17 February 2014

Another feather in India's cap

Latin America recognises India's importance

Deepak Bhojwani

The leaders of Peru, Chile, Columbia and Mexico join hands at the Pacific summit at Cartagena in Columbia on February 10.

ON February 11 India was too immersed in domestic politics to notice an event halfway around the world. The VIII Summit of the Pacific Alliance in Cartagena, Colombia, granted India observer status in this nascent but rapidly evolving economic bloc.

The summit was attended by the Presidents of the four member states - Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile - who agreed upon the Pacific Alliance in 2010 and formalised it in 2012. With a combined population of 212 million in 2013, these relatively high-growth economies account for 36 per cent of Latin America´s GDP; 50 per cent of its foreign trade; and 41 per cent of its foreign direct investment. The alliance collectively constitutes the eighth largest economy in the world and the seventh largest in export terms. Its external trade amounts to well over a trillion dollars.

The formation and consolidation of the alliance owes a lot to recent political developments and trends in Latin America. In particular the emergence, in 2004, of the anti-US left-wing Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas, spearheaded by Venezuela and doctrinally guided by Cuba. The Pacific Alliance makes no pretence of its ambitions to open markets within and without. Countries seeking membership -- currently Costa Rica and Panama - must have free trade agreements with all other members.

The geographic coincidence of the four like-minded political economies on the Pacific coast of the region also juxtaposes the alliance against the more centrist, traditional, slow-moving MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market) on the Atlantic. Formed in 1991 by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, MERCOSUR admitted Venezuela in 2012. It finds itself in a predicament, afflicted by conflicting priorities, unable to negotiate trade agreements as a bloc. Internal squabbles also affect trade and investment between members


The Indian democracy and its many protest movements

Commentarao - S.L. Rao

Indian democracy has had many political protest movements: against authoritarianism (Rajagopalachari’s Swatantra Party, the Jayaprakash Narayan movement), corruption (V.P. Singh, Aam Aadmi Party), empowerment of Dalits and backward classes (Dravida Munnetra Kazagham, V.P. Singh), rights of local groups (Asom Gana Parishad, Telangana, Gorkhas, Bodos). The Naxal and Maoist movements were violent protests against exploitation and poverty. There have also been numerous non-governmental organizations that have tried to improve matters on these issues of the system, getting people to register and to vote, agitating against corruption, for minority rights, against exploitation and for the safety of women, and so on.

Jawaharlal Nehru was an icon. Rajaji was wiser but was called a traitor even by South Indians. He turned out to be right about the inevitability of Partition, and later, the dangers of the license permit raj. If we had listened to him and not Nehru, there might have been less lasting bitterness and violence. Being imposed almost forcibly at little notice, Partition resulted in many dying, fleeing and leaving all belongings behind, losing women and children to kidnapping and rapes. We now have a failed state in Pakistan and a charged relationship in India between the two major communities.

But we, as yet, do not have a political movement that tries to include all religions and castes as equals. We announce benefits to minorities, of which little reaches them. The majority community fumes at “special treatment”, but polarization increases. NGO movements try for reconciliation, but with limited and local success.

Other protest movements have had short lives as political parties. Rajaji founded the Swatantra Party to provide Nehru a democratic opposition. Many powerful politicians joined him: Minoo Masani, N.G. Ranga, Piloo Modi, many business leaders and the erstwhile princes. It was derided as the attempt of a frustrated old man to regain relevance, supported by the wealthy, who did not want to lose their privileges. The Swatantra Party did not last. Rajaji was right in warning against excessive state control and participation in the economy. He failed in building a grassroots movement, essential for a successful political party. He did succeed in making an increasing part of the country realize that the stifling of enterprise and poor growth were not in the country’s interests.

Wearing ‘Muslim-ness’ on the sleeve Khushwant Singh

A new publication may tell you all you want to know about Indian Muslims: "India's Muslim Spring (Why is nobody talking about it?)" by Hasan Suroor. The opening pages pretty well sum up the contents of the book. I quote: "When my parents arrived in Delhi from Lucknow in the early 1950s, the Muslim-majority areas of old Delhi were the natural habitat of Muslims, for the simple reason that these were still early days after the Partition riots and Hindu-Muslim relations were tense, to put mildly. Muslims were neither welcome nor felt secure in the new suburban neighbourhoods (the so-called 'colonies' populated by Hindu refugees from Pakistan. After failing to find a flat in New Delhi, my parents ended up in one of the many glorified Muslim ghettoes in the walled city.

A new religiosity is in the air, especially among the Muslim youth. 

"It was thus that I spent the early years of my life in Ballimaran, a maze of narrow lanes and by-lanes just down the road from 'Ghalib Ki Haveli', where the great 19th century Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib had lived. Reading Salman Rushdie's memories, "Joseph Anton", I discovered that Ballimaran had been home to his grandfather Khwaja Muhammad Din Khaliqui Dehalvi, who he describes as a ‘successful industrialist and part-time essayist’. He writes that Dehlavi lived in a ‘crumbling haveli in a famous old muhalla, or neighbourhood, of Ballimaran, a warren of small winding lanes off Chandni Chowk that had been the home of the great Farsi and Urdu poet, Ghalib’. Who would have thought that one day his grandson would write a book which would be burnt in Muslim ghettoes like Ballimaran, and his effigies dragged through its 'small winding lanes' amid chants of 'death to Rushdie'.

"Ballimaran was dotted with mosques referred to Chhoti Masjid, Badi Masjid, Phatak Wali Masjid after their size and location. They attracted few worshippers except on Fridays or on other special occasions such as Eid — and were valued more as real-estate assets than places of worship.

When I look back, the thing that strikes me the most is that despite a culture that verged on social and cultural fundamentalism (Muslim women, like my mother, who didn't wear burqa faced abuse and had their morals questioned), there was very little religious fervour among the denizens of Ballimaran outside a small circle of 'mullahs'. Near-deserted mosques and idle imams bore testimony to a distinct lack of religiosity among Muslims, especially the young who deliberately avoided mosques around prayer time for fear of being dragged in by their elders.

D for Democracy, not Direct

February 16 , 2014 

(From left) Ruchir Joshi, Shazia Ilmi, Sanjay Jha and Meera Sanyal for the motion; moderator Nidhi Razdan; Derek O’Brien, Smriti Irani, General J.J. Singh and Mithun Chakraborty against the motion. Picture by Amit Datta 


Calcutta Club The Telegraph National Debate 2014 (television news partner ABP Ananda, co-sponsor Maruti Suzuki Celerio and radio partner 91.9 Friends FM)


The government should be run directly by the people


The motion was defeated. So, in the opinion of the house the government should NOT be run directly by the people



Aam Aadmi Party politician

I think there must not be a single one of us in this audience who has not watched with horror the scenes in our Parliament and in the Delhi Assembly with pepper sprays and mikes being torn out.

This five-year term has seen Parliament function for a total of only 345 days, that is one year out of five years and we can compare this with previous Lok Sabhas.... where Parliament functioned for four to five times this amount.

Love Me Do

Hear voices from across the map to know how potent India’s sexual revolution is


In this crowded locality of east Delhi, every turn throws up an abortion clinic. Largely a residential area, Laxmi Nagar is Delhi’s abortion clinic central, and hundreds of young women come here every day to get abortions. This is where I met Aanchal. After missing her period for three months, Aanchal, a plain-faced college student of 19, stopped by the ‘ladies’ doctor. It turned out that Aanchal had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, with her boyfriend, in a closet in their college. Even though she had been sexually active with her boyfriend over the past several months, she never once suspected that pregnancy might be the outcome. Aanchal is not alone in her dilemma; in many ways she personifies the challenges that are plaguing India’s young. According to research, ‘first sex’ is more often than not unprotected for the majority of young people.

Scared, nervous and without the support of her 20-year-old boyfriend (a fellow student who stopped taking her calls once she told him she was pregnant), Aanchal did not have the Rs 30,000 she needed for the abortion. She also knew that under no circumstances could she break this news to her conservative parents. She self-ind­uced an abortion using a shaving razor and a pair of scissors. “This is the dark side of sexual liberation,” says Dr Rekha Khandelwal, a Delhi-based gynaecologist, who has seen the number of abortions skyrocket in the last decade. According to Dr Khandel­wal, more and more young women are becoming sexually active. Until just a few years ago, she could tell whether young women who came to see her were married or not. The traditional symbols of married women—red sindoor in the parting, beaded black and gold mangalsutra around their necks and ‘general demeanour’—were immediate clues. Today, she can’t rely on any of these symbols, and women come into her clinic with boyfriends, friends, or sometimes simply sexual partners.

Re-energising India

by Jaspreet Singh 
January 24, 2014 

India will have to diversify its energy basket so that it can hedge against global movements and also balance its imports with increase in local production.

The necessities and luxuries in life are chauffeured by energy. It is everywhere, from electricity to cooking food and supplying water to transportation fuels to manufacturing every good and electronic gadget that we use each moment of our life. Yet it is only the absence or a disruption that makes us recognise the importance and source of energy. Energy is the catalyst for growth and better quality of life. With increasing population the demand for energy is ever increasing (though efficiency helps us get more out of every unit). Most forecasts by the industry, World Bank and International agencies predict around 35 percent increase in global energy demand (after factoring energy efficiency gains) over the next three decades as global population reaches circa 9 billion (from 7 billion in 2012) and the global GDP per capita increases by 80 percent.

This energy increase will be fuelled by electricity demand at both residential and commercial spaces, transportation and industrial use. As per the World Energy Outlook 2013 released by International Energy Agency (IEA), the share of fossil fuels in today’s energy mix is 82 percent which is the same as it was 25 years ago. The rise of renewables will reduce it to only circa 75 percent in 2035.
Natural gas is expected to be world’s fastest growing major energy source in the next three decades with demand projected to rise nearly 65 percent during this period. By the middle of next decade, it is expected to overtake coal as the second largest energy source behind oil. Much of this increase (almost 65 percent) will be fuelled by Asian markets. While China is the main driver of increasing energy demand in the current decade, India is to take over as the principal source of growth by end of next decade.

As per IEA estimates, India’s energy demand is poised to increase by a compound annual growth rate of 3.1 percent over the next three decades compared to a world average of 1.3 percent. Our current mix is dominated by coal. We have the third largest reserve (2010 estimates as per IEA) and 70 percent of the electricity is generated from coal fired power plants.

Hamid Karzai Isn’t Crazy

He’s a wily survivor whose main concern is watching his own back. 

President Hamid Karzai at a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Jan. 25, 2014.

Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images 

Is Afghan President Hamid Karzai acting crazy again?

Had he watched President Obama’s State of the Union address last month, Karzai would have noticed that the evening’s first standing ovation—and a bipartisan one, at that—came when Obama announced that “by the end of this year … America’s longest war will finally be over.”

Fred Kaplan is the author ofThe Insurgents and the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

The war, of course, is the one that U.S. forces have been fighting in (and for) Karzai’s country these last 12 years, at a cost of $700 billion and 2,310 American lives.

At its Lisbon summit three years ago, NATO agreed, with Karzai’s consent, to pull its troops out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Obama’s declaration only affirmed that decision. He did, however, add a little twist, noting:

If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al-Qaida.

Mapping Conflict Trends in Pakistan

By Saira Yamin and Salma Malik 
February 7, 2014 

Over the past decade, violence has become endemic in many parts of Pakistan. This report examines the trajectory of violence and the range of conflicts in six troubled regions. The authors conclude that if existing socioeconomic conditions persist and the state continues to fail to deliver public services, justice, and security, Pakistan could face further escalation of violence and lawlessness. 


Over the past decade, Pakistan has experienced a significant rise in violence in terms of frequency, scope, and magnitude. The origins and intensity of violence vary regionally and involve both longstanding conflict actors and new groups. 

Violence is most concentrated along the Afghan border in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Other regions of Pakistan lying along the border with Afghanistan, including Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan, have also experienced a significant escalation in violence. This escalation is in part a result of the nexus between sectarian militants and terrorist outfits. 

In Sindh, most of the violence is concentrated in Karachi, which witnessed a tenfold increase in violence between 2006 and 2013. The security landscape there has become increasingly complex over the years with the addition of many types of actors, including sectarian militant groups, terrorist outfits, political parties, and criminal gangs. 

The scale, scope, and magnitude of violence in Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan in terms of territory, remain unprecedented and unabated. Sectarian and terrorist activities targeting the Shia Hazara community have compounded the eff•ects of a high intensity conflict between a secessionist insurgency and the military that has been under way in the province since 2006. Balochistan also provides safe haven to the Quetta Shura, a key Afghan Taliban group headed by Mullah Omar. 

Bloodshed on the Rise in City of Karachi as Pakistani Taliban Gain Strength

Tim Craig
Washington Post
February 14, 2014

Karachi residents live in fear as Pakistan Taliban gains strength

KARACHI, Pakistan — Armored car sales have soared, and some new luxury apartments feature bulletproof glass. Local police officers, slain this year at an average rate of one per day, are demoralized. And now even the journalists are trying to arm themselves.

Pakistan’s biggest city has been plagued by crime and political violence for decades, with Urdu- and Pashto-speaking groups battling for influence. But the bloodshed is now worsening as the domestic Taliban insurgency expands.

The militant group was largely responsible for a 90 percent spike in terrorist attacks in Karachi last year, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, which monitors violence. In the latest such attack, an explosion tore through a bus carrying police on Thursday morning, killing a dozen officers. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility.

The bloodshed in this city reflects the Pakistani Taliban’s growing national offensive against the government and religious minorities. But the insurgents are also using violence to take control of some city neighborhoods, where ordinary residents are forced to contribute to their cause, analysts said.

The mayhem is raising concerns that one of the world’s most populous cities is teetering on the brink of lawlessness.

“Something must be done soon, if Pakistan is to be saved,” said Nasir Jamal, a deputy director of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a major political party.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif insists that Karachi can be tamed through targeted security operations and peace talks launched recently with the Pakistani Taliban. But residents of the country’s economic and cultural hub are deeply worried.

“Everyone is just waiting their turn to be killed,” said Zamin Ali, son of a prominent Shiite attorney who was shot and killed outside a Karachi courthouse in July, part of a surge of sectarian killings being carried out by the Taliban and other Sunni-dominated militant groups.

Of Course China Wants to Replace the U.S.

February 15, 2014

If China becomes the world’s most powerful country, it won’t be satisfied being America’s number two. 

Over at The Week, Think Progress’s Zack Beauchamphas a provocative piece arguing that “China is not replacing the United States as the global hegemon. And it never will.” Specifically, Beauchamp posits that “China faces too many internal problems and regional rivals to ever make a real play for global leadership. And even if Beijing could take the global leadership mantle soon, it wouldn’t. China wants to play inside the existing global order’s rules, not change them.”

The piece is well-argued and certainly worth a read. In particular, Beauchamp does us a service in combating the myth of the inevitability of China’s rise. He usefully points out that China’s economy faces a multitude of challenges that may prevent it from reaching the potential many currently foresee. He also points out that China faces powerful neighbors that won’t stand by idly if Beijing seeks to construct a new regional order, much less a global one.

Still, on balance, I think Beauchamp’s piece does more to confuse than to inform. The first issue is that even though he discusses the regional balance of power in the piece, his overall argument is that China will not be capable of replacing the United States as the “global hegemon.” Unfortunately, there are many who would claim that America is a global hegemon. However, that argument is preposterous under any reasonable definition of hegemony. It is true that in the post-Cold War (if not earlier) the U.S. has been the only power capable of projecting military power in any region of the world. But this has not allowed it to dictate the regional order of every continent as it largely can in the Western Hemisphere.

Moreover, even if America really is a global hegemon, this would just make it more unlikely that any rising power could replace it as a global hegemon. After all, America’s primacy in the post-Cold War era was only made possible because no other great power existed. Since China’s rise won’t stop the U.S. from being a great power, unless the two go to war and China wins, Beijing’s relative power will be far less than America’s at the end of the Cold War. And of course, America’s relative power will also be far less than what it enjoyed in 1991.

China’s New Security Watchdog, the National Security Commission

Ching Cheong
Straits Times
February 16, 2014

China’s new national security agency guards from threats outside and within

China’s newly created National Security Commission (NSC), a top decision-making body headed by the three most powerful men in the country, will have the dual role of protecting the country’s security and safeguarding the ruling status of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Shortly before Chinese New Year, Beijing announced that Chinese President —i Jinping will be chief of the NSC, while Premier Li Keqiang and parliamentary Speaker Zhang Dejiang will be the deputy chiefs. This line-up suggests that the commission is by far the most important decision-making organ within the CCP.

Many people expect the NSC will streamline the existing security-related organizations that were formed haphazardly to deal with emergency situations, and which therefore are either too fragmented or have purviews that overlap.

Currently, there are several such organizations. Foremost are the Central Leading Group on National Security and the Central Leading Group on Foreign Affairs.

Then there are the Central Military Commission (CMC) that handles military threats from abroad, and the Central Politics and Law Commission (CPLC) that handles domestic threats to political security and social stability.

There are also four region-specific Central Leading Groups, on Taiwan, —injiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong and Macau. These make policy decisions, including on security.

While the first three regions are traditionally plagued by separatism, in recent years, Hong Kong has also become a security concern as Beijing fears that some Western powers might turn the city into a base for subversive activities.

Finally, in mid-2013, a new National Leading Group on Anti-Terrorism was created to handle terrorism-related issues.

National Leading Groups, which come under government ministries and are headed by ministers, are a level below the Central Leading Groups, which are party-based and headed by Politburo members.

The NSC is likely to integrate all the security-related functions of these organizations within a single agency in order to improve coordination.

If the current Central Leading Group on National Security is any guide, the NSC will also have several members in a standing committee and ordinary members. In accordance with the CCP and the government hierarchy, these will be Politburo/vice-premier and central committee/minister-level officials, respectively.

The standing committee will also most likely include a vice-chairman from the CMC and the chairman of the CPLC.

U.S. military intervention, done right, could boost African stability

By Michael O'Hanlon
February 16, 2014 

Now is the time to reassess the long-standing American anathema to military involvement in Africa's terrible wars.

Democratic Republic of Congo MISCA peacekeepers soldiers patrol in street in Bangui. (Issouf Sanogo / AFP/Getty Images / February 4, 2014) 

For decades, one golden rule has guided America's military involvement in Africa: Stay out.

Generally speaking, the reason was a sense that the strategic stakes did not justify the risk. When we deviated from this rule, we often learned lessons the hard way that seemed to reinforce its validity, as in Somalia in 1993. And while presidents often profess a stronger interest in Africa than their actions would imply, they tend to say such things when not in the White House — witness Bill Clinton calling the nonintervention in Rwanda's 1994 genocide his greatest regret as president, or Sen. Barack Obama calling for more assertiveness in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, and Sudan six to eight years ago.

But, in fact, now is the time to reassess this long-standing American anathema to military involvement in Africa's terrible wars.

At a time of national war fatigue and fiscal austerity, it may be counterintuitive to propose an increase in U.S. involvement — particularly military commitment — abroad. And given the problems that continue in Somalia, Kenya, Mali, Libya, Sudan, the DRC and Nigeria, Africa does not appear to be an area of opportunity. But, for a modest investment, the U.S. and other countries may be able to make major strides toward improving the prospects for peace and stability on the continent.

France is doing important work in Mali and the Central African Republic, and the European Union is planning to help in the latter conflict as well. Most impressive of all, the African Union, led by states such as South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, is making a major difference in Somalia, the DRC and beyond.

But rather than view that as an excuse not to be involved, the United States should seize the opportunity to contribute to a greater international effort to help turn Africa gradually from a zone of conflict to a zone of hope. Doing so will be good for America's own security and economic interests, as well as humanitarian ones.

The Dangers of Lost U.S. Credibility in the Middle East

By Bobby Woods
February 15, 2014

Washington must take steps to assuage the concerns of friendly nations in the region. 

As Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, undertakes a major charm offensive that seeks to woo U.S. President Barack Obama, many Americans are left to wonder whether Iranian promises of greater cooperation are valid or simply a stall and ruse. Obama has repeatedly said that the U.S. will “do what we must” to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but the U.S. has yet to take the types of action that give credence to such a statement.

Given Iran’s unwillingness to stop uranium enrichment, it may be time for the U.S. to be realistic about the current policy and the likelihood that Iran has progressed to the point where a Shia nuclear bomb is effectively an “opaque or virtual” reality. Perhaps the U.S. should start preparing a more coherent and realistic security framework that can effectively deal with and contain a nuclear armed Iran.

Deterring Iran from using nuclear weapons is only part of the strategic task. The tougher challenge is developing a U.S. strategy that effectively assures Arab partner nations, like Saudi Arabia, of American security commitments in order to limit nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Much work is left to be done on this problem. U.S. policy decisions to support “pro-democracy protest groups” in the Middle East are yielding a more unstable region as friendly Arab nations and Israel try to define the “true meaning” of U.S. policy in the region.

The recent perceived “warming” of relations between the U.S. and Iran has caused significant uneasiness with Arab partner nations and the even more precarious Israel. U.S. actions dating back a decade or more, which led to the support of a Shia (vs. Sunni) dominated government in Iraq even after Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council partner nations expressed deep concern about such a state of affairs. This was the first of several actions by Washington that has led to a rift between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. America’s unwillingness to support President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt after years of bilateral cooperation also weakened relations between the U.S. and its Arab partners.

Cyber warriors: The next generation

By William Welsh 
Jan 23, 2014 

Cyber Defense

The U.S. military has always taken cyber operations seriously, dealing with constant scans, probes and attacks on its networks, dating to the early days of the Internet. But the breadth of the issue really hit home in 2008, following an incident that became known as “Operation Buckshot Yankee.”

An employee of the U.S. Central Command inserted a flash drive into a laptop at a base in the Middle East. The drive delivered malware, placed by a foreign intelligence agency, into the network and it spread unnoticed across classified and unclassified systems, exposing the data on those systems to servers under foreign control.

It was the largest breach in U.S. military history and prompted the Defense Department to dramatically remake its cyber defense strategy. That led to the creation of the U.S. Cyber Command, which went operational in 2010, and the creation or expansion of cyber commands at each of the military services. And the extent of cyber operations continues to grow.

In 2011 the Pentagon declared cyberspace a domain of warfare — in the same sense as land, sea, air and space — and the U.S. command and the service commands at the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all are expanding their workforces. While some areas within DOD are seeing budget cutbacks, funding for cyber operations is increasing. The 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, for example, will more than double the Cyber Command’s funding, from $191 million in fiscal 2013 to $447 million.

Key to making the command work is training personnel, both uniformed and civilian, in the specific aspects, both defensive and offensive, of the complex theater of cyber warfare.

There is no one-size-fits-all for Defense Department cyber training. Neither is there one institution or organization that can meet all of the needs that are required to deploy well-trained front-line troops to defend DOD networks against daily attacks that number in the millions and carry out cyber warfare missions when necessary.

“Training today’s cyber professionals requires the use of a broad range of venues to prepare these personnel to operate in a technically challenging environment,” said Air Force Col. George Lamont, the director of training for the U.S Cyber Command.

For uniformed personnel, training is handled by their respective military services. All four of the military services and the U.S. Coast Guard train to high and increasingly common individual and joint operating standards, according to DOD. The Pentagon and its contractors, as well as the military academies and National Defense University’s iCollege, all play a role in ensuring a standard of skills and professionalism among the cyber workforce.

U.S. Cyber Command commander Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander in 2013 unveiled a new structural framework known as Cyber Mission Force (CMF) to manage the Pentagon’s expanding cyber workforce.

DoS attacks get more complex – are networks prepared?

By Ryan Johnson 
Dec 19, 2013 

Cyber Defense

The threat of cyber attacks from both external and internal sources is growing daily. A denial of service, or DoS, attack is one of the most common. DoS have plagued defense, civilian and commercial networks over the years, but the way they are carried out is growing in complexity. If you thought your systems were engineered to defend against a DoS attack, you may want to take another look.

Denial of service attack evolution

A denial of service attack is a battle for computing resources between legitimate requests that a network and application infrastructure were designed for and illegitimate requests coming in solely to hinder the service provided or shut down the service altogether.

The first DoS attacks were primarily aimed at Layer 3 or Layer 4 of the OSI model and were designed to consume all available bandwidth, crash the system being attacked, or consume all of the available memory, connections or processing power. Some examples of these types of attacks are the Ping of Death, Teardrop, SYN flood and ICMP flood. As operating system developers, hardware vendors and network architects began to mitigate these attacks, attackers have had to adapt and discover new methods. This has led to an increase in complexity and diversity in the attacks that have been used. 

Since DoS attacks require a high volume of traffic — typically more than a single machine can generate — attackers may use a botnet, which is a network of computers that are under the control of the attacker. These devices are likely to have been subverted through malicious means. This type of DoS, called a distributed denial of service (DDoS), is harder to defend against because the traffic likely will be coming from many directions.

While the goal of newer DoS attacks is the same as older attacks, the newer attacks are much more likely to be an application layer attack launched against higher level protocols such as HTTP or the Domain Name System. Application layer attacks are a natural progression for several reasons: 1) lower level attacks were well known and system architects knew how to defend against them; 2) few mechanisms, if any, were available to defend against these types of attacks; and 3) data at a higher layer is much more expensive to process, thus utilizing more computing resources.

Training on the go: How to keep up with a changing IT landscape

By Chris LaPoint 
Feb 06, 2014 

Like a photographer trying to capture the last vestige of light over the Sierras, federal IT managers are looking at a changing landscape. Their world is being heavily influenced by outside forces that they’re not used to and do not understand.

That’s because the federal IT landscape is in a seemingly unending state of flux. Data center consolidation has become commonplace, BYOD and regulatory compliance requirements continue to evolve and the integration of legacy and new technologies remains a challenge. In addition, the move toward virtualization and software-defined data centers (SDDCs) is stirring hurricane force winds within agencies.

On the surface, this creates more flexible operations. But look more closely at the photo and you’ll find some unsettling images beginning to take shape, including a widely dispersed and increasingly virtualized military that’s trying to manage networks while on the go, handle massive amounts of data, fulfill security requirements, and more. 

To get a handle on this increasing IT complexity, IT managers must take a panoramic view of their environment, step outside their comfort zones, and become educated through:

Tools training. Federal IT managers used to dealing with switches and routers still need to know their “bread and butter,” but they also need to expand their knowledge base. For example, as cloud-focused policies become commonplace within agencies, managers need to understand how the move toward the cloud may potentially impact the networks they have done so much to establish. Tools training must go beyond everyday tools, and delve into how these tools connect with other solutions in the network. If this does not happen, managers run the risk of becoming too myopic, and may fall even further behind. Vendor training can help, but may not effectively address all of the concerns of agencies’ networks, which are becoming increasingly heterogeneous. Therefore, managers should also depend on… 

On-the-job training. Training with military IT experts – who can be deeply ingrained in the intricacies of networks that employ a wide variety of solutions – can be incredibly valuable, particularly for new staff members. This can be an opportunity to shadow IT veterans and managers who may be responsible for different tools and possess unique skill sets. New managers can learn from these contacts, and gain a better understanding of how disparate solutions can effectively work together.

How big data is remaking the government data center

By John Moore 
Feb 14, 2014 

The big data trend is exerting its influence almost everywhere data is being mass produced, from the high-performance computing arena to the operations and planning departments of the nation’s big cities. 

Yet another area where big data is having a substantial impact has received less attention: in the data center itself, where technology managers say big data is gradually reshaping traditional data systems and practices. 

Big data refers to the problem of processing very large data sets that defy conventional data management and analysis technologies. The growth of these data sets, and the need to extract value from them, has compelled agencies to start using tools such as the Apache Foundation’s Hadoop distributed computing framework, columnar databases and other big data management solutions. 

The adoption of these technologies, in turn, is leading to a gradual restructuring of the data center, including the move to more converged IT infrastructures, alterations in data center traffic patterns and changes in the basic economics of storage.

Agency interest in big data management is hardly surprising giving the spectacular growth of data. Van Young, big data and cloud solutions strategist at HP, citing IDC figures, noted that the global data population is projected to reach 40 zettabytes (1 billion terabytes) by 2020, compared with 1.8 zettabytes in 2012. 

At the agency level, the struggle to manage data on that scale has already begun to tax conventional IT systems, and it is encouraging data center managers to adopt solutions that were considered exotic only a couple of years ago. “You need to deploy some newer technology,” Young said, who spoke recently at a Public Sector Partners Inc. big data conference. 

Hadoop as change agent

Hadoop is among the more notable of the recent arrivals. The open source software framework includes the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), which distributes large data sets across the servers in a Hadoop cluster. Another key Hadoop application, MapReduce, provides distributed data processing across the cluster. This structure keeps data and processing resources in close proximity within the cluster. 

Where do you draw the line on securing critical infrastructure?


The National Institute of Standards and Technology released its Cybersecurity Framework for critical infrastructure this week, a set of voluntary standards and best practices that the administration would like to see widely adopted by operators of systems critical to the nation’s economy and security.

The framework is a good and necessary step toward improving the nation’s cybersecurity, but it would be a mistake to think that it can achieve real security by itself. Multistage attacks against high-value targets are exploiting upstream vulnerabilities to provide easy access to critical resources in government as well as in sensitive private-sector systems. 

Enforceable baseline standards for a much wider range of systems are necessary to prevent these attacks. 

This vulnerability was brought home with the breach of RSA in 2011 that exposed critical data about the company’s SecurID authentication token. That began with a spear phishing attack against RSA’s parent company EMC, deploying a zero-day exploit to give attackers a foothold inside the company. This exposed RSA, and data stolen from the security company later was used in an attack against defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

A more recent example is the theft of information about tens of millions of credit cards. The attackers apparently used a network link with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor to penetrate card payment systems at Target stores and possibly other retailers. The attack did not use HVAC control systems; the initial compromise could have been in almost any type of connected system.

Physical Safety

November 24, 2013 

Wikistrat recently ran a simulation called Global Middle Class Values 2033 in which we asked our strategic community to define what will constitute global middle class values two decades from now, using Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” as a categorization scheme.

The following is a sample scenario from that simulation, entitled When Cyber Security Equates With Physical Safety. The scenario sees the proliferation of digital assets making privacy and security concerns for the global middle class more important than they’ve ever been before.


By 2033, much of the daily life of the global middle class (GMC) is intricately weaved between digital assets in the data cloud and digital assets around, on and sometimes within their persons. The GMC’s ability to get fresh food, manage disability and disease, commute, get an education, participate in commerce, as well as store intimate details of living and managing family life is completely within commoditized data clouds. The core values of the GMC shift from consumable values of features and price to privacy and security. The technological progresses and their dissemination among the middle class will dramatically shift their safety needs toward an emphasis for cybersecurity.


Commodity Liability Models for Digital Assets

The 2033 GMC’s baseline needs will begin including new forms of insurance to protect against any damages done to online personas, accounts and any other data that becomes trafficked over the internet. Such insurance will become a vital component of GMC life by 2033. These liability models will need to integrate cleanly into what would be called “umbrella” policies in Western insurance markets today. The GMC will likely push for the equivalent of a single-payer liability system that would further integrate with reforms for over-criminalization, consumer credit privacy and other traditionally disparate issues that will be much further integrated in the GMC’s digital reputation by 2033.

Personalized Security Services

Personal digital security today is based entirely on reactive signature-based solutions with minimal meaningful behavioral analysis. The GMC of 2033 will need “enterprise” security postures readily available on their persons and at a personal level. Systems tailored toward “traffic analysis” of lifestyles, utility use, communication pathways and other manners of daily nuance. The concept of perimeter firewalls becomes moot and the necessity of peer-to-peer trusted controls and anomaly monitoring become key. Concepts such as a “Neighborhood Watch” for digital assets evolved for the GMC of 2033.

Security Obligations of Cloud Service Providers (CSP)

Cloud computing has become increasingly popular (Dropbox, Amazon Web Services) but the security of the cloud is a serious concern. The GMC will eventually realize that “the cloud” is not impenetrable and CSPs will need to require some kind of assurance that their information is protected.

Are the Former Soviet Republics of Central Asia the Next Terrorist Battlegrounds?

February 15, 2014

Counter-Terrorism: The Seething Valleys Of Central Asia

February 15, 2014: Despite being the northern neighbor of Afghanistan and part of a key drug smuggling route, Tajikistan has managed to keep al Qaeda under control. In 2013 the security forces arrested 118 suspected Islamic terrorists. Early in 2013 ten men were arrested and found with weapons and documents indicating plans to carry out terror attacks in the Tajik capital, as part of an effort to disrupt the up elections in November. No such disruption occurred. Meanwhile most of what Islamic terrorist activity there is takes place in a few areas.

In Tajikistan and throughout Central Asia it’s the thickly populated river valleys that tend to be where the Islamic radicals get established and become dangerous, and that has been going on in Tajikistan since 2008. In the Rasht Valley near the Afghan border troops have frequently found caches of weapons and medical supplies. These apparently belonged to Islamic radical groups preparing to hunker down for the Winter. These Islamic radical groups mostly come from Afghanistan and Pakistan and are usually associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The main support for Islamic terrorism in Tajikistan are tribes that have lost out in the competition to control the central government and benefit from all the cash and control that provides. Russia has been particularly helpful in keeping the Tajik government on top of the terrorist threat and has long-term agreements to station troops and anti-drug police in Tajikistan, mainly to interfere with the drugs smugglers coming out of Afghanistan but also to keep the Islamic terrorists, who usually work with or for the smugglers, under control. Russians have been helping out in Central Asia for over two centuries now, no matter who is running the Russian government.

The Rasht Valley is not the only place where Islamic terrorists have been active. Further north there is a much larger valley with much more potential for becoming an Islamic terrorist hot spot. There is growing unrest in the lush Fergana Valley of Central Asia. The valley is 300 kilometers long, 70 kilometers wide, and comprises 22,000 square kilometers (8,900 square limes) fed by two rivers. It is a very large oasis in an otherwise semi-desert region. The densely populated valley is home for 11 million (25 percent Kyrgyz Turk, 19 percent Tajik, and 56 percent Uzbek Turk). The Uzbeks see the Kyrgyz and Tajik as interlopers (courtesy of the Soviet Union era borders) in what they consider a Uzbek valley. Meanwhile, the Uzbeks are divided into several factions who have not historically gotten along but are now united in a desire to control the entire valley. That is a possibility, as Uzbekistan has a population of 30 million compared to Kyrgyzstan with six million and Tajikistan with eight million. But all three countries are poor, although per capital income in Uzbekistan (about $1,800 a year) is about fifty percent higher than the other two.

Military Challenged by Changing Arctic Landscape

By Valerie Insinna 
February 2014 

Patrolling the cold, icy waters of the Arctic has long been the responsibility of the Coast Guard, but as polar ice melts and ship traffic in the area increases, the Navy may take a larger role in securing the region. 

The Navy and Coast Guard will need additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, more reliable communications and better mapping and logistical support to safeguard the region, according to retired military officials and the Defense Department’s 2013 Arctic strategy. 

Meanwhile, industry officials and policy experts are waiting with anticipation on the Navy’s new Arctic roadmap to be published this year. With no requirements spelled out in the overall strategy, company executives are hoping the Navy’s roadmap will give them a better picture of sales opportunities, said Ashley Godwin, senior defense advisor for the Shipbuilders Council of America.

The Navy is hard at work studying how much investment will be needed in the region, said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at a December event held by the U.S. Naval Institute. 

“A northwest passage is already opening up. Ships are already going through there. You’ve got a lot of resources in the Arctic, which may cause some friction among Arctic countries. Countries are already sort of staking out their claims to that,” he said. “It’s clear that we are going to have increased responsibilities there, and it’s clear that we have to make sure we can provide that presence and that ability to respond, and I think we’re on a path to do that.”

It’s not only new platforms and technologies that are needed to secure the nation’s interests north of the Arctic Ocean, he said. The United States’ territorial claims will be frozen in place unless Congress signs onto the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. That would allow the nation to extend its claim up to 400 miles beyond its current holding of 200 miles from Alaska’s northern coast.

“Other countries that have passed it — which is virtually every country on Earth but us — have a much stronger legal basis for the assertions that they make than do we. And if we want to protect things like our access to natural resources, if we want to protect freedom of navigation, if we want to protect the things that we hold dear, [Congress needs] to pass that law of the sea treaty,” Mabus said. 

The dual forces of diminishing polar ice and increased human activity will likely exacerbate security challenges in the Arctic, said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in a foreword to the Pentagon’s strategy. 

Charting the Contours of Asia’s Megatrends

FEBRUARY 7, 2014 
Alexander Sullivan 

Policy Briefs 

CNAS Research Associate Alexander Sullivan examines seven major trends shaping Asia-Pacific security and the U.S. rebalance to Asia in "Charting the Contours of Asia’s Megatrends."

FEBRUARY 6, 2014 
Elizabeth Rosenberg 

Senior Fellow Elizabeth Rosenberg calls for policymakers and military leaders to reassess U.S. strategy to “safeguard the physical oil trade, new criteria for the use of strategic reserves, new potential energy export opportunities and new possibilities for energy-focused trade arrangements.”