30 March 2013

FDI in defence sector would be an effective catalyst for self-reliance

BY VINAY KUMAR

BAE Systems, a defence, aerospace and security company, employs 93,500 people worldwide. Its wide-ranging products and services cover air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology, and support services. 

With a presence that goes back over 60 years, BAE Systems has developed India as a home market with a strategic vision to become a major and integral part of the domestic Indian defence and security industry, leveraging its global expertise to develop technologies and solutions in India for both the Indian market and for export. 

It has a joint venture in India with Hindustan Aeronautics – BaeHA. Based in Bangalore, it is focused on providing engineering and business solutions services. BAE Systems has a long-standing association with HAL on aircraft programmes such as Jaguar, Harrier, and now, the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer which HAL manufactures under licence for the Indian Air Force and Navy. 

The board of BAE Systems, led by its global chairman Dick Olver, visited India for the first time. In this e-mail interview to The Hindu, he outlines the company’s plans for India. 

What is the Board’s overall impression of the market in India?

BAE Systems has a long association with India in many areas of aerospace and defence, with all three of the Indian Armed services — dating back to pre-independence times. I have personally had an opportunity to visit India many times — most recently in February as part of Prime Minister Cameron’s delegation. And, I am thrilled to lead the visit of the BAE Systems plc Board here this week. India is an incredible country. It is a key market for our company. So, I was keen that my fellow directors had the opportunity to see and experience that first hand. We have a solid team here, who are privileged to work with some exceptional people across the customer community and through our relationships with Indian companies. The Board has been impressed with what we have seen and experienced during our visit. 

The Indian market holds considerable opportunities for us, and I and the other directors are very excited and energised by the potential that exists here, illustrated by the steady trend in defence expenditure at around 2 per cent of GDP, a stated intent of $100 billion worth of acquisitions over the next five years, and the focus on self-reliance in defence. 

A personal highlight was the launch of the mobile mini hospital called ‘Smile on Wheels’ that will provide primary healthcare services to underserved communities in Bangalore. The mini hospital is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility programme in India through which we support development programmes in the areas of primary education and healthcare in rural and urban communities across seven states of India. . 

BAE has had a longstanding association with HAL on the India Hawk and even has a JV with the aerospace major. How do you view the future of the relationship? 

Our relationship with HAL for the Indian Hawk programme is the cornerstone of our operations in India today. We are privileged to enjoy a strong relationship with HAL, and our latest collaboration is for the licence to build Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer. India has ordered a quantity of 123 aircraft with another 20 in negotiation. 

Getting gas from Iran

Politics over pipeline gets murkier

By Harsh V. Pant 

The much delayed India-Pakistan-Iran (IPI) gas pipeline is back in news. Of course, without one "I" - India. Iran and Pakistan marked the start of Pakistani construction recently when the Presidents of the two countries came together for the ground-breaking ceremony.

The two are hoping that the pipeline would be complete in time to start delivery of 21.5 million cubic metres of gas per day to Pakistan by December 2014. There was much political symbolism involved in this move by Islamabad and Tehran as both nations are trying to snub the US which has been against this pipeline and has been trying to isolate Iran for its nuclear programme. 

During the ceremony, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused "foreign elements" of trying to undermine Iran's relations with Pakistan and to thwart the Islamic Republic's progress by using its nuclear programme as a pretext. "I want to tell those individuals that the gas pipeline has no connection whatsoever with the nuclear case," Ahmadinejad thundered.

Rapidly rising energy demand in India and Pakistan has been the impetus behind the proposed gas pipeline from Iran's outfields through Pakistan to India. It is expected that this joint gas pipeline project would play an important role in cementing ties between Iran and Pakistan and that Pakistan's annual royalty from this project would be about $500 million to $600 million. The proposal, however, had been stuck for a long time because of differences between Pakistan and Iran on pricing and on methods to supply gas to India. Both India and Pakistan had contended that Tehran offer a price for gas in line with global practices for long-term contracts and had rejected Iran's gas pricing formula wherein the gas price is linked to Brent crude oil with a fixed escalating cost component. The price Pakistan was demanding for security and transit from India also made India wary of the project. 

And then there was the US opposition to the project though both India and Pakistan had indicated that the project remained a foreign policy priority despite the pressure from the US. In the end Pakistan decided in 2009 to finalise the gas pipeline deal with Iran, connecting Iran's South Pars gas field and Pakistan's Balochistan and Sindh provinces. The pipeline is expected to start operating from 2014, exporting more than 21 million cubic meters of natural gas daily to Pakistan. However, the deal remains a controversial one even in Pakistan because of the high price that Iran is charging. 

India quit the project in 2009 though officially New Delhi continues to claim that it has kept its options open to join the project at a later date even as China has evinced keen interest in joining the project. For India, the issue of Iran's reliability as an energy provider is the main one. There is little evidence so far that Iran would be a reliable partner in India's search for energy security. 

TALKS BETWEEN OUR PM & XI JINPING---AS SEEN BY BEIJING

BY B.RAMAN 

The PLA Daily of March 29,2013, has carried the following report on the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the margins of the BRICS summit at Durban on March 27. 

Xi says world needs common development of China, India 
(Source: Xinhua) 2013-03-29 


Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) meets with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Durban, South Africa, March 27, 2013. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen) 

  DURBAN, South Africa, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping said here Wednesday that the world needs the common development of China and India and can provide sufficient room for the two neighbors' development. 

  Xi made the remarks during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of a summit of BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- in the South African port city of Durban. 

  China and India, as the world's two largest developing nations, have a similar historic mission to boost their social and economic development, Xi said. 

  Both countries are in an important period of strategic opportunities, he said, adding that China-India relations have broad prospects for development. 

  China, which regards its ties with India as one of the most important bilateral relationship, commits itself to pushing forward the two countries' strategic cooperative partnership, Xi said. 

  He called on the two sides to maintain high-level reciprocal visits and contacts, make full use of political dialogues and consultations at various levels to strengthen strategic and political communication. 

  China and India should broaden exchanges and cooperation between their armed forces and deepen mutual military and security trust, Xi said. 

  The Chinese president said the two countries, with the help of such cooperative mechanisms as strategic and economic dialogue, should also discuss their cooperation on large-scale infrastructure projects. 

  Xi also called for enhancing people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, and broadening youth exchanges. 

  He said the two sides should strengthen coordination and cooperation within the United Nations, BRICS, the G20 and other multilateral groupings, support each other's participation in regional cooperation, and promote peace, stability and development in Asia. 

  On the border issue, Xi said China and India should improve and make good use of the mechanism of special representatives to strive for a fair, rational solution framework acceptable to both sides as soon as possible. 

Pakistan's 'Strategic Pivot' May Not Include Reforming Its Nuclear Policies

March 22, 2013 

A test launch of Pakistan-made Ghaznavi missile at undisclosed location in Pakistan Thursday, May 10, 2012. 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The Pakistani military and the nation’s recently dissolved government have been touting a “strategic pivot” toward increased cooperation and transparency with regional neighbors, but it is far from clear whether these major shifts would affect Islamabad’s nuclear weapons. 

The outcome of national elections in May could be decisive on the matter. All major parties agree that the time has come for Pakistan to work with Afghanistan on resolving security issues prior to the pullout of U.S. troops at the end of 2014. 

What is less clear is to what extent Islamabad will also reach out to strengthen ties with its rival to the east, India, and whether regional engagement might include any sort of nuclear rapprochement. 

President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, whose political organization has led the nation for the past five years, describes the shift as motivated by a recognition that the main threat now facing their nation is violent extremism. Pakistani army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani publicly discussed the new strategic thinking last year, and the idea has since been increasingly touted by PPP leaders here and abroad. 

Other major Pakistani political parties, too, are embracing the idea of a strategic shift. However, only one of them -- former President Nawaz Sharif’s branch of the Pakistan Muslim League -- appears to be eyeing fresh diplomatic outreach to India on the nuclear issue. 

No matter who wins power in upcoming elections, Pakistanis are expected to continue rallying around atomic arms as the crown jewel of their national security forces. 

“There is a great confidence that nuclear deterrence helps the country assure its security” against conventional war with India, said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States and now a top political commentator. 

Her view was echoed by a number of Pakistani military and government officials interviewed over the past several weeks. 

Pakistan two decades ago began discussing with India possible terms for a “strategic restraint regime” featuring proposals to cap nuclear weapons quantities, limit deployments and curb missile defenses, Lodhi said. 

Pakistan’s Army of Overseas Workers Keeps Economy Afloat

By Khurrum Anis
Mar 26, 2013

Living in poverty in a mud shack in Pakistan, Mazhar Ali dropped out of school, sold the family’s two buffalo and bought a visa to work in Dubai. The money he sends home is paying for a new house. “We’re going to build three rooms with bricks and cement, plus a courtyard and a washroom,” said his younger brother Azhar in Larkana, hometown of the ruling People’s Party about 300 kilometers north of Karachi. “We will then start marrying one by one, starting with Mazhar sometime this year.” 

The family’s change in fortunes reflects a rising trend of rich nations with aging workers tapping poorer ones for labor -- total remittances to developing economies will rise 7.9 percent this year, and reach $534 billion by 2015, the World Bank says. For Pakistan, the income offers a source of stability, with the country poised for its first civilian handover of government in May even amid power shortages, bombings and a Taliban insurgency. “This is our savior for keeping Pakistan out of the oxygen tent,” Farooq Sattar, former Minister for Overseas Pakistanis said in an interview in Karachi last month before his party quit the government alliance. “It has kept us from a complete economic collapse.” 

Almost 10 million Pakistanis work overseas and the sum they’ve sent home has doubled in the four years through June, to a record $13 billion.

Revenue Shortage

The rising tide of funds from overseas contrasts with a struggle by President Asif Ali Zardari’s administration to raise enough revenue to fund programs that would boost domestic growth. Pakistan had to pay about $7.5 billion to the IMF between 2012 and 2015, Moody’s Investors Service said in July. The government repaid $3.2 billion as of Feb. 26, the central bank said. The government is evaluating a possible further loan from the fund as a buffer against shocks, Saleem H. Mandviwalla said in December as Finance Minister. 

The local currency has fallen on concern loan repayments will erode foreign-exchange reserves, which fell to $7.5 billion in January from $11.8 billion a year earlier, according to the central bank. The rupee traded at 98.35 per dollar at 9:30 in Pakistan, near a record low. 

Rising Deficit

Pakistan was among the 15 lowest revenue-gathering nations in the world as a percentage of GDP, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book 2012. The South Asian nation recorded the highest budget deficit in two decades in the fiscal year through June as it missed its tax target. The nation’s fiscal deficit may be 7.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, wider than the government’s target of 4.7 percent, the IMF said in January. Among the biggest challenges for the government is the need to add almost 4,000 megawatts of power generation to end a shortage that’s causing blackouts for as long as 18 hours a day, idling factories and swelling unemployment. The government said energy shortages cut economic growth last year by as much as 4 percentage points. 

Rumblings of Russia’s Afghan re-entry

By Atul Aneja

Afghan children play on a destroyed Soviet-made armoured tank in Panjshir, north of Kabul, in this file photo. 

Russia appears set to stage a re-entry into the Afghan theatre by establishing military maintenance bases inside the strife-torn nation after the withdrawal of NATO forces next year. 

These facilities are meant to service Russian military equipment routed through NATO to the Afghan armed forces. For several years the Pentagon has been purchasing Russian weaponry, including helicopters, which have been transferred to the Afghan armed forces. 

“We will consider various options for establishing maintenance bases on the territory of Afghanistan,” Sergei Koshelev, head of the Russian Defence Ministry’s chief administration for international military cooperation, was quoted as saying. 

The Russian move has triggered speculation on whether under the cover of military repair platforms Moscow wants to mark a physical presence to fill the power vacuum likely to befall Afghanistan after 2014. 

But steering clear of the bitter memories of the Soviet debacle in the 1980s, Russian officials have repeatedly denied that Moscow is considering resumption of its military presence in Afghanistan. 

Mr. Koshelev pointed out that from Moscow’s perspective, it was important that Russian equipment supplied to the Afghan armed forces was kept in good shape.

With a beleaguered NATO in exit mode after 13 harrowing years of combat in the Hindukush mountain ranges, representatives of the alliance and the Russians will hold discussions in May to work out the details for establishing the Russian bases, said the official. 

Senior officials from Moscow are packaging their Afghan move as a necessity for safeguarding not only Russian interests but also of the entire European continent, as an escalation in militancy after 2014 would pose a serious security threat to both. 

Citing their common interests, Moscow is not excluding the possibility of broadening its engagement with NATO in Afghanistan. Aleksandr Grushko, Russia’s envoy to NATO, said that Moscow could offer to enlarge the transport corridor into Afghanistan that the western allies use to transfer supplies after 2014. 

Taliban finding footholds in Karachi

By Jennifer Rowland 
March 29, 2013 

New Post: Shamila N. Chaudhary, "How did they do? Grading the PPP" (AfPak). 

Moving in 

The Pakistani Taliban are a growing presence in Pakistan's most populous city of Karachi, stepping up assaults on police officers, and joining other city gangs in building extortion rackets that target wealthy businessmen (NYT). The Taliban have also established control over some Karachi neighborhoods, where they set up a parallel judicial system to settle disputes through their severe interpretation of Islamic law. And they have greatly weakened the local branch of the secular Awami National Party (ANP), destroying their offices and chasing them out of town with targeted attacks. 

A suicide bomber targeting security forces at a checkpoint near the U.S. consulate in Peshawar killed at least 12 people and wounded 14 others on Friday (The News, CNN, Dawn, BBC). Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for the attack. 

A Pakistani man working at a German company that develops technology for Israeli surveillance drones used by German troops in Afghanistan has been arrested on suspicion of military espionage (AFP). German officials say the man, identified only as Umar R., has been suspected of "attempting to procure information about sophisticated military technologies" since October. The magazine Focus, which reported his arrest, said he had illegally obtained studies into the piloting and navigating of drones. 

And fifteen suspected militants were killed in a joint Afghan-NATO offensive in the northern province of Jawzjan on Thursday night (Pajhwok). 

Kabul to kebabs and back again 

Abdullah Amini has more than one claim to fame: he once owned the only Afghan restaurant in the midwestern town of Omaha, Nebraska; and he is the only person to have advised the last seven U.S. commanders in Afghanistan (Post). No stranger to conflict, Amini fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan as a 21-year-old in the 80s, and he didn't hesitate to return to play a part in toppling the Taliban over a decade ago. 

-- Jennifer Rowland 


Policy Reform Measures Highlight Potential for Transformation

March 28, 2013

Premier Li Keqiang Discussing Reforms at the NPC

In the next five years, China will implement a series of transformative public sector reforms due to the convergence of several factors over the past year that have made China ripe for change. Most obvious among them is the fact that the party leadership chosen in 2012 is unusually united around Xi Jinping, in stark contrast to the factional divisions that characterized the previous leadership (“China’s New Leaders to Strengthen the Party-State,”China Brief, November 30, 2012). Moreover, since Xi and premier Li Keqiang have sat on the Politburo for only five years, they are less encrusted in guanxi than previous leaders. Another factor is that in recent years, distinctive advocacy coalitions have arisen in the country among public policy experts that are unusually vocal and well-informed. Finally, China is in a stage of development where it “enjoys” a constant stream of focusing events—the Bo Xilai scandal, elite corruption, the Beijing air pollution crisis and the Wenzhou high-speed rail crash stand out as a notable few. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) unfulfilled 2004 promise to transform itself from a ruling party to a governing party in order to restore its legitimacy requires an effective government that can analyze, formulate, enact, implement, monitor and revise new public policies. In short, the policy gridlock of the 2002 to 2012 period should be disappearing in favor of an emergent period of substantive reform. 

The National People’s Congress of 2013 provided a first glimpse of the sort of public sector reforms that might emerge in the next ten years. Two clear themes emerged: building “top-level design” institutions in Beijing to oversee macro-level governance; and igniting local government initiative through fiscal and regulatory reforms. 


Top-Level Design

The notion of “top-level design” (dingceng sheji) to manage reforms is an idea that migrated from the systems engineering and military sectors in the early 2000s to more general public sector reform discussions in the late 2000s. During retrospective analyses of 30 years of reform in 2008, the term was first used as a template for the next 30 years of reforms (Outlook Weekly, November 1, 2010). The party then espoused the term in the communiqué from its 2010 plenum. The 12th Five Year Plan announced in 2011 promised to “pay more attention to the reform of top-level design and overall planning, make clear reform priorities and key tasks, and deepen experiments in comprehensive integrated reforms” [1]. 

Put simply, it meant that incremental reforms and bargaining over implementation were out. There would be less micromanaging and more macro-managing (jian weiguan, zhong hongguan). China would seek to overcome the “fragmented authoritarianism” that characterized policymaking since reforms began in favor of a more centralized developmental state. New integrated ministries will deliver national templates to create a coherent public policies. This means a premium will be placed on creating bureaucracies with a high degree of professionalism and vision. 

South Sea Fleet Exercises Shine Spotlight on Tensions

March 28, 2013 

China's Newest Amphibious Assault Ship, Jinggangshan

Tensions in the South China Sea once again appear to be on the rise as recent Chinese naval activity has attracted the attention of regional actors. On March 26, Hanoi publicly complained that a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy vessel had set a Vietnamese fishing vessel on fire. Beijing denied the accusation, countering that the PLA Navy (PLAN) ship had fired two signal flares as a warning near a Vietnamese fishing vessel that was operating illegally in Chinese territorial waters (Xinhua, March 27; People’s Daily Online, March 26). At the same time, the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet—one of the three major naval commands—has conducted a series of exercises that assert Chinese sovereignty and fulfills the “preparations for actual combat” requirements that President Xi Jinping has called for in military training (Xinhua, March 19; PLA Daily, January 13; December 12, 2012). 

This month, the South Sea Fleet exercised its amphibious, naval and aviation assets to prepare for the range of conceivable South China Sea conflict scenarios. The latest training exercise involves a four-ship flotilla including the PLAN’s most advanced amphibious assault ship, a guided-missile destroyer and two guided-missile frigates (China Military Online, March 20). The flotilla has conducted a range of exercises, including amphibious and airborne assault on an atoll as well as a combined arms exercise involving the ships and shore-based early warning aircraft, fighter and fighter-bombers (PLA Daily, March 25; China Military Online, March 25; People’s Daily Online, March 22). This follows other exercises earlier in March when a South Sea Fleet fighter regiment flying the Su-30MKK2 fighter-bomber conducted strike training over the South China Sea. Other local PLAN Air Force elements also conducted flight training exercises with now-standard emphasis on “actual combat” preparation (People’s Daily Online, March 5; March 4). 

Once again, Beijing’s efforts to reassure neighboring countries that this level of activity is only routine and lacking ulterior motives seem to be falling on deaf ears (“Soothing Tones on China’s Rise Strike Dissonance,” China Brief, January 4). In an effort to explain the exercises, Xinhua noted the training is a “regular arrangement in line with the navy’s annual training plan,” adding that the PLAN conducted seven similar training exercises last year (Xinhua, March 19). Elsewhere, Chinese naval experts add that exercises accord “with all international laws and common practice,” highlighting that South Sea Fleet exercises are unexceptional compared to other international navies (Xinhua, March 25). The path of the flotilla, however, has taken it close to disputed territory where Malaysia maintains offshore oil rigs and, en route to the Western Pacific, the four PLAN ships will skirt the Philippines’ western maritime boundaries. The exercise itself may be only routine and in line with a responsible military’s training for the possible contingencies it might face. These training missions, however, have the side effect of demonstrating China’s ability to deliver military power, including amphibious troops, across its entire claim in the South China Sea—as Xinhua rather ostentatiously announced when the flotilla reached southernmost claim (Xinhua, March 26). 

The Second Artillery Force in the Xi Jinping Era

March 28, 2013

By: Michael S. Chase

New Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary, Central Military Commission (CMC) Chairman and PRC President Xi Jinping’s early interactions with the PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF) have sparked a considerable amount of speculation about the future of China’s strategic missile force under his leadership. Late last month, acting in his role as chairman of the CMC, China's top military decision-making body, Xi signed an order awarding a merit citation to a PLASAF brigade to recognize its outstanding performance. Among the unidentified brigade's accomplishments since its establishment about twenty years ago, it has participated in two National Day military parades and successfully launched more than 100 missiles—the most of any PLASAF brigade—according to official media reports (Xinhua, February 25). Xi’s recognition seems another sign that the Second Artillery’s star will continue on its rise. 

In late November, international media reports also highlighted Xi’s promotion of newly-appointed Second Artillery Commander Wei Fenghe to the rank of full general in a special ceremony. Some observers speculated that the promotion, the first over which Xi presided as the new CMC Chairman, was intended to signal the growing importance of the strategic missile force, help Xi consolidate his political power and allow him to build a loyal support base within the top ranks of the PLA (The Diplomat, December 11, 2012). Notwithstanding the tone of some Western media coverage, Wei’s promotion to full general was actually quite widely expected among PLA-watchers, as it was required following his November 2012 appointment as a member of the CMC (South China Morning Post, November 24, 2012; Xinhua, November 23, 2012)[1]. The timing and process—promotion of the lone lieutenant general to full general about one week after the Communist Party Congress—mirrored the 2007 promotion of Chang Wanquan to full general after he was elevated to the CMC as Director of the General Armament Department (GAD) (South China Morning Post, November 3, 2007; Xinhua, November 2, 2007). 

Similarly, Xi Jinping’s remarks at a December 2012 meeting with delegates to Second Artillery’s 8th Party Congress were also widely reported in international media (New York Times, December 5, 2012). At the meeting, Xi described PLASAF as “the core strength of China's strategic deterrence, the strategic support for the country's status as a major power and an important cornerstone safeguarding national security”(People’s Daily, December 13, 2012;Xinhua, December 5, 2012;). Beyond Xi’s exhortation to build a powerful and technologically advanced missile force, however, little has been revealed about the specifics of his views on the future development of PLASAF’s nuclear and conventional missile capabilities. China’s limited transparency further complicates efforts to predict future missile force developments, but trends during the Hu Jintao era and the comments of senior missile force officers probably offer a reasonable guide to understanding PLASAF’s likely direction under Xi’s leadership. According to former Second Artillery Commander Jing Zhiyuan, who was replaced by new PLASAF Commander Wei Fenghe during the CCP and military leadership turnover last year, future developments across the missile force will include improvements in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, ability to penetrate missile defenses, destructiveness, survivability and protection of the missile force, precision strike and rapid reaction capabilities [2]. It is also possible to predict some more specific developments in PLASAF’s nuclear and conventional missile force capabilities and its training. 

A Decade of War: What the U.S. Military Learned

March 22, 2013  

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne assemble before leaving to move to forward positions at Camp New Jersey in the Kuwaiti desert on March 20, 2003. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

The 10-year anniversary of the Iraq war has rightfully prompted extended soul-searching about a conflict that cost the nation dearly in blood, treasure, and international prestige. After every battle and conflict, in fact, the U.S. military goes through a similar routine of self-examination called the "After Action Review" ("What just happened?" "Why?” "What does it mean?"). These often uncomfortable exercises in second-guessing are the essence of learning institutions. In the case of the Iraq war, the closest thing to a Pentagon After Action Review was released last summer by the Joint Staff under the title "Decade of War: Enduring Lessons From the Past Decade of Operations." Decipher the sometimes byzantine military speak, and you will find a brutal self-examination of much that went wrong in Iraq, and a few things that went well. 

Situational Unawareness: "A failure to … accurately define the operational environment led to a mismatch between forces, capabilities [on the one hand], and missions and goals [on the other]." 

What that means is a small U.S. invasion forced designed for "shock and awe" raced to Baghdad to topple a dictator and destroy nonexistent stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and found itself strangers in a strange land, occupying a country of more than 25 million people whose culture, sectarian divisions, and tribal dynamics the U.S. military didn’t understand. “Here we were, an Army that prided itself on being on the absolute leading edge of technology, of being able to see first, understand first, and if necessary shoot first, and suddenly we were confronted with all these uprisings we didn’t see coming,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, who severed as a division commander in Baghdad in 2004, once told this reporter. Early in Iraq, he noted, “technology was less important than understanding anthropology and sociology, and what was on the minds of the Iraqis on the street.” 

When You're a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail: "Conventional warfare approaches often were ineffective when applied to operations other than major combat." 

After the Aircraft Carrier: 3 Alternatives to the Navy’s Vulnerable Flattops

03.20.13

The carrier USS Ronald Reagan tests a flight deck sprinkler system last week. 

The U.S. Navy’s huge, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers — capital ships that have long dominated military planning and budgeting — are slowly becoming obsolete, weighed down by escalating costs, inefficiency and vulnerability to the latest enemy weapons. 

But if the supercarrier is sinking, what could rise to take its place? Smaller, cheaper flattops; modified tanker ships; and missile-hauling submarines are three cheaper, more efficient and arguably more resilient options. 

Navy Capt. Jerry Hendrix, a historian, analyst and futurist, caused a stir by making the case against the Navy’s cherished supercarrier fleet. Hendrix’s recent study ”At What Cost a Carrier?” (.pdf), published by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for a New American Security, urges the Navy to begin drawing down its 10-11 Nimitz-class flattops and follow-on Ford-class vessels. 

A single new carrier costs $14 billion to build plus $7 million a day to operate. “Not a good use of U.S. taxpayer money,” Hendrix asserts. Moreover, he contends that huge carriers with their five-acre flight decks and scores of warplanes are ill-suited to the American way of war, in which precision and avoiding civilian casualties are more important than overwhelming firepower. Worst, Hendrix warns, the carriers — major symbols of American military might — are increasingly big targets for China’s DF-21D ship-killing ballistic missiles

The Navy is unlikely to decommission its giant flattops, to say the least. But should it start taking Hendrix’s advice, one or more of the following vessels could sail in their place. 

The future USS America under construction. 

Flattop Lite 

Hendrix alludes to “light amphibious carriers” as possible replacements for the supercarriers, but fails to mention the specific vessel type best suited to this role. The future USS America, nearing completion at a shipyard in Mississippi, is roughly half the size of today’s Nimitz class and less than a third the cost. 

The Coming Tech Storm? China, Apple and Google

By James Parker
March 30, 2013 

China’s biggest state-controlled TV broadcaster and its most important state-controlled newspaper both have a new target in their sights: U.S. tech-giant Apple. In a seemingly disturbing twist, and with aspects that resemble parts of the Chinese government’s turn against fellow U.S. tech firm Google, Apple has found itself at the center of some surprising rhetoric and a possible smear campaign. Meanwhile Google, via its domineering mobile operating system Android, appears to be back under pressure. 

China’s “Consumer Rights Gala” has always been a slightly absurd spectacle. Broadcast on the March 15 every year (earning the show the moniker “315”) on state channel China Central Television One (CCTV1), the event usually attracts hundreds of millions of viewers. It is not an especially sophisticated affair, with poor quality musical performances and other pomp making a farce of the core goal of protecting consumer rights and informing the public about serious issues. 

This year, two of the Gala’s high profile targets were Apple and Volkswagen. Apple was criticized for providing a lower standard of after sales service to Chinese consumers, including only offering a one-year warranty on its products instead of two years. The complaint against Volkswagen resulted in a product recall. Both are reasonable subjects for a consumer rights gala. Yet in the case of Apple, things soon took a bizarre turn. 

Following the show, a stream of celebrity “tweets” on China’s Weibo (Twitter-like platform) voiced support for the criticism of Apple. Unfortunately, when Taiwanese-American actor Peter Ho apparently joined in, it seems he forgot to delete a final line of instruction telling him when to post the message. Conspiracy theories sprung up – something was not right. 

So far theories about Samsung being involved or that the campaign was designed by the Chinese government in spur demand for its own smartphone industry have emerged. Yet Apple fans are renowned for their love of the company, so it was a dangerous play for CCTV to target the company in China, where its popularity is widespread. Although some Chinese joined in, in criticizing Apple, the backlash against CCTV on Weibo was immediate. Nonetheless, the People’s Daily joined in and intensified the attacks on Apple, featuring harshly worded tirades against the U.S. company almost daily