16 June 2015

The soldier’s right: Why the arguments against one-rank-one-pension are misleading

Roman emperor Augustus started the tradition of military pensions in 13 BC by guaranteeing life pensions to every legionary who fought 20 years for Rome. It set the bar for all modern armies and Independent India continued the British tradition of financially privileging military service until 1973, when soldiers were paid more than civilian bureaucrats.

That changed with the Third Pay Commission, which brought military salaries in line with civil services. It set us down the road to the current fight over one-rank-one-pension (OROP) by military veterans.

With ex-soldiers going on relay hunger strikes in over 50 towns, putting up posters across cities with the A R Rahman-Rockstar catch-line ‘sadda haq-aithe rakh’ [put our right here], circulating internet memes showing soldiers turning into skeletons as they wait for their dues, and at least one former army vice-chief writing publicly to veterans to pose a “viable and potent threat of sabotaging the aspirations of BJP” in the upcoming Bihar election, OROP has become a political hot potato.

Yet, listening to the agitators it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the fight for equal pensions is at its heart a proxy battle for what soldiers see as restoring their lost ‘izzat’, for getting what they see as their rightful place in the civil-military balance where political control of the military has translated into bureaucratic control.

The biggest argument against OROP – the notion that every pension-eligible soldier who retires in a particular rank should get the same pension irrespective of when he retired – is: What happens if other uniformed services like BSF, CRPF and so on also demand the same right?

This is a facile question because unlike bureaucrats and paramilitary forces who all serve till 60 years of age, most military soldiers retire at 35-37 years of age, while officers below brigadier-or-equivalent do so at 54. The nation retires soldiers early to keep the army fit and young. They must be compensated adequately.

Secondly, the Sixth Pay Commission granted what bureaucrats call “non-functional upgrade” (NFU) to officers in all-India Group A services. This is a sort of ‘pay-promotion’ allowing them to draw higher pay than their rank under certain conditions. Almost all civil servants benefit from this while defence services officers do not. As lawyer Navdeep Singh points out, NFU is a sort of “OROP by backdoor for civil servants”.

Third, for some unfathomable reason, serious disparities seem to have crept into other field allowances. For example, army special forces soldiers get an extra Rs 800-1,200 per month as allowance, while Cobra commandos of the paramilitary forces earn an extra Rs 7,200-11,000 per month.

Fourth, compared to the bureaucracy, police and paramilitary, defence forces keep their career pyramid much steeper to ensure professional standards. Only 0.8% of defence officers make it to the rank of major general after 28 years of service, compared to a much higher rate of civil servants who are eligible to become joint secretaries, an equivalent rank, at 19 years of service.

Fifth, other democracies privilege their soldiers better. In salaries and special allowances American soldiers have a 15-20% edge over other government employees, British 10%, Japanese 12-29% and French soldiers 15%. In pensions, while Indian soldiers get 50% of their last pay per month, American soldiers get 50-75%, Australian 76.5%, Japanese 70% and French soldiers 75%.

The UK has embraced one-rank-one-pension for soldiers. Our two biggest strategic challenges, Pakistan and China, have of course always privileged their military. This is why the Supreme Court on 9 September 2009, parliamentary standing committee on defence in May 2010, and Rajya Sabha committee on petitions on 19 December 2011 all backed the OROP demand.

The question is how much it will cost? This is where soldiers allege bureaucratic games. In 2011, the defence ministry told a parliamentary committee that annual costs would be Rs 3,000 crore while the finance ministry calculated a figure of Rs 1,300 crore. In 2014, the defence ministry’s controller general of defence accounts reportedly estimated Rs 9,300 crore and current reports point to a figure closer to Rs 8,000 crore.

Whatever the final number, it is much more than the Rs 1,000 crore that finance minister Arun Jaitley allocated to OROP in his 2014-15 budget. Even so, for a country with an annual defence budget of Rs 2,20,000 crore and which relies so much on its soldiers, we should be willing to bear this.

The longer the fight drags on, the longer India’s soldiers feel unappreciated. Nehruvian India, fearful of military coups which engulfed every other post-colonial democracy from Asia to Africa, gradually reduced the place of soldiers in the administrative hierarchy in orders of precedence and pay. The time has come to go beyond patriotic slogans and meaningless jingoistic saluting and reset the civil-military balance, restoring the military its rightful place in a confident democracy.

With military veterans asking “where are acche din for us”, returning their medals and sitting on relay-hunger strikes, the prime minister must heed to Chanakya, the architect of the first pan-Indian empire, who is said to have advised Chandragupta Maurya: “The day a soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha. From then on you have lost all moral sanctions to be king.”

How To Undo An Achievement

Vivek Katju
June 16, 2015 

Myanmar’s outrage will have to be soothed. Going ahead, we need its cooperation.

Eighteen soldiers died in the Manipur ambush on June 4. The political and military leadership was embarrassed. But the attack was overshadowed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh. A credible and quick response was needed to signal the government and army’s resolve to meet the latest militant challenge. That came within a week, when the army carried out an operation against the militants that was widely acclaimed.

However, the manner in which the government informed the public about the military action has become controversial. Government articulation and messaging in such cases has to be appropriate. Was it so in this instance?

The tortuous road to Naga peace

June 16, 2015 

The publicity that surrounds the success of India’s ‘cross-border’ strike against rebels in Myanmar cannot hide the fact that the real failure of Indian intelligence was not in predicting the possible spot of the ambush but in anticipating the emergence of a rebel coalition in the jungles of Myanmar

After the June 4 ambush in Manipur that left at least 20 soldiers of the Indian Army’s 6 Dogra Regiment dead when suspected militants ambushed their convoy in Chandel district bordering Myanmar in Manipur, and the retaliatory transborder raid into Myanmar by Indian para-commandos (21 Para-Regiment — Special Forces), on June 9, the attention is back on the long, tortuous and uncertain Naga peace process.

Myanmar raid: It’s the message, not the statistics

Sanjoy Hazarika
Jun 16 2015 

The message was that the Government was prepared to go after insurgent hideouts, which could not be regarded as “safe” any longer. The specificity and simplicity of that point makes the celebratory mode quite redundant.

As the stories about the Army raid on camps of North-eastern extremists in Myanmar proliferate, the accounts of the “details”get murkier, not clearer. Since the day of the raids on two lots of anti-India insurgent groups a few kilometres from the the Indian border with Myanmar, even something as basic as the casualty toll of those “neutralised” by the strike is not available. Various media have placed the number of rebel deaths at seven, others at about 100, and still others at one-third of that number.

The Great Game Folio: Iran Opportunity

C. Raja Mohan
June 16, 2015 

As Tehran and Washington inch towards a nuclear deal, there will be much room for expansive engagement between India and Iran.

As Tehran and Washington inch towards a nuclear deal, which will begin to ease nearly four decades of hostility between them, there will be much room for expansive engagement between India and Iran.

As the NDA government devotes some attention to high-level political engagement with the Middle East, Iran offers one of the greatest strategic possibilities. But in realising that opportunity, New Delhi will have to negotiate a number of obstacles. The recent visits to Tehran by Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar are part of that effort. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is likely to follow soon.

Homeless, no longer

June 16, 2015

Neither accepted by Bangladesh nor India for 40-odd years, the enclave dwellers can now finally pick a nation. Mehboob Jeelani visited a chitt and found a people deeply hopeful that belonging to India might finally give them the identity they need to survive

On May 7, a day after India and Bangladesh signed the historic Land Boundary Agreement, the residents of Mosaldanga, a hamlet in south Cooch Behar district of West Bengal, marched down the main market. Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Long Live Mother India)”, they shouted, waving the Indian flag. As the parade entered the neighbouring village of Battala, it was blocked by a group of men wielding long bamboo sticks. “They asked us if we have permission to step on Indian land,” said Jayanal Abidin, 25, who was leading the procession.

Does India Need Compulsory Military Training

Brig. Amrit Kapur
15 Jun , 2015
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names. The modern system of near-universal national conscription for young men dates to the French Revolution in the 1790s, where it became the basis of a very large and powerful military. Most European nations later copied the system in peacetime, so that men at a certain age would serve 1–3 years on active duty and then transfer to the reserve force.

Most European nations later copied the system in peacetime, so that men at a certain age would serve 1–3 years on active duty and then transfer to the reserve force.

Battle of Hajipir Pass 1965

By Col Bhaskar Sarkar
15 Jun , 2015

The cease-fire of January I, 1949 ended the First Kashmir War but did nothing to improve the relations between Pakistan and India. Kashmir remained the bone of contention. Nehruji offered a no war pact to Pakistan. Pakistan said that such a pact could only be signed after an honourable solution of the Kashmir issue. Thus while India sought peace and development, Pakistan sought Kashmir and to build a military capability strong enough to defeat India.

In the early fifties, United States, in a bid to contain the Soviet Union and spread of communism, formed a number of regional military groups like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and South East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO). The concept was that each member would pour in resources (mainly manpower resources) for collective defence of the area against the Soviet threat and spread of communism.

In return, United States pledged to assist the member states economically and militarily. This provided Pakistan an opportunity to strengthen its armed forces at minimal cost. Pakistan joined CENTO and SEATO in September 1955. India, under Nehruji, the architect of the Non Aligned Movement, chose to remain non­aligned. Pakistan benefited greatly from joining the mutual defence treaties sponsored by US. In the period between 1954 to 1965, Pakistan received military aid worth $ 1.5 billion. The equipment included Patton tanks, Sabre jets, FI04 Star Fighter aircraft, MI rifles, Universal machine guns, mortars, recoilless rifles, guns and every other conceivable type of defence equipment.

Internal Security Scenario of North East India

By Brig R Borthakur
12 Jun , 2015

The main problem in the North East remains. In spite of the Central Government’s efforts, alienation of the people and perceived grievances still continue. These get multiplied many times as and when reports of molestation and rape of girls from the region and humiliation to North East youth in other parts of the country are reported. These incidents get more than due publicity in electronic and print media of the North East. Such incidents make the North Easterners feel that they are still discriminated against – economically, politically and socially. But all the allegations are not true. The Central Government has provided crores of rupees to all the North East states for development projects. Some of these states survive only on Central Government largesse. The slow implementation of projects cannot be blamed on the Centre alone. Problems such as corruption, bureaucratic delays, power shortages and poor work culture delay completion of projects. Besides, the activities of militants, extremists and Anti-National Elements (ANE) further complicate the situation.

Ensuring Peace in the Northeast

June 11, 2015

A number of attacks in the last three months on Army and Assam Rifles convoys and posts in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur invite focus on the deteriorating security situation in the Northeast region. An umbrella organisation called United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFW), comprising of a number of insurgent groups – the National Socialist Council of Nagaland [Khaplang] (NSCN[K]), United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup (KYKL), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PRPK), People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) (NDFB[S]) – and established earlier this year has claimed responsibility for all these attacks. The latest of these attacks on an administrative convoy of 6 DOGRA on 4 June 2015 resulted in 18 fatalities. This was the single largest loss to the Army after the attack by NSCN (Isak-Muivah) insurgents in Mokokchung District of Nagaland in 1994, when the Commanding Officer of 16 Maratha Light Infantry Col. NJ Nair and a score of his comrades lost their lives.

The Ambush in Manipur: New Dimensions to Militant Violence in the Northeast

June 11, 2015

On June 4, insurgents ambushed and killed 18 personnel of 6 Dogra Regiment who were on a Road Opening Patrol (ROP) on the Tengnoupal-New Samtal Road. Three insurgent groups – the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang [NSCN (K)], the Kangleipak Communist Party [KCP] and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup [KYKL] – claimed responsibility for the attack. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) confirmed the involvement of the NSCN (K), especially that of its self-styled chairman Khaplang Pangmi of Myanmar, General Secretary Kughalu Molatonu from Nagaland, and Information Secretary Alezo Chakesang of Nagaland, amongst others. Thereupon, on June 9, Indian security forces launched an operation against the known bases of the NSCN (K) in particular ‘across the India-Myanmar border. This, an ongoing operation as of now, has resulted in the killing of 22 insurgents. Among those who may have been killed are self-styled finance minister of the NSCN (K), Starson Lamkang, who was involved in the June 4 attacks as well as cadres of Meitei insurgent groups.

Afghanistan's Buddhas Rise Again

JUN 10, 2015 

The Taliban destroyed the ancient monuments in 2001. But they’ve been recreated with the help of lasers.

Residents of Bamiyan got a rare opportunity over the weekend: a chance to once again see giant Buddhas that have been piles of rubble for over a decade. 3-D projection technology has already been used to resurrect dead music legends and pipe busy politicians into campaign rallies, and now it’s been employed to recreate a cultural icon that watched over this valley in Afghanistan for more than 1,500 years.

Balochistan: Sanguinary Faultlines

Ambreen Agha

In another act of targeting settlers from outside Balochistan, Baloch insurgents shot dead 22 Pashtuns on May 29, 2015, all of them daily wagers and labourers, who were travelling in two passenger buses en route to Karachi (Sindh) from Pishin District (Balochistan), in the Khad Kucha area of Mastung District. At least 15 to 20 militants, wearing Security Forces’ (SF) uniforms, came in three pickup trucks and abducted some 35 passengers. The militants subsequently killed 22, and set free another five. The fate of the remaining eight is unknown.

Lamenting the Mastung carnage, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) Chairperson Aftab Ahmad Sherpao expressed his anxiety over ethnic violence and observed that the miscreants wanted to create ethnic chaos in the Province, as they killed 22 Pashtuns, and let the non-Pashtun cleaners off the buses after checking their identity cards.

The United Baloch Army (UBA), a Baloch separatist group, claimed responsibility for the killings. Mureed Baloch, UBA 'spokesman', declared on May 30, “It is a revenge for killing of militants in Mastung and Kalat areas by Security Forces.”

Why Did Myanmar's Opposition Leader Just Visit China?

By Jurgen Haacke
June 15, 2015

On Sunday, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar’s main opposition party – the National League for Democracy (NLD)- wrapped up her five-day visit to China.

Only time will tell what exactly the visit will do for China-Myanmar relations in the longer term. What is clear, though, is that for Beijing, the trip is part of an effort to repair and improve relations with its southern neighbor.

Since the military handed power to a nominally civilian government in 2011, Sino-Myanmar relations have seen a steady deterioration: initially over the suspension of the Myitsone hydropower project and more recently over the cross-border spillover of military action taken by Myanmar’s armed forces against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), an ethnic Chinese insurgent group in the Kokang Special Region. Daw Suu alone cannot bring about major improvements in bilateral ties. But she should would have at least gained valuable additional insights into the spectrum of challenges that her country faces in dealing with China.

Burma Doesn't Want the Rohingya but Insists on Keeping Them

JUN 12, 2015 

The unintended consequences of international pressure to address the country’s migrant crisis
What happens when the government systematically isolates an ethnic minority, denies its members citizenship rights, sends them to refugee camps, looks away as a campaign of ethnic violence targets them, and ultimately promises to drive them out of the country?
It’s not a tough question: The members of that minority start looking for a way, any way, to leave. Even if that means paying human traffickers to smuggle them on rickety death traps of boats at extortionate prices to places that don’t want them, they’ll look for a way to go.

Why Democracies Dominate: America’s Edge over China

Matthew Kroenig
June 15, 2015

America’s political institutions will prove to be its enduring edge in its economic and military competition with Beijing.

CHINA’S ENORMOUS population and rapid rate of economic growth mean that Beijing could soon dislodge Washington from its standing as the most dominant power in Asia. The Economist, for example, predicts that China could overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy—an important measure of national power—in the year 2021. Moreover, we know that military might tends to follow economic heft. Beijing’s ongoing military buildup is already constraining America’s ability to project power in the Asia-Pacific region. If China follows Washington’s lead in investing in global power-projection capabilities, decades from now it could conceivably usurp global military supremacy from Washington.

ASsia university rankings

Japan loses its crown to its main regional rival, as massive state funding and innovation pay dividends for the People’s Republic, writes Katie Duncan. 

China has overtaken Japan as Asia’s number one nation for world-class universities, according to the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2015. 

While the Land of the Rising Sun still boasts the rankings’ highest-placed institution, the University of Tokyo, it has lost ground overall, taking 19 of the top 100 positions, down from 20 last year. By contrast, mainland China has increased its presence in the prestigious league table, taking 21 places, up from 18 last year. 

China Conducts Fourth Test of Wu-14 Strike Vehicle

June 11, 2015 

‘Extreme maneuvers’ used in latest high-speed warhead test

Screenshot from Chinese television report on a U.S. Army hypersonic vehicle

China this week carried out the fourth test of an ultra high-speed nuclear delivery vehicle that conducted what intelligence officials say were extreme maneuvers.

The test of the Wu-14 hypersonic strike vehicle was carried out Sunday, launched atop a ballistic missile fired from a test facility in western China.

It was the fourth successful test of the Wu-14 in the past 18 months and the frequency of tests is being viewed by U.S. intelligence analysts as an indicator of the high priority placed on developing the weapon by the Chinese.

Why Democracies Dominate: America’s Edge over China

America’s political institutions will prove to be its enduring edge in its economic and military competition with Beijing.
CHINA’S ENORMOUS population and rapid rate of economic growth mean that Beijing could soon dislodge Washington from its standing as the most dominant power in Asia. The Economist, for example, predicts that China could overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy—an important measure of national power—in the year 2021. Moreover, we know that military might tends to follow economic heft. Beijing’s ongoing military buildup is already constraining America’s ability to project power in the Asia-Pacific region. If China follows Washington’s lead in investing in global power-projection capabilities, decades from now it could conceivably usurp global military supremacy from Washington.

China Confirms Hypersonic Missile Test

Bill Gertz
June 14, 2015

China’s defense ministry on Friday confirmed a fourth test of a new hypersonic strike vehicle was carried out last week.

“The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory [are] normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals,” said the ministry in response to a report of the test published Thursday by the Free Beacon.

U.S. defense officials disclosed the latest test of what the Pentagon calls the Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle and said the most recent test, conducted June 7 in western China, involved extreme maneuvers by the high-speed strike weapon.

The advanced strategic strike weapon travels at speed of up to 10 times the speed of sound, or more than 7,600 miles per hour.

The Wu-14 test was carried out amid heightened tensions between the United States and China over Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

Contentions The Terrible Scale of the Chinese Cyber-Pearl Harbor Attack


The scale of a massive cyber-attack on America’s governmental infrastructure that was revealed last week is still coming to light. As is the case with virtually all preemptive strikes, hackers believed to be linked to the People’s Republic of China have executed an attack so comprehensive and sophisticated that it could only have one aim: the preventative neutering of America’s defensive capabilities. Along with others, I dubbed this the nation’s cyber-Pearl Harbor last week, and that characterization looks only more apt today. In concert with the debilitating effect of Edward Snowden’s revelations while in Russian custody, this attack may seriously hinder America’s ability to secure and respond to more conventional threats to its interests.

A little more than one year ago, the Department of Justice revealed that it had charged five members of the Chinese military’s Unit 61398, an economic cyber-espionage unit, of engaging in criminal activity. They had been accused of being part of a ring of cyber spies that had executed a variety of attacks and surveillance missions targeting U.S. commercial firms and interests. Apparently, around that same period, China executed the largest scale cyber-attack on an American governmental target in history. That’s right: The strike that exposed the personal data of all of the approximately 2.7 million federal employees in the Office of Personnel Management’s systems to People’s Liberation Army hackers went virtually unnoticed for over a year. The scale of the damage done to American information security was not discovered by federal investigators but rather by a private software development firm that uncovered the breach during a routine product demonstration.


Construction on South Johnson Atoll, includes a ramp and a large enclosed storage area where China is thought to have moved PLC-09 122mm self propelled artillery, seen in satellite photos. Source: VietnamNet.vn.

Since 2014, China has engaged in massive reclamation efforts in the Spratly islands, adding nearly 2,000 acres according to the USDepartment of Defense. The placement, construction, and capabilities of theseislands, including Johnson South, Cuateron, Gaven, Fiery Cross, Subi, Hughes, and Mischief Reefs has given China several strategic advantages and puts many Vietnamese held features in a vulnerable position. As a result of the reclamation approach, China can not only potentially control sea lines of communication and enforce an air defense identification zone (ADIZ), but challenge the status quo control of features in the Spratly Islands through anti-access area denial (A2/AD) operations.

Urbanization Is Key to Why India Is So Far in China’s Wake

JUNE 8, 2015

If India is to achieve the same sustained success as China, then it needs to take a hard look at why its urbanization process has failed so miserably in comparison.

Expectations are high that India will finally realise its full economic potential through a combination of Modi magic, its abundant young labour force and a more liberal policy regime. A recent adjustment in the country’s accounting has led to claims that it may already have replaced China as the world’s fastest growing economy. Yet, if India is to achieve the same sustained success as China, it needs to take a hard look at why its urbanisation process has failed so miserably in comparison. 

Four decades ago, these two most populous and poor countries faced similar economic prospects. With the bulk of their labour force stuck in subsistence farming and a relative scarcity of natural resources, the success or failure of their development efforts would be defined by their urbanisation process. In 1980, India was further ahead than China with an urbanisation ratio of 25 per cent ratio compared with the latter’s 20 per cent. Today, China has more than doubled its ratio to 53 per cent, while India’s has edged up only slightly to 32 per cent — and even at that level is marked by more pervasive pockets of slums. Some believe that China may have even reached saturation point

Managing China’s Petcoke Problem

PAPER MAY 31, 2015 

China’s growing use of petcoke, an inexpensive but environmentally unfriendly coal alternative, must be addressed for the country’s efforts to reduce air pollution to be effective.

Petroleum coke (petcoke), a by-product of petroleum refining that is high in contaminants, has quietly emerged in China as an inexpensive, but very dirty, alternative to coal. A significant share of the petcoke used in China is imported from the United States, where it is generally considered waste. The Chinese government is committed to reducing coal consumption for environmental reasons, but petcoke is not yet well-known to the country’s policymakers. Still, its use and resulting emissions must be addressed if efforts to reduce air pollution and climate change are to be effective. 
Petcoke and Its Use in China 
Petcoke is a bottom-of-the-barrel residue produced from refining heavy oils with varying sulfur contents.


Michael Eisenstadt
June 15, 2015

Recent gains by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria mark major setbacks in the nearly year-old campaign against the group. These developments undermine Obama administration claims of progress in the war, and highlight fundamental flaws in the administration’s strategy that need to be rectified if the United States and its coalition of 60-plus states are to succeed. President Obama was only partially right last week when he said that America lacks a “complete strategy” for dealing with ISIL because of Iraq’s lack of commitment. In fact, much of the dysfunction in U.S. strategy derives from American policy, the policies of its partners in the counter-ISIL campaign, as well as those of the Iraqi government.

Sorry, Fareed: Saudi Arabia Can Build a Bomb Any Damn Time It Wants To

JUNE 12, 2015

Why do we think it’s so hard for a non-European country to acquire a 70-year-old technology?
Fareed Zakaria has written a predictably buzzy article suggesting that, whatever Saudi officials might say, Riyadh is simply too backward to build a nuclear weapon. “Whatever happens with Iran’s nuclear program,” Zakaria writes, “10 years from now Saudi Arabia won’t have nuclear weapons. Because it can’t.”

While I don’t think it is terribly likely that Saudi Arabia will choose to build nuclear weapons, I think it is deeply misguided to conclude that Saudi Arabia (or pretty much any state) cannot do so. Simply put, Zakaria is wrong — and it’s not all that hard to demonstrate why.

Zakaria isn’t explicit about what he believes to be the technical requirements for building a nuclear weapon, but he clearly thinks it is hard. Which was probably true in 1945 when the United States demonstrated two different routes to atomic weapons. Since then, however, the technologies associated with producing plutonium and highly enriched uranium have been developed, put to civilian use, and spread around the globe. The fact that most states don’t build nuclear weapons has a lot more to do with restraint than not being able to figure it out.

Did Saudi Arabia play a role in September 11? Here's what we know.

June 13, 2015

Late on Friday, the CIA's Office of the Inspector General finally released the findings of its internal investigation, concluded in 2005, into intelligence failures leading up to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The few sections left un-redacted in the 500-page report do not appear to offer any major revelations.

But the very final section of the report, titled "Issues related to Saudi Arabia," touches on a question that has swirled around US inquiries into 9/11 since the first weeks after the attacks: Was there any involvement by the government of Saudi Arabia?

This section of the report is entirely redacted save for three brief paragraphs, which say the investigation was inconclusive but found "no evidence that the Saudi government knowingly and willingly supported the al-Qaeda terrorists." However, it adds, some members of the CIA's Near East and Counterterrorism divisions speculated that rogue Saudi officials may have aided al-Qaeda's actions.


How the Army Built the Habsburg Empire

William Anthony Hay
June 15, 2015

THE REPUTATION of the Austrian imperial army, unlike its Prussian counterpart, does not command much historical respect. In Joseph Roth’s great 1932 novel Radetzky March, which chronicles the rise and fall of the Trotta family, the decay of the Habsburgs is intimately linked with the collapse of the army. During the Battle of Solferino in 1859, Lieutenant Trotta, a Slovenian subject, saves the emperor’s life. He is promptly ennobled for his heroic act. Every Austrian schoolboy is taught to revere him. But by the third generation, the family has gone to pot. The grandson, a cavalry officer, exemplifies none of the martial values of his forebears. Instead, the depressive young gentleman, stationed on the border with Ukraine, spends his time drinking, gambling and womanizing.

The Sanctions Myth

Peter D. Feaver,Eric B. Lorber
June 15, 2015

SINCE 2005, American policy makers have increasingly turned to sophisticated types of economic sanctions as a foreign-policy tool of first resort. From the development of banking sanctions limiting Iran’s ability to secure financing from Western capital markets to new sanctions targeting Russia’s financial system and the development of its oil resources, U.S. policy makers are touting these innovative tools as extremely powerful while also being tailored and precise. The Obama administration’s 2015 National Security Strategy, for example, said that “targeted economic sanctions remain an effective tool for imposing costs on . . . irresponsible actors” and that “our sanctions will continue to be carefully designed and tailored to achieve clear aims while minimizing any unintended consequences for other economic actors, the global economy, and civilian populations.”

America Must Take Brazil Seriously

Eric Farnsworth
June 15, 2015

The United States must move beyond the vague notions of partnership and romantic assumptions of shared interest that traditionally frame its thinking regarding Brazil.

BRAZIL IS on the move. Its economic strength over the past decade has provided the primary means for it to develop long-standing ambitions for a larger global-leadership stake—a path that U.S. policy makers have encouraged for many years, presuming that a stronger, democratic Brazil more actively engaged globally would be a natural ally for the United States. In so doing, however, it has pursued a foreign policy independent of Washington, leading at times to misunderstandings and dashed hopes. This was in evidence even before the revelations of National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 temporarily froze bilateral relations. Over the past two years, growth has slowed in Brazil and in other nations with which Brazil maintains significant economic links, while the U.S. economy has been on a long march to recovery. With the late 2014 reelection of President Dilma Rousseff on a platform focused on addressing the unmet economic expectations of a rising middle class, a framework now exists to improve relations between the two countries when Rousseff travels to Washington at the end of June. Still, getting relations back on track will require a more realistic understanding of Brazil’s aspirations and worldview. The United States must move beyond the vague notions of partnership and romantic assumptions of shared interests that traditionally frame its thinking.

For Whom the Bells Toll


For Bashir Assad, the bells have been tolling. If one believes the media, he and the regime he represents are on their last legs. Whether or not that is true is not at issue here—similar predictions have been heard ever since civil war broke out in Syria four years ago. What I do want to do is take a look at the origins of the war, the way it has been going, and what the future may look like in case the predictions come true.

The decisive fact about the Assad—meaning, in Arabic, “Lion”—family is that they are Alawites. The Alawites are a section within the Sunni tradition. They do not, however, form part of the mainstream. Some Islamic scholars do not even regard them as Muslims; claiming that they are basically pagans who worship the moon and the stars. The community is scattered among Syria, Turkey and Lebanon. It is, however, only in Syria that they form a significant minority, counting perhaps one seventh of the population. That explains why Bashir’s paternal grandfather, Ali Suleiman al Assad (1875-1963), supported French colonial rule. He and his fellow Alawites knew well enough how majority Muslims deal with minority ones.

George Soros predicts class war and riots

By Rosa Prince

George Soros, the billionaire investor, has predicted riots on the streets and global class war as the economic downturn results in a new "age of fallibility". 

In an interview ahead of a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the 81-year-old said that for the first time in his career he was baffled by the current state of the market, and saw no way to avoid a violent crisis which at its worst could result in the total collapse of the financial system. 

Known as the "man who broke the Bank of England" after betting against the pound on Black Wednesday in 1992, Mr Soros plans to use his Davos address to issue a stern warning that he now considers it "more likely than not" that Greece will default in 2012. And unless Europe's leaders do more to stop it, the euro is likely to collapse with a devastating impact on the rest of the world, he will add. 

The world economy Watch out

It is only a matter of time before the next recession strikes. The rich world is not ready Jun 13th 2015 | From the print edition

THE struggle has been long and arduous. But gazing across the battered economies of the rich world it is time to declare that the fight against financial chaos and deflation is won. In 2015, the IMF says, for the first time since 2007 every advanced economy will expand. Rich-world growth should exceed 2% for the first time since 2010 and America’s central bank is likely to raise its rock-bottom interest rates.

However, the global economy still faces all manner of hazards, from the Greek debt saga to China’s shaky markets. Few economies have ever gone as long as a decade without tipping into recession—America’s started growing in 2009. Sod’s law decrees that, sooner or later, policymakers will face another downturn. The danger is that, having used up their arsenal, governments and central banks will not have the ammunition to fight the next recession. Paradoxically, reducing that risk requires a willingness to keep policy looser for longer today.

The smoke is clearing

The politics of trade Obama's agenda in the balance

Jun 12th 2015

A FEW years ago a wise pollster—pondering how labels like left-wing and right-wing have been scrambled by globalisation—came up with a different way to sort voters in Western democracies. Electorates, he suggested, broadly divide into two groups, one of which sees change and the outside world as a threat, and a second which takes a more optimistic view, looking for opportunities to harness global forces and turn them to good ends. The pollster, Stefan Shakespeare of YouGov, calls these two camps “Drawbridge Up” and “Drawbridge Down” people.

Just after lunch on June 12th President Barack Obama was mugged by the Drawbridge Up bit of America, or at least by its elected representatives. A large majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives, joined by hard-right Republicans, voted to stall (and potentially kill) his hopes of reaching a big new free-trade pact between America and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Senate has already passed a bill that would allow Mr Obama to press ahead with TPP, and the House may return to the question as early as Tuesday.

Retiring Cisco CEO delivers dire prediction: 40% of companies will be dead in 10 years

John Chambers
JUN 9, 2015

Cisco's giant customer conference, Cisco Live, began on Monday in San Diego and was the last time that 20-year outgoing CEO John Chambers would impart his vision in a keynote speech.

And was it ever a speech, filled with fire-and-brimstone predictions.

The upshot: He says more than one-third of businesses today will not survive the next 10 years. The only ones that will survive will turn their companies into digital, techie versions of themselves, and many of will fail trying.

"40% of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years," he told the 25,000 attendees, adding that 70% of companies will "attempt" to go digital, but only 30% of those that try it "will be successful."

A Strauss of Cards

There can be no denying that esotericism flourished at certain times. But Arthur Melzer’s new book, far from proving his case, has weakened it by the careless way he deals with his sources. 

ARTHUR M. MELZER, who is a professor of political science at Michigan State University, published a well-regarded study of Rousseau in 1990 that conformed to scholarly decorum, provided abundant citations from his subject’s works and canvassed alternative interpretations. The same cannot be said of Philosophy Between the Lines, which has received numerous laudatory reviews, including one from Francis Fukuyama in the American Interest stating that Melzer has performed “a great service in directing us to a lost tradition, restoring the dignity of textual interpretation, and seeking to rescue the reputation of Leo Strauss.” In fact, he has done nothing of the kind.

The Sanctions Myth


The widespread belief that sophisticated sanctions provide policy makers with a silver bullet for addressing intractable national-security issues is wrong.

SINCE 2005, American policy makers have increasingly turned to sophisticated types of economic sanctions as a foreign-policy tool of first resort. From the development of banking sanctions limiting Iran’s ability to secure financing from Western capital markets to new sanctions targeting Russia’s financial system and the development of its oil resources, U.S. policy makers are touting these innovative tools as extremely powerful while also being tailored and precise. The Obama administration’s 2015 National Security Strategy, for example, said that “targeted economic sanctions remain an effective tool for imposing costs on . . . irresponsible actors” and that “our sanctions will continue to be carefully designed and tailored to achieve clear aims while minimizing any unintended consequences for other economic actors, the global economy, and civilian populations.”

The Hacking of Federal Data Is Much Worse Than It First Seemed

To truly understand just how rigorous and intrusive the process to get security clearance for the federal government is, take a look a Standard Form 86.

Formally known as the Questionnaire for National Security Positions, the document requires that an applicant disclose everything from mental illnesses, financial interests, and bankruptcy issues to any brush with the law and major or minor drug and alcohol use. The application also requires a thorough listing of an applicant’s family members, associates, or former roommates. At the bottom of each page, a potential employee must submit his or her social security number. Given the questionnaire’s length, that means if you’re filling out this document, you will write your social security number over 115 times.
On Friday, it was revealed that all of the data on Standard Form 86— filled out by millions of current and former military and intelligence workers— is now believed to be in the hands of Chinese hackers.

Life in NSA’s TAO Computer Hacking Unit

June 14, 2015 

For those of you interesting in what NSA is doing in the field of computer hacking, this leaked NSA document, an interview with a TAO officer, will be of interest to you. The tenor and tone of the article suggest that it has not been overly hyped, but I can tell you that in the past couple of years there has been a steady increase in the number of highly skilled TAO operators leaving the organization for better paying jobs in the computer security field. Better work hours and less family disruption are major reasons for these departures as well as more money. 

The interview can be read here

Cellphone Cameras As a Counterterrorism Intelligence Tool

June 14, 2015

Cellphone cameras have become a major source of military intelligence and this is especially true with counter-terrorism operations. The United States recently revealed how a picture an Islamic terrorist took of himself with his cellphone (a selfie) revealed the location of an ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) headquarters, which was promptly bombed. Such incidents are more common with poorly trained irregulars, but even well trained troops have problems with “cellphone discipline”. This problem is a 21 st century one and it has been getting worse. 

Incorporating cameras into cell phones first showed up in 2000 and the practice quickly spread. This proved to be very popular and as such phones became cheaper, and their cameras more capable military intelligence agencies warned that troops were taking a lot of pictures, especially when in combat zones. This was leading to a lot of pictures that could reveal military secrets. Efforts to ban troops use of cellphones in combat zones or inside classified areas had some success, but that only reduced the flood of useful (so intelligence experts) cellphone photos it did not eliminate it. This became particularly the case as cellphone networks entered the 3rd generation (3G) about the same time cellphone cameras were introduced. This enabled cellphone users to take photos and immediately send them to someone else, or post them to a website. By 2010 social networks were growing in popularity and cellphone users competed to take and post photos of all sorts of things, often getting newsworthy photos into circulation well before the traditional media. Cellphones with 3G capabilities became so cheap that even many Islamic terrorists and most military personnel had them.