6 March 2017

Gen Bajwa’s Three Months at the Top Job

By Meenakshi Sood 

“Defense and security of Pakistan against external and internal threat will remain my ultimate objective as military chief” – Gen Bajwa

The transfer of power from one chief of army to another is usually an uneventful occasion, other than in Pakistan. Having experienced four military dictatorships and a dominating presence of the military in its polity, the country heaved a sigh of relief when Gen Raheel Sharif, despite speculation to the contrary, stepped down after the end of his tenure and made way for Gen Bajwa.Considered a ‘dark horse’ in the race, Gen Bajwa superseded four generals to become the 16th Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan. His pro-democracy views and low profile seemed to have tipped the balance in his favour. Three months into his tenure, he seems to be no different than his predecessors on major policy issues- be it relations with its neighbours - India and Afghanistan- or issues of internal security. The institutional interests of the military reign supreme, while individual idiosyncrasies allow for difference in style, not substance. 

Local Elections: The Coming Test for Nepal's Constitution

By Stephen Groves

Nepal police block Madhesi protesters from accessing the government complex in Kathmandu in May. Protesters traveled to the capital from Nepal's southern regions to protest for constitutional amendments that would give them greater representation in the parliament.

Nepal holds local elections for the first time in two decades. 

KATHMANDU — For the first time in 20 years, Nepalis will go to the ballot box on May 14 to elect local officials, marking a significant step in consummating the Constitution passed in September 2015. But they will do so without the consent of the ethnic groups from Nepal’s southern plains, the Madhesis, who protested their under-representation in the Constitution and government with a six-month border blockade in 2015 and 2016. Their protest cut off trade with India, prevented essential supplies like petrol, gas cooking bottles, and medicine from entering the country, and crippled the Nepali economy.

When Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced the election date on February 20, he initiated a crucial countdown for Nepali democracy to forge ahead. Successful local elections this spring will pave the way for provincial and national elections in the fall, marking a return to the democratic process after two decades of upheaval – a ten-year civil war, and a drawn-out transition period. As mandated by the Constitution, all three levels of elections must be conducted by January 21, 2018.

Report: China and India Have World's Deadliest Air Pollution

By K.S. Venkatachalam

The Health Effects Institute finds India and China to be the deadliest air polluting countries of the world. 

The Health Effects Institute (HEI), a Boston-based non-profit organization that specializes in studying health effects as a result of pollution, recently published its “State of Global Air, 2017: A Special Report on Global Exposure to Air Pollution and its Disease Burden.” Based on extensive research conducted across 175 countries, HEI found that India and China face the deadliest air pollution in the world.

The study reveals that air pollution has caused over 4.2 million early deaths across the globe in 2015, out of which India and China alone accounted for 25.7 percent and 26.1 percent respectively. HEI focuses on two measures of outdoor air pollution in their Global Burden of Disease Project: ambient fine particulate matter (air­borne particles less than or equal to 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or PM2.5) and ozone, a reactive gas. These are the most widely studied and monitored air pollutants worldwide, with PM2.5 responsible for the vast majority of early deaths (4.2 million, compared to 254,000 attributed to ozone).

In India, rapid industrialization and population growth have adversely affected urban climates, particularly air quality, and caused imbalances in the regional climate at large. As per a study conducted by the World Health Organization, half of world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India.

Why America Can't Afford to Get Into a Trade War with China

Patrick Mendis, Joey Wang

Americans should pay less attention to the partisan headlines and pay more attention to the historical trend lines.

Throughout the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump blasted China for its protectionist trade policies, currency manipulation and a number of other accusations. Indeed, these accusations were not limited to Trump as China bashing is simply standard fare for anyone seeking elected office and on the campaign trail. Much of Trump’s campaign was, however, met with derision. As the election process unfolded, the derision soon turned to snickers. As the election continued, the snickers turned downright somber while Trump sailed past his Republican opponents Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and others who had been deemed more likely to become the GOP nominee.

Among the intelligentsia, the mood has turned to alarm as now President Trump has set out to do exactly as he promised during his “America First” campaign. To show his sincerity to the campaign promise of bringing jobs back to the United States, he kicked off his first day in the Oval Office by issuing an Executive Order that cancelled American participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP was President Obama’s signature trade deal. It created a free-trade zone with eleven other nations for approximately 40 percent of the world’s economy. Trump also threatened to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods if China does not “behave” accordingly.

The Islamic State Just Threatened China. What Will Beijing Do?

By Ankit Panda

A recent Islamic State video featuring Uyghurs threatening China shouldn’t have come as a surprise. 

Earlier this week, Uyghur foreign fighters with the self-proclaimed Islamic State featured in a propaganda video released by the group threatening attacks in China. In the video, the fighters threaten that Chinese blood will “flow in rivers” and that they will plant their caliphate’s flag in China. (The SITE Intelligence Group has a deeper analysis and translation of the video available here.)

China has long worried that disaffected ethnic Uyghurs — primarily based in the restive western province of Xinjiang, but also across the Chinese border in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan — would serve as a powerful vector for the Islamic State to set its sights on Chinese targets.

For decades, Beijing has been worried about separatism in Xinjiang, where militant Uyghur groups have long sought to establish an independent state known as East Turkestan. As a result, the ethnic Han-majority Communist Party of China has enacted a repressive set of laws to strictly regulate religious practices and public life in Xinjiang, imprisoning even non-violent Uyghur voices who’ve spoken out in favor of greater political freedoms.

Chinese Military Aircraft Transit Miyako Strait, Leading Japan to Scramble Jets

By Ankit Panda

Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) and People’s Liberation Army-Air Force (PLAAF) warships and aircraft carried out exercises in the vicinity of Taiwan on Thursday. According to Chinese state media, PLAAF fighters, bombers, and early warning aircraft, along with PLAN warships, transited the Miyako Strait and entered the Western Pacific.

In response to Chinese activities in the Miyako Strait, Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighters to monitor the large-scale drill. The Miyako Strait runs between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa and offers a small passageway with international waters and airspace through Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Chinese strategists identify the Miyako Strait, along with the Bashi Channel, as one of the critical chokepoints in the so-called first island chain.

As I’ve discussed in the The Diplomat in recent months, we’ve seen PLAN and PLAAF activity along these first island choke points quite regularly. In March 2015, the PLAAF held its first-ever exercise in the Bashi Channel. In June 2015, the PLAN held an exercise in waters east of the Bashi Channel, including a transit of the waterway, which runs between Taiwan and the Philippines’ northern island of Luzon. In recent months, following a deterioration in China-Taiwan ties since the May 2016 inauguration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the intensity and frequency of exercises has intensified. In September 2016, the PLAAF revisited the Bashi Channel. Later that month, the PLAAF conducted an exercise in the Miyako Strait, prompting Japan’s ASDF to scramble jets. The PLAAF repeated the maneuver in November 2016, one again prompting the ASDF to scramble aircraft. In December 2016, a similar incident occurred, but China complained that Japanese ASDF fighters had fired warning flares.

India-China ties: Rethinking the terms of engagement

By Amit Dasgupta

China has mastered the art of bullying as strategy. Pradeep Khosla, an American of Indian origin, who is Chancellor at the University of California, San Diego, did not anticipate the reaction from Beijing, when he naively invited the Dalai Lama to give a talk at the university.

Through a blistering editorial in a Chinese daily, he was personally castigated for being used as a pawn by New Delhi ‘to divide China’. The editorial went a step further and warned that provocative actions would attract retaliation.

The language is by no means temperate or new, nor was it meant to be and reflected the official line.

For several decades, Beijing has cautioned the global community to be unilaterally mindful of its interests. Indeed, it considers this to be a legitimate entitlement, whether with regard to the Dalai Lama or Taiwan or its territorial ambitions. Under Xi Jinping’s ‘forceful diplomacy’, this has been fine-tuned. Today, hard talk, open threats and bullying are central to Beijing’s foreign policy strategy.

There is a background to this. China’s rise as an economic powerhouse whetted her appetite for superpower status. Drawing on the Monroe doctrine and the US experience, she sought regional hegemony, including through force. Recognising the threat of the Asia Pivot on her sphere of influence, for instance, Beijing’s usurped the South China Sea islands to establish military bases as a deterrent to those inimical to her interests.

Russia Has Deployed a Treaty-Violating Missile. Here’s What the US Should Do About It


Russia has begun to deploy a nuclear-capable, ground-launched cruise missile, contrary to its obligations under the pivotal 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, the New York Times has reported. The Kremlin has long groused about this treaty, which prohibits its development, flight-testing, production, and deployment of ground-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers while states such as China, India, and Pakistan are free to do so.

The Obama administration concluded in earlier annual reports on “Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” that Russia had taken all steps short of deployment of this prohibited missile, then designated as the SSC-X-8. Now that the “X” has been removed from its designation, signaling operational deployment, what is the most effective way for the United States to respond? In attempting to answer this question, let’s consider other ones first.

Is this a material breach of the INF Treaty or merely a “technical” matter? A material breach is defined (in paragraph 3b in Article 60 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties) as a “violation of a provision essential to the accomplishment of the object and purpose of the treaty.” The SSC-8 deployment certainly qualifies as a material breach, just as the construction of the Krasnoyarsk radar qualified as a material breach of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. (That treaty permitted large phased-array radars on national peripheries to help with early warning, but strictly limited them in the interior at places like Krasnoyarsk where they could presumably be useful for battle management.)

While China Backs Islamic State Of Pakistan, It Gets Threats From Islamic State Of Iraq And Syria

ISIS militants from China’s Muslim minority group.

While China labels India’s bid to get Masood Azhar banned by the United Nations (UN) as ‘politically motivated’ and ‘replete with frivolous information’, the Islamic State (IS) has threatened it with ‘rivers of bloodshed’ if it continues to oppress its Muslim Uighur minority population.

In a recent half-hour video, released by a unity of IS lead by fighters belonging to China’s Uighur minority, the group has said that the oppression will give rise to militant struggle in the Xinjiang region - homeland of the Uighur community.

"Oh, you Chinese who do not understand what people say. We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenging the oppressed," the group has said according to a translation done by US-based SITE Intelligence Group.

Would America Really Invade North Korea?

Harry J. Kazianis

Would the Trump administration actually consider invading North Korea?

Such an idea at least seems possible. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “an internal White House review of strategy on North Korea includes the possibility of military force or regime change to blunt the country’s nuclear-weapons threat, people familiar with the process said.”

To be clear, there is lots of ways to initiate regime change in a nation-state, but when it comes to North Korea, military operations—meaning an invasion—seems like the only real option. Pyongyang isn’t exactly tied to the global economy, so sanctions seem unlikely to bring Kim Jong-un to his knees. Nor is various types of intensified societal pressures like mass propaganda organized to take the regime down. Soldiers, tanks and bombs, at least at this point, seem to be the only way to do it.

So what would military action against the DPRK look like? While there are no certainties in modern warfare, one thing is certain: an attack on North Korea to rid the world of what can only be described as the most vile regime on the planet could be an unmitigated disaster.

As I explained in a debate for the Week in 2014, there is four reasons a regime-change-style invasion of North Korea would be insane. First, Kim has likely read a history book in the last twenty years:

Trump Administration Puts Military Action Against North Korea Back on the Table

By John Power

Once taboo, the military option enters Washington’s North Korea debate. 

The White House has looked into the use of military force to thwart North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile programs, according to a U.S. media outlet, thrusting a largely taboo policy option to the fore of the debate on how to rein in Pyongyang.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been examining both the use of force and regime change as part of a review of North Korea policy going on behind closed doors, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

During a summit last month between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.S. officials indicated that a military strike on North Korea was among the options being considered by the administration, according to unnamed sources cited by the Journal.

The revelation comes just two months after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his regime was close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, and amid a growing consensus that Pyongyang could be just years away from being able to launch a nuclear strike on the U.S. mainland.

The Turkish Army in Syria Is All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go

Paul Iddon

Fresh from its victory over Islamic State militants in Al Bab in northwest Syria, Turkey is reiterating its longstanding threat to attack the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Manbij to the east.

Turkey routinely dismisses U.S. assurances that the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units — or YPG, the most significant group in the SDF coalition — have vacated Manbij, which the coalition captured from the Islamic State in August 2016. Unless the United States forces the YPG out, according to the Turkish government, then Turkey will attack.

“We have said that we would strike if the YPG fails to withdraw,” Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on March 2. “Our demand from the U.S. and its new administration is to have the YPG leave Manbij as soon as possible.”

Turkish troops in Syria are currently aiding around 2,000 Free Syrian Army militia fighters. These opposition fighters yearned to fight the Syrian regime rather than the Islamic State and the YPG, and consequently, there were brief clashes with Syrian troops who advanced on Al Bab from the south.

Let's Settle the Russia Question Once and for All

Gary Hart

A nonpartisan commission can finally shed light on Trump’s problem that just won’t go away.

Presidents in the past, most notably Bill Clinton with Boris Yeltsin and George W. Bush with Vladimir Putin, have committed what might be called the “buddy fallacy” where U.S.-Russian relations were concerned. That is, they thought even a modicum of personal congeniality could be the basis for U.S. policy. President Trump seems to be repeating that fallacy.

At its best, friendship between the leaders of two great powers must be considered a plus. At its worst, it confuses personal relations with complex disparities in national interests.

Thus, in one respect President Trump’s visceral belief, that it is better to have Russia as a friend than an enemy, makes sense. On the other hand, it blurs real differences between what Russia views as its interests and what we view as ours. And, for a president with no foreign-policy experience and still-dubious prior relationships with Russia, it can lead to serious misunderstandings and miscalculations.

Compounding the confusion is the appointment of a secretary of state whose considerable interactions with Russian officials have all been corporate and commercial.

To annihilate ISIS, Trump will have to cross Putin

By Benny Avni

So how’s President Trump doing on his promise to defeat ISIS? Well, it’s complicated.

In Iraq, for now, the United States is mostly drawing on the existing strategy left behind by President Barack Obama, which is finally showing some good results: There’ll be more blood, but ISIS will soon be out of Mosul, where the Islamist terror group initially showed the world that it’s no “JV team.”

But Trump’s promise was more ambitious, and since the election he instructed the Pentagon to draw new plans to “totally obliterate ISIS.”

And to do that, a deeper US involvement in Syria is needed. As long as the self-declared Islamic State controls Raqqa, Syria, its capital, declaring victory over the terrorist group will sound hollow.

And beating ISIS in Syria’s a bit more complicated, diplomatically and strategically, than doing so in Iraq.

Obama’s refusal to enforce his infamous Syrian “red line” in effect announced the United States would sit out the half-decade civil war there. Others rushed in to fill the vacuum.

What Makes America's New Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier Truly Dangerous

Mike Fabey

Some of the most important mechanic advancements are deep inside the ship – part of the revamped elevator system used to carry bombs, missiles and other aircraft-loaded equipment from the Ford’s bowels to the vessel’s higher decks.

Slated for springtime delivery, the aircraft carrier CVN 78 Gerald Ford has sparked much interest in its technological breakthroughs for launching and recovering aircraft – as well as new systems to cut down on the number of sailors that run the ship and run up the costs of operating the vessel.

But some of the most important mechanic advancements are deep inside the ship – part of the revamped elevator system used to carry bombs, missiles and other aircraft-loaded equipment from the Ford’s bowels to the vessel’s higher decks.

The 10 elevators have to carry up to about 200,000 pounds of weapons from the main deck magazine to the flight deck preparation area, according to Newport News shipbuilders at Hunting Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding unit.

That ship-climbing trek is comparable to going form the basement to the roof of an extremely large city skyscraper, carrying about 100 tons, all within a minute.

Shipbuilders wired the elevator up for more electricity using linear motors, replacing the rope-and-wheel systems that required a great deal more manpower to operate and maintain.

Sticking with the Complicated U.S.-Iran Relationship


U.S.-Iran tensions are likely to rise in the coming months. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) has been roundly criticized by President Donald Trump and others, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The U.S. has declared Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests to be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and top American officials have indicated a strong desire to contain and roll back Iranian influence in the Middle East.

The U.S. has many options at its disposal, including the use of military force. However, the current balance of power in the Middle East and Iran’s position in relation to major regional and international powers is likely to limit U.S. options toward Iran. The JCPOA is widely regarded to be a success story, especially by the European Union, China, and Russia. But perhaps more importantly, the Islamic Republic is relatively stable at home and a power to be reckoned with in the Middle East. To be sure, the U.S. can apply much more diplomatic and economic pressure against Iran and even resort to military force, but Washington will face real limits in its ability to change Iran’s behavior in the region or stop its growing missile program.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, seeking re-election in May, was able to achieve his major promise to Iranian voters; he delivered the JCPOA and released Iran from crippling international sanctions put in place during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013). Many Iranians may rightly argue that Rouhani has not delivered much else; repression in Iran appears to have increased, and the economic benefits of JCPOA have not trickled down to the average person.

The Futile Goal Of ‘Winning’ Wars – Analysis

By Louis René Beres

Developed nations have specific operational vulnerabilities and much to lose – the US president needs to understand the meaning of victory and defeat.

President Donald Trump, who during the US presidential campaign accused previous administrations of grievous error, and claimed to have a far better personal understanding of how to defeat the Islamic State than the nation’s generals, has just pronounced the core mission for America’s military: to “win” in war, any war. Such dangerously simplistic pronouncements need not come from a US president, who, after all, would normally have unhindered access to astute counsel from senior military professionals and national security experts.

By now, it should be readily apparent that the traditional criteria of winning and losing in war have generally become outdated and counterproductive. More precisely, whether the United States might “win” or “lose” in most ongoing or still-expected theaters of military operation, the basic vulnerability of American cities to mass-destruction terrorism or ballistic missile attack could remain largely unaffected. In other words, seeking “victory” per se would make no operational sense.

Looking ahead, the overriding point of US military involvements must be to blunt or prevent infliction of substantial military harms upon the population, not to flaunt any viscerally satisfying exclamations of machismo.



The U.S. Army’s recent decision to stand up six security force assistance brigades has sent a minor shock wave through the Special Forces community. Understandably, Green Berets feel somewhat agitated now that their conventional brethren are planning a separate cohort of standing units designed to train, advise, and assist foreign forces. After all, isn’t that Special Forces’ rasion d’etre? If the conventional “Big Army” corners the market on training troops from partner nations, won’t that potentially threaten Special Forces’ unique role in training surrogates, or even render Special Forces units obsolete and unnecessary? Or can we blame Special Forces for this? In its quest for relevance in other special operations missions, did it leave a vacuum in U.S. advisory capability that conventional units are now eager to fill? Tricky questions all, but, before anyone suggests casing the colors of the Special Forces Regiment and turning all of the “cool-guy” gear into government surplus warehouses, there are a few things we should consider.

First, Special Forces do not “own” the task of training, advising, and assisting foreign forces. Therefore, the argument that the security force assistance brigade concept is illustrative of Special Forces’ abandonment of the advisory mission in favor of direct action and unconventional warfare is a spurious one since the mission was never theirs in the first place. Whether you call it “Foreign Internal Defense,” “Security Force Assistance,” or any other of the various monikers the defense community has dreamt up for this vital mission set, U.S. doctrine clearly states that both special operations forces and conventional forces have a role to play. According to Army Doctrinal Publication 1, the U.S. Army’s foundational document:



When President Donald Trump announced the selection of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new national security advisor, I thought back to my days as a young lieutenant in 1991. I served as then-Capt. McMaster’s fire support officer in Eagle Troop, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, and I observed first-hand his outstanding leadership qualities at the Battle of 73 Easting, in which McMaster’s nine tanks and 12 Bradley Fighting Vehicles utterly destroyed an Iraqi Republican Guard armored brigade.

McMaster is among the most accomplished men in uniform today, but his new job provides a greater challenge than any he’s ever faced. He must work to guide American foreign policy at a time when a course correction is long overdue.

McMaster’s qualifications as an army leader are superb. His two major military operations were unqualified successes. When he took over Eagle Troop in 1990, the unit was dysfunctional, disheartened, and in poor shape. McMaster immediately infused it with focus, energy, and drive. After months of training, he led a confident Eagle Troop into the largest American tank battle since World War II, annihilating a brigade of the Iraqi Tawakalna Division. In 2005, U.S. forces in Iraq were foundering under the ravages of a full-blown insurgency. Then-Col. McMaster commanded the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, stationed in Nineveh Province near the violent, insurgent-filled city of Tal Afar. McMaster had trained his regiment on the basics of counter-insurgency prior to deployment. Working with political leaders of Tal Afar, his cavalry troopers succeeded in routing the insurgents and returned a sense of security to the city.

The Pipe Dream of Easy War


FORT BENNING, Ga. — “A GREAT deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep,” the novelist Saul Bellow once wrote. We should keep that in mind when we consider the lessons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — lessons of supreme importance as we plan the military of the future.

Our record of learning from previous experience is poor; one reason is that we apply history simplistically, or ignore it altogether, as a result of wishful thinking that makes the future appear easier and fundamentally different from the past.

We engaged in such thinking in the years before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; many accepted the conceit that lightning victories could be achieved by small numbers of technologically sophisticated American forces capable of launching precision strikes against enemy targets from safe distances.

These defense theories, associated with the belief that new technology had ushered in a whole new era of war, were then applied to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; in both, they clouded our understanding of the conflicts and delayed the development of effective strategies.

Military spouse vs. Trump White House


Two weeks after Donald Trump’s inauguration, I listed for a civilian friend the reasons why it would be wrong to identify myself as a military spouse against the White House. In the 15 years I’ve been married to my husband, an active-duty senior officer, I’ve had plenty of time to mull over the risks (many) and rewards (none) of military family members sharing their views on politics.

My friend paused a moment, waiting to see if I was serious. Then she reminded me that self-censorship was one of the signs of an authoritarian regime.

So here I am: a military spouse who believes that Trump is threatening American security, diminishing American values, and undermining American institutions. I’m sharing my story although I’m painfully and personally familiar with the belief that military spouses are best seen and not heard. After all, we never took an oath to protect the Constitution as servicemembers do. But we are silent signatories to this pledge as we follow our partner to each new duty station, manage the difficulties of deployments, and raise children who, despite all of this, dream of attending service academies themselves.

It’s precisely because of the ways that the Constitution actively shapes our lives as a military family that Trump’s challenges to the Constitution feel like hostile acts. Even though most military members favored Trump in pre-election polls, recent administration statements like those disputing the legitimacy of judges and judiciary rulings have put some of us on high alert.

The Rules of the Brave New Cyberworld

William Burns

Donald Trump’s election is the latest and most dramatic manifestation of a moment of staggering global transformation and volatility. The diffusion and fragmentation of power, capital, and politics are fueling profound forces that are shaking the underpinnings of international order: the return of great power rivalry and the rise of conflict after many years of decline; the emergence of new powers; the shift of economic dynamism from West to East and destabilizing economic stagnation and dislocation; and the rejection by societies in many regions of globalization and the embrace of an angry, fortress-like nationalism.

Technology — broadly speaking, the internet, mobile platforms, social media, and computing power — is among the most powerful of these forces, for good and ill.

Technological innovation has contributed to the most significant period of economic growth and poverty alleviation in modern history, increased life expectancies, expanded productivity, ushered in a new era of clean energy, and reshaped global communications and commerce. In half a century, the world has gone from zero digital wireless devices to more than 4 billion, and one-third of the world’s population is now on the internet. An additional 2 billion to 3 billion people will come online in the next three years, marking what will be the fastest period of internet adoption in history.

Pushing A Sinister Agenda: How Tech Companies Propose To Fudge Facts And Influence Thinking

Shiva Kakkar

Of the thousands of stories being uploaded by various agencies and users, Facebook’s algorithms would selectively decide what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fake’; what is ‘toxic’ and what is ‘non-toxic’.

Zuckerberg’s proposition to use AI and machine learning algorithms for curating information is essentially aimed at manipulating how people think and respond to information.

On the 16 February this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published a manifesto extolling the virtues of Facebook and how it can help in building a global community and ‘shaping’ and ‘saving’ the world (read, Donald Trump). In his manifesto, Zuckerberg addresses the issue of ‘fake news’ which has become a contentious topic in the US after Donald Trump’s presidential ascent. Left-liberalist media outlets have blamed Hillary Clinton’s loss on the ‘fake news’ circulated about her e-mail scandal. There is widespread debate that news being circulated on social media needs some kind of filtration and pruning before it reaches the audience. Zuckerberg argues that Facebook, by using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, will provide ‘real’ news on its platform. On similar lines, Google recently launched a new machine learning algorithm called ‘perspectives’ to moderate comment sections on news websites. The application has been deployed by a various media outlets and categorises certain comments as ‘toxic’ based on their ability to trigger polarising discussions. The actions by these companies are being passed off as an attempt to promote clean debates and non-toxic discussions in a safe environment. But is this really the agenda? Not quite.

Singapore Reveals Cyber Attack on Defense Ministry

By Prashanth Parameswaran

The breach indicates even more capable Asian states are struggling to confront cyber threats. 

On February 28, Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF) disclosed that a breach in an Internet-connected system earlier this month had resulted in the personal data of 850 national servicemen and employees being stolen. Though the impact of the breach was quite limited, it nonetheless highlights the difficulties that Singapore faces as it confronts its growing cyber challenge.

According to MINDEF, the I-net system used by personnel to access the Internet through terminals at the ministry and other facilities was breached by an attack in early February. While personal data, including identification numbers, phone numbers, and date of birth, were believed to have been stolen during the incident, the ministry said no classified information was compromised because it is stored on a separate system not connected to the Internet.


Andy Greenberg had an article with the title above, on WIRED.com’s website, February 22, 2017. Mr. Greenberg begins: “A few hours after dark earlier this month (Feb.), a small, quadropter drone lifted off from the parking lot of Ben Gurion University in Israel. It soon trained its built-in camera on its target, a desktop computer’s tiny blinking light inside a third-floor office nearby. The pinpoint flickers emitting from the LED hard drive indicator that lights up intermittently on practically every modern Windows machine, would hardly arouse the suspicions of anyone working in the office after hours. But, in fact,” Mr. Greenberg wrote, LED was silently winking out an optical stream of the computer’s secrets to the camera floating outside.”

“The data-stealing drone,” which is shown in a video included in Mr. Greenberg’s article, “works as a Mr. Roberts-style demonstration of a real espionage technique. A group of researchers at Ben Gurion’s cyber security lab has devised a method to defeat the protection known as “air-gap,” the safeguard of separating highly sensitive computer systems from the Internet — to quarantine them from hackers. If an attacker can plant malware on one of these systems — say, by paying an insider to infect it via a USB, or SD card — this approach offers a new way to rapidly pull secrets out of that isolated machine. Every blink of its hard drive LED indicator can spill sensitive information to any spy with a line of sight to the target computer, whether from a drone outside the window, or, a telescopic lens from the roof next door,” Mr. Greenberg wrote.