15 December 2015

No Permanent Friends In Diplomacy, But Abe As Close As It Gets

Jaideep Prabhu,  12 Dec, 2015
As the inheritors of a similar set of ancient Asian cultural values, India and Japan make ready partners in an Asian century. And while there may be no permanent friends in international affairs, Shinzo Abe and Japan are probably as close to it as India can get in the short and medium term.
Japan’s Shinzo Abe is in India for his third prime ministerial visit and it has the feeling of a meeting between friends rather than between the leaders of two major states. On the morning of his arrival, the Times of India ran an article by the Japanese prime minister in which he briefly outlined the history of India-Japan relations. Calling India a key international player and a natural partner who shared Japan’s values, Abe stated his belief that the two countries held the greatest potential of any bilateral relationship in the 21st century and declared his intention of “dramatically developing” the bonds between India and Japan. Not to be outdone in a show of warmth, the Indian prime minister tweeted, “India is all set to welcome its great friend & a phenomenal leader, PM @AbeShinzo. His visit will further deepen India-Japan relations.”

The rise of Abe in Japan and of Narendra Modi in India tells an interesting tale. Both men are nationalists leading nations that had retreated from the international spotlight during the Cold War, Japan via its pacifism and India through its non-alignment. Both nations have seen a generation pass and the younger crowd does not share the sentimentality of the old, though vast numbers yet remain unsure whether the risks of a more dominant global role are worth taking. Both leaders seek to remake their countries but face substantial opposition at home.

Relations between the two prime ministers go back to Modi’s chief ministerial days. This is the fifth meeting between the two men, the initial one being in 2007 when Abe was in his first term as prime minister. Modi and Abe connected well, or at least understood that they needed each other as the post-Cold War honeymoon drew to a close. Their personal chemistry has certainly helped Modi domestically: at a time when the West was trying to isolate him over the 2002 Godhra riots, Japanese firms made major investments in Gujarat’s infrastructure and industry. It is partly the successful outcome of these projects that propelled Modi to the top position in the country in May 2014.

Should Pakistan Be Involved in the Afghan Peace Process Given Its Continuing Support of the Taliban?

Afghan spy chief row highlights Kabul’s conundrum over Pakistan
Reuters, December 11, 2015

KABUL (Reuters) - The resignation of Afghanistan’s spy chief this week has highlighted divisions in Kabul over whether President Ashraf Ghani should involve Pakistan as he bids to revive peace talks with Taliban militants that collapsed in July.
Ghani, who traveled to Islamabad this week for a security summit, insists Pakistan must be on board if the peace process is to succeed, raising protests among those who say their neighbor effectively controls the militants.

Pakistan denies it, but historic links between its intelligence service and the Islamist insurgents mean many Afghans believe the movement would be significantly weakened if Islamabad did more to stop it.
Rahmatullah Nabil resigned as head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Thursday after months of tension with Ghani, fueled in part by the Taliban’s brief seizure of the northern city of Kunduz in September for which intelligence failures were partly blamed.

But sharp differences over how to deal with Pakistan also contributed to his departure, which leaves Afghanistan without a defense minister and head of intelligence at a time when the insurgency is gaining potency.
“I am very concerned with the security situation when the Taliban are able to overrun or threaten our provinces and when we have no head of defense or intelligence,” said Farhad Sediqi, a member of parliament from Kabul.
Nabil had opposed a ground-breaking intelligence sharing agreement with Pakistan in May and was strongly critical of Ghani’s latest attempt to improve relations with Pakistan at the Heart of Asia regional security conference this week.

The Border Villages Of Arunachal Pradesh: A Story Of Neglect

8 December 2015

A one-and-a-half day journey from Itanagar by road, on the bumpy and meandering hill track, is Limeking—a village inhabited by the Tagins, an indigenous tribe living in the Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. Just 12 kilometres further north is a smaller settlement, Katenala. At Katenala, the concrete road comes to an end and with it vanish all other traits usually associated with villages: independent economies, electricity, schools and medical centres.

In November this year, I was part of a motley group of ten hikers that was on their way to Taksing, a village in the same district that is three kilometres from the Chinese border. We camped at Katenala for two days while arranging for rations, porters and a local guide. According to news reports, last year, the Chinese had come menacingly close to the Indian army establishment in this region with armoured personnel vehicles last year. My plan was to examine the details of the incident and confirm if the media reports were actually true.

Asia's Odd Couple: India and Japan Join Forces

India-Japan ties benefit the United States, even if they take place outside of Washington’s orbit.
December 14, 2015
India and Japan are drawing closer to each other. Senior representatives of both governments have praised each other at high-level visits and have signed a remarkable number of security, trade and investment agreements in a relatively short time. Doubtless, this embrace has its origins in China’s provocative—some might say aggressive—behavior. But, having drawn together for security reasons, the two countries now realize how closer relations will also bring powerful economic and investment advantages. There are, of course, limits to how intertwined India and Japan can become, but the mutual advantages—diplomatic, military, economic and financial—certainly invite an extension of the recent trend.

At the same time, the decline in America’s diplomatic and military profile has intensified Indian and Japanese anxieties. Washington, of course, has spoken endlessly of its “Asia pivot,” which both Japan and India would welcome if it had substance, but there is little sign of that so far. Though the United States possesses overwhelming naval superiority, with a fleet of more than one hundred large surface ships, it is also clear that Washington’s huge obligations elsewhere in the world limit how many of those ships it could commit to Asia at any one time. Comparative trends in naval power have added to the unease. The U.S. fleet has shrunk by more than half since 1990, when it possessed 230 large surface vessels, and seems poised to shrink further. In this turbulent security environment, India and Japan have much to offer each other. Even a loose cooperation between these two countries would blunt Beijing’s military advantage, since Beijing, in confronting one, would have to hold military resources back to cover the possibility of trouble with the other.
China has tailored its recent actions to raise anxieties throughout Asia. Its army has repeatedly challenged India in the Himalayas, while its navy has behaved in a high-handed way in the Indian Ocean, and still more so in the East and South China Seas. Beijing has issued the usual raft of diplomatic equivocations, stating, for instance, that the construction of air fields on disputed islands should trouble no one, that such structures have no aggressive intent but are merely an effort by the People’s Liberation Army to improve working conditions for the rescue workers stationed there.


By: Rob Denaburg

Major attacks against the diplomatic area of Kabul City and the Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan cast doubt on the Afghan government’s ability to maintain stability throughout the country. Taliban militants loyal to Mullah Akhtar Mansour launched a complex SVBIED, SVEST, and small arms attack on a guesthouse near the Spanish Embassy in Kabul on December 11. The ANSF clashed overnight with attackers in a fortified area of Kabul that houses several embassies and NGOs. Roughly a dozen Taliban militants loyal to Akhtar Mansour also breached the perimeter of the Kandahar Airfield, barricaded themselves in civilian buildings, and clashed with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) for nearly 24 hours on December 8. The airfield - a joint NATO-Afghan base and civilian airport - is one of the most guarded compounds in the country. The Taliban published live updates on the Kabul and Kandahar attacks as they unfolded, including photos posted on their website, and a video addressing U.S. President Barack Obama circulated on Telegram. The use of these encrypted messaging applications and live broadcasting tools demonstrates that the Taliban is adapting to the new era of online jihadism as practiced by ISIS and al-Qaeda. The Kabul and Kandahar attacks call into question the ANSF’s capacity to protect key terrain and its most secure facilities. These concerns in turn cast doubt upon the central government’s ability to provide security in more remote areas such as Reg-e Khan Neshin District in neighboring Helmand Province, which Taliban militants captured on December 9 after nearly a week of clashes with security forces.

Internal Taliban divisions and growing ISIS threat undermine regional efforts to restart a peace process despite diplomatic overtures. Ongoing clashes between rival Taliban factions continued to highlight deep divisions within the movement following the confirmation of the death of Taliban founder Mullah Omar in July 2015. Rival Taliban fighters began clashing in Shindand District in Herat Province in western Afghanistan on December 7, reportedly amassing nearly one hundred total casualties. This violence follows months of clashes in Zabul Province that ultimately led to the death of dissident Taliban commander Mullah Mansour Dadullah in November 2015. ISIS will attempt to capitalize on these divisions as well as further fragmentation that may result following unconfirmed reports on the death of principal Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour on December 2. ISIS’s Wilayat Khorasan released a video on December 7 encouraging Muslims to join the group in the fight against the governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIS also released a video featuring an Afghan in Syria who encouraged Taliban fighters to join ISIS while warning that the Taliban will ultimately abandon jihad “in the name of nationalism” as part of a peace process with the Afghan government. There is no credible prospect of effective peace talks at this time. The U.S. and China have nonetheless exerted significant pressure on Afghanistan and Pakistan to mend ties and resume peace talks with the Taliban. The four countries met on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad on December 9 and expressed a joint desire to “immediately” resume the peace process. This rhetoric remains unlikely to translate into action given the divisions within Taliban ranks as well as the divergent interests of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Will Pakistan tame the snakes in its backyard?

By Amulya Ganguli
Date : 15 Dec , 2015

Although there have been dissenting voices in both India and Pakistan about the resumption of dialogue between the two countries, there is an unarticulated belief that the latest initiative has a somewhat greater chance of success than the earlier attempts. 

Why has Pakistan agreed to the dialogue? One probable reason is India’s disproportionate response to the firing from across the Line of Control from the Pakistani side…

The reason is that the Pakistan army is apparently on board this time unlike on previous occasions as, for instance, when it shot down the Ufa agreement between the prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif because it felt that Pakistan had yielded ground on India’s complaints about terrorism without extracting any promise on Kashmir.

This time, both terror and Kashmir are on the agenda. But, apart from that, what is important is that Pakistan’s national security adviser, who met India’s NSA Ajit Doval in Bangkok, is Lt. Gen. Nasser Khan Janjua who belongs to the Pakistan army.

China’s Fight Against Islamist Militants and Separatists in Western China Hampered by Poor Intelligence

China says senior Uighur official killed during raid in unruly Xinjiang
Reuters, December 13, 2015
A senior ethnic Uighur security official was killed in a police raid on a “nest of terrorists”, Chinese state media reported, giving details on a previously unannounced operation in the violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the past few years in the region which is home to the mainly Muslim Uighur people in violence blamed by the government on Islamist militants seeking an independent state called East Turkestan.

The official People’s Daily, in a report late on Saturday, named the dead official as Maimaitijiang Tuohuniyazi, a deputy head of public security in Aksu, a vast part of western Xinjiang that borders Kyrgyzstan.
It said domestic security chief Meng Jianzhu, who is currently in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, offered condolences to Tuohuniyazi’s widow, praising him as a brave and selfless man.

“In order to rescue a herder who had been kidnapped by terrorists, he threw himself into the breach, charged into the nest of terrorists and unfortunately heroically sacrificed himself,” the paper said, without giving other details.
At least 16 people, including five police officers, were killed in an attack at a colliery in Aksu in September. Chinese security forces later said they had killed 28 “terrorists” involved in that attack.

The newspaper said Meng took part in an award ceremony for those involved in tracking down the coal mine attackers.
Meng said that over the past year, security services had “obvious successes” in cracking down on terrorism, and had succeeded in stopping “more than 98 percent” of terror plots in the planning stage. He gave no details.

Syrian Tribal Networks and their Implications for the Syrian Uprising

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 11
June 1, 2012,  By: Carole A. O'Leary, Nicholas A. Heras

Sunni Arab tribalism has a significant socio-cultural, political, and security impact on the current uprising in Syria, with strong implications for post-Assad governance formation. Tribalism has fueled unrest throughout Syria, including in places such as Dera’a, where mass opposition demonstrations began on March 15, 2011, in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on the Euphrates River, and in the suburbs of Homs and Damascus, where some of the fiercest combat between the Syrian military and armed opposition groups has occurred. Millions of rural and urban Syrians express an active tribal identity and tribal affiliation is used extensively to mobilize the political and armed opposition against the Assad government as well as to organize paramilitary forces in support of the Syrian regime. Both the Syrian opposition and the Assad government recognize the political importance of the tribal networks that cross Syria and extend into neighboring countries. As a result, the support of Syria’s tribes is a strategic goal for both the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition.

Tribal Networks – The Social Demographic Impact of Tribalism in Syria
The Syrian Ba’ath Party has traditionally sought to undermine the independence of the country’s tribes through intimidation, infiltration, and dependence. These aggressive policies continued under the Assad government and were exacerbated by decades of economic stagnation and the near total collapse of the rural economy of regions in southern and eastern Syria due to drought, corrupt use of water resources and mismanagement of croplands where many tribesmen resided (Jadaliyya, February 16). In spite of these severe difficulties, tribal networks in Syria are, ironically, better equipped at present to influence the opposition against the Assad government than at any other point in Syria’s modern history.

Over the last several decades, relationships between different tribes have been strengthened by the mutual difficulties that all Syrian tribesmen face, and by a shared bond of kinship and a common Arab-Bedouin heritage that differentiates tribesmen from the ruling Assad family that usurped the power of the Syrian Ba’ath Party. [1] The economic disaster facing tribal youth, combined with the political pressure that is constantly applied by the Assad government, caused Syrian tribes to look to each other for mutual help and support. The traditional vertical authority of the shaykhs over the rest of their tribesmen weakened over time, causing decision-making authority to extend beyond one person (or family) in a specific tribal lineage to mutually supporting individuals in a wider network of tribes. [2] Under coercion from the state, many tribal shaykhs were forced to leave their traditional areas to live quietly in Damascus or Aleppo, or left Syria entirely, becoming remote figures from the perspective of their tribesmen. Without revenues, they became unable to provide for the essential needs of their tribes, particularly during the most recent drought that began in 2003 and lasted through the rest of the decade.

China's Undeclared Cyber War on the U.S.

At the next CNN/Salem Radio Republican debate on December 15th at the Venetian Hotel in Nevada, moderator Hugh Hewitt rolls out this question for frontrunner Donald Trump:

Should China’s repeated cyber attacks on the Pentagon and its theft of major weapons systems like the F-35 stealth fighter be treated as acts of war? If not, why not?

Four days later at the Democratic debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, ABC moderator Martha Raddatz asks former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Why has the Obama Administration, including during your tenure as Secretary of State, allowed China to so freely launch cyber attacks on American businesses and consumers?

These are good questions that American voters deserve better answers to as Chinese hackers continue to launch thousands of attacks on American strategic and economic interests. CNN and ABC, are you listening?

In fact, Chinese state-sponsored hacking is under the full control of the People’s Liberation Army. According to the watershed Mandiant Report, China’s cyber command consists of over 100,000 soldiers and is stretched across 12 bureaus and three research institutes. 

How To Cure Terrorism

by Geoffrey Chia
This article appeared originally at Doomstead Diner 07 December 2015
 Quote: "In order to destroy Daesh, boots on the ground are needed. If morons such as Donald Trump and Tony Abbott insist that American or Australian troops should be sent into Syria, then I suggest that Donald and Tony should themselves be kitted out and be dropped into that war zone. Donald's frightening hairpiece alone may fatally scare many Daesh to death and Tony can scare the rest to death with his budgie smugglers. Mission accomplished."

I cannot repeat often enough that the only genuine cure for a problem is to eliminate the underlying cause. This holds true for treating disease as it does for solving just about any problem. Any other strategy is merely a band-aid cosmetic cover-up of a festering carbuncle. Denial of the underlying cause inevitably means that no solution will eventuate.
Notwithstanding this apparently simple principle, practical implementation of genuine solutions in the real world is more complex and difficult. The hurdles to implementation can be immense if not insurmountable, not least because real solutions usually require that we overcome the natural default reptilian mindset of homo stupidus. We cannot depend on the people who caused the problems to solve them. They are the problem.

Understanding ISIS: Leaked document reveals nation-building plans


A state-building manual for Islamic State administrators confirms the complexity and breadth of the group's efforts to create a functioning state, albeit one ruled by terror. In life under Islamic State, however, many civilian services seem to be suffering.
By Molly Jackson, Staff , December 7, 2015
Politicians, media, and readers from New York to Damascus have debated what, exactly, to call Islamic State, a radical Islamist group that controls a vast stretch of Syria and Iraq while inspiring terror around the globe. IS. ISIL. ISIS. Daesh. But to its affiliates, a single name now suffices, according to The Economist:

The dawning realization that Islamic State is actually intent on establishing a "caliphate" for the world's Muslims is underscored by a 24-page state-building manual leaked to The Guardian, which experts say should carefully guide Western nations' response to an increasingly global fight against the group's terror both at "home" and abroad.
"If the west sees [Islamic State] as an almost stereotypical band of psychopathic killers, we risk dramatically underestimating them," retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Guardian, comparing the group's strategies to Mao Zedong and the Viet Minh.

The document's detailed plans for a full-fledged state, outlining an educational curriculum, propaganda, and an oil and gas-based economy, were penned for administrators between July and October 2014, soon after leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in northern Iraq and Syria.
Their message has convinced many to move to that territory, persuaded in part by Islamic State's pitch to live "with might and honor" in this Middle Eastern region, rather than "homeless" abroad.

Russia and Ukraine

By: Hugo Spaulding and Daniel Pitcairn

The ongoing confrontation between Russia and Turkey turns violent in South Caucasus. Russia and Turkey escalated tensions in the historical arena of the South Caucasus following the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish warplanes in northern Syria on November 24. Azerbaijan and Armenia - close military allies of Turkey and Russia, respectively - engaged in fierce skirmishes along the frontlines of the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh on December 8. Azerbaijan later shelled the enclave with tanks for the first time since a 1994 ceasefire. The clashes come after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared on November 26 that Turkey would do “everything possible to free the occupied lands” of Azerbaijan. The mounting hostility between Turkey and Russia threatens to further accelerate the conflict. Russia also took independent steps to assert its military presence in the South Caucasus. Russia reinforced its positions along the eastern border of Turkey with new deployments of attack and transport helicopters to a Russian airbase in Armenia on December 8. Separately, Georgia accused Russia of violating its airspace on December 9 and 10 with helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) deployed from the Russian-backed breakaway state of South Ossetia. The full extent to which Russia and Turkey intend to stoke tensions in the South Caucasus remain unclear. The ongoing posturing nevertheless offers early signs that both countries may view military competition in the region as an outlet for future aggression below the threshold of direct military confrontation.

United opposition to Russian intervention in Ukraine showed signs of faltering in the wake of Moscow’s Middle East intervention. Vice President Joe Biden pledged during a visit to Kyiv to prolong sanctions and raise the “cost” on Moscow if Russia persisted with its military operations in eastern Ukraine, where daily firefights resumed in November following a two-month ceasefire. The U.S. also demonstrated its solidarity with Ukraine through the announcement of a new $190 million aid package and the International Monetary Fund altered its lending regulations in order to enable continued economic support to Ukraine regardless of its repayment of a $3 billion debt owed to Russia. The European Union (EU) nonetheless postponed an expected decision to extend sanctions against Russia on December 9, deviating from these strong messages of support. The delay followed calls for further debate by Italy,which pledged to “boost collaboration and cooperation” with Russia to combat terrorism on December 11. U.S. President Barack Obama had reportedly reached an informal agreement with Western European leaders including Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to extend sanctions for six months during talks on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in November. The EU could still decide to extend sanctions against Russia before they expire on January 31. The postponement nevertheless suggests weakening EU opposition to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe as Russia positions itself as a necessary partner in the fight against ISIS in Syria.See: “Russia Security Update: December 1 - 9, 2015,” by Hugo Spaulding, December 1, 2015;“Ukrainian Local Elections Leave Room for Russian Influence,” by Daniel Pitcairn, Hugo Spaulding, and Daniel Urchick, November 2, 2015; Putin’s Information Warfare in Ukraine: Soviet Origins of Russia’s Hybrid Warfare, by Maria Snegovaya, September 21, 2015. Direct press or briefing requests for Russia and Ukraine analyst Hugo Spaulding here.

Despite Losing 80% of Syria, the Assad Regime In Damascus Still Survives

The Secrets Of Syrian Government Survival
strategypage.com, December 13, 2015

The Syrian government, despite four years of savage fighting and losing control of 80 percent of its territory, is still a going concern. It is believed that the Syrian security forces, which had over 500,000 troops, reservists, paramilitaries and secret police in 2011 now have less than 200,000 armed and organized supporters. About half the losses since 2011 have been from combat but the rest are desertions. In August Assad announced an amnesty for 70,000 Syrian men (with homes in Assad controlled territory) who have refused to show up for mandatory (conscription) military service. Many of these draft dodgers have fled the country but others joined local militias. If nothing else the amnesty enabled the government to update its records.

Despite the many defeats, heavy casualties and even heavier losses from desertion, the Syrian military is still an effective force. This is mainly because the officer corps, or most of it, remained loyal to the Assads. This was particularly true of mid-rank (captains, majors, colonels) officers who are directly responsible for keeping actual combat units (companies, battalions and brigades) intact and operational. A key reason for this loyalty is real estate, or rather a government program that enabled officers to buy apartments or homes in new communities composed mostly of officers families and located near cities. For many officers, who grew up relatively poor in rural areas, getting an education and being selected to be an officer was itself a big deal. But in the 1980s the government began a program that made it easy for an officer to own his own home rather than depending on the cheap, and temporary (for as long as he was in the military) government housing. Owning a home was a big deal to many of these officers, who now had a major financial asset in a place where it was easy to get his kids a good education and exposure to a wider world. The largest of these officer owned housing complexes was outside Damascus. Thus when the war started in 2011 and many officers thought of fleeing the country they had to consider losing their major asset by doing so and the expense of fleeing not to mention the risk of jail if caught deserting in wartime. Enough officers decided to stay to keep the army intact despite four years of heavy fighting and many defeats.

A billion Indians on Pichai's homecoming radar

Pichai will visit India accompanied by the heads of various Google business units
When India-born Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google, the world’s largest internet company, visits next week, President Pranab Mukherjee will host a dinner for him at Rashtrapati Bhavan, a privilege normally accorded to heads of state.
Industry watchers agree this reflects the importance the government is according to technology companies, whose products and services are used by billions across the world, including India.

During his visit to Silicon Valley in September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the headquarters of Google and Facebook and met Indian-origin technology bosses, including chief executive of Microsoft, Satya Nadella.
The government recognises the importance of disruptive technologies for development initiatives like Make in India and Digital India,” said B V R Mohan Reddy, chairman of information technology industry body Nasscom. “Digital technology is disruptive. If we can take the technology to rural areas, we can ensure a great deal of social equity,” he added.

Since Modi’s visit to the US, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has visited New Delhi and Agra. Pichai, who took over at the helm of Google in August, is next, and it is his first visit outside the US in his new role.
Pichai will visit India accompanied by the heads of various Google business units, including Google Search, Android, YouTube, Google Maps, Chrome and Google Ventures.
It was rare for the boss of a Fortune 500 company to bring his entire team to a country, said Lalitesh Katragadda, former head of Google’s India R&D centre who is advising the government on the Digital India programme.

Why America isn't winning its wars

It's easy to blame presidents for a lack of strategy, but a growing number of officials are saying that the fault lies with a lack of vision in the Pentagon.

By Anna Mulrine, Staff writer December 12, 2015
Washington — When Michael Vickers was making his name as the Central Intelligence Agency operative depicted in “Charlie Wilson’s War” – running a covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan through Muslim jihadis – it was by no means a war of decision by committee.
It was the bold and resourceful work of a maverick.
The wisdom of that approach remains controversial – it vanquished the Soviets but planted the seeds for modern terrorism. Yet this week, Mr. Vickers, a former undersecretary for intelligence, told lawmakers that the qualities that guided him in Afghanistan have been in too-short supply in America’s recent warfighting. Put bluntly, American efforts to respond to the security challenges of today simply aren’t working.
“We are not postured as a [Defense] department, intellectually or organizationally, for these highly asymmetric and largely unconventional long-term challenges,” Vickers said in congressional testimony. “We are winning battles and campaigns, but not our wars.”
Vickers is not alone in his belief that America’s security infrastructure needs to rethink deeply how it makes decisions. The criticisms from top defense and intelligence officials go far beyond typical partisan complaints against the Obama administration. Instead, they lay the blame on the Pentagon and CIA themselves, arguing that those organizations are consistently failing to come up with new and innovative ideas to present to the president, resulting in a lack of strategy.

“We seem flummoxed by and self-deterred in our response to Russian indirect and direct aggression,” added Vickers, who stepped down from his job earlier this year. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, “although it’s certainly not from a lack of trying, we are far from having a strategy that can bring stability.”

ISIS Is Here: Return of the Jihadi

The foreign fighter phenomenon goes global.
“This is sort of the new normal,” FBI Director James Comey observed after the most recent Fourth of July. Comey was talking about the ten persons who were arrested in connection with a variety of plots linked to ISIS in the weeks leading up to that national holiday. But while the threat of homegrown violent extremism inspired by either ISIS or Al Qaeda is now accepted as fact, there is still surprisingly little consensus on the potentially far greater danger posed by radicalized foreign fighters trained by ISIS, returning to their native or adopted homelands in the West, ready to carry out terrorist actions—despite the attacks that occurred in Paris last November.

How to Beat Islamic State

Maajid Nawaz 
Dec. 11, 2015 

To win against the jihadists, isolate them, undercut their appeal to Muslims and avoid a ‘clash of civilizations’ 

Islam is a religion, and like any other faith, it is internally diverse. Islamism, by contrast, is the desire to impose a single version of Islam on an entire society. Islamism is not Islam, but it is an offshoot of Islam. It is Muslim theocracy. 

In much the same way, jihad is a traditional Muslim idea connoting struggle—sometimes a personal spiritual struggle, sometimes a struggle against an external enemy. Jihadism, however, is something else entirely: It is the doctrine of using force to spread Islamism.

President Barack Obama and many liberal-minded commentators have been hesitant to call this Islamist ideology by its proper name. They seem to fear that both Muslim communities and the religiously intolerant will hear the word “Islam” and simply assume that all Muslims are being held responsible for the excesses of the jihadist few.

In Order to Catch Terrorists, Just How Much NSA Spying on American Communications Is Necessary, If Any?

Between Privacy and Security
Joseph P. Williams, U.S. News & World Report, December 11, 2015

Briefed early in his first term that the National Security Agency was spying on U.S. citizens – and that the program theoretically could have prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the catalyst for its creation – an anxious President Barack Obama, preparing to visit survivors of the U.S.S. Cole bombing in Yemen, asked his legal team to check it out.

Days later, White House Counsel Greg Craig and Attorney General Eric Holder reported back: The secret program, titled “Stellar Wind” and authorized by former President George W. Bush, nudged the line between security and privacy. Yet they recommended that the new president consider the massive data collection program a national security necessity, and mend it – not end it.“The issue was, ‘Get it within the rules, so it can continue to be useful,’” Charlie Savage, author of “Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post-9/11 Presidency” and national security reporter at The New York Times, recounted Wednesday at a National Press Club luncheon on national security.
Six years after the president’s high-stakes decision, the program’s usefulness in preventing terrorism and its impact on citizens’ privacy was highly controversial, but it’s taken on a new significance after last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris and last week in San Bernardino, California, Savage says.
Progressives who cheered his 2009 inauguration now fret that Obama the Law Professor has become Bush the Cowboy, Savage points out. Meanwhile, Bush supporters who insisted on a powerful leader in the war against terror aren’t shy about declaring, “I told you so” to the left, he adds.

US Army War College Quarterly Parameters (Autumn Vol. 45, No. 3) Now Online

by Parameters

US Army War College Quarterly Parameters (Autumn Vol. 45, No. 3) Now Online

Special Commentary

Soldiers Fighting Alone: The Wars of the Market-Security State by Patrick Porter

Strategic Leadership

Civil-Military Relations: The Role of Military Leaders in Strategy Making by William E. Rapp

The Centurion Mindset and the Army's Strategic Leader Paradigm by Jason W. Warren

Countering Gray-Zone Wars

Arming Our Allies: The Case for Offensive Capabilities by Jakub Grygiel

Understanding Coercive Gradualism by William G. Pierce, Douglas G. Douds, and Michael A. Marra

Thinking Strategically

Dealing with Uncertainty in Strategic Decision-making by Yakov Ben-Haim

Understanding Groupthink: The Case of Operation Market Garden by David Patrick Houghton

Regional Challenges

Order and Counter-Order: The European System and Russia by Ted Middleton

Expanding the Rebalance: Confronting China in Latin America by Daniel Morgan


From the Editor

Book Reviews

The Paris Climate Agreement At A Glance: Infographic Bonus

12 December 2015

-- this post authored by Emil Jeyaratnam, James Whitmore, Michael Hopkin, and Wes Mountain editors at The Conversation

On December 12, 2015 in Paris, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change finally came to a landmark agreement.

Signed by 196 nations, the Paris Agreement is the first comprehensive global treaty to combat climate change, and will follow on from the Kyoto Protocol when it ends in 2020. It will enter into force once it is ratified by at least 55 countries, covering at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The key points follow.

U.S. and European Spies and Security Agencies Continue to Push Against Strong Publicly-Available Encryption Tech

Yael Grauer, Wired, December 12, 2015

This week, Andy Greenberg and Gwern Branwen uncovered the probable identity of Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto—but then again, he might be a hoaxer. We took a look at malvertising, the hack that can infect your computer even if you don’t click anything. And Anonymous announced it’s launching an online operation against national embarrassment/presidential candidate Donald Trump. The Tor Project got a new executive director, who knows a thing or two about defending digital privacy. And meanwhile, the war against encryption raged on.

Each Saturday we round up the news stories that we didn’t break or cover in depth at WIRED, but which deserve your attention nonetheless. As always, click on the headlines to read the full story in each link posted. And stay safe out there!

The Government Keeps Pushing Against Crypto in the Aftermath of Terror Attacks

Cryptographers, civil libertarians, and privacy advocates have spoken loud and clear about how weakening encryption will make online communications and e-commerce more vulnerable (and make tech companies less competitive economically). But the war against crypto rages on in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. President Obama is calling on tech companies to work with law enforcement in the case of “activist terrorist plotting,” and he’s hinting at a push to weaken encryption. Senator Dianne Feinstein has been working with Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Burr on a bill that could undermine strong encryption, and FBI director James Comey called for tech companies offering end-to-end encryption to reconsider their business model. Homeland Security House Committee chair Mike McCaul called for the creation of a commission to address security and technology challenges. He plans to introduce a bill calling for the creation of this commission in January, a House Committee on Homeland Security spokesperson told Motherboard. The Obama administration responded to a We the People petition asking the administration to stand up for strong encryption by seeking further comment, and has indicated that it plans to formally respond by the holidays.

France May Not Ban Tor or Limit Public Wi-Fi After All

Robert Steele: What Business Is Google In? Mass Surveillance. Period.


Robert David Steele Vivas

Reflecting on Eric Schmidt’s idiocy of yesterday, and the failure of Google to render useful tools enhancing public understanding and power, I asked a few folks what business Google was in, and how we should interpret their introducing of Google Fiber to major cities.

The answer is: Google is in the business of mass surveillance, and Google Fiber is how NSA takes the next step. Never mind that they will not process more than 1% of what they capture — they will have to power to zero in on anyone.

In my view, we need to accelerate attention toward decentralized blockchain forms of technology as well as increased valuation of face to face human interaction. I have called for the elimination of the NRO, NSA, and NGA and the creation of an Open Source (Technologies) Agency. I still see potential in Amazon, ESRI, Facebook, Google, and Oracle, to name a few large firms, but they lack the commitment to creating public wealth for the good of all that I see as the essence of our role going forward. It’s worth noting that AT&T is kicking Google’s ass on the fundamentals while Verizon is looking at Yahoo for the wrong reasons

Anonymous Hacker Interview

December 8th, 2015 | by CoNN
CNN Money ran a series on hackers recently, one which had all the usual mainstream biases. There was the assumption that all hackers working for corporations were “good hackers”… the assumption that encrypted communication protects terrorists… and the assumption that there are easily-identifiable “good guys” and “bad guys” to begin with… with the government and the NSA being the good guys of course.
Part of the series, CNN Money tracked down and interviewed an alleged Anonymous hacker. Surprisingly, the mainstream outlet covered the story in a fair manner, asking reasonable questions. It also explained that members of Anonymous hackers often disagree on potential targets, and that they hack for differing reasons and ideologies- avoiding the mainstream assumption that Anonymous behaves as a conventional organisation does with leaders and a singular ideology.

Below is the transcript of the interview:

CNNMoney: Why do you hack?

Anonymous: There are many answers for this question. But for Anonymous, hacking is a practical way to show we can change things. We hack because we can. [The government] needs to know it is not in total control. And people need to know that too. Control is an illusion, and it must be broken.

Anonymous is sometimes categorized as a “hacktivist” group — what kind activism interests you?
Anonymous is about giving voice to the silenced. There’s no particular kind of activism we give priority to. We are interested in giving power back to people. Besides, we want the Internet to be a common asset. Its infrastructure must be rebuilt so no government or corporation can control it. Universal encryption should be a security tool for every citizen to keep their personal information safe.

Cleaning Up U.S. Cyberspace Cyber Brief

Author: Robert K. Knake, Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow
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Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press
Release Date December 2015

The U.S. government's effort to persuade other countries to adopt norms of responsibility for cyberspace faces a significant obstacle: computers located in the United States host much of the malicious software used to carry out cyberattacks. Botnets—groups of compromised computers under the control of a malicious actor—are regularly used to distribute spam, spy, break passwords, harvest credentials, and engage in distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks. When botnets located in the United States attack computers in other countries, the victims could view the United States as either being behind the attacks or an accomplice in violation of the norms the United States is pressuring other countries to uphold.

Other countries have nearly eliminated botnets operating under their jurisdiction, but the U.S. government has not aggressively pursued the issue, and U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs) have chosen mostly to ignore this type of malicious traffic when it emanates from their customers. The U.S. government should partner with the private sector to identify infected systems, assist with removal of the malicious software, and align incentives so that owners of infected systems recognize an interest in keeping their systems from being reinfected. To achieve this objective, ISPs should notify their customers of an infection and quarantine systems that remain infected, and work with partners in other industries to establish a center to assist customers with remediation. In addition, Congress should pass legislation that allows victims of DDOS attacks to sue companies whose systems participate in the attacks.
Background: State Responsibility in Cyberspace

In 2013, the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications produced a report advocating a series of norms to govern state behavior in cyberspace. Chief among these was that states should be responsible for cyberattacks emanating from their territory. When the group met again in 2015, its report went further, arguing that states must provide assistance to stop attacks emanating from their territory.

Wading into the Media War

by Chris Townsend, SWJ Blog Post | December 12, 2015
Chris Townsend

The Department of Defense was recently handed a decidedly non-kinetic mission in the ongoing war against extremists. The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (S-1356) tasks the DoD with the following:
The Secretary of Defense should develop creative and agile concepts, technologies, and strategies across all available media to most effectively reach target audiences, to counter and degrade the ability of adversaries and potential adversaries to persuade, inspire, and recruit inside areas of hostilities or in other areas in direct support of the objectives of commanders.

The directive limits the battlefield to “all available media,” restricting the battle space to the messaging and not necessarily the means of communicating. How then does the DoD conduct a media war, especially when considering the number of other players already in the counter-messaging game like the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), which already boasts DoD involvement? This limitation would seem to preclude options like the Counter-electronics High-powered microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) which purports to function like a smarter version of the old CBU-94 Blackout Bomb. Instead of cutting the power to entire cities like its predecessor, CHAMP can “shut down electronics in a single building.”

The DoD could contribute to the degradation of information on these networks. Kalev Leetaru offered some potential projects in his article “A Few Good Twitter Trolls.” Among his recommendations is the registering of hundreds of accounts with similar names to Islamic State (IS) accounts in an effort to confuse those seeking the messages. Another possibility suggested by Leetaru is the creation of YouTube videos with thumbnails and titling that suggest IS affiliation, but really contain counter-messaging or blank space to create what David Martin dubbed a “Wilderness of Mirrors” where one is hard-pressed to identify what is real or fake. His idea is not without merit and could be a DoD task to crowd the media battlespace with so much chaff that true content is harder to locate, but first a decision must be made whether to disrupt or exploit the existing networks. There could be intelligence value in the maintenance and monitoring of these networks. Word Cloud tools that use text to create trend maps could be programmed to harvest from known IS accounts and their re-tweeters to create a graphical representation of the current message allowing for more targeted counter-messaging efforts. Such a tool might even have predictive value as certain words or phrases may trend prior to an attack. A final potential quasi-kinetic option for degradation is the development of hacking squads that can identify routers and computers that propagate IS messaging and destroy them remotely.

Defining Expectations for Second Lieutenant

Expectations. On the average morning, expectations are not usually the first thing that comes to mind. My mornings are typically a frantic mix of exercise, coffee, and news; expectations are never more distant. But recently I found myself responding to a message from an Army ROTC cadet that piqued my interest, and thoughts of my own expectations of young leaders. His message touched on the now infamous Best Defense post from Army First Lieutenant Max Lujan, raising a concern that many of his peers didn't believe they held a clear grasp of the expectations others would have of them once they were commissioned.

They know they are supposed to lead, they have a general idea of how to lead, but what will be expected of them when they actually lead others? How are they supposed to lead more experienced formations? Combat veterans? Non-commissioned officers?
His questions and concerns took me back to my own first assignment. Fresh out of the basic course, I had no idea what would be expected of me when I reported to my company commander, but I certainly didn't anticipate the reception that followed:

“Who the fuck are you? Why are you here?”
“Sir, I’ve been assigned here by division. Here are my orders from G-1,” I said as I handed him the stamped copy of my assignment orders.

“I don't give a shit what your orders say. I don’t need any more stupid lieutenants. Get the fuck out of here.”
So, I slouched my way back to the battalion headquarters, where I proceeded to stumble into the battalion commander, who grumbled something about “dumb fucking second lieutenants” under his breath on his way out the door. Forget everything my father told me growing up about being “seen and not heard,” lesson number one that day was to be neither seen nor heard.

How to Sink a U.S. Navy Carrier: China Turns to France For Ideas

December 13, 2015 

"The revelation that a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier group could be so vulnerable to a nuclear submarine did not make the mainstream media... However, the Chinese defense media does not miss much."

Early in 2015, a curious and disturbing report surfaced briefly and then disappeared—almost without a trace. The report, apparently published and then quickly retracted, had been posted by the French Ministry of Defense and concerned the successful operations of the French nuclear submarine Safir in an exercise pitting it against the U.S. Navy’s Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier battle group. The somewhat shocking content of the report—that the French submarine had succeeded in sinking “half the battle group” during the exercise—may explain its rapid purging from the internet. After all, close brothers in arms may demonstrate their tactical and operational prowess in a naval drill, but they should not gloat about that, and especially not in public, right?

Listen Up: Here’s How NOT to Fight a War

December 12, 2015 

Since 9/11, military conversations have largely focused on how the armed forces will fight wars. Today’s military professionals discuss and debate issues such as how drones and Joint Strike Fighters and cyber weapons will shape battlefields, how forward-positioned 3D printers will enable front-line resupply at the speed of need and how women will play an increasingly large role in combat operations.

These are important conversations to be sure, and during my time in uniform I witnessed and participated in many of them. However, something is missing. With all the talk about how to fight, there very little attention paid to not fighting. The emphasis is on prosecuting war, with scant attention paid to deterring it. This is a significant omission and the sooner we remedy it, the better for us all.

Not long ago, deterrence was a primary focus of military thought, and preventing war was a primary mission. The U.S. military was organized, trained and equipped with deterrence in mind. Accordingly, the Pentagon developed new technologies to prevent hostilities—advanced radar systems, rapid communications networks, secure launch facilities.

14 December 2015

Here we go again Dialogue with Pakistan should be part of an overall strategy.

By Nitin Pai on 10th December 2015 

“What was being done as composite dialogue, and was later called the resumed dialogue, will now be called the comprehensive bilateral dialogue.” Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister [IE]
Given the history of the last fifteen years, it is hard to not be cynical about the re-initiation of the dialogue process with Pakistan. Governments engage, the Pakistani military and/or their jihadi proxies escalate violence in India and New Delhi is compelled to disengage. Time passes. Labels change. And the cycle repeats. The odds are that this round too will go the way of the previous ones. [See a previous post on the problem of talking to Pakistan]

What’s different this time? Well, this is perhaps the first time that the Indian government is indirectly engaging the Pakistani military leadership through, and alongside the Pakistani civilian government. Vajpayee engaged a Nawaz Sharif who was at loggerheads with the army, and a Musharraf who was a military dictator. Manmohan Singh engaged the same dictator and then Asif Zardari, a civilian president, who was out of the loop with the military establishment. When Narendra Modi first engaged Nawaz Sharif, the latter had already lost his hold on the military establishment. Now, with a recently retired general, Naseer Khan Janjua representing the army chief within the official setup as National Security Advisor, the Modi government will be talking to both the civilian and the military power centres at the same time.