10 February 2014

Bitcoin Goes Boom

Will the World's Favorite Cryptocurrency Explode or Implode?

By Yuri Takhteyev and Mariana Mota Prado
January 30, 2014

An artistic representation of bitcoins. (fdecomite / Flickr)

It might not have been word of the year for 2013, but “Bitcoin” figured prominently in the shortlists. Known formerly only to true geeks, the mysterious cryptocurrency was in the news almost every day. Many of the stories were tales of riches gained and lost: a Norwegian student who discovered that the 5,600 bitcoins he purchased for $24 in 2009 were now worth $700,000; a British man who accidentally threw away a hard drive containing digital keys to bitcoins worth over $6 million. Others were tales of crime: websites where anonymous buyers could use bitcoins to buy drugs or even pool money for potential assassinations of public figures. And still others focused on attempts at regulating Bitcoin, which ranged from declaring it altogether illegal (Thailand) to embracing it wholeheartedly (Switzerland).

Why all the fuss? Much of it has to do with Bitcoin’s pure novelty and its wild price fluctuations (from under $20 per bitcoin at the start of 2013 to a high of $1,203 in December to around $925 now). But above all, it is because Bitcoin is an extraordinary idea -- one whose ramifications no one can fully foresee. Its foundational premise is that monetary systems do not need a central government. Instead, Bitcoin relies on clever mathematics to ensure that everyone plays by the rules. In theory, at least, no one can control Bitcoin. And this means, of course, that nobody can tell Bitcoin users what they should and shouldn’t be spending their money on -- for good or for ill. That presents regulating agencies with difficult questions: Should they try to control Bitcoin? Can they control it?

If all this sounds familiar, it should. The world faced these same questions in the early days of the Internet. Whether Bitcoin is more like AOL or Google, of course, is yet to be seen. Still, how governments choose to respond to it could change global finance for good.
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Why Does America Send So Many Stupid, Unqualified Hacks Overseas?

February 07, 2014 

Recently, a colleague of mine from the Foreign Service told me about a former U.S. ambassador to Sweden who, some years ago, had passed out in the snow, too drunk to get up. He had been partying hard during an outing in the countryside. Fortunately, an embassy officer found him in time to save his life. America’s boozy man in Stockholm was a non-career political appointee—no surprise. The fellow who saved him was a professional diplomat. And the roles the two men played that night is emblematic of a familiar routine.

That was the thought I had earlier this week when word came that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had approved nominations of President Barack Obama’s latest batch of ambassadorial picks—including a couple of first-time diplomats whose cringeworthy performances during their testimony suggested they’ll need to rely heavily on their Foreign Service staff to keep from embarrassing the United States. Of course, we have little reason to worry about longtime Montana Senator Max Baucus, whose appointment to serve in China the Senate passed unanimously on Thursday. But some wealthy campaign donors with backgrounds a bit further afield from public service should give us concern. They’ve already embarrassed themselves.

When hotel magnate George Tsunis, Obama’s nominee for Oslo, met with the Senate last month, he made clear that he didn’t know that Norway was a constitutional monarchy and wrongly stated that one of the ruling coalition political parties was a hate-spewing “fringe element.” Another of the president’s picks, Colleen Bell, who is headed to Budapest, could not answer questions about the United States’ strategic interests in Hungary. But could the president really expect that she’d be an expert on the region? Her previous gig was as a producer for the TV soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. She stumbled through responses to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) like, well, a soap opera star, expounding on world peace. When the whole awkward exchange concluded, the senator grinned. “I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees,” McCain said sarcastically.

For the purposes of comparison, Norway’s ambassador to the Washington is a 31-year Foreign Ministry veteran. Hungary’s ambassador is an economist who worked at the International Monetary Fund for 27 years.

The resumé imbalance, of course, owes to a simple fact: The United States is the only industrialized country to award diplomatic posts as political spoils, often to wealthy campaign contributors in an outmoded system that rivals the patronage practices of banana republics, dictatorships and two-bit monarchies. A similar system once allowed political allies to become military officers, but Congress outlawed the practice after the Civil War, during which the public recoiled at the needless slaughter brought on by incompetent cronies who had been appointed generals (men like Daniel Sickles, whose insubordination at Gettysburg caused more than 4,000 Union casualties). Representing the United States in a foreign capital, however, is a privilege still available to any moneyed dolt with party connections.


February 3, 2014 

In the late winter of 2007, while serving as a brigade planner of a unit slated for a deployment to Iraq, I received a phone call from the division headquarters. An operations staffer there told me to call my brigade’s designated representative at the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) to get lessons learned from units that had recently been to Iraq. I did as I was instructed, reaching an amiable civil servant who was eager to help.

“We have all kinds of info. What do you need?”

“I have no idea. What do you have?”

“Everything. Where are you going?”

“We don’t know. Maybe MND-North? There’s no plan yet.”

“Oh, we have lots of stuff on MND-North. What do you need to know about it?”

“I don’t know – we’re about to link in with the division staff this week to get the intel picture. What else should we know?”

“Well, we have 4 years of data and logs on the division’s area of operations and some recent brigade AARs [after action reviews]. We could send you that.”

A little over a week later I received a package with the aforementioned information. The after action reviews were fairly generic, obviously put together by officers who had other duties to perform. The data was either too granular or too high-level to be of use. In the end we deployed to the Multi-National Division – Center on the southern edge of Baghdad and not the northern division closer to Kirkuk; these areas might as well have been in different countries. Most all of the “lessons learned” were useless in the area of operations we were eventually assigned. My experience with CALL in 2007 reinforced the Army adage that there are no lessons learned, only lessons observed.

Military Force vs. Diplomacy: Can You Have One Without the Other?

January 31, 2014

At Tuesday’s State of the Union President Barack Obama promised the American people that the era of large-scale military interventions is over. Diplomacy is now the order of the day.

“I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our outstanding military alone,” the president said. “In a world of complex threats, our security, our leadership depends on all elements of our power, including strong and principled diplomacy.”


Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Full Bio

“I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts.” 

Yet some top American diplomats question whether the two – military force vs. diplomacy – can be so easily divorced from one another. 

“Diplomacy is not an alternative to military force; it is the use of all elements of U.S. force in a coordinated, cumulative way to achieve our results in other countries,” said former U.S.ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, a diplomat who spent much of the last decade focused on the Middle East. “I’m not sure the administration has the tradecraft right.”

Jeffrey cites the example of President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. “I saw them do major groundbreaking diplomatic initiatives that were revolutionary, but those guys were kicking ass and deploying military forces as an integral part of their diplomacy,” Jeffrey said. “That is why they were successful in their diplomacy, and I don’t see any difference between the two—negotiating agreements and threatening force, and when necessary delivering on the threat.”

Jeffrey notes today’s gap between America’s rhetoric about its willingness to use force and its appetite for actually doing so.


FEBRUARY 3, 2014

Robert Gates’s well-reviewed memoir of his years as Defense Secretary, “Duty,” débuted this week at number one on the New York Times best-sellers list, and it’s not hard to see why. Besides being a highly respected member of both the Bush and Obama cabinets, Gates appeals to readers on both sides of the great partisan divide, though more so to Republicans (his tribe), who buy more political books than Democrats do. The sincerity of his love for the troops, and the patriotism that led him to stay on and work for President Obama, give the book heart. It helps that “Duty” is bracing and vivid and made headlines for its trashing of Congress and its tart depictions of major players, especially Vice President Joe Biden. The flap over whether it was right for Gates to publish while the President he served remained in office was ahistorical: government officials have been doing so at least since Raymond Moley wrote “After Seven Years,” in 1939. Franklin Roosevelt described Moley’s book as “kiss ass and tell.” 

Gates was not a kiss-ass but one of the shrewdest public servants of his generation—which helps to explain why his many failures and missed calls have been all but air-brushed out of accounts of his career. The best-known part of “Duty” comes when Gates writes that Biden was “simply impossible not to like” but “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” As it happens, this verdict applies rather precisely to Gates himself.

On first impression, Gates is unprepossessing: someone who worked closely with him compared his appearance to “the guy at P. C. Richards who sold microwave ovens.” But upon his return to government in 2006, after a thirteen-year absence, colleagues and even people who had never met him began to think of him as oracular. His nickname in the Obama Administration was “Yoda.” Cabinet colleagues, especially Hillary Clinton, who sought peace between State and Defense, listened to him with the ear-cupped deference of actors in the old ad for E. F. Hutton. And yet Gates’s experience and wisdom failed to prevent the biggest breach between the President and the military since the Korean War. On Afghanistan, the most internally contentious national-security issue of his tenure, he failed to perform one of the most important parts of his job.

This combination of elfish charm and sub-par performance goes back a long way. Gates was tarnished by the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-nineteen eighties, arguably the worst scandal since Watergate. At the time, he was deputy director of the C.I.A. under William Casey and admitted, in an earlier book, “From the Shadows,” that, having been “dealt a lousy hand by the president and Congress, the Agency played it amazingly stupidly.” That’s putting it mildly. It was under Casey and Gates that the politicizing of intelligence that would prove so ruinous two decades later, in the Iraq War, began. The special prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh, didn’t prosecute Gates but, due to his deep involvement in the fiasco (including his faulty memory of when he learned of the arms-for-hostages deal), the Senate forced Gates to withdraw his nomination for C.I.A. director in 1987. “Did I do enough? Could I have done more?” he asks in “From the Shadows.” He answers yes: “I gave myself a C-.”

The One Thing WWI Analogies Get Right

By Robert Farley
February 01, 2014

One of the few things that pre-World War I Europe and modern Asia have in common is that most actors are unfamiliar with war.

How do we know how the next war will be fought, and why does it matter? As the centenary of World War I approaches, several commentators have argued that the emerging multipolar power structure of East Asia is coming to resemble that of Europe prior to 1914. Setting aside the wisdom of the political comparison for a moment, there is one way in which the comparison is apt. Just as real knowledge of modern, high intensity warfare was limited in 1914, the emerging great powers of Asia have little experience with the forms of warfare they are planning to use.

Although most of the European powers had experience with colonial wars, they did not have the space or time to work out the implications of the technologies that would eventually characterize World War I (the machine gun, the dreadnought, the submarine, and the airplane). The degree to which military commanders of 1914 were surprised by these technologies has been wildly overstated, but the armies and navies had not developed the tactic, hands-get-dirty experience of how to fight in a new technological environment.

It bears repeating that we have very little sense of what contemporary air and naval warfare between peer or near peer competitors will look like. This is true not only of land warfare (the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 is probably the best model we have, but isn’t very helpful) but also of naval and air warfare. And in particular, the emerging East Asian powers lack recent combat experience. China last fought a land war in 1980, a naval conflict in 1974. The Japanese military has not engaged in combat since 1945. The Indian military is in better shape because of its anti-guerrilla efforts and constant sparing with Pakistan, but still has little recent experience with major combat.

Of course, good military organizations do their best to simulate what war will look like, and train around those simulations. Exercises such as Red Flag are useful insofar as they contribute to the development of experiential and experimental knowledge. Prior to the air campaigns of the Vietnam War, for example, the United States had little sense of how to undertake air combat, or how to operationally manage a major, modern air offensive. Red Flag emerged from the experience of the war, and over the years has attempted to project the future of war. But as time goes on, the gap between the projection and the actual is likely to grow.

A New Multilateralism for the 21st Century: the Richard Dimbleby Lecture

By Christine Lagarde
Managing Director, International Monetary Fund
London, February 3, 2014 As Prepared for Delivery

Good evening. It is a great honor to be invited to deliver this year’s Dimbleby Lecture, and I would like to thank the BBC and the Dimbleby family for so kindly inviting me—and especially David Dimbleby for his warm words of introduction.

This evening, I would like to talk about the future. Before looking ahead, however, I would like to look back—for the clues to the future can often be read from the tea leaves of the past.

I invite you to cast your minds back to the early months of 1914, exactly a century ago. Much of the world had enjoyed long years of peace, and giant leaps in scientific and technological innovation had led to path-breaking advances in living standards and communications. There were few barriers to trade, travel, or the movement of capital. The future was full of potential.

Yet, 1914 was the gateway to thirty years of disaster—marked by two world wars and the Great Depression. It was the year when everything started to go wrong. What happened?

What happened was that the birth of the modern industrial society brought about massive dislocation. The world was rife with tension—rivalry between nations, upsetting the traditional balance of power, and inequality between the haves and have-nots, whether in the form of colonialism or the sunken prospects of the uneducated working classes.

By 1914, these imbalances had toppled over into outright conflict. In the years to follow, nationalist and ideological thinking led to an unprecedented denigration of human dignity. Technology, instead of uplifting the human spirit, was deployed for destruction and terror. Early attempts at international cooperation, such as the League of Nations, fell flat. By the end of the Second World War, large parts of the world lay in ruins.

I now invite you to consider a second turning point—1944. In the summer of that year, the eminent economist, John Maynard Keynes, and a delegation of British officials, embarked on a fateful journey across the Atlantic. The crossing was risky—the world was still at war and enemy ships still prowled the waters. Keynes himself was in poor health.

But he had an appointment with destiny—and he was not going to miss it.

The destination was the small town of Bretton Woods in the hills of New Hampshire, in the northeastern United States. His purpose was to meet with his counterparts from other countries. Their plan was nothing less than the reconstruction of the global economic order.

The 44 nations gathering at Bretton Woods were determined to set a new course—based on mutual trust and cooperation, on the principle that peace and prosperity flow from the font of cooperation, on the belief that the broad global interest trumps narrow self-interest.

This was the original multilateral moment—70 years ago. It gave birth to the United Nations, the World Bank, and the IMF—the institution that I am proud to lead.

The world we inherited was forged by these visionary gentlemen—Lord Keynes and his generation. They raised the phoenix of peace and prosperity from the ashes of anguish and antagonism. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Because of their work, we have seen unprecedented economic and financial stability over the past seven decades. We have seen diseases eradicated, conflict diminished, child mortality reduced, life expectancy increased, and hundreds of millions lifted out of poverty.

Fighting a Hybrid Enemy

By COL (Ret.) William Betson 

Stylized "urban warfare" image by Terranozoid.

In July, 2006, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invaded Lebanon in response to provocations from Hezbollah forces near the Lebanese-Israeli border. The IDF mission was to stop the firing of missiles into Israel, to obtain the release of several captured Israeli soldiers, and to force the disarming of Hezbollah militia in that region. Over-confident Israeli forces, which had been focused on counter-insurgent operations for several years, were shocked as fierce resistance brought their elite attacking formations to an abrupt halt at places like Maroun al-Ras, Bint Jbiel, and Wadi Saluki. Although there has been much argument as to whether the IDF were “defeated,” by Hezbollah “militia,” there is no doubt that the IDF failed to achieve its nation’s political objectives during the campaign. The Hezbollah militias faced by the IDF in 2006 (and later in 2008) were a formidable foe, and with their successful performance against the IDF, they represent a model for others to emulate. Indeed, a Hezbollah-like enemy comprises the most dangerous form of the “hybrid” enemy force that current US doctrine sees as its most likely future adversary.

From 2006-2010 the Mounted Maneuver Battle Lab at Ft. Knox conducted a series of experimental war games against such an enemy. The games involved scenarios in both wide area security and combined arms maneuver contexts. The Hybrid “Opposing Forces” represented in these exercises were comprised of a mixture regular and irregular forces. The regular component of this enemy would disperse among the population and fight more like guerrillas, often removing their uniforms. The irregular soldiers might normally be farmers or laborers, but they would be disciplined and well trained. Generally fighting in their own villages and towns, they would execute rehearsed battle plans on terrain they knew well. Both groups were equipped with a wide array of high-end weapons available on the open market. The regulars were organized into normal companies and battalions, but were heavily task organized. The irregulars had no standard organizations at all – employing their weapons and personnel in accordance with the situation. TRADOC specially trained the Opposing Force players in tactics employed by the Hezbollah, Chechens, and other similar forces. The US players in the exercises were combat veterans with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lessons learned during these war games are worth recalling, and this short essay will discuss those lessons and analyze what they might mean for our land forces. 

Lessons Learned from Wargaming 

The first lesson garnered from these war games is that this enemy could be very lethal. Sophisticated weaponry available on the open market include excellent man-portable air defense systems, long range anti-tank systems, remotely piloted aerial vehicles, heavy mortars, and rockets. The hybrid mix of enemy forces meant that tanks and artillery might sometimes be available as well. As the Hezbollah demonstrated, this enemy could be very well trained in the use of these often high-end systems. In fact, Hezbollah “militia” anti-tank guided missile gunners had more live fire training with their weapons than the US provides its soldiers. Thus, when facing a hybrid enemy in the future US forces could face a well trained enemy whose equipment might be roughly equal to that employed by the US.

Peace, Art and … Special Operations

Journal Article 
January 30, 2014 

It is early 2014 and the United States is surrounded by war. Iraq is behind us, Afghanistan and Libya are beside us, and ahead of us lay a number of regions in turmoil, with Syria and Egypt topping the list. With persistent talk of military actions and war, we need an intensified conversation about military options and peace.

Warren Buffett said “Most people are interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested in stocks is when no one else is.” With wars simmering on all sides, Buffett’s contrarian logic has great strategic wisdom. So in this moment of war, let’s get interested in peace. Let’s be further contrarian by examining the role of the notoriously lethal US Special Operations Forces (SOF) in peacetime, or at least non-wartime, environments.

Getting Engaged

The post-Iraq and Afghanistan US national security environment is predictably yearning for a renewed era of engagement. Engagements, described as “the active participation of the United States in relations beyond our borders,” are the centerpiece of the current (2010) US National Security Strategy.[1] The desire to exert American influence through engagement reflects the foreign policy guidance of The White House and, arguably, the mood of a war-weary American public. Yet a key question remains: How are engagements designed, arranged, and implemented to accomplish US policy goals and strategic aspirations abroad?

Engagements occur where the US is in dialogue with allies, partners, friends, and competitors in reasonably normal diplomatic relations. In military parlance, engagements occur in Phase Zero, the pre-crisis environment in which state relations are relatively peaceful and routine. Beyond Phase Zero lies the military phases that represent an escalation of conflict: Phase I (Deter), Phase II (Seize the Initiative), and Phase III (Dominate). Phase Zero then, is a slang descriptor for both the actions and the environment in which the US pursues its strategic interests prior to any act of war.

Closer to Peace than War

Although economic, diplomatic and informational elements of US national power generally take precedence in Phase Zero, the US military plays a significant role in peacetime foreign engagement. Among the US military options to engage foreign partners are US SOF. US Army SOF includes Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Military Information Support; US Navy SOF is comprised of SEALs and specialized maritime capabilities; and from all armed services come skilled aviators and counterterror forces. Public knowledge of US SOF is centered on tales of derring-do and inspired stories of lethal military prowess. But there is another story to be told about SOF that is less sexy but more central to the national security interests of the United States.

Is Revised COIN Manual Backed by Political Will?

By Robert D. Lamb, Brooke Shawn 
FEB 6, 2014 

As 2013 came to a close, the United States military published the long-awaited revision to its counterinsurgency (COIN) manual, known as Field Manual (FM) 3-24 when it was published in 2006 and now called Joint Publication (JP) 3-24. FM 3-24 had been touted both as a complete overhaul of the Marines’ Small Wars Manual of 1940 and as the way to succeed in Iraq and, later, Afghanistan. JP 3-24 is a significant revisiting of COIN doctrine based on experiences on the ground in both of those wars.

We had a mixed view of the 2006 approach, both on its own terms and as it was later applied in Afghanistan. FM 3-24 offered reasonable advice for dealing with populations and governance at the subnational level, despite some shortcomings. But at the strategic level, it made important assumptions about the dynamics of legitimacy and governance in host nations that were fundamentally flawed. The revised manual makes some important improvements, but not enough.

In our 2012 report, Political Governance and Strategy in Afghanistan (which we were gratified to find excerpted so extensively in the new COIN manual), we argued that improving the host-nation’s capacity to deliver services to populations will not necessarily make the government more legitimate—the key strategic objective of COIN. Building government legitimacy requires at least as much attention to politics as it does to capacity. Legitimacy will be fruitless as a strategic objective if key officials in government are uninterested in being seen as legitimate to certain populations, if they do not believe legitimacy is the issue at stake, or if the government is simply too fragmented and unpredictable to carry out legitimizing reforms.

But the biggest problem with the FM 3-24 COIN doctrine was its failure to recognize that the ambitious societal and institutional transformations it seemed to require cannot be accomplished in any time frame shorter than decades or generations. As we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, that level of effort far exceeds what the American public and political leaders are willing to contribute to a mission that can be construed as fixing another country’s problems.

9 February 2014

World War I, the India story retold

By Manimugdha S Sharma
Feb 9, 2014,

THE BATTLE BEGINS: Indian troops on board a military train in France leaving for the war front, circa 1914.

The stories of 1.3 million Indian soldiers who fought the First World War have been almost forgotten. Now in the centenary year of the Great War, a project plans to collate their tales.
Manimugdha S SharmaFar from the public eye, a handful of men have been hard at work for the last one year at the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research in Delhi. Their mission is to painstakingly put together the forgotten story of the 1.3 million Indian soldiers who had been sent to fight for the British Empire in the First World War.Far from the public eye, a handful of men have been hard at work for the last one year at the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research in Delhi. Their mission is to painstakingly put together the forgotten story of the 1.3 million Indian soldiers who had been sent to fight for the British Empire in the First World War.

For a hundred years, the story of this force had been nearly forgotten — the narrative of World War I has so far been predominantly white. The Indian story had to be told because it rarely happens that one nation's war is fought by another's armies. But not only did Britain downplay the contribution of these men but India, too, chose to ignore them. In fact, the nationalist voices in free India actively disowned parts of this history.

"It's a shame that we have to push for preservation of the memory of the First World War through the centenary celebration. Even in Britain, there is less public awareness about the Great War. There is an instant connect when it comes to World War II, since people who took part in it or saw it are still alive. Also, it happened just a little over 20 years after the Great War, nobody really got enough time to think about the importance of the first. But four years ago, we opened a gallery at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton dedicated to the memory of the Indian soldiers who stayed there, and that generated a lot of awareness about them. Now, people in Brighton know and understand the important role the Indians played in WWI," says Jody East, creative programme curator of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

East was on a whirlwind trip to India in search of WWI relics and was in Delhi when TOI spoke to her on Tuesday. Earlier, she was in Kolkata to meet the curator of Victoria Memorial Museum . But she couldn't find much there to take back home, save some valuable verbal inputs. Finding comprehensive records of the war in India is a problem. But there are countless profiles in courage buried in the cold vaults of libraries and museums across the world.

The Maoists will remain dangerous in 2014

February 07, 2014

Despite major setbacks, the Maoists' ability to inflict damage on the State and maintain its position as the saviour of the tribals will keep them relevant, says Bibhu Prasad Routray.

On the final day of 2013, security forces in Odisha carried out a raid on a village in Malkangiri district, engaging a group of Communist Party of India-Maoist cadres.

The hour-long encounter claimed the life of Serisha, a woman Maoist leader who was part of the security for Ramakrishna, head of the outfit's Andhra Odisha Border State Zonal Committee. Serisha carried a bounty of Rs 400,000 each in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

Thirteen days later, the CPI-Maoist lost the services of another senior leader. G V K Prasad alias Gudsa Usendi, spokesperson for the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, surrendered to the Andhra Pradesh police. Usendi carried a bounty of Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million).

He was in charge of issuing statements on behalf of the Maoists as well as responsible for some of its military successes in Chhattisgarh, having directed and coordinated attacks in which security personnel were killed.

During his surrender and in statements thereafter, Usendi complained of ill health and disillusionment with the Maoists' excessive reliance on violence.

A Maoist spokesperson used an audio tape to trash the police version of Serisha's death, and the impact of Usendi's surrender was trivialised.

In a recorded statement, DKSZC Secretary Ramanna called Usendi a 'traitor' and a 'morally flawed' individual.

Ramanna criticised Usendi's ways with women cadres and accused him of abandoning his wife, who is still a Maoist and surrendering with another woman cadre.

The statement noted that such surrenders, which are 'not a new phenomenon for the revolutionary movement' would have no impact on the Maoist revolution.

The statement, at one level, was a natural reaction of the Maoists who have suffered from a series of splits and surrenders, and also lost a number of senior leaders to arrests and killings.

Pakistan: Combating the Terror

After a horrible month, Pakistan needs to consider a broader vision for defeating terror.

From the tentative hopefulness of the election year and all the promises made by elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) in 2013, it appears that 2014 is to be a year of uncertainty for Pakistan. Still in his first year in office, Sharif and the PML-N have unwittingly presided over a nation that is experiencing an upsurge in militant attacks. As far as auspicious starts go, January has been a brutal month: on the sixth,a school student was killed; on the nineteenth, twenty Pakistani soldiers were killed near Bannu; on the twentieth, thirteen people were killed in Rawalpindi. To emphasize the cruel point: the death of twenty-four Shia pilgrims near Quetta and three polio workers in Karachi both on the twenty-first. Various other incidents help to round out the salient point: 2014 conjures a degree of dubiousness over the prospects for Pakistan, reiterating the same wretched routine of bloodshed for ordinary Pakistanis.

Thankfully, the terror has not numbed the consciousness of Pakistanis “into an inert, unresisting acceptance,” as art historian F.S. Aijazuddin puts it. If anything, there has been a renewed discourse in Pakistan’s media outlets as to how best to respond as a nation. Against the PML-N’s policy of negotiating with the Pakistan Taliban, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), many now are advocating a more aggressive approach. As well-known Lahore-based journalist Ahmed Rashid writes for the BBC, “the violence is unsparing, unprecedented and reaching frightening proportions.” Rashid argues for a zero tolerance policy for all terrorist groups, arguing that the PML-N’s policy towards ending the insurgency is “dithering.” According to Rashid, a military offensive against militants appears to be the only option in the face of such appalling violence. Nor is he alone. In one of the leading English language newspapers, the Dawn, journalist Abbas Nasir carries the theme further, suggesting how there needs to be a “coordinated fight against terror.” To Nasir, this has become all the more apparent given that “compromise with terrorists isn’t possible because agreeing to their demands would mean taking the country back hundreds of years.”

There is an acute sense amongst many commentators that the politics of appeasement, which Sharif seems determined to pursue, is going nowhere. One might say that Sharif is overcommitted to negotiation to the point of failing to provide for other possibilities. Similar to the precedent of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Nazi Germany – an analogy the chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been quick to make – negotiating with the TTP seems like a fruitless enterprise to many.

Old Tensions Resurface in Debate Over U.S. Role in Post-2014 Afghanistan

FEB. 4, 2014 

WASHINGTON — President Obama brought his top Afghanistan commanders to the Oval Office on Tuesday to discuss the way forward in a war he is determined to end by the end of the year, even as he finds himself stymied by an unreliable partner and an uncertain future.

Increasingly vexed by Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, Mr. Obama is trying to figure out what form a residual force might take after the bulk of American troops leave by December and what would happen if no Americans stayed behind at all. The debate has rekindled some of the tensions within the administration that divided it in its early days.

With Mr. Karzai reinforcing Washington’s view of him as an erratic ally, skeptics of the administration’s Afghan strategy are increasingly open to withdrawing entirely at the end of 2014. Some in Mr. Obama’s civilian circle suspect that his generals may be trying to manipulate him with an all-or-nothing approach to a residual force. Military officials say they are trying to leave options open and are themselves more ambivalent than ever about staying.

Launch media viewer President Obama, speaking at a school in Adelphi, Md., met with his top Afghan commanders in Washington on Tuesday. Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

The internal dynamics involved in the review, described by a variety of current and former White House, administration and military officials, are complicating what could be one of the most important decisions Mr. Obama makes this year. The president wants to avoid a repeat of what has happened in Iraq, which is again under siege, and yet he considers extricating the United States from Afghanistan a signature achievement for his legacy.

“The question is: The lessons of Iraq, are they transferable to Afghanistan?” asked Barry Pavel, a former defense policy adviser to Mr. Obama. “Will the same risks emerge? That’s got to be a daunting, overhanging question for the administration.”

While Mr. Obama promised in his State of the Union address last week that “we will complete our mission” in Afghanistan this year and that “America’s longest war will finally be over,” any hopes for a relatively clean exit have grown dimmer by the day.

Dysfunction reigns in Kabul. American aid dollars have disappeared. Terrorism suspects may be released from Afghan prisons. And Mr. Karzai has refused to sign an agreement for a residual force beyond December, and instead has been fruitlessly contacting the Taliban about peace talks that have yet to materialize.

While Washington has long been frustrated by Mr. Karzai, what little patience remains has ebbed in recent weeks as he blamed American forces for terrorist attacks on civilians, threatened to release prisoners deemed dangerous by the international coalition and likened the United States to a “colonial power.”

As James B. Cunningham, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, said in Kabul last week, what makes the United States’ stance toward Mr. Karzai different now “is that he is coming to the end of his presidency, and we have some very important milestones for the international community and for Afghanistan coming up in the next couple months.”

Indeed, Mr. Karzai has missed several deadlines set by the Obama administration to sign a bilateral security agreement permitting a small post-2014 force to train Afghan troops and conduct counterterrorism operations.

How a triple murder in Karachi left the Taliban not just making headlines, but writing them, too.

BY Beenish Ahmed 
FEBRUARY 7, 2014

Beenish Ahmed is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — On Jan. 17, gunmen on motorbikes fired 17 shots into the back of a TV van in Karachi, killing three employees of the Express News, one of Pakistan's most popular media outlets. At first glance, the event might seem unremarkable in Pakistan's increasingly violent political environment. Viewed against the backdrop of the Pakistani Taliban's (TTP) reinvigorated campaign against the media, however, it could mark a watershed moment for independent journalism in the country. Those who were killed -- a guard, a driver, and a technician -- were caught in a clash of public opinion, one that's pitted Pakistan's burgeoning independent media against extremist militants vying for control of the country.

Pakistan has long been one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, and the sixth most dangerous in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. But attacks on the media have generally been aimed at silencing particular individuals -- like leading investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, whose brutalized body was found in a canal in 2011 after he reported on connections between Pakistan's infamous Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the country's navy, and al Qaeda militants. But the attacks on the Express, which preceded a detailed fatwa spelling out what kind of reportage the TTP would tolerate, could mark the beginning of something else entirely: a wholesale targeting of the press as part of the organization's propaganda war against the Pakistani state.

"The way that Express News is being picked out and targeted, makes absolutely clear that we are being given some sort of message," Fahd Husain, director of news at Express TV, said as the network shifted into live coverage of its murdered employees.

The great Chittagong arms haul and India

Saturday, 08 February 2014 |
 Hiranmay Karlekar |

Leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its ally, the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, were associated in the smuggling into their country of arms meant for the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom in India

On January 30, Judge SM Mojibur Rahman of the Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal-1, sentenced 14 persons to death for involvement in the smuggling of 10 truckloads of arms into Bangladesh. The consignment, meant for the United Liberation Front of Asom, was intercepted on April 2, 2004, from the jetty of Chittagong Urea Fertilizer Limited, a company under Bangladesh’s Industries Ministry, then under Matiur Rahman Nizami, Amir of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, a partner in the coalition Government headed by Begum Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Nizami was sentenced to death, as was Lutfozzaman Babar, State Minister for Home in the same Government. Of those condemned, five were intelligence officers — Major-General (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, a former Director-General of Forces Intelligence, Bangladesh’s pre-eminent intelligence agency, a former Director-General of National Security Intelligence, Brig-Gen (retd) Abdur Rahim and a Deputy Director of the same organisation, Major (retd) Liakat Hossain. The others sentenced were ex-NSI field officer, Akbar Hossain Khan, former CUFL general manager (admin), Enamul Hoque, ex-managing director of CUFL, Mohsin Talukder, former NSI director Wing Commander (retd) Shahab Uddin, smuggler and primeaccused Hafizur Rahman, Abdus Sobhan and Deen Islam. Paresh Barua, ULFA’s military commander and former Additional Secretary of Ministry of Industry, Nurul Amin, who received life terms besides death sentences, have been absconding since the arms consignment’s recovery.

The judgement merits attention in India because of the size of the recovery as well as the fact that the consignment was meant for ULFA. A report under the heading, “Cop in question to probe gunrunning/ Fertiliser factory security men receive threats/ OC denies involvement with smugglers” in The Daily Star of April 5, 2004, gave the full inventory — 690 7.62 millimetre SMG-T-56-1, 600 7.62mm SMG T-56-2, 400 9mm automatic carbine (model 320), 100 tommy automatic rifles, 150 40mm T-69 rocket launchers, 2,000 Launching Tubes (Ugo Rifles), 150 sights for 40mm rocket launchers, 2792 magazines of SMG T-56-1, 2400 magazines of SMG T-56-2, 800 magazines of 9mm automatic carbines, 400 magazines for tommy rifles, 4,00,000 7.25x25 ball pistol bullets, 7,39,680 bullets of T-56 pistols, 840 40mm rocket heads of T-69 launchers and 25,020 NV hand grenades.

The threat of cyber war

By Mark Colvin 

MARK COLVIN: Silently, below the general radar, a new kind of warfare is playing out in the modern world. It's being waged on the web and it involves spying, sabotage and economic theft.

Last night we heard from author Peter W. Singer about the relative ignorance in quite high places about cyber security. He's director of the 21st Century Defence Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the co-author of a new book on the subject.

In part two of the interview we moved from cybersecurity to cyber war.

PETER W. SINGER: Well, what makes cyber-weapons new and different is that it's not a thing, it's not a physical object, it's literally a series of zeroes and ones, and so that means that there are things that can be done with it that we've never seen before in history. So this is a much richer area than the discussion that we typically have too often, which just basically begins and ends with terminologies like 'cyber-Pearl Harbour!' or 'cyber-9/11!'

MARK COLVIN: But is it possible that some foreign country, for instance, has a plan stashed away by which it could, say, shut down Australia's power grids?

PETER W. SINGER: So let's be� first, let's stick in the world of reality, and then get to the potential. So, in the world of reality, while there have been over half a million references to things like cyber-9/11, cyber-Pearl Harbour, or there have been more than 30,000 articles about cyber-terrorism, squirrels have taken down more power grids than the zero times that hackers have. That's today.

Now that doesn't mean that's always the case, but if we're looking at the current threat out there, that's the reality.

MARK COLVIN: If you were running the cyber arm of one particular country's military, wouldn't you want to have those kinds of plans in place for your enemies?

. China in the Indian Ocean: Deep Sea Forays

Vijay SakhujaDirector (Research), Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), New Delhi 

China’s maritime ambitions are expanding and it is making forays into the deep seas beyond its waters. The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) has drawn plans to build scientific research vessels and mother ships for submersibles. Further, the scientific agenda for 2014 includes the 30th scientific expedition to Antarctica and 6th expedition to the Arctic. China will also dispatch its research vessels to the northwest Pacific to monitor radioactivity in international waters and its foray into the Indian Ocean would involve seabed resource assessment including the deployment of the 22-ton Jiaolong, China's first indigenously built manned deep-sea submersible. 

China’s scientific urge had driven its attention to seabed exploration. In the 1970s, it actively participated in the UN led discussions on seabed resource exploitation regime. At that time it did not possess technological capability to exploit seabed resources. In the 1980s, it dispatched ships to undertake hydrographic surveys of the seabed. On 5 March 1991, China registered with the UN as a Pioneer Investor of deep seabed exploitation and was awarded 300,000 square kilometers in the Clarion–Clipperton area in the Pacific Ocean. Soon thereafter, China Ocean Mineral Resources R & D Association (COMRA), the nodal agency for seabed exploration and exploitation of resources was established. In 2001, China obtained mining rights for poly-metallic nodule and in 2002, poly-metallic sulfide deposits in the Southwestern Indian Ocean. In 2011, COMRA signed a 15-year exploration contract with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) that entrusted it with rights to develop ore deposit in future. 

Although the Jiaolong has been built indigenously, it is useful to mention that the hull, advanced lights, cameras and manipulator arms of Jiaolong were imported and acquanauts had received training overseas. In August 2010, Jiaolong successfully positioned the Chinese flag at 3,700 meters under the sea in South China Sea and displayed China’s technological prowess in deep sea operations. China also possesses an unmanned deep-sea submarine Qianlong 1 (without cable) which can dive to 6,000 meters and an unmanned submersible Hailong (with cable) that can take samples from the seabed. As early as 2005, six Chinese acquanauts (five pilots and one scientist) had undergone deep sea dive training in the US. Currently, China has eight deep-sea submersible operators including six trainees (four men and two women) being trained at State Deep Sea Base in Qingdao on a 2-year course. 

China’s plans to deploy the manned deep-sea submersible Jiaolong in the Indian Ocean merits attention. The primary task for Jiaolong is to gather geological data, carry out assessment of seabed resources, record biodiversity for exploration and mining. However, China faces a number of technological challenges to develop undersea exploration and extraction systems and equipment. There are few external sources to obtain specialised equipment and a majority of the ‘geophysical surveying instruments on the international market are not allowed to be sold to China’ amidst fears that these highly sensitive sub-sea sensors could be used by the Chinese navy to develop underwater detection system particularly for the submarines.

What started the biggest population boom in history?

Alan Weisman in Matter

How Iran’s explosive expansion warns us about our overpopulated future —and shows us how to fix it. 

i. Horses

WHEN HOURIEH SHAMSHIRI MILANI entered medical school in 1974, just thirteen of seventy students in her class at the National University of Iran were women. “And of those thirteen, only two of us wore the scarf.”

During the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the final Shah of Iran, head covering was rare among educated women. In 1936, seeking to modernize the country, his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, had decreed that all Iranian women be unveiled. When Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in 1941 by the invading British because of his cordial ties with Germany, the rule was relaxed, and hijab became a matter of personal choice. In Shamshiri’s family, they chose to wear it. She would choose to do so still, although now there is no choice.

In the alcohol-free piano bar of the Espinas Hotel in central Tehran, her hair concealed under flowered silk, Dr. Shamshiri is a handsome woman with striking eyebrows. She was born in Tabriz in northwest Iran, near the border with what was then the Soviet Union. In that region known as Iranian Azerbaijan, a woman felt naked in public with her head uncovered. Her family was devout, but her father was also a high school teacher who gave his blessing to her desire for education. “Although,” she remembers, “he did not want people to know that his daughter was attending university.”

During her fourth year of studies in Tehran, the utterly unexpected happened. Like his father before him, the Shah of Iran had grown more despised over time. His loss of public trust began with a 1953 coup that deposed a popular prime minister who had dared to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, because 80 percent of profits went to the drilling company known today as BP, née British Petroleum. With Shah Pahlavi’s cooperation, the coup was engineered by Britain’s M16 and the CIA (the United States having assumed, erroneously, that the prime minister was a communist).

In the mid-1970s, the Shah, ostensibly a constitutional monarch, abolished every political party except his own, which incited spontaneous strikes. A high-ranking Shi’a cleric named Ruhollah Khomeini, exiled for denouncing the Shah’s lavish rule from the Peacock Throne and his coziness with the West, became a symbol of defiance in absentia. The strikes intensified and organized, until millions filled the streets. Suddenly to everyone’s shock, in January 1979 the Shah fled to Egypt. A year later he died from lymphoma.