18 February 2013

The toothless Armed Forces Tribunal?

By Navdeep Singh
18 Feb , 2013

No one will ever reach even bit of dedication of a SOLDIER ..!!

The concept of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) needs redemption, and urgently so, by all stakeholders. In 2009, just about three and a half years ago, the AFT became functional with much fanfare as an “independent” forum to adjudicate matters related to defence personnel. It’s 2013, but despite best efforts of the adjudicating members and those representing litigants, AFT’s justice delivery system leaves much to be desired. Litigants hence cannot be blamed for lamenting at times that they were better-off having their cases heard by High Courts, the independence and majesty of which cannot be matched by the system of tribunalisation. The problems are multifarious. Let us run through some of them.

Most orders in favour of litigants are challenged by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) before the Supreme Court, thereby making it extremely difficult for defence personnel to effectively defend their cases because of the exorbitant cost of litigation involved.

No power to enforce its orders

The AFT is a tribunal which does not possess powers of civil contempt. Though there is mention of civil contempt in the rules and forms framed under the AFT Act, the substantive provision is missing,which shows that it was chopped from the drafting table somewhere along the way. The reason is not far to seek, even when the Bill for introduction of civil contempt powers was recently introduced and referred to the Standing Committee on Defence, the defence services themselves reportedly opposed the grant of powers of contempt to the Tribunal.

In the Act, there is a vague mention of power of execution of orders passed by the AFT but there is no procedure prescribed for such execution. Till date the Tribunal survives on ambiguity. So if a person is not released on bail when ordered by the Tribunal or not reinstated when acquitted or not granted his or her pension when directed, there isn’t much that the litigant can do.

Since there is no power of enforcement, most orders are not implemented unless litigants re-approach the Tribunal seeking implementation. Most orders in favour of litigants are challenged by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) before the Supreme Court, thereby making it extremely difficult for defence personnel to effectively defend their cases because of the exorbitant cost of litigation involved.

Even when a proactive rule is to be introduced or changed, the matter is referred to the defence services and departmental bureaucracy, which of course tends to be more inclined towards looking after its own interests and keeping the Tribunal toothless.

Recently the ministry informed Parliament that only 303 judgements remained unimplemented whereas the actual number is estimated to be between 4,000-5,000. Written instructions have been passed not to implement orders unless the petitioner re-approaches the Tribunal with an execution petition. Implementation is refused on the pretext that the AFT orders are not in consonance with government policy! Now if government policy is sacrosanct, then why would any interpretation be required from a Tribunal? Courts are required to interpret, read-down, harmonize, and if required, strike down policies.

Control of the Ministry of Defence

The AFT currently functions under the MoD which controls its infrastructure, appointments, rule-making and much of everything else. Though the independence of its Members can hardly be doubted, for a litigant it seems more of an extension of the state — a government instrumentality rather than an independent judicial forum. A fright, since the cases were hitherto being heard by the judiciary whose hallmark is independence, given the separation of powers under our democratic system.

The AFT is a part of, and dependent upon the MoD — that very ministry against which it is to pass all orders. Even when a proactive rule is to be introduced or changed, the matter is referred to the defence services and departmental bureaucracy, which of course tends to be more inclined towards looking after its own interests and keeping the Tribunal toothless. For example, the matter whether or not civil contempt powers were to be granted or not was referred to the three services but the question arises as to why would the defence services affirm grant of teeth to the AFT when those teeth are to ultimately bite them on disobedience of orders?

Notwithstanding the SC decision, the remarks of the committee and orders of High Courts, the MoD continues to harp that orders of AFT can only be challenged before the SC.

Despite orders of the Supreme Court in L. Chandrakumar Vs Union of India (1997) and Union of India Vs R. Gandhi (2010) and of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Navdeep Singh Vs Union of India (2012) to the effect that tribunals should be placed under the Ministry of Law and Justice, most of the tribunals continue functioning under their sponsoring or parent ministries, notwithstanding the laudable efforts of the law ministry to implement SC decisions which are being resisted by most ministries.

The reason behind this resistance is ostensibly the fact that ministries feel that they would “lose hold” over tribunals. An otiose argument since the executive anyway is not supposed to maintain hold over judicial bodies. The MoD has not even provided basics such as security to the institution or official accommodation to members. Rules are also arbitrarily notified. For example, the MoD recently made it compulsory for petitioners to file affidavits with their petitions. Court fee is only accepted through postal orders or bank drafts. Now imagine personnel posted in field and isolated areas looking for notaries to get affidavits attested or looking for post offices and banks to remit court fee! While the world moves away from red-tapism, the same is adopted with impunity by the officialdom. Business in tribunals, as also held by Courts, should be user-friendly, informal and procedure-free and that is the reason why even the Code of Civil Procedure is not applied to most tribunals, but the MoD does not seem to think so.

Fractured provisions

The drafting of the AFT Act has been messy. Besides the absence of any power of enforcement, appeal has been instituted directly to the Supreme Court. This despite the fact that the parliamentary committee discussing provisions of appeal had remarked that though an appeal was being provided to SC for questions of general public importance, similar provisions for the Central Administrative Tribunal had been interpreted by the SC earlier wherein it was held that jurisdiction of High Courts could not be ousted and hence AFT orders would also have to be challenged as per Constitutional provisions.

The vacancy notification for administrative members is also not published in any newspaper. Administrative members of the first batch were selected mostly on basis of military seniority.

Notwithstanding the SC decision, the remarks of the committee and orders of High Courts, the MoD continues to harp that orders of AFT can only be challenged before the SC. Elsewhere in the Act, there are parts which require amendment but rather than legislatively amending those provisions, the MoD has issued executive gazette notifications for amendment. Now can a Parliamentary Act be amended by an executive order?

Adversarial role of Ministry of Defence

The role played by the defence ministry is adversarial towards litigants, where petitioners are viewed as “enemies of the system.” Even settled and covered matters are not conceded, government counsel not briefed fairly and all pleas are opposed as if it is state policy to increase litigation and live off the miseries of poor personnel. Unwanted, forced and imposed multiple litigation up to the SC is the order of the day and shockingly most appeals filed by the MoD are against disabled soldiers.

The vacancy notification for administrative members is also not published in any newspaper. Administrative members of the first batch were selected mostly on basis of military seniority. Care however must be taken to select administrative members on merits with a balanced, sensitive and flexible approach since, besides other issues, they are also to deal with cases of disabled soldiers and military widows. In fact even a short judicial capsule is desirable to enable the selectees unlearn military rigidity and to ensure that they transform themselves into adjudicators without institutional bias rather than representatives of the establishment. Litigants expect the AFT to be free, progressive and proactive, not conservative and inhibited.

Till the time issues concerning the AFT in particular and military justice in general are suitably addressed, preferably by a body under the law ministry totally independent of the influence of the MoD, concepts of justice and equality so cherished in our democracy and which form the gruondnorm of the Preamble of our Constitution, would merely remain high sounding words with little practical usage for military litigants.

Who is the biggest enemy China, Pakistan or Babus?

By Maj Gen Satbir Singh

18 Feb , 2013

The Ministry of Defence had itself accepted through affidavits and submissions before the SC that implementation of the judgement in rank and pay would involve re-fixation of not only the Fourth Pay Commission, but would affect successive pay commissions.

Once again the Ministry of Defence has betrayed its soldiers. The Supreme Court judgement in the rank pay case has not been implemented in letter and spirit, making it largely redundant. The MoD has not only denied pay scale upgradation for officers but also, as a result, left out re-fixation of pensions of those who retired before January 1986 as well as consequential benefits to all officers arising out of the implementation of the fifth and sixth pay commissions. This is another case of bureaucratic manipulation against soldiers. The ministry’s letter of December 27, 2012 is applicable to only about 20,000 officers who were holding the rank of Captain to Brigadier on January 1, 1986, whereas it should have covered all officers who are in receipt of pay or pension or family pension which is about 80,000.

The MoD should be questioned as to how the rank of Captain, which was shown before the Supreme Court as equal to Senior Time Scale (STS) till the Third Pay Commission (TPC), was suddenly degraded in the FPC, making STS equal to Major.

The Apex Court clearly ruled that the rank pay granted by the Fourth Pay Commission (FPC) was wrongly deducted from basic pay and ordered re-fixation of pay “with effect from” and not “as on” January 1, 1986, as mentioned in the letter. The letter states that the judgement has no bearing on fifth and sixth pay commissions, and that there shall be no change in instructions issued thereof except those necessitated due to re-fixation of pay on January 1, 1986.

India, Maldives Reach Diplomatic Impasse

By Sanjay Kumar 
February 15, 2013 

In the Maldives, the old authoritarian style of leadership and the politics of vendetta threaten to reverse the country’s hard-won democratic advances. 

In a dramatic development, Mohamed Nasheed, who until last year was the democratically elected president of the island nation, took political refuge in the Indian Embassy in Male on Tuesday, after a court in the Maldives issued a warrant for his arrest. 

The warrant was issued after Nasheed failed to appear at a hearing related to charges that he had illegally ordered the detention of chief justice Abdulla Mohamed in December 2011.
The arrest order sparked a controversy that led to Nasheed’s ouster in what the former president called a coup. 

The warrant for Nasheed’s arrest has expired and the Maldives government has declared him a free man. However, the former president is unwilling to leave the embassy compound until authorities assure him that he will not be arrested and will be permitted to campaign in the presidential elections scheduled for September 7. 

Nasheed’s refuge in the Indian embassy has dragged New Delhi into the Maldives’ domestic political turmoil. So far India has operated on Nasheed’s behalf, without interfering in the internal tug of war. Nonetheless, a section of the ruling elite in Male has accused New Delhi of meddling in the country’s domestic issues. 

Wilder Ness

By Neha Bhatt

Wildlife or history, spot it in Chhattisgarh 

Tribhuvan Tiwari 
Sight & Sound A wooden machan cottage at Muba Resort 

Chhattisgarh: barnawapara 

How to get there: Raipur is the nearest airport/railhead 
What to do there: Wildlife safaris, picnics at Mahanadi, visit to Sirpur 
Tariff: Rs 3,600 for doubles, inc­luding meals 
Contact: Zafar Khan 09303037453, 09826155133, www.mubaresorts.com

As the network signal on our mobile phones grows weaker, the dry, desolate fields give way to tall bamboo groves, mahua, tendu trees, signalling our proximity to the jungle. We are headed to the Barnawapara wildlife sanctuary, 95 km east of Raipur, Chhattisgarh, which falls just off the highway that goes all the way to Calcutta. 

Gypsy Does It Jeep safaris to track wildlife at the sanctuary. (Photography by Tribhuvan Tiwari) 

Two hours ago, we had landed at the shiny new Raipur airport from Delhi and been whisked away in a Gypsy by the gregarious wildlife enthusiast Zafar Khan, owner of Muba Resorts, our nest for the next two days. It had rained in Raipur earlier that morning, before we arrived, so the breeze was cool, and the sun, muted. Having left behind a drenched, wintry Delhi, we really couldn’t have asked for a more pleasing start to the day. By mid-morning, as hunger pangs began, we had a quick pitstop at Neta Jee Dhaba at Aarang, 45 minutes into our journey, for the most wonderfully crisp and peppery moong dal vada and kadak masala chai. Sure, now we really were all set to explore the wilder side of Chhattisgarh. Another hour or so later, we fell off the highway completely and took the dirt-track into the wilde­rness, all the way to the edge of the Barnawapara jungle in Barbaspur village, where our hotel for the night, Muba’s Machaan, is located. 

The Intelligence Question

By B. Raman
Feb 14,2013

The time has come to consider the introduction in the Indian intelligence community the concept of shared responsibility between the Executive and the Parliament 

Intelligence agencies have to be accountable to the Executive. Otherwise, there will be no secrecy in their functioning. Without effective secrecy, there cannot be clandestine collection of intelligence having a bearing on national security. Nowhere in the world —not even in the much cited US is the executive not primarily responsible for the effective functioning of the clandestine agencies. 

However, in an increasing number of democracies, the Executive voluntarily shares with the legislature part of the responsibility for monitoring the performance of the secret agencies to ensure their competence to protect national security and to prevent wrong-doings.

In the US, the Executive and the Congress negotiate from time to time the ground rules for sharing this responsibility. The ground rules are so designed that in the anxiety to provide for accountability, the capability of the agencies to function as the clandestine arm of the State is not blunted.

The US Congress now has the following powers in respect of the agencies of the intelligence community: 
  • To satisfy itself regarding the professional suitability of the heads of the agencies. The Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee goes into the suitability of designated heads and has to confirm their appointment. 
  • To go into the overall budgetary allocations for different agencies and satisfy itself that correct national security priorities are observed in making the allocations. The Congress does not, however, go into allocations for individual clandestine operations. For example, the Congressional Oversight Committees decide whether allocations made for monitoring nuclear developments in North Korea are adequate and appropriate, but cannot go into how the allocations are utilized on individual operations. 
  • To examine the intelligence produced by the agencies to satisfy itself that they adequately meet the national security needs. 
  • To enquire into instances of wrong-doing by the intelligence agencies. 

The Blade Runners

By Toral Varia Deshpande

Defence minister A.K. Antony 

defence scam: chopper deal 
A chopper deal, an ex-IAF chief, another defence scam busts out 

Is it A Bird, Is It Bond? 

The tale of IAF’s affair with the AgustaWestland chopper, one of which is seen in new James Bond flick, Skyfall. 
  • 2000: IAF floats a ‘Request For Proposal’ with specific needs. After trials Eurocopter’s EC 225 emerges as the only qualifier. 
  • 2003: The SPG objects to the choice of EC 225 due to its short cabin height (1.39 metres) 
  • 2003: NSA Brajesh Mishra asks the IAF to invite more vendors and consult the SPG. 
  • 2003: IAF redraws the specs, calls for helicopters able to fly at an altitude of 4,500 m with 1.80 m minimum cabin height. 
  • 2005: Air Marshal S.P. Tyagi takes over as IAF chief. 
  • 2006: Air HQ, MoD’s acquisition wing issue a fresh RFP based on the specs changed in 2003. 
  • 2006: One vendor each from Russia, America and Italy responded to the RFP. 
  • March 2007: Tyagi retires. Fali Major is new IAF chief. 
  • 2007: Russian firm withdraws due to non-compliance with India’s new Defence Procurement Policy. 
  • 2008-2009: Air trials between AgustaWestland and Sikorsky conducted. IAF evaluations find Sikorsky’s S-92 non complaint. 
  • 2010: A contract with AgustaWestland for delivery of 12 VVIP choppers signed. 
Talk On Tap 

Wherein middleman Gerosa pretends he’s an Indian judge to test Haschke. 

Carlo: Tell us, you collected the money, where have you kept it? 

Haschke: Eh, I collected it, it’s my f***ing business where I have kept it. I didn’t pay anyone. 

Carlo: Ok, where have you kept it? 

Haschke: I wasted it on ballerinas and champagne. And then… 

Carlo: Yes, but 10-15 million euros on ballerinas and champagne… 

Haschke: Ballerinas and champa­gne. They anyway have to demonstrate I took it ( the money) 

Carlo: …the only one who has no risks is Julie…there is really no link because, I mean…cash 

Haschke: Exactly, so (the judges) will never be able to prove that corruption was there. 

Whispers of an impending scam in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland chopper deal have been doing the rounds for over a year now. It finally took the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, chairman and CEO of the Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, and three others earlier this month to bring the kickbacks buzz right to the doorstep of former chief of the Indian air force, S.P. Tyagi. 

With yet another scam threatening to blow up in the face of the UPA government, the MoD has ordered a CBI probe into the deal, which included pur­chase of 12 swanky helicopters to ferry around top Indian dignitaries. The Enf­orcement Directorate is looking into the money trail—kickbacks allegedly being paid to the ex-air chief through his cousins. 

The BJP, elated at another opportunity to embarrass the government, is alr­eady calling it the “Bofors sequel”. Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, one of the first to raise the issue in the Rajya Sabha in December, says ironically, “The country which would have benefited from the deal has taken action while the country which lost money has not done anything.” Int­er­estingly, his query then was answered by assurances from def­ence minister A.K. Antony that a probe by the MoD acquisitions wing was under way. But it seems the Italians were a few chopper sorties ahead. Inte­r­es­tingly, this will be the first defence scam where the alleged money trail, the middlemen have all been identified. In fact, they have even confessed their part in offering kickbacks. The Italian connection hasn’t been mis­sed here by the Opposition, “St Antony” and “Madam Sonia” are sure to have a tough time of it when Parliament reconvenes on February 21. 

For now, the delivery of nine helicopters has been put on hold (three of them have already been delivered). And while 30 per cent of the payment has been made, the next inst­alm­ent stays cancelled till the outcome of the CBI probe. Antony has gone on to say that “India can get its money back at this stage” suggesting a very real possibility of the deal being scrapped altogether. The MoD, in damage control mode, has come out with a factsheet detailing how they had written to the company M/s Agusta­Westland, the Indian embassy in Rome and various other authorities in Italy as soon as media reports of an alleged deal started appearing in February ’12. It still doesn’t explain, though, why a formal CBI inquiry was not ordered back then. 

The revelations about possible kickbacks came as far back as a year ago from Lorenzo Borgogni, former head of Finmeccanica’s external relations department. It was his disclosures that led to a full-fledged Italian investigation into alleged unethical dealings by the company, bringing within its ambit the Rs 3,546-crore contract with India. 

Flying low Brajesh Mishra. (Photograph by Sanjay Rawat) 

The Italian investigators’ focus in the Bor­g­ogni testimony was his allegation that one of the middlemen, Guido Has­chke, was hired as an “intermediary” for a sum of 41 million euros. This “compensation” was alleged to have been hiked at the last minute by 10 million euros. The Italian investigators zeroed in on this ‘escalation’, which was allegedly used by company officials to bribe political parties there for plum postings. 

The investigators from Italy’s attorney general’s office, in a preliminary report filed on February 12, called for the arrest of Finmeccanica CEO Giu­se­ppe Orsi. It was here that they alleged that Finm­eccanica had bribed S.P. Tyagi when he was iaf chief to swing the chopper deal in favour of the company. (The kickbacks were allegedly paid through his cousins Julie, Sandeep and Dosca. Julie has business associations with Carlo Gerosa, another of the middlemen.) Some Rs 217 crore was apparently kept aside for “corrupt activity” out of which disclosures so far have suggested that the Tyagi cousins were paid Rs 72 lakh. The payment of bribes to the middlemen through contracts between firms registered in Tunisia and India was “still under way” when the scam was discovered. 

The report further alleges that technical requirements for the contract were tweaked by India only so as to allow the Agu­sta­Westland chopper to enter the bidding process and that kickbacks of millions of euros were paid in Italy and India. The investigation report also says that Orsi and middlemen Has­chke, Gerosa and Chris­tian Michel fac­i­litated the payments to India. “Haschke and Gerosa, through the Tyagi brothers, in turn through their cousin Shashi Tyagi, managed first to change the tender det­ails in a way that would only favour Agu­­sta­­­Westland, modifying the ‘operational ceiling’ from 18,000 ft to 15,000 ft of altitude, thus allowing AgustaWestland (which other­wise could not have even submitted an offer) to take part in the tender,” the report says. It also alleges that the flight trials were tweaked. The trials were conduc­ted after Tyagi retired in 2007. “Then they managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with a non-functional engine, thus facilitating Agusta­West­land helicopters, the only ones which had three engines. In this way, they managed to get the contract...,” the report says. 

Interestingly, it was Brajesh Mishra, national security advisor in the BJP-led NDA government, who ordered the specification changes after con­­­sultations with the spg in ’03. The late George Fer­nandes was defence minister then. (Jaswant Singh, NDA defence minister for a while, has come out publicly in support of S.P. Tyagi and the chopper deal saying it’s normal procedure for specs to be changed. Then he goes on to ask, “If my cousin is a robber, does that make me one too? You must be careful of guilt by association”, apparen­tly a considered defence of the ex-air chief.) 

While investigations take their course, the taint of kickbacks has spread through the defence establishment. For a start, there is a clear danger of future acquisitions being delayed by an overcautious government. Which brings in its wake an alarming question: will this take a toll on the modernisation of our already dated armed forces? Only time will tell.

Kumbh Mela Diary

By Mark Tully

I’ve described kumbh melas as spiritual trade fairs; when we arrived this time we found the fair in full swing. 

Fun and Fair 

My partner Gillian Wright and I managed to persuade the BBC that they wanted a programme about the Kumbh Mela for their Radio 4 network. This took us to Allahabad for our third Maha Kumbh. I’ve described kumbh melas as spiritual trade fairs; when we arrived this time we found the fair in full swing. Maha­tmas, mahamandaleshwars, sadhus and sants had all set up their stalls and scattered their advertisements around the vast fair ground. There was a deafening cacophony of music sacred and Bollywood, mixed with loudspeakers blaring the messages of the multitude of men and women who had come to put across their religious messages. The faithful were wandering from guru to guru, sampling discourses and listening to recitations of the great Hindu epics. The camps of the akharas, the historic monastic orders, were a big attraction. 

The Kumbh Theology 

I’ve always seen the Kumbh Mela as a magnificent demo­ns­t­ration of the variety of Hinduism and its acceptance that there are many different roads to God. Ma Purn Pragnya, a member of the Nagaur royal fam­ily who has robed herself in saffron, gave us an impressive discourse which seemed to confirm that plurality until she said that in the end all roads led to Vedanta. However, my faith in Hindu plu­ralism was reconfirmed by the Kabir panthis, who are so opposed to ritualism that they don’t believe in bathing in the Ganges. Their acharya told us it was better to bathe under a tap because the water was cleaner. My theology was stretched by a dis­cussion on the vexed subject of sin with the American Sadhvi Bhagvati, an enthusiastic par­ticipant in the Ganga Action Plan launched by her Guru, Swami Chidanandji. She pointed out that Christians, like me, regard ourselves as mis­erable sinners whereas Hindus believe that God resides within them, which I had to admit was a more positive assessment of the human race. Among those representing the Hindu tradition of asce­ti­cism we found Mahant Bholagiri Bapu holding his withered left arm in the air. He told us he had been performing that tapasya for 37 years. Ashok Singhal, former president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, represented political Hinduism, altho­ugh he denied he had anything to do with politics. He saw the Kumbh as evidence that India was a spiritual nation where religious harmony was perfect, but went on to say that religions which converted would be crushed. 

The Great Bath 

On the day of the great bath we found ourselves pressed up against a bam­boo barricade on the edge of the space reserved for the akharas bathing. In the two previous Kumbhs, the police had kept this space clear but this time they failed to do so. When I complained about the ineffectiveness of the UP police, my old friend Ramdutt Tripathi, the BBC Lucknow corres­pon­dent, said, “What do you exp­ect them to do, lathi­charge and cause a stampede?” He had a point. Eventually the police horses, unperturbed by the sea of people and the din, gently pushed the cro­wds back and cleared space for the akhara pro­ces­sions. Our loyalties were with the Juna Akhara. Their acharya, Advesha­nandji, sat on a silver how­dah mounted on a tractor trolley, not an ele­phant as tradition dem­an­ded. They have been ban­ned since one ran amuck and caused a stam­pede in the 1953 Kumbh. Earlier, we had recorded a long interview with the scho­larly head of the akh­ara and he had allowed us to witness the midnight ceremony at which more than a thousand initiates with shaved heads, and naked except for the thi­n­nest of thongs, took their vows of ren­un­ci­ation. They were among the army of Naga sadhus who marched in front of their acharya in the pro­ces­s­ion, leaping and whooping for joy. When they bathed, they splashed each other like children. 

The Heroes of the Kumbh 

The heroes of the Kumbh are the millions of villagers who endure overcrowded trains and buses, then trudge for miles, carrying their possessions on their heads, to wait patiently for their turn to bathe. If it wasn’t for their patience, if they behaved like a normal crowd, the mela would be unma­na­geable. Those who mock their faith as superstition, and many do, insult what gives them the strength to live with hardships that we the elite could not bear. The administrators who spent months planning the mela deserve praise too. So do the police for showing unusual restraint and eventually producing order out of apparent chaos. Even the railways shouldn’t, I feel, be cast in the role of villains. The stampedes were tragic, but which other railway in the world could handle the number of passengers they had to cope with? 

A hero of our own 

Our producer Adam Fowler lugged his equipment around the mela, recording interviews, often in a language he did not understand and is, as I write this diary, editing 12 hours of material into a half-hour programme. 

Mark Tully is a veteran journalist and author

The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... Is Screwed

By Phil Bronstein 
Feb 11,2013

For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family. And the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives. 

The man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden sat in a wicker chair in my backyard, wondering how he was going to feed his wife and kids or pay for their medical care. 

It was a mild spring day, April 2012, and our small group, including a few of his friends and family, was shielded from the sun by the patchwork shadows of maple trees. But the Shooter was sweating as he talked about his uncertain future, his plans to leave the Navy and SEAL Team 6. 

He stood up several times with an apologetic gripe about the heat, leaving a perspiration stain on the seat-back cushion. He paced. I didn't know him well enough then to tell whether a glass of his favorite single malt, Lagavulin, was making him less or more edgy. 

We would end up intimately familiar with each other's lives. We'd have dinners, lots of Scotch. He's played with my kids and my dogs and been a hilarious, engaging gentleman around my wife. 

In my yard, the Shooter told his story about joining the Navy at nineteen, after a girl broke his heart. To escape, he almost by accident found himself in a Navy recruiter's office. "He asked me what I was going to do with my life. I told him I wanted to be a sniper. 

"He said, 'Hey, we have snipers.' 

"I said, 'Seriously, dude. You do not have snipers in the Navy.' But he brought me into his office and it was a pretty sweet deal. I signed up on a whim." 

Time for Shias to leave Pakistan

By Murtaza Haider
Feb 17,2013

It is a massacre alright. Sunni extremists, aligned with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, are killing Shias by the dozens in Pakistan. 

I was yet to compile the list of the 106 (mostly Shias) killed in the twin bomb blasts in Quetta last month, that the news of another bomb blast killing yet another 84 (mostly Shias) in Quetta came over the wire. As the Shia massacres in Pakistan gain momentum, the State, including the Superior Courts, appear completely impotent. 

In such troubling times some Shias may have a choice. They may sit and wait for a messiah or relocate to a Shia-exclusive enclave elsewhere, or to escape from Pakistan altogether. It may sound harsh, but it is an inescapable truth that Pakistan has been run over by the extremists and life is going to be even tougher for the minorities and moderate Sunnis in the near future. 

In the two consecutive months this year, bomb blasts have killed hundreds of Shia Hazaras in Quetta, a Garrison town where each and every street is manned by intelligence operatives. Still, the militants operate with impunity. Saturday’s bomb blast, which has killed over 80 and injured hundreds, occurred almost within a month of the last bomb blast that delivered even a higher death toll. 

Pakistani tribesmen pushing Taliban to talk peace

Feb 15, 2013

In this Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, photo, Pakistani Army soldiers with... ((AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus))

PESHAWAR, Pakistan Five years after setting up an umbrella organization to unite violent militant groups in the nation's tribal regions, the Pakistani Taliban is fractured, strapped for cash and losing support of local tribesmen frustrated by a protracted war that has forced thousands from their homes, analysts and residents say. 

The temperamental chief of the group known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Hakimullah Mehsud, recently offered to start peace talks with the government, raising the prospect of a negotiated end to Pakistan's war against insurgents in a lawless region that runs the length of the border with Afghanistan. 

The group's offer of sanctuary to Afghanistan's Taliban has been one of the most divisive issues in U.S.-Pakistan relations and has confounded efforts to get the upper hand against Afghan insurgents after more than 11 years of war. 

Pakistan denies providing outright military and financial help to militants fighting in Afghanistan. With 120,000 Pakistani soldiers deployed in the tribal regions, Pakistan has waged its own bloody battle against insurgents that has left more than 4,000 soldiers dead. 

In interviews with analysts, residents and militant experts, Mehsud's network has emerged as a narrow collection of insurgents—often with links to criminal gangs—that has only limited influence in a vast tribal region overrun by scores of insurgent groups led by commanders with disparate agendas and varying loyalties. 

The Afghan Endgame

By Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan 
February 25, 2013

Handing off the flag to the ANAPresident Obama’s decision to withdraw another 34,000 troops from Afghanistan over the course of the next year is unwise. It greatly increases the risk of mission failure in that important conflict, jeopardizing gains already made in the Taliban heartland in the south and compromising the ability of Afghan and coalition forces to finish the fight against the Haqqani Network in the east. It also increases the risk that al Qaeda will be able to reestablish itself in limited safe havens in Afghanistan over time. Removing troops and capabilities before Afghanistan’s next presidential election, scheduled for April 2014, further exacerbates the danger that Afghanistan might collapse into renewed ethnic civil war. 

It was not as bad as it might have been, however, and prospects for success in this conflict remain, although the odds grow ever longer. The president appears to have yielded to military realities and the laws of physics on a number of important points. The drawdown itself is paced to keep a significant number of American troops in Afghanistan through most of this coming fighting season: Around 6,000 troops are to be withdrawn between now and this spring; another 8,000 by November; and the final 20,000 by February 2014. 

Senior administration officials explained on background that the first stage of this withdrawal is already underway and results largely from the deployment of brigades configured to conduct training and advising missions rather than combat. General Joe Dunford, the new commander in Afghanistan, will therefore have to redeploy only another 8,000 troops while fighting the enemy this summer—a far more manageable challenge than if he had had to redeploy the full 28,000 while still trying to accomplish his primary mission of helping the Afghans defeat our common enemies and consolidate gains. Administration officials also said that a sizable contingent of planners and logisticians now in Afghanistan to design and execute the drawdown are not counted against the total troop numbers—a vital fact, since writing and implementing such a plan is a massive undertaking that could well otherwise consume the staffs and commanders who must focus on continuing progress against the enemy and training the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). 

Resilient Pakistan?

By Shahid Javed Burki
14 February 2013

ISLAMABAD – Since mid-December, Pakistan has experienced political and economic volatility that is extraordinary even by Pakistani standards. The fragile political structure that began to be erected following the resumption of civilian government in 2008 is now shaking.

A key source of this unrest is Tahirul Qadri, a Toronto-based Muslim cleric who arrived in Lahore in early December. Ten days later, he addressed a mammoth public meeting at the city’s Minar-e-Pakistan grounds, where, a year earlier, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan had launched what he not very appropriately termed a political tsunami.
Qadri issued a 20-day ultimatum to the government in Islamabad to purge the political system of rampant corruption, reconstitute the Election Commission, and appoint a caretaker administration to oversee the upcoming vote. The caretakers, he said, should include technocrats, retired military officers, and judges – and could remain in office longer than the constitutionally permitted 90 days. Unless the government took these steps, he would lead a million-man march on the capital.

When the government did not oblige, 50,000 people set out on the fabled Grand Trunk Road to Islamabad, taking 36 hours to complete the 300-kilometer trek. Qadri addressed the marchers repeatedly; liberally mixing political metaphors, he called himself a latter-day Mao Zedong on a journey to launch a system-cleansing jihad and initiate a Pakistani version of the Arab Spring.

On January 10, while Qadri was planning his march, two suicide bombers sent by the extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni group, attacked the Shia Hazara community in Quetta, killing almost a hundred people. The Hazaras reacted to the attack by making the coffins of the dead a symbol of protest. They lined up the dead on Alamdaar Street, which runs through the city’s Shia community, and refused to bury them until the government dismissed inept and corrupt local officials, led by a local nawab who spent more time abroad or in Islamabad than in the provincial capital. The government succumbed and removed the chief minister and his cabinet, placing the troubled province under the care of the provincial governor.
Five days later, Pakistan’s ever-active Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and 16 other senior government officials for alleged involvement in what was called the “rental power” case. The case dates back to 2008-2011, when Ashraf, who was Minister of Water and Power at the time, oversaw large contracts to rent power generators, which were needed to ease an electricity shortage that was costing the economy up to 5% of GDP.

Will China Ever Be No. 1?

FEBRUARY 16, 2013 

If you want to know the answer, ask Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew. 

Will China continue to grow three times faster than the United States to become the No. 1 economy in the world in the decade ahead? Does China aspire to be the No. 1 power in Asia and ultimately the world? As it becomes a great power, will China follow the path taken by Japan in becoming an honorary member of the West?

Despite current punditry to the contrary, the surest answer to these questions is: No one knows. But statesmen, investors, and citizens in the region and beyond are placing their bets. And U.S. policymakers, as they shape the Obama administration's pivot to Asia, are making these judgments too. In formulating answers to these questions, if you could consult just one person in the world today, who would it be? Henry Kissinger, the American who has spent by far the most time with China's leaders since Mao, has an answer: Lee Kuan Yew. 

Lee is the founding father of modern Singapore and was its prime minister from 1959 to 1990. He has honed his wisdom over more than a half century on the world stage, serving as advisor to Chinese leaders from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping and American presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. This gives him a uniquely authoritative perspective on the geopolitics and geoeconomics of East and West. 

Game of Thrones: China’s Military Hawks Go On The Offensive

February 16, 2013 

When China’s Lieutenant-General Ren Haiquan took the podium in front of an audience filled with representatives from various Asian militaries in Melbourne, Australia, last month, he attacked “some people” who were threatening to repeat the mistakes of WWII. ”Flames of the war ignited by fascist countries engulfed the whole region, and many places, including Darwin in Australia, were bombed,” he said. In a crazy coincidence, perhaps, fireworks thundered into the sky overhead as he spoke. 

A delegation of Japanese military officers were in the audience. “Visibly displeased at the dig,” David Lague reports for Reuters, “Lieutenant General Yoshiaki Nakagawa left with his fellow officers as soon as the speeches concluded.” 

China’s military hawks like Lt-General Ren are becoming more vocal and more powerful. They push “short, sharp wars” with neighboring countries to take control of disputed territories in the East and South China Seas. They urge China to “strike first”, “prepare for conflict” or “kill a chicken to scare the monkeys.” 

Some hawks take the aggressive rhetoric to an even higher level: “Since we have decided that the US is bluffing in the East China Sea, we should take this opportunity to respond to these empty provocations with something real,” wrote Air Force Colonel Dai Xu in China’s Global Times last August. “This includes Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, which are the three running dogs of the United States in Asia … We only need to kill one, and it will immediately bring the others to heel.” 

China’s Soviet Lessons

By David Cohen 

February 16, 2013 

The New York Times today has a story making out Xi Jinping as a hardliner in sheep's clothing – during the very trip during which he laid claim to the mantle of reform in Shenzhen, they write, he undercut this promise with an internal Party speech promising not to repeat the mistakes of Mikhail Gorbachev. Both the reporting and the analysis of this piece are based on a late January blog post by Chinese journalist Gao Yu– dramatically summed up by China Digital Times “Leaked Speech Shows Xi Jinping's Opposition to Reform” – but the New York Times was able to independently confirm the quotes. So far, I have not been able to find any more information about the speech in English or Chinese than was in the stories by Gao Yu and the Times. 

The analysis, however, is dead wrong. We know a good deal about how the Chinese Communist Party remembers the Soviet Union: it is not as an object lesson in the virtues of hidebound Marxism. On the contrary, for the last 20 years the downfall of the Soviet Union has been a go-to cautionary tale for all varieties of Chinese political thinker, from hardliner to liberal. It has also been intensely studied by academics in the great redoubts of Chinese Marxist theory – the Party Schools and Academies of Social Sciences – and the lesson drawn is usually that the Chinese Communist Party must deal with corruption and other social problems before outside forces compel it to do so. 

This field – the CCP's effort to put a posthumous diagnosis on the Soviet Union – is well surveyed in David Shambaugh’s 2009 book, China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation, which is necessary reading if you're trying to get your head around what reform might look like as conceived by Party leaders. Shambaugh's study revealed a lively debate within the Party's research organs, but one which seemed to be largely resolved by the middle of Hu Jintao's term, with a variety of official accounts that emphasized corruption and dogmatic thinking alongside Western influence and premature political reform. These studies, Shambaugh shows, formed a major part of the theoretical basis for Hu Jintao's failed plans to fight corruption by improving party discipline. 

Bangladesh’s Tahrir Moment

February 18, 2013

We remain strangers despite so many reunions!

When will the leaves be cleansed and become verdant?

How many more Monsoons are required to wash away the bloodstains? 


Agitation by the protesting crowd

Bangladesh’s Tahrir Square or Shahbag is the next big thing in South Asia where a state built on language as their basis is fighting once again to win against the ideology of religion. In our post,Bangladesh: 40 Years of Liberation, we had argued that “For Bangladesh it is a macabre memory of a nightmare — ” with more than half a year of brutal, arguably genocidal repression by the West Pakistani military against a Bengali populace seeking self-determination — claimed anywhere between one and three million lives, led to some half a million rapes and roughly ten million refugees fleeing across the western border with India. By any metric, the events that birthed Bangladesh in 1971 are among the bloodiest in the post-World War Two era”. Today when the democratically elected government put the Razakars on trial the Islamists have reacted violently. There is a deep disconnect here. A disconnect which has its roots in poverty and availability of a vast pool of unemployable and unemployed population.

It is for this reason that Bangladesh can not say no to money. In a country with weak provincial state machinery and an unprecedented growth of NGOs to tackle grass root problems of poverty alleviation al Qaeda affiliates have found a place to fill the vacuum. The mild version of ‘Bengali’ Islam preached by Bangladesh is now being replaced with a much more dangerous and appealing Wahabi culture – one that has overtaken Pakistan’s Islamist Philosophy. The abject poverty of Bangladesh makes it an ideal breading ground for the Wahabi’s to employ disenchanted and under privileged Bangladeshis for their suicidal missions across the globe. The Jamaat is the overt manifestation of such a phenomenon but deep with in al Qaeda and its Saudi sponsors are pumping in funds to radicalize the benign Bengali Muslims. Uninterrupted supply of money is ensuring this. Bangladesh diaspora in Saudi Arabia thus returns home duly radicalized to do the bidding of their pay masters.

Africa-bound Gen. Rodriguez outlines military threats

By Kevin Baron
February 15, 2013

While you were Hageling about the Senate floor on Thursday, Army Gen. David Rodriguez, nominated to lead Africa Command, told the Armed Services Committee that he expects to face down terrorist threats on the continent with U.S. military force. But exactly how often the White House -- and self-declared noninterventionist Chuck Hagel -- will call on Rodriguez, instead of the FBI or the CIA, to stop the spread of terrorism in Africa is becoming one of the biggest questions the administration faces in the next four years.

When Africom was created in 2008, the Pentagon billed it as a barely-armed force of good with a mission of training local militaries and enforcing maritime traffic and fisheries. Based in Germany, it promised it would build no American military facilities in Africa.

But in the last few years, Northern Africa has become front-page national security news as pro-democracy revolts toppled decades-old regimes, regional conflicts have grown, and al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have spread.

“The threat these groups pose is evolving,” Obama said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. “But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy other nations. Instead, we'll need to help countries like Yemen, and Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.”

The Terrible Twos

FEBRUARY 15, 2013 

Can Washington prevent the turbulent Arab Spring countries from going the way of the post-Soviet states? 

We have reached the second anniversary of the Arab Spring, but no one is celebrating; the divisions inside the "post-revolutionary" countries of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya have become so pronounced, and have provoked so much turbulence and violence, that a sense of grim foreboding has almost entirely eclipsed the giddy atmosphere of 2011. Optimism says that we are witnessing the inevitable birth pangs of democracy; pessimism says that the joyous scenes of two years ago will degenerate into yet deeper political and sectarian strife. 

I have been trying to think about analogies that could offer some guidance for what the future holds. The obvious one is Eastern Europe after 1989 -- there, too, millions of people flooded the streets to demand freedom, overwhelming the benumbed autocracies which had ruled over them. But the two situations resemble one another only in their birth: Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and the like had long traditions of liberal and even democratic rule, and shucked off communism as an alien and despised ideology. Moreover, Eastern Europe was pretty rich by global standards. A slightly closer analogy is Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s; but nations like Brazil and Argentina left behind military rule through "pacted" transitions in which political elites agreed to surrender their power, easing social tensions and creating consensus around democratic rule. 

The collapse of Al-Jazeera's credibility

By Ghaffar Hussain
18 February 2013

“Before the beginning of the Arab Spring, we were a voice for change...a platform for critics and political activists throughout the region. Now, Al-Jazeera has become a propaganda broadcaster.” 

A voice for change? Or a voice for the Muslim Brotherhood? 

Since the commencement of the War on Terror and the subsequent media focus on al-Qaeda and bin Laden, Al-Jazeera has become a household name. The emergence of this channel is seen as a breath of fresh air by many, in that it provides much needed balance to the public debate and offers alternative views in a world dominated by western media discourse. 

The fact that the channel is owned and tightly controlled by the undemocratic and authoritarian Qatari royal family, that jails independent journalists who criticise the regime at home, seems to have gone unnoticed and ignored by many. But since the start of the Arab Spring, that is slowly starting to change. 

According to an article that appeared in the German magazine Der Spiegel, many leading journalists and TV anchors have started to leave the channel in recent months. According to one of those that has recently left, the German based Aktham Sulimen, “Before the beginning of the Arab Spring, we were a voice for change...a platform for critics and political activists throughout the region. Now, Al-Jazeera has become a propaganda broadcaster.” 

On writing well

By Stephen M. Walt
February 15, 2013

Over at the new, independent Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan has been hosting an interesting thread on why academic writing is frequently abysmal. As someone who tries hard to make even my academic writing clear and accessible and who tries to instill that value in my students, I've followed the thread with interest. 

For starters, I don't think the problem is that no one encourages future academics to write well. In my own case, for example, I was fortunate to study with Alex George at Stanford as an undergrad and with Kenneth Waltz at Berkeley during graduate school, and both repeatedly stressed the importance of writing well. Waltz didn't do a lot of line-editing of grad student papers or dissertations, but he certainly let me know when he thought my writing was obscure, verbose, disorganized, or just plain confused. He also spoke openly about the importance of writing in his graduate courses, encouraged students to read books such as Fowler's Modern English Usage, and was scornful of the trendy neologisms that infest academic writing like so many weevils. 

I also don't think the problem is due to poor editing at journals or university presses. I've published in over a dozen academic journals, with a prominent university press, and with two different commercial publishers, as well in a number of journals of opinion. Almost all of the editors or copy-editors with whom I've worked were helpful and attentive, and some were superlative. Indeed, I can think of only one case in nearly thirty years where a manuscript of mine was truly butchered by an editor (it was actually done by an intern) and fortunately the magazine let me repair the damage before the article appeared. 

The Incredible Shrinking United Nations

FEBRUARY 15, 2013 

Can anyone stop Turtle Bay from fading into obscurity? 

In early 2011, the United Nations seemed poised for a renaissance. After playing a marginal role in global conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.N. Security Council was the epicenter for rapid-fire deliberations that yielded a historic resolution calling for "all necessary measures" to protect the Libyan people from President Muammar Qaddafi's onslaught. The decision elevated the nascent global principle of an international "responsibility to protect" innocent civilians, warming the hearts of human rights activists who had for years sought to promote this new international norm. The Security Council's action was decisive, timely, cutting-edge and backed by a wide consensus of world powers, established and emerging. 

But the momentum dissipated almost as quickly as it had built. China, Russia and South Africa complained of having been hoodwinked into backing a resolution used to justify military intervention culminating in Qaddafi's ouster. That ire stiffened Moscow's spine for nearly two years of unbending resistance to any Security Council action on Syria. Two successive U.N. mediators for Syria, former Secretary General Kofi Annan and Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, have been mostly ignored by both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Security Council. The result has been to marginalize the U.N. as a force in the Arab transformations, relegating it to the sidelines of the world's most volatile and pivotal region. 

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

FEBRUARY 15, 2013 

28 games for your President's Day weekend. 

If George Washington had played video games, would he still have led the United States to independence? Or would Americans today be singing "God Save the Queen"? In honor of Presidents' Day, FP looks at video and board games that teach us a little something about a few of our 44 commanders-in-chief. 

George Washington 

Birth of America II -- Before he could become president, Washington had to mold an army virtually from scratch and lead it into battle against arguably the best force in Europe. He might have appreciated a chance to practice his generalship in this sophisticated strategic-level computer game, in which fighting is almost anti-climatic compared to raising and supplying armies, and moving them around a vast theater of operations. 

Assassin's Creed 3 -- Would Washington have enjoyed a video game in which time-traveling assassins meddle with the American Revolution? And would we have wanted him to play a game that comes with an expansion called "The Tyranny of King Washington"? 

James Polk 

The Halls of Montezuma: The Mexican-American War -- If the current security situation in Mexico continues to deteriorate, the U.S. government might want to check out this board game centered on the 1846 U.S. invasion. 

The worst general in American history?

By Thomas E. Ricks  
August 1, 2012

While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on June 2, 2010. 

That was the discussion I was having yesterday with several friends. Here is my ranking of their nominees:
1. Douglas MacArthur 
2. Benedict Arnold 
3. Ned Almond 
4. Tommy R. Franks 
5. William Westmoreland 
6. George McClellan 
7. Ambrose Burnside 
8. Horatio Gates 

It was my contest, so I declared MacArthur the No. 1 loser, because of his unique record of being insubordinate to three presidents (Hoover, Roosevelt and Truman) as well as screwing up the Korean War. Plus additional negative points for his role in the gassing and suppression of the Bonus Marchers in 1932. You can't defend a country by undermining it. 

It really is extraordinary how the Army has extirpated his memory. The influence of Marshall, Eisenhower and Bradley lives on, while MacArthur has been treated as a historical dead end. Kind of amazing, considering he was a general for 26 years, was the Army chief of staff, received the Medal of Honor, fought in three wars and was a senior commander in two.

Why governments can’t buy more babies

Feb. 16 2013

By Doug Saunders 

So, what would it take to persuade you to have another baby? A big tax break? A monthly stipend? Free child care? A big house?

“I wouldn’t do that again for all the money in the world” is a perfectly reasonable answer. But be prepared: At some point, your government is going to pitch you on a larger family. 
More Related to this Story 

We have entered the age of the fertility panic. Country after country is discovering that smaller families are causing the population to shrink, which means more old people, and therefore higher government expenses and lower tax revenues. And many of those countries are then jumping to the wrong conclusion: that they should persuade people to have more kids.

The latest victim is the United States, which until recently was proud of its big, corn-fed families, but discovered last year that the economic crisis and constricted immigration have pushed its average family size down to 1.9 children, below the 2.1 needed for population stability.

This has led a number of American voices to propose what European countries have been doing for more than a decade and what Quebec has tried since the 1980s: attempting to create larger families through policy.

This theme has been seized upon most dramatically by the conservative author Jonathan Last, whose book What to Expect When No One’s Expecting created alarming headlines across America this week. He is not satisfied to warn of rising pension and health-care costs. “Declining populations have always followed or been followed by Very Bad Things. Disease. War. Economic stagnation or collapse. And these grim tidings from history may be in our future,” his first chapter warns. (He follows this by reassuring us that unlike the population-growth scaremongers of the 1970s, “I’m not selling doom.”)

Why doesn’t the Army just order its officers to be more creative and adaptive?

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks
February 15, 2013

Regulations mandating adaptiveness might be as useful as this report unveiled earlier this month by a couple of Army generals: "Everybody turn left and be creative." 

Seriously, watching today's generals discuss how to improve leadership development is a little like watching dinosaurs discuss how to evolve. In bureaucratic terms, reports like this are called "moving deckchairs on the Titanic" -- that is, lots of fiddling at the margins but very little grappling with basic issues. For example, there is a lot of talk about mission command, but no indication that they studied how other organizations implemented and cultivated it. 

This report missed an opportunity. It should have tackled large issues. For example, two-career marriages are now the norm in American society, but the Army doesn't recognize that in the way it runs its personnel system, which seems stuck in the Industrial Age. What kind of signal does that send about senior service leadership being out-of-touch and/or unable to deal with today's realities? For that reason, and many others, it is time to move the Army's approach to people into the Information Age. In the 21st century it could be much more flexible than it is, offering features like sabbaticals, maternity breaks, and the ability to return after trying the private sector. That might keep some of the talent now fleeing. 

Cyber Warfare

By Lt. Gen. Clarence E. McKnight Jr.

Feb 15, 2013

I spent a lifetime in the military and, while I love the officers and troops without reservation, I hate the greed and poor judgment that motivates certain segments of the military-industrial complex to focus on technology without calculating the cost or impact on our nation's economy.

A case in point was the great uproar about the supposed Y2K calamity that would befall our nation when we embarked upon the new century because computers allegedly were trapped in the previous century. Many of us were skeptical about it, but the greedy people hyped it all out of proportion to persuade our government to spend billions on automated data processing equipment that was not needed. It was money down a rat hole, money that should have been spent on real problems. I have seen this antic ritual acted out many times over the years.

I see the same thing happening again in the great uproar over the so-called cyber war. There are legions of self-proclaimed security experts out there raising fears about cyber-attacks and seeking opportunities to sell Uncle Sam more billions in equipment that we do not need and cannot afford.

There is no question that the world harbors many bad actors who are constantly striving to compromise national security, and even more who are trying to steal proprietary information from U.S. businesses. Every company of any size, and many smaller ones, must invest huge sums protecting their networks from digital pirates.

But there is not nor can there ever be a definitive security system that will totally assure digital security, any more than there can be absolute security for bank vaults. There is an endless war of attrition between the digital pirates and those with proprietary information, and as in every war we will have victories and defeats. The question we must always address - one that I wrestled with most of my career - is how much security is enough, and how much security we can afford.

We must all live with the possibility of being robbed or burglarized, but that does not mean each of us must have an armed security guard walking along with us when we go to the grocery store, or sentries standing guard of our homes when we are away. There comes a point when the costs of additional security outweigh the benefits, and begin to compromise the quality of life we are trying to achieve.