15 December 2013

How India sold out to the WTO

Dec 14, 2013

Suman Sahai

After Bali we should expect an influx of heavily subsidised agri produce from outside. This will knock the stuffing out of Indian farmers already reeling under adverse domestic policies.

The Indian media is presenting a glorious conclusion of the Bali ministerial, saying the Indian stand had prevailed and that India had indeed bent the US and EU to its will. This is the exact opposite of what has actually happened.

First, India was isolated, partly by the machinations of the developed countries but also because it chose to go it alone rather than with the bloc of developing countries who it has rightly infuriated with its succumbing to US pressure. India giving in will have negative implications for all of them. All the bravado we heard from commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma days before about standing firm to defend our food security vanished in Bali.

It’s remarkable that India failed to bring to centrestage the unfulfilled issues of the Doha Round and no attempt was made to link compliance with outstanding issues there with new issues raised at Bali.

India fell into the trap of discussing subsidy limits and de minimis support in agriculture when it should have argued on the basis of welfare and human rights. The Aggregate Measure of Support (AMS) calculated under the Agreement on Agriculture applies to producer subsidies, that is subsidies to farmers, which heaven knows the Food Security Act does not touch since, in a masterly move, the FSA does not deal with the producers of food at all.

Any subsidy component under discussion here would be a consumer subsidy, not a producer subsidy. It should have been argued as a welfare measure based on human rights imperatives.
India should have argued that its appalling figures of hunger and malnutrition amount to gross violation of the people’s right to food and any attempt by the government to act on it cannot possibly be placed under the purview of WTO sanctions. There was strong support for the India case from the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food which the Indian team failed to build on.
As it stands, India has failed to get its position accepted and it has accepted an interim agreement, a peace clause, but with conditions. And it has ceded trade facilitation. What has it come back with from Bali?

w Indian negotiators have placed the country’s entire stockholding of food under external scrutiny and have lost sovereign control over decision-making regarding buffer stocks. They have allowed the WTO’s Committee on Agriculture (CoA) to monitor our grain stocks.

w India will have to freeze its minimum support price (MSP) and will be unable to either raise the MSP or add new crops to its stocks after it has submitted the complicated and embarrassingly detailed forms on public stocks held by Central and state governments.

w Enormous paperwork and implementation costs have been added to maintaining our public stocks, money that could have been spent more profitably elsewhere.

Align for a good cause

Sunday, 15 December 2013 | Claude Arpi |
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Non-Alignment was a senseless policy adopted by Jawaharlal Nehru, It has harmed the nation immensely, writes Claude Arpi

To many, ‘Non-Alignment’ was a senseless policy adopted by Jawaharlal Nehru soon after Independence. During the Cold War years, the country pretended not to side with any of the two blocks, though for practical purpose India was ‘aligned’ with the erstwhile Soviet Union, at least for its defence requirement and the manner of managing a planned economy. Instead of pretending to be neutral, but betting on the Soviet support and then running to the US the minute it was attacked by China in 1962, India could have ‘aligned’ with both blocks.

In the book, Non-Alignment 2.0, edited by Shyam Saran, Sunil Khilnani et al, the authors admitted that some “commentators have questioned the wisdom of retaining a title that is allegedly outdated and associated in public perception with a failed foreign policy”. Non-Alignment is indeed outdated; the authors, however, believe that “the essence of Non-Alignment is India’s unwavering and continuing search for strategic autonomy”. Why mix strategic autonomy with non-alignment? General de Gaulle of France had an ‘autonomous’ foreign policy, while keeping France’s interests in view in his dealing with both blocks (and later China). The authors further explain that the famous principle: “Encompasses three core strategic principles that remain relevant to India’s engagement with the world: The need to make independent judgments in international affairs... the need to develop the capacity for autonomous strategic action to secure India’s own interests... and the need to work towards a more equitable international order.”

One can only agree with this perspective, but even if Shyam Saran and his colleagues distinguish between Non-Alignment and the fate of the Non-Aligned Movement, the choice of the title remains doubtful, being associated with too many blunders of independent India’s foreign policy.

Navy knows its job, but do offshore officials?

Admiral Sushil Kumar (retd)

It is one thing to administer a PSU such as the DRDO and quite another to handle the armed forces.

Defence Minister AK Antony recently rebuked the Indian Navy for the loss of the submarine, INS Sindhurakshak. I wonder if he even realised his faux pas. The Navy top brass had every reason to be riled when Antony proclaimed at the annual Commanders’ Conference that the Navy had frittered away national resources.

Still recovering from the tragic loss of Sindhurakshak, the unjust remark of the Defence Minister has not gone down well with the Navy and the rank and file of the armed forces.

With all on board killed in a flash and the submarine destroyed and sunk, it will be a long time before the technical Board of Inquiry is able to establish what happened to INS Sindhurakshak. When nothing is known, is it not strange that the Ministry of Defence has jumped to its own conclusions?

To ‘clear the yardarm’ is an old Navy expression that is synonymous with washing one’s hands of a responsibility. It came into being in the days of sail when Britannia ruled the waves and Lordships of the Admiralty perched ashore found it expedient to pass the buck.

It has a lot to do with the long standing need to integrate the armed forces into the Ministry of Defence. Obviously little has happened. And since the old order has not changed, it is still the old mindset of ‘we and they’.

Calling itself the Integrated Headquarters of the MoD may sound impressive, but inducing systemic changes requires much more than a cosmetic change of nomenclature. What is really needed is a change of attitude, along with a deep understanding of military ethos.

The fighting spirit of the armed forces rides on morale. And to weld together a professionally trained and highly motivated fighting force capable of defending the nation requires astute statesmanship. It is one thing to administer a civilian public sector undertaking such as the DRDO and quite another to handle the armed forces of the nation.

The political leadership would do well to take a leaf out of the Kargil report. It carries a doctrinal message on how the armed forces should be motivated and galvanised into action when the chips are down.

In the army now

December 13, 2013

Special Arrangement Not autobiographical: Aditi Mathur Kumar Aditi Mathur Kumar says she kept her debut novel Soldier & Spice intentionally simplistic because she wanted it to be a fast and enjoyable read

Aditi Mathur Kumar always wanted to be a writer. Her dream came to fruition when she “was pregnant and had literally had nothing to do,” she says. “My husband, who is a big fan of my writing, suggested that this was the perfect time to write the story I always wanted to. That was when the idea struck me. No one knows the story of the girl who married an Army man, changed several stations/cities/towns and cell phone numbers before anyone could keep a track, is surviving the long separations like it’s no big deal and basically running the entire house hold like a maverick when the husband is guarding the borders. I immediately knew this was a good one. So I wrote.”

And so Soldier & Spice (Westland, Rs. 250) a humorous take on Pia’s first year as an Army wife was born.

Since Aditi is an Army wife herself, one wonders how much of the book is autobiographical. “I get this asked a lot, because I am a complete civilian girl turned Army wife like Pia, but the book is not autobiographical. Yes, there is some personal reflection, Pia does face a few situations that I did – but most of it comes from the hilarious stories I’ve heard from all the fabulous fellow Army wives that I’ve met.”

The Nasik-based author doesn’t expect people to take offence because “I’ll draw your attention to the word ‘Fiction.’ Pia loves the life she’s been blessed with and the story ends with her telling the reader that this is where she belongs. I think balance was extremely crucial in writing about the Army wife life.”

In the book, army wives seem to be like a sorority. Aditi however begs to differ. “When you are at a station, the entire group becomes like your extended family. Army has a rich culture and the wives have a role to play. The hierarchy is taken very seriously because what is Army if not for its ranks? The book is a fictionalized version of the real life and like anywhere else, it all depends on the people involved.”

Commenting on books set against a defence background (Ismita Tandon Dhanker’s Jacob Hills was out earlier this year) Aditi says: “I think the reason can be that the readers are now open to exploring stories set in different backdrops.” The 30-year-old former advertising professional describes her husband as her “knight in crisp combats” (awww…) and according to him she is “the best writer to have walked the planet.”

Ask her which is her favourite character in the book and Aditi names two. “Arjun — he is the kind of man every girl falls for. He is funny in a goofy kind of way, he is brave, warm and strong. Then there is Mrs. Sengupta. I loved writing her character. She has this dry sense of humour that I find wonderful.”

Of the simplistic depiction of the armed forces in the book, Aditi says: “That is purely intentional. I wanted Soldier & Spice to be a fast and enjoyable read for Army wives and civilians alike. This is not a story about the Army. It is a story of a regular girl, with her very common issues and ordinary charms, who marries an Army Officer and enters a totally different, almost foreign world of elegance, grace and well, rules. Civilians, who have read it, have enjoyed it and hence, my work here is done.”

For research Aditi “had trusted resources in the Army including my amazing fellow Army wife friends. I looked up a few websites, mainly for the injury research. Then there is my husband, of course.”

Future plans include a book on “Pia’s story from another part of her life. I’m going to start writing it in a few weeks, let’s see how it shapes up.”

Whistle-blower app all the rage in Thai rallies

December 14, 2013
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Taking smartphones to a whole new level, protesters in Thailand are using downloaded apps which produce high-pitched, raucous noises that are a staple during rallies in the country.

One such app, called Nok Weed, which emits a shrill whistle — the whistle-blowing campaign — has been downloaded by over 70,000 people to use in demonstrations against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

According to its creator, the app “doesn’t do much and isn’t very useful” but it claimed the top spot on Google Play Store’s trending list last month within days of its November 4 debut. Most of the downloads for the Thai-language app were in Thailand but 1.2 per cent have come from Egypt, another country fraught with political turmoil.

The app’s popularity coincides with the rallies that started six weeks ago, attracting thousands of Bangkok’s smartphone carrying upper- and middle-classes in a country that is one of the world’s biggest users of social media.

Nok Weed’s developer, Narit Nakphong, realised there was an untapped market after demonstrators first took to the streets on October 31.

“I got the idea from seeing protesters blowing whistles. They blew them so much, they got tired. So I created the app,” said Narit, an independent developer who says he’s working on an update to address the main critique from users.

“Most of the criticism is from people saying the volume is too low. I want to make it as loud as possible without breaking the phones’ speakers.”

Protesters say they’re fed up with the Shinawatra family’s dominance over Thai politics. Yingluck is considered a proxy for her billionaire brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 army coup after being accused of corruption and using his power to enrich his family.

Eastern Ladakh: Can India Afford the Luxury of Inaction?

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By Lt Gen JS Bajwa
Issue Vol. 28.4 Oct-Dec 2013 | Date : 14 Dec , 2013

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

The Armed Forces are India’s “hard-power” assets and not a tool for diplomacy on the borders. Deployment of an armed force to support a diplomatic effort is axiomatic as it lends strength to diplomacy. Should “soft power” of diplomacy fail, then the will to suitably demonstrate use of “hard power” must not be found wanting. India is a Nation tugging at its leash to surge forward in all arenas of development. Without throwing caution to winds, there is a requirement to be less tentative and more assertive. India’s national interests must be paramount. At stake here are the aspirations of a young generation for a bright progressive future.

“Perform necessary action; it is more powerful than inaction; Without action, you even fail to sustain your own body.” —Mahabharata

Persisting ambiguity is detrimental to national security interests…

After the eye-catching, sensational headline – “Chinese Army Has Occupied 640 sq.km in Three Sectors of Ladakh”- all is so quiet on the ‘Ladakh Front’ it seems as if nothing happened. Or is it that India has reconciled to accept this loss of territory? Or we ‘The People’ have resigned to the fact of media hyper-ventilation with a lot of salt? A hype which lasts 16 to 24 hours dies down as the sensational “BREAKING NEWS” trans-mutates to “BROKEN NEWS” and is trashed for its glaring inconsistencies.

In the course of the various debates and discussions regarding this particular episode, there were many snide and cynical references to the ‘deferring perceptions of the LAC’. The historical background is that the Indian Police forces were moved into the area in September 1958 after India became aware of the construction of a major road through the eastern portion of Aksai Chin as depicted in a Chinese government pictorial magazine. Construction of this Highway, starting from Kashgar in Sinkiang (now Xinjiang) through Rudokh Dzong to Gartok, had begun in 1956 and was completed in 1957. Though this road did not exist then it was one of the induction routes used by the PLA in 1950 to enter and subjugate Tibet.

As a consequence, India was thus forced to take a decision to protect its territorial integrity, leading to the deployment of Police forces and establishing “check-posts” in the area of its claims. It was a cautious and tentative step with the newly formed Indo Tibet Border Police (ITBP) under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs but under the executive control of the Ministry of External Affairs. Such calculated diffused control ensures that there can be no pin-pointing or attribution of responsibility in event of a failure. By September 1962, a series of “check-posts were set up manned by “civil constabulary, equipped with light arms…..to deal with traders or others going along the recognised routes and to prevent any undesirable or unauthorised persons crossings the border, the check-posts were not intended for any aggressive purpose.”

India’s ‘Connect Central Asia Policy’

Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh addresses the SCO.

New Delhi has made it clear that it wants a closer relationship with the SCO and Central Asia.
By K.M. Seethi, December 13, 2013

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Council of Heads of Government meeting in Tashkent in the last week of November 2013 saw a growing enthusiasm from India for a more proactive role in Central Asia. The comments made by Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh at the conference is a clear indication that New Delhi has already committed to initiating steps to apply for a full membership of SCO.

Two issues Singh highlighted at the meeting also attracted considerable attention. She said that the SCO should “step up its engagement in the rebuilding and reconstruction of Afghanistan, through common projects and financial commitments. India would then support the efforts by Russia to craft common SCO positions on Afghanistan.” Noting that terrorism is the major threat to the security and stability of Afghanistan, Singh pointed out that a long term solution could be “achieved by supporting the efforts made by Afghanistan itself to begin an Afghan-led dialogue on reconciliation with the armed opposition forces, provided that these groups respect the principles adopted by the international community.”

Moreover, while recognizing “the inalienable right of all states to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in accordance with universally agreed international norms, conventions and obligations,” Singh said that New Delhi has been “encouraged by the recent tidings about the multilateral dialogue in Geneva to explore a comprehensive settlement of the Iranian nuclear question, through political and diplomatic means. The positive resolution of this issue can lead to multiple and far-reaching benefits across the region, including in the SCO space.” India’s references to the two issues (Iran and Afghanistan) must be seen in the larger context of expanding New Delhi’s “Connect Central Asia” policy, which it has been seeking to institutionalize for some time. This is again a part of India’s wider dream of “New Asianism.”

Ahmed Rashid: The five things that must go right for Afghanistan to prosper

And why you shouldn't bet on any of them
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Ahmed Rashid 14 December 2013


From Washington to Kabul and in every capital in between, governments, armies, intelligence agencies and the media are asking what will happen in Afghanistan next year when the US and Nato finally leave after 12 years fighting a war they did not win.

Despite the enormous amount of intelligence available, the truth is that nobody knows, not even the Afghans. The best predictions can only be based on knowing what is going right, what is going wrong and what can be done to minimise the dangers of things getting worse.

For more than a year we have been deluged with the so-called success story of the military transition — the handing over of security to the 350,000-strong Afghan army and police — as western forces pull out. We have been told repeatedly that as US-Nato forces step down, Afghan forces will step up.

The truth is that the military transition is probably the easier part. And even that is proving difficult because Taleban attacks and Afghan government casualties have increased enormously in the past year. This highlights the vulnerabilities of the Afghan forces, which are 80 per cent illiterate and have an annual desertion rate of 20 per cent. At present there are some 87,000 western troops, down from 150,000 last year. By next spring there will be fewer than 40,000 and at the end of the year none but the tiny training force that the US is expected to leave behind. Whether a US-Nato training mission of under 10,000 troops stays on is the subject of a heated debate between President Karzai and the Americans as they battle over terms and conditions, but ultimately Karzai is likely to agree.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai inspects soldiers of the Afghan National Army Photo: AFP/Getty

Afghan army losses have been so high that the defence ministry no longer discloses the figures, but one official spokesman told me that a staggering 1,273 police officers and 770 village policemen were killed between March and October this year. During that period the Taleban mounted 6,600 attacks in 30 of the country’s 34 provinces. That is an impressive record for a force that is supposedly on the wane.

Hamid Karzai Asks India For Defense Assistance

December 14, 2013

Hamid Karzai arrived in New Delhi this week for a four-day visit where he is expected to discuss defense cooperation.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai began a four-day official visit to India this Thursday during which he is expected to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the future of the Afghan-Indian relationship. Karzai will also speak with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid. Among other issues on the agenda, the visit could precipitate the signing of the United States-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) — something the United States hopes India will persuade Karzai to do during his visit to the country. The visit comes after Karzai was in Iran to sign a partnership agreement.

Earlier in India, Hamid Karzai caused some concern with his call for more profound defense ties, which was perceived in India as a laundry list of demands for equipment and assistance. According to the Hindustan Times, “India is treading a cautious path even as Kabul has again raised the pitch for deeper military ties — that includes supply of tanks and artillery guns — citing domestic constraints and geo-political fallouts.” This support is in addition to India’s $2 billion assistance program in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Karzai made similar pushes for equipment during his February visit to the United States, when he personally requested heavy artillery and other equipment from President Obama.

Karzai’s specific list of demands from India includes a set of heavy weaponry, including ”150 battle tanks, field guns, howitzers and one squadron of attack helicopters.” India has traditionally been hesitant to provide lethal equipment of the sort being requested by Karzai, but is likely to provide additional non-lethal assistance in the form of transport aircraft and other supplies. India and Afghanistan are also expected to deepen their cooperation on training and counter-terrorism operations.

The Devastating Effects of Nuclear War in South Asia

By Ankit PandaDecember 14, 2013
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A few security and defense links to kick off the weekend.

Nukes of Hazard takes a look at a report published by the Physicians for Social Responsibility that aims to determine the local and global impact of a limited nuclear war in South Asia. In the study, the author envisioned “this ‘limited’ war to be one in which a total of 100 15 kiloton nuclear weapons would be detonated (less than 0.1% of the current global nuclear arsenal). Using conservative estimations, these 100 nuclear explosions would release 5 million metric tons of black carbon aerosol particles into the earth’s upper atmosphere.”

If that sounds bad, that’s because it is. The speculative report suggests, among other outcomes, a devastating famine cause by falling crop yields, a drop in global surface temperatures, a surge in global food prices, and an international disease pandemic precipitated by all the above. The report really hits home the terrifying threat posed by even a regionally-limited nuclear war with low-yield weapons.

In another thought-provoking post on nuclear weapons, Alex Wellerstein over at Restricted Data asks the provocative question: are nuclear explosions art? I’ll let readers come to their own conclusions on that one.

North Korea could be back at the top of East Asia’s potential flashpoints (displacing the much-discussed East China Sea ADIZ) after Kim Jong-Un’s decision to purge and execute his somewhat reformist uncle, the de facto regime number two, on Thursday. My colleague Zachary Keck argues that the manner of Jang’s purge reflects Kim’s “acute insecurity.” Shannon Tiezzi explores the potential impact the purge could have China-North Korea relations.

The United States military, in a show of technological acumen, successfully downed incoming mortar rounds and drones from a vehicle-mounted laser system, according to Agence France-Presse. The weapon system, the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD), won’t be operational until 2022 but the tests reinforce the great promise in laser technology and its potential to transform the future of anti-air and defense technology.

While the United States showed off the cutting edge of its military technology, India put to rest an old and faithful servant: the MiG-21FL. The MiG-21FL was once a matter of pride for the Indian Air Force, which found itself in the “supersonic era” by procuring the aircraft from Russia a couple generations ago. The jet’s reliability and versatility made it an important reference point in the development of India’s air doctrine. It remained a tactical first choice for Indian commanders as recently as the high-altitude Kargil War in 1999.

Interview With Peh Shing Huei

The Diplomat interviews Peh Shing Huei, author of When the Party Ends, about China’s future.
By Justin McDonnell,  December 14, 2013

Peh Shing Huei, a journalist and deputy news editor for Singapore’s The Straits Times, served as China bureau chief from 2008 to 2012. Peh’s experiences and observations in China became the subject of his recent book, When the Party Ends — China’s Leaps and Stumbles After the Beijing Olympics. The Diplomat’s Justin McDonnell interviewed Peh about his new book, China’s prospects for reforms, and what it’s like to work as a journalist in Beijing and Singapore.

You dedicate a large portion of your book When the Party Ends to the rise and fall of princeling Bo Xilai. Do you believe the ousted Chinese politician’s legacy will outlive his downfall?

Peh Shing Huei: Bo Xilai was hoping that his legacy would be the “Chongqing Model” – a governance which mixed retro Maoist moves with social welfare and a larger slice of the economy for the state-owned enterprises. Unfortunately, his wish will not be granted. His immediate successor in Chongqing, Zhang Dejiang, made clear that there was no such thing as a “Chongqing Model” and much of Bo’s policies in Chongqing have since been rolled back.

His supporters would wish to preserve his legacy and some have even gone as far as to set up a political party with him as its honorary head. But such moves are isolated and the Chinese Communist Party will not allow it to spread.

Sadly, Bo is most likely to live on as a cautionary tale to other elite politicians in China. The message is that if you stray too far from orthodoxy and get too flashy and arrogant, you will not be tolerated. After the scandal of the Bo downfall, I doubt we will see another politician operating as flamboyantly and colorfully for many years.

China’s top leaders recently embarked on sweeping economic reforms at the Third Plenum of the Central Committee. What is your takeaway from the meeting and the new Chinese leadership?

USS Cowpens and China’s First-Mover Advantage

By James R. Holmes,  December 14, 2013
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The main threat to maritime Asia today is not miscalculation. It’s Beijing’s carefully calculated policies.

Moltke the Elder maintained that the strongest form of warfare is strategic offense combined with tactical defense. In practice that means wresting something from an outmatched or unready opponent and daring that opponent to take it back. Since defense is stronger than offense according to Clausewitz, seizing a disputed object preemptively confers advantages. It compels the opponent to undertake a costly offensive; he might find himself cast as the aggressor, with all the political baggage that entails. In short, an enterprising power can obtain what business folk call a “first-mover advantage” (hat tip: Toshi Yoshihara), preempting competitors in a contested theater or other dispute.

Nor is the geostrategic first-mover advantage the sole preserve of stronger competitors. Indeed, Clausewitz notes that a weaker power may pick a fight with a stronger one if its leadership has resigned itself to using force and believes its prospects of success are as good as they’re going to get. Clausewitz writes: “Supposing that a minor state is in conflict with a much more powerful one and expects its position to grow weaker every year. If war is unavoidable, should it not make the most of its opportunities before its position gets still worse?” Now-or-never logic may goad the lesser power into action. Now suppose the weaker contender sees the trendlines going its way — it believes its strength is on the upswing while its rival’s is in decay — but frets that the favorable outlook may not last. The pressure to leap might grow unbearable.

I’m starting to think China has contacted Moltke and Clausewitz through its strategic Ouija board. It’s possible to interpret Beijing’s moves in the China seas — seizing disputed islets and atolls, asserting ownership of others, trying to restrict free use of the maritime commons — as China’s version of a first-mover strategy. To channel Moltke, Beijing has staked claims to parts of the commons while daring fellow Asian powers to reverse its claims at high cost and risk to themselves, and to regional tranquility. Strategic offense, tactical defense.

Why Is Saudi Arabia Buying 15,000 U.S. Anti-Tank Missiles for a War It Will Never Fight?

DECEMBER 12, 2013

BEIRUT — No one is expecting a tank invasion of Saudi Arabia anytime soon, but the kingdom just put in a huge order for U.S.-made anti-tank missiles that has Saudi-watchers scratching their heads and wondering whether the deal is related to Riyadh's support for the Syrian rebels.

The proposed weapons deal, which the Pentagon notified Congress of in early December, would provide Riyadh with more than 15,000 Raytheon anti-tank missiles at a cost of over $1 billion. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Military Balance report, Saudi Arabia's total stockpile this year amounted to slightly more than 4,000 anti-tank missiles. In the past decade, the Pentagon has notified Congress of only one other sale of anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia -- a 2009 deal that shipped roughly 5,000 missiles to the kingdom.

"It's a very large number of missiles, including the most advanced version of the TOWs [tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missiles]," said Jeffrey White, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency. "The problem is: What's the threat?"

That's a tough question to answer. A military engagement with Iran, the most immediate potential threat faced by Riyadh, would be largely a naval and air engagement over the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia has fought a series of deadly skirmishes with insurgents in northern Yemen over the years, but those groups have no more than a handful of military vehicles. And Iraq, which posed a real threat during Saddam Hussein's day, is far too consumed by its internal demons and the fallout from the war in Syria to ponder such foreign adventurism.

But one Saudi ally could desperately use anti-tank weapons -- the Syrian rebels. In the past, Riyadh has been happy to oblige: It previously purchased anti-tank weapons from Croatia and funneled them to anti-Assad fighters, and it is now training and arming Syrian rebels in Jordan. Charles Lister, a London-based terrorism and insurgency analyst, said that rebels have also received as many as 100 Chinese HJ-8 anti-tank missiles from across the border with Jordan -- and indeed, many videos show Syrian rebels using this weapon against Bashar al-Assad's tanks.

While most of the rebels' anti-tank weapons were seized from Assad's armories, Lister also believes that several dozen 9M113 Konkurs missiles, an old Soviet weapon, were provided to Islamist rebels in northern Syria this summer. And when these missiles have found their way to the battlefield, they've helped the rebels break through the belts of armor Assad uses to protect strategic areas: "Neutralizing these external defenses has proven key to opening the gates for ground assaults," Lister said.

The Saudis can't send U.S. anti-tank missiles directly to the rebels -- Washington has strict laws against that. Recipients of U.S. arms are not allowed to transfer weapons to a third party without the explicit approval of the U.S. government, which in the case of Saudi Arabia has not been granted. Given Washington's heightened concern over radical Islamist forces seizing control over the conflict -- which resulted in the suspension of nonlethal aid to Syrian rebels on Dec. 12 -- that approval will almost certainly never be given. If Riyadh went ahead and transferred the weapons anyway, it "would be a serious breach of U.S. law," said Aram Nerguizian, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, that would "all but certainly lead to a suspension of existing arms sales agreements." So far, only one American anti-tank missile has been identified in Syria -- an older model that Lister speculates may have been sold to Shah-era Iran, transferred to the Assad regime, and then captured by the rebels.

Why Do African States Fail? Don't Blame Neo-Colonialism

December 14, 2013
By Jean-Loup Amselle
Originally published in Le Monde.

PARIS - The recent French interventions in North Africa (Libya, Mali), and the one that began last week in the Central African Republic, raise the question of the very existence of the state on the continent.

Even though anthropologists identified the existence in precolonial times of two types of societies - state societies represented by kingdoms and empires, and segmentary lineage society, organized in tribes - it is clear that the former's characteristics are very different from that of the rational bureaucratic state, which one can observe nowadays in most developed countries.

The great Sudanese empires of the Middle Ages (Ghana, Mali, Songhai) or those that developed from the 18th century onwards - like the Fula empire of Massina, the Imamate of Futa Jallon or the Bamana Empire - did indeed possess specific characteristics. At the center of these political entities, sovereigns had absolute power, leaving none to those situated on the outskirts of the kingdoms. They only controlled these parts remotely, creating divisions among the villages, lineages and different leaders to establish their rule.

At the end of the 19th century, the French conquest ended with the destruction of the empires of El Hadj Umar Tall and Samori Ture, and the establishment of a colonial bureaucratic machinery over the societies of the region. The French colonial administration was however far from direct, often relying on local intermediaries such as canton leaders.

When these countries gained their independence in the 1960s, they kept using the same institutions as the former rulers, even though they sometimes sought to imitate the functioning of socialist countries (Mali, Guinea, Ghana, etc.). But the weakness of these political institutions together with manipulations from the former colonizers led, more or less quickly, to the fall of these states, which were then replaced with military regimes (Moussa Traoré's in Mali, Lansana Conté's in Guinea, etc).

By cracking cellphone code, NSA has capacity for decoding private conversations

December 14, 2013
Craig Timberg and Ashkan Soltani
Washington Post
December 13, 2013

The cellphone encryption technology used most widely across the world can be easily defeated by the National Security Agency, an internal document shows, giving the agency the means todecode most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over public airwaves every day.

While the military and law enforcement agencies long have been able to hack into individual cellphones, the NSA’s capability appears to be far more sweeping because of the agency’s global signals collection operation. The agency’s ability to crack encryption used by the majority of cellphones in the world offers it wide-ranging powers to listen in on private conversations.

U.S. law prohibits the NSA from collecting the content of conversations between Americans without a court order. But experts say that if the NSA has developed the capacity to easily decode encrypted cellphone conversations, then other nations likely can do the same through their own intelligence services, potentially to Americans’ calls, as well.

Encryption experts have complained for years that the most commonly used technology, known as A5/1, is vulnerable and have urged providers to upgrade to newer systems that are much harder to crack. Most companies worldwide have not done so, even as controversy has intensified in recent months over NSA collection of cellphone traffic, including of such world leaders as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The extent of the NSA’s collection of cellphone signals and its use of tools to decode encryption are not clear from a top-secret document provided by former contractor Edward Snowden. But it states that the agency “can process encrypted A5/1” even when the agency has not acquired an encryption key, which unscrambles communications so that they are readable.

Experts say the agency may also be able to decode newer forms of encryption, but only with a much heavier investment in time and computing power, making mass surveillance of cellphone conversations less practical.

“At that point, you can still listen to any [individual person’s] phone call, but not everybody’s,” said Karsten Nohl, chief scientist at Security Research Labs in Berlin.

Obama to Keep Security Agency and Cyberwarfare Under a Single Commander

Published: December 13, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Obama has decided to keep the National Security Agency and the Pentagon’s cyberwarfare branch under the same command despite concerns that it concentrates too much power in the hands of a single military official responsible for both surveillance and directing a growing arsenal of cyberweapons.

As a practical matter, the decision means that Mr. Obama must appoint a four-star military officer to succeed Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the first person to simultaneously run the two organizations, when he retires early next year. Only a military commander can run Cyber Command, which is responsible for defending the military’s computer and sensor systems and carrying out offensive computer-network attacks.

But that also means the N.S.A. will be run by someone who has spent a career in the military culture, with the mind-set that engenders.

Several members of an advisory committee that submitted its report to Mr. Obama on Friday — with what the White House said was a list of 40 recommendations — expressed the view that the two organizations should be split, in part to assure civilian control of the N.S.A.

The agency is responsible for electronic intelligence gathering and has been at the center of the revelations about government surveillance. The White House said the report would not be made public until next month, when Mr. Obama announces which of the recommendations he has embraced and which he has rejected.

In a statement, Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that Mr. Obama had decided that “keeping the positions of N.S.A. director and Cyber Command commander together as one, dual-hatted position is the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions.”

The initial decision to unify the two was made in 2009 at the recommendation of Robert M. Gates, then the defense secretary, Ms. Hayden said, “with the aim of unifying the leadership of the organizations responsible for signals intelligence and defending the nation in cyberspace.”

NSA, Cyber Command leadership to remain dual-hatted role

By Nicole Blake Johnson
Dec. 13, 2013

The White House has decided to keep the positions of director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command together when Gen. Keith Alexander retires in 2014, according to an administration spokeswoman. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) 

The White House has decided to keep the positions of director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command together when Gen. Keith Alexander retires in 2014, according to an administration spokeswoman. Alexander currently fills both roles, but it had been unclear whether he would have a single successor or two.

FILE: NSA Chief Set To Step Down“Following a thorough interagency review, the administration has decided that keeping the positions of NSA Director and Cyber Command Commander together as one, dual-hatted position is the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an email. “Given Gen. Alexander’s retirement this spring, it was the natural time to review the existing arrangement.”

The Washington Post first reported the story.

The decision comes as the administration tries to recover from devastating leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the agency’s controversial data collection processes.
“By virtue of their relationship, Cyber Command is able to fully leverage NSA’s cryptologic enterprise to direct the operation and defense of DoD networks, enabling a more coordinate and rapid response to countering threats in cyberspace,” Hayden said. “Without the dual-hat arrangement, elaborate procedures would have to be put in place to ensure that effective coordination continued and avoid creating duplicative capabilities in each organization.”

Alexander was named NSA director in 2005 and became chief of U.S. Cyber Command in 2010. The head of Cyber Command must be a military officer.

In Search of Strategy(s), a Voice, a Narrative because, ‘Gentlemen, We Have Run Out Of Money; Now We Have to Think’

December 13th, 2013
[by J. Scott Shipman] [Warning: Maritime in flavor]

No matter how far humanity may go in seeking to foster the arts of civilization and the ideals of civic peace, there will come times when acts of war are required in order to defend world order and sustain the peace of civilized peoples. Charles Hill’s, Grand Strategies, Literature, Statecraft, and World Order, page 48

The lift quote in the title is attributed to Winston Churchill, and in this period of uncertainty with sequestration and deep cuts in defense commanding the attention of military leadership, one thing is becoming crystal clear: we have no cogent or explainable military strategy. Sure, we have “concepts” like Air-Sea/Air-Land Battle, A2/AD, and Off-Shore Control, but our most recent unclassified Navy strategy document A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower was written in 2007 may be a bit dated.

This week I attended the U.S. Naval Institute’s annual Defense Forum, Shaping the Maritime Strategy and Navigating the Budget Gap Reality and given the title, there was a lot of talk about funding and in that light/context, strategy was that thing “we’re in the process of doing.” Several people I spoke with expressed concern about “telling the navy’s story,” “why we have a navy,” and one member of Congress encouraged us to build an engaged constituency to put pressure on Congress to knock-off the schizophrenic approach to appropriations, so that a bit of certainty will allow the development of a strategy. Since DoD hasn’t been successfully audited in a long, long time (if ever), I wouldn’t hold out hope for a grass-roots rescue. As Mr. Churchill wisely advises, “now we have to think.”
Strategy Defined

Since strategy is a hot topic, offered here are several definitions ranging from the classic to practitioners and academics, with the goal of framing the elegant simplicity of strategy as a theory, and challenge of defining in reality. As Colin Gray points out in his National Security Dilemmas: “The United States has shown a persisting strategy deficit.” (page 170) Dilemmas, written in 2009 before the budget axe fell in earnest he offers: “One would think that the following definition and explanation must defy even determined efforts of misunderstanding:” (he then quotes Clausewitz)

*** The Great War’s Ominous Echoes

Published: December 13, 2013
Source Link

Oxford, England — Earlier this year, I was on holiday in Corsica and wandered into the church of a tiny hamlet in the hills where I found a memorial to the dead from World War I. Out of a population that can have been no more than 150, eight young men, bearing among them only three last names, had died in that conflict. Such lists can be found all over Europe, in great cities and in small villages. Similar memorials are spread around the globe, for the Great War, as it was known before 1940, also drew soldiers from Asia, Africa and North America.

In The Brookings Essay, a series published by the Brookings Institution, the historian Margaret MacMillan argues that the world still has much to learn, a century after the run-up to World War I.
World War I still haunts us, partly because of the sheer scale of the carnage — 10 million combatants killed and many more wounded. Countless civilians lost their lives, too, whether through military action, starvation or disease. Whole empires were destroyed and societies brutalized.

But there’s another reason the war continues to haunt us: we still cannot agree on why it happened. Was it caused by the overweening ambitions of some of the men in power at the time? Kaiser Wilhelm II and his ministers, for example, wanted a greater Germany with a global reach, so they challenged the naval supremacy of Britain. Or does the explanation lie in competing ideologies? National rivalries? Or in the sheer and seemingly unstoppable momentum of militarism? As an arms race accelerated, generals and admirals made plans that became ever more aggressive as well as rigid. Did that make an explosion inevitable?

Or would it never have happened had a random event in an Austro-Hungarian backwater not lit the fuse? In the second year of the conflagration that engulfed most of Europe, a bitter joke made the rounds: “Have you seen today’s headline? ‘Archduke Found Alive: War a Mistake.”’ That is the most dispiriting explanation of all — that the war was simply a blunder that could have been avoided.

The search for explanations began almost as soon as the guns opened fire in the summer of 1914 and has never stopped. The approaching centenary should make us reflect anew on our vulnerability to human error, sudden catastrophes, and sheer accident. History, in the saying attributed to Mark Twain, never repeats itself but it rhymes. We have good reason to glance over our shoulders even as we look ahead. If we cannot determine how one of the most momentous conflicts in history happened, how can we hope to avoid another such catastrophe in the future?

SEAL Team 6 Disaster Will Get Congressional Hearing

DECEMBER 13, 2013

It was Aug. 6, 2011, when a CH-47D Chinook helicopter carrying Navy SEALs and other U.S. military personnel was shot out of the sky over Afghanistan. The helicopter, carrying elite special operators to reinforce Army Rangers engaged in a firefight, was attacked from the ground by insurgents wielding rocket-propelled grenades, witnesses later told military investigators. The Chinook crashed and exploded in a fireball, and all 38 people and a working dog on board perished.

More than two years later, the incident remains shrouded in mystery, and is still the deadliest day for the United States in 12 years of war in Afghanistan. Now, the case of Extortion 17 - the call sign for the downed helicopter - will get its day on Capitol Hill.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing to probe Extortion 17's demise early next year, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Foreign Policy. The decision raises the possibility that senior U.S. commanders could be put in the hot seat to answer for a mission that critics say was poorly planned at best and doomed from the start at worst, despite it involving one of the United States' most celebrated military units.

"I hope to be able to get answers that the families have been unable to secure," said Chaffetz, chairman of the oversight subcommittee on national security. "I think they have raised some legitimate questions, and the Pentagon has been inadequate in their response. I hope to be the conduit to come to some sort of resolution. I don't know that I can ever alleviate all their concerns, but if I can shed and illuminate some light on what was the most horrific tragedy of our time in Afghanistan, I hope to do so."

Chaffetz said he wasn't certain yet whether the whole House committee would call the hearing, or whether it would be handled by his subcommittee. He also wouldn't say who may be called to serve as witnesses, but it seems clear it will be senior Defense Department officials. The Washington Times and The Hill reported previously that the oversight committee was researching the Extortion 17 case, but Chaffetz's comments to Foreign Policy mark the first time a member of Congress has confirmed a hearing will occur.

"I want to give the Pentagon an opportunity to respond," Chaffetz said.

The mission killed 30 U.S. service members, seven Afghan commandos, an Afghan interpreter and a U.S. military working dog in Afghanistan's Tangi Valley in Wardak province, west of Kabul, U.S. officials said. The group included 17 SEALs, all but two of whom were from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, popularly known as SEAL Team 6. A different unit within the SEAL team executed the daring raid in which U.S. forces killed terrorist mastermind and al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden in his safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, early May 2, 2011. The other Americans on board Extortion 17 included five special operations support personnel and members of the Army National Guard who manned the helicopter.