21 August 2013

DON’T TIE THE ARMY TO RED TAPE

20 August 2013 

Leave it to the troops to ensure the sanctity of the Line of Control, and it will deliver. It's time the mocking shouts from across the border about getting orders from Delhi are silenced forever

Every time the men who rule India find themselves under attack militarily, the Union Minister for Defence rises like a Phoenix from the ashes of various scandals to assure Parliament that ‘if and when’ the country is threatened, the Armed Forces will give the enemy a fitting reply. This is invariably greeted with the thumping of desks and the Opposition, having made the requisite amount of noise, withdraws.

This is a travesty, for the ‘if and when’ happened a long time ago and the thumping of desks in Parliament is no substitute for military action. Words of bravado cannot ensure a nation’s security. When our soldiers get beheaded or our patrols get ambushed well within our own territory, only then do we momentarily accept that something is seriously wrong with our existing system. However, in a nation where scandals have dulled sensitivities, the real issues are rarely addressed.

Armies are like an insurance policy. The money spent on them is the premium a nation pays. And smart countries ensure that the resources are optimised and their Armies are sharply-honed instruments that can not only defend the country but, also, render massive retribution if someone else steps over the line. Accordingly, each country has its own ‘command and control’ methods that nurture these forces. One thing, however, is common and is guarded with great zeal — the ‘institutional integrity’ of their fighting Forces.

Since Independence, the Indian leadership has been terrified of its Armed Forces. That Jawaharlal Nehru was apprehensive of a military takeover is no great secret; as was Indira Gandhi who eyed Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, Lieutenant General PS Bhagat and General SK Sinha with suspicion even at the height of her post-1971 popularity. Playing on this insecurity, the bureaucratic establishment has created a web of ‘babudom’ to ensure that it effectively calls the shots.

In the last 65 years, India has developed one of the most lopsided civil-military ‘command and control’ structures anywhere in the world. The wheel turned a full circle with the virtual sacking of an Army Chief who was sent home without even a retirement order by the UPA Government because he wasn’t playing by the rules that were designed to weaken and destroy the fighting capabilities of the force he commanded. The message to the Armed Forces’ officers is clear — mess with us and we’ll sort you out; if you are well-behaved, you might get sent as Governors or Ambassadors in your twilight years.

The system has ensured that the Armed Forces’ senior leadership is not only subservient to the bureaucracy, but even decisions best taken on the ground by local commanders are constantly referred to higher-ups. This action-paralysis has all but ensured that the moral ascendancy on the Line of Control is today with the Pakistani Army, something which will only encourage them to strike again and again. A series of amazing blunders, the latest helping shift the blame from the Pakistani Army to terrorists, has made us the laughing stock of the entire world.

Kashmir Tensions Mount

By Sudha Ramachandran 
August 20, 2013

Continuing attacks and intensifying rhetoric are placing India-Pakistan relations under growing pressure.

India’s northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is under pressure on multiple fronts. A string of militant attacks in the Kashmir Valley in recent months accompanied by incessant shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) separating Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir over the last fortnight has set alarm bells ringing in New Delhi. To add to the tension, the Jammu region was convulsed in Hindu-Muslim violence last week.

Indian security analysts are warning that the recent violence in the Valley – the main bone of contention between India and Pakistan – could presage the start of another phase of armed violence in J&K.

On March 13 this year, militants attacked a camp of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Srinagar, the state’s summer capital, killing five CRPF personnel and injuring ten others. Another encounter between security forces and militants less than a fortnight later left three Indian soldiers critically wounded. Two major attacks followed in June, one of them on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Srinagar. Heavily armed militants opened fire on a military convoy killing eight soldiers and wounding 14 others. The attack, widely described as “audacious” given the fact that Srinagar was in a tight ring of security ahead of the prime minister’s visit, is the deadliest in Kashmir in five years.

Things were looking up somewhat in strife-torn J&K in recent years. A Ministry of Home Affairs’ Annual Report, 2012-13 released in April this year drew attention to “the signs of considerable improvement” in 2012 over previous years. “The level of infiltration from across the border [with Pakistan] and the resultant terrorist activities in the valley of Kashmir showed a significant decline,” the report observed, going on to provide figures of falling fatalities among civilians, security forces and since 2009.

That has now changed. In the wake of the recent surge, respected journalist Praveen Swami observed that for the first time since 2001-2002, when India almost went to war with Pakistan over an attack on India’s parliament building by a Pakistan-backed militant group, fatalities among Indian security forces have increased. “In the first six months of 2013,” he pointed out, “India has already lost more police and military personnel than it did in all of 2012, and more than it did in 2011.”

Why are militant attacks increasing? 

Indian intelligence officials who spoke to The Diplomat blame Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the anti-India terror groups it backs. “Outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have in recent months stepped up mobilizing against India,” an official of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), India’s internal intelligence agency, said. NATO’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is being interpreted by jihadi groups as a defeat for the U.S. “It is encouraging them to rally their followers to fight Indian troops in Kashmir,” he said.

Crisis and complicity

Aug 21 2013

Institutional disrepair lies at the heart of the economic breakdown.

The current economic crisis requires not just fire fighting, but long-term institutional rebooting. The government's extraordinary complacency, hubris and recklessness is responsible for the crisis. Its response seems, for the most part, trifling. It gives the impression of fighting a modern economic war with prehistoric policy tools: when tanks come charging, you can't get away with throwing a pebble here and a pebble there. To be sure, there were global headwinds. But India's fundamentals should have placed it in a position to not just weather the storm, but also take advantage of new opportunities. Instead, we frittered away the good times.

The credible signal we need right now is twofold. First, can India be economically governed in a manner that is compatible with the new accountability revolution? Can it fix serious bottlenecks and uncertainties arising out of past perfidy in land, environment, natural resources, infrastructure, regulation and taxation? These have reverberations across the entire economy. Second, will the government signal that it is not completely self-deluded? Do we have the knowledge base to make good judgement calls? There is very little evidence that we have moved much on either front. We will still be arguing about missing coal files and PPPs gone bad, rather than worrying about energy and credible contracting arrangements. And our actions suggest a knowledge base rooted in the 1970s: as if the economy can be fixed by encouraging hawala, and penalising ordinary labour from Dubai for accessing the one prize possession they want — a big TV. Meanwhile, big business is encouraged to accumulate even greater short-term external debt.

It is no secret that the institutional story is at the heart of the current crisis. Government officials are fond of whispering that the crisis is a product of the combined efforts of the CAG and the Supreme Court. If only they had not used a blunt sledgehammer in the garb of accountability, telecom, real estate and infrastructure would have chugged along merrily and there would be no economic crisis. There is a grain of truth in this argument. The Supreme Court sometimes resorts to on-again, off- again blanket orders, particularly in land and mining matters. In the 2G case, as this column has argued, instead of fixing responsibility precisely and carefully crafting remedies, it went for a slash and burn approach. Let us face it: we have the rule of Supreme Court, and that is reassuring. But whether that amounts to rule of law is becoming a more open question.

The roots of this lie in an untrustworthy government and dysfunctional Parliament. If Parliament had functioned, so many of the bottlenecks could have been cleared. The scams could have been swiftly dealt with by parliamentary committees, and the system could have moved on. If the vacuum in Parliament had not been compounded by a breakdown in government, these other branches of the state would not have acquired the authority they have. There is no point blaming them. Environmental orders would not be so blunt if we could trust the ministry of environment and forests to provide effective and sensible regulation. Our institutional culture veers between anything can be subverted and therefore anything goes, and its counter reaction — a blanket suspicion. An oscillation between these attitudes has now infected every institution, creating more regulatory uncertainty.

In Announcing ASEAN Trip, Pentagon Gets Revenge on China

By Zachary Keck 
August 21, 2013 

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has developed a pattern of sorts in recent years. Specifically, when China is hosting a senior-level U.S. official, particularly a defense official, the PLA shows off some of its new toys. 

The most egregious example (though hardly the only one) of this was when then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited China in January 2011 to meet with President Hu Jintao. The trip was aimed at reducing tensions in what had become an increasingly strained bilateral relationship throughout 2010. However, a few hours before Gates arrived in China for his meeting with Hu, the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) conducted the first-ever test flight of its new stealth fighter jet, the J-20. 

The message was unmistakable. This was not only China or the PLA trying to give a firsthand demonstration of its growing prowess to visiting U.S. officials, but rather a very personal affront to Gates himself. Only a couple of years earlier Gates had been leading the charge to end production on the F-22s. This created a contentious battle in Washington. In making his case in a Chicago speech in 2009, Gates explained

“Consider that by 2020, the United States is projected to have nearly 2,500 manned combat aircraft of all kinds. Of those, nearly 1,100 will be the most advanced fifth generation F-35s and F-22s. China, by contrast, is projected to have no fifth generation aircraft by 2020. And by 2025, the gap only widens. The U.S. will have approximately 1,700 of the most advanced fifth generation fighters versus a handful of comparable aircraft for the Chinese.” 

While one can quibble about whether China’s J-20 jets are comparable to F-22s, they have the stealth attributes that characterize 5th generation aircraft. Thus, as one commentator stated at the time: “Beijing now possesses an apparently flyable prototype fifth-generation fighter, making it only the third country after Russia and the U.S. to join the stealth club.” And if the J-20 was conducting test flights in 2011, the PLAAF was certain to have more than a handful on hand by 2025. 

Why is China so Afraid of a Small Protest?

By Tyler Roney 
August 21, 2013 

A minor protest in Anhui Province has grabbed the central government's attention in China. 

According to Radio Free Asia, on August 10, two thousand protestors laid siege to government offices in Xuancheng City in Anhui’s Jixi County, in the Jingzhou Township. The crowds overturned cars, smashed the windows of a government office, and assaulted government officials. 

Reports on this incident went relatively unnoticed, partially because the Central Propaganda Department (also known as the Publicity Department) got ahead of the story by issuing a stern warning to state media outlets. 

The statement, which was later released by China Digital Times, reads: “Regarding the recent incident in which villagers from Xuancheng, Anhui Province assembled at the local government [offices] and overturned official vehicles: if reporting this, the media must use standard sources; do not speculate or exaggerate; and do not independently investigate, report, or comment.” 

State media outlets regularly receive directives from the authorities dictating what reporters can and cannot report on, and sometimes are told what to “emphasize” and what to “downplay.” Some of these directives get leaked to foreign media. 

The borderline riot was spurred by a recent drought in the region and what residents deemed to be a lack of a sufficient response from the local government. Jixi County has suffered a terrible drought and heat wave this summer despite relief efforts. Preliminary statistics alone indicate that the drought has affected 35.42 million people. 

While drought seems to have been the impetus for the troubles, local villagers were also agitated by other reasons such as intentional blackout rumors, demands for cloud seeding, unaccounted drought relief resources, and local government corruption and embezzlement. 

Another reason the locals were angry was because of the deceptive media coverage. While the state media proudly flaunted their drought relief chops – with personnel numbering 800,000 people and 50 million RMB to fight the drought – those who were actually on the ground weren't seeing the effects. Online sources and RFA have suggested that a black out was initiated to prevent outsiders from watching local TV news reports on the drought, some of which showed officials watering walnut trees. 

African Trade: China, India and others

Nice report by BBC News


Throughout Africa - at building sites, on the street, and at ports and airports - the Chinese presence is growing.

Competing for a slice of the wealth along with traditional stakeholders are new ones such as Brazil and South Korea - and India, China's neighbour.
***
India's $65bn (£44bn) of trade with Africa is dwarfed by China's $200bn.

Chinese companies are active across the continent with big infrastructure projects, including ports, railways and sports stadiums.Hmm. No mention of U.S. companies vying for work?

But, to follow on, the BBC is helpful with, a report of $5 billion deal between China and Kenya

Kenya is on the outs with the U.S. and the EU due to issues with Kenya's president, whose spokespeople suggest nothing but good things from their relations with China: 

In a statement, his office said the deals with China were a "massive boost" to his government.

"The rail link, particularly, is important in the context of East Africa's shared goal of ensuring quicker movement of peoples, goods and services," it quoted Mr Kenyatta as saying.

It will link the Kenyan border town of Malaba with the port of Mombasa, one of the busiest in Africa.Funny, I remember the days when China was attacking the "exploitation" of Africa by western countries. Now, in Wikileaks released message, a U.S. government official brightly notes:

"China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons," he says. "China is in Africa primarily for China."I would think any person who ever attended a "Great Powers" course might understand that.

“Victory Without Bloodshed”: China’s India Strategy

By Mohan Malik
August 20, 2013

“Subduing India, preferably without striking a blow, remains a major Chinese policy objective.”

Reports of more than a dozen Chinese incursions during July-August across the poorly-defined Line of Actual Control (LoAC)—the de-facto border separating India and China—have surfaced, barely three months after a tense border face-off in mid-April when a Chinese platoon set up tents about 12 miles inside Indian Kashmir. That standoff almost derailed the first ever visit to India by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in late May, and ended with the withdrawal of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops on May 6.

Mutual antagonism has persisted along the border ever since the 1962 China-India border war with frequent border skirmishes and standoffs. Negotiations over drawing the official borders have dragged on for so long that they now carry the distinction of being the longest-running border negotiations in the world. This is fitting as the LoAC is the longest border in the world that has yet to be demarcated and delineated.

Premier Li Keqiang expressed optimism about resolving the border issue in the near future when he finally visited India in late May. Moreover the latest incursions occurred soon after Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony visited China in June to discuss measures to maintain “peace and tranquility” along the LoAC. Recently, Chinese and Indian Special Representatives also held their 16th round of boundary talks.

Still, the prospects of an early border settlement are not bright—indeed, the two sides have failed to even exchange maps showing each other’s “perception” of where the LoAC runs.

Some had hoped the growing economic interaction between China and India would help resolve the border dispute. In fact, the opposite has proven true; namely, trade itself has become a source of friction as India’s trade deficit with China has soared from $1 billion in 2002 to $40 billion in 2013. A 2012 Pew opinion poll showed that only 23 percent Chinese and Indians hold a “favorable” view of each other.

The failure to resolve the border row has little to do with the substance of the issue, and everything to do with the interests of some of the parties. There is indeed a fairly good understanding of where the LoAC lies. This is evident from the fact that no incursions were reported for a decade from 1988 to 1998.

China and India: The scramble for business in Africa

By Vineet Khare 

India and China have two very different ways of approaching investment in Africa

Throughout Africa - at building sites, on the street, and at ports and airports - the Chinese presence is growing.

Competing for a slice of the wealth along with traditional stakeholders are new ones such as Brazil and South Korea - and India, China's neighbour.

India suffered a humiliating military defeat at the hands of China in 1962 and has been wary of its intentions.

The long-standing border dispute has been a major sticking point for the two countries.

Indian companies do the risk assessment in a more systematic manner, whereas the Chinese just jump upon the work and they do it very fast - and they get the result”Manoj Gupta Jindal Steel and Power, Mozambique

With demand for resources to fuel both their growing economies rising, the contest between the two giants is playing out in different parts of the world.

The campus of Nairobi University is one such place.

In a corner here, workers from the China Wu Yi company are working to build a futuristic 21-storey tower, complete with lecture halls, for up to 3,000 students and a helipad.

"Once it is finished in two years, this building will be the tallest structure around," says Prof Sa Dequan, head of the university's Chinese language and cultural teaching centre.

Offshore Control vs. AirSea Battle: Who Wins?

August 21, 2013 

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of an ongoing debate regarding American military strategy in the event of a conflict with China. For you convenience, here are links to the previous articles in this important debate: Don’t Sweat AirSea Battle, Sorry, AirSea Battle is No Strategy, and The War over a War with China

In his response, Elbridge Colby suggested that he and I agree AirSea Battle (ASB) needs a full debate. I disagree. It is not ASB that needs full debate but the potential military strategy with China. ASB is only an operational concept that might or might not be a part of a strategy. In fact, Colby admits ASB is not a strategy but only a logical deduction that since the United States has been dominant in Asia since World War II, it should remain so. Unfortunately, he never explains the ways and means ASB will use to achieve dominance. 

He starts out well by stating the end he wishes to achieve is dominance. He seems to express the ways he plans when he states that ASB appears to be about rolling back any threat to “our allies, the waters, and skies around them…” However, he never addresses the issue of means. He simply asserts ASB will achieve dominance by imposing “costs that are both far more biting and real than Hammes’ offshore blockade …” He has not expressed a strategy but only a desire. 

To be fair, proponents of ASB have never stated how it fits into a strategy. The closest they come is to state that we must be able to hold things the enemy values at risk. They never actually define what those things are, nor how we will find this target set in a nation as large and geographically complex as China. Yet Colby seems to accept that ASB can find and strike those targets that will force China to terminate the conflict. 

Recent history makes this a dubious claim. In conditions of absolute air supremacy with thousands of aircraft and no enemy air defense, we did not convince Saddam to quit in the first or second Gulf War. In fact, during the first Gulf War, we could not even hit the Scuds that were firing at Israel. This is despite dedicating a significant portion of our air assets to finding Scuds that often fired in the night from a desert! Air power proponents point to the Kosovo War as an illustration of the power of strike warfare. Yet with thousands of aircraft and facing no air defense, it took NATO 78 days to convince Milosevic to quit. 

Rather than addressing these failures, ASB proponents want our allies to believe that new technology will make Douhet’s elusive goal—airpower defeating an enemy—a reality. But of course, the United States can’t actually demonstrate those technologies because they are secret. They simply assert that the technology available in ASB will allow us to do so. It is assertions like this that trouble our allies. We tell them ASB can defend them—but it’s too secret to let them know how. In essence, we tell them to trust us. 

Surrounded: How the U.S. Is Encircling China with Military Bases

 By John Reed 
 August 20, 2013
The U.S. military is encircling China with a chain of air bases and military ports. The latest link: a small airstrip on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. The U.S. Air Force is planning to lease 33 acres of land on the island for the next 50 years to build a "divert airfield" on an old World War II airbase there. But the residents don't want it. And the Chinese are in no mood to be surrounded by Americans.

The Pentagon's big, new strategy for the 21st century is something called Air-Sea Battle, a concept that's nominally about combining air and naval forces to punch through the increasingly-formidable defenses of nations like China or Iran. It may sound like an amorphous strategy -- and truth be told, a lot of Air-Sea Battle is still in the conceptual phase. But a very concrete part of this concept is being put into place in the Pacific. An important but oft-overlooked part of Air-Sea Battle calls for the military to operate from small, bare bones bases in the Pacific that its forces can disperse to in case their main bases are targeted by Chinese ballistic missiles.

Saipan would be used by American jets in case access to the U.S. superbase at Guam "or other Western Pacific airfields is limited or denied," reads this Air Force document discussing the impact building such fields on Saipan and nearby Tinian would have on the environment there. (Residents of Saipan actually want the Air Force to use the historic airbases on Tinian that the U.S. Marinesare already refurbishing and flying F/A-18 Hornet fighters out of on an occasional basis.)

Specifically, the Air Force wants to expand the existing Saipan International Airport -- built on the skeleton of a World War II base used by Japan, and later the United States -- to accommodate cargo, fighter, and tanker aircraft along with up to 700 support personnel for "periodic divert landings, joint military exercises, and joint and combined humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts," according to Air Force documents on the project.

This means the service plans on building additional aircraft parking space, hangars, fuel storage tanks, and ammunition storage facilities, in addition to other improvements to the historic airfield. And it's not the only facility getting an upgrade.


In addition to the site on Saipan, the Air Force plans to send aircraft on regular deployments to bases ranging from Australia to India as part of its bulked up force in the Pacific. These plans include regular deployments to Royal Australian Air Force bases at Darwin and Tindal, Changi East air base in Singapore, Korat air base in Thailand, Trivandrum in India, and possibly bases at Cubi Point and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines and airfields in Indonesia and Malaysia, a top U.S. Air Force general revealed last month.

The Saipan announcement comes as Chinese defense minister, Gen. Chang Wanquan, visited Washington to talk with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The specific topic of U.S. bases in the Pacific didn't come up during a joint press conference held by the two officials on Aug. 20, but Wanquan said in response to a question about the U.S. military's increased focus on the Pacific that "China is a peace-loving nation. And we hope that [America's] strategy does not target a specific country in the region."

Pakistan must not be India’s neighbor

20 Aug , 2013

Pakistani troops lay down their weapons in East Pakistan

Does India want good neighborly relations with its neighbors? Yes, but not with Pakistan. Does India love its neighbors? Yes, but not Pakistan. Should India live on good terms with its neighbors? Yes, but not with Pakistan.

India has tried for 66 years to live peacefully with Pakistan, but has simply not succeeded.

The reason for these assessments and positions is because there is a choice. People often say that nations cannot choose their neighbors. But, one answer is that they can. China chose to become India’s neighbor by annexing Tibet; Taiwan chose to become a neighbor of China by breaking away; the borders and neighbors in Central Asia changed remarkably during the great game of the 19th century. England chose to annex Wales and Scotland, thereby eliminating them as neighbors; the USA bought a large chunk of territory from France in the Louisiana Purchase to cease to be a neighbor of France; and the USA bought Alaska from Russia, thereby becoming a neighbor of Russia.

In India, there was a conscious choice to not have Hyderabad and Junagad as neighbors soon after independence. And, India chose to have Bangladesh as a neighbor on its eastern flank rather than continuing with Pakistan as a neighbor there. And when the British united India, it took away countries that were neighbors of each other. These are only a few examples in the region and world that illustrate that neighbors can be chosen, borders can be changed, and destinies of people forged. Sometimes, these destinies are forged by battle, at other times by purchase, and at yet other times by negotiation or threat. One example of the latter was Russia’s annexation of Eastern Siberia from China in the earlier part of the 19th century without firing a shot. At the height of its empire, Great Britain was neighbors with much of the world. It must simply be appreciated that times change, fates change, those down come up, those up go down, the free are enslaved, while the enslaved become free, kings have become paupers[1], and paupers kings[2]. Never should we lose sight of human history.

India has tried for 66 years to live peacefully with Pakistan, but has simply not succeeded. India must be mad if what Einstein stated is true. He had said, “[I]t is a sign of madness to make the same effort again and again, and expect different results.” Thus, India has again and again tried diplomacy with Pakistan, hoping that the result will be different each time. Indian leaders – and those in charge of foreign policy — need to see a mental doctor.

The major trouble with non-violence is that it doesn’t fit into the belief of the military.

Jihad v. Non-Violence

There is no comparison between the practice of jihad in military matters, and that of non-violence in military matters. Given one versus the other, Jihad wins hands down from a military perspective at every occasion.

But, as much as the principle of “jihad” in Islam has been twisted for centuries by Muslims to defeat a non-muslim enemy, so much has the principle of non-violence been twisted to forfeit the sword and the rifle. The true jihad is the internal struggle of the mind and soul to break through its bonds and emerge into an understanding and love of God, but that is not how Muslims have interpreted it against the Russians or Americans or British or Sikhs or Hindus. Similarly the true non-violence is the gradual ascension of the soul rather than forcing the soul to reach higher states of consciousness without establishing and cementing prior accomplishments in the spiritual journey. Thus spiritual non-violence is to attain to higher states by “sahej”, i.e., gradually, rather than pushing and forcing one’s unwilling mind to accept true thoughts it can’t hold. But, this beautiful spiritual meaning of non-violence has been distorted by Hindus and Mahatma Gandhi to forego the use of arms altogether, which is ridiculous. A country cannot survive without a military. To win wars, one needs a strong military, not one that merely achieves a stalemate.

Thailand: From Boom to Bust

By Anthony Fensom 
August 21, 2013 

“Amazing” Thailand has amazed again, only this time on the downside. After its stunning 18.9 percent rise in gross domestic product for the December quarter, Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy has now officially entered into a recession for the first time since 2009. 

On Monday, Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) said GDP had dropped by 0.3 percent in the June quarter compared to the previous three months. The decline satisfied the technical definition of a recession by falling for the second straight quarter, following the previous quarter’s 1.7 percent contraction

On an annualized basis, growth eased to 2.8 percent, down from 5.4 percent in the previous quarter and coming in below market expectations of a 3.3 percent rise. The main weaknesses were in private consumption, which dipped below its long-term average, with manufacturing contracting and investment growth moderating. 

Net exports also contracted, hit by a stronger baht and weaker sales to China, Thailand’s biggest export market, along with those to the United States and Europe. 

“We now see significant downward risks to our 2013 growth forecast of 5 percent [GDP growth],” ANZ analyst Eugenia Fabon Victorino said in an August 19 research note. 

“The manufacturing production index, our favored GDP indicator, has been posting annual contractions in four out of the past six months. Our momentum indicator still points to further weakness in production in the coming months,” he added. 

The NESDB also downgraded its projections, reducing its forecast for 2013 growth to a range of 3.8 to 4.3 percent from 4.2 to 5.2 percent previously. The projections were down from last year’s official 6.5 percent growth, although inflation was predicted easing to 2.3 to 2.8 percent from last year’s 3 percent. 

Market reaction was swift, with the Thai baht hitting a one-year low Tuesday and stocks on the Bangkok bourse slumping on the news. According to Bloomberg News, overseas investors had their biggest sell-off of Thai stocks in six weeks, selling $114 million worth of Thai equities as the benchmark SET Index dropped near December 2012 levels. 

“Don’t panic” 

A Plan for Syria

In recent years Pentagon contingency planners have imported, from social science, the concept of the “wicked” problem—that theoretical future security crisis that defies solution. Today that future security crisis is here, and its name is Syria. How important is the eventual denouement of this catastrophic civil war? Apparently, important enough to draw major security responses from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Qatar, Shiite Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and Sunni militant Islamists from across the Arab world. 


Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan face major humanitarian relief burdens for displaced Syrian civilians, fleeing at a rate of more than five thousand per day. Iraq’s tenuous internal cohesion is being stressed by the sectarian breakup next door. France and Britain are exerting what leverage they can in domains they once controlled. Israel—after decades of fending off conventional and nuclear dangers from the regimes of Hafez al Assad and his son Bashar—now must contemplate a future northern neighbor in which Hezbollah may be further strengthened, a vengeful Sunni Muslim Brotherhood could vie for power long denied by the Alawite regime, and even jihadist Jabhat Al Nusra fighters from across the Arab world will seek a new operational base. 

For the United States, Syria has long held strategic importance. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, President Nixon escalated the nuclear-alert level to DEFCON 3 to deter Moscow from sending Soviet troops to bolster Syrian forces fighting against Israel; Moscow was deterred. During President Reagan's intervention of U.S. Marines along with French, Italian and British forces seeking to stabilize Beirut after Israel's 1982 incursion against the PLO, Syria served as a staging ground for young Iranian fighters sent into Lebanon's Bekaa Valley to arm and train Shiite Lebanese members of the new militant Hezbollah organization, which then launched catastrophic truck-bombing attacks on U.S. diplomats and Marines in Lebanon. Kissinger's famous dictum, "No war without Egypt, no peace without Syria," is surely no less true now that Syria is engulfed in sectarian conflict. 

American Ambivalence 

The Obama administration, however, appears unconvinced of the impact Syria's crisis could have on future U.S. security interests. Obama has long been critical of the way President George W. Bush engaged forces in long and costly interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11, and no longer refers to a Global War on Terrorism. Today, as the death toll surpasses one hundred thousand and militant jihadists flock into Syria, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns that any U.S. military mission beyond humanitarian assistance, provision of ‘non-lethal’ support and positioning of limited defensive assets with neighboring allies could require hundreds of combat platforms, thousands of troops and billions of dollars. 

Obama administration spokespersons cite humanitarian aid to refugees in Turkish and Jordanian camps and 'non-lethal' assistance to opposition forces as evidence that the United States is seriously engaged in dealing with this crisis. Beyond the halls of government in Washington, however, the perception is quite the opposite. Clearly, the United States is expected to do more. 

Everything Was Possible

Two years ago, as Egyptians, we had incredible dreams for our country’s future. How did it come to this? 

Aug. 19, 2013

An injured supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is helped during clashes with riot police on the October 6 Bridge in Cairo on July 15, 2013. 

This article originally appeared on madamasr.com

I sit, for the 12th hour now, alone and struggling for what to do. For the first time since I got on a plane for Egypt on Jan. 29, 2011, I am at a loss. 

Worse days than today lie ahead of us. 

We thought we could change the world. We know now that that feeling was not unique to us, that every revolutionary moment courses with the pulse of a manifest destiny. How different things feel today. I will not bury our convictions, but that feeling—youthful optimism? naiveté? idealism? foolishness?—is now truly and irrevocably dead. 

I mourn the dead and I despise those killing them. I mourn the dead and I despise those sending them to their deaths. I mourn the dead and I despise those who excuse their murder. How did it come to this? How did we get here? What is this place? 

It is Feb. 12, 2011. Hosni Mubarak has fallen. In the morning I will fly to America to finish a job, before moving permanently to Cairo to help build the new country. I am sitting on my mother’s balcony. We are smoking cigarettes and drinking tea to keep out the cold and talking about all that we’ve seen and done, about all that we’re going to do. Everything, on that night, was possible. Our conversation ranges from the grandiose of the global revolution to the practical rethinking of ministerial appointments to the minutiae of the requirements of the film school that should be established. We talked through the night. I took notes. 

It is, perhaps, this memory that hurts me the most. 

By the time I returned from America, the Army had cleared two sit-ins from Tahrir Square, begun court-martialing civilians en masse, and assaulting women protesters with “virginity tests.” The revolution now is smaller, but serious, focused, and under sustained attack. The unfallen state, the deep state, the client state; once a month, every month, it attacks. It clears Tahrir in March, April, August, and December. It attacks protesters at the Israeli Embassy. It envelops downtown Cairo in a November mist of Pennsylvanian tear gas. It rains down rocks and Molotov cocktails from the roof of the Cabinet building. It welds shut the doors of the Port Said Stadium death trap. Every month, people die fighting it. 

There Are No More Good Guys in Egypt

One thing that makes this crisis so vexing: Each of the country's major groups have done something totally horrible in the past few weeks. 

Aug 20 2013

Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi carry an injured demonstrator who was shot during clashes in Cairo. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

CAIRO -- Almost a thousand people dead, dozens of churches burnt, its capital's most affluent districts subjected to raging firefights: Even in a region all too accustomed to conflicts of unrelenting savagery, Egypt's past week has stood out. 

It wasn't meant to be like this, of course. 

The last time this many foreign journalists decamped to Cairo, they witnessed millions clamoring for the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime. 

But Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolutionaries' efforts, is blocked off now, with tanks, armored personnel carriers, and double coils of rusty barbed wire strung across its approach roads. It's an apt metaphor for Egypt's withered revolution. 

Last time, we, the West, rooted passionately for the beleaguered masses battling the brutal police state, cheering their demands for "bread, freedom, and social justice," and interpreting their triumph as evidence of democracy's irresistible allure. 

This time, however, we have no one to root for. 

The security forces, Muslim Brotherhood, and partisans of both sides have all engaged in the bloodshed while seeking to tar their opponents as inhuman. 

In the battle for the country's soul, it's "terrorists" vs. "murderers" in the language of Egypt's bitterly polarized political players. 

Amid the carnage, Egyptian society has slowly begun to unravel. Islamist pitted against nationalist, neighbor against neighbor, father against son. Even some traffic accidents are now cast in harshly politicized tones. 

When a bearded pedestrian was knocked-down by a taxi while crossing the road a few days ago, he barked "Sisi killer" at the clean-shaven driver (in reference to army chief General al-Sisi). 

Popular committees have re-emerged in many neighborhoods for the first time since the revolution. Brandishing sticks and sometimes machetes, they search cars and devote particular attention to interrogating men with long beards. 

A Welcome American Absence from Africa

August 21, 2013 

In a recent article, Dawit Giorgis argues for a more robust American policy in Africa to combat terrorist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabaab in Somalia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. He believes that it is the obligation of the United States to lead from the front, particularly “when there is danger,” and that this would foster a more stable political environment. I disagree. In many ways, the article reinforces dangerous American stereotypes of the continent—that Africa is a continent to be feared, that it is dangerous. This approach obscures the very necessary steps we should be taking to engage the African continent. While the aforementioned terrorism groups do pose a serious danger to peace and stability, they are by no means the greatest threat facing the region. Quite the contrary. Weak institutions, poor governance, and fragile economies are the underlying problems—creating the vacuums in which terrorist groups have emerged and thrived—and these will not be fixed by American drones or military forces. The United States should focus instead on helping African governments, business leaders and citizens to improve governance, strengthen institutions, and build economic and business ties. This will eliminate the conditions necessary for terrorism to thrive and place African governments in a position where they can come up with solutions to their own problems. 

The problems are real, as Giorgis explains

African problems are growing. In the Sahel, Al Qaeda has affiliates and sympathetic groups, including the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, Ansar Dine and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Elsewhere, in the Horn of Africa, Somali Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab is still actively fighting to retake territory lost to African Union forces, while in West Africa, Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram—whose members have been tied to AQIM—continues to wage war against the government. 

Unfortunately, solutions to these problems are less apparent. African governments that are prepared to combat radical Islamists lack training and leadership, and even the more professional African militaries don’t have the appropriate resources or training. 

The United States must be wary of viewing the entire continent of Africa through this lens, however. In most instances, these groups have arisen in the void of effective governance. They may clothe their activities in the guise of Islam, but in reality are simply thugs—criminal gangs engaged in drug trafficking, human trafficking, and other illegal activities. They may bear allegiance to Al Qaeda, but these are loose and fluid affiliations. Al Qaeda and other groups are not the major threat facing African countries; they merely exploit and obscure the real problems—the lack of effective governance, weak institutions, and fragile economies. These conditions have led to the vacuums in which these groups thrive. It is interesting to note that the blossoming of terrorist groups in the Sahara—with the exception of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has its roots in the Algerian Civil War—has occurred coincidentally with the “Global War on Terror”. Groups such as Al Shabaab, MUJAO and Ansar Dine emerged and thrived in nations with weak government control. 

The Internet will not survive unless we defend it


The open Internet that 2.5 billion people around the world rely on is under threat, as governments increasingly seek control of information flow. Only concerted moves by stakeholders can protect its valued openness. The US especially must set high standards for transparency and freedom.

August 16, 2013 

Jonathan Berg of the Swedish team 'The Alliance' reacts while playing during the International Dota 2 video game competition in Seattle, Wash., Aug. 11. His team beat Ukraine's 'Natus Vincere' in a final streamed live on the Internet. Op-ed contributor John Negroponte writes: 'The open, global Internet is unlikely to continue to flourish without deliberate action to promote and defend it.' 

The Internet as we know it is open, secure, and resilient. This is no mistake. It was designed and has evolved this way. Due to its open nature, the Internet has gained traction at a fantastic pace and transformed the world by fostering communication and innovation while generating tremendous economic growth. Roughly 2.5 billion people, more than one-third of the world’s population, currently use the Internet, and another 2.5 billion individuals are expected to go online by the end of this decade. 

But the open Internet that people the world over rely on is under threat. Only concerted moves by the stakeholders can protect its valued openness.

The Internet, as it transforms, has become a victim of its own success. The various groups that rely on Internet services – governments, corporations, and individuals of all types and purposes – have different needs. Sometimes these needs overlap, and sometimes they are at odds. However, sovereign governments are increasingly seeking control of their own domestic spheres as well as the flow of data and information between countries and, in doing so, are attacking the openness that represents one of the foundations of the Internet.


Nation-states are increasingly attempting to regulate social, political, and economic activity and content in cyberspace and, in many cases, suppress expression they view as threatening. Justifying their actions by claiming to protect children or national security, more than 40 governments have erected restrictions of information, data, and knowledge flow on the Internet.

Censoring the Internet takes many forms, including censorship of opinions (Vietnam, Saudi Arabia); censorship of specific websites or ISPs (Australia, Pakistan, Russia); censorship of specific information (China, Germany); demanding information be taken down (France, Singapore); demanding users’ IP addresses (more than 50 countries); and erecting regulatory barriers to cross-border information flow (Brunei and Vietnam). More drastically, others including Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia have considered building national computer networks that would tightly control or even sever connections to the global Internet.

The ongoing controversy surrounding former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden makes for headline-grabbing news, but obscures these broader global challenges confronting the world’s Internet infrastructure.

Strategy: The Art of Eliminating the Enemy’s Vote

By Robert Farley 
August 21, 2013 

The Diplomat has hosted some interesting recent conversations about strategy, conversations that intersect with my own interests on the relationships between military institutions and strategic effect. “Strategy” is a notoriously slippery term that often seems to serve simply as a blunt rhetorical instrument. Nevertheless, it might help to try to break down how air, sea, and land forces have traditionally conceived of the relationship between strategy and victory. My starting point is that strategy should be about constraining, to the greatest extent possible, the voting rights of the enemy.

Historically, airpower has employed an assertive definition of strategic decision. Classical airpower theorists (such as Giulio Douhet, Billy Mitchell, and others) viewed strategic airpower as the capacity to destroy enemy state capacity without destroying the enemy’s fielded military forces. Strategic air attacks against cities would either induce state collapse by undermining the confidence of the population, bring about the collapse of the organized military, or some combination of the two. Neo-classical airpower theory (most notably in the form of John Warden’s “Five Rings” theory) held much the same view, with some sophisticated tweaks. 

Less… enthusiastic visions of airpower have focused on the role that airpower can play in setting the terms for decisive battle (weakening fielded enemy forces, destroying enemy logistics and communications) and in providing direct tactical support for friendly land and sea forces. Under these terms, the strategic contribution of airpower is not independent, but rather as part of strategic landpower and seapower. 

Seapower has historically had a different conception of strategic decision. As Jim Holmes notes, Julian Corbett described the navy as a facilitator of decisive results, rather than an executor. The navy could only hope to produce an environment in which the army had the best chance of disarming and breaking the will of the enemy. I dissent a bit from Holmes' description of Mahan; I read Mahan more as suggesting that achieving a decisive political decision is less important in the long run than maintaining control of the sea, through which the fruits of empire will flow.