27 November 2012

Old West, new quest

Nov 27, 2012 

For the immediate present the US would be immersed in managing its own internal political contradictions, with not much time left for issues overseas

The re-election of Barack Obama on November 6, 2012, for his second tenure as the 44th President of the United States rang down the curtain on what had become the “greatest show on earth”, running to packed audiences worldwide on television channels. 

The intensity of media interest generated by the event demonstrated once again that love it or leave it, the US continues to command an irresistible fascination for the international audience, even amongst the most unreconstructed of hardline Maoists, jihadis or Islamists everywhere, who regard and refer to the US as the Great Satan.

Given the military capabilities and strategic reach of the US, the potential impact of Mr Obama’s re-election on India is certainly a matter of concern which requires to be kept under continuous analysis and scrutiny.

For the present, India enjoys excellent relations with the US and, barring totally unforeseen developments (as in Libya), these will continue smoothly on their present trajectory given the required political support and adequate diplomatic nurturing on both sides. These requirements would appear to be forthcoming with the present governments of both the countries.

Quite naturally under the prevalent circumstances, the outcome of the elections in the US were based overwhelmingly on the middle class of the country and their perceptions of their travails on issues of the country’s economy and illegal immigration from Mexico and Latin America. However, the sudden attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, resulting in the death of the American ambassador and three other American citizens, also burst into the electoral spotlight, leading to heated accusations against the government of intelligence failure, lack of leadership and general incompetence. All in all a typical election-time political scenario very familiar to the Indian public as well.

Freedom to suppress

Nov 27, 2012 

Newspapers know that legal control would establish a new hierarchy, with the media ranking below the political establishment 

Is the press above the law? Must newspapers enjoy a degree of immunity from normal corrective processes to keep politicians on their toes and ensure justice and good governance for all? These questions are being feverishly debated as Britain waits for Thursday when Lord Justice Brian Leveson will present the report on the culture, practices and ethics of the press on which he has been working for a year at a cost of £4 million. 

A Zimbabwean editor’s belief that “tin pot dictators” will indulge in “unrestrained joy” if Lord Leveson recommends statutory controls for newspapers reminded me of Justice Markandey Katju’s dismissal of self-regulation as an oxymoron. Whatever Lord Leveson recommends is of only limited relevance to India, though Jetho Goko, editor of Zimbabwe’s Daily News, says legal regulation would be “manna from heaven” for President Robert Mugabe who shut down his paper for seven years.

Renewed American Engagement with Nepal’s Maoists

November 27, 2012 

On September 6, 2012, the US State Department issued a press statement announcing that it had formally removed Nepal's ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) from its list of global terrorist groups. The statement read: “After a thorough review, the Department has determined that the CPN-M is no longer engaged in terrorist activity that threatens the security of US nationals or US foreign policy.”1

The Maoists and the United States have a bitter history, with the former condemning the latter for imposing imperialism through the Royal Nepal Army and the monarchy and the latter not only placing the Maoists on the terrorist watch list but also providing logistical support to the Nepal Army in its campaign against Maoist insurgents. The announcement removing the Maoists from the terrorist watch list was long overdue—as the United States has been engaging with the Maoists since they emerged as the largest party in the election for the Constituent Assembly in 2008—and marks a significant shift in US policy towards the Maoists. 

China: 18th Party Congress - Change of Guards, But no Change in Policy

Paper no. 5313 Dated 27-Nov-2012 

By D. S. Rajan 

It is undeniable that the transfer of power to the fifth generation leadership at the 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (Beijing, 8-15 November 2012) has been smooth and orderly; especially the rule providing for retirement of cadres above the age of 68 has been adhered to. 

As anticipated, Xi Jinping, the son of the party revolutionary leader and former Vice Premier Xi Zhongxun, has succeeded Hu Jintao as party general secretary as well as Chairman of the CCP’s Central Military Commission (CMC). He is poised to take over as President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in March 2013. A Xi Jinping era has indeed begun in China. It is highly significant that the transition has taken place unaffected by the political uncertainty that has come to prevail in the country since March 2012 as a result of the ouster from the party of Bo Xilai, once considered a strong candidate to the party’s top echelons, ostensibly on charges of discipline violation. 

4 Digital Threats to Worry About

From hacktivism to cyberwarfare, the dangers that define the digital age. 


1. Privacy violations: Internet privacy is dwindling. Every purchase you make, flight you take, website you view, file you download, person you call, and email you send is tracked, and these profiles are then stored indefinitely and often sold to the highest bidders -- whoever they may be. Personal data long thought to be confidential simply isn't anymore. Consider your identity while walking down the street. Facial recognition technology has passed from law enforcement to the public realm -- Facebook uses it in many countries, gathering data from images to recognize you (unless you know to opt out of the feature). That's a violation of your right to privacy, right? Wrong. And who's to say Facebook's photo database, growing by several billion photos a month, won't be handed over to law enforcement agencies or corporations in the future? 

Wait a minute!: I served under Petraeus in Iraq and I saw the difference he made

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks 

 November 26, 2012

By Blake Hall 

Best Defense veterans' bureau 

"Tell me how this ends." General Petraeus posed that rhetorical question to historian Rick Atkinson in 2003. Petraeus then was commanding the 101st Airborne during the invasion of Iraq. His question captured the fundamental disconnect between what we were doing in Iraq - removing Saddam Hussein - and the purpose of war, famously defined by Carl Von Clausewitz as the "continuation of politics by other means." Because regime change is not a coherent political strategy, Petraeus rightly wondered what our strategy would be for Iraq, even as his soldiers advanced towards Baghdad. 

Pentagon: A Human Will Always Decide When a Robot Kills You


Airman 1st Class Hugo Garnica talks remotely to the pilot of an MQ-9 Reaper drone in Iraq, 2008. The Pentagon wants to ensure that humans will remain firmly in control of the military’s fleet of armed robots. Photo: U.S. Air Force

The Pentagon wants to make perfectly clear that every time one of its flying robots releases its lethal payload, it’s the result of a decision made by an accountable human being in a lawful chain of command. Human rights groups and nervous citizens fear that technological advances in autonomy will slowly lead to the day when robots make that critical decision for themselves. But according to a new policy directive issued by a top Pentagon official, there shall be no SkyNet, thank you very much. 

On the other hand, I served under Sinclair in Iraq -- and that’s a big reason I got out

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks  

November 26, 2012 

By David Warnock 

Best Defense same veterans' bureau 

I was surprised to see General Sinclair's name splashed all over the headlines recently. Surprised, and then elated. I was in the 2nd HBCT 1 ID when Sinclair was passed the guidon and we were re-flagged as the 172nd SIB. We were all tremendously excited for Sinclair to be our new brigade commander. I came up in 1-18 IN, the unit he had commanded in OIF II. When I showed up to the unit as a cherry E-1 in late 2005, the man was a legend. According to my team and squad leaders who had served under him, he could walk through walls and levitate buildings. They would have followed him anywhere. 

Killer Swarms

It wasn't the Russian winter that stopped Napoleon. 


Today marks the bicentennial of the culminating catastrophe that befell the Grande Armée as it retreated from Russia. This past weekend one of the French Emperor's descendants, Charles Napoleon, traveled to Minsk in Belarus to attend ceremonies commemorating the disaster at the nearby Beresina River crossing, where thousands died -- many by drowning -- in a final, panicked rout in freezing weather. Bonaparte had marched deep into Russia with nearly half a million soldiers; he returned with less than 25,000. 

Mumbai Attacks: Four Years Later

Nov 26, 2012

Four years after the terror attacks that killed scores in Mumbai, the group that carried them out still flourishes—and will almost certainly strike again, writes Bruce Riedel. 

Four years ago Monday, the Pakistani terror gang Lashkar-e-Tayyiba attacked Mumbai, killing more than 160, including six Americans, in the deadliest and most brazen terror attack since 9/11. Then and now, LeT enjoyed the support of Pakistani intelligence and al Qaeda. Today, LeT is a ticking time bomb ready to explode again. 

Activists of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shout slogans as they celebrate the news of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab's execution, in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. India executed the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 terror attack on Mumbai early Wednesday, the country's home ministry said. Kasab, a Pakistani citizen, was one of 10 gunmen who rampaged through the streets of India's financial capital for three days in November 2008, killing 166 people. (Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo) 

The strange march to the 1965 war

Inder Malhotra : Mon Nov 26 2012, 03:52 hrs 

On June 30, 1965, an agreement on settling the Kutch conflict was signed (‘Prelude to a war’, IE, November 12) and the process of forming a three-member international tribunal to settle the issue continued all through July. And then, on August 5, some graziers in the Kashmir Valley spotted Pakistani infiltrators, many of them evidently soldiers in mufti, and reported this to the authorities. Eighteen years earlier, Pakistan had used precisely the same stratagem of sending in “raiders” as the first step in its first invasion of Kashmir. Yet the Indian government refrained from declaring Pakistan’s diabolical action to be an act of war. Presumably, Lal Bahadur Shastri hoped that the strong personal message he had sent to Field Marshal Ayub Khan would solve the problem. 

Inexplicably, New Delhi delayed the announcement of this grave development until the late evening of August 8. The next morning I took the first available plane to Srinagar. There was fear in the air but life in the city seemed to be going on normally. At 6 pm, when the whole Valley went under curfew, the mood changed. Suddenly, there appeared in my hotel room Sushital Banerji, a dear friend and an outstanding civil servant. In numerous capacities, he had handled many of Kashmir’s myriad crises. He insisted that I pick up a change of clothes and my shaving kit to accompany him to his home. 

The war no one watched

Shanoor Seervai : Tue Nov 27 2012

In early 2009, as the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE rebels came to a head, the United Nations did not hold a single formal meeting on Sri Lanka. In a conflict that killed 40,000 civilians in its final phase, according to one estimate in a UN report, the Security Council, unable to fit Sri Lanka on its agenda, held “informal interactive dialogue” meetings instead. The same report states there was a continued reluctance among local UN institutions to “stand up for the rights of the people they were mandated to assist”. 

The UN has proven increasingly irrelevant in human rights crises from Rwanda to Serbia and more recently, Syria. But the internal review on Sri Lanka reveals a truth more disturbing than the ineffectiveness of the UN at the level of the SC, which is perpetually gridlocked over resolutions because of the infamous veto power of its permanent members. The field staff in Sri Lanka failed to accurately report on and monitor civilian casualties. As a result, member states and senior staff at headquarters and in Colombo remained blissfully uninformed of the situation’s gravity. 

Threats, Challenges and Capabilities – 2050


A Round Table discussion on the GFAST-DRDO study on "Threats, Challenges and Capabilities – 2050” was conducted at CLAWS campus on 15 Nov 2012. The RT was attended by faculty from CLAWS, DRDO, think tanks and officers from Indian Army. The session was chaired by Lt Gen Aditya Singh, PVSM, AVSM** (Retd). The speaker panel consisted of Brig RK Bhonsle, SM, (Retd), Lt Gen BS Pawar, PVSM, AVSM (Retd), Brig Arun Sahgal, (Retd), Lt Gen D Bhardwaj, PVSM, VSM, (Retd), and Lt Gen AKS Chandele, PVSM, AVSM (Retd). 

Remarks by Chairperson 

The nature of war is undergoing a drastic change and the ability to predict security threats to India in the medium to long term is a daunting task.The traditional definition of war involving organised, armed and prolonged conflict between nation states characterised by high collateral damage is outdated.To cater for the future security challenges three aspects need to be studied, namely:
a) To analyse the emerging threat environment from the immediate and extended neighbourhood
b) Examine operational scenarios to identify the needed capability 
c) To extrapolate the findings to cater to future wars and conflicts 
Today’s deliberations would be restricted to the land theatre. The aspect of no-contact war is gaining popularity as perception of masses to collateral damage leading to enhanced political sensitivities will dictate the course of wars.The applicability and indispensability of technology in future wars combined with their dual usage capacity, needs to be studied in detail. 

'Jugaad': Bane or Boon for soldiers ?

‘Jugaad’ is a Hindi word that translates not only to a noun – it’s a fix, a work-around, an innovative solution – but also encompasses an entire spirit of resourcefulness and resilience. It refers to an improvised solution born from ingenuity in the face of scarcity and adversity and has become the newest management trend across the world. As scarcity drives innovation, the bleak economy of the last few years has brought this stark fact to central focus with the ‘jugaad’ innovators in the corporate world, organisations, universities and myriad other institutions circumventing linear, structured, pre-planned, time-consuming and expensive R&D processes. Their approach is more fluid and cost effective as it infuses key capabilities such as frugality, inclusivity, collaboration, and adaptability into the system which is exactly what is needed in a hyper competitive and fast-moving world. ‘Jugaad’ is increasingly becoming a global approach because rules, regulations, policies and procedures tend to weigh down initiative, resourcefulness and innovation. 

Innovation is possible in limitless ways. Take the example of using old saris to make quilts. The principle at work here is to use the material of the fabric in an application that did not have aesthetics as its primary purpose. Using old saris as outer covers for quilts gave an aesthetic quality to the product and we had a solution that was every bit as good as its more processed counterpart and far cheaper too. The AC sleeper is another innovation which makes travel in air-conditioned comfort feasible to large sections of the population at the cost of giving up some room. It is a compromise but one that takes us up the value curve. 

US aims to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan: report

November 26, 2012 01:13 PM 

Afghan schoolgirls study at an outdoor classroom in the rural district of Laghman province on November 26, 2012. AFP 

WASHINGTON: The administration of President Barack Obama aims to keep around 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after formal combat operations in that country end in 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday. 

Citing unnamed senior US officials, the newspaper said the plan was in line with recommendations presented by General John Allen, commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, who has proposed a force between 6,000 and 15,000 US troops. 

Pentagon weighs Afghanistan troop options after 2014

By Chris Lawrence 

Pentagon officials are considering a preliminary assessment by Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, on "what he needs going forward" in the country as the U.S. looks to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014, a U.S. official tells CNN. 

One of the options being considered is "to keep a force of roughly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan post-2014," according to the official who did not want to be identified discussing ongoing deliberations. The official said that force would comprise a small number of special operations forces dedicated to counterterrorism missions, while the remaining troops "would either continue to train and advise Afghan forces, or assist with logistical issues such as medical evacuations and air support operations." 

The "10,000 option" is just one of several being examined, the official said. The options represented "different ends of the spectrum" in terms of troop levels, the official added, but the official did not provide any detail as to what those options are. 

Design is Dead!

Journal Article | November 26, 2012

We should make no mistake: great commanders have not “done” Design thinking in the past; adding three steps and some critical and creative thinking to the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP)[1] does not mean we “do” Design; and even if our doctrine did incorporate Design thinking our current institutional paradigms are incompatible with the concept. In short, a brigade-level staff doing Design thinking would be undermined by the greater organization in every way possible and, thus, I submit, it is impossible for the military to “do” Design at this point in time. So why do we argue about things like whether we should incorporate Design with MDMP? 

I believe this confusion comes from a misunderstanding of what Design is and where our current concepts come from. For starters, Design is to MDMP as the universe is to apples. MDMP is a rational decision making process that relies on some pretty specific factors to be present in order to be useful (such as a mission and a clearly defined end state). Design is a way of thinking (a philosophy) that rests on the assumption that in uncertain situations (some like to call them “complex”, “wicked”, or “sticky”[2]), a wholly different epistemology (the theory of how we learn and gain knowledge) is necessary- not just a different theory than the current one, but one that allows different theories to emerge that will eventually best fit the situation. Unfortunately, the military is stuck on attempting to force Design principles into our current epistemology, a wholly impossible mission. 

Why Our Best Officers Are Leaving

Why are so many of the most talented officers now abandoning military life for the private sector? An exclusive survey of West Point graduates shows that it’s not just money. Increasingly, the military is creating a command structure that rewards conformism and ignores merit. As a result, it’s losing its vaunted ability to cultivate entrepreneurs in uniform. 

By Tim Kane 

John Nagl still hesitates when he talks about his decision to leave the Army. A former Rhodes Scholar and tank-battalion operations officer in Iraq, Nagl helped General David Petraeus write the Army’s new counterinsurgency field manual, which is credited with bringing Iraq’s insurgency under control. But despite the considerable influence Nagl had in the Army, and despite his reputation as a skilled leader, he retired in 2008 having not yet reached the rank of full colonel. Today, Nagl still has the same short haircut he had 24 years ago when we met as cadets—me an Air Force Academy doolie (or freshman), him a visiting West Pointer—but now he presides over a Washington think tank. The funny thing is, even as a civilian, he can’t stop talking about the Army—“our Army”—as if he never left. He won’t say it outright, but it’s clear to me, and to many of his former colleagues, that the Army fumbled badly in letting him go. His sudden resignation has been haunting me, and it punctuates an exodus that has been publicly ignored for too long. 

Why does the American military produce the most innovative and entrepreneurial leaders in the country, then waste that talent in a risk-averse bureaucracy? Military leaders know they face a paradox. A widely circulated 2010 report from the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College said: “Since the late 1980s … prospects for the Officer Corps’ future have been darkened by … plummeting company-grade officer retention rates. Significantly, this leakage includes a large share of high-performing officers.” Similar alarms have been sounded for decades, starting long before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made the exit rate of good officers an acute crisis. When General Peter Schoomaker served as Army chief of staff from 2003 to 2007, he emphasized a “culture of innovation” up and down the ranks to shift the Army away from its Cold War focus on big, conventional battles and toward new threats. In many respects (weapons, tactics, logistics, training), the Army did transform. But the talent crisis persisted for a simple reason: the problem isn’t cultural. The military’s problem is a deeply anti-entrepreneurial personnel structure. From officer evaluations to promotions to job assignments, all branches of the military operate more like a government bureaucracy with a unionized workforce than like a cutting-edge meritocracy. 

Cyber Attacks From Iran and Gaza on Israel More Threatening Than Anonymous’s Efforts

November 20, 2012

Anonymous, the loose coalition of hackers waging war on Israeli Web sites, is the least of Israel's cyber problems. Its campaign against Israel is a minor annoyance compared with a wave of cyber attacks that have hit the country over the last year from Iran and Gaza.

Since Wednesday - when Israel began airstrikes into Gaza - Anonymous hackers have retaliated with millions of hacking efforts on Israeli government and private business sites, intermittently taking hundreds offline, defacing some with anti-Israel messages, deleting Web databases for others and dumping thousands of citizens' usernames and passwords online.

The campaign, which hackers have dubbed #OpIsrael, is essentially the digital equivalent of a business getting hit with graffiti; it is a costly nuisance, but eventually databases can be recovered, messages removed and sites come back online. Israeli officials say the vast majority of the hacking efforts over the last week on government sites - some 44 million tries by one official's count - have been unsuccessful, with the exception of one site that went "wobbly for a few minutes," the Israeli finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, told reporters, before recovering.

Attacks from Iran and Gaza are another matter.

In July, security researchers at Kaspersky Lab and Seculert, two computer security firms, discovered that a strain of malware had infected Israeli companies. Many of those companies handle critical infrastructure, like the country's energy and water supplies, computer and telecom networks. The malware, which the researchers named "Mahdi" after a command in its code, appears to have originated in Iran. Elements of the code were written in Farsi, dates in the malware's code were formatted according to the Persian calendar, and the domains used in the attacks were registered to Islamic Azad University in Tehran. The term "Mahdi" may have also been a clue; for Shiites, Mahdi is a messianic figure.

Thucydides, Japan and America

By James R. Holmes 
November 27, 2012 

University of Georgia undergraduates used to look at me quizzically when I told them you can learn ninety percent of what you need to know about diplomacy and war by studying a war fought two millennia ago, in a postage-stamp-size theater, between alliances armed with—as my colleagues in Newport like to joke—spears and rowboats. Yet it’s true. War and politics are human endeavors. The dynamics of human interaction endure from age to age. The remainderis mere technological change. 

That’s why Thucydides’ chronicle of the Peloponnesian War still captivates readers. Including policymakers, I hope. As Japanese and American emissaries revise the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation guidelines for the first time since 1998, they could do worse than crack open Thucydides’ history. Tokyo and Washington intend to open discussions early next month, presumably in hopes of adapting the guidelines to China’s military rise. A zero-based review of alliance relations ought to incorporate some historical perspective. Who better to consult than the father of history? 

Politics and the Defense Minister: Why Ehud Barak Resigned

By Karl VickNov. 26, 2012

Xinhua News Agency / eyevine 

Israeli Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on Jan. 17, 2011. 

Historically, there was only one way to understand the resignation of an Israeli Defense Minister in the wake of a conflict that ended in any kind of ambiguity: as an indicator of blame. But Ehud Barak’s surprise announcement Monday morning that he is retiring from politics was truly unexpected, in part because the Israeli military is confident that it prevailed in the eight-day conflict in the Gaza Strip that ended last week. And in military terms, it apparently did. But there’s also the question of politics, and that’s where the problem lay for both Israel in the wake of Gaza and the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history — on the cusp of an election that polls and analysts say offered only humiliation for him. Barak was elected Prime Minister in 1999 by a large margin, but his 20-month term in the office was the briefest in the country’s history, and, electorally at least, it’s been downhill since. 

Russia: Introducing the Putin Doctrine

Nov 26, 2012

Russia’s president flexes his muscle at home and abroad. 

Six months after returning to power in the face of mounting opposition, Russian President Vladimir Putin is exercising his political capital—and doing so in imperial fashion. The most recent example: earlier this month, sitting at a small table in his ornate, oak-walled office in the Kremlin, Putin announced that Russia was creating the world’s largest publicly traded oil company. The goal: to restore the glory of Russia the only way Putin seems to know how—the raw acquisition of power. “He is trying to keep stability, as he sees it, with billions of dollars in oil,” said Evgeny Gontmakher, an analyst at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, a Moscow-based think tank. “I predict chaos.” 

Some have warned that Putin’s third term will witness creeping censorship. (Maxim Shemetov / Reuters-Landov) 

The future of America’s War Colleges

Posted on October 30, 2012 by Tom

But are they learning anything? 

Over the past several years, there’s been a rising anxiety among folks who watch, and work in, America’s PME (Professional Military Education) system. At first, this might seem something of a paradox: America’s war colleges — the senior service academies that provide advanced graduate education to U.S. and selected international officers — have probably never been better than they are today. 

But that’s misleading. “Better than ever” is a low bar to clear, because as recently as a decade ago, many of the departments and programs in the war colleges were in pretty sorry shape, and some still are. Before the Goldwater-Nichols defense reform act of 1986, they were in even worse condition. 

New model Army : Sandhurst's officers of the future

As Sandhurst marks its 200th anniversary, the prospect of active service has boosted numbers of officer cadets, but how will the military academy fare in the future? 

Officer cadets compete in the annual 'log race', a longstanding Sandhurst tradition Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra 

By Rob Blackhurst 
20 Nov 2012 

Early on a golden summer morning, the next generation of Britain’s Army officers are plunging waist-high into a stream that marks the border between Surrey and Berkshire. 

Just like previous officer cadets who have attended Sandhurst over the past two centuries, nine platoons are competing in the annual 'log race’ – taking it in turns to carry a massive log and an ammunition box over several hundred agonising yards of the Royal Military Academy’s grounds.