2 June 2017

The Risk of Nuclear Catastrophe under Trump

By Rebecca Friedman Lissner

Growing tension on the Korean Peninsula has returned the unimaginable terror of nuclear war to the American public consciousness. The danger is a global one: Nine states possess nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons and the detonation of even one of these weapons could cause humanitarian and economic catastrophe. Although the use of a nuclear weapon by a state or non-state actor is unlikely, it is not impossible, and the risk may be growing. Indeed, such a rare event can be evaluated in terms of a simple risk-assessment formula: probability multiplied by consequences.

Given the enormous consequences of nuclear use, even small fluctuations in probability warrant attention. Some variation will arise from changes in the international environment, such as technological advances that make nuclear command and control systems more or less vulnerable to cyber-attack, or fluctuation in the level of tension between nuclear-armed rivals like India and Pakistan. But as the world’s most powerful state, with its own vast nuclear arsenal as well as a record of leadership in nonproliferation and nuclear security efforts, the United States plays an important role in moderating —– or enhancing —– the likelihood of nuclear use.

How NATO Endures in the Twenty-First Century


Nearly seven decades after its founding, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is far from “obsolete.” This MWI Report examines how global institutions like NATO stay relevant, unified, and effective in the face of new crises. Change is central to the story of how NATO has avoided obsolescence and endured. Nearly every aspect of NATO—from its missions to its membership—is strikingly different than at the Alliance’s founding in 1949. Using a theoretical framework of “critical junctures” to explain variation in NATO’s organizational structure and strategy throughout its sometimes turbulent history, this report argues that the organization’s own bureaucratic actors played pivotal, yet overlooked, roles in NATO’s adaptation. It posits that NATO is remarkably resilient and will adapt to meet new bureaucratic challenges and security threats, from Russian military incursions into its neighbors to the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East.

This Time, the Loser Writes History The Six-Day War

by Gabriel Glickman

May 23, 2017: Fifty years ago today, state-run media in Cairo announced that Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, cutting off the Jewish state's access to the Red Sea. Then-President Lyndon Johnson later said of the Six-Day War, which erupted two weeks later, "If a single act of folly was more responsible for this explosion than any other, it was the arbitrary and dangerous announced decision that the Straits of Tiran would be closed. The right of innocent, maritime passage must be preserved for all nations."

A half-century later, however, a "historiographical rewriting" of the Six-Day War has "effectively become the received dogma, echoed by some of the most widely used college textbooks about the Middle East," as Gabriel Glickman explains in this advance-release article from the Summer 2017 issue of Middle East Quarterly.

A cartoon from 1967 shows Nasser kicking Israel over a cliff. Jerusalem's attempt before the Six-Day War to prevent hostilities is completely ignored or dismissed while the Arab war preparations are framed as a show of force against an alleged, imminent Israeli attack on Syria. 

Army takes strategic cyber capabilities to the tactical edge


Cyber has been thought of as a strategic asset, used as an intelligence-gathering tool and later as a warfighting discipline — following the declaration of cyberspace a domain of warfare and the standup of Cyber Command. Now, the Army is looking to transition that capability to a tactical asset. 

The original thinking behind cyber operations was that everything had to be controlled by the president because operations in cyberspace were all thought to shut down the internet, Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, deputy commanding general for operations at Army Cyber Command, told reporters Feb. 8 during a media roundtable. “That’s not what we’re finding,” McGee noted. 

What they’re finding is that forces can have a localized effect to accomplish missions, he said, adding that there is undoubtedly a tactical application for cyberspace applications. 

The Army has been taking steps toward this paradigm shift since former chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno directed the start of a pilot program called Cyber Support to Corps and Below, which seeks to integrate cyber effects at the tactical edge by embedding cyber forces with brigade combat teams. These effects have been tested at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California. 

Multi-Domain Confusion: All Domains Are Not Created Equal


Erik Heftye

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” —Socrates


Words matter. They frame thoughts and influence concepts by shaping perceptions, preferences, and priorities in the form of tacitly embedded assumptions.[1] Unfortunately, military conceptual frameworks are often encapsulated in jargon and buzzwords that periodically dominate the landscape of Pentagon briefing slides. Notable past examples of these operational concept catchphrases include: Active Defense, AirLand Battle, Full-Spectrum Dominance, Network-Centric Warfare, Effects-Based Operations, Anti-Access/Area Denial, and AirSea Battle. The latest conceptual phrase to command the spotlight is Multi-Domain Battle, which was officially unveiled by the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Commander, General David Perkins, at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition on October 4, 2016.[2] This announcement was foreshadowed a month earlier in an article by Albert Palazzo and David P. McClain in which they touted “multi-domain battle will allow the joint force commander to dominate the targeted domains” because it “breaks down the traditional environmental boundaries between domains that have previously limited who does what where.”[3] The advent of multi-domain battle begs a question that remains unanswered: what constitutes a military domain and why make this distinction?

Hackers break Samsung Galaxy S8’s strong iris scanning security with great ease


Iris scanning was expensive and was used in higher security zones such as high profile offices and alike.

The hack was performed using an infrared photo of the eye with a simple contact lens over it.

When fingerprint scanners were launched, they were one of the most secure methods of security since they could not be replicated easily. However, the security was short-lived and fingerprint scanners can now be easily hacked with simply a household stuff — glue. While fingerprint, pattern, passwords and PIN codes are not safe anymore, the next form of biometrics security came in as iris scanning. Similar to fingerprints, iris scanning is completely unique and cannot be replicated. The method also required the iris to be lit up using an infrared light source.

Iris scanning was expensive and was used in higher security zones such as high profile offices and alike. However, since technology gets cheaper over the years, the iris scanning technology has managed to come down to handheld devices and smartphones. Nokia was the first to place an iris scanner on one of their smartphones, and now Samsung has put the same on one of its tablets and now its flagship smartphones Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ have them as a norm.

Military branches break down how much they need to secure their systems


by Mark Pomerleau

The military services have taken a keen interest in cyber defense and resiliency of their networks.

The common adage the military has come to adopt is it’s not about if they will be hacked, but when they will be hacked. With that, cyber defense has become a cornerstone of spending dollars – which in many cases is separate, though in partnership with the joint-strategic cyber mission forces the services provide and feed to Cyber Command.

“In terms of capability, the Army does have a cyber strategy for capabilities – capability development. And our emphasis is on defense for the Army. The national part does offense, the Army, as a service, does defense,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, said at the Senate Armed Services Committee May 25. “And what’s important for us is to protect our network, protect our ability in the electromagnetic spectrum from everything from degraded operations or complete shutdown, all the way to spoofing.”

“We have set up the first, as I know of in the world, live cyber range at the National Training Center,” Milley added, noting these tactical forces are “being exposed to an enemy, a free thinking [opposing force] out at the training center that executes high end cyber operations against our own units. And our soldiers are learning to come to grips with that.”

What are services spending on offensive cyber?


The Defense Department continues to spend a great deal of time, attention and funds on cyber.

On the offensive side, Cyber Command is currently engaged in an active campaign against the Islamic State group in support of the global anti-ISIS coalition Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

The cyber front, dubbed Joint Task Force-Ares, seeks to disrupt ISIS’s command and control and communication.

According to budget documents released this week, the Air Force notes that in FY18, $5.4 million of overseas contingency operations funds will be spent toward JTF-Ares. In another Air Force line item, base budget and OCO funds totaling $80 million will be spent on cyber tools.

The OCO dollars will go solely toward JTF-A while base funds will provide a wider array of services. They include: 

Development of deployed exploitation framework for Cyber Command. 

Execution of a spiral development process for cyberspace operations basic tools to provide operational agility during cyber mission force effects operations. 

Continued tool repository and signature management study on each spiral of delivered tools that enables tool measurement and repository as well as a means to manipulate tool code to minimize risk of discovery. 

1 June 2017

*** What Happens After ISIS Goes Underground

Colin P. Clarke, Chad C. Serena

Eradicating the Islamic State's dominant presence in the Middle East will merely push the caliphate further into the dark corners of the cyber world.

As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continues to suffer defeats on the battlefield, it may be moving into terrain that is relatively nascent and somewhat unfamiliar to Western counterinsurgents—cyberspace.

Analysts have expressed concern that ISIS may turn to virtual currencies to fund future attacks. These currencies can be used as part of an effort to mask the organization’s illicit transactions while enabling it to support attacks in areas outside of its control. And the organization has a history of broadly using cyberspace and technology in innovative ways.

ISIS is attempting to develop its own social-media architecture to help its members avoid security crackdowns on communications exchanged and content posted by the group, according to Europol, Europe’s police agency. An expanded social-media presence would also enable ISIS to continue to encourage attacks abroad as the group retrenches, but perhaps with greater frequency.

ISIS is losing territory and struggling financially. Its fighters are fleeing, and its leadership is being targeted at a frenetic pace. Throughout the Arab and Islamic world, ISIS had been losing support through 2016—given the group’s military losses, that trend has likely continued in the past year. And in what appears to be a rather desperate attempt to continue fighting, the organization is increasingly relying on elderly militants to conduct suicide attacks.

*** Evolution Of U.S. Cyber Operations And Information Warfare


National Security Situation: Evolving role of cyber operations and information warfare in military operational planning.

Background: Information Warfare (IW) has increasingly gained prominence throughout defense circles, with both allied and adversarial militaries reforming and reorganizing IW doctrine across their force structures. Although not doctrinally defined by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), IW has been embraced with varying degrees by the individual branches of the U.S. armed forces[1]. For the purposes of this paper, the definition of IW is: the means of creating non-kinetic effects in the battlespace that disrupt, degrade, corrupt, or influence the ability of adversaries or potential adversaries to conduct military operations while protecting our own.

Significance: IW has been embraced by U.S. near-peer adversaries as a means of asymmetrically attacking U.S. military superiority. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently acknowledged the existence of “information warfare troops,” who conduct military exercises and real-world operations in Ukraine demonstrating the fusion of intelligence, offensive cyber operations, and information operations (IO)[2]. The People’s Republic of China has also reorganized its armed forces to operationalize IW, with the newly created People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force drawing from existing units to combine intelligence, cyber electronic warfare (EW), IO and space forces into a single command[3].

*** The Fallout From Pakistan's Nuclear Tests

By Shah Meer Baloch

Picture taken from state Pakistan Television shows the Pakistan nuclear blast site in Chagai district of Balochistan province at the moment of detonation.

May 28 is officially a “Day of Greatness” for Pakistan, but for many Balochs it’s a black day. 

On May 28 each year, Pakistan proudly celebrates “Youm-e-Takbir,” which translates as the “Day of Greatness,” to commemorate the country’s first successful detonation of nuclear devices. But the locals in Balochistan’s Chagai district, and citizens all across Balochistan, see May 28 as a “black day.”

The locals still suffer as a result of the nuclear explosions the Pakistani government set off in the Ras Koh mountains 19 years ago. The new generation of Baloch inhabitants in the region is plagued with serious diseases stemming from those blasts. And all in Balochistan are constantly reminded of the promises made at the time by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (then serving his second of what would be three terms, spread out over 17 years) to invest in health, education, roads, and infrastructure in the province — promises that have yet to be fulfilled.

And yet it seems more important to Pakistan that on May 28 it became a member of the club of nuclear powers when it conducted five nuclear tests (followed by a sixth on May 30) in response to India’s five tests two weeks earlier. “We have settled the score,” Sharif said in 1998 in a nationally televised address defending the explosions. “I am thankful to God.”

** Time for the US to take a step back from Afghanistan

BY JAMES D. DURSO

This month we learned the U.S. Marines are back in Helmand, Afghanistan’s most violent province and the center of opium poppy production, and their mission may expand. President Trump will soon decide if he should send 8,400 more troops there for the latest chapter in America’s longest war. Should he?

I think not. We gave Afghanistan out best effort: over 2,200 dead soldiers, over 20,000 wounded, and over $700 billion for everything from ammunition to medical care for veterans. We need to face the fact that it’s an endemically violent place and may never change and another “whole of government” effort may not make any difference.

And don’t take my word for it: the Talban has rejected peace talks with the Afghan government as surrendering to the enemy and against Islam.

The Afghans have seen off every visitor and invader, from Alexander the Great to the U.S. Central Command, so why spend another dollar there? For example, the regional transport network has avoided Afghanistan and the enthusiasts for a New Silk Road or One Belt, One Road haven’t absorbed that the world is avoiding Afghanistan not out of stupidity but out of hard-won experience.

** Stratfor explains how China’s Belt and Roads Initiative might reshape Europe



Summary: Monday’s post looked at how China’s Belt and Roads Initiative was spurring growth in the less developed areas of Asia and Africa — and linking those nations more tightly to China. Here Stratfor looks at how the B&R initiative links to Europe, the end of its new Silk Road. China uses the EU’s weakness as an opportunity to deepen its relationship with Eastern Europe. If only America had leadership even half as wise! But we have our self-esteem, secure in the knowledge of our exceptionalism.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative encompasses six economic corridors. But in geographic and ideological terms, Europe represents the end of the new Silk Road. Increased connectivity with Europe could offer China a chance to expand its access to new markets, as well as to high-tech and strategic assets, thereby facilitating its domestic industrial reform plans. Despite Beijing’s stated goal of fostering greater integration throughout Eurasia with its Belt and Road scheme, however, its approach on the Continent has so far emphasized bilateral or subregional agreements with states in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Mediterranean. The strategy has raised concerns among the European Union’s central powers that Beijing’s influence in the countries could threaten their own, particularly as the bloc’s political and economic rifts widen.

Why GM Won’t Be The Last Car-Maker To Wind Up Shop Here; Some Lessons For India


R Jagannathan

Like many markets in India, the four-wheeler market has just far too many players and other companies may follow in GM in its exit from the country. 

However, that should not distract the government from enacting market friendly reforms which are needed anyway.

Even as India has remained the world’s top foreign direct investment (FDI) destination for two years running, topping China and the US, a small trend of disinvestment and near exits are also worth noting.

Last week, General Motors announced its decision to exit India, after failing to set the automobile buyers’ heart aflutter for over two decades. A few months ago, Vodafone effectively said it is facing investment fatigue in India, and agreed to merge with Idea Cellular, and even giving Kumar Birla a chance to equal his stake in the combined entity. And three years ago, Nokia wound up shop in Chennai and fled to Vietnam, where the tax regime is less taxing.

In part, the Nokia exit was the result of a dramatic shift in demand for mobile phones from feature to smart. It went too downmarket to survive when demand patterns changed.

The Vodafone fatigue relates to low returns in a price sensitive market that had spectrum costs going through the roofs, thanks to the shift from arbitrary allotments of low-priced spectrum to auction-determined ones. It is also the victim of tax terrorism, having been forced to face the taxman despite a Supreme Court verdict in its favour.

What India can learn from Israel

Rupa Subramanya

The year 2017 marks important anniversaries for Israel: the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the first official British declaration recognizing the need for a Jewish state; 1947 when the United Nations passed a resolution in support of a Jewish state, a year before its creation; and 1967, which saw the Six-Day War resulting in an overwhelming Israeli victory over Arab aggressors, establishing Israel’s control over all of Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza, Golan, and Sinai.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between India and Israel. To commemorate this important anniversary, and by remarkable coincidence coinciding with all these other important anniversaries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Israel on 4-6 July, in what will be another first: the first time ever that an Indian prime minister will visit Israel.

It’s noteworthy that the customary add-on, a visit to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, is being skipped. This signals in no uncertain terms that India no longer hyphenates Israel and Palestine and acknowledges what has been evident below the radar screen for years, the enormous importance of the India-Israel bilateral relationship. Whether it’s military cooperation, trade or combatting Islamist extremism in their respective neighbourhoods, Israel is fast becoming one of India’s staunchest and most important partners. Credit for the ramping up of this long overdue boost to the relationship is due both to Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Four Ways Forward in Afghanistan

By Sameer Lalwani

After a five-month-long interagency review process, senior officials have recommended that U.S. President Donald Trump send several thousand more troops to Afghanistan. The request is in line with proposals from General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and makes the consensus recommendation of about 3,000-5,000 more troops. But troop increases alone do not a strategy make. Scholars as varied as Stephen Walt and Michael O’Hanlon have argued that, to arrest rapid deterioration on the ground, the United States needs to situate the troops in a coherent strategy.

At present, at least four plausible strategies can be distilled: state building, reconciliation, containment, and basing. Each strategy contains distinct goals, its own theory of victory, and unique costs and risks. The George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations muddled or vacillated among all four options, which generated incoherence and sometimes worked at cross-purposes. The Trump administration must weigh each strategy individually and make a hard choice based on achievable ends and acceptable tradeoffs. And it must do so before it puts more American and NATO troops in harm’s way.

China’s Strategic Gateway to the Indian Ocean


By Lieutenant General PK Singh (Retired)

Connectivity is an old game that great nations have played since times immemorial. To sustain its empire, Rome supposedly paved 55,000 miles of roads and built aqueducts across Europe. It is China’s turn to play this game now. Discussions on connectivity should address not only the physical infrastructure aspects but also the institutional, financial, commercial, legal, and management issues. International collaborative projects demand statecraft and sagacity of a unique order to reconcile different points of view. 

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a multi-billion-dollar strategic project that connects the Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt, also known as “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR). It is an ambitious geostrategic plan to carve out a combination of continental and maritime influence. The aim of the project is to link northwest China with ports in the Arabian Sea via a road and rail corridor. It provides China the shortest and quickest access to the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Through CPEC, which includes Gwadar Port in the restive Balochistan province of Pakistan and construction in disputed Kashmir, China will project its power in the Indian Ocean Region. Artificial islands created by China in the South China sea and ports such as Hambantota, Karachi, Gwadar, and even Djibouti need to be viewed as part of one continuum. 

One of the world’s happiest economic stories comes from South Asia, but not India


Dan Kopf

Bangladesh’s population of 160 million is as big as France, Germany, and the Netherlands combined. The country is also easily the poorest of the world’s 10 most populous. Given its size and the depth of its poverty, the country’s recent economic boom must rank as one of the world’s happiest economic stories right now.

According to the Asian Development Bank, Bangladesh’s economy grew by 7.1% in 2016, the fastest expansion in 30 years. It was also the sixth year in a row that GDP growth was greater than 6%. Most analysts expect this run to continue. Ratings firm Moody’s, for example, says the country’s growth is likely to remain “robust.”

Bangladesh’s rapid growth wouldn’t be so exciting if it didn’t reach the poor. A recent World Bank report (pdf) found that between 2005 and 2010, average incomes for the poorest 40% of households grew 0.5% faster than for the country as a whole. By comparison, in India the poorest 40% of households did worse than the national average over a similar period.

As a result of this inclusive growth, poverty rates have plummeted. In 1991, well over 40% of the population lived in extreme poverty. Today, the World Bank says that less than 14% still does. That is, about 50 million fewer Bangladeshis are in extreme poverty as a result of the improving economy.

What is Known and Unknown about Changes to the PLA’s Ground Combat Units


By: Dennis J. Blasko

The long-awaited changes in the operational and tactical units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have begun with a formal announcement by President Xi Jinping in April 2017. After initiating major reforms in late 2015 and throughout 2016, the Central Military Commission (CMC), service headquarters, and military regions (now theater commands) have been reorganized resulting in the reallocation of many personnel and the demobilization of an unknown number of active duty personnel. But, as part of the ongoing 300,000 man reduction, even larger cuts in personnel will follow as headquarters and units at corps/army-level and below are eliminated, re-subordinated, or restructured.

By 2020, when the structural changes now underway are scheduled for completion, the PLA should number two million active duty personnel. Though the reforms since 2015 are the most significant set of changes for the PLA since the 1950s, they are but an intermediate step, the 2020 milestone, in the PLA’s “three-step development strategy” initially announced in 2006. The strategy’s final goal was modified in 2008 and defined as “reach[ing] the goal of modernization of national defense and armed forces by the mid-21st century.” [1] As such, more adjustments to the PLA’s structure and capabilities can be expected over the next three decades as technology improves and China’s domestic and the international situations change. Throughout this process the reforms will be evaluated to determine if they meet the objectives of building a strong military to defend China’s core security requirements, capable of deterring and winning informationized wars, and accomplishing a variety of military operations other than war such as anti-terrorism, internal stability maintenance, disaster relief, and international peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations (MOD, May 26, 2015).

Why China's 'Three Warfares' Could Provide Beijing with Big Gains (Thanks to Donald Trump)

Elsa Kania

Under Xi Jinping, China has intensified its focus on “seizing discursive power” (话语权) and “propagating China’s voice” at the global level. Indeed, the recent One Belt, One Road summit in Beijing has highlighted China’s ambitions to exert its influence upon the international order—and adjust it to its own advantage. For China, this concept of discursive power is often considered a critical aspect of its comprehensive national power. Indeed, to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA), information is a weapon. The CCP has pursued Internet control through an extensive, adaptive system in order to avert threats to social stability and its survival, while seeking to assert its influence through shaping public opinion with domestic and external propaganda. Concurrently, to operationalize discursive power, the CCP and PLA have built upon an extensive history of political warfare to engage in concerted influence operations, with Taiwan as the primary target but also against the U.S. and worldwide. These dimensions of Chinese discursive power—Internet control, propaganda work and political warfare—enable the CCP’s defense of China’s core sovereignty, security and development interests, while advancing national strategic objectives.

China builds a new world in which *it* is the great power



Summary: US borrows trillions to wage war in foreign lands. China helps build other nations’ transportation infrastructure to connect them for mutual trade. Which program will work better? Their secret advantage over America is seen in every day’s news headlines.

“Chinese engineers are drilling hundreds of tunnels and bridges to support a 260-mile railway, a $6 billion project that will eventually connect eight Asian countries. Chinese money is building power plants in Pakistan to address chronic electricity shortages, part of an expected $46 billion worth of investment. Chinese planners are mapping out train lines from Budapest to Belgrade, Serbia, providing another artery for Chinese goods flowing into Europe through a Chinese-owned port in Greece.

“The massive infrastructure projects, along with hundreds of others across Asia, Africa and Europe, form the backbone of China’s ambitious economic and geopolitical agenda. President Xi Jinping of China is literally and figuratively forging ties, creating new markets for the country’s construction companies and exporting its model of state-led development in a quest to create deep economic connections and strong diplomatic relationships.

The Islamic World Has a Blasphemy Problem

BY KRITHIKA VARAGUR

JAKARTA, Indonesia — This month, Jakarta’s embattled former governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy against Islam, based on his flip quotation of a Quran verse that addresses whether Muslims can elect non-Muslim leaders. The presiding judge declared that Ahok did not express enough remorse for his indiscretion.

The verdict shocked liberal Indonesians but probably more than it should have. Blasphemy charges have steadily risen in the last decade in Indonesia and have a near 100 percent conviction rate. Meanwhile, across the Muslim world, there has been an uptick in blasphemy charges and prosecutions in recent years. Blasphemy has been spiritedly revived in Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011. In 2001, there was only one blasphemy trial in Pakistan, but now there are dozens each year. There has been a steady drip of attacks and murders of bloggers and writers in Bangladesh in the last five years, along with a deadly mass protest in 2013 demanding the death penalty for blasphemy.

The question of how blasphemy came to monopolize the political conversation in many Muslim-majority countries including Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, is clearly a question about Islam. But, contrary to what liberal intellectuals in these countries often think, the answer has to do with a lot more than just religion.

If Russia or China Attack This Big Weakness in America's Military, It Would Be Trouble

Dave Majumdar
Indeed, the problem is not just that the PL-15 would out-range the AMRAAM, when coupled with the J-20, the Chinese could attack the tankers and ISR aircraft that would be the key enablers during any air campaign over the Pacific. A 2008 RAND briefing suggested that in order to sustain F-22 operations over Taiwan from Guam, the U.S. Air Force would need to launch three to four tanker sorties per hour to deliver 2.6 million gallons of fuel. That’s a fact that has not likely escaped Beijing’s notice.

While there is not much concrete data available about the J-20, the aircraft appears to have been optimized to high-speeds, long-range, stealth and a heavy internal payload. With a combination of reduced radar cross-section and high supersonic speed—armed with internally carried PL-15 missiles—it is possible that the J-20 could be used to threaten U.S. Air Force tankers and ISR assets in the Pacific theatre. As pointed out in the 2008 RAND study—Chinese derivatives of the Su-27 Flanker all but annihilated U.S. tanker, ISR, maritime patrol and command and control aircraft during a simulation using long-range air-to-air missiles.

Something is not right


By Ruth Marcus
Many of us these days find ourselves channeling our inner Miss Clavel. 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, for one. In Dexter Filkins’s profile of Mattis for the New Yorker, the most striking moment comes when Mattis is asked what worries him most in his new role. Filkins expected to hear about the Islamic State, or Russia, or the defense budget. 

Instead, Mattis went to a deeper, more unsettling problem: “The lack of political unity in America. The lack of a fundamental friendliness. It seems like an awful lot of people in America and around the world feel spiritually and personally alienated, whether it be from organized religion or from local community school districts or from their governments.” 

Something is not right. If anything, Mattis’s diagnosis seems understated. This national distemper, the sour, angry mood infecting the body politic, was evident before Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter for daring to ask a question; then had his campaign lie about it; then failed to apologize — until after he won the election. 

It was evident before Gianforte’s current allies and future colleagues were muted, to put it mildly, in the face of his audio-taped assault. “We all make mistakes,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who chairs the House Republicans’ campaign arm. This was not a mistake; it was an assault on a reporter doing his constitutionally protected job. 

U.S. Army On The Hunt For A New Rifle: Potential Winners


Kevin Mackie

The Army wants an upgrade from the M16.

Several companies have key products that may result in a contract.

May be too early to make any bets, but watch for developments.

An initiative to find a better rifle and/or accompanying munitions has been resurrected by the US Army. There was a battery of tests conducted from 2011 to 2013 to find an improved weapon system whose performance out-scaled the M16/M4 but the initiative was abandoned because none of the tested replacement rifles/ammunition showed significant enough of an improvement above that current platform. Another study was started in 2014 and will wrap up in the next couple months that researched further the direction the army should go with their small arms capabilities. Today I will discuss what implications this renewed hunt may have for publicly traded firearm-defense-munitions companies that could be contracted to research, develop, design, and manufacture the new weapon/ammunition, or which companies might be contracted because they already manufacture what the military is looking for. Any contract would potentially be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and could send the lucky stock soaring. Timelines stated by army personnel site 2020 as the hopeful date to have a working prototype.

Martin van Creveld looks at our military white elephants



Summary: Today Martin van Creveld looks at one of the most exceptional aspects of US defense policy, our weapons. A naïf would describe it as quite mad, unaware of the lavish salaries and great corporate fortunes created by tapping the almost limitless flow of taxes from the apathetic and credulous citizens of America.

“In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3-1/2 days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.

At least since 9/11, and possibly since the First Gulf War back in 1991, it has been clear that the most immediate threat facing developed countries is not other developed countries. It is terrorism, guerrilla, insurgencies, asymmetric war, fourth generation war, war among the people, nontrinitarian war (my own favorite term), whatever. Follows a list — a very partial one, to be sure — of expensive new American weapons and weapon systems, now in various stages of development, all of which have this in common that they are not relevant to the threat in question.

The Painful Story of How U.S. Special-Operations Forces Grew Up

by MARK MOYAR 

The first month of 2012 was, indeed, a highly auspicious time to wave the banner of special-operations forces in support of a new national-security strategy. Through the Osama bin Laden raid and other recent victories, special operators had amassed unprecedented prestige both within Washington and in the country more generally. Special-operations forces seemed not only more exciting, but also more efficient and decisive than the conventional military forces that had been employed in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Hollywood was releasing movie after movie extolling the virtues of the special units, including a film called Act of Valor that starred active-duty SEALs. 

On the Internet, dating sites were hit by epidemics of men pretending to be special operators in order to win the hearts of unsuspecting women. Although President Obama relied mainly on subordinates to sell his new strategy to the public, he did cite the special operators while explaining the strategy during an interview with journalist Mark Bowden, who was writing a book on the bin Laden operation. “Special Forces are well designed to deal with the very specific targets in difficult terrain and often-times prevent us from making the bigger strategic mistakes of sending forces in, with big footprints and so forth,” he explained. “So when you’re talking about dealing with terrorist networks, in failed states, or states that don’t have capacity, you can see that as actually being less intrusive, less dangerous, less problematic for the country involved.”

The World That World War II Built

By George Friedman

On June 4-7, it will be 75 years since the Battle of Midway, the battle in which the United States won the war in the Pacific and prevented the defeat of Britain and Russia. Guadalcanal, El Alamein and Stalingrad followed, all mostly fought in the second half of 1942. Over two years of horror would remain – neither Japan nor Germany was prepared to concede the point – but the war was won by the beginning of 1943.

These were extraordinary battles in an extraordinary war. I want to devote some time this year to considering the battles on their anniversaries and, I want to try to explain how these battles were an interlocking whole – really a single, rolling, global battle that collectively decided the war. By the end of the year, my goal is to show that a single global battle, beginning at Midway and ending at Stalingrad, defined the fate of humanity.

Systemic Wars

This is not simply antiquarian interest, although surely June 1942 to February 1943 must rank with Salamis, where the Greeks stopped the Persian surge into Europe; Teutoburg, where the Germans halted the Roman advance; or Lepanto, where Christian Europe halted Muslim Ottoman expansion. These battles defined the future of a civilization; June 1942 to February 1943 defined the future of the entire world.

Securing democracy in the digital age


Zoe Hawkins

Earlier this month, the campaign of French presidential election candidate Emanuel Macron fell victim to targeted cyber intrusion efforts by infamous Russian hacking collective that goes by a number of names including Pawn Storm, Strontium, Fancy Bear or APT28. Spear phishing email attacks against Macron’s En Marche! Party were followed by the public release of 9 gigabytes of reportedly confidential communications less than 48 hours before ballot boxes opened. While Macron was still able to secure the presidency on 7 May, his campaign said that the efforts had ‘put the vital interests of democracy in jeopardy’.

The French experience is just the most recent development in what appears to be a tide change in international cyber relations. The 2016 US presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was a wakeup call that highlighted democracy’s vulnerability to manipulation in today’s digital world. The hacking of multiple state voter registration databases, the strategic dumping of stolen email communications and the prominent position of social media all played a role in undermining public confidence and shaping public opinion. A US intelligence community assessment controversially asserted that, ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.’ Unsurprisingly, Putin has denied any involvement, but it seems the threat’s here to stay—countries such as Germany and the UK now concerned for the digital security of their upcoming elections.

The Numbers Behind Google's Online Empire

-- this post authored by Felix Richter

Recently the opening keynote at Google I/O offered us a rare glimpse at some numbers behind the company's vast online offerings. Among other things, CEO Sundar Pichai revealed that more than two billion Android devices are actively used around the world and that six of Google's services have reached over 1 billion users.

The numbers, summed up in the chart below, along with recent product/service introductions (e.g. Google Home or Google Lens) illustrate the company’s ongoing efforts to move beyond search. As web usage continues to shift away from PCs and mobile browsers to apps and even voice-activated devices, people may not rely on Google search as much as they used to going forward. Considering that search advertising is still the company’s main source of revenue, it would be careless for Google not to cover all bases.

This chart sums up key figures about Google's online offerings.

Who Are The Shadow Brokers?: Noted Cyber Security Guru, Bruce Schneier Thinks He Knows; But, In His Article, He Does Overlook Another Reasonable Possibility — I Believe


Noted cyber security researcher, guru, and author, Bruce Schneier posted an article on the May 23, 2017 edition of the online defense and national security website…DefenseOne.com, providing his thoughts about who the secretive ‘Shadow Brokers’ group behind the publishing and online selling of stolen NSA hacking tools.

Mr. Schneier begins his article by asking the question: “What is — and isn’t known about the mysterious hackers leaking [and attempting to profit from stolen] leaking NSA secrets [hacking tools]?”

“In 2013, a mysterious group of hackers, calling itself ‘the Shadow Brokers,’ stole a few disks of National Security Agency (NSA) secrets,” Mr. Schneier wrote. “Since last summer (2016), they’ve [the Shadow Brokers] they’ve been dumping these secrets on the Internet,” he adds. “They [the Shadow Brokers] have publicly embarrassed the NSA, and damaged its intelligence gathering capabilities, while at the same time, they have put sophisticated cyber weapons in the hands of anyone who wants them. They [the Shadow Brokers] have exposed major vulnerabilities in Cisco routers, Microsoft Windows, and Linux mail servers, forcing those companies and their customers to scramble. And, they gave the authors of the WannaCry ransomware the exploit they needed to infect hundreds of computers [devices, and networks] worldwide this month.”

After the largest cyberattack ever, here’s how to defend against the next & bigger ones


Marcus J. Ranum 

Summary: The breakout year for cybersecurity continues, with a massive global attack — more than 45,000 attacks in 99 countries by software linked to (built by?) the NSA (source). In this from the archives cybersecurity expert Marcus Ranum explains defense in this new world. Offense gets all the attention, but smart organisations win by defense. See today’s second post: Skip the hysteria. What you need to know about the big ransomware attack.

In the previous chapters of this series, I showed how cybercrime increases our awareness of computer security weaknesses and force us to constantly improve our defenses — accidentally improving our posture against cyberwar and increasing the likelihood that cyberspies will be uncovered. The logistical problems of keeping a cyberweapon fresh and secret are severe, when you consider that you’re fielding it at the targets’ systems — where it is susceptible to dissection and analysis when it’s discovered. This dynamic has already been seen to be at play with the Stuxnet family of attack tools: security responses rapidly co-evolve with attack tools.

Who Are the Shadow Brokers?

 
In 2013, a mysterious group of hackers that calls itself the Shadow Brokers stole a few disks full of National Security Agency secrets. Since last summer, they’ve been dumping these secrets on the internet. They have publicly embarrassed the NSA and damaged its intelligence-gathering capabilities, while at the same time have put sophisticated cyberweapons in the hands of anyone who wants them. They have exposed major vulnerabilities in Cisco routers, Microsoft Windows, and Linux mail servers, forcing those companies and their customers to scramble. And they gave the authors of the WannaCry ransomware the exploit they needed to infect hundreds of thousands of computer worldwide this month.

After the WannaCry outbreak, the Shadow Brokers threatened to release more NSA secrets every month, giving cybercriminals and other governments worldwide even more exploits and hacking tools.

Who are these guys? And how did they steal this information? The short answer is: We don’t know. But we can make some educated guesses based on the material they’ve published.

The Shadow Brokers suddenly appeared last August, when they published a series of hacking tools and computer exploits—vulnerabilities in common software—from the NSA. The material was from autumn 2013, and seems to have been collected from an external NSA staging server, a machine that is owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the U.S., but with no connection to the agency. NSA hackers find obscure corners of the internet to hide the tools they need as they go about their work, and it seems the Shadow Brokers successfully hacked one of those caches.