13 January 2014

Spineless staff officers are a letdown

IssueNet Edition| Date : 10 Jan , 2014

Spineless servility of the staff officers has been the bane of the Indian military. The case of Adarsh Housing Society proves it amply. The land in question was under army’s possession. It was apparent to even laymen that the whole project was ill-conceived and murky. Yet, flats were obtained by three Chiefs and numerous senior commanders by all means, fair and unfair. Instead of cautioning them, compliant staff officers actively abetted the wrong-doing. True to their character, their sole aim was to keep their bosses happy.

It is rare to see a staff officer having nerve to speak the truth and risk his commander’s disapproval.

Most worrisome has been the cowardice displayed by the Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) at the Army Headquarters. The Military Secretary and the Adjutant General are top ranking staff officers with immense powers. Yet, when a parochial Chief wanted to tweak the process to favour his protégé, neither had the courage to oppose his decadent and wily machinisations. Their gutless conduct showed them to be unworthy of the high appointments they held.

Similarly, no PSO cautioned the current Chief against disbanding the Technical Services Division. Everyone knew that it was an act of vendetta. Yet, senior officers willingly joined the errant Chief in depriving the military of a functional intelligence gathering outfit. Can there be a more serious anti-national act? As was expected, all abettors have been duly rewarded.

Equally surprising was the haste with which discipline and vigilance ban on a senior commander was lifted by the current Chief within days of assuming charge. It made a mockery of the complete disciplinary review process. The same staff officers, who had advised the previous Chief to impose the ban, quickly did an about turn and recommended its removal. They lacked courage to give honest opinion to the Chiefs and did what the Chiefs desired blindly. As is commonly said –‘servility has no spine and no limits’.

Staff Officers and Personal Staff Officer

Unfortunately, over a period of time difference between a staff officer and a personal staff officer has got blurred. Whereas an Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to a Corps Commander is a personal staff officer, a Col GS of a division or a BGS of a corps is a staff officer of the formation headquarters.

US-India relations fracture

JANUARY 11, 2014

INDIA has ill-served its own interests and disappointed its friends by displaying such misplaced outrage over allegations concerning one of its New York-based consular officials. It is alleged that the official submitted false documentation to get a work visa to bring in a household maid from India and then paid her a fraction of what she was due under US law. Because of New Delhi's over-the-top reaction and the way officials have deliberately whipped up anti-American sentiment, the furore surrounding the case has developed into a full-blown diplomatic crisis between two countries. It comes after a historic 2008 civilian nuclear agreement reached between the two countries that elevated their bilateral strategic relationship to new levels of co-operation. It formed the basis for booming India to become a close US and Western ally.

Little evidence of that co-operation has been apparent as New Delhi has initiated a series of petty bullying measures aimed at retaliating against the arrest of New York deputy consul-general Devyani Khobragade, who allegedly told US authorities the maid would get $5057 a month but paid her $643 a month to work far longer than 40 hours a week. In a country where domestic workers are paid abysmally and there is no minimum wage, official Indian outrage has inevitably ignored the plight of the hapless maid and her alleged exploitation. Instead, it has focused on Ms Khobragade, who says she was arrested by and subjected to a "body-cavity" search, something denied by US authorities. Mention of the search has, however, triggered the biggest crisis in Indo-US relations in years, and while there are reports Ms Khobragade has been asked to leave the US, there is no doubt the case has done -- and continues to do -- serious damage to a vital bilateral relationship for our region. It has harmed optimistic perceptions of the "new India" as it emerges as a major economic and political power, and for that, Indian officials have themselves to blame. Amid the public outcry, retaliatory measures taken by New Delhi have included removing anti-terrorist barriers protecting the US embassy, closing an embassy recreational club to outsiders, revoking diplomatic ID cards and issuing traffic fines. As well, high-ranking US official visits have been put on ice. The irrational moves show up India in an extremely poor light and as much as they are directed at the US, they will also be of concern to countries such as Australia that have placed development of strategic and economic ties with India at the top of their foreign policy agendas.

Few bilateral relationships that have evolved in recent years are more important than that between Washington and New Delhi, pivoted in the civilian nuclear deal. It is one that has wrested India from the clutches of its decades-old alliance with the Soviet Union and Russia and is vital at a time of Chinese expansionism in our region. It deserves far better than to be soured by the Indian deputy consul-general's treatment of her maid. New Delhi needs to realise that in developed societies there is legitimate concern when employees are mistreated or exploited and that even diplomats must comply with local labour laws. In its own interests, India needs to have dealt with the dispute and focused on building and expanding the relationship. There is far too much at stake for it to do otherwise. Putting the relationship further at risk would be an act of extreme folly.

Al-Qaeda has no future in the Arab world

January 11, 2014 12:15 AM
The Daily Star

Many people in the Middle East and abroad are rightly concerned about the rise and impact of hard-line Salafist-takfiri Islamist groups that have recently proliferated and controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. Groups like the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Nusra Front, and many other smaller ones represent perhaps the fastest growing ideological sector in the region – in some cases attracting tens of thousands of adherents. There are real reasons to be concerned by their behavior, from their beheading and torture of opponents to their imposition of draconian social norms. Yet we should not exaggerate their long-term prospects. I suspect these are essentially short-term phenomena that have no place in a future Middle East, because they are essentially gangs of losers: deeply alienated young men who can only try to establish their fantasy lands of pure Islamic values in areas that have experienced a total breakdown of order, governance, services and security.

These transitional movements have no possibility to control significant territory and set up their own self-contained statelets, principalities or emirates for extended periods, because they have no natural support in society and only operate where they can take advantage of lawlessness and fear. They can do plenty of damage in the short run, because of their ability to stoke sectarian conflict across the Middle East, shatter people’s lives and development, kill and main thousands, and provide scores of recruits with training and battle experience that can later be used to carry out terror operations around the world. But as political movements they are total failures, which is why they can only operate by the gun.

Al-Qaeda itself and its offshoots have tried for decades to mobilize popular support across the Arab world, playing on the same grievances (Palestine, corruption, foreign aggressions, domestic injustices and disparities) that have brought millions of adherents to other, nonviolent and locally anchored Islamist movements such the Muslim Brotherhood or the Nour movement in Egypt. ISIS and other Al-Qaeda-like groups have totally and repeatedly failed the test of popular legitimacy. They have never achieved any anchorage because their violent, oppressive operating methods are deeply repulsive and alien to the overwhelming majority of Arab men and women. So we see their presence only in ravaged lands, zones of chaos and ungoverned areas, in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan’s border areas, rural Yemen, Somalia, Mali and parts of Libya, Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon where governance and order are weak or nonexistent. In the short term, groups such as ISIS can control small patches of land by stabilizing security situations and providing basic services such as food and medical care, allowing them to impose their brand of harsh justice. The populations under their control appreciate the provision of basic human needs, because they do not want to live under the law of the jungle. But neither do they want to live permanently under Salafist-takfiri rule. Yet they are helpless to speak out against or resist the militants who impose their rule by the gun.

Was our Afghan saga useless – or worse?

The Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, Jan. 11 2014,

This is the year when we learn whether our long Afghanistan experiment has accomplished anything at all.

In March, Canada will end its rump training mission, withdrawing all but 100 soldiers shortly before international forces hand the country’s security over to the Afghan National Army. For the 47 countries and many thousands of soldiers who were stationed in there, it has been an enormous endeavour, costing about 3,500 lives.

So it is worth asking: What have we done in Afghanistan?

We did kick al-Qaeda out. This, the basic legal rationale for the United Nations-mandated war, was accomplished well before 2006. Al-Qaeda moved to Pakistan, then to the Middle East and North Africa.

At that point, another Afghan war began: One theoretically based on counterinsurgency – the notion that building infrastructure, institutions and better lives for ordinary Afghans would switch their loyalty away from the Taliban. This campaign, bolstered by U.S. President Barack Obama’s addition of 30,000 “surge” troops in 2009, was meant to improve the lives of women and children and the governance of villages and provinces, leaving a lasting legacy of stability. Yet it also coincided with a dramatic rise in air strikes.

In recent days, we’ve seen signs that this second war has not succeeded.

The United Nations released figures last week showing that cases of severe malnutrition have increased by 50 per cent or more since 2012. “In 2001, it was even worse, but this is the worst I’ve seen since then,” the head of the malnutrition ward at a major Kabul hospitaltold reporters.

Bangladesh under Siege

Paper No. 5632 Dated 12-Jan-2014
By Bhaskar Roy

Prime Minister Sk. Hasina was very well aware that the BNP led opposition had constructed a well rehearsed strategy to demean her and her party, the Awami League (AL) one way or the other

If the January 5 polls to the 10th Jatiyo Sansad (Parliament) was postponed under opposition pressure, the government would have conceded moral, political and legal ground. It would be a loser even before polling. If the January 5 election date was adhered to, the opposition would boycott the same and the election would be one sided and projected as a farce. This is what exactly happened. Out of 300 seats, 153 were won uncontested. After the polls the Awami League won 232 seats, a two-third majority. The fractured Jatiyo Party led by Ms. Roushan Ershad won 32 seats. Polling was less than the curtailed expectation not only because of opposition boycott, but also for fear of violence. It was the bloodiest elections, with 24 killed on polling day. And over 500 died since January of last year due to opposition violence.

It is not that the ruling party supporters did not engage in violence. As a last resort, to counter the opposition’s mindless attacks and arson, even Sk. Hasina urged supporters to come out and defend their turf. Admirably, Bangladesh’s mainstream media generally took a neutral position. Neither Khaleda Zia nor Sk. Hasina were spared.

The government stuck to January 5 as the date for polling for pertinent reasons. According to the constitution, elections had to held by January 24. The Election Commission (EC), a statutory body had set January 5 as the date. Huge preparations are required to conduct elections, including arranging for security. Even then, around one hundred polling stations were burnt by BNP-JEI cadres and workers.

Apart from the demand for a caretaker government, Begum Khaleda Zia demanded the polling date to be postponed. This was no compromise, no bargain, and was not acceptable to the Awami League as it would disturb the established constitutional and legal process.

Sk. Hasina and her government offered a compromise inviting opposition leaders to take up positions as ministers in the government, enabling a direct role in the election process and ensuring that no vote rigging was done. That, also, was not acceptable to Khaleda Zia. Sk. Hasina finally invited Khaleda for discussions to resolve the impasse. Even this was rejected by Begum Zia. A record of the entire conversation between Sk. Hasina and Begum Zia was published in the Bangladeshi print media. The churlishness of Begum Zia came out quite clearly.

ELECTIONS AND AFTER - The Awami League is not the sole custodian of the 1971 spirit

Deb Mukharji

Elections to the Bangladesh parliament were held on January 5 and the results have been declared, barring a few seats where repolling is required. Held amid and following unprecedented levels of violence, the elections were boycotted by the BNP, the main Opposition party. The Jamaat-e-Islami remains unable to contest elections following a court order as the party’s Constitution does not accept the supremacy of the Constitution of the State. As may have been expected, the Awami League has won a large majority of the seats, many uncontested, the number being about the same as in the last fully-contested elections, above 230 in a House of 300. Other participating parties supportive of the elections have won the rest. The turnout has been low due to a combination of voter apathy and the violence to voters, and election officials threatened and practiced by the cadres of the BNP and the Jamaat. According to Western media, many voters did not go to cast their votes after the morning’s television reportage on attacks on the polling booths.

The elections came after months of on-and-off discussions between representatives of the government (Awami League) and the Opposition (BNP). In essence, the BNP demanded that elections be held under a caretaker government (as on the last few occasions). The government maintained that with the amended Constitution as it stands, this was not possible. Hence, elections were held within the time frame required by law. The absence of the main Opposition has deprived the people of choice and, hence, cast shadows on the credibility of the process.

Two separate issues interacted to make the last few months among the most violent in Bangladesh in recent times. Besides the methodology of holding elections, on which there were differences as well in 1996 and 2006-7, the issue of the war crimes trial has been rocking Bangladesh since the Shahbag movement in the spring of 2013. Throughout the country, there continued sporadic acts of violence and sabotage by the cadre of the Jamaat. These reached a crescendo in mid- December after the hanging of Abdul Quader Mollah, the first of the war criminals of 1971 to be executed. Even earlier, on the calls for strikes and blockades by the BNP, the attempts to enforce and the accompanying violence were largely by Jamaat activists. A symbiotic relationship between the BNP and the Jamaat was becomingly increasingly manifest.

China’s Incomparable Environmental Challenge

By Elizabeth C. Economy
January 12, 2014

While China’s environmental issues have been compared to America’s, there are crucial differences.

It is tempting to write-off China’s environmental situation as simply a moment in time. The imperative of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty while managing the economic demands of a burgeoning middle class is bound to take a toll on any country’s environment. Many commentators see China as now reaching the inflection point attained by the United States in the 1960s and 70s, where rising incomes, citizen awareness, and government priorities combined to produce a shift in how Americans understood the relationship between development and the environment. What American alive during that time could forget the contamination of the Love Canal, the burning of the Cuyahoga River, and Rachel Carson’s devastating expose of the impact of pesticides on the environment in triggering a new approach to environmental protection in the United States?

Chinese officials also like to compare China today with other countries during their periods of industrialization. As Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau official Wang Bin has claimed, “You can see in those big cities like in London in Britain, Los Angeles in America and Tokyo in Japan, they all had huge air problems in the past—for example, London was nicknamed Smog City—which was caused by fast industrialization. But their situation has improved a lot and their air is really better now. Beijing’s pollution is not that severe. We have already moved fast to cope with this issue.”

Yet after two decades of thinking and writing about China’s environment, I have come to think that such comparisons, while not entirely misplaced, are nonetheless misleading. The scale and scope of the environmental challenge that China faces today and that faced by the United States in the 1960s and 1970s are vastly different. The population pressures on the environment and resources, for example, are not of the same magnitude. While the size of both countries is roughly equal, from 1962 to 1982, the U.S. population grew from roughly 192 million to 232 million; by 1982, the Chinese population had already topped one billion and today stands at over 1.3 billion.

Why China Wants to ‘Strike the Mountain’ and ‘Kill the Chicken’

Understanding two critical strategies for Beijing, one internal and one external.
By J. M. Norton
January 09, 2014

Chinese leaders are engaging in a dual strategy of “strike the mountain to shock the tiger” and “kill the chicken to scare the monkey.” The first strategy is an internal approach designed to take down a few powerful leaders to scare the lesser ones. The second strategy is an external approach in which leaders go after lesser powers to diminish the role or prevent the involvement of a greater power.

The internal strategy aims to remove formidable leaders who previously headed powerful institutions in key segments of the Chinese system, namely the state security apparatus, the military establishment, and the oil sector. These leaders pursued their own agendas and jockeyed for power at the highest levels before, during, and after the current leadership’s transition period that occurred nearly two years prior. The external strategy concerns the United States, the greater power, as well as Japan, the Philippines, and to a lesser extent, Vietnam, collectively referred to as the lesser powers. These observations lead to some salient questions. What are the major internal and external drivers of these ongoing strategies? Why are Chinese leaders pursuing these two strategies? And what is their overall intent?

What Are the Main Drivers of the Strategies?

The prime drivers of the leadership’s strategies consist of two internal factors and one external factor. The internal factors are best explained by the “crisis theory.” This means the leadership is attempting to manage domestic crises that pose challenges to the current leadership’s new authority and threaten the stability of the state. Presently, crises are unfolding in the economic arena, and, to a lesser extent now, the political arena. The external driver comprises ongoing structural changes occurring in the regional architecture and the security domain in particular; this regional transformation is driven in large part by the U.S. leadership. Both the internal and external factors have push-pull effects; meaning, China’s internal situation shapes its external policies and actions and, at the same time, the external situations feedback into China’s domestic system and affect the internal situation.

In the economic arena, the leaders are dealing with slowing economic growth. According to Charlene Chu, Senior Director of Fitch Ratings China, and a recent report produced by Fitch Ratings on Chinese Banks, “a key macro financial concern since the global financial crisis of 2008 has been the inability of China’s economic growth to get any lasting traction without considerable credit extension.” What’s more, “credit/GDP will have risen an estimated 87 percentage points in the five years ending in 2013, nearly twice that observed in other countries prior to financial sector stress.” The concerns “relate less to the level of credit/GDP – figures in the region of 200 percent are not unheard of in Asia or developed markets – and more to the very rapid rise in such a short time.”

The leadership however might be competent in managing a vast economy on the verge of a gradual economic slowdown by introducing policies to continue extending substantial credit and to liberalize capital controls in order to boost domestic consumption, for example. But these policies hold obvious risks. Extending more credit accelerates the rapid rise of credit/GDP levels in a short time, while lifting capital controls might make China vulnerable to capital flight. More crucially, the leaders are facing a potential crisis unfolding in the banking and finance sector and, as Chu has pointed out elsewhere, in the shadow banking system in particular. In this case, the leadership might be less capable of managing a sudden collapse of a major banking institution or of shadow banking institutions and the residual effects from such unexpected failures, such as social instability.

Sharon's Lessons For Israel

Time to Finish What He Started
JANUARY 11, 2014

Ariel Sharon on the outskirts of Mevessert Zion, west of Jerusalem, overlooking a part of the controversial Israeli barrier between him and Har Adar, November 8, 2005. (Jim Hollander / Courtesy Reuters)

He started out as a private in Israel’s 1948 war for independence -- and ended up as his country’s prime minister. He was a real hawk who voted against the 1978 peace agreement with Egypt -- but ended his public career by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. He was a man among men, with a strong body, an iron will, and steely nerves that did not desert him even under the most intensive fire; but he spent the last seven years of his life unconscious, helplessly kept alive by machines.

Ariel Sharon, originally Ariel Scheinermann, was born in 1928, the son of a farmer. At the age of 20, he fought in the Israeli army during the war of independence and was wounded. Unable to walk, he was carried to safety on the shoulders of a comrade who had gone blind. Telling the story years later, he explained that he was not yet as big as he later became.

In 1950, he left the army to study law but returned to the military three years later to set up a new commando unit. Its task was to strike into the neighboring countries, mainly Jordan and Egypt but occasionally Syria as well, through which terrorists crossed into Israel. He quickly proved an effective, if brutal, commander. He repeatedly exceeded his orders, killing far more Arabs (civilians included) than his superiors had planned and causing international outrage. In the 1956 Israeli-Egyptian war, he commanded an elite infantry brigade. He steered his troops through the strategic Mitla Pass against explicit orders and suffered one-quarter of all Israeli casualties in that campaign, a fact that almost brought his career to an end. He was given a division to command during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War of June 1967. With it, he launched a model operation that captured the strongest Egyptian fortifications in the Sinai and is still being studied around the world. Appointed head of the southern command in 1970, he put down a Palestinian uprising in Gaza and then retired three years later, took up farming, and ultimately became a very wealthy man.

Syria and the perils of proxy war

By Doyle McManus,  January 12, 2014

Saudi Arabia and Iran use the conflict to vie for power in the Arab Mideast.

A rebel fighter gestures as he walks towards a checkpoint close to Jabal al-Zawiyaa in Idlib province. The United Nations and the United States hope to launch a peace conference for Syria on Jan. 22.(Mohamad Jadaan / AFP/Getty Images / January 6, 2014)

The first war I covered as a foreign correspondent was the civil war in Lebanon. When the conflict began in 1975, it was just a series of skirmishes, a nasty but limited little war for control of a small nation.

Then other countries got involved: Syria, Iraq, Libya and Israel. They supplied money and weapons to their favored factions, turning an internal struggle into a longer, more deadly proxy war in which outside powers fought one another through surrogates.

Eventually even the United States sent troops, which is why 241 Americans died in a bombing in Beirut in 1983. The conflict that began almost 40 years ago has never quite come to an end, thanks in large part to its use by others as a battleground for proxy war.

Today, though, Lebanon's street battles and car bombings are merely a small part of a mushrooming regional proxy war that extends across both Syria and Iraq to the shores of the Persian Gulf. Two big powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, have squared off in a competition for dominance in much of the Arab Middle East. Other countries are either choosing sides or nervously trying to protect themselves from the spillover. And the United States finds itself uncomfortably in the middle.

Proxy war is nothing new. In 1776, Britain and France, the great powers of their day, used the American Revolution as a proxy war. (Without the French navy fighting on our side in Chesapeake Bay, it is unlikely Washington would have won at Yorktown.) In the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War turned into a proxy battle between Hitler and Stalin. Much of the half-century-long Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was a series of proxy wars, arm's-length conflicts between nuclear powers that didn't dare collide head-on.

But the fact that proxy wars happen mostly in small countries doesn't make them any less destructive than other conflicts. Quite the contrary: "Proxy wars tear countries apart," warns Vali Nasr, a former Obama administration official who's now the dean of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

The Arab World: Trying Times Ahead

Ranjit Gupta
Distinguished Fellow, IPCS and Former Indian Ambassador to Yemen and Oman

Though the spotlight on West Asia is understandably focused currently on the unquestionably exciting prospect of a welcome and desirable reconciliation between the United States and Iran, which is more than likely to happen, contemporary ground realities and trends in large sections of the Arab World increasingly suggest that Islamic extremism, personified by Al Qaeda and its affiliates in West Asia, is potentially an even greater destabilizing factor than the standoff vis-à-vis Iran had been. 

Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen

Though four dictators were overthrown as a result of the revolutionary turmoil in the Arab World, except in tiny Tunisia which is the only success story, the current situation in Egypt, Libya and Yemen is far more unstable than when the dictators were ruling. In Libya a large number of armed militias have carved out fiefdoms which they control, with the central government becoming a nominal entity with its writ being virtually non-existent in vast swathes of the country. Libya is a Somalia in the making. 

The Muslim Brotherhood has been Egypt’s and the Arab world’s preeminent Islamic entity known for its outstanding social and welfare services to the poor and rural populations in particular. It was elected to form the government which, after only one year in power, was overthrown by the army, albeit demanded by a very large number of protestors against ‘Islamic’ rule. Since then, every week dozens of its supporters and many Egyptian army and police personnel have been killed in clashes between them.

The Brotherhood has been banned once again - dubbed a terrorist organization; this does not augur well for the prospects of political Islam which is natural and fundamental to the success of democracy in the overwhelmingly Muslim Arab countries. It is very likely that Gen. Sisi, the present Army Chief and architect of the hard line against the Brotherhood, is elected the next President. All this will encourage support for extremist groups as the only alternative to dictatorial and Army rule. 

Iraq and Syria

Syria is engulfed by a particularly devastating and destructive civil war. More than 120,000 people have been killed. Almost four million Syrians are refugees in neighboring countries and five million have been internally displaced. The dismantling of the Saddam regime led to the border between Syria and Iraq becoming porous; in the last year it has become nonexistent for all practical purposes – huge spaces between Baghdad and Damascus are controlled by many different groups of Islamist fighters of various hues, preeminent among them being the Iraq based Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Al Qaeda outfit.

Amongst Islamist groups fighting the Assad regime the ISIL is the best armed and most effective. Some weeks ago it had established control over most of Aleppo which is Syria’s largest city and in the process routed not only government forces but also of other rebel groups, and of the Western and Gulf countries’ backed Syrian National Coalition and Syrian National Army. The ISIL consists only of foreigners, mainly Iraqis, and its brutality and single minded commitment to the establishment of an Islamic Emirate has now caused other rebel groups, in particular the recently formed Islamic Front, and the Syrian affiliate of the Al-Qaeda, the Al Nusra Front, to treat the ISIL as the major enemy rather than the Assad regime. It is ironical that after so much bloodshed Assad is likely to remain in power, but of an anarchic and shattered Syria. Iraq is rapidly slipping back into the anarchy that prevailed during 2005 to 2008. 

The Wars of Robert Gates

By Robert M. Gates
Jan. 10, 2014

On Afghanistan, Obama was caught between his generals' advice and his advisers' political worries

 Many in the White House suspected top military officers were rushing Obama to make a big decision prematurely, writes Robert Gates, right. Getty Images

I had been the secretary of defense for just over two years on Jan. 21, 2009, but on that day I again became the outsider. The Obama administration housed a web of long-standing relationships—from Democratic Party politics and the Clinton administration—about which I was clueless. I was also a geezer in the new administration. Many influential appointees below the top level, especially in the White House, had been undergraduates—or even in high school—when I had been CIA director. No wonder my nickname in the White House soon was Yoda, the ancient Jedi teacher in "Star Wars."

Read More

Dr. Gates was the 22nd U.S. secretary of defense. This is The Wall Street Journal's second excerpt from his new book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," to be published Jan. 14 by Knopf. The first excerpt, published online Tuesday, can be found here.

For the first several months, it took a lot of discipline to sit quietly at the table as everyone from President Obama on down took shots at President Bush and his team. Sitting there, I would often think to myself, Am I invisible?

During these excoriations, there was never any acknowledgment that I had been an integral part of that earlier team. Discussions in the Situation Room allowed no room for discriminating analysis: Everything was awful, and Obama and his team had arrived just in time to save the day.

Our discussions soon turned to the war in Afghanistan. My years in the Bush administration had convinced me that creating a strong, democratic, and more or less honest and competent central government in Afghanistan was a fantasy. Our goal, I thought, should be limited to hammering the Taliban and other extremists and to building up the Afghan security forces so they could control the extremists and deny al Qaeda another safe haven in Afghanistan.

The Worst Crash with Nuclear Weapons Ever

January 11, 2014
By David Dishneau

GRANTSVILLE, Md. (AP) -- The storm-driven crash of a nuclear bomber in western Maryland in 1964 made an indelible impact on the Cold War program that put the crew and public at risk.

Fifty years later, Operation Chrome Dome is nearly forgotten, but memories of the crash on Big Savage Mountain remain painfully fresh among the crew members' families and the rural Appalachian residents who helped recover the bodies.

Gary Finzel, 69, said his overnight trek through hip-deep snow with five others to recover the frozen remains of Air Force Maj. Robert Lee Payne was the worst night of his life.

"I can see him sitting there on his hunkers on the banks" of Poplar Lick, Finzel said Tuesday. "I still see him the same as if it was yesterday."

The accident on Jan. 13, 1964, is memorialized by stone markers in tiny Grantsville, about 140 miles west of Baltimore, and at the spots where three of the five crew members died. Payne succumbed to exposure in the Savage River State Forest after ejecting from the crippled B-52. Bombardier Maj. Robert Townley's remains were found in the wreckage on adjacent private land. The tail gunner, Tech Sgt. Melvin F. Wooten, bailed out and died from exposure and injuries near Salisbury, Pa., nearly 15 miles north of the crash site.

The pilot, Maj. Thomas W. McCormick, and co-pilot Capt. Parker C. "Mack" Peedin ejected and survived. Neither is still living.

Peedin enjoyed telling the tale in bars but he privately regretted his crew mates' deaths, said Mary Jo Vance of Washington, N.C., his wife from 1995 to 1998.

The Associated Press was unable to reach McCormick family members.

A heavily redacted Air Force report on the accident attributes the crash to a bulkhead structural failure that caused the vertical fin to separate from the plane during weather-related turbulence. But Wooten's widow, Carol, of Hermosa, S.D., called it the result of a "stupid" Strategic Air Command decision to fly the plane that night. She was left with three young children, including a newborn.

**** From Beijing to Jerusalem The creation of a mega-zone of conflict.



January 08, 2014

As the events of the past week demonstrate, the Middle East has still not found a solution to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Melting away before our eyes is the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which the British and French carved out spheres of influence in the Levant, leading to the creation of Syria and Iraq. A terrorist Sunnistan has now emerged between the Lebanese city of Tripoli and the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, while a messy child’s finger-painting of different tribalized sovereignties defines Sunni and Shia areas of control between the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and the Iranian plateau. This happens even as a sprawling and fractious Kurdistan sinks tenuous roots atop the corpses of Baathist regimes. But Middle Eastern chaos is but prologue to the drama sweeping much of the temperate zone of Afro-Asia all the way to China. Indeed, so much else is going on beyond the Levant that the media overlooks: not necessarily violent, but increasingly and intensely interrelated. Understanding it all requires not a knowledge of Washington policy alternatives, but of classical geography.


The ancient Greeks had a term for what they considered the “inhabited quarter” of the globe: the Oikoumene, the temperate zone of the Afro-Asian landmass stretching from North Africa to the confines of western China. Marshall Hodgson, the great historian of the Middle East at the University of Chicago who died in 1968, defined the Oikoumene as more-or-less “Nile-to-Oxus,” a term both grand and suggestive, linking as it did the river valley civilization of Egypt with that of Central Asia, and connoting the intricate tapestry of peoples, trade networks and conflicts from one end of Afro-Asia to another. Nile-to-Oxus perfectly sums up a vast zone of quasi-anarchy that we now can no longer deny. For the Cold War divisions of area studies—which both circumscribe and distort the work of academics, journalists and government analysts—are finally yielding to a more organic and fluid geography: not the geography of globalization in which people desert their cultures for the sake of cosmopolitan values and identities; but the geography of interacting, catalytic instability.

Every place will soon affect every other place—and in an obvious geographical sense. For example, whatever the media fanfare, the interim nuclear deal with Iran essentially secures Tehran’s status as a nuclear power nation much like Japan already is, with a scientific, technological and intellectual base that will one day have the breakout capacity to produce weapons if it ever decides to thwart the West. In that case, Saudi Arabia, less trustful than ever of the United States, will need to make quiet arrangements with its close ally Pakistan for a credible deterrent, thereby fusing the Middle East and South Asia conflict systems—the one dominated by Israel-versus-Iran with the one dominated by Pakistan-versus-India.

At the same time, following the withdrawal of tens of thousands of U. S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014, Iran will fortify its zone of influence in the western and central parts of that country, even as China continues to invest billions to mine copper and explore for oil in its east and north. China is not new to the Greater Middle East: under the 8th-century Tang emperors, Chinese armies threaded their way as far as Khorasan in northeastern Iran. And Beijing is now building a rail and pipeline network connecting western China with four former Soviet Central Asian republics that abut Afghanistan and Iran. The Chinese-built port at Gwadar in Pakistani Baluchistan, near to the entrance of the Persian Gulf, could eventually bring China into the strategic heart of both South Asia and the Middle East. In fact, one of the reasons why China is so intent upon dominating the South China Sea is that it provides Beijing, via the Strait of Malacca, with access to the Indian Ocean and the Islamic world.

As Indian Diplomat Exits After Arrest, a Culture Clash Lingers

JAN. 10, 2014


Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat, and her father, Uttam Khobragade, left, were escorted on Friday at a state guesthouse in New Delhi. Reuters

NEW DELHI — Two dozen revved-up television crews were clustered outside a V.I.P. exit at Indira Gandhi International Airport on Friday, waiting for the flight from New York. They had been in place for two hours, and every time a trickle of passengers came into view, they all jumped up and pressed their cameras against the glass.

Few passengers in recent memory could match the celebrity of Devyani Khobragade, thediplomat who was arrested on charges of visa fraud and making false statements in New York in connection with her treatment of a domestic worker. When Ms. Khobragade’s father appeared — she had been spirited away through another door — he beamed at the cameras, and told them, “I am impressed by your love and affection.”

Ms. Khobragade’s return seemingly brought to a climax a monthlong diplomatic spat between the United States and India that at times threatened to open a breach in the countries’ relations. While American prosecutors stood firm, India removed security barriers at the United States Embassy in New Delhi, canceled the embassy’s food and alcohol import privileges, and issued new identity cards to American consular employees and their families specifying that they could be arrested for serious offenses.

Mr. Khobragade was surrounded by news crews on Friday at the international airport in New Delhi. Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times

Only on Friday, with the reluctant agreement from the State Department to expel a diplomat of equal rank from its embassy in New Delhi, was the matter seemingly resolved.

Yet the incident has uncovered a gaping cultural disconnect between the world’s two largest democracies. While Americans reflexively came to the defense of a maid who the authorities said was subjected to abuse, Indians reflexively sympathized with the diplomat.

This is partly because middle- and upper-class Indians typically have their own servants, who often work long hours for far less than the $573 a month that Ms. Khobragade had promised to pay. But the bigger reason, especially compelling in an election year, is national pride. In the month that has passed since Ms. Khobragade’s arrest, she has been transformed into a symbol of India’s sovereignty, pushed around and humiliated by an arrogant superpower.

Strategy 101

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The U.S. Navy is soon to release its update to the 2007 “Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower”. One would hope that history and geography play substantial roles in formulating this document. The long-range strategic interests of the United States have been relatively unchanged in many ways since the end of the Second World War. The Navy has always been the principal service protector of these interests and senior naval officers should be vocal in explaining this to civilian leaders. The service can accomplish this task by ensuring that these three specific concepts are strongly reflected in its latest strategy update.

Preserve the Post World War 2 Economic System

US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau jr. 
with John Maynard Keynes at Bretton Woods1944

The Second World War destroyed many old patterns of great power politics and replaced them with a truly “new world order.” These changes were embodied in the package of postwar economic structures and regulatory agencies collectively known as the “Bretton Woods System”. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other currency and finance regulatory measures exemplified the concepts of free trade, lower national tariffs, and moderate government interventions in economic affairs as advocated by the British economist John Maynard Keynes. Together this globalized financial regulatory effort would identify and be able to mitigate financial catastrophes like the Great Depression before they could lead to widespread economic chaos and breed future insidious dictators like Adolf Hitler, whose fascist movement rose to power in large part due to Germany’s dire economic distress caused by the financial depression. There have been many changes to this system since the late 1940’s. Floating currency values, inflation of the U.S. dollar, and shocks caused by rapid increases in international oil prices caused significant changes in the postwar economic construct. Nations devastated by the Second World War have rejoined the global economic community as powerful contributors; the U.S. is no longer the absolute dominant force in global economics as it was in the Cold War; and new members of the global market such as China, India, Russia, and Brazil have made their presence felt in international economic planning. Despite these changes, the roots of the system in the support of free trade are alive and doing very well. Advances in technology, especially in the electronic movement of currency and financial resources have made the system more profitable than in the past. As its manufacturing system has declined and diversified, the U.S. has become dependent on the postwar international system for its financial security. It is the true “center of gravity” of the United States. The protection of this system should be the principle U.S. strategic goal.


Appeasement of terrorists only emboldens them. This was true with the Khalistanis of previous decades and it applies equally to the jihadis today and even to the rioters in Muzaffarnagar

A recent report by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholar, titled Jihadist Violence: The Indian Threat, underlines that the Indian jihadist movement constitutes an “internal security issue with an external dimension…The Indian jihadist movement formed organically and as a result of endogenous factors, specifically communal grievances and a desire for revenge, is more lethal and more resilient than it otherwise would have been, thanks to external support from the Pakistani state and Pakistan- and Bangladesh-based militant groups”. This is particularly true of the banned terror group Indian Mujahideen which gets support from Pakistan.

The report also goes on to explain that “the decentralised IM network has a loose leadership currently based in Pakistan, but moving between there and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia”. It highlights that, “External support has been a force multiplier for Indian militancy rather than a key driver of it. Although the IM receives support from the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, it should not be viewed as an affiliate within the same command-and-control hierarchy”.

The report makes clear that the IM — the primary indigenous jihadist threat — is part of a larger universe of Islamist militant entities operating in India, many, but not all, of which are connected to external entities such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Bangladeshi Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam.

It also emphasises that the IM should not be viewed as a formal organisation, but instead is best understood as a label for a relatively amorphous network populated byjihadist elements from the fringes of the Students Islamic Movement of India and the criminal underworld. The report adds that, “The improper use of the IM label for all indigenous jihadist violence contributes to confusion about its composition and cohesion. The IM connects to and sometimes attempts to absorb smaller cells and self-organising clusters of would-be militants”.

Why Do Fighter Aircraft Cost So Much?

Are there good reasons for fighters being as pricey as they are?
January 11, 2014

The question has long vexed defense analysts, as the projected costs of fighters seem to expand even faster than those of other military hardware. Some of the reasons include the ever-increasing gulf between civilian and military technology, a gulf that demands extra specialization on the part of engineers, equipment, and workforce. Also, fighters (as opposed to interceptors, bombers, or attack aircraft) are literally designed to fight one another, making escalatory cycles particularly likely. Moreover, since modern fighters are generally expected to fulfill multiple roles (air superiority, plus attack, strategic bombing, and interception) packing mission capabilities into a single airframe naturally metastasizes costs.

And then there’s the (mildly) dirty part; in many cases, governments only pretend to care about the expense of their fighters. Money spent on cost overruns for F-35s doesn’t just disappear; it makes defense contractors wealthy and generates jobs across the country. Representatives from districts that produce expensive fighters have literally no incentive to hold costs in line. The same goes for more authoritarian systems in which different power brokers use military spending to favor specific communities and interest groups.

Export customers have stronger incentives to seek low costs, and opportunities for export can potentially drive costs down. But social factors also matter. An under-mentioned point in defense procurement debates is that the purchase of advanced fighter aircraft is often less about national defense than national identity. Both civilian and military leaders tend to resent the idea that neighbors and rivals will own and operate more capable, advanced, and expensive aircraft. Moreover, states don’t simply buy advanced fighters “off the shelf,” as advanced aircraft have historically required long term deals for training, maintenance, and spare parts. Buying a fighter means buying a political relationship.

But high end trends notwithstanding, there are some glimmers on the affordability front. While Brazil’s Gripen decision has been interpreted as a symbolic defeat for the United States, there are few decisions more practical than attempting to manage the expense of a massive modern fighter-purchase by picking the lowest cost option. Similarly, the decisions ofIraq and the Philippines to go low by acquiring the inexpensive South Korean T-50 imply that even (or perhaps especially) those customers with serious security concerns are willing to pursue affordable options. It will be especially interesting to see how the Textron Scorpion fares on the international market.

Moreover, the advent of 3D printing may well mean that customers will have the opportunity to carry out much needed maintenance and repairs without relying on the sellers as much as they have in the past. The days in which the Soviet Union could use MiG-23 airframes as a loss leader for jet engines, or in which the United States could use long-term maintenance agreements as a club to encourage additional purchases, are coming to an end.

Thus, there’s some evidence that we are seeing the emergence of a mature market for fighters in a multipolar world, which gives consumers more choices than they had during the Cold War, when procurement decisions often implied alliance commitments. Ironically, we may be approaching a world in which first-tier aerospace powers find themselves stuck with a dwindling number of hyper-expensive warplanes, while second-tier importers can take advantage of a smorgasbord of fighter options.