17 November 2013

Russia’s latest addition to Indian military might

November 17, 2013 

Defence Minister A.K. Antony commissioned the refurbished carrier Admiral Gorshkov into the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya at the Sevmash Shipyard in Russia on Saturday. Photo:PTI

Vikramaditya, another shining example of our long-standing ties, says Antony

Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Saturday called Russia a “time-tested friend” with whom India enjoyed a “special relationship.”

With Russian help, India had survived many challenges and grown in military might, Mr. Antony told the media aboard the newly-inducted aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. “Today’s handing over [of the carrier] is yet another shining example of the long-standing relationship between India and Russia. After nine years of waiting, at last the Indian Navy [has] got the Vikramaditya. There was a time when we thought it would never materialise, but the Navy, the government, the Russian Navy, the Russian government, the Sevmash Shipyard [which modernised the carrier] and its crew worked tirelessly and overcame the challenges,” said Mr. Antony about the long-winding and protracted carrier reconstruction project that had, at times, threatened to jeopardise the Indo-Russian relationship.

Mr. Antony said the carrier was just one of the many important military projects India had with Russia. Refusing to divulge details about the forthcoming India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation meeting in Moscow on Monday, the Defence Minister said discussions would be held for further expansion of military cooperation in various fields. He offered no response to a question whether the lease of a second nuclear submarine would come up for discussion at the meeting.

Mr. Antony showered praises on Sevmash Shipyard, Russia’s nuclear submarine-building facility, for taking up the carrier project — its first — and doing a commendable job of it. “The project would have been given by the government of the day with great hope. There were delays, but we now realise that there were real challenges [in its execution].

Earlier, speaking at the commissioning ceremony, he termed the transformation of the carrier as an engineering marvel, which had tested the professionalism, capability and perseverance of the Indian Navy and the Russian industry, especially the Sevmash Shipyard. He expressed the hope that Russia would extend India all possible support to ensure that the ship functioned effectively for the duration of its expected operational cycle of 25 years.

Asked whether Indian pilots were qualified to operate MiG-29k fighters from the carrier deck, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D.K. Joshi said flying operations had been partially begun — full operations would be possible only after the carrier reached India.

Sources told The Hindu that fighter operations from the carrier’s deck would take place within weeks of the carrier’s arrival at Karnataka’s Karwar in January.

Indian foreign affairs

Eastern promise
Manmohan Singh’s foreign policy is undercut by domestic weakness
Oct 26th 2013 | DELHI 

THE more embattled a leader is at home, the brighter the lure of foreign horizons. Manmohan Singh’s growing collection of air miles makes the point. His trip early this week to Russia, his ninth as India’s prime minister, was followed on October 22nd by one to China. Just before, on October 10th, he addressed a gathering of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), in Brunei, and visited Indonesia to launch annual bilateral summitry.

Hyperactivity is not new. Roughly a tenth of his near-decade as prime minister has been spent abroad; he has flown more than 1m km (620,000 miles) in 72 official visits. But now, beleaguered at home by scandal, an economy growing by barely 4% and gloomy prospects for his ruling Congress party, the airport departure lounge is more tempting than ever.

Diplomats may grumble that time wasted on formalities could be better used, for instance in researching and setting long-term policy. And nothing could boost India’s clout abroad faster than sorting out economic problems at home. But at least Mr Singh—dismissed as too often silent and ineffective at home—shows interest and some leadership in foreign affairs. And abroad he is unconstrained by his party boss, Sonia Gandhi.

Nobody talks of a “Singh doctrine”, and activity in the short term can look chaotic. The main news from Moscow on October 21st, for example, was of how an unworkable nuclear liability law had deterred even Russia, an old ally, from building more nuclear-power stations in India. In China the release of an official policy paper on Tibet, just as Mr Singh arrived, might have been seen as a snub.

Over time, however, Mr Singh’s foreign policy has shown some coherence. In his first term a 2005 civil-nuclear deal with America underlined India’s deepening links with Western democracies. On October 23rd came another measure of the country’s growing confidence: official equanimity as Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, met Barack Obama in the White House. With less fanfare, but no less important, Mr Singh’s second term has brought closer ties to Asian democracies.

They have in common Mr Singh’s push for economic relations as a foundation for strategic ones. At the Brunei ASEAN summit, for example, he called for an existing free-trade deal between South-East Asia and India on goods to be extended to cover services and investment. He wants bilateral trade to be worth $100 billion by 2015, up from $76 billion last year.

In turn India’s Asian diplomacy is part of a bigger “look east” policy. With Indonesia, for example, India has a “strategic partnership” that includes discussions of maritime security. If it proves more than just talk, two large Asian democracies, both friendly with America and both wary of China, could have much to share.

And that is also true of Japan, where relations are especially warm, the more so since Shinzo Abe returned to power. Japan has promised $4.5 billion for a freight and industrial corridor between Mumbai and Delhi. Last month it extended a currency-swap deal, from $15 billion to $50 billion, to support India’s rupee. Next month Emperor Akihito makes a rare visit, and Mr Abe is expected in January. Japan is also hoping to sell coastguard seaplanes, perhaps a hint of future co-operation on defence.

Why Pakistan Lionizes Its Tormenters

November 14, 2013

Four years ago, in the main street of Mingora, the largest town in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, I saw a man trying to make and sell kebabs. The coals weren’t catching fire, he was fanning them with a rolled-up newspaper, and the skewers were all over the place; it was quite obvious that the man was new to this type of work.

Swat had just been handed over to a man called Mullah Fazlullah, who had terrorized the valley in a bid to usher in his one and only version of Sharia law. He was trying to achieve this by running a very lively and illegal FM radio station and commanding a bunch of fighters from tribal areas, along with young sectarian zealots from the Punjab who specialized in blowing up girls’ schools and slitting the throats of Pakistani soldiers. They didn’t like dancers, so they pulled one out of her home and executed her in the bazaar. They also didn’t care much for barbershops, video stores, or women. Under Fazlullah’s regime, the main square in Mingora was known as Khooni Chowk—“Bloody Square”—because his fighters dumped their victims’ bodies there.

The struggling kebab-maker told me that he had owned a video shop, until a few days earlier, at least. Now he was trying out a new career, but it seemed like he didn’t have much of a future in Pakistan’s booming barbecue business, either; his eyes were teary from the smoke billowing off his improvised pit. He tried to make a handful of minced meat stick to a skewer, and said, sardonically, “See here, true Sharia has finally arrived in Swat.”

In 2009, the Pakistani Army launched an offensive to drive the Taliban out of Swat—and forced Fazlullah across the border, into Afghanistan. These days, the valley is relatively peaceful, and Pakistani tourists have returned in droves.

Fazlullah kept himself busy in exile: among other things, he issued the order to shoot Malala Yousafzai, the young education activist from Mingora. But he got a promotion earlier this week, when the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (usually known simply as the Pakistani Taliban, or T.T.P.) elected him as their new leader. In his very first statement, he declared that he would refuse any peace talks with the country’s government, which had finally managed to get a mandate from all political parties to hold such talks. Instead, Fazlullah’s first priority will be to take revenge for the death of his predecessor, Hakimullah Mehsud.

Mehsud, who had been “killed” by American drone strikes on at least two previous occasions, was actually killed by another drone strike at the start of November—transforming him overnight, in the eyes of Pakistani politicians and commentators, from a mass murderer into a martyr.

During his four years as the head of the T.T.P., Mehsud raised the Taliban game in Pakistan. No longer were they just tribal men fighting to preserve their way of life; they started dreaming they could convert everyone to it. Mehsud consolidated a number of small but ruthless militant and sectarian groups into close-knit fighting units that seemed able to strike anywhere at will. He ordered attacks on Pakistan’s military bases, organized a couple of spectacular jailbreaks, and sent an endless stream of suicide bombers after politicians and religious scholars who didn’t meet his exacting standards. After his men kidnapped an Army colonel, Mehsud delivered a short speech, and then shot him in front of a video camera.

Afghanistan, After the War Boom

November 13, 2013

In 2001, U.S.-led NATO forces invaded Afghanistan to hunt down Al Qaeda and take down the Taliban government. In the years that followed, fifty-four billion dollars came into the country in the form of economic aid and military spending. War-related industries sprouted and prospered: construction, logistics, and security. The country’s official per-capita G.D.P. more than quadrupled from 2001 to 2010. There was rampant corruption and graft, but the country also saw concrete improvements: The maternal mortality rate dropped by half from 2000 to 2011, and life expectancy rose by nearly four years over that period.

This year, Afghanistan’s G.D.P. is expected to grow 3.7 per cent, down from growth of twelve per cent in 2012, according to a projection by the World Bank. In Kabul, drug addicts can be seen squabbling over heroin at traffic islands in broad daylight, and day laborers mill around on street corners, desperate for low-paying work. “The thing about a bubble is that it bursts,” Kate Clark, a senior analyst with the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said. “Some things you don’t lose, like education or aspiration,” Clark said. But she wonders what will happen to the young men and women who have reaped the benefits of the past decade and gotten used to comfortable lives replete with education and employment opportunities. “Particularly when you have so many young men out in the job market like we have now, I think there is going to be trouble ahead,” she told me.

When I was house-hunting in Kabul earlier this year, most of the available properties were the abandoned facilities of long-departed international organizations. They were compounds with servants’ quarters and gussied-up gardens, houses meant for a different era, when it seemed like the wartime wealth would carry on forever.

In the chill of a mid-March morning, I climbed inside one of Kabul’s many vacant structures to meet some members of the middle class. The bare scaffolding of a construction site was serving as an informal shelter for men who had traveled from the provinces in search of jobs. Many were university-educated professionals who had Facebook accounts and listened to the BBC.

One of the men—who had been sleeping on a thin mattress on the concrete floor—had previously administered a U.S.A.I.D. program in the south. Abdul Manan, twenty-seven years old at the time of our conversation, seemed despondent—not only about losing a good job, but about what would happen when American money stopped flowing to the rural districts where he had run agricultural projects, supplying seeds to farmers. “We all knew that this new wealth wouldn’t last forever, but what we didn’t understand was how quickly it would evaporate,” he said. “We were all hoping that it would last for some time. This is a mistake I made.”

The full economic impact of the troop withdrawals is difficult to measure, as it depends on factors that are hard to predict, such as whether the Taliban rises again. The last time that the U.S. stopped paying attention to Afghanistan, after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the late nineteen-eighties, civil war ensued.

Some worry that Afghanistan is now primed for similar troubles. In 2010 and 2011, annual foreign aid of nearly sixteen billion dollars comprised ninety-seven per cent of the country’s G.D.P., according to the World Bank. The Afghan government has warned that without continued foreign assistance, the country will collapse, undoing twelve years of counterinsurgency efforts led by the U.S. The World Bank warns that an abrupt cutoff in aid could lead to a collapse of political authority, promote the illicit drug market, and incite armed conflict.

China Tackles One-Child Policy, Death Penalty, & Labor Camps

By Zachary Keck
November 15, 2013

China has released the resolution detailing the CCP Central Committee's major decisions at the Third Plenum, which was held from Saturday to Tuesday.

Interestingly, initial reports from the state media highlight mostly social reform issues, some expected some less so. One of the expected decisions is that Chinahas decided to ease its one-child policy, which since the early 1980s has restricted urban couples to one child while allowing some rural couples have two children. The new policy will allow couples have two children as long as one of parents was an only child themselves. The Xinhua report suggested that this policy will continue to be tinkered with to support the CCP’s population goals.

Changes to the one-child policy were widely expected since March when the National People’s Congress broke up the National Population and Family Planning Commission, the agency that has enforced the one-child policy. The one-child policy has led to extreme imbalances in China’s population including a rapidly gaining population that will strain the country’s social safety net in the years ahead.

Other social reforms decided upon at the Third Plenum include law and order issues. For instance, the CCP Central Committee has decided to abolish China’s labor camps. Throughout 2013 there were reports that Xi Jinping and the Politburo Standing Committee members—many of whom were condemned to forced labor during the Cultural Revolution—were preparing to end the use of labor camps. However, these expectations were called into question last week whenReuters reported that conservatives within the CCP had blocked Xi from acting on this policy. This report appears to have been inaccurate.

Another law and order issue addressed in the decisions resolution is the death penalty. Although China doesn’t release official figures on the number of state executions it carries out, most outside estimates say that China puts more people to death each year then the rest of the world combined. Crimes punishable by death in China include drug trafficking and, according to some reports this year, possibly polluting.

According to Xinhua, the CCP’s Third Plenum decision document says that China will reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty “step by step.” This, however, is consistent with prevailing trends in which China has put less people and stopped carrying out executions for certain crimes.

Xinhua also reported, citing the decisions resolution, that “the country will work to ban extorting confessions through torture and physical abuse.” It did not specify if this would extend to the Party’s own internal discipline body, which is widely believed to use torture in its interrogations of Party members expected of wrong doing.

Most surprisingly, at least among the social reform issues, the Third Plenum decision document apparently calls for bringing the constitution to a “new level” and says that no organization or person is above it. The CCP currently does not consider itself bound by the constitution. There has been a growing push for constitutionalism among liberal-minded Chinese this year. It’s unclear if the CCP is merely pandering to these constituents or actually intends to enforce the constitution to a greater degree; for example, by forcing some local leaders to abide by it.

Six Consequences of One-Child Policy Reform

China's decision to allow more families to have two children ends a drastic 33-year social experiment. But is it too little, too late?

Nov 15 2013

Because of changes announced yesterday, more Chinese families will be permitted to have two children. (Reuters)

China is finally dropping its one-child policy for around one-third of the population: couples that are urban and Han Chinese in which one parent is an only child. (Couples that are rural, non-Han, or where both parents were only children were already allowed to have two kids.) The policy will remain in force only for urban Han parents who were both the product of two-child homes—a fairly small proportion.

Bank of America estimates that the change will lead to about 9.5 million new births a year, but just as importantly the change largely marks the end of a 30-year-old social engineering experiment that changed the face of China’s society and played an important, if contentious, role in its re-emergence as an economic powerhouse. Quartz has reported extensively on what such a change might mean, for better and for worse. Here’s a roundup:

A larger labor force—eventually

China’s approximately 930-million-person labor force shrank last year for the first time in decades, and will decline further as a population bulge of people now in their 40s and 50s pass into retirement. A baby boom would help compensate, and—when the babies grow up—increase the number of people who can support that aging population. However, it may be too little too late, given that the labor force is estimated to begin declining by as much as 10 million a year starting in 2025. Any population rebound will take decades, and could be offset if families start averaging fewer than two children as they become wealthier and more urban.

More consumer spending—at least on baby formula

Allowing more couples to have more children now should boost consumption almost right away for goods like infant formula, food and clothing, and education services. Shifting China’s export-driven economy further towards consumption-led growth is one of the government’s key economic goals.

The Next Bin Laden

November 14, 2013

Instead of spectacular attacks on iconic targets, al-Qaida's new leader wants small, opportunistic strikes. In other words, restrain the NSA at your peril.

The replacement killers: Al-Suri and his followers are reshaping al-Qaida.(Courtesy of the U.S. State Department)

Ever since the death of Osama bin Laden, President Obama and his senior lieutenants have been telling war-weary Americans that the end of the nation's longest conflict is within sight. "Core al-Qaida is a shell of its former self," Obama said in a speech in May. "This war, like all wars, must end." That was the triumphal tone of last year's reelection campaign, too.

The truth is much grimmer. Intelligence officials and terrorism experts today believe that the death of bin Laden and the decimation of the Qaida "core" in Pakistan only set the stage for a rebirth of al-Qaida as a global threat. Its tactics have morphed into something more insidious and increasingly dangerous as safe havens multiply in war-torn or failed states—at exactly the moment we are talking about curtailing the National Security Agency's monitoring capability. And the jihadist who many terrorism experts believe is al-Qaida's new strategic mastermind, Abu Musab al-Suri (a nom de guerre that means "the Syrian"), has a diametrically different approach that emphasizes quantity over quality. The red-haired, blue-eyed former mechanical engineer was born in Aleppo in 1958 as Mustafa Setmariam Nasar; he has lived in France and Spain. Al-Suri is believed to have helped plan the 2004 train bombings in Madrid and the 2005 bombings in London—and has been called the "Clausewitz" of the new al-Qaida.

Whereas bin Laden preached big dramatic acts directed by him and senior Qaida leaders, al-Suri urges the creation of self-generating cells of lone terrorists or small groups in his 1,600-page Internet manifesto. They are to keep up attacks, like multiplying fleas on a dog that finds itself endlessly distracted—and ultimately dysfunctional. (A classic Western book on guerrilla warfare called The War of the Flea reportedly influenced al-Suri.) The attacks are to culminate, he hopes, in acts using weapons of mass destruction.
"I think al-Qaida's capabilities for a strike into the United States are more dangerous and more numerous than before 9/11."

Recent terrorist attacks against U.S. targets, from the murderous 2009 spree of Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood to the Boston Marathon bombings last year, suggest that al-Suri's philosophy dominates al-Qaida's newly flattened hierarchy. The late Yemeni-American imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who preached this strategy and induced Hasan's attack, is said to have developed his ideas from al-Suri's. Meanwhile, with new refuges in North Africa, Syria, and Yemen, jihadists have much more territory from which to hatch plots unmolested.

To a Philosopher-General in Israel, Peace Is the Time to Prepare for War

Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

“The interesting issue is how you create a longer gap between the wars,” said Brig. Gen. Herzl Halevi.

November 15, 2013

When he arrived here two years ago to command the Israel Defense Forces in the northern Galilee region, Brig. Gen. Herzl Halevi was certain that Israel’s next war with Lebanon would break out on his watch. As General Halevi prepares to leave his post on Nov. 28, he is even more convinced it will happen during his successor’s tour.

“I don’t think there is the war or the operation that will solve the problem,” General Halevi explained during a recent tour of the border his troops patrol. “The interesting issue is how you create a longer gap between the wars.”

“It’s not going to be a simple one,” he added. “There are no simple wars. We are ready to pay this price to make a very decisive and strong war to make the gap as long as possible.”

For all the hard-line talk from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders about the Iranian nuclear threat, the enemy that consumes the Israeli military is Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia with which it fought a bloody, 34-day battle in 2006.

Hezbollah is seen as Iran’s proxy and the Palestinians’ enforcer, the boots on the ground in global terrorist attacks and the likeliest to retaliate for Israeli aggression anywhere in the world. Military officials from the chief of staff on down talk ominously in public speeches and tactically in private briefings about the group’s swelling arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets — and about Israel’s meticulous preparation for a quick, intense campaign in Lebanese cities and villages where, as one recently put it, “houses consist of a living room and a missile room.”

The point of that particular spear has lately been General Halevi, 45, a triathlete and father of four who said his university studies in philosophy proved more salient to military leadership than courses in business administration. Considered a top candidate to someday lead the military as chief of staff, General Halevi is a former paratrooper and commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit who last year declined an offer to become Mr. Netanyahu’s military attaché.

In 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada, the concerns General Halevi raised about a planned operation to capture Yasir Arafat, then president of the Palestinian Authority, from its headquarters in Ramallah, where Mr. Arafat was under siege, led to its cancellation. He is admired as a creative thinker and beloved for attending annual memorials for fallen soldiers. Some, though, find him aloof, square or self-righteous, with a quiet leadership style that can befuddle young recruits.

“People used to tell me that business administration is for the practical life and philosophy is for the spirit,” General Halevi said. “Through the years I found it is exactly the opposite — I used philosophy much more practically.”

“Philosophers that spoke about how to balance, how to prioritize principles in a right way,” he added, citing Plato, Socrates and Maimonides. “This is something that I find very helpful.”

The Air Force Is Quietly Killing Off the A-10—Over Congress’s Protests

We go to war so you don't have to.

November 15, 2013
By Dave Majumdar

Politicians resisting sneaky efforts to ground legendary attack plane 

A bipartisan group of senators and congressmen is fighting back against the U.S. Air Force’s move to prematurely retire all 350 of its A-10 Warthog attack planes between 2015 and 2018.

But the flying branch is already strangling the A-10 force with budget cuts, upgrade cancellations and a reduced contingent of new pilots.

The battle is intensifying in Washington, D.C. over the legendary warplane, which was originally meant to destroy Soviet tanks and has flown thousands of missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, saving scores of American lives with its overwhelming firepower.

“The A-10 plays an essential role in helping our ground forces and special operators accomplish their missions and return home safely,” reads a Nov. 14 letter from the group, addressed to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“We oppose any effort that would divest the A-10, creating a CAS [close air support] capability gap that would reduce Air Force combat power and unnecessarily endanger our service members in future conflicts,” the letter continues.

Thirteen senators and 20 congressmen from both parties signed the missive, which was drafted by the office of New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

In proposing to retire the 1980s-vintage Warthogs, which are slow but heavily armed, the Air Force appears to be operating on the premise that the nation will not fight another low intensity conflict like Iraq or Afghanistan, for which the gun-equipped, twin-engine attack planes are best suited.

Moreover, the flying branch insists that precision-guided munitions and advanced sensors should allow newer, speedier warplanes such as the F-15E, F-16 and B-1B to replace the A-10 without degrading the service’s ability to support troops on the ground. Until recently, the Air Force hoped to replace the A-10 and most of its other fighters with the stealthy F-35.

The French increasingly think Europe is the problem, not the solution


Nov 16th 2013 

DOWN a muddy path in a clearing in the forest of Compiègne, in northern France, lies a musty-smelling little museum. Amid scraps from trench life displayed in glass cabinets, the museum’s chief exhibit is an old oak railway-carriage, a replica of wagon 2419D, used on this spot by Marshall Foch to sign the 1918 armistice with Germany—and then by a vengeful Adolf Hitler to secure France’s surrender to Nazi forces in 1940. The modest memorial is a big and sobering reminder of the historical impulses that prompted the French to pursue the post-war European project. As President François Hollande prepares for the centenary of the start of the first world war next year, however, it also exposes a widening gap between those ambitions and a new French ambivalence about the European Union.

As a founder-member with Germany, France has, for over half a century, put the construction of Europe and the taming of Germany at the heart of foreign policy. If the British have grown up on tabloid Euroscepticism to regard Europe as a menace to national power, the French have been taught to see Europe as an amplifier of theirs. Europe, according to the French creed, is the solution, not the problem. To any new obstacle: more Europe still.

Yet four years after the start of the euro-zone crisis, with joblessness at a 16-year high and a recession-battered economy, disillusion has set in. In today’s French mind, the EU has become too big, too distant, too focused on austerity and trade: a constraint, not a means of salvation. Only 41% of the French now say that they are favourably disposed to the EU, according to Pew Research, far fewer than in Germany (60%)—and fewer even than in Britain (43%). Fully 77% say that European integration has weakened their economy, more than in Spain or Italy. One in three of the French would leave the EU today, according to a YouGov poll.

On the fringes of French politics, populists are surfing this sentiment with zeal. When Mr Hollande on November 12th welcomed EU leaders to Paris to discuss youth unemployment, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a Communist-backed firebrand, derided them as the “undertakers of the European ideal”. On the far right, Marine Le Pen predicts gleefully that the EU will collapse “like the Soviet Union” under the weight of its own contradictions. Her National Front could come first in European Parliament elections next May.

In Defense of Net Assessment

November 16, 2013

Washington is a slave to short-term thinking. The “kick the can down the road” mentality has been illustrated repeatedly in recent months by the failure of President Obama and the Congress to find long-term solutions to the debt ceiling and budget crises. Driven by two-, four-, and six-year election cycles and a twenty-four-hour news cycle, thinking about the future—and how to prepare for it—is America’s Achilles heel. But since 1973, the Office of Net Assessment and its inimitable director, Andrew Marshall, has been America’s safeguard against the perils of short-term thinking. Plans by the Obama administration to close the office—or curtail its influence—are misguided and dangerous.

This small office located within the Pentagon serves as the Defense Department’s internal think tank and strategy shop; the ninety-two-year-old Marshall serves as the senior adviser to the secretary of defense on the future of the national-security environment. It has been reported in various media outlets that this office has been targeted for elimination. Critics argue that the office has outlived its usefulness and should be shuttered because of the current budget crisis.

Ineffectual programs within the Defense Department should be shut down—but the Office of Net Assessment isn’t one of them. Far from it, the Office continues to provide a valuable service to the nation and is needed now more than ever as the country’s financial position continues to deteriorate and states like Russia and China continue to challenge American hegemony.

Over the years, most press coverage of the office has amounted to little more than contemporary yellow journalism with adjectives like “secretive” and “powerful” used to imply a nefariousness that simply isn’t present. To be sure, Marshall is a fascinating personality and story. He’s served every president since Richard Nixon as the office’s director. The fact that he continues to work full-time at such an advanced age is a testament to his sense of duty and love of country. (For the sake of full disclosure, I have studied his office as an academic and briefly supported his office as a consultant several years ago.) Marshall is a rare intellect, but the office and the analytical tradition that he helped pioneer must survive long after his time as director comes to an end.

First, Marshall and his team of civilian and military staff look beyond the crisis of the hour, examining emerging trends and considering what the world might look like in the next ten, twenty or thirty years. Having an understanding of how the world might evolve provides U.S. statesmen with the best opportunity to position the United States for the future. The office provides insights to senior leaders on a range of issues including weapons acquisition, force structure, and national security strategy. Its contributions are significant and numerous: it positioned the United States for victory in the Cold War by yielding actionable insights on the Soviet leadership and nuclear strategy; foresaw the revolution of information warfare and how the United States could turn it into a strategic advantage; and highlighted the challenges that a rising, assertive China will pose.

Avoid Change For Its Own Sake: Ground Force Unification

November 13, 2013

The inevitable fiscal crunch that is staring the U.S. military down has the Pharisees of the defense industry, think tanks, and senior military leaders all rabble-rousing about the need for change. Some of that change is strategic. Asia Pacific pivot anyone? Other bits of it reside in the acquisitions department, as we see with the pros and cons of developing “revolutionary” weapons systems to confront “new” threats. The most harrowing changes for military leaders are the all too well known cuts to manpower that will come in some fashion, no matter the logic, or lack thereof, which delineates how those cuts will happen. There is more change in the air than cordite after an end of fiscal year shooting range, but it is important to reflect on some history in order to avoid stepping on the same proverbial rakes that have smacked our national security establishment in the face during previous draw-downs.

Editors Note: It WOULD be nice if the USN would go to these.

Ideas like this one are an especially pervasive form of bad, and seem unable to die even when history proves them inadvisable. We saw the call for unification in President Eisenhower’s attempts to reevaluate our national security establishment in light of the massivetechnological, strategic, and social changes that occurred after World War Two. It was vital to acknowledge the necessity of change in that period, because much like Eisenhower’s dictum on planning, self-examination is vital even if most of the individual recommendations may turn out to be worthless. Reconsidering defense in light of nuclear weapons, ICBMS, and the bi-polar nature of security dilemmas when facing the Soviet Union was important. Trusting academic tea-leaf readers in their assessments and then proclaiming there would “never be another amphibious landing”, that ground forces would not be used in limited wars, and that tactical airpower was only needed to defend or shoot down strategic airpower looks downright foolhardy when viewed as historical record. What saved us from the march to a monolithic Star Fleet force that all wore the small uniforms and all died like red shirts landing on Klingon? The pluralistic competition of our service structure, which was inefficient and far from perfect, but possessed a flexibility that made it anti-fragile.

Separate services, even separate services that possess redundant capabilities, are a vital part of American national defense. The Army needs the Marine Corps to soak up public attention as a motivation for better performance as badly as the Marine Corps need the Army to keep its constant self worry about irrelevance and drive its performance. Those intangible reasons can be criticized as they are not measurable, but of direct consequence are the different service outlooks which spurn actual innovation.

The Marine Corps decided it would gladly incorporate vulnerable and unwieldy rotary aircraft that Army and Air Force leaders largely ignored during Korea, and in doing so enabled the much better resourced Army to perfect the techniques of vertical envelopment to a higher degree than it ever could in Vietnam. The Navy had to have an Air Force that threatened its budget in order to develop SSBNs, and not pursue the much less effective option of carrier borne strategic bombers. Our most recent wars have shown the truth that a market place of defense ideas is better than a command economy for strategy. While the Marine Corps stubbornly resisted SOCOM membership, the other services gladly perfected the techniques needed to combat global terrorism in the learning laboratories of Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Those were bloody lessons, but proved that some enemies cannot be defeated by large MEUs waiting off shores, although the synergy created between such a force and SOCOM has proven to be vital, and continues to pay national security dividends. Service diversity even ensures we do not forget lessons learned in blood that may seem inefficient during peacetime arguments on Capitol Hill. Even the best planners can shortchange things that are easily forgotten as peace breaks out. Something as boring as oil platform protection is a skill the world’s preeminent Navy forgot, and had to relearn from the worlds 12th largest navy (the U.S. Coast Guard). There is known historical value and definite future value in keeping a diverse and flexible force, but to do so one must resist the urge to unify in the name of declining dollars. Cost savings are easy to evaluate in peacetime dollars, but take on a morbid tone when seen in defeat and death at the opening stages of a conflict.

How Badly Things Are Broken With Our Defense

At the strategic and political levels of war, America is falling flat on its face.

By Lt. Col. Robert Bateman 
November 15, 2013

Today is a pretty good day to talk about strategy, policy, civil-military relations, inter-service rivalry and the art of the possible. By chance three different articles came out today (more on those below) that bring all these points to light and show, pretty clearly, how badly things are broken. But being news articles, most of them offer nothing more than analysis about how we got here, not recommendations on how to fix anything. So here is what is on offer: If you read these three articles you will, in the space of just about half an hour, know all that you need to know to be an informed participant in our experiment in representative democracy. At least for now. (Continuing self-education is a personal responsibility.)

So first a word about strategy, because this is a good place from which to build up to an understanding of the other issues, and problems, and will help you form your own understanding of where we should go from here.

There are four levels of war: tactical, operational, strategic (military and grand), and political. Although for very prudent reasons the US military only discusses the first three, as a historian I can definitively confirm the existence of the obvious fourth.

Tactics is the realm of firefights, skirmishes, and battles. The time frame is a few seconds to a few hours to a few days. The objectives are local. The scale ranges from man-on-man to Army vs. Army.

Operational level warfare is where you string together a series of tactical engagements deliberately in pursuit of a goal in what we call a "theater." This is known as a "campaign." Think North Africa in 1942-43, or the Sicilian Campaign of 1943. The time frame is weeks and months and the scale may range from divisions up through corps and armies and even Army groups.

At the military strategic level of war you are talking about stringing together a series of campaigns in pursuit of war-winning goals. So here we might combine the actions of invading Italy with the combined bomber offensive against Germany with the Invasion of Normandy (D-Day) and the ultimate land campaign to crush Nazi Germany.

At the grand strategic level of war you make recommendations on topics like, "Beat Germany First, then Japan vs. Beat Japan First, then Germany." But one only recommendations here, because the decisions for this sort of thing actually rest one level up. This is the level where you establish the ends that you want to see, then determine the ways you want to use to accomplish the ends, and link those to the means you have (or will create) to accomplish the decision made at that next level. In WWII you might think of this as making the decision, "Do we want 300 Divisions of ground troops and only 10,000 airplanes, or do we want 100 Divisions of ground troops and 100,000 airplanes?" Ends, ways, means.

The political level of war, like all things political, is the most complex, and the most important. In part this is because politics inevitably works its way at least two, and sometimes three, levels down as well. But because they are politicians involved, they believe that anything they direct their attention to is the most important. (It has to be, see, because they are involved.) But this is the level where the decisions have to be made: Do we go to war? Where do we go to war? What do we use to go to war? Optimally you make firm and clear decisions, give concrete directions, and then enforce your will.