13 September 2013

Agniveer : India’s External Threats- Roots and Solutions

Published 09/12/2013
Sep 11, 2013 
Vashi

Thanks to Chinese recent incursions into Indian territory for letting the Aam Aadmi know that China can send much more into India than cheaper toys and dustbins. A recent report by National Security Advisory Board submitted to PM of India reveals that China has occupied around 640 Sq Km of Indian land in Ladakh. This is the land which Indians could petrol few months ago but not now after China PLA has dictated the new petrol limits for Indian security forces.

Unfortunate part is that even now after such daring acts by Chinese, India’s awareness about its most dangerous enemy remains at the disposal of media that can anytime switch gears to Salman-Shahrukh rivalry or Asaram to help people forget the existential threat.

Yes, India is soft. Let’s admit it. This softness is deeply rooted in our psyche. We carry this flabbiness in our genes. Muhammad Ghori invaded India in 1191 AD when Prithviraj Chauhan crushed his army in Tarain. But former was pardoned in lines with the ‘great Indian tradition of forgiveness’. And the very next year Ghori’s army was ruining Delhi, killing men, raping women, after Chauhan was defeated in second battle. But this time things were different. Chauhan’s head was hanging in the streets of Ghazna after he was butchered by Ghori’s men who knew nothing like forgiveness.

Hindis (Indians), in Mughal emperor Babur’s words, were- ‘Masters of sword, idiots in strategy’. [Baburnama] Babur was pointing to the strange practices of Indians followed in wars, viz. not fighting in nights, not using deception (Kutneeti) and pardoning enemies. And he summed this up well. Sadly Babur’s words befit our national/individual character even today. What disturbs me most is the fact that a nation facing invasions, massacres and aggressions by outsiders for well above 1500 Years seems as clueless as it was at the time of first invasion in 710 AD by Arab armies.

Can we do something now about this disease of being ‘gentle’ when situations demand mettle? Yes, we can and we will. But for that we need to understand root causes of our troubles that need to be exterminated.

To get a solution you need to accept that there is a problem

We kept chanting Mazhab nahi sikhata aapas mein bair rakhna (religion does not teach you hatred) and suddenly one day this country was cut into pieces in the name of religion. What went wrong? We could not differentiate between our wish and reality. Strategies are formulated on the basis of reality. Wishes are made in prayers. We tend to mingle the two and get into trouble every time. We keep denying the existence of issues and suddenly one day when issues get too big to deal with, what do we do? Well, we don’t have much to do then, it’s the issues do to us what they want. China stabbed us in back when we were dancing to the songs of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai. We wished China to be our Brother and we made it our policy. Ordnance factories in India were being closed down as friendship gesture when China recognized us correctly as bunch of idiots without any preparation. And rest is history.

The Chinese Dream: Still Dreaming?

By Jessica Teets
September 12, 2013

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s June visit to the United States, he noted that the two nations share many similarities and areas of policy overlap, including the concept of a national dream. Xi had already introduced his “Chinese Dream” after becoming chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as a vision that seems to combine the idea inspired by the American Dream of rising living standards with an undefined “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” apparently combining a stronger military with collective progress in Chinese society.

When visiting recently at the Neusoft Academy of Software and Technology in Dalian, a wealthy port in northeastern China, I saw evidence of this dream at work. Graduating seniors had a 90 percent employment rate at technology companies like Neusoft and IBM, illustrating that education can lead to social mobility. But there is a problem. With increasing levels of income inequality and the vast wealth of the Chinese political elite, is that dream accessible to all – or is it reserved only for the elite?

During the 1980s and 1990s, economic growth in China brought rising incomes for most citizens. Chinese were raised out of poverty at a rate unprecedented in history, with hard work and investment in education serving as paths to career advancement. Since the mid 1990s, however, the Chinese economy has been redirected away from promoting small private and collective enterprises and back toward giving more emphasis to large national state-owned enterprises, or SOEs. The top SOEs dominate the country’s economy and wealth.

One indication is the statistic known as the Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality. This measurerose sharply between 2000 and 2012. Another indication is the wealth of members of the legislature, the National People’s Congress: 83 representatives are billionaires according to one report, while many others are the affluent children of senior party officials or SOE executives. This makes clear that political connections can matter more than career success for those who want to get ahead politically and economically. For the more than 155 million rural migrants who work in the cities with neither legal status nor social welfare benefits, does the incredible wealth of these second-generation elites let them believe in the ruling party’s Chinese Dream, or do they feel great resentment because they – and most citizens – seem excluded?

For the CCP to create a Chinese Dream accessible to all, it must reform the household registration (hukuo) system that allots welfare benefits only to urban residents and not to migrant workers and their families. It must also make land assets available to the rural poor and develop a social safety net to support a consumer-driven service economy intended to employ the rising middle class. These reforms, while technically and politically difficult, would eliminate a great deal of China’s enormous inequality and restore a more level playing field, one that would again let family businesses and the benefits of education bring economic success for those without prior wealth or political connections.

War is Boring


Here Comes China’s Drone Patrols
Mike Yeo reveals how heavier bombers and drones are becoming the new normal over the waters of the Western Pacific

On most days, the Japan Self-Defense Forces scramble fighters to intercept Chinese military aircraft patrolling through what Tokyo terms its Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ. But it’s not everyday Japanese aircraft intercept a Chinese drone.

That’s exactly what happened this week.

On Monday, Japan detected an unidentified drone flying southeast off the coast of Zhejiang, before circling the skies approximately 100 miles north of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and then heading back in the direction of China. An unknown number of JASDF interceptors were scrambled against the interloper.

It’s the first known occasion when a land-based Chinese drone has approached the Japanese ADIZ. From the photo of the drone released by the Japanese Ministry of Defense, it would appear to be a BZK-005 medium-altitude, long-endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV.


This was the flight profile:Drone flight profile. Japan Ministry of Defense illustration

Little is known about this obscure UAV since its unveiling in 2006, except that it was designed by the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics with Harbin Aircraft Industry Group is believed to boast an endurance of 40 hours with a service ceiling of 26,000 feet. The type is known to be in service with the Chinese Navy, deployed with an unknown reconnaissance unit stationed in the nearby base of Huangyan-Luqiao.

Scrambling fighters against Chinese aircraft more generally is not out of the ordinary. The JASDF scrambled fighters against Chinese aircraftat least 306 times in 2012, which works out to almost once daily.

Will Abbott Choose China?

Australia Out to Sea
SEPTEMBER 9, 2013

Australia's conservative leader Tony Abbott waves as he walks to the stage to claim victory in Australia's federal election during an election night function in Sydney September 7, 2013. (David Gray / Courtesy Reuters)

Australian voters were not thinking much about foreign policy when they voted last weekend to dismiss the Labor government of Kevin Rudd and install a conservative government under Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition Liberal Party. Instead, the election hinged on sharp domestic debates and on personality questions. Both sides tacitly agreed to ignore the huge foreign policy question that looms over the country: How should Australia position itself between its traditional ally, the United States, and its major trading partner, China, as their strategic rivalry grows?

That question cannot be dodged for long, and it will now fall to Abbott to find an answer. Like most Australian politicians, Abbott has little experience in foreign affairs and apparently little interest in it. There is no evidence that he has thought much about what is happening in Asia or what it means for Australia. So it would be a big surprise if he came to office with any fully formed plans. What he brings instead is a rather typically Australian mix of conservatism and pragmatism, and the example of his model, mentor, and predecessor: the last Liberal prime minister, John Howard.

As a classic Australian conservative, Abbott puts great store in Australia’s traditional alliances -- not just with the United States but also with the United Kingdom, to which he retains a much deeper sentimental attachment than do most Australians today. He talks a lot about the “Anglosphere,” which seems to occupy a central place in his worldview. That means that his first instinct will always be to support the United States in whatever it is trying to do. In one of the few campaign remarks that he made about foreign policy on issues other than Syria, Abbott said that he would always be inclined to offer the United States whatever support it asked for.

Abbott’s conservatism also inclines him to be uneasy about modern China. Like many people in the West -- and not just conservatives -- he finds it uncomfortable that China could grow so quickly and become so powerful despite its authoritarian one-party political system. That challenges his deeply held ideas about the ascendency of democratic principles, which had seemed so decisively validated by the collapse of communism elsewhere in the world.

The statesmanlike thing would be to try to reduce the risk of escalating the U.S.-China rivalry by urging both sides to settle their differences and to agree to share power in Asia. This would be a very radical and unexpected thing for any Australian leader to do.

The Iran Fallacy

Seeing Damascus, Thinking Tehran
SEPTEMBER 11, 2013

Syrian protesters living in Jordan burn shoes symbolizing Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, May 31, 2012. (Muhammad Hamed / Courtesy Reuters)

Iran looms large in the debate over how to respond to the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed hundreds of civilians. For proponents of a muscular American response, strikes would be as much about deterring Iran as about punishing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “A failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons,” U.S. President Barack Obama maintained in his address to the country on Tuesday, “would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.” Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry have both increasingly focused on Iran in their public advocacy for a U.S. strike.

In this view, failing to robustly enforce Washington’s red line on the use of chemical weapons would equate to waving the white flag toward Tehran. Some would go so far as to say that opting for the Russian plan -- for the international community to remove chemical weapons from Syria -- would do so as well, given deep skepticism of Russian intentions and international inspections in general. It would signal to Iran’s leadership that American ultimatums are toothless and that popular aversion to another Middle Eastern military engagement ultimately means that the Islamic Republic can get away with defying the United States.

Washington’s linking of Iran and Syria should not come as any real surprise; it’s superficially compelling and politically appealing. It also happens to be wrong.

For decades, Syria’s Baathist regime claimed the lonely status of the Islamic Republic’s sole ally in the Arab world. Assad has only expanded those ties. Iran also factors heavily into the thinking of an American president who is personally committed to nonproliferation as a central component of his legacy.

The focus on Iran has another advantage as well: Iran arouses an unusual degree of bipartisanship in a highly fractured and polarized Washington. Stephen Hadley, who served as national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, argued in the Washington Post that a failure to strike would make a mockery of American willingness to deter an Iranian nuclear capability. And Dennis Ross, who has served as a Middle East peace envoy for U.S. presidents from both parties,advanced the claim that Iranian advocates of diplomacy need an American strikeon Syria to facilitate a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear crisis. No wonder, then, that as public and congressional skepticism about involvement in Syria has mounted, Iran has only taken on greater prominence in the Obama administration’s argument.

There is just one catch: to think that a strike on Syria would send a message to Iran is to fundamentally misread the Iranian psyche. Doing something in Syria may make sense on the merits, especially if it would help resolve the civil war. But using Iran as a justification would be disingenuous and even dangerous. It would be almost as irresponsible as the trumped-up intelligence that Obama’s predecessor used to drum up support for the Iraq war a decade ago.

Barack Obama’s address on Syria



Pinpricks and pinheads
Sep 11th 2013
by J.P.P. | WASHINGTON, D.C.

THERE will be no vote in Congress on air-strikes, for the time being. America will wait and see whether Russia’s proposal that Bashar Assad’s regime put away its chemical weapons and, in exchange, be spared a shower of Tomahawk missiles, is credible. That was the message of a short address given by the president on September 10th.

The one-on-one with the nation had been previewed as Barack Obama’s chance to win over a sceptical public. It carried some of the force of this original purpose. Mr Obama made a persuasive case that both America’s self-interest and its values pointed in the direction of using military force.

If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield, and it could be easier for terrorist organisations to obtain these weapons and to use them to attack civilians...

What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?

And then it all got a little confusing. Having begun by explaining why “what happened to those people—to those children—is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security,” he went on to say that he had asked for a vote because he “believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress.” Finding the distinction between something being a threat and a direct or imminent threat comes close to counting angels on pinheads. Such a distinction also seems to be newly minted: it did not apply in March 2011 when "Operation Odyssey Dawn", America’s armed intervention in Libya, began.

If it does eventually take place, the strike on Syria will not, the president said, be an open-ended commitment as was made in Iraq or Afghanistan, nor even a prolonged air campaign like Kosovo or Libya. But neither would it be a pinprick. In what sounded like a rebuke to his own secretary of state, who had previously described the proposed strike as “unbelievably small”, Mr Obama said that, “the United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.”

How has the president got himself in such a tangle that he is arguing that Bashar Assad is a threat, but not a direct one, who must be met with a strike that is neither big nor small?

Such a long Lankan journey

Sep 11 2013,

From finding Tamil guerilla camps in 1984 to checking up on lost friends last week in Colombo

This new, occasional series should, in fairness, be a thank-you note to Shoojit Sircar, one of our new breed of young and thinking filmmakers. His latest Madras Café marks a new beginning in Hindi cinema. Unlike Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, it does not claim to be a biopic. And, unlike Milkha, it stays much closer to the real story which, again entirely unlike Milkha Singh's, is one of the saddest in our history: the LTTE-led terror, war with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in north and eastern Sri Lanka, and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Of course, there is much fictionalisation, some for the convenience of storytelling and some for political caution. But there is enough for somebody who saw these events up close to go back to the story, and then tie up some ends with current research to retell it. That is why, as I said in the beginning, this is not a review of Shoojit's brilliant film, but a thank-you note. Because he has given me that nudge to start putting together a reporter's memoir of sorts. Publishers have often approached me to write one, and I have routinely fobbed them off with a permanent, lazy journalist's excuse: editors write books between jobs. That hasn't come to pass, nor is it likely to anytime soon. So, inspired by Madras Café, I am trying an unconventional approach to that memoir in the form of this series, where I will try and revisit, say, some 20 of the biggest stories of our times that I was eyewitness to. And don't get alarmed. I won't be inflicting this on you in a neverending serial, but only occasionally. Only when one of these stories somehow pops back in the news. Further, while the selfish reason, of course, is to get a headstart on my memoirs, these stories will also, I hope, put what happened in today's context. Like in this case, Lanka's still open wounds and its struggle with healing.

"First Person" in this series comes from the idea that I confine myself to my first-hand experience. And "Second Draft", because the passage of time gives you the benefit of reflection and hindsight to see what you covered in real time in fresh light. These stories were done in different periods between The Indian Express and India Today and I am grateful to the latter for allowing me the use of archival material, including pictures and some graphics.

I was assigned to follow up on Rajiv's assassination within about 10 days, as the first indications of a Sri Lankan connection emerged. I was already an old Sri Lanka hand of sorts, having been both lionised and demonised in that country. But more about that later.

I landed in Colombo in the first week of June, 1991. The first person I called was Lalith Athulathmudali, former defence and internal security minister, once a rising star in Sri Lankan politics, and one of the most brilliant and articulate politicians I have ever met in the subcontinent. By now, however, he was much diminished. Politically, he was marginalised in opposition to President Ranasinghe Premadasa. And physically, he was a wreck. A bomb aimed at President Jayawardene in the Sri Lankan parliament in 1987 had landed in Lalith's lap instead. He was a medical marvel now, living with hundreds of pieces of shrapnel in his body. To describe the Lalith I met in 1991 as a pale shadow of the man I knew from 1985 will be a phenomenal understatement. Politically, physically and even personally, he had no resemblance to the man then seen as Sri Lanka's P. Chidambaram (then a rising star in Rajiv's government, though nine years younger), and not only because they were both Harvard law graduates and handling sensitive internal security portfolios in their respective countries. They were both brilliant, articulate but measured to the extent of sounding cold by the subcontinent's standards. Lalith was also Benazir Bhutto's friend, and preceded her as president of the Oxford Union.

Uncovering The War

Sep 13 2013,

Reconstructing the IPKF disaster, piece by poignant piece, brought me face to face with rare courage —and inexcusable complacence.

India's unexpected war in Sri Lanka caught me on the wrong foot by 12,000 km. I was still finishing the last month of my sabbatical year in Washington DC when the fighting broke out. And as I returned home, the media was full of coverage, often loaded, of the IPKF disaster in Sri Lanka's Jaffna peninsula. Loaded because the Bofors scandal, and many other missteps, already had Rajiv Gandhi under widespread attack. Sri Lanka was therefore seen as "babalog" political stupidity, rather than military incompetence. In the process, we were guilty of both insensitivity to Indian soldiers, their courage and sacrifice, and conveniently overlooking the complacence of our higher commanders. Now, this was obviously not a war we were going to ever lose — though my friend Hardeep Puri, who was by then our deputy high commissioner in Colombo under J.N. "Mani" Dixit, tells you, sort of semi-lightheartedly, that there was one evening so tense that it sounded as if Palaly (Jaffna airbase and the IPKF's 54 Infantry Division HQ) was going to fall. Hardeep had just seen the truce agreement he had so painstakingly drafted and signed with Mahattaya (Madras Cafe's Mallaya) fall apart.

It is creditable how much of that initial messiness Shoojit Sircar has got accurately. The fact that early IPKF patrols were routinely ambushed, pinned down and annihilated. How its officers were picked out by snipers. How the LTTE seemed to have inside information on all IPKF moves (more about this a little later). The most creditable footage, however fleeting and sensitively handled, is of the Tigers ransacking Indian soldiers' bodies and picking weapons, souvenirs and trophies from them. Note, particularly, a boyish Sikh soldier sitting, frozen in rigor mortis. That quality of research you didn't expect from a mainstream Indian filmmaker, and we will shortly explain why.

On my return to India, I was deeply saddened — even offended — by the celebratory coverage of the war. Cover pictures of Indian soldiers' bodies, close-ups of Tigers displaying caps, identity cards, boots of dead Indian soldiers. You had never seen an Indian war covered like that, and you haven't since. Of course, I also felt rotten having missed out on the big story which, for the magazine, was covered by my friend and colleague Anita Pratap, who later worked for Time and CNN. She believes that Nargis Fakhri's Jaya was styled after her, and has sent emails to her old friends saying so. The photographer accompanying her, Shyam Tekwani, was my frequent travelling partner in Sri Lanka subsequently, and now teaches at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Hawaii. I did get into many arguments in our newsroom on how we had covered the story and why it was necessary to now reconstruct what exactly had gone wrong, and the lessons learnt, etc. My reward was being assigned that story now. And in the third week of December, 1987, I landed in Colombo, having been briefed by Gen Sundarji, his DGMO Lt Gen (later army chief) Bipin Chandra Joshi, and his staff.

Since association by events is sometimes the safest way to remember dates, particularly if you do not maintain elaborate notebooks — in my case, in fact, hardly, and notoriously the sketchiest ones, if at all — I can tell you I was on way to Jaffna from Colombo in a rented Mitsubishi Lancer on December 24 and had just crossed Vavuniya when everything came to a standstill. Angry, grieving mobs blocked the streets. MGR had just died — that's how I know the precise date — and a bandh had been declared by Tamils. I couldn't go forward or back, knew no Tamil, had no food or shelter, and you know how early the winter sun sets that far in the east. But I was lucky again, as an IPKF patrol of Maratha Light Infantry Regiment passed by and its leader, then a very young Captain C.K. Menon, offered me shelter in his camp. We connected decades later at the ITC Grand Central Hotel in Mumbai, where he was serving in a senior capacity, having left the army as a colonel (he has moved up the ladder in ITC hotels now). From him and his colleagues that night, in that small camp in the danger zone, I heard my first stories of the ordeal Indian soldiers had just been through. True enough, after absorbing the initial setbacks, they had taken and secured the entire Jaffna peninsula. But the price had been a shocker: 350 killed and 1,100 wounded in this month-long charge. The casualty rate, at 7 per cent of all troops involved, was twice as high as in our wars against Pakistan. One of the five brigades that assaulted Jaffna, the 41st, which was airlifted on October 17 and launched straight on the coastal road axis leading to Jaffna Fort (see sketch), had 272 casualties, or 17 per cent of its strength. The 72nd also suffered heavy casualties, including its deputy brigade commander, Col D.S. Saraon. The heavily armoured BMP Infantry Fighting Vehicle he was riding was blown up by a 200-kg mine. The 13.2-tonne vehicle was tossed more than 30 feet and its doors, each weighing more than 250 kg, were found more than a hundred yards away. Another illustrious battalion, 4/5 Gurkhas, had its commandant and all but one of its majors killed one afternoon. This is not a war anybody had expected and, regrettably, prepared to fight. I wrote a five-page reconstruction and analysis headlined 'In a rush to vanquish' (India Today, January 31, 1988).

Time to bridge this river divide

By ohan D’Souza

The Indus Water Treaty must move beyond its logic of compensation and water sharing between India and Pakistan to address the energy and ecological concerns of Jammu & Kashmir

Much of South Asia is now haunted by the spectre of hydro-electricity. At heart remains the sub-continent’s unsolved riddle of trying to ‘meaningfully share’ its many trans-boundary rivers. Existing river development models, as all governments have learnt, are indeed a zero sum game: in which a benefit extracted from one point of the river’s stem will inevitably involve a cost at another point in the flow. For all the careful wording that has gone into framing water treaties, sharing agreements or cooperation models, the overwhelming fact remains that every country in the region is energy starved, politically impatient and is compelled to tap rivers for hydropower.
Claim for ‘compensation’

In April of this year, the government of Jammu and Kashmir loudly restated an earlier claim for ‘compensation.’ This demand for financial reimbursement was made not only upon the government of India but in an equally emphatic tone on Pakistan as well. And the source of this twinned nature of J&K’s grief, as they dramatically point out, is the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). Signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan, the IWT, ironically enough for J&K, continues to be celebrated as a diplomatic-legal-technical success story in the region. The consensus over the IWT, in fact, has not only held and endured wars but arguably, as well, offers one of the most substantial set of protocols for addressing disputes and disagreements that may arise over water sharing. But clearly this curriculum vitae of the IWT has failed to impress the J&K government, which has even gone on to hire the services of a private consultancy firm — M/S Halcrow India Limited — and tasked it to assess losses that have ostensibly been incurred by the State in the past five decades on account of the IWT.

According to one such estimate, J&K suffers an annual loss of Rs.6,000 crore; a calculation based on the perceived benefits that are denied to the State from clauses in the IWT that prevent the former from storing water (for generating electricity) and from diverting flows for irrigational needs. Jammu and Kashmir is, in fact, energy-deficit and according to the latest Economic Survey (2012-13), only 23.22 per cent of the required power was generated within the State while the rest had to be imported. As of now, J&K purchases around 1,400 MW of power from the northern grid and spends Rs. 3,600 crore annually on meeting its growing demand which peaked at 2,600 MW. This, given the fact that ‘potentially’ it can generate 20,000 megawatts from the rivers and many cascading tributaries that run through its valleys and hills. In effect, J&K‘s hydro-electricity dilemmas have turned into a hard rock that the State government is now continually hurling against the IWT and battering the delicate water sharing agreement between India and Pakistan.

But if the IWT appears to be failing the people of J&K who, geographically speaking, inhabit the head-reaches of the Indus system, what does one make of the environmental mess that has come to afflict the Indus delta? Historically, the estimated total water available from the Indus catchments has been calculated at being approximately 150 Million Acre Feet (MAF) (181 billion m3), a large portion of which then hurtled as fresh water flows into the sprawling edges of mangroves and estuarine ecologies of the delta. Over the past 60 years or so, however, the quantity of sweet water flows has been reduced below Kotri (in Sindh Province) to a peak (in the three monsoon months) of about 34.8 MAF (43 billion m3), with barely 20 MAF reaching the mangroves. In effect, fresh water flows have been steadily slurped off in the flood plains, with diversions for agriculture and industry and reservoirs holding back volumes for power generation. Importantly as well, instead of the 400 million tonnes of nutrient rich fine grained soil that used to annually nourish the delta, there is now barely a 100 million or so tonnes of soil washing up along the coasts.

From Russia, a plea for caution

By Vladimir V. Putin

AP NO LANGUAGE OF FORCE: By often advocating military intervention in internal conflicts overseas, America risks damaging its image as a model of democracy. File photo shows a scene in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr district.

Addressing Americans through “The New York Times”, President Putin makes a forceful appeal against the U.S. going to war in Syria and asks for a return to the path of diplomacy

Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the Cold War. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organisation — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
U.N.’s role

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorisation.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the Pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilise the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organisations. This internal conflict, fuelled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.
Protecting law

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defence or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.
New opportunity

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen non-proliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilised diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the President’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal. — New York Times News Service

(Vladimir V. Putin is the President of Russia.) 

Guess what? CGSC is even more broken than we thought! And it is getting worse

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks 
September 10, 2013

By Nicholas Murray 
Best Defense department of remedial PME

"It is just not learning with your partners and your peers and your partners and peers from other nations. It is also about spending a little time with your family. I think that is incredibly important."-- General Raymond Odierno speaking to the graduating class of 2013 at the Army War College, Carlisle, PA

All of the talk of the effect of the furlough on the military has missed one important factor. What is going to happen to our military schools? Well, it's not looking good: at least, not from the perspective of the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. A curriculum that has already been roundly criticized as overwhelmingly bloated and far too focused on teaching information the officers should already know is about to get compressed into less time. It is often claimed that the college is modeled on a good quality graduate school or should resemble one. Indeed, Gen. Robert Cone (commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) wrote in a recent article in Military Review: "There is no reason not to demand the equivalent of Harvard on the Missouri at Leavenworth...." That's great, and I agree. However, there is a huge roadblock in the way: the schedule.

If CGSC was Harvard the students (officers) would expect to spend nine or so hours a week in class (about 270 hours in class time for a school year) and the rest of the time reading and researching. At CGSC the officers currently spend around 900 hours in the classroom. Yes, nine-hundred hours! That total does not include the large number of guest speakers who are compulsory viewing (many of whom are a waste of time and money according to the students, but that is another story). Typically, this means another 60-70 hours on top of the 900 (let's say 950). Add to that number time for assignments, reading, researching, and thinking. A typical rule of thumb used in grad school is three hours of study/work time for every classroom hour. This brings us to more than 3,800 hours for the year. That is more than 12 hours per day for every single day the officers are at CGSC, including weekends and holidays. Do we really think they are going to do that? Of course we already know they don't, and can't. If we only include the number of actual work days it gets even more ridiculous. There will be roughly 180 work days next school year. Do we really expect our officers to work more than 21 hours a day? I hope not. 

To show the reader what this means, at 12:30 PM on October 21, 2013, students at CGSC will already have completed 270 hours of contact time. At that point, they will still have more than seven months to go before the school year ends!

What could be different? CGSC could have taken the opportunity presented by the furloughs to drastically cut back on the number of hours. This would have enabled the college more closely to match up with the demands of much of the criticism of PME. Of course, one might ask why is this particular issue important? All credible research shows that trying to stuff too much information into the heads of students has the opposite effect to the desired outcome. Typically, students actually end up learning less than if they had been introduced to a smaller amount of material in the first place. This is not good for U.S. servicemembers who are required to think. Furthermore, it is not good for their safety, or U.S. national security, if they don't do it well. And they are less likely to do it well if they are not taught properly.

Darpa Refocuses Precision Close Air Support Effort On Manned Aircraft

Source: AWIN First

September 10, 2013 
Credit: Darpa

Raytheon is moving ahead to demonstrate more rapid and accurate close air support after finalizing a contract with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) to continue the Precision Close Air Support (PCAS) program.

PCAS has been modified to shift the emphasis from automating close air support by enabling ground forces to control the weapons on unmanned aircraft. Instead, the program has been focused on transitioning technology to manned CAS aircraft.

The original plan was to demonstrate unmanned CAS using a Fairchild A-10 converted to optionally piloted mode by Aurora Flight Sciences. Now PCAS will be demonstrated using a manned A-10, says Dave Bossert, Raytheon program manager.

“The fundamental goal is still the same: to decrease the timeline by a factor of 10 from a request for fire to an effect on target — from 60 min. to 6 min. for an A-10 20 nautical miles away,” he says. “And we will still use the A-10, but not optionally manned.”

The modified program comprises two elements. PCAS-Air is the airborne system, providing the interface between the aircraft and the joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) on the ground. PCAS-Ground is the JTAC kit, including Android tablet computer, head-up display and radio.

PCAS will provide improved communications and situational awareness for the JTAC and CAS pilot, with all-digital messaging and shared displays of sensor imagery, targets, weapons and their effects.

“The PCAS-Air piece was the A-10. Now it is “Smart Rail” electronics small enough so that anything that can carry the Hellfire missile can be PCAS-Air-enabled,” Bossert says. “We are platform-agnostic, sensor-agnostic and radio-agnostic.”

The Smart Rail includes a computer that hosts the PCAS algorithms, a GPS/inertial navigation system, and it talks to the JTAC via a dedicated data-link radio and to the aircraft sensors and an Android tablet in the cockpit via an interface box.

“Tight coupling of the JTAC and pilot is key,” Bossert says, with PCAS providing the JTAC access to computing power and high-resolution sensors on the aircraft without the Smart Rail being part of its operational flight program. “It is separate from, but hosted on, the aircraft.”

What Are The Air Force's Big Five Programs For The Future?


The F-35A fighter probably belongs at the top of any list describing the Air Force's most important weapons-development efforts, because without it the service will lose its ability to sustain global air dominance. This picture shows an F-35A lifting off for its first training sortie at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in March of 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Randy Gon/Released)

If there is one message that comes through loud and clear from the debate of military options in Syria, it is that the public does not want “boots on the ground” in the Middle East — or for that matter, just about anywhere else. So the future of U.S. military action belongs to air power, whether it be land-based or sea-based. However, the future also belongs to fiscal conservatives, so it is important to find a way of explaining clearly to the political system which weapons programs are most critical to sustaining what the Air Force used to call “Global Reach, Global Power.”

Army leaders came up with a simple and effective way of telling their modernization story in the years following the Vietnam War. Faced with a Congress intent on slashing military outlays, the Army began talking about its “Big Five” programs — the five weapons-development efforts most crucial to assuring U.S. soldiers could win future ground campaigns. The five programs were the Abrams tank, the Bradley troop carrier, the Apache APA -0.26% attack helicopter, the Black Hawk utility helicopter, and the Patriot air defense system. Whatever else you cut, the Army told Congress, don’t cut these five programs.

That approach seemed to work well. All five programs survived congressional review to become the signature combat systems of today’s Army. That’s more than you can say for most big-ticket weapons programs the Army began in later years. In fact, you could argue that the absence of a compelling “Big Five” campaign today is one reason why the Army’s development agenda seems to be gradually unraveling. Maybe the other services should learn a lesson from that, and initiate their own Big Five efforts. In the case of the Navy, it would probably be all ships, beginning with the Ford-class carrier and the Trident submarine successor. The Marine Corps is smaller, so maybe it should have a “Big Three” campaign focusing on the vertical-takeoff version of the F-35 fighter, the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor, and the long-overdue Amphibious Combat Vehicle (Disclosure: Many of the nation’s major weapons manufacturers give money to my think tank).

And then there is the Air Force, which may well become the dominant provider of U.S. military power in the years ahead if it can keep its modernization agenda on track. The Air Force has not been noted for its political skills in recent years, although its forceful chief of staff, General Mark A. Welsh, seems intent on changing that. But since he can’t count on subordinates having the same communications skills, his service really needs the clarity of a Big Five initiative to explain to Congress what the Air Force’s core development efforts for the future are.

If I were formulating such an initiative, I would leave out orbital hardware such as missile-warning satellites even though they are crucial to national security and the Air Force is lead service for their development. The reason why is that space systems are typically joint assets used by all of the services. A big chunk of the Air Force’s investment budget is allocated to such joint programs — so much so that it sometimes gets in the way of modernizing the service’s signature aircraft programs. A Big Five program for the Air Force should focus on “things with wings,” since that’s where we need to see greater progress in terms of sustaining America’s global edge in air power.

Americans Must Sacrifice Some Security to Reform the NSA

SEP 11 2013

The nation can survive the occasional terrorist attack, but our freedoms can't survive an invulnerable leader like Keith Alexander operating within inadequate constraints.

Leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden have catapulted the NSA into newspaper headlines and demonstrated that it has become one of the most powerful government agencies in the country. From the secret court rulings that allow it collect data on all Americans to its systematic subversion of the entire Internet as a surveillance platform, the NSA has amassed an enormous amount of power.

There are two basic schools of thought about how this came to pass. The first focuses on the agency’s power. Like J. Edgar Hoover, NSA Director Keith Alexander has become so powerful as to be above the law. He is able to get away with what he does because neither political party -- and nowhere near enough individual lawmakers -- dare cross him. Longtime NSA watcher James Bamford recently quoted a CIA official: “We jokingly referred to him as Emperor Alexander -- with good cause, because whatever Keith wants, Keith gets.”

Possibly the best evidence for this position is how well Alexander has weathered the Snowden leaks. The NSA’s most intimate secrets are front-page headlines, week after week. Morale at the agency is in shambles. Revelation after revelation has demonstrated that Alexander has exceeded his authority, deceived Congress, and possibly broken the law. Tens of thousands of additional top-secret documents are still waiting to come. Alexander has admitted that he still doesn’t know what Snowden took with him and wouldn’t have known about the leak at all had Snowden not gone public. He has no idea who else might have stolen secrets before Snowden, or who such insiders might have provided them to. Alexander had no contingency plans in place to deal with this sort of security breach, and even now -- four months after Snowden fled the country -- still has no coherent response to all this.

For an organization that prides itself on secrecy and security, this is what failure looks like. It is a testament to Alexander’s power that he still has a job.

The second school of thought is that it’s the administrations’ fault -- not just the present one, but the most recent several. According to this theory, the NSA is simply doing its job. If there’s a problem with the NSA’s actions, it’s because the rules it’s operating under are bad. Like the military, the NSA is merely an instrument of national policy. Blaming the NSA for creating a surveillance state is comparable to blaming the U.S. military for the conduct of the Iraq war. Alexander is performing the mission given to him as best he can, under the rules he has been given, with the sort of zeal you’d expect from someone promoted into that position. And the NSA’s power predated his directorship.

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden exemplifies this in a quote from late July: “Give me the box you will allow me to operate in. I’m going to play to the very edges of that box.”

Your Move, Putin

Posted Sept. 10, 2013

Obama’s speech may not have sounded novel, but the president may have helped his cause in unexpected ways.

President Obama spoke to the nation on Tuesday night to address the crisis in Syria.

If Russian president Vladimir Putin had put forth his peace plan a few days earlier than he did, it’s doubtful that President Obama would have bothered to deliver a primetime address Tuesday night. What he said—Syria is still dangerous, but there’s no need to act just yet while we pursue this new diplomatic path—doesn’t move the plot forward or require the nation’s rapt attention.

And yet the surprise twist from Moscow might well place Obama in an equally unexpected win-win position. The first of the two wins is obvious. Putin’s move rescues Obama from what would almost certainly have been the most devastating defeat of his presidency. The speech was originally intended as a last-ditch effort to convince Congress to approve a bill authorizing him to use force against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria—a bill that the House of Representatives seemed set to vote down by a huge margin. Now, the vote can be put off while diplomacy is given another try.

The second win is iffier, but it seems that Putin is wriggling in a trap of his own making. On Monday, as everyone knows, Secretary of State John Kerry said, perhaps offhandedly, that the U.S. air strikes against Syria could be called off if Assad placed all of his chemical weapons under international control—to which Putin replied, “Yes, let’s do that.” Obama had scheduled several TV interviews that day, for the purpose of making his case for an attack; but now that Putin’s plan was headline news, he changed course and said this could be a game-changer.

At that point, France—the one major ally that had proclaimed solidarity with Obama from the outset of this crisis—announced that it was drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution to call for an international takeover of Syria’s chemical arsenal, with severe penalties if Assad didn’t cooperate. And then Putin backpedaled, saying that Russia would veto any U.N. resolution—at which point many political figures, even those who welcomed this twist, suspected that Putin’s offer was simply a ploy to buy time.

The upshot is this: If Russia backs away from a real deal, after exciting so many players to its possibilities, Obama could emerge with his air strikes gaining greater support—at home and abroad.

To this end, Obama and his aides have crafted a narrative that makes everything they’ve done in recent days—the slips and slides, as well as the shrewd moves—seem smart and bold: namely, that Putin proposed this plan (and Assad subsequently announced that Syria would join the other 189 nations that have signed an international treaty prohibiting the use of chemical weapons) only because the United States had threatened to use force.

Pakistan's 'cyberwar' for control of the web

By Guillaume Lavallee (AFP) – 5 hours ago 

LAHORE, Pakistan — In a dingy Internet cafe, Abdullah gets round the censors with one click and logs onto YouTube, officially banned for a year and at the heart of Pakistan's cyberwar for control of the web.

On September 17, 2012 Islamabad blocked access to the popular video-sharing website after it aired a trailer for a low-budget American film deemed offensive to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.

Pakistan summoned the most senior US diplomat in the country to protest against the "Innocence of Muslims", demanding that the film be removed and action taken against its producers.

A year later, the film is barely mentioned but YouTube, whose parent company is US multinational Google Inc, is still banned in Pakistan, as it is in China and Iran.

Pakistan is no stranger to censorship. Foreign television programmes deemed offensive are blocked. Films shown at cinemas are stripped of scenes considered too daring.

But the YouTube ban is in name only.

Internet users like Abdullah Raheem, a university student in Pakistan's cultural capital Lahore, can easily access the site through a simple proxy or Virtual Private Network (VPN).

"Most people who go to school or university know how to access YouTube, but not the rest of the population," says Abdullah.

Only 10 percent of Pakistan's estimated 180 million people have access to the Internet, one of the lowest rates in the world.

"This ban has no impact," says Abdullah, who still feels bad about logging onto YouTube. "As a Muslim, I'm ashamed... because the 'Innocence of Muslims' defiled Islam."

Pakistan blocked the site only after Google was unable to block access to the film because it has no antenna in the country.

Although Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt defended hosting the film, the company did have the technology to block access to it in countries such as Egypt, India and Saudi Arabia.

But the Pakistani government didn't stop there. It then ordered that websites be monitored for "anti-Islam content".

The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, which specialises in Internet censorship, says Pakistan has used Canadian company Netsweeper to filter websites relating to human rights, sensitive religious topics and independent media.

The researchers say that pornographic content and political websites from Baluchistan, Pakistan's southwestern province gripped by separatist insurgency, are among those blocked.

Shortly after Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was arrested in April, Pakistan shut down access to a satirical song posted on YouTube's rival Vimeo that poked fun at the army.

But the song "Dhinak Dhinak" performed by the Beygairat Brigade, which is Urdu for Shameless Brigade, quickly went viral as Pakistani Internet users went through proxy VPNs to watch it.

Powerpoint Slides Conmcerning NSA Spying on Mexico and Brazil

September 11, 2013

For those of you who wish to see the Top Secret Codeword powerpoint slides which confirm the report this weekend in the Brazilian media about NSA’s analytic reporting on the intercepted communications of the presidents of Mexico and Brazil, they can be seen here: http://electrospaces.blogspot.nl/2013/09/an-nsa-eavesdropping-case-study.html