11 February 2014

EAGLE EYE

By Chintamani Mahapatra
10 February 2014


US in Asia: A “Non-Alignment” Strategy?

As territorial and maritime disputes in Asia have sparked regional cold wars, the United States appears to have adopted a non-aligned strategy to navigate in troubled political space of the continent. 

George Washington and Non-Alignment
Non-alignment as a diplomatic instrument of state craft has been known to American Administrations for centuries. Although the term “non-alignment” was not used, the need of such a strategy was first articulated by first President of the United States—George Washington. In his farewell address, Washington warned against the folly of getting involved in the European entanglements. 

In order to keep the US out of European quarrels, controversies and collisions, he pleaded that “Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

Three centuries later, as the US recognizes the economic and strategic significance of Asia for its national interests, it encounters myriad Asian quarrels and controversies over “sovereignty” issues. Such disputes are “essentially foreign” to American “concerns”. 

Asia Pacific Today and the American Non-Alignment
Turbulence in the Asia Pacific is discernible in Sino-Japanese rivalry over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. The spat over the islands, islets and reefs in the South China Sea between China and five other claimants, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei threatens to contaminate the cooperative ties of China with these countries. China-Taiwan conflict remains unresolved despite a series of confidence building measures and rising trade and investment ties. 

During the Cold War days, Washington shunned the non-alignment foreign policy championed by India and many others. But the strategic compulsions and economic imperatives of the post-Cold War era have tempted the US policy makers to innovate “non-alignment” strategy and apply in the mini-Cold Wars of Asia. 

The US political support to the idea of creation of a “Palestinian State” in the post-9/11 incident and building of pressure on Israel to seriously negotiate peace; Washington’s policy of making India a “strategic partner”, while elevating Pakistan’s status as “major non-NATO ally” during the anti-terror operations in Afghanistan; constructing a rock-solid economic partnership with China, while maintaining defence and security ties with Taiwan; giving lip service to multilateral dialogue for resolution of South China Sea disputes, yet conducting joint research with China for oil exploration in the waters of this sea; refraining from backing Japanese claim of sovereignty over Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, but standing by the US-Japan bilateral alliance treaty are some of the prominent illustrations of American non-alignment. 

Asia and the two world wars

C. Raja Mohan
07 February 2014

The First World War began a century ago. The Second World War drew to a close nearly 70 years ago. As the world prepares to mark these anniversaries, the two great wars have acquired a peculiar political resonance in East Asia. 

In a region where China is flexing its impressive military muscle in multiple maritime territorial disputes with its neighbours and Japan is reclaiming its place in the Asian sun, the presumed lessons from the two wars are being evoked widely to describe the dangers of the current tensions in the region. 

In an interview to the 'New York Times' this week, the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino compared China to Nazi Germany and warned the world against appeasing China by accepting its aggressive territorial claims in the contested waters of East Asia. 

As the Philippines lost control over some of the waters it claims to the Chinese navy over the last couple of years, neither Manila's regional partners in the ASEAN nor the United States, its long-standing military ally, were ready to stand up and be counted. 

No wonder, Aquino was recalling the Western acceptance of Germany's territorial demands in the run up to the Second World War. "At what point do you say, 'Enough is enough'? Well the world has to say it-remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler". China reacted angrily by denouncing Aquino's remarks as senseless and calling the Filipino president as "ignorant of both history and reality". 

Beijing, of course, is not averse to using the Second World War to justify its territorial claims against Japan in the East China Sea. Amidst the mounting tensions with Tokyo over small islands called Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China, Beijing has argued that accepting Japanese claims will be tantamount to overthrowing the peace arrangements that followed the Second World War. 

North Korea, meanwhile, has called the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Asia's Hitler in a reference to Japan's efforts to revitalise its military capabilities. Many in South Korea, which rarely agrees with the North, are as vehement in deploring Abe's policies. 

On his part, Abe has argued that the growing distrust between Japan and China today is similar to that between Britain and Germany in the First World War. Abe was drawing attention of the world business community at Davos last month to the prospects for an unwanted war between Japan and China as their militaries try to stare each other down in the East China Sea. 

Is the PLA Going Rogue?

By Minxin Pei 
February 10, 2014


One of the worries many people have about a potential military confrontation between China and its neighbors in East Asia is whether Beijing’s civilian leadership has a firm grip on the military. This particular concern has been aroused by a series of disturbing incidents going back a decade—the collision between a Chinese jet fighter with an American naval surveillance plane near Hainan Island in April 2001 [3], the surprise test of an anti-satellite weapon in January 2007 [4], the rollout of a stealth fighter during the visit by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January 2011 [5], and various others.

Most recently, as territorial disputes between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands escalated, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) actions triggered even louder alarms. One of its warships aimed its fire-control radar at a Japanese destroyer [6] in February last year, an act that could have provoked an accidental conflict. In November 2013, the PLA suddenly announced the establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that overlaps with those of Japan [7], South Korea, Taiwan, and covers the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

In early December last year, in another hair-raising encounter, a Chinese naval vessel intentionally cut in front of an American missile cruiser [8], which was monitoring a Chinese naval exercise in the international waters in the South China Sea. Only the quick reaction by the American crew averted a collision that could have resulted in a maritime disaster.

These incidents have raised serious questions about the degree of control exercised by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which the PLA is supposed to serve, over the actions of the Chinese military.

The most alarming concern is that the PLA (or at least some of its commanders) has been pursuing an agenda that is in conflict with that of the civilian leadership. The Chinese civilian leaders believe that the imperative of maintaining economic development as the principal means of regime survival dictates strategic restraint. However, the PLA may prefer a more confrontational security posture, because tensions with Chinese neighbors and the U.S. would support the case for more defense spending, which would benefit the PLA.

Another explanation, albeit less worrisome, is that the Chinese national-security apparatus suffers from the same problem of poor bureaucratic coordination as in most other countries. According to this interpretation, the Chinese national-security apparatus has a “stove-piped” organizational structure, in which interagency communication and coordination are poorly conducted. Consequently, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

While these two explanations may have some partial truth to them, they are too simplistic and ignore the real political context in which the PLA operates and the incentives that motivate Chinese military commanders. In deciphering the strategic intentions of the Chinese military, a more productive approach is to analyze the degree of operational freedom enjoyed by the PLA in the context of a one-party regime that has consistently failed to penalize excessive risk-seeking behavior.

China’s call for arms

8 february 2014

Vassily Kashin is Senior Research Fellow at the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. He holds a Doctorate in Political Science.

One theory doing the rounds in the 2000s was that Russian-Chinese military-technical co-operation was going downhill and would inevitably cease altogether. Now, however, it is obvious that the situation has improved, with Russian military exports to China picking up again. The volume of exports has already reached the level of the 1990s and the early 2000s, and may yet beat that record.

However, one difference is how insignificant the arms trade is in the overall structure of co-operation between the two countries. In the 1990s, military-technical co-operation was one of the pillars of mutual trade, and served as the basis for their bilateral partnership.

After Russian arms exporters had broken into new markets in the 2000s, China’s share in the total volume of exported Russian military equipment decreased noticeably. According to published data, Russian arms exports to China peaked during the early years of the last decade.

China is still a major buyer of Russian weapons, second only to India. However, China is no longer crucial to the survival of the Russian defence industry. According to a 2012 statement by Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, exports accounted for only 22 per cent of the national defence industry’s total revenues, while 45 per cent came from sales to the national armed forces.

This growing domestic demand, and new export markets, and diversification into civilian markets, has lessened arms manufacturers’ dependence on Chinese contracts, while providing Moscow with a significant degree of freedom in negotiating future contracts with Beijing.

The data available indicates that Russian military exports to China exceeded US$1.9 billion in 2011, and expanded last year. As for the newly signed contracts, Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport reports that China accounts for 12 per cent of the overall US$17.6 billion in new arms sales; this puts the total contracts signed with China at more than US$2.1 billion.

Of this figure, US$1.3 billion worth of contracts have been accounted for. These include a US$600 million deal to deliver 52 Mil Mi-171E helicopters, and a US$700 million order for 140 Saturn AL-31F engines.

These powerplants are intended for the Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters previously sold to China, and for indigenous Shenyang J-11B/BS, J-15 and J-16 warplanes.

No one really knows the nature of the contracts for the remaining US$800 million, but may assume that these represent a number of relatively minor orders.

No, China Did Not Already Win the Global Battle for Supremacy

FEBRUARY 7, 2014

Debunking Eric X. Li's dangerously wrong ideas.

As the U.S.-China relationship grows more complex and important, one Chinese commentator stands out for provocative ideas undiluted by caveats or diplomatic hedging: the U.S.-educated, Shanghai-born venture capitalist Eric X. Li. Over the past several years, he's built a significant audience. Affiliated with the Aspen Institute and the Berggruen Institute on Governance, he delivered a TED Talk in June 2013 entitled "A Tale of Two Political Systems," and wrote widely discussed articles for Foreign Affairs and the New York Times. Li's most recent offering, a Feb. 4 Huffington Post articleentitled "The Middle Kingdom and the Coming World Disorder," recycles some of his favorite themes: He enumerates the defects of a U.S.-centric international system that he perceives to be crumbling, praises the deftness and strength he sees in China's statecraft, and predicts a coming period of international volatility as China displaces the United States. By circulating his ideas so widely, his articles provide an excellent opportunity for debate and discussion.

And this is good, because most of Li's ideas are dangerously wrong. In his latest article, Li argues that in its maritime neighborhood China has already accomplished its goal of changing the status quo without military conflict. He believes China has accomplished this by making its naval presence a de facto reality across the disputed area in the South and East China Seas -- where several Southeast Asian nations and Japan also have claims -- ending an era of intentional ambiguity about Beijing's position.

But to claim that China has achieved this after just a few years of pushing the boundaries is like saying that the United States' Vietnam policy was a success -- in the early days of the Vietnam War. Many of China's neighbors are stepping up their militarization as a result of anxieties over China's posture. In 2013, Japan flew hundreds of sorties over the Diaoyu, the disputed islands in the East China Sea which Japan administers and calls the Senkakus, in an effort to demonstrate its ongoing capacity to keep them under its umbrella. Many security analysts believe an unfortunate mishap between rival forces is increasingly likely, if not inevitable. Li is calling a victory for Beijing, well before the game is over. 

At minimum, Li must recognize that whereas China's neighbors were mostly quiescent toward China's rise a decade ago, many are now contemplating a response to reduce what they see as Chinese overreaching.

At minimum, Li must recognize that whereas China's neighbors were mostly quiescent toward China's rise a decade ago, many are now contemplating a response to reduce what they see as Chinese overreaching.

The Securitization of Social Media in China

Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 3
February 7, 2014 

Chinese official media have dramatized vigilante "human flesh searches" as online mob violence.

The crackdown on “human flesh searches” and including cybersecurity within the jurisdiction of the recently created National Security Committee, are the most recent episodes in a series that outlines the Communist Party’s concern and intent regarding social media. Xi Jinping’s administration is concerned that social media represents an innovative mechanism for petitioning and collective action that has proven at times capable of achieving concrete results in lieu of a tightly regulated environment for civil society mobilization. The intent is a comprehensive campaign against social media in order to circumscribe its perceived threat to one-party rule. 

In an April 13 article originally published in Red Flag Journal, Ren Xianliang, deputy director of the CCP Shaanxi Provincial Propaganda Department and vice-chairman of the All-China Journalists Association, revealed the official position on social media. Ren called for the government to “occupy new battlefields in public opinion.” He noted that since the advent of Sina Weibo and other microblogs as platforms for “online political questioning and supervision” the Party’s task of controlling public discourse and information had become more difficult. He pointed to online agitators that manipulated public opinion, fabricated rumors and attacked the image of the Party and government, calling on the Party and traditional media to combat these threats (Xinhua, April 13, 2013).

By the end of April the Party had begun internally circulating the Minutes of the 2013 National Conference of Propaganda Chiefs. The Minutes, better known as Document No. 9, outlined the now well-discussed seven subversive topics including constitutionalism, civil society, and press freedoms. What is less mentioned about Document No. 9, however, is the inclusion of countermeasures: the consolidation and spreading of the Party’s voice; education on socialism with Chinese characteristics; and the strengthening of Party control over media (China Change, May 16, 2013). At a later national gathering of propaganda chiefs in August, Xi Jinping, echoing Ren Xiangliang’s rhetoric, ushered in the securitization of social media, calling on the propaganda department to build “a strong army” and to “seize the ground of new media” (South China Morning Post, September 4, 2013). Already underway, the crackdown on social media intensified for the remainder of 2013.

Is Cyberspace a Lawless Place?

With each new regulation, Chinese authorities drew connections to stories about vigilantism and destructive panics caused by rumors propagated through social media, framing cyberspace as a source of insecurity and a social problem that demanded tighter censorship in the interests of public security.

Liu Zhengrong, a senior official with the State Internet Information Office, declared “human flesh searches” (renrou suosou), the independent online investigation into the personal details of a suspected wrongdoer, the final social media target of 2013 and called for the practice to be suppressed. On December 17, Liu cited the recent suicide of a girl in Guangdong after being wrongly accused of theft through a local “flesh search” as an example of the practice’s violent consequences, describing the “human flesh search” as a network of violence and emphasizing that cyberspace would no longer be lawless (Xinhua, December 18, 2013).

In late February 2010, in the middle of the night, tens of thousands of residents in multiple cities across Shanxi fled their homes in panic. The cause of this sudden movement was a rumor spread through chatrooms and text messages that a destructive earthquake was imminent. Similarly in 2011, rumors that an already accident prone chemical plant in Xiangshui, Jiangsu was about to explode caused a stampede as tens of thousands of residents fled to escape. Four people died in the rush. Recently, Qin Huohuo and Lierchaisi were arrested in August 2013 for, among other things, fabricating a story about a 30 million euro compensation of an Italian citizen who died in the 2011 Wenzhou train crash. Official media intensely cites cases such as these, evidently in an effort to legitimate tighter restrictions of online content to ensure “accurate” information and public security.

Restructuring the Military: Drivers and Prospects for Xi’s Top-Down Reforms


Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 3
February 7, 2014 

PRC leaders have outlined requirements to restructure the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and national defense to better accord with China’s new economic situation, new military missions, and trends in modern warfare. The announcement coincides with other signs that the Xi administration is pursuing a centralization of power to enact a major restructuring of the economy, government administration, and military. Limits to the traditional methods of implementing major policy change and the severity of restructuring required likely underpin the turn to a more centralized approach to reform. The biggest obstacles will likely come from the resistance of powerful interests which stand to lose from Xi’s efforts to centralize power, a possibility which will be challenging for the PLA to avoid.

At the Third Plenum Decision of the 18th Party Congress, central authorities announced a broad array of reforms to the country’s armed forces and national defense (Xinhua, November 15, 2013). The announcement of an impending military reorganization shares many features in common with previous such reforms. The intervals between major reorganizations have ranged from six to twelve years, with the most recent reorganization haven taken place ten years ago. PRC media describe PLA structural reforms in the post-Mao era in terms of three major efforts:

In 1985, the PLA cut 1 million enlisted personnel. Reforms in this period focused primarily on reducing the size of the force and streamlining the ground combat forces. The PLA reduced military regions from eleven to seven, and cut the numbers of units in general departments, services, and branches. The PLA cut the ratio of officers to enlisted and reorganized branch corps into group armies.

In 1997, the PLA cut 500,000 personnel. In this period, the PLA began to transition to a force featuring stronger services and raising the quality and capability of weapons and equipment. The PLA revised the composition of the branches and increased the strength of the services. It also established the General Armaments Department and formed the four department structure within the Central Military Commission (CMC).

In 2003, the military cut another 200,000 personnel. Reorganization in this period focused on optimizing and upgrading the technological and joint capability of the force. The PLA optimized the structure of services and branches and increased the percentage of specialized and high-technology equipped units. The period also saw a gradual introduction of joint operations command institutions and systems (Jiefangjun Bao, October 17, 2008).

Power struggles in Muslim states

February 9, 2014


The writer is an independent political and defence analyst. He is also the author of several books, monographs and articles on Pakistan and South Asian Affairs

A number of Muslim states are facing varying degrees of insurgencies and violent attacks against state institutions, officials and ordinary people. The leading examples are Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Somalia.

The Iraq government faces a militant challenge in Anbar province where extremist and al Qaeda-type groups have recently established their domain in parts of that province. The sectarian issue has gained prominence in Iraq. Therefore, despite the fact that the US troops left Iraq some years ago, it has not seen stability in parts of its territory.

Libya has not seen stable peace after the overthrow of the government of Colonel Gaddafi and his assassination. Different tribal and fundamentalist groups are fighting each other and the weak Libyan government. Syria has been experiencing two-fold internal violence for the last three years, with a struggle for power between the Damascus government and its opponent armed groups supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The groups fighting against Bashar alAssad’s government are also fighting with each other. Some hardline groups with linkages with al Qaeda are also trying to eliminate their rival insurgent groups.

The internal conflict in Bahrain is a power struggle among two major groups: the government and anti-government groups. This has strong religio-sectarian colours because the majority of population is Shia which finds itself excluded from the power structure. Yemen is experiencing tribal and separatist challenges coupled with the increased activity of al Qaeda and its affiliated groups.

Egypt could not achieve stable peace after the removal of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In 2013,the powerful Egyptian Army took control of the state by dislodging elected President Morsiwho was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi assumed presidency in 2012 and used his powers to strengthen his party’s political and ideological control over the state and society in total disregard for other groups. This sharpened divisions in politics, enabling the military to knock out the Morsi government. The Muslim Brotherhood’s resistance to military rule did not succeed because the resistance was initiated only by Muslim Brotherhood’s hardcore. However, internal violence erupts from time to time.

Each country has its peculiar features of politics and society. Therefore, the details of the internal conflict vary from country to country but there are some common factors that are found in these Muslim countries, which show that several struggles are going on simultaneously. The first common factor in these Muslim states is the growing pressure of socio-economic injustice. Each state has an affluent class of people, mostly the rulers or their close associates. However, a large number of people suffer from poverty and underdevelopment with little hope of improvement of their conditions. These people have little attachment with the state and its political order. These alienated people are attracted to various appeals based on ethnicity, tribe, language and religion and religious sects. There is a crisis of leadership in these countries. Either the military provides leadership or a combination of military, bureaucracy and the affluent elite does. Their political appeal does not cut across various divisions in society. Consequently, the national framework is relegated to the background and people think in terms of identities smaller than the state.

Pentagon to appoint officer to promote ethical behavior, Hagel says

By Ernesto Londoño, 
February 8 

Stung by a string of embarrassing revelations about misconduct in the ranks, the Pentagon will soon appoint a senior officer to promote and enforce a culture of ethical behavior and good moral character, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.

The move marked Hagel’s latest attempt to get ahead of a growing list of scandals, including allegations of widespread cheating by military personnel in proficiency tests and recently disclosed reports about misbehaving senior officers.

“Ethics and character are the foundation of an institution and a society,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday afternoon. “They must be constantly emphasized at every level.”

Hagel said he and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would soon announce specific actions that each of the services is taking “to deal with this problem.”

The secretary said the department does not have a clear idea of the scope of its ethics problem, saying it could partly be the product of spending a decade focused on two lengthy ground wars.

“I don’t think there is one simple answer to the issue of ethics, values, a lapse in some of those areas that we do know about,” Hagel said. “That’s why we’re taking a hard look at this.”

On the wind down of the Afghanistan war, another tough challenge for defense leaders, Hagel said the United States continues to operate under the assumption that it will obtain Kabul’s acquiescence to keep a residual force there after 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign a security agreement, arguing that Washington must first help his government broker a peace deal with the Taliban.

“We are dealing with the world we’re dealing with,” Hagel said. He added that President Obama has been studying the endgame in Afghanistan closely in recent days, including at a recent meeting with senior military and defense leaders.

“He’s been putting a lot of his own time into this, thinking it through,” Hagel said.

Military planners are exploring a range of alternatives in light of the uncertainty, said Hagel, who declined to discuss them. Asked whether Washington would contemplate flying drones out of India if it is forced to leave Afghanistan altogether, Hagel offered a response that is sure to upset Pakistani officials. Pakistan and India are archenemies.

The Navy’s Getting a Big, Secretive Special Operations ‘Mothership’

David Axe in War is Boring


Converted cargo vessel to carry copters, commandos

The U.S. Navy is quietly converting a 633-foot-long cargo ship into a secretive helicopter carrier with facilities for supporting a large contingent of Special Operations Forces and all their gear, including jet skis.

Yes, jet skis.

And here’s the really weird thing: almost nobody is talking about the new “mothership” vessel, even though it could significantly expand America’s at-sea commando footprint.

In November, Military Sealift Command—America’s quasi-civilian fleet of more than 100 specialized but lightly armed vessels—awarded an initial $73-million contract to shipping giant Maersk to convert one of its cargo ships to a so-called “Maritime Support Vessel” standard.

Maersk tapped the 30,000-ton displacement M/V Cragside, built in 2011. After enduring a legal protest by rival Crowley, in January Maersk sent Cragside to the Gulf of Mexico for military modifications, most likely at the BAE shipyard upriver in Alabama.

The contract, extendable for up to four years, could be worth up to $143 million. The militarized Cragside could deploy as early as November this year.

MSC is adding a bunch of new hardware to Cragside to allow the vessel to function as a floating base for up to 200 troops and their weapons plus small boats, helicopters and the aforementioned jet skis, which the Navy and Air Force have begun buying and which Navy SEALs could use to sneak along enemy coastlines.

Cragside should be able to sail 8,000 miles at a time at speeds up to 20 knots and in 20-foot seas, needing resupply only every 45 days. The shipyard is adding a highly-secure communications room, a gym and weapons lockers. After all, you can’t house all those Army Delta Force troopers and SEALs without ample weapons lockers and gyms.

The sleek, capacious ship—already fitted with a rear ramp for loading vehicles—is also getting a flight deck big enough for the largest, heaviest U.S. military helicopter, the Navy’s MH-53E. Cragside will also be able to support Army Apache gunships, Navy patrol helicopters, Special Operations Command Little Bird attack copters and even Marine and Air Force V-22 tiltrotors.

Cragside’s hangar must be big enough to hold two Navy helicopters at the same time for maintenance—and has to have the special, subtle lighting that allows crews to use night-vision goggles.

Add it all up, and you’ve got a floating air base, barracks and headquarters—all in a package that, because it looks just like a civilian cargo ship, should be able to avoid easy identification. “This is going to be a seriously capable ship,” commented Tim Colton, a maritime consultant.

And a seriously capable ship that many close observers of the Navy don’t even know exists. It’s not the that government is covering up Cragside—the call for bids went out through normal public channels. But the vague official descriptions of the vessel’s purpose have helped her escape wide notice.

U.S. and Russia: Cooperation and Confrontation

February 7, 2014

Moscow and Washington work together on Sochi threats while battling fiercely over Ukraine.

Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick of the United States Olympic team carries his country’'s flag during the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.(Martin Rose/Getty Images)

In an odd juxtaposition of events highlighting the complex relationship between Washington and Moscow, U.S. and Russian officials this week found themselves pledging intelligence cooperation on the Olympics in Sochi while accusing each other of skullduggery in Cold War-style language over the political turmoil in Ukraine.

The alleged hijacking of a Ukrainian airliner overnight by a passenger who reportedly wanted to fly to Sochi, following soon after an angry exchange between the two capitals over demonstrations in Ukraine, only made the mix of confrontation and cooperation more confusing. 

Earlier in the week, two senior U.S. spokespeople accused Russia of double-dealing after a Russian official tweeted about an embarrassing audio recording of voices that closely resembled those of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. The two appeared to be discussing their deep involvement in domestic Ukrainian politics. At one point the voice that sounds like Nuland's remarks, "Fuck the EU," referring to the European Union, which U.S. officials believe has been timid in its response to pro-Western demonstrations in Kiev.

Both White House press secretary Jay Carney and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denounced Moscow for publicizing the audio, which was posted to YouTube. "I would say that since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia's role," Carney said, according to the Associated Press. In her press briefing, Psaki called the incident "a new low in Russian tradecraft in terms of publicizing and posting this."

Russian officials denied any involvement, but among the first to tweet the audio recording was an aide to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin named Dmitry Loskutov, who messaged: "Sort of controversial judgment from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland speaking about the EU."

Meanwhile, however, other U.S. officials were saying that the United States and Russia were working fairly well together on Sochi-related threat traffic. In congressional testimony this week, Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said, "We are sharing information with the Russians. They are sharing information with us. There's always more we could do in that regard, but as of right now, I would characterize that level of sharing as good."

A senior U.S. intelligence official told National Journal on Friday afternoon that it was not yet clear whether the passenger who allegedly tried to hijack the plane to Sochi was part of a terrorist plot or simply disturbed. "We're still fleshing out the details," he said, citing several reports that the passenger might have been drunk.

First on CNN: General disciplined over e-mail about member of Congress

By Barbara Starr

Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey has privately disciplined one of his top generals, who has been investigated by the Army for sending an inappropriate e-mail about a female member of Congress, CNN has learned.

Two senior U.S. military officials said Brig. Gen. Martin P. Schweitzer was ordered by Dempsey to no longer participate in weekly briefings to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about the movement of troops around the world.

The Pentagon has been under scrutiny for several lapses in ethical behavior among top generals and in the ranks. Hagel has publicly made ethics a top priority.

Army officials said Schweitzer was investigated by the Army inspector general for an e-mail he apparently sent while serving as a colonel with the 82nd Airborne Division.

He had met with Rep. Renee Ellmers, a North Carolina Republican, and then allegedly sent an e-mail to other Army personnel referring to her as "smoking hot" and referencing sexual acts.

Army officials said he was "counseled," but was then promoted to brigadier general. The Army now has his promotion to two-star general on hold before forwarding it to the Senate for consideration.

One official said Dempsey took the action about two or three weeks ago "very deliberately" to cut the general's access to the secretary of defense, in part because of a growing furor inside the ranks about ethical lapses.

The official also acknowledged that Dempsey took the action just as senior Pentagon officials became aware that the Washington Post was preparing to publish an article on January 26 about several senior officers under investigation for misconduct, including Schweitzer.

It's an extraordinary action to take because Schweitzer, as deputy director of regional operations for the Joint Chiefs, oversees a highly classified briefing about information presented to Hagel weekly.

It's one of the most critical briefings at the Pentagon because the secretary of defense is asked to sign each military order to send troops to any locations overseas.

Both officials declined to be identified but have direct knowledge of the action. One of the officials spoke directly to Schweitzer on Thursday to confirm details.

At the time of the inspector general investigation, the Army said Schweitzer apologized in a statement that said in part "my comments were a terrible attempt at humor."

He declined further comment to CNN through a military spokesman.

I want my Sledgehammer back!


Image courtesy of the National Guard.

Submitted by an author preferring the anonymity of the pen name "Scipio Africanus":

BLUF: The legal concept of proportionality is not well understood by military officers and is a source of considerable confusion. Military institutions should ensure that legal training articulates the difference between 1) The concept of proportionate response in self-defense, 2) The concept of weighing proportionality of civilian collateral damage in relation to military advantage and 3) The principle of economy of force. Past failure to teach this distinction has resulted in a generation of confused officers that erroneously believe that force must always be employed in proportion to the enemy threat. Proportionate response is only applicable in cases of self-defense, and does not apply when there is zero probability of civilian collateral damage. As long as there is no chance of civilian collateral damage, a commander’s weapon choice is not limited by the law of war.

Last week, I listened as a group of fellow majors discussed their thoughts on the concept of proportionality. It was soon clear that as a group we were deeply confused. We had just received a JAG briefing explaining that proportionality is the process of weighing civilian collateral damage against the relative military advantage of striking a target.

Poor legal training has drilled into many military leaders that proportionality is the concept that only the minimum amount of force should be used to meet the threat and to complete the mission. The confusion between these principles has led to a generation of officers who erroneously believe that it is not in accordance with the laws of war to “kill a fly with a sledgehammer”.

It was only after reading an outstanding 2003 article published in the Marine Corps Gazette, that I finally understood the mystery of proportionality. [1] There are three separate concepts that are often confused:-

1) Proportionality, which weighs civilian collateral damage with military advantage.

2) Proportionate response which only applies during instances of self-defense, when only the minimum amount of force should be employed to defeat the threat.

Tarnished Brass: Is the U.S. Military Profession in Decline?


Nearly twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the American military, financed by more money than the entire rest of the world spends on its armed forces, failed to defeat insurgencies or fully suppress sectarian civil wars in two crucial countries, each with less than a tenth of the U.S. population, after overthrowing those nations’ governments in a matter of weeks. Evidence of overuse and understrength in the military abounds: the longest individual overseas deployments since World War II and repeated rotations into those deployments; the common and near-desperate use of bonuses to keep officers and enlisted soldiers from leaving. Nor is it only the ground forces that are experiencing the pinch. The U.S. Air Force has had to cut tens of thousands of people to buy the airplanes it believes it needs. The U.S. Navy faces such declining numbers of ships that it needs allies to accomplish the varied demands of power projection, sea control, and the protection of world commerce.

Why such a disjunction between enormous expenditures and declining capability? One factor is that the threats currently facing the United States, many of them building for a generation or more, do not yield to the kind of conventional war that our military is designed to fight. The challenges to global stability are less from massed armies than from terrorism; economic and particularly financial instability; failed states; resource scarcity (particularly oil and potable water); pandemic disease; climate change; and international crime in the form of piracy, smuggling, narcotics trafficking, and other forms of organized lawlessness. Very few of these threats can be countered by the high-tempo, high-technology conventional military power that has become the specialty—almost the monopoly—of the United States, shaped and sized to fight conventional wars against other nation-states.

Another factor is the role the United States has assumed for itself as the world’s lone superpower—the guarantor of regional and global stability, champion of human rights, individual liberty, market capitalism, and political democracy, even though promoting those values may simultaneously undermine the nation’s security.

A third factor in the disjuncture between the needs of American security and the abilities of the military establishment is not much discussed: deficiencies in American military professionalism. This problem, hidden because our military regularly demonstrates its operational effectiveness in battle, is the focus of this essay.

The challenge to military professionalism in the twenty-first century lies in three interconnected areas. The first is intellectual: the ability to wage war successfully in a variety of circumstances without wasting the lives of soldiers or their equipment and supplies (which are always limited, even for a superpower at the zenith of its relative strength). The second is political: the absence from the officer corps of partisan political divisions, its subordination to the legally constituted civilian authorities in charge of the state, and its ability to establish an effective working partnership or collaboration with the civilian political leadership regardless of party or faction. The third challenge to professionalism is what I would call the moral or ethical: the honor, integrity, honesty, and self-sacrifice of the officer corps, the commitment of individual officers to the norms and values of personal and organizational behavior that permit them to lead, and their subordinates to follow, in the heat and stress of battle.

A failure in the first area—strategy—is obviously the most dangerous. After remarkable success prior to and during World War II in creating and executing strategy in the largest and most complex war in human history, the American military began a slow decline. Ironically, this decline came at a time when the military was gaining enormous influence in the making of foreign and national security policies in the government reorganization of the 1940s: the unification of the armed forces and the creation of the National Security Council, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the unified and specified commands, the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence organizations, and the various mobilization, munitions, and logistics boards and agencies.

Reader Riposte from The Best Defense: 68 TTPs too many!


Image courtesy of Flikr user Presidio of Monterey.

Note: Hat tip to Thomas Ricks at The Best Defense for facilitating this important discussion - what follows is a response to an original essay published here on War Council. Mr. Ricks was kind enough to grant permission to post here as well…so enjoy!

By Captain Jordan Blashek, USMC 
Best Defense guest respondent

Captain Jesse Sladek is the type of leader I would want as a commanding officer. ‘Just giving a damn' goes a long way in leadership, and Captain Sladek clearly does. The learning curve for a new infantry officer is steep, and there is no substitute for a good company commander to mentor him through the first few months.

That said, I don't find Sladek's "69 TTPs" particularly useful. They range from insightful (#61: Often commanders ... are not tracking the same reality as you), to obvious (#51: Lead from the front), to uselessly vague (#57: Be aggressive). The majority are lessons every infantry officer should have taken away from the schoolhouse.

The real problem though is that they were written as a list without explanations for why each one is important. To give the simplest example, #2 says to "wake up before 0500 five out of seven days a week." Why? What does that have to do with leadership? The answer might be that a good leader should be the first to arrive and the last to leave every day because it demonstrates dedication and earns loyalty. Or perhaps, if your subordinates consistently see you arriving after them, they will assume you were sleeping while they were working. But waking up at 0500 just for the sake of getting up early is senseless.

Here's a more serious example: TTP #65 says, "70% now is better than 100% an hour from now." But is this always true? The reason it might be true is that in combat there is a trade-off between time and certainty. When making decisions, platoon leaders will never have the amount of certainty they want due to the fog of war. There is risk in acting without enough information, but there is also risk in waiting too long because the enemy is maneuvering too. Since the enemy operates in the same environment of uncertainty, we can gain an advantage by acting more quickly than him if we have enough information. New platoon leaders should think about how they will know when 70 percent is enough. This requires critical thought, a nuanced mind, and the ability to ask the right questions to the right people both in training and in combat.

I appreciate Captain Sladek's effort to pass on good information. I just would prefer fewer TTPs with better explanations for why they are good practices. Just like in a mission statement, the intent -- or the reason why -- is always the most important part of any task. Lists are great for not forgetting things, but they're less effective when it comes to learning valuable lessons or thinking critically. In fact, the military already has far too many lists that feed the uncritical bureaucratic mentality that Major Matthew Cavanaugh so eloquently decries in his inaugural post on Warcouncil.org.

69 TTPs for Successful Infantry Platoon Leaders - by Captain Jesse Sladek


Second Lieutenant Richard Winters, of Band of Brothers fame, in 1942. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

1. Love your unit and your job. Love is not always a two way street, sometimes you give more than you get, and love is a choice. Being an Infantry Platoon Leader is the greatest job in the world. You have the ability to mold men and make our country stronger 24 hours a day. Enjoy every minute of it, even the difficult times, and give of yourself freely to your mission and your men. Hold nothing back and have a solid work ethic. When your time is up, you need to know in your heart of hearts that you worked as hard as you could and did as much as you could to get your men ready for war

2. Wake up before 0500 five out of seven days a week

3. Be the most physically fit person in your unit

4. Memorize and understand the steps to attack a strong point and engagement area development; know the components of IPB; be able to pitch your scheme of maneuver without referring to notes

5. Read the news from credible sources which will challenge your view point and your vocabulary (The Economist, Foreign Affairs, PBS, NPR); read about things that have no apparent relation to your profession, you’ll be surprised at what you learn

6. Set a reasonable number of realistic unit-focused goals and accomplish them

7. Know how to call for fire

8. Know how to call in a MEDEVAC

9. Know the maximum effective range for every weapon system in your arms room

10. Know what a sustained, rapid, and cyclic rate of fire is for every weapon in your arms room

11. Be the arms room officer

12. Have your property layout perfect before your commander gets there

a. Have the right TM

b. Have the shortages already updated on a shortage annex

c. Have a binder with copies of 2062s signed down to the user level

d. Know what LINs will be inspected during cyclic inventories

e. Know how to read a property book

f. Know the difference between expendable, non-expendable, durable and AAL property items

g. Rehearse the layout with your NCOs

13. Always maintain your integrity and tell your boss about bad news in a reasonable amount of time

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.