15 January 2014

Battling antiquity: The Army’s siege within

The Indian Army, which is observing its 65th Army Day today to mark the appointment of an Indian as the country’s first post-Independence Army Chief, is facing a grave crisis that involves serious deficiencies in equipment and a decline in internal health.

Dinesh Kumar

IN a private conversation during the late 1990s, a Defence Attache posted in an embassy of an advanced western democracy in New Delhi, who had also previously studied at India’s Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, remarked that the Indian Army is ‘a first class antiquated Army’.

For the Army as also the other services, the 1990s was a severely difficult decade. There had been minimal modernisation of the armed forces due to a combination of factors that had comprised a severe resource crunch (that had subsequently led to the liberalising of the economy) and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which had been India’s long standing traditional supplier of defence equipment. This had been compounded by a simultaneous atrophy through much of the 1990s in India’s decision making for purchase of armaments following the black listing of Bofors, a Swedish company that had paid kickbacks to middlemen for selling 155 mm howitzer guns to the Indian Army in the mid-1980s.

The resource crunch of the 1990s is since long over. Due to some pragmatic foreign policy changes, India is now sourcing weapons from alternative suppliers, notably Israel, the United States and Europe. Then again, Russia has since managed to re-assemble and re-integrate its military industrial complex that had earlier got fragmented with the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Yet, there has not been much change in the Indian Army’s ‘antiquity’ notwithstanding that following the 1999 Kargil War New Delhi has embarked on a major defence modernisation programme that entails purchase of armaments and weapon platforms worth billions of dollars, mostly from foreign vendors. Rather, if anything, there seems to have been a steady and gradual decline in both the Army’s conventional capability and its internal health both of which are a cause for serious concern.

Severe equipment deficiencies

The Indian Army’s war fighting capability remains adversely affected by serious equipment deficiencies – from big ticket items such as artillery guns and ammunition to smaller but vital items like bullet proof jackets. Bringing out the gravity of the problem in his letter addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 12th March 2012, former Army Chief, General Vijay Kumar Singh, had described the state of the artillery, air defence, infantry and even the armoured corps – all key fighting arms of the Army– as ‘alarming’. Tanks, he had written, were ‘devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks’;‘the air defence was 97 per cent obsolete’;‘the infantry lacked night fighting capabilities’ and ‘the Special Forces were woefully short of essential weapons’. Worse, he referred to the ‘lack of urgency at all levels’ on matters of national security and the ‘hollowness’ in the system arising from the procedures and processing time for procurements as well as legal impediments created by vendors.

Shadows leap from Bluestar past If UK advised, one wing fits the bill


New Delhi, Jan. 14: The UK documents that claim to show Margaret Thatcher sent a British adviser to counsel the Indian military on the 1984 Operation Bluestar focus attention on the botched attack by a shadowy unit called “Establishment 22” that reported to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s office.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has launched an inquiry into the alleged British role that was mentioned in “top-secret” letters attributed to senior officials of the Thatcher government 30 years ago. (See chart)

There is no public record in India that New Delhi sought — and got — British advice for Bluestar, the operation to flush out extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
But former officers who participated in the operation suggest such counsel could have been given only to the Special Group of the Special Frontier Force (SFF), the official name of “Est 22”, that even now reports directly to the cabinet secretariat.

Tatas, M&M, Ashok Leyland eye Rs. 10,000-cr defence deals

 Hindustan Times Mumbai, January 14, 2014

Procurement of armoured and specialist vehicles by the defence department has opened up a Rs. 10,000-crore opportunity for vehicle manufacturers. While private companies including Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Asia Motor Works (AMW) and Ashok Leyland are eyeing a slice of the pie, global defence vehicle suppliers and public sector company Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) are also bidding for some of the contracts, industry sources said. 

The trials, shortlisting, selection and supply of vehicles would likely take three to four years.

While Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra and AMW will bid for the Army order for 1,200 units of light armoured multipurpose vehicle (LAM), Ashok Leyland will also participate in a tender for supply of 3,500 units of light specialist vehicles (LSV). The combined value of both these contracts could be around Rs. 4,000 crore.

Vehicle manufacturers are actively engaged in developing prototypes as the defence ministry may call for request for proposals (RFP) in the first half of this year.

In another defence tender for self-propelled air defence system (SPAD), vendors such as Tata Power and Punj Lloyd will face stiff competition from overseas players. Tata Power will partner with group company Tata Motors for this project.

Meanwhile, for the tender for procurement of 1,227 heavy trucks for Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, Bharat Earth Movers Ltd has emerged as the front runner, sources said. Both these contracts together would be worth aroundRs. 6,000 crore.

“These are the major defence contracts for automobile manufacturers that are on the horizon. But nobody knows how they will shape up. Elections and government’s financial constraints may cause uncertainties,” a top executive with a vehicle manufacturing company said.

Besides these contracts, a possible revival of the `60,000-crore futuristic inventory combat vehicle (FICV) segment make the defence sector an interesting battle ground for automobile manufacturers.

The politics of Manmohanomics

Christophe Jaffrelot | January 14, 2014 

 Figures show that more than 20 years of economic reforms, initiated by Singh but pursued by all governments, in spite of corrective mechanisms such as the MGNREGA, have resulted in greater inequality.


The middle class that has benefited the most is also Singh’s biggest critic.

In his latest press conference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared that “history will be kinder to me than the contemporary media, or for that matter, the opposition parties in Parliament”. He is probably right, not only because he is the first PM since Jawaharlal Nehru to complete two five-year terms in a row, but also because Singh has had a huge impact on Indian society by orchestrating major economic reforms from 1991 onwards. The man is also refreshingly modest.

But it’s time to take stock not only of the achievements, but also the limitations of almost 23 years of “Manmohanomics”. One of the basic assumptions during the dismantling of the licence/ permit raj era in the 1990s, when the state-owned economic model had clearly exhausted its potential, harked back to the trickle-down theory. This theory holds that once liberalisation measures re-energise private sector entrepreneurship, a rise in the growth rate also benefits the bottom of the pyramid. The question is how much the bottom benefits. In his first speech after taking over as president, Pranab Mukherjee declared in July 2012 that “trickle-down theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor”.

What kind of indicators can we use to substantiate this claim — or its opposite? The controversy around the poverty line suggests that a simple evaluation based on the numbers of absolute poor may not be the most suitable. It is also not the most relevant measure of inequality, which is key to test the validity of the trickle-down theory. Certainly, the percentage of Indians below the poverty line declined from 37 per cent in 2004-05 to 29.8 per cent in 2009-10. But has the gap between rich and poor narrowed? How much wealth has really percolated down? To answer such questions, it is preferable to rely on National Sample Survey Organisation data and more specifically, to its calculation of monthly per capita expenditures (MPCE). This indicator offers an instrument by which to measure the evolution of the standard of living and of inequality.

Public in the private

Pratap Bhanu Mehta | January 15, 2014 

Our contemporary moment seems fraught with both possibility and anxiety. A new social contract will be institutionalised in the next couple of years. Reuters


The story of the relationship between state and private enterprise needs a rewrite.

Our contemporary moment seems fraught with both possibility and anxiety. A new social contract will be institutionalised in the next couple of years. But we don’t know the shape of this contract. Learning by doing, compromising to get a workable consensus are, to some extent, inevitable. But we are in the midst of defining new relationships between public and private that will require us to return to a new framework.

In 1991, a simple framework became a guiding template for a renegotiation between the public and the private sector. The private sector was to be freed, its productive and competitive energies were to be unleashed. The gains from the resulting growth would not just trickle down, they would also provide resources for the state to help citizens who could not, in their current circumstances, participate in the gains of growth. The basic idea, only imperfectly realised, was not on the wrong track. But it turned out to be a limiting template in several ways.

First, our understanding of the relationship between the state and private enterprise turned out to be too simplistic. This was partly because the fascination with the private sector did not come from a story about its virtues; it came as a negative reaction to state failure. Since the public sector was full of vice, as it were, the opposite, namely the private sector, must be full of virtue. This sensibility underwrote the great reforms of the period: ending the licence permit raj, greater integration with the global economy. But it neglected key issues in the relationship between public and private. First, there was the question of an appropriate regulatory structure. As the recent Delhi High Court judgment allowing for government audit of private telecom companies has reminded us, the issue of an interface between the state and private companies is more complex than a pure ownership story would suggest. In the United States, these kinds of audits of private utility companies, for instance, are routine and far more invasive than in India. Much of the debate over public and private in India is based on a simplistic conception of ownership: private, therefore exempt; public, therefore accountable. Yet the issue of accountability is now based not on ownership, but function. If you are a private monopoly in utilities, the fact that you are private is neither here nor there: your costing will have to be audited.

Chinese Takeaway

C. Raja Mohan | January 15, 2014 


China and Japan contest over tiny islands, called Senkaku in Tokyo and Diaoyu in Beijing, has brought the militaries of the two nations face to face on a routine basis.


Preventing other countries from intervening in its disputes with Pakistan has long been a major objective of India’s foreign policy. New Delhi goes to great lengths to make sure third parties are either neutral or tilt in India’s favour. Any sense of empathy for Pakistan, real or perceived, on the question of India’s territorial sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir, for example, has often complicated India’s relations with China, the United States, Britain, western Europe and the Muslim world in general.

As it receives the president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, this week and hosts Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, as an honoured guest during the Republic Day celebrations later this month, Delhi has a different problem. It is about responding to mounting territorial tensions among India’s East Asian neighbours.

One set of disputes involves China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea against many of its Southeast Asian neighbours. This conflict is expressing itself most visibly in the current military tension between China on the one hand, and Vietnam and the Philippines on the other. It has escalated another notch in the new year with the Chinese demand that all “foreign” fishing operations in the South China Sea must get explicit permission from Beijing.

China and Japan are locked in another dispute in the East China Sea. Their contest over tiny islands, called Senkaku in Tokyo and Diaoyu in Beijing, has brought the militaries of the two nations face to face on a routine basis. Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea are squabbling over small islets in the Sea of Japan, also called the East Sea. The rocks are called Dokdo in Seoul and Takeshima in Tokyo. Further up north, a fourth dispute involves Japan and Russia over an island chain called Kuriles in Moscow and the Northern Territories in Tokyo.


As in South Asia, where political emotions rise at the very mention of Kashmir, maritime territorial disputes have now fanned the flames of nationalism in East Asia.

Unlike in the subcontinent, the East Asian neighbours don’t even agree on the names of the disputed island territories. All countries marshal impressive historical and legal arguments to justify their claims. Their leaders say there is no domestic political room at all for compromise. As all these disputes acquire a new intensity, China’s neighbours, increasingly worried about Beijing’s assertiveness, are seeking strong support from third parties, including India.

When's the Best Time to Launch a Cyberattack?

Posted by Alex B. Berezow January 14, 2014

Let's pretend that you're a cyberterrorist, or if you prefer, a rogue agent working for a super-secret government intelligence program that develops cyberweapons. And let's further imagine that you've developed a pretty cool computer virus that steals money from people's bank accounts, and you're really itching to try it out against somebody, say, Mr. Wonderful fromShark Tank. When's the best time to deploy your little bundle of digital joy?

University of Michigan researchers Robert Axelrod and Rumen Iliev believe they know, and their answer is reported in the latest issue of PNAS.

The team developed a rather simple mathematical equation that takes into account three major factors. The first is thestakes. What is the payoff? In our example, if Mr. Wonderful keeps several billion dollars in his bank account, then the stakes are enormous. But, if he keeps only a few thousand dollars in his account, then the stakes aren't very high.

The second factor is the persistence of your cyberweapon. As clever as you might be, your cyberweapon won't be effective forever. If your weapon exploits a security vulnerability on the website of Mr. Wonderful's bank, there's a very good chance that the bank will discover and fix the problem if you wait too long. In other words, time is working against you. It may be better to launch your cyberweapon earlier instead of later.

The third factor is the stealth of your cyberweapon. After your weapon has been deployed, eventually your attack is going to be discovered. Whether you are discovered tomorrow or a year from now depends on how stealthy your virus is.

The General Pakistan Can’t Punish

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faces a conundrum in dealing with his former nemesis. 
By Malik Siraj Akbar 
January 13, 2014 

The Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal, during his recent visit to Islamabad, brushed aside suggestions that his country was planning a deal to provide a safe passage to Pakistan’s former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. Prior to his visit, speculation was rife that Musharraf would flee the country under a covert deal between the civil and military leadership and the usual mediator, Riyadh. The Saudis exercise remarkable influence over Pakistan’s domestic politics. For religious reasons, Pakistanis, who view Saudi Arabia as the holy land, cannot say “no” to the oil-rich kingdom. For their part, the Saudis substantially finance Sunni Islamic schools across Pakistan in their proxy battle against the Shia-majority Iran. 

Musharraf is currently in deep trouble. If the courts convict him of sedition over a state of emergency he imposed in 2007, the former military strongman could face the death sentence. Pakistan has never sent a former army chief to the gallows, although the army has staged at least three coups since the first in 1958 by General Ayub Khan. 

The Saudis brokered a similar deal in 2000 to rescue the then deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (who returned to power in 2013) from the custody of the Musharraf regime. Sharif had been convicted by a military court to a life sentence but he was released through the intervention of the Saudis who subsequently hosted him for seven years. 

Times have changed; now, it seems Sharif can return the favor. While he doesn’t owe any debts to Musharraf himself, Sharif will find it almost impossible to turn down a Saudi request to give the general a safe exit. Publicly, at least, the Saudi foreign minister said his country viewed Musharraf’s trial as Pakistan’s domestic affair and Saudi Arabia would not interfere in Pakistan’s internal politics. 

A mug's game: Forecasting China’s economic future

14 January 2014 

Forecasting is a mug's game, but we can't resist. Economists usually take a stab at the central growth forecast and then add a shopping-list of things that might go wrong. If you enumerate enough risks, there are built-in excuses when the central forecast doesn't happen.

Inscrutable China provides a popular down-side risk for global growth forecasters. Some prophets have been predicting a crisis for years. Andy Xie is still awaiting China's collapse. Michael Pettis' bet with The Economist that China would average only 3% growth this decade looks more outlandish with each passing year: on current growth rates, China will double its income this decade. How wrong do you have to be before you lose your expert status?

Now George Soros, the man who broke the Bank of England in 1992, has joined the chorus, saying that ‘the major uncertainty facing the world today is not the euro but the future direction of China’.

There are two interwoven threads in this story. One is China's growing financial fragility and debt burden, especially the borrowings of local authorities. These local governments did most of the heavy lifting in the 2008 fiscal stimulus, with an infrastructure building spree that left them with hefty debt. The second element is the need to rebalance the economy, pulling back on investment (currently half of GDP) and expanding consumption (currently only 36% of GDP, whereas in most countries it would be nearly twice that).

There is no dispute that both these issues need correction. The latest National Audit Office figures show local government debt equal to a third of GDP and rising; adding central government debt takes the debt total to 56% of GDP. Nor is there any doubt that consumption has to become the main driver of growth.

These changes seem eminently achievable. The Chinese authorities have already introduced new regulations to rein in local government borrowing. Moreover, there is time to make the changes.

China's government debt is not much more than half of the OECD average, and within the OECD there are half a dozen countries teetering on the brink of crisis, with twice China’s debt and fragile governments lacking Beijing's capacity to bring about change.

China Tests Hypersonic Missile Vehicle

The ICBM-launched missile vehicle descends from near-space altitudes at hypersonic speeds. 
January 14, 2014 

Last week, the Chinese military successfully concluded the first test flight of a hypersonic missile vehicle, according to U.S. defense officials at the Pentagon. The hypersonic missile is intended to deliver warheads through U.S. missile defenses, according to The Free Beacon

The hypersonic missile could be a major milestone for China as it modernizes its military technology for strategic nuclear and conventional military purposes. Citing U.S. officials, The Free Beacon reports that “the new hypersonic vehicle was detected traveling at extremely high speeds during the flight test over China.” 

According to reports, the hypersonic vehicle is designed to detach from one of China’s existing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) at a near-space altitude and then accelerate to speeds 10 times the speed of sound during its descent towards its target. 

The Free Beacon’s report cites Mark Stokes, a former U.S. Air Force officer familiar with China’s strategic weapons systems, who claims that China is working on two such hypersonic flight vehicle programs, both intended for long-range strategic use. The report also claims that “China is also developing a hypersonic, scramjet-powered vehicle that can take off independently or be launched from a bomber.” 

Stokes’ analysis ultimately concludes that the hypersonic missiles could pose a formidable challenge to U.S. missile defense systems which include “long-range interceptors, medium-range sea and land-based interceptors, and interceptors designed to hit incoming missiles closer to targets.” 

Hypersonic missile technology is currently a topic of much research and development in the United States, Russia, China, and India. Currently, the title of the fastest cruise missile in the world is held by the Russo-Indian jointly developed BrahMos cruise missile. The technology offers several advantages over conventional or supersonic missiles, namely rapid payload delivery, improved survivability against missile defense systems, and precision targeting. 

Explosion in Guizhou Kills 14

A deadly explosion in Guizhou’s Kaili city is being investigated as a criminal case.
By Shannon Tiezzi, January 14, 2014

Chinese state media are reporting than an explosion in Guizhou province has killed 14 and injured seven. The explosion took place in Laoshan village in Kaili city in southeastern Guizhou. Xinhua noted that the explosion occurred at around 2:30 pm. By 8:30 pm, media outlets such as Phoenix News [Chinese] were reporting that all injured were receiving hospital treatment. Guizhou’s Party Chief Zhao Kezhi and Governor Chen Min’er have already urged local authorities to exert the utmost efforts to tend to the wounded and investigate the incident.

The investigation could be interesting. Global Times reported that the explosion was “a man-made criminal case,” hinting that the explosion was purposeful. If so, Laoshan village would become part of an unhappy but growing number of cities that have suffered from a violent bombing. Besides numerous reports of terrorist incidents in China’s Xinjiang province, there have also been recent bombings in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, and in Beijing’s international airport.

While violence in Kashgar is generally described as the result of coordinated terrorist attacks, the bombs in Beijing and Taiyuan were allegedly set off by sole actors. The Beijing airport bomb was set off by a long-time petitioner, Ji Zhongxing, who was trying to draw attention to his grievance. The explosion resulted in slight injuries to Ji and one policeman. The Taiyuan bombing, which killed one and injured eight, was described as the work of a previously convicted thief, Feng Zhijun, who wanted to “get revenged on society.” Such bombings, whether by groups or individuals, are swiftly investigated and prosecuted as part of China’s emphasis on ensuring social stability. Expect a similar response here, as the local authorities seek to bring the case to a quick conclusion.

The exact location of the explosion in Kaili in unverified, although the Global Times reported that it was rumored to have taken place in a gambling den. Once the site of the explosion is made public, it could imply a motive for the alleged attack.

Guizhou is one of China’s poorest provinces, and has made a tourism push [Chinese] part of its development strategy. Kaili city, part of the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, is an important part of this strategy. Kaili has a large population of the Miao ethnic group, meaning there are numerous Miao villages and festivals to attract tourists. Well-known travel guide Fodor’s, for example, recommended Kaili as “the starting point for a journey to the Miao and Dong villages” of eastern Guizhou.

Can Iraq Survive?

January 14, 2014

The explosion of fighting in Iraq’s Anbar province is creating consternation in U.S. foreign policy circles, as worries increase about the possibility of civil war and the final collapse of Washington’s once-fond hopes for a stable, democratic, pro-Western country. Recriminations are especially loud among the usual neoconservative suspects, including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who argue that the Obama administration’s fecklessness has opened Iraq to an Al Qaeda offensive that could unravel all that Washington achieved, at great cost in blood and treasure, with and following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

But the fighting in Anbar does not simply constitute an Al Qaeda initiative. That explanation is as dangerously simplistic as the tendency of U.S. hawks during the initial years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq to attribute all armed resistance to “Saddam dead enders.” The roots of the latest conflict are far deeper and more complex than a case of Al Qaeda troublemaking; they reflect Iraq’s bitter ethno-religious divisions and weak national cohesion. Indeed, the new turmoil in Anbar is merely the most recent development that raises serious questions about whether Iraq is a viable country. Overall violence there during 2013 was the worst since 2008, most of it political or sectarian in nature.

The events that have taken place since the initial stunning victories by insurgents, who took control of most of Fallujah and portions of Ramadi, confirm the complexity of the power struggle in Iraq. Anbar, Iraq’s Sunni heartland, has seethed for years against the policies of prime minister Nouri al Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government. Nevertheless, some Sunni tribes have demanded that Al Qaeda forces withdraw from their positions, and some fighting has occurred between more moderate elements and the Islamic militants.

It is even an oversimplification to attribute the latest struggle in Iraq solely to Sunni-Shiite sectarian animosity. Long-standing religious differences are indeed a major factor, as they are next door in Syria, Bahrain, and other areas of the Middle East. But as in those other countries, the ancient Sunni-Shiite religious feud is not the only relevant source of Iraq’s violence. Sunni anger at the Maliki government is also fueled by a generalized resentment of their group’s loss of power and perks. During the British colonial period, Sunnis dominated the ruling elite in Iraq, even though they constituted barely 20 percent of the population, and their domination continued after Iraq became independent. The majority Shiites, as well as the Kurds, were decidedly second-class citizens. The rise of the ruling Ba’ath Party, especially once Saddam became the supreme leader, increased the Sunni stranglehold in both the political and economic arenas.

*** The Gaza Withdrawal and Israel's Permanent Dilemma

JANUARY 14, 2014 

By George Friedman

Editor's Note: The following analysis originally ran in August 2005. We repost it today in light of the recent death of Ariel Sharon.

Israel has begun its withdrawal from Gaza. As with all other territorial withdrawals by Israel, such as that from Sinai or from Lebanon, the decision is controversial within Israel. It represents the second withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 war, and the second from land that houses significant numbers of anti-Israeli fighters. Since these fighters will not be placated by the Israeli withdrawal -- given that there is no obvious agreement of land for an enforceable peace -- the decision by the Israelis to withdraw from Gaza would appear odd.

In order to understand what is driving Israeli policy, it is necessary to consider Israeli geopolitical reality in some detail.

  • Israel's founders, taken together, had four motives for founding the state.
  • To protect the Jews from a hostile world by creating a Jewish homeland.

  • To create a socialist (not communist) Jewish state.

  • To resurrect the Jewish nation in order to re-assert Jewish identity in history.

  • To create a nation based on Jewish religiosity and law rather than Jewish nationality alone.
The idea of safety, socialism, identity and religiosity overlapped to some extent and were mutually exclusive in other ways. But each of these tendencies became a fault line in Israeli life. Did Israel exist simply so that Jews would be safe -- was Israel simply another nation among many? Was Israel to be a socialist nation, as the Labor Party once envisioned? Was it to be a vehicle for resurrecting Jewish identity, as the Revisionists wanted? Was it to be a land governed by the Rabbinate? It could not be all of these things. Thus, these were ultimately contradictory visions tied together by a single certainty: None of these visions were possible without a Jewish state. All arguments in Israel devolve to these principles, but all share a common reality -- the need for the physical protection of Israel.

In order for there to be a Jewish state, it must be governed by Jews. If it is also to be a democratic state, as was envisioned by all but a few of the fourth strand of logic (religiosity), then it must be a state that is demographically Jewish.

This poses the first geopolitical dilemma for Israel: Whatever the historical, moral or religious arguments, the fact was that at the beginning of the 20th century, the land identified as the Jewish homeland -- Palestine -- was inhabited overwhelmingly by Arabs. A Jewish and democratic state could be achieved only by a demographic transformation. Either more Jews would have to come to Palestine, or Arabs would have to leave, or a combination of the two would have to occur. The Holocaust caused Jews who otherwise would have stayed in Europe to come to Palestine. The subsequent creation of the state of Israel caused Arabs to leave, and Jews living in Arab countries to come to Israel.

Hey General, It's Me, Chuck. Again

Hey General, It's Me, Chuck. Again.

Chuck Hagel keeps calling Egypt's new dictator. But is anything getting through?

Chuck Hagel keeps calling Egypt's new dictator. But is anything getting through? 
January 12, 2014 

Understood in this context, Hagel’s seemingly sincere encouragement of Sissi’s better angels—he sent him Ron Chernow’s 904-page biography of George Washington—appears to have been an exercise in futility. As Hagel explained it: “Well, the specific chapter that I focused on with General Sissi, with whom I have had conversations with many times: Are you going to be the George Washington or are you going to be the Mubarak of Egypt?”

Sissi, however, is nothing like either man. Mubarak was your run-of-the-mill autocrat, intent on restricting dissent, but also willing to tolerate a degree of opposition. He had no particular ideology except the preservation of power and, in his latter years, the accumulation of wealth. Sissi evinces no such modesty, hearkening back to the caudillos of Latin America with his populist paternalism. He is a compelling orator, comfortable speaking extemporaneously and with seeming conviction. Just weeks after his rise to power, Sissi, on state television, called for mass rallies to “authorize” him to do what was necessary in the fight against “terrorists.” A personality cult has grown accordingly, with Sissi-themed cupcakes and chocolates and even women’s nightwear featuring the general himself in dark sunglasses.

It is somewhat ironic that Sissi is the first Egyptian head of state, de facto or otherwise, to have lived in the United States, training at Georgia’s Fort Benning in 1981 and then spending, in 2006, an academic year at the War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. His English is good enough to speak to Hagel without an interpreter. Here, many U.S. officials must have thought, is a man we could do business with. Perhaps Sissi would demonstrate the value of international exchange programs? Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo suggested as much: “I’ll bet this total immersion in the West that he had for the better part of a year… is contributing to the fact that communications lines are open.”

Which makes it all the more interesting that the Sissi regime has taken Egypt’s already considerable anti-Americanism and amplified it, with state media running wild with conspiracies about U.S. officials hatching conspiracies with the Muslim Brotherhood to “divide” Egypt (Obama himself is regularly accused, in a weird feedback loop from Tea Party conspiracy theories, of being a Muslim Brotherhood member). While the government has aggressively clamped down on the most mild, even imagined, dissent—take, for instance, the investigation into a muppet accused of sending coded messages to terrorists—state-owned newspapers have not been above headlines calling the United States the “American Satan.”

Geneva moderates, everybody wins

ISSSP Reflections No. 11, January 13, 2014

Authors: Mr. Viswesh Rammohan

The United States along with five other world powers and Iran finally signed a deal on Iran’s nuclear program on November 24, 2013. A series of steps was agreed upon by both parties for the next six months, during which a broader deal would be negotiated. Relations between the West and Iran had soured since the 1979 Iranian revolution and the recent agreement is considered as the first step to a permanent resolution. The initial agreement implies that Iran will undertake the following voluntary measures:

1) Uranium enrichment above 5% is halted for the next six months. This would keep Iran below the threshold for making weapon grade material and at the same time allows for sufficient fuel for the Bushehr reactor, which is currently Iran’s sole nuclear reactor for its energy production.

2) The stockpile of 20% enriched Uranium that Iran possesses was another important point of consideration. About half of the 20% enriched stocks would be downgraded to 5% enriched fuel. The remaining part of the 20% would be used for fueling the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).

3) Though the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow have been allowed to continue, Iran is not allowed to make any further additions in its activities there. No new centrifuges can be installed and enrichment capabilities cannot be increased for the next six months. However, Iran is allowed to replace the ones that are damaged with centrifuges of the same type.

4) All work at the Arak reactor has to be suspended. The Arak reactor has been a common talking point and a point of concern in the negotiations. Arak which is a heavy water plant produces between 5-10 kilograms of Plutonium per year as by-product which can be used in nuclear weapons. Iran has announced that it will not commission the reactor or transfer fuel of any form to the reactor site. The claim itself seems rather far-fetched as Arak is nowhere close to completion.

Though this has been mentioned in the agreement, the agreement makes no mention of R&D activities at Arak. This leaves some ambiguity, particularly in case of Arak since the R&D activities there are crucial for Iran to overcome the technical challenges in operationalising the reactor.

5) Enhanced monitoring has been another key point under discussion. Enhanced monitoring includes providing information about its nuclear facilities to the IAEA, agreeing on the safeguards approach for the reactor at Arak and ‘managed access’ to IAEA inspectors to inspect storage facilities, uranium mines and centrifuge assembly workshops.

The Word That’s Pulling Malaysia Apart

By William Pesek,  Jan 14, 2014

Father Lawrence Andrew could be excused for wondering whether he’s been cast in a John le Carre conspiracy thriller -- or a farcical dispatch from the Onion.

Police in Malaysia are investigating the Roman Catholic priest under Section 4 of the nation’s Sedition Act, one that allows for the detention of anyone deemed a threat to the state. Father Lawrence’s offense? He used the word “Allah” when referring to God. As bizarre as that sounds, the priest’s plight reveals much about why many international executives and investors are souring on Malaysia.

Malaysia’s God problem hit the headlines in October, when an appeals court banned the Catholic Church from using “Allah” to refer to God in its newspaper, the Herald -- the latest wrinkle in a case dating back to 2007. Then in November, the sultan of the state of Selangor issued an edict prohibiting all non-Muslims from using the A-word. The Herald’s editor, Father Lawrence, ignored the ruling and now finds himself a person of police interest.

One might have expected that the leader of Malaysia’s democratic and officially secular government,Najib Razak, would have stepped up to defend the rights of his non-Muslim citizens. At the very least he might have encouraged police not to waste resources going after a priest for his vocabulary choices. Instead the prime minister has been depressingly quiet on the controversy.

Najib’s silence highlights his misplaced priorities, which are holding Malaysia back even as Indonesia, the Philippines and other neighbors zoom forward. When he rose to power in 2009, Najib pledged to revamp the race-based system designed in 1971 by his father Abdul Razak Hussein, the country’s second prime minister. It seemed only fitting that the son would end the father’s New Economic Policy, which favors the ethnic-Malay majority and marginalizes Malaysia’s Chinese and Indian minorities.

Instead, Najib has reiterated his support for the program, for the same reason he has allowed the Allah controversy to go ahead: politics. The ruling United Malays National Organization barely hung on in elections last May, and it’s playing the God card now to fire up its Malay base.

The “Rise” of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Threat from Prime Minister Maliki

JAN 13, 2014
No one can deny that al Qaeda is a violent extremist threat wherever it operates. It poses a threat in terms of transnational terrorism in the United States and Europe, and a far more direct threat to the people who live in every area it operates. It has consistently been horribly repressive, violent, and often murderous in enforcing its political control and demands for a form of social behavior that reflect the worst in tribalism and offers almost nothing in terms of real Islamic values.

Like all extreme neo-Salafi movements, al Qaeda is also an economic and social dead end. It does not offer any practical way of operating and competing in a global economy, it is too dysfunctional to allow meaningful education and social interaction, and it finances itself largely through extortion in ways that cripple the existing local economy. Moreover, it does not tolerate competition even from other Islamist fighters. In Syria, it has provoked its own civil war with other hardline Islamist movements – a civil war it now seems to be decisively losing to other Sunni rebel factions.

It is precisely that type of behavior, however, which should lead U.S. officials, analysts, and media to do a far, far better job of reporting on exactly what has really happened in Anbar, and in cities like Fallujah and Ramadi. Bad as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is, far too much of the evidence points to Prime Minister Maliki as an equal threat to Iraq and to U.S. interests. Ever since the 2010 election, he has become steadily more repressive, manipulated Iraq’s security forces to serve his own interests, and created a growing Sunni resistance to his practice of using Shi’ite political support to gain his own advantage.

He has refused to honor the Erbil power-sharing agreement that was supposed to create a national government that could tie together Arab Sunni and Arab Shi’ite, and he has increased tensions with Iraq’s Kurds. As the U.S. State Department human rights reports for Iraq, Amnesty International, and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) make all too clear; Maliki’s search for power has steadily repressed and alienated Iraq’s Sunnis on a national level. It has led to show trials and death sentences against one of Iraq’s leading Sunni politicians including former Vice President Taqris al-Hashimi, who has been living in asylum in Turkey since being convicted nad sentenced to death in absentia by an Iraqi court. It has shifted the promotion structure in the Iraqi Security Forces to both give the Prime Minister personal control and has turned them into an instrument he can use against Sunnis.

Abe’s visit will bolster security ties

IssueCourtesy: Mail Today| Date : 14 Jan , 2014
Dr Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe will be the chief guest at our next Republic Day, a decision that marks India’s reciprocal interest in deepening bilateral political and economic ties. Until now the two countries have not exploited the full potential of their relationship, which is surprising given the economic inroads South Korea has made into India, and even more so, China.

Prime Minister Abe’s January 26 visit should lay the foundation of a robust India-Japan strategic partnership to underpin a stable security architecture in Asia.


India’s high growth rates in recent years- unfortunately stalled currently- and the improvement of India-US relations signified by the nuclear deal opened the doors for renewed Japanese interest in India. The result was the declaration of a strategic and global partnership between the two countries in 2006. The practice of annual summits has been instituted between the two, with Russia being the only other country with which India has such an arrangement. India and Japan are conducting a joint foreign affairs and defence dialogue- the so-called “two plus two dialogue”- which India has with no other country. As part of growing military contacts, joint naval exercises have been held, which is significant in the light of Japan’s inhibited defence posture since the second world war, which, beyond the constitutional restrictions imposed on a vanquished nation, reflects the pacifism of Japan’s post 1945 society. The Japanese Defence Minister Onodera has just visited India, with an agreement on enhanced military cooperation, including between the air forces of the two countries.

Abe’s agenda of lifting Japan from its economic stagnation, and concomitantly, regaining some political prestige at the international level, suits India strategically. The Japanese Prime Minister has a declared strategic interest in India, expressed also Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso. After assuming power Abe has visited every Asean country, not to mention his foray into Africa to restore Japan’s profile in that continent. This is creating the ground for giving substance to the India-Japan global partnership, taking it beyond a rhetorical flourish. There can be synergy between Japan’s renewed drive to stimulate its relations with Asean and India’s own Look East policy, with Myanmar and Vietnam being two countries where geo-political interests of the two countries have particular compatibility. Actually, Japan’s effort to regain lost ground in Asean can be bolstered by a stronger relationship with India because India will give strategic depth to such Japanese ambitions in this part of Asia. Similarly, in Africa the scope for a productive partnership needs to be explored seriously.

Japan has the financial resources and technology to boost India’s economic growth and provide the technological inputs India needs to modernise its industrial and physical infrastructure. India-Japan trade- at $18.5 billion- remains low; Japanese investment in India at $15.9 is unimpressive. The untapped potential of the relationship is therefore immense. The two sides signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in February 2011, which has so far not yielded any spectacular result, but should help in efforts to achieve the trade target of $25 billion by 2014. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and the Delhi-Mumbai Rail Corridor are huge projects that are being supported by Japanese agencies, besides the potential involvement of Japan in the Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor project.

Defining a New Type of Major Country Relationship Between the U.S. and China

January 14, 2014

The U.S. response to China's call for a "new type of major country relationship" remains one of the most controversial and misunderstood components of the Obama administration's China policy. An immediate problem is the glaring disconnect between the ways in which policymakers in Washington and Beijing are interpreting the concept. What the United Statessees as a way to manage competition and encourage China to cooperate on critical geopolitical issues, China's leaders describe as a framework for acknowledging China's newfound status and respecting its core interests.

Elsewhere in Asia, particularly among America's allies and partners, there's a palpable sense of confusion and dismay that Washington appears to be embracing the notion of accommodation to China with hints of a G-2 condominium that leaves the rest of the region on the sidelines. Beijing has amplified these concerns by telling diplomats throughout Asia that they should no longer count on a Washington that now privileges U.S.-China relations ahead of all others. 

Given these deep and enduring problems, there are good reasons to wish the concept would just go away. But that's not going to happen anytime soon. President Xi Jinping has made it a centerpiece of his approach to the United States, beginning with his visit as vice president in February 2012. Since then, Chinese officials and academics have been falling over themselves to repeat the phrase and you'd be hard pressed to find an Asia-focused researcher in Washington who hasn't been invited to Beijing to discuss the topic.

The cat is out of the bag in Washington as well. What started as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's call for the United States and China to "write a new answer to the old question of what happens when an established power and rising power meet," has evolved into near-verbatim recitations of the concept by U.S. officials. National Security Advisor Susan Rice told an audience at Georgetown University last November that it was time "to operationalize a new model of major power relations."

Which Countries' Nuclear Weapons Are Going To Get Stolen?

Though many countries are making progress in winding down their nuclear capabilities, a new ranking of who has the best security on their radioactive material will leave you a little shaken.

In the last two years alone, seven major countries have gotten rid of all or almost all of their weapons-grade nuclear materials. But some 2,000 metric tons of enriched uranium and plutonium stocks still remain. And, according to a new study released this week, several "weak links" in the nuclear weapon supply chain could end in worldwide nuclear disaster

Just take a look at the map.

Since 2012, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit launched by CNN founder Ted Turner and former U.S. senator Sam Nunn, has been issuing updates on global nuclear security--snapshots in time of each nation's nuclear capabilities, intentions, and safety. Considering that more than 100 thefts or "unauthorized activities" dealing with radioactive materials are reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency a year, it's some important geography to consider.

This year, the NTI released an interactive map of its latest nuclear security rankings. While many countries have committed to decreasing their nuclear capabilities, four have actually increased stocks, and some materials still remain relatively open to theft, sabotage, or sale on the black market. Israel, India, North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran ranked in the last places.

Still, much of what's included in the 2014 rankings and report is pretty optimistic. Eight countries have made major improvements as a result of global nuclear security summits in 2010 and 2012, which seems to suggest that the summits actually work. Among the 25 states with weapons-grade nuclear materials, Australia ranked first, by having reduced its stocks and by ratifying an international agreement that commits countries to cooperating in nuclear terrorism investigations. Belgium, Canada, and Japan ranked as the three most improved states overall, and even Pakistan was ranked as most improved among countries with nuclear weapons, though it still has a long way to go.

The United States, if you're wondering, came in 11th place overall. While the U.S. ranked first in the category that looked at actual security and control measures on-site, it actually lost points from 2013 because one facility failed to meet the appropriate safeguards. (The study didn't mention that one time, in 2012, an elderly nun and a group of anti-nuclear activists breached a $150 million security system at one of the country's largest enriched uranium facilities in Oak Ridge, Tenn.) The study also noted that Congress has yet to ratifytwo major international conventions on nuclear security.

"Global nuclear security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain--and that makes it imperative that sovereign states exercise their own responsibility in the context of global cooperation," the report's authors write. In March, the Netherlands will host the third international Nuclear Security Summit, where more countries will hopefully undertake commitments toward safeguarding nuclear facilities and destroying stocks.

[Image: Operation Upshot Knothole via Wikipedia]

China’s Crackdown on Cyber Activism

The government is trying to inhibit the growing power of online activism in China.
By Michael Caster
January 13, 2014

In the final weeks of 2013, a Chinese official announced the newest target in the government’s efforts to seize the ground of new media. Liu Zhengrong, a senior official with the State Internet Information Office, called for a crackdown on an independent online investigation into the personal details of suspected wrongdoers, known in China as a “Human Flesh Search“ (人肉搜索). While such searches do have the potential to inflict harm, examining the crackdown on flesh searches in relation to other recent official announcements and legislation regarding online activities, Liu Zhengrong’s proclamation reflects more a continuation of an exhaustive government policy of circumscribing online expression and digital collective action than one of controlling “violent online activities.”

Human flesh searches have been equated with both cyber activism and cyber vigilantism. Sympathetic portrayals of the practice have pointed to the ability of flesh searches to empower ordinary citizens to hold the government more accountable. In an interview with The Atlantic, sociologist Tricia Wang explained, “Flesh searchers feel like they are sharing information in a system that does not have a comprehensive or consistent rule of law.” The searches are a component of the “long revolution,” analyzed by China scholar Guobin Yang in his 2009 book, The Power of The Internet in China, which is slowly forcing Chinese society to be more participatory and transparent.

Proponents of flesh searchers as democratizers highlight cases such as Yang Dacai, the head of the Saanxi Province Safety Supervision Bureau. After a photo of an unidentified official grinning maliciously at the scene of a bus fire that killed 36 people in 2012 went viral, an online investigation revealed the official’s identity. Images were then uploaded of Yang wearing luxury watches he would not be expected to be able afford on his public servant’s salary. The public outcry led to an official investigation, and Yang was later sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption.

Cybersecurity and Tailored Deterrence

January 3, 2014 • 

By Franklin D. Kramer and Melanie J. Teplinsky

To create a more stable and secure cyber space, "Cybersecurity and Tailored Deterrence" by Franklin D. Kramer, distinguished fellow for the Brent Scowcroft Center, and Melanie J. Teplinsky, adjunct professorial lecturer at American University’s Washington College of Law, recommends that the United States utilize a hybrid model of cybersecurity with tailored deterrence as a key element, thereby shifting from the current defense-only cybersecurity paradigm. Tailored deterrence raises the costs of, and reduces the benefits from, cyber attacks, and can thereby serve as a key element of a cybersecurity strategy designed to reduce adversarial intrusion into US private, commercial, and governmental networks.


January 14, 2014

Recently, General Raymond Odierno, the Chief of Staff of the Army, released his updated reading list. While the list has some excellent books, I thought it could use more than one on strategy, some books on civil-military relations, and some more recent scholarship on the Vietnam War. In order to support the Chief’s desire to expand the Army’s professionalism, these books are respectfully offered as discussion points:

Strategy: An institution thinking about the future and getting out of a tactical mindset could use more than just one book on strategy. These will help.
The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States, and War, MacGregor Knox, W. Murray, & Al Bernstein.

Civil-Military Relations: Given claims that Americans and their military are growing apart or that decision making in both surges was challenged by tensions in civil-military discourse, I was surprised that no material on civil-military relations was included unless one counts Andrew Bacevich’s screed. Eliot Cohen and H.R. McMaster have been mainstays for most PME lists, and are absent. I recommend this be rectified with:

Critical Analysis and the Global Context: The Chief’s list was strong on regional studies, but given the importance of the Asia-Pacific region in American defense policy, I think there are some missing items. Additionally, there was nothing to force the strategy community to envision “dark futures” and 7 Deadly Scenarios is an antidote to wishful thinking and complacency.

Vietnam: The CSA list has a single book on Vietnam, Palmer’s Summons of the Trumpet, which is a bit dated although accessible. It could be augmented with one of these two, the second of which is just out but which will be well received:

Contemporary Conflict: One of these three belongs on the list to bring out the enduring character of war, human domain, and combat leadership.
Not a Good Day to Die, Sean Naylor
Black Hawk Down, Mark Bowden

The Use of History: The study of history and the proper use of history are central to our profession, and this book will facilitate a deeper understanding of history to students of military art and science.

Frank Hoffman is a Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Strategic Research at National Defense University (NDU). These comments are his own personal views and not that of NDU or the Department of Defense.