30 November 2012




It is 50 years since the Chinese invasion of October 1962, but the scars remain. The Tribune revisits the traumatic war, with experts examining the causes, what went wrong and the lessons, in a series.

Why India and China went to war in 1962
The scars of the 1962 war against China that resulted in a humiliating defeat for India still remain 50 years later. Starting today, The Tribune brings you a series of articles by experts on the genesis of the war, India’s political and military blunders and the lessons the country has learnt and should learn

Zorawar Daulet Singh
Indian historian John Lall once observed, "Perhaps nowhere else in the world has such a long frontier been unmistakably delineated by nature itself". How then, did India and China defy topographical odds to lock into an impasse that was ultimately tested on the battlefield?

Paris on the Yangtze

A look at the Western villages and monuments that are popping up all over China.
NOVEMBER 29, 2012

The Eiffel tower in Hangzhou. A French chateau just outside of Beijing. And the charming Austrian alpine village of Hallstat, plunked down in Boluo, a small town of less than a million people about an hour and half’s drive from Guangzhou. Across the Middle Kingdom, replicas of famous Western monuments, landscapes, even entire towns are appearing at a frantic pace. Some argue the carbon copies are simply a manifestation of modern China’s penchant for copyright infringement; others, that they represent an obsession with Western styles and tastes. But archaeologist Jack Carlson, writing in FP, argues it is only the latest example of a broader theme in Chinese history: co-opting duplicates from distant lands to demonstrate China’s place at the center, and as heir to all the world’s achievements. "Then, as now, the projects were intended to showcase China’s own worldliness, wealth, and global supremacy,” Carlson writes. Here are some of the most striking reproductions to arise out of this modern copycat wave.

The Art of the Deal

Why the CIA needs a diplomat, not a spy, to lead it.

With the abrupt departure of Director David Petraeus, the revolving door on the CIA's seventh floor continues to spin: The average tenure of the agency's last five leaders has been less than 20 months.

The timing of this leadership upheaval could not have come at a worse time for the agency. The CIA once ruled the operational and analytic fiefdoms of the U.S. Intelligence Community with near-monopolistic control. But bureaucratic reorganization and the expansion of military intelligence during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars brought an end to a half-century of preeminence. The steady diminution of the CIA's influence over the past decade echoes the travails of Microsoft -- the spy agency is weakened, beset by competitors, and facing an uncertain future.

Syria Has Just Been Taken Offline

By Noah Shachtman

A Syrian internet cafe in 2000. Photo: AP/Hussein Malla
Updated 4:13 pm.

Syria has been largely cut off from the rest of the internet — just as rebel forces are making some of their biggest advances yet against the Assad regime.

“From what we are seeing,” information security specialist Chris Ginley tells Danger Room, “Syria is offline.”

The network monitoring group Renesys reported on Thursday that 77 networks — 92% of the country’s total — began experiencing outages at 10:26 Greenwich Mean Time.

But Syria’s apparently systematic disconnection from the internet actually began at least a week earlier, according to research by the SecDev Group internet analytics firm. Around the middle of the month, Syria’s ordinary handful of daily requests to withdraw from Syria’s BGP [Border Gateway Protocol] routes started to grow to a few hundred per. These connections are what enables one national network to interface with the broader internet. On November 22, the withdrawals suddenly jumped to more than 2000. An even greater spike occurred on November 29.

Israeli Defense Chief Sounds Ready to Hit Iran, Thanks in Part to Iron Dome

By Spencer Ackerman

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visit the Iron Dome interceptor battery in Ashkelon, Israel, August 2012. Photo: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv/Flickr

Israel’s retiring defense chief thinks Iran needs to be “coerced” in 2013 from building an atom bomb, despite any U.S. hopes that sanctions will bring Tehran to the negotiating table. And the recent success of his new, U.S.-funded missile defenses seems to have convinced him that Israel is better able than ever to deter its Iran-backed foes.

“Of course, we would love to see some heavenly intervention that will stop them, to wake up some morning and learn that they’ve given up on their nuclear intentions,” Barak told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday during a joint press conference with Leon Panetta, his American counterpart. “You cannot build a strategy based on these wishes or prayers. Sanctions are working and they are more hurting than anything I remember from the past vis-a-vis Iran, but I don’t believe these kinds of sanctions will bring the ayatollahs to a moment of truth where they sit around a table, look into each other’s eyes and decide that the game is over.”

Rwandan Ghosts

Benghazi isn't the biggest blight on Susan Rice's record.

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — Televised comments made by Amb. Susan Rice shortly after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi have dominated the debate over her probable nomination for secretary of state. This is a bit surprising, since it's clear that she played only a marginal role in the affair and appears to have just been reading from the briefing notes provided. It's also unfortunate that the "scandal" has crowded out a healthy discussion of her two-decade record as U.S. diplomat and policymaker prior to Sept. 2012 -- and drawn attention away from actions for which she bears far greater responsibility than Benghazi.

Her role in shaping U.S. policy toward Central Africa should feature high on this list. Between 1993 and 2001, she helped form U.S. responses to the Rwandan genocide, events in post-genocide Rwanda, mass violence in Burundi, and two ruinous wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Why DOD investigators are finding more wrongdoing among senior officers

Pentagon's Jeh Johnson to AG?; Release the trial balloons: Flournoy as SecArmy; PAO John Kirby on the military and the media, why close relationships matter, and more.

Deadlines, deadlines. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has until tomorrow to send the White House the review of ethics standards among senior officers recently completed by his top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey. A senior defense official tells Situation Report that Panetta has not yet reviewed it but will soon. Panetta's call for the review emerged in the aftermath of the scandal that forced the resignation of retired Gen. David Petraeus from the CIA and put on hold the promotion of ISAF commander Gen. John Allen. But the Pentagon insisted Panetta was thinking of conducting the review long before the scandal broke. Here's partly why:

Pentagon investigators are finding more wrongdoing among senior officers. Investigators at the DOD inspector general's office have seen a rise in the number of investigations against senior officers, typically three- and four-stars (as well as many top civilians) since 2007 - as well as the rate of investigations that actually find that they did something wrong. And the so-called substantiation rate -- meaning that investigators found at least one allegation to be substantiated -- rose from 21 percent in fiscal 2007 to as high as 52 percent in fiscal 2010. In fiscal 2011, it was 39 percent. The number of actual cases only went up a little bit between fiscal 2007 and 2011 - 33 in 2007 to 38 in 2011, for a total number of 155 cases investigated over that period. But it is the substantiation rate for each year that took DoD officials by surprise.

"Over the period of years since July 2008, there has been a gradual increase in the number of allegations that were coming in for misconduct," a former senior defense official familiar with the investigations told Situation Report. "Clearly this was going up, [the DOD IG] was getting more." Moreover, the number of allegations against four-star officers in high-profile positions was on the rise, too, the official said. This did not go unnoticed by then Defense Secretary Bob Gates or, after he arrived, Panetta. Asked what might be behind the rise, the former senior official told Situation Report that often it was a lapse in knowing the rules, or common sense, or just bad bookkeeping.

The Ties That Bind

Economic talks this week represent a new chapter in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has weathered more than its fair share of crises over the years. The experience has taught each of us -- and our respective governments -- that we have much work to do. Over the last few months, we have made real progress on issues critical to the interests of both of our countries. And we are meeting this week in Washington to carry forward this effort, focusing especially on expanding our economic relations. It is clear to us that trade, investment, and private sector growth are the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

The Self-Driving Economy

Will we even need central bankers in a few more years?

Are central bankers the most overrated workers in the global economy? When Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of Canada, was hired by the Bank of England this week, the financial media reacted as though the young Brazilian soccer star Neymar had signed for Barcelona -- a well-known prodigy had finally jumped to the big leagues. It's hard to believe the hype around central bankers, though, when a computer might do the job just as well.

There's no doubt that the job of a central banker is an important one. Countries have increasingly come to rely on monetary policy to smooth out the bumps in their economic cycles. Central banks are usually charged with controlling inflation by expanding and contracting the money supply, and sometimes with protecting their countries from adverse exchange rates.

Mimicking Breivik in Poland

November 29, 2012

By Ben West
Poland's Internal Security Agency announced Nov. 20 that it had arrested "Brunon K," a chemistry professor at the Agricultural University in Krakow who allegedly planned to attack the lower house of the Polish parliament. The arrest came Nov. 9, just two days before Warsaw's annual Independence Day parade, which authorities believe could have been another target. During the arrest, authorities seized ammonium nitrate fertilizer, high-powered, military-grade explosive RDX and other bomb-making equipment. They also seized several hundred rounds of ammunition, a bulletproof vest and a pistol.

Presumably, the suspect in question is Dr. Brunon Kwiecien, who has published multiple chemistry papers at the Agricultural University in Krakow, according to a Polish academic directory. Kwiecien openly espoused anti-government views and accused the Polish government and the European Commission of tyranny. Specifically, he condemned the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which has angered Internet freedom activists in Europe.


The new leadership in China faces new challenges
Rana Mitter

The road to China’s success lies through the tiny house of a man named Liao Dan. I met him in July this year, after he briefly became one of the most famous people in the country. Liao Dan is a poor labourer who lives on the outskirts of Beijing. In 2007, his wife developed a kidney disease and needed dialysis. Liao Dan’s meagre savings soon ran out, and as his wife did not have a Beijing residence permit, she was unable to access even the local basic health care scheme. So Liao Dan turned to more drastic measures, and forged receipts that made it look as if he had paid for his wife’s treatment. The scam worked for several years, until he was caught earlier this year. Now he’s awaiting sentencing for fraud. However, his case made national headlines, and people from all over China sent in donations to pay for his wife’s treatment. Liao Dan told me that he thought that the Chinese government would work to improve conditions for people like him. But is that a likely outcome of the recent leadership change in Beijing?

The shape of the Chinese government in whom Liao Dan’s hopes lie for the next decade was made clear on November 15, when seven men in black suits appeared onstage in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square. The leadership team headed by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang will rule China for the next decade. The incoming Communist Party secretary-general’s speech addressed some of China’s most troubling issues, such as corruption, and gave a nod to internationalism (“China can learn from the world, and the world can learn from China”).

China's Imperial Plagiarism

The People's Republic is building life-size European villages, but not for the reasons you think.

Chinese tourists may be flocking to Europe in record numbers, but now they can see some of the continent's top historical attractions without ever leaving the People's Republic. The Alpine village of Hallstatt, Austria, (a UNESCO World Heritage site on the picturesque shore of the Hallstätter See) has been re-createdin full-scale replica in Boluo, in southern China. Complete with European-style wood houses and the town's signature Roman-numeral clock tower, the made-in-China version of Hallstatt opened this summer for visitors and new residents. The Chinese developers, Minmetals Land Ltd., even got the real mayor of Hallstatt to fly in from Austria to mark the occasion.

Strange as it sounds, the Hallstatt replica is hardly unique in China. The Middle Kingdom is cloning Western monuments, palaces, and entire towns -- often at a frenetic pace and with uncanny accuracy. But why?

The dishonest confidence of political cartography


Wednesday, November 28, 2012
By Dominic Dietrich, The China Post

There is the veneer of authority in a map. A splotch of color bordered by cold, static black lines is the world as it is and as it is for all. Maps, however, are an abstraction of reality. We see the world in a particular way and so we splash this vision onto the page. There is within this a tension.

A fellow editor for this paper recounted to me a story of travels in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. He arrived at the border with a book of maps. Written on certain pages, as in most political cartography, was the term “Israel” — the ink hovering above a portion of land in the Middle East. This was, in the mind of the customs officer, clearly a mistake, one he would promptly fix. Every instance of this word, be it above a squiggle of borders or buried in the index, was totally blacked out. The term was, literally, wiped off the map.

Maps are a statement of the political “reality” as one sees it and in that is the tension. Politics, and so its maps, is now and always has been infused with a strain of postmodernism: no one truth. Many.

This politics of maps has drawn itself into the headlines recently in a way that, were it not for the sour history involved, might be considered cheeky, even comical.

Russia in the Arctic: Economic Interests Trump Military Ambitions

By International Institute for Strategic Studies

A recent mission by a Russian nuclear submarine to the floor of the Arctic Ocean has threatened to reignite the media narrative that regional disputes over the right to unlock the economic potential of the Arctic could result in military confrontation. But it is their mutual economic interests that mean that the five Arctic coastal states are motivated to pursue legal and diplomatic avenues to achieve their aspirations, and have no desire to jeopardise the status quo.

During the Russian operation, known as Arktika-2012, geological material was collected from one of the two underwater mountain ranges that extend from the Russian landmass towards the North Pole. Russia wants to prove that the Lomonosov and Mendeleev ridges are extensions of Russia's continental shelf and part of the Eurasian plate, which, according to the current legal framework, would allow Russia exclusive rights to any potential future resources under the seabed. The details of the project were intended to remain secret, but in November 2012 several news stories about the submarine appeared, citing a Russian defence ministry source.

Despite efforts to build good regional relations among Arctic countries, Russia's neighbours do have concerns about its increasing military presence in the Arctic and its sometimes assertive, anti-Western rhetoric. However, considered in the wider context of Russia's post-Cold War military re-development, its Arctic positioning is not as confrontational as it may seem.

DIY graphic design

By Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress | 28 November 2012

Article Highlights

The diagram leaked to the Associated Press this week is nothing more than either shoddy sources or shoddy science. In either case, the world can keep calm and carry on.

This week the Associated Press reported that unnamed officials "from a country critical of Iran's nuclear program" leaked an illustration to demonstrate that "Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima." The article stated that these officials provided the undated diagram "to bolster their arguments that Iran's nuclear program must be halted."

The graphic has not yet been authenticated; however, even if authentic, it would not qualify as proof of a nuclear weapons program. Besides the issue of authenticity, the diagram features quite a massive error, which is unlikely to have been made by research scientists working at a national level.

The image released to the Associated Press shows two curves: one that plots the energy versus time, and another that plots the power output versus time, presumably from a fission device. But these two curves do not correspond: If the energy curve is correct, then the peak power should be much lower -- around 300 million ( 3x108) kt per second, instead of the currently stated 17 trillion (1.7 x1013) kt per second. As is, the diagram features a nearly million-fold error.

The New Face of Energy Insecurity

Blake Clayton|
November 9, 2012

The future of energy insecurity has arrived. In August, a devastating cyber attack rocked one of the world’s most powerful oil companies, Saudi Aramco, Riyadh’s state-owned giant, rendering thirty thousand of its computers useless. This was no garden-variety breach. In the eyes of U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta, it was “probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date.”

What makes this kind of attack so worrying is the risk it poses to energy prices and hence the U.S. economy. Stopping oil production in Saudi Arabia could turn into a catastrophic loss of oil supplies. Even a short outage could cause prices to fly off the handle, setting off a scramble as market participants rushed to buy oil in case the shortage dragged on. Because the oil market is global in nature, a production outage anywhere can cause oil prices the world over to soar. U.S. officials should take note: A cyber threat to a company so central to the world energy market as Saudi Aramco poses a significant risk to the economic well-being of the United States.

The August attack on Saudi Aramco was only the most recent volley in what Washington has described as “low-grade cyberwar” in the Middle East, in this case likely involving Iran. The Shamoon virus the hackers deployed, judging by its sophistication and signature, was the handiwork of a state-supported effort, according to Secretary Panetta, though some U.S. investigators have disputed that assessment. Security experts surmise that the attack may have involved someone with privileged access to the company’s computer network.

A defense of Paula Broadwell -- from one of her colleagues

November 29, 2012

I've received a lot of interesting feedback to my post earlier this week about Paula Broadwell as a cautionary tale of attempting to get a Ph.D. as a ticket-punching exercise. I promise to write a follow-up post on that particular bugaboo very soon.

However, as I said in that original post, I used Broadwell primarily as the hook to write about the more generic question of why one gets a Ph.D. in the first place. This raises the question of whether I was fair in my treatment of her case. The New America Foundation's Tara Maller argues that I was not. Below is her (unedited by me) defense of Broadwell and her critique of the Broadwell coverage. Read the whole thing:

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been hesitant to weigh in on the debates surrounding the multifaceted situation involving General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell. My reservations have mostly been in light of both my previous role as a former analyst at CIA and someone who has known Paula since 2007, due to her leadership role with Women in International Security in Cambridge, MA. I was deeply saddened by the serious personal mistakes of Broadwell and Petraeus and this piece is not intended to absolve either of blame or responsibility for their personal indiscretions. However, as an individual who studied international relations, worked in government and respected their service and accomplishments, I've been disheartened by the tone, double standards and arguments exhibited in some of the recent media coverage.

Freedom of the press

Fleet Street’s grim reaper
Lord Justice Leveson proposes much tougher press regulation, handing a nasty puzzle to David Cameron

Dec 1st 2012

IN JULY 2011 a muck-raking journalist at the Guardian newspaper revealed that employees of the much bigger News of the World had illegally accessed the mobile-phone messages of a girl who turned out to have been murdered. Other grim revelations followed. For a few mad days it seemed as though every paranoid theory about illegality and cover-up in Fleet Street was proved correct. David Cameron, the prime minister, demanded a judge-led inquiry. Lord Justice Leveson, an appeal-court judge, was chosen to conduct a full review of the press and recommend ways of taming its worst abuses. But the problem with asking a judge to investigate something is that he will eventually produce a report.

Lord Justice Leveson’s, released on November 29th, broadly criticises reporters, newspaper proprietors, police and politicians. The practice of hacking mobile phones, it says, was widely known about and tolerated. The press is often thuggish, harrying some people who are regarded as newsworthy only because their children have disappeared or committed suicide. The Press Complaints Commission (PCC), an industry-funded body that deals with gripes against the newspapers, is largely toothless. Something tougher is required, the judge argues. He proposes a new body that would be more independent of the newspaper industry than the PCC but also, in theory, free from political meddling (it could include serving editors). It should also provide a cheap forum for resolving libel disputes.

Where the Past Is Not Prologue

Monday, Dec. 10, 2012
By Fareed Zakaria

Yasser Arafat's body has been exhumed for investigation, bringing back memories of the unpredictable Palestinian leader and the Middle East in which he operated. That news broke just as a conventional wisdom began to take hold that the Middle East today is much more dangerous, unstable, violent and anti-American than before. Let's take a look at the facts.

In the 1980s, the newly empowered, radical Islamic Republic of Iran unsettled the Middle East with its promise to spread its revolution to the rest of the region. The other powerful players were despots like Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad, backed and supplied with arms by the Soviet Union. Lebanon was in the midst of a bloody civil war that engulfed not only itself but also the Palestinians and Israel. Iran and Iraq fought a gruesome war with over 1 million casualties. Hizballah attacked U.S. armed forces directly, forcing a humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon. A CIA station chief was captured and tortured, and U.S. secrets and interests compromised. And that was just in one decade!

Consider those days from Israel's point of view. During the 1980s, Jerusalem faced well-armed regimes in Iraq and Syria, leading members of the rejectionist camp that urged permanent hostilities against Israel. No Arab regime other than Egypt would speak openly of peace with Israel. The official charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization called for the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state. Arafat's chief tactic was terrorism against Israelis, Europeans and Americans.

The Bomb Returns for a Second Act

Paul Bracken is a professor of management and political science at Yale University and was previously a member of the senior staff of the Hudson Institute under Herman Kahn and a consultant to the RAND Corporation. He serves on several Department of Defense advisory boards and works with global multinational corporations on strategy and technology issues. He is also a member of FPRI’s Board of Advisors. This essay is adapted from his new book The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics. The audiofile of his November 16 FPRI Booktalk can be accessed here.
PDF Version

Syria: The clouds darken for Assad

by Rodger Shanahan - 29 November 2012

The focus on Gaza over the last two weeks shifted the spotlight away from Syria, but for those still watching, the momentum appears to be shifting towards the rebels.

The opposition appears to have redoubled its military and political efforts over the past few weeks. It is no coincidence that the end of the hiatus coincided with the US elections, as opposition forces and regional states waited to see who would be in power in Washington. President Obama's victory speech was delivered on 6 November; the Syrian opposition agreed in-principle to form a more inclusive body just five days later.

The rebel forces have recently made some gains in the north and northeast of the country, looking to isolate Aleppo and force Assad to abandon it if Damascus is unable to resupply its forces or if Assad considers it more important to protect the capital and its lifeline to the west coast.

Palestine and the Peloponnesus

James Jay Carafano
November 29, 2012

At some point, Hamas and Israel will have had so many armed confrontations that they’ll have to stop naming the operations and just give them numbers. But don’t think these future conflicts will be indistinguishable from what’s happened so far. At some point, these flare-ups could get worse—a lot worse.

Serious Standoff

So far the duels between the Israeli military and Hamas and other armed factions in Gaza have been tactical skirmishes. Neither side has had any notion that they are trying to grab some kind of decisive advantage that would change the standoff that has prevailed—and hardened—since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

After all the back and forth of the last few weeks, Israel can claim that it has decimated Hamas military infrastructure and depleted its war stocks. So what? Hamas can rearm. Hamas can preen that it wrestled some concessions from Tel Aviv, that it garnered pats on the back from Egypt and Turkey and that its stock is on the rise on the Arab Street. Again, so what? The people of Gaza are still caught in the crossfire and saddled with a corrupt regime that can’t deliver peace or jobs. So the two sides are back to the status quo, but with more innocents killed and maimed on each side.

The Cost of Riding the Tiger: Hamas’s Road from Miscalculation to Escalation

Posted by Barak MendelsohnNovember 19, 2012

The recent escalation in the fighting between Israel and Hamas caught many observers of international politics in the U.S. by surprise. Until Israel’s assassination of Hamas’s military chief Ahmed Jabari last Tuesday, the fire exchange between Gaza and Israel appeared to be just another round in an almost routine never-ending cycle of violence between the two sides. While in this round Hamas seemed emboldened and raised the stakes, primarily by attacking an Israeli mobile patrol inside Israeli territory with an anti-tank missile, the fire exchange still seemed like "old news" in comparison to other developments in the challenging security environment in the Middle East following the Arab Awakening and the increased tensions with Iran.

There were good reasons to suspect that this round of violence would remain controlled and end quickly. After Israel’s operation “Cast Lead” (December 08-January 09) came to its end, the level of violence between the warring sides declined considerably. The resolution of the Shalit affair only a year ago, in which the kidnapped soldier was exchanged for a thousand Palestinian prisoners, led many to believe that Israel and Hamas had found a way to at least manage their conflict. The current escalation suggests otherwise. Given that it usually takes two parties for such an escalation, and that the devastation brought by Israel’s ferocious bombing campaign in Gaza is reminiscent of the scarring damage it inflicted on the Gaza Strip less than four year ago, Hamas’s part in the lead-up to this round of violence is puzzling.

Cyber Power in Strategic Affairs: Neither Unthinkable nor Blessed

Posted by David Betz
November 28, 2012

This is a crosspost with my normal blog-home Kings of War, the blog of the War Studies Department of King's College London where I have the pleasure to be based normally. If you've not visited our blog before come have a look. It's full of across-the-pond perspectives on various matters of war and strategy that preoccupy Geopoliticus readers.

Geopoliticus readers may be interested in a new article of mine just published in the Journal of Strategic Studies 'Cyber Power in Strategic Affairs: Neither unthinkable nor Blessed' which the publishers have made free to access for non-subscribers.

It's my attempt to broaden the discussion of 'cyber' beyond computer networks and to look at the effect of 'connectivity' (my preferred term) on strategic affairs more broadly. My view, in a nutshell, is that its effect on war's character is potentially, although not yet shown in practice, considerably large; but its effect on war's nature is small. The distribution of power among states in the international system is not reversed by cyber power, contrary to the claims of ‘cyber war’ alarmists. It makes strong states stronger and weak states weaker, not strong states weaker and weak states stronger--as is too often thought. Its effect upon strategic affairs is complex, however. One thing which I believe strategists today, still predominantly concerned with the conflicts and confrontations of states and organised military power, have not fully grasped is how non-traditional strategic actors, better adapted to the network flows of the information age, are beginning to deploy new forms of organisation and coercion that challenge the status quo.

Gerald L. Curtis: The Declinist Debate is a Diversion

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
November 29, 2012
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Is Japan in decline? Frankly I don’t think that spending a lot of time trying to answer that question is worth the effort.

Japan is declining in some respects and in other important ways it is not declining at all. It is well known that Japan’s relative standing in the hierarchy of the world’s economies has declined. Japan as number one has given way to a Japan that is number three. But would you prefer to live in the number two economy China or the number three economy Japan? If you think about living standards and the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat, the health care and other social services you receive, and the number of years you can expect to live, the answer is obvious: better to live in a “declining” Japan than in a rising China.

Why Global Fuel Prices Will Spark the Next Revolutions

By Vivienne WaltNov. 28, 2012
Mohammad Hannon / AP

Protesters at al Baqaa Palestinian Refugee Camp confront riot police and chant anti-king Abdullah slogans during a demonstration against the end of government fuel subsidies in Baqaa, Jordan, Nov. 15, 2012.

While the demonstrators that have mobbed the streets of Amman for two weeks now are demanding the overthrown of King Abdullah — a criminal offense in Jordan — it’s not the demand for democracy that sparked their protests. Instead, thousands of Jordanians have been spurred to act by a more basic issue: the rising price of gas after the government withdrew its subsidies.

Jordanians are hardly alone in their anger. Governments across the world are attempting to wean their citizens off subsidized fossil fuels —a critical issue which environmentalists say is a big contributor to the output of carbon gases that contribute to global warming, and which have even more immediately burdened public finances the world over by an estimated total of $523 billion last year — a 30% increase over the previous year. “In a lot of emerging and developing countries you see fuel subsidies, where the government is picking up the tab,†says Helen Mountford, deputy director of the environmental directorate for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, in Paris, which represents the world’s biggest economies. “In many cases it has been put in place to help support the poor.â€

Report Release: A New US Defense Strategy for a New Era

November 15, 2012

The changing global security landscape and worsening fiscal outlook demand significant adjustments to national security strategy and budgeting, according to an extensive, year-long study released today by Stimson: A New US Defense Strategy for a New Era.

The report is the work of an independent task force of experts - the "Defense Advisory Committee" - convened by Stimson to explore the question of US defense planning and spending in light of looming defense cuts that are part of the Fiscal Cliff.

The diverse committee, which draws on the expertise of 15 former military officers, defense strategists, and international affairs experts, including General James Cartwright, Leslie Gelb, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, came to a consensus on how best to approach today's military threats and priorities. In addition to setting out ten key operating principles that emphasize greater efficiency and effectiveness throughout the Defense Department, the report concludes that a successful defense strategy could be achieved at budget levels significantly lower than present.

Dr. Barry Blechman, Chairman of the Committee and Co-Founder of Stimson, explains "The vast experience and perspectives this committee brought to the table helped shape a promising new defense strategy, which we call 'Strategic Agility.' It does not dictate a particular force structure but demonstrates how the US can achieve a better defense strategy to meet our security needs, while acknowledging the fiscal crisis facing the country."

Syrian Internet cutoff may be precursor to Assad offensive

Posted By John Reed 
November 29, 2012

Syrian opposition groups and international aid groups are hustling to figure out a way for Syrian civilians to gain access to the outside world after nearly all Internet -- and possibly cell phone service inside the country went down today.

Many are concerned that this communications blackout is the precursor to a nation-wide massacre by the Assad regime.