17 May 2016

South China Sea Arbitration – Analysis

By Abhishek Pratap Singh* 
MAY 16, 2016

The South China Sea (SCS) dispute has become a key issue of concern for East Asian regional security. The nature of the conflict and lack of clarity on the issue owes much to the multiple overlapping claims of the concerned parties based on history, geographical proximity and principles of maritime law.

China’s assertiveness has made the situation much worse and has also raised security concerns in the region. The issue is not limited to the question of maritime rights or resource control but also holds significance for regional security and cooperation, external intervention, and the application of international law.

China’s claims to the South China Sea are based on ‘historic rights’ backed by imperial maps of the Ming dynasty. As far back as 1958, China had promulgated the ‘Declaration on China’s Territorial Sea’, which listed the Dongsha Islands, Xisha Islands, Zhongsha Islands, and Nansha Islands as belonging to China.1

The Pentagon’s 2016 Report on the Chinese Military Threat

Andrew S. Erickson
May 15, 2016

The Pentagon’s 2016 China Military Report: What You Need to Know

Andrew S. Erickson, “The Pentagon’s 2016 China Military Report: What You Need to Know,” The National Interest, 14 May 2016.

Friday’s Department of Defense (DoD) report to Congress on Chinese military and security developments is the last issued under the Obama Administration. Amid geopolitical uncertainty, it was a respectable final contribution. Nevertheless, it suffers from an unfortunate shortcoming. The Pentagon report rightly highlighted growing concern about Beijing’s mounting maritime coercion, but passed up a rare chance to connect it with a potent player flouting the rules of the game. China’s Maritime Militia, the irregular frontline sea force of “Little Blue Men” trolling for territorial claims, receives nary a mention. Like a trident with only one full-fledged prong, a report covering only one of China’s three major sea forces in depth—and ignoring one entirely—remains regrettably incomplete.

“China is using coercive tactics…to advance their interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” DoD’s report rightly emphasizes. Asked to elaborate on such “Gray Zone” operations in yesterday afternoon’s roll-out event at the Pentagon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of defense for East Asia Abraham M. Denmark stated that China’s coast guard and fishing vessels sometimes act in an “unprofessional” manner “in the vicinity of the military forces or fishing vessels of other countries in a way that’s designed to attempt to establish a degree of control around disputed features.” “These activities are designed to stay below the threshold of conflict,” Denmark explained, “but gradually demonstrate and assert claims that other countries dispute.”

Pentagon Says the Chinese Military Threat Is Growing Rapidly

May 15, 2015

U.S. sees China boosting military presence after island-building spree

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. U.S….

WASHINGTON China is expected to add substantial military infrastructure, including surveillance systems, to artificial islands in the South China Sea this year, giving it long-term “civil-military bases” in the contested waters, the Pentagon said on Friday.

China Blasts New Pentagon Report on the Chinese Military Threat

May 15, 2016

Beijing blasts Pentagon report on Chinese military as damaging trust

China condemned the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on the Chinese military on Sunday, calling it deliberate distortion that has “severely damaged” mutual trust.

In its annual report to Congress on Chinese military activities, the U.S. Defense Department said on Friday that China is expected to add substantial military infrastructure, including communications and surveillance systems, to artificial islands in the South China Sea this year.

China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun expressed “strong dissatisfaction” and “firm opposition” to the Pentagon report and said it has “severely damaged mutual trust”, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The report “hyped up” China’s military threat and lack of transparency, “deliberately distorted” Chinese defense policies and “unfairly” depicted Chinese activities in the East and South China seas, Yang was quoted as saying.

“China follows a national defense policy that is defensive in nature,” Yang said, adding that the country’s military build-up and reforms are aimed at maintaining sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and guaranteeing China’s peaceful development.

Bhutan-China boundary negotiation: Should India worry?

By Amitava Mukherjee
Date : 16 May , 2016

In addition to the diplomatic retreat that India had to swallow over its relations with Nepal, especially with China gaining a new strategic depth in that Himalayan country in the wake of the blockade over the Madhesi issue, a more serious strategic threat to India may emerge if the Sino-Bhutan joint field survey over the Druk Kingdom’s disputed western border with China accedes to Beijing’s demands. Interestingly, a total silence is now being maintained by both China and Bhutan over the said field study which is supposed to have taken place in September 2015 after the conclusion of the 23rd round of Sino-Bhutan border negotiations. 

India’s concern centres on the Chumbi valley, an arrow like protrusion of a part of southern Tibet separating Bhutan from the Indian state of Sikkim. It is a tri-junction of China, India and Bhutan and enjoys unparalleled strategic importance in the whole of eastern Himalayas. As it is situated very near to the Siliguri corridor, the only entry point to the north-eastern India, any Chinese thrust down the Chumbi valley and then taking control of the Siliguri corridor will cut off the north-eastern Indian states from the main land of the country. It will also mean grave threats to Kolkata and the north Bihar plains.

The disconcerting aspect from India’s point of view is the fact that Thimpu had earlier endorsed a previous technical survey of September 2013, instituting to settle the dispute arising out of China’s claim over certain areas of Bhutan in the northern sector of the country. There was no word of disapproval from China over the recommendations of the survey. Perhaps it had satisfied Beijing’s claims.

The Pentagon's 2016 China Military Report: What You Need to Know

May 14, 2016

Friday’s Department of Defense (DoD) report to Congress on Chinese military and security developments is the last issued under the Obama Administration. Amid geopolitical uncertainty, it was a respectable final contribution. Nevertheless, it suffers from an unfortunate shortcoming. The Pentagon report rightly highlighted growing concern about Beijing’s mounting maritime coercion, but passed up a rare chance to connect it with a potent player flouting the rules of the game. China’s Maritime Militia, the irregular frontline sea force of “Little Blue Men” trolling for territorial claims, receives nary a mention. Like a trident with only one full-fledged prong, a report covering only one of China’s three major sea forces in depth—and ignoring one entirely—remains regrettably incomplete.

“China is using coercive tactics...to advance their interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” DoD’s report rightly emphasizes. Asked to elaborate on such “Gray Zone” operations in yesterday afternoon’s roll-out event at the Pentagon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of defense for East Asia Abraham M. Denmark stated that China’s coast guard and fishing vessels sometimes act in an “unprofessional” manner “in the vicinity of the military forces or fishing vessels of other countries in a way that’s designed to attempt to establish a degree of control around disputed features.” “These activities are designed to stay below the threshold of conflict,” Denmark explained, “but gradually demonstrate and assert claims that other countries dispute.”

How Petro-Dollars Sponsor Islamic Radicalism – OpEd

MAY 16, 2016

In its July 2013 report [1] the European Parliament identified the Wahhabi-Salafi roots of global terrorism. It was a laudable report. but it conveniently absolved the Western powers of their culpability and chose to overlook the role played by the Western powers in nurturing Islamic radicalism and jihadism since the Cold War against the erstwhile Soviet Union. The pivotal role played by the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology in radicalizing Muslims all over the world is an established fact as mentioned in the European Parliament’s report; this Wahhabi-Salafi ideology is generously sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf-based Arab petro-monarchies since the 1973 oil embargo when the price of oil quadrupled and the contribution of the Arab sheikhs towards the “spiritual well-being” of Muslims all over the world magnified proportionally; however, the Arab despots are in turn propped up by the Western powers since the Cold War; thus syllogistically speaking, the root cause of Islamic radicalism is the neocolonial powers’ manipulation of the socio-political life of the Arabs specifically, and the Muslims generally, in order to appropriate their energy resources in the context of an energy-starved industrialized world. This is the principal theme of this essay which I shall discuss in detail in the following paragraphs.
Capitalism, not religion, is the original sin of the contemporary world

Peaceful or not, Islam is only a religion just like any other cosmopolitan religion whether it’s Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism. Instead of taking an ‘essentialist’ approach, which lays emphasis on ‘essences,’ we need to look at the evolution of social phenomena in its proper historical context. For instance: to assert that human beings are evil by ‘nature’ is an essentialist approach; it overlooks the role played by ‘nurture’ in grooming human beings. Human beings are only ‘intelligent’ by nature, but they are neither good nor evil by nature; whatever they are, whether good or evil, is the outcome of their nurture or upbringing. Similarly, to pronounce that Islam is a retrogressive or violent religion is an ‘essentialist’ approach; it overlooks how Islam and the Quranic verses are interpreted by its followers depending on the subject’s socio-cultural context. For example: the Western expat Muslims who are brought up in the West and who have imbibed the Western values would interpret a Quranic verse in a liberal fashion; an urban middle class Muslim of the Muslim-majority countries would interpret the same verse rather conservatively; and a rural-tribal Muslim who has been indoctrinated by the radical clerics would find meanings in it which could be extreme. It is all about culture rather than religion or scriptures per se.

Why Islamic State Cannot Be Bombed Away – Analysis

By Sarah Schneider*
MAY 16, 2016

While pacifism is naïve, the Don’t Bomb Syria campaign may have a point when it comes to how best to defeat Daesh (Islamic State) – Daesh cannot simply be bombed away.

The breakdown of social and civil continuity is the major factor which allowed Daesh to rise to power. “Syria was a godsend for ISIL,”[1] and it’s precisely the genocide that not only reversed the victory of Iraq over al-Qaeda, but “led to the radicalization and disillusionment of those populations, which opened the door for the jihadi groups to hijack those movements”[2] While the ideology previously existed, left over from al-Qaeda[3], the environment Syria provided gave Daesh a significant recruitment platform, and gave their radical interpretation of Islam justification for radical social change. The dysfunctional nature of the region that allowed this rise signifies the fundamental reason why a military campaign will not solve the region’s broken dynamics. Consequently a number of assumptions must be refuted and clarified, in order to understand how to improve UK [foreign] policy as to actually defeat Daesh.
Daesh is not a conventional enemy


MAY 16, 2016

Iraq is once again in political turmoil, and once again we are hearing calls to partition the country into three ethno-sectarian cantonments: Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurd. The partition trope resurfaces periodically, most often while Iraq looks “too hard to fix.” Advocates of partition suggest that Iraq is a false construct of the century-old Sykes-Picot treaty, and that Iraqis are incapable of sustaining a heterogeneous state. Putting aside the fact that the Sykes-Picot narrative is atbest contested, it is time to put the partition trope to the test and then, hopefully, to rest. The mostly non-Iraqi voices who want to divide the country into thirds owe the Iraqi people and the rest of the world extensive, detailed clarification. Surely, any plan to drastically restructure Iraq must be more thoughtful and detailed than the widely condemned 2003 plan to invade Iraq. At the very least, advocates for partition should address some fundamental questions. If they cannot answer these satisfactorily then they should pause before reissuing what many Iraqis view as disheartening, and even inflammatory, positions about their state.

First, who wants to break the state into three parts, either under “loose federalism” or as separate states? There appears to be no evidence that the current Sunni revolt seeks sectarian partition. Other than the outlying Islamic State terrorists, Sunni Arab Iraqis want to be part of and, in some cases to control, the state. Most Sunni Arabs I havespoken with are terrified by the idea of partition. It does not appear that leaders from Iraq’s powerful Da’wa party, or even Muqtada al-Sadr, seek partition. While the two major Kurdish parties—the PUK and the KDP—do seek eventual partition or confederation for themselves, and while the head of the PUK has suggested three way partition, neither party has pushed hard for this solution and neither party can claim to represent Iraqi Arab interests. Arguments for partition cannot be predicated on the idea that this is what the Iraqis want. If Iraqis do eventually seek three-way partition, then there is no need to advocate the position, as they will get there of their own accord.

What We Don't Get about Sykes-Picot

May 15, 2016

Sykes-Picot is dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of its burial was signed by France and Britain after 1919, when each imposed governments in Syria and Lebanon, Iraq and Transjordan. It was signed by the pan-Arab nationalists of the 1940s and ’50s, when their movement crashed against the surprisingly resilient system that had been established; it was invoked again when Arab nationalism crested in the 1960s and fell back in the seventies. It was signed, too, by the minoritarian governments in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon when they violently split ethnic and sectarian divisions in the 1980s, ’90s and beyond. And it was signed most recently by ISIS, which in 2014 tweeted that Islamic State was “smashing Sykes-Picot” in establishing a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Yes, old Sykes-Picot, which was ratified one hundred years ago this month, is dead as a doornail.

Yet like Marley’s ghost, Sykes-Picot haunts the present. Death and destruction persist in the Middle East. “Think of all the places we are today trying to keep the peace,” Vice President Joseph Biden said in Baghdad in April. “They’re places where, because of history, we’ve drawn artificial lines, creating artificial states made up of totally distinct ethnic, religious, cultural groups and said: ‘Have at it. Live together.’”

A Century after Sykes-Picot, France Still Hasn't Learned

May 15, 2016

It is more than a bit ironique that France has proposed to host a major conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace on May 30, exactly one hundred years to the month after it agreed to the Sykes-Picot Agreement with the United Kingdom.

Sykes-Picot, an act of secret diplomacy and geopolitical calculation, saw Paris and London agree to protectorates over a future Arab state or states in the event of an Ottoman defeat in the First World War.

If France wishes to avoid the imperial legacy of Sykes-Picot, it should commit to treating the key players in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute (Israel, as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the self-determination movement of the Palestinian people) as juridical equals. It should make clear that Israel and the PLO alone are responsible for their destinies—and that France does not view them as pawns to be disposed of from afar, even if it has decided not to invite either of them to Paris.

There are three concrete steps that France can take in this direction in the lead-up to its proposed conference.

Maintaining US’ Ability To Collect Foreign Intelligence: The Section 702 Program – Analysis

By David Shedd, Paul Rosenzweig and Charles “Cully” Stimson*
MAY 16, 2016

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) will, in its current form, come up for reauthorization in 2017. Broadly speaking, the Section 702 program targets non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States, in order to acquire foreign intelligence. Over the past several years, this surveillance of the online activities of foreigners has been a critical and invaluable tool for American intelligence professionals and officials. Knowledgeable officials note that more than 25 percent of all current U.S. intelligence is based on information collected under Section 702.[1]

Still, there are those who have concerns about the program. These critics believe that the program, as currently implemented, infringes on Americans’ rights. Their concern hinges on the inevitable reality that in the course of collecting information about foreign actors, the Section 702 program will also collect information about American citizens. As a result, some opponents liken the Section 702 program to the government telephony metadata program disclosed by Edward Snowden, and characterize Section 702 as an instance of government overreach.[2] Such comparisons are misguided and unfair. The program is so vital to America’s national security that Congress should reauthorize Section 702 in its current form.
Section 702 Explained

Section 702 has its origins in President George W. Bush’s terrorist surveillance program and the Patriot Act. That program was initiated in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, on the President’s own authority. That reliance on exclusive presidential authority contributed to the controversy that initially attended the program—some vocal critics saw it as an example of executive overreach.

In Hiroshima, Obama should celebrate the friendship that the A-bomb made possible

MAY 14, 2016

An allied correspondent stood in the rubble of a movie theater in Hiroshima, Japan, a month after an atomic bomb was dropped by American forces on the city. (AP Photo/Stanley Troutman, File)

EVEN AFTER SEVEN decades, the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki generates controversy. President Obama’s planned visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial next week is sure to revive once more the debate over Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs that destroyed the two Japanese cities, killing 200,000 people and forcing Japan’s unconditional surrender.

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, let it be known on Tuesday that the president “will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II.” But perhaps Obamashould “revisit” that decision — not to apologize for it, but to reaffirm that it was right and just, ultimately saving countless lives, ending a terrible war, and freeing the people of Japan from a savage and fanatic regime.

However contentious it later became, the deployment of atomic firepower was not controversial in its time. On Aug. 6, 1945, as Truman announced to the nation that an atomic weapon had been used to annihilate Hiroshima, there was no hint of ambivalence in his words. “The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor,” he declared. “They have been repaid manyfold, and the end is not yet.” Far from feeling sorrow for having to unleash such gruesome force, Truman celebrated it as “the greatest achievement of organized science in history.” And he was blunt about America’s intentions:

How Russia allowed homegrown radicals to go and fight in Syria

DISTANT DESTRUCTION: Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike in October 2014. Some Russian Islamic militants involved in fighting in Kobani had been allowed to leave Russia, according to relatives and some officials, so that they would not cause trouble at home. 

For years Islamic militants in Russia were hunted by police. But then the authorities changed tack and allowed some to travel to the Middle East, sources say.

NOVOSASITLI, Russia – Four years ago, Saadu Sharapudinov was a wanted man in Russia. A member of an outlawed Islamist group, he was hiding in the forests of the North Caucasus, dodging patrols by paramilitary police and plotting a holy war against Moscow.

Then his fortunes took a dramatic turn. Sharapudinov, 38, told Reuters that in December 2012 Russian intelligence officers presented him with an unexpected offer. If he agreed to leave Russia, the authorities would not arrest him. In fact, they would facilitate his departure.

“I was in hiding, I was part of an illegal armed group, I was armed,” said Sharapudinov during an interview in a country outside Russia. Yet he says the authorities cut him a deal. “They said: ‘We want you to leave.’”

How the U.S. Can Defeat Putin’s Shadow War

Vladimir Putin has a czarist vision of a greater Russia, and his first order of business is getting the U.S. out of Europe. To defeat him, we first must learn to play by his rules.

Recently, one of my students asked me: Why doesn’t the U.S. stop Vladimir Putin? He was no ordinary student, and this was no regular college. He was a senior military officer from an allied country, and we were at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where I’m a professor who teaches courses on national security strategy.

He is not alone. Many wonder how Putin gets away with it again and again and again. In the past few years, Russia blitzed the country of Georgia, cyber-crushed Estonia, claimed much of the Artic as “theirs,” invaded eastern Ukraine, stole Crimea, mucked around inSyria, increased submarine patrols to Cold War levels, and is worrying Eastern Europe. The Bear is back.

Five years ago, Washington, D.C., foreign policy elites mocked Russia. Now, no one is laughing. Last month, a Russian fighter jet did practice attack runs on an American destroyer in the Black Sea, flying so low it left a wake in the water, while in a separate incident another fighter did barrel rolls around a U.S. RC-135 spy plane.


MAY 16, 2016

Foreign policy realists, for all of their intellectual heft, have historically struggled to translate their academic theories into actual government policy. Not only have realists failed to prevent costly U.S. interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria from occurring, but they have also been unsuccessful at advocating for and implementing acceptable alternative policies in place of these interventions. By any serious metric, realism has failed to deliver on its promise of a better alternative to current American foreign policy. The long list of realist failures is even more depressing when compared to the barren list of realist successes. Reflecting on this catastrophic track record, it is understandable that some realists would seek to find a shortcut to the long, hard road to policy relevance. Some realists, therefore, aim to outsource political responsibility for their ideas to an external champion, one who could then enact realist principles by diktat once elected.

Yet the recent decision by the Center for the National Interest (where I am currently a resident junior fellow) to invite Donald Trump to deliver a major foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C. represents a new low in realism’s search for a political champion. It is indicative of the flawed and counterproductive strategy that certain parts of the broader realist movement have adopted for furthering their goals. While the Center’s leaders later claimed that they invited Trump out of a benign desire to expand the scope and tenor of the foreign policy conversation in this year’s election, this line of argument is unconvincing. The Center’s defense of the event offered several approving statements of Trump’s views, and the tone of the speech was more that of a booster rally than a serious presentation. While previous coverage by the Center’s flagship publication, The National Interest, was highly critical of Trump, this has been replaced by more moderate criticism, tentative approval, and simpering praise. Whether intended as an endorsement or not, the Center’s invitation is tantamount to tacit, if not explicit, approval of Trump’s positions. As such, it is well in line with the opportunism displayed by others who have sided with Trump, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, and former presidential candidate Ben Carson.


MAY 16, 2016

When doing a cursory search of articles and commentaries about the current state of Arctic international relations, you would be forgiven if you were to think the Russians are preparing to launch a massive offensive against other Arctic states, particularly Canada. The oft-repeated narrative surrounding the Arctic is that the Russians are building up their northern military capabilities as part of their neo-imperial ambitions and to turn the Arctic into a sphere ofgeopolitical competition, tension, and conflict.

There is reason for this narrative to not only survive, but to grow in its sensationalism. Russia’s provocativeness, actions, and statements from Russian officials do little to allay fears. For scholars of foreign and defense policy, as well as casual observers, a potential conflict with the Russians in the Arctic would be of great interest. For media outlets, the idea of conflict in the Arctic continues to serve as click-bait, and so the sensationalism continues. The problem, however, is that very little of this narrative is grounded in reality.

Russia’s Historic Kapustin Yar Missile Test Range in Photos

May 15, 2016

May 14, 2016

A monument to the first Soviet ballistic missile at the Kapustin Yar firing range. © V. Suhodolskiy / Sputnik

Russia’s Defense Ministry has declassified a set of historic photos made at the legendary rocket firing range of Kapustin Yar, where all initial Soviet ballistic missiles were tested, reaching near space with the first canine cosmonauts on board.

Kapustin Yar range near Volgograd was initially used for testing military as well as meteorological and geophysical rockets. Even military projectiles usually carried scientific equipment.
Geophysical rockets R-2A and R-5А © Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

The first “real” Soviet ballistic missile, the R-1 (Rocket-1), was launched on October 18, 1947. Bearing a strong resemblance to its German prototype, the captured A4 (Fau-2) missile, the R-1 had certain constructive alterations due to differences in engineering. It traveled 206.7 kilometers and deviated from the desired target by 30 kilometers.

Shinzo Abe’s tenacity for reconciliation with Russia

By Prof K.V. Kesavan
16 May , 2016

From the Russian viewpoint, its sagging economy due to steep fall in oil prices and the strain of sanctions makes Putin welcome expanded trade and investment relations with Japan. Analysts believe that at a time when Russia is isolated from the G-7 countries, maintaining cooperative relations with Japan is not only good diplomacy, but it could also reduce Russia’s present dependence on China.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Sochi on 6 May carried a great deal of importance and publicity as it demonstrated his tenacious resolve to bring about a new turnaround in the bilateral relations which have hit a road block since the Ukraine crisis in 2014. It was Abe’s fourth visit to Russia while Putin has not visited Japan even once despite strong pressures from Tokyo.

…since he (Abe) and Putin are enjoying overwhelming political strength in their respective countries, they should exert their influence and guide their countries in the direction of finding a solution to the territorial tangle…

Should Obama Apologize in Hiroshima?

John Hemmings
May 15, 2016

Now that President Barack Obama has announced his intention to visit Hiroshima later this month, many questions have been raised about whether he will proffer regret or apologize for the dropping of two nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in late 1945. Should he apologize? Given his past speeches in Cairo, Obama has been criticized by some conservative media in the United States as America’s “apologist-in-chief,” prompting the White House and Ben Rhodes to declare that the visit is to be “forward-looking,” and that it will “highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Interestingly, the debate on Obama’s intentions raises all sorts of questions about modern understandings of history, and about apology politics in general. To what extent should state leaders apologize for historic crimes committed before their own time? Should the United States apologize for its wrongs? Should it apologize for Hiroshima and Nagasaki in particular?

Obama and Congress Are about to Go to War over War Funding

May 15, 2016

One of the most basic responsibilities of the U.S. government—if not the most basic—is providing for the national defense. What this general phrase means is subject to interpretation depending on whether you happen to be a defense hawk or a fiscal hawk in the Tea Party mold, but the concept is nonetheless self-explanatory: to be safe, prosperous and a stalwart ally to friends around the world, politicians in Washington need to ensure that the U.S. armed forces have the tools, money, and flexibility to do their job.

While this may sound like a simple prescription and something Republicans and Democrats could agree on (who, after all, wants a U.S. military that is weak and decrepit?), providing for the common defense has deteriorated into another partisan issue. Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration refuse to contemplate more money for defense unless congressional Republicans allow a similar increase in nondefense spending. Republicans, meanwhile, view the 1:1 ratio as not only adding to America’s ever-growing national debt, but a scheme that places leftist politics above national-security needs.

As is so often the case, which side is being principled and which side is playing politics depends on which political party you happen to support.

America is ‘dropping cyberbombs’ – but how do they work?

The country's actual offensive cyber capabilities remain shrouded in the classified world. But what is public is enough to discuss potential cyber weapons.Image credit: Army Cyber/Flickr | Inside the U.S. Army’s Cyber Operations Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Recently, United States Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work publicly confirmed that the Pentagon’s Cyber Command was “dropping cyberbombs,” taking its ongoing battle against the Islamic State group into the online world. Other American officials, including President Barack Obama, have discussed offensive cyber activities, too.

The American public has only glimpsed the country’s alleged cyberattack abilities. In 2012 The New York Times revealed the first digital weapon,the Stuxnet attack against Iran’s nuclear program. In 2013, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden released a classified presidential directiveoutlining America’s approach to conducting Internet-based warfare.

The terms “cyberbomb” and “cyberweapon” create a simplistic, if not also sensational, frame of reference for the public. Real military or intelligence cyber activities are less exaggerated but much more complex. The most basic types are off-the-shelf commercial products used by companies and security consultants to test system and network security. The most advanced are specialized proprietary systems made for exclusive – and often classified – use by the defense, intelligence and law enforcement communities.

Why the Pentagon Loves War Games Again

May 14, 2016

It’s a great time to be a Pentagon game nerd.

Long dismissed as the geekier side of the military, war gaming is suddenly in demand, after the Department of Defense realized that if it wants to devise a strategy to beat China and Russia, it needs to play games.

Last year, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work issued a startling directive demanding the military conduct more wargaming. Work’s eye is on an important prize: a new “offset strategy” for the twenty-first century. The First Offset Strategy, in the 1950s, relied on nuclear weapons to stop massive Soviet ground forces, while the second strategy of the 1970s emphasized smart weapons to stop the Red Army. Now the focus is on a Third Offset Strategy to discover technologies and tactics to neutralize an imposing spectrum of new threats, such as ship-killing hypersonic missiles, cyberwarfare and terrorism (for my deeper analysis of the Pentagon directive, go here).

Yet in an era when a single jet costs more than a $100 million dollars, and a new aircraft carrier costs $13 billion, mistakes aren’t cheap. Like all nations in history, the United States must guess what the next war will be like and plan its force structure accordingly. And that’s where war gaming comes in. Games can’t predict the future like a crystal ball. Don’t believe anyone who says they can. But games can offer insights and guidance on what weapons to buy and how to use them.

What happened to billions in US military aid to Egypt?

Security forces stand guard in Alexandria during the fifth anniversary of the uprising that ended the 30-year reign of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jan. 25, 2016. 

The Egyptian government is hindering Washington's ability to track billions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft missiles and other US weapons, the US government watchdog said in a blistering report just as Congress gets ready to renew the annual $1.3 billion request.
Summary⎙ Print The Obama administration has provided Cairo with $6.5 billion in military aid since 2011 but can't account for all of it, according to a new government report.

The United States provided $6.5 billion in military assistance to Cairo between 2011 and 2015 with the understanding that it would be closely monitored and it would serve American interests. Instead, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asserts that the Obama administration has often failed to meet those requirements due to resistance from their Egyptian counterparts, lack of guidance from Washington and insufficient staffing at the US Embassy in Cairo.

Neocons' Weird Love for the Spanish Civil War

May 15, 2016

Sometimes when the very old die, it baffles the mind to recall how their lives spanned contrasting ages. Harriet Tubman, whose visage we now know will grace our legal tender, lived until the year after the sinking of the Titanic. Madame Chiang’s life touched three centuries, and that old curmudgeon George Kennan survived long enough to see the advent of the flip phone. So when Del Berg, the last remaining American veteran of the Spanish Civil War’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade, died in March at the age of one hundred, John McCain found cause for graciousness, writing in the New York Times of Berg and his comrades-in-arms, “[They] believed they were freedom fighters first, sacrificing life and limb in a country they knew little about. . . . You might consider them romantics, fighting in a doomed cause for something greater than their self-interest.”

One can almost picture McCain trying to sneak mention of “Iraq” past theTimes opinion editor, for there has been a long-standing fascination among neoconservatives with the Spanish Civil War and its bunting of moral absolutism. This, for instance, was not the first time McCain has paid his own version of homage to the Catalonia that Berg knew so well. The title of his bookWorth the Fighting For is cribbed from the last words uttered by Robert Jordan, Hemingway’s iron-ribbed protagonist in For Whom the Bell Tolls, and reminiscent of those put to paper by George Orwell after disembarking at Barcelona: “I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.” His friend and Senate colleague, Joseph Lieberman, went further in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute, telling the neocon mothership in 2007 (while sharing the dais with a nodding McCain) that Zarqawi and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia should be viewed in the same ominous light as the fascist flare of forewarning sent up from capsizing 1930s Spain.

16 May 2016

*** Behind China’s Gambit in Pakistan

Authors: Daniel S. Markey, Adjunct Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, and James West, Research Associate, India, Pakistan and South Asia
May 12, 2016

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is part development scheme, part strategic gambit. Although Beijing and Islamabad have been close partners for decades, the CPEC is a reflection of intensified and expanded bilateral cooperation at a time of rising Chinese geopolitical ambition and persistent concerns about Pakistan’s security and development.
The CPEC is intended to promote connectivity across Pakistan with a network of highways, railways, and pipelines accompanied by energy, industrial, and other infrastructure development projects to address critical energy shortages needed to boost Pakistan’s economic growth. Eventually, the CPEC will also facilitate trade along an overland route that connects China to the Indian Ocean, linking the Chinese city of Kashgar to the Pakistani port of Gwadar.

Pakistan and China formalized plans for the CPEC in April 2015, when they signed fifty-one agreements and memoranda of understanding on Chinese investments, totaling $46 billion over the next ten to fifteen years. Some projects are already underway, including highways and energy projects where completion is expected by the end of 2016.
CPEC developments are part of a grander Chinese agenda of regional economic connectivity: the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative outlined in March 2015 by China’s National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC). The highly ambitious plan calls for new state-directed investments in roads, railways, pipelines, ports, and information networks to deepen economic integration and connectivity across Asia and into Africa and Europe.
Because OBOR consists of a continental Eurasian “Silk Road Economic Belt” and a Southeast Asian “Maritime Silk Road,” Pakistan has the potential to serve as a nexus for the two routes, and Beijing describes the CPEC as a “flagship project.” Although Beijing is quick to downplay geostrategic motivations behind the CPEC, many commentators have noted that over the long run, an overland link across Pakistan to the Arabian Sea could help alleviate the “Malacca dilemma,” China’s vulnerability to the fact that roughly 85 percent(PDF) of its oil imports travel through the single chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca.

Security Through Development
Understanding the CPEC requires an appreciation for China’s security concerns, especially those stemming from its restive western region of Xinjiang. Beijing has sought to clamp down on Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighur community and has met political violence with an expanded security presence and push for economic development schemes. These efforts implicate Pakistan because Uighur militant groups, like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement(ETIM), have sought refuge in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas, where they have established links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. China perceives the ETIM as a persistent threat, committed to targeting China and attacking Chinese interests (PDF) inside Pakistan.
The CPEC represents an international extension of China’s effort to deliver security through economic development.
In this context, the CPEC represents an international extension of China’s effort to deliver security through economic development. Investments in Pakistan are intended to create jobs, reduce antistate sentiment, and generate public resources for additional improvements in law and order. By tackling the threat of jihadi organizations in neighboring Pakistan, China hopes to better secure its own territory. Consequently, while the CPEC is often portrayed as a transportation corridor, security concerns will likely impose limits on the cross-border flow of people and goods, at least in the short to medium term.
Pakistan’s ruling civilian and military leaders also appreciate the economic, political, and security opportunities that the CPEC offers. Pakistan needs direct investment to spureconomic growth, but investors have generally shied away over the past decade. If delivered, China’s investment plan represents more than double all foreign direct investment (FDI) in Pakistan since 2008.

China’s investments in energy infrastructure are especially welcome. National demand outstrips supply by an average of 4,500 megawatts. Supply shortages and distribution problems lead to frequent blackouts and cost as much as 2 percent GDP growth (PDF) a year. These troubles will worsen as Pakistan’s population of nearly two hundred million expands at a rate of almost 2 percent (PDF) annually. Without the creation of new jobs, however, the nation’s youth (over half of Pakistanis are under the age of twenty-four) will lack productive outlets for their energies. In a state riven by sectarian, ethnic, and political cleavages and populated by networks of extremism and militancy, the need for a growing economy takes on special significance.
Politically, Pakistan’s ruling civilian government recognizes that by delivering a range of “early harvest” projects, it will have a better chance of winning national elections slated for 2018. From a security perspective, Pakistan’s military leaders believe that if Chinese investments can turn around the nation’s sagging economic fortunes, they will also strengthen the state against challengers, both foreign (India) and domestic (antistate insurgents).

Plans and Realities
In Pakistan, CPEC projects are being managed primarily by the Ministry of Planning, Reform, and Development in partnership with China’s NDRC. The two sides have established a Joint Cooperation Committee with working groups focused on four main areas: the Gwadar Port, transport infrastructure, energy, and industrial cooperation.
Operations at Gwadar, a warm-water, deep-sea port in Balochistan near the Strait of Hormuz, were handed over to a Chinese state-owned enterprise in November 2015. Gwadar remains a work in progress, with total traffic of only half a million tons in 2016, but traffic isexpected to double in 2017. Planners estimate that eventually it will process three hundred to four hundred million tons annually and that the surrounding city will grow from eighty thousand to two million residents.