27 March 2014


Thursday, 27 March 2014 |
The Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report makes it clear that the 1962 debacle was a result of India’s military unpreparedness and also of the political leadership’s inability to recognise the danger

After the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report of the 1962 Sino-Indian war was ‘released’ by Mr Neville Maxwell, I wonder why nobody asked the Australian correspondent who wrote the famous book, India’s China War, in 1970, who gave him a copy of the top-secret report? A few decades ago, it was rumoured that a senior General or a Minister was the culprit. We will probably never know. Mr Maxwell, who had kept 126 pages of Part 1 of the report secret for the past 45 years, probably wanted to ‘clear’ his consciousness by posting it on his website.

In the meantime, the blind babus of the Ministry of Defence continued to affirm that the content of the report was of current operational value. Did they think for a second about all those who had died on the Namkha Chu or in Ladakh or about those who suffered as prisoners of war in Tibet, or even about a nation that was humiliated? No, it is not in their habit, though India is entitled to know what happened.

While reading the report, it clearly comes out that the author, Henderson Brooks, the Anglo-Indian General, was a professional, honest and courageous man. Often, he did not hesitate to point a finger at his superiors, without once directly mentioning the political leadership (it was not in the terms of reference of his work, limited to military operations).

However, the report strongly indicts others, like Lieutenant General BM Kaul, Prime Minister Nehru’s blue-eyed boy and Commander of 4 Corps. Lt Gen Kaul, who was Chief of General Staff in the Army Headquarters, before taking command of 4 Corps, is severely criticised time and again. But Nehru, who had promoted Lt Gen Kaul to positions that the general was unable to assume, was the real guilty man, though his name is never mentioned.

The report speaks, for example, of “the unbalanced posture of our forces in the Tawang sector on the eve of the Chinese offensive which “needs NO elaboration”. It adds: “[Tawang], which should have been the main centre of strength, lacked troops; the bulk having been inveigled to a flank in the Namkha Chu Valley, without adequate logistic support and in tactically unsound positions... The rout of 7 Infantry Brigade was a foregone conclusion.”

The HBR is a manual of what should not be done: “The NEFA [North-East Frontier Agency] battles were the concern of the [IV] Corps. It must, however, be made clear that this applied to only the tactical sphere. The overall defensive planning and the provision of logistic support must and always should be the concern of the Command [in Lucknow, Lieutenant General Sen] and the General Staff at Army Headquarters [in Delhi]. Unfortunately, the reverse happened. There was interference in the tactical level and the overall planning and provision of logistic support was conspicuous by its absence.”

India's defence industry languishes Monopoly of the defence PSUs has to end

G Parthasarathy

Engineers work on a LCA Tejas before its induction into the IAF. A PTI file photo

SPEAKING on the 15th anniversary of the Pokhran nuclear test last year, Narendra Modi observed: “There is a crucial question we have to answer — how do we become self-sufficient in defence manufacturing? This is not only about military power but also about being self-reliant for our defence equipment”. India has, since 2011, retained the dubious distinction of replacing China as the largest arms importer in the world. According to SIPRI, India’s major arms imports surged by 111 per cent in the last five years compared to 2004-2008.

China’s arms imports have declined. It has successfully leveraged its arms imports to engineer and develop a vibrant defence industry, now exporting armaments, ranging from fighter aircraft and frigates to missiles and rifles. Pakistan’s Al Khalid tank, frontline JF 17 fighter and recently acquired frigates are all from China. Its main ballistic missiles, the Shaheen 1 and Shaheen 2, are replicas of their Chinese counterparts. Moreover, China is a regular supplier of arms to our other neighbours like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The pathetic inadequacies of India's defence industry were exposed when it was unable to meet Afghanistan's wish list so vital for its security as American forces prepare to leave.

While our missile development programme gives us pride, our nuclear deterrent will be credible only when Agni 5 and the Navy’s nuclear submarines become fully operational. We are not in a position to export any major weapons platform. The 5.56 mm (INSAS) Automatic Rifle, manufactured by our ordnance factories will be rejected by any modern army. There is a total absence of accountability in the entire process of defence acquisitions and domestic production. The most classic case of such bungling pertains to the famous/infamous Bofors FH 77, 155 mm Howitzer.

In 1986 India signed a $285 million contract for the supply of 410 155 mm Bofors Howitzers. The contract included a provision for the manufacture of 1000 guns in India. The Bofors deal, which led to the outrageous arrest of a Defence Secretary of impeccable integrity, S.K. Bhatnagar, became a turning point, further complicating the already cumbersome defence acquisition procedures. The government cancelled the entire contract without arranging for either domestic manufacture or selecting an alternative gun. Like in all such cases, the armed forces rushed in for the import of an alternative. The acquisition process became more complicated, as offers for comparable weapon systems from Singapore and South Africa were rejected on allegations of kickbacks.

India would have been hard pressed to win the Kargil conflict speedily without the firepower that the Bofors gun provided. But we now come to the strange part of this entire episode. By 1987, India had received the entire design data and transfer of technology from Sweden for the manufacture of the Bofors gun. For over 20 years, these designs gathered dust in the offices of the Defence Production Establishment. It was only when no alternative was available that these designs were discovered and after much procrastination, the Ordnance Factories commenced a process of assembly. While the first test of the indigenous gun understandably failed, the Ordnance Factory Board has now successfully moved to commence its manufacture soon, with a range of 38 km as against the 30 km range of the Swedish Bofors. We have similarly successfully designed and developed multi-barrelled rocket launchers. But the larger issue is: Who is to be held responsible for mothballing the designs received from Sweden and why was the task of domestic manufacture not undertaken earlier?

Ailing social sector and political apathy

India’s public spending on health as a proportion of GDP is among the lowest in the world. As a result nearly 80 per cent of the health expenditure in the country continues to be in the private sector, which is unregulated

Mohuya Chaudhuri

Overburdened: Quality of services provided at health centres remains abysmally poor. Tribune photo

INDIA may be growing rapidly as an economic giant but in the health-care sector it continues to lag way behind many developing nations. In the last few decades, the government spending on health has remained static at close to 2 per cent of the GDP. Even when the country witnessed economic growth to the tune of 9 per cent, spending on health was abysmally low, despite multiple promises made by successive governments to improve it.

The impact has been on health services and quality of care, which continue to be suboptimal. The main challenges are absence of affordable medicines in the public health system as well as poor availability and access to health centres. Families have to travel long distances to access health care and often return without receiving help because there are no doctors. This has forced them to turn to the private sector. Even today, nearly 80 per cent of the health expenditure in India continues to be in the private sector, which is unregulated. Cost of care has increased exponentially and the public is grappling with the burden. It is estimated that each year more than 4 crore people are driven to poverty due to healthcare expenses.

Reproductive health

Much of the modest increase in public spending on health was channeled into the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). So far, it is the first major national effort to strengthen the health system. In the past decade, there have been marked improvements in the reproductive and child health care. While infant mortality rate (IMR) has declined to 42 per 1000 live births, it is still higher than Bangladesh, where IMR is 33. Maternal mortality rate (MMR) has only dropped from 212 to 178 in 2013. In comparison, the MMR rate in other South Asian countries like Thailand is 48 and in Sri Lanka it is 35.

Despite the fact that NRHM did scale up infrastructure across the country and hired more frontline personnel in low performing states, the goal of achieving universal health care is still a distant dream.

Since it has not been able to reach the most impoverished, marginalised and underserved communities, the gains have been partial. Currently, though institutional deliveries have gone up to 80 per cent yet there are serious concerns about the quality of services provided at health centres. Often women do not return for the next delivery.

Demilitarisation, Human Rights, and Indo-US Interests

Paper No. 5672 Dated 25-Mar-2014
Guest Column by Parasaran Rangarajan

The United States is reported to have requested a military installation in Sri Lanka as part of its “Pivot Towards Asia” where the Pentagon has stated that approximately 60% of U.S. Navy assets will be in the Asia Pacific region including Oceania, South China Sea, and the Indian Ocean by 2020[1] .

Sri Lanka is currently under increasing international pressure for violations of international law and views the continued U.S. sponsored resolutions at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against the island nation as interference in its domestic affairs in a larger attempt to bring about regime change under the guise of human rights.

While there is no doubt that justice cannot be delayed in regards to the events which took place in 2009, U.N. resolutions have been regarded as pre-texts for other actions as of late since the UNHRC cannot refer cases directly to the International Criminal Court (ICC) although this is within the scope of its mandate if both bodies decide to work together in the future. Citing this reason, some of the anti-western nations have denied support for this resolution seeking justice under international law. Hence, we must review the justifications the actions of the UNHRC establishing an international investigation into Sri Lanka emulating the North Korean structure or similar actions by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR)alongside the de-militarisation aspect.

The current outgoing Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has been criticized by opposition parties for being weak and not taking stronger stands in foreign policy issues including those related to the increasing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean among other matters. In his last official trip overseas to the BIMSTEC conference in Myanmar where he met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, he has sought de-militarisation of the Northern Provinces of Sri Lanka as there are reported to be nearly 175,000 troops stationed conducting illegal land grabs, human rights violations, and interfering in daily normal civilian life[2]. While de-militarisation may be difficult under the Constitution of Sri Lanka as noted by senior government of India advisers, this must be looked at seriously in relation to human rights and strategic gains for India[3]. Many of these troops and its commanders have been implicated in allegations of violations of international law and denied visas to the U.S for training as under U.S. law; those alleged for war crimes cannot be given training.

Some Sri Lankan Army (SLA) personnel such as General SarathFonseka have openly come out and stated that if there is an international investigation into war crimes, the responsibility and chain of causation for these heinous crimes will lead to him as he oversaw much of the last phases of the Eelam War between the government of Sri Lanka and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) but this can be viewed as an attempt to shield the Rajapaksa administration and executive branches[4]. We will not know the details of this matter until an international investigation is completed because diplomatic communications from the U.S. as found on WikiLeaks have shown information that the orders to shell the “No Fire Zones” came from none other than the Rajapaksa family[5]. This has been echoed by others in the international community including Tamil Diaspora organisations as well who have been campaigning for an international investigation.

As internet matures, India faces a choice on governance

Mahima Kaul
24 March 2014

For many years, the Indian public in particular had very little interest in who controlled the internet and decisions taken at a structural level that shaped its future. 

The press carried little tidbits about the World Summit on Information Society; a pair of United Nations-sponsored conferences about information, communication and, with an aim to bridge the so-called global digital divide separating rich countries from poor countries by spreading access to the internet in the developing world, the UN body, International Telecommunications Union (ITU); which coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards, and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which coordinates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, which are key technical services critical to the continued operations of the Internet's underlying address book, the Domain Name System (DNS) and also UN Commission of Science and Technology Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation, where governments come together to discuss issues like internet governance. 

What was commonly known followed a similar trajectory: America invented the internet, it is a global commons, and it works well. 

Over the last few years, however, as the Indian experience with the internet has matured, questions of governance, both internally and externally have started making headlines. Allegations of mass surveillance have hogged all headlines. Another factor cannot be missed: the Indian digital economy is growing rapidly, and while internet governance is nowhere close to being an election issue in India, domestically, access, freedom of expression, cyber crime and cyber security are growing concerns. There also the reality that as India's population gets increasingly connected, it will host one of the biggest online demographies in the world. Therefore, India's views and actions in terms of how the internet should grow and be governed is crucial to the future of the internet itself. 

In October 2011, the Indian government proposed that a UN Committee for Internet-Related Policies (CIRP) be formed, so that governments can debate and deliberate on vital issues such as intellectual property enforcement, privacy and data protection, online filtering and censorship and network neutrality. Those opposed to the idea have warned that the "open" nature of the internet will be threatened by governments who favor a controlled and censored form of the internet. Also the proposed structure of the UN-CIRP seemed to be the very anti-thesis of a dynamic internet; it involved setting up a 50 member committee that only met for two weeks in the year. Those opposed to this bureaucratic suggestion, instead, favour a multi-stakeholder transnational governance mechanism, which gives all stakeholders of the internet a place on the table; including governments, businesses and civil society members. 

The last few months of 2013 were very active internationally, on questions of internet governance. Three big international events made headlines, and India's role in them is especially telling. The first was the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Indonesia in November. This event brought together all members of civil society on a common platform to deliberate on the rules of global governance, but in effect did not have any binding powers. Given that it was held in the wake of the Snowden revelations of NSA surveillance, the conversations centered around the need to ensure better protection of all citizens in the online environment and to reach a proper balance between actions driven by national security and respect for freedom of expression, privacy and human rights. While in the 2012 IGF, India's Minister for Communication Technology had been present, in 2013, was "extremely small" according to Dr Anja Kovaks who participated there. She added that, "many developing countries look up to India's engagement with internet-governance forums to ensure that the concerns of the developing world are not ignored during policy-making." 

In December, 2013, the UN Commission of Science and Technology Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation released a statement which also carried India's proposal that, "The UN General Assembly could embark on creation of a multilateral body for formulation of international Internet-related public policies. The proposed body should include all stakeholders and relevant inter-governmental and international organisations in advisory capacity within their respective roles as identified in Tunis agenda and WGIG report. Such body should also develop globally applicable principles on public policy issues associated with the coordination and management of critical Internet resources." Earlier this year, a note written by India's National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), leaked to an Indian newspaper in March 2014, warns of the DNS system under US control, and goes on to say that "India's position is aligned with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran who also want governments to collectively drive internet management worldwide?" It adds that, "trust in the internet has declined and India's objective in the Geneva session was to ensure its concerns are accommodated in whatever international regime of Internet governance finally emerges." 

Yes, The Taliban Are Terrorists

Yes, The Taliban Are Terrorists

“It is time for Washington to put objective facts above political wishful thinking and recognize the Taliban as a terror organization.”
By Aziz Hakimi
March 25, 2014

The story is heartbreaking. A Facebook status update on July 16, 2013, from Ahmad Sardar, the Afghan journalist in Kabul. Nelofar, his 5-year-old daughter asks her dad, “Do the Taliban kill animals too?” The father answers no, and the little girl says: “I wish we were animals.”

Little Nelofar is dead now, brutally murdered by the Taliban – shot in the head – together with her dad, her mom and her 8-year-old brother. Of Nelofar’s family, only her 2-year-old brother has miraculously survived, in a coma with three bullets in his body.

On March 20, 2014, on the eve of the Persian New Year, the Taliban managed to enter the highly fortified Serena Hotel, located just a kilometer away from the Afghan presidential palace, where Nelofar and her family were celebrating the Nawrooz, the arrival of the spring and of the New Year.

The Taliban suicide mission left nine people dead and many more injured before Afghan forces killed the four attackers, who had managed to sneak pistols and ammunition inside the hotel, despite the tight security measures.

This is certainly not the first ruthless killing of civilians by the Taliban and, as Afghans know, it will not be the last. Every attack has been accompanied by widespread resentment of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has on numerous occasions called the Taliban his “dissident brothers.”

Many Afghans accuse Karzai of turning a blind eye to the massacres of civilians by the Taliban in the hearts of the Afghan capital and other major cities. Karzai never directly condemns the Taliban for the killings. Instead, he and other officials release statements that refer to the killers as the “enemies of peace and stability,” an absurd and overused phrase that carries no real sense of condemnation toward the Taliban themselves.

Some inside the government have privately told journalists that they are officially being asked by the president’s office to use such ambiguous expressions.

India continues to fall behind China

By Frank Ching
March 26, 2014, In 2010, when China-India trade was on a roll, the two countries set a goal of US$100 billion in trade in 2015. Indeed, in 2011, trade rose to US$74 billion, a 23-percent increase over the previous year.

For the last two years, however, events have moved in the opposite direction, with trade levels declining year by year, falling by 2.7 percent in 2012 and by an additional 1.5 percent in 2013 to US$65.47 billion. Total trade dropped 11.5 percent over the two years.

Now, achieving the US$100 billion target in 2015 is looking increasingly difficult.

An even pricklier problem from New Delhi's standpoint is that while India's exports to China have been dropping, China's exports to India continue to rise so that, in 2013, the value of Chinese exports to India was almost three times that of Indian exports to China.

The Indian trade deficit with China reached US$31.4 billion in 2013, according to Chinese customs figures.

Indian figures show an even worse situation. Last week, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chief of the Planning Commission, said at the annual bilateral strategic economic dialogue that “India's trade deficit over the last three successive years has been in excess of US$35 billion per annum, which is not sustainable.”

While still holding onto the official target of US$100 billion in trade by 2015, he said that the deficit “needs to be reduced to sustainable levels by more exports from India to China.” Specifically, the Indian side proposed Chinese investment in Indian industrial parks.

The decline in Indian exports is attributable to several factors, including the banning of iron ore mining in several regions by India's Supreme Court as a result of environmental concerns, and the imposition of a 30-percent export duty on iron ore shipped abroad.

This has resulted in a major fall in iron ore exports from India, which used to be the world's third largest exporter of iron ore.

New Delhi has been asking Beijing to open up its market to more Indian products, such as pharmaceuticals and software technology. At the latest meeting, China promised to encourage the participation of Indian IT companies in the Chinese market.

Increasingly, both sides are looking at a substantial increase in Chinese investment as one way to ease India's trade deficit problem. Current Chinese investment in India is less than US$1 billion.

A press release issued after the meeting said that the two sides agreed to “pursue specific collaboration arrangements” to upgrade the existing railway network in India.

A task force is also being set up to enable Chinese companies to invest in industries and industrial zones in India. The idea is that goods currently exported from China can be manufactured in India in the future.

China has suggested the construction of a high-speed rail system in India but Ahluwalia said that India was looking at China to help increase the speed of its present railways, redevelop old stations and increase its capacity for hauling freight. India, he said, was not looking to China to build a high-speed railway network.

Loud + Weak = War

MARCH 25, 2014

China and Russia are no more impressed with empty bluster today than Japan was in 1941. 

The Roosevelt administration once talked loudly of pivoting to Asia to thwart a rising Japan. As a token of its seriousness, in May 1940 it moved the home port of the Seventh Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor — but without beefing up the fleet’s strength.

The then-commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral James O. Richardson, an expert on the Japanese Imperial Navy, protested vehemently over such a reckless redeployment. He felt that the move might invite, but could not guard against, surprise attack.

Richardson was eventually relieved of his command and his career was ruined — even as he was later proved right when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Japan was not impressed. It surprise-attacked the base right after Pearl Harbor. The British surrendered Singapore in February 1942, in the most ignominious defeat in British military history.

By 1949, the U.S. was pledged to containing the expansion of Communism in Asia — even as Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson (who had been chief fundraiser for Truman’s 1948 campaign) declared that the Navy and Marines were obsolete. He began to slash both their budgets.

A “revolt of the admirals” followed, to no avail. But Mao Zedong’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union took note of the new disconnect between American bluster and massive defense cuts. So they green-lighted a North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950.

The common historical denominator is that Asia and the Pacific are always dangerous places, where calling for tough action is not the same as preparing for the consequences of upping the ante. Loud talk sometimes even encourages a thuggish challenge to prove it.

Unless the United States in any meaningful way backs up its current flamboyant “pivot” to Asia with additional ships, air wings, and manpower, there is no sense in chest-pounding our resolve to our increasingly orphaned allies, who may soon have to choose between acquiescing to China and going nuclear.

China will not be impressed that we talk confidently even as we cut defense — just as imperial Japan was not awed when aged American battleships were ordered westward to Pearl Harbor as a gesture.

Nor did the Japanese tremble when the British battleship Prince of Wales and battle cruiser Repulse were sent without air cover to Singapore. Both were seen as targets rather than deterrents and so soon ended up at the bottom of the sea.

Likewise, in the late 1940s, “containing Red China” meant nothing when the postwar U.S. had canceled new aircraft carriers, even as it still deployed on the cheap vulnerable small garrisons of troops all over Asia.

President Obama’s pivot has now joined his stable of deadlines, red lines, step-over lines, and “I don’t bluff” and “I’m not kidding” assertions. The problem with such rhetoric is not just that it is empty, but that it is predictably empty. If Obama cannot lead, can he at least keep quiet about it?



By Ömer Faruk Topal

During Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani’s rule Qatar became more visible in world politics. With its natural gas-derived wealth Qatar had invested billions of dollars around the world and made deals with famous finance and industry giants. Several prestigious diplomatic and sporting events took place in Qatar or were scheduled to be held. As a small country with a tiny population Qatar surprised many analysts with its foreign policy activism. Qatar has the ability to mold public opinion via media instruments like Al Jazeera and was very active in some regional issues including a peace deal in Lebanon, arming opposition forces in Syria and Libya, and reconciliation efforts to alleviate the HAMAS-FATAH dispute.

However, this activism and Qatar’s tactic of aligning with moderate Islamists irritated its neighbors in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia was one of the most fervent supporters of the coup d’état in Egypt and perceived the Brotherhood and its Islamist ideology to pose a dire threat to its regime’s security and regional stability, and labeled it a terrorist organization. Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa also stated that “Bahrain will deal with any threat from the Muslim Brotherhood group in Bahrain in the same way it deals with any other potential threat to its security and stability.”

Moreover Qatar hosts Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a famous intellectual of the Brotherhood who often criticizes Gulf States and even accuses them of being against Islamic rule. Qatar and Saudi Arabia also have different views on Iran. While the former sees Iran as an actor which should not be ignored, the latter sees Iran as an existential threat.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain accused Qatar of damaging the security and stability of the Gulf States by supporting the Brotherhood and its allies. Qatar was Egypt’s number one donor after Morsi’s victory—a position taken up by Saudi Arabia since the coup. On the other hand, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiya said “our policy is based on openness towards all, and we do not want to exclude anyone.”

Why Obama Won’t Give (or Get) Much in Saudi Arabia


President Obama will have his hands full in Riyadh later this week working with the Saudis in light of recent policy differences. Unlike Lehman Brothers, however, the U.S.-Saudi relationship really is too big to fail.

Published on March 25, 2014

As President Obama heads off to Riyadh this week—the last stop, on Friday, of a Europe-heavy itinerary—he should be a happy guy. Unlike his relationship with Vladimir Putin (or Lehman Brothers), the U.S.-Saudi relationship really is too big to fail. Key linkages—billions in recent U.S. weapons sales, counter-terrorism cooperation, and all that oil—will keep Riyadh and Washington together for some time to come, whether each side, deep down, really likes it or not.

At the same time, he should be worried, too. Conflicting interests and views concerning Egypt, Syria, Iran and Palestine have created big rifts in the relationship. Unless the President is prepared to alter his approach to these issues—and be more careful about what he says to journalists about supposed Saudi difficulties with accepting “change”—the best he can do is contain the damage. Even this won’t be easy.

In recent years, the list of issues on which U.S. and Saudi leaders don’t agree has gotten pretty long. Riyadh opposed Mubarak’s fall; after an initial hesitation, we sounded like we welcomed it. They saw the Morsi Muslim Brotherhood government as a threat; we were prepared to live with it. They fully supported the Egyptian military coup and backed it with billions; we waffled and conditioned our military assistance to Egypt. They backed the Khalifa family in Bahrain; initially we supported reform in their backyard. They remain worried that a Shi’a government close to Iran rules just across their border in Baghdad; we enabled it. Indeed, the Saudis see the Middle East as a struggle between good Sunnis and Bad Shi’a; we refuse to take sides.

Stripped to its essence, the diverging nature of U.S.-Saudi interests reflects a fundamental question. The Saudis wonder and worry about the broader U.S. commitment in the region, specifically our willingness to stand by our friends and our determination to oppose our adversaries. Not surprisingly, the Israelis worry about much the same thing. Long gone are the Bush 41 days when, according to the Saudis, Washington said what it meant and meant what it said.

The Saudis are hardly innocent bystanders in this new dysfunctional relationship, and of course they hardly reflect American values. Saudi Arabia is an authoritarian state opposed to fundamental internal change. It harbors its own anti-American and anti-Semitic fundamentalist currents. And for far too long, Saudi money has funded extremist Islamic schools and movements in Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond. There’s also little doubt Riyadh would like to keep the U.S. dependent on hydrocarbons for years to come, a goal shared by several other major oil exporters.


Jack Mulcaire
March 26, 2014

Growing numbers of people are on the streets of the capital city, rallying to demand some kind of political change. The head of state says they are criminals and insurrectionists who defy the political process. Various politicians claim to be the leaders of the angry crowds. Occasionally they clash with security forces and their political opponents; people have been killed. The loyalty of some state officials and military officers is unclear and in play. Different foreign governments loudly denounce or support the actions of the government and its challengers. Everyone claims to respect the “will of the people”, and everyone claims that the “will of the people” lines up pretty closely with what they want.

What are we to call a situation like this? A protest? A revolution? A rebellion? A coup in progress?

Just in the last year, Ukraine, the Arab Spring nations, Thailand, Venezuela, Brazil, Turkey, and Bosnia have all experienced crises that, to a greater or lesser degree, match the above scenario. Going back to 2011, the list becomes almost too long to count.

Clausewitz famously taught us that “War is politics by other means.” These situations of street violence and political crisis bridge the gap between violent and non-violent politics. Strategic thinkers today must have a solid understanding of this grey area; it’s now, perhaps more than ever, an important part of the battlespace. It is a struggle for power with its own rules and strategies.

When large numbers of people come out and face the security forces of the state in violent political protest, one political faction is presenting a formalized challenge to military conflict.

This formalized challenge to conflict presents a choice of strategy to the faction controlling the state. When large numbers of people come out in the streets and protest, the state has a number of tactical options, involving both political and paramilitary measures. The choice of strategy is fundamentally determined by an analysis of the balance of power between the state and the opposition. How popular and determined is the opposition? How popular is the state, and how loyal are its security forces? The relative strength of the two factions determines the cost of escalation, and thus the relative attractiveness of the various strategies.

The opposition seeks to either force the faction currently controlling state authority to offer concessions, surrender power entirely or force that faction to face the prospect of a politically-damaging escalation of the conflict. This can mean crossing the threshold to the level of actual war. While the implicit challenge to war is often a bluff, it is always present. Gathering thousands or even millions of people on the streets for days on end and engaging in clashes with the police is a way of demonstrating a faction’s size and resolve, and thus incentivising concessions rather than escalation.


Chris Looney
March 26, 2014

An Analysis of the Rhetoric Employed By the Persian Press

While peace talks between the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its opponents were floundering in Montreux last month, Iran was quietlyescalating its support for Damascus by increasing the number of high-level military advisors it provides to the Syrian Army. Now estimated to have as many as 10,000 operatives in Syria, Iran has committed a large amount of resources to the survival of one of its key regional allies, supportingtraining, intelligence, and military activities and even contributing to the pro-regime shabiha militias that have become key players in the conflict.

For the West, this alliance is often understood in purely geostrategic terms, with analysts highlighting Iran’s interest in maintaining the Assad regime as a bridge to Hezbollah, its proxy in Lebanon that serves as a counter to Israel. While this is undoubtedly the case, this account is far removed from the narrative pushed forth in the Persian press. Here, support for Assad is couched almost exclusively in moralistic terms, painting Iran as concerned only with securing peace and justice for Syria and its people. Though supporters of the Syrian opposition wholeheartedly reject this line of thought, a complete analysis of this reasoning is essential for a full understanding of Iran’s role in the conflict because it provides insight into the worldview that is the foundation of the Islamic Republic’s geopolitical strategy.

The Iranian Narrative

In Iran, the media is heavily censored. Though the election of President Hassan Rouhani has slightly improved conditions for journalists, they are still “defenseless” against the judiciary and therefore unable to fully exercise their independence. In no arena is this more problematic than foreign policy. According to the recently released Reporters Without Borders 2014 World Press Freedom Index,

Iranian authorities continue to control news coverage strictly, especially when it concerns its ally, the Assad regime, the Revolutionary Guard presence in Syria, and Iran’s financial aid. Any coverage of these subjects is regarded as “endangering national security.”

Because of this, the rhetoric employed by the press can be equated with the propaganda pushed by the government, giving insight into not only how Iran views the Syrian conflict, but into how it sees the world.

The fundamental point of divergence between the states that support Assad (namely Russia and Iran) and those who back the opposition is the legitimacy of the regime. In Iran, where a moralistic narrative is pushed in the Persian press to justify the regime’s support for the Syrian dictator, legitimacy is paramount, with all resulting actions a consequence of this core belief. On the other hand, a purely geostrategic explanation for Iran’s backing of Assad dictates that support is necessitated by realist power and security interests, and thus legitimacy becomes a less important afterthought granted ex post facto in order to achieve these goals.

Japan's Demographic Crisis: Any Way Out?

Japan's Demographic Crisis: Any Way Out?
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Japan has a population problem. What can it do to address it (if anything)?

By Ankit Panda
March 26, 2014

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power and “Abenomics” began demonstrating some success in lifting Japan out of its two-decade-long economic slump, expectations of a resurgent Japan have been met with both fear and praise (depending on who you ask). However positive the macroeconomic outlook for the Japanese economy and however successful Abe might be at normalizing Japan’s military stance, Japan isn’t back — its falling birthrate and shrinking population will significantly damage its international competitiveness. Japan’s population fell by a record 244,000 last year, further evidencing that this trend is accelerating. Is it all doom and gloom for Japan from here on out or is there a possible way out?

The arithmetic of population growth is simple — more citizens need to be added to the population pool than are being lost every year. Natural births and natural deaths account for only part of this equation; the other half is captured by immigration and emigration. In Japan’s case, population dynamics so far have been affected primarily by a decline in births. Given high life expectancies and a generational population boom in the decades following the Second World War, Japan’s population pyramid is top-heavy, with over 20 percent of the population 65 or older. Furthermore, Japan’s current fertility rate, according to the World Bank, sits at 1.39 births per woman — one of the lowest in the world.

One Japanese government estimate finds that should current trends continue, Japan’s population will have shrunk to a paltry 87 million from its current size of 127 million by 2060. Of those 87 million Japanese, as high as 40 percent of the population could be 65 or older. Not only is that a recipe for a social security disaster, but it would also rob Japan of any capacity to remain competitive on the world stage.

Reports emerging from Japan in the first few months of 2014 allege that the Abe government is eyeing adjusting Japan’s restrictive immigration policies to help alleviate the looming demographic crisis. According to a government simulation, one possible solution for Japan at the moment is to begin accepting 200,000 immigrants per year starting in 2015 and raising the fertility rate to 2.07 births per woman. If both of these criteria are met, Japan’s 2060 scenario looks less grim, with a projected population of slightly over 100 million.

The Left, the Right and us

March 25, 2014 

Now, the world over, policymakers are dusting off their copies of Keynes' classic, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, and figuring out whether there are any answers there to our own challenges of growing our economies, says Ajit Balakrishnan.

The man was a classical Brit of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His school was Eton, his college was Cambridge, he started work in the India Office and then turned to academics.

His close friends included writers Virginia Woolf and E M Forster and historian Lytton Strachey. He was bisexual and given to talking about some of his men friends as his "first love" and others as his "true love".

He once was the reigning authority in his field and world statesmen hung on his words, but then his ideas fell into disrepute. Now, in 2014, nearly 70 years after his death, his ideas are about to stage a comeback. I am talking about John Maynard Keynes.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, if you hung out in policy circles, it was fashionable to be a "Keynesian". Being Keynesian meant having an unbounded belief in an activist government whose investment spending would increase demand for goods and services in the economy so that all able-bodied people would get jobs.

It also meant a multitude of government-sponsored schemes and organs such as a Planning Commission. Indian policymakers were second to none in their belief in Keynes.

Then, the wheel turned. First in England and the United States in the mid-1980s, and then in the 1990s in countries like India. It turned to such an extent that if you stood up and professed a belief in government-led initiatives even in education or health care, you would immediately be called a "leftist".

Rational and well-educated people were supposed to believe that government-led initiatives only led to waste and inefficiency if not outright corruption and scams.

The credit for this swing away from an activist state is usually given to Margaret Thatcher, who, when elected in 1979 as prime minister of a recession-struck Britain, plunged into a vigorous programme of privatisation (British Telecom and British Airways are examples) and facing down public sector unions (breaking the British coal miners' strike) and deregulation (the "Big Bang" deregulation of the London financial markets).

Only Boots on the Ground Will Stop Putin

March 26, 2014

During the Cold War American and German military planners were at odds over the positioning of allied forces. The Germans wanted them deployed on the Fulda Gap frontier to destroy the first Warsaw Pact tank that crossed it. At the same time, they rejected a “fallback” strategy that meant Germany would surrender a huge chunk of its territory to cope with the Red Army’s blitzkrieg.

American planners, by contrast, reasoned that the allies could not stop the Warsaw Pact invasion at Germany’s border since the aggressors enjoyed a decisive advantage in men and material. As compensation the defenders would withdraw behind the Rhine River, compelling the Red Army to pause at this water barrier. This would allow NATO units to regain their composure and resist the onslaught from the East with more favorable odds.

But there was another element to this dispute, and it has a bearing on the Western response to Russian aggression in Central Europe today. The Germans wanted Americans to be involved in the conflict from the outset so that the Red Army would never launch the invasion in the first place. They reasoned deterrence rested on the prospect that Americans would die on Day One and thereby guarantee Washington would respond with purpose to the enemy assault. With this knowledge in mind, the Red Army commanders would conclude an invasion of Germany was too risky to justify.

Today, the most vulnerable members of NATO in the East Baltic Sea region share a common border with Russia and desperately want American boots on the ground—not combat engineers constructing an antimissile system in Poland to evaporate Iranian rockets—to deter a reckless Russian military provocation. The prospect that U.S. troops will die should Russian troops cross their borders will give meaning to Washington’s pledge to honor Article Five guarantees. After all, the Americans have demonstrated on numerous occasions that if challenged, they will fight.

Critics might deem this a dangerous and provocative proposal. But if adopted with diplomatic initiatives and sanctions that bite, it is the best way to keep the peace. This is not merely a PR ploy favored by Madison Avenue flakes working to stoke the defense budget for the military-industrial complex, it is grounded in facts on the ground that will gain Putin’s attention.

At present, Putin says that he has no intention of invading eastern Ukraine. The concentration of his combat forces in the area suggests otherwise. His words mean nothing, and given the ambiguity of the Western response—justified by a judicious reluctance to escalate the conflict but also a consequence of pressure from powerful economic interests in Europe and the U.S. that covet Russian business—Putin may conclude that his opponents are too timid, divided and under the influence of their own oligarchs to honor Article Five guarantees. History instructs, however, that ambiguity is dangerous: ambiguity prompted two world wars in the last century, and it threatens the peace today.

That said, Putin has reason to believe that the West will talk the talk but not walk the walk and under the claim that he is protecting vulnerable Russians, in the “near abroad,” he may occupy eastern and southern Ukraine. In addition, his bravado will divide the allies, prove NATO is a hollow shell and fragment an EU already in turmoil.

The problem here is that Putin’s policies conflict with Russia’s capabilities. Anyone, not only professional military strategists, can understand Putin’s delusions by going to their computer and Google in three measures for Russia: population, gross domestic product (GDP) and military expenditures. Then, do the same for the United States, the European Union, Japan and South Korea. Russia has a population of about 148 million, the U.S. over 300 million, the EU approaching 500 million, Japan 128 million and South Korea half that amount. (And let us not forget Australia, Canada and New Zealand.) Get the picture? It is even more dismal for Putin when you turn to GDP and defense spending.

If Nato doesn't stand up to Putin, it is finished

By Con Coughlin World Last updated: March 25th, 2014

For anyone who still takes the security of the West seriously – and I fear I am in a distinct minority – the manner in which Russian President Vladimir Putin has effortlessly achieved his audacious land grab in the Crimea should serve as a dramatic wake-up call for Nato.

And yet, to judge by the mood music coming from the meeting of Western leaders in The Hague this week, the likelihood of Nato doing anything to dissuade Moscow's macho man from undertaking any further acts of military adventurism in central Europe or the Baltic states does not seem at all encouraging.

Booting Putin out of G8 is, admittedly, a step in the right direction. But it is hardly likely to deter a megalomaniac who believes it is his destiny to rebuild the Russian Empire, even if it means doing so at the expense of Moscow's weaker neighbours.

But if we are to prevent the Russian leader from undertaking further incursions, then we need to have an effective deterrent in place to dissuade him from doing so.

That is the role Nato is supposed to play. Its very existence, after all, is predicated on its ability to protect its member states from outside attack.

But at a time when President Obama shows little interest in maintaining the transatlantic alliance that has kept the peace since the Second World War, and with European governments – our own included – more interested in cutting defence spending that adopting a realistic strategic approach, the omens are not looking good.

When faced with a crisis, the default position of Nato member states, as we have seen recently over Libya and Syria, is to bicker amongst themselves over how to respond, rather than coming up with an effective programme that safeguards its interests.

But if Nato leaders fail to come up with an adequate response to Putin's new mood of military aggression, they might as well dissolve the alliance and start negotiating peace terms with Moscow.

** Putin's Challenge to the West

Russia has thrown down a gauntlet that is not limited to Crimea or even Ukraine.
March 25, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a long-festering grudge: He deeply resents the West for winning the Cold War. He blames the United States in particular for the collapse of his beloved Soviet Union, an event he has called the "worst geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."

His list of grievances is long and was on full display in his March 18 speech announcing the annexation of Crimea by Russia. He is bitter about what he sees as Russia's humiliations in the 1990s—economic collapse; the expansion of NATO to include members of the U.S.S.R.'s own "alliance," the Warsaw Pact; Russia's agreement to the treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe, or as he calls it, "the colonial treaty"; the West's perceived dismissal of Russian interests in Serbia and elsewhere; attempts to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO and the European Union; and Western governments, businessmen and scholars all telling Russia how to conduct its affairs at home and abroad.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Getty Images

Mr. Putin aspires to restore Russia's global power and influence and to bring the now-independent states that were once part of the Soviet Union back into Moscow's orbit. While he has no apparent desire to recreate the Soviet Union (which would include responsibility for a number of economic basket cases), he is determined to create a Russian sphere of influence—political, economic and security—and dominance. There is no grand plan or strategy to do this, just opportunistic and ruthless aspiration. And patience.

Mr. Putin, who began his third, nonconsecutive presidential term in 2012, is playing a long game. He can afford to: Under the Russian Constitution, he could legally remain president until 2024. After the internal chaos of the 1990s, he has ruthlessly restored "order" to Russia, oblivious to protests at home and abroad over his repression of nascent Russian democracy and political freedoms.

In recent years, he has turned his authoritarian eyes on the "near-abroad." In 2008, the West did little as he invaded Georgia, and Russian troops still occupy the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. He has forced Armenia to break off its agreements with theEuropean Union, and Moldova is under similar pressure.

Last November, through economic leverage and political muscle, he forced then-President Viktor Yanukovych to abort a Ukrainian agreement with the EU that would have drawn it toward the West. When Mr. Yanukovych, his minion, was ousted as a result, Mr. Putin seized Crimea and is now making ominous claims and military movements regarding all of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine is central to Mr. Putin's vision of a pro-Russian bloc, partly because of its size and importantly because of Kiev's role as the birthplace of the Russian Empire more than a thousand years ago. He will not be satisfied or rest until a pro-Russian government is restored in Kiev.

He also has a dramatically different worldview than the leaders of Europe and the U.S. He does not share Western leaders' reverence for international law, the sanctity of borders, which Westerners' believe should only be changed through negotiation, due process and rule of law. He has no concern for human and political rights. Above all, Mr. Putin clings to a zero-sum worldview. Contrary to the West's belief in the importance of win-win relationships among nations, for Mr. Putin every transaction is win-lose; when one party benefits, the other must lose. For him, attaining, keeping and amassing power is the name of the game.

U.S. Navy Holding Submarine Exercise in Arctic Simulating Attacks on Russian Subs

March 26, 2014

Cold War Echoes Under the Arctic Ice

Julian E. Barnes

Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2014

BENEATH THE ARCTIC OCEAN—Five hundred feet below the Arctic ice cap, the USS New Mexico’s crew filled two torpedo tubes. “Match sonar bearings and shoot,” ordered the skipper, Cmdr. Todd Moore. The air pressure rose sharply as a simulated torpedo headed toward its simulated target: a Russian Akula-class submarine.

The Arctic exercise, one of two over this past weekend, was intended as a show of U.S. force for the benefit of America’s allies, defense officials said. The drills were arranged before Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea province, these people said, but have taken on new geopolitical significance as tensions soar between East and West.

The simulated attack came amid a new era of increasingly cold U.S. relations with Moscow. U.S.-Russian cooperation in the Arctic came to a sudden halt after the U.S. recently canceled a joint naval exercise in the northern waters and a bilateral meeting on Coast Guard Arctic operations. The U.S. also put on hold work on an Arctic submarine rescue partnership.

"This trip had a slightly different cast to it because hunting mythical submarines took on more urgency," said Sen. Angus King (I., Maine), who came as an observer. "This is the only ocean where we confront each other."

Defense officials said they chose a Russian simulated sub as the target because that was the only other nation that operates in the Arctic. Moreover, these people said the exercise wasn’t a signal that the U.S. sees a military conflict on the horizon.

Russian officials didn’t respond to a request to comment.

Across the Arctic Ocean, the U.S. has been conducting ice exercises with submarines since 1947. During the 1980s, the Navy had three ice camps a year, a frequency that declined rapidly after the Cold War’s end. The Navy is considering a renewed commitment to the Arctic as a retreating ice sheet opens up new sea lanes and makes oil exploration more feasible.

The U.S. held weekend submarine drills beneath the Arctic ice cap, involving the use of a provocative simulated target: A Russian sub. Julian Barnes was there and joins the News Hub with details.

As part of the exercise, which took place 150 miles off the north coast of Alaska, the Navy sent two subs beneath the Arctic Ocean to test their ability to operate, punch through the ice, find other submarines, hide and fire their torpedoes. The Navy publicized its exploits on social media.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, who viewed the exercise, said showcasing American subs’ ability to operate and to collect intelligence in any corner of the world undetected is critical to U.S. security. The U.S. has a fleet of 72 subs compared with Russia’s approximate 60.

"If our allies and friends are reassured, that is a deterrent," said Adm. Greenert. "It is about being able to get to any area of the world and people understanding that we can."

The same weekend, 440 U.S. Marines concluded another Arctic exercise, this one in northern Norway with other allied troops, near the Russian border.

Norway says it plans to continue cooperating with Russia on search-and-rescue missions in the Arctic, but is reviewing its military-to-military cooperation with Moscow, said Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide. Norway is building a $125 million pier to help make it easier to move American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization military gear in and out of the country, U.S. defense officials said.

Ms. Soreide said she didn’t want to remilitarize the border. “At the same time we do have, and want to have, situational awareness for our own country and the alliance,” she said in an interview.

Across the Arctic Ocean, Ice Camp Nautilus, this year’s base, was named after the first sub to transit the Arctic in 1958. Basically a tent and some temporary wooden shacks perched on a cracked and shifting chunk of ice, the camp conducted a variety of Arctic experiments and tests, including the ability of a new Navy satellite system to send and transmit classified data more reliably in the high north than older satellites.

This year, the first ice exercise since 2011, the Navy sent two subs—the USS New Mexico and the USS Hampton, an older Los Angeles class.

Inside the New Mexico, many of the crew was trying to pay close attention to Crimea. But underwater for weeks at a time, the crew was cut off from news reports, save for what comes from an encrypted, very-low-frequency radio signal that penetrates the ice and delivers a news report a page and a half long.

Petty Officer Third Class Christopher Willis, who was drawn to undersea service by devouring tales of submarine prowess in the Cold War, was skeptical there would be a submarine shooting war soon. The real importance of America’s undersea fleet is its intelligence gathering, he said.

"It is not about putting warheads on foreheads," he said. "It is about finding out things."

Adm. Greenert said that despite tensions with Russia, he didn’t foresee a return to a military competition in the Arctic and hopes to restart cooperation.