12 January 2014

State of the Media: Crisis in India's Fourth Estate

JANUARY 10, 2014

India is known for its rancorous free press. Driven by market pressures, the private media is ridiculed for its sensationalism, admired for its tenacity, feared for upsetting diplomatic photo-ops, begrudgingly applauded for its role as opinion maker, and criticized for its quick judgments in many breathless television trials. Yet it is widely acknowledged that, despite its relentless pursuit of readers and higher ratings, India's fourth estate largely does justice to its role as a critical observer.

Dust has settled on the infamous scandal known as the Radia tapes, where a few of the best know faces of Indian journalism were accused of "power-brokering" for corporate houses during the official telecom auction of 2G spectrum bands, allegedly incurring a loss of over $40 billion to the government exchequer. The numbers in kickbacks and misappropriation were beyond the comprehension of the average Indian.

But while the scandal shook the nation, the forgiving Indian viewer continues to tune into the 9 PM opinion debates on prime time. Surprisingly, trust in the news media hasn't wavered, according to surveys. The perception is that the media, despite its shortcomings, at least looks out for the common man by making officials accountable as scam after scam expose how the state goes about its business. The mainstream media may be crass, loud and relentless - but it does the job. It makes average Indians powerful in their living rooms.

The last few months, though, have been unsettling for the media. With budget crunches, tighter management control, editorial tussles, and mass layoffs, newsrooms are not looking good. Well-known editors have been replaced overnight, some casualties of the murky politics preceding the 2014 elections. But the punch in the gut has been the arrest of Tarun Tejpal, the founding editor of a radical investigative magazine, on allegations of sexual assault and attempted rape of a junior colleague. The Pandora's box has opened the lid on a deluge of problems that ail the Indian media.

The Tejpal scandal

The media has always chased issues of sexual assault with righteous indignation - politicians, corporate honchos, even Supreme Court judges have been questioned, cornered, and proverbially flogged under the spotlight. But when the can of worms was opened on one of the media's own last year, the discomfort was apparent. The arrest of Tarun Tejpal -- the founding editor of Tehelka, a magazine perceived as a radical news outlet and path breaker in investigative journalism -- sent shock waves through the industry. His open "letter of atonement," announcing that he was stepping down for six months to introspect on how he had "misread signs of friendly banter" as justification for allegedly forcing himself twice on a junior colleague, exposed the rampant hypocrisy that cuts across media houses in India today.

Afghan Ministers Have Secretly Met With Taliban in Dubai, But Achieved Little

January 11, 2014

Taliban Talks Going Nowhere Despite Secret Meets
Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Secret contacts are again reported to be underway for an Afghanistan peace deal, but neither analysts nor the insurgents see hope they will succeed.

A Taliban official has told The Associated Press that least two ministers in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government have met with Taliban representatives in the United Arab Emirates, at a time when Pakistan has been releasing dozens of Taliban prisoners in a bid to revive talks.

The talks in the UAE have gone nowhere, the official says, and Pakistan’s national security adviser reports the releases have won no concessions from the Taliban.

A peace deal is critical to avoid a return to civil war when foreign troops leave at the end of this year. But there are many obstacles, some of which run in a circle.

The U.S. wants Karzai to accept a residual force of foreigners to stay on and back up the new Afghan security forces, but Karzai says before accepting the terms governing that force, he wants Washington to help resume peace talks. Yet at the same time he objects to negotiating with the Taliban as long as the latter continues to call itself “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” — something he views as tantamount to running a rival government.

The Taliban official who spoke to the AP said the Taliban would be ready to accept indirect mediation by a broker shuttling between the parties, modeled on the process that led to the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan after their 10-year occupation. He requested anonymity, saying he did not have permission from Mullah Omar, the movement’s leader, to speak to the media.

But the sincerity of both sides is questioned. Many wonder whether Karzai even wants a peace deal before the April election. He is ineligible for a third term, and stalling until he is out of office would punt the tough decisions to his successor. And the Taliban still needs to prove it can be trusted not to exact revenge for alleged atrocities by Afghan leaders.

The ill-feeling resonates in the case of Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord who the Taliban, as well as Western human rights organizations, accuses of killing thousands of surrendering Taliban during the U.S.-led 2001 invasion. Dostum is running for vice president in the election.

Graeme Smith, senior Afghanistan analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, says everyone is stalling.

"All sides have failed to bridge the political divide," he told said in an email exchange with the AP.

Afghanistan: Blame The Pushtuns

January 10, 2014

In 2012 127 Americans died in Afghanistan, down 59 percent from 310 in 2012. Other foreign troop losses (33 last year) followed a similar pattern. In the last 13 years 2,105 Americans have died in Afghanistan. Another hundred died in other parts of the region, or from wounds after being flown out of Afghanistan. The loss rate (per 100,000 troops per year) is 70 percent less than in Vietnam. Still, the length of time U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan is very unpopular in the United States with only about 14 percent of Americans support continued efforts. Historically (going back to the American Revolution) Americans start losing their willingness to support a war after about three years.

The Afghan security forces lost 2,767 dead in 2013, up 48 percent from 2012. In 2012 Afghan soldiers and police suffered nearly 700 combat dead per 100,000 troops. That’s up to 900 this year compared to 200 for foreign troops. The major source of losses are still from desertion, which costs the security forces many times more troops than combat deaths.

With nearly all foreign troops departing by the end of the 2014, the last year was one of big changes. The government kept trying to negotiate a deal with pro-Taliban Pushtun tribes and clans in the south. The Taliban leadership (most of them live in the Pakistan sanctuary of Quetta) and their Pakistani sponsors oppose this sort of thing, as they have done for years. Some clan and tribal leaders do make deals and this further splinters the Taliban and lessens the risk of another civil war between Pushtuns (and among Pushtun factions) and the other ethnic groups (who are 60 percent of the population but much less violent than the Pushtuns). In 2013 the Afghan army and police took over responsibility for security in most of the country. As a result foreign troops suffered 60 percent fewer casualties than in 2012 while losses among Afghan security forces doubled early in the year but came down after that. By the end of 2013 more police and army commanders were accepting bribes from drug gangs to stand down.

What most Afghans consider the biggest threat, the drug gangs and their paid-for Taliban allies are depending on this departure of foreign troops for long-term survival.  But that could create a heroin producing, Islamic terrorist and gangster sanctuary in Central Asia. Probably not all of Afghanistan, but at least two or three provinces in the south (where most of the drugs are currently produced.) If you want to know how that works out, look at Chechnya in the late 1990s and Somalia during the last decade.  No one has come up with any cheap, fast or easy solution for that.

Information Warfare: Tibetan Rebels Give China A Bloody Nose

January 11, 2014

Tibetan exiles are fighting back against Chinese Cyber War attacks. This is mainly because China's hackers have become easier to identify as they have been getting cocky and careless. This has made many of their victims more determined to defend themselves from the Chinese attacks because now they know they are being hacked and by who. China has long accused India of supporting the separatists in Tibet. India has hosted Tibetan refugees since the first ones came across in the early 1950s, after China invaded and reconquered Tibet (which had been independent since 1914.)

Among the more alert victims are the Tibetan exiles running the CTA (Central Tibetan Administration, formerly the Tibetan government in exile) in India where they are working to regain Tibetan independence. The CTA is headquartered in an Indian hill town (Dharamsala) near the Tibetan border. This is the home of the Dali Lama and widely considered the most hacked (mainly by the Chinese) place on the planet. Since the Chinese hacking activity became more known and understood the CTA staff and supporters are now diligently learning how to neutralize or avoid the Chinese hacking.

The Chinese hacking efforts against the CTA were discovered over the last two years as Internet security researchers found identical bits of code (the human readable text that programmers create and then turn into smaller binary code for computers to use) and techniques for using it in hacking software used against Tibetan independence groups and commercial software sold by some firms in China and known to work for the Chinese military. Similar patterns have been found in hacker code left behind during attacks on American military and corporate networks. The best hackers hide their tracks better than this. The Chinese consider the CTA a major threat to their unpopular rule in Tibet and have been

China asserts control over vast sea area, angering neighbors, U.S.

By Carol J. Williams

January 10, 2014,

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, left, during a meeting last month with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at Manila's Malacanang Presidential Palace. The United States has commitments to defend allies in East Asia, giving Washington a stake in the escalating dispute between China and its neighbors over air and maritime access to the South China Sea. (Aaron Favila / Associated Press /December 17, 2013)

Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and the United States have criticized China for imposing new access rules for the vast South China Sea, saying Beijing's demand that foreign vessels get approval to enter the disputed maritime area is provocative and potentially destabilizing.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted Friday that the rules that went into effect at the start of the year are simply "technical revisions" of existing laws governing the resource-rich waters off China's Hainan province. She said foreign governments' complaints that Beijing is courting trouble spring from "ulterior motives."

The latest maritime dispute among the neighbors with overlapping claims to islands and resources in the busy East Asian waterways has ratcheted up tensions in the region, coming less than two months after China proclaimed an Air Defense Identification Zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Under the ADIZ, foreign aircraft flying through the zone are required to file flight plans with Beijing, although the United States, Japan and South Korea have flown military aircraft through the region without getting China's permission.

"The passing of these restrictions on other countries’ fishing activities in disputed portions of the South China Sea is a provocative and potentially dangerous act,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Thursday. "China has not offered any explanation or basis under international law for these extensive maritime claims."

The Language of Terrorism in China: Balancing Foreign and Domestic Policy Imperatives

Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 1
January 9, 2014
By: Nicholas Dynon

In late October, central Beijing tasted terror when a flaming SUV rammed a crowd of tourists at the city’s iconic Tiananmen gate, killing the three alleged perpetrators and two bystanders. Authorities were quick to label the attack an act of jihadist terror.

The ensuing media commentary and controversy prompted questions around how terrorism is defined—and how terror incidents are framed—by Chinese authorities. Were the perpetrators of the attack radicalized Uighur Islamist insurgents or were they just normal folk marginalized and driven to extreme measures by an arbitrary and belligerent state?

Ultimately, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), an extremist group with purported links to al-Qaeda, praised the attack in a speech given by its leader posted online—a move that seemingly vindicated official finger pointing. While this perpetuates Beijing’s narrative of China as victim of international terrorism, it takes the focus away from a more inconvenient truth. Self-immolation, bombings and other indiscriminate attacks have abounded in China in recent years, and most have been carried out by citizens with no known terrorist, separatist or ethnic minority links. Yet as frequent as these attacks are, the use of “terrorism” to describe them in official media reportage has been noticeably absent.

Contemporary official language about terrorism and terrorist-like attacks serves different, and sometimes contradictory, purposes with different audiences:
In the international sphere, it serves to legitimate Chinese policies toward restive ethnic groups such as Uighurs and Tibetans as part of the “Global War on Terror.”
In Han-majority China, it serves to draw a line between the grievances of ethnic minorities and those expressed with similar forms of violence by Han petitioners.
In propaganda directed at members of ethnic minorities, it aims to cast the perpetrators of attacks as foreign and exclude the possibility of their representing a wider ethnic community. In particular, Chinese official language must walk a tightrope, warning of violence from Uighur separatists while casting Uighurs and their land as an integral part of China.

The International Community: Foreign Policy Imperatives See China Cast as Victim of Global Terror

Amid Deng Xiaoping’s Reform and Opening policies, the 1980s saw an increase in separatist violence in Xinjiang. By all accounts, the 1990s was a particularly violent decade, punctuated by a string of deadly clashes between Uighur insurgents and authorities. Yet it was only late in the decade that Beijing ultimately made the decision to start referring to separatist violence as terrorism.

Tiananmen Attack: Islamist Terror or Chinese Protest?

Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 1
January 9, 2014
By: Raffaello Pantucci

2013 was a violent year for China and Xinjiang. On December 30, at 6:30 in the morning, a group of individuals believed to be Uighur attacked a police station in Shache County (or Yarkand) near Kashgar with “explosive devices” (Xinhua, December 30). According to official reports, no security officials were killed in the incident, in which eight were killed and a ninth arrested. The official government report stated that the group was led by Wusiman Balati and Abuduaini Abudukadi (also written as Usman Barat and Abdugheni Abdukhadir), a pair who “held successive gatherings” since August in which they watched “violent terrorist videos” discussed “religious extremist thought” and formed a group that raised money, made explosives, tested these explosives out and planned violent activities (Xinhua, December 30, 2013).

The high point came on October 28, when a jeep crashed into railings in front of the iconic statue of Mao Zedong in the middle of Tiananmen Square. The incident was attributed to a Uighur named Usmen Hasan (Xinhua, November 26). Usmen, as well as two passengers reported to be his wife and mother, were killed, along with a Filipino tourist and a domestic Chinese tourist from Guangdong. Several more Filipino and Japanese tourists were also injured in the incident (Xinhua, November 3, 2013). The incident was praised in mid-November by Abdullah Mansour, believed to be the current leader of the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) (Reuters, November 23, 2013).

While these incidents were both connected to Xinjiang in some way, a double bombing outside government offices in Taiyuan in the first week of November demonstrated that terrorist-like violence in China is not always linked to the province. The Taiyuan bombing was ultimately attributed to a taxi driver “angry at society” for unspecified reasons (China Daily, November 9, 2013).

Context in Xinjiang

Subsequent to the incident a series of five arrests were made of individuals from Hotan, Xinjiang. The group was alleged to have gathered some 40,000 RMB in advance of the incident and had conducted three reconnaissance trips to the Square. They had established their group in September and came to Beijing by SUV and train on October 7 (Xinhua, November 1, 2013). Xinjiang military commander, Peng Yong, was also fired from the province’s Communist Party Standing Committee (Caixin, November 4, 2013). The sacking, while not officially linked to the incident in Tiananmen Square follows a pattern of dismissals in the wake of major security lapses. In the wake of the Urumqi riots in July 2009, Party Secretary Li Zhi and Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (PSB) head Liu Yaohua were dismissed in September, while under a year later province governor and long-time boss Wang Lequan was shunted sideways to be Deputy Head of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee in Beijing. Explicit links to the trouble in province were not made, though the intent was clear.

The incident came in the wake of a long, brutal summer in Xinjiang that was marked by flare-ups involving multiple deaths and casualties. An unofficial tally by the author places the total number of deaths in the triple digits, though it is unclear whether this is a total accounting of what had taken place. [1] Videos have emerged showing Uighurs or Chinese-speaking individuals on battlefields in Syria. [2] In July 2013, the Global Times reported the case of Memeti Aili, a 23-year-old Uighur who claimed to have been studying in Istanbul, Turkey when he was approached by radical groups and recruited to fight in Syria. Memeti Aili was arrested as he tried to return to Xinjiang to complete his assigned mission to “carry out violent attack and improve fighting skills,” a task he had reportedly been given by ETIM (Global Times, July 1, 2013). The exact nature of his plot was not revealed, but it was held up as a specific instance of how the fight in Syria was becoming a direct problem for China.

China asserts control over vast sea area, angering neighbors, U.S.

By Carol J. Williams
January 10, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, left, during a meeting last month with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at Manila's Malacanang Presidential Palace. The United States has commitments to defend allies in East Asia, giving Washington a stake in the escalating dispute between China and its neighbors over air and maritime access to the South China Sea. (Aaron Favila / Associated Press /December 17, 2013) 

Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and the United States have criticized China for imposing new access rules for the vast South China Sea, saying Beijing's demand that foreign vessels get approval to enter the disputed maritime area is provocative and potentially destabilizing.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted Friday that the rules that went into effect at the start of the year are simply "technical revisions" of existing laws governing the resource-rich waters off China's Hainan province. She said foreign governments' complaints that Beijing is courting trouble spring from "ulterior motives."

The latest maritime dispute among the neighbors with overlapping claims to islands and resources in the busy East Asian waterways has ratcheted up tensions in the region, coming less than two months after China proclaimed an Air Defense Identification Zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Under the ADIZ, foreign aircraft flying through the zone are required to file flight plans with Beijing, although the United States, Japan and South Korea have flown military aircraft through the region without getting China's permission.

"The passing of these restrictions on other countries’ fishing activities in disputed portions of the South China Sea is a provocative and potentially dangerous act,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Thursday. "China has not offered any explanation or basis under international law for these extensive maritime claims."

The Foreign Affairs Department of the Philippines issued a statement Friday saying the unilateral Chinese exertion of control over the fishing grounds "escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea, and threatens the peace and stability of the region."

Taiwan declared that it doesn't recognize the proclaimed access rules as valid, and Vietnam called the Beijing power play "illegal and groundless."

The revised rules stem from actions taken by authorities on the island of Hainan, the Chinese province closest to the sea where areas are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

A year ago, Hainan authorities announced enforcement procedures that allow its police to board foreign ships not authorized to enter the area and to seize the vessels, fishing equipment and catch. Penalties for unauthorized access can also result in fines exceeding $80,000, the provincial rules state.

Hua, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, suggested the international outcry was political.

"If someone says a revision to local fishing regulations that have been in effect for many years constitutes a threat to peace and stability in the entire region, it is not a lack of basic common sense but a sign of ulterior motives," Hua told reporters at a Beijing briefing on Friday.

The regional dispute over a cluster of tiny islets in the East China Sea that China claims as the Diaoyu and Japan as the Senkakus has escalated into a series of air and sea faceoffs. Analysts warn that the run-ins could result in accidents or miscalculations that could further heighten tensions among Asia's leading powers.

At issue in the South China Sea is a triangular cluster of reefs known as Scarborough Shoal about 130 miles from the Philippines’ Subic Bay naval station. The Chinese call it Huangyan Island and complain that the Philippine navy has been harassing its fishing boats there.

The South China Sea and coastal passages from Malaysia to Russia are of vital economic interest to all who ply the shipping lanes used to ferry more than $1.2 trillion in goods annually between the United States and its Far East trading partners.

China's increasingly ambitious assertions of sovereignty also reflect a power play with Washington, which continues to wield influence and professes commitment to defend longtime allies in Tokyo, Seoul and Manila.


January 7, 2014

On January 1st China’s first aircraft carrier (the Liaoning) and its escort group returned to base after 37 days at sea. A day later the Chinese Navy announced that Liaoning had successfully completed its sea trials. Liaoning was commissioned (accepted into service by the navy) in September 2012 but still to complete more sea trials before it was ready for regular service. Before commissioning Liaoning had performed well during over a year of sea trials. During that time Liaoning went to sea ten times. The longest trip was two weeks. All this was mainly to see if the ship was able to function reliably at sea. After commissioning Liaoning carried out 15 months of additional trials and preparations have been made for the first flight operations, which took place in late 2012. During the first year of sea trials some aircraft were spotted on the flight deck. This was apparently to make sure aircraft could be moved around the deck, and down to the hanger deck, without any problems.

In 2011 China confirmed that the Liaoning will primarily be a training carrier. The Chinese apparently plan to station up to 24 jet fighters and 26 helicopters on the Liaoning. But the carrier will also be used to train Chinese officers and sailors to operate as a carrier task force as the Americans and some other Western navies have been doing for over 80 years.

To form a carrier task force the carrier needs escorts. For Liaoning this consisted of two Type 051C destroyers and two Type 054A frigates plus a supply ship. All this is similar to what the U.S. has long used, which is currently 3-4 destroyers, 1-2 frigates, an SSN (nuclear submarine), and a supply ship. Chinese SSNs are few and not very good, which is why China probably has not assigned one to their escort group.

During the final month of sea trials, held far out to sea in international waters China aggressively confronted American ships and aircraft that come close to the Liaoning task force. The worst incident occurred on December 5th when a 7,000 ton Chinese destroyer cut in front of a 10,000 ton American cruiser (the USS Cowpens) which was observing the new Chinese carrier from a distance of over 40 kilometers. The Chinese ship risked a collision as it moved to within a hundred meters of the U.S. cruiser. This sort of aggressiveness was experienced by American warships frequently during the Cold War when Russian warships would risk collision in what American sailors came to call "Chicken Of The Sea." For over a decade now the Chinese have been aggressively interfering with American intelligence gathering aircraft and ships in international waters off their coast. The U.S. does not back off. The final month of Liaoning sea trials were particularly important to the U.S. Navy because the Liaoning was operating as part of a task force on the high seas. There were some days of bad weather and how well the Chinese ships performed under these adverse conditions was a good indicator of how effective the Liaoning task force would be in combat. While the U.S. also had aircraft, satellites and submarines observing the Liaoning task force, it was also important to monitor it all from the surface and that’s where the Cowpens came in. While the Chinese tried to intimidate the Cowpens that didn’t work.


January 5, 2014

Compared to the leaders of democracies their Chinese counterparts spend a lot more time with their generals and admirals. They do this because the army is considered part of the Communist Party and the main job of the military is to keep the communists in power. In recognition of this the head of Communist Party runs China and holds two other positions; Chairman of the Central Military Commission (which runs the military) and the President of China. This concept of the military being a subsidiary of the Communist Party was pioneered by the Russians when the Soviet Union was formed in the early 1920s. The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) followed suit and this arrangement worked quite well as long as most national wealth was controlled by the CCP. Thus the military got its money and other favors via the CCP.

The military has used a lot of the money to good effect. Two decades later the troops are better trained, more carefully selected in the first place and have modern weapons and equipment. Chinese troops have also joined international peacekeeping operations, and their performance has impressed their military peers. But while the Chinese troops are much better, they are not as good as they think. This is what worries Chinese leaders because many generals and admirals are now clamoring to be turned loose on real or imagined Chinese enemies. More thoughtful political leaders realize that the Chinese generals and admirals probably overestimate their capabilities and that could lead to economic and political disaster if China suffered humiliating defeats as a result of being too aggressive with the military. The CCP leaders are having an increasingly hard time dealing with their aggressive military commanders, who are sometimes acting first and conferring with their political bosses later.

There are other problems with the generals. Chinese economic reforms of the 1980s shifted control over most GDP from party officials to entrepreneurs. While all officers and many lower ranking troops are CCP members, they came to see their future economic opportunities coming from the free market, not the favor of CCP bureaucrats. This is bothering the CCP leaders a great deal because for the last two decades most of the officers have been selected more for their military skills than for loyalty to the CCP. These new “technocrat” officers all swear allegiance to the CCP but the secret police (who have informers everywhere) report that the technocrat type officers, who will be occupying senior positions in another decade, are more concerned with economic opportunity than party loyalty.


January 9, 2014

The U.S. Department of Defense recently granted the manufacturer of the new F-35 fighter a waiver for having some illegal Chinese components in newly built F-35s. The cheap Chinese components were nothing exotic; they were $2 magnets and stuff like that. These items inadvertently got into the supply chain as a Japanese subcontractor built parts of the aircraft. An audit later discovered the Chinese parts. The manufacturer told the Department of Defense that it would cost over $10 million and weeks, if not months, to take apart the offending assemblies, replace the Chinese items with American ones and reassemble, test and reinstall everything. The Department of Defense decided to let it go (grant the waiver) to keep the much-delayed F-35s coming.

Since the 1970s the U.S. has had laws banning any foreign components in American weapons. But once more American politicians (and Americans in general) are reminded that complex systems, including weapons, are made from components manufactured all over the world. Ironically the cheap magnets involved in the F-35 are used in several American weapons systems in addition to the F-35. These specialty magnets tend to come from China. In some cases China is the only supplier. These magnets are made from "rare earths" (metals like cerium, europium, lanthanum, neodymium and yttrium). The United States used to manufacture some of these components, but China did it cheaper, and most manufacturing shifted to there over the last few decades.

This dispersal of components to nations throughout the world is nothing new. It has been going on for over half a century. Some nations have specialized in certain components, especially electronic, to such an extent that a local disaster could cause global shortages. This happened in 1999, when severe earthquakes in Taiwan shut down factories that produced the majority of the world supply of some computer components. There were worldwide shortages for months. There have been less several less striking incidents since then. Same thing happened a few years ago when record floods in Thailand shut down plants producing a large portion of the worldwide computer hard drive supply.

As China has become a major industrial manufacturer, they have, like neighbors Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, come to concentrate on certain items, and acquire a world monopoly (via lowest price and reasonable quality). Western nations, especially the United States and Germany, have the largest number of these mini-monopolies. But what the American legislators were worried about was war with China, and an instant shortage of key weapons components. It could take months, or years, to restore necessary supply quantities.

Why Obama’s Big Pivot to Asia Is a Myth

DAVID FRANCIS, The Fiscal Times
January 9, 2014

The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it plans to send 800 troop and more than 40 tanks and armored vehicles to South Korea as part of the U.S. pivot to Asia.

"This addition of forces to Korea is part of the rebalance to the Pacific. It's been long planned and is part of our enduring commitment to security on the Korean peninsula," Army Colonel Steve Warren told Reuters.

The Obama administration says the pivot, first announced in 2011, is happening on three fronts. First, the U.S. military is building up its presence in the region. Second, on the economic front, the United States is seeking new trade partnerships with Asian nations. Finally, in a diplomatic effort, the United States is increasing cooperation with Asian governments.

But there’s one problem with the Asian pivot; it’s a carefully constructed myth.

“It’s really more rhetoric than reality and more rhetoric than resources,” says Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow on Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation. “On the one hand it’s a good strategy as it’s important to prioritize Asia for the United States because Asia is so vital to U.S. interest, diplomatically, economically and militarily. That said, there’s not a lot of meat behind it.”

Benjamin H. Friedman, a research fellow in defense and homeland security studies at the CATO Institute, concurs with this assessment. He said that the pivot is more of an effort to draw attention away from military pullbacks in Europe and the Middle East than it is a true effort to make Asia more strategically important.

Say good-bye to our Middle East allies


By Benny Avni
January 9, 2014 |

The Saudis just flipped the bird at President Obama. It’s hard to blame them: They’re just looking after their own interests in the increasingly chaotic Middle East. The question is when, if ever, America will get off the fence and start protecting its interests in the region.

In promising $3 billion to Lebanon to bolster its military, Riyadh attached two conditions: 1) that the cash go to the Lebanese army’s stalled drive to disarm the terrorists of Hezbollah, and 2) that Lebanon buy its arms from France.

For decades, the Saudis have furnished their own military almost exclusively with US arms. But the French are much more proactive than America these days in the Mideast and African theaters, so the Saudis trust them to assure that the weapons will go to the right cause.

Consider the event that triggered Riyadh’s move — Hezbollah’s assassination two weeks ago of former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah.

A prominent Sunni politician, Chatah was a veteran of the International Monetary Fund, a graduate of the University of Texas and former ambassador to Washington. He was also a moderate voice in Beirut, which is again embroiled in a civil war, this time a spillover from Syria.

In other words, he was a poster boy for a would-be American ally in Lebanon. And indeed, the US embassy in Beirut dutifully condemned his killing “in the strongest terms.”

But that was it. As in the rest of the region, the Lebanese warring factions, friend and foe, no longer expect Washington to offer much beyond feeble rhetoric.

North Africa: Back to the Future?

Anouar Boukhars

After a brief historical interlude of revolutionary fervour and democratic aspirations, the mood in North Africa has turned sour. During 2013, the Islamist moment was aborted in Egypt and put on the ropes in Tunisia. Chaos beckons in Libya while Algeria remains in limbo, waiting for deliverance from political paralysis and economic stagnation. Even in Morocco, where the monarchy skilfully navigated the treacherous whirlwinds of the Arab revolts, popular dissatisfaction with economic inequalities are causes of concern. Where the region goes from here is uncertain. Comeback beckons for the old authoritarian order as political Islam struggles to deliver on its promises and the secular alternative remains woefully inadequate. The security outlook also remains clouded, as governments learn to deal with the new Salafist surge and the transmutation of transnational terrorism in and around North Africa.

Regional problems from the past have whipped up tensions just as North Africa needs urgent security coordination and political cooperation. The Western Sahara dispute remains a sore in the geopolitics of the region, with Morocco and Algeria battling each other for influence in the Maghreb and Western Africa. The geo-economic and strategic considerations of international actors, including Gulf countries, also complicate the outlook for the region. The excessive focus on religious extremism as the primary threat to democratic transitions and Western security has diverted scarce international resources and attention from the main economic drivers of popular discontent and radical Salafist growth.


The great exuberance that the Arab uprisings provoked in North Africa faded as quickly as it came. The democratic moment took its protagonists and outside observers into a roller-coaster ride of hope and expectations. But as in other waves of democratic transitions, the process of political change has been tortuous and punctuated by violence, squandered opportunities and dramatic setbacks. Attributing the transition difficulties in North Africa to cultural particularism or illiberal religious traditions is, however, misguided.

Those in Europe or North Africa itself who have given up on the region’s dysfunctional politics not only ignore that political transitions are messy, but they also disregard the corrosive legacy of authoritarianism. The far side of social conflict, violence and volatility in much of North Africa today is the direct result of the culture of mistrust and fear that authoritarian governments perniciously fostered.

The major setbacks that Islamists have suffered in the aftermath of the Arab uprising are not due to their embrace of religious extremism, but rather to their failure to govern and provide enough reassurances to their secular sceptics. Their confidence-building measures were inadequate in Egypt to break the cycle of mistrust, and were unable to change the dynamics of their tumultuous dealings with the secular opposition. Even in Tunisia where the governing Islamist party, Ennahda, has made major concessions on ideology and politics, their efforts have fallen short of winning enough opposition support or leeway to govern a society troubled by economic hardship, rising Salafist extremism and regional turmoil emanating from Libya and Mali.

Profile of Israeli Military’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps

January 11, 2014
Security and Defense: Israel’s eyes and ears
Yaakov Lappin

The IDF’s chief combat intelligence officer talks to the ‘Post’ about watching the enemy in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. As Israel prepares to encounter increasingly unstable borders and a chaotic region, the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps is about to receive a set of hi-tech surveillance capabilities that should, according to army brass, make it far more difficult for terrorists to infiltrate Israel.

Speaking from his office at Corps Headquarters at the Tzrifin base, near Rishon Lezion, Col. Tal Braun, chief officer of the unit, told The Jerusalem Post in recent days that the new tools will significantly boost the ability of his forces to spot terrorists preparing to attack.

“Who are we looking for today? Not rows of tanks, but rather, small cells of terrorists going through hills, forests, built-up area, or deserts. They have to be discovered in time, before they do what they want to do. We have to be at technological forefront, and surprise them every time,” he said.

Established in 2000, the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps is the youngest of the five IDF corps. In 2009, its role in border security became more prominent, when the IDF General Staff turned it into a visual intelligence field unit, as part of the defense establishment’s lessons from the Second Lebanon War.

Today, Combat Intelligence Collection units, some in deep camouflage in the field, monitor the activities of enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas. In control rooms, controllers use electronic border surveillance tools to direct military forces to suspicious activity.

Every day, the Corps’ units send their array of visual intelligence to Military Intelligence for analysis.

Some of this information is used to construct lists of enemy targets, which will be struck in a future clash.

“We are tasked with two missions. The first is defending the border 24/7, without resting. We are the eyes of the state, at the forefront all of the time. We can’t blink. As the scout ahead of the camp, we influence everything,” said Braun.

“When you see the enemy with your eyes, it takes on a new significance,” he added.

“Our second mission is to assist in a ground maneuver. Small squads will gather information in the field,” Braun continued. “We guide the missile directly to its location.”

A new multi-sensory system, named Mars, already in operation on the border with Syria, is set to upgrade Combat Intelligence Collection control rooms, which are in charge of monitoring feeds from border fences.

“Mars can activate a range of sensors, including cameras and radars, that are deployed across a sector,” Braun explained.

Competition and Cooperation in U.S.-China Relations

Chen Qi
JANUARY 9, 2014

At his first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered up a new approach to bilateral diplomacy—a new type of great-power relations. Though the rollout of the concept was accompanied by much hopeful rhetoric, the approach faces a number of hurdles. The primary challenge is the reality that the United States and China are still competitors.

From behavior at the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting and East Asia Summit to tense debates over China’s territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas, the two major players are jockeying for power and rallying support from other nations. Neither country is behaving like a neutral actor in East Asia.

Mitigating Tensions on the Korean PeninsulaIn a recent example, the United States, Japan, and Australia met on the sidelines of the October APEC meeting and released a joint statement on territorial conflicts in the South and East China Seas. The trilateral statement opposed “coercive or unilateral actions” that could change the status quo in the territories.

Official U.S. statements like this one list as priorities the issues of maritime safety and freedom of navigation in the South and East China Seas for trade purposes. Beijing agrees on these priorities. And both China and the United States are pursuing their own interests with regard to these issues in Asia, especially in the East and South China Seas.

In that sense, the statement was, in effect, a veiled accusation that China is the aggressor. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying responded that the trilateral alliance was an excuse for countries outside of Asia to interfere in Asian—namely, Chinese—affairs.

Indeed, Washington’s declared pivot toward Asia was a clear sign that the United States was not interested in remaining neutral. The persistent U.S. presence in the region has worsened tensions between China and its neighbors.

A central point of tension in this area is that Washington has demonstrated the tendency to abuse rights like freedom of navigation to acquire intelligence on China, particularly the Chinese military. The most prominent example was in 2009 when the presence of the U.S. Navy’s Impeccable in China’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea resulted in a heated standoff with five Chinese ships.

Though the United States claimed to have freedom of navigation, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu stated that a number of international laws clearly place strict limits on any U.S. vessels entering the Chinese exclusive economic zone. Specifically, he cited the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Law on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf of the People’s Republic of China, and the Regulations on the Management of Foreign-Related Marine Scientific Research. Since 2009, debates between the two powers about the parameters of exclusive economic zones and the presence of foreign vessels have become more hardline, hinting at the underlying concerns over U.S. espionage in Chinese waters.

U.S. allies in Asia have also been making their own power plays. For example, just before the APEC conference, Japan invited key regional countries engaged in maritime disputes to attend the first International Seminar on Capacity Building of Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies in Emerging Countries. All the current claimants to disputed territory in the South China Sea were invited—except China.

As these actions play out and the United States reinforces its support for its allies in Asia, Beijing has been responding by improving its own relations with its neighbors. At the APEC meeting and the East Asia Summit, Xi explained that China and Southeast Asia are a “community of common destiny,” emphasizing the importance of “diversity, harmony, inclusiveness and common progress” in both the East and South China Seas. In the aftermath of the summits, Xi stated that Chinese diplomacy would take on a “three-dimensional, multi-element perspective” toward neighboring countries with the intent of cultivating friendlier relations.

The exception to this approach is the Philippines. It is in Beijing’s strategic interests to isolate the Philippines because Manila has strongly spoken out against China on territorial disputes and in favor of ties to the United States. Though each conflict in the East and South China Seas is different, China’s preference to isolate the Philippines should be a warning to Japan—and the United States—that Japanese leaders should take care to not escalate tensions further.

Given these obstacles, if the United States and China are to succeed in building a new type of great-power relationship, they need to work together in areas where cooperation is possible. The two powers share common interests on issues of global concern, such as climate change and nonproliferation. By cooperating in these areas, Washington and Beijing can build mutual trust.

And they can both have healthy competition and produce benefits for the region at large by supplying public goods. With its economic power rising, China in particular is ready to take a leadership role in stimulating development by investing in Asian countries as well as in providing security for the region.

Pursuing these avenues is particularly important because the United States remains a polarizing actor in Asia. The long-standing issues of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and of Washington and Beijing’s disagreements over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea will remain in the immediate future. To mitigate some of these tensions, the United States should take steps to limit its interference in the region and to demonstrate that it respects China’s core interests on these issues.

There are still significant challenges to overcome in U.S.-China relations. But focusing on areas of potential cooperation can help ease the tension between the two competing powers.

Think Again: Intelligence

As Congress returns from its holiday recess, I believe there are at least three things on the mind of each Member:

First, is this the year in which populism defeats the two party-party system and in the process sees the electoral defeat of the majority of the House and a third of the Senate?

Second, is this the year that the US finally stops borrowing a trillion dollars a year to finance a government that is 50% waste – documented waste from agricultural products going into the trash to energy lost to fraudulent health to military weapons acquisition?

Third, is the NSA debacle going to be the precipitant – the catalyst – that outrages the American people to the point that they call for a radical overhaul of big government (to reform Congress, the Executive and the Supreme Court)?

It is in that context that we who have been intelligence reformers for these past two decades ask the readers of Reality Sandwich around the world, to rethink the term, “intelligence.”

Below are seven premises that have allowed a secret intelligence community costing the US taxpayer as much as $100 billion dollars a year (today roughly $75 billion a year) to exist without being held accountable for systemic and specific failures. Up to this point, it has also not been held accountable for acts that fit within the internationally recognized parameters of crimes against humanity: from the rendition and torture programs (carried out with impunity), to extra-judicial killings via unmanned aerial vehicles or drones across Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, to deeply intrusive and persistent surveillance of everyone here at home – warrantless.

Secrets are intelligence

This is the most insidious, pernicious, and ultimately treasonous premise. The US Intelligence Community (IC) is not intelligent and it does not produce intelligence. Intelligence in the context of national “need to know” is decision-support. Decision-support is an output, something tangible that can be measured. The impact of decision-support on a decision can be measured both in the moment and over time. The secret world would have us believe that anything secret is intelligence, when in fact most of what the IC does is collect information by technical means, avoid processing most of it, and produce very little useful analysis. As General Tony Zinni, USMC has stated (at the time he was the Commander In Chief of the US Central Command or CINCENT), “At the end of its all, classified intelligence provided me, at best, with 4% of my command knowledge.” Asked later to explain the math, he outlined how he and his J-2 determined that 80% of their useful intelligence was from open sources and methods, and within the final 20% that was provided by secret sources and methods, 80% of that could be bested by open sources and methods once these were engaged.

Legal Background, & More from CRS

New and newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following. 

Tax Rates and Economic Growth, January 2, 2014 

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons, January 3, 2014 

Principle and Prudence in American Foreign Policy

Mackubin Thomas Owens
January 2014

 PDF Version

Mackubin “Mac” Owens is Editor of Orbis, FPRI’s quarterly journal of international affairs, and Senior Fellow at itsProgram on National Security. In addition, he is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He served as a Marine infantry platoon commander in Vietnam, retiring from the Marine Corps Reserve as a Colonel in 1994. A contributing editor toNational Review Online, he is co-editor of the textbook Strategy and Force Planning, now in its fourth edition, and he is the author of the FPRI E-book Abraham Lincoln: Leadership and Democratic Statesmanship in Wartime (2009).

U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, characterized by drift and incoherence. It is at best a-strategic at worst anti-strategic, lacking any concept of how to apply limited resources to obtain our foreign policy goals because this administration has articulated no clear goals or objectives to be achieved. The foreign policy failures of the Obama Administration are legion: the Russian “reset” that has enabled Vladimir Putin to strut about as a latter-day czar; the betrayal of allies, especially in Central Europe, not to mention Israel; snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq by failing to achieve a status of forces agreement (SOFA) that would help to keep Iraq out of the Iranian orbit; the muddled approach to Afghanistan; our feckless policy—or lack of policy—regarding Iranian nuclear weapons, not to mention Libya and Benghazi, as well as Syria. President Obama has said that he was elected to end wars, not to start them, as if wars are fought for their own purpose. Ending wars is no virtue if the chance for success has been thrown away, as it was in Iraq.

Observers disagree about the causes of the Obama failures in foreign policy. Some attribute them to indifference, others to incompetence—although the two are not unrelated. Still others contend that the results we are seeing represent the desired outcomes of more insidious motivations. But no matter the cause of Obama’s dysfunctional foreign policy, the result is the same: weakness that opens the way for those who wish America ill. Winston Churchill’s 1936 characterization of the Stanley Baldwin government as Hitler gained strength on the Continent echoes ominously today: it was, said Churchill, “decided only to be undecided, resolved to irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.”

What about deterrence in an era of cyberwar?

January 9, 2014
By Peter W. Singer and Allan Friedman

This is an excerpt from Singer and Friedman’s new book, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know,” released Monday by Oxford University Press. Another excerpt, “Exercise is good for you,” ran yesterday.

“Cyber offense may provide the means to respond in-kind. The protected conventional capability should provide credible and observable kinetic effects globally. Forces supporting this capability are isolated and segmented from general-purpose forces to maintain the highest level of cyber resiliency at an affordable cost. Nuclear weapons would remain the ultimate response and anchor the deterrence ladder.”

Cybersecurity and Cyberwar by Peter W. Singer and Allan Friedman

These lines come from a 2013 US Defense Science Board report, one of the highest-level official advisory groups to the Secretary of Defense. While the text reads like typical Pentagonese, what these lines translate into is a proposal to create a new US military force specially designed to retaliate against a cyber strike. Of note, it wouldn’t just be able to respond with counter cyber weapons, but also would include “Global selective strike systems e.g. penetrating bomber, submarines with long range cruise missiles, and Conventional Prompt Global Strike [a ballistic missile].” Foreign Policy magazine’s reaction to the news perhaps sums it up the best: “Wow.”

When we think about deterrence, what most often comes to mind is the Cold War model of MAD, mutually assured destruction. Any attack would be met with an overwhelming counterstrike that would destroy the aggressor as well as most life on the planet, making any first strike literally mad.

Yet rather than just getting MAD, deterrence really is about the ability to alter an adversary’s actions by changing its cost-benefit calculations. It reflects subjective, psychological assessments, a “state of mind,” as the US Department of Defense says, “brought about by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction.” In addition to massive retaliation, the adversary’s decisions can also be affected by defenses, in what has been called “deterrence by denial.” If you can’t get what you want by attacking, then you won’t attack in the first place.

Theorists and strategists have worked for decades to fully understand how deterrence works, but one of the key differences in the cyber realm, as we have explored, is the problem of “who” to deter or retaliate against. Specifically, this is the issue of attribution we explored earlier.

The effect of this on real-world politics is driven by the fact that the question of “who” in cyberspace is far more difficult than ever could have been imagined by the original thinkers on deterrence theory back in the 1950s. Tanks and missile launches are hard to disguise, while networks of compromised machines or tools like Tor make anonymity easy. The threat of counterstrike requires knowing who launched the initial attack, a difficult thing to prove in cyberspace, especially in a fast-moving crisis. Computer code does not have a return address, and sophisticated attackers have grown adept at hiding their tracks. So painstaking forensic research is required, and, as we saw, it’s rarely definitive.