19 November 2016

China And The US Undercut International Law For Their Narrow Interests – Analysis

By Humphrey Hawksley*
NOVEMBER 18, 2016

International law requires the consent of all parties, but China and the US reject when decisions cross short-term strategic interests.

Flutter over the surprise visit to China by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte may soon fade. But his abrupt and public dismissal of the United States in favor of China has weakened the argument that international rule of law could underpin a changing world order.

The issue in question was the long-running dispute between China and the Philippines over sovereignty of Scarborough Shoal, situated 800 kilometers southeast of China and 160 kilometers west of the Philippines mainland, well inside the United Nations–defined Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone.

Despite a court ruling and Duterte’s cap in hand during his October mission to Beijing, Philippine fishing vessels still only enter the waters around Scarborough Shoal at China’s mercy.

The dispute erupted in April 2012, when China sent ships to expel Filipino fishing crews and took control of the area. The standoff became a symbol of Beijing’s policy to lay claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea where where it continues to build military outposts on remote reefs and artificially created islands in waters claimed by other nations. Lacking military, diplomatic or economic muscle, the Philippines turned to the rule of law and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. A panel of maritime judges ruled China’s claim to Scarborough Shoal invalid in July this year. China refused to recognize the tribunal from the start and declared the decision “null and void,” highlighting the complex balance in the current world order between national power and the rule of law.

Beijing’s response mirrored a 1986 US response to Nicaragua’s challenge in the International Court of Justice. The court ruled against the United States for mining Nicaragua’s harbors and supporting right-wing Contra rebels. The United States claimed the court had no jurisdiction.

With these stands, both China and the United States weakened a crucial element of international law – consent and recognition by all parties.

China And The US: Two Visions, One Collaboration? – Analysis

By Marc Grossman*
NOVEMBER 17, 2016

China-US collaboration on infrastructure projects in Asia could reduce extremism, improve relations and help companies.

With Donald Trump’s election, China and the United States could be on a collision course. The US president-elect promised during the campaign to label China a currency manipulator, instruct the US trade representative to bring trade cases against China in the World Trade Organization, and threaten 45 percent tariffs if China does not renegotiate trade agreements with the US. Meanwhile, China pursues a military buildup in the South China Sea designed to diminish US influence in Asia.

As Trump addresses trade and the other issues on the US-China agenda as president and not candidate, he may find it useful to look for areas where the two countries could work together. One opportunity ready to be explored is the vision promoted by both Beijing and Washington of the need for more economic and infrastructure connections between East Asia, South and Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Two concepts are in play: China’s One Belt One Road, or OBOR initiative, a multibillion dollar program to build ports, railways, roads, power plants in and around 60 countries and the more modest, but still important, the American New Silk Road initiative, or NSR.

In July 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in India about the benefits of linking Central Asian economies with those in South Asia, with Afghanistan and Pakistan in the center. Increased regional economic connectivity, she argued, would promote sustainable economic growth, a crucial part of the effort to defeat extremism. In September, the United States convened a New Silk Road ministerial meeting in New York and China expressed enthusiasm for the project. Turkey hosted the “Heart of Asia Conference” in November 2011, and supported by the United States and China, the concept became a touchstone for regional cooperation.

GCC States Consolidate Military Strength – OpEd

By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim*
NOVEMBER 18, 2016

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif was in Bahrain on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to witness the final exercise of the “Arabian Gulf Security One” tactical drill. This is one more step toward the consolidation of the military strength of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

On Tuesday, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman chaired the 15th Joint GCC Defense Council meeting in Riyadh, which was attended by the defense ministers of the GCC states. During the meeting the deputy crown prince called for greater GCC military cooperation. All these events point toward a greater urgency among the GCC states to close their ranks in view of the changing scenario in the wider region.

The GCC states — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman — are the most prosperous, secure, stable and homogeneous states in the world. The GCC countries enjoy stability in an area known for its volatility. For many years, the Arabian Gulf states managed to deal with, and overcome, many challenges. After achieving great feats together, the people of the GCC states want to take the cooperation between their respective countries to a new level by forming the United Gulf States.

The region is facing many challenges and they should be countered with more plans for security as well as for more economic and political unity. The Gulf region is blessed with natural resources, which require protection from any military or terrorist threats. The “Arabian Gulf Security One” exercises held in Bahrain successfully achieved the desired results. Different forces showed professionalism in coordinating a variety of operations. The large number of personnel who participated in the exercise and the sophisticated equipment used in the drill showed the readiness and ability of the GCC to counter any threat coming from any country or any terrorist organization.

STABILIZING IRAQ WITH AND WITHOUT THE ISLAMIC STATE

NOVEMBER 16, 2016

The military campaign to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has generated much-needed attention to “day-after” scenarios. This includes security arrangements for Mosul city and governance structures that address competing territorial claims by diverse ethnic and religious groups in Ninewa province. Even if Mosul is relatively secured, ISIL remnants will likely go underground, re-integrate into cities and outlying areas, and wage guerilla warfare to destabilize the Iraqi state. Underlying these threats are ISIL’s root causes — namely Sunni Arab grievances — and the potential for another iteration of this jihadist movement to emerge in the future. To thwart this outcome, some analysts, media, and officials have proposed different ethno-sectarian solutions such as creating regions based on sects and ethnicity, arming “the Sunnis” and “the Kurds,” and finding ways for “deeply skeptical Sunni territories to support a Shi’ite dominated government.”

These solutions are faulty. As a recent research trip to Iraq confirmed to me, while ethno-sectarianism persists in Iraq, its influence on post-ISIL stabilization should not be overdetermined. Important shifts have occurred in Iraqi politics and society since the ISIL onslaught in Mosul in June 2014, rendering state partition along ethnic and sectarian lines even less likely today than a decade ago. Instead, the Iraqi state has broken down into hyper-fragmented entities with their own militias, all of which seek recognition, economic benefits, self-rule, and self-protection within the Iraqi state. ISIL’s consequences include demographic shifts, re-ordering of internal boundaries, and pacts and divisions within and across communities. Any successful plan to stabilize Iraq must address these developments. At minimum, both policy and plans should enhance Iraqi sovereignty and focus on local governance and security arrangements in official territorial units, rather than particular ethnic and sectarian group interests.

State Break-Down, not Break-Up

WHY SADDAM AND GADDAFI FAILED TO GET THE BOMB

NOVEMBER 17, 2016

Imagine if Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi had nuclear weapons in 2003. The invasion of Iraq may not have been possible, and states would have been much more reluctant to bomb Libya in 2011. The Middle East would be a very different place today. As it happens, both leaders had sought nuclear weapons for decades, but neither got the bomb. Why?

In fact, Iraq came close to the nuclear weapons threshold. If Saddam hadn’t invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990,Iraq would most likely have acquired nuclear weapons during the mid-1990s. In contrast, Libya’s program failed, over and over again, for three decades before the Gaddafi regime ultimately abandoned the program in late 2003.

In my new book, Unclear Physics: Why Iraq and Libya Failed to Get Nuclear Weapons, I present a history of the nuclear programs in both states. Armed with new evidence, collected in archives and fieldwork over the past decade, I tell the story of these nuclear programs from the contemporary perspectives of decision-makers, scientists and managers. By exploring these programs from the bottom up, as well as from the perspectives of regime elites, I shed new light on why these programs failed, and how much Saddam and Gaddafi actually knew about how these programs were doing at different stages. My findings also challenge important aspects of the conventional wisdom about how these regimes worked: They were not efficient machines, as they appeared from the outside. Seen from the inside, these regimes were frequently chaotic and inefficient.

While dictators with weak states can easily decide that they want nuclear weapons, they will find it difficult to produce them. Why? Personalist dictators like Saddam and Gaddafi weaken formal state institutions in order to concentrate power in their own hands. This helps them remain in power for longer, but makes their states inefficient. Weak states have fewer instruments to set up and manage complex technical programs. They lack the basic institutional capability to plan, execute, and review complicated technical projects. As a result, their leaders can be led to believe that the nuclear weapons program is doing great while, in fact, nothing is working out. In Libya, for example, scientists worked throughout the 1980s to produce centrifuges, with zero results.

Is Trump a Death Sentence for the Iran Deal?

November 16, 2016
http://nationalinterest.org/feature/trump-death-sentence-the-iran-deal-18424?page=show

The election of Donald Trump has prompted a flood of commentary on the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), President Barack Obama’s signature achievement. Trump repeatedly described the JCPOA with Iran as the “worst agreement ever” and promised to “dismantle” it. As is well known, the JCPOA, as a multinational agreement, cannot be abrogated by the United States alone. It is not even clear whether Trump, who, in his customary contradictory manner, also complained that sanctions hurt American chances of doing business with the regime, would attempt to kill it. Vice President–elect Mike Pence, a Tea Party supporter and an evangelical Christian, has been more consistent, vowing numerous times to rip up the accord.

Overlooked in the speculations about Trump’s future decisions is the dominant role that Congress would play in shaping American policy toward the JCPOA. In 2015, in conjunction with the government of Israel and the Israel lobby in Washington, congressional Republicans mounted an unprecedented but ultimately an unsuccessful campaign to derail the deal. Still, the lobby and its congressional patrons have not abandoned their effort to limit the economic benefits of the deal to Iran. One effective tool is new sanctions-generating legislation. Lawmakers from the House Republican Israel Caucus introduced several bills which would, among others provisions, extend the Iran Sanctions Act due to expire in December 2016, block the sale of eighty Boeing planes to Iran and prohibit the Export-Import Bank from financing business with Iran. Unlike President Obama, President-elect Trump is not expected to veto the anti-Iran legislation, setting a relatively low bar for its passage.

Rebranding Ourselves As ‘Arabs’ In The Trump Era – OpEd

By Ray Hanania* 
NOVEMBER 17, 2016

It is time for the Arab World and Arab people to rebrand themselves in the era of newly elected President Donald Trump if we expect to see our issues addressed fairly.

Arabs can sit back and let events overtake us the way they always do. Or, we can become active and do what needs to be done that we haven’t done so far.

What can we do? We need a new Arab Spring, one driven by people with a clear, unified and achievable goal. We need to replace emotion with reason, effective communications messaging, and goals that are more clearly defined to build bridges, not create obstacles with the West. Arabs need to stop allowing others to define us. We need to define ourselves. And we have to answer a very important question: Are we “Muslim,” or are we “Arab?”

It makes a difference to the West, which strongly believes in a separation of church and state. Too often in the Arab World, religion and Islam is politics. That has caused many Americans to view Islam as a threat.

Arabs have erred in embracing a religious identify. It has caused the West to fear us, rather than empathize with our rights. Our religious identity has caused consternation, resistance and opposition, not understanding.

As a consequence, the West has tried to control the Muslim World, rather than partnering with the Arab World as equals. Most Muslims are not Arab. Non-Arab Muslims share a love and respect for the religion, but they don’t share the same priorities of Arabs Muslims. The result is that Western governments have built alliances with non-Arab Muslims, while isolating Arabs, Muslims and Christians from nearly all aspects of society, government and politics. That doesn’t mean “Muslims” are not the focus of the animosity of many Americans. Americans are the most educated people in the world but the least educated about the world. They really see no differences between Arabs, Asians, Pakistanis, Christian Arabs and Muslims Arabs.

ISIS’s Global Attack Network: November 13, 2015 – November 9, 2016

By Jessica Lewis McFates and Melissa Pavlik
17 November 2016 

This article was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on 9 November 2016.

ISIS has organized a number of external attacks worldwide in the past year, some of which have been thwarted. ISIS’s global network is still operating and is poised to continue conducting external attacks in late 2016. The U.S. must recognize that the campaign to recapture Mosul and Raqqa will not defeat ISIS. Rather, any military success in Iraq and Syria must be the first phase of a campaign to counter ISIS globally, whether through military or non-military means.

Overview

ISIS has been planning an external attack from Raqqa, Syria. The U.S. and its partners in the counter-ISIS coalition are assisting the major operations to recover Raqqa and Mosul, ISIS’s main urban hubs. ISIS is conducting counter-offensives inside Iraq to divert Coalition attention from these main efforts. Similarly, ISIS will direct its global network to launch additional counter-offensives across its global footprint. Coalition partner nations face a high risk of attacks by ISIS on their homelands and their populations abroad while the offensives to recapture Mosul and Raqqa progress. The attack threat emanating from Raqqa highlights that ISIS-linked militants across the world still receive direction from ISIS in core terrain.

ISIS’s global attack network consists of two known campaigns: a general call for individuals to conduct attacks in the name of ISIS; and specific discrete attacks that are planned, coordinated, and executed by organized groups or cells of ISIS members. The specific external attack threat emanating from Raqqa falls in the latter category, over which ISIS exerts more control. Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former spokesman and director of external operations, may have masterminded this two-pronged strategy and its execution. But his death on the battlefield in Aleppo Province on August 20, 2016 did not eliminate ISIS’s ability to design and coordinate such attacks. ISIS’s global network is still operating within the campaign framework defined by Adnani and other high-ranking ISIS militants and is poised to continue external attacks in late 2016.

Finance And Investment Key To A New Dawn In Climate Change – Analysis

By J Nastranis
NOVEMBER 18, 2016

While there is “a new dawn for global cooperation on climate change”, greater efforts are required to mobilize funding to address climate change, especially to support developing countries, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“Finance and investment hold the key to achieving low-emissions and resilient societies,” Ban said in remarks read by his Special Advisor on Climate Change, Bob Orr, to a High-Level Ministerial dialogue on climate financing at the 22nd Conference of Parties Conference (COP 22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

According to UN News, Ban underscored that one of the core objectives of the Paris Agreement, which entered into force on November 4, 2016, is “to make all finance flows consistent with a pathway to low-emissions climate-resilient development.” He noted that there has been progress, in particular in renewable energy.

In December 2015 at COP21, 196 Parties to the UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement, so-named after the French capital where it was approved. It aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Agreement entered into force in time for COP 22 from November 7-18, 2016, where parties are expected to define the rules of implementation of the Paris accord and establish a viable plan to provide financial support to developing countries to support climate action.

How the US justifies drone strikes: targeted killing, secrecy and the law

Jameel Jaffer
November 16, 2016

How the US justifies drone strikes: targeted killing, secrecy and the law

The sun had yet to rise when missiles launched by CIA drones struck a clutch of buildings and vehicles in the lower Kurram tribal agency of Pakistan, killing four or five people and injuring another. It was February 22, 2016, and the American drone campaign had entered its second decade. Over the next weeks, officials in Washington and Rome announced that the US military would use the Sigonella air base in Sicily to launch strikes against targets in Libya. American strikes in Yemen killed four people driving on a road in the governorate of Shabwah and eight people in two small villages in the governorate of Abyan. A strike in Syria killed an Indian citizen believed to be a recruiter for the self-styled Islamic State, and another strike killed a suspected Islamic State fighter in northern Iraq. A particularly bloody series of drone strikes and airstrikes in Somalia incinerated some 150 suspected militants at what American officials described as a training camp for terrorists. In south-eastern Afghanistan, a series of drone strikes killed 12 men in a pickup truck, two men who attempted to retrieve the bodies, and another three men who approached the area when they became worried about the others.

Over just a short period in early 2016, in other words, the United States deployed remotely piloted aircraft to carry out deadly attacks in six countries across central and south Asia, north Africa, and the Middle East, and it announced that it had expanded its capacity to carry out attacks in a seventh. And yet with the possible exception of the strike in Somalia, which garnered news coverage because of the extraordinary death toll, the drone attacks did not seem to spark controversy or reflection. As the 2016 presidential primaries were getting under way, sporadic and sketchy reports of strikes in remote regions of the world provided a kind of background noise – a drone in a different sense of the word – to which Americans had become inured.

Senior officials in the administration of President Barack Obama variously described drone strikes as “precise,” “closely supervised,” “effective,” “indispensable,” and even the “only game in town” – but what they emphasized most of all is that the drone strikes they authorized were lawful.

Russia reveals Bastion-P deployment, land attack role in Syria

Nicholas de Larrinaga, Sean O'Connor, and Neil Gibson
November 16, 2016

Russia reveals Bastion-P deployment, land attack role in Syria

Russia revealed on 15 November that it has K-300P Bastion-P (SSC-5 ‘Stooge’) coastal defence systems deployed in Syria, and that its P-800 Onyx (SS-N-26 'Strobile’) anti-ship missiles have a land attack capability.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) it fired some of these missiles against rebel land targets in Syria on 15 November. At least two missiles appear to have been fired from two different Bastion-P launchers, based on the footage release by the MoD.

The strikes came as part of the launch of a Russian air offensive against rebel forces in Syria that also included the firing of Kalibr missiles from the Russian Navy Project 11356M frigate Admiral Grigorovich. The Russian air offensive is believed to be linked to a Syrian ground offensive in the Aleppo area.

Based on analysis by IHS Jane’s , one of the Bastion-P launchers seen in the Russian MoD footage was deployed at a Syrian P-14 early warning radar site 30 km inland from the coastal city of Baniyas in Tartus province (35.165798 N, 36.262310 E).

The Syrian government also operates Bastion-P systems, with the first deliveries reported in 2011. These are generally referred as Yakhont systems after the name for the export version of the P-800 missile.

The Russian Bastion-P launchers are believed to be located at a site 30 km inland of Baniyas. (Russian MoD)

The Looming Battle for Trump's Foreign Policy

November 16, 2016

The general outlines of Trump’s foreign policy vision suggest that we should prepare for a sharp break from the past. Trump seems uninterested in pursuing either the energetic liberal internationalism or the aggressive interventionism that have defined post-Cold War American grand strategy. Instead, Trump appears ready to redefine American commitments around the world – to regional security, to free trade and to alliances.

Trump’s success, however, will depend on whether he wins the tug-of-war with his foreign policy advisers. Most are likely to be wedded to the very strategies Trump attacked during his campaign. The reason is simple: there are simply no senior foreign policy hands – on either the Republican or Democratic bench – who support Trump’s mélange of unorthodox positions on international issues.

The names floated to date — Newt Gingrich, John Bolton, Gen. Michael Flynn, Senator Jeff Sessions, Senator Jim Talent and the like — all have greater inclinations toward American engagement in the world, and military intervention in particular, than Trump. All of them supported the war in Iraq that Trump famously purports to have opposed and now calls a huge mistake. Gingrich and Bolton have both called for military strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. Most of these cabinet candidates also break with Trump on the issue of Russia and Vladimir Putin and support more aggressive measures to confront China. And on the question of the Islamic State, though Trump has called for “smashing ISIS” and other tough counterterrorism measures, he has also made it very clear that he has much less interest than his potential advisors do in getting more involved militarily in Iraq and Syria. If Trump’s top advisors win the tug-of-war, American foreign policy will look very different from the one Trump sketched during the campaign.

The $64 thousand question then is who will win the tug-of-war? Both logic andscholarly research suggest a president as inexperienced as Trump is very likely to rely heavily on the counsel of his advisors. After all, Trump doesn’t just lack foreign policy experience – he has never held any government office and remains unfamiliar with the rhythms of the federal government and U.S. foreign policy.

Who Cares What the Neocons Think?

November 16, 2016

George Orwell once famously observed that Western intellectuals, more often than not, harbor a dirty secret. For all their pious talk about democracy or equality, their true temptation is to “usher in a hierarchical society where the intellectual can at last get his hands on the whip.” Orwell was talking about James Burnham, who went from being a prominent Trotskyist in the 1930s to a columnist at National Review espousing the rollback of Soviet Communism. But the force of his dictum applies to today’s neoconservatives, and perhaps to none better than Eliot A. Cohen.

Cohen, who is the Robert E. Osgood professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, was, of course, among the foremost proponents of the Iraq War. His forthcoming book The Big Stick: the Limits of Soft Power & the Necessity of Military Force, as the title suggests, is not the work of someone who has had any serious second thoughts. On the contrary, it is an unabashed plea for a revival of American militarism. As Talleyrand remarked about the Bourbons, Cohen has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

Perhaps, then, it should not be surprising that Cohen has been at the forefront of the “Never Trump” campaign. Cohen is not a traditional conservative but a crusading neocon. Writing in the American Interest, heobserved, “The Republican Party as we know it may die of Trump. If it does, it will have succumbed in part because many of its leaders chose not to fight for the Party of Lincoln.” Then, after Trump won, Cohen apparently changed his mind. He suggested that younger conservatives might consider serving in the new administration.

Suspend The Iran Nuclear Agreement, Mr. Trump – Analysis

By John R. Haines*
NOVEMBER 17, 2016

(FPRI) — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quick to warn President-elect Donald Trump that the United States is “duty-bound . . . to abide by the country’s commitments” to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).[1] That document is the July 2015 nuclear agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran, the P5+1 group,[2] and the European Union. “The US presidential election has no impact on Iran’s foreign policy,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who added:

Iran exercised vigilance to settle the nuclear dispute and got approval of the UN Security Council revoking the sanctions, so that the US government cannot change the situation.[3]

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (l), with Romanian Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu (r)

The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported the comments by President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif on the same day that reports appeared in the Western press alleging Iranian violations of the JCPOA.[4] The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—the United Nations agency charged with monitoring Iranian compliance under the JCPOA—”expressed concerns” about a technical breach related to Iran storing heavy water in excess of the amount permitted under the JCPOA.[5] It is the second time since the JCPOA went into effect on 16 January 2016 that inspectors found Iran in breach of the heavy water stockpile threshold.

As documented by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), the Joint Commission tasked with carrying out the JCPOA—it is comprised of representatives from Iran and the P5+1—secretly exempted certain Iranian nuclear stocks and facilities from JCPOA limits prior to Implementation Day last January:

A Nonviolent Strategy To Liberate Syria – OpEd

NOVEMBER 17, 2016

In early 2011, as the Arab Spring was moving across North Africa and the Middle East, small groups of nonviolent activists in Syria, which has been under martial law since 1963, started protesting against the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad and demanding democratic reforms, the release of political prisoners, an increase in freedoms, abolition of the emergency law and an end to corruption.

By mid-March these protests, particularly in cities such as Damascus, Aleppo and Daraa, had escalated and the ‘Day of Rage’ protest on 15 March 2011 is considered by many to mark the start of the nationwide uprising against the Assad dictatorship. The dictatorship’s reaction to the protests became violent on 16 March and on 18 March, after Friday prayers, activists gathered at the al-Omari Mosque in Daraa were attacked by security forces with water cannons and tear gas, followed by live fire; four nonviolent activists were killed.

Within months, as the nonviolent protests expanded and spread, the regime had killed hundreds of activists and arbitrarily arrested thousands, subjecting many of them to brutal torture in detention. This pattern has continued unchecked. For the earliest of a succession of reports that document this regime violence against nonviolent activists, see the Human Rights Watch report ‘”We’ve Never Seen Such Horror” Crimes against Humanity by Syrian Security Forces’.https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/06/01/weve-never-seen-such-horror/crimes-against-humanity-syrian-security-forces For the most recent report, see the UN Human Rights Council report ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention in the Syrian Arab Republic’.http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/A-HRC-31-CRP1_en.pdf

US Election Wasn’t About Trump – OpEd

By Jim Hightower*
NOVEMBER 17, 2016

When a political puck named Dick Tuck lost a California senate election in 1966, he famously conceded: “The people have spoken. The bastards.”

So now that the people have spoken up for Donald Trump, were they saying that they embrace his xenophobic, nativist, far-right policies?

Not necessarily. Most Trump voters say they went for him because they think he’ll shake up America’s elite establishment, not because he’s a conservative. In fact, majorities of people all over the country voted for very progressive policies and candidates this year.

For example, all four states that had minimum wage increases on the ballot — that’s Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington — passed them. Plus, a South Dakota proposal to lower its minimum wage was rejected by 71 percent of voters.

Meanwhile, voters in two states — California and Washington — passed initiatives calling for repealing the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, which has allowed corporate cash to flood into our elections. Washington also voted to provide public funding of elections in the state.

And a Minnesota initiative to take away the power of state lawmakers to set their own salaries, moving this authority to a bipartisan citizens’ council, won 77 percent of the vote.

Russia’s Information War & What To Do About It

November 5, 2016 

Editorial Board Member at NATO Defence Strategic Communications Journal 

My latest from the Center for Security Policy’s new book, Putin’s Reset. Here’s an excerpt:

Russia’s new information war is a logical outgrowth of the way Vladimir Putin engineered his rise to power. As the security minister and designated successor to the ailing and alcoholic President Boris Yeltsin in 1999, Putin engineered the bombings of apartment buildings in southern Russia and blamed the slaughter on Chechen rebels. His “propaganda by deed” provided the pretext to launch a new war to smash the Chechen rebellion. Both created the mass outrage that called for strong and decisive leadership, manufacturing and focusing public demand his quiet ouster of Yeltsin on the night of Y2K.

Seen through that lens, the Kremlin’s weaponization of information is a logical, proven, cost-effective means of domestic political action, internal security, and international power projection. It succeeds because neither the Russian public nor the West demanded a public accounting of Russia’s Communist past the role of the former KGB as the sword and shield of the Soviet state. Both were willing to suspend their belief for their own purposes.

Inaction from three successive American presidents empowered Putin and unwittingly gave the otherwise weak Russia an enormous capability to wage war, sometimes without firing a shot. Information, properly applied, gives leverage to the materially weaker side. The Kremlin’s new information warfare and propaganda capabilities, while innovative for a government, merit concern mostly because of the West’s flaccid and delayed response.

The capabilities and actions present a strategic challenge. With the grave but unsurprising exception of subversion of the U.S. political system, they hardly merit the breathless reportage and commentary from many political observers, because they have been building up visibly for more than a decade.

It's no surprise that the far right are mobilising against George Soros – he's the biggest threat to their global domination



George Soros has invested a good chunk of his extraordinary wealth in promoting liberal causes across the world, which has earned him the enmity of the far right 

The Independent Online

When Donald Trump was confronted over whether he took advantage of tax loopholes, he said: 'I absolutely used it, and so did Warren Buffett, and so did George Soros and so did many people who Hillary is getting money from' 

Influential financial analysts Zerohedge claim George Soros “singlehandedly created the European refugee crisis”; xenophobic rag Breitbart says Soros’s funding of Black Lives Matter was part of an agenda to swing the US presidential election; and Donald Trump’s favourite crank Alex Jones says “Soros is behind the Muslim takeover of the West”. In August, hackers thought to be linked to the Russian government stole thousands of documents from Soros’s foundation’s servers and put them online, placing at risk many of the brave individuals the foundation funds.

As the world turns to the hard right, one man has become a figure of hate for resurgent nationalists across the globe: Soros has become the No 1 target for the alt-right – a figure central to wild conspiracy theories – because nationalists want to destroy for good the idea that democracy or liberal values can be promoted, or encouraged.

THE DANGER OF INADVERTENT WAR IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS

NOVEMBER 16, 2016

In 1914, Austria-Hungary launched what it thought would be a short punitive war against Serbia. The next thing it knew, it was involved in a war against Russia, Italy, France, Britain, and then the United States. Four years later, Austria-Hungary ceased to exist. If the Austro-Hungarian government had known where its Balkan intervention would lead, it would never have launched it. But it didn’t know. World War I was an inadvertent war.

World War I was horrifying, among the greatest catastrophes that humanity had ever experienced. Then, with the advent of nuclear weapons, the idea of inadvertent great power war grew even more alarming. One concern during the Cold War was that a small crisis might lead to a general war, as each side sought to one-up the other. The successful negotiations of the Incidents at Sea Agreement and the host of confidence-building measures emerged from the Conference on Security and Cooperation Europe and its successor were a recognition of this concern. On at least two occasions, the superpowers took the initial steps up such an escalatory ladder. In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev threatened to use nuclear weapons on France and Britain and London during the Suez Crisis. Then in 1973, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev threatened to send Soviet troops to enforce an Arab-Israeli ceasefire and President Richard Nixon (or Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger) moved American forces to DEFCON 3. Another concern was a technical glitch or an intelligence mis-assessment that might lead one side to believe it had only minutes to respond to a nuclear attack that was already underway, as happened in the United States in 1979 and in the Soviet Union during the ABLE ARCHER exercise in 1983. The end of the Cold War seemed to put an end to most such concerns. The world could rest easy; there would be no World War III and no nuclear war.

THINKING HISTORICALLY: A GUIDE FOR STRATEGY AND STATECRAFT

NOVEMBER 17, 2016

Editor’s Note: This is adapted from the 12th Annual Alvin H Bernstein Lecture at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, delivered by the author on November 10.

On November 22nd, 2011, The New York Times published a short Erol Morris op-doc, “Umbrella Man,” to mark the 48thanniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. In the six and a half minute video, Morris employs his Interrotron camera to create his trademark intimacy while interviewing Josiah “Tink” Thompson, author of a book on the famous Zapruder film titled Six Seconds in Dallas. Backed by a haunting score arranged by minimalist composer Arvo Part and spliced with snippets of video from the fateful day, Thompson tells the mysterious story of a shadowy figure called the “umbrella man.”

Who was the umbrella man? During the Zapruder and other films and photographs from that fateful day in Dallas, an upright figure can be seen standing on the so-called grassy knoll, holding an open black umbrella, moments before the assassin’s bullets are fired into the president’s motorcade. The image is arresting: The weather in Dallas was sunny and warm.

The sight of a lone man under the umbrella would have been disconcerting even if Kennedy’s murder had not taken place right in front of the man seconds later. As Thompson says: “In all of Dallas, there appears to be exactly one person standing under an open black umbrella …. Can anyone come up with a non-sinister explanation for this?”

War in the Information Age

By Gen. Dave Goldfein Read bio 
November 16, 2016 

The chief of the U.S. Air Force describes a speed-infused future of combined arms — across domains and entire partnerships. 

We are on the eve of a new era in the business of warfighting and combined arms. In this information age of warfare, advantage will be achieved through the speed and integration of information. If we follow the right path, tomorrow’s commanders will seamlessly direct joint and coalition forces in a way that simultaneously capitalizes on our advantages on land; at sea; and in the air, space, and cyberspace. The primary warfighting attributes will be decision speed and operational agility. In short, our asymmetric advantage in future battles depends on harnessing the vast amount of information our sensors can generate, fusing it quickly into decision-quality information, and creating effects simultaneously from all domains and all functional components anywhere in the world.

Before discussing what must change as we evolve in the information age of warfare, we should acknowledge what never changes: trust and confidence. Joint and coalition warfare has and always will rely on trust and confidence at all levels — tactical, operational, and strategic.

At the tactical level, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsman must trust each other to achieve mission success. From Air Force Joint Tactical Air Controllers embedded with and coordinating airpower for Army and Marine maneuver units to Navy and Coast Guard integrated maritime operations around the globe, today’s military has established an unprecedented level of trust and confidence from 25 years of fighting together.

At the operational level, component commanders from each service understand the supporting and supported relationships required to employ joint and coalition forces in support of a Joint Force commander. When I was the Air Component Commander under Gen. Jim Mattis in CENTCOM, his guidance to me and my fellow commanders was crystal clear: “I expect vicious harmony.” He got it. So do today’s Joint Force commanders engaged at the operational level of war.

WICKEDLY CLEVER USB STICK INSTALLS A BACKDOOR ON LOCKED PERSONAL COMPUTERS (PC)/LAPTOPS; USB DONGLE TAKES ADVANTAGE OF DESIGN FLAWS PRESENT IN VIRTUALLY EVERY PC OPERATING SYSTEM & WEB BROWSER

by RC Porter 
November 17, 2016 

Wickedly Clever USB Stick Installs A Backdoor On Locked Personal Computers (PC)/Laptops; USB Dongle Takes Advantage Of Design Flaws Present In Virtually Every PC Operating System & Web Browser

Andy Greenberg had an article in the November 16, 2016 edition of WIRED.com, with the title above. Mr Greenberg began his article, with this analogy: “You probably know by now that plugging a random USB into your computer/laptop is the digital equivalent of swallowing a pill handed to you by a stranger on the New York subway. But, serial hacker Samy Kamkar’s latest invention may make you think of your computer’s USB ports themselves as unpatchable vulnerabilities — ones that open up your network to any hacker who can get momentary access to them, even when your computer is locked.”

Mr. Greenberg was part of an audience this week that gathered to see Mr. Kamkar demonstrate how a device he calls, PoisonTap, can infiltrate/breach security firewalls and compromise just about any locked, or unlocked personal computer (PC). The PoisonTap is “a tiny USB dongle, that — whether plugged into a locked, or unlocked PC, installs a set of web-based back doors — that in many cases, allow an attacker to gain access to the victim’s online accounts, corporate intranet sites, or even their router,” Mr. Greenberg wrote. “Instead of exploiting any glaring security flaw in a single piece of software, PoisonTap pulls off its attack through a series of more subtle design issues that are present in virtually every operating system and web browser, making the attack that much harder to protect against.”

“In a lot of corporate offices, it’s pretty easy [to pull off this hack]. You walk around, find a computer, plug in a Poison Tap for a minute; and, then unplug it,” Mr. Kamkar said. “The computer may be locked; but, PoisonTap is still able to takeover network traffic and plant the back door.”

The Washington Post Is in Full McCarthyist Attack Mode

November 16, 2016

What is the convention regarding connections between a foreign government and a candidate for public office?

It was in full McCarthyist attack mode last Friday when it reported the Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov as acknowledging that the Russian government had established a relationship with Trump’s campaign (or more correctly had sought to establish connections with both candidates but only Trump’s campaign was interested).

Writing ominously about a “disclosure that could reopen scrutiny of the Kremlin’s role in the president-elect’s bitter race against Hillary Clinton,” thePost seized upon Ryabkov’s admission in an Interfax interview that “there were contacts” between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign.

“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” the Post quotes him as saying, “We have just begun to consider ways of building dialogue with the future Donald Trump administration and channels we will be using for those purposes.’

To the Post, the existence of such contacts seems to signify that Putin has taken over the White House.

The Post poured scorn on the suggestion by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Natalia Zakharova that meetings between “staffers at the Russian embassy in Washington” and “members of Trump’s campaign” should be described as “normal practice” (the inverted commas leaving the reader with little doubt as to what the Post thought of the claim).

Zakharova also said that the Russian embassy had in fact sought to establish meetings with both presidential candidates but that “Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign refused similar requests for meetings.”

Why Google doesn’t care about hiring top college graduates



Google has spent years analyzing who succeeds at the company, which has moved away from a focus on GPAs, brand name schools, and interview brain teasers.

In a conversation with The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock, detailed what the company looks for. And increasingly, it’s not about credentials.

Graduates of top schools can lack “intellectual humility”

Megan McArdle argued recently that writers procrastinate “because they got too many A’s in English class.” Successful young graduates have been taught to rely on talent, which makes them unable to fail gracefully.

Google looks for the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better. “It’s ‘intellectual humility.’ Without humility, you are unable to learn,” Bock says. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.”

Those people have an unfortunate reaction, Bock says: