9 January 2015

The Paris trap

January 9, 2015 

The terrorist attack on editors, cartoonists and policemen at Charlie Hebdo’s office is an insidious trap to destroy freedom. At a superficial level, it seeks to punish what its perpetrators consider impunity: an insult to their religion. But the attack is even more sinister. It is to make sure that some things become unthinkable. That no one dares express, reproduce or, therefore, even entertain certain ideas.

But he attack also lays a deep trap, where every response can be seen by the perpetrators as vindication. It is, like all al-Qaeda traps, designed for a “heads we win, tails you lose” strategy. If you give a call, in the aftermath of an attack, saying we should respect people’s religion and not be provocative, the attackers have won a kind of victory. They have induced self-restraint. If, on the other hand, such an act inflames anti-Islam feelings, as, despite best efforts, it might, then also a purpose is achieved. It produces the kind of polarisation al-Qaeda would like. States might use the language of bringing the killers to justice. But in the era after 9/11, it has invariably led democratic states to commit all kinds of excesses in different parts of the world, to the point where their moral self-confidence is dented. Again, al-Qaeda achieves its purpose.

Sometimes, we respond to such attacks by saying the perpetrators are not representative of a religion. What we are, in fact, saying is that the religion could not be behind the instigation of a wrong. The act is a betrayal of piety. We make claims like “this is not real Islam”. The sentiment behind that claim is understandable. And it does capture the fact that violence might be the desperation of a minority rather than the sentiment of the majority of believers. But it again traps you in a zone of the unthinkable: you are not allowed to think that Islam might have something to do with this. One of the grounds on which we condemn the perpetrator — he is not a representative of Islam — becomes a ground for his victory. It rests on sequestering the religion from criticism. We think we are distancing the perpetrator from the religion; but in doing it we are also distancing religion from criticism. Charlie Hebdo might have wanted to mock religion. But by saying, with good intent, that Islam could not do wrong, we have implicitly acknowledged the sacredness of Islam. A victory for the perpetrators.

Not anti-Islam, but anti-religion

January 9, 2015
Source Link

We need to understand Charlie Hebdo not as an anti-Islamic publication, but as an anti-religion, anti-institutional, anti-extremist publication

The French satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo, is an equal opportunity offender. In keeping with France’s secular intellectual tradition, no particular individual, ideology or religion was safe from being lampooned by Charlie Hebdo. In 2006, ‘Jesus on the cross’ was on the cover shouting, “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here,” referencing the popular British TV show of the same name. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI was on the cover holding a condom. In 2011, Prophet Mohammad was on the cover saying, “100 lashes for not laughing.”

The importance of Charlie Hebdo lies in what the publication represents — an aversion to giving in to illogical extremism of any kind and holding the right to offend people on sensitive matters like religion. The underpinning logic assumes that interrogation of self-sanctified institutions like religion needs to be done through the systematic practice of irreverence. The idea was to make humorous and irreverent attacks so frequent that a discussion on an institution like religion would be like a discussion on a popular movie, or sliced bread or some such thing— effectively defanging the institution and its hold on people. If you can laugh at it, you can question it.

Brave editorial course

This was a brave editorial course for Charlie Hebdo. In essence, the publication asserted the right to equally offend anyone and everyone as a part of the practice of French secularism. Over and above this, by doing so the French publication also presented itself in the vanguard of secularism, not concerning itself with short-term appeasement politics.

Carnivores in the neighbourhood

January 9, 2015

India’s laws and policies guide management of animals inside forests, but there’s no state policy to deal with predators living amongst people

The tigress strode boldly across open farmlands, and crossed railway tracks and highways at night. She avoided venturing close to villages in her hunt for wild pigs. During the day, she hunkered down in forest patches, reed beds, or plantations, out of sight of people.

A few villagers walked within 100 metres of her hideout, but she didn’t move. In an area where the average human density is 200 per square kilometre, no one knew of her existence except a few researchers and forest officials. She wore a GPS collar that transmitted the coordinates of her location by text message several times a day for four months.

Contrary to popular belief that tigers need to live in vast forests, this tigress was 45 kilometres away from the nearest one, Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. The collar stopped functioning after four months, but a camera trap took her photograph in the same area a year later. She wasn’t a lone tiger struggling to survive in a less than ideal habitat; two other tigers lived nearby. Despite living so close to humans, she posed no threat to them.

Lessons from PK: Beliefs may be cast in stone

January 07, 2015

My wife and I finally saw the much talked about movie, PK, the other day. Let’s first be done with the obvious: I oppose calls for banning the movie or violent protests against it (of course, non-violent protests are legal). If in the past I have opposed the ban on Satanic Verses and The DaVinci Code (in some Indian states) then I must abide by the same standards for PK.

Let’s use the same Freedom of Expression standards to pose some questions to the filmmakers of PK. Clearly, PK is a noble attempt to convince us that naked, humanoid aliens regularly visit India and they can educate us on our relationship with God. In this same spirit of scientific inquiry, PK casts some serious doubts on religion. Actually, not all religions; some have been covered perfunctorily. The primary scholarly analysis is on religions that practise idol-worship (note that, theologically, practically all idol-worshippers are also nature-worshippers, for that is the philosophical route).

PK is clearly making ‘rational’ arguments against those who love myths, follow living spiritual masters (rather than exclusively prophets/messiahs who lived many centuries ago) and worship idols. You may imagine that only Hinduism answers to this description. You would be wrong. Idol-worshipping cultures proliferated across the world in the ancient era; and most encouraged questioning. Nothing was beyond the pale of criticism because they didn’t believe in only ‘one’ truth. Certainly there are features of Hinduism that can and should be critically examined. But it’s intriguing that the makers of PK thought it fit to criticise some strengths of idol-worshipping cultures instead.

The fact that idol-worshipping cultures, normally, have living spiritual masters allows them to change easily in times of fast change. Reform is, normally, easier for such cultures and you will find that among them, philosophies change relatively smoothly with changing times. Admittedly, there are some unsavoury elements among the present-day spiritual masters. But the ‘Muslim terrorist’, the ‘paedophile Western Catholic priest’ and the ‘unscrupulous idol-worshipping godman’ have a common thread — they all suffer from the fallacy of stereotyping. Maybe I’m naive, but one expects intelligent filmmakers to be nuanced enough to not stereotype.

The Rafale Saga

07 Jan , 2015

Very few in India know the meaning of the French word ‘Rafale’, which is now associated with the supply of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) to the Indian Air Force (IAF); ‘rafale’ means a ‘gust of wind’.

When the ‘Rafales’ prevailed in the MMRCA competition, many thought that the Big Deal would soon be signed; three years later, it is still going through tough procedural ‘gusts of wind’.

When the ‘rafales’ prevailed in the MMRCA competition, many thought that the Big Deal would soon be signed; three years later, it is still going through tough procedural ‘gusts of wind’. The reasons are not the qualities of the combat aircraft, but other complications.

Out of the 126 aircrafts to be supplied to the IAF, 18 planes are to be manufactured by the French supplier, Dassault Aviation, from its facilities in France, while the remaining 108 planes have to be built in India, under a large Transfer of Technology agreement, by Hindustan Aeronitical Ltd. (HAL).

Till recently the French side seemed very optimistic. In November, Eric Trappier, Dassault’s Chairman declared that his firm expected to conclude a deal by March: “The final phase of exclusive negotiations on the contract should conclude within India’s current budget year ending in March 2015.”

He added that this date was a ‘reasonable goal’.

On December 2, when this writer interviewed the French Defence Minister and asked about the pace of the negotiations, Mr. Le Drian said: “The negotiations are proceeding well. For a project of this scale and such complexity, which brings the transfer of numerous know-hows to several industrial stakeholders of India, the pace is comparable to that of other negotiations. Both our Governments share the will to conclude it and this is, of course, essential.”

…the main disagreement raised by the French is that Dassault is not ready to take the ‘full responsibility’ for the 108 fighters to be manufactured in India by HAL, while there is apparently no issue with the 18 fighter planes to be manufactured in France by Dassault.

In January 2012, the French firm Dassault Aviation had been selected for supplying 126 MMRCAs to the IAF. The Rafale fighter had gone through a long competitive process which lasted five years, with the American F/A-18 and F-16, Russian MiG 35, European Eurofighter and Swedish Saab Gripen in the race.

Modernisation of Army Air Defence

05 Jan , 2015

Akash missile being test fired from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur, Odisha

As threats from the air play a decisive role in war, there will always be a need to protect the vital static assets as well as retain the freedom to manoeuvre mobile combat forces with no or minimum interference from the skies. The onus lies on the Army Air Defence to overcome the increasing challenges from the air with the enemy using sound strategic/tactical concept and efficient AD weapon systems. An effective AD system is thus a force multiplier for all the combat forces giving them the freedom to carry out operational tasks optimally.

Modernisation of AD weapons has been losing out to more common weapons such as artillery guns, tanks and infantry weapons…

The maintenance of an effective Air Defence (AD) system both in peace and war is a national imperative. Air Defence is a protective reaction against active enemy air threat. There has been an exponential development in the quality and magnitude of air threat due to technological innovations such as stealth, long range precision strike capability and beyond visual range stand-off weapons. Use of smart/intelligent ammunition makes the air threat more potent and lethal. Over the years, air operations have graduated from conventional aircraft to a variety of aerial platforms such as the low silhouettes, low signal Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Surface to Surface Missiles (SSMs), Cruise Missiles, Anti Radiation Missiles and Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs).

As threats from the air play a decisive role in war, there will always be a need to protect the vital static assets as well as retain the freedom to manoeuvre mobile combat forces with no or minimum interference from the skies. The onus lies on the Army Air Defence to overcome the increasing challenges from the air with the enemy using sound strategic/tactical concept and efficient AD weapon systems. An effective AD system is thus a force multiplier for all the combat forces giving them the freedom to carry out operational tasks optimally.

America's Big Challenge: Finding the Off-Ramp in Iraq

January 7, 2015 

Americans are not very good at ending their involvement in wars. No, that's not a pacifist statement about a need to stop fighting wars in general. It is instead an observation about how the United States, once it gets involved—for good or for ill—in any one war, has difficulty determining when and how to call it a day and go home. A major reason for this difficulty is that Americans are not Clausewitzians at heart. They tend not to see warfare as a continuation of policy by other means, but instead to think of war and peace as two very different conditions with clear dividing lines between them.

Americans thus are fine with wars that have as clear an ending as the surrenders of the Axis powers in World War II, which continues to be for many Americans the prototype of how a war should be begun, conceived, and concluded. But America's wars since then have not offered conclusions this satisfying. The one that came closest to doing so was Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which swiftly and decisively achieved its declared objective of reversing the Iraqi swallowing of Kuwait. Even that victory, however, left an unsatisfying aftertaste in some (mostly neocon) mouths, because Saddam Hussein remained in power in Baghdad.

It thus is difficult for U.S. leaders, even if they are capable of thinking in disciplined Clausewitzian terms, to explain and to justify to the American public, and to the political class that makes appeals to that public, the wrapping up of an overseas military involvement without a clear-cut, World War II-style victory. This is a problem no matter how well-founded and justified was the original decision to enter a war.

Other dynamics are commonly involved in such situations, including the one usually called mission creep—the tendency in an overseas military expedition for one thing to lead to another and for one's military forces gradually to take on jobs beyond the one that was the original reason for sending them overseas. Any nation can get sucked into mission creep, but Americans are especially vulnerable to it. The yearning for clear-cut and victorious conclusions to foreign military adventures is one reason. Others are the American tendencies to see any problem overseas as a problem for the superpower to deal with, and to expect that if the United States puts its minds and resources to the task it can solve any problem overseas.

Can the Afghan Army Prevail on the Battlefield?

January 07, 2015

For all their flaws, there’s reason to think Afghanistan’s national security forces can hold their ground. 
Back in the summer of 2013, I embedded with a company of U.S. paratroopers in Eastern Afghanistan. Attached to the company of U.S. soldiers was akandak (battalion) of the Afghan National Army. Back then, I was quite impressed by the professionalism of the Afghan soldiers and wrote a glowing article titled “Afghan Forces Not Worried About US Departure.” Today, with Afghan security forces dying at a rate of around 100 per week (this only used to happen during the “hottest” periods of the annual fighting seasons), I am a less optimistic. Despite that, I still believe that Afghan forces will be able to hold their ground – for at least the next three years.

The major, if scaled down, objective for the newly launched NATO Training Mission “Resolute Support” is to train Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to the point where they will be able to control the country’s population centers and strategically important assets, such as major roads and mountain passes after 2017. The more ambitious goal of pacifying the entire country is now passé. Afghan forces have reached a maturity level where they are able to control about 80 percent of the population and where insurgent forces will not be able to dislocate them from key geographical positions.

Experience has shown that developing forces need three things to succeed: effective local leadership and governance to provide popular support; outside training and partnering that lasts long enough to ensure they are truly effective on a self-sustaining basis, and the resources necessary to keep fighting long enough to win. Each of these three factors need to be supported by institutions staffed with competent technicians, together with adequate structures and organizations. In this regard, the ANSF presents a mixed picture at best.


While progress in local leadership and partnering is steady, resources post-2017 are largely undetermined. The oft-cited annual ANSF budget of $5.1 billion (first introduced at the NATO Chicago Summit in 2012, later increased to $5.1 billion at the NATO Wales Summit in 2014) is not backed by an adequately reviewed cost model and donor support post 2014 – despite pledges – is still largely undefined. What is very much needed is an adequate unclassified post-2104 campaign plan linking ANSF resources to objectives and further linking this plan to the gradual withdrawal of ISAF forces in order to garner the necessary political support in donor countries.

I posit that military progress in the field before 2017 can only be undone by substantially cutting the ANSF budget below $2.7 billion (the current annual operations cost of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Uniformed Police (ANUP)).

Left Behind: The Afghan Translators Who Served With the U.S. Military

January 08, 2015

Too many Afghans are being left stranded, at serious risk. 
The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) is a U.S. program established for Afghan or Iraqi translators who have worked with the U.S. military. Translators play a crucial role for the U.S. military, and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance project estimates that around 50,000 Iraqi and Afghan nationals have served as translators over the past decade. However, working with the U.S. often comes with a heavy cost: being branded a “traitor” by the Taliban and other groups, putting the translators and their family members at constant risk. The SIV program was intended to provide protection against this by allowing the translators and their families to migrate to the U.S. after their service.

Unfortunately, the program has fallen short, as evidenced by a recent protest held by Afghan translators outside the U.S. embassy in Kabul, demanding that the U.S. follow through with its promised visas.

Obtaining a visa under the SIV program entails a lengthy, and costly, application process. There are three steps. First, the applicant must file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS). The applicant is required to provide basic information, a birth certificate, with certified English translation, proof of employment with the U.S, evidence of a background check, and a letter of recommendation.

If that is approved, the translator may move on to step 2, applying for the visa. This requires submitting many of the same documents, plus additional information for every family member. The entire process can – and often does – take years. After this is approved, the translators will move on to step 3, an interview with the U.S. Embassy. Some are held back by the medical clearances that are part of step 2, which require the translator to pay $500 per family member at Kabul’s only approved clinic. Since the medical approval comes with an expiration date, if it expires before the visa is issued, the translator must undergo the process again, which means an additional $500 per family member. In an attempt to fix this problem, the U.S. State Department has issued temporary visas that are valid for the time remaining on the approved medical clearance, even if it is just a couple of days. This means that the translator and his/her family have to pack and be ready to leave the country on very short notice.


January 7, 2015

“The country thinks too rarely, and too highly, of the 1 percent under fire in our name,” so says Jim Fallows in a10,000-word cri de couer in this month’s Atlantic that bemoans the growing cultural and social divisions that separate the American people from its armed forces. This lack of inquiry, and growing distance, Fallows argues, is responsible for not only the promiscuous deployment of U.S. troops around the world, but for Pentagon excesses of which War on the Rocks readers are all too familiar.

Fallows, has long been one of the nation’s best journalists, and it’s hard to disagree with his basic diagnosis that Americans spends far too little time looking at how we spend money on the military, how we deploy our troops, and substitute mindless praise for actual scrutiny. Less clear, however, are the broad conclusions that Fallows is drawing. America’s military is far from perfect and it certainly spends far too much of the taxpayers’ dollars for too little gain. But ultimately, the challenge of U.S. civil-military relations in the 21st century is more complicated—and oddly less problematic—than his argument suggests.

Indeed, the core problem with Fallows argument is that it fails to make a clear distinction between the military and the leaders that send them to war. “Why do the best soldiers in the world keep losing?” screams The Atlantic’s front page. “In 13 years of continuous combat under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the longest stretch of warfare in American history, U.S. forces have achieved one clear strategic success: the raid that killed Osama bin Laden,” Fallows writes. He approvingly quotes Jim Gourley, a former military intelligence analyst who says, “it is incontrovertibly evident that the U.S. military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq … evaluated according to the goals set forth by our military leadership, the war ended in utter defeat for our forces.” Where is the accountability, asks Fallows?

Putting aside the fact that the killing of bin Laden was more a tactical event than a strategic success, these are fair criticisms, but they are aimed at the wrong target. If you look back at the initial military objectives for Iraq, laid out by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in March 2003, most of them were achieved. The initial objective of the Iraq war was to topple Saddam Hussein and remove the threat he allegedly represented. It was not to create a Jeffersonian democracy, with American blood and treasure, between the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Is China’s Cyberwar Capacity More Backward Than We Think?

January 08, 2015

China still needs to overcome a number of challenges before it becomes a first-rate military power in cyberspace. 
In a lecture on January 7 in Beijing, a senior PLA officer and professor at the PLA National Defense University called on “PLA troops to enhance their capability of winning informationalized warfare,” according to an article on the Chinese Ministry of Defense website. The article goes on to summarize the lecturer’s principle point: “Zhu Chenghu said the future war will be information-based local wars, featuring unprecedentedly high levels of intelligence. As a result, there will be no concept of front or rear. Space, air, sea, ground, cyberspace, and even electromagnetic pulse space can be the target to strike. The information security will become the most vulnerable area for China.”

This is nothing new. Many senior Chinese officers have repeatedly emphasized the need to bolster the country’s cyber capabilities, since they provide some asymmetric compensation at a comparatively low cost for the relative backwardness of the Chinese military vis-à-vis the U.S. military and its regional allies.

Despite many reported successes in cyber espionage, the PLA is a latecomer when it comes to applying information technology to broad military use. China has never issued a formal cyber warfare strategy document. At the 16th Party Congress in 2002, then General Secretary Jiang Zemin announced that the PLA’s future mission will be to persevere in “local wars under informationized conditions” by 2050. This strategic guidance set in motion a timetable of modernization with the end result of a total “informatization” of the PLA by 2050. In a speech back in November 2012, former Chinese president Hu Jianto stated that by 2020 China should have made “major progress in full military IT application.”

However, as I have pointed out elsewhere, China will need to overcome a number of challenges before it can be considered a first-rate military power in cyberspace. For example, Chinese technical institutes and universities still cannot compete with the United States in the highly specialized areas that support cyber warfare. On a micro level, Chinese specialists can compete with their Western analogs, but postgraduate training for military personnel in cyber-related spheres is not as good as it is in the United States.

Will China Change its South China Sea Approach in 2015?

January 08, 2015

Some say Beijing may be adjusting its approach. But history suggests caution is warranted. 

Given the litany of surprises we have witnessed in the South China Sea over the past few years, it would be a fool’s errand to make grand predictions about what we might see in 2015. Nonetheless, there has been a flurry of discussions over the past few months among the chattering classes about whether we are likely to see a change in China’s approach to the South China Sea in 2015, and the implications that would have for Southeast Asia and beyond. It is worth briefly considering whether this may indeed occur and what it would signify.

Since Xi Jinping’s ascension to power, we have witnessed China employ what I would call a strategy of “incremental assertiveness” in the South China Sea. That incremental strategy approach has two parts, often pursued together in a calibrated manner. The first part is to change facts on the water in China’s favor where possible to advance its claims as set out in the infamous nine-dash line. The range of activities could range fromland reclamation activities in the Spratlys to outright seizures of features as occurred before with the Scarborough Shoal. But the real emphasis here is on working incrementally, such that no single action is egregious enough to draw the United States into a conflict or unite ASEAN claimants with Washington against Beijing, but all of them combine to shore up China’s position further down the line.

The second part is to simultaneously continue to cement economic ties with Southeast Asian states in order to draw them closer into China’s orbit. Doing so not only advances China’s own objectives of economic development and regional leadership, it also makes ASEAN states think twice about challenging Beijing on the South China Sea. This strategy has the added utility of perpetuating divisions within ASEAN between those who are more pliable to Beijing’s wishes, such as Cambodia, and others who are less so. Keeping ASEAN divided is crucial to advancing China’s preference for resolving disputes bilaterally rather than with ASEAN as a whole. That is why, to take just one example, Beijing has isolated the Philippines in the past for its very public filing of an arbitration case at The Hague while it has praised Malaysia’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ approach.

The assumption of the two-part strategy of incremental assertiveness is that with time (read to be on China’s side), an even stronger China will have both changed the status quo to be much more in its favor as well as drastically reduced the leverage of ASEAN states to do anything about it. In other words, far from seeing a contradiction between seeking close economic ties with Southeast Asia and assertively advancing its sovereignty claims at the expense of ASEAN claimants, as many observers do, Beijing actually views these policies as two sides of the same coin.

China’s $1 Trillion Investment Plan: Stimulus or Not?

January 08, 2015

Reports that China will invest $1.1 trillion in infrastructure do not mean Beijing is backing away from economic reform. 
With China’s growth slowing down, Beijing will approve 300 infrastructure projects worth a total of 7 trillion RMB ($1.1 trillion) for 2015, Bloombergreports. The decision has not yet been publicly announced by the Chinese government or Chinese media. The move is linked to a larger plan that will see 10 trillion RMB ($1.6 trillion) pumped into China’s economy by 2016. According to Bloomberg’s sources, the investment will center on “seven industries including oil and gas pipelines, health, clean energy, transportation and mining.”

The report hints that economic rebalancing still faces an uphill challenge in China, despite vocal support from top leadership. China has been extremely reliant on government investment as a driver of growth ever since 2008, when Beijing launched a massive stimulus program to compensate for a decline in global trade. With investment levels at nearly half China’s GDP, Beijing’s economy is “the most investment-dependent in history,” Financial Times notes. This strategy has also resulted in a massive amount of government debt, particularly at the local level.

Beijing recognizes these long-term concerns and plans to promote domestic consumption as a pillar of growth while easing off on investment. But as this new announcement indicates, domestic consumption simply isn’t robust enough to support growth at a level China’s leaders are comfortable with. China’s growth is widely expected to slow to 7 percent or even lower in 2015. While the Chinese government has repeatedly attempted to de-emphasize hard GDP growth targets in favor of promoting stable and efficient growth, concerns about employment and income still make Beijing incredibly nervous about overly slow growth. In July 2014, PremierLi Keqiang noted that China must keep its growth within a “reasonable range.”

When growth threatens to dip below that threshold, it sparks a return to the comfortable and familiar method of jump-starting growth through government investment. China will continue to be reliant on government-funded infrastructure development in the short term even as it seeks to change its long-term economic drivers.

Last year, between October 16 and November 5 alone, China greenlit 21 new investment projects worth $112 billion. At the time, Chinese state media described the decisions as a way “to hedge against falling investment in the real estate market.” Chinese experts predicted further infrastructure investment as a way of compensating for a sagging real estate market; the measures reported by Bloomberg fulfill that prophecy.

Still, experts caution this does not signal a return to the stimulus era of 2008. Nicholas Consonery of the Eurasia Group predicts that the $1 trillion-plus investment package “will not mark a significant trajectory change in terms of Beijing’s determination to use fiscal stimulus to boost growth.” Instead, it’s a “public messaging strategy,” which lumps together pre-existing projects to get to a eye-catching number that helps boost confidence in China’s economy. In general, Consonery writes, “we do not expect Beijing to use aggressive fiscal stimulus to push growth above a 6.5-7 percent level in the year ahead.”

Lian Ping, the chief economic with China’s Bank of Communications, seems to agree. Lian told Xinhua in November that the spate of new infrastructure projects “should be deemed reasonable investment and non-stimulus on a massive scale,” as the projects are “quite necessary” in addition to being important economically.

The False Hope of Chinese Economic Rebalancing

January 7, 2015 

There is a line of thinking among foreign economists and financial analysts that China is in the midst of a change in direction known generically as “rebalancing,” this based upon statements made by Chinese leaders about emphasizing stronger consumption after years of investment-led growth. We described the wasteful and unsustainable investment strategy embraced by Beijing in July 2014 here in these digital pages: The Beijing Bubble: Will China's Housing Addiction Damage the Global Economy?

The alleged move by China involves “a reliance on investment and exports for growth to one where consumption and markets play a bigger role,” Bloomberg News reports. “Economists and analysts are watching seven areas for quickening policy change that could bolster economic restructuring in 2015. They include a pickup in domestic demand, cheaper oil, energy-pricing reforms, improved welfare cover and a wave of privatizations.” Were that it were so.

Venerated Western observers such as Stephen Roach, former chief economist at Morgan Stanley, state emphatically that China’s shift to consumption-led growth is part of a dramatic change that will offer “fantastic opportunity” to the developed world. Such views of China reflect the Western dualism between political and economic activities, something that China has still yet to embrace. As an old China hand observed to me years ago, there is no division between Church and State in China, there is only the state.

China and Japan's East China Sea Dilemma: No Simple Solutions

January 7, 2015

At long last, someone has figured a way out of the vexing China-Japan territorial dispute in the East China Sea over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands (inhabitants: a small number of goats) that many fear could trigger a major military confrontation—or have they?

In a recent TNI piece, Brooking’s Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon offered a nifty six-point plan under which: both sides would acknowledge the others territorial claims; Japan would retain legal administrative rights, but would delegate administration to a joint China-Japan oversight board; and safety patrols and tours of the uninhabited rocks would be conducted jointly. “By establishing this sort of precedent,” O’Hanlon modestly writes, “the door might open to greater negotiation and compromise” in the South China Sea disputes.

If only life were so simple and straightforward. This is a classic case of the Rational Actor Fallacy. Or more accurately, we can call it the Rodney King Foreign Policy: why can’t we all just get along?

Is the problem in East Asia’s intractable East and South China Sea territorial disputes really that no one has been smart enough to devise compromise solutions? Or is all the angst about a bunch of uninhabited rocks more about the pathology of conflicting nationalisms, if not conflicting visions of regional order? The lesson of history is that historic distrust and suspicion are extremely difficult to overcome with reasonable diplomatic efforts to attain compromise outcomes that seek to balance contending national claims.

O’Hanlon rightly describes the respective grievances and claims of both China and Japan. For China, the dispute is emblematic of a couple of bad centuries when a weak Beijing was humiliated by foreign aggression. The Senkakus were ceded to Japan in 1895 in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, after it defeated China militarily. Beijing refers to this as an “unequal treaty” (Note to China: losing territory is what usually happens when you lose a war) and thus claims it is illegitimate. It must also grate on Beijing that although China was aligned with the winning side in World War II, it received few benefits, while the United States helped a defeated Japan rebuild. Not to mention, Japan often flirted with revisionism of its horrendous behavior during the 1930s and 40s.

China Is Building A New Fleet Of Guided Missile Destroyers

The Jinan was commissioned at a naval port in eastern China. From there, the vessel will join the East China Sea Fleet of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Part of a new generation of guided missile destroyers, the Jinan will help the PLAN to expand its ability to operate in the open ocean away from China's coasts. 

This could allow China to further press its territorial ambitions throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea, and to use its navy as a counterweight to US influence in the region. 

"The guided missile destroyer Ji'nan (hull number 152), is equipped with multiple sets of home-made new-type weapons," China Military Online reports. "It is able to attack surface warships and submarines independently or in coordination with other strength of the PLAN. The ship also possesses strong capabilities of conducting long-distance early-warning and detecting as well as regional air-defense operation."

Currently, the Jinan is designed to accompany China's sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning in order to effectively protect the 30-year-old, Soviet-built vessel, according to the Taiwan-based Want China Times. The Jinan is envisioned as being the last line of defense for the Liaoning. The carrier's deployment is a landmark for China's military, even though the vessel has been beset with technical difficulties.

China has invested heavily in developing its navy as part of a larger modernization of its military. Along with the 052 model of warship, China is also developing the Type 055 Cruiser, which could function as a multipurpose warship. Although smaller than an American Zumwalt-class destroyer, the ship is estimated to be able to carry 128 vertical launch cells for cruise missile deployment. 

Additionally, China is on the cusp of achieving a fully capable submarine fleet. China already has one of the largest attack sub fleets in the world, with a mixture of diesel and nuclear-powered vessels. China also has three nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines, which could eventually be capable of targeting the US from the mid-Pacific.

The Indian Ocean Zone of Peace: Reality vs. Illusion

By Abhijit Singh
January 07, 2015

Yogi Berra, the legendary American baseball player known for his pithy quotes, once remarked: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice there is.” India’s recent pitch for an Indian Ocean Zone of Peace (IOZOP) at the Galle dialogue in Sri Lanka is a classic example of theoretical propositions not always meeting the test of practical utility. In principle, the proposal to declare the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as a zone of peace is strikingly apposite. Increasing Chinese presence and the threat of PLA-N bases in the IOR, the growing interests of other major powers (U.S., U.K., Russia, France and Japan) in the region, and the many Chinese infrastructure projects in the region, create an imperative for India to actively limit the military maritime activity of external powers in the region. But attempting to do so through the IOZOP route will ensure that while no military activity is ever practically curtailed, Indian influence and credibility in the region will be severely eroded.

The trouble with the IOZOP proposal is its flawed premise: that by simply declaring the region a “Zone of Peace,” foreign military presence and activity can be effectively halted. Conceivably, the proposal has been triggered by the recent docking of a Chinese submarine in Colombo – an event India took grave exception to, even remonstrating with Sri Lanka for its insensitivity to Indian security interests. New Delhi also may have taken note of a recent media report that quoted a Namibian Ministry of Defence official suggesting that discussions were underway “at the highest levels” for Chinese naval bases in the Indian Ocean Region. Though it was subsequently denied, the report had sufficient sting to give Indian policymakers the strategic heebie-jeebies. Proponents of the proposal now believe that in the absence of military strength and influence to counter the growing Chinese presence in the region, India should use the multilateral route to create a consensus for preventing the military activity of external powers in the region. A study of the past would, however, enlighten ardent Indian Ocean peaceniks of the efficacy of such a proposal.

In a recent op-ed in The Hindu, T.P. Sreenivasan, India’s representative to the Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean in the early 1980s, observed that the original 1971 proposal of an IOZOP was not so much about peace and tranquility in the IOR, as it was about circumscribing the presence of Western powers in the region. The Ad Hoc Committee, he points out, considered the various provisions of the proposal at length but none was found feasible because members stood bitterly divided on the issues. Most permanent members – except China – were vehemently opposed to the suggestion of no bases in the IOR. The littoral and hinterland members, on the other hand, supported it. “The innumerable problems India has faced on account of the U.N. resolution and the U.N. Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean,” Sreenivasan perceptively points out, “must be recalled before we take any formal initiative in this regard.”

Saudi Arabia's Challenges

January 7, 2015

The Middle East is one of the most volatile regions in the world - it is no stranger to upheaval. The 2009 uprisings in Iran and the brinksmanship of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government were followed by the chaos of the Arab Spring, the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Iraq and a potential realignment of the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Unlike recent years, however, 2015 is likely to see regional Sunni Arab interests realign toward a broader acceptance of moderate political Islam. The region is emerging from the uncertainty of the past half-decade, and the foundations of its future are taking shape. This process will not be neat or orderly, but changes are clearly taking place surrounding the Syrian and Libyan conflicts, as well as the region's anticipation of a strengthened Iran.

The Middle East enters 2015 facing several crises. Libyan instability remains a threat to North African security, and the Levant and Persian Gulf must figure out how to adjust course in the wake of the U.S.-Iranian negotiations, the Sunni-Shiite proxy war in Syria and Iraq, and the power vacuum created by a Turkish state bogged down by internal concerns that prevent it from assuming a larger role throughout the region. Further undermining the region is the sharp decline in global oil prices. While Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will be able to use considerable cash reserves to ride out the slump, the rest of the Middle East's oil-exporting economies face dire consequences.

For decades, long-ruling autocratic leaders in countries such as Algeria and Yemen helped keep militancy in check, loosely following the model of military-backed Arab nationalism championed by Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Arab monarchs were able to limit domestic dissent or calls for democracy through a combination of social spending and repression. The United States not only partnered with many of these nations to fight terrorism - especially after September 2001 - but also saw the Gulf states as a reliable bulwark against Iranian expansion and a dangerous Iraq led by Saddam Hussein. Levantine instability was largely contained to Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, while Israel's other neighbors largely abided by a tacit agreement to limit threats emanating from their territories.

Today, Saddam's iron grip on Iraq has been broken, replaced by a fractious democracy that is as threatened by the Islamic State as it is by its own political processes. Gone are the long-time leaders of states like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Meanwhile, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Oman are facing uncertain transitions that could well take place by year's end. The United States' serious dialogue with Iran over the latter's nuclear program, once a nearly unthinkable scenario for many in the Gulf, has precipitated some of the biggest shifts in regional dynamics, especially as Saudi Arabia and its allies work to lessen their reliance on Washington's protection.

The Push for Sunni Hegemony

What Comes After the Islamic State Is Defeated?

January 6, 2015 

When American troops were about to invade Iraq in 2003 to dislodge Saddam Hussein from power, then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus told a reporter: “Tell me how this ends.” Eleven years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, thousands of U.S. troops are once again in Iraq fighting a different foe. But the same question still resonates. 

President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of American forces in 2011 after failing to win a security agreement with Iraq has already been undone by Obama ordering as many as 3,100 troops to help train the Iraqi military to take on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. But even if U.S. and Iraqi forces defeat the militant group, preventing a disintegration of Iraq along sectarian and religious lines may require a long-term presence of U.S. forces, former American officials and defense analysts say. 

“You cannot get the goal you want of a stable Iraq and a permanently defeated” Islamic State, “or a son of ISIS,” without a long-term American presence, said James Jeffrey, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012. “Even if they’re promised the moon, only if we have a presence will the Kurds and Sunnis buy into a Baghdad that’s dominated by the Shiites and indirectly by Iran.” 

Jeffrey said that moves to establish a peacekeeping or monitoring force should be led by the U.N. but backed by U.S. military power. That means a modest American force should plan on remaining in Iraq and eventually in Syria once the Islamic State is defeated, he said. 

More than 2,000 American troops are helping retrain the Iraqi military to fight back against the Islamic State on the ground, even as U.S. drones and jet fighters have carried out hundreds of airstrikes, yielding some early successes by halting the militant group’s advances. 

America's Free-Trade Conundrum

Simon Lester 
January 8, 2015 

When we talk about free trade, are we simply talking about putting limits on domestic protectionism? Or do we have in mind a broader notion of a "single market"?

It looks like 2015 could be a make or break year for major U.S. trade negotiations in the Pacific region and with Europe. Many observers see a window of opportunity for completing these initiatives, before 2016 presidential politics takes over the agenda. Lurking beneath the surface, though, and having important implications for the success of these talks, is a fundamental issue that is often ignored: What kind of free trade should we be negotiating? In this regard, when we talk about free trade, are we simply talking about putting limits on domestic protectionism? Or do we have in mind a broader notion of a "single market"?

The distinction between these different types of free trade can be illustrated by a California law that just went into effect, requiring that all eggs sold in that state be produced in a way that is less harmful to chickens than current practices, by giving chickens more space to move around in their cages. (Free trade is not just an international issue; it also takes place within nations, and states, too, may interfere with free trade.) An important implication of this law is that out-of-state egg producers will incur significant costs to adapt their facilities to California's standards. In this way, the California law clearly interferes with trade between U.S. states, as it imposes new costs on non-California producers.

Does this interference violate the principle of free trade? It depends what you mean by free trade. If free trade means the government cannot intentionally favor its own products over out-of-state/country products, then the California law is not necessarily a problem. The California law clearly affects trade, but it applies to both California and non-California producers. Thus, it is difficult to make a case that it is protectionist.

U.S. Military Investigating if Airstrikes Killed Civilians in Iraq and Syria

JANUARY 6, 2015
Source Link

For the first time Tuesday, the Pentagon publicly acknowledged that it is investigating whether U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State killed civilians in Iraq and Syria.

Depending on the military’s findings, Barack Obama’s administration could face more pressure to move U.S. troops closer to the front lines to better coordinate targeting against the Islamic State, thereby potentially putting more U.S. soldiers in harm’s way. But experts warn that given the enemy and the nature of this war, civilian deaths will be difficult to avoid entirely in any event.

U.S. Central Command said it had examined the credibility of 18 separate allegations that coalition airstrikes had killed civilians in Iraq and Syria between August and the end of December. Of the 18 allegations, nine were from Iraq and nine were from Syria.

So far, 13 of the allegations have been determined not to be credible, but five allegations are still being examined, with two being elevated into the investigation phase, said Centcom spokesman Maj. Curtis Kellogg.

Those two incidents are the results of the military’s own review process and were not instigated by an outside allegation, Kellogg said in a statement. The other situations came to the military’s attention via media reports, nongovernmental organizations, or other U.S. government agencies.

Credible groups on the ground, including Iraqi news agencies and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, have made several claims that noncombatants have been killed by U.S. bombs, but even they acknowledge that it is difficult to confirm these deaths, especially in areas controlled by the Islamic State, which is often where the United States is striking.

Putin’s Eurasian Dream Is Over Before It Began

JANUARY 6, 2015

On Jan. 1, one of Vladimir Putin’s most ambitious foreign-policy projects and a longtime Kremlin dream became a reality. Unfortunately for Putin and his colleagues in Moscow, nothing about the plan will work.

The Eurasian Economic Union — a post-Soviet economic bloc of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia — was designed to allow the Kremlin to reassert influence in its backyard and counterbalance the Brussels-based, 28-member-state European Union, which has inched towards Russia’s borders over the past decade. Instead, the Kremlin’s prestige project, announced in 2011, but floated as an idea since 1994, limped out of the start gate in 2015.

Since taking power in 2000, Putin moved to rewrite the history of Russia’s tumultuous 1990s, a decade marred by war in Chechnya, an economic crisis in 1998, and a rudderless foreign policy in its former backyard. Putin not only made Russia’s military relevant once again by modernizing it and setting up military bases in neighboring countries, but also wielded influence with former Soviet countries by controlling economically vital oil and gas pipelines. The Eurasian Union was meant to be the next step to secure Moscow’s standing as the economic champion of the post-Soviet space.

The Eurasian Customs Union, the Eurasian Union’s precursor, formed in 2010 and designed to remove trade barriers and harmonize tariffs between prospective members, has already faced its share of problems. Originally comprised of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, the integration project expanded to include Armenia and Kyrgyzstan in 2014, but has not delivered the economic boom that its members were promised. Both Kazakhstan and Belarus have seen their exports become more expensive in the crucial Russian market due to the ruble’s exchange rate troubles, while cheaper Russian goods have made it hard for domestic producers to compete. As the ruble’s value tumbled some20 percent in mid-December, consumers from Belarus and Kazakhstancrossed the border into Russia to snatch up deals on anything from cars to fruit as they found their buying power suddenly increased.

Intelligence Design: Putting the CIA’s Reported Reorganization in Context

January 7, 2015 

"The CIA’s successful reorganization would be the most significant evidence yet that the intelligence reform effort, so often maligned, has succeeded at the place some thought it least likely..."

Public discussion of the rumored plan to reorganize the CIA—to break down the wall between its analysts and collectors and “create hybrid units focused on individual regions and threats”—has emphasized the “sweeping” and “radical” nature of these changes. It “seems like a pretty big deal,” writes one professor. And, if the reports are true and the shake-up proceeds, the redrawn organization chart will be the most far-reaching overhaul of the Agency in decades. But this redesign concept is not unprecedented. Instead, the “center-ization” of CIA would amount to one of the most important—and perhaps least appreciated—achievements of the intelligence reform effort that followed the 9/11 attacks.

One of the central pillars of reform emphasized breaking down obsolete bureaucratic stovepipes among and within intelligence agencies: focusing not on particular disciplines (such as human collection or signals analysis) but on fusing all the disciplines to produce the most accurate understanding of targets (such as counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and China). The hope was that, as a result of such a joint effort, analysis would “drive” collection—collectors would know better what information analysts needed, and analysts would have a better understanding of the reliability (or unreliability) of their sources.

Over the past decade, the reform effort has succeeded in some areas, stalled in others, and garnered its share of criticism,some of which has been featured in these pages. As historians Michael Warner and J. Kenneth McDonald wrote, “[s]weeping intelligence reform is rare because it is so difficult.” But what the reported CIA reorganization suggests is that this idea—that intelligence should be a collaborative endeavor organized around missions and not around disciplines—has won substantial support from a bureaucracy famous for its aversion to change. This development is a victory for those who favored the broad intelligence reform effort that followed September 11. But more important, it provides an important case study of how bureaucracies, and the organizational philosophies that drive them, can adapt.