8 February 2015

Cut according to his cloth - The self-love of the great Indian male

Ramachandra Guha

After Narendra Modi's recent meeting with Barack Obama, there was some criticism of his wearing a suit whose stripes spelt out his own name. The criticism was not unmerited; it was a tawdry, tacky, thing to do. Yet Modi's expensive display of self-love was entirely characteristic of how powerful and successful Indian males tend to behave in public.

Consider this. India's most famous and highly decorated scientist is C.N.R. Rao, a Fellow of the world's most prestigious scientific academies, and a recipient of his country's highest honour, the Bharat Ratna. Some years ago, an admirer decided to lobby the Bangalore Municipality to name the circle outside the Indian Institute of Science (of which Rao had been director) after the great man. Now circles and roads are normally not named after living people. But here was C.N.R. Rao in the flesh, actually present when a circle named after him was being inaugurated.

Next only to Rao in the hierarchy of Indian science is R.A. Mashelkar. Mashelkar is a former director general of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and much else. He has not, so far as I know, had a circle or building named after himself. Yet his conduct in public is scarcely less boastful, as witness his editorial in a recent issue of the journal, Current Science. Entitled '"Indovation" for affordable excellence', it is mostly about the author himself. In a mere couple of pages we are told of a paper by Mashelkar in the Harvard Business Review which "provoked worldwide discussion" and was the subject of a "special session" at the World Economic Forum; that a TED lecture he gave "has received more than half a million views and has been subtitled in 23 languages"; that Mashelkar is the president of something called the Global Research Alliance; that the European Union invited him to give a talk to "an audience of around 2000"; that when he was director general of the CSIR he set up "a public-private partnership called New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative".

Mashelkar's article runs so contrary to the spirit of science that I wonder how it was accepted for publication. How did the editor of Current Science allow the essay to pass without major cuts and changes? Either the editor is plain incompetent, or, what is more likely, too intimidated by Mashelkar's reputation and influence to have asked him to revise his essay.

Domestic, foreign demand set to boost scope for def biz for

February 6, 2015

The annual opportunity for Indian domestic companies, including public sector firms, in the defence and aerospace sector is expected reach USD 41 billion by Fiscal Year 2022 driven by domestic and external demand, according to a report. 

The report, entitled 'India -- Aerospace and Defence', prepared jointly by industry body FICCI and financial services firm Centrum Capital, also projects a USD 620 billion defence budget between FY14 and FY22, of which 50 per cent would be on capex. 

The sector would offer USD 168 billion of cumulative opportunity during this period to domestic companies, it said. 

"We expect India to expand its defence budget as it seeks to maintain a semblance of geo-political balance in Asia as the US is likely to withdraw to repair its financials and narrow the large gap that has developed with China militarily. 

"Massive modernisation undertaken as 50 per cent of current equipment is obsolete due to less than adequate spend on defence in the past and also reasonably comfortable funding position on the back of healthy tax revenues and comfortable debt/GDP ratio relative to other nations and India's own history," the report said. 

The report observed that the fiscal strain on the balance sheets of developed countries will pressure defence spends and global players will start looking out for cheaper sourcing (products and services) from other countries. 

In that respect, it said, "We believe India has the key ingredients (large and relatively low-cost engineering talent pool along with comfort of western nations with India from a geo-political perspective) to deliver on the opportunity.

Pakistan Wants 'Battlefield' Nukes to Use against Indian Troops

Zachary Keck
February 6, 2015

Pakistan is continuing to develop tactical nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield against India, a senior U.S. intelligence official said this week.

In providing a worldwide threat assessment to the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, discussed Pakistan’s expanding nuclear delivery systems.

“We anticipate that Pakistan will continue [its] development of new delivery systems, including cruise missiles and close-range ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapons to augment its existing ballistic missiles,” Stewart said during his opening statement, according to an official transcript.

Tactical nuclear weapons are low-yield, short-range nuclear missiles designed for use against opposing troops on the battlefield, rather than against enemy cities like strategic nuclear weapons. Both the U.S. and Soviet Union deployed them in Europe (among other places) during the Cold War, and Washington and Moscow continue to deploy them today. They are not covered in existing U.S.-Russian arms control treaties like New START.

In April 2011, Pakistan first tested the Hatf-9 (Nasr) missile, which it called a “Short Range Surface to Surface Multi Tube Ballistic Missile.” In the official statement announcing the test, Pakistan’s military said the Hatf-9 missile was nuclear-capable and had been developed to be used at “shorter ranges.”

“NASR, with a range of 60 km, carries nuclear warheads of appropriate yield with high accuracy, shoot and scoot attributes. This quick response system addresses the need to deter evolving threats,” the statement said. It added that the “test was a very important milestone in consolidating Pakistan’s strategic deterrence capability at all levels of the threat spectrum.”

Testing continued throughout 2012 and 2013, and Pakistan’s Strategic Forces arebelieved to have inducted the missile into service following an October 2013 test. Pakistan has continued periodic testing since that time, most recently in September of last year. However, it is unclear whether Pakistan is capable of building nuclear warheads small enough to use on the Hatf-9.

Competing with India

Kaiser Bengali
February 2, 2015

US President Barack Obama’s visit to India as chief guest for the country’s Republic Day celebrations has evoked amusing reactions in Pakistan. Of course, there is peeve at the fact that the US president has chosen to visit India and bypass Pakistan. However, gone are the days when the world treated India and Pakistan on a par and foreign dignitaries considered it a diplomatic necessity to visit Islamabad when visiting New Delhi and vice versa.

Islamabad has accepted the situation as a fait accompli; however, American presidential visits remain an exception. Earlier, when former president Clinton visited India, Pakistani diplomats moved heaven and earth to implore him to add Pakistan to his itinerary; and he obliged with a four-hour visit.

Currently, the Pakistan Foreign Office has adopted a responsible position and refrained from any comment. A section of the media has, however, gone overboard with hysteria and exaggerated pique, particularly by overnight-born experts — ex-generals, stand-alone politicians, news analysts, etc. — who are smarting the most on account of President Obama’s India visit sans Pakistan.

Pakistan has to realise that world affairs are not carried out according to the figments of imagination of the country’s officially-sponsored intelligentsia. The nations of the world are engaged in serious relationships based on trade and security. No world leader will visit Pakistan if there is nothing substantial to talk about. No one has the time to add a day to their route merely to pander to Islamabad’s pretensions about parity with India.

Pakistan will have to accept hard facts and introspect the actual situation. And the fact is that Pakistan has little weight in the international arena, politically and economically. Politically, it is viewed as a nuisance at best and a threat to international security at worst. Economically, it is considered a basket case and a seemingly eternal candidate for bailouts. And it has little international sympathy for its claims of terrorism victimhood, as it is viewed as being bitten by the snakes it has itself bred in its backyard.

Pak will take action against Lashkar, says its ex-NSA Durrani

Saikat Datta
Feb 04, 2015

It is rare for a visiting former Pakistani National Security Adviser (NSA) to claim that action would be taken against the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the architect of the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai, and even rarer for him to admit that the ISI needed a course-correction. But Maj Gen Mahmud Durrani did just that at a discussion in Delhi on Tuesday.

The reason for this “change” within Pakistan, Durrani says, has been caused by the horrific attack on a Peshawar school that claimed 145 lives, majority of them children, in December last year. Durrani minced no words in saying that things had changed for Pakistan. “(The attack on the school) was an attack by the TTP to punish the Pakistan army.

This can become a crisis of identity for us,” said Durrani at a discussion on the attack at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi on Tuesday.

On a private visit to India, Durrani also met the Indian NSA, AK Doval, on Monday evening. It is believed that Durrani was carrying a message from the Pakistani establishment which is keen to begin bilateral talks with its neighbour. Talks were suspended after the Pakistani High Commissioner to India met Kashmiri separatists last year. While Durrani did not divulge any details, it is understood that Durrani conveyed these sentiments to Doval.

“I don’t think a change of name (from Lashkar-e-Toiba to Jamat-ud-Dawa) should make any difference. A bad man (Hafeez Sayeed) is a bad man,” Durrani said while replying to a specific question on Pakistan’s policy on the LeT and its leader Sayeed.

Durrani admitted that Pakistan’s policy of creating strategic depth in Afghanistan has not worked. “Pakistan is paying for its mistakes and the ‘strategic depth’ of ensuring a friendly Afghanistan has been a failure,” Durrani admitted. Its main intelligence agency, the ISI, Durrani admitted, needed to shift its focus. “The ISI should be corrected and improved but not destroyed. (We can) look at the direction of ISI and correct it, if necessary,” he said. Durrani served as the Pakistani ambassador to the US when Gen Pervez Musharraff was the President and was then appointed as the NSA between 2008 and 2009 when the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was in power.

Is China About to Declare War Against ISIS?

Simone van Nieuwenhuizen
February 6, 2015

Despite China's long-standing diplomatic principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states, Beijing cannot completely control its citizens' involvement in terrorist activity abroad. Whether China likes it or not, it is being drawn into the conflict against ISIS.

China's state media recently reported that three Chinese ISIS militants were executed in 2014 following their attempted desertion from the terrorist organization.

Quoting an unnamed Kurdish security official, a reporter for the Global Times wrote that one militant was killed in Syria in September after becoming disillusioned and trying to return to the Turkish university where he had been a student. The other two were beheaded in December along with 11 other militants from six different nationalities.

In response to the report, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson simply stated: “China opposes all forms of terrorism. China is willing to strengthen cooperation with the international community to fight together against terrorist forces, including the ‘East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM),’ in order to protect regional and global security and stability.”

This standard statement effectively summarizes the Chinese Government's thinking on counter-terrorism: the emphasis is on the international community's cooperation with China in its fight against the threats of domestic terrorism and separatism (ETIM is an Islamic terrorist organisation founded by Uyghurmilitants in western China), while China's cooperation with the international community in its fight against international terrorist organizations remains limited.

Islamist Politics in the Shadow of the Islamic State Memos

Islamist politics have been in a period of tremendous change since the Arab uprisings began in late 2010. After decades on the margins of political life in many Arab societies, Islamist parties were suddenly thrust into the center of post-uprisings politics. Yet, in 2014 two major developments reshaped Islamist politics on the ground and challenged long-standing assumptions: the rise of the Islamic State, and the Egyptian and regional repression of the Muslim Brotherhood. On January 23, 2015 POMEPS brought together a group of international scholars to discuss these developments and how they are compelling academics and Islamists themselves to rethink Islamist politics.

Each participant in the “Islamist Politics in the Shadow of the Islamic State” workshop contributed a thematic memo, which will be available here individually, as well as in an upcoming POMEPS Studies collection. This year’s workshop builds on the success of the January 2014 workshop, the memos from which are featured in POMEPS Studies 6 “Rethinking Islamist Politics.”


Jihadi-Salafi views of the Islamic State,” by Joas Wagemakers, Radboud University Nijmegen

Brotherhood activism and regime consolidation in Egypt, ” by Steven Brooke, University of Texas at Austin

The ISIS-ification of Islamist politics,” by Khalil al-Anani, George Washington University and John’s Hopkins University SAIS

Yemen’s Houthis and Islamist republicanism under strain,” by Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

What I talk about when I talk about Islamists,” by Ahmed Khanani, Indiana University

Why Tunisia didn’t follow Egypt’s path,” by Sharan Grewal, Princeton University

How much of a state is the Islamic State?” by Quinn Mecham, Brigham Young University

From the Monkey Cage: 

The Islamic State’s model” by Aaron Y. Zelin, King’s College London

How much of a state is the Islamic State?

Quinn Mecham
February 5

The group now commonly known as the “Islamic State,” which controls vast amounts of territory in Eastern Iraq and Western Syria, is unlike most Islamist militant groups in its demonstrated ability to control territory and establish a regularized system of governance. The growing aspiration for the creation of “Islamic” state institutions is reflected in the evolution of the group’s name, from al-Qaeda in Iraq, to the Islamic State of Iraq, to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and then simply to the Islamic State, with the June 2014 announcement of the formation of a caliphate. 

The Islamic State group has many of the attributes of a new “start-up” organization that is entering the wider market of Islamist thinking around statehood. The group has attracted a great deal of attention because it has brought disruptive innovation into Islamic political thought, both in terms of ideology (using common Islamist concepts in new ways) and what it is doing on the ground (taking and holding wealth and territory). Incumbent Islamist actors have been rattled by the Islamic State’s material success and the group’s attraction for emergent jihadis. Much of this attraction is not due to the group’s “Islamic” ideology, which is bitterly contested, but because of its demonstrated success at building institutions and creating prosperity for a select group of its patrons. 

Rather than assessing the “Islamic” qualities of the Islamic State group, I will focus instead on the “stateness” of this group as it has developed in early 2015. The contemporary name of this group implies both that it is Islamic and also that it is a state. My principal argument is that while the Islamic State does not have all of the characteristics that we usually attribute to states, it does have many of them, and that its trajectory to date is toward increasing levels of stateness. This matters a great deal, not only because it shapes the lives of the people who live within Islamic State-controlled territory, but also because it has implications for how outside actors should engage with this group. In particular, the more the Islamic State actually resembles a state, with its security provision and regulatory institutions, the less international actors will be able to “degrade” or “destroy” the group without also degrading or destroying the fundamental functions of the state. Attempts to degrade and destroy these emergent state institutions will likely lead to anarchy, which often comes with profoundly negative consequences. 


Far from home, a close-knit police battalion tried to keep the peace in one of the most strategically important towns in eastern Ukraine.

A LONG 700 MILES FROM HOME, A GROUP OF YOUNG MEN FROM WESTERN UKRAINE FOUND THEMSELVES GARRISONED IN AN OLD RAILROAD CONDUCTORS’ BOARDING HOUSE IN THE TOWN OF DEBALTSEVE, located in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast. Tasked with maintaining martial law in this town that since January has been on the front lines of fighting, the members of the Lviv Special Purpose Battalion more resembled a crack military unit than a group of law enforcement officers. Photojournalist James Sprankle traveled to Debaltseve in January and spent several days with the battalion. 

Situated in an area that is surrounded by the Luhansk People’s Republic to the east and the Donetsk People’s Republic to the west, the town is a vital transportation crossroad and therefore of great strategic importance. Not only is it at the intersection of two major highways; Debaltseve also served as an important rail hub for the Donetsk region’s ailing coal industry. 

Though Debaltseve has so far been well defended by Ukrainian forces, it has recently become engulfed in a deadly burst of fighting that erupted between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists in mid-January. Civilians and military have been killed in the shelling which has devastated local buildings. CNN reported that the morgue is full, with some 200 bodies having been brought in so far this month alone. Two thousand of the town’s residents have been evacuated in the last few days, AP reports, as pro-Russian separatist forces continued to make their advances. Many of those who remain are living in bomb shelters and basements and are without electricity, running water, with food supplies running low. 

The group of 39 of men pictured in these photos first arrived in October, prepared to take the place of the town’s disbanded police force. The military forces secure the outskirts of the town, but it is the men from Lviv who have been the ones to keep the peace with civilians. They go on patrols, investigate crimes, and are occasionally called upon to settle disputes between military personnel and civilians. When, for example, the military tried to commandeer a local man’s tractor for use on the front, the battalion members stepped in and negotiated an agreeable arrangement. And while there is no open animosity directed toward the men in the battalion, it’s clear they are not wanted here. The residents of Debaltseve want life to return to normal. They want peace. 

Building a Better Post-Oslo Era

Nathan J. Brown
FEBRUARY 4, 2015 

The United States and Europe should encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to use international organizations and law as an alternative to violence.

There is little argument among Palestinians that they are in the midst of a political turning point. It is clear to all what they are turning away from: the Oslo era in which they were governed by a series of makeshift structures that many vainly hoped would end the Israeli occupation and deliver a Palestinian state. Those hopes—and corresponding Israeli hopes for a negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—faded long ago for most Palestinians. But many of the governance structures set up in the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accords were kept alive because senior leaders on both sides, as well as critical international actors (chiefly the United States and Europe), still clung to elements of the interim arrangements and showed strong signs of tactical partnership. 

Now, however, Palestinian and Israeli leaders appear to be making different calculations. With the Palestinian leadership having taken the initial steps to file a complaint against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC) late in 2014, and Israel moving toward parliamentary elections in March 2015, most are positioning themselves for a post-Oslo era in which they no longer depend on Oslo’s structures. At the same time, the international sponsors of what a few diehards continue to call the peace process seem to be running out of patience, ideas, and perhaps even funds. 

In Defense of U.S. Funding for Area Studies It is only inertia that keeps the basic structures established under Oslo operating today; both Palestinians and Israelis are profoundly ambivalent about them, and the international institutions designed to support them are fraying. In this setting, they may decay or collapse as various actors blunder ahead, displaying thoughtlessness, frustration, and exhaustion rather than strategy and purpose, all undermining the interim arrangements that Oslo promised would be steps toward a permanent solution. Worse, current trends risk entrenching only the worst aspects of the status quo—the denial of Palestinian rights and the continuation of Israeli long-term existential fears—while adding paroxysms of violence and outbreaks of uncontrollable spirals of hostility.

Indeed, the contained arenas of rivalry and conflict (and negotiation) that characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past two decades are being replaced by a new kind of conflict. In it, leaders and their allies are seeking advantage by pressing their case in a variety of new venues, and unofficial groups on both sides are increasingly setting the agenda. 

What Do We Mean When We Say ‘This Is Our 9/11’?

FEBRUARY 5, 2015

Since the day the Twin Towers fell and a plane smacked into the side of the Pentagon, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 have become a symbol of terror, devastation, and sorrow. Synonymous with horror and subsequent fury, the attacks have bifurcated recent history into an era of before and after.

By virtue of its magnitude, 9/11 has also gained a symbolic meaning for violence that is shocking, unpredictable, and perpetrated by fanatics. Over time, 9/11 as a metaphor has been gradually stretched, and in the years since, similar attacks have been described in terms that begin and end with that day — as “our 9/11,” no matter the extent of the loss.

This week, the Islamic State gave its global audience a macabre spectacle: The horrific execution of Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who was videotaped as he burned to death in a makeshift cage. Days before the release of that video, the group had released another showing the decapitation of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist.

Kasasbeh’s execution, for its awful method, has dominated headlines. By contrast, Goto’s execution — and that of another Japanese ISIS prisoner, Haruna Yukawa — has evoked a defiant grief among Japanese who are comparing the tragedy to the 9/11 attacks.

“This is 9/11 for Japan,” Kunihiko Miyake, a former diplomat who has advised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on foreign affairs, told the New York Times. “It is time for Japan to stop daydreaming that its good will and noble intentions would be enough to shield it from the dangerous world out there. Americans have faced this harsh reality, the French have faced it, and now we are, too.” In response to Goto’s beheading, Abe pledged that Japan, a country formally committed in its constitution to a pacifist policy, would avenge his killing.

These comparisons are reflective of 9/11’s symbolic role in this age of terrorism, as a marker of extreme violence, as a way to make that violence comprehensible, and to situate such violence within a framework that makes sense, the so-called “war on terror.”

Every act of terror, it seems, is now “our 9/11.”

US Navy's 6th Generation Fighter Jets Will Be Slow and Unstealthy

Zachary Keck
February 5, 2015 

The U.S. Navy’s next generation air superiority fighter will not be “super-duper fast” or employ much in the way of stealth, a senior navy official announced on Wednesday.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Navy’s top officer, divulged some details about the Navy’s so-called Next Generation Air Dominance F/A-XX fighter jet during a speech at an industry conference.

“I don’t see that it’s going to be super-duper fast, because you can’t outrun missiles.” Greenert said, the Washington Examiner reported. “And you can’t become so stealthy that you become invisible — you are going to generate a signature of some sort,” he also noted, adding “You know that stealth may be overrated…. If something moves fast through the air and disrupts molecules in the air and puts out heat – I don’t care how cool the engine can be – it’s going to be detectable.”

In lieu of stealth and speed, Greenert said that the F/A-XX would gain access by deploying “a spectrum of weapons” that could suppress enemy air defenses.

Greenert made the remarks while speaking at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington, DC.

His concerns about speed and stealth appear to be valid. As USNI News notes, the proliferation of high-speed anti-air weapons to America’s potential adversaries greatly reduces the value of speed. Stealth also is a wasting asset, as Dave Majumdar recently explained on The National Interest:

6 charts that show renewable energy is getting cheaper

3 Feb 2015 

Things are changing very quickly in the world of renewable energy. The conventional wisdom — that renewables are expensive, that they depend on subsidies, that it’s too costly to integrate them into the grid — is rapidly being rendered anachronistic, though no one seems to have told U.S. policymakers and pundits. 

So let’s check in on the real cost of renewables. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental research organization, recently released its latest report, “Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014,” and it’s chock full of current info. 

The news is mostly good. Let’s look at some charts! 

But first, a quick note. To understand these charts you need to understand the “levelized cost of energy.” LCOE is often used as a kind of summary measure of the overall competitiveness of a particular technology or power plant. It includes capital and fuel costs, operating and maintenance costs, and financing costs, as well as the assumed rate of utilization. It does not include externalized costs, either positive (subsidies) or negative (health or environmental damages). It’s pure apples to apples. 

IRENA maintains a comprehensive database of LCOE costs for power projects around the world and uses those as its basis of comparison. 

Now, charts! 

Here’s the LCOE for different kinds of utility-scale renewable energy projects, in 2010 and 2014:

The tan horizontal band across the chart is the range of LCOEs for fossil-fueled power. As you can see, biomass for power, geothermal, hydro, and onshore wind are now squarely in that range, or even lower. And solar PV, though it ranges widely in costs, is, on average, declining quickly — increasingly it’s also in the fossil-fuel range. 

The cost of wind and solar power keeps dropping all over the world

Brad Plumer
February 5, 2015

Many people have probably heard that it's getting cheaper to install rooftop solar panels in the US. But that's just part of an even bigger trend. Since 2010, the cost of renewable energy has been plummeting all over the world.

David Roberts highlights a new study from the International Renewable Energy Agency laying it out in detail. Large wind farms got cheaper between 2010 and 2014. Large-scale solar got alot cheaper. And at least some renewable plants are even becoming competitive with new fossil-fuel plants:

"CSP" is concentrated solar power. (IRENA)

The chart shows the "levelized cost of electricity" for different utility-scale renewable projects built in 2010 and 2014. This is an oft-used metric for comparing different energy technologies. It's a ratio of how much money a power plant costs over its lifetime to how much electricity it will generate. So it factors in construction costs, fuel costs, financing, and how often a plant is used. Notably, it doesn't factor in any subsidies that governments may provide.

Report: Wind and solar energy have tripled since 2008

Chris Mooney 
February 4 

We worry a lot about the problem of climate change. And we try to fix it — again, again and again — by changing how the country uses energy. 

What we don’t stop and ponder enough, though, is that the country ischanging how it uses energy. It’s certainly not enough to silence all environmental concerns. But nonetheless, the progress, when you sample it, is really impressive. 

Such is the takeaway from a new report out by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which has just released its 2015 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, prepared for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. Looking back over recent years, the report shows that on any number of metrics, progress in clean energy has really been immense. 

“There’s a trend already underway where these technologies are making progress and gaining share at the expense of technologies that have been there previously,” explains Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Michel Di Capua

The proof? Just consider a few pretty impressive findings from the report: 

1. The United States overall has seen nearly $ 400 billion in clean energy investment since 2007. 
The United States still fell short of China in total clean energy investment last year, but overall investment in this country has been massive. As you can see in the figure above, compared with 2004, investment last year was higher by a factor of five. 

The dawn of marketing’s new golden age

Jonathan Gordon and Jesko Perrey 
February 2015

Marketers are boosting their precision, broadening their scope, moving more quickly, and telling better stories.

Science has permeated marketing for decades. Fans of the television drama Mad Men saw a fictionalized encounter when an IBM System/360 mainframe computer physically displaced the creative department of a late-1960s advertising agency. In reality, though, the 1960s through the early 1990s witnessed a happy marriage of advertising and technology as marketers mastered both the medium of television and the science of Nielsen ratings. These years gave birth to iconic advertising messages in categories ranging from sparkling beverages (“I’d like to buy the world a Coke”) to credit cards (“American Express. Don’t leave home without it”) to air travel (“British Airways: the world’s favourite airline”).

Until recently, marketers could be forgiven for looking back wistfully at this golden age as new forces reshaped their world into something completely different. These new trends include a massive proliferation of television and online channels, the transformation of the home PC into a retail channel, the unrelenting rise of mobile social media and gaming, and—with all these trends—a constant battle for the consumer’s attention.

The resulting expansion of platforms has propelled consistent growth in marketing expenditures, which now total as much as $1 trillion globally. The efficacy of this spending is under deep scrutiny. For example, in a survey of CEOs, close to three out of four agreed with the following statement: marketers “are always asking for more money, but can rarely explain how much incremental business this money will generate.”1 Chief marketing officers (CMOs), it appears, don’t disagree: in another recent survey, just over one-third said they had quantitatively proved the impact of their marketing outlays.2 Paradoxically, though, CEOs are looking to their CMOs more than ever, because they need top-line growth and view marketing as a critical lever to help them achieve it. Can marketers deliver amid ongoing performance pressures? 

In this article, we’ll explain why we think the answer is yes—and why we are, in fact, on the cusp of a new golden age for marketing. At the core of the new era are five elements that are simultaneously familiar and fast changing. The first two are the science and substance of marketing. Leading marketers are using research and analytics to shed light on who buys what, and why; who influences buyers; and when, in the consumer decision journey, marketing efforts are likely to yield the greatest return. That understanding, in turn, is making it possible for marketers to identify more effectively the functional benefits that customers need, the experiences they want, and the innovations they will value.

Debt and (not much) deleveraging

Richard Dobbs, Susan Lund, Jonathan Woetzel, and Mina Mutafchieva 
February 2015

Download Executive Summary PDF–763KB Full Report PDF–3MB 

Seven years after the bursting of a global credit bubble resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, debt continues to grow. In fact, rather than reducing indebtedness, or deleveraging, all major economies today have higher levels of borrowing relative to GDP than they did in 2007. Global debt in these years has grown by $57 trillion, raising the ratio of debt to GDP by 17 percentage points (Exhibit 1). That poses new risks to financial stability and may undermine global economic growth.

Exhibit 1
Since the Great Recession, global debt has increased by $57 trillion, outpacing world GDP growth. 

A recipe for economic growth

February 2015 

Former US treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers believes institutional reforms and significant investment are required to push the world economy forward.

At a time of historically low interest rates and nervousness about the outlook for global economic growth, why aren’t governments investing more? In this interview with McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland, former US treasury secretary Larry Summers urges policy makers to invest aggressively in everything from infrastructure to education. Summers also believes that in a world of rising inequality and rapid technological advances, there is going to be a need for more progressive taxation. An edited transcript of his comments follows.
Interview transcript

Reforming our institutions

Confidence is the cheapest form of stimulus. Governments need to recognize that fairness and inequality and sharing the benefits of growth more widely are crucial issues going forward, but they need to do it without invoking a politics of envy. That can be very debilitating to business investment.

I think growth probably is going to be slower in terms of aggregate GDP over the next 50 years than it has been over the last 50 years. We’ve already seen some trend toward decline and, if I had to guess, that trend will persist. But that’s a reason why we’ve got to do all we can.

For example, if we’re not going to have as much quantitative improvement to the labor force, we’re going to need qualitative improvement. That goes back to issues of education—to issues of the transition from school to work. We’re also going to need a much greater effort at innovation. Science has more promise today than ever before, yet the fraction of our resources being devoted to science has gone down in the United States. That’s not how it should be.

There’s plenty of work in our society that needs to be done: think about healthcare, think about education, think about taking care of the aged. But whether we’ve got the social institutions that will permit that work to get done is going to be a very large question. We’re going to have to think in very fundamental ways about how our society changes in response to technology, just as we have seen our society change in very fundamental ways because of what came about in the Industrial Revolution.

How Resource Wealth Fuels War

Daniel Curwin
February 6, 2015 

Though mired in the depths of the Cold War, the latter half of the twentieth century was a period in which the standard of living across the globe rose substantially. Many of the technological and industrial advancements during this period have been reliant on our ability to increasingly obtain, harness and capitalize upon myriad natural resources, and while these seemingly abundant natural resources have spurred growth in much of the world, they are often found in some of the world’s most fragile social, political and ecological regions. Indeed, natural resource–rich states often find themselves at the bottom of the Failed States Index. To complicate matters, from 1950-2000 over 90 percent of the major armed conflicts occurred within countries containing biodiversity hot spots—biogeographic regions with a significant reservoir of biodiversity under threat from humans—located in western and eastern Africa, along the Mediterranean, the Caucasus, Southeast Asia and in large portions of Latin America. Wars are now less often fought in Europe among competing powers, but in their natural resource–rich former colonies, where the combatants often have local needs, grievances and goals. Twentieth-century international institutions have helped guide the world through a period of unprecedented growth. However, they have unsuccessfully addressed twenty-first-century threats such as rising inequality, intrastate conflict and global warming. Natural resources can serve as an impetus for conflict or cooperation, prolong a bloody conflict and play an essential role in the postconflict process. The emergent field of environmental peacebuilding—which integrates natural-resource management in conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution and recovery to build resilience in communities affected by conflict—offers contemporary strategies that can address the problems associated with natural-resource development in conflict-prone regions.

The Role of Natural Resources in Conflict

Is this the future of cyberwarfare?

Aaron Ernst
February 5, 2015

Five years ago, the most sophisticated cyber weapon the world had ever seen ravaged Iran's nuclear program. Allegedly developed by the U.S. and Israel, the complex virus infected the computer system that ran the centrifuges. Slight tweaks to the software caused hundreds of the centrifuges to self-destruct, setting the program back years. The malware was dubbed Stuxnet.

Traditionally, foreign governments have used malware to spy and steal. But this was something entirely different.

“Stuxnet, it is a weapon, it’s not 'like' a weapon,” says German computer security expert Ralph Langner, who was the first to identify how the virus worked. “It is a weapon because it was designed to cause physical damage.”

Now, Langner worries that Stuxnet could come back to haunt the U.S. Those same vulnerabilities in Iran's nuclear control systems that the malware exploited can be found in similar systems throughout America. 

“These components are used in chemical plants, nuclear power plants, everywhere," Langner said. “We open Pandora's box without any idea, any clue, how we would deal with that when somebody turns that around. And that turnaround is only a question of time.”

But there are signs the threat that Langner has feared may have already arrived.

Espionage, then sabotage?

In early January, the world’s foremost experts in hacking and industrial control systems packed into a conference room in Miami for the buzziest event of the S4x15 security conference. The speaker was Kyle Wilhoit, a virus hunter who's been tracking the evolution of a sophisticated new threat known as BlackEnergy.

Why Israel Hacks


Israel's tenuous position in the world drives its leaders to stay ahead of its cyber adversaries, chief among them the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Fifth in a series on the motivations that compel nation-states to hack.

Israel's intelligence corps, Unit 8200, has rapidly grown into one of the world's most formidable cyber counter-terrorism organizations. The elite group employs Israel's best and brightest to combat existential threats to its national security in the cyber domain. The number of nations and terror groups that threaten Israel is considerable, and the significance of the threat varies from political posturing, to a credible threat of harm to Israel as a nation and their people.

To understand how Israel has found itself in an adversarial relationship with most of its neighbors, it is useful to review the evolution of Israel as a nation. Admittedly, the history of modern Israel and its relationship with the Arab world is exceptionally complex. With that, the following is a brief summary intended to provide some historical context; it is not in any way intended to be comprehensive. I don’t usually include disclaimers in my blogs, but given the complexity of the issue, I want to set the right expectations.

A brief history

Beginning with the Zionist movement toward the end of the 19th Century, European Jews began migrating to Palestine in response to a growing tide of anti-Semitism. A number of events occurred in the first half of the 20th Century that would keep the growing Jewish community in Palestine on course toward achieving an independent Jewish State. The carefully crafted language of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 endorsed the creation of a Jewish "Homeland" in Palestine. The British Mandate for Palestine, authorized by the League of Nations in 1922, provided guidance for the establishment of a Jewish "Homeland" in Palestine.

Is a cyber arms race between the US and Russia possible?

Alexandra Kulikova
Jan 28, 2015

If the U.S. is already planning for a major war in cyberspace, as Edward Snowden suggests, the world should be bracing for the dangerous weaponization of cyberspace and even greater distrust between the U.S. and Russia in the cyber domain.

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to speak at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Va. on Jan. 13. Obama renewed his call for Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation, including a proposal that encourages companies to share threat information with the government and protects them from potential lawsuits if they do. 

Last week prominent German media outlet Der Spiegel published the second part of former NSA agent Edward Snowden’s revelations. According to these documents, the U.S.-led global surveillance program was only the first round of a broader cyber strategy by the United Sates that aims at preparing for global cyber war with other countries.

As indicated from this second round of revelations, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) suggests in no uncertain terms that the next major conflict will take place in cyberspace. In addition, the documents outline the development and implantation of malware programs to disable the enemy’s key infrastructure objects - including banking systems, power plants and airports. 

The government's cyberterrorism 'concerns' are a pretext for their own hacking operations

4 February 2015

Invoking the threat of terrorism is the most common mechanism used to deny citizens both due process and free speech in the 21st century 

The US has always been the world leader of cyberwar, hacking damn near everyone without any repercussions. And, for years, US intelligence officials and private contractors have been milking hacks to secure billions in cyber security programs: all you need is an enemy, and they will sell you the cure.

Their blatant hypocrisy, threat inflation and militaristic rhetoric must be challenged if we are to have a free and equal internet.

That familiar formula is playing out again with the recent Sony hack. We are supposed to be shocked that these “cyber-terrorists” – purportedly from North Korea – would attack our critical infrastructure and, clearly swift retaliation is in order. But, despite the apocalyptic hype, the Sony hack was not fundamentally different from any other high-profile breach in recent years: personal information was stolen, embarrassing private emails were published and silly political rhetoric and threats were posted on Pastebin. In many ways, it’s similar to an Anonymous operation except that, this time, the FBI accused North Korea. That accusation was based on supposed forensic analysis which they have not publicly produced after refusing to participate in joint inquiries.

This official narrative is disputed by many renowned infosec figures. Any skilled hacker or well-financed nation-state practices anti-forensics measures like modifying logs and using proxies to make the attacks appear to originate elsewhere. And North Korea has already been falsely accused of several cyber-attacks – including attacks against US and South Korean targets in July 2009 andagain in 2013. The inherent difficulty of identifying the true attackers should give us pause

Satellite Set To Stream Daily Images Of Earth From Space

FEBRUARY 06, 2015

There's something majestic, even awe-inspiring about the sight of planet Earth as a blue disc, hanging in the vastness of space.

The three astronauts aboard Apollo 8 were the first to get that view; if all goes well, later this year everyone will be able to get it on a daily basis over the Internet.

The images will come courtesy of a spacecraft called Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). It's a mission with an unusual history.

Al Gore first proposed the idea for DSCOVR back in 1998, when he was vice president. Gore was so smitten with the view of Earth from space that he put an enormous print of a picture taken by Apollo 17 on the wall of his West Wing office. "Wouldn't it be nice," Gore asked in 1998, "to have that image continuous, live, 24 hours a day?"

So he proposed sending a probe to a spot a million miles from Earth — a place known as the L1 Lagrange point, where the gravity of the Earth and the sun cancel each other out. The space probe, originally dubbed Triana, would point a telescope with a color camera back at our planet from L1, and send images down to Earth.

At the L1 Lagrange point (approximately a million miles from Earth), the gravitational forces between the sun and Earth are balanced. Any satellite "parked" there has a relatively stable orbit that requires few corrections.


NASA was game to build and launch Triana, but Roger Launius says the space agency officials weren't crazy about the idea of a satellite that only had one instrument on board. Launius, now associate director of theSmithsonian National Air and Space Museum, was NASA's chief historian when Gore proposed Triana. "They certainly wanted to make it a more scientifically viable project than, maybe, was envisioned initially by Mr. Gore," Launius says.

So NASA added instruments to measure the solar wind and radiant energy coming from Earth.


Ryan Evans
February 4, 2015

America’s higher education system, and in particular, its advanced graduate training, have long been the envy of the world. Richly endowed and highly respected, universities in the United States are counted upon to generate knowledge and innovation, solve pressing problems, train future leaders, and shape national discourse. In the field of international affairs, however, there is a growing sense that something may be amiss, and that our graduate training – in particular our Ph.D. programs – may be coming up short.

At War on the Rocks, we are putting together a series called “The Schoolhouse” to explore and debate the state of advanced graduate education in international affairs. We aim to move beyond the often-repetitive and tiresome debates about the usefulness of scholarship to policy. We believe there are deeper issues at stake. What should be the mission of graduate education in international affairs, and are we successfully meeting it? If you could redesign graduate programs from the ground up, what would they look like? How would you balance the often-competing interests between students, disciplines, universities, and the wider world? Is it possible to prepare students to engage both the world of ideas and the world of action in international affairs?

Tomorrow we launch “The Schoolhouse” with an essay by Frank Gavin of MIT. Frank is the mastermind of this series and we thank him for the energy and effort he has put into the project. His essay will be followed by others, including one by Stephen Van Evera, another by David Betz, as well as future contributions from graduate students, policymakers, think tankers, and more. We hope others will contribute. Disagreement and debate is encouraged. Submissions are welcome at editor@warontherocks.com.