19 October 2014

Sending Pakistan to Mars

Oct 19, 2014
Pervez Hoodbhoy

When spacecraft Mangalyaan successfully entered the Martian orbit in late September after a 10-month journey, India erupted in joy. Costing more than an F-16 but less than a Rafale, Mangalyaan’s meticulous planning and execution established India as a space-faring country. Although Indians had falsely celebrated their five nuclear tests of 1998 which were based upon well-known physics of the 1940s the Mars mission is a true accomplishment.

Pakistanis may well ask: can we do it too? What will it take? Seen in the proper spirit, India’s foray into the solar system could be Pakistan’s sputnik moment — an opportunity to reflect upon what’s important. Let’s see how India did it: First, space travel is all about science and India’s young ones are a huge reservoir of enthusiasm for science. Surveys show that 12-16 year olds practically worship Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, are fascinated by black holes and Schrödinger cats, and most want a career in science. They see more prestige in this than becoming doctors, lawyers, financial managers, or Army officers. Although most eventually settle for more conventional professions, this eagerness leads India’s very best students towards science.

Ten years ago, I had personally experienced this youthful enthusiasm during a four-week lecture tour across seven Indian cities that took me to all sorts of schools, colleges and universities. In places, hundreds turned up for my talks on scientific subjects. Every city had at least one much-visited science museum, and sometimes two or three. Student scientific societies, which appeared active, were everywhere.

Second, Indian universities have created the necessary backbone for advanced scientific projects. University quality goes from moderately bad to very good, with the median lying around fair. Many mediocre ones produce rotten science PhDs and publications prodigiously, suffocating growth. On the positive side, research in the theoretical sciences carried out in India’s very best universities as well as institutes such as TIFR and IMSC compares favourably with that in the world’s top universities.

Why Pakistan upped the ante on the border

Raj Chengappa

The Pakistan Army and the government are working in consonance to disrupt the forthcoming J&K elections to discredit India internationally. Modi’s big test lies in handling the latest Kashmir crisis, putting it above political interests of the BJP in the state.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart to his swearing-in ceremony this May and Nawaz Sharif accepted the invitation, it was hailed as an act of statesmanship. With the governments they headed enjoying a majority in their respective Parliaments there were expectations of a significant upturn in India-Pakistan relations.

That hope gathered momentum when it was agreed to resume the dialogue process with Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to travel to Islamabad to meet Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry in August. But that initiative was soon shot to pieces when India cancelled the visit after it complained that Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit had crossed the red line by holding talks with Kashmir separatists despite requests not to do so.

Since then everything has gone downhill and relations between the two touched another low this month, with heavy fire being exchanged daily, both on the LoC and the International Border, killing civilians on both sides. As of yesterday, India claimed that nine of its civilians had died while Islamabad maintained that 12 Pakistani civilians had been killed.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz upped the ante by requesting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene, accusing India of “deliberate and unprovoked violations of the ceasefire agreement and cross-border agreement”. Aziz also sought the support of the UN Security Council on this issue. In September, Sharif in his address to the UN General Assembly devoted several minutes talking on Kashmir and even raised the issue of implementing the 1948 UN Resolution for holding a Plebiscite in Kashmir — the first time in recent years that a Pakistan PM has done so.



Sunday, 19 October 2014 | Col Vivek Chadha (retd) | 
It is clear that India is in a position to manage status quo in J&K. It is also evident that Pakistan is in no position to alter it. Therefore, the policy of employing terrorism as state policy, firing on the borders and terrorism in the hinterland will only further weaken and isolate Pakistan, says Col Vivek Chadha (retd)

The recent firing on both the international border (IB) and line of control (LoC) sectors has been seen as an India-Pakistan standoff. This in many ways is a misrepresentation and misinterpretation of reality. The situation on the borders is a continuation of Pakistan’s attempt to change status quo, wherein it wants to seize Jammu and Kashmir, irrespective of the means employed. This is evident both from its long-term strategy and the recent incidents.

The statement of Bilawal Bhutto on September 19, however naive it may sound, is symbolic of this deep-rooted manifestation amongst the Pakistani power brokers. Even as Pakistan pursues this agenda through state-sponsored terrorism, it wants to use talks to keep up the facade of congeniality. Conversely, India’s robust response on the borders and the decision to call the bluff on the inevitability of talks, despite provocations, indicates a shift in Government policy and security strategy.


Pakistan’s failure to wrest J&K, despite three wars in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971, underscored the futility of conventional conflicts as a means to gain territory. Worse, the defeat and division of Pakistan as a result of the 1971 war, left in its wake a deep sense of humiliation. The failure to occupy Siachen Glacier further aggravated the feeling of being dispossessed by India, of what was incorrectly seen as an area belonging to Pakistan. An attempt was made to snatch through proxy war what was lost as a result of popular sentiment and defeat on the battlefield. While this strategy did not achieve fruition in Punjab in the Eighties, J&K presented yet another opportunity for Pakistan. A twin objective was followed by keeping the LoC on the boil and the State unhinged through an endless series of terrorist strikes. This was accompanied by repeated calls for international intervention despite the bilateral nature of the issue in accordance with the Simla agreement of 1972 and Lahore Declaration of 1999. This strategy seemed to be succeeding until a revamp of defensive deployment limited the ability of terrorists to infiltrate through the LoC and the success of counter-terrorist operations contained terrorism within the State. And finally, the growing understanding of Pakistan’s status as the epicentre of transnational terrorism brought the international community face to face with long-neglected realities.

This frustrated the attempts of Pakistani backroom ISI agents and the army to control violence levels as was possible in the past. The only choice left for destabilising J&K and bring it back into international focus was to look for alternative areas which could be activated militarily along with simultaneous terrorist strikes. This manifested in the recent increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the IB sector of J&K (called working boundary by Pakistan) and an increase in infiltration attempts by terrorists along with sensational strikes.

Islam for peace, or violence?

Do not ‘essentialise’ religion. Gandhi’s Gita and Azad’s Quran do not say the same thing as the Gita of Nathuram Godse and the Quran of Osama bin Laden. ( Source: AP )
Written by Javed Anand | Posted: October 18, 2014

Until recently, often in private and sometimes publicly, the complaint was voiced that moderate Muslims do not speak out or not loudly enough against Muslim extremism, militant Islam. Now, curiously, the ongoing savagery of the Islamic State has prompted the high priests of “New Atheism” (for whom “moderate Muslim” is an oxymoron) to turn their guns against liberals in general.

The bitter war of words was triggered by the comedian, satirist and HBO talk-show host, Bill Maher, who in his October 3 programme charged liberals with shying away from defending liberal principles when it came to Islam, “the only religion that behaves like the mafia”. Nodding vigorous consent, the American author, philosopher, co-founder and chief executive of Project Reason, Sam Harris, chimed in with “Islam is the mother lode of all bad ideas”. An outraged fellow-panelist, actor Ben Affleck, damned Maher and Harris’s views as “bigoted”, “racist” and “disgusting”.

Three days later, CNN invited the well-known Iranian-American scholar of religion, Reza Aslan, to answer the question: “Does Islam promote violence?” The same day, Ali A. Rizvi, the Pakistani-Canadian writer, physician and musician currently working on The Atheist Muslim, wrote “An Open Letter to Moderate Muslims”, which was posted on Huffington Post. “You condemn all kinds of terrible things being done in the name of your religion,” he said, “but when the same things appear as verses in your book [the Quran], you use all your faculties to defend them. This comes across as either denial or disingenuousness, both of which make an honest conversation impossible. This isn’t working anymore”. Rizvi’s parting words: “Islam needs reformers, not moderates”.

And peanuts for MGNREGA

The Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana is supposed to revive a jaded Nehruvian ‘innovation’ from the 1950s — model villages.
Written by Bunker Roy | Posted: October 18, 2014

We want Prime Minister Narendra Modi to succeed in his national campaign to tackle the vast problems of the poor in Bharat. But his one-time contractor turned Union minister for rural development is succeeding in making his own prime minister look contradictory and indecisive to the nation and the world. The prime minister talks about constructing toilets and improving sanitation, opening bank accounts for every poor, excluded family, helping small and marginal farmers increase productivity, providing employment opportunities to the rural youth, women, handicapped and tribals in all the villages of Bharat.

Yet, under his very nose and blatantly without any conscience, the minister for rural development is undercutting the PM’s public statements by decimating, diluting and, indeed, destroying the largest rights-based employment guarantee statute in the world. It is a statute this country should be proud of, the only national programme of any depth that could make Modi’s dream of providing rural jobs a reality: the MGNREGA.

The rumour doing the rounds is that there is a directive from the prime minister’s office to cut it down from 643 districts benefiting 100 million households to 200 districts, on the grounds that the subsidy is being wasted and only the poor districts need to be covered. Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari, it would seem, is just a tool and a front. But we would like to give the prime minister the benefit of the doubt.

When the Rs 34,000 crore (non-subsidy) MGNREGA budget for 2014-2015 is compared to the Rs 60,000 crore subsidy for fertilisers, the Rs 97,000 crore subsidy for petroleum and the additional Rs 60,000 crore subsidy allocated to state governments, it is peanuts. It is only 0.07 per cent of the GDP. It is equivalent to the cost of developing one video game (Destiny). The amount that the government is cribbing about spending on 300 million households all over the country is only 1 per cent of the amount spent on cat and dog food in America.

How to Rebuild Kashmir

October 15, 2014 

'Let people across the LoC see the resolve of Bharat and the contribution of the Indian Security Forces in rebuilding the Valley.'

'Let disaster become the rallying point for integration -- not only of society but also all the instruments of State,' says Lieutenant General Anil Chait (retd).

General Chait, was General-Officer-Commanding of the Indian Army's Central Command. He was in charge of the rescue efforts during the Uttarakhand floods and led rescue teams and pilgrims on foot during the disaster.

As we deal with the aftermath of Cyclone Hudhud, thoughts go back to screeching national headlines that had the nation riveted to television and newspaper reports showing Srinagar under water with captions like 'All at sea in rebuilding Kashmir'.

Last week it read, 'Ravaged J&K Needs Your Help'. While those not so optimistic may wonder how it will be done; those who believe in the positive vibrancy of India, feel hopeful about India's ability to deal with the challenges of individual safety and the comprehensive security of its people.

Unless it is done and demonstrated to the world, we as a nation cannot claim to have arrived on the world stage. This is all the more contextual when the prime minister of the nation describes the tragedy to be a national disaster.

Be it rescue or relief or be it reconstruction and rehabilitation, the instruments of national power of modern India are not so weak to let this moment of despair erode the will of the nation to 'Rebuild the lost Paradise'.

The history of J&K, post-Independence, comprises of four sub texts. The first 25 years, from 1947 to 1972, were dominated by territorial dispute between India and Pakistan which resulted in three wars.

The second phase of 15 years, from 1972 to 1987, witnessed a lull and hence a feeble consolidation in the matters of governance.

The third phase of 27 years consisted of war amongst the people and confrontations between sections of population in Kashmir and the State.

In the fourth, we are witness to nature and climate turning adversarial on account of the mindless exploitation of the Jhelum and its adjoining areas by its own inhabitants.

The cumulative impact threatens the history and culture of the Valley. Thank God, at least in this so far, there is no foreign hand. But will this hand remain far away and if so, for how long?

The appearance of the black flags of the Islamic State and firing across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary does nor portend well for the security of people.

Significant in the narrative of J&K today is the contribution of the security forces in minimising human misery. The moot point is what should be their future role, considering the peculiarities associated with the disturbed status of the state of J&K and the near collapse of the administration.

We are therefore back to the inflexion point, wondering as to how we can cope with the destruction caused by the floods which impacts the safety of our people not only on account of infectious diseases, but also in view of an unresponsive and lethargic administration considering the approaching winter.

How do we rebuild the lives of our poor countrymen through the creation of an appropriate climate for improving living conditions without harassment and corruption?

How Long Do US Troops Need To Stay in Afghanistan?

October 15, 2014


For weeks now, the media has been gleefully recounting what former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta thinks about the decision by his old boss, President Obama, to withdraw American troops from Iraq. “Panetta unloads on White House for pulling US forces out of Iraq,” read a recent Fox News headline. “Leon Panetta blows whistle on lies about Iraq,” announced Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post.


Peter Beinart is a contributing editor at The Atlantic, an associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York, and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.Full Bio

Fine. Panetta has every right to bash Obama for ignoring his advice and withdrawing too many U.S. troops too fast. And given the disaster that Iraq is today, it’s only natural that the press would cover the comments.

But what the reporters interviewing Panetta generally don’t ask is what he thinks about Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. That’s a shame, because if the Iraq-troop debate is about assigning blame for tragic decisions in the past, the Afghanistan-troop debate is about deciding whether to implement potentially tragic decisions in the future. Afghanistan, in other words, is the troop-withdrawal debate that really matters right now. Yet it gets almost no play in the media.

If it did, Americans might realize that we may be headed for disaster yet again. In his new book, Panetta says that in 2013, during his final days at the Pentagon, he “was pressing” the White House to “consider endorsing the maintenance of a residual force of 8,000 to 10,000 soldiers” in Afghanistan afterU.S. combat operations ended in 2014. He then notes with satisfaction that, after he left, “President Obama the following year [2014] announced that he, too, favored leaving 9,800 American troops in the country after the end of combat operations.”

This makes it sound as if Obama promised to leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan in perpetuity. What Obama actually said was that U.S. troop levels would drop to “approximately 9,800” by the end of 2014 and “roughly half” that by the end of 2015, and that “by the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we’ve done in Iraq.” This month, a White House spokesperson confirmed that this is still the plan.

It’s a plan that many of the people paying closest attention to Afghanistan fear could end in tears. That includes Obama’s generals, who according to The New York Times “had recommended leaving at least 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for several years (my italics) after the formal end of the combat mission in 2014.” (It’s unclear from Panetta’s book whether he backed the generals.) It includes commanders of the Afghan military, one of whom told The Washington Post, “Leaving in 2016 is not responsible.” It includes regional leaders like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who during his recent trip to the United States explained that he “requested to America, regarding the defense withdrawal subject—please do not repeat the mistake that you did in Iraq. … [T]he withdrawal process from Afghanistan should be very slow, and only then can we stop the Taliban from emerging its head.” And it includes regional experts like renowned Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, whorecently called the U.S. withdrawal plan “catastrophically wrong” and predicted it “will almost certainly mean the relapse of Afghanistan into civil war and the emergence of groups even more extreme than the Taliban, as has happened in Iraq and Syria.”

What these doomsayers understand is that Afghanistan is just as politically and militarily dysfunctional as Iraq, only poorer. Afghanistan’s newly created national-unity government was stuck together with chewing gum by John Kerry after the two contenders in its recent election almost took up arms. According to Rashid, the Taliban is now active in a majority of the country’s provinces and “in many areas, Afghan soldiers are barely able to secure their own bases.” Last month, The Washington Post reported that “Afghanistan’s central government is nearly broke and needs a $537 million bailout from the United States and other international donors within ‘five or six days’ to continue paying its bills.”

Why we can't take Afghanistan for granted

Sumitha Narayanan Kutty 
October 12, 2014 

Hamid Karzai clung tight to India but Afghanistan's new leadership may have other ideas

Afghanistan has a new president, albeit two months late. And even as the newly inaugurated president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and his “chief executive officer” Abdullah Abdullahhash out the specifics of the country’s first peaceful political transition, outgoing president Hamid Karzai minced no words to convey who he thought were Afghanistan’s ‘true friends.’

“The Western countries and the United States of America came to Afghanistan for their personal goals. There are also countries who, without having personal agendas, are here for honest cooperation with Afghanistan’s government. One example is India.”

Karzai’s sharp criticism of the United States and NATO alliance in the same breath as his praise for India were completely in line with what he has been saying for a long while now. It was interesting to see his no holds barred attempt to drive this point home crediting India, Iran, Russia, China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan… and India, again.

Before India breaks out the champagne, it would be prudent to acknowledge that the stakes have changed in a post-Karzai Afghanistan. The India-Afghanistanpartnership now hinges on the new national unity government in Kabul – forged between two bitter rivals nonetheless – and their vision of regional cooperation. Ghani and Abdullah will together decide where India fits (though rumor has it, the president has the final word).

“Indian military aid not priority”

The United States is set to withdraw all but 9,800 troops by year end from Afghanistan, with a complete exit scheduled by 2016. Given this situation, India has often been urged to assume a more active role in the country, particularly of the military kind. There has been great (and well-intentioned) interest for India, which has spent $2 billion in aid, to step up to the plate and become Afghanistan’s “Plan B” of sorts. As president, Hamid Karzai championed the same. In the last year alone, he made three visits to New Delhi. He also handed over a military “wish-list” in December 2013.

By June this year even as Karzai made a renewed push for greater military aid, both Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah, then presidential finalists, began hinting at other ideas for the relationship.

First, they do not seem to prioritize military cooperation as Karzai did. Responding to this writer’s question on whether he would push for greater military cooperation with India like his predecessor, Abdullah Abdullah who is a traditional Indian ally answered in the negative.

“In terms of dealing with Prime Minister Modi’s government, I don’t think the priority for Afghanistan is to ask for military aid at this stage, ” he replied at a video conversation organized by the Atlantic Council in Washington DC in June. He however added that he was keen to work with New Delhi to enhance “existing areas of cooperation for the benefit of economic development in Afghanistan.”

A quick scan of the Northern Alliance leader’s election manifesto finds New Delhi placed within the two pillars of his ‘economic agenda’ – the first, for furthering regional connectivity and second, on deepening energy partnerships, specifically the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.

President Ashraf Ghani is yet to evince special interest in India’s role in his country. His foreign policythrust has remained oriented to the West, particularly the United States, with a regional thrust on a“ten-year process of engagement with Pakistan.” He has expressed some interest in talking to India on trilateral issues such as transit.

The Afghan president’s 310-page election manifesto mentions India frequently, but in very vague terms with respect to strategies for Afghanistan’s education, health, economic and trade sectors. In the section devoted to foreign policy, the country is only placed in Kabul’s “Fourth Circle” of communication along with China and other “Asian countries.” India finds itself ranked behind “Neighbors” (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran & Pakistan); “Islamic Countries” and “Europe, USA, Canada and Japan.”

The Afghanistan Withdrawal: A Potential Disaster in the Making

OCT 15 2014

Disputes over Iraq have distracted Americans from a more important debate.

Planes carrying Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's delegation leave Forward Operating Base Shukvani in Afghanistan. (Reuters)

For weeks now, the media has been gleefully recounting what former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta thinks about the decision by his old boss, President Obama, to withdraw American troops from Iraq. “Panetta unloads on White House for pulling US forces out of Iraq,” read a recent Fox News headline. “Leon Panetta blows whistle on lies about Iraq,” announced Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post.

Fine. Panetta has every right to bash Obama for ignoring his advice and withdrawing too many U.S. troops too fast. And given the disaster that Iraq is today, it’s only natural that the press would cover the comments.

But what the reporters interviewing Panetta generally don’t ask is what he thinks about Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. That’s a shame, because if the Iraq-troop debate is about assigning blame for tragic decisions in the past, the Afghanistan-troop debate is about deciding whether to implement potentially tragic decisions in the future. Afghanistan, in other words, is the troop-withdrawal debate that really matters right now. Yet it gets almost no play in the media.

If it did, Americans might realize that we may be headed for disaster yet again. In his new book, Panetta says that in 2013, during his final days at the Pentagon, he “was pressing” the White House to “consider endorsing the maintenance of a residual force of 8,000 to 10,000 soldiers” in Afghanistan after U.S. combat operations ended in 2014. He then notes with satisfaction that, after he left, “President Obama the following year [2014] announced that he, too, favored leaving 9,800 American troops in the country after the end of combat operations.”

What Does Global 'Credibility' Even Mean? This makes it sound as if Obama promised to leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan in perpetuity. What Obama actually said was that U.S. troop levels would drop to “approximately 9,800” by the end of 2014 and “roughly half” that by the end of 2015, and that “by the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we’ve done in Iraq.” This month, a White House spokespersonconfirmed that this is still the plan.

Iraqi Army Faltering in Battles With ISIS West of Baghdad

ISIS Keeps Up Pressure Near Baghdad as Iraqi Troops Stumble

Kirk Semple and Eric Schmitt

New York Times, October 18, 2014

A woman on Wednesday at the site of a suicide car bombing that happened Tuesday in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya neighborhood. Credit Ahmed Saad/Reuters

BAGHDAD — Islamic State militants are still dominating the fight in Iraq’s crucial Anbar Province weeks into the American air campaign, as the Iraqi military has struggled to go on the offensive and has been unable to make the most of coalition air support, officials say.

Even as international airstrikes have factored heavily in allowing Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting farther north and in Syria to make gains against the jihadists, the air campaign has been limited in Anbar, in part because Iraqi forces there have mostly stayed at their garrisons. American military advisers are increasing pressure on their Iraqi counterparts to leave their bases and seize the initiative, officials in Washington say.

Exploiting the slow pace, fighters for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have aggressively pressed their campaign in recent weeks, commandeering towns and military garrisons along the Euphrates River Valley in Anbar, a vast desert province that stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad to the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

“Anbar Province is in trouble,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said recently. “We know that.”

As Iraqi and American officials have tried to rally the Iraqi security forces, efforts in Baghdad to achieve a more unified political front to face the crisis have also gone slowly. Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has been struggling to gain support not only from minority Sunnis and Kurds — a process President Obama called critical to any military effort — but even within his own Shiite bloc. Despite weeks of wrangling, he has yet to fill the two crucial security posts in his cabinet: defense and interior.

Kremlin Going After Russian Human Rights Group ‘Memorial’ Because of Group’s Reporting on Russian Military Casualties in Ukraine War

Russia Rights Group Says It Is Targeted by Kremlin to Control History

Reuters, October 17, 2014

MOSCOW — At the height of the uprising by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine this summer, a handful of human rights workers recorded that Russian soldiers had been killed on the battlefield, even though the Kremlin said its troops were never there.

It was typical work for activists from the group Memorial, which has emerged since the fall of the Soviet Union as Russia’s most important human rights organization mainly by taking notes.

Memorial was founded by Soviet-era dissidents to document the historical crimes of the Communist dictatorship’s Gulag. It came into its own during two wars in Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s, when it sent teams of researchers into the conflict zone, documenting the disappearances of civilians whose cases would otherwise have gone unrecorded.

It has always been risky work: one of Memorial’s board members, Natalya Estemirova, was kidnapped and killed in Chechnya in 2009 while researching allegations of abuse by pro-Moscow authorities there. The crime has never been solved.

But even though the group has clashed with the Kremlin on so many occasions, the authorities never actually tried to shut it down. Until now.

Last month, the Justice Ministry announced that it had appealed to the Supreme Court to have Memorial “liquidated” for what it described as repeated violations of the Russian constitution and Russian law.

For Oleg Orlov, one of the group’s founding members, the push to shut down Memorial shows that the Kremlin is determined not only to stifle dissent in the present, but to control the past.

"Kremlin propaganda needs to show that Russia has always moved from victory to victory. In these current conditions of propagandistic hysteria, we’re simply not needed," Orlov said.


Controlling the narrative has been the foremost weapon of war for Russia in Ukraine since it seized the Crimea region in March. The Kremlin insisted from the start that its own troops were not operating in Ukraine, first in Crimea and later in the eastern provinces seized by heavily armed pro-Russian rebels.

"Memorial discussed the accusations of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, it knew what going on," said Sergei Krivenko, a member of the group who led efforts to document the deaths of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian soil.

It is easy to see how that work might anger the Kremlin. But some Memorial activists say the group’s documentation of the crimes of the Soviet era, when millions perished in the Gulag prisons of Joseph Stalin, is as dangerous to Putin’s mythology as its work on present-day events in Ukraine or Chechnya.

In 2012, when Putin returned to the presidency after stepping aside for a term as prime minister, he passed a law requiring all organisations that receive overseas funding to register as “foreign agents”. Memorial was tarred with that label, with its implication of disloyalty, last year.

Could China’s Nuclear Strategy Evolve?

By Nicolas Giacometti
October 16, 2014

For half a century, China’s nuclear strategy has been surprisingly consistent. Will it remain so? 

Fifty years ago, at 7:00 GMT on October 16, 1964, China exploded its first nuclear device at the Lop Nur test site, becoming the fifth official member of the nuclear club after the U.S., the Soviet Union, the U.K. and France. This anniversary is an occasion to take stock of fifty years of Chinese nuclear strategy and reflect on its potential evolution in light of the ongoing modernization of the country’s nuclear arsenal. Overall, the analyst is faced with the problem of peering through the fog of Beijing’s nuclear secrecy to assess the credibility of Beijing’s seemingly unaltered nuclear strategy.

Since 1964, China’s declaratory policy has remained surprisingly consistent. Beijing regularly restates that the purely defensive role of its nuclear weapons limits their role to preventing any form of nuclear blackmailing or nuclear strike against China. As such, Beijing claims that it would only use its nuclear weapons in a second strike after having suffered a nuclear attack. This unilateral No-First-Use (NFU) policy is complemented by unconditional Negative Security Assurances (NSA) that commit China to not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states or non-nuclear weapons zones.

China also regularly insists on the fact that the limited size and capabilities of its nuclear arsenal confirm this policy and that it exercises utmost restraint on nuclear weapons development. It thus describes the size of its arsenal as being kept at the lowest level necessary for self-defense only, with very low levels of readiness. This is confirmed by the limited capabilities of China’s nuclear arsenal, especially during the Cold War years. Kristensen and Norris estimate that China only possessed around 200 nuclear warheads in 1990, when the U.K. had around 350, France 550, and the superpowers more than 20,000. Of these 200 warheads, only a handful could reach part of the continental United States when fitted on the liquid-fuelled DF-5 silo-based ICBM. The other warheads could only be assigned to regional deterrence because of the limited range of the missiles and aircraft to which they were assigned.

In addition to these limited numbers, the relative inaccuracy of Chinese ICBMs and the very high yield of most of the warheads (in the megatonnic ranges) confirmed the strategic character of the arsenal and the impossibility of using it for tactical purposes. This didn’t stop China from conducting research and development of various types of nuclear devices, including enhanced radiation weapons and low-yield warheads (that could have been used for tactical purposes), but it seems that they were not deployed. Finally, the levels of readiness of Chinese nuclear forces were and seem to remain very low. Along with the fact that most Chinese ICBMs were liquid-fuelled (and thus required several hours or days to ready for launch), the warheads were and still are generally stored in nearby storage facilities, instead of already being fitted on the missiles. As some Chinese analysts claim, such a low level of readiness strongly contrasts with the launch-on-warning postures of the superpowers that could be used for surprise first strike purposes.

Overall, and although Western typologies might not apply very well to the Chinese case, Beijing is generally seen as having adopted a “minimum deterrence strategy,” relying on a nuclear second strike capability that would punish an aggressor for using its nuclear weapons first. Because of the limited capabilities of the Chinese arsenal, the counter-strike would mainly target the aggressor’s cities (counter-value strike).

China’s Choice

OCT 15, 2014 

Wong Chin-Huat is a political scientist at the Penang Institute in Malaysia. 


PENANG – Much to the Chinese government’s chagrin, a major pro-democracy movement has seized the streets of Hong Kong, a “special administrative region” of China with a long history of colonization and repression. But China’s problem with Hong Kong is rooted less in the region’s history than in its own.

Centralized governance has been the rule in China for more than two millennia, with sporadic moves to challenge the system considered destabilizing and dangerous. After all, challengers would forcefully carve out their own kingdoms and, if they grew powerful enough, attempt to seize the imperial throne.

Such figures have had a lasting impact on the Chinese leadership’s psyche. In 2012, the Chongqing region’s Communist Party boss, Bo Xilai – a prominent and charismatic figure who was widely expected to join the elite ranks of the Politburo Standing Committee – was abruptly removed from his post and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption. While the allegations against Bo were both serious and well-founded, his outsize personality, powerful influence, and lofty ambitions – all of which made him a potential threat to the status quo – likely played a role in his downfall.

Chinese politics has always been a winner-take-all game. Until the late nineteenth century, it was common for entire clans of ruling elites to be executed after losing a power struggle. As a result, China’s leaders do not know how to cope with the kind of intra-governmental and inter-regional conflicts that are commonplace in modern states, or with the notion of a loyal opposition, particularly one with a strong local or regional base.

In the Chinese empire, mandarins (high-level public officials) were usually appointed on the basis of their performance on national bureaucratic examinations, not their ability to represent local interests. Today, China’s top provincial leaders often hail from other provinces, with many – including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang – gaining experience at the provincial level before taking on national leadership positions.

In other words, in China, local officials are expected to serve the interests of the central government, rather than represent their communities. Granting a local leader greater autonomy would inevitably undermine the central government.

China’s relationship with Hong Kong is complicated further by the legacy of the 1842 Opium War, which led to Hong Kong’s establishment as a British colony – and marked the beginning of the Western powers’ onslaught on China. The United Kingdom’s 1997 handover of Hong Kong was thus viewed in China as a milestone in its recovery – under the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership – from a legacy of national weakness and subjugation.

In fact, given China’s political history and Hong Kong’s colonial experience, Chinese officials view their promise to allow Hong Kongers to lead the city as a great concession, even if its leader is appointed by the central government. After all, Hong Kong’s governors under UK rule were always British.

Why are Hong Kongers, who evinced no strong demand for elections under British colonial rule, suddenly so opposed to China’s appointment of their leaders? To the Chinese government, the answer lies in Hong Kong’s disloyalty to China, fueled by foreign influence and money.

This absolutist assessment could prove dangerous if it is allowed to dictate the response to the ongoing protests. Specifically, it could drive the Chinese government to initiate a brutal crackdown – an approach that might strengthen central control, but that would also likely lead to Hong Kong’s long-term decline.

If China does choose this route, however, it should not expect an outcome like that following the violent repression of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Whereas bloodshed in China’s capital city could never spur a separatist movement, just one student killed in Hong Kong’s Central district could spur loud calls for an independent Hong Kong.

The U.S. Army Should Pursue a Counter-A2/AD Mission

October 16, 2014 

"To achieve this vision of contributing to a counter-A2/AD strategy, the Army should focus on two key missions..."

This week at the annual Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) conference in Washington D.C. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, turned heads when he used his keynote address to call on the Army to develop a modern coastal defense force. Harkening back to the 19th century when Army forces protected America's coastlines and during World War Two when they defended key outposts in the Pacific, Hagel recommend the Army “broaden its role (in Asia-Pacific) by leveraging its current suite of long-range precision-guided missiles, rockets, artillery and air defense system” which could “provide multiple benefits...such as hardening the defenses of U.S. installations; enabling greater mobility of Navy Aegis destroyers and other joint force assets; and helping ensure the free flow of commerce.”

I have previously written on this topic, but it is not a new concept and I am certainly not the first to articulate it. For the last several years, from our think tanks to our War Colleges, various thinkers have come to a similar conclusion. Given the range of counter-intervention - or anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) - capabilities and concepts of operation being developed by China to inhibit U.S. power projection forces, I believe there are great advantages for the joint force and our partnerships in the region if the Army were to stand-up a land-based sea-control force that could be deployed along the Asian littorals.

To achieve this vision of contributing to a counter-A2/AD strategy, the Army should focus on two key missions:

Expand contributions to air and missile defense:

The Army can enhance strategic stability by improving its Air and Missile Defense (AMD) capabilities. The missiles of China’s Second Artillery Corps have the range to reach most U.S. bases throughout the region. While hardening and dispersing U.S. facilities in the Western Pacific will always be a part of the equation, the Army can further contribute to joint force survivability by improving the capabilities of its AMD systems like Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) or Patriot. Making AMD platforms more mobile, concealable, and situationally aware will be critical investments for future contested environments. A land-based electromagnetic rail-gun or, eventually, directed energy capabilities such as high-power lasers should also be considered by the Army as a way to reduce the costs of successful defense against salvos of precision-guided munitions.

Shift Army planning and capabilities towards land-based offensive systems:

In addition to air and missile defenses, the Army should look to its legacy forces as well as available systems to stand-up an offensive missile forces. Positioning both mobile and fixed ground-based missile batteries in theatre, while also increasing the range of those systems and acquiring anti-ship missiles (ASM), will allow the Army to contribute to regional stability by deterring adversaries from operating near partner states—subjecting enemy land- and sea-based anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) forces to greater risk. The Army’s existing expertise in missile defense, rocket and missile systems for offensive precision fires, and partner-capacity building make it a natural choice to spearhead the cultivation and integration of partner, mobile and fixed ground-based missile batteries in theater that would contribute to regional stability and offset current strategic advantages by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the region. In short, an offensive missile force would give the Army the ability to protect U.S. and allied interests, engage regional partners, and conduct cross-domain operations that could constrain and deter aggression in the region.



The current protests in Hong Kong for democracy reflects only part of the issues facing Chinese cities, as they grow and become ever more sophisticated. In just four decades, China has gone from 17.4 percent to 55.6 percent urban, adding nearly 600 million city residents. And this process is far from over: United Nations projections indicate that over the next 20 years, China’s urban population will increase by 250 million, even as national population growth rates slow and stall.

Overall this transition has been spectacularly successful. As it has urbanized, China, following the lead of Hong Kong, has become a much richer country, expanding its share of global GDP from 2 percent in 1995 to 12 percent in 2012.

China now boasts four megacities of over 10 million people, the most of any country. The population of Shanghai, a cosmopolitan world city decades before the Communist takeover of the country, has expanded almost 50% since 2000, and the ancient capital Beijing and the southern commerce and industrial hub of Guangzhou have grown nearly as rapidly. The U.N.’s growth projections suggest that the future list of megacities will include Chongqing, Tianjin and Chengdu.

Shenzhen, one of the four current megacities, epitomizes the speed of China’s urbanization. A small fishing village along the Hong Kong border with a few factories when I first visited three decades ago, the city rose as the focus of Deng Xiaoping’s first wave of modernization policies. In 1979 it had roughly 30,000 people; now it is a thriving metropolis of 13 million whose population in the past decade grew 56%. Its rise has been so recent and quick that the Asia Society has labeled it “a city without a history.”

Shenzhen has not only grown but thrived over the past three decades, as was evident on my most recent trip. In contrast to the often impoverished slum cities of the developing world, China’s cities have grown much as Britain’s did in the 19th century, upon the back of rapid expansion of manufacturing and trade. This sets Chinese urbanization apart from India‘s; manufacturing’s share of Indian GDP is half that of China. In the process, Chinese cities have become more tied to the global economy, exposing its people to international trends, as well as greater affluence. This is exactly what has happened earlier in Hong Kong, setting the stage for some of the recent unrest. At the same time, the leading cities of the West are, for the most part, barely growing, and much of that by dint of immigration. With plunging birthrates and generally anemic economies, the great cities of the Europe and North America are hardly likely to blaze a brash urban trail; they are more concerned with retaining what they can from their historical inertia. There is no city in the West — even Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth — that approaches the dynamism one now finds in China.

The Coming Chinese Urban Economic Crisis

China’s successful urban transformation now faces a challenge as the country’s export-led economy weakens. Labor costs are soaring and young adults, some four times as many of whom have attended college than those who came of age a decade ago, have little interest in factory work. At the same time, many of China’s most successful and talented people are seeking out lives abroad; two-thirds of the country’s affluent residents, according to one survey, are considering migrating overseas.

The labor crunch is most intense in China’s coastal cities, home to most of the urban population. These face greater competition from less expensive urban areas further west, such as Chongqing and Chengdu. But even these areas are facing a labor shortage, forcing companies to fill their ranks with not necessarily voluntary student laborers. There is also growing competition as well in labor-intensive industries like textiles from cheaper cities in places like Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Destroying Value: ISIS, The Anaconda, and War on the Cheap

This post was provided by Matthew Cavanaugh, a US Army Strategist and editor of the WarCouncil.org blog, on which this post was originally published. The views expressed belong to the author alone and do not represent the US Army or the Department of Defense.

This past week, while reading and thinking about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), two figures jumped out at me. The first comes from an interview with the head of (Iraqi) Kurdish intelligence, who said he believes that ISIS “generates something equivalent to $6 million a day by the selling of oil, wheat, taking taxes from people, ransoms, and still getting donations.” The second figure, just released by the Pentagon, is how much the American component of the bombing campaign against ISIS costs US taxpayers per day: “7million to $10 million per day in Iraq and Syria.”

As we spend so much time considering military effectiveness (which is, admittedly, a terribly important measure), one underestimated component to any strategy is efficiency. In essence, how sustainable are your military actions? Consider for a moment, the expense incurred to combat the threat in Afghanistan, as related by The Washington Post’s George Will in a 2011 column:

Jim Lacey of the Marine Corps War College notes that General David Petraeus has said that there are perhaps about 100 Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. “Did anyone,” Lacey asks, “do the math?” There are, he says, more than 140,000 coalition soldiers in Afghanistan, or 1,400 for every Al Qaeda fighter. It costs about $1 million/year to deploy and support every soldier — or up to $140 billion, or close to $1.5 billion/year, for each Al Qaeda fighter. “In what universe to we find strategists to whom this makes sense?”

This was the essential “Long War” (or “War on Terror”) imbalance. Extremely lofty ends — ending terror and remaking the Middle East — without correspondingly sustainable means with which to achieve these generational-length tasks. The great domestic fear in the middle of the last decade was that the US was “waging war on the cheap,” and so spent enormous sums of money on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems that experience is correcting/tilting the balance to a more stable expenditure. And “war on the cheap,” in the right circumstances, can be beneficial.

In comparison, taking on ISIS seems to be a bargain at the $7 million/day mark (or, as a car salesman might put it, “price point”). Moreover, Thomas Schelling has helpfully pointed out that military force can be used to “destroy value.” In this case, ISIS derives most of its revenues for support of military operations through oil (all those black flags don’t just pay for themselves!) — not unlike the American Confederacy’s heavy reliance on “King Cotton.” In that conflict, General Winfield Scott’s initial “Anaconda” plan was one of broad concentric pressure that slowly constricted the opponent into submission. It was political pressure that forced President Lincoln to ask Scott to speed it up through aggressive and active landpower, which will definitely not be the case today. Attrition is clearly sustainable here — spending $7–10 million/day (a very reasonable sum for a country with a $15 trillion GDP) to destroy a significant amount of ISIS’s entire GDP (roughly $6 million/day). But sustainability is not the only consideration.

Back to effectiveness. President Obama’s military objectives with respect to ISIS are to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the organization. It seems that counter value bombing (i.e. to deny ISIS oil revenue) will work towards achieving “degrade” — but this almost certainly will not “destroy” ISIS. One does not need to be an analyst to realize that groups like this are formed by three things: stuff, people, and ideas. Attritional bombing can reduce an awful lot of the tangible stuff, but defeating ISIS will need to directly address the people and ideas. This is the harder part, as estimates of ISIS fighters in the region run as high as 40,000, and that they have a support base (some out of fear, some out of genuine support) of approximately 100,000 people. We have to convince them to walk away from ISIS — not an easy task while their skies are clouded by our bombing runs.

In sum, the military component will fix and reduce the military threat ISIS poses for as long as need be; it’s up to the capable (diplomatic) hands of the US State Department to orchestrate the kill shot to ISIS. To our friends at State: happy hunting!


The Foreign Policy Essay: Hearts, Minds, & ISIL

 October 12, 2014 

Editor’s Note: The return of U.S. military advisors to Iraq and U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant have dashed hopes that the United States would be able to put the latest counterinsurgency era behind it as U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan. As it finds itself fighting an insurgency once again, the United States should dispel the myths of past campaigns. The accepted wisdom is that victory in a counterinsurgency campaign requires winning the goodwill of the local population: commonly referred to as winning “hearts and minds.” Yet it is unclear whether this wisdom really holds true. Raphael S. Cohen of the RAND Corporation contends that winning hearts and minds does little to help counterinsurgents win and that the U.S. military can and should focus on defeating ISIL forces militarily and not on winning over the population.
With the decision to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the United States is once again fighting an insurgency. The United States is loath to admit this fact, preferring to label its actions somewhat differently—as a “comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.” And yet the fact remains that ISIL—with an organization that numbers tens of thousands strong, controls territory, mobilizes the population, and seeks to overthrow and replace a constituted government—fitsmost definitions of an insurgency. Though it also behaves at times like a terrorist group, it is nonetheless an insurgency. The challenge facing the United States is what to do about it.

The most prominent strategy for how to counter an insurgency is “to win hearts and minds.” Popularly attributed to Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer’s Malayan Emergency campaign against communist insurgents shortly after World War II, the term actually dates at least as far back as the American Revolution and has regularly been used to describe strategies against insurgencies ever since. Indeed, the term even made an appearance in President Barack Obama’s recent United Nations speech.

“Hearts and minds” as a strategy rests on the assumption that any insurgency’s lifeblood is its access to the population, who provide it with fighters, resources, and intelligence: in sum, everything the insurgency needs to survive and thrive. Combating an insurgency, therefore, requires wooing the population—the majority of whom are believed to be neutral or at least passive—away from the insurgency and over to the government side, often by providing political and economic incentives. Once the battle for popular opinion is won, they will provide the government with the information it needs to effectively prosecute these wars and the insurgency, starved of support, will wither away.

There are at least two problems with the “hearts and minds” logic. First, most of the population may not be open to persuasion. Violence—and its corresponding emotional toll—tends to entrench people’s views of the combatants, leaving relatively few undecided and persuadable. Moreover, changing loyalties mid-conflict can be a dangerous proposition, as those who do so are often branded turncoats or collaborators. Economic inducements, political reforms, and other such “carrots” seem paltry in comparison to matters of life and death. As a result, many may only be willing to take such a risk after the conflict’s outcome has already been decided.

Second and more problematic, even if the counterinsurgents can persuade a majority of the population to change sides, it may not matter much to the conflict’s outcome. Insurgencies do not require overwhelming popular support for their efforts to thrive. For example, while it is difficult to tell how much genuine support there is for ISIL, even if one takes the high-end estimates of ISIL’s strength, some 31,500 according to publically-released intelligence estimates, this would still be a tiny fraction of the populations of Syria and Iraq. ISIL’s passive support base likely is also smaller than often believed. Much of its wealth is believed to come from looting lucrative assets throughout the territory it controls and coercing the hapless minorities under its control into paying “taxes” rather than voluntary contributions.

ISIS’s Information Operations: Analyzing their Themes and Messages

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is a Sunni jihadist group active in Iraq and Syria. In June 2014 it declared itself the Islamic Caliphate and changed its name to the “Islamic State,” claiming religious authority over all Muslims across the world and aspiring to bring the Muslim world under its political control. The group conducts a comprehensive information operations campaign on its Turkish language news site takvahaber.net, where it uses certain themes and messages to flaunt its power, promote its ideology, and target those who criticize it. Close monitoring and examination of the group’s daily statements, videos and updates shed light on the group’s strategy, its target audience and strategic communications, while also providing insight into its goals and motivations.

ISIS’s Information Operations

It is unclear when the group adopted takvahaber.net as its news site, but it appears that the site has been operational since June 2010.1 The website defends ISIS through its articles, and hosts an array of videos, including the beheadings for which the group has been responsible. Some of the videos also make their way onto YouTube, and each article features a link which one can click to “like” the piece and “share” it on Facebook and Twitter, suggesting a wide social media presence. The site’s colorful, technically advanced home page looks like a news site at first, but one can quickly glean that it is an ISIS-affiliated site due to the posts there.

For example, on 15 September 2014 the home page featured the following main news items: “Interview with the Islamic State”; “The Islamic State’s Third Execution Video,”; and an article entitled, “It Is Kufr [infidel] to Join the Coalition against the Islamic State.” In the “Interview with the Islamic State” the site features an extensive interview Abu Ahmet el Bahreyni, described as one of the high-level leaders of the group, in which he discusses topics such as the stages of jihad and the Islamic State’s difference from other jihadi groups, and implies that ISIS is more evolved than al Qaida and is focused on the real mission of jihad, whereas other jihadi groups focused on fighting against the U.S.2

Themes and Messages

The group’s comprehensive information operations strategy includes carefully thought out themes and messages to reach and influence its target audience. There are several overarching themes which can be gleaned from the site.

• “The Islamic State has money, weapons and respect”: 

Many of the articles send the message that the group is very powerful, is attracting the respect and allegiance of other groups and has plenty of weapons and money. For example, on 15 September the group declared that it had downed three planes, claiming, “The Islamic State’s air defense units have downed a war plane belonging to the Assad regime in Raqqa. This brings the number of downed planes up to three in the last few days!”3 On 16 September 2014 an article claimed that the Algerian al-Qaida had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (see Figure 2).4

An important piece with the message that ISIS has money and resources appeared on 12 August 2014, entitled, “The Islamic State has become oil rich from 80 thousand barrels of oil,” in which the group claimed:

The Islamic State controls 7 oil fields in Iraq that have the potential to produce 8 million dollars worth of oil daily….In addition to Iraq, the Islamic State also controls important oil fields in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. The Islamic State is following a strategy of gaining strength by taking over the oil and water resources along with the energy infrastructure in Iraq and Syria.5 (Figure 3).

In a similar message, under the photo gallery, one can click on a link to view “The Islamic State’s billion dollar weapons,” which features pictures of missiles, helicopters, armored vehicles, tanks and rockets.6 (Figure 4).

On 17 September an article entitled, “Saud: The Islamic State Cannot Be Wiped Out in 10 Years!” appeared, stating: “U.S.-supported Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Saud bin Faisal expressed that the fight against the Islamic State must last at least ten years. Faisal’s comments once again illustrated the helplessness of coalition countries against the Islamic State.”7

• “ISIS provides services to the public”: 

Many of the photos, articles and videos depict ISIS as providing services for the public. One photo gallery is entitled, “The Islamic State’s Water Canal Project,” in which images are accompanied by the caption, “The Islamic State’s public works directorate continues to solve the public’s water problem.”8 Another one is entitled, “ISIS is distributing food and gas to the people of Anbar,” accompanied by images of ISIS militants distributing packages to children.9 The theme of providing services especially to children is a recurring one, as seen in the photo gallery entitled, “Islamic State [organizes] Activities for Children,” in which images of children are accompanied by this caption: “The Islamic State’s volunteers planned social activities for orphans.”10