16 July 2016

Obama, Interpreted: What 8,400 U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Really Means



Last week at the White House, the president announced his decision regarding troop levels in Afghanistan through the remainder of his term of office. Let me translate his words into the reality of what the decisions mean on the ground. In sum: I’m going to claim my eight years in office achieved success and kept the country safe; I will do whatever it takes to make sure the Kabul government doesn’t collapse between now and January; and I will punt it to the next president.

Below are the four key passages of the president’s speech and my commentary on the reality of each situation.

1. “The United States will maintain approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan into next year, through the end of my administration. . . . [This troop level] will allow us to continue to provide tailored support to help Afghan forces continue to improve.”

Over past twelve months, the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) have struggled mightily in the field, suffered record casualties and lost embarrassing battles to the Taliban. Dropping U.S. force levels by more than one thousand is not going to “continue” helping the ANDSF to improve. It will make the already-tiny U.S. contingent even less relevant to events on the ground. 8,400 troops will ensure Kabul doesn’t fall to the Taliban, but little else.

2. “My decision today also sends a message to the Taliban and all those who have opposed Afghanistan’s progress. . . . I will say it again—the only way to end this conflict . . . is through a lasting political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. That’s the only way.”

Bangladesh Own 9/11: Assessment of Response and Recommendations

Jul 11, 2016 

In the aftermath of Bangladesh’s 9/11 and the killings of twenty innocent people at the Holey Artisan Bakery, Bangladesh is at crossroads says Kayes Ahmed on July 9 in his opinion piece in www.bdnews24.com. What choice Bangladesh makes now will determine the future of the country and its 150 million people. Whether the country and the government adapts a transparent policy position, gives up silly pride and petty politics, or whether the government will continue to obfuscate and play politics will determine if the country can emerge from this crisis a healthier and stronger country, said Ahmed.

According to Ahmed, the signs are not good, however. He quoted that the Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told AFP that all six killed by the Army in the “rescue” operation are members of Jamat e Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB), a long-banned organization with no ties to ISIS or Al Qaeda! Ahmed believes this was a home grown operation, despite the fact that all of the attackers had their pictures sent in advance to ISIS to be published in their news outlet, and that ISIS was touting that twenty infidels were killed long before the raid even started. In his opinion piece in www.bdnews24.com Ahmed mentioned that there is a boatload of evidence that the attack was coordinated, planned and executed by handlers who are not twenty-somethings in the midst of existential musings of the ordinary youth. The attackers made up in zeal as well as dedication what they lacked in actual training. Their instructions and command and control were precise and brilliant. Therefore, the Honorable Home Minster is either missing the obvious or is in denial! Either possibility is terrible for the country.

www.bdnews24.com says that the Prime Minister in her address to the nation and the world came out and blamed local and international conspirators. She did not even mention IS or the Islamic Jihadists! She then took a swipe at the media for live broadcasting, said Ahmed in his opinion piece. It would seem that for once she should stop being political and put the country’s wellbeing in the forefront. The signs are not good, but maybe, just maybe, good sense will prevail. She says, “have faith in us”. We all want to but the opaqueness of her policy makes it very difficult, feels Ahmed.

Make no mistake. Says Ahmed in his piece in www.bdnews24.com this is Bangladesh’s 9/11. How the country reacts will determine its place in the world. The country is now solidly in the front lines of the War on Terror. Letus take a quick look at how the policy of petty politics cost the world twenty lives and brought the country to the precipice.

Ahmed in his opinion piece looks at some of the key points:

Six Soldiers on Taiwan Arrested for Spying for China

Daisy Chuang
July 14, 2016

Retired, active soldiers arrested for spying for China

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Six retired and active military personnel were recently arrested over accusations of working as spies for the mainland Chinese authorities, targeting confidential Taiwanese military information, the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office (KDPO, 高雄地檢署) announced.

The six suspects — including a chief suspect surnamed Chuang (莊), a retired soldier — were arrested during recent raids conducted at 11 locations in Kaohsiung City, Pingtung County and Tainan City, according to the KDPO.

Following interrogations, the KDPO said the Kaohsiung District Court had approved its application to have Chuang placed in custody for alleged violations of the National Security Act (國家安全法) in the fear that he could flee to the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

Five other suspects, including an active soldier surnamed Chu (諸), retired soldiers surnamed Chen (陳), Mou (牟) and Liu (劉) were released on bail.

Another suspect, Shih (師), was released without bail.

Chinese Man Sent to Prison for 4 Years for Stealing US Military Secrets

July 14, 2016

Chinese thief of US military secrets given four years’ jail

The F-22 fighter jet was one of the targets of Su Bin and a group of Chinese military hackers. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters 

A Chinese businessman who admitted taking part in the hacking of US defence secrets has been given nearly four years’ jail.

Su Bin, 51, was convicted of taking part in a years-long scheme by Chinese military officers to obtain sensitive military information, targeting projects including the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets and Boeing’s C-17 military transport aircraft.

In addition to the 46-month prison term, a US district court judge in Los Angeles ordered Su to pay a $10,000 fine. Su also went by the names Stephen Su and Stephen Subin.

“Su assisted the Chinese military hackers in their efforts to illegally access and steal designs for cutting-edge military aircraft that are indispensable to our national defence,” said John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security.

The Chinese government has repeatedly denied any involvement in hacking but the US says there is ample evidence.

But Su’s spying activities have been openly lauded in China where the state-controlled media has described him as a hero.

Full Spectrum Deterrence vs Cold Start Doctrine: Prospects of a Nuclear Conflagration in South Asia

By Col Rajinder Singh
15 Jul , 2016

Pampore (Srinagar- Kashmir) terrorist attack on 25 June 2016, allegedly by LeT (Laskar-E-Taiyaba) operatives, is a reflection of a Pakistan’s Military Establishment’s gleeful self – admiration of the effectiveness of its “Full Spectrum Deterrence” (FSD) strategy. No wonder, then, Pakistan’s Ambassador to India, Abdul Wasit, was reported to have dismissed an India journalist, who had asked him on his reaction on Pampore attack, by saying that it was time to have “Iftaar Party” than discuss Politics. Even Pathankot Air base attack on January 02, 2016 was a demonstration trial of its “Full Spectrum Deterrence” or FSD strategy.

…CRS report has recently observed that chances of a nuclear conflict are more likely now because of aggressive and offensive attitude of Pakistan towards India.

After Pampore attack, Indian Home Minister, Sh. Raj Nath Singh was reported to have reacted by saying that India would make sure not to fire the first bullet, but even if one bullet was fired from Pakistan’s side, India shouldn’t even think about keeping a count on the bullets it would fire. Pakistan dismisses such threats as empty words because it thinks it has checkmated India from reacting violently because of FSD. 

So, what is FSD or ” Full Spectrum Deterrence”? To understand this, we got to understand certain naked facts. It is a known fact that India and Pakistan are two Nuclear weapon states with mutual animosity and hostility stretching over the last 69 years. Any nuclear exchange/ conflagration between them will lead to unacceptable damage on both sides. It is called MAD- Mutual Assured Destruction. But the probability of a nuclear conflict can not be ruled out. So, what is the probability of such an exchange?

Why the South China Sea Verdict Is Likely to Backfire

July 13, 2016 

On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague issued a decision that could greatly impact the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea. Ruling on a case brought by the Philippines in 2013, the decision of the five-judge panel represented an emphatic victory for Manila’s position and a near total repudiation of China’s claims. In its most significant finding, the tribunal flatly rejected China’s argument that it enjoys historic rights over most of the South China Sea. Such a claim, the panel ruled, had no legal basis. The ruling was a sweeping rebuke of Beijing’s conduct, especially its seizure of uninhabited reefs and its construction of artificial islands. Such actions, the tribunal concluded, violated China’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Philippine leaders were ecstatic about the decision. “It’s an overwhelming victory. We won on every significant point,” stated Paul Reichler, Manila’s chief counsel in the case. The overall decision was not that much of a surprise, but the categorical nature of some of the language was surprising even to seasoned regional observers. “It goes much farther than most people expected that this was going to go. It’s really devastating to China,” concluded Bonnie Glaser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Beijing’s reaction was swift and ferocious. President Xi Jinping reiterated that the waters had been Chinese territory since ancient times and this ruling could not invalidate such history. Foreign Minister Wang Yi was more succinct and caustic. “This farce is now over,” he stated. “China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards.”

The Strategic Implications of the South China Sea Tribunal’s Award


On July 12, the tribunal hearing the case issued its ruling that can only be described as a huge win for the Philippines. Digesting all 507 pages of the award will take time, allowing only for preliminary judgments to be made. Below, I discuss several strategic implications.

The Scope of Lawful Maritime Claims in the South China Sea

In assessing the Philippine submissions, the tribunal greatly reduced the scope of maritime entitlements that states can claim in the South China Sea. First, the tribunal concluded that China lawfully, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, claims historic rights to resources within the nine-dash line that appears on Chinese maps. Although China has not clarified the nine-dashed line or even explained officially what it means, the tribunal indicated that one potential explanation, as a claim to historic rights, was inconsistent with the convention. The tribunal reasoned that whatever historic rights or high-seas freedoms China enjoyed were “extinguished” when it acceded to the convention.

Second, the tribunal interpreted Article 121 of the convention, which outlines the “regime of islands.” In particular, the tribunal offered a four-part test for determining what constitutes an “island” and not a rock. This matters greatly because under the convention islands are entitled to a two-hundred-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, while a mere rock is entitled only to a twelve-nautical-mile territorial sea. The tribunal ruled that none of the naturally formed land features satisfied its four-part test and that no “islands” exist in the Spratlys from which China, or any other claimant state, can claim a two-hundred-nautical-mile EEZ.

What does the South China Sea ruling mean, and what’s next?

Joseph Chinyong Liow
July 12, 2016


The much-awaited rulings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague—in response to the Philippines’ 2013 submission over the maritime entitlements and status of features encompassed in China’s expansive South China Sea claims—were released this morning. Taken together, the rulings were clear, crisp, comprehensive, and nothing short of a categorical rejection of Chinese claims.

Among other things, the court ruled China’s nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea invalid because of Beijing’s earlier ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In a move that surprised many observers, the court also ventured a ruling on the status of every feature in the Spratly Islands, clarifying that none of them were islands and hence do not generate an exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Significantly, it ruled that Mischief Reef, which China has occupied since 1995, and Second Thomas Shoal, where China has blockaded Philippine marines garrisoned on an old vessel that was deliberately run aground there, to be within the EEZ of the Philippines.

In the neighborhood

Now that the rulings have been made, what are the implications and way forward for concerned states?

Chinese Ambassador Blasts South China Sea Tribunal

July 13, 2016  

Graphic courtesy Sen. Dan Sullivan

WASHINGTON: After a UN tribunal ruled stingingly against Chinese territorial claims in theSouth China Sea, Beijing reacted with its characteristically prickly mix of grandiosity and insecurity. The official Chinese perspective inverts Washington’s worldview so thoroughly it can be hard for Americans to understand: International rules are rigged, US military presence is destabilizing, China rightfully owns the whole South China Sea and is being generous to let its lesser neighbors use it at all.

When China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, says benignly that “we are not trying to take back the islands and reefs that have been illegally occupied by others,” he’s referring to almost everything claimed by every other country in the region.

Amb. Cui laid out Beijing’s point of view beautifully yesterday afternoon, speaking (in English) just hours after the UN ruling in an unscheduled appearance at a Center for Strategic & International Studies conference. We asked some leading experts to help us parse his remarks.

“This case was initiated not out of good will or good faith,” Cui said of the Philippine appeal to the UN tribunal. “it is a clear attempt to use a legal instrument for political purposes.” What’s more, Cui said, the Philippines’ legal case was cynically coordinated with America’s “so-called pivoting to Asia,” which manifested in “mounting activities by destroyers, aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, reconnaissance planes and many others…. This is an outright manifestation of ‘might is right.’”

Tackling IS is a Battle of Minds and not just Swords

By Jai Kumar Verma
15 Jul , 2016

While the Islamic State (IS), the most dreaded terrorist organization, has lost sizable territory and fighters because of constant bombing by diverse forces, including United States and Russian, but the ideology of this terrorist outfit remains intact. 

IS, which is known as Dae’sh in Arabic, claims to establish a Caliphate (Islamic State) which will be governed by the Sharia law. It flourishes because of the rule of undemocratic and oppressive figures in many parts of the volatile Middle East and instability they have created in that part of the world. It also gains strength because of religious and sectarian tensions created to achieve petty gains.

Although several countries are working against IS, but there is no cohesion between them. Both US and Russia are vigorously bombarding territories controlled by IS, but with different aims and objectives.

IS which uses the internet and social media cogently, propagates that in Jihad (Holy War), whosoever attains martyrdom would straight way go to heaven where all desires would be fulfilled. Several fanatics who are thoroughly brainwashed readily act as suicide bombers and there is no dearth of terrorists who are ready to sacrifice their lives in the name of holy war.

Administration: ISIS war funding amounts to authorization

By Rebecca Kheel
07/13/16

Congress’s funding of the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) amounts to a ratification of the president’s authority to pursue the war, the administration argues in a legal brief asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges the war is illegal.

“The president has determined that he has the authority to take military action against ISIL, and Congress has ratified that determination by appropriating billions of dollars in support of the military operation,” Benjamin Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general, and Anthony Coppolino, deputy branch director of the Justice Department’s civil division, write in the brief. ISIL is the administration's preferred acronym for the terrorist group.

“Congress has made these funds available over the course of two budget cycles, in connection with close oversight of the operation’s progress, and with knowledge of the authority under which the operation is being conducted,” they add.

The memo, filed Monday in court and highlighted Tuesday night by The New York Times, provides new insight into the administration’s justification for being allowed to prosecute the war.

Why the U.S. Military Can’t Fix Syria

By STEVEN SIMON and JONATHAN STEVENSON
JULY 13, 2016

The State Department “dissent channel” memo on the United States’ policy in Syria, leaked last month, is just the latest expression of a widespread belief in and out of government that American intervention in Syria is necessary and would be successful.

After five years of brutal, grinding war, this view is understandable. The idea of the United States saving the Middle East from itself appeals to liberal hawks and neoconservatives alike. Unfortunately, when that notion has carried the day — as it did in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 — regional security and stability have worsened. Indeed, in light of Syria’s geopolitical circumstances, intervention along the lines suggested in the memo could produce consequences more dangerous than those of the two previous adventures.

The memo’s authors and other interventionists fail to recognize that the United States in fact has effectively weakened President Bashar al-Assad already. In 2015, the administration’s aggressive covert action program facilitated significant gains for the opposition in northern Syria, exposed Latakia — the regime’s heartland — to attack, and diminished the Syrian military position in the northwestern province of Idlib.

But these losses were also key factors in Russia’s decision to enter the Syrian fray after years of sitting on the sidelines. This gives the lie to the interventionists’ belief that “judicious” airstrikes could somehow disempower the Assad government, sap Russian resolve and improve prospects for a negotiated solution.

Stop Being So Gloomy About Brexit

Ashoka Mody
JULY 13, 2016

Few have been more downbeat about the outlook for the U.K. economy than the country's own central bank governor, Mark Carney. If he wants to help mitigate the consequences of the vote to leave the European Union, he should send a more encouraging message by holding back on monetary stimulus.

People charged with managing economies usually try to be optimistic, on the logic that their positive attitude will give people and businesses the confidence to spend and invest, ultimately making the optimism self-fulfilling. The rhetoric surrounding Britain's vote on EU membership has been a glaring exception. In a bid to influence the vote, a chorus of global policymakers predicted dire consequences. That chorus has sadly persisted.

After voters chose to leave, the secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria, reiterated forecasts of higher unemployment and permanent damage to household incomes. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said that the decision was “casting a shadow over international growth.” Yet Brexit’s shadow is hard to discern amid the broader global decline in output growth and interest rates that began in early 2014 (see chart).

Perhaps no one, though, has been as active as Carney in stoking feelings of gloom and doom -- a particularly notable feat, given that central bank governors rarely make predictions of economic and financial turmoil, especially when it concerns their own currency.

Russia Offers India A Nuclear-Powered Supercarrier


Last week, a Russian delegation visiting New Delhi offered the Indian Navy Russia’s latest supercarrier design, dubbed Project 23000E Shtorm (Storm), for purchase, Defense News reports, based on information provided by a senior Indian Navy official. According to the article, a Russian diplomat based in India confirmed that an offer has been made.

Few additional details have so far come to light surrounding the purported Indo-Russian discussions over procuring the supercarrier.

India is still expected to officially announce a procurement tender for a heavy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, 300 meters long and 70 meters wide and displacing 65,000 tons.

This 65,000-ton supercarrier, the INS Vishal, the second ship of the Vikrant-class, will allegedly feature “significant design changes from the lead vessel, the INS Vikrant, including possible nuclear propulsion and Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) and Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS),” I wrote in January.

The Krylovsky State Research Center (KRSC), a Russian shipbuilding research and development institute, has been working on the Russian supercarrier’s design over the last two years. The vessel’s design was first revealed in May 2015. As I explained in March:

In the summer of 2015, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States received requests for “technical and costing proposals” regarding the design of India’s new aircraft carrier. According to Indian defense officials, the two top contenders are Russia and France, given that India operates aircraft from both countries.

The Long Slog Ahead: Britain and Brussels Negotiate the Divorce


“‘Never has so much been put at risk for so many by so few for so little,’ says Robert Jenkins, a former banker, fund manager and policymaker, delivering an ironic invocation of Churchill’s description of . . . the Battle of Britain.”

Although over two weeks have passed since the British vote to leave the EU, much remains unclear. However this story unfolds, it will be a fairly lengthy process that will depend on political developments in the United Kingdom and on the continent, as well as on the pace and outlook of negotiations and the state of the economy. In the meantime—and until any negotiations are concluded—there will be no immediate change to people’s rights to travel and work, in the way goods and services are traded, or to the way the UK economy and financial system are regulated.

While Britain and Europe are still reeling from and confused about the aftermath of the June 23 referendum, trends have begun to emerge that provide some guidance for the weeks and months ahead. British voters’ decision to take their country out of the European Union after forty-three years of membership is without a doubt the most significant event on the continent since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It will result in a high degree of uncertainty for the foreseeable future and may see a significant fragmentation—if not the ultimate end—of the United Kingdom. Moreover, it will mean heightened tensions and risks of divisions among the twenty-seven remaining members and have profound implications for U.S. interests on the continent.

Negotiating the Breakup

TAKING FIRST-USE OF NUKES OFF THE TABLE: GOOD FOR THE UNITED STATES AND THE WORLD

JULY 14, 2016

The United States first used nuclear weapons more than 70 years ago on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fearing the threat from massive Soviet conventional forces and possible large-scale use of chemical and biological weapons, U.S. military and political leaders decided to keep the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. Today, the United States in the world’s dominant global military power and the Soviet Union is long gone. The Cold War-era policy of not ruling out nuclear first-use poses a grave risk to the security of the United States and is not suitable for today’s global security and political environment.

The greatest threat to the United States and to any nation is from the enormous and indiscriminate destructive effects of nuclear weapons. It is in the interest of the United States that, as long as these weapons exist, all nuclear-armed states agree that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to respond to a nuclear attack by other nuclear-armed states and only when the survival of the state or one of its allies is at stake. It is time for the United States to adopt this policy.

In April 2009, President Barack Obama made clear that he sought “to put an end to Cold War thinking” and pledged to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”

McKinsey Quarterly July 2016 Adapting your board to the digital age

By Hugo Sarrazin and Paul Willmott

Many directors are feeling outmatched by the ferocity of changing technology, emerging risks, and new competitors. Here are four ways to get boards in the game.

“Software is eating the world,” veteran digital entrepreneur Marc Andreessen quipped a few years back. Today’s boards are getting the message. They have seen how leading digital players are threatening incumbents, and among the directors we work with, roughly one in three say that their business model will be disrupted in the next five years.

In a 2015 McKinsey survey, though, only 17 percent of directors said their boards were sponsoring digital initiatives, and in earlier McKinsey research, just 16 percent said they fully understood how the industry dynamics of their companies were changing.1In our experience, common responses from boards to the shifting environment include hiring a digital director or chief digital officer, making pilgrimages to Silicon Valley, and launching subcommittees on digital.

Valuable as such moves can be, they often are insufficient to bridge the literacy gap facing boards—which has real consequences. There’s a new class of problems, where seasoned directors’ experiences managing and monetizing traditional assets just doesn’t translate. It is a daunting task to keep up with the growth of new competitors (who are as likely to come from adjacent sectors as they are from one’s own industry), rapid-fire funding cycles in Silicon Valley and other technology hotbeds, the fluidity of technology, the digital experiences customers demand, and the rise of nontraditional risks. Many boards are left feeling outmatched and overwhelmed.

The US won't pivot away from the Middle East

10 JULY 2016

Richard Falk is Albert G Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies. He is also former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

A few years ago, US President Barack Obama made much of an American pivot to East Asia, a recognition of China's emergence and regional assertiveness, and the related claim that the American role in the Asia-Pacific should be treated as a prime strategic interest that China needed to be made to respect.

The shift also involved the recognition by Obama that the United States had become overly engaged in Middle Eastern politics with very few positive results and that it was time to reset foreign policy priorities.

The 2012 pivot was an overdue correction of the neocon approach to the region during the presidency of George W Bush that climaxed with the disastrous 2003 intervention in Iraq. It was then that delusions of "democracy promotion" and the prospect of a warm welcome by the Iraqi people hit a stone wall of unexpected resistance.

Obama approves sending extra special operation forces to Syria

In retrospect, it seems evident that the US has not disengaged from the Middle East. Its policies are tied as ever to Israel, and it is fully engaged in the military campaigns taking place in Syria and against ISIL (also known as ISIS).
Why disengagement won't happen

ICELAND’S HISTORIC CANDIDATE


A scholar of the Icelandic Presidency swiftly became a Presidential front-runner.

When I heard that the historian Guðni Jóhannesson was running for President of Iceland—not only running but entering the final weeks of the campaign as the clear favorite—I was intently curious to be present when and if he won. I had met Guðni a year or so earlier, when he delighted a busload of nervous novelists on a literary retreat in Iceland, during an all-day tour of local landmarks that took place on the coldest, windiest, foggiest day an Icelandic April could offer, with the bus neatly enveloped in milk. Guðni, serving as tour guide, mike in hand, kept his cool and his good humor throughout. “Here are the great parliamentary fields of the Thingvellir,” he said at one point, referring to Iceland’s famous early-medieval parliament, and gestured straight-faced toward a wall of white cloud. More impressive, he lightly detailed all the ways in which the myths of the monuments were and were not in accord with the facts of history, providing a detached view of what might be called Icelandic Exceptionalism, while still thinking it exceptional. I liked to tell people in New York that our tour guide was now running for President, though the truth is that he never would have been on the bus had his wife, the Canadian writer Eliza Reid, not been running the literary seminar—but, then, he was on the bus, he did have the mike, and he was giving a guided tour.

I should add that, having married into a Canadian-Icelandic family (about a fifth of Iceland’s population decamped for Manitoba around a century ago, keeping their culture and their national pride intact), I wasn’t entirely unhappy to hear Icelandic exceptionalism debunked, if gently. I had long ago come to accept Icelandic particularities—the cooing voices, the long-winded family histories, the constant coffee consumption—but I’d also had the prideful bits drummed in (world’s oldest democracy, most literate nation, most successful welfare state) for so long that I could stand them being a little upended. Iceland, to be sure, is a country for which many Americans and English and Canadians have an outsized affection, not unlike that which some of the wizards in Tolkien, himself an Icelandic fanatic, have for the Shire. While recognizably part of our own Western world, the country is so islanded, so unlike anyplace we know in landscape and language, that it is possible to feel protective of it in ways that Icelanders themselves sometimes find encumbering.

Russia's Next Military Game Changer: Microwave Weapons?


July 12, 2016

Russia will arm its sixth-generation combat drones with microwave weapons.

These weapons, which disable an aircraft’s electronic equipment, already exist today “and can hit targets within a radius of tens of kilometers,” said Vladimir Mikheev, a director of state-owned Russian electronics firm KRET, in aninterview with TASS.

However, Mikheev suggested that microwave weapons can be as dangerous to the user as to the target. While Russia is developing manned and unmanned sixth-generation aircraft, which are predicted to first take flight in 2025, only the unmanned version will be armed with a microwave weapon. “The electromagnetic pulse fired by the microwave weapon is so powerful that it is extremely difficult to protect the pilot from his own weapons,” Mikheev said. “No matter how well we may shield the cabin, this electronic pulse will get through. And as a human is also, to some extent, a ‘device’ operating on the basis of receiving and transmitting electromagnetic signals, such weapons can cause heavy damage to the health of the pilot.”

“Protection is already in place today: shielding, special goggles and a glass canopy covered with gold plating to reduce radiation. However, it is so far impossible to ensure 100 percent protection.”

Echoing the same debates in the United States over manned versus unmanned combat aircraft, Mikheev said that only the unmanned version of Russia's sixth-generation aircraft will have “full technical capabilities.” He predicted these drones will be hypersonic, with a speed of Mach 4 to 5, and will be capable of flight through near space (sixty-five thousand to 328,000 feet).

Duqu 2.0

Kaspersky Labs has discovered and publicized details of a new nation-state surveillance malware system, called Duqu 2.0. It's being attributed to Israel.

There's a lot of details, and I recommend reading them. There was probably a Kerberos zero-day vulnerability involved, allowing the attackers to send updates to Kaspersky's clients. There's code specifically targeting anti-virus software, both Kaspersky and others. The system includes anti-sniffer defense, and packet-injection code. It's designed to reside in RAM so that it better avoids detection. This is all very sophisticated.

Eugene Kaspersky wrote an op-ed condemning the attack -- and making his company look good -- and almost, but not quite, comparing attacking his company to attacking the Red Cross:

Historically companies like mine have always played an important role in the development of IT. When the number of Internet users exploded, cybercrime skyrocketed and became a serious threat to the security of billions of Internet users and connected devices. Law enforcement agencies were not prepared for the advent of the digital era, and private security companies were alone in providing protection against cybercrime ­ both to individuals and to businesses. The security community has been something like a group of doctors for the Internet; we even share some vocabulary with the medical profession: we talk about 'viruses', 'disinfection', etc. And obviously we're helping law enforcement develop its skills to fight cybercrime more effectively.

One thing that struck me from a very good Wired article on Duqu 2.0:

Raiu says each of the infections began within three weeks before the P5+1 meetings occurred at that particular location. "It cannot be coincidental," he says. "Obviously the intention was to spy on these meetings."

Initially Kaspersky was unsure all of these infections were related, because one of the victims appeared not to be part of the nuclear negotiations. But three weeks after discovering the infection, Raiu says, news outlets began reporting that negotiations were already taking place at the site. "Somehow the attackers knew in advance that this was one of the [negotiation] locations," Raiu says.

Raytheon Piles On Cyber, Electronic Warfare Protections

July 13, 2016

FARNBOROUGH: Raytheon keeps pushing cyber at its air show appearances, clearly convinced that the Pentad’s commitment to building cyber protection in every weapon system from airplanes, to missiles to, well, everything,

Opposite its impressive — and never before displayed — wall of missiles, the company’s largest display is a room equipped with two commercial drones and three video walls, all dedicated to demonstrating to customers what the company claims is its comprehensive approach to protecting them from the possible vulnerabilities of the vaunted Internet of Things.


Raytheon’s Wall Of Missiles

How to safely access and navigate the Dark Web

By Dan Patterson
July 11, 2016

Is your business data on the Dark Web? Learn how to find out if you've been compromised in this step-by-step guide to accessing the underbelly of the internet. 

The Dark Web is easy to find. With the right tools, and a stomach made of steel, anyone can access and browse the internet's underbelly. Lurking under the surface of the clear web—sites we visit every day with traditional web browsers and search engines—are indeed black markets loaded with stolen credit card information, black hat hackers, and human and drug traffickers.

The Dark Web, the deep web, and darknet, are spooky-sounding phrases that refer to websites that mask their IP address and can only be accessed using encryption-friendly tools like The Onion Router. TOR is an open source project best known for developing a Firefox-fork web browser pre-loaded with a number of hard-coded security and encryption enhancements. TOR allows users to obfuscate browsing activity by scrambling a user's IP address through a secure and distributed network.

The TOR project also develops Tails, a live, pre-configured Linux distribution that will run on almost any computer. Popularized by Edward Snowden, Tails runs as a discrete operating system on USB flash drives. Tails provides additional layers of security so that Dark Web browsing is not tied directly to a user's machine. Tails also allows users to store encrypted files, run email programs and PGP, and run the TOR browser.

The modern Dark Web's notorious reputation is well-earned, and the hidden internet is undeniably dangerous. Though encrypted websites have existed for more than a decade, the Dark Web rose to mainstream prominence alongside the Silk Road, the now-defunct "Amazon for Drugs." YouTube is loaded with Dark Web horror stories, and the Hidden Wiki serves as a portal to the criminal underground.

Rheinmetall to supply Canadian Navy with decoy ammunition for the next thirty years

By IDR News Network
14 Jul , 2016

At the recent CANSEC show in May 2016 in Canada, the Canadian government and ammunition suppliers Rheinmetall and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems–Canada signed a licence agreement to produce Omnitrap decoy ammunition for the Canadian Navy. Worth a mid-range eight-figure euro amount over the course of its thirty-year lifetime, the contract encompasses the supply of core components by Rheinmetall for Omnitrap decoy ammunition. Rheinmetall will provide technical assistance in setting up the assembly line at the General Dynamics facility in Repentigny, QC, where final assembly will take place.

In 2009 Rheinmetall won a contract to outfit twelve Canadian Halifax-class frigates with MASS, the Multi Ammunition Softkill System. The automated decoy system offers a unique level of protection against incoming anti-ship missiles. It can be installed on vessels of all types, whether in standalone mode or as an integral part of the ship’s command, control and weapon engagement system. MASS is already in service with the navies of 13 nations. Most Canadian frigates have been equipped with MASS systems along with a basic load of Omnitrap and MASS Dueras decoy ammunition.

In 2015 the Canadian government placed an order for 2,450 Omnitrap decoy rounds with Rheinmetall and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems–Canada.

After Delay, New Air Force Tanker Successfully Refuels C-17

BY MARCUS WEISGERBER
JULY 13, 2016

The Boeing-made plane, with some new hardware, successfully refueled a C-17 during a test Tuesday night.

LONDON — The U.S. Air Force KC-46 tanker refueled a C-17 cargo plane, something it was unable to do prompting delays to the project, Defense One has learned.

Two Air Force officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the successful test, which happened on Tuesday night.

The fix comes after the Air Force said in May that plane-maker Boeing would miss a key Aug. 17 deadline to deliver 18 tankers. At the time, Boeing said it would install new hardware that would enable the tanker’s refueling boom, a pipe that extends from the rear of the tanker, to gas up large aircraft.

Air Force officials said Tuesday that the test used the new piece of hardware.

“I’m encouraged by these results,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a statement provided to Defense One. “TheKC-46 program continues to move forward, making important progress that will get this vital capability into the hands of the warfighter.”

New Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said: “While it took some time, this week’s results confirm my confidence the Boeing team will get this figured out. It’s reassuring to see the program take this important step toward the production decision in August.”

BEYOND THE POWER OF THE COIN: THE THREE CURRENCIES OF MILITARY INNOVATION

JULY 14, 2016

Innovation is more important now than ever. In a world of fast-paced technological change, America’s international standing is a factor of its ability to adopt new technology and apply it on the battlefield. As authors at War on The Rockshave noted before, emerging capabilities are becoming more accessible to potential enemies as the civilian economy drives down the cost of things like data analytics, cyber technology, and robotics. More states (and non-states) have advanced innovations within their reach.

In the classic 1971 film, Fiddler on the Roof’s Tevye day-dreamed of what he would do were he a rich man. In addition to being a “biddy biddy bum” and building stairways to nowhere “just for show,” he imagined being a problem solver, settling issues so difficult they would “cross a rabbi’s eyes.” Townspeople would seek his counsel, “and it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong… When you’re rich, they think you really know.” Tevye’s problem-solving would be the direct result of all his riches.

What does a famous Broadway show have to do with military innovation? Tevye’s problem-solving strategy, a form of innovation, offers a fraction of a lesson to would-be military innovators. He accurately perceived the link between wealth and innovation — money drives solutions — but his definition of wealth was too narrow. The money he had in mind is just one form of “currency.” This may have worked in Fiddler on the Roof, but in a large bureaucracy like the Department of Defense (DoD), potential innovations have costs that go beyond the pocket book, and innovators must deal in three distinct currencies, or forms of capital: budgetary, political, and ideas. Tevye sought “budgetary capital” when he dreamed about money. In the Pentagon, this is the budgetary and manpower capital appropriated by Congress. “Political capital” is the formal power of rank and the informal respect of others. It’s marked by the esteem an individual is accorded by others. In the Department of Defense political capital manifests in the ability to influence decisions through rank or persuasion. “Ideas capital” is a vision for the future and the know-how to produce it. Ideas capital can take the form of new technology, new operating concepts, or new management practices. Each form of capital is necessary to transform an idea into a useful innovation.

15 July 2016

*** Army merging electronic warfare into new cyber directorate

July 12, 2016

The Army has disbanded its electronic warfare division, though this is not the end for its staff or electromagnetic spectrum capabilities. Instead, the Army will incorporate the EW division into a newly established cyber directorate at the Pentagon within the Army G-3/5/7, according to officials at Army headquarters.

The new directorate is moving quickly, reaching initial operating capability in June, and sources say they expect full operational capability in August. Headed by Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, who's up for promotion to major general, the new directorate will encompass cyber, electronic warfare and information operations.

But Army officials emphasize that they aren’t getting rid of electronic warfare in the move to combine under the directorate. Rather, among the directorate’s chief missions will be handling the policy, strategy and requirements for all three areas. According to a Defense Department source the directorate eventually will comprise five divisions under Frost.

Frost was named to the elevated position in March, according to announcement from the Defense Department.

*** The Online Cyber War Against ISIS

July 13, 2016

Winning: The On Line War On Terror

The American government is taking credit for the recent decline in ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) activity in social media. On Twitter, for example, messages supporting or mentioning ISIL are about half as numerous now as they were two years ago. There is a lot more anti-ISIL commentary and traffic among Arab speaking Internet users. While some of this decline in pro-ISIL activity is due to public opinion turning against ISIL because of their continued attacks on Moslem women and children and any Moslem who does not agree with them there were other trends developing as well. For example Western governments have learned (often by trial and error) how to use the law, popular attitudes among Moslems towards Islamic terrorism and some commonly used Internet marketing and publicity techniques against Islamic terror groups. All these efforts have been underway for years and have reported much progress since 2015.

A lot the basic work was done by U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) which pioneered the use on commercial technology to gain an edge as Islamic terrorists have moved a lot of the combat to the Internet. There Islamic terrorists did a lot of their recruiting, fund raising, training and carrying out attacks or discussing tactics in general. SOCOM used commercial Internet marketing software systems to better (and more quickly) analyze what Islamic terrorists were doing on the Internet. This is nothing new for SOCOM, which has been informally using social networking sites and Internet activity in general to find, monitor and sometimes manipulate terrorist suspects. This has been going on since the late 1990s but as time went on SOCOM found that formal and analytic techniques produced better results.