27 January 2014

Nothing fishy about this genetically modified biofuel

January 27, 2014
Damian Carrington

A genetically-modified plant that produces seeds packed with fish oils is set to be grown in open fields in the U.K. within months, scientists announced on Friday. The oils could provide feed for farmed fish, the researchers hope, but they could ultimately be used as a health supplement in human foods such as margarine.

Fish oils — specifically omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids — have been shown to cut the risk of cardiovascular disease and are a popular food supplement. But about 80% of the fish oil harvested from the oceans every year is actually fed to other fish being raised in aquaculture. With many fish stocks already over-exploited, the government-funded researchers from Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, southern England, have spent 15 years developing the new GM plant and hope to have permission for field trials by March, with planting to start shortly after if approval is given.Testy over trial

Environment minister Owen Paterson, who will make the final decision after public consultations and advice from experts, said: “The longer Europe continues to close its doors to GM, the greater the risk that the rest of the world will bypass us altogether. Europe risks becoming the museum of world farming.” But if the field trial is approved, as is likely, it could spur protests such as those that accompanied a field trial of GM wheat at Rothamsted Research in 2012, when hundreds of campaigners gathered at the site and threatened to destroy that crop.

If fish are fed on the oil from GM plants in future, they might not need to be labelled as GM-derived, because cattle today are widely fed on GM soya, but are not required to reveal this on labels. Professor Jonathan Napier, who is leading the trial, said: “The field trial is still an experiment. After that, if it is successful, you could grow plants either for animal feed or ultimately you could imagine a situation where it is used for human nutrition. If we can explain the benefits, maybe people will agree this is a good thing to do.” It was possible, he added, the plant-produced oil might overcome one of the major downsides of edible fish oil: the strong taste. “We have not tasted it, but we have smelled it and it did not smell fishy,” he said.

The particular fish oils that benefit the health of both fish and humans, called EPA and DHA, are not in fact produced by fish themselves but instead accumulated by eating marine microbes. Mr. Napier’s team therefore took up to seven genes from algae that produce the fish oils and transplanted them into oil seed plants called camelina. It naturally produces short-chain oils and has been grown as a food crop for centuries in southern and eastern Europe and is used a biofuel crop in North America. The GM camelina has passed laboratory and greenhouse trials and about 25 per cent of the oil in the seeds is EPA and DHA, a similar proportion to that in fish oil.

SecDef Should Crack Whip On Cyber, Drones, & Training Foreigners

on January 24, 2014 

A Croatian soldier and a Minnesota National Guardsman train together for Afghanistan.

Yesterday, four mid-grade military officers — one from each armed service – made a remarkable public recommendation to their boss, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: It’s time to force the four services back into clearly demarcated “lanes” and reduce overlap between them as budgets shrink and competition escalates. They focused on three high-priority areas:

Cybersecurity, the one area of the budget that’s actually growing. As a result, all four services are training “cyber warriors” and creating “cyber” units — but with no clear guidance from the Defense Department on which service should specialize in what, so everyone is doing a bit of everything. “The services risk building similar capabilities in different ways to conduct the same mission,” the co-authors write, “[with] significant duplication and overlap.” Their (tentative) solution: take away some of the services’ authority to “train, equip, and organize” cybersecurity personnel and give it to the interservice Cyber Command. That step would raise CYBERCOM to a status currently enjoyed only by Special Operations Command (SOCOM), halfway to being a full-scale independent service.

Drones, aka “unmanned aircraft systems” (UAS). “Currently,” they write, “the four services are developing 15 separate UAS platforms of varying weights, speeds and altitudes” (see exhibits 1, 2, 3, and 4), as well as “42 separate UAS payload development programs… [and] 13 ground control stations.” While they stop short of a specific recommendation here, the co-authors do note regretfully that the current UAS Task Force lacks “authority over the services for programmatic consolidation or termination.” (Hint, hint?) They also speak approvingly of the much-derided 1947 Key West agreement, which among other things defined what kind of (manned) aircraft each service could fly.

So-called Phase Zero Operations, in which US troops train foreign forces, conduct exercises with them, and even quietly help them secure their countries. Historically, Special Operations Forces did the small-scale, low-profile, long-term work in the shadows, while the four services occasionally showed up for big high-profile exercises. But after 9/11, the “Big Army” andMarine Corps both had to build up Afghan and Iraqi forces, expertise they don’t want to lose. Now now they are to some extent competing (my word, not the authors’) with each other and with SOCOM for Phase 0 business around the world, especially in the high-profile Pacific. “The Department of Defense needs to provide the services guidance on their primary mission responsibilities in Phase 0 operations,” the four officer write, “instead of letting the services make their own decision about the force size and mix required.”

26 January 2014

At Davos 2014, the Gods Of Mischief Rule

The Daily Beast

Christopher Dickey

January 21-- Even the high and mighty assembling at the Swiss resort recognize, now, that grotesque inequality is the greatest threat to world peace. Their answer: Party on!

Not so long ago and not so very far away, there were people who thought they were masters of the universe. They were very powerful and very rich (and very often both), and each year they got together on a mountaintop in Switzerland to congratulate themselves, network with each other and confer about how best to bring order and prosperity to humankind.

From afar, the confab known as the World Economic Forum in Davos looked a little like Asgard, the mythical home of the Norse gods. Up close, slipping along the icy sidewalks with people partying all night in a hodgepodge of hotels, it looked like Loki, the god of mischief, was running the show.

For decades after the forum was founded in 1971, Davos often appeared a model of disorganization, a 30-ring-circus of panels and plenary sessions, even as the world, with or without its help, looked to be in more or less good order. The Cold War ended; Communism died; technology was spreading opportunities; global trade supposedly was pulling people out of poverty. Even the problems of terrorism and a very shaky euro, while they were disconcerting, seemed manageable.

But tonight as the little resort town begins to welcome 2,500 participants, including more than 40 heads of state, the forum itself is better organized than ever—it’s the rest of the world that’s not. Nobody at Davos claims to be a master of the universe anymore. Hell, nobody would dare.

There’s a sudden shocked revelation on the mountaintop that from the cauldrons of the Middle East to the restive billions in slums around the globe, who have ever less money and ever fewer hopes of change, the politics and the economy of the world as the forum sees it really look very scary indeed.

The group’s own publication, Global Risks 2014, concludes that “the chronic gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest citizens” is the greatest threat to stability that looms in the next decade.

The charitable organization Oxfam issued a report, largely based on statistics compiled by Crédit Suisse, that showed it’s not just the infamous “one percent” who own most of the world’s wealth, it’s an even more minuscule fraction: “The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.” If I read my calculator right, that would be 0.000001 per cent. No wonder populists and revolutionaries are raising hell, from neo-Nazis in Greece to jihadists in Nigeria.

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, a Davos stalwart, likens the situation today to the eve of World War I, exactly a century ago, when the world’s rich and its rulers stumbled toward the most horrific conflagration in history. “Complex societies rely on their elites to get things, if not right, at least not grotesquely wrong,” wrote Wolf, and today, “the elites need to do better. If they do not, rage may overwhelm us all.”

Nowhere is the sense of impending doom stronger than in the Middle East, and much of the thunder in the first two days of Davos is likely to be consumed by another conference at the far end of a lake in another corner of Switzerland. Several countries (but not Iran are getting together in Montreux with representatives of the Assad regime and some of its fractious opponents to try to begin talking about how they might begin thinking about having a transitional government that could maybe bring an end to the gruesome civil war in Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is supposed to arrive in Davos on Friday to brief the high and mighty gathered there, but hopes are not high, and expectations are even lower.

In the meantime, both Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will make appearances. In years past, the threat of war with Iran started by Israel and waged by the United States to stall the mullahs’ nuclear program loomed very large. Less so this year, thanks to the interim deal struck between Iran, the United States and other powers in Geneva a couple of months ago, which went into effect this week.

Chinese Centers of Gravity

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Many distinguished scholars, journalists, and strategic analysts have provided compelling visions of why and how the People's Republic of China (PRC) would conduct a naval and military campaign in the Indo-Pacific basin. Several viable U.S. responses to such a Chinese operation have been articulated. These include a blockade-based “offshore control strategy” to deprive China of resources and trade, and the “Air/Sea battle” operational concept involving a joint U.S. naval and air power effort to directly combat Chinese forces in the Western Pacific littoral. Both visions suggest allied participation and perhaps can be combined into an overall military strategy. Before moving further however, it is useful to examine current and evolving Chinese strategic “centers of gravity” and look at how the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has conducted recent military actions. Past Chinese conflicts may not provide a complete picture for U.S. leaders, but perhaps offer a window into how the PRC thinks about its military activity.

Changing Centers of Gravity



Tiananmen Square Protests, 1989

The most important center of gravity for post-revolutionary China has been the survival of Communist party authority over the state. The definition of the Chinese Communist party however has changed since the official Party program of “Modernization and Stability” began in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. While the rest of the Communist world collapsed in the face of the perceived superiority of the Capitalist system, the Chinese party was able to adroitly turn the Communist system on its head and adopt the best practices of its Western opposite number. The “modernized” China now resembles a large corporation rather than the revolutionary state of Chairman Mao Zedong. Its Politburo, with orderly successions of authority, and Party Congresses filled with departmental representatives reporting on modernization efforts are similar to a Corporate Board of Directors reporting to a meeting of shareholders. The economic model fits well as the Chinese party essentially “purchased” the loyalty and support of its citizenry. The exchange of traditional Marxist patterns of life including poor quality consumer goods, overt repression, and little or no upward mobility for economic growth, security and prosperity has served to insulate the Chinese Communist leadership from pre-1989 style criticisms. One wonders if Mikhail S. Gorbachev lays awake at night wondering why he did not attempt the Chinese method for the Soviet Union. While the Party itself remains the principle Chinese center of gravity, the continuing prosperity and support for the party from the PRC citizenry is nearly equal in importance to that of the party itself since both are mutually dependent on each other's support.

Leaders of a fictional "corporate state" from the 1975 movie "Rollerball"
"And now, our Corporate Anthem!"

A DIFFICULT VICTORY - China’s support for Hasina Wajed may have a message for India

Subir Bhaumik 

When Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s Awami League won a landslide in the January 5 polls, most were asking how long the government would last. It was not an unfair question, considering that a similar election in early 1996, held with Khaleda Zia in power, had led to huge protests that forced the Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader to accept a caretaker dispensation and hold fresh elections within a few months. That election led to an Awami League victory and a change of guard. After the January 5 polls, most were busy looking for parallels. The 1996 polls led to a 7 per cent turnout and was boycotted by the Awami League-led opposition. The January 5 polls had a much better turnout, but that was nowhere near the 80 per cent registered in the December 2008 polls. It was boycotted by the BNP-led opposition and marred by intense violence. Wajed was aware of the limitation in which she was taking over as prime minister for a third time as she promised a dialogue with the opposition and fresh polls as soon as a consensus was reached. The United States of America rubbished the elections as “less than credible” and its envoy in Dhaka, Dan Mozena, called for fresh dialogue and mid-term polls to “let the Bangladesh people express their will freely”. The European Union and the Commonwealth also dubbed the polls one-sided and called for fresh elections. Only India expectedly backed Wajed, saying that the polls were a “constitutional necessity”.

But within a week, the situation has changed for her. Russia has come out in support of Wajed’s government, saying it looked forward to a “constructive partnership and cooperation” with the new government. More interestingly, the Russian statement blamed the opposition for the violence and the boycott while it explained the one-sided nature of the elections. This brought back memories of the 1971 liberation war for many Awami League veterans, of the troubled months when India and the erstwhile Soviet Union firmly upheld the cause of Bangladesh’s independence against a brutal Pakistani military regime backed by the US and China. After Vladimir Putin’s firm intervention in Syria, this move by Russia to back Wajed was also seen as yet another Kremlin assertion in a major Asian issue. But what came after that was all the more surprising.

** A Fine Balance: India, Japan and the United States


Dhruva Jaishankar |
January 24, 2014

This weekend, the world will be treated to an unusual sight: Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe inspecting a military parade which will be showcasing, among other things, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. This scene will not be taking place in Japan, which has rejected nuclear weapons and whose constitution famously renounces war as a sovereign right, but rather in India's foggy capital, New Delhi, near an iconic British memorial commemorating the Indians killed in World War I and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. The Indian government’s intention in inviting Abe to be chief guest at its Republic Day parade is nothing if not calculated. In fact, it is about as clear a signal that India seeks to facilitate Japan’s emergence as a ‘normal’ military power.

Japan and India may at first glance appear unusual partners. Japan is a nominally pacific, aging and technologically advanced ally of the United States, whereas India is notoriously sceptical of alliances, boasts the world’s second-largest army, has a youthful population, and is still in the process of modernizing its economy. But Abe’s visit marks the next step in a series of overtures between Asia’s two largest democratic economies, beginning with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s 2000 visit to India, and continuing under the stewardships of Junichiro Koizumi, Taro Aso, and Abe. For its part, New Delhi has reciprocated the goodwill under successive governments. In a speech last year in Tokyo, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Japan “a natural and indispensable partner” of India, with which it enjoyed “shared values and shared interests” and “a shared commitment to the ideals of democracy, peace and freedom.”

It is unclear how much attention Washington is paying to this emerging Asian strategic compact, despite its strong security relations with both Tokyo and New Delhi. In fact, scepticism about the United States’ reliability as a defense partner may be contributing to the growing bonhomie between India and Japan. But there are good enough reasons for all three countries to invest further in trilateral security cooperation.

*** Balancing Without Containment: An American Strategy for Managing China

ASHLEY J. TELLIS  REPORT JANUARY 22, 2014

China is poised to become a major strategic rival to the United States.
Full Text
Brief

China is poised to become a major strategic rival to the United States. Whether or not Beijing intends to challenge Washington’s primacy, its economic boom and growing national ambitions make competition inevitable. And as China rises, American power will diminish in relative terms, threatening the foundations of the U.S.-backed global order that has engendered unprecedented prosperity worldwide. To avoid this costly outcome, Washington needs a novel strategy to balance China without containing it.



Ashley J. Tellis
SENIOR ASSOCIATE
SOUTH ASIA PROGRAM

The loss of American primacy to China would pose unacceptable risks to the security and interests of the United States and its allies.


China’s power—unlike that of previous U.S. competitors—stems from Beijing’s deep integration in the U.S.-led global economy.

The containment strategy that the United States used to great effect during the Cold War cannot succeed today. Cutting off ties with Beijing and urging China’s neighbors to do the same is politically, economically, and practically unthinkable.


Washington should balance Beijing’s growing capabilities by pursuing policies that simultaneously increase China’s stake in the existing global system and raise the costs of abusing its power.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR U.S. POLICYMAKERS

Bolster Regional Actors.By increasing the national power of China’s neighbors, the United States can constrain Beijing’s behavior and limit its capacity for aggressiveness. This investment is in Washington’s best interest irrespective of whether it is repaid in kind because it will diminish China’s ability to misuse its growing strength and increase American geopolitical maneuverability in the Indo-Pacific. But the United States must be wary of Chinese tactics to subvert these efforts.

Selectively Deepen Globalization. The United States should make trade liberalization a top priority. Since comprehensive global liberalization remains a distant goal, Washington should work to quickly conclude key regional trade pacts, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which promise increased relative gains to the United States and its allies vis-à-vis China.

Bolster U.S. Military Capabilities. To preserve its military superiority in the face of growing Chinese power, Washington should invest in improving U.S. power projection capabilities that will allow it to defeat challenges posed by China’s new strategic denial systems and regain U.S. freedom of action in the Indo-Pacific.

Reinvigorate the U.S. Economy. Revitalizing the domestic economy is imperative to sustaining American hegemony. To maintain its global economic dominance, the United States must emphasize labor force renewal, promote disruptive technological innovations, increase efficiency in production, and resolve the political squabbles that prevent Washington from fixing the country’s public finances.
 http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/01/22/balancing-without-containment-american-strategy-for-managing-china/gz2z

THE NUCLEAR WORLD: FROM 1945-2013

The Great Divide








Income inequality is surging, and there are few countries where it is rising faster than the United States. The distance between rich and poor is greater in America than nearly all other developed countries, making the US a leader in a trend that economists warn has dire consequences. GlobalPost sets out on a reporting journey to get at the ‘ground truth’ of inequality through the lenses of education, race, immigration, health care, government, labor and natural resources. The hope is to hold a mirror up to the US to see how it compares to countries around the world.


Four Reasons Why Interstate Conflict Scholars Don’t Read Intrastate Work and Why They are Wrong, Part 1

by politicalviolenceataglance on January 21, 2014

By Christian Davenport and Scott Gates

Historically, those of us who rigorously study political conflict and violence have adopted the approaches and rhetoric of, and found positions within, the International Relations field (e.g., the Conflict Processes section at APSA or the Peace Science Society). This work has been associated with “interstate” war and more recently civil war. Somewhat less prominently, research also addressed “intrastate” activity (e.g., ordinary resistance, domestic spying/covert action, strikes, protest, terrorism, human rights violation/state repression, revolution, and genocide). This work is associated more with comparative as well as, in some cases, American politics. We note the fields here because quite frequently scholars (when they are searching for something to cite or someone to hire), students (as they look for someone to read), journalists (as they look for something to orient their studies around or someone to quote), and ordinary citizens (when they want to understand what is taking place around them) adopt the language, ideas, and approaches of the interstate approach without acknowledging that it might not be appropriate or effective at addressing other forms of conflict. Indeed, quite frequently on this blog someone will mention that “international scholars blah blah blah” without noting that some interested in the topic are comparativists or Americanists and do not adopt or even accept the International Relations take on the subject of inquiry.

This leads us to ask, why is this the case? Part of the reason why most individuals draw upon interstate work is simply because it has been around longer and has been somewhat more prominent in terms of the number of leading scholars, books, articles, grants and, very importantly, its connection with US foreign policy interests. Another part of the reason why most individuals do not draw upon the intrastate community, however, is a lack of awareness — it is a vast area of research and there is simply too much to read already without venturing into something new.

To try and change this situation, we wish to identify four reasons why IR/”interstate” scholars don’t read/consider/discuss more comparative/American/intrastate work and why they are wrong. Two are discussed in Part 1 and two are discussed in Part 2. We do this in order to begin, or rather continue, the process of breaking boundaries within the conflict community, something that is finding more advocates: e.g., Armstrong, Lichbach, and I, Joseph Young, James Ron, Lemke and Cunningham, and James Fearon, but which has not been completely adopted by the majority of people interested with the topic.

The scholars mentioned above have begun to blur the lines between interstate and intrastate work in a fruitful manner. More is needed.

Misconception #1 – “Intrastate Conflict Is Just Not as Important as Interstate Conflict”

It used to be the case that interstate war was frequent as well as extremely deadly. Indeed, whole generations were defined by their participation in these conflicts. The impact of this reality followed accordingly. With the global importance of interstate war, most individuals who focused, studied, discussed, and generated policy about conflict would highlight what states did to each other in the international realm. With regard to this topic, data and detailed histories were compiled and a large number of articles and books were written. For years, this was one, if not the most, important subject in the world generally and in social science specifically.

Best of Frenemies


By Adnan Siddiqi
Filed: 1/6/14


Pakistan’s Husain Haqqani has tough words for his home country – and for its supposed ally, the United States. Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pakistan and the United States aren’t allies – they “just pretend to be allies.” Or so says Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S. He’s making waves with his latest book, Magnificent Delusions, which speaks hard truths about the difficult relationship between the two countries. In 2011, Haqqani was forced to resign as Islamabad’s envoy to Washington following a controversy in which he was accused of delivering, through an intermediary, a note to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asking for U.S. help to ward off a supposed coup in Pakistan after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden. (He has denied the episode and also said there was no attempted coup.) He was investigated by the Supreme Court at home for treason, and he eventually left the country, saying his life was at risk. Haqqani returned to the United States and now teaches international relations at Boston University. Newsweek Pakistan spoke with him by email about his book and the delusions that continue to impair Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S.

NW: You have been a consistent advocate of resetting Pakistan-America relations on the basis of pragmatism. What exactly does this entail?

HH: For 66 years, Pakistan has sought close ties with the U.S. with the sole purpose of offsetting India’s size and military advantage. This has been a security relationship. But no nation can become a regional power while also being dependent on assistance from other countries. A better option for Pakistan would be to normalize relations with India and Afghanistan and then have a broader, nonsecurity relationship with the United States. Pakistanis resent the U.S. partly because we have been dependent on it. The United States had not been constant in its relations with Pakistan, but it was also wrong on Pakistan’s part to expect constancy. I have studied several models of partnership with the United States and wondered why most other U.S. allies since World War II have prospered while Pakistan has not. The answer came down to our unwillingness to have an honest relationship. South Korea and Taiwan aligned their security policies and perceptions with the Americans. Pakistan refused to accept U.S. advice, especially when its regional view was questioned. My vision, encouraged by [former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto, was for a strategic rather than tactical relationship. It would not be based on asking for military aid in return for providing some services to the Americans in their concerns. We need to build a self-confident Pakistan, free of the burdens of past blunders, especially jihadist misadventures. American assistance should be directed toward standing on our own feet. We need a relationship involving education, tourism, investment, and trade – like other countries have – not one that is all about seeking military equipment and aid in private and abusing America in public.

NW: But despite the mutual misgivings, Pakistan and the U.S. remain disenchanted allies. Does the relationship lose relevance after NATO troops pull out from Afghanistan by the end of 2014?

Iraq in Crisis

By Anthony H. Cordesman, Sam Khazai
JAN 24, 2014
Download the PDF of "Iraq in Crisis"

As events in late December 2013 and early 2014 have made brutally clear, Iraq is a nation in crisis bordering on civil war. It is burdened by a long history of war, internal power struggles, and failed governance. It is also a nation whose failed leadership is now creating a steady increase in the sectarian divisions between Shi’ite and Sunni, and the ethnic divisions between Arab and Kurd.

Iraq suffers badly from the legacy of mistakes the United States made during and after its invasion in 2003. It suffers from the threat posed by the reemergence of violent Sunni extremist movements like al-Qaeda and equally violent Shi’ite militias. It suffers from pressure from Iran and near isolation by several key Arab states. It has increasingly become the victim of the forces unleashed by the Syrian civil war.

Its main threats, however, are self-inflicted wounds caused by its political leaders. Its election in 2010 divided the nation rather than create any form of stable democracy, and pushed Iraq’s Prime Minister, Maliki to focus on preserving his power and becoming a steadily more authoritarian leader. Other Shi’ite leaders contributed to Iraq’s increasing sectarian and ethnic polarization – as did key Sunni and Kurdish leaders.

Since that time, a brutal power struggle has taken place between Maliki and senior Sunni leaders, and ethnic tensions have grown between the Arab dominated central government and senior Kurdish leaders in the Kurdish Regional government (KRG). The actions of Iraq’s top political leaders have led to a steady along rise in Sunni and Shi’ite violence accelerated by the spillover of the extremism caused by the Syrian civil war. This has led to a level of Shi’ite and Sunni violence that now threatens to explode into a level of civil conflict equal to – or higher than – the one that existed during the worst period of the U.S. occupation.

This struggle has been fueled by actions of the Iraqi government that many reliable sources indicate have included broad national abuses of human rights and the misuse of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi security services in ways where the resulting repression and discrimination has empowered al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. As a result, the very forces that should help bring security and stability have become part of the threat.

The history and current patterns in these trends are analyzed in detail in a new analysis by the Burke Chair at CSIS. This analysis is entitled Iraq in Crisis and is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/140106_Iraq_Book_AHC_sm.pdf.

The New Cold War: China vs Japan


China and Japan’s war of the words reveals a larger struggle for regional influence akin to a mini Cold War.

January 25, 2014

Lately, it seems that Japanese officials can’t sneeze without incurring the wrath of the Chinese — and vice versa. So it’s no surprise that even conciliatory statements from Shinzo Abe have been soundly rebuffed. On Thursday, Abe wrote a message, published in local Chinese-language papers, conveying greetings for the lunar new year. According to Reuters’ translation of the Japanese-language version, Abe insisted that Japan has “taken the path of peace” since World War II, and “nothing has been changed in the policy of continuing to uphold this position.”

Friday, Abe further extended the olive branch. According to Channel NewsAsia, Abe told a parliamentary session that “Japan and China are inseparable.” He also expressed his desire for the two countries to restart diplomatic meetings. “Instead of refusing to hold dialogue unless issues become resolved, we should hold talks because we have issues,” Abe said.

China flatly rejected these overtures. Responding to earlier requests for a bilateral dialogue, Qin Gang responded with bitter sarcasm: “Such kind of dialogue will be of no effect. Chinese leaders are very busy. Let them spend more time on things useful and effective.” China has repeatedly expressed its position that no diplomatic meetings between China and Japan can be held until Shinzo Abe proves his sincerity. During Friday’s press conference, Qin Gang laid down a specific path for restarting dialogue: Abe should declare that “I will pull back from the precipice, immediately admit and correct mistakes and make no more visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.”

As I wrote earlier, at this point it seems impossible that anything Abe will do will satisfy Chinese leaders (the things he could do, like apologizing for his visit to Yasukuni and/or Japan’s imperialistic past, are incredibly unlikely). To Chinese officials, Abe is “self-contradictory,” as an editorial in China Daily put it. Unless Abe apologizes for and refrains from repeating actions that upset China (from visiting Yasukuni to building up Japan’s military), China will dismiss as insincere his rhetoric about dialogue and peace. Meanwhile, from the Japanese perspective, were Abe to devote the rest of his administration to proving his friendship to China, it would have obvious negative repercussions for Japanese interests.

So we have two countries, each building up their militaries while insisting they must do so to counter the threat of their regional rival. Added to this, a deep distrust of each other’s different political systems coupled with a history of animosity makes the two nations deeply suspicious of each other. Each country insists it loves peace, and uses scare tactics to try to paint its opponent as a hawkish boogeyman. Sound familiar to anyone else?

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia Sign Defense Cooperation Agreement

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia Sign Defense Cooperation Agreement
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Saudi Arabia and Indonesia signed their first defense cooperation agreement.

By Ankit Panda
January 25, 2014

On Thursday, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia signed a defense cooperation agreement (DCA) – the first of its kind – between the two of them. The agreement was signed by Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan Abdulaziz Al Saud and Indonesian Lt. Gen. (ret.) Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin. The DCA covers training, education, counter-terrorism, and defense industry cooperation.

The agreement is significant for Indonesia in a few ways. It is the first agreement of its sort that Indonesia has signed with a Middle Eastern country and the first between it and Saudi Arabia – the two countries have had diplomatic relations since 1950. Lt. Gen. Sjafrie told the Jakarta Post that “This is the first time a Saudi deputy defense minister has visited Indonesia.”

The cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia is underscored by both nations’ common Islamic identities, although this wasn’t a driving factor in the signing of the DCA. In fact, both Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, in agreeing to cooperate on counterterrorism, noted that terrorism should not be linked to any ideology or religion, in particular Islam. Indonesia’s interlocutor adds that “No religion in the world teaches violence.”

Understanding Security Competition in Asia

Understanding Security Competition in Asia
Image Credit: REUTERS/Jason Lee

Do greater levels of interdependence mean the region is less susceptible to a crisis?
By Thomas Wright
January 24, 2014

Growing geopolitical tensions in East Asia, particularly between China and Japan, have increased concern that the world may be on the verge of a new crisis that could quickly and inadvertently spiral out of control. At the very least, the world looks set for a prolonged period of peacetime security competition between major powers for the first time since the Cold War.

The main driver of this security competition is China’s innovative strategy to revise the regional order in Asia. As a senior Chinese diplomat put it to me, while the United States is rebalancing to Asia, China “is trying to rebalance the status quo.” Beijing is avoiding outright aggression but is digging deep into the coercive diplomatic tools available to it to get its way. China’s seizing of the Scarborough Shoal and its declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea are two of the most prominent (and in China’s view successful) examples. If this trend continues, Japan, the United States and others will have to step up their balancing efforts and regional security competition will intensify.

The temptation when analyzing the strategic environment is to draw comparisons to America’s 20th century experiences, whether that is the Cold War or the run-up to World War I. Both are misplaced and cloud unique features of today’s challenge. Geopolitical competition is on the rise but it is occurring in a world that is highly interdependent and globalized. This distinguishes our moment – one of “interdependent competition” – from the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union had little to do with each other economically or culturally. Moreover, America’s allies today are closely tied to China, unlike relations between the Soviet Union and Western Europe.

The New Cold War: China vs Japan

The New Cold War: China vs Japan

China and Japan’s war of the words reveals a larger struggle for regional influence akin to a mini Cold War.

By Shannon Tiezzi
January 25, 2014
Lately, it seems that Japanese officials can’t sneeze without incurring the wrath of the Chinese — and vice versa. So it’s no surprise that even conciliatory statements from Shinzo Abe have been soundly rebuffed. On Thursday, Abe wrote a message, published in local Chinese-language papers, conveying greetings for the lunar new year. According to Reuters’ translation of the Japanese-language version, Abe insisted that Japan has “taken the path of peace” since World War II, and “nothing has been changed in the policy of continuing to uphold this position.”

Friday, Abe further extended the olive branch. According to Channel NewsAsia, Abe told a parliamentary session that “Japan and China are inseparable.” He also expressed his desire for the two countries to restart diplomatic meetings. “Instead of refusing to hold dialogue unless issues become resolved, we should hold talks because we have issues,” Abe said.

China flatly rejected these overtures. Responding to earlier requests for a bilateral dialogue, Qin Gang responded with bitter sarcasm: “Such kind of dialogue will be of no effect. Chinese leaders are very busy. Let them spend more time on things useful and effective.” China has repeatedly expressed its position that no diplomatic meetings between China and Japan can be held until Shinzo Abe proves his sincerity. During Friday’s press conference, Qin Gang laid down a specific path for restarting dialogue: Abe should declare that “I will pull back from the precipice, immediately admit and correct mistakes and make no more visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.”

As I wrote earlier, at this point it seems impossible that anything Abe will do will satisfy Chinese leaders (the things he could do, like apologizing for his visit to Yasukuni and/or Japan’s imperialistic past, are incredibly unlikely). To Chinese officials, Abe is “self-contradictory,” as an editorial in China Daily put it. Unless Abe apologizes for and refrains from repeating actions that upset China (from visiting Yasukuni to building up Japan’s military), China will dismiss as insincere his rhetoric about dialogue and peace. Meanwhile, from the Japanese perspective, were Abe to devote the rest of his administration to proving his friendship to China, it would have obvious negative repercussions for Japanese interests.

So we have two countries, each building up their militaries while insisting they must do so to counter the threat of their regional rival. Added to this, a deep distrust of each other’s different political systems coupled with a history of animosity makes the two nations deeply suspicious of each other. Each country insists it loves peace, and uses scare tactics to try to paint its opponent as a hawkish boogeyman. Sound familiar to anyone else?

Ever since the Cold War ended, strategists have been warning leaders to drop the “Cold War mentality.” But it apparently hasn’t worked, because that is exactly what we have right now between China and Japan. The two countries identify so strongly as rivals that it’s impossible for either country to do or say anything without triggering a response from its counterpart. The tensions pop up in the most unexpected places – during Abe’s Africa tour, during a global economic summit in Switzerland.

Even the strong economic ties between China and Japan haven’t helped forestall tensions. In fact, it’s the other way around – tensions are eroding the economic relationship. The Telegraph recently reported that, according to a poll, 60 percent of Chinese business leaders are unwilling to work with Japanese firms. In 2012, China-Japan tensions even erupted into outright calls to boycott Japanese products, with rioters targeting Japanese businesses and restaurants. While Japan’s business view of China is less affected (according to The Telegraph, 80 percent of Japanese are willing to continue trade with China and South Korea), economic interests are shifting to other regions, notably Southeast Asia. Economic ties are likely to continue worsening. It’s certainly hard to see the next round of negotiations on a trilateral China-Japan-South Korea free-trade agreement going off as planned in February 2014.

As with the Cold War, part of the problem is that both China and Japan willfully read each other’s every move as a challenge or threat. For all the distrust between China and the United States, the problem hasn’t reached this level (yet). The U.S. has too many potential enemies (Russia, Iran, North Korea) and too many global interests for China to realistically interpret every diplomatic or strategic maneuver as somehow anti-China (although certainly some hawks within China do try). Japan, with its more limited global presence and strategic interests, is a different story. Meanwhile, as China is currently limiting its military build-up and strategic goals to the near seas, it’s easy for Tokyo interpret each move (for example, a new air defense identification zone) as directly aimed at Japan.

My colleague Zachary wrote Friday that one byproduct of the United States’ decline could be the emergence of regional hegemons. We might be seeing the beginning of this process now, with China and Japan in a Cold War-style battle, not for global power but for regional dominance. The territorial dispute highlights this by increasing the possibility of military conflict, but even if the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands were to sink into the ocean tomorrow (one possible benefit of global warming) the tensions would remain. It’s a regional Cold War, currently being fought with words but with an arms race looming on the horizon. And, like the Cold War, tensions are unlikely to end until one country claims victory.

Darpa Cracks Radio Incompatibility Problem Once and for All

BY ALLEN MCDUFFEE
12.16.13


After more than 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s research group has announced a new system that could help U.S. troops and multinational forces communicate — a problem that frequently plagued the countries’ cooperation in the field.

Darpa’s nearly-completed Mobile Ad-Hoc Interoperability Gateway (MAINGATE) is said to overcome the “technical incompatibility between communications systems [that] can hinder information sharing and timely command and control decisions.” The latest version of the system will soon make its way to Afghanistan, even as U.S. forces draw down.

“MAINGATE is designed to be a potent communications force multiplier for joint and combined forces,” said Keith Gremban, DARPA program manager, in a statement. “From a radio perspective, MAINGATE allows coalition forces to plug in their own radio systems and MAINGATE takes the necessary steps so everyone can communicate in real time.”

Darpa has been developing MAINGATE since 2008, awarding Raytheon an initial $155 million contract in 2009 to make the concept into a reality. Certain elements of the project have already been used into U.S. Army systems.

The system relies on two technologies to provide an interoperable network for connecting forces. A high capacity Wireless IP Network (WIPN) radio provides a “terrestrial ‘Everything over IP’ backbone” with enough capacity to simultaneously support many channels of voice, video and data. The second is MAINGATE’s Interoperability Gateway, which provides interconnectivity for otherwise incompatible communications equipment. According to Raytheon, MAINGATE provides 10 megabits per second to a network of as many as 128 nodes that could include drones, ships, bases and vehicles on the ground.

“We’re transitioning a proven capability that can be kept up to date with the latest IP technology standards,” said Gremban. “Just as a smartphone offers the capability to do more than make phone calls, MAINGATE is much more than a radio—it’s a backbone architecture enabling video, data and voice sharing among a diversity of networks and devices.”

In Tomorrow’s Wars, Battles Will Be Fought With a 3-D Printer

BY ROBERT BECKHUSEN
05.17.13



Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Rucinski checks his 3-D printer at Joint Base Balad, Iraq on June 8, 2011. Less than two years later, an increasing number of military officers are saying this could change the way we fight wars. Photo: U.S. Army

A 3-D printed drone is shot down by insurgents near a far-flung base manned by the U.S. military. Within hours, a small lab dropped onto the base by a helicopter days before churns out a replacement — along with plenty of ammunition and reinforced shelters for the troops. A few miles off a nearby coastline, a naval ship-turned-factory harvests resources from the sea and uses on-board printers to make everything from food to replacement organs.

It’s a far-out vision for future combat, but at least one naval officer thinks it could happen. According to Lt. Cmdr. Michael Llenza, who sketched out the scenario in the latest Armed Forces Journal, 3-D printing could arguably “upend the way we think about supply chains, sea basing and even maritime strategy.” And by we, Llenza doesn’t just mean Americans. The Chinese military is already bragging about how they are printing parts for their next-gen aircraft.

Aside from drones — which have already been printed — ammunition could potentially be produced with the machines, as the casings would be “relatively easy,” he writes. (The Pentagon would just have to find a way to produce the propellants.) Additive manufacturing also “offers a new way to think about building shelters or other structures on a beachhead or forward operating base.” The hope, as the theory goes, is that large-scale investments in 3-D printing could take a lot of strain off the supply lines modern military forces depend on to survive.

None of this amounts to the official position of the Pentagon, but publications like the Armed Forces Journal serve as influential arenas where many theories and ideas from military officers — some which are later incorporated — are first put up for debate. And it’s no surprise the potential (and existing) military uses of 3-D printers has been getting a lot of recent ink.

In April, Navy lieutenants Scott Cheney-Peters and Matthew Hipple sketched out a theoretical future Navy in the widely read U.S. Naval Institute journal Proceedings that imagined ships capable ofharvesting the oceans for 3-D printing material, and floating factories capable of manufacturing repair parts for a fleet of ships. Even shipyards, the authors wrote, could be effectively converted into giant 3-D printers. Llenza, who is also a Senior Naval Fellow at the non-partisan Atlantic Council, has taken that concept and run with it.

But there are also dangers, he warns. It’s not the 3-D gunmakers who are posting videos of their weapons to the internet. Those guns are crude and expensive compared to a homemade zip gun or bomb. “As far as printing guns, I’m not worried about it in its current state,” Llenza tells Danger Room. “I’m more worried about knee-jerk legislation and some idiot getting a hold of one. Plans to make zip guns and bomb making recipes have been online forever, so not much is new there.” (Though over time, the technology could advance with machines that can work with both metal and plastic simultaneously, or with printable composite materials that can withstand the heat and pressure of repeated use.)

FAILURE TO LEARN: REFLECTIONS ON A CAREER IN THE POST-VIETNAM ARMY

January 24, 2014 · 

The legacy and future of American counterinsurgency remains perhaps the most contentious issue in contemporary military affairs. Many punches have been thrown in this raucous debate in key online publications, most notably Small Wars Journal, the late Abu Muqawama, and here at War on the Rocks. WOTR’s Mark Stout caused quite a stir with his article on “Why the Counterinsurgency Debate Must Go On.” Critics focused their fire and ire on his caution that the Army must not do what it did after the Philippine Insurrection and the Vietnam War, when it “consciously decided to forget. It locked the records away and pretended that nothing had ever happened.”

How did the Army deal with the Vietnam War? And how did this experience inform the controversial Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency (FM 3-24)? These are questions with which I have some personal experience from my career as an Army officer. These questions have also framed my research as a historian in the Army and at RAND.

Like many of my contemporaries, I joined an Army in disarray in the aftermath of Vietnam, contributed to rebuilding it without looking to Vietnam for lessons, and made it the most powerful warfighting army in history.

I was commissioned in 1972. The Vietnam War ended while I was in Ranger School and I went to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. I was a mechanized infantry rifle platoon leader and assistant S-3 for a little over a year and then became a Quartermaster officer, my Regular Army branch, for eight months before branch transferring to Field Artillery. I recall spending most of my time, as did my peers, trying to lead small units transitioning from the draft to a volunteer army. The state of the Army of the 1970s is summed up in its official history of the first Gulf War: “The Army emerged from Vietnam cloaked in anguish…it was an institution fighting merely to maintain its existence in the midst of growing apathy, decay, and intolerance.”

We junior officers spent most of our time trying to train soldiers that many thought were untrainable, gaining control of our units, and preparing to fight a conventional adversary. Our equipment was in bad shape, although our leaders rated us “ready.” Two events stick in my memory: We had a “best vehicle” competition in our brigade. The vehicle that won was an M-578 Recovery Vehicle that, while freshly painted and immaculate, had not run in a year. I also recall that we were C1—the highest level—in our readiness, until the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. The rumor was we were going to go to Israel; suddenly our readiness ratings dropped precipitously. I left Fort Hood for the Artillery Basic Course en route to Korea and the 2ndInfantry Division. I recall nothing about Vietnam in the course. The 2ndInfantry Division was appropriately riveted on the North Korean Army. When I returned to the Advanced Course in 1976 our focus was on conventional operations. We learned how to “shoot and scoot” to avoid Soviet counterfire and to suppress enemy artillery and antitank guided missiles, a lesson from the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. There was nothing about Vietnam in the course.

The Right Way to Educate Navy Officers



The Naval Diplomat offers a “No Officer Left Behind” solution to the STEM-Humanities debate raging inside the US Navy.

By James R. Holmes
January 24, 2014
Smackdown!!!

As civilian academe debates the merits of technical and non-technical college degrees, the U.S. Navy is carrying on its own parallel bloodletting conversation. The scientific, technical, engineering, and mathematics — a.k.a. STEM — fields are much in vogue in the service. Indeed, the chief of naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, recently issued guidance mandating that 85 percent of officer candidates earn degrees in scientific-technical disciplines. That’s up from the 65 percent benchmark currently in force. STEM mania has aroused consternation among non-quantitative types in the navy, just as it has on civilian campuses from sea to shining sea. (Look at any edition of Inside Higher Ed for the latest installment from the civilian world.)

Nuclear power lies at the heart of the navy’s debate. Too few officer candidates, it seems, boast the academic prerequisites to attend Nuclear Power School, and thence qualify to operate the nuclear power plants in America’s aircraft carriers and submarines. But the Golden Rule works in the navy’s favor here. The service has the gold, paying U.S. Naval Academy and Naval ROTC midshipmen’s way through school. It can make the rules governing what they study. If the nuclear-power community needs more engineering officers, the leadership can require more midshipmen to amass the requisite coursework. And then it can dispatch the press gang come commissioning time.

Problem solved. Yet teeth have been gnashed and garments rent in commentary on the navy’s mandate. Naval Diplomat pal CDR Salamander speaks out on behalf of mush-headed humanities and social-science majors everywhere, decrying “the warping effects of an unbalanced mind.” By that he presumably means too many skulls awash in numbers and formulas, too few in Gibbon and Chaucer.

Meanwhile, a self-confessed “pocket-protector-wearing poindexter” — think the cast of The Big Bang Theory — wonders why partisans of the humanities and social sciences assume they can pick up advanced mathematics, physics, or engineering on sea duty while a STEM-degree-bearing officer could never master history, politics, or strategy in similar circumstances. Good question. If that really is an underlying assumption, it’s a faulty one. Those adept with numbers can read.