14 July 2015

Mixed Reaction to US National Military Strategy

By Aaron Mehta
July 12, 2015

WASHINGTON — Released with little fanfare July 2, when most of the national security world was focused on the upcoming holiday, the Pentagon's 2015 National Military Strategy serves as a window into a unique time for US security, as the Pentagon grapples with threats from state and non-state actors alike.

However, analysts warn that the document talks too much in generalities while failing to provide much in the way of hard guidance for how the Pentagon should move forward on the major issues of the day.

The strategy document, the first update since 2011, was penned by the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

"Since the last National Military Strategy was published in 2011, global disorder has significantly increased while some of our comparative military advantage has begun to erode," Dempsey wrote in his introduction to the strategy document.

Canada: No Longer Home for U.S. Military Deserters

July 12, 2015

When Army Sgt. Patrick Hart decided a decade ago that he would not serve in the war in Iraq, he expected to follow the same path as thousands of American war resisters during the Vietnam era and take refuge across the border.

But after five years of wrangling with the Canadian immigration system, he came back to the U.S. — and ended up in a military prison.

The country that once welcomed war resisters has developed a much different reputation during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan: Supporters say no U.S. soldier who has sought legal residence in Canada, either as a refugee or on humanitarian grounds, has been successful.

"Nobody's won," said Hart, a Buffalo native who exhausted his legal options then turned himself in to the Army, was court-martialed for desertion and sentenced to two years in prison.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is a 'Commander of Nothing'

July 11, 2015

WASHINGTON — The man often called America's top military officer, the most powerful person in uniform, actually commands nothing. No tanks, no planes, no ships, no troops.

His voice carries great weight, but he gives no combat orders.

He is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — adviser to presidents, advocate for troops, strategic thinker, and occasionally a political punching bag. He stands atop the military heap, and the role has grown in influence and public prominence, yet it remains arguably one of the least understood. In the view of some who have held the job, this disconnect has made the chairman more vulnerable to political swipes from all sides.

With the Joint Chiefs of Staff officially established after World War II, 18 men have held the job since 1949. Nine were Army generals, four were Navy admirals, four were from the Air Force and one was a Marine. (No woman is likely to fill the job anytime soon in a male-dominated military.)

The Value of Fiction to the Military Strategist

July 11, 2015

Army Strategist Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Bazin recently posted an article on what successful strategists should read. His inclusion of fiction pieces sparked some debate. In a rebuttal, T. Greer argued that, “[s]trategic theory is in essence a theory of decision making…A strategic actor oriented around incorrect narratives or ideas (or a strategic actor which cannot update these ideas to match changing conditions) faces a severe disadvantage in competitive environments like international relations or war. My concern is that too many of the models and ideas we use to orient ourselves are complete fictions.”

I disagree. Vehemently.

I haven’t read all the fiction pieces on Colonel Bazin’s list. I’d offer a slightly modified list, but his inclusion of War and Peace, Killer Angels and Once an Eagle,Catch-22, and 1984 earn my sincere applause. My list would also include The Godfather and The Game of Thrones (whose film adaptations have been enormously successful).

Strategy is not just decision-making; its the art of out maneuvering other humans.

13 July 2015

Greece and its ‘Eurogeddon’

July 13, 2015

APPeople protest during a pro Greece demonstration at the European Union office in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, July 3, 2015. A new opinion poll shows a dead heat in Greece's referendum campaign with just two days to go before Sunday's vote on whether Greeks should accept more austerity in return for bailout loans. The banner reads in Spanish: "No to the Troika, I support Greece"

Despite the European Commission’s pronouncement of a Grexit scenario having been in place, this seems unlikely. In all likelihood it will be the euro that will suffer more and possibly fall apart if Greece exits in one way or another

When Greece’s governing and also radical leftist party, Syriza, won the Greek elections on January 25, 2015, it formed a coalition with the 13-seat nationalist Anel Party the next day after falling two seats short of the 151 seats needed to form the government on its own. But ever since the formation of the government, the world has been watching the developments as it has been in negotiations with the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) —better known as the Troika.

The perils of parlay vooing: what Modi should watch out for in Central Asia

Talking in the host country's language shows you're keen to reach out. But you might end up reaching out a bit too much.

On the move in Central Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been testing his linguistic skills, tweeting and greeting in Uzbek and the Kazakh tongue. Some of his Indian audiences may not be impressed, but what of it? As he travels to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, we hope more languages will be added to the mix. Speaking in the language of the host country means you've done your homework, you're interested, you really do want to reach out.

Getting familiar

Of course, there have been times when host countries have been left feeling that the visiting dignitary reached out just a bit too much. American presidents have been particularly warm.

Why Middle Powers Matter to India

Middle powers hold the key – economically and geopolitically – to India’s growth and security.

By the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed his first year in power on May 26, he had spent an unprecedented 53 days outside India—or almost twice as many as Manmohan Singh’s 30 days overseas in his first year as prime minister in 2004-05.

Modi’s international engagements were a continuation of India’s foreign policy under the preceding Congress government. But he injected a new energy into the relationships with neighbors like Bhutan and Nepal, and major powers like China and the U.S.—which has been widely commented on. He also visited Japan and Australia, and is scheduled to visit Israel and Saudi Arabia later this year. However, his equally noteworthy engagement with these and other middle powers has been relatively unnoticed.

Political compatibility

Al-Qaeda, ISIS and India - The Emerging Threat

Jul 10, 11:59 am

New Delhi, July 10 (ANI): In the last decade or so, terrorism has evolved in unimaginable ways. There was a brief moment when everyone heaved a sigh of relief with the killing of Osama bin Laden. Most of the world thought Al-Qaeda was now history. It would be the end of global terrorism.

A little over five years after the dramatic killing of the Al-Qaeda chief, the group remains a potent threat to the world while a new far more vicious and brutal terrorist machine, the ISIS, now functions in most of the Middle East. At first ISIS, nurtured by the Saudis and Qatar, was thought to be a local Syria-Iraq territorial threat, meant to deal with the growing Iranian influence. Recent violent events have indicated that the ISIS has dramatically stepped up its campaign in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia challenging the Al-Qaeda in these regions.

India’s Nuclear Doctrine: Need for a Review

DEC 5, 2014

Reluctant Member of the Nuclear Club
Faced with the prospect of having to confront nuclear-armed China and Pakistan, with both of which it had fought wars over unresolved territorial disputes, India conducted a series of nuclear tests at Pokhran, Rajasthan, on May 11 and 13, 1998, and declared itself a state armed with nuclear weapons. Before crossing the nuclear Rubicon, India had sought but had been denied international guarantees that nuclear weapons would not be used against it. As India was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, the country did not violate any treaty obligations.

It is well accepted in India that nuclear weapons are political weapons and not weapons of warfighting and that their sole purpose is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by India’s adversaries. This was reflected in a statement made by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in Parliament in May 1998: “India is now a nuclear weapon state.... We do not intend to use these weapons for aggression or for mounting threats against any country; these are weapons of self-defence, to ensure that India is not subjected to nuclear threats or coercion.”

Indo-Pak Talks: The problem is with the Pakistani mindset

By Kanwal Sibal
10 Jul , 2015

Prime Minister Modi extended his hand of friendship to Pakistan immediately after his electoral triumph by inviting Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony and agreeing to hold foreign secretary level talks. This despite the experience of a sterile dialogue with Pakistan all these years and the mixed messages from Nawaz Sharif himself who, while expressing his desire to normalise relations with India, has been emphasising his intention to escalate the Kashmir issue politically .

Frequent cease-fire violations on the line of control have created a background of tension that erodes the seriousness of efforts to resume political level negotiations.

How Nawaz Sharif reconciles these two contradictory strategies is unclear. Pakistan cannot say that it wants to turn a page with India while determined to read from the same well-worn text on Kashmir dating back several decades. If Nawaz Sharif as a Muslim Leaguer cannot disregard his family and party links with jihadi groups and this compels him to agitate the Kashmir issue, then Sharif the businessman, with Pakistan’s economic interests in mind, cannot move very far with India. In dealing with Pakistan we are always caught half-cock between rude reality and wishful thinking and hence the inconsistencies of our policies towards that country.

1971 War: The First Missile Attack on Karachi

By Vice Adm (Retd) GM Hiranandani
11 Jul , 2015

Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Kohli, was the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command (FOCINCWEST). In his book “We Dared”, he states:

“After Pakistan proclaimed a National Emergency on 23 November, three missile boats were placed at Okha to carry out patrols. They gained very valuable experience of the area and the waters around and in the vicinity of Okha and also proved the facilities provided at the advance base there.

“As the Fleet would be operating not far from Karachi, a demarcating line was established which neither the ships of the Fleet nor the missile boats would cross. This would prevent any unfortunate incidents of own forces engaging each other.

The Pakistani authorities had warned all merchant ships bound for Karachi not to approach the harbour to within 75 miles between sunset and dawn.

“The Pakistani authorities had warned all merchant ships bound for Karachi not to approach the harbour to within 75 miles between sunset and dawn. This meant that any unit picked up on the radar within that distance was most likely to be a Pakistani naval vessel on patrol.

Assessing the Latest India-Pakistan Prime Ministers Meeting

The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met for the first time in 2015. What did their meeting accomplish?
As planned, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met in Ufa, Russia, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit where both India and Pakistan are currently observers and slated for accession over the next year. The meeting between the leaders of the two rival South Asian states is their first since late 2014, when they met on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu, Nepal. In August 2014, relations between the two states declined precipitously after a brief period of rapprochement immediately after Modi was elected to office in India. India called off foreign secretary-level talks after Pakistan interfaced with Kashmir-based separatists, and in the months since, other issues, including Pakistan’s treatment of anti-India terrorists and an increase in incidents along the disputed Kashmir border, have kept the bilateral cold.

China's Master Plan to Thwart American Dominance in Asia

One of China’s overriding strategic goals is to thwart the U.S. rebalance of attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific region. At the twin summits of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa forum (BRICS) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Ufa, Russia, President Xi Jinping presented the outlines of the triple approach that Beijing will utilize.

The first is to backstop precipitous declines in Russian power. Chinese strategic analysts cannot help but be thrilled to have the leading members of the U.S. defense establishment proclaim that Russia is now the principal threat to the United States. Combined with announced cuts in the size of the U.S. Army, this portends well for thinning out any planned increase in the U.S. presence in the Pacific, because the focus now appears to be on a pivot back to Europe in order to shore up the precarious eastern frontiers of the Euro-Atlantic world. The lifeline that China has provided to the Russian economy—not only new contracts for energy and trade deals, but also the purchase of Russian bonds by Chinese financial institutions—has allowed the Putin administration to blunt the impact of Western sanctions and allowed Moscow to continue to maintain its position in Ukraine. China also benefits from a more anti-American Russia that is important for helping to secure China’s western territory by having Moscow guard Beijing’s backyard. Putin’s early flirtations with creating a strategic partnership with the West—including the post-9/11 offer of assistance to facilitate a U.S. military presence in Central Asia—were troubling to the Chinese, who have always feared the possibility of complete American encirclement. The Ukraine crisis has permanently ruptured Russia’s ties to the West and pulled Moscow into a closer relationship with Beijing.

Indonesia Is Building New Military Base in South China Sea

July 10, 2015

Indonesia is developing a plan to build a new military base in the South China Sea, according to local media reports.
On Friday, the Jakarta Post reported that Indonesian officials are preparing a plan to build a new military base somewhere in the South China Sea, which has seen an uptick in tensions over competing sovereignty claims. The report said Indonesia’s Defense Ministry and the The National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) held a meeting on Friday to discuss the potential locations for such a base.

“Our meeting today is aimed at synchronizing our ambition to guard the national interest and protect the sovereignty of our territory,” Bappenas chief Andrinof Chaniago was quoted as saying in the report.

“The findings from the team will be conveyed to President Jokowi [Joko Widodo], who will make his decision. We hope that in the near future, the plan will be realized,” he added.

A number of factors are driving Cambodia’s strategic convergence with China.

According to conventional wisdom, the international system leaves small states less room for maneuver. Cambodia is no exception. Since the kingdom won its independence from France in 1953, it had been preoccupied with protecting that independence, as well as its sovereignty and territorial integrity. During the Cold War, Cambodian foreign policymakers tried various approaches, from neutrality to alliances with major power(s) and, worst of all, isolationism. Yet Cambodia remained a victim of power politics, and ended up with a civil war and some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

Early in the 21st century, China has emerged as a regional and global power. China’s power and influence can be felt in all corners of the globe, most evidently in continental Southeast Asia. In this context, the Cambodia-China bilateral relationship has experienced a remarkable transformation over the last decade or so. Although rooted in mistrust due to the involvement of China in Cambodia’s civil war and social strife, especially Beijing’s support for the Khmer Rouge regime, bilateral ties have noticeably consolidated and improved since 1997.

China in BRICS: A Threat to US Power?

July 11, 2015

China’s involvement in BRICS should be seen as a positive, not as a threat.
The BRICs nations convened in the Russian city of Ufa for the BRICS Summit this week to discuss cooperation on international and regional issues of common interest. The BRICS meeting was held in conjunction with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and represents the seventh formal meeting of the BRICS nations. The meetings discussed several issues of central importance to China. While China’s role in the BRICS alliance may be viewed as an attempt to build up its own power outside of U.S.-dominated institutions, we believe this perspective is simplistic.

The BRICS Summit included several outcomes, three in particular. First, China agreed to commit $41 billion to a BRICs currency reserve pool to provide liquidity to other BRICS nations in case of dollar liquidity constraints. Brazil, India and Russia will each contribute $18 billion while South Africa will chip in $5 billion. China’s vast foreign currency reserves will thus help to provide a currency pool for the BRICs nations as the dollar is expected to gain in value.

The Pacific Implications of China’s Proposed NGO Law

By Stephen Noakes and Victoria Brownlee
July 10, 2015
China’s new draft law for foreign NGOs could undermine engagement in the South Pacific.

If the aim of China’s strategy in the Pacific is to foster trust and deepen collaboration, Beijing’s proposal totoughen supervision of international development organizations could compromise its relationships with key regional partners.

Back in April, the National People’s Congress heard the second reading of the “Overseas NGO Management Law,” which NPC spokespeople identified as necessary for “safeguarding national security and maintaining social stability.” The draft law was back in the news last week, drawing criticism from a range of international human rights groups arguing that it amounted to a violation of free association and effectively shrunk the already too-small space for freedom of expression in mainland China.

Tibet's environment

In recent years, China's exploitation of Tibet's natural resources has gathered pace significantly.

Tibetans have no power to protect their own land and must watch the economic benefits of its resources flow out of their country.

Islamic State vs al-Qaeda: a rivalry that dates back to old personality clashes

Endless spats over tactics, style and aims drove Islamic State away from al-Qaeda – and the two are deadly enemies to this day.

Libya’s eastern city of Derna recently paid host to a heated battle between the Islamic State and the Mujahideen Shura Council, a group linked to al-Qaeda, whose fighters managed to drive IS out of the city altogether.

IS had taken over the city of Derna (once a jihadist stronghold against Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in the 1980s and 1990s), and implemented rules so extreme that many of its citizens rose up in an unarmed protest. After IS responded by firing on the citizens, clashes ensued between IS and the Mujahideen Shura Council, or DMSC, which forced IS to flee Derna and hide out in the Green Mountains.

In spite of this victory, the DMSC’s rise hardly ends the reign of repression. It too has an extremist agenda that mandates gender segregation, restrictions on women’s rights and the establishment of sharia courts.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Prodigal U.S. Client

July 10, 2015

In a blast from the past in Afghanistan, a warlord who became a model for combining ruthless ambition and destructive methods with radical ideology, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has advised his followers to support the so-called Islamic State or ISIS in fighting against the Afghan Taliban. While some in the West might see this as one more indication of ISIS spreading its tentacles with an ever-widening reach, a better lesson flows from observing that this is another instance of ISIS being invoked by a protagonist in a local conflict with local objectives. Hekmatyar's game has always been about seeking power in Afghanistan and bashing opponents of his efforts to do so.

A further lesson comes from noting that it is the Taliban that Hekmatyar finds to be either too moderate or too inconvenient for him right now. It probably is not coincidental that this statement by Hekmatyar comes just as the Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban have concluded what may be the most promising peace negotiations so far that are aimed at resolution of the long-running conflict in Afghanistan. All of these players—the government, the Taliban, and Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami—are focused on struggles for power in their own country and not on transnational causes. Afghanistan is a nation in which politics and policy largely rest on ad hoc deals among various local power-holders, which are struck in ways that do not correspond to what might make sense to Westerners in terms of recognizable left-right, radical-moderate, or religious-secular dimensions. The outcome of the current multidimensional conflict in Afghanistan will depend on such deals. This ought to call into question the wisdom of calls to extend what has already been a 14-year U.S. military operation in the interests of beating back what gets portrayed as an undifferentiated set of bad guys.