11 May 2016

The meaning of Pokhran and Chagai

May 11, 2016

The Hindu ArchivesTit for tat: "While India’s decision to test was a proactive one, the Pakistani call to test was a reaction.” File photo of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Pokhran.

Exchanging information on nuclear doctrines and discussing confidence-building measures could be the best scenario for India and Pakistan on the 18th anniversary of Pokhran-II

Eighteen years after India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices in Pokhran and Chagai on May 11, 13, and 28, 1998, there remains a yawning gap in perception on what this nuclear “deterrent” spells for the other country.

It must be remembered that while India’s decision to test was a proactive one, the Pakistani call to test was a reaction, a response. Had India not gone first, it would have been nearly impossible for Islamabad to test.

Though nuclear devices were clearly available to Pakistan for some time, the country’s permanent establishment lay low, choosing a policy of ambiguity or suggesting through the media that they possessed a nuclear deterrent.An emboldened neighbour

*** ‘Plagiarism’ at the Naval War College: A response from a military professor

May 3, 2016 

By Capt. Michael Junge, U.S. Navy

Best Defense guest respondent

Most people see plagiarism as a wholly intentional act. The comments on the “Morty Fied” piece here at Best Defense show a clear understanding of this limited definition. Yet at the U.S. Naval War College, we use an expansive definition of plagiarism that excludes intent.

From the faculty handbook:

1) Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s work without giving proper credit to the author or creator of the work. It is passing off as one’s own another’s words, ideas, analysis, or other products. Whether intentional or unintentional, plagiarism is a serious violation of academic integrity and will be treated as such by the command.

(a) Plagiarism includes but is not limited to the following actions:

1. The verbatim use of others’ words without citation.

2. The paraphrasing of others’ words or ideas without citation.

3. Any use of others’ work (other than facts that are widely accepted as common knowledge) found in books, journals, newspapers, websites, interviews, government documents, course materials, lecture notes, films, etc., without giving credit.

*** White Elephants

Posted on April 28, 2016 by Martin van Creveld At least since 9/11, and possibly since the First Gulf War back in 1991, it has been clear that the most immediate threat facing developed countries is not other developed countries. It is terrorism, guerrilla, insurgencies, asymmetric war, fourth generation war, war among the people, nontrinitarian war (my own favorite term), whatever. Follows a list-–a very partial one, to be sure—of expensive new American weapons and weapon systems, now in various stages of development, all of which have this in common that they are not relevant to the threat in question.

The USAF’s new bomber. America’s last bomber, the B-2, was an absolute disaster. Originally the program, which went back to the late 1980s, was supposed to result in a fleet of 132 aircraft. That figure was later reduced to just 20, plus one used for all kinds of experimental purposes. The machines cost $ 500,000,000 each, which is far more than almost any conceivable target. Some sources, taking development costs into consideration, provide a much higher figure still. Yet so vulnerable are the machines that, when they are not in the air, they need to stay in air-conditioned hangars. That in turn means that they can only be operated from the Continental US and take hours and hours to reach their targets. Nevertheless, fixated on bombers as the USAF has been for so many years, none of these problems have prevented it from going for an even more ambitious program. This is the so-called Next Generation Bomber of which 175 are planned. Suppose, which in view of past experience seems rather unlikely, that anything like this number is in fact produced at a cost of God knows how many dozens and dozens of billions. The contribution to effectively fighting the kind of organization that has mounted 9/11? Zero. Zip. 

*** Fourth Generation War Evolves

William S. Lind

An article in the April 12 New York Times points to possible evolution in 4GW, evolution that would make the threat it poses to states all the more serious. Titled, “Jihadi Mentor Mingled Crime with Religion: ‘Gangster Islam’ Drew Recruits in Brussels,” the piece tells the story of Khalid Zerkani, a radical Islamic in Brussels who recruited young men to wage jihad both in Syria and in Europe. More gangster than Islamic scholar, Zerkani preferred recruits who had a criminal past:

Belgian security officials and people who know Mr. Zerkani said he had assured Molenbeek’s wayward youth that past criminal convictions were not an obstacle to the Islamic cause, but a vital foundation.

The Times quotes an expert on Molenbeek, a heavily Islamic part of Brussels, Hind Fraihi, as saying that Islamic extremism there “has mutated…into a criminal enterprise driven by ‘the synergy between banditism and Islam.'”

From the state’s perspective, one of the challenging aspects of 4GW is that it faces not just multiple opponents, but multiple kinds of opponents, ranging from gang members through people belonging to specific ethnic groups (e.g., Chechens) to religious fanatics. There can be no “one size fits all” answer to the diverse challenges 4GW presents.

* Indian Army: One Plains Strike Corps Too Many

Rahul Bhonsle 
May 9, 2016 

Indian Army: One Plains Strike Corps Too Many

Defence reforms generally have three triggers. Firstly these are undertaken after a defeat in war – the Indian armed forces post 1962 or the American military after Vietnam are two significant examples. Second these are forced upon by the political leadership with the main interest being economy of resources mainly budgetary savings. The United States military were forced towards jointness by the seminal Goldwater–Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986.

Finally militaries undertake reforms though very rarely through own volition under a dynamic leadership. India has been fortunate enough to have such visionary leaders in the past be it Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw who prepared the Army for war in a short period of nine months though not a classic case of reorganisation, then there were General Krishna Rao and K Sundarji regarded as reformists of their time and many others.

In India very rarely has political leadership called for reforms in military organisation. However it appears that such a moment has come with the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for right sizing or rather downsizing the Indian Army.

Clearly the Prime Minister’s address to the Combined Commanders Conference on board INS Vikramaditya at Sea, off the coast of Kochi on 15 December 2015 outlined some of the reforms that were necessary for the armed forces. These did not receive as much traction as these should have and set the minds of the armed forces thinking or possibly may have, but here are some selected Quotes from the Prime Minister’s speech with reference to military reforms and cost cutting -

Quotes –

How not to handle plagiarism: An example from the Naval War College

April 29, 2016 

There recently was a case of plagiarism at the Naval War College.

The transgression, committed by a U.S. Navy officer, was reviewed and evaluated by several faculty members. Their findings that plagiarism had occurred were sent up the chain of command.

But then something happened. Either the college president, Rear Admiral P. Gardner Howe III, or the War College’s Provost, Dr. Lewis Duncan, or the two of them together (it is not clear who: which in of itself is a problem, albeit one for another time) chose to reject the faculty recommendation that the student be given a zero for the assignment. That action would have caused him to fail the joint qualification course (JPME Phase I which is required for career progression).

Rather, the student’s grade was adjusted so that he could pass the course, and receive his joint qualification. Failing the course is generally seen as a minimum punishment, reserved for lesser instances of plagiarism caused more by sloppiness than by an intent to represent someone else’s words as one’s own. Word around the campus is that the student’s career was preserved because he is slated for a significant command.

China’s 21st Century Emperor and its Implications for India

By Dr Subhash Kapila
10 May , 2016

China’s 21st Century Emperor emerges in the persona of President Xi Jinping who unprecedently in a short time-span has assumed total control of all Chinese military organs which create implications for Indian security.

Historically, an essential tenet of a nation’s threat assessments emanating from its military adversary was an estimation of the character and personality traits of its Commander-in-Chief controlling the military forces. In case of China which figures as India’s prime military threat, where President Xi Jinping is both the ‘king’ and China’s Commander-in-Chief of China’s vast military machine spreading its tentacles wider than before, it is essential to size-up President Xi Jinping’s personality traits and an overall assessment of what direction China follows under his leadership essentially against India.

China’s past two powerful political leaders presiding over China’s destiny, namely Chairman Mao and Deng Xiao Peng had not achieved such centralisation of military power in their hands structurally as President Xi Jinping has been able to achieve in a short span of time.

President Xi JinPing has in recent times in well-orchestrated sequential steps re-structured China’s military set-up by transforming China’s seven Military Regions into five geographical Military Theatre Battle Commands, all modernised as integrated joint theatre commands. Notably, the largest and most militarily powerful Military Theatre Command is the Western Theatre Battle Command which faces India all along its Northern Himalayan borders.

Myanmar Joins the Mainstream of International Relations

By Air Marshal Dhiraj Kukreja
10 May , 2016

The culmination of the general elections in Myanmar last November, and thereafter the election of a civilian president after five decades of army rule, has brought Myanmar back into the world mainstream, a defining moment indeed. The landslide victory of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s party ensured her presidential candidate would also be victorious. The existing constitution of Myanmar debars Ms Suu Kyi for becoming president because her children are foreign citizens. The election of Mr Htin Kyaw as president, has manoeuvred the rule to her advantage; she is now slated to be a ‘State Adviser’, a special post being created for her with de facto executive authority and being above the president himself!

Notwithstanding the outgoing civil-military regime’s reforms, the army continues to hold a quarter of the seats in parliament. Through this representation, it can still play an important political role.

The election victory and the formation of a democratic government mark the finale of a long struggle for democracy in Myanmar. Yet, the ambitions of Ms Suu Kyi to be the leader of her nation have not been met. Instead, her utterances of being the ‘real’ power behind the president, and the proposal of the new government to create a new post for her, can pose serious challenges and problems in providing effective governance to the people. Notwithstanding the outgoing civil-military regime’s reforms, the army continues to hold a quarter of the seats in parliament. Through this representation, it can still play an important political role. In the government, important portfolios as that of defence and internal security continue with the Army. Ms Suu Kyi would do well to realise that the transition to democracy is not yet complete, and that she should not antagonise the army.

If not vendetta, the sweet revenge?

09 May, 2016

The rejoinder from Colonel Ratanjit Singh, Director – Media, Directorate of Military Intelligence, Indian Army (The Statesman, 16 April 2016) titled “Not quite QED” in response to my article, “Quad Erat Demonstrandum”, which appeared in these columns on 28 March 2016, appears to be yet another cover-up attempt by the Army to conceal the actual happenings within its rank and file behind the scene. Not that these things do not happen in other government departments, but in the Army it occurs with military precision, hidden behind the holy cow image that these men in uniform have been projected as of late.

To begin with, it is on military records that the present Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, was served with a Discipline and Vigilance ban on promotion whilst he was GOC of 3 Corps based in Dimapur and that the letter was signed by Brigadier LI Singh in his capaciaty as Deputy Director General of the Army’s Discipline and Vigilance Directorate. And it isa also a fact that if then Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh (now a Central minister) had won his case in the Supreme Court over the controversy with regard to his actual date of birth, then the next in line to succeed him were Lieutenant-Generals KT Parnaik and Ashok Singh; and should he fail, then it would be Lieutenant-Generals Bikram Singh and Dalbir Singh Suhag, in terms of seniority.

26/11 planners ‘our people’, says former ISI chief

May 10, 2016

Book by Pakistan’s ex-envoy to U.S. Husain Haqqani contains then-ISI chief Gen. Shuja Pasha’s ‘revelation’.

The planners of the 26/11 attacks were “our people” but it wasn’t “our operation”, the then-ISI chief Gen. Shuja Pasha had admitted shortly after the Mumbai attacks in 2008, says former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani. The revelation, which appears in a forthcoming book on India-Pakistan relations, recounts the visit by General Pasha to Washington on December 24-25, 2008, where he made the startling admission.

At the end of his meetings with his CIA counterpart Gen. Michael Hayden, General Pasha had reportedly visited Mr. Haqqani at the ambassador’s residence. “Pasha said to me ‘Log hamaray thay, operation hamara nahin thha’,” Mr. Haqqani writes in the book — India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?

Speaking to The Hindu over the telephone from Washington, Mr. Haqqani said Gen. Pasha had also told Gen. Hayden that “retired military officers and retired intelligence officers” had been involved in the planning of the attacks. 

The conversation between the chiefs of the ISI and CIA has been recounted in three books earlier — by then U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice in her memoirs, Bob Woodward in his book “Obama Wars” and earlier this year by Gen. Hayden himself in his autobiography, Playing to The Edge. However, this is the first time Gen. Pasha’s words corroborating the ISI link have been recorded by a Pakistani official.

Sanskrit Education And Research In The IITs: An IITan’s Perspective

We are proud of our Aryabhatta, Nagarjuna, Chanakya, Brahmagupta, Shushruta but how many of us actually know what they wrote or what they accomplished? 

Vast literature of Atharvaveda, Vaisheshika Darshana, Arthashastra, Shushruta Samhita, and so on are yet to be tested in the light of modern science. Who knows what knowledge is hidden? 

MHRD does not propose Sanskrit as a compulsory subject in the IITs, rather as an optional subject in undergraduate curriculum. 

During the late 1960s, a highly ambitious government funded project was launched in China to find a new drug for treatment of several forms of malaria which were not treatable by quinine. Scientists all over the world had already tested over 240,000 compounds without any success. At this time, a 39-year-old Chinese woman Tu Youyou took a highly offbeat strategy. She started digging into traditional Chinese medicinal literature and documented the viable options. 

Upon testing about 2,000 herbal recipes, there was a hit. An extract from sweet wormwood (Artemesia annua) was found to be effective. Interestingly, the “modern” or conventional method of extraction with boiling water was found to be completely ineffective. In an ancient text from 340 CE, extraction with cold water was prescribed, and it worked remarkably well. 

VVIP chopper scam: CBI tracks two suspicious funds transfers to former IAF chief SP Tyagi

The Central Bureau of Investigation has found two "suspicious" payments to the accounts held by former Indian Air Force Chief SP Tyagi in 2009, reported The Times of India. The agency has also come to know that Tyagi is owner/shareholder in at least five different companies. He retired from his post in 2007.

"The statement given by SP Tyagi in 2013 to us is being matched with the facts highlighted in the judgment and there are many discrepancies in what he told us then and now," a senior CBI officer told The Times of India. Tyagi, along with his cousins and AgustaWestland middlemanChristian Michel, is one of main accused in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper scam.

The Enforcement Directorate, which is also investigating the case, said it has gone through CCTV footage and the visitors' book of a five-star hotel in Delhi where one of middlemen in the deal Michel often stayed during his visits to India. According to the English daily, the British businessman has made at least 100 trips to the country since 1993.

The investigating agency is trying to track his movements in the city. Michel's local driver is helping investigators identify his acquaintances and meeting places in the Capital. A farmhouse in South Delhi has come up during the investigation, among other places.

What the World Needs To Know About Counterterrorism

By Abhinav Pandya
10 May , 2016

Hindu mythology talks of a powerful demon Raktabija (blood-seed) who had created troubles for Gods and people alike but worse was his extraordinary ability to produce more demons with the each drop of his blood that spilled on the ground. Hence, the Gods decided to unite all of their divine energies and created a super-powerful entity Kali, which launched a multi-pronged attack killing Raktabija and his demons, and swallowed all of them whole so that no drop of blood is left to produce another demon.

The military onslaught against one group gives rise to more terrorist outfits, their splinter groups, and the quasi-active sleeper cells, which are most difficult to detect.

The tale of Kali and Raktabija has so far inspired the mystics of India in the forests of Assam and West Bengal, but it seems to offer a great vision in charting out a Counter-Terrorism strategy because the menace of terrorism has interesting similarities with Raktabija. Like Raktabija’s demons multiplying with his blood drops, terrorist organizations have multiplied and mushroomed disproportionately with the military action against them. The military onslaught against one group gives rise to more terrorist outfits, their splinter groups, and the quasi-active sleeper cells, which are most difficult to detect. For instance, from the remains of Al Qaida, rose ISIS. More recently, the splinter group of TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar perpetrated the brutal bomb blast on Easter in Lahore’s Gulshan Park.

One Easy Step toward Peace in Afghanistan

May 9, 2016

Prolonged conflicts are always difficult to resolve, since most of the time they depend on unexpected windows of opportunity. Unfortunately, Afghanistan has been at war for the past thirty-nine years. Warring parties, foreign interventions and internal power struggles have all made it difficult to find a peaceful solution to the protracted conflict.

Despite the long war, many opportunities have arisen that could have resolved the conflict. Following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, both the United States and Pakistan failed to influence the mujahedin to reach a political settlement with Afghanistan’s former president, Najibullah. Seizing this opportunity could have saved thousands of lives and government institutions, while preventing the dissemination of radicalism. But the United States and Pakistan utterly failed to seize it.

The second missed opportunity to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan was from 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban regime controlled over 90 percent of the country. The Taliban regime and the resistance led by the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, whose Northern Alliance was confined to the country’s extreme northeast, had held several meetings in neighboring countries including Turkmenistan but did not succeed in reaching a consensus.

Pakistan Is A Country That Cooks And Relishes Conspiracy Theories

May 9, 2016

Almost the entire Pakistani media is obsessed with the assumption that “Pakistan is a target of international conspiracy”. 
Hawks portray the bad state of Pakistan to be due to a grand international conspiracy designed and executed by almost the entire world. 
If the Pakistani media does not introspect and continues to inject society with such slow poison, Pakistan will never be able to take corrective measures. 

Can anyone imagine Bollywood film director Kabir Khan under the control of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval? Would you believe that Khan’s movies such as Phantom are funded by RAW? Or that Khan’s visit to Pakistan during the last week of April 2016 was for a ‘purpose’, that he was given a task by his ‘handlers’ (Ajit Doval and RAW) to calm down voices raised in Pakistan after the capture of an alleged Indian master spy – a serving Indian Naval Officer Commander Kulbhushan Yadav? (In fact, Kabir Khan was invited by the Marketing Association of Pakistan for an event ‘Marcon’ in Karachi.)

You would never have imagined that the United States used its High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) technology to trigger a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Pakistan in April 2016. Yet, all these and many more groundbreaking revelations can easily be found on Pakistani news channels. The Pakistani media sees everything through a special prism, claiming to understand the importance of the “timing” of any event and connecting the dots to understand the “whole game”.

Media plays a big role in shaping the psyche of a community or nation.

Making Sense of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’: Understanding Chinese Views

By Kerry Brown and He Jingjing

April 21, 2016 

One of the challenges of trying to make sense of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy (OBOR, in Chinese `yi dai yi lu’一带一路) has been to work out what the idea is trying to express in the first place, at least as it is understood within China. In March 2015, the State Council issued an action plan, in which it stated that the idea was principally aimed at encouraging:

The orderly and free flow of economic factors, highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets; encouraging the countries along the Belt and Road to achieve economic policy coordination and carry out broader and more in-depth regional cooperation of higher standards; and jointly creating an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all.

This sounds reasonable enough. The action plan makes clear too that China is seeking to work within existing international systems, not outside of them. So it embraces standards and norms from the UN and from other multilateral partners. But when we get down to specifics, the question of how China sees its main objectives and intentions becomes harder to answer. There is the proposal to have more RMB denominated bonds available for governments covered by the OBOR region, and also to have more scholarships, greater freedom of people movement, and more connectivity. It also proposes co-operation Memorandum of Understandings, and the hosting of international fora to embed the idea of greater regional identity. But what do Chinese leaders and thinkers see the main objectives of OBOR being? What do they want to achieve through it?

South China Sea: How We Got to This Stage

May 9, 2016

The South China Sea issue has become one of the major irritants in the China-US relations in recent years, over which the public opinion in the two countries are very critical of each other. There are even frictions in the sea between the two navies. The South China Sea seems like an outlet for the rivalry and confrontation that are building up of late between China and the US. As a result, the two sides seem to be reassessing each other’s intentions on a strategic level. The latest rhetoric is about “militarizing the South China Sea”, and on the part of the US, announcements to carry out “freedom of navigation operational assertions”. Hawkish voices are growing louder in both sides of the Pacific. Such frictions surrounding the South China Sea are leading to further strategic mistrust and hostility. The American scholar David M. Lampton was straightforward when he observed worriedly in reference to the existing situation, “A tipping point in the U.S.-China relations is upon us”. It is obvious that the South China Sea issue is a major catalyst for the troubled China-US relations, if not the key contributing factor.

Opinions diverge in both countries on what has led to the current situation in the South China Sea. In China, it is widely believed that it is the US’s Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy, its taking sides on disputes in the South China Sea, and its direct intervention that have escalated the tensions and made the issue more complicated. In the US, accusations are strident of China’s defiance of international law, coercion of smaller neighbors by force and attempted denial of access to the US, in its bid to gradually take control of the South China Sea using a salami-slicing strategy and to eventually turn it into a Chinese lake.

How Iran Is Twisting Reality to Get What It Wants

May 9, 2016

For years Iran has been a formidable challenge in the nuclear realm—a fact that has not changed since the deal. When Iran finally began to negotiate seriously over its nuclear program in 2013, it was only in order to lift the biting sanctions; indeed, nothing had changed in terms of its military nuclear ambitions, and Iran continues to advance its program where it can (for example its long range missile program, and R&D on advanced centrifuge models). All the while, Iran profusely denies ever having pursued a military option, despite the definitive IAEA report released in December 2015 that deems otherwise.

In the post-deal period, Iran continues to try to squeeze more concessions from the West—to ensure improvement of its economic situation beyond what was agreed to in the nuclear deal, in return for the minimal nuclear concessions that it made. In this effort, Iran recruits the power of the word: the steadfast and stubborn narratives that Iranian leaders promulgate with rhetorical acumen. Iran forever paints a slanted picture of reality that glosses over its aggressive regional behavior, gross human rights violations, and missile and nuclear advances, presenting itself as a virtuous and stellar international player that faces a relentless Western bully.

The war against the Islamic State hits hurdles just as the U.S. military gears up

By Liz Sly 
May 8, 2016

BEIRUT — After months of un­expectedly swift advances, the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State is running into hurdles on and off the battlefield that call into question whether the pace of recent gains can be sustained.

Chaos in Baghdad, the fraying of the cease-fire in Syria and political turmoil in Turkey are among some of the potential obstacles that have emerged in recent weeks to complicate the prospects for progress. Others include small setbacks for U.S.-

allied forces on front lines in northern Iraq and Syria, which have come as a reminder that a strategy heavily reliant on local armed groups of varying proficiency who are often at odds with one another won’t always work.

When President Obama first ordered U.S. warplanes into ­action against the extremists sweeping through Iraq and Syria in 2014, U.S. officials put a three- to five-year timeline on a battle they predicted would be hard. After a rocky start, officials say they are gratified by the progress made, especially over the past six months.

Since the recapture of the northern Iraqi town of Baiji last October, Islamic State defenses have crumbled rapidly across a wide arc of territory. In Syria, the important hub of Shadadi was recaptured with little resistance in February, while in Iraq, Sinjar, Ramadi, Hit and, most recently, the town of Bashir have fallen in quick succession, lending hope that the militants are on the path to defeat.

Why Saudi Arabia Is Suddenly in Serious Trouble

May 4, 2016 

A major report is forcing Saudi Arabia to consider a future without its lifeblood: oil. 

Saudi Arabia is in serious trouble. The Binladin Group, the kingdom’s largest construction company, has terminated the employment of fifty thousand foreign workers. They have been issued exit visas, which they have refused to honor. These workers will not leave without being paid back wages. Angry with their employer, some of the workers set fire to seven of the company’s buses.

Unrest is on the cards in the Kingdom. In April, King Salman fired the water and electricity minister Abdullah al-Hasin, who had come under criticism for high water rates, new rules over the digging of wells and cuts in energy subsidies. The restructured ministry was to save the Kingdom $30 billion—precious money for an exchequer that is spluttering from low oil prices. Eighty-six percent of Saudis say that they want the water and electricity subsidies to continue. They are not prepared to let these disappear. They see this as their right. Why, they say, should an energy rich country not provide almost free energy for its subjects?

When King Salman took over last year, he inherited a kingdom in dire straits. Saudi Arabia’s Treasury relies upon oil sales for over ninety percent of its revenue. The population does not pay tax, so the only way to raise funds is from oil sales. As oil prices fell from $100/ barrel to $30/barrel, oil revenues for the Kingdom collapsed. Saudi Arabia lost $390 billion in anticipated oil profits last year. Its budget deficit came to $100 billion—much higher than it has been in memory. For the first time since 1991, Saudi Arabia turned to the world of private finance to raise $10 billion for a five-year loan. That this country, with a vast sovereign wealth fund, needs to borrow money to cover its bills is an indication of its fragile fundamentals.

Stratfor: Iran’s mullahs and the Saudi Princes fight to control the internet

Next in this series looking the Saudi Princes’ attempts to cope with the 21st century, we share Stratfor’s analysis of how the Princes and Iran’s mullahs (aka ruhani) are responding to their irresistible common enemy — the internet, and especially social media.

“Information wants to be free””

— Stewart Brand told Steve Wozniak at the first Hackers Conference in 1984. He was referring only to the cost of information, but the concept applies in a wider sense.

Saudi Arabia and Iran: Enemies With a Common Problem
Stratfor, 2 May 2016

The Iranian and Saudi governments will yield to public pressure to improve citizens’ access to the Internet and mobile phone applications, risking conservative backlash in the process. 
Iran will have a harder time than Saudi Arabia in building better Internet infrastructure, though the lifting of sanctions should make this somewhat easier. 
The utility of third-party social media platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram will save them from being banned in both countries, even as debate over their inherent risks to stability continues. 

Stratfor looks at the Saudi Princes’ plans for a 21stC Kingdom under their rule

A Vision of Reform in Saudi Arabia
24 April 2016

4 Replies Summary: Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave his first-ever live interview to announce a bold new plan for the Kingdom. Stratfor sketches the details. It’s the standard conservative schtick: “tightening the social contract” (i.e., cutting subsidies to the public), privatizing national assets, and big talk about a glorious future — in which the Saudi Princes will still live like Croesus.

Saudi Arabia has lifted its veil of secrecy ever so slightly. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave his first-ever live interview to Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television on April 25, less than an hour after the Cabinet in Riyadh approved the kingdom’s National Transformation Plan.

The five-year plan, which will kick off officially in the next couple of months, outlines Saudi Arabia’s strategy to expand and develop its economy while de-emphasizing oil revenue. Within the framework of the larger Vision 2030 (text here, other materials), the plan focuses on broadening privatization efforts, lifting power and water subsidies across socio-economic classes, decreasing unemployment, bolstering domestic industrial military production, and spinning off some of Saudi Arabian Oil Co.’s assets into what the kingdom hopes will become the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.


MAY 10, 2016

Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, entered Syria in late 2011. By mid-2014, it had grown from a moderately-sized force bedeviled by conflict with more powerful armed groups to one of the few remaining key players in Northern Syria. During its early years, the group’s main and only focus was on its military operations against the Syrian regime. It rarely interfered in civil affairs and local governance. Since July 2014, however, al-Nusra has deliberately leveraged its powerful status to assert itself as a key revolutionary force, gradually insinuating itself into governance roles with the goal of implementing al-Qaeda’s political vision in Syria.

Unlike the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which relies on intimidation and shocking levels of violence to rule local populations in areas it holds and to market itself among global jihadis, al-Nusra uses persuasion and gradual change to increase its influence and control. This strategy is clearly informed by al-Qaeda’s past failures to establish grassroots support in Iraq. The Islamic State in Iraq’s defeat in 2007 was largely due to its failure to tend to its base or maintain a working relationship with nationalist Iraqi insurgents and local power brokers. By contrast, a gradual approach has allowed al-Nusra to root itself in Syrian society and present its project as one the few remaining viable alternatives for the Syrian people, making a Syria ruled by al-Qaeda a scenario more plausible than ever before.

The Pentagon’s Intel Chief Already Has Some Advice for the Next US President

May 9, 2016 

'The integration of intelligence of the past 15 years is a journey that is not finished,' said Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of Defense for intelligence. 

With Congress revisiting how Pentagon units share authority under the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, the intelligence agencies under the next presidential administration should likewise review their own unity of effort to become more agile and able to integrate, the top Defense intelligence official said Thursday.

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the ... Full Bio “The integration of intelligence of the past 15 years is a journey that is not finished,” said Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, at a banquet for agency and industry professionals in the nonprofit Intelligence and National Security Alliance. “I hope the new administration finds clear progress from the last 15 years and takes it on with a mantle of seriousness, or even sees an opportunity to redouble the effort.”

Google shakes up antivirus industry

May 9, 2016 

For more than a decade, Google's VirusTotal has given antivirus companies the ability to detect malware and share information about new viruses. But in a sweeping change meant end 'abuse' of the system, it is limiting access to the widely used database.

Google is in the process of limiting access to a widely used database of computer viruses and malicious software in a move that is having a ripple effect across the cybersecurity industry.

VirusTotal, a subsidiary of the search giant, said last week that it was attempting to curtail abuses of the database by mandating that any companies that access it must also participate in the service to help it grow.

VirusTotal receives about 1.2 million files each day from its free, public website that will scan against some 60 antivirus programs from leading makers such as Kaspersky Lab, Symantec, and Intel.

Companies pay to receive access to those files full of potentially new viruses and data on the consistency of malware scanners. Until the policy change, VirusTotal did not require companies to participate in scanning new files, meaning they did not add to the larger pool of malware information for the industry.

After ISIS, Americans Fear Cyberattacks Most

Nearly three in four people consider them a major threat to the U.S., but presidential candidates have largely ignored the issue. 

When the Pew Research Center asked 2,000 Americans last month to react to various potential international threats to the U.S., their number-one worry was ISIS. That’s no surprise: The terrorist group is scary by design, relying on propaganda videos and ultra-violent attacks to spread fear and project power. Pew had asked the same question last year and the year before, and ISIS topped the list of concerns then, too.

Kaveh Waddell is an associate editor at The Atlantic. Full Bio But coming in second right after the terrorist group was the prospect of country-on-country cyberwar: a digital raid to steal another government’s information, for example, or a large-scale attack on a nation’s electrical grid. Cyberattacks are a major threat in the minds of 72 percent of Americans, and a minor threat to another 22 percent. They beat out global economic instability, infectious diseases, refugees, and climate change for the silver medal on the roster of potential dangers.

Essay contest (19): The military needs a more innovative cyber force structure

May 5, 2016 

Best Defense essay contest entrant

George S. Patton called the M1 Garand the "greatest battle implement ever devised." That was World War II, when bad guys wore uniforms and the battlefield was a physical space.

A contemporary analysis of battle implements may conclude that the keyboard is the M1 Garand of the 21st century. In our interconnected world, the sound of keystrokes is more devastating than machine gun fire.

A cyberwarrior is more difficult to train than a WWII rifleman, however. They require more than range time and physical training to hone their skills, and the Department of Defense needs to figure out how to attract and retain the top talent it needs to maintain the edge in cyberspace.

The Pentagon is working to grow its presence in Silicon Valley by opening its Defense Innovation Unit — Experimental (DIUx) in hopes of attracting tech companies to work on defense projects. It’s been a tough sell to a difficult audience, and it’s unclear how much impact the office will really have. It is a good sign, however, that the Pentagon is working to find innovative solutions to the defense issues of the present and future.


MAY 10, 2016

The secretary of defense has outsized influence over America’s global network of bases, the number of military personnel stationed overseas, and the frequency of international visits, exercises, and rotational deployments of forces stationed in the United States—in short, the worldwide posture of the U.S. military.

Along with helping the president decide when, where, and how to use military force and ensuring our military has the resources to properly train and equip itself for war, maintaining the Department of Defense’s global posture belongs among any secretary’s top priorities.

This network of bases has for many decades generated significant advantages for the United States. But these advantages are not static, and the systems and assumptions that enable them are complex. Serious changes can take decades of investment in both relationships and facilities, and minor details can have major implications on size and readiness of the U.S. military. The next secretary of defense would do well to see defense posture as more than an extensive map of real estate agreements and instead devote time to understanding and refining this global system.

There are a few interrelated characteristics of the American way of war that help to illustrate why global posture is so important.


MAY 10, 2016

The price of greatness is responsibility. If the people of the United States had continued in a mediocre station, struggling with the wilderness, absorbed in their own affairs, and a factor of no consequence in the movement of the world, they might have remained forgotten and undisturbed beyond their protecting oceans: but one cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes.

When I was an undergraduate in the early noughties, few things could evoke less excitement than an early morning course on the inner workings of the European Union or a lecture on the future of NATO. My eyes glazed over at the very thought of class discussions over European milk quotas or the implementation modalities of the EU Fisheries Law. Similarly, debates over the future of NATO seemed to have a certain uninspiring and circular quality to them. It is perhaps the periods in history that appear the least exciting for young students, however, that end up being those that they subsequently regret the most.

As Robert F. Kennedy wryly noted during an arguably more fraught era, “There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times.”

What’s the big deal with West Point cadets posing with raised fists?

May 9, 2016 

A photo of 16 black female cadets at the US Military Academy raising their fists has sparked a debate over whether the gesture is a symbol of unity or a political act.

Is a raised fist a sign of exuberance — akin to tossing a graduation cap — or is it a political act?

That question has become central in a debate over an image circulated online showing 16 black female cadets from the US Military Academy at West Point in uniform with their fists raised. In response to concerns about the image, West Point officials have launched an investigation.

Some online commenters have questioned whether the photo is a show of support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and could violate a Defense Department policy barring political activities in uniform, but some West Point graduates and school leaders say the students were simply celebrating their upcoming graduation in a common campus tradition known as an “Old Corps” photo.

We need to broaden and change how we think about conflict

May 5, 2016 

Nobody does large-scale conventional warfare better than the U.S. military. The problem is that adversaries know this, so they're looking for whole new ways to project power and prevail in conflicts. We can't defeat the inventors of transistors by making the world's best vacuum tubes. Therefore, the one thing we must do is broaden our very definition of conflict to one that emphasizes innovation, adaptability, agility. We need to think differently and decide differently.

But how? Here are a few suggestions:

Use wargames to elicit likely weaknesses. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work has directed an increasing use of wargames, in large part because they bring out areas of concern more effectively than other forms of analysis. Quantitative methods such as OR, in particular, are too easily captured by the assumptions the analysts started with. But wargames can be captured as well, if the game designers and sponsors insist on predictability in the game. When a game is used to train junior officers, as many are, making “Red” predictable and thus compelling a “Blue” victory is standard practice. For assessment of potential threats, however, “Red” should be free to be diabolically inventive.