19 June 2016


JUNE 16, 2016

Last month I had the opportunity to participate in a complex wargame as part of the Army’s Unified Quest series that was focused on scenarios in 2030 and 2050. There was much innovative thought on display as the hundreds of participants wrestled with the potential impact of new technology on future battlefields. I was mostly involved with a pseudo-Pacific scenario, but there were teams looking at other geographic areas as well. I was particularly struck by two different ideas: First, the U.S. Army’s historical role in cross-domain dominance will continue to be relevant even as new technologies make warfare more lethal and complicated. Second, for the Army to adapt to this future the toughest barriers to overcome will be legal, bureaucratic, and intellectual rather than technological.

In 1943, Gen. Hap Arnold’s Army Air Forces staff wrestled with a letter from a mother concerned about the morality of the bombing operations her son was executing in Europe. They came up with a reply describing the challenges of restraining warfare in the modern age, which included the statement that “Law cannot limit what physics makes possible.” Military doctrine cannot defy gravity either. The importance of landpower in cross-domain dominance is ensured by physics, as well as by biology. What goes up, must come down. What leaves the land where people dwell must eventually return to it. It should not be surprising that among the Army’s many Wartime Executive Agency Requirements is the running of theater port facilities.

Don't Break America's Military Justice System

June 16, 2016

There are no perfect justice systems, and the one built around the court-martial is no exception. But the usual arguments for military justice reform are built on failed comparisons, weak analysis, willful historical blindness and factual imprecision. We can have better military justice—but first we need a better discussion about how to get there. The first problem to address is that our military justice reform debate is an ongoing argument about law and politics that conceals a powerful web of unexamined cultural presumptions. We are having another kind of culture war, but without ever explicitly saying so. To act on the unstated premises driving our current discussion would be to seek out the heart of warrior culture and eradicate it, and to do so in the service of make-believe.

In Congress, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand continues an effort to strip military commanders of their authority to convene courts-martial in sexual-assault cases. Authority over those cases would instead be passed to independent prosecutors in the armed forces, who would supposedly deliberate over accusations in the more balanced manner of local district attorneys, wholly outside the influence of military considerations. In a prepared statement, Gillibrand revealed her underlying premise without quite making it explicit. Justice managed by military commanders isn’t working, she said, so "it’s time to instead put decision making power into the hands of non-biased, professionally trained, military prosecutors.”

A Reluctant Case Against Brexit: Three Central Questions

June 16, 2016

Oscar Wilde quipped that socialism would take too many evenings. So, too, would the process of Britain leaving the EU, let alone adapting to life outside it. For Britain to vote to leave in its referendum next week would neither be end of the world, nor a lurch into isolation, contrary to the overblown claims of Remain advocates. Whatever else happens, Britain is likely to remain a major power, measured on most yardsticks aside from landmass. A Brexit would, however, invite a set of extra costs, risks and problems that would not be worth the modest gain of clawing back some additional control. A withdrawal would probably deplete Britain’s sovereignty in terms of actual ability to govern rather than increase it.

The referendum itself is taking too many evenings. It has been a dismal exercise of misinformation and hysteria, filled to the brim with loose Hitler analogies, argument by association, wild theories of an efficient deep state at work and a strange mixture of jingoism with self-loathing. A prime minister who insisted only months ago that Britain could carry on successfully outside the EU has discovered that this would be a fatal error. He now opines leaving a transnational union is tantamount to isolationism that would trigger mass unemployment and that staying in is the only patriotic choice. The low-quality debate grows from cynical politics that is launched as much to manage internal divisions with the ruling Conservative party as to address a pivotal issue. The experiment in plebiscitary democracy may not settle anything.

A new age of tank warfare may be around the corner


JUN 16, 2016
Source Link

Last week at Eurosatory 2016, an international defense exhibition, Germany's Rheinmetall unveiled a new and enlarged cannon to be fitted to a new generation of tanks, and perhaps to take part in the next generation of tank warfare.

The standard caliber makes coordination on munitions and procurement easy between allied nations, but it also allows adversary nations to plan against a common offense.

Such is the case with Russia's T-14 Armata tank, which seems to have been designed with NATO's anti-tank capabilities in mind. The Armata features active defenses and explosive reactive armor that the 120 mm smoothbore rounds from a US M1 Abrams or a German Leopard 2 may struggle to pierce.

But defensive features like reactive armor and active defense are modular, and can be added to existing tanks. What can't readily attach to an existing tank is a bigger turret, which the Armata has.

The Armata features a 125 mm main cannon, and Rheinmetall's new turret is just a hair bigger at 130 mm, but these small adjustments make a big impact. According to the company, though they're only increasing the calibre by eight percent, they're providing a 50% increase in kinetic energy to projectiles over the 120 mm turrets NATO uses today.

Will NATO Really Boost Defense Spending at Warsaw?

June 16, 2016

NATO HQ, BRUSSELS & E-4B NATIONAL AIRBORNE OPERATIONS CENTER OVER THE ATLANTIC—U.S. defense officials are continuing to press their European counterparts to increase their military spending to the NATO minimum standard of two percent of gross domestic product. But a number of questions remain about whether the rest of the alliance will follow through on pledges to boost defense outlays. Convincing America’s NATO allies to meet minimum defense spending targets remains a vexing problem and solving it has eluded previous U.S. administrations—Republican and Democratic alike. 

Like his predecessors, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter—speaking onboard the Pentagon’s Boeing E-4B National Airborne Operations Center en route to NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 13—told a small group of reporters that he would press his counterparts to boost their defense budgets. “You can bet that a continuing theme here and in Warsaw will be for the need for all countries to meet their pledged two percent, and of course, ideally more,” Carter said. “And in some cases, it is more. But at a minimum, two percent of GDP to defense. And absolutely sure I will be emphasizing that.”

Obama’s Drone Revamp Gives Military Bigger Responsibility, Keeps CIA Role

June 16, 2016 
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Long-promised plan seeks to give the U.S. military the lead and increase transparency

WASHINGTON—A long- promised plan by President Barack Obama to shift control of drone campaigns around the world gives the U.S. military more responsibility but retains a Central Intelligence Agency role in the targeted-killing program, according to officials briefed on the arrangement.

Mr. Obama’s plan settles a three-year turf battle among the CIA, the Pentagon and a divided Congress over whether the time has come to scale back the CIA’s quasi-military role 15 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The revamp stops short of giving the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command the full control of the drone wars that its congressional backers have sought. It also deals a setback to advocates inside and outside the administration for ending CIA involvement in lethal action so the agency can refocus on its core mission of gathering and analyzing intelligence.

The turf fight between JSOC and the CIA over drones highlights how government agencies and their supporters in Congress compete with one another for counterterrorism resources and, in this case, authority over the coveted role within the bureaucracy of pulling the trigger.

18 June 2016

** Facing Some Truths Behind the Florida Massacre

By George Friedman

June 15, 2016 In confronting terrorism, the U.S. needs to decide whether it is at war and who the enemy is.

The slaughter in Orlando, Florida on Sunday once again raises the question of what we should do about attacks like this. But before that, we must answer a more fundamental question: Was this a criminal act or an act of war? Answering that question is the key to determining the appropriate response.

If these are criminal acts, then the criminals must be punished for their actions. If these are acts of war, then the enemy forces must be found and destroyed, not based on what they might or might not have done, but in order to destroy the enemy before they can strike again.

Since 9/11, the United States government has failed to resolve this issue. Immediately after the attack, President George W. Bush committed to bringing those who planned the attack to justice, implying that this was a criminal act.

At the same time, he sent the U.S. military into Afghanistan to wage war on the Afghan government, its army and al-Qaida, which was operating under the government’s protection. That implied that this was war.

Reshaped by the invisible hand

June 16, 2016 
India’s presidential PM, his office, are quietly transforming the economic landscape

The country has seen some excellent macroeconomic management despite populist tendencies and electoral pressures. (Source: Express file photo)
While it seems intellectually fashionable to indulge in handwringing and say “nothing is happening” in India on the economic front, is that truly an accurate assertion or just the lament of the blind? Or more accurately, the lament of those who can see but don’t want to see? First a few facts.

According to one estimate, India has overtaken China, for the first time, with the largest inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) — $63 billion — making it one of the most attractive global destinations for capital. Private equity investments are close to an all-time high of about $15 bn as well. The $1.5 bn Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail link is happening as a result of a loan at 0.1 per cent interest over a 50-year time period from Japan — terms unbelievable by any yardstick of finance.

Flying at an all time low

Writing in these columns when the Agusta helicopter saga had hit news headlines earlier, this writer had concluded wistfully that if past performance was any indicator, the end would be predictable. A few reputations and careers of servicemen will be destroyed, the arms agents will move on to the next deal, and the real perpetrators and beneficiaries will live to enrich themselves another day. All that the nation will be left with are the service qualitative requirements with their sanctity open to abuse and the morale of the armed forces further eroded. Little did one realize that some of these reflections would soon come to haunt Indian governance, the institution of the Indian Air Force, its staff systems and processes.

The Italian high court judgment, whilst confirming that bribes had been paid by various officials of AgustaWestland, has given ample indication to where in India they were gratefully received. The involvement of the big fish gets conveniently camouflaged and diluted in partisan politics, but there is no such respite for those in uniform. Not surprisingly, the then air chief seems to have become the focus of the media hype and, indeed, the target of the investigative agencies rather than being incidental to this entire episode, albeit with some accountability.

How Much Longer Will Afghanistan Need America?

June 15, 2016

Last week in these pages, some of the most accomplished and well-respected members of the U.S. military and diplomatic service wrote an open letter to President Obama with some straightforward advice: please keep the full contingent of 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in place so the next Commander-in-Chief (whoever that might be) has more flexibility to make an informed decision. Withdrawing to 5,500 U.S. personnel by the end of the year, the authors write, would have detrimental effects on Afghanistan's security situation at a time when the country is still suffering from a Taliban movement that refuses to quit.

The letter was signed by five former U.S. Ambassadors to Afghanistan and five former U.S. commanders of the war effort across multiple administrations – including David Petraeus, John Allen, Ryan Crocker and Zalmay Khalilzad – which means that the recommendations are coming from some very powerful people. And the message they attempted to convey to the White House couldn't have been clearer:

“[W]e urge you to maintain the current U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan through the end of your term. Based on longstanding experience in the country as well as recent trips to Afghanistan by some of us, this step would be seen as a positive reaffirmation of America’s commitment to that nation, its people and its security.....Conversely, we are convinced that a reduction of our military and financial support over the coming months would negatively affect each of these.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Has Failed, Resulting in Regional Isolation

By Aziz Amin Ahmadzai Mona Naseer
June 15, 2016

Pakistan’s regional isolation can’t be in its long-term national self-interest. 

A sovereign state’s foreign policy changes with the times, according to its domestic needs and changes in global politics around it. Nations have interests and there are no permanent enemies and friendships in international politics. A neighboring state can be a boon or a bane, depending on one’s ability to recognize long-term interests of sustainable peace along the borders

Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan recently has been one such example of a state caught and unable to define its foreign policy and national interest beyond Cold War paradigms. India-centric foreign policy thinking has stalled Pakistan’s foreign policy evolution and tainted its worldview. Pakistan has strained and difficult relations with all its neighbors, with the important exception of China.

After the Kargil War in 1999, the hostilities between India and Pakistan shifted the country’s attention to its western border, to contain the very real risk of nuclear escalation between the two states. Pakistan did this while continuing its proxy war in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s foreign policymakers and military elite thought that acquiring the upper hand in Afghanistan and containing the warring tribesmen next door would be a much easier task.

China, with Pak, is obsessed with the strategic containment of India

Ganging up: China is backing Pak-sponsored terrorism against India.

NEW Delhi appeared “shocked” by China’s recent veto of action against Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, when there was widespread support in the UN Sanctions Committee to act against him for his role in the Pathankot attack. The UN declared the JeM a terrorist organisation in 2001. The former Director-General of the ISI, Lt-Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi, acknowledged in the Pakistan parliament in 2004 that the JeM was responsible for the attack on the Indian Parliament — an action that took the two countries on the brink of war. This veto was, however, not an isolated action by China which has long backed Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against India.

China’s contacts with radical Islamic groups backed by the ISI is nothing new. It was one of the few countries that had contacts with high-level Taliban leaders, including Mullah Omar, during Taliban rule between 1996-2000. There was even a Chinese offer to establish a telephone network in Kabul during this period. Moreover, after the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001 and was hosted by the ISI in Quetta, the Chinese maintained clandestine contacts with the Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura. China recently joined the ISI to sponsor the so-called “Afghan-led” peace process with the Kabul government. Beijing appears convinced of the need to have an ISI-friendly government in Kabul. The mandarins in Beijing evidently favour such a dispensation, in the belief that the ISI will rein in the Taliban support for Uighur Muslim militants in Xinjiang. 

USA vs. Pakistan vs. Iran: The Three-Way Battle for Afghanistan

June 15, 2016 

They could tear it apart—or work together.

On June 6, Khorasan Province of Islamic State claimed credit for the killing of Sher Wali Wardak, an Afghan parliamentarian. If confirmed, the killing will represent a new chapter in ISIS’s capacity to operate in Afghanistan. The attack happened as professors from Ghazni University in the eastern part of the country are warning of ISIS infiltration of the university, another sign that the group seeks to expand its base of support in the country. Elsewhere, Afghan media have reported that Al Qaeda is making efforts to strengthen its relations with the Taliban, which has been confirmed by Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. While radical Islamists of various shades continue to conspire and thrive on Afghan soil, the necessary pushback by regional states and the international community is still not in place. Fighting radical Islamists in Afghanistan represents a golden opportunity for international cooperation, including the United States, Iran and Pakistan. History shows it can be done.

Cursed to Be a Battleground

Chinese Intelligence Activities Reported to Be At All Time High

Bill Gertz
June 15, 2016

Asia Times: Chinese Espionage and Intelligence Activities at All Time High, Experts Say

Chinese intelligence operations worldwide to steal important information both through human agents and cyber attacks are a growing threat, according to experts who testified at a US congressional commission last week.

Beijing’s spies, operating through the civilian Ministry of State Security and People’s Liberation Army Intelligence Bureau (IB), have scored impressive gains against the United States in particular, where economic espionage — the theft of trade secrets and high technology — remains at unprecedented levels.

Technology espionage by China was highlighted by the conviction in California last week of Wenxia Man of San Diego who was convicted of illegally conspiring to export fighter jet engines and an unmanned aerial vehicle to China.

Read the entire article at Asia Times.

China's Bogus South China Sea 'Consensus'

June 14, 2016

The recently concluded 15th Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore once again focused on the South China Sea disputes. At the Dialogue, Admiral Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, rebutted criticisms of China’s actions in the South China Sea and reiterated China’s legal right to ignore an upcoming judgement in a case filed by the Philippines at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

As many governments and analysts view ASEAN’s reaction to this upcoming judgement as a gauge of its unity, it is timely to evaluate if Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s announcement of a four point “consensus” reached with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos in late April this year – which contained supposed agreements between the four countries on approaches to manage the South China Sea disputes, approaches congenial to China’s view of the disputes – was really a common agreement by all parties. This uncertainty over the “consensus” was shared by ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh. In a response to a question on 9 May in Singapore about it, he said that “we are not even aware of what was agreed with China and the three ASEAN countries…We’ve heard nothing from Laos and Brunei on what was agreed or what happened”.

More Trade Won't Stop China's Aggression

June 14, 2016

China’s brazen and “improper airmanship,” buzzing an American surveillance plane in the skies above the East China Sea last week, is but the latest signal of Beijing’s proclivity for risk and willingness to undermine both its regional reputation and economic stability in order to stake expanding claims in Asia.

Western observers have not relinquished the perennial hope that China’s global economic interconnectedness will constrain its proclivity to military conflict. But this belief is misguided and not borne out by history. In fact, as China’s economic and military power rise, it has shown an increased tolerance for risk and raised the likelihood of future war.

China has repeatedly harassed Indonesian, Vietnamese andPhilippine ships in the latter’s territorial waters, claiming that Chinese citizens have been fishing there “since ancient times,” entitling them to vast maritime sovereignty. Its island construction on top of shallow reefs is another component in Beijing’s strategy to assert dominance over the South China Sea.

The near-collision of the Chinese fighter jet with the U.S. spy plane last week follows a string of gutsy, high-risk encounters. Only last month, two Chinese jets flew within fifty feet of an American EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.

How to Beat Back ISIS Propaganda

Deep into the second decade of Western efforts to counter the propaganda of groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh/ISIS, results are mixed. Many would consider even this cautious assessment to be optimistic. Almost a decade ago, then U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates lamented how “one man in a cave managed to out-communicate the world’s greatest communication society.” Those frustrations have arguably intensified. As Alberto Fernandez, former director of the U.S. State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), candidly asserted in his report for Brookings: “Efforts to blunt ISIS propaganda have been tentative and ineffective, despite major efforts by countries like Saudi Arabia, the United States and the United Kingdom, and even al-Qaida.”

Many factors contributed to this situation, but perhaps the most significant are intellectual. For instance, the belief that ISIS’s (and before them Al Qaeda’s) propaganda is unheralded—typically highlighting slickly produced communiqués and use of social media as evidence—implies that history offers little for improving contemporary efforts. The long history of messaging during conflict suggests otherwise. As Professor John Arquilla suggests: “information strategy did not spring forth fully formed . . . It has formed and reformed, shifted shape and emphasis, for millennia. We ignore this long experience at our peril.” Indeed, the use of visual and aural (e.g., spoken-word) communication by combatants to boost the fighting spirit of comrades, win over neutrals and intimidate enemies predates even the ancients.

Get Some Perspective

Why Islam Is an Exception

Ivan Plis
June 15, 2016

Many Western analysts of terrorism, and of Middle Eastern politics, are bad at religion. They prefer empirical explanations for individual and group actions, and so they’d rather avoid wrestling with God. They’re also likely to see religion as infinitely adaptable, an “epiphenomenal” cover for political or economic grievance—or fertile ground for the mentally unhinged.

Many in the secular West cannot imagine that a religion can meaningfully differ from privatized, post-Enlightenment Protestantism, which usually serves as their template for all public religion. Since Islam and Islamism today behave differently from Christianity in the West, these Westerners assume God’s obstinate presence in Middle Eastern politics is the result of some other process. Whether this stems from a lack of imagination, or from a belief that examining Islam’s theological particulars constitutes bigotry, the consequence is a refusal to consider religion on its own terms whenever it bleeds into the news.

In other words, they fail to think like jihadis.

Shadi Hamid’s new book Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle over Islam is Reshaping the World is a notable exception. It limns the Islamist mind in unnerving detail. Establishing a continuum that stretches from Tahrir Square to Erdoğan’s Turkey to ISIS, Hamid makes the case for theology as a full-fledged analytical tool for political scientists.

Hamid dismantles the tempting, and prevalent, idea that Islam and the Muslim world are just one reformation away from taking up the flag of liberal democracy. For historic and structural reasons, Hamid writes, Islam’s response to modernity was unlike that of Christianity. He points out that Christianity has “no equivalent of Islamic law—an accumulated corpus of law concerned with governance and the regulation of social and political affairs.”

Three Questions We Should Ask about the Drone War, But Don't

June 14, 2016

It is discouraging that in a country that justly prides itself on producing great scientific minds and creative thinkers, that on a few key substantive issues we fail to ask—much less answer—crucial questions. Drone strikes are one of the most glaring and egregious examples of this.

These acts—which are sometimes called targeted killings, UCAV (unmanned combat aerial vehicle) strikes, or precision targeting—are at their most elementary level, killing human beings via remote control at a great distance from the target. In that sense, they are no different than an infantryman firing a rifle at an enemy combatant from three hundred meters away, a tank gunner destroying an enemy vehicle and its crew from four kilometers out or firing an artillery piece at enemy troops from a distance of over thirty kilometers. The justification for using drones, however, can be radically different from the standard we apply to ground combat.

The Laws of War govern the behavior of ground troops, airmen and sailors in armed conflict. The laws were designed to keep otherwise violent and bloody wars from descending into barbarism, which sometimes strips victors of their humanity. The Department of Defense has strictly enforced these laws on our troops during Desert Storm, the long Iraq conflict and the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan.

An ISIS Containment Doctrine

June 14, 2016

As the presidential campaigns launch into full swing, there is little doubt that debating the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to combat ISIS will take center stage. Critics of the current administration’s policy have argued that the strategy of containment to “degrade and destroy” ISIS has been ineffective. This camp asserts that ISIS is a long way from being destroyed and is not even being contained: ISIS has expanded its reach to other territories, increased its attacks on targets outside its borders, and its ideological appeal shows no sign of decline. Meanwhile, supporters of the current approach remind us that this will be a long war and also point out that Islamic State has lost significant territory, its finances are being depleted, its recruitment is down, and local counter-ISIS forces are getting stronger.

Yet both views miss the mark about a crucial aspect of U.S. policy: containment. Cultivated in the early days of the Cold War to prevent the expanding influence of the Soviet Union, a massive state with a strong ideology and robust military, George Kennan’s interpretation of containment highlights its limitations within the context of ISIS. Containment cannot be applied the same way it was against ISIS, an elusive adversary that has the characteristics of a state, a transnational terrorist organization and a social movement. Moreover, it is much harder to contain an ideological threat than a military one, as the U.S. experience with the Soviet Union showed. It is essential that policy makers recognize what containment can and can’t do against ISIS.