 1 percentage point.

Margaret Slattery is associate editor at Politico Magazine.

Thanks to Dana Harsell and Aaron Ley of the University of North Dakota, Rob Port of SayAnythingBlog and state Sen. Mac Schneider. Photo of truckers breaking for food in New Town, N.D. by Alec Soth/Magnum.

These economic opportunities have captured the attention of such governors as Republican John Kasich of Ohio and Democrat John Hickenlooper of Colorado. In addition to promising sound state regulation of drilling, they have emphasized what this means in terms of jobs, industrial development, revenues both for the state and for farmers struggling to hang on to their land, and revitalization of decaying rural areas that are losing the next generation. As Kasich put it, development of the state’s Utica Shale will help parents get their grown children “out of their attic and actually get a job.” It’s been a long time since anyone in American politics—at least outside of places like Texas and Oklahoma—talked about oil and gas in terms of jobs here at home.

Then there is the geopolitical impact. The increase in U.S. oil production since just 2008 is greater than the entire output of Nigeria, one of the major OPEC producers, and more than Iran’s entire exports prior to the sanctions that have sliced its export level roughly in half since 2011. Indeed, without the increase in U.S. oil production, it’s very hard to see how the oil sanctions on Iran could have worked.

Obama’s own words are another way to measure the stark change in the politics of energy that has occurred on his watch. In his first two State of the Union addresses, the president mentioned the words “natural gas” just once. But in his2012 address, he talked about the need for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy and gave more time to oil and gas than to the promise of developing alternative sources like wind and solar. He has frequently cited the job creation resulting from shale. In a major climate speech this past June, he declared, “We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.”

The Stagnating Continent

Africa needs to get serious about ‘development’ if it wants to live up to the “Africa rising” narrative. The first step will be to break free from colonial patterns of trade.

Recent high growth rates and increased foreign investment in Africa have led to the popular idea that Africa is on track to become the next global economic powerhouse. This “Africa Rising” narrative has been presented in cover articles byTIME Magazine and The Economist among many others in recent years. But while there have indeed been positive economic developments in some African countries, this enthusiasm is misplaced because it neglects the hard fact that Africa is actually quite far from “developing” – at least in the conventional sense.

Beginning with the UK, and followed by Europe, the US, Japan, the 4 Tigers of East Asia and China, the rich countries figured out the best way to significantly increase incomes and reduce poverty was to progressively shift from an economy based on activities with diminishing returns over time (primary agriculture and extractives such as oil, mining, gas, logging and fisheries) towards activities that tended to provide increasing returns over time (manufacturing and higher-end services). The colonial powers outlawed manufacturing from occurring in the colonies precisely because they understood its benefits, which they intended to keep for themselves: it creates more and higher-paying jobs (which tends to lift all wages across the economy), supports new higher-paying services jobs and the overall diversification of the economy, and contributes substantially to the domestic tax base, which in turn, allows for greater long-term public investment in health, education, agriculture and infrastructure.
Losing Ground

Although it had been widely understood for 400 years, over just the last few decades the very idea of “national” economic development has been downplayed and replaced by the idea of “globalization” – i.e., just plugging into the global economy right now regardless of the level of economic development a country is at. The idea of national economic development has been further displaced in recent decades by the popular notion of “poverty reduction” and an emphasis on the social sector indicators (as highlighted by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals or “MDGs”) to the near total exclusion of conventional national economic development indicators. If such conventional factors were still considered, we would be asking if manufacturing as a percent of GDP, or the percent of manufacturing value-added (MVA) in exports, has been going up over time or not. And we would be alarmed by the answers.

A recent UN study on such indicators in Africa finds that despite some improvements in a few countries, the bulk of African countries are either stagnating or moving backwards in terms of industrialization. The share of MVA in Africa’s GDP fell from 12.8 percent in 2000 to 10.5 percent in 2008. Over the same time period, there was also a decline in the importance of manufacturing in Africa’s exports, with the share of manufactures in Africa’s total exports having fallen from 43 to 39 percent. In terms of manufacturing growth, while most have stagnated, 23 African countries actually had negative MVA per capita growth over the period 1990–2010 and only 5 countries had an MVA per capita growth above 4 percent. The study also finds that Africa is also losing ground in labor-intensive manufacturing, with its share of low technology manufacturing activities in MVA having fallen from 23 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2008, and the share of low-technology manufacturing exports in Africa’s total manufacturing exports having dropped from 25 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2008. Such statistics are at odds with the “Africa rising” narrative.

Our Government Has Weaponized the Internet. Here’s How They Did It

By Nicholas Weaver

The internet backbone — the infrastructure of networks upon which internet traffic travels — went from being a passive infrastructure for communication to an active weapon for attacks.

According to revelations about the QUANTUM program, the NSA can “shoot” (their words) an exploit at any target it desires as his or her traffic passes across the backbone. It appears that the NSA and GCHQ were the first to turn the internet backbone into a weapon; absent Snowdens of their own, other countries may do the same and then say, “It wasn’t us. And even if it was, you started it.”

If the NSA can hack Petrobras, the Russians can justify attacking Exxon/Mobil. If GCHQ can hack Belgicom to enable covert wiretaps, France can do the same to AT&T. If the Canadians target the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Chinese can target the U.S. Department of the Interior. We now live in a world where, if we are lucky, our attackers may be every country our traffic passes through except our own.

Which means the rest of us — and especially any company or individual whose operations are economically or politically significant — are now targets. All cleartext traffic is not just information being sent from sender to receiver, but is a possible attack vector.

Here’s how it works.

The QUANTUM codename is deliciously apt for a technique known as “packet injection,” which spoofs or forges packets to intercept them. The NSA’s wiretaps don’t even need to be silent; they just need to send a message that arrives at the target first. It works by examining requests and injecting a forged reply that appears to come from the real recipient so the victim acts on it.

In this case, packet injection is used for “man-on-the-side” attacks — which are more failure-tolerant than man-in-the-middle attacks because they allow one to observe and add (but not also subtract, as the man-in-the-middle attacks do). That’s why these are particularly popular in censorship systems. It can’t keep up? That’s okay. Better to miss a few than to not work at all.

Nicholas Weaver

Nicholas Weaver is a researcher at the International Computer ScienceInstitute in Berkeley and U.C. San Diego (though this opinion is his own). He focuses on network security as well as network intrusion detection, defenses for DNS resolvers, and tools for detecting ISP-introduced manipulations of a user’s network connection. Weaver received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from U.C. Berkeley.

The edge of the abyss: exposing the NSA's all-seeing machine

T.C. Sottek

"I know the capability that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

Senator Frank Church on Meet The Press, 1975

On November 4th, 1952, a new federal agency was created in secret, chartered with spying on foreign adversaries around the world. There was no mention in the press. There was no discussion on the floor of Congress. The existence of the agency appeared nowhere in the Federal Register.

Since then, much of what the public knows about the National Security Agency has been the stuff of Sneakers and West Wing legend. Its budget — part of the secretive US “black budget” — is largely unknown. The NSA has even been nicknamed “No Such Agency” because of its extreme secrecy. Its headquarters, located in Fort Meade, Maryland, literally resembles a giant black box.

But this year, the box was cracked open.

National Security Agency headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland

An unprecedented cache of the NSA’s secrets were stolen in bulk this year by a single independent contractor with administrative access to the intelligence community’s network — a feat unmatched by previous NSA whistleblowers who provided the world mostly with eyewitness accounts of the agency’s behavior. The former contractor, Edward Snowden, fled the United States before teaming up with journalists to disseminate the NSA files, and now resides in Russia where he sought asylum and protection from US prosecution.

We now know that nearly five decades after its creation, the NSA began to operate what would become a global surveillance network of breathtaking scale. Today, it collects records about every phone call placed in the United States. It works with overseas partners and telecommunications companies to directly tap into the arteries of the internet, and scoops up massive amounts of data including emails, chats, VoIP calls, and more. It collects billions of records every year, many belonging to ordinary US citizens with no suspicion of wrongdoing.

Nearly each week since June 5th when The Guardian published the first Snowden documents, new internal files and facts about bulk NSA surveillance have been released. Snowden is said to have leaked upward of 50,000 files from the government. The journalists to whom he's passing the data, like Glenn Greenwald, say more revelations are coming.

Myth Dealers

In an uncertain world ... and 4 other ‘truths' America's generals want to sell you.

Last week, the Joint Chiefs of Staff made their fifth appearance as a group before Congress during this budget cycle to again sound the alarm about the effects of the Budget Control Act and sequestration on military readiness. As they have tried doing repeatedly, the four service chiefs highlighted the costs to carrier battle group availability, combat-ready air wings, and pre-deployment training for soldiers and Marines. Three of the chiefs explicitly warned that reduced readiness would result in additional casualties if the military were deployed to fight in an emergency contingency tomorrow. As Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno stated bluntly: "We're at the lowest readiness levels in our Army since I have been serving for 37 years."

If you recall the contentious Army readiness debates in the late-1990s-with the carefully scrutinized "C" ratings and mission-capable rates, this is a remarkable statement. Unfortunately, for the chiefs, their sensible requests for budgetary certainty will likely go unanswered as fiscal conservatives have clearly and perhaps permanently gained the upper hand over traditional defense hawks.

The constrained defense budgets, ending of the Iraq war, and forthcoming troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has led to soul searching among senior defense leaders about what missions and capabilities the U.S. military should pursue. The Pentagon has tried to do this in a structured way with the Defense Strategic Guidance of January 2012, the Strategic Choices and Management Review of August 2013, and the Quadrennial Defense Review process currently underway. Defense planning for a relative peacetime environment is difficult enough, but doing so with uncertain budget scenarios is especially challenging. As Jamie Morin, the nominee to become director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, told a Senate hearing last month, the military is doing future years defense planning "with absolutely no idea what we're going to be doing in 2014."

And yet, senior defense leaders seem to have few problems articulating a vision for what sort of military the United States requires for the future. A careful review of their recent comments reveals five particular assumptions that are rarely questioned by Congress, the media, or many defense analysts. These assumptions about the military's future are worth bearing in mind during upcoming congressional hearings, and as Congress and the White House agree upon the latest overdue defense budget.

1. The Earth has reached peak uncertainty. Earlier this year, chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey declared "the fact that [the world is] more dangerous than it has ever been." Dempsey has since tweaked this absolutist characterization to a world of an "even more uncertain and dangerous security landscape." Last week, General Ray Odierno (b. 1954) further declared: "I believe that this is the most uncertain I've ever seen the international security environment." Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has even gone so far as to claim: "We are living in a world of complete uncertainty." This goes too far, for if there is really no ground truth or predictability in the world, how can the Pentagon begin to develop the concepts, scenarios, or force planning constructs that defense planning is based upon?

The Simmering Pottage: Air Sea Battle and QDR 2014

November 14, 2013

The Air Sea Battle (ASB) debate continues to simmer in a variety of forums. Over at the National Interest Sean Miski expounds on his theory of how a war with China might be won via blockading. Young Marine officers challenge the need for the concept at the U.S. Naval Institute’s blog. RAND has issued an interesting counter that emphasizes “far blockades” with land-based anti-ship missiles. Our friends at the Small Wars Journal have recently posted an interview with an ASB proponent, Elbridge Colby of the Center for Naval Analyses. I recently attended a lively debate between Mr. Colby and Dr. T.X. Hammes of the National Defense University, a critic of ASB. Both sides gave as good as they got.

I would like to frame the debate with a few propositions that I’d like to throw into the soup kettle of the conceptual “pottage” surrounding this issue. I think these have particular relevance for the Quadrennial Defense Review, which is wrapping up this month. Hopefully, these details will also be relevant to the National Defense Panel, which has the responsibility of taking an independent view of our security posture and defense budget. These points may also be relevant to members of Congress who will have to allocate increasingly scarce resources to competing demands.

Air Sea Battle is designed to address a valid, well-defined and real operational challenge with huge strategic implications. Like most concepts, it will be tested and refined over time.

Air Sea Battle, if successful in creating the requisite operational capabilities, will be a necessary precondition for sustained U.S. forward presence and expeditionary power projection where advanced anti-access networks exist. Conversely, if ASB does not gain adequate traction and advance our capabilities, U.S. influence and ability to maintain our presence will be reduced in Asia, or perhaps in the Persian Gulf. For this reason, the Joint community—especially the Army and the Marine Corps—should support the Air Sea Battle concept. More specifically, they should support development of cost-effective solutions to reducing adversary anti-access challenges. Policymakers should explore how tactical aviation and strike elements of iterations of the concept contribute to this end.

ASB is not a strategy nor was it designed to be an uber solution to all of our pending operational challenges. The perceived primacy in U.S. defense policy is related to its formal tasking in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, as well as the obvious risk posed to U.S. interests and allies in critical regions. That tasking was made to ensure that two departments—the Navy and Air Force—were officially required to integrate their efforts to achieve necessary cross-domain synergies. It should not be misinterpreted as simply a reflexive embrace of technology-centric solutions or the reincarnation of dubious ideas like “shock and awe.”

The Failed War on the 'War on Terror'


In May, President Barack Obama responded to critics of his counterterrorism policies by declaring that he was ready to work with Congress “to refine, and ultimately repeal” the authorization for the use of military force that served as the legal foundation and operational genesis of the war on terror. “Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” he said. “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”

The muted and skeptical reaction to the president’s speech cast doubt on the implication that this war is, in any crucial way, “like all wars.” The next day, Time asked, “Can Obama End the War on Terror?” CBS News headlined its story “Should President Obama end the war on terror?” The questions lingered and piled up; a week after the speech, the Nation chimed in: “Will Obama End the Long War on Terror?” Can? Should? Will? Suddenly, the president who claims to have been “elected to end wars, not start them” appeared powerless to do anything but perpetuate this one.

What explains the resilience and persistence of this particular war? It isn’t lack of a suitably peace-minded commander in chief, for Obama is a wartime president who longs to be a peacetime president. It isn’t bureaucratic inertia or a recalcitrant Congress, for they didn’t stop the president’s quest to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it isn’t lack of a scandal sparking public outrage, for the recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s prying have left Americans wondering if the government is reading their emails.

That the war on terror has been criticized from a variety of political angles obscures its key fact: Through its success and the underappreciated conceptual wisdom of its design, the war on terror has quietly forged a coalition that spans the ideological spectrum. In the end, this elastic term that Western politicians have time and again resolved to stop using has become the durable bipartisan consensus underpinning security in the 21st century.

How did this happen? If we are to understand this, we must discard the conventional narratives and examine the surprising political and intellectual alliance that has sustained the fight against terrorism, just as that alliance faces a newly energized coalition against it.