16 February 2014

A Final Nuclear Deal: Getting from Here to There with Iran

February 10, 2014 
Joe Cirincione

The stakes could not be higher—or the issues tougher—as the world’s six major powers and Iran launch talks February 18 on final resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis.

The goal “is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful,” says the temporary Joint Plan of Action, which calls for six months of negotiations. If talks fail, the prospects of military action—and potentially another Middle East conflict—soar.

Six issues are pivotal to an accord. The terms on each must be accepted by all parties—Iran on one side and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States on the other—or there is no deal. The Joint Plan notes, “This comprehensive solution would constitute an integrated whole where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

1. Limiting Uranium Enrichment

Iran’s ability to enrich uranium is at the heart of the international controversy. The process can fuel both peaceful nuclear energy and the world’s deadliest weapon. Since 2002, Iran’s has gradually built an independent capability to enrich uranium, which it claims is only for medical research and to fuel an energy program. But the outside world has long been suspicious of Tehran’s intentions because its program exceeds its current needs. Iran’s only nuclear reactor for energy, in the port city of Bushehr, is fueled by the Russian contractor that built it.

Centrifuges are the key to enriching uranium. In 2003, Iran had fewer than 200 centrifuges. In 2014, it has approximately 19,000. About 10,000 are now enriching uranium; the rest are installed but not operating. To fuel a nuclear power reactor, centrifuges are used to increase the ratio of the isotope U-235 in natural uranium from less than one percent to between three and five percent. But the same centrifuges can also spin uranium gas to 90 percent purity, the level required for a bomb.

The Iranian Navy: A Symbolic Show of Force in the Atlantic

February 11, 2014


Tehran announced Feb. 8 that it had dispatched a frigate and a supply ship to the North Atlantic Ocean, where they will approach U.S. maritime borders. This is not the first time the Iranians have announced their intent to deploy naval vessels close to the United States. Iran made two such declarations in 2011 but never followed through.

However, following the most recent announcement, Iranian Adm. Afshin Rezayee Haddad said the Iranian fleet is actually underway, already approaching the South Atlantic Ocean through waters off the coast of South Africa. The Iranian decision to deploy naval vessels to the North Atlantic is largely symbolic; it does not pose any real military risk. Iran will use the deployment to show the flag in a non-threatening manner, looking to appease its hard-liners who are dubious about the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks.


Given the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P-5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany -- the Iranian navy's operation takes place in a politically sensitive context. Decades of animosity between the United States and Iran has created diehard camps in each country that must be managed carefully because they can seriously disrupt any potential agreement. The political rhetoric surrounding the talks can seem polarized at times, with any breakthrough in negotiations matched by stern warnings and guarantees that neither side is giving up too much.

For the United States, this rhetoric translates as continued assurances of the effectiveness of current sanctions. In return, Iran constantly reiterates the parts of its nuclear program that it has refused to give up. Both sides also like to remind each other that military options are always on the table. The possible excursion into the Atlantic by the Iranian navy -- and the public announcement about the deployment -- fits this ongoing dynamic between Tehran and Washington.

The Arab Spring is not over

February 14, 2014

Jimmy Carter writes that the democratic process requires patience and the right forms of assistance 

Egyptian voters cast their votes for the constitutional referendum at a polling station in Cairo in January.Mohamed Hossam/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

There have been dramatic political upheavals in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and the Carter Center — the nonprofit foundation I head that seeks to promote human rights, democracy and alleviation of suffering worldwide — has been invited to witness the transition process from authoritarianism to democracy in all of them. We still see citizens struggling to improve their lives and shape their own destiny, with sharply different prospects.

Egypt has been least adaptable to change, and is undergoing a reversion to de facto military rule — perhaps even more restrictive than under former President Hosni Mubarak and previous regimes. The Carter Center witnessed reasonably good elections for parliament and president in 2012, when the Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated Freedom and Justice Party and its presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, emerged victorious. But Egypt’s high court nullified the parliamentary choices, and instead of requiring a new election when Morsi proved unable to govern under these circumstances, there was a military takeover with the apparent approval of a public whose first priority was stability.

Dissent was severely restricted for citizens and journalists during last month’s approval of the new constitution, which limits the scope of Islamic law and provides for more gender equality and personal freedom, but gives the military ultimate authority. Seemingly immune from constitutional restrictions, the generals of Egypt’s armed forces control their own budget, select the defense minister and retain the right to conduct trials of civilians in military tribunals. The Interior Ministry and judiciary are also granted extraordinary privileges.

Our role in Libya has been to observe the post-Kaddafi election in July 2012 and prospectively to witness the election this month of delegates who will draft a new constitution. The interim government, expected to function until the end of this year, is weak and unable to administer all regions of the country, especially areas in the east and the southern desert that are controlled by militia factions. This threatens national stability and the oil revenues that fund the state. The delegates will be divided among the country’s three regions, giving exceptional weight to the underpopulated and historically alienated regions — equivalent to advantages that America’s founders gave smaller states in the U.S. Senate and Electoral College, which we have learned to accommodate.

The sovereignty of each must be respected as the people struggle to find an appropriate balance between order and justice, secular and religious influences, freedom and fairness, inclusiveness and restraint. 

DARPA hires Raytheon to work on Plan X cyber warfare platform

By Defense Systems Staff 
Feb 06, 2014 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded a $9.8 million contract to Raytheon as a part of its Plan X program, which is designed to plan for, conduct and assess cyber warfare in the same way that kinetic warfare is analyzed. Raytheon’s research and development will be contracted to enable scaling and execution of cyber operations for the Defense Department.

First announced in 2011, Plan X has connected cyber communities of interest from the commercial technology industry, user-experience experts, the defense industry and academia to create DOD’s foundational cyber warfare program, according to DARPA. While explicitly not funding research and development efforts in cyber warfare, the program seeks to create technologies for managing, planning and understanding cyber missions in dynamic network environments.

“The program covers largely unchartered territory as we attempt to formalize cyber mission command and control for the DOD,” Dan Roelker, DARPA program manager, said at the initial Proposers’ Day workshop in October 2012.

According to the Washington Post, one goal of Plan X is to create a program that will completely map out cyberspace and update itself as the Internet grows, giving commanders the ability to identify and attack targets. Another goal is the development of an operating system that is capable of both surviving counterattacks and launching its own offensives.

"When supporting our customers' missions, we can help assess the results of launching missiles or any weapons in other domains — land, air, sea or space," Jack Harrington, vice president of Cybersecurity and Special Missions for Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, said in an announcement by the company. "Raytheon is working to provide the same mission confidence to the cyber domain through our work with DARPA's Plan X."

The World's Most Dangerous Software

By Stephen L. Carter 
Feb 14, 2014 

At what point does a cyber-attack become an act of war?

My question is prompted by this week's news that a highly sophisticated malware program called Mask has spent the last six years stealing valuable intelligence from supposedly secure government and diplomatic computers around the world.

Researchers are certain that Mask itself was produced by a government. Intrusions by one country into the networks of another have become so common that it's reasonable to wonder whether all this cyberwarfare is warfare. The time to think about this is now, when these battles are still in their adolescence. Because how we fire back will depend in part on whether we think we're at war.

Russia’s Kaspersky Labs, which discovered Mask, calls it more sophisticated than Flame, previously considered the gold standard in cyber-espionage. (All the world believes that the U.S. and Israeljointly developed Flame, along with its earlier cousins Stuxnet and Duqu, in order to attack the Iranian nuclear program, and perhaps other Middle Eastern targets as well.) Mask, like Flame, is principally a surveillance program. It steals files and keystrokes and encryption keys, and it was designed to operate for a long time undetected.

So are most malware programs, of course. Mask, however, is in a class of its own; Kaspersky’sdetailed report uses adjectives such as "special" and "elite" in describing its capabilities. The most interesting aspect of the program, also known as Careto, may be its ability to target files with unknown extensions. These, Kaspersky suggests, “could be related to custom military/government-level encryption tools."

Actually, that is a relatively benign possibility. These files could also hold the data for surveillance satellites -- or details of presidential security.

Such grim possibilities help explain why the U.S. has ramped up its ability to engage in both offensive and defensive cyber-operations. According to the Washington Post, President Barack Obama has issued a top-secret directive ordering the creation of the means to undertake cyber-attacks in any part of the world “with little or no warning to the adversary."

And we’re not speaking here only of self-defense or retaliation. Documents released by Edward Snowden show that the U.S. “carried out 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011.”

Be Prepared: Big Data Is Not a Passing Fad

February 12, 2014 

In the next few years, nearly all government agencies will grapple with how to integrate their dispa­rate data sources, build analytical capacities and move toward a data-driven decision-making environment. Big data is increasing in importance for the public sector, and big data programs are expected to become more prominent in the near future. Through the use of big data, ana­lytics now holds great promise for increasing the efficiency of operations and increasing citizen engagement.

A new report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government, “Realizing the Promise of Big Data: Implementing Big Data Projects,” provides a clear and useful introduction to the concept of big data, which is receiving increasing attention as a term, but also lacks a commonly understood definition. “Big data is an evolving concept that refers to the growth of data and how it is used to optimize business processes, create customer value and miti­gate risks,” Kevin Desouza of Arizona State University writes in the report, which describes the differences in the use of big data in the public and private sectors.

The report includes descriptions of how big data is being used in federal, state and local govern­ment. Examples include the Internal Revenue Service, the state of Massachusetts, and the New York City Business Integrity Commission.

Desouza conducted inter­views with chief information officers across the United States at the federal, state and local levels to better understand the implementation challenges their organizations face as they undertake big data projects. Here are 10 key findings from his interviews: 

Public agencies are in the early days of their big data efforts. 

Many CIOs fight the perception that big data is a passing fad. 

U.S. Needs a Cyber Plan In Face of Threats From Hacking, Cyberterrorism and Espionage

Tim Sample
Defense News
February 13, 2014

Commentary: US Needs a Cyber Plan

Recently, during the annual hearing on the nation’s most significant security threats, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that “[s]everal critical governmental, commercial and societal changes are converging that will threaten a safe and secure online environment.”

What is clear from that testimony and recent events is that the country is teetering on a precipice. Our need for national security to exceed technical advances, our interdependence on the Internet and the economic boon of big data cannot be unwound.

As a nation, we are grappling with the questions of how far is too far with surveillance and how do we define the right balance among protection of personal liberties, market participation, government oversight and protection of our freedoms.

The threats we face — economically and militarily — are nontraditional, asymmetrical and not necessarily obvious. The “what if” scenarios of science fiction, from taking down critical infrastructure to controlling mass media and creating widespread panic through disinformation, are imaginable and possible.

Engaging in a national-level debate about these issues is a critical step. We are leading in cyber innovation and technology, but capabilities worldwide are rapidly changing. To maintain global leadership, we must recognize that we are acting in a highly connected world; diplomatic, economic and national security considerations can no longer be defined solely by nation states and geographic boundaries.

Hacking, cyberterrorism and espionage do not respect borders and are never neatly wrapped up into well-defined packages. We may not always know exactly who means to do the US harm, but we could still find ourselves trying to triage a situation and secure our economic assets and protect our nation’s health. From a military standpoint, we have only minutes and seconds to take countermeasures. The same can be said of securing our economic and financial systems, but they are less structured to respond.

To move forward, President Barack Obama must convene experts from government, business, academia and also privacy proponents and direct them toward an outcome, a desired goal. That goal is clear: Define, establish and adopt a national-level doctrine for the cyber era, an overarching set of principles on the roles of American business and government in working toward national security goals.

Such a doctrine should articulate the expectations that each of us, as citizens, have in terms of our government and, yes, our freedoms. As important, such a doctrine would define the government’s expectations of its citizens to help protect our country in this cyber era, when any node on a network, including your personal computer, could be compromised by those who would do us harm.


February 14, 2014
What better time than the centennial of the outbreak of World War I to consider the strategic risk of robotic innovation and its application to modern warfare? Others have already explored today’s dynamic geostrategic environment and its parallels to that which preceded the carnage of August 1914 (recent articles by Frank Hoffman and Graham Allison are but a few good examples). It is perhaps also worth our time to consider some of the operational-strategic similarities between 1914 Eurasia and today’s Asia-Pacific security environment, including the proper role of unmanned systems in the modern scenario. This article will explore the strategic aspects of unmanned systems and caution against investments and operational plans that incentivize early action with unmanned systems in the event of crisis. Specifically, in the unlikely event of conflict between the U.S. and China the operational incentive appears to lie in acting quickly in order to rapidly break enemy “kill chains,” seize the initiative, and preserve friendly combat networks.

Designing unmanned systems to perform this function creates a false incentive by promising an upper hand at the outset of the conflict, without the risk to American service members that would have previously been required. In an era of increasingly diffuse and ill-defined national interests, the requirement to commit American lives to initiate conflict is a necessary political obstacle on the road to war. Unmanned systems designed with first-strike intent contribute to a quick-and-easy war mentality. In other words: a conscious decision to risk an American life should be integral to any defense construct or strategy. And false operational incentives, such as the promise that rapid mobilization would achieve quick victory in 1914 Europe, have often led to strategic disaster.

What can the onset of war in Europe a century ago teach us about the operational-tactical benefits of unmanned innovations in warfare and the potential strategic risks? First, military planners should better consider strategic risks when developing operations and contingency plans that incorporate robotic systems. Second, defense decision-makers should use a keener appreciation of strategic context in developing the requirements and capabilities of future robotic systems. And most importantly, civilian leaders should be more aware of and soberly consider the follow-on effects of “low cost” involvement when approaching decisions to employ unmanned systems at the outset of a crisis. These three components can mitigate strategic blindness in applying unmanned systems to modern security problems. More importantly, they can limit the potential for unmanned systems to become the catalyst for the sort of devastating major power conflict seen one hundred years ago.

Sustainable Security and the Challenges of 2014

by Richard Reeve · 

This article was originally published on openSecurity’s monthly Sustainable Security column on 27th January, 2014. Each month, a rotating network of experts from Oxford Research Group’s Sustainable Security programme and their partners explore on-going issues of global and regional insecurity. 

Sustainable Security is a concept that has been around for almost a decade now. It was first conceptualised by my colleagues Chris Abbott and Paul Rogers, whose thoughts on the subject have appeared many times in these pages. In 2000, Paul summed up what looked to many commentators like a surprisingly quiet decade of US hegemony as characterised by an unsustainable ‘control paradigm’, in which the symptoms of global insecurity were suppressed with force while their root causes were ignored and left to fester. The 9/11 attacks and subsequent ‘war on terror’ served to confirm Paul’s hypothesis that military domination would not be sufficient to ‘keep a lid’ on security challenges, even in the world’s most powerful states.

The Sustainable Security paradigm has been developed by the Oxford Research Group as an alternative lens through which to view global security, identifying the underlying drivers of conflict and insecurity rather than its symptoms, such as violence, organised crime or radicalisation. The point is to understand how unmet human needs and feelings of insecurity interrelate and lead to violence, then to work to prevent conflict by addressing its root causes. The aim of this new monthly column on openSecurity is to facilitate precisely this kind of understanding through contributions from the Sustainable Security Programme’s network of experts on non-traditional security issues.

Taking a sustainable security approach requires some thought about the future of our planet as well as its current unsustainable state. Changes to climate, demography, economic production and consumption, political and national identity, access to information and military technology will all condition the future security of our world. What, then, does 2014 hold in the way of challenges and opportunities?

2014: the end of the war on terror? 

Op-Ed: Between Conflicts: An Army Role That Sticks

January 17, 2014

When war is looming, U.S. civilian leaders intuitively recognize and appreciate the flexibility, scalability, and decisiveness inherent in Army formations. When confronted by lesser conflicts, national leaders eventually come to value the Army’s ability to operate in hostile environments, shape outcomes, and maintain post conflict stability though a visible presence. Between conflicts, the Army’s value to the nation as a vital contributor to the maintenance of a tranquil international security environment is underappreciated. Historically, shrinking defense budgets and national security narratives following conflict have pressured the Army to defend its structure and budgets in traditional warfighting and deterrence terms. The nation needs a vision for pursuing peace as an enduring international security condition between conflicts. The Army must embrace the execution of non-threat based operations as a vital way to achieve that vision. Only then, can the Army convey its relevance to the U.S. public and Congressduring periods of relative peace.

U.S. national security policy and military strategy have been biased toward the military instrument of national power since the end of World War II, and especially over the past 12 years of conflict. That is changing. Predictably, as the U.S. enters another period of relative peace, resources for defense are uncertain and the Army’s relevance to the nation is being questioned. Among other drivers, a weak U.S. economy, the costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and public weariness associated with a lack of tangible results in those conflicts are driving the current national security dialogue.

This discussion is dominated by concerns over deficit reduction, declining defense budgets, ongoing fiscal uncertainty, and restoring the U.S. economy. In response to changing geopolitical security and fiscal environments the 2012Defense Strategic Guidance directed a smaller, leaner, and more agile military to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.1 This military downsizing and geostrategic reprioritization highlights the policy shift away from the military instrument of power, and the growing importance of Western Pacific and Asian markets to the U.S. economy, respectively. Development of and access to these markets are inextricably linked to the health of the U.S. economy.

Two key assumptions underpin the national security dialogue. First, the United States faces no immediate existential threat. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, the prosecution of war, along with the scope and scale of conflict, is largely perceived as discretionary. Recent U.S. foreign policy choices toward Libya and Syria are proffered as exemplars of the new approach to discretionary interventions. Diplomatic negotiations with Iran portend cooperation versus confrontation with potential rivals with more clout. Second, the public understands that counterinsurgency, stability operations, and nation building are hard, costly, and long-duration activities. In part, due to this public perception, current defense guidance specifically precludes structuring the joint force to conduct stability operations.2 Presumably, if national leaders do not have the capacity to get involved in this type of operation, the nation will find a nonmilitary way to address instability. Alternatively, the civilian leadership anticipates sufficient intelligence forewarning to regenerate lost military capability and capacity to respond to a pending conflict.


February 13, 2014 

The folks over at the New America Foundation (NAF) have launched a new initiative looking at the Future of War.* As Christopher Mewett wisely wrote here recently, NAF’s initial foray into the world of military affairs was a bit of a muddle – confusing “warfare” with “war” and offering a distinctly non-Clausewitzian perspective on the nature of war.

The real problem, however, with NAF’s take is not their interpretation of the dead Prussian’s writing but rather their odd refusal to recognize how war is fought today – or, to put it more accurately, how war is not fought today.

If one embraces the task of understanding the ways in which the nature of war is changing, a good place to start would be to acknowledge the fact that war, as a feature of international relations, is disappearing.

Here, for example, are some of the facts we know about modern war – but that the Future of War project at NAF has, to date, failed to integrate into its thinking: 

War is Declining: In 2012 there were only six conflicts that caused more than 1,000 battle deaths in a calendar year. That’s the twelfthstraight year that the number of such wars has been in single digits – which represents an historic decline over the past several decades. 

Great Power War Is No More: The world is now in its seventh decade of no major power conflict – the longest such period in the post-Westphalia era. 

Inter-State War Is Virtually Non-Existent: Wars between countries are, for many, the defining element of global relations, and certainly global history. Yet they almost never occur any more. After a seven-year period of no inter-state wars, 2011 and 2012 saw only two such conflicts – one between Cambodia and Thailand and the other between Sudan and South Sudan, two countries that were recently one. But by and large countries simply do not go to war against other countries. In fact, even the proxy wars that defined the Cold War era have gone the way of the dodo bird. 

War Is Far Less Deadly: We have not reached a point where war has disappeared completely, as the current bloodletting in Syria reminds us. But when wars do occur, they tend to be intra-state, contained within national borders and far less deadly than they were in the past. In fact, approximately 90 percent fewer people die in wars today than was the case in the 1950s. According to estimates from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program the battle-related death toll in 2012 was between 37,175 and 60,260 – a slight increase from the year before, but nonetheless representative of the dramatic fall in the deadliness of war. 

These facts are far more important to the future of war than the advent of new technologies with which to wage conflicts that are highly unlikely to occur.

The reasons for this seismic shift are many and multi-varied: the decline in usefulness of territorial conquest as well as the growing adherence to a set of global norms dictating the use of force; the rise in political freedom and number of electoral democracies, which is strongly correlated to a diminished national ardor for war (the United States being a notable exception); improvements in national prosperity and human development as well as greater economic and political integration between nations, all of which is correlated to a decline in conflict; the role of the United Nations – and in particular UN peacekeeping – as well as regional organizations in preventing and resolving conflict and enforcing peace agreements; and finally, the development of nuclear weapons has certainly chilled the military ambitions of potential adversaries.

Attrition: The Revenge Of The Mercenaries

February 13, 2014

With the U.S. and other Western militaries downsizing, a growing number of countries and companies are seeking to employ these unemployed military personnel. The UAE (United Arab Emirates), Russia, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Britain, Israel, the Vatican and France have long sought foreign recruits. The main problem with making the switch is language. You have to be able to speak the language of the force you are joining. For many eager to join a foreign military that is not a difficult task. But for Americans it is illegal to join a foreign military and those who do so and are found out can lose their American citizenship. For some countries there is a way to get around that, by offering Americans citizenship. Australia, for example, does this. So does the United States, for that matter. This is one reason why Americans prefer to join private security companies, where English is standard and nationality is not a problem. 

Many countries go out of their way to attract foreigners because it has proved difficult to attract qualified locals to the military. The Australians have had a very difficult time recruiting qualified people for the last decade. Years of low unemployment in Australia (partly because China is buying so many raw materials) has caused a shortage of engineering and technical specialists, and reliable skilled people of all sorts. So since about 2006 the Australian armed forces has sought military veterans, especially from similar, English speaking countries like Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States. All these nations share a common language and, in general, culture with Australia. Moreover, veterans from these foreign nations have often gone through similar security vetting. The recruiting offers are being sweetened with quick granting of Australian citizenship, often as little as three months. But for all that effort, Australia has only attracted 726 foreign recruits after six years of trying. Some required signing bonuses of nearly $200,000 to make the move. The foreigners amounted to about one percent of the troops. The Australian military took some heat from the media for this, but justified it by pointing out that the foreigners being recruited often had essential technical skills, and that no Australians with equivalent capabilities were willing join, even with a big bonus. 

Many other nations seek foreign recruits for the same reasons. Russia, for example, has a fundamental problem in that few Russian men are willing to join, even at good pay rates. Efforts to recruit women and foreigners have not made up for this. The Russian military suffers from an image problem that just won't go away. This resulted in the period of service for conscripts being lowered to one year (from two) in 2008. That was partly to placate the growing number of parents who were encouraging, and assisting, their kids in avoiding military service. Nevertheless, Russia is making it easier for foreigners to join. Recruits still must be able to speak Russian, have no criminal record, and meet physical and educational standards but other than that, anyone is welcome to sign up for five years as a contract (non-conscript) soldier. This didn't bring in a lot of new people but every little bit helps. The navy and air force are particularly short of technically qualified personnel and don't care if the new guys speak with an accent. Currently, only a few hundred foreigners are serving, most from countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union. But there are also a few from Germany and Israel (where a lot of Russians had immigrated to in the past 30 years). 

Leadership: India Seeks A Few Good Ship Captains

February 13, 2014

The Indian Navy has recently dismissed two captains because of sloppiness which led to accidents. In 2013 the frigate Talwar collided with a fishing trawler at night while another frigate, the Betwa ran aground. The captains of those two frigates were punished. In August 2013 a Kilo class submarine caught fire in port and was destroyed, killing 18 of the sailors on board at the time. Since then there were seven more, less destructive accidents throughout the fleet and more scrutiny is being paid to the captains of those vessels. The senior navy commanders believe this increase in accidents is partly because ships are spending more time at sea. But training deficiencies and poor selection of ship captains appears to be a problem as well. China has been having similar problems, but has not publicized the issue. 

The Indians and the Chinese are not the only ones with this problem. Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the U.S. Navy has been experiencing a larger number of warship captains and other senior naval commanders getting relieved. It's currently over five percent a year. At the end of the Cold War, in the late 1980s, the rate was about 3-4 percent a year. In 2011 a record 35 senior commanders were relieved. Worse yet, 27 of them were commanding or executive officers on ships. This was higher than the previous record year, 2003, when 23 were relieved. So why has the rate gone up? And why hasn't the navy been able to do anything to reverse this two decade long trend? A lot of it has to do with changing attitudes about what is permissible behavior for a naval officer. The Indians and Chinese, in contrast, are largely concerned with job performance and keeping the ships intact and operational. 

The U.S. Navy has come up with several solution to its problem with ship captains. One solution was to standardize how commanders are selected and incorporate the opinions of subordinates and peers when assessing command capability. These are all techniques long used successfully by business organizations. Actually, in the past the navy did consult senior NCOs (Chief Petty Officers) about officer leadership potential, but that practice fell out of favor some time before commander failures began to increase. 

There appears to be a number of reasons for the problems ship captains are having, some of them new and unique, often having to do with the growth of political correctness. But most of the reliefs appear traceable to the performance rating system (where commanders evaluate their subordinates each year). Obviously, too many unqualified officers are getting promoted to commands they cannot handle. This is what the navy is trying to deal with via the changes in the assessment system. 

Fight Today's Terrorist Threat, Not Yesterday's

February 7, 2014

photo by Reuters/Stringer

Domestic counterterrorism efforts have been largely successful since 9/11. All but four of the more than 40 known terrorist plots by homegrown jihadists have been thwarted by authorities. But this effort faces serious challenges as it seeks to counter an ever-evolving and increasingly diverse terrorist threat. A more holistic approach that better coordinates the resources of federal, state and local authorities is needed. 

Counterterrorism is not just about daring raids and drone strikes. It is about the hard work of collecting and sifting through vast amounts of information and managing relationships among organizations that often regard sharing information as an unnatural act. Large- scale enterprises involving multiple government agencies and multiple levels of government are difficult to manage. 

Recently, a group of current and former senior counterterrorism and law enforcement officials, practitioners and experts assembled at the RAND Corporation to review progress and problems in domestic counterterrorism. A determinedly unofficial and nonpartisan gathering, this so-called 319 Group has been meeting regularly since 2009. To insure a frank and open discussion, its members are not publicly identified. 

During this most recent session, the straight talk focused on a disconnect that prevents local and state authorities from fully participating in efforts to meet America's shared counterterrorism goals. What some participants would like to see is the creation of a hybrid system of sharing surveillance and information. But a consensus seemed to take shape around the idea that information sharing alone was not enough. Rather, the objective should be cooperation to discover and dismantle terrorist networks. It is about sharing investigative activities. 

Counterterrorism authorities have learned that what happens overseas can impact local U.S. communities, sparking radicalization and eventually violence. The global jihad is no longer the sole organizing principle behind this violence. Rather, locally focused al-Qaida offshoots in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and North Africa, and emerging extremist groups and conflict elsewhere, especially right now in Syria, are the concern of not only our foreign-focused federal agencies but also homeland security agencies and state and local entities. 

From Stalemate to Settlement Lessons for Afghanistan from Historical Insurgencies That Have Been Resolved Through Negotiations


In June 2013, the Afghan Taliban opened a political office in Qatar to facilitate peace talks with the U.S. and Afghan governments. Negotiations between the United States and the group that sheltered al-Qaeda would have been unthinkable 12 years ago, but the reality is that a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan is one of several possible end games under the current U.S. withdrawal plan. Negotiating an end to an insurgency can be a long and arduous process beset by false starts and continued violence, but a comprehensive review of historical cases that ended in settlement shows that these negotiations followed a similar path that can be generalized into a "master narrative." This research examines 13 historical cases of insurgencies that were resolved through negotiated settlement in which neither side (insurgents or counterinsurgents) unambiguously prevailed. Taken together, these cases reveal that the path to negotiated settlement generally proceeds in seven steps in a common sequence. Although this resulting master narrative does not necessarily conform precisely to every conflict brought to resolution through negotiation, it can serve as an important tool to guide the progress of a similar approach to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw.

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The Military Has Cataloged Its Ethical Failures, and They're Kind of Awesome

JANUARY 30, 2014

BY Gordon Lubold Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 50,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children. 

Did you hear the one about the first lieutenant who had to pay $120,000 in fines for accepting bribes from contractors he'd awarded with lucrative Defense Department deals? Or the Navy civilian working who asked a fence contractor for a $5,000 payment so the contractor could be "recommended" for a $153,000 contract? What about the four senior officials, including two Air Force generals, a Marine general and a Navy admiral, who extended their stay in Tokyo to play golf at an illegal cost of $3,000 to the government? 

The thing is, those aren't jokes. They're true stories. And they point to a growing problem within the military: a pattern of misconduct, misbehavior and outright thievery by senior generals, top Pentagon civilian officials and of course, the rank-and-file. 

The laundry list of wrongdoing, in the Defense Department and in various other government agencies, is contained in a surprisingly readable but unknown document compiled by the equally unknown Defense Department's General Counsel's Standards of Conduct Office. 

The name of the July 2013 report says it all: The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure, a 164-page who's who of bureaucratic nee'r do wells that details all of those government personnel who have tried to fleece the government, line their pockets with public money, use government property for their own use or demand loans from subordinates. 

There is a section on credit card abuse, another on political endorsements. There's one on financial aid disclosures, and others on fraud, gambling and gift violations. The Defense Department likes to say that most of its personnel are law-abiding, upstanding citizens, and that's true. But the numerous cases listed in the document beg the question: who does this kind of thing? 

"Our goal is to provide DoD personnel with real examples of federal employees who have intentionally or unwittingly violated the standards of conduct," the introduction reads. "Some cases are humorous, some sad, and all are real." 

A Tale of Two ‘Stalingrads’

David Axe in War is Boring

Two movies about one battle—one a masterpiece, the other an embarrassment 

In 1993 the Germans made a movie about the 1942 Battle of Stalingrad—a bloody turning point in the vast, apocalyptic German invasion of the Soviet Union. The film is called, simply, Stalingrad.

In 2013 the Russians also made a movie about Stalingrad and also called it, well, Stalingrad.

One of the two flicks is an anti-war masterpiece that boldly inverts the tropes of war movies and, in doing so, captures the chilly, Hellish reality of one of history’s most awful armed clashes.

The other is a silly, melodramatic celebration of war—and shot in shitty 3D, no less.

The German Stalingrad is the good one. The Russian version is awful—and by all accounts way more successful at the box office.

1993's ‘Stalingrad.’ B.A. Produktion capture

The inside-out war movie

Directed by Joseph Vilsmaier from a script by Jürgen Büscher and Johannes Heide, the 1993 Stalingrad is easily one of the best war movies ever made … because in every detail it steadfastly refuses to glamorize the fighting.

Every aspect of the casting, dialogue, cinematography and score speaks honestly about the true experience of modern warfare—and of the terrible Eastern Front of World War II, in particular.

The siege and partial capture of the city of Stalingrad by the German army in September 1942 and its subsequent liberation by the Russians by January 1943 claimed as many as two million killed, wounded and missing. It was one of the costliest battles ever.

Vilsmaier’s Stalingrad never forgets that awful reality.

15 February 2014


 February 2014 | G Parthasarathy 
India and Japan, along with Asean member states, are coming together to craft a stable balance of power in Asia, in the face of a Chinese push for hegemony in the continent

When Prime Minister Narasimha Rao embarked on his ‘Look East’ policies, as India moved from an era of socialistic stagnation to economic liberalisation, his primary aim was to accelerate economic growth by integrating India’s economy, with the fastest growing economies in the world, in East and Southeast Asia. The primary focus of attention was on closer economic integration with member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, across the Bay of Bengal, with Myanmar acting as the land bridge to these countries. The relationship with Japan remained stagnant, because of strong Japanese objections to India’s nuclear programme and tests in 1998.

Just over 15 years later, India’s relations with Japan are blossoming. This was evident in the reception accorded to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, when he was the chief guest at this year’s Republic Day celebrations. Japan has, for too long, chosen to remain on the sidelines, on issues pertaining to regional security, as some of its neighbours and even allies like the US, never tired of reminding it, of alleged atrocities in World War II. But, present generation Japanese leaders like Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe believe that Japan need no longer feel inhibited in playing a role commensurate with the immense economic power and military potential of their country. While linked to the US in a military alliance, the Japanese feel that recent American actions indicate that the two countries are not entirely on the same page, on how to respond to growing Chinese aggressiveness on the latter’s maritime borders with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. China has not hesitated to use force in asserting its maritime border claims with Vietnam and more recently the Philippines.

Tensions between Japan and China have escalated sharply over the disputed Senkaku Islands, which have been under Japanese control since 1895. The US-Japanese Defence Treaty covers defence of these islands. Provocative Chinese maritime actions near these Islands and beyond, together with a unilateral Chinese Declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone, require all foreign aircraft flying across the East China Sea to identify themselves to Chinese authorities. These actions have raised serious concerns. The Chinese ADIZ unilaterally extends Chinese sovereignty over the East China Sea. It challenges Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku islands. Unlike India, which responds meekly to Chinese intrusions, Japan has reacted strongly to Chinese provocations.

The Economist explains Why Indians love cricket

Feb 4th 2014,  by Bagehot

TO OUTSIDERS, the magnitude of Indians' love for cricket is as incomprehensible as its feverish intensity. On February 4th India awarded the Bharat Ratna, its highest civilian honour, to Sachin Tendulkar, a recently retired batsman. Millions in India, a country of 1.3 billion people and only one nationally-popular game, celebrated wildly. When India's national side plays a big game, an estimated 400m watch on television. Yet cricket's take-off in India is a highly improbable development. The game is demanding to play properly, requiring space, a good turf pitch and expensive equipment—which only a relative handful of Indian cricketers have access to. Most will never strap on pads or bowl with a leather ball. So why do they so love the game?

Contrary to what many believe, India’s success at cricket does not explain it. Between 1928 and 1956 India's hockey team won six consecutive Olympic gold medals, a domination Indian cricketers have never threatened to rival. Despite having more cricketers than the rest of the world put together, India has only fairly recently become consistently competitive at cricket.

Nor was cricket's conquest of India a colonial design. India's 19th-century British rulers never intended to proselytise their favourite game--but this was the original, and perhaps most important, reason for its astonishing spread. Anxious for the prestige that the British attached to the game, some of the richest and most ambitious Indians—including Parsi and Hindu business communities in Bombay and princely rulers elsewhere—began playing it off their own bat. Thus, cricket became a game of the Indian elite, loaded with political significance, which it has never lost. The fact that Jawaharlal Nehru, India's Old-Harrovian first prime minister, also opened the batting for the Indian Parliament side was a symbol of a wider retention of British culture and institutions. No other sport has ever received such top-level patronage in India. But Indian cricket was not only elite. From its earliest days in Bombay, it was also popular. Vast crowds turned out to watch the first Parsis and Hindu teams take on their colonial rulers and each other. This reflected the time and place; surging growth in Bombay's textile factories had spawned a new class of organised labour, with a modicum of spare time and money. It perhaps also reflected the hierarchic nature of traditional Indian society.

More recently, the game's popularity has been massively increased with the growth of mass media—especially television. In 1989, India had around 30m households with a television. Now it has around 160m, an explosion that has been partly driven by cricket: because it is the media product most Indians most want to watch. In turn, India's cricket fan-base has been many times multiplied, and the character of the national game has changed. No longer elite, Indian cricket is now emphatically populist. What was once an English summer game has become in India a celebrity-infused, highly politicised, billion-dollar industry. In this confection, cricket’s storied gentlemanly ideals, of good manners and fair play, are, at best, only dimly apparent.


Will India Join China’s Maritime Silk Road?

C. Raja Mohan |
From the Chinese perspective, it was smart move to invite India to join the maritime Silk Road project. (Photo: Reuters)
Like most great powers in the past and as one of the world’s greatest trading nations China wants to be great maritime nation.

India is apparently ready to join China’s grand ambition to construct a maritime silk road linking the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans according to a Press Trust of India report from Beijing on Friday evening.

Seriously! The outgoing UPA government might have a hard time selling the idea to the Indian strategic establishment that has long been wary of Chinese navy’s rising naval profile in the Indian Ocean and viewed with much suspicion Chinese construction of port infrastructure in Pakistan (Gwadar) and Sri Lanka (Hambantota).

The PTI report cited Chinese officials to say that Beijing extended the offer to India in the just concluded round of talks in Delhi between the Special Representatives of the two countries, India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and the Chinese State Councillor.

Although there has been no word yet from the Indian side, the idea of a ‘maritime silk road’ has been right up the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s foreign and security policy agenda. Like most great powers in the past and as one of the world’s greatest trading nations China wants to be great maritime nation.

Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao put the idea of Beijing’s ‘maritime destiny’ at the centre of Chinese grand strategy in the 21st century and oversaw the dramatic expansion of the PLA Navy. Hu’s naval assertion, however, frightened Beijing’s neighbours, from Japan to India through the Association of South East Asian Nations and increased maritime tensions in Asia’s waters.

Xi is now trying to promote a broader framework to make China’s naval rise less threatening. Central to Xi’s strategy has been extension of the “Silk Road” concept that has largely been discussed in relation to China’s policy towards Central and Inner Asian regions to the maritime domain.

During a visit to South East Asia last October, Xi articulated the concept of the ‘maritime silk road’ and insisted that the region could gain from expanded maritime cooperation with China. In January this year, Xi proposed the maritime Silk Road project to a senior delegation from the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

This week, the idea came up in the discussions between the Sri Lankan foreign minister G.M Peiris and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing. According to report issued by the official Xinhua agency, Sri Lanka response was enthusiastic. Beijing and Colombo now hope to build their maritime cooperation in a variety of areas ranging from connectivity to fisheries and environmental protection.

From the Chinese perspective, it was smart move to invite India to join the maritime Silk Road project. But Delhi is likely to be torn between two competing ideas—one is working together with China in the maritime domain and the other is the long-standing goal of limiting Beijing’s influence in the Indian Ocean. If the onus of rejection is on India, the last word on this is unlikely to come from the UPA government.

(The writer is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and a contributing editor for The Indian Express)