12 February 2017

*** US Strategies in the Middle East

Friedman's Weekly
By George Friedman

Washington must choose sides.

Last week, Iran confirmed that it test-fired a ballistic missile. The United States has responded by imposing new sanctions on Iran and stating that Iran remains both a major source of terrorism and a threat to American national interests. A review is now underway concerning U.S. policy toward Iran. At the same time, President Donald Trump has declared his intention of crushing the Islamic State, which has been U.S. policy since the emergence of IS.

U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily press briefing as Press Secretary Sean Spicer (L) looks on at the White House in Washington, on Feb. 1, 2017. Flynn signaled a more hardline American stance on Iran, condemning a recent missile test and declaring he was “officially putting Iran on notice.” NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. strategy in Iraq prior to the 2007 surge was to oppose both Shiite and Sunni claims to power in Iraq. The United States tried to craft a government in Baghdad that was independent of both major factions, ideally secular and closely aligned with the United States. That government was created, but it was never effective. The Shiites, supported by the Iranians, deeply penetrated the government, and more importantly, the government never had broad support beyond the coalition that backed it. The most dynamic forces in Iraq were deeply embedded in the Shiite and Sunni communities. Both drew strength from outside Iraq – the Sunnis from Saudi Arabia and the Shiites from Iran.

*** The Blackwater of Jihad


Heavily armed and expertly kitted with body armor and ballistic helmets, the men can be seen defending bunkers, storming buildings, and even posing by whiteboards giving tactical lessons. Though the titles of these YouTube videos are written in Russian Cyrillic, their background music is an a cappella Islamic chant known as a nasheed, which is often used by extremist groups in propaganda films. But the men are no ordinary jihadis. They are members of Malhama Tactical, the world’s first jihadi private military contractor (PMC) and consulting firm.

Malhama Tactical isn’t an enormous military conglomerate like the infamous Blackwater (now named Academi). It consists of 10 well-trained fighters from Uzbekistan and the restive Muslim-majority republics of the Russian Caucasus. But size isn’t everything in military consulting, especially in the era of social media. Malhama promotes its battles across online platforms, and the relentless marketing has paid off: The outfit’s fighting prowess and training programs are renowned among jihadis in Syria and their admirers elsewhere. It helps that until now the group has specialized its services, focusing on overthrowing Bashar al-Assad’s regime and replacing it with a strict Islamic government.

The group’s leader is a 24-year-old from Uzbekistan who goes by the name Abu Rofiq (an Arabic pseudonym that means father of Rofiq). Little is known about him other than that he cycles through personal social media accounts rapidly, using fake names and false information to throw off surveillance efforts. In virtually every video and photo posted online, he wears a scarf or balaclava to cover his face from the nose down, leaving visible only his narrow dark eyes and long, somewhat tangled, pitch-black hair. He speaks fluent Russian, but with a slight Uzbek accent.

** Striking a Balance Between Security and Freedom

By Anisa Mehdi

In the winter of 1917, the French freighter Mont Blanc, laden with picric acid and TNT destined for the European war effort, headed into the great harbor of Halifax to join a convoy bound for Bordeaux. A Norwegian ship, the Imo, was leaving Halifax at the same time, destined for New York. Its mission was to bring food and supplies back to people in German-occupied Belgium and northern France.

On that cold December day, it should have been an ordinary passing of two ships. But as a result of miscommunication, navigational protocols were violated. Seamen, civilians and members of the Royal Naval College of Canada looked on in horror as the Mont Blanc and the Imo collided. The impact caused a fire on the French ship that eventually caused its explosive payload to ignite. For Haligonians, all hell broke loose. As well as destroying much of the harbor, the resulting blast killed almost 2,000 people. The captain of the HMCS Acadia, located 24 kilometers (15 miles) outside of Halifax that day, estimated the smoke rising from the seat of the explosion to be more than 3 kilometers high.

The Halifax disaster was the largest man-made explosion on Earth until World War II, when the United States' atom bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. 

The small German population of Nova Scotia came under attack as the slogan "Place the Blame" riled people toward vengeance. Because who else could be responsible for the calamity besides the Kaiser? And weren't all Germans, therefore, collectively culpable? At first, reports emerged of rampaging crowds stoning neighbors with German-sounding names. But less than a week after the explosion, before the fires were even put out or all the bodies recovered, let alone buried, the Canadian military ordered the arrest of every German citizen.

** How China Lost $1 Trillion


It’s a lot of money — but it’s shrinking.

On Tuesday, China’s central bank said its foreign exchange reserves slipped to $2.998 trillion in January. While they dropped only a modest amount from December, the fall still put the reserves below the psychologically important $3 trillion level. Three years ago, they were at nearly $4 trillion.

When they were last at $3 trillion, in early 2011, China’s economy was growing at a much faster pace — and the central bank’s foreign-exchange reserves were growing rapidly.

What are China’s foreign exchange reserves? 

China keeps a firm grip on the value of its currency, the renminbi. For years, that meant keeping the renminbi steady as vast amounts of the world’s money flooded into the country to buy the toys, shoes, electronics and other goods it makes.

Under the rules of global finance, that flood of money should have driven up the value of the renminbi against other currencies, like the dollar. Instead, China kept the renminbi from rising as a way to help its manufacturers compete abroad. The mechanics of how it did that are complicated, but the process resulted in China holding large sums of money denominated in other currencies.

** Russia's Art of War

By Michael Cecire

“War is the continuation of politics by other means,” observed the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz in his classic treatise On War. Although the aphorism has become axiomatic almost to the point of cliché, it is an especially apt prism for understanding Russia’s increasingly adventurous foreign policy.

Take Russian President Vladimir Putin’s penchant for “hybrid warfare,” or the combination of traditional military methods with the manipulation of information for strategic gain. In many ways, Moscow’s recent interventions in Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine are explicit exemplars of Clausewitz’s maxim, albeit with a twist. For Clausewitz, war was simply another way to achieve relatively concrete strategic objectives, such as security, which could not be otherwise realized through politics. Russia’s recent wars in Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine, however, have been military expressions of its government’s desire to lend truth to its pretensions to superpower status. In all three conflicts, Russia’s local interests were debatable, if not negligible; instead, their purpose was first and foremost to demonstrate, for both domestic and international audiences, that Russia is a great power with global reach and aspirations. For the Kremlin, war is state branding by other means.For the Kremlin, war is state branding by other means.


Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has consistently sought to position itself as a peer to the United States and NATO—sometimes as a partner and sometimes as a competitor. Such status anxiety was most infamously expressed in Putin’s 2005 comment that “the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” More recently, the official 2015 Russian national security strategy document is laced with references to Russia’s instrumental role in managing major global crises and cites “transforming the Russian Federation into a world power” as a key national interest.

India's defence budget: Trapped in a straitjacket

By C. Uday Bhaskar

The annual budget was presented on February 1 and the allocation for the Defence Ministry offers some instructive insights about how India plans to nurture its military -- that is, the three armed forces: the army, navy and air force. 

The total allocation for the financial year (FY) 2017-18 is a reasonable Rs 3,59,854 crore ($53 billion) and the increase over the last three years has been steady. In FY 2015-16, the total defence allocation was Rs 2,94,320 crores and while this increase of Rs 65,534 crore is seemingly large -- almost 23 per cent over a three-year period -- the larger fiscal context provides some anomalous insights. 

The Indian defence budget is trapped in a strait-jacket which has four structural constraints that impede significant capacity-creation and inventory modernisation

These four strands are the declining ratio between defence expenditure (DE) in relation to GDP; the steady rise in the revenue component of the DE -- which caters only to the standing costs of a 1.3 million-plus military; the under-utlisation of the allocated funds -- particularly in the capital component of the DE which caters to acquisition and modernisation; and finally the relative decline of the Indian rupee in relation to the US dollar, which results in shrinking buying power in the global arms market. 

Strand 1: From FY to 2015-16 to the current fiscal 2017-18, the total defence allocation has increased from Rs 2,94,320 to Rs 3,45,106 and now Rs 3,59,854. However, as a ratio of DE to GDP it has varied: 2.15 per cent to 2.29 per cent and now 2.14 per cent. 

Why We Should Worry About Political Trends In Punjab, TN And West Bengal

R Jagannathan

Each of the three states is right now at a point where a gentle push can trigger a full blown social and political crisis

Political trends in three states – Punjab, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu – should worry all Indians - and the Narendra Modi government at the centre.

In Punjab, there is a good chance that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) could come to power, or at least become the strongest opposition party in the state when the results are announced on 11 March.

In West Bengal, the rising graph of communal violence, and Mamata Banerjee’s dependence on radicalised sections of the Muslim community to retain power, makes for volatile politics.

In Tamil Nadu, the recent decision of the AIADMK to replace its Chief Minister, O Panneerselvam, with “Chinnamma”, J Jayalalithaa’s “friend” Sasikala Natarajan, promises political uncertainty in the near future. Reason: the eagerness of Sasikala’s family (a.k.a. the ‘Mannargudi mafia’) to grab power so soon after Jaya’s death shows that the trust factor in AIADMK politics is gone. The chances are the party will split in due course. Unlike Jaya, Sasikala neither has the charisma nor the political acumen to manage both party and government. Dissidents will emerge from the woodwork very shortly, causing new strains in Tamil politics.

Unstable politics forces leaders to take extreme positions to consolidate their hold on power. In the process, if the leaders of these parties are not very careful, anti-national forces can take hold.

All But Lost: In Bengal, ISIS Ideology Allowed To Thrive And Prosper At Public Expense

Jaideep Mazumdar
The state is seeing an alarming demographic shift and intense and openly flaunted radicalisation of Muslims. All thanks to Mamata Banerjee’s vote bank politics. 

Salafist mullahs issue fatwas against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders. A prominent cleric opines that all women, irrespective of their religion, should cover themselves. Schoolchildren are taught to hail their parents as “abbu” and “ammi”, while school textbooks are revised to delete all non-Islamic terms.

The killing of Osama bin Laden is publicly mourned and a price is put on the head of writer Taslima Nasreen and others who are pronounced by regressive clerics to be anti-Islam.

Bigoted mullahs publicly call for the assassination of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed for her crackdown on Islamists in her country. Authorities deny permission to Hindus to celebrate their religious festivals due to objections from Muslims. Houses and shops of Hindus are looted and torched, but the perpetrators are never booked.

One would have expected this from some medieval corner of Pakistan that’s under the reign of the Taliban or the Daesh. But no, this is West Bengal under the chief ministership of Mamata Banerjee who often dons the hijab and bends over backwards to please venom-spewing Salafi mullahs. In the six years she has been in power in Bengal, the state has come under the firm grip of Islamists who have started dictating the agenda in many fields. Thus, the word “ramdhanu” (rainbow) gets changed to “rongdhanu” in school textbooks since the original name (of the rainbow) starts with “Ram”. Schoolchildren are taught to call their paternal uncles “chacha”, not the Bengali “kaku”, and their paternal aunts “fufi-amma” instead of the Bengali “pishi”. The Islamisation of school textbooks in Bengal is firmly on its way as dictated by hardline Islamists.

Attacking Iran Will Not Help Trump Defeat ISIS

Sharmine Narwani

Is Washington prepared to break from its failed policy trajectory and make the crucial choice between Iran and ISIS? If Trump is willing to do that, a plan to defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda is in easy reach.

If you were betting on an unpredictable Donald J Trump to transform America’s bankrupt Mideast policy scene, these next 10 words will burst your bubble.

“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” National Security Advisor Michael Flynn told reporters a mere thirteen days into the new administration.


If you recall, Trump came roaring off the campaign trail with the foreign policy priority of defeating ISIS, so why the sudden confrontation with the Islamic Republic of Iran? Though Flynn apparently thinks otherwise, ISIS and Iran are not the same thing at all — they are the exact antithesis of each other.

Iran is a natural regional hegemon by virtue of its size, population, and development indicators. The Shia-majority nation has not initiated war in centuries, forges state-to-state relations using soft power tools, and prides itself on its diversifying knowledge-based economy, rich cultural heritage, and respect for diversity.

Lessons from the past - The engagement between India and the Gulf has deepened

K.P. Nayar

Narendra Modi at the Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque, August 2015

The most valuable lesson on how to go forward in cementing relations between India and the United Arab Emirates after the visit of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, as chief guest at this year's Republic Day can be found in the pages of history of relations between the two countries.

Forty two years ago, Sheikh Mohamed's father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the founding inspiration for the UAE and its first president, visited Aligarh Muslim University and made a generous contribution to the university, which was then approaching the centenary of its original incarnation as the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College founded by the social reformer, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.

It was Sheikh Zayed's wish that his contribution should be used to start petroleum studies at this 'institution of national importance' as declared by Parliament under the seventh schedule of the Indian Constitution. As a friend of India in need, Sheikh Zayed realized that New Delhi was reeling under the first oil shock of 1973. He foresaw that India had the potential to emerge in the long run as one of the biggest consumers of Abu Dhabi's main national resource, namely oil. He could also see for himself that India had the human resources needed for quality research and innovation on this valuable energy resource.

A file on Islamic State’s ‘problem’ foreign fighters shows some are refusing to fight

By Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim

IRBIL, Iraq — The documents in the Islamic State file hinted at signs of rebellion within the ranks of its foreign fighters. 

A Belgian militant had a medical note saying he had back pain and would not join the battle. A fighter from France claimed he wanted to leave Iraq to carry out a suicide attack at home. Several requested transfers to Syria. Others just simply refused to fight. 

The documents on 14 “problem” fighters from the Tariq Bin Ziyad battalion — made up largely of foreigners — were found by Iraqi forces after they took over an Islamic State base in a neighborhood of Mosul last month. 

At its peak, the Islamic State drew thousands of recruits each month and controlled about a third of Iraq’s territory, and the foreigners who poured in from dozens of countries have been characterized as the most die-hard fighters. But the group has steadily lost ground and appeal

The militants are now besieged in the western half of Mosul, once the biggest city the Islamic State controlled and the heart of its self-proclaimed caliphate. But the group’s losses have triggered concerns in Europe that disillusioned fighters might find their way home. 

“He doesn’t want to fight, wants to return to France,” said the notes on a 24-year-old listed as a French resident of Algerian descent. “Claims his will is a martyrdom operation in France. Claims sick but doesn’t have a medical report.” 

Not ‘Lone Wolves’ After All: How ISIS Guides World’s Terror Plots From Afar


HYDERABAD, India — When the Islamic State identified a promising young recruit willing to carry out an attack in one of India’s major tech hubs, the group made sure to arrange everything down to the bullets he needed to kill victims.

For 17 months, terrorist operatives guided the recruit, a young engineer named Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, through every step of what they planned to be the Islamic State’s first strike on Indian soil.

Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, left, and his younger brother Ilyas, whom he recruited to participate in the Hyderabad plot.

They vetted each new member of the cell as Mr. Yazdani recruited helpers. They taught him how to pledge allegiance to the terrorist group and securely send the statement.

And from Syria, investigators believe, the group’s virtual plotters organized for the delivery of weapons as well as the precursor chemicals used to make explosives, directing the Indian men to hidden pickup spots.

Until just moments before the arrest of the Indian cell, here last June, the Islamic State’s cyberplanners kept in near-constant touch with the men, according to the interrogation records of three of the eight suspects obtained by The New York Times.

As officials around the world have faced a confusing barrage of attacks dedicated to the Islamic State, cases like Mr. Yazdani’s offer troubling examples of what counterterrorism experts are calling enabled or remote-controlled attacks: violence conceived and guided by operatives in areas controlled by the Islamic State whose only connection to the would-be attacker is the internet.

All of Islam Isn’t the Enemy


Is President Trump trying to make enemies of the entire Muslim world? That could well happen if he follows up his primitive ban on refugees and visa holders from seven Muslim nations with an order designating the Muslim Brotherhood — perhaps the most influential Islamist group in the Middle East — as a terrorist organization.

Such an order, now under consideration, would be seen by many Muslims as another attempt to vilify adherents of Islam. It appears to be part of a mission by the president and his closest advisers to heighten fears by promoting a dangerously exaggerated vision of an America under siege by what they call radical Islam.


Egyptian students, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi, demonstrating outside Cairo University in 2014. CreditMahmoud Khaled/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The struggle against extremism is complex, and solutions must be tailored both to the facts and to an understanding of the likely consequences. Since 1997, the secretary of state has had the power to designate groups as foreign terrorist organizations, thus subjecting them, as well as people and businesses who deal with them, to sanctions, like freezing their assets. President Barack Obama resisted adding the Brotherhood to that list.

What Are U.S. Forces Doing in Yemen in the First Place?


Last week’s raid was an embarrassing and costly failure—in the context of a much larger one.

Women walk past a graffiti, denouncing strikes by U.S. drones in Yemen, painted on a wall in Sanaa, Yemen on February 6, 2017.Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

Several days ago, press reports revealed that U.S. special-operations troops had conducted a raid in Yemen. Impoverished, violent, and bitterly divided, Yemen has hitherto had a place on the roster of countries that the United States periodically bombs without being graced with the presence of U.S. forces on the ground. As long as this arrangement persisted, few Americans paid attention to events in this far corner of the “war on terror.” After all: Whoever was killed and maimed by U.S. ordnance falling from the skies, it wasn’t our guys.
Now with one Navy SEAL dead, several others injured, and a $75-million aircraft destroyed, the calculus has changed. However briefly, Yemen is in the headlines, with the press even taking note of the civilian bystanders killed and wounded as the Americans fought to extricate themselves from an operation gone awry. Here for our novice commander-in-chief who has promised “we’re gonna win so much people will say we can’t take it any more” was a vicarious baptism of fire.Those who speak on behalf of Donald Trump categorize the outcome as his first win, and an impressive one at that. According to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the raid was “a successful operation by all standards,” not to mention, “very, very well thought out and executed.” Few other outside Trump’s inner circle share that assessment. By any objective measure, the raid was an embarrassing and costly failure—so much so that the Yemeni government has reportedly forbidden any further such intrusions.

With Donald Trump in the White House, the Balkans whisper of war


A man takes pictures of a mural of Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Belgrade in December. 

Nowhere in the world is tension higher than in this Southeast European region, where peace has largely been maintained by U.S. political will, and the possibility of its military intervention 

It’s just a few kilometres into northern Kosovo that you encounter the first billboards celebrating the election of Donald Trump.

“Serbs stood by him all along!” one reads, under a giant photo of the new President of the United States giving a thumbs-up.

Another shows Mr. Trump in an equally familiar pose – an annoyed shrug – beside a campaign-time quote from Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci, saying he expected Mr. Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, to win.

Locals say the billboards, which line the main highway south from Serbia, as well as the sides of apartment buildings in the Serbian quarter of the divided city of Mitrovica, went up the morning after Mr. Trump defied many predictions and won the U.S. election.

Putin Singles Out Hungary

Meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban come as concerns are increasing in European borderlands about Moscow's resurgent influence. (MAXIM SHIPENKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

President Vladimir Putin put on full display the Russian strategy of sowing division in the West with his visit to Hungary, one of the most vocal advocates in Europe for improving relations with Moscow. Putin and a Russian delegation landed in Budapest on Thursday for a one-day visit. Anxiety in borderland states has been growing in response to Moscow's shows of confidence and the warm signals toward Russia from the United States, the country key to containing Russian ambitions. 

Hungary's loyalties have often swung between sides in the struggle between Russia and the West. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Hungary quickly oriented its foreign policy toward the West, joining NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. During the latter half of the 2000s, particularly after the European Union was pounded by the 2008 financial crisis, Budapest flirted with Moscow in an attempt to attract investment. Then, in 2014, Moscow's influence took a hit when Russia was blindsided by the revolution in Ukraine, the West slapped it with sanctions, and oil prices collapsed and sent the Russian economy into a tailspin. Hungary's response was to bolster its newly pro-Western counterpart in Kiev by sending natural gas flowing back to Ukraine despite Moscow's objections. Russia even accused Hungary of supplying tanks to Ukraine.

New Tactics or Grand Strategy for Trump’s War Plan?

Jamie Dettmer, Voice of America

On the presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump demurred when asked to outline his war plan to defeat the so-called Islamic State terror group, arguing he wasn’t going to tip his hand to America’s foes by revealing his intentions.

Last Friday, though, President Trump turned to his generals for a detailed military strategy, and he signed an executive order instructing members of his Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to come up with a plan within 30 days - one that can be implemented immediately.

Does that Mean Trump Never Had a Plan?

Maybe not in tactical detail when it came to a military campaign, but he did outline some broad policy strokes in a speech in August, including combating the ideology of “radical Islam” more effectively, introducing extreme-vetting immigration procedures, moving America away from nation-building and regime change in the Middle East, and engaging in a radical realignment by forging an alliance with Russia to defeat IS and its jihadist rival al-Qaida.

When it came to a war plan, candidate Trump offered just three tactics: intensifying the bombing of the Islamic State, seizing control of oilfields in Iraq, and recruiting NATO to invade strongholds in the Middle East to “knock the hell out of ISIS.”

Flynn's Influence

Much of what Trump says about the war on IS has been influenced by a book written by Mike Flynn, a former intelligence general who’s now President Trump’s National Security Adviser.



The idea of nuclear blackmail fascinated analysts early in the atomic age. It offered an especially vivid nightmare scenario: Some new Hitler demanding concessions but this time armed with nuclear weapons. Hitler’s cold-blooded demands backed with force made Britain and France back down in one crisis after another in the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. The first generation of strategists thought that a “nuclear Hitler” would present nearly impossible challenges to the West. Fortunately, such fears never materialized in the Cold War, as the superpowers lacked the daring drive of the Fuëhrer. They were much more conservative and cautious.

Still, it is a good time to analyze blackmail once again in the present. Many things have changed since the Cold War. When it comes to nuclear strategy, multipolarity is the order of the day in the second nuclear age. A nuclear context now blankets many more parts of the world, in East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. Whether or not nuclear blackmail is attempted, the nuclear context of any kind of blackmail surely does. Today nine countries have the bomb, so the opportunity for blackmail is greater for this reason alone. Further, the risk-avoiding behavior of the Cold War might not apply in a second nuclear age. The early strategists who worried about nuclear blackmail did not have the “curse of knowledge” of Cold War history. The cautious behavior of the first nuclear age may well repeat itself in the second. But then again, it might just be a historical relic. We simply do not know.

War Is War

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The modern approach to many issues dictates that we try to control events around us, but war is chaotic by nature and does not yield to predetermined processes. The prudence with which the 2014 Gaza campaign was waged deserves the public's full confidence.

Even before State Comptroller Yosef Shapira's report on the 2014 military campaign in the Gaza Strip has been released to the public, the media has been hysterically quoting excerpts from leaked minutes of the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet's meetings. It is using the leaks to lambaste Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, and other top military officials, including the IDF Chief of Staff and Director of Military Intelligence.

The voices leading public discourse in Israel this week resonated with doubt over Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion's iconic statement: "May every Jewish mother know that she has placed her son's fate in the hands of commanders worthy of the task." Some have even suggested that we have placed our sons' fates in the hands of an unworthy national leadership.

Public interest in the state comptroller's report on Operation Protective Edge focuses on two core questions. The first seeks to understand how it was that the government led Israel to war with Hamas in the summer of 2014. Was a military campaign in Gaza really necessary? The second wants an explanation for what seems an affront to national pride: How did we find ourselves, as a nation and a military, ill-equipped to deal with the threat posed by Hamas's grid of terror tunnels?



During his first days in office, President Trump quickly delivered on his foremost campaign promise: to bring change to Washington. He dispensed a flurry of executive orders and memoranda on a wide range of issues, including repealing the Affordable Care Act, building a wall on the Mexican border, and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For the national security community, however, the two most important directives were the immigration ban and the reorganization of the National Security Council — and both reveal a larger behind-the-scenes battle among the president’s most senior advisors.

It was hard to miss the symbolism surrounding the signing of the immigration ban. Trump issued it during his first visit to the Pentagon for the ceremonial swearing-in of Secretary of Defense James Mattis. It was held in the revered Hall of Heroes against a giant backdrop of a Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest military award. But, he unexpectedly used the well-publicized occasion to sign an order temporarily barring refugees and immigrants from seven Middle Eastern countries — including Iraq, whose troops are fighting alongside American forces. This placed Mattis in the uncomfortable position of appearing to support this ban — indeed, implying that the Defense Department wanted the ban as a means of protecting the nation — when, in fact, Mattis had explicitly opposed such a policy only six months earlier. Furthermore, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, whose agency is responsible for enforcing all immigration laws and policies, reportedly had little input to the decision and learned of the announcement from a television report. Kelly and Mattis later pushed back against the White House for not consulting them before issuing an order that directly affected their agencies.



Two centuries ago, Carl von Clausewitz described the need for able intellects to lead armies in his work, On War. He noted that any complex activity, virtuously executed, requires the gifts of intellect and temperament, as well as two other indispensable qualities. First, “an intellect that even in the darkest hour retains some glitterings of the inner light which leads to truth.” And, second, the courage “to follow this faint light wherever it may lead.”

More recently, Williamson Murray wrote in Strategy and Military Effectiveness:

[W]ar is an incredibly complex endeavour. It is…the most demanding intellectually and morally. The cost of slovenly thinking at every level of war can translate into the deaths of innumerable men and women, most of whom deserve better from their leaders.

What Murray describes here is the need for military leaders to seek mastery of the most complex and intellectually challenging of professions — the profession of arms. And it is a profession that is becoming more challenging to master. Technology continues to advance, our societies change, and great power competition once again defines the strategic environment. It is therefore imperative that we evolve our understanding of the profession, how its key competencies are evolving, and how our institutions can remain at the forefront of “professional practice.”

Professionalism is when a person is engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work. A profession requires skills and knowledge, often based on first principles — propositional knowledge. Professions are subject to strict codes of conduct, which in some cases are based on rigorous ethical and moral obligations — such as doctors and the Hippocratic Oath.



The tragedy of Aleppo, the annual commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the recent executive order on refugees had social media abuzz with expressions of “Never Again.” Widespread disdain accompanied those stories, conveying a feeling that we have somehow failed to internalize the correct “lessons of history,” assuming for now that such lessons even exist. With those sentiments came a lot of hand-wringing about humanity’s seeming inability to learn properly from the manifest horrors of the past. Speaking out, “liking” a post, or retweeting a thoughtful article may help raise awareness, especially for a generation of young people who may never get the chance to meet Holocaust survivors. But if “Never Again” only means that modern states should never again allow genocide, then social media is only good for the expression of a sentiment with which it is impossible to disagree. If “Never Again” means that states should always intervene to prevent humanitarian disasters or should always open their borders to refugees, then the sentiment runs against the experiences of the past, however painful facing up to that conclusion may be.

The tragedy of the Syrian refugees today now spans two presidential administrations, and its effects have touched the interests of several Western countries. It is unlikely to be resolved soon, nor is it likely to be the last refugee crisis with which the world community will have to contend. The U.N. High Commission on Refugees recently estimated that there are 64,000,000 refugees worldwide, easily the most ever on record. We tend to focus on Syria for justifiable reasons, but there are peoples who have been refugees for much longer. The Palestinian refugee crisis will soon enter its 70th year. It is long past time for strategists and policymakers to acknowledge the long-term, global instability that refugee crises can create. The time to plan for these crises is before they happen. And to do that, one needs to think deeply and analytically about some pretty ugly history.

Cyber’s role in Air Force’s premier training exercise: Red Flag

by Mark Pomerleau

As the old adage goes, practice like you play. As such, cyber forces have become an integral part in the Air Force’s premier realistic combat training exercise typically held four times each year.

“We are bringing the non-kinetic duty officers into the fight at Red Flag,” Lt. Col. Neal, chief, current operations, 25th Air Force, said. “These experts in ISR and cyber warfare are the newest weapons in our command and control arsenal.”

Neal stressed the importance of bringing non-kinetic elements to the fight as the services are transitioning to multi-domain battle. “The new face of warfare includes land, sea, air, space and cyber,” he said.

Air Force cyber teams have been integrated in Red Flag since 2009, a spokesperson from 24th Air Force said. The Air Force’s cyber element is made up of personnel from both 24th and 25th Air Force. Personnel from 25th Air Force provide cyber intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance while personnel from 24th Air Force provide cyber operations and effects resulting in a 60/40 split of personnel from each numbered Air Force, respectively, to make up the roughly 1,700 AFCYBER workforce.

Cyber forces began in 2009 with a small contingent of 57 information aggressor squadron teams acting as red teams against operators in the Combined Air Operations Center at Nellis, the spokesperson said via email. Defensive cyber teams were then added.

Hunting hackers: Ethical hacker explains how to track down the bad guys

by Timothy Summers

When a cyberattack occurs, ethical hackers are called in to be digital detectives. In a certain sense, they are like regular police detectives on TV. They have to search computer systems to find ways an intruder might have come in – a digital door or window left unlocked, perhaps. They look for evidence an attacker left of entry, like an electronic footprint in the dirt. And they try to determine what might have been copied or taken.

Understanding this process has become more important to the public in light of recent events in the news. In October 2016, the U.S. officially said Russia was trying to embarrass respected political figures and interfere with the U.S. presidential election process. Specifically, the Obama administration formally blamed Russia for hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems. The statement hinged on the investigative capabilities of American ethical hackers working for both private companies and government agencies.

But how do people track down hackers, figuring out what they have done and who they are? What’s involved and who does this sort of work? The answer is that ethical hackers like me dig deep into digital systems, examining files logging users’ activity and deconstructing malicious software. We often team up with intelligence, legal and business experts, who bring outside expertise to add context for what we can find in the electronic record.
Detecting an intrusion

GAO: DHS cyber communications center could communicate better

by Tony Ware

Then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson spends a day at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) for a hands-on look at how DHS protects cyberspace in Arlington, Virginia, March 11, 2016. While there Secretary Johnson awarded employees for their hard work and dedication in addition to working side-by-side with employees at the NCCIC, which serves as the central location for government, private sector and international partners involved in cybersecurity and communications protection to coordinate and synchronize their efforts. Official DHS photo by Jetta Disco. 

The Department of Homeland Security’s sharing of cybersecurity-related information with federal and nonfederal entities could be improved by assessing and optimizing a specific department component, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.

The DHS’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center is required by the National Cybersecurity Protection Act of 2014 and the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 to perform 11 cybersecurity-related functions, and it does so adequately, says GAO. However, it could enhance effectiveness and efficiency by establishing metrics and methods for evaluating performance in accordance with the NCCIC’s implementing principles.

Among the functions of the NCCIC are monitoring traffic in and out of federal networks to spot vulnerabilities and threats and providing bulletins on cyber threat indicators, defensive measures and cybersecurity risks and incidents to federal, state, local, tribal and territorial government entities, private-sector customers and other partner organizations.

Secure software is of 'strategic importance' to the Army

By: Mark Pomerleau

The Army is grappling with the challenge of developing common software baselines, closing institutional gaps and creating a unity of effort across the entire department for software sustainment and development. 

That’s where the Software Solariums come in. Held at Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Software Solariums — the first of which was held in September and the second Feb. 2-3 — were about bringing stakeholders together from across the Army, joint force and contracting community to make some “way-ahead recommendations,” said Maj. Gen. Bruce Crawford, commander of Army Communications and Electronics Command. During a call with reporters on Feb. 3, Crawford categorized the software concern facing the Army as one of “strategic importance.” 

The solarium sought to get at four lines of effort: enabling a more defensible network that involves linking software development to a defending network; driving efficiencies; oversight and policy on software development and sustainment; and what the optimal workforce — between government and contractor — should be. 

One of the problems for the Army is delivering updates and patches to systems in the field. Crawford said the previous operating model involved creating disks and then sending them via snail mail to a post camp or station, which all told was a 120-day process.