7 August 2014

Our boys in somebody else’s war

Ashok Malik
Aug 06, 2014 

World War I, the centenary of the beginning of which occurs this year, affected India on land, sea and air, literally. The entire argument about whether the Great War — or the “War to End all Wars”, as it was optimistically called — has any resonance in India and should be commemorated in any manner is ridiculous.

Yes, it was a European imperial war and not started by or specifically waged against India. Yes, it was not a war of the Indian nation or the free India state. Yet, it was a war that affected countless Indians and Indian families. In that sense, it was and remains an Indian event.
To remember and even celebrate Indian achievements and valour in World War I is not the same as to glorify imperial ambition and overreach. It is a wonder that a society that exults each time a person of Indian origin — even a third-generation American citizen — wins a Spelling Bee contest in Milwaukee is wary of mentioning its brave soldiers only because they fought “somebody else’s war”. In our sense of India, have we sometimes forgotten our sense of the Indian?

It is telling that among the best tributes to the Indian soldier in World War I comes in the Gallipoli exhibit at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The Gallipoli campaign in Turkey was one of the worst-planned endeavours of the war. It lost the Allies hundreds of thousands. For Australia, it was a milestone moment. Some 30,000 Australians died in Gallipoli and the campaign became a reference point for the island’s sense of nationhood.
About 1,500 Indians also died at Gallipoli, among the highest for an individual country. They are remembered and valorised at the War Memorial in Canberra, but forgotten in India. Cricketer Rahul Dravid referred to them when he delivered the Bradman Oration in 2011: “We share something else other than cricket. Before they played the first Test match against each other, Indians and Australians fought wars together, on the same side. In Gallipoli, where, along with the thousands of Australians, over 1,300 Indians also lost their lives… Before we were competitors, Indians and Australians were comrades.”

The Indians who fought at Gallipoli constituted among the largest volunteer armies in the world. To call them unpatriotic or un-Indian would be unfortunate because they represented a generation that came at the formative stage of Indian nationalism. The experiences of Indian soldiers who fought in Africa and Europe, in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and in Belgium (at Ypres), are part of not just military chronicles but also our folk history.


Gautam Mukherjee
Thursday, 07 August 2014
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Since foreign investment in infrastructure development and manufacturing is a major priority for the Modi Government, it will have to turn to Japan and China since the US and European economies are moribund

Looking at these six years after the George W Bush presidency, when it seemed like India and the US were going to be honest to goodness strategic partners at last, it can be said that all such hopes were clearly misplaced and have gone up in smoke. The US and India do not have much strategic use for each other today, reviewed three quarters of the way through the Obama Administration.

Instead, India is now quite rightly looking at a new world order spearheaded by BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), which could develop, amongst other mutually beneficial platforms, new global trading and reserve currencies, rather than just the US dollar. India drawing closer to an almost defunct South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and the possibility of full Indian participation in other South East Asian fora at the invitation of China, is also very significant. If the West has no use for India beyond lip-service, the East may well be the way to turn.

The US has always struggled at home with its isolationist world-view, and is now more or less confused about its global role, if any, beyond its de facto military dominance. But its economy, though clear and away the biggest, is moribund; and likely to remain stagflated for decades, given its trillions of indigestible debt that weak future growth just cannot dispel.

The massive deficit financing and note printing at present could also lead to another economic collapse bigger by far than the one in 2008, according to some gloom and doom ‘Black Swan’ economists. This, even as it paradoxically remains the mecca of technological excellence and, therefore, an attractive trading partner for its ideas, goods, and services.

Kurdish crescent on the horizon

Talmiz Ahmad
Published: August 7, 2014

After decades of struggle, the diffused aspirations of the Kurds have acquired a ‘national’ character. As Iraq is thrown into a convulsion, it has made the dream of a Kurdish nation a possibility

A book on the Kurds, published in 1978, has on its cover a photograph of a Kurd soldier in his distinctive national dress, a weapon on his back; all around him is a limitless, barren plain, while far in the background are massive snow-capped mountains. The title of the book is as bleak as the photograph: People Without a Country. Now, this could change: as Iraq is breaking apart and is convulsed in sectarian conflict, the Kurds in Iraq have moved towards independence, a dramatic culmination of long-held aspirations.

The Kurds are a culturally distinct people, with their own ethnicity, language and dialects, who reside in the mountains of northeast Iraq, northwest Iran and much of eastern Turkey, with a small community in Syria at the Turkish border. Racially, the community has kinship with the Iranians; its language is also closely related to Persian. The 25 million Kurds worldwide are Muslim, and most of them are Sunni. The mountains that made them hardy and warlike also divided them into fiercely independent tribes and clans. Hence, they have never had a homeland of their own. Till the end of the last century, the Kurdish story consisted of persistent uprisings, consistently crushed; of short advances and harsh retreats; of small victories and major setbacks; of promises made and quickly forgotten, a narrative of defeat, exile, betrayal and bloodshed.Kurdish politics

However, the decades of struggle did have some positive implications. One, over time, the diffused Kurdish aspirations and sporadic uprisings acquired a “national” character that transcended tribe, clan and interpersonal differences among the chiefs. Two, the struggle imparted a clarity to Kurdish aspirations, defining their collective security, economic and cultural interests. Above all, the assaults upon these people, particularly the genocidal violence of the 1980s and the use of chemical weapons in 1988, were sufficiently dramatic and heart-rending as to place Kurdish aspirations at the top of the allied agenda after the 1991 war, leading to the setting up of no fly-zones and safe-havens that consolidated into territorial autonomy after the 2003 conflict.

The Iraqi Constitution of 2005 recognised Kurdistan as a part of the Iraqi federation, with three of Iraq’s provinces — Arbil, Dohuk and Sulemaniya — which together have an area of 40,643 sq.km. and a population of a little over four million. But, the Iraqi Kurds have much larger claims, which would boost their territory to over 78,000 sq.km. and population to well over eight million. The two traditional Kurdish leaders — Massoud Barzani, son of the legendary Kurdish leader Mulla¯ Mustafa¯ Barzani, and the great rival of the Barzanis, Jalal Talabani — now hold major positions in the new political arrangements: Mr. Talabani is the president of the Iraqi Republic, while Mr. Barzani is the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

ON THE BRINK OF CHANGE - Turks love their heroes, but the jury is still out on Erdogan

Aloke Sen 

Turks love their heroes and there has been no shortage of the latter in that heroic land, or the vast expanse of the old territories of the Turkic peoples. If the 15th-century Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, the victor of Constantinople at the tender age of 21, is a permanent member of the Turkish pantheon of heroes, so is Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic in the early 20th century. Their places in Turkish history are secure.

Then there are those who are found today in the hall of fame, but whether that is a durable arrangement is not quite clear. One in this category is Bulent Ecevit, a five-time prime minister, a leader of sparkling personal and intellectual qualities, but with a somewhat mediocre political record. What catapulted him to the status of a hero was his ordering Turkish troops into Cyprus 40 years ago when faced with the prospect of the island’s forced union with Greece through a coup d’etat. This one act divided Cyprus on ethnic lines, Greek and Turkish, and bestowed a separate political identity on the Turkish Cypriots. The invasion was universally condemned, but the Turks took great pride in their prime minister’s muscular venture, and called Ecevit the “Conqueror of Cyprus”, reminiscent of Sultan Mehmet’s feat and sobriquet five centuries earlier.

Then we come to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the incumbent prime minister, who is the current holder of the title. Erdogan, 60, became Turkey’s prime minister 11 years ago, and has ruled with an iron hand and an increasingly erratic style ever since, reducing all political opponents in the manner of the great Ataturk to total irrelevance. Local and international commentators have called Erdogan the new Ataturk, and speculated whether he, with his conservative-Islamist ideology, would over time create a new kind of Turkey, and supplant Ataturk, who had used a different ideology of authoritarian secularism that had made Turkey a very different kind of Muslim country.

Erdogan, and his possible place in the Turkish pantheon of heroes, are actively discussed these days because the prime minister, barred by his own party’s charter to hold that office for a fourth term, is eyeing a new trophy: Turkey’s presidency, the first-ever direct elections to which are to be held on August 10 and for which he is his party’s candidate. Given the man’s electric energy and ambition, and what appears to be genuine popularity with large sections of the population, and the fact that the opposition may have given him a walk-over by putting up a nondescript challenger, a victory for Erdogan looks like a foregone conclusion. The current president, Abdullah Gul, an erudite and affable person and a co-founder along with Erdogan of the ruling Justice and Development Party, could have sought re-election but chose not to. Gul’s public pronouncements in recent times have indicated a falling out with his erstwhile colleague; he must have weighed his chances and found them not good enough to stop Erdogan’s relentless march to supreme power.

***The End of Consensus Politics in China

August 6, 2014

Chinese President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign is the broadest and deepest effort to purge, reorganize and rectify the Communist Party leadership since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and the rise of Deng Xiaoping two years later. It has already probed more than 182,000 officials across numerous regions and at all levels of government. It has ensnared low-level cadres, mid-level functionaries and chiefs of major state-owned enterprises and ministries. It has deposed top military officials and even a former member of the hitherto immune Politburo Standing Committee, China's highest governing body. More than a year after its formal commencement and more than two years since its unofficial start with the downfall of Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, the campaign shows no sign of relenting.

It is becoming clear that this campaign is unlike anything seen under Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Both carried out anti-corruption drives during their first year in office and periodically throughout their tenures as a means to strengthen their position within the Party and bureaucracy and to remind the public, however impotently, that Beijing still cared about its well being. But that was housekeeping. This appears to be different: longer, stronger, more comprehensive and more effective.

With this in mind, we ask: What is the fundamental purpose of Xi's anti-corruption campaign? An attempt to answer this question will not tell us China's political future, but it will tell us something about Xi's strategy -- not only for consolidating his personal influence within the Party, government and military apparatuses, but also and more important, for managing the immense social, economic, political and international pressures that are likely to come to a head in China during his tenure. Getting to the heart of the anti-corruption campaign -- and therefore understanding its inner logic and direction -- provides insights on the organization and deployment of political power in China and how those things are changing as the Party attempts to remake itself into an entity capable of ushering China safely through the transformation and crises to come.

The Campaign Continues

***The Real Revolution in Military Affairs

By Anthony H. Cordesman 
AUG 5, 2014 

 It doesn’t seem all that long since the United States was considering how advancements in military technology would allow it to use advances in long-range precision weapons, intelligence sensors, and command and control capabilities to dominate conventional wars. The Gulf War in 1991, the fighting over Kosovo, the initial invasion of Afghanistan, and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to topple a Saddam Hussein all seemed to prove that superior technology and tactics had led to a “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA) that would dominate modern warfare.

No one can deny the importance of such changes today. Precision strike capability combined with superior intelligence and command and control capabilities have changed the face of conventional warfare. At the same time, the Afghan War, the Iraq War, the fighting in Gaza, the fighting in Yemen, the fighting in Ukraine, and the other conflicts following the political upheavals in the Middle East have all involved a different kind of revolution.

Most modern wars have become irregular or asymmetric conflicts between states and nonstate actors. The resulting wars are not high-technology duels between conventional forces, but struggles that pit governments and their allies against opponents that fight along religious and cultural lines and use their own internal divisions and populations as weapons.

Many of these conflicts are shaped by religious ideology and extremist sectarian differences. Most are shaped by civil-military struggles that are driven by weak or failed governments and economies, the absence of a meaningful rule of law, and demographic pressures throughout the developing world that have created a “youth explosion” in terms of the demand for education and jobs and pressure on internal stability.

The nonstate actors that shape most such conflicts do attack the full range of national security forces; rather, they attack the weaknesses in local governments and the fault lines in their societies. They not only “swim” among the population, to use Mao Tse-tung’s terminology on guerilla warfare, they use that same population as weapons and as the equivalent of human shields. They counter high-technology strike capabilities with people, propaganda, and by exploiting the civil casualties and collateral damage that high-technology weapons create. They use insurgency and political influence as additional weapons and tactics, and they fight as much on the civil level as they do using weapons and terrorism.

Gaza is just the most recent case where the use of the population as shields, and manipulation of popular support, acts as a critical limiting factor on the ability of high-technology forces to actually use their military capabilities. Israel has increasingly had to justify every strike that produces civilian casualties or collateral damage in each new round of fighting, but it is scarcely the only example of the growing demand for “perfect war” in which precision and improvements in command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I/) and battle management are expanded to reduce or eliminate civilian casualties and collateral damage.


By Manish Vaid and Tushar Shah

Having indicated his intention to increase gas pipeline network infrastructure by 15,000 kilometers, making it almost double existing capacity, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has certainly raised an intellectual argument among oil and gas stalwarts: What should be India’s priority – gas or gas grid?

The government’s goal remains addressing carbon emission concerns and reinforcing low carbon growth by hooking the entire country into the gas grid, while meeting growing demand for electricity. These goals look unrealistic in light of India’s current gas situation.

The KG-D6 gas basin, once regarded as India’s largest gas field, is only producing at 16 percent of estimated peak output, pulling down the country’s total gas production.

Consequently, industry experts are pessimistic at the proposition of doubling current gas pipeline infrastructure. Developers will not invest in additional pipeline when existing pipeline is operating at only 50 percent to 55 percent capacity.

A strong gas pipeline infrastructure is a prerequisite for a mature gas market. The inability to find the necessary investment funds raises serious concerns around India’s gas production.

According to British Petroleum’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2014, India’s gas production dropped by 16.3 percent in 2013 and has fallen by 33.8 percent since 2010, due to ambiguity in gas pricing policy and Indian companies’ inability to boost gas production.

This has dampened the enthusiasm of both domestic and foreign investors, and has proven a serious blow to the government’s plans to foster low carbon growth by using natural gas as a bridge fuel.

The result has been an increasing number of Indian companies looking to import liquefied natural gas (LNG), mostly from the US, as a potential long-term solution.

All these constraints justify the government’s decision to speed up the development of India’s natural gas pipeline network. A parliamentary committee recently recommended to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas that overtures to prospective buyers should progress in tandem with a build out of India’s natural gas infrastructure.

India drops sea claim to unlock offshore oil in China contrast The difference in approach shows why tensions are rising in the South China sea as companies ramp up oil and gas investment in the Bay of Bengal Andrew MacAskill | Arun Devnath 1 inShare 0 Comments Subscribe to: Daily Newsletter Breaking News Latest News 07:43 PM IST Govt to make adulteration of milk a serious crime 07:38 PM IST Rolls-Royce working on new model; to hit market by mid-2016 07:31 PM IST No proposal to abolish death sentence:  

Govt 07:25 PM IST Online hiring up 25% in July: Monster.com 07:24 PM IST No double standards by Congress on Insurance Bill: Rahul Gandhi Editor's picks Insurance reforms deadlocked Rivals gain as United Spirits’ market share loss continues NSEL crisis: EOW files chargesheet against FTIL chairman Jignesh Shah Bill to give Sebi special powers tabled in Lok Sabha ‘TimeOut’ shuts all three print editions due to recurring losses A Chinese marine surveillance ship is seen offshore of Vietnam. 

China declined to acknowledge any UN jurisdiction in its dispute with the Philippines over maritime claims. Photo: Reuters New Delhi/ Dhaka: If good fences make good neighbours, that may explain why much of Asia’s recent territorial tension has centred on the ocean. India took a step toward tighter ties with Bangladesh this month in surrendering its four-decade claim to a swathe of the Bay of Bengal about the size of Lake Ontario, opting to heed a United Nations-backed ruling. Bangladesh praised its neighbour’s move, with the head of state-run oil monopoly Petrobangla saying the new found clarity will unlock drilling opportunities. The decision provides a contrast with China, which declines to acknowledge any UN jurisdiction in its dispute with the Philippines over maritime claims. The difference in approach shows why tensions are rising in the South China Sea as companies ramp up oil and gas investment in the Bay of Bengal. 

“This is a showcase judgment of how countries can reach an amicable agreement,” said S. Chandrasekharan, New Delhi-based director of the South Asia Analysis Group, referring to India and Bangladesh. “The South China Sea is a glaring example of how one intransigent country can hold up everything.” The Permanent Court of Arbitration on 7 July awarded about 19,500 square kilometers to Bangladesh, some 76% of the area under dispute with India. The move followed a decision last year that clarified Bangladesh’s sea border with Myanmar. 

Exploration on “This in our view paves the way for the economic development of that part of the Bay of Bengal, which will be beneficial to both countries,” Syed Akbaruddin, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, said on 8 July, adding that the decision would improve ties between the neighbours. 

The cooperation has opened up access to energy exploration for India and Bangladesh, which now account for less than 1% of the world’s proven gas reserves, according to estimates by BP Plc. “By year’s end, Bangladesh plans to auction 18 oil and gas blocks in the Bay of Bengal, including 10 previously claimed by India,” according to Hossain Mansur, chairman of state-run Petrobangla. “It’s now a big opportunity for us to explore sea blocks for oil and gas without disruptions,” 

Japan's Biggest Challenge (and It's Not China): A Plummeting Population

August 4, 2014 

With projections of at least a 50 percent decline in the population through the end of this century, Japan has a population problem. In rural parts of the country, the challenges are even more acute.

Quite a bit has been written recently about the challenges Japan is facing in terms of its declining population. Having lost over half a million people in the past two years and with projections of at least a 50 percent decline in the population through the end of this century, Japan sits at the leading edge of population change beginning in other parts of East Asia as well as Europe. While a fair amount has been written about the economic and other society-wide implications of this trend, less discussed in the media are the consequences of this population decline for regular people. In rural Japan, the population problem is tangible. As one walks around, there are few children and many elderly people, a consequence of both low fertility and out-migration of young people from rural areas for the attractions of city life.

On a steamy July weekend, I recently accompanied a group of Waseda University exchange students from China, Australia, the United States and Europe on a trip to a village in Niigata Prefecture, about three hours by bus from Tokyo. We were able to talk to local farmers, eat some wonderfully prepared local produce, and even help with some weeding while bending over knee-deep in the mud of a rice paddy. What emerged from this trip was not only an increased awareness of the challenges Japan is facing in rural areas, but an experience of the entrepreneurial spirit that is growing as people try to find creative ways to address these challenges.

First, the problems—and they are significant to be sure. I think in many ways, the situation facing much of rural Japan can be seen in the juxtaposition of two institutions we visited in Niigata. One was an elementary school in a mountain farming village. The school once had 125 students and was the thriving center of community life; today, it has nine students (across six grades) and five of these are actually transfer students from larger schools who were struggling socially or academically, so their parents moved them to the smaller environment. The other institution was a nursing home not far from the mountain village. Fully occupied, it had seventy permanent residents and a waiting list with 350 people.

This contrast provides a window into the problems facing people living in rural Japan. There are few young people to care for the elderly, work the fields, or simply keep up houses and farmland in the area. It is common to see both abandoned houses and fallow rice fields due to the lack of population. At the same time, there are a large number of older people working hard to hold on to their way of life, while also recognizing that things are changing and looking for ways to successfully adapt to a different demographic and social environment. Indeed, the vast majority of rice farming in Japan is done by people in their 60s and 70s and in the village we visited, physical work occurs throughout the year with snowfalls of four meters annually that need to be constantly moved to allow people to move around.


By Andreas Krieg,ISN Security Watch

While Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip might yield a temporary sense of security at home, the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remain intact. According to Andreas Krieg, that’s because Tel Aviv continues to seek operational-level military solutions for its strategic-level political problems.

Once again, world headlines are being dominated by a spiral of aggression and retaliation in the Middle East. Self-made rockets are being indiscriminately fired by Hamas from Gaza into Israel, to which Israel responds with defensive and sometimes punitive air strikes. As Palestinian casualties mount and pictures of destruction continue to circulate, Israel becomes increasingly criticized for its actions. While some engage in anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric, others construct a more informed critique about the ethics and legality of Israel’s actions under the Laws of Armed Conflict. Israel usually responds by legitimizing its actions with first, its duty to protect its citizens and second, with the IDF’s unsurpassed operational excellence in destroying targets in a congested urban environment proportionately and discriminately. While both justifications are generally plausible, they are missing the point. Both are founded on Israel’s narrow security-centric operational approach to a much wider strategic problem that its leaders have failed to address in recent years.
The Strategic–Military Continuum

To understand why, it’s worthwhile revisiting the concept of strategy. Ever since Antiquity the meaning of strategy has been dynamic and dependent on the context in which it was used. More often than not, strategy’s meaning has been defined in a traditional military context referring to the achievement of military objectives on the battlefield through the most effective employment of means available under conditions of uncertainty. Yet, ever since Clausewitz’s famous remarks about war being simply the continuation of politics by other means, the meaning of strategy has exceeded the narrow realm of war. Linking strategy to politics, military theorists have come to see war as not just a means in itself, but as a means to achieve political objectives. The arising subordination of the general to the political leadership brought with it a conceptual distinction between political strategy and military strategy. For Liddell Hart executing military strategy was “to coordinate and direct all the resources of the nation towards the attainment of the political object of the war – the goal defined by national policy”. Accordingly, the political object of war is defined at the policy level by an overarching political strategy, which is preeminent over military strategy.

Today, political strategy is most commonly concerned with the deployment of all available national resources, including the military, to achieve strategic objectives as a matter of national security. When policymakers on the strategic level decide that the achievement of a particular objective requires the use of the military, the armed forces are called upon to develop a strategy, which through operational art achieves military operational objectives that ultimately serve the defined strategic objectives. What emerges is a distinction between the strategic and the operational level of war, whereby the latter provides guidance to the former. The strategic level is dominated by decisions revolving around political strategy. The operational level centres on trying to achieve military strategic goals through operational art, namely the ability to translate political strategic intent into tactical military manoeuvres.
The Lost Meaning of Strategy in Israel

Israel undoubtedly finds itself in a highly complex strategic context. The legacy of decades of constant armed confrontation has prompted successive Israeli governments to prioritize the maintenance of physical security. Consecutive campaigns by Arab states trying to annihilate the Jewish state have also ingrained a sense of ‘security paranoia’ into the collective national memory of the country. Consequently, the public legitimacy of Israel’s political leaders has become primarily tied to their ability to provide and protect national security. Yet, with many Israeli leaders assuming political office after holding military positions, political decisions made with regards to national security have often been interpreted through a military lens. Under conditions of uncertainty and ‘security paranoia’, decisions about national security have rarely been taken with the same degree of long-term strategic vision as they have been in other Western countries. Decisions about national security were often taken reactively to a changing security situation on the ground rather than proactively or preventively.

The only major exception might have been Israel’s commitment to the Madrid and Oslo negotiations in the early 1990s. After the First Intifada, political leaders in Israel saw an opportunity to engage in a political process of rapprochement with Palestinians that aimed at bringing about a sustainable security environment for both Palestinians and Israelis. Over the past two decades, however, this strategic vision has not been realized. Even worse, most of Israel’s policies have conflicted with this strategic vision. Continued settlement building, the increased curtailment of freedom of movement and antiquated counterinsurgency measures have left many Palestinians alienated.

Today, political and military leaderships in Israel work within a vacuum of strategic ambiguity towards the Palestinian question. Torn between embracing the two-state solution as a strategic vision and nationalist demands to maintain control over the ‘holy land’ of Judea and Samaria (West Bank), political leaders have tended to engage in strategic inaction. The proclaimed strategic objective of maintaining Israel’s security as a democratic Jewish state side by side with a Palestinian state has not been furthered by political strategic means. In absence of a strategic political roadmap prescribing the parameters for the establishment of a Palestinian state, senior Israeli politicians have tried to find alternative non-strategic means to maintain the country’s national security.

Why do human beings keep fighting wars?

 Tuesday 5 August 2014 

Warfare provides people with a semblance of psychological positivity in oppressed societies where other outlets are lacking 
The young British men who have gone to fight in Syria 'see themselves as fighting a just cause with fellow Muslims, but they’re surely also seeking the sense of being more alive'. Photograph: Reuters Tv/Reuters

Since it is 100 years ago this week that Britain entered the first world war– and at the moment the world seems to be especially ridden with conflict – it’s an opportune moment to reflect on why human beings seem to be unable to stop fighting wars.

In most cases wars are initiated by governments, not by populations. And, most of the time, they are the result of disputes over resources and land, or of a government’s desire to increase its influence and power. However, looking back over the history of warfare, what is most striking is how willing most people have been to fight in wars, or at least to support them.

When Great Britain joined the first world war, in August 1914, massive crowds celebrated outside Buckingham Palace. This celebratory mood was widespread throughout Europe. Writing of the German people’s response to the war, the historian Alan Bullock described “an unparalleled sense of national unity, which those who experienced it never forgot, an exalted sense of patriotism”.

The early American psychologist William James once suggested that war is so prevalent because of its positive psychological effects. It creates a sense of unity in the face of a collective threat. It binds people together – not just the army engaged in battle, but the whole community. It brings a sense of cohesion, with communal goals, and inspires individual citizens (not just soldiers) to behave honourably and unselfishly, in the service of a greater good. It supplies meaning and purpose, transcending the monotony of everyday life. Warfare also enables the expression of higher human qualities that often lie dormant in ordinary life, such as courage and self-sacrifice.

This seems tantamount to suggesting that human beings fight wars because we enjoy doing so. It’s easy to see how James’s ideas could apply to the large numbers of young British men volunteering to fight in Syria in recent months. These young men see themselves as fighting a just cause with fellow Muslims, but they’re surely also seeking the sense of being more alive that James describes: a sense of cohesion and honour, which they – perhaps romantically – feel is more attainable in war than at home in the UK.

James’s argument is that human beings need to find activities that provide the same positive effects of warfare but which don’t involve the same devastation, or as he calls it, “the moral equivalent of war”. In other words, we have to find alternative activities to give us that sense of feeling alive, of belonging and purpose.

In stable, peaceful and more economically developed countries, such as the UK and the US, life is so rich and varied that there are many ways of satisfying these needs – through sport, our careers, entertainment and hobbies. However, in other parts of the world where life is especially hard – when people live in poverty and are oppressed, and where there is little hope for the future, such as in Gaza, Palestine and many parts of Africa – it’s harder to satisfy those impulses.

Warfare may serve as a lowest common denominator to provide a semblance of psychological positivity, an attempt to live on a “higher plane of power”, in James’s words, with a sense of cohesion and purpose. If these needs are unsatisfied, and if there is an obvious enemy or oppressor to direct them towards, then warfare is almost inevitable.

This isn’t to say that a warring party may not have a just cause, and this argument doesn’t explore other important social and psychological factors involved in war, such as social identity and moral exclusion. However, it does show that any stable, lasting peace depends on creating societies with a richness of opportunity and variety that can meet human needs. The fact that so many societies throughout the world fail to do this makes our future prospects of peace look very bleak.

An Indian TV Crew Filmed Hamas Bombarding Israel — And Lived to Broadcast

Militants’ rocket launches rarely appear in the media

What a strange conflict Gaza has been. On the one hand, countless videos and photos have depicted Israeli soldiers, Israeli tanks and Israeli Iron Dome missiles in action. And especially Israeli bombs—and the Palestinian homes these munitions destroyed and the civilians they killed as the Jewish state tried to destroy Hamas’ rockets and tunnels.

Yet we never actually see Hamas fire rockets. We might glimpse smoke trails crossing the skies as newscasters tell us those are Hamas rockets hurtling toward Israel. But we never see human beings in the act of firing the missiles.

Until now. A news crew from India’s NDTV has filmed a Hamas rocket crew in action.

Prior to the NDTV crew’s scoop, it was as if some impersonal or supernatural force were responsible for rocket attacks on Israel. Like the scene from the movie Judgment at Nuremberg. “There are no Nazis in Germany, didn’t you know that?” frustrated U.S. war crimes prosecutor William Holden complains in the classic flick. “The Eskimos invaded Germany and took over. That’s how come all those terrible things happened.”

But Eskimos aren’t bombarding Tel Aviv and Ashkelon. Hamas is—though you never would know that judging from the videos and photos of the conflict.

This is because Hamas’ fighters stay out of sight and away from Israeli fire—so the press never glimpse them. At least that’s what one New York Timesphotographer says.

Others say that you never see Hamas launching rockets because the militants threaten any journalist who even tries to catch them in the act. Photographing dead Palestinians is fine with them. Photographing Palestinians trying to kill Israeli civilians is not.

There’s a lot of truth in the New York Times photog’s explanation. Superior Israeli firepower forces Hamas to fight from tunnels and buildings. Even front-line Israelis soldiers have complained that they’ve never actually seen a Hamas fighter in person.

However, the gutsy Indian television crew suggests that Hamas intimidation also is shaping the media image. If the Indians managed to film Hamas fighters firing rockets at Israel, how come no one else has?

In the footage, the NDTV reporter points down from a hotel window overlooking an abandoned plot of land in a densely populated residential area. He gestures to a blue tent that appeared the night before in the same spot from which Hamas had fired a rocket on a previous night.

The camera captures several men running cables out from under the tent and into some trees. They then take down the tent and cover up the spot with brush and mud.

Suddenly there’s a loud bang and a smoke cloud as the rocket fires, apparently triggered by command cables. The TV crew attempts to explore the firing point, only for bystanders to wave them off, warning that it’s foolhardy to go a fresh rocket launch site that Israel might swiftly bomb.

The film clip doesn’t show an Israeli retaliatory strike. But if there was one, it would have struck a built-up area, possibly injuring civilians. And there’sno way Hamas could not have been aware of that.

The Israeli Military Goes Back to Square One in the Gaza Strip

August 5, 2014
After 4 Weeks, Israel Reverts to Initial War Tactics

Overview of a tunnel built underground by Hamas militants leading from the Gaza Strip into Southern Israel, seen on Aug. 4 near the Israeli Gaza border, Israel. As Operation Protective Edge enters its 28th day, the Israeli mission of demolishing Hamas tunnels comes to a close and ground forces returned from Gaza, while Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and Hamas rocket fire to Israeli continues. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

TEL AVIV — After 17 days of deadly ground maneuvers primarily devoted to the unexpected need to destroy Hamas’ underground tunnel network, Israel’s Protective Edge operation is reverting largely to stand-off strikes from air, sea and land forces.

Israel sent troops into Gaza on July 18, ten days after Protective Edge began, because initial strikes were not achieving the operation’s aims: to hurt Hamas and other militant groups, halt rocket salvos and restore quiet along its border with Gaza. But the troops soon found themselves under attack by militants who emerged from tunnels to fire anti-tank rockets and other weapons and attempt to seize Israeli soldiers.

Israeli leaders belatedly realized that the underground facilities were vital to Hamas’ strategic effectiveness. This underestimation of the tunnels’ importance turned the ground assault into an unplanned nearly-house-to-house maneuvering operation.

Now Israel official believe they have destroyed all the tunnels and access routes and shafts that they have detected.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to reporters Aug. 4 after receiving a security briefing at IDF Southern Command. He said that the overall military operation would continue.

What Would You Do If Hamas Attacked You?

AUG 4 2014,

Why the question is so effective at silencing American critics of Israel.
A streak of light follows a Hamas rocket fired from northern Gaza into Israel (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

What would you do if your neighbor were launching rockets at your cities? It’s the question every supporter of Israel’s war in Gaza hurls at every American critic. And it’s a question Americans find extremely hard to answer. They find it hard to answer because they know what America would do. And it would make Israel’s actions in Gaza look tame.

Revealingly, the question is rarely asked the other way: What would you do if your people had been under occupation for almost 50 years and your territory was blockaded by air, land, and sea? It’s rarely asked because we Americans can’t easily imagine ourselves as a stateless people. I suspect this goes to the heart of why people in the developing world generally identify more strongly with the Palestinians than Americans do. If you live in Nigeria or Pakistan, the experience of living under the control of another country yet not being a citizen of that country is fairly recent. (White) Americans, by contrast, have to go back all the way to 1776.

Did the Israeli Invasion of Gaza Fail to Achieve Its Objectives?

Shlomi Eldar 
August 4, 2014 

Israeli withdrawal will leave Hamas empty-handed 

The unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, as decided upon by the Cabinet on Aug. 2, was the default choice. Any decision regarding Gaza would have to be the least of all possible evils. 

Hamas suffered a harsh blow, but its military forces did not collapse, and its regime was not toppled. This is not because the mission had an impossible goal, but because once again Israel preferred to make do with excruciating deterrence instead. 

It is true that the movement’s political and military leadership was not eliminated, and that as of the writing of these lines, Hamas continues to prove that it still has the capacity to fire rockets at Israel. Nevertheless, Hamas officials Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud al-Zahar, Khalil al-Hayya and the movement’s boastful spokesman Sami Abu Zuheri have not left their bunkers bearing trays of candy to distribute in the refugee camps, like they did after the last Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations — Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Pillar of Defense (2012). This time, they will be forced to explain to the people of Gaza — and apparently to themselves as well — where they went wrong. 

After all, the operational capacity of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades’ military wing of Hamas was significantly lower in all those previous campaigns. How, then, is it possible that Hamas is ending the current round with zero achievements and a real threat to its continued control of the Gaza Strip? 

For purposes of comparison, the last time the IDF conducted an extensive ground operation in the Gaza Strip was Operation Cast Lead. Tanks and infantry forces entered Gaza on the seventh day of the operation, but they encountered only marginal resistance from armed members of Hamas and other armed organizations. The northern Gaza Strip, where the bulk of the fiercest fighting took place this time, had been abandoned then by most of its residents, and all the armed resistance fled into Gaza City without having made any contact whatsoever with IDF forces in the field. Some even fled via tunnels from Rafah to Egypt until the fighting was over and calm was restored. 

This time, however, there was a stark difference in the kind of military resistance exhibited by Hamas. Still, even after years of training and the creation of a full-fledged military force — which, according to estimates, numbers 20,000 troops — with suicide units, a stockpile of thousands of rockets and anti-tank weapons and a vast network of tunnels, Hamas’ military wing has failed to achieve an inkling of an accomplishment of which they can be proud, as they were in the past. 

The IDF’s two previous operations ended at the negotiating table in Cairo. During Operation Cast Lead, then-President Hosni Mubarak was concerned that unrest in Gaza would spread to the Sinai Peninsula, so he ignored the hundreds of tunnels in Rafah that linked Gaza to Egypt and eased the siege significantly. 

Without EU Cash, Russian Business Is Sunk

Jul. 31 2014 

Before the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, it was hard to see how the Europeans were going to implement serious economic sanctions against Russia. But the shooting-down of a civilian airliner has been a political game-changer and has rapidly pushed formerly reluctant countries like Germany and France to a position that was widely considered impossible not even a full month ago.

It is possible, of course, that the Europeans will lose their nerve. Stranger things have happened than the European Union changing course at the last minute, and nothing prevents the sanctions from being softened a week, a month or, God forbid, even a year down the line.

Given the political reality, however, and the Russian government's continued and loud insistence that it has nothing to apologize for, it now seems probable that Russia will be faced with a sanction regime for the short and medium terms. I'd like to forecast a reduction in tensions in Ukraine because that country has suffered enough already. But over the past five months, every time it appeared that things had finally started to get better, they rapidly relapsed.

So what will the sanctions do? The consensus view among most economists is that they will be a serious, if not catastrophic, problem.

In particular, Western analysts express broad agreement that the latest sanctions will substantially limit Russian companies' ability to borrow and will make that borrowing much more expensive. After all, it is hard to structure a deal when no one knows whether the bank funding it will soon be on a Western blacklist. 

The Russian finance sector is largely at a standstill already, a combination of the sanctions themselves and the pervasive uncertainty they have inspired. Russia has benefited greatly from its ability to access long-term credit in Western financial systems, particularly London, and that access is now sharply constrained.


A 27-year-old Indian-origin soldier in the Israeli army, Sergeant First Class Barak Refael Degorker died on July 26 after being hit by a mortar shell near the Gaza Strip border.

He belonged to the Bene-Israel community, which has its origins in the Mumbai region, and with a strength of around 50,000 it is the largest Indian community in Israel. However, Sergeant Degorker was not the first foreign-origin soldier of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to be killed in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. Amongst the IDF soldiers killed in the current round of fighting (Operation Protective Edge) there are two soldiers from the US and one from France so far.

Earlier in the month, Israel had mourned the deaths of the two American-origin soldiers in the Gaza war: Sergeant Sean Carmeli, who was raised in Texas, and Los Angeles native Sergeant Max Steinberg. All the three sergeants were considered heroes in Israel and their funerals were attended by thousands of people. Though they all served in the IDF, there is a distinction between Sergeant Degorker and Sergeants Carmeli and Steinberg; the latter two were “lone soldier(s)”.

In the IDF, a lone soldier (Hebrew: Hayal Boded) is defined as a serviceman or woman without parents in Israel. They are not Israeli citizens, yet have come not just from the US, but also from countries as far away as Australia, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa to serve in the IDF. According to the IDF, 8,217 foreign-born personnel enlisted between 2009 and August 2012. The most represented countries of origin were Russia and the US, with 1,685 and 1,661 recruits respectively. The motivation for these young men and women to make this major decision in their lives is the belief in Israel; the land which through history has been home to their faith. In many cases the first interaction of these people with the Jewish state is through the Birthright programme.
Birthright Programme

Can Israel Solve Its Gaza Nightmare?

August 5, 2014 

"For Israel, unfortunately, all the options are bad."

I am awoken by the piercing sound of the alert siren—another rocket attack—and sleepily make my way to the safe room in my apartment. Ever since Iraq fired missiles at Israel in 1991, every home has one room made out of reinforced concrete, capable of withstanding all but the heaviest warheads. It looks just like a regular room, except for the outer steel plate which can be drawn closed to cover the window, and a similar door. A few minutes go by and I go back to sleep. It is Saturday, after all.

Netanya, where I live, half an hour north of Tel Aviv, has been lucky and only had half a dozen alerts since the fighting broke out. Just minutes to the south, there have been far more and in some areas, especially near Gaza, people have had to endure that many alerts, or many more, each day. So far, Hamas has fired over 2,900 rockets at Israel, more than 100 per day.

In some ways, this is an existential war—not really about Israel’s very existence, that is no longer in doubt, we won that battle through repeated bloody confrontations with the Arabs over the decades, and Hamas itself has no ability to threaten Israel’s existence—but over the nature and quality of our existence. One can minimize the Hamas threat; thanks to Israel’s incredible Iron Dome antirocket system, only three civilians have been killed by rockets so far and most of the sixty-four soldiers killed were due to mortars, attack tunnels and the generally difficult nature of urban warfare, not rockets. Indeed, this has been a deluxe war for Israel; life in most of the country, though not near Gaza, goes on with near normalcy; people go to work, the beach, movies—albeit with those occasional heart-stopping moments when the alert goes off.

Alternatively, one can focus on the utter insanity of the situation: a modern Western country, a world leader in high-tech, a remarkable center of cultural life, repeatedly forced to endure periods of attack by terrorist organizations that are based on its borders and seek its destruction. This is now the fourth major round in the eight years since Hezbollah initiated the 2006 Lebanon War, during which it fired over 4,228 rockets at Israel in thirty-four days. It was followed by Hamas’ rocket fire, which led to the Cast Lead Operation in December 2008-January 2009 (893 rockets and mortars in twenty-one days) and by renewed Hamas rocket fire which led to Operation Defensive Pillar in November 2012 (1,500 rockets in eight days). This is clearly no way to live.


August 6, 2014 

Editor’s note: We’ve partnered with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) to publish a series of infographics based on data from their Global Terrorism Database and related START projects. Each week we’ll release a new set of graphics that depict trends in global terrorism activity. Sign up for the War on the Rocks newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any of them!

Experts have suggested that there are marked differences in the behaviors of leftist and religious groups, namely that religiously motivated groups tend to target civilians at a greater rate and kill more people per attack than do leftist organizations. This week’s graphics examine the three most active leftist and three most active religious groups in the last 10 years to see if these assessments are supported by the data. The first graphic looks at a breakdown of target types by leftist and religious groups using these six groups as representative samples. Based on target selection, there isn’t much difference between leftist and religious groups. They target civilians roughly the same amount. Leftist groups do tend to target businesses more than religious groups, who, in turn, tend to focus more on security targets.

Target Selection, Leftist vs Religious Groups 

However, what is supported by the data is the idea that leftist groups tend to be less deadly than religious groups. The next graphic shows the number of attacks and the average lethality of attacks for each of the six groups. As the chart shows, each of the religiously-motivated organizations killed more people on average than did the leftist groups. In the case of AQI/ISIL, the group averaged nearly 7 deaths per attack, while the most lethal leftist group—CPI Maoist—killed on average 1.24 per attack.

Attack Lethality of Leftist and Religious Groups 

The final graphic shows the individual breakdown of target types for each of the six groups. When we look at each group individually, we see that AQI/ISIL and NPA seem to be the archetypes for the hypothesized behaviors of religious and leftist groups. However, the story is a bit more complicated for the rest of the groups. All of them include a substantial number of civilians among their targets, with CPI-Maoist targeting civilians more than any other target type. Each group also appears to prioritize security forces as targets, which is not surprising.

Target Selection of Specific Leftist and Religious Groups 

Ultimately, what these graphics show is that neat conceptualizations of the targeting practices of terrorist groups are difficult to develop based purely on ideological motivation. Efforts to create them will very often be frustrated by groups that stubbornly refuse to fit the explanatory mold.

U.S. Army Major General Killed by Afghan Soldier in Worst Insider Attack on Record

Matthew Rosenberg and Haris Kakar
August 5, 2014

U.S. General Is Killed in Attack at Afghan Base, Officials Say
An Afghanistan National Army soldier at a gate of Camp Qargha after the shooting on Tuesday. Credit Massoud Hossaini/Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan soldier shot a United States Army major general to death and wounded a German brigadier general and at least 14 other foreign and Afghan military service members on Tuesday at a military training academy on the outskirts of Kabul, officials of the American-led coalition said Tuesday. The major general appeared to be the highest-ranking member of the American military to die in hostilities overseas since the Vietnam War.

The coalition officials said a senior Afghan commander also was among the wounded. The officials declined to identify any of the victims by name. The identity of the gunman was not disclosed, either, but a Pentagon spokesman told reporters in Washington that he had been killed.

The Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, also said officials believed the gunman was “a member of the Afghan national security forces,” but he had no other details about him or the circumstances of the shooting.

Admiral Kirby also said the shooting, the first so-called insider attack in months in Afghanistan, was an inherent risk of the war, calling it “a pernicious threat and always difficult to ascertain.”
The German military confirmed that one of its brigadier generals serving in Afghanistan was among 15 coalition-led troops wounded in the shooting, described as “presumably an internal attack.” The general was being treated for his injuries, which were not life-threatening, the Germans said in a statement.


By Shadi Hamid
August 4, 2014 · 

After the uprisings of 2011, the Arab world seemed to be moving towards democracy, but the recent resurgence of strongmen have illustrated just how deep certain divides still are — and how desperate people are for stability.

In the tense build-up to the 2011 uprisings, Arabs seemed to be turning away from dictatorship. Poll after poll showed that more Egyptians, Jordanians and Moroccans believed democracy was the best form of government than did Americans or, say, Poles. But “democracy” in the abstract could mean just about anything as long as it was positive. It was one thing to believe in democracy and quite another to practice it.

In Egypt, the loss of faith in not just democracy, but in the very notion of politics, was particularly striking. A not insignificant number of Egyptians backed the military coup of July 3, 2013, and then turned away from — or, worse, embraced — the mass killing of their countrymen on August 14, 2013. More than 600 were killed in mere hours, as security forces moved to disperse Muslim Brotherhood supporters from two protest camps in Cairo. This happened exactly a year ago — and will remain a dark blot on the country’s history. It, in a sense, is what the Arab Spring had managed to unleash — not just chaos but something darker.

Before they began to falter, the region’s autocrats, whether in Tunisia, Syria or Yemen, were fond of reminding Westerners that despite their brutality — or perhaps because of it — they were the ones keeping the peace and ensuring stability. As Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in a televised address just 10 days before he was ousted, “The events of the last few days require us all as a people and as a leadership to choose between chaos and stability.” In a sense, he and his fellow autocrats were right — there was a tradeoff. These, after all, were weak states, divided by religion, ideology, sect and clan.

With little warning, the uprisings pushed these internal tensions and conflicts that had always simmering in the background to the fore. Before the uprisings, Arab strongmen had governed unwieldy countries with arbitrary borders and uncertain identities. They promised stability at the expense of liberty — and it was a bargain that held for decades.

Questions of Identity


By Amit Gupta, IPCS

US’ policy towards the turmoil in the Middle East, or the lack of it, is shaped by three factors: traditional ties and alliances that continue in the post-Cold War era; the complex regional environment that has emerged after the so-called “Arab Spring;” and the events of 9/11 and Iraq that have forged American opinion on the subject. Yet none of these factors are any help in resolving the current political turmoil in the Middle East.

The US’ traditional ties in the Middle East have been with conservative Arab regimes, particularly in the Gulf, and with the state of Israel. Neither set of ties has changed much in the 21st century and if anything the ties with Israel have become even stronger since 9/11. International observers now, in fact, complain of an American media bias towards Israel in the current Gaza conflict that is much more marked than in past Arab-Israeli conflicts. The US is unlikely to change this relationship given the impact of the other two factors mentioned above.

The Arab Spring was a bombshell that policymakers, academics, and the American media were not expecting and a coherent American policy took some time to develop. What eventually emerged was a policy that supported a democratic transition with a preference for moderate political forces having their hands on the wheel. In none of the Arab countries did events play out the way policymakers expected. In Egypt, the military dismissed the legally elected president and was able to get its own candidate elected in a new election. In Tunisia, the nation which has seen the best potential transition to democracy, a conservative Islamic party came to power and has subsequently called for parliamentary and presidential elections in October/November 2014. In Libya, Colonel Gadhafi was removed from power but the country is now headed into a civil war and Western embassies, aid workers, and journalists are leaving the country en masse. In Bahrain, the fledgling movement for democracy was crushed by the authorities while in Yemen cosmetic changes were made to the regime. Iraq and Syria are engulfed in civil war and have seen the rise of ISIS – a group so brutal that even al Qaeda has had to disown them.

As for the Palestinians, the rise of Hamas was viewed with disquiet by Israel, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation on the West Bank, and by the conservative Arab states and even the new government in Egypt. Paradoxically, it is the non-Arab states – Turkey and Iran – that have been the most vocal supporters of Palestinian nationhood. Add to these concerns the fact that in the post-9/11 world the West is worried by the rise of radical groups in the Middle East, all these events only work to strengthen the relationship with Israel which is seen as a loyal ally. What then is the likely endgame for the US, if any, in the region?