2 September 2016

Don't Be Too Sure About a Stalemated US-China Military Balance

August 29, 2016

Don't Be Too Sure About a Stalemated US-China Military Balance

There are reasons to believe that the United States will maintain a qualitative technological edge.

As discussed in last week’s column, Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich have made a significant contribution to the literature on the future military balance in the Western Pacific. As with any such analysis, however, their article offers as many questions as it does answers. We can break these quibbles down into three areas; strategic, technological, and organizational questions.

On the strategic side, Biddle and Oelrich focus their analysis on a short-range campaign aimed at establishing dominance over a particular landmass. In so doing, they underplay China’s incentive to pursue a counter-force strategy intended specifically to destroy U.S. naval capabilities. Long warship construction times, along with limited facilities, make replacement difficult-to-impossible. If the United States lost even three carriers in a war with China, its ability to project power around the world would suffer for decades. If anything, this reinforces the authors’ points about the dominance of land-based systems, which are not only more survivable, but also easier to replace than their naval counterparts. However, it also suggests that China could employ a tactical and operational calculus geared more towards enemy force reduction than the achievement of specific campaign objectives.

On the technological side, while the authors do an excellent job of projecting existing technological trends, they invariably neglect some potentially important contributors to the military balance. For example, Biddle and Oelrich devote insufficient attention to the potential for cyber-attacks against enemy information networks. While it may prove exceedingly difficult for the United States to figure out where every mobile Chinese missile launcher is hiding, it’s likely that the Chinese know where they are, and that information is subject to infiltration, disruption, and appropriation. The authors compare the protection of Chinese information networks to Iraq’s successful hiding of Scud missile launchers in the Iraq War, but the parallel doesn’t go very far; the Scud launchers were not part of an integrated system of defense in which both the center and the distributed “hands” needed good information on the location and performance of other “hands.” A concerted attack against communications networks would not necessarily be subject to range and line-of-sight considerations, and could prove devastating to an A2/AD network. Of course, an attacking force is subject to the same concerns, but this merely suggests that cyber-dominance could prove decisive in a foreseeable conflict.

US Lawmakers Want to Freeze $1.15 Billion Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

By: Joe Gould
August 30, 2016 
Source Link

WASHINGTON — Reacting to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen, 64 US lawmakers are asking that a $1.15 billion US arms sale to Saudi Arabia be delayed. 

Criticism of US support for the Saudi-led campaign against Houthi militias has grown louder in recent weeks, after United Nation-brokered peace talks collapsed and the coalition airstrikes hit a school and a hospital, killing dozens of civilians. According to the UN, more than 3,700 civilians have been killed during the 18-month conflict.

In a letter to President Obama on Tuesday, the bipartisan group cited a recent Saudi airstrike that killed 10 children, and said the Saudi-led coalition’s allegedly deliberate targeting of civilian facilities “may amount to war crimes.”

“This military campaign has had a deeply troubling impact on civilians,” reads the letter, which was first reported by the magazine Foreign Policy. “Any decision to sell more arms to Saudi Arabia should be given adequate time for full deliberation by Congress.”

Spearheaded by Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., the letter expressed concern the White House’s notification to Congress about the sale Aug. 8 was timed to coincide with Congress's summer recess. Congress, the letter reads, “has little time to consider the arms deal when it returns from recess within the 30 day window established by law.”

Inside the Head of an ISIS True Believer


With rare exception, active members of ISIS are notoriously shy about talking to Western reporters. The reason ISIS has invested so heavily in elaborate media and propaganda arms is that its mantra—“Hear from us, not about us”—is designed to demonstrate to fellow travelers and would-be enlisteesthat what the Crusader-Zionist press says is all lies. The higher metaphysical truth of the “Islamic State” can only be grasped by joining it or listening to what the mujahidin have to say.

For some weeks, I have been in contact via an intermediary with a man I will call Abu Jihad, trying to persuade him to talk to an American reporter. He agreed reluctantly, but as part of the deal, Abu Jihad asked that I not disclose his true identity or current role in the organization, apart from noting that it is by no means senior or even mid-level. He is both a citizen and employee of the caliphate and, importantly, lives in its de facto capital of Raqqa.

Mainly I was interested in probing the captive mind of a true believer. What does he think of his own sodality now that it is losing city after city, and township after township, across Syria and Iraq? I’ve interviewed several ISIS defectors who presented an unvarnished—perhaps selective—view of their erstwhile comrades long after saying goodbye to all that. But what motivates someone to hang in there and remain a loyal subject of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi even in these trying times?

I promised Abu Jihad to record his answers to my questions in full. Where what he says is in obvious contradiction to provable facts, I have added my own commentary in italics.

Abu Jihad: I have occupied different positions and it’s really not important what your position is during a time of war. You will see judges, scientists, doctors, nurses, all in the same trench fighting Allah’s enemy.
Watch: The Anatomy Of An ISIS Supporter

Holding the Line in Aleppo?

August 30, 2016
http://nationalinterest.org/feature/holding-the-line-aleppo-17528?page=show

The image of Omran Daqneesh, a five-year old Syrian boy pulled from a damaged building in rebel-held Aleppo covered in dried blood, has captured the world’s attention. Omran Daqneesh shows us the human cost of failing to enforce red lines. A “red line” is an unequivocal threat designed to get the other side to back down. But, for President Barack Obama, they work in the reverse: every time he draws a “red line,” he backs down.

In 2012, President Obama drew a “red line” against chemical warfare in Syria.

In 2013, he backed down.

At the United Nations in 2015, President Obama drew another “red line” that threatened the use of force if chlorine weapons were used in Syria. Once again he backed down.

During the current siege of Aleppo, the UN’s Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, stated that it appears that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has used chlorine weapons against a rebel-held neighborhood. The Obama Administration has responded with apress release that did not threaten any consequences. U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power denounced the “horrific and continuous use of chemical weapons by Syria” without specifying whether any action would be taken against Assad.

Will Barack Obama ever enforce any of the “red lines” he has drawn against Syria’s use of chemical weapons?

NO MORE OF THE SAME: THE PROBLEM WITH PRIMACY

AUGUST 31, 2016

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the seventh installment in our new series, “Course Correction,” which features adapted articles from the Cato Institute’s recently released book, Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role. The articles in this series challenge the existing bipartisan foreign policy consensus and offer a different path.

A suicide bombing in Yemen kills scores of new military recruits. Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov has suffered a brain hemorrhage. Nuclear-armed North Korea tests ballistic missiles. Venezuela is in a political and economic death spiral. The civil war in Syria drags into its fifth year, and only seems to get worse. In each case, a worried world asks: “What is the United States going to do?”

U.S. policymakers have invited this response. For decades, U.S. foreign policy has followed a quixotic goal of primacy, or global hegemony. It presumes that the United States is the indispensable nation, and that every problem, in any part of the world, must be resolved by U.S. leadership or else will impact American safety.

But primacy has proved both difficult and costly. It is also frequently disconnected from American security needs.

There Is No Thirty Years' War in the Middle East

August 29, 2016 

Such explanations say more about Europe than about the Middle East.

The Thirty Years’ War started in 1618 as a conflict between various Protestant and Catholic states in the Holy Roman Empire. It brought devastation and major population loss to the heart of Europe. Many observers of today’s Middle East have found similarities with that distant past.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, for instance, contended that several analogies exist “between what’s happening in the Middle East and what happened in Europe during the Thirty Years’ War several centuries ago, namely the rising of religious identification as the principal motive for political action.”

Many public figures expressed similar opinions, including Leon Panetta (“we are looking at kind of a 30-year war”), Andrew Sullivan (“the thirty years’ war brewing in the Middle East”) and Brendan Simms, according to whom “the root of the Thirty Years War, just as with many Middle Eastern ­conflicts today, lay in religious intolerance.”

Others have analyzed how the Thirty Years’ War ended, providing a “model” that could bring peace to the Middle East. Pulitzer winner Jack Miles wrote that “the Peace of Westphalia [in 1648] re-drew parts of the map of Europe. Peace in the Middle East may yet do the same.”

Each of these approaches is part of an ongoing process of the region’s “medievalization,” or the tendency to juxtapose an allegedly medieval Middle East with the modern, secular, normative West.

The Thirty Years’ Wars had indeed little to do with “religious identification.” Catholic France, for instance, supported the intervention of Protestant Sweden, led by Gustavus Adolphus, against the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic League.

New Masters of Revolutionary Warfare: The Islamic State Movement (2002-2016)

by Craig Whiteside

Abstract

The Islamic State, despite its longevity, prolific media enterprise, and high profile, escapes easy definition by policymakers, academics, and the media. An examination of the movement using Mao’s revolutionary warfare framework, particularly his three stages of conflict, provides a more holistic view of the organization for both understanding and action. As part of an exploration, Islamic State captured documents and press releases were examined to establish the innovations and breadth of its adaptation of Maoist principles of guerilla warfare and the evolution of the theoretical influences on the doctrine from previous Salafi-militant experiences and publications. This research provides valuable insight into the return of a powerful method of insurgency as well as a glimpse into the vast pseudo-clandestine insurgency that is the Islamic State movement.

Key Words: Revolutionary Warfare; Terrorism; Iraq; Islamic State 

Introduction

Two years after the fall of Iraq’s second largest city to the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh), there is still an alarming dissensus concerning their nature, strategy, and goals. Is it a nihilistic terrorist group, an apocalyptic death cult, an insurgency, a terrorist army, a proto-state, or some hybrid of these? Does the group really adopt Islamic principles, or is it a Sunni neo-Ba’athist restoration movement with genocidal proclivities?[1] The confusion is not limited to academics, whose writings about the Islamic State are insightful yet rarely stray from singular research areas like ideology, economics, terrorism, religion, or regional studies. Even the US Special Forces commander tasked with countering the group in late 2014 admitted in a candid moment that he and his command did not understand “this movement.”[2]

Satellite Imagery Helps Find 72 Mass Graves of ISIS Victims in Iraq and Syria

August 31, 2016

AP documents 72 mass graves left by IS militants

HARDAN, Iraq (AP) — Peering through binoculars, the young man watched as Islamic State extremists gunned down the handcuffed men and then buried them with a waiting bulldozer. For six days he watched as IS filled one grave after another with his friends and neighbors.

The five graves arranged at the foot of Sinjar mountain hold the bodies of dozens of minority Yazidis killed in the Islamic State group’s bloody onslaught in August 2014. They are a fraction of the mass graves Islamic State extremists have scattered across Iraq and Syria.

In exclusive interviews, photos and research, The Associated Press has documented and mapped 72 of the mass graves, the most comprehensive survey so far, with many more expected to be uncovered as the Islamic State group’s territory shrinks.
In Syria, AP has obtained locations for 17 mass graves, including one with the bodies of hundreds of members of a single tribe all but exterminated when IS extremists took over their region.

For at least 16 of the Iraqi graves, most in territory too dangerous to excavate, officials do not even guess the number of dead. In others, the estimates are based on memories of traumatized survivors, Islamic State propaganda and what can be gleaned from a cursory look at the earth.

Still, even the known numbers of victims buried are staggering — from 5,200 to more than 15,000.

Why Turkey Went Into Syria

August 31, 2016

The Turkish military operation symbolizes a new phase in the Syrian Civil War. Turkey has resisted calls for “boots on the ground” since the early phases of the Syrian crisis, which eventually led Ankara to face the twin threats of the PKK’s territorial enlargement in northern Syria and growing ISIS attacks, particularly in Turkish-Syrian border regions. Thus, Ankara has been waiting for an opportune moment to wage a multifunctional operation to stem these twin threats, ensure its border security and empower its position in the Syrian crisis. These basically sum up Turkey’s evolving goals in Syria, which currently prioritize restoring highly fragile domestic security and aspire to an active role at the negotiation table for any post-conflict resettlement in Syria, rather than its initial aspirations to remove Assad and prevail in its geostrategic rivalry with Iran and Russia.

Turkey and coalition forces’ negotiations to establish a ninety-eight-by-forty-five-kilometer “safe zone” between Azaz and Jarabulus, reaching into Syria, have been on the table for a couple of years. But those have failed to bear fruit due to both shifting balances on the ground (i.e., Russian and Iranian interventionism and the United States’ retrenchment) and disagreements about who would deploy land forces, with possible political repercussions in case of casualties.

The Turkish army is known for its caution, and it is no secret that before the July 15 coup attempt, Turkey had major reservations about a cross-border operation in what the secularist establishment calls “the Middle East swamp.” In Syria, the establishment’s first preference was reconciliation with the Assad regime and its allies to avert the risk of an autonomous Kurdish entity in northern Syria, which methodically contradicted government policy. Pro-Western elements in the bureaucracy, on the other hand, seemed ready to approve a joint operation with U.S. forces whereby the Free Syrian Army (FSA) could possibly be equipped to take the lead as land forces, which would in turn require minimal Turkish involvement.

France and Germany Call to End Trade Talks

By Antonia Colibasanu 
Aug. 31, 2016 

The politics surrounding EU-U.S. free trade negotiations emphasize the divisions in the EU. 

German Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Sunday that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the EU and the U.S. “have de facto failed.” Yesterday, French Foreign Trade Minister Matthias Fekl added that France will call for negotiations to end. The TTIP as proposed would be a vast, complex economic agreement between the world’s two largest economies. The failure of these negotiations is not surprising and confirms our prediction that the EU’s power is disintegrating. Moreover, this turn of events, underscores the division between Western and Eastern Europe.

The TTIP negotiations started in 2013. The comprehensive trade agreement between the two major global partners was meant to both enhance the EU-U.S. relationship and help the EU overcome the economic problems that emerged after the European debt crisis emerged in 2009. Considering the geographical area covered and the substance of the agreement, the TTIP would take the concept of economic integration to a new level, with a potentially huge impact on the global trade. It has been considered the EU’s most ambitious international trade project. But the EU’s integration is not fully completed. The European sovereign debt crisis created socio-economic problems that put pressure on the political elite and fostered Euroskeptic sentiment throughout the Continent.

Both France and Germany will have general elections next year, and the TTIP has become a campaign topic. The German anti-TTIP camp (various non-governmental organizations, but also the nationalist party Alternative for Germany) has announced a large protest set for Sept. 17 against both the TTIP and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). In France, National Front President Marine Le Pen has been the most outspoken politician against the agreement, calling it an “atomic bomb” for the French economy. In April, before the latest round of negotiations, she asked French President François Hollande to refuse to negotiate. As mainstream parties compete with growing Euroskeptic parties for political support, they must adapt and respond to the public. Brexit taught political parties throughout Europe that they need to listen more closely to public opinion and less to the elites. 

Metabolizing Japan, The World's Oldest Nation

from STRATFOR

-- this post authored by Reva Goujon

Getting old can be a drag, for both people and nations. As people age, they tend to become less physically active. This leads to loss of muscle mass and the gain of fat, which causes the body's metabolism - the process of converting nutrients into energy - to decrease. When the population of a nation ages, a similar effect plays out. The labor pool dwindles, fatty debts build up, and the nation's economic muscle, or labor productivity, atrophies, leading to a decrease in the nation's metabolic rate and slower growth overall.

The National Bureau of Economic Research released a study in July that examined how an aging population can impair economic growth. In analyzing the economic response to aging in the United States since 1980, the study emphasized a drop in labor productivity as the chief economic consequence of a graying society and estimated that the aging of a society can shave as much as 1.2 percent off gross domestic product growth, a considerable amount given that a 2 percent growth rate in an advanced industrial economy is a cause for celebration these days.

Demographics matter - a lot. This is a big part of why central bankers in the developed world are banging their heads against the wall trying to concoct new monetary and fiscal cocktails to stimulate growth when even crawling to 2 percent growth seems like an uphill battle. A graying society simply cannot burn off as many calories as economists, politicians and voters would like. Tackling the roots of demographic decline is no easy task, either. Population growth is considered stable at a 2.1 total fertility rate, meaning mom and dad are producing enough offspring at least to replace themselves. But a more urbanized world means a higher cost of living and tighter living quarters, leaving less physical and financial room to seat a big family around the dinner table. And as more women seek higher education and professional careers, childbearing gets put off until an age when fertility drops. Add to this picture longer life expectancy enabled by advancements in medicine and technology, and you have yourself a demographic crunch.
The Corporate Culture Makeover

Vladimir Putin and the Shiite Axis

August 30, 2016

Russia's military alliance with Iran is all about keeping Assad in power and America on its back foot, and even a short-lived partnership can do long-term damage to U.S. interests.

On Aug. 16, Russian bombers took off from Shahid Nojeh air base near the Iranian city of Hamadan reportedly to bomb Islamic State targets in Syria. The fact that the Russian air force had based planes inside Iran was not only a surprise to American diplomats -- it was news to many Iranian officials as well. While State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the Russian action may have violated a UN Security Council resolution, 20 Iranian legislators demanded a closed session of parliament to discuss why Iran had allowed foreign forces to base themselves in the country for the first time since World War II.

Against the backdrop of outrage in Tehran, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan accused Moscow of "ungentlemanly" behavior in publicizing Russia's use of the base, denied reports citing Russian officials that Moscow and Tehran had signed an agreement for Russia to use the base, and announced that Iran would no longer allow Russian bombers to fly from the airstrip. In an apparent attempt to save face, Russian Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the Russian planes had "successfully" completed their mission and returned to Russia.

This may have seemed a brief hiccup in an otherwise solid alliance between Russia and Iran. But it's worth remembering that it's the romance, not the strife, that is the aberration. Never in the countries' hundreds of years of dealing with each other have they cooperated so closely. It's America's misfortune that Moscow and Tehran have just recently discovered that there is vast overlap in their interests in the Middle East -- not least, in opposing U.S. interests there.

CONVERGENCE OF INTERESTS

Australia’s Gulag Archipelago

AUG. 30, 2016

SYDNEY, Australia — In Dante’s view, the unfortunate souls who dwell in purgatory may suffer excruciating pain, but the promise of their final destination is clear: paradise. Those who languish on the remote, tiny islands — Manus and Nauru — that host Australia’s offshore immigration detention centers are not so lucky.

Although a majority of the inmates have been determined to be refugees, Australia’s policy is to not allow any who arrived by boat to settle here. So the ultimate destination of these asylum seekers, who have come from as far afield as Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, is unresolved. This means they are effectively in indefinite detention for committing no crime. And this uncertainty about their fate has driven hundreds to savage despair, even self-harm and suicide.

Allegations of rape, abuse, neglect and mistreatment at these centers are now legion. The full scale of the problem has been hidden because journalists are routinely denied the expensive visas to visit the islands and have been barred from the centers themselves. Those who actually work there, including doctors and counselors as well as guards, face a possible jail term if they break confidentiality rules.

Thousands of files from Nauru — a remote island republic that is the smallest nation in the South Pacific — recently published by The Guardian documented reports of sexual assault, child abuse, suicide attempts and unraveling mental health among detainees from 2013 to 2015. They were horrifying in their details: guards slapping children, bartering for sexual favors; women raped; detainees attempting suicide and cutting themselves with sharpened pencils.

Yes, Russia's Military Is Training for a 'Mega War.' That's What Militaries Do.

August 30, 2016

The latest series of military exercises in Russia have unnerved its Western neighbors, who are concerned that Russia may be preparing for a military campaign. The Russian military is indeed preparing for war, but that does not mean the Kremlin actually plans to initiate one anytime soon. Rather, the current and pending exercises are meant to, well, exercise the troops, for all contingencies, including worst-case scenarios, but also to send a signal to potential adversaries and “disloyal” neighbors.

These countries, of course, remember vividly how less than a month after conducting the Kavkaz-2008, or Caucasus-2008, exercises in July of that year Russian armed forces marched into South Ossetia to rout Georgia as it attempted to retake its separatist province by force. Then, in spring 2014, Russia’s military-political leadership used one of the so-called surprise selective checks of its armed forces’ combat readiness to deploy the troops needed to facilitate the taking of Crimea.

No wonder each time Moscow decides to hold a major snap check or regular drill along Russia’s western or southwestern flank, such maneuvers generate concern in some of the countries located along those borders. The latest surprise check—launchedAugust 25 on territories comprising Russia’s Southern, Western and Central military districts—was no exception.

Chief of Naval Operations Richardson: US Navy is Focusing on Enemy Submarine Threat

August 30, 2016

Enemy submarines remain the single most dangerous threat to the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers and its surface fleet at large. However the service is working on improving its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities as the once-dormant Russian undersea force reemerges and China grows its fleet.

While anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles often capture the lion’s share of the attention, submarines armed with Russian-made 533mm and 650mm waking-homing torpedoes are among the only threats that can actually sink an aircraft carrier. “A torpedo properly placed under the right part of the keel is one of the few things that can actually flatout sink an aircraft carrier,” retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jerry Hendrix, director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security told The National Interest.

The U.S. Navy’s top leadership agrees—submarines remain the single greatest threat to the carrier and the surface fleet. “That’s not new news,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, told The National Interest on Aug. 25 during an interview in his office in the Pentagon. “The submarine is a very asymmetric weapon. By virtue of its continued ability to stay hidden... It’s immune from a lot of those detection systems, which is the first step in any kind of a weapon engagement—you got to detect.”

THE DECAY OF THE SYRIAN REGIME IS MUCH WORSE THAN YOU THINK

AUGUST 31, 2016

In a recent interview conducted by Aaron David Miller for Foreign Policy, Robert Malley, one of the president’s most trusted advisors on the Middle East, once again enumerated the competing priorities of U.S. Syria policy: the need to balance humanitarian concerns with the desire to “preserve state institutions” and avoid a power vacuum so that the country does not slide into total anarchy.

Over the past three years in particular, this line of argument has not only been a mainstay those supporting a carefully calibrated, limited U.S. Syria policy in line with the current administration but also by a number of commentators writing both implicitly and explicitly in defense of Damascus. In two revisionist articles published recently at War on the Rocks, an author writing under a pseudonym presents the Assad regime as ruthless, but at least secular, pluralistic and — most importantly — as the final basion of civic, central authority in a tumultuous Middle East. Whereas the indefatigable Emile Hokayem already formulated an eloquent response regarding sectarian dynamics in the Levant, there is an equally important question raised in the piece warrants answering: What’s really left of the Syrian central state?

State of Denial

Following the swift collapse of its forces in the Battle for Idlib last year, President Bashar al-Assad had given a much publicized speech admitting the regime’s armed forces were suffering tremendous manpower shortages and would have to withdraw from certain fronts. Newspapers had been reporting for many months before of desperate conscription and recruitment efforts around the country. By late July, Assad appeared to crumble under the cumulative weight of years of slow attrition and defection, triggering a combined Russian and Iranian intervention seeking to reverse the regime’s fortunes. By February of this year, analysts inside as well as outside government agreed — they had largely succeeded in their attempt.

Reforming Ukraine After the Revolutions


Two muckraking journalists had contempt for Ukraine’s corrupt political system. So they became politicians. 

As muckraking journalists, Nayyem and Leshchenko had contempt for Ukraine’s politicians. So they became politicians. Illustration by Paul Rogers 

When Sergii Leshchenko was at university, in Ukraine, he dreamed of working in television news. He is the son of two Soviet-trained engineers, and grew up in Kiev, where he studied journalism. He aspired to become an on-air correspondent, but his speech was mumbly and imprecise. After an unsuccessful summer internship at a local news channel, in 2000, he heard that a new online publication, Ukrayinska Pravda, was desperately looking for reporters; in recent weeks, nearly all the staff had quit, fed up with low pay and worn down by pressure from authorities. His interview took place in a cramped and sparsely furnished three-room apartment, where he was met by the site’s founder and editor-in-chief, Georgiy Gongadze, a thirty-one-year-old reporter. Gongadze regularly received threats from Ukrainian officials because of his muckraking investigations. The power was out in the apartment, so Leshchenko and Gongadze sat in darkness. After a few minutes, Gongadze told him that he could start right away.

Two weeks after Leshchenko began work, Gongadze disappeared. “I thought maybe he wandered off somewhere, went on a bender,” Leshchenko recalled recently. “He could have met a girl, gone to L’viv, or maybe Georgia.” Two months later, Gongadze’s body was found in a forest outside Kiev. He had been decapitated, his body doused in chemicals and burned. Leshchenko had never expected journalism to be a deadly profession, but now that it was it didn’t seem right to do anything else. “There was no going back,” he said.

At Ukrayinska Pravda, Leshchenko was left to work alone with Olena Pritula, the site’s co-founder and publisher. “He never raised a question of his own safety,” Pritula told me. “He just quietly and calmly showed up at work. This was akin to heroism.” Leshchenko rapidly mastered the maze of relationships among Ukraine’s oligarchs and the intricacies of its natural-gas trade. He was “rigorous to the point of being a bore,” Pritula said, and prone to a stubborn and inflexible precision that made him a trying conversationalist but a brilliant reporter. In time, he became Ukraine’s premier investigative journalist. He is now thirty-six, with a trim beard, thick black eyeglasses, and a regular uniform of slim-cut dress shirts and dark jeans.

Russia Re-Ups Its Land and Strategic Forces

August 29, 2016

The Russian military continues its long-term modernization drive, aiming to re-equip its land and strategic forces. Russian daily Lenta.ru reports on the recently declassified new armored personnel carrier for the marines, designated as BT-3F. The prototype was built on the chassis of the long-serving BMP-3 line of combat vehicles and is designed both for export and for equipping Russian units. This new carrier’s armament includes a remote-controlled weapons module, as well as a remote-controlled combat module equipped with a 7.62mm machine gun.

In addition to weapons, the new vehicle is equipped with a thermal sight with a laser rangefinder. Other potential combat modules can include heavy machine guns and automatic grenade launchers. BMP personnel carriers have been a mainstay for the Soviet and later Russian armed forces since the 1960s, with thousands supplied for export all over the world. Numerous BMP upgrades and variants continue to serve with dozens of international forces and have participated in practically all major military conflicts since the line's initial 1967 unveiling. This vehicle remains the mainstay of many land armies, and is expected to operate for decades to come.

According to Lenta.ru, the designers decided to get rid of the turret and its 100mm gun -- the weapon choice of the original BMP-3 -- in order to increase the crew capacity of the new machine, which can now transport seven to 14 people. In a 2016 interview with the magazine Moscow Defense Brief, Alexey Losev, the head of export department and planning for Tractor Plants Corp. (KTZ), said that the company took the initiative and designed the vehicle at its own expense, adding that a prototype is scheduled to appear in the Army 2016 military forum this September. According to Lozev, there is already an export potential -- Indonesia recently expressed interest in the new vehicle.

Cyber Specialists and Future Force Structure: “Jemes” & “Soldier 2040”

August 31, 2016

Cyber Specialists and Future Force Structure: “Jemes” & “Soldier 2040”

The need for personnel in the Army grows and shrinks; the need for firepower never shrinks. We see firepower needs in a new light today, with the struggle to find clear success nullifying non-lethal actions such as cyber-attack. The four concerns of digital warfare have now become five with the addition of hacking. As weapons platforms become increasingly digital, the risk from electronic interference becomes increasingly troublesome—including hacking, jamming, and even hijacking of remote platforms.

As we redefine fires to include non-lethal effects, we must also redefine the Soldiers on the battlefield. The author of this story suggests that the current system of specialization will become obsolete. Future Soldier training and expertise must include not only warfare tasks but operation of automated and remote platforms. This requires training unlike anything our military has to date; the control of these systems alone will change the very meaning of “Soldier.”

Will the current trend towards virtual reality continue into the realm of neural implants as the author of “Jemes” and “Soldier 2040” suggests? Is this essentially the same as directly weaponizing the Soldier? One thing seems certain, in the feasible world created by this author, even command and control may become a weapon.

The heat, the flies, the teeming hordes in massive cities, and the insufferable sand in everything — all because New Middle East oil was no longer needed to power the world. Jemes looked down at his wrist after feeling the unmistakable tingle of an incoming notification from his Task Force (TF) leader. Putting down his multipurpose weapon, careful not to bend the electronic leads that powered the encephalonic disruptors, Jemes thought again what a pain it was to be on this mission in the New Middle East. But the Integrated Communities of the United States of America and the Associate Politikos voted overwhelmingly to deploy this military mission to restore order in area where the few remaining world powers, and some “wannabes,” conducted proxy wars for the last two decades.

Space Warfare: Deterrence, Dissuasion and the Law of Armed Conflict

August 30, 2016

We humans have a habit of allowing the latest technological marvels to overwhelm our more critical strategic sense. 


Early in his administration, President Barack Obama emphasized that space is vital to U.S. national interests. Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the intelligence community underscored this same point, while also highlighting the increasingly congested, contested, and competitive nature of space. Despite all this official focus on space, U.S. military and intelligence leaders remain worried that American satellites are vulnerable to attack, because countries — like China — have been developing anti-satellite weapons capable of attacking vital U.S. space assets.

Secure access to space is a critical U.S. national interest because space provides a decision advantage and is vital to monitoring strategic and military developments. Yet, despite notable national security interests in space and potential emerging threats to those interests, U.S. space strategy remains unclear. A major reason for this is a misguided belief by some strategists and policymakers that war in space will somehow be “new,” where traditional principles of warfare have little applicability. Yet, as Colin Gray observes, war has a constant nature but an ever-changing character. Therefore, much of what is most important about war and warfare does not change, even as technology advances. Historical experience and thinking on strategy can therefore help policy makers consider the proper relationship between deterrence, dissuasion, and the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) in space. Without this fundamental understanding, the fear is that future space systems may be developed that fail to protect national interests in space.

Deterrence and the Law of Armed Conflict

Trends in Cyber Security Threats & How to Prevent Them

August 29, 2016

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In our Introduction to IT Security article, we covered a number of ways to help protect your data, systems, and customers’ information against security threats. But new types of threats are emerging that can compromise your business. Here’s a quick guide to some trends in IT security and a few ideas to safeguard yourself against them.
Classifying the type of attack: Active attacks vs. passive attacks

First, an important distinction to make is active attacks vs. passive attacks. These differ both in how they are accomplished and what they do once the unauthorized party gains access.

Passive attacks happen when a program is constantly searching for vulnerabilities, and when one is found, it gains entry. These can be vulnerable plugins, active versions of old plugins, or open ports. Server ports are basically how each application or service running on a server can send and receive requests from a client. They’re numbered and assigned to a service, such as email or FTP. If a port isn’t protected by a firewall, it’s open to the outside world—leaving the network behind it open as well. Attacks of chance are passive attacks, too, and account for about 99.9 percent of attacks. They typically happen when a program passively scans the web for open ports and gains access from there.

When a passive attack occurs, the unauthorized eavesdropper is mostly just listening in and gathering information and not making any changes to the data or system. They can, however, often serve as a scouting mission for an active attack in the future.

Report: If DOD Doesn't Embrace Open Source, It'll 'Be Left Behind'

August 29, 2016 

Unless the Defense Department and its military components levy increased importance on software development, they risk losing military technical superiority,

In the report, the Washington, D.C.-based bipartisan think tank argues the Pentagon, which for years has relied heavily on proprietary software systems, “must actively embrace open source software” and buck the status quo.

Currently, DOD uses open source software “infrequently and on an ad hoc basis,” unlike tech companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook that wouldn’t exist without open source software.

“From game-changing weapons to routine back-office systems, the DOD is entirely reliant on its ability to identify, acquire, certify, deploy and manage software,” the report states. “But while the commercial world has installed repeatable and scalable frameworks that improve the software it uses, the DOD struggles to keep pace. Unless the department is able to accelerate how it procures, builds, and delivers software, it will be left behind.”

DOD defines open source software as “software for which the human-readable source code is available for use, study, re-use, modification, enhancement and re-distribution by the users of that software.” That public availability of source code is why open source gets shorted in national security discussions, usually because of “technical security concerns,” as the report notes.

However, its authors attempt to debunk those and other misconceptions.

10 things to know about the Army's move to Windows 10

August 28, 2016

Ask soldiers to list their mission-critical gear, and you might need to wait a bit until any of them mention their computer’s operating system. 

That doesn’t make Windows any less important to the day-to-day duties of many soldiers and Army civilians, and it’s why the upcoming Army-wide upgrade to Windows 10 – which will roll out in earnest in the coming weeks – should be on the radar of anyone who uses one of the 1.1 million-plus pieces of equipment that will feel the effects of the upgrade. 

Here’s 10 questions and answers about the changeover, straight from the office of the Army’s Chief Information Officer/G-6 and Army Network Enterprise Technology Command. 

1. How big a deal is this? “The Army is treating the Windows 10 rollout as a military operation,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Brian S. Wimmer, a senior technical adviser with NETCOM, in a written response to Army Times questions on the move. 

2. When does it happen? The Defense Department-mandated changeover to Windows 10, a move made to improve security and interoperability among military systems, is required by the end of January. The Army plans to “execute the transition as rapidly as feasible,” officials said in the statement, but also plans to make use of a waiver process to allow more time for some systems. 

3. Who goes first? The main rollout will come in a four-region approach. Soldiers in Europe are set to begin early this fall, with some test groups coming online in the next few weeks. They’ll be followed by those in the U.S. and Southwest Asia, with the Pacific/Korea region rounding things out in early 2017. 

4. What changes? Most of the upgrades will be under-the-hood security improvements, Army officials said. The user interface will be similar to Windows 7, with a familiar Start menu. But not every upgrade will be seamless. 

Buffalo Soldiers in Angola: 32 Battalion Operations in the South African Border War

August 31, 2016

Buffalo Soldiers in Angola: 32 Battalion Operations in the South African Border War

The South African Border War is one of the least studied, most poorly understood conflicts of the 20th century. The “Bush War”, as it is known in South Africa, spanned the spectrum of warfare from the lowest intensity fighting, to high technology tank and aerial combat. Both sides pitted the most advanced weaponry of the age against each other, all while under some of the harshest conditions on the planet. The war saw the engagement of South African, Namibian, Angolan, Cuban, Soviet, Chinese and even American forces in an array of operations and offensives.[1][2][3]

The Bush War conflagration began with the fall of the Portuguese government in Luanda. Portugal, after a recent coup de etat had decided to relinquish its African colonial possessions. There had been ongoing insurgencies in both Angola and Mozambique, but they had been kept from overrunning the nations through the efforts of the Portuguese military. However, after their rapid exit, wherein they appointed no governmental authority, both Angola and, by virtue of its proximity, the colonial possession of South Africa, South West Africa (SWA) or Namibia, became the target of the ongoing communist backed liberation insurgencies. These insurgencies directly threatened South Africa, and its possessions, and are described best in the seminal work on the subject, The SADF in the Border War 1966-1989.

WHEN INTERVENTION WORKS: THE INSTRUCTIVE CASE OF SIERRA LEONE

AUGUST 31, 2016

Editor’s Note: This is adapted from a longer article published in the Journal for Strategic Studies. It is available to read for free for a limited time.

Lately whenever Western militaries intervene, they seem to leave behind bigger messes than they found. Whether the intervention is large (Iraq and Afghanistan), medium (Libya), or small (Syria), the record is dismally consistent. Such assessments can breed despondence, but while there is good reason for humility, some interventions do work. In some cases, deployed forces meet their objective, military and political efforts are integrated, and peace is crafted out of war. It can happen…

One such success-story is the British campaign in Sierra Leone between 2000 and 2002. When the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rejected the Lomé Peace Agreement and again threatened Freetown, the capital, Britain provided vital support to the Sierra Leone government and the beleaguered U.N. peacekeeping mission on the ground (UNAMSIL). British forces repelled the RUF advance and then remained in Sierra Leone to clear the path to peace. That peace has held for well over a decade and seen the passage of political power through fair elections.

The British intervention is a rare success story, but in spite of this, it is also a poorly understood and little studied case. The popular telling tends to miscast or misunderstand the important lessons that this campaign can provide. To improve on this record, I wrote an in-depth operational assessment, published in the Journal of Strategic Studies, and I offer its core points here.

The Utility of Force…