30 October 2015

How China Maintains Strategic Ambiguity in the South China Sea

October 29, 2015

China’s official government reactions to the recent U.S. Navy “freedom of navigation” (FON) operation within 12 nautical miles (nm) of a Chinese-occupied constructed island in the South China Sea are a multilingual puzzle. A careful examination of Chinese-language versions of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministry statements, however, reveals extreme subtlety in wording and an apparently coordinated effort to maintain strategic ambiguity on key questions about China’s position.

Do Chinese officials believe the U.S. Navy violated Chinese sovereignty? Unclear. Do they claim maritime rights surrounding constructed islands that go farther than the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides? Not explicitly. Will they specify exactly why the U.S. action is described as illegal? Not quite—but the door just cracked open.

Chinese official statements have been almost flawless in keeping these questions unanswered, with one exception discussed below. Doing so required a change in language between earlier statements warning against FON operations and this week’s protests following the event itself. In May, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Hua Chunying warned the United States against “violation (qīnfàn) of China’s sovereignty and threat (wēihài) to China’s national security.” Earlier this month, Hua opposed “infringement (qīnfàn) of China’s territorial sea (lǐnghǎi) and airspace (lǐngkōng).”

Why Japan Won't Get Too Involved in the South China Sea

October 29, 2015

When the United States sent the USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of the artificial island China has built at Subi Reef, Washington promised that this would be the first of many routine freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea. That has raised questions about how U.S. allies will respond.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Australia is mulling the option of conducting its own operations. Meanwhile, media reports from earlier this year suggested that Japan was also considering conducting patrolsin the South China Sea. Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the Joint Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces,said in June that “we don’t have any plans to conduct surveillance in the South China Sea currently but depending on the situation, I think there is a chance we could consider doing so.”

However, Japan’s response to the USS Lassen’s maneuvers on Tuesday was less enthusiastic than may have been expected. As Jake Douglas outlined for The Diplomat, Japanese officials – including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani – declined to either support or criticize the FONOP, though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe eventually offered his support. The problem for Japan is that it is caught between two conflicting impulses: a strong desire to maintain a close partnership with the United States, and a tacit recognition that the South China Sea is simply not a life-or-death issue for Tokyo.

China's Big Week for European Diplomacy

October 28, 2015

As Diplomat readers doubtless know, Chinese President Xi Jinping was in the United Kingdom last week, making him the first Chinese president to visit Britain in ten years. However, Xi’s trip to London (with a stopover in Manchester) was only the beginning of a flurry of Chinese diplomacy with European Union countries.

In the next week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (October 29-30) and French President Francois Hollande (November 2-3) will visit China. King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands is already there, and held talks with Xi on Monday. In this context, Xi’s U.K. visit is part of a broader context: China’s growing relationship with Europe (and particularly the European Union) as a whole.

China’s relationship with the EU has changed drastically in since the 20th century. That change is most obvious on the economic front. “Just two decades ago, China and the EU traded almost nothing,” proclaims one fact sheet from the European Commission. In 2014, total bilateral trade was worth 466 billion euros ($514 billion). Today, the EU, if taken as a whole, is China’s largest trading partner, accounting for over 14 percent of China’s total global trade in 2014. China, meanwhile, is the EU’s second-largest trading partner (after the United States).

Indonesia Calls for South China Sea Restraint Amid US-China Tensions

October 28, 2015

Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called for restraint in the South China Sea in Washington, D.C. just hours after the U.S. navy carried out much-anticipated freedom of navigation operation near China’s controversial artificial islands there.

While Indonesia does not consider itself a claimant in the South China Sea disputes, Jokowi told an audience at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, that Indonesia had an important interest in ensuring regional peace and stability. He encouraged all parties to exercise restraint just as China and the United States traded barbs following patrols conducted by USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificially-built islands.

“Indonesia is not a party to the dispute. But we have legitimate interest in peace and stability there. That is why we call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from taking actions that could undermine trust and confidence and put at risk the peace and stability of the region,” Jokowi said in prepared remarks delivered in English. The Indonesian president is on his inaugural visit to the United States which has been cut short due to the haze crisis from raging forest fires back home (See: “Exclusive: US, Indonesia to Strengthen Partnership During Jokowi Visit“).

America’s Society Is Wealthier Than China’s – And It Doesn’t Matter

By Christopher A. McNally and Denny Roy
October 27, 2015

One quick, simplistic way to compare China and the United States: China has a wealthy state and a poor society, while America has a poor government but a wealthy society. The Chinese government can fund grandiose projects such as high-speed rail lines, the “New Silk Road” and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, while the U.S. federal and state governments struggle to keep their country running on an aging and in some places crumbling infrastructure. Yet the average American enjoys a considerably higher standard of living than the average Chinese. The USA’s stock of private wealth is estimated at about $85 trillion, while China’s is far smaller at a little over $20 trillion.

Some analysts argue this huge gap in private wealth ensures that China is not poised to overtake the United States as the world’s top economic power and therefore China is not a threat to American global pre-eminence in the foreseeable future. This analysis, however, is flawed.

The Main Problem with America’s Abundant South China Sea Hawks

October 28, 2015

As Washington and Beijing contemplate a new series of countermoves in the South China Sea, a debate over U.S. policy objectives and strategy is quite timely. For that reason, I particularly welcome Alexander Vuving’s recent critique of my original article that lays out “Five Myths” about the South China Sea. Vuving’s essay is refreshingly candid and he illuminates several interesting arguments. I particularly applaud his focus on power and national interest, the touchstones of realist thought in foreign policy. Therefore, we may call this a friendly debate among realists—the most worthy kind of debate.

Vuving’s general perspective is most clearly revealed in the final sentence of his essay when he suggests that “the greatest myth of all is that the U.S. cannot and should not contain China.” That is a kind of cryptic way of saying that “the U.S. should contain China.” I emphatically disagree with that conclusion for all the most obvious reasons (e.g. the risk of armed conflict between nuclear powers, trillions of dollars wasted on militarized rivalry, the imperative to cooperate on climate change and nuclear nonproliferation, etc.), as do the vast majority of America’s China specialists, Asia specialists, as well as academic and policy experts in the wider field of international relations.

Islamic State: Understanding The Threat In Indonesia And Malaysia – Analysis

By Adri Wanto and Abdul Mateen Qadri*
OCTOBER 29, 2015
Source Link

As Islamic State continues to grow as a global threat, Malaysia and Indonesia face the task of how to deal with their followers both domestically and regionally.

Since Islamic State (IS) proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate on 29 June 2014, the group successfully presented itself to Malaysian and Indonesian Muslim audiences as a new, dynamic outfit that has promulgated an Islamic state that applies ‘Islamic law’ in full and in its purest form. According to Indonesia’s National Anti-Terrorism Agency’s (BNPT) data, more than 500 Indonesians are estimated to have left the country to join IS. In Malaysia, more than 100 suspects have been arrested since 2014 for being involved in extremist or terrorism- related activities.

Mission Creep: With No Discernible Progress in War Against ISIS, Obama’s Advisers Want to Move U.S. Troops Closer to the Frontlines in Iraq and Syria

Missy Ryan and Greg Jaffe
October 27, 2015

Obama weighs moving U.S. troops closer to front lines in Syria, Iraq

President Obama’s most senior national security advisers have recommended measures that would move U.S. troops closer to the front lines in Iraq and Syria, officials said, a sign of mounting White House dissatisfaction with progress against the Islamic State and a renewed Pentagon push to expand military involvement in long-running conflicts overseas.

The debate over the proposed steps, which would for the first time position a limited number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria and put U.S. advisers closer to the firefights in Iraq, comes as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter presses the military to deliver new options for greater military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

The changes would represent a significant escalation of the American role in Iraq and Syria. They still require formal approval from Obama, who could make a decision as soon as this week and could decide not to alter the current course, said U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are still ongoing. It’s unclear how many additional troops would be required to implement the changes being considered by the president, but the number for now is likely to be relatively small, these officials said.

The Pentagon is about to make major changes to its ISIS strategy

OCT 27, 2015

The Pentagon is looking to significantly alter its anti-ISIS strategy in Iraq and Syria, in an attempt to regain momentum against the extremist group.

The potential shift in strategy comes at the request of the White House, as the Obama administration has reportedly become increasingly concerned that the battle against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, has reached a stalemate.

The new strategy, unveiled by Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee, will be more militarily aggressive.

"The changes we're pursuing can be described by what I call the 'three R's' - Raqqa, Ramadi and Raids," Carter said during his testimony, highlighting the new bold strategy that the Pentagon is hoping to implement against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.

The first "R" is aimed at retaking Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of ISIS, away from the control of the militants. The Hill reports that Carter intends to help various Syrian rebel and Kurdish groups take the city through a combination of airstrikes and train-and-equip programs.

Carter Outlines Strategy to Counter ISIL at Senate Armed Services Hearing

Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News
October 28, 2015 

The U.S. military remains determined to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremist forces and effectively adapts its campaign as conditions evolve in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Forces Committee Tuesday.

Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. testified before the full committee on U.S. military strategy in the Middle East, including Russian involvement in Syria.

The secretary first acknowledged Congress for last night’s “significant progress” toward a multi-year defense budget deal. A multi-year deal would support the defense strategy, troops and their families; and all elements of America’s national security and strength, he said. “I welcome this major positive development and applaud the members of this committee for what you’re doing to help us get there.”

Turning to U.S. strategy in the Middle East, Carter called the region a kaleidoscope of challenges, and added, “ISIL poses a threat to our people and friendly countries, not only in the Middle East, but around the world.”

Mujahideen: The Strategic Tradition of Sunni Jihadism

October 28, 2015
http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/mujahideen-the-strategic-tradition-of-sunni-jihadism

The world is in the grips of the group known as ISIS. Unable to look away but equally unable to fathom the group’s extreme violence, the civilized world marvels at a terrorist threat that is seemingly al Qaeda cranked up to eleven. Its media blitzkrieg has recently been described by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger and its apocalyptic vision by William McCants, but its military strategy too is an outgrowth of earlier trends in jihadi thought. The military strategy of the mujahideen can be traced back to a jail cell in Egypt in the early 1960s. 

Few have looked at jihadi groups in the context of classical military strategy but perhaps surprisingly the jihadis themselves view their ideas through exactly that lens. As Western national security experts deny the utility of Carl von Clausewitz’s On War in an age of jihadis, insurgents, and terrorists, the jihadis themselves seem not to have gotten the memo as his ideas appear repeatedly in their texts and he is even directly cited in jihadi instructional videos. Perhaps less surprisingly, the ideas of Mao Tse-Tung (another theorist who cited Clausewitz) are even more influential as his three stages of protracted warfare appear repeatedly in slightly modified form. Other names familiar to the student of strategic studies appear in their tracts on military issues, “Che” Guevara and Ho Chi Minh to name two. Other concepts are clear parallels to theorists like Hans Delbrück and J. C. Wylie although they go uncited. If we better understood the terrorists’ theory of victory, perhaps we may better understand how to counter it- or at least how not to play into it.

Disrupting the Chessboard Perspectives on the Russian Intervention in Syria

Editor: Payam Mohseni, Director of Iran Project and Fellow of Iran Studies
October 2015

Introduction:

The Russian Intervention in Syria

In late September 2015 at the request of the Syrian government, dozens of advanced Russian warplanes entered Syrian airspace and began conducting intensive airstrikes against enemy targets. With the support of the Russian Air Force, the Syrian government also launched an offensive ground campaign in conjunction with Hezbollah and Iranian forces to recapture key territories in Hama, Idlib, and Latakia provinces and has more recently set its objectives on regaining Aleppo. Moreover, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and Syria established a joint intelligence center in Baghdad to coordinate military and strategic cooperation across the multiple battlefronts in Syria and Iraq. The Iraqi Prime Minister has further expressed interest in having the Russians extend their aerial bombardment to Iraq as well.

These striking developments were met with both surprise and condemnation by the United States and its allies. The European Union called for an immediate cessation of Russian airstrikes, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini calling the Russian intervention a “game changer” in the conflict. Likewise, President Barack Obama, while insisting upon Bashar al-Assad’s removal for any future political settlement, claimed Russia was heading for a “quagmire” in Syria.

The Volkswagen Scandal Confronts Auto Regulation's "Inherent Vice"

October 28, 2015

Volkswagen today finds itself engulfed in an “existence-threatening crisis” that may impact more than 10 million cars globally, and which may end up costing the company billions of dollars in direct penalties, not to mention atrophying market share. The scandal, which involves the use of devices meant to cheat NOx emissions tests for diesel vehicles, also threatens to cast a web of scrutiny and doubt on other pollutants and other automakers. It is increasingly clear that the issues are systemic in nature, and will require a rethink of business models and the future of diesel engines by the German automobile industry. What is less visible, though no less important, is the broader policy failure that the affair implies and the actions beyond just the automotive sector that are needed to rectify it.

In the wake of the VW scandal, the calls for tough penalties and tougher regulation are inevitable. This is a natural response, and an understandable one in light of extensive and sophisticated cheating. It will also be consequential. By one estimate from Credit Suisse, the cost of the crisis for the German economy, at $87 billion, may very well exceed not only the Deepwater Horizon oil spill but also the prospective costs of a Greek exit from the Eurozone.

Nuclear Air Launched Cruise Missiles: They Still Matter

October 28, 2015

In a recent article by former Secretary of Defense William Perry (1994-1997) and Assistant Secretary of Defense Andy Weber (2009-2014), the two men urge President Obama to kill the Air Force program to develop and field a replacement for the AGM-86 nuclear air launched cruise missile (ALCM). The long range standoff cruise missile (LRSO) is expected to be able to evade advanced radar with its stealthy airframe and will be far more accurate. While I appreciate their insights, the problem with Perry and Weber’s argument is that it relies on questionable assertions that are simply unproven and untrue.

Destabilizing ALCMs?

Perry and Weber’s primary assertion suggests that cruise missiles are destabilizing weapons. They go on to suggest that the recent decision by Britain to forgo the fielding of sea-based nuclear cruise missiles was for this reason. The problem with this argument is that the ultimate decision not to field nuclear cruise missiles was a financial decision, not one based on a view that nuclear ALCMs are destabilizing.

Australia Lagging in Cyber War

October 25, 2015

As Australia prepares to release its next White Paper on defense policy, expert eyes are waiting to see whether it will match the declaration by Malcolm Turnbull, the country’s new prime minister, that his government is one fit for the 21st century. Turnbull has set out a vision, in broad terms only so far, that he wants Australia to move more quickly to become a country of digital innovation. As an indication of intentions,he moved the responsibility for digital policy to his own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and convened an innovation round table just a week ago. What will the new White Paper say about the country’s cyber war planning and capabilities?

The need for 21st century innovation in the defense portfolio is urgent, as a number of submissions to the 2015 White Paper through this year argued, not least those from specialists with direct experience in Australia’s intelligence and security services or its armed forces. One of these submissions, by the author, was revised and published under the title “Australia’s Digital Skills for War and Peace” in an Australian peer-reviewed journal in December 2014.

Cyber-war and the threat to Critical National Infrastructure

October 27, 2015 

SUMMARY: Critical national infrastructure is an obvious target in the event of a cyber-war. Cath Everett explores just how vulnerable it is at the moment and what action is being taken to protect it.

Just how vulnerable would the critical national infrastructure (CNI) of developed nations be in the event of a cyber-war?

It’s a big question not least because CNI covers everything vital to life in an industrialised society ranging from electricity generation and distribution to financial services, water and the food supply. As a result, the US Patriot Act of 2001, for one, defines such infrastructure as:

Systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.

Which at least gives a slightly verbose idea of the vital nature of operations that would inevitably become a target if things got hairy – a scenario which, if the recent spate of slightly hysterical press headlines on cyber war are to be believed, could well be just around the corner.

Censorship and Takedowns: The Last Year Has Been Awful for Internet Freedom

BY ELIAS GROLL
OCTOBER 28, 2015

Cyber-evangelists who hope the Internet will enable the global spread of liberty are getting some bad news: A new report has found that Internet freedoms fell for the fifth straight year as repressive governments moved to censor content and persecute activists.

The report by Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization, found that governments have in the last year more aggressively pushed private companies to remove what they consider to be offensive or politically charged content. At the same time, governments have brought more criminal charges against individuals accused of making improper postings online than ever before.

“In total, authorities in 42 out of the 65 countries assessed required companies, site administrators, and users to restrict online content of a political, social, or religious nature, up from 37 the previous year,” Freedom House found. “Governments have also grown more aggressive in presenting companies with ultimatums, threatening to revoke their operating licenses or block entire platforms if the specified content is not removed or hidden from view.”

NSA warns of growing danger of cyber-attack by nation states

By Gordon Corera
27 October 2015 

Media captionNSA chief warns of cyber attack danger from nation states

The deputy director of the US National Security Agency (NSA), Richard Ledgett, has warned of the increasing danger of destructive cyber attacks by states.

He told the BBC: "If you are connected to the internet, you are vulnerable to determined nation-state attackers."

He said nations would need to identify red lines that should not be crossed.

He also said agency targets, numbered in "the high hundreds", had discussed leaks by contractor Edward Snowden, with some changing their behaviour.

Richard Ledgett's office on the eighth floor of NSA headquarters at Fort Meade is filled with exhibits on the history of code-making and breaking, ranging from American Civil War systems through a German Enigma machine adapted for use with Japan.

There is even an encryption device recovered from the wreckage of the Challenger Space Shuttle.

What Does Malaysia’s New Defense Budget for 2016 Mean?

October 29, 2015

As I noted in an earlier piece, Malaysia looks set to cut its defense budget for next year by 2.25 percent according to figures unveiled by Prime Minister Najib Razak in an annual speech to the nation October 23.

Specifically, the amount allocated for defense was just 17.3 billion ringgit ($4 billion), a decrease of 2.25 percent relative to the 17.7 billion ringgit allocated for 2015 (See: “Malaysia Cuts Military Budget for 2016 Amid Economic Woes”).

As I pointed out before, the decrease itself is not surprising to close observers of the Southeast Asian state, particularly given severe concerns about the economy. Growth, already sluggish this year due to falling commodity prices and a state investment fund scandal implicating Najib himself, is expected to slow even further to between 4 and 5 percent next year. The Malaysian ringgit has been Asia’s worst-performing currency this year, losing more than a fifth of its value against the U.S. dollar. Spending on defense in Malaysia, which has fallen victim to politicization in the past, is even less popular at a time of economic distress.

The Real Benghazi Scandal Everyone Is Missing

October 28, 2015

The conventional story of Hillary Clinton’s eleven hours of testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi is that she bested her Republican foes. They came off as hackish inquisitors rehashing old issues in a failed effort to produce a scandal or a gotcha video clip harmful to her presidential campaign. Poised by contrast, Clinton won on points, if only for endurance. Her camp will cite it as evidence of her presidential qualification: her persistence, competence and scrappiness.

That story is probably right, but Benghazi as a campaign kickball distracts us from the fact that it was a tragic result of a foolish war, one which Secretary Clinton championed. If a tenth of the scrutiny Congress devoted to Benghazi went to the administration’s case for bombing Libya in 2011, that case would collapse. The flaws in the case were clear then, and Libya’s postwar disintegration, of which Benghazi’s chaos was symptomatic, just makes them clearer. The real scandal is the U.S. war in Libya and Congress’ failure to exercise its war powers and interrogate its rationales.