31 December 2014


By Amanda Huan*

China begins the New Year as the world’s largest economic power. Has China risen? Amidst never-ending talks and discussion about a rising China, what are the indicators of a risen China?

Since the 1990s, China has been engaged in what it once referred to as a “peaceful rise”. Fast forward to a quarter of a century later and people still speak of the ‘rise of China’, despite its vast developments and advancements in the areas of economics, military power, and soft power. What would it take for China to be recognised as having risen? How would one determine if and when China has risen?

Perhaps to help answer this, one needs to look back at the last great-power transition. The last transition, between Britain and the United States, needed a cataclysmic event – World War II – to herald the change in perception and power. After the events of World War II, it was clear as day to everyone that the United States was the top power in the world. Needless to say, no one is looking for a repeat of a great war in order to recognise China’s ascent. So, short of a shock to world order, what needs to happen, or what indicators must China fulfil in order for the country to be perceived as a ‘risen’ power?
China’s standing in the East Asia region

It is perhaps more pertinent to examine China’s standing within its own backyard, as it is unlikely for China to be recognised globally as having ‘risen’ if its own neighbours do not see it as such. Economically, in October this year, the International Monetary Fund found that China had overtaken the United States to become the world’s largest economy. Measured in terms of purchasing-power adjusted GDP, China is expected to make up 16.5% (or US$17.6 trillion) of the world’s GDP at the end of 2014, while the US trails behind at 16.3% (or US$17.4 trillion).

Latest figures from the World Bank affirm this. Within East Asia, China is a major trading partner, and in some cases the largest trading partner, with most countries in the region. For example, it was reported this year that Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia were among the top ten trading partners of China in 2013. China’s robust trade and economic activities with the countries in the Indo-China region are well known as well. As such, China’s economic strength is indisputable. But is this enough for it to be perceived as having ‘risen’?

Militarily, China has ramped up its defence spending. In the last four years, military expenditure alone has consistently accounted for 2% of its GDP. While this percentage seems small, one must bear in mind that China’s GDP has been increasing throughout the years. The sheer size of the budget is best seen in absolute terms. In the first quarter of 2014, China announced its 2014 defence budget of US$132 billion, which is a 12% increase on the year before. In response to this, China’s neighbours have also raised their respective military expenditure, but their combined spending is still far less than that of the Chinese. As such, on the military front, few would dispute the military capabilities of the Chinese.

The Chinese Century

Without fanfare—indeed, with some misgivings about its new status—China has just overtaken the United States as the world’s largest economy. This is, and should be, a wake-up call—but not the kind most Americans might imagine.

When the history of 2014 is written, it will take note of a large fact that has received little attention: 2014 was the last year in which the United States could claim to be the world’s largest economic power. China enters 2015 in the top position, where it will likely remain for a very long time, if not forever. In doing so, it returns to the position it held through most of human history.

Comparing the gross domestic product of different economies is very difficult. Technical committees come up with estimates, based on the best judgments possible, of what are called “purchasing-power parities,” which enable the comparison of incomes in various countries. These shouldn’t be taken as precise numbers, but they do provide a good basis for assessing the relative size of different economies. Early in 2014, the body that conducts these international assessments—the World Bank’s International Comparison Program—came out with new numbers. (The complexity of the task is such that there have been only three reports in 20 years.) The latest assessment, released last spring, was more contentious and, in some ways, more momentous than those in previous years. It was more contentious precisely because it was more momentous: the new numbers showed that China would become the world’s largest economy far sooner than anyone had expected—it was on track to do so before the end of 2014.

The source of contention would surprise many Americans, and it says a lot about the differences between China and the U.S.—and about the dangers of projecting onto the Chinese some of our own attitudes. Americans want very much to be No. 1—we enjoy having that status. In contrast, China is not so eager. According to some reports, the Chinese participants even threatened to walk out of the technical discussions. For one thing, China did not want to stick its head above the parapet—being No. 1 comes with a cost. It means paying more to support international bodies such as the United Nations. It could bring pressure to take an enlightened leadership role on issues such as climate change. It might very well prompt ordinary Chinese to wonder if more of the country’s wealth should be spent on them. (The news about China’s change in status was in fact blacked out at home.) There was one more concern, and it was a big one: China understands full well America’s psychological preoccupation with being No. 1—and was deeply worried about what our reaction would be when we no longer were.

A Reply to Mearsheimer

By Anna Cornelia Beyer for ISN
22 December 2014

Is ‘offensive realism’, as articulated by John Mearsheimer, a useful theoretical framework for understanding international affairs? Anna Cornelia Beyer isn’t convinced. She thinks the framework is wrong to prioritize relative over absolute gains and to underestimate the incentives for interstate cooperation.

This article was originally published 5 September 2014 on the ISN Blog

Realism is divided into defensive and offensive realism. Defensive realists, such as Kenneth Waltz, claim that states pursue only as much power as the states around them have. They don’t want to dominate the international system but merely to be able to survive. Offensive realism, proposed by John Mearsheimer, challenges this perspective and maintains that states want to dominate the international system, at least to the point of becoming a regional hegemon. This is because, if they dominate, they will be secure from threats, as no other state will dare to challenge the hegemon. Defensive realists caution against this view, arguing that hegemony gives rise to balancing. Other states will do all they can to hold the hegemon in check. Power, in other words, creates counter-power. The international system strives for equilibrium. While I don’t want to challenge this point of Mearsheimer’s, I will address some of his other assumptions. In response to these assumptions, I will make the following points: 
States pursue absolute gains first, then relative gains. 
Relative gains are pursued in response to threats, not generally. 
Acquiring latent power requires states to cooperate, making cooperation inherently necessary, even for defensive realists. 
Balancing does take place, and not only between major powers, but also at other levels of analysis, and in other areas of international affairs. 
Balancing will be mitigated by good relations. When relations are good, balancing does not need to occur. 

I will go through these points in the order that they are presented here.

1. The priority of absolute gains

I like to think of power as control. For me, control captures better what states are after. Power for me only describes the resources that states want. States want power, yes, but for what purpose? The purpose of power is control over themselves and their environment. Haidt observes in his musings on happiness that control is a fundamental factor in happiness. I believe that this describes a normal human need, and also a need that applies to states. What do states want to control? If we apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we can assume that survival is the basis for control. Structural realists are therefore right to argue that the first goal of control is survival. States want to be in control of threats to their survival. For me, this is why states prioritize absolute gains in terms of the efficiency of the economy and the state. If we look at failed states, they are threatened more by internal problems and economic dysfunction than by external threats. And I believe that this holds for other states also. If the stability of the state cannot be ensured, a state won’t be able to compete internationally. The Soviet Union towards the end of the Cold War provides an example of this. The Soviet Union ended its competition with the United States because it experienced severe internal economic distress. It needed to focus on absolute gains first, before it could even think of engaging in competition again.

2. Relative gains are pursued in response to threats.


By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

Just a few weeks prior to the announcement of Saudi national budget for the fiscal year 2015, the oil prices plunged to a five-year low. Since 1938, the price of an oil barrel has been the deciding factor in the Kingdom’s national budgets.

Oil exports amount to around 90 percent of the Saudi national income due to which media was abuzz with speculations about the 2015 budget. Severe impact of declining oil prices on various countries provided the basis for speculations and analyses but the Saudi budget rubbished all those speculations. Spending in the budget for the next fiscal is projected at SR860 billion, up from last year’s SR855 billion.

Once again the budget proved the strength of the Saudi economy amid all the political and economic turmoil around the globe particularly in our region. Despite enjoying this strong position, we have to keep into consideration the unpredictable length of the era of cheap oil.

As per the budget, despite the sharp decline in oil prices, the Kingdom will continue spending heavily during the year 2015. This is why some analysts believe that Riyadh is comfortable with the plunge in oil prices, which is viewed as a way to squeeze out competing producers in non-OPEC nations. But the Saudi announcement of its national budget was overtaken by two announcements made by Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf.

He told the Saudi television, “We have the ability to endure low oil prices over the medium term.” And that “Saudi Arabia does not need to create a sovereign wealth fund to manage its oil wealth.”

So, the question many people in the Kingdom and abroad are asking is: How the Saudi economy fare in the next five years or in the era of cheap oil, no sovereign wealth fund and no national income diversifications in the near future?

It is true that the announcement of the largest annual budget in Saudi Arabia’s history is comforting to all Saudis but the majority of the Saudi population is very young. Half of the Saudi population was born after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and Saudi Arabia still has the highest fertility rate in the world.

As we know, the needs of the younger generation are higher than that of the elders like education, health care, future family planning, employment, housing and recreational facilities etc. It is true that these needs are for all segments of the population but the youths always demand more. They don’t like to wait and don’t take a no for an answer. The young ones don’t like to hear about plans, they want to see results. This is why all ministries, government agencies and private companies should put the Saudi youths on top of their priority list particularly in employment.

Operationalizing Counter Threat Finance Strategies

Authored by Dr. Shima D. Keene.

Added December 15, 2014 
Type: Letort Papers 
52 Pages 
Download Format: PDF
Cost: Free 

This Letort Paper describes effective Counter Threat Finance strategies as a specific area where the capability of U.S. and allied militaries can be augmented for the purpose of targeted action against adversaries. With appropriate analysis and exploitation, financial data can be used to reveal patterns of enemy behavior, motivations, and possible intentions as well as lifestyles and networks, all of which will impact directly upon military operations within a counterinsurgency environment. The targeting of the financial, and perhaps more importantly, the economic base of an organization, will not only impact the operational capability of that organization, but can ultimately lead to its destruction. To date, these strategies have been used predominantly for the purpose of disruption. However, the potential application of such strategies goes far beyond—they have the potential to be a multifaceted weapon, capable not only of disruption of the enemy, but of detecting impending instability. Specific recommendations are proposed for making best use of the potential for financial intelligence as part of an integrated strategy for both forecasting and countering contemporary security threats.


Paul Driessen and Chris Skates*

While he didn’t vilify us by name, Mr. Schmidt was certainly targeting us, the climate scientists who collect and summarize thousands of articles for the NIPCC’s Climate Change Reconsideredreports, the hundreds who participate in Heartland Institute climate conferences, and the 31,487 US scientists who have signed the Oregon Petition.

In a recent interview with National Public Radio host Diane Rehm, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said his company “has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. We should not be aligned with such people. They’re just literally lying.”

While he didn’t vilify us by name, Mr. Schmidt was certainly targeting us, the climate scientists who collect and summarize thousands of articles for the NIPCC’s Climate Change Reconsidered reports, the hundreds who participate in Heartland Instituteclimate conferences, and the 31,487 US scientists who have signed the Oregon Petition, attesting that there is no convincing scientific evidence that humans are causing catastrophic warming or climate disruption.

All of us are firm skeptics of claims that humans are causing catastrophic global warming and climate change. We are not climate change “deniers.” We know Earth’s climate and weather are constantly in flux, undergoing recurrent fluctuations that range from flood and drought cycles to periods of low or intense hurricane and tornado activity, to the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 AD) and Little Ice Age (1350-1850) – and even to Pleistocene glaciers that repeatedly buried continents under a mile of ice.

What we deny is the notion that humans can prevent these fluctuations, by ending fossil fuel use and emissions of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide, which plays only an insignificant role in climate change.

The real deniers are people who think our climate was and should remain static and unchanging, such as 1900-1970, supposedly – during which time Earth actually warmed and then cooled, endured the Dust Bowl, and experienced periods of devastating hurricanes and tornadoes.

The real deniers refuse to recognize that natural forces dictate weather and climate events. They deny that computer model predictions are completely at odds with real world events, that there has been no warming since 1995, and that several recent winters have been among the coldest in centuries in the U nited Kingdom and continental Europe, despite steadily rising CO2 levels. They refuse to acknowledge that, as of December 25, it’s been 3,347 days since a Category 3-5 hurricane hit the US mainland; this is by far the longest such stretch since record-keeping began in 1900, if not since the American Civil War.

Putin’s Holiday Gift Is a Paranoid New Military Doctrine Russia’s updated doctrine singles out NATO, unpatriotic kids


How paranoid is the Kremlin getting?

Its new military doctrine—which Russian president Vladimir Putin approved on Dec. 26—presents a world in which Russia is besieged by NATO, and where young people are a threat to national security. Especially if they’re not religious or patriotic.

To be sure, much of what’s stated in the doctrine is not new—as a matter of practice—except that it’s now in the written record and has Putin’s signature on it. This is because military strategy tends to evolve at a faster pace than official doctrine, which is an overarching set of guidelines that armies use to inform strategy.

The most consequential part of the doctrine refers to Russia’s aim to protect its citizens abroad.

This is through the “lawful use of the armed forces … to ensure the protection of its citizens, outside the Russian Federation in accordance with the generally recognized principles and norms of international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation.”

This is not controversial on its own, but it gives sufficient wiggle room for Russian troops to intervene in other countries on behalf of Russian passport holders.

Several border states have substantial Russian-speaking minorities. That has the Baltic states worried, as protecting Russian citizens was the Kremlin’s principle justification for invading Crimea—and backing the breakaway statelets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia during the 2008 war with Georgia.

Russia’s military doctrine goes through revisions every few years. This is the fourth time the Kremlin rewrote its doctrine since the collapse of the Soviet Union—once when Boris Yeltsin was president, in 2000 under Vladimir Putin and again in 2010 under Dmitry Medvedev.

Other revealing passages reflect the Kremlin’s fears of NATO encroachment and the alliance’s anti-ballistic missile systems. It considers NATO to be Russia’s main external threat, including expansion of “members of NATO to the borders of the Russian Federation,” the doctrine states.

On a reassuring note, the doctrine states that a conventional war between states is becoming less likely. It views nuclear weapons as a legitimate threat against conventional attack—but this is similar to existing United States nuclear doctrine.

At top and above—tanks from the Russian 4th Kantemirovsaka Guards Tank Division on exercises near Moscow in December 2014. Russian Ministry of Defense photos

The doctrine also reflects an authoritarian shift by the Russian government.

Belarus’s Russian Problem

Dec. 23, 2014

The Putin alternative to the European Union stumbles on the ruble. 

Russia's President Vladimir Putin talks to his counterpart from Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. REUTERS

The Russian ruble’s downward spiral has claimed a new casualty: neighboring Belarus and its heavily Russia-dependent economy. The regime of Alexander Lukashenko, one of Moscow’s closest allies, has begun blocking independent news sites and several online-shopping outlets in an apparent attempt to prevent a bank run and shore up the Belarusian ruble.

Internet censorship is par for the course in Mr. Lukashenko’s Belarus. It follows the enactment earlier this month of a new law granting the Minsk regime broad authority to ban websites, similar to the power Mr. Lukashenko already wields over traditional media. That law hasn’t gone into effect yet, according to the Index on Censorship watchdog, but then there’s a reason the former Soviet republic has long been known as Europe’s last dictatorship.

The depth of Mr. Lukashenko’s panic was revealed on Friday, when the central bank announced a “temporary” 30% tax on foreign-exchange transactions, raised interest rates on its own standing facilities to 50% from 24%, and decreed that exporters must convert half of their foreign-currency proceeds into the local currency. The Belarusian ruble has lost about 13% of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the year, according to the country’s central bank.

“Don’t rush like crazy with the [Belarusian] ruble to exchange points and don’t change it for foreign currency,” Mr. Lukashenko warned his people. “Don’t trade it, because it will have consequences.”



Is the demise of the ruble, together with falling crude oil prices, comeuppance for President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist dreams? That’s certainly the storyline of those holding faith in economic sanctions. In their eyes, he foolishly land grabbed eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and in exchange got back a cratered Russian economy, with a debased currency and little access to Western financial markets. Heck of a job, Vlad.

The victors, presumably, are the sanction wizards of Washington and London who stared down the barrels of Putin’s tanks and fifth columnists. Under the theory that the Russian economy is a kleptocracy that sustains Putin in power, the sanctions were targeted at presidential cronies and their “sectoral” holdings, such as those in the oil business (the rallying cry should have been “Don't fire until you see the whites of their proxy statements”).

Amazingly, even the dysfunctional US Congress found time in its lame-duck session to vote additional sanctions against the Russian oil sector, although hidden in the fine print of the midnight legislation were goodie bags for Washington lobbyists, who are in line for a $60 million windfall to, as the New York Times reported, “promote democracy, independent news media, uncensored Internet access and anticorruption efforts in Russia.”

For the moment, despite the free fall of his currency, President Putin remains defiant. Tired of getting finger-waggled for the benefit of western TV audiences, he ghosted from the G-20 summit in Brisbane. Heading early to the airport, Putin must have made a mental note to repay his Western confessors, someday, with the same currency that they fetched from Russian coffers

The irony of the allied attacks on the ruble, Russia, and President Putin is that the biggest losers may end up being the high-minded Western countries that would consign Russia and her Kremlin leadership to the dustbin of history.

The Russian ruble—or should I say the new ruble—was reissued after the 1998 credit collapse in Russia. The previous currency was holdover Soviet bitcoin, issued on the full faith and credit of defunct tractor communes, and convertible, at best, into assets that the oligarchs had already claimed for themselves.

In free fall as I write, the ruble is best understood as an oil junk bond, for which par is about $117 a barrel (the break-even point for Russia’s budget). Below that price, the ruble falls; above it, the currency strengthens. The reason it remains tied to oil is because the Russian economy has yet to stimulate a large enough middle class to free its markets from petroleum dependence.

Review: Before the First Shots are Fired – How America Can Win or Lose Off the Battlefield

September 6, 2014

Today’s foreign policy world seems like the bad old days of American indecision under Jimmy Carter; the Israel-Hamas war, Putin annexed the Crimea, President Obama’s red-lines in Syria are repeatedly ignored, and the Americans killed in Iraq seem to have been sacrificed for a country whose people wanted democracy far less than the “Neocon’s wanted it for them…clearly General Tony Zinni’s USMC (ret) latest book,Before the First Shot is Fired; How America can win or lose off the battlefield, is being published at a most opportune time.

Writing with an honesty rare in Washington, D.C, “Before the First Shot” is Zinni’s assessment of why America’s foreign and military policy-making is ineffective, if not harmful, to America’s national interests. In conjunction with co-author Tony Koltz, he discusses why the complex question “Are we warriors, peacekeepers, or liberators?” of Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond needs to be honestly discussed and answered when military actions are being considered.

A combat infantry officer in Vietnam, Zinni is no stranger to foreign policy’s effects on the military. He finished his 40-year Marine career commanding Centcom, from where he led HA-DR missions into Somalia, worked with our NATO allies, and dealt with enough local potentates he was jokingly referred to as “America’s Proconsul.” Whether 3rd or 4th Generation Warfare, Zinni’s fought both, and the book is filled with real-time examples that validate his thoughts on how how America’s foreign policy should best be implemented.

One of the biggest issues, Zinni writes, is that warfare has changed and neither the American military, the public, or the politicians understand how it has changed. It’s the politicians inability to decide on America’s role, coupled with a DoD who prefers to act on a huge scale or not at all, that is paralyzing America’s foreign policy. As the many Marines who dealt with Mullahs, Elders, and gang leaders will confirm, it’s a different battlefield than Tarawa, and the politicians need to realize the term ‘bad guy’ is relative. He equally faults the Pentagon; technology is a tool, not an end-state, and Zumwalt-class destroyers or forever-developing F-35’s are not the weapons needed to keep small wars from becoming bigger.

But today’s world, Zinni acknowledges, is vastly more complex than defeating the Axis powers; unlike beating the Japanese, the American people need to be convinced the war, or military action, is worth supporting – and it’s up to the president to marry the mission to American interests. With technology enabling the media to beam video of gassed children and bleeding women worldwide, it’s the president’s role to decide if the situation is merely horrific or is of sufficient importance to justify

America’s involvement. But unlike WW2, when America rallied to FDR; today’s politicians fill the 24-hour news cycle in ways that often negatively impact American foreign policy-making. While the GOP routinely castigates President Obama for ‘losing’ Iraq, it’s worth remembering the Iraqi’s refused to sign a status of forces agreement – and by 2011, after 4,476 KIA and a trillion-plus dollars borrowed and spent on the war, the only support for continued American involvement came from a small group inside the Beltway.

Such constant negativity serves to weaken the president’s ability to lead, Zinni argues, and serves to make future intervention’s more difficult. As the lies and deliberate misinformation used by the Bush Administration “Neocons” to justify the war in 2003 came unraveled, it became more difficult to convince Americans of the need to intervene in other conflicts. Harriers over Syria three years ago might have given Assad second thoughts about gassing his fellow citizens. How ironic if those same lies used to justify the 2003 invasion halted an intervention in Syria that led to ISIS-ISIL’s fracturing of Iraq.

Does a president need military experience to run a viable foreign policy, Zinni asks? Polio kept Roosevelt from serving, but he was Ass’t Sect of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson and under his leadership the Allies won. Carter was a Naval officer, but missed or mishandled world events. Obama never served, yet picked Gen James Jones as his first National Security Advisor, hugely boosted the Marine presence in Afghanistan in 2009, sent Marines to Darwin as an integral part of his “Pacific

The USA: Australia's Dangerous Ally

By Malcolm Fraser 

Australia should not embrace America, writes its former prime minister, but preserve itself from Washington’s reckless overreach.

December 17, 2014 "ICH" - "NI" - IT IS time for Australia to end its strategic dependence on the United States. The relationship with America, which has long been regarded as beneficial, has now become dangerous to Australia’s future. We have effectively ceded to America the ability to decide when Australia goes to war. Even if America were the most perfect and benign power, this posture would still be incompatible with the integrity of Australia as a sovereign nation. It entails not simply deference but submission to Washington, an intolerable state of affairs for a country whose power and prosperity are increasing and whose national interests dictate that it enjoy amicable, not hostile, relations with its neighbors, including China.

As painful as a reassessment of relations may be for intellectual and policy elites, there are four principal reasons why one is long overdue. First, despite much blather about a supposed unanimity of national purpose, the truth is that the United States and Australia have substantially different values systems. The idea of American exceptionalism is contrary to Australia’s sense of egalitarianism. Second, we have seen the United States act in an arbitrary, imprudent and capricious fashion. It has made a number of ill-advised and ill-informed decisions concerning Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East. Third, at the moment, because of U.S. military installations in Australia, if America goes to war in the Pacific, it will take us to war as well—without an independent decision by Australia. Finally, under current circumstances, in any major contest in the Pacific, our relationship with America would make us a strategic target for America’s enemies. It is not in Australia’s interest to be in that position.

American fecklessness has produced this state of affairs. As the recent twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall reminds us, the breakup of the Soviet Union created a different world. It was a world bursting with opportunity, as was first described by President George H. W. Bush in a speech to Congress after the first Gulf War. Bush was then talking about a new world, one in which there would be much greater cooperation between nations large and small. It was the kind of speech that many people worldwide wanted to hear from an American president. However, the purposes and commitment expressed in that speech were to be cut short. The presidents that followed—Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—may have differed in tone but not in substance. They have all adhered to the illusion of American omnipotence.

It was Morton Abramowitz of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a former U.S. ambassador and one of the prime movers in establishing the International Crisis Group, who wrote in 2012 that “American exceptionalism dooms U.S. foreign policy.” Nothing has altered since then. Even President Obama has embraced the idea of exceptionalism, telling the UN General Assembly in 2013, “I believe America is exceptional.” A nation better than any other, innately motivated to do good; what America does is right because America does it. The idea of American exceptionalism, which has always been present in the United States, has gone far beyond all comprehension in the years of America’s absolute supremacy. It has created a different nation, a different society. Such ideas influence American foreign policy in ways that make it much more difficult to achieve a secure and safe path in the future. Our task is not to embrace America, but to preserve ourselves from its reckless overreach.


December 24, 2014

Trainees work in front of their computers at the ‘Cyber Gym’ center, where IT and infrastructure company employees train to defend against cyber attacks near the Israeli city of Hadera, Oct. 30, 2013. (photo by AFP/Getty Images/Menahem Kahana)

Col. Gabi Siboni (ret.) heads the Cyber Security Program at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies. Considered one of the top experts in the field, Siboni publishes numerous studies and position papers on the issue on behalf of the institute. The most recent of these, published the week of Dec. 22, is devoted to the cyber war between the United States and North Korea.

Summary⎙ Print In an interview with Al-Monitor, the head of the INSS Cyber Security Program, Gabi Siboni, states that after the recent hacking of Sony Pictures, Western countries should consider cyber attacks as a real threat to their sovereignty.

AuthorBen CaspitPosted December 23, 2014

TranslatorDanny Wool

In April 2015, Siboni will chair the Institute’s first major conference for the Institute in Washington. The event is being held in cooperation with major American organizations (including the Cyber Security Forum Initiative), and with the participation of several senior American officials specializing in the field, including Ann Barron-DiCamillo, director of the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) at the Department of Homeland Security. Various Israeli officials will also be participating in the event, including representatives of the Computer Service Directorate of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the economy and energy ministries.

Cyber security in Israel is a highly developed field, considered to be among the most advanced in the world. The late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recognized cyber security as a central component of national security as early as 2002, and established the Data Security Authority in the Shin Bet. Israel is also considered one of the most effective countries in the world in everything to do with defending its major facilities and institutions from cyber attacks. Recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established an authority similar to the one founded by Sharon to focus on the defense of civilian installations. During Operation Protective Edge [July-August 2014], Israel came under serious attacks from hackers and various other groups in cyberspace, but the defensive systems in place withstood the challenge, and there was no significant damage.

In a special interview with Al-Monitor, Siboni talks about how we are standing on the threshold of a new era: the era of cyber warfare. The text of the interview follows:

Al-Monitor: Do you agree that what is happening now between the US and North Korea can be defined as a cyber war?

Siboni: Certainly. What is happening now is that the things we know in the back of our minds are beginning to seep and slip out. Cyberspace is becoming a real battleground in conflicts between countries. Whenever there is a determined adversary who knows how to exploit the structural weaknesses of Western democracies — in this case, the United States — he can strike at the country’s soft underbelly and succeed in ways that cannot be ignored. In the current case, the goal is to prevent a major corporation such as Sony from distributing a film. We are not yet fully aware of the magnitude of this incident. It seems to be passing us by, but given the test of time, it will become obvious that this was a formative event. We must take advantage of it as a pilot case in order to draw conclusions about the future.

Al-Monitor: How would you characterize the structural weakness that democratic states have in dealing with this? Ostensibly, it should be easier to handle, since it doesn’t involve the use of physical force, and it does not have a deleterious effect on human rights. Why should it be a problem?

Forget the Sony Hack, This Could Be the Biggest Cyber Attack of 2015

December 19, 2014

Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist, where he served for nine years. Tucker's writing on emerging technology ... Full Bio

On Friday, December 19th, the FBIofficially named North Korea as the party responsible for a cyber attack and email theft against Sony Pictures. The Sony hack saw many studio executives’ sensitive and embarrassing emails leaked online. The hackers threatened to attack theaters on the opening day of the offending film, “The Interview,” and Sony pulled the plug on the movie, effectively censoring a major Hollywood studio. (Sony partially reversed course, allowing the movie to show in 331 independent theaters on Christmas Day and to be streamed online.)

Technology journalists were quick to point out that, even though the cyber attack could be attributable to a nation state actor, it wasn’t particularly sophisticated. Ars Technica’s Sean Gallagher likened it to a “software pipe bomb.” The fallout, of course, was limited. And while President Barack Obama vowed to respond to the attack, he also said it was a mistake for Sony to back down.

“I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this. They’re going to be costly. They’re going to be serious. We take them with the utmost seriousness. But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm. So, let’s not get into that — that way of doing business,” he said at a White House briefing on Friday.

But according to cyber-security professionals, the Sony hack may be a prelude to a cyber attack on United States infrastructure that could occur in 2015, as a result of a very different, self-inflicted document dump from the Department of Homeland Security in July.
2015: The Year of Aurora?

Here’s the background: On July 3, DHS, which plays “key role” in responding to cyber-attacks on the nation, replied to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on a malware attack on Google called “Operation Aurora.”

Unfortunately, as Threatpost writer Dennis Fisher reports,DHS officials made a grave error in their response. DHSreleased more than 800 pages of documents related not to Operation Aurora but rather the Aurora Project, a 2007 research effort led by Idaho National Laboratory demonstrating how easy it was to hack elements in power and water systems.


The US-North Korea Cyber Dispute

December 26, 2014

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) claimed on 19 December 2014 that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was "responsible for" the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE).

“I don’t think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionally….” – President Barack Obama on CNN’s “State of the Union”

“This is not vandalism. It is a new form of warfare. And we have to counter that form of warfare with a better form of warfare” – Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) on CNN’s “State of the Union”

North Korea’s National Defense Commission warned of strikes against the White House, Pentagon and "the whole U.S. mainland, that cesspool of terrorism."

"Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland ... by far surpassing the 'symmetric counteraction' declared by Obama," said the commission's Policy Department in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

On November 22, 2014, the computer systems of Sony Pictures Entertainment were hacked. And on December 16, 2014, the "Guardians of Peace" hacker group issued a threat that attacks comparable to 9/11 should be expected on cinema theatres screening the Sony Pictures produced film The Interview. Sony Pictures cancelled the release of the film for some time but it is now released in some cinemas and online on 25 December 2014.

The hacking of Sony Pictures was done by compromising the credentials of the ‘system administrator’. This led to the erasing of important data relating to its business plans, various movie scripts, stored data on various forthcoming films, personal details of almost everybody from stars to staff, e-mail details, etc. The hacking has led to complete data deletion. According to some estimates, the loss of revenue owing to various reasons from the box-office sales to distribution transactions to possible lawsuits could exceed US$ 1 billion.

The Interview is in news for being a somewhat ‘crude’ comedy that portrays the assassination of Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea. North Koreans have been unhappy about the film since its plot became public around six months back. Claiming that the production of this movie is an act of craziness on the part of the US, they have termed it ‘an act of war’. US authorities have claimed that North Korea was behind the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures. But North Korea has strongly denied this claim. Now, both countries are threatening to fight this ‘battle’ in cyber space. 

So, is a Cyber War on the cards? Would the year 2015 begin with the first official Cyber War ever fought, between the US and North Korea? If such a war were to begin, what could be its end result? Would this bloodless war sow the seeds of a bloody war in the future? Although it is premature to answer such questions or reach any definitive conclusion about such a possibility, it is important to take note of what is happening in the cyber world particularly in the context of the US claim of a cyber-attack by North Korea on Sony Pictures. Is it Hollywood's 'Snowden moment' or something more?

Here, it is important to note that there are reports indicating that the cyber attack on Sony Pictures could have been the handiwork of disgruntled employees or ex-employees or even by a Hollywood rival. There is even speculation that the attack could be a case of an egoistic act by a hacker to gain “artistic” satisfaction!


Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI)

· India's Emerging Connectivity with Southeast Asia: Progress and Prospects http://www.adbi.org/files/2014.12.19.wp507.india.connectivity.southeast.asia.pdf

The Die Is Cast: Confronting Russian Aggression in Eastern Europe http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/images/files/Die_is_Cast_12.23.14.pdf

“Power from the People, for the People”: the Communist Party of China and Political Reform with Chinese Characteristics http://www.cidob.org/en/content/download/43569/635830/file/NOTES+103_GOLDEN_ANG..pdf

Mobile Devices: Federal Agencies' Steps to Improve Mobile Access to Government Information and Services. GAO-15-69 http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-69

Robert Steele: Reflections on the Next Data Revolution

Robert Steele

I was glad to respond to an invitation to write “Beyond Data Monitoring,” a Background Paper for the UN International Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) on the Data Revolution, co-chaired by Robin Li of Baidu, which is good, with Open Source represented by Tim “algorithms rule” O’Reilly, which is bad. Although the paper gained no traction with the intended recipients, it was sent by other means to the special assistant to the Secretary-General, and has taken on a life of its own elsewhere. Building on the earlier Earth Intelligence Network concepts, and together with my forthcoming article on Applied Collective Intelligence (Spanda Journal, December 2014), this paper is the summary of my old thinking.

Today I begin new thinking, with a tip of the hat to Daniel Mezick among others — I feel blessed to have connected with so many brilliant information technologists over the years, including hackers around the world and with Stephen E. Arnold, CEO of Arnold IT, always in the forefront as my most trusted observer of the hollowness of industrial-era IT. Below is my emergent vision challenge for the future of public free open information sharing and sense-making. I am seeking contributing thoughts that will be acknowledged here as this develops.

By way of introduction, I confess to being unclear about the near-dogmatic position of those in the Free/Libre software camp and those in the Open Source Camp. This is a conversation that is needed. For now, when I use the term Open Source I mean FLOSS — Free/Libre/Open Source Software AND Open Source Everything Engineering.

How do we create a globally distributed open source database that turns every device linked to wi fi but particularly PCs, into nodes in a world brain that is impervious to NSA while open to the public?

This means that the data is open, secure, and distributed — we harness distributed cycles for substance and ethical evidence-based decision-support the way some people now harness distributed cycles for massive data processing (e.g. SETI).

American Grand Strategy and the Future of U.S. Landpower

Added December 05, 2014 
Type: Book 
505 Pages 
Download Format: PDF
Cost: Free 

The U.S. military faces a dramatic rebalancing among its services. As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have waned, an era of budget austerity has emerged and the U.S. strategic focus has shifted toward the Pacific, American air and sea power have become more prominent while Landpower has diminished. What is the future of U.S. Landpower? Within American grand strategy, the overarching objective orienting all the means at the nation's disposal, what role should ground forces play? This volume offers an authoritative set of responses to these questions, from a variety of leading experts in international relations and security studies

This Chart Shows The Staggering Hourly Cost Of Operating US Military Aircraft

DEC 31, 2014

The US military is set replace many of its aircraft with planes that cost substantially more to operate by the hour.

James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, noted in a recent cover story for the magazine that costly military projects of questionable worth are becoming increasingly spread throughout congressional districts across the country. This means that projects such as the astronomically expensive F-35 become too politically sensitive to ever cancel, even if the planes themselves aren't cost-effective once they make it to the air. 

The following graphic, courtesy of The Atlantic, highlights the disparity in flight hour costs for various aircraft currently in the US fleet.

Aside from the Predator drone's Reaper model, the A-10 Thunderbolt II is the cheapest aircraft to operate in terms of both flight hours and individual procurement costs. The A-10's low costs are due to the plane's rugged but functional structural designs.

Built like a flying tank for maximum survivability, the A-10 can beserviced even at remote or less-equipped bases and facilities, since a majority of the aircraft's parts are interchangeable - including the engines. 

The Decay Of The Profession Of Arms

DECEMBER 25, 2014
This item, Best Defense's fifth most popular of 2014, was originally published on Jan. 8.

The Profession of Arms is decaying (weakening or fraying -- as opposed to a relative decline), and the primary causes are neglect, anti-intellectual bias, and a creeping, cancerous bureaucracy.

Permit me to explain, to diagnose the patient's condition, in order to arrive at a common understanding of the illness. Let's begin with the Profession of Arms: This is society's armed wing, principally charged with guarding the safety and interests of that society. In some way, every political entity must use force or at least threaten to use force for it to survive in the international system. The members of the Profession of Arms are the custodians of the specific military knowledge that enables national survival. As Don Snider has put it, these commissioned members have one critical function, which is to successfully provide "the repetitive exercise of discretionary judgment[s] ... of high moral content." In essence this is military judgment, which today is decaying and being compromised through apathy, disregard for intellect, and a mammoth bureaucracy.

Symptoms: Where there's smoke...

I teach a course called DS470: Military Strategy at West Point. I was accepted to the assignment in 2009, and attended graduate school from 2010 until the summer of 2012. While in graduate school, I read everything I could to prepare myself for teaching the course. The course includes a two-week block on the Iraq War, and in preparation I came across Professor Richard Kohn's scathing criticism in his 2009World Affairs Journal article (previously a lecture), "Tarnished Brass: Is the U.S. Military Profession in Decline?" His commentary was stunning at times, and this line chilled me:

"Iraq has become the metaphor for an absence of strategy.... In effect, in the most important area of professional expertise -- the connecting of war to policy, of operations to achieving the objectives of the nation -- the American military has been found wanting. The excellence of the American military in operations, logistics, tactics, weaponry, and battle has been manifest for a generation or more. Not so with strategy."

Not long after, I came across a troubling note from a peer (then-Major Fernando Lujan) already stationed at West Point. He wrote on this blog, "From my own limited perspective, I can say that the Academy is falling heartbreakingly short of its potential to prepare young officers." He continued, "We lecture the cadets on professionalism but we practice bureaucracy. To summarize the difference, professional cultures debate, discuss, and continually innovate to stay effective in the changing world. Bureaucracies churn out ever-restrictive rules and seek to capture every eventuality in codified routines."

These Are the Wars That Will Rage in Africa in 2015 Civil wars, insurgencies and political standoffs will shape the continent

2014 wasn’t exactly what you’d call a peaceful year for Africa, although itwas better than the post-Cold War mayhem of the 1990s. And we predicted as much in a similar post in early 2014.

From the civil wars in South Sudan and Central African Republic, to insurgencies in the Sahel and Nigeria and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, Africa’s worst crises drag on … and will probably continue to do so through 2015.

South Sudan’s civil war is one year old and still going strong. Neither Pres. Salva Kiir nor his challenger Riek Machar have any incentive to stop fighting, at least not until the next rainy season makes military maneuvers impractical—five months from now.

During the rainy season, the possibility exists for a peace treaty. In theory. But in practice, this will only happen if one or both sides suffers a major military defeat or suffers serious international sanctions. Neither is likely.

We hope we’re wrong about this, but our guess is that South Sudan’s civil war will see its second anniversary.

Of course, the war in South Sudan has its roots in the country’s incredibly violent recent history—in particular, its secession from Sudan. The South’s northern neighbor may have lost a huge chunk of its territory when the South seceded, but its main internal conflicts continued.

The most prominent of those, the civil war in Darfur, has slipped from the headlines in recent years, but in fact it’s as bad as ever. The same goes for the genocidal campaign that the regime in Khartoum is perpetrating against the people of the Nuba Mountains.

And several other smaller conflicts are simmering

There’s little indication that any of this will change in 2015. If it does, the impetus will likely be regime change. President Omar Al Bashir’s throne has looked shakier than ever over the last two years, with major demonstrations challenging his rule in the capital.

As now-former heads of states from Tunisia’s Ben Ali to Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaoré can attest, its hard hanging on to power indefinitely.

Like in Darfur, the conflict in Central African Republic also lost some of its media appeal in 2014. Peacekeeping forces have regained a measure of control in parts of the country, although the caretaker government of Pres. Catherine Samba-Panza is still borderline powerless.

With France shrinking its military contribution in CAR and rebels and militias still in control of much of the countryside—as well as parts of the capital—the country is looking at an uneasy and at times violent stalemate.

Above—Nigerian Mobile Police officers and their armored vehicle. At top—Tuareg milita in Mali. Photos via Wikipedia