20 January 2014

Changing US-Iran relations and India

Ravi Joshi
17 January 2014

Amidst fresh threat of sanctions from the US Congress, Iran's terms of rapprochement with the West, following the successful breakthrough in its nuclear talks with the P5+1 in November last year, are all set to be implemented from 20 January. Tehran seems unfazed by such reports and the region is abuzz with the coming changes as countries are readying to align themselves on the right side of Tehran. 

The recent interview of the Sheik of Dubai (BBC, 13 January), who candidly stated that lifting of sanctions on Iran is good for the region, is just one such indication. For good measure, he added that the policies of Dubai are different from that of Saudi Arabia and of Qatar - the two countries that have actively promoted Islamic Jihadists to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Assad, an implacable ally of Iran. The Sheik said that his country does "not believe in interfering with its neighbours but in helping them". The fact that a minor potentate of the GCC has broken ranks to speak out against the avowed policy of the group is a significant move. 

There are good reasons for this. The tiny city-state has benefitted immensely from the smuggling and re-selling of Iranian oil, besides maintaining huge off-shore accounts of the Iranian elite in its banks. Though it maintained a political stand-off, economic relations with Iran have bloomed through the informal sector. And during the sharp foreign exchange crisis in October 2011 and again in December 2012, when dollars began to disappear from the Tehran bourse and the value of the Iranian Rial collapsed, it was to Dubai that Tehran turned to ship-in plane-loads of dollars. 

The Dubai Sheikh's recent utterance is an indication not only of the Sheikdom's desire to catch up with the high tide of Iran's rise in the region, but also a definite weakening of the Saudi clout among the Gulf monarchs. This is heightened by the latter's troubled relationship with the US. In the regional calculus, not only among the unelected gulf monarchs but also among the rulers from Cairo to Islamabad, there is one simple theorem - 'if your relationship with the US is bad, you suffer and not the other way round'. Only those that quickly adapt and align their position to the winds blowing from Washington hope to survive and cash in. 

Even prior to the Iran rapprochement, the US had already left its allies in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in the lurch, letting them hold on to their Jihadists facing a rout in the hands of a recalcitrant Assad who merely handed over chemical weapons and held on to the rest of his armory to slaughter the foreign mercenaries. The fretting and fuming of Saudi Arabia that refused to take up its elected position in the UNSC as a protest against this turnaround in US policy on Syria did not help the cause. 

Wilfully blind in Pakistan

Khaled Ahmed | January 18, 2014 

Public discourse driven by revenge and populism would want Musharraf hanged and the Taliban engaged in ‘peace talks’.

Public discourse driven by revenge and populism would want Musharraf hanged and the Taliban engaged in ‘peace talks’

Pakistan’s majority opinion says the ex-army chief and president, Pervez Musharraf, must hang. He had deposed the democratically elected incumbent prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999; acted against the Pakistan Peoples Party because he had allowed its leader, Benazir Bhutto, to be assassinated by the deep state in cahoots with the Taliban; against the Taliban and al-Qaeda by surrendering their terrorists to the US; against religious parties and other non-state actors by calling off jihad against India; against the judges and an aggressive lawyers’ community because he had dismissed the Supreme Court; and against the media, which has swung extreme right and, intimidated by the Taliban, is baying for his blood. Who is left out?

Given this kind of universal loathing, Musharraf’s friends had advised him not to return to Pakistan. Not even his lackeys wanted him back, knowing how public opinion had swung. The judges, once shunning public opinion as part of their code of conduct, had become populist in their approach. The last chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudhry, crudely grandstanding on public occasions, was sharpening his knives. But Musharraf, a risk-taker by habit and full of hubris as an ex-commander, rebuffed sane advice and returned to Pakistan last year thinking that the common man would hail him because he had run a good economy with tolerable inflation and a flourishing job market.

When he toppled Sharif and put him in jail, people were out on the street distributing sweets. He didn’t learn the lesson then. Sharif had done the most popular thing in history: he had tested the country’s first nuclear bomb in 1998, which answered to the nationalist rhetoric of “greatness” otherwise unattainable without the bomb. Pakistani nationalism is attached to the textbook hatred of India and to the bomb, which is supposed to destroy India, miraculously without destroying Pakistan.

The Perils of Punditry

By Michael Krepon

US commentary on nuclear developments in Pakistan and India is usually not well received on the subcontinent. One reason is that cautionary messages sound hypocritical. Pundits from a country that has been guilty of wretched nuclear excess are on thin ice when passing judgment on nuclear arsenals that may barely extend into three digits.

Another reason has to do with the etiquette of pointing out shortcomings. It’s OK when a Pakistani or an Indian writes about negative developments at home, but when a US commentator writes about similar failings, he or she is perceived to demonstrate an anti-Pakistan or an anti-Indian bias. Even when negative foreign commentary is based on inarguable facts, it still feels like piling on. US commentators are therefore labeled as either anti-Pakistan/pro-India or anti-India/pro-Pakistan. Once affixed, these labels are hard to remove.

In addition, Indian strategic analysts are annoyed because China doesn’t figure nearly enough in US commentary. From an Indian perspective, US analysts seem fixated on the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan, when India’s primary threat emanates from China. 

This critique has merit because China is a far more formidable competitor to India than Pakistan. But China, unlike the Soviet Union and the United States, hasn’t made the mistake of equating strategic power with the size of its nuclear arsenal. Instead, Beijing is moving slowly on its nuclear programs while focusing on weapon systems that are more likely to be used in combat. In contrast, Pakistan places a very high priority on its nuclear programs which, for now, keep pace with India. Within a decade, China’s nuclear capabilities will certainly warrant more attention. In the near term, the nuclear competition that matters most is between Pakistan and India, which remain one severe terrorist incident away from a confrontation.

Another complaint -- perhaps most annoying to Pakistani and Indian analysts – is that US commentators keep harping on problems of escalation control and deterrence stability, as if leaders on the subcontinent lack sensitivity to these dangers. Indian and Pakistani decision makers have indeed been very mindful of escalatory dangers during prior crises and during the Kargil war. But those who take umbrage at alarums emanating from the United States would have a more persuasive grievance if India and Pakistan worked harder at diplomacy to reduce nuclear risks.


By IDF Analysis on January 19, 2014


IDF Analysis from the LITFEST Press Terrace ….Extremely well organised event which must be rich too as a set up, and has quality as all attendees here are cultured and interested in the subject and it is free for the AAM ADMI as politicians are not involved .

Much credit to organiser long haired Sanjay Roy son of late Adm M K Roy. BZ So far no hanky panky here as at THINKFEST but lot of maja.

One of the best discussions that India Defence Forum has heard on Afghanistan was at the Jaipur Literary Festival and as time is brief this posting will be in bullet points as discerning readers will know the import of the bullets. This IDF report must start with CONTROVERSIAL JOURNALIST TURNED AMBASSADOR

FOR PAKISTAN IN USA AND DISCREDITED ie Hussien Haqani’s excellent talk on his book DELUSIONS which is selling
like hot cakes here in Japur and he was in conversation with Shayam Saran and Blackwill a former Ambassador Professor of USA and he brought along Ashley Tellis as his aide. He was in Delhi and had a lot to do with India’s NO FIRST USE and DE-MATED NUCLEAR POLICY where the military is not involved in the formulation and possibly in its use except now with SFC which is alittle dangerous …But India we will fight the way we do with what we have and the systems we have. No worry. ,

As usual Government thinks the above policy is GOOD ENOUGH. …..Chalta Hai and Jugad. Zindabad.

The discusoons on Pakistan were as follows

* Pakistan has fooled USA all along (DELUSIONS) and USA knew but had no option but to seek Pakistan’s help on Afghanistan and in Musharraf’s time Pakistan’s economy did well. Pakiistan is a Nuclear state. It worries USA.

*USA was hoping the actions will help India Pakistan Rapprochement but it did not as India is not sure or ready for it politcially for its PM going all out for rapprochement. It was what Brzezinski has said India has no strategy for its future and even to resolve Poverty except slogans GARIBI HATAO …….The Military of India is not involved in Rapprochement to assure Pakistan Military its sanctity and the military of Pakistan will not allow Rapprochement.

Genes and environment in brain development

January 20, 2014
K. VijayRaghavan

The overlap between the behaviours of ‘genes’ and the ‘environment’ challenges the age-old debate of the apparent dichotomy between ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’

The age distribution of India’s population shows a young country, our so-called ‘demographic-dividend’. Yet, poor maternal and foetal nutrition, poor sanitation, open defecation, infections and diseases — such as diabetes in mothers — severely affect the development of India’s children.

The health of our young people is of great importance and will ensure their future as productive adults and healthy seniors. The long-term consequences of early ill health can be severe. Recent studies point to the high prevalence of stunted growth of children in India aged 0-5 years. The frequencies are comparable to those in sub-Saharan Africa.

Research is also challenging the conventional belief that the brain is the organ least affected by early developmental problems stemming from nutritional deficits or diseases. Importantly, the cognitive consequences of early developmental disorders can range from the mild to the severe. Many who do not show obvious impairment could be affected. The frequency of severe cognitive disability may only indicate the more widespread range of less obvious impairments. Some of these can be manifested as more serious deficits or loss of cognitive abilities in later life.Strategy for diagnosis and cure

Disorders of early brain development, therefore, represent a growing and major public health issue for India. The solutions to this complex problem will come from diverse interventions, many of which are ongoing. An immediately effective prevention could come from addressing maternal and foetal health and nutrition. Early diagnosis and identification of the most effective strategy for management is another important component.

Recent advances in neuroscience provide valuable understanding and tools for early diagnosis and management of brain developmental disorders and likely avenues for developing effective treatment. These brain disorders are a disparate group of currently untreatable conditions that include both autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability (previously known as mental retardation). The precise causes of these neuro-developmental disorders are complex, involving both genetic (nature) and environmental (nurture) factors.

Using laboratory organisms, such as worms, flies, fish and mice, scientists have made major breakthroughs in understanding the way the human brain develops. Transfer of knowledge from the laboratory to the human context was made possible by some major advances. First, studies in brain development were aided immensely by the human genome project and projects on the genomes of all the above laboratory organisms. These genome projects and related biological studies in the laboratory suggested that the ways in which the brains of different animals, including humans, developed have shared mechanisms.

The human brain, which is much more complex, uses the same rules for its construction as a mouse does for its brain. This is analogous to a modestly sized computer sharing the same principles for its construction as a network of many such computers, each slightly modified from the other, to create a massive parallel computer. Similarly, studying how the brain of a laboratory animal, such as a fruit fly, a worm or a mouse, develops has taught us about the very complex human brain. Advances in brain-imaging technologies and pathology have also contributed significantly.Model organisms

In the laboratory, scientists can manipulate one gene at a time in the developing brain, keeping other tissues normal. These sophisticated studies are done in tissue culture or through the use of ‘model organisms’. The studies have revealed information on the importance of correct timing and location of the expression of genes during development for a brain to form and function normally. When these genes are defective the animal has an abnormal brain and consequent abnormal function and behaviour.

A detailed map for financial inclusion

January 19, 2014

The report of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)-appointed Committee on Comprehensive Financial Services for Small Business and Low Income Households has been placed on the central bank’s website for comments.

Considering the voluminous nature of the report and even more pertinently its complex and, detailed treatment of the subject, the deadline for receiving comments, now set at January 24, would, in all probability, need to be extended.

The report packs a lot of recommendations for furthering financial inclusion and deepening. Its chairperson Nachiket Mor, a commercial banker turned strong votary of inclusive practices is a member of the RBI’s central board.

Other members of the committee are from financial institutions, banks — both public and private — non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), rating agency and microfinance institutions.

In the event, the report is a gold mine of information and action points. Some of these are not new but the committee’s breath-taking ‘visionary” statements can be faulted as being too theoretical.Key question

The key question is whether some of its key recommendations can be implemented at all and that too in the timeframe suggested.

In fact, two of its members, Shikha Sharma, Managing Director and CEO of Axis Bank, and S. S. Mundhra, Chairman and Managing Director of Bank of Baroda, have submitted additional points to the report.

Basically, in the nature of dissenting notes, they have suggested a more relaxed timeframe to execute a few key recommendations.

The committee’s terms of reference are comprehensive. They include (1) to frame a clear and detailed vision for financial inclusion and financial deepening, (2) to lay down a set of design principles that will guide the development of national frameworks and regulation for achieving financial inclusion and development, (3) to review existing strategies and develop new ones that address specific barriers to progress and that which encourage participants to work swiftly for inclusion and financial deepening consistent with design principles, and (4) to develop a comprehensive network for monitoring financial inclusion and deepening efforts on a nationwide basis.Key recommendations

The committee has suggested providing a universal bank account to all Indians above the age of 18 years. This target is to be achieved by January 1, 2016, less than two years from now.

To enable this, a vertically differentiated banking system with payments banks for deposits and payments and wholesale banks for credit outreach. These banks need to have Rs.50 crore by way of capital, which is a tenth of what is applicable for new banks that are to be licensed.

The Aadhaar will be the prime driver towards rapid expansion in the number of bank accounts.

For credible monitoring, the committee has laid down certain norms even at the district level such as deposits and advances as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).

The committee proposes an adjusted 50 per cent priority sector lending target with adjustments for sectors and regions based on difficulty in lending.

It advocates fewer NBFCs and substantial regulatory convergence for them with banks on non-performing assets and the extension of securitisation laws to certain NBFCs.

What China The defining features of present-day China are reform and opening-up

Indian Express

Even as Beijing steps up its proactive diplomacy, it does not believe that strength inevitably aspires to hegemony.

Nearly one year into the current government’s tenure, China, which has enjoyed stability and steady progress, is attracting increasing attention. Many are eager to see what China will bring to the world. My answer: a better China will make for a better world. As the Report to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China said, China will remain committed to peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit, unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, get more actively involved in international affairs, play its due role as a major responsible country, and continue to promote friendship and partnership with its neighbours and consolidate amicable relations with them. This is the pledge China has made to the world.

A China that constantly deepens reform and opens still wider to the outside is an important force for peace and stability in the world. The defining features of present-day China are reform and opening-up. To achieve modernisation, China needs to secure a peaceful international environment to develop itself, and safeguard and promote world peace with its development. It needs to enlarge the convergence of interests of all parties and work towards a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity. That is why our diplomacy flatly rejects the law of the jungle, embraces equality of all countries irrespective of size and stands against hegemonism. China has the confidence to prove, with its own actions and by working with other countries, that a country growing stronger does not inevitably seek hegemony. As the world’s largest developing country and largest grouping of developed countries, China and the EU should respect each other’s development paths as chosen in line with respective realities and work together to maintain world peace and stability.

A China that upholds win-win cooperation is providing a strong impetus to global prosperity and development. “A single flower does not make spring.” China is ready to join the rest of the world to share opportunity and seek prosperity. China and the US have agreed to build a new model of major-country relationships, featuring non-confrontation, non-conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. China and Russia, by vigorously deepening their comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, have set a good example of mutual trust and cooperation between major countries. Committed to the right approach to morality and interests, China is willing to give greater consideration to the interests of other developing countries. We are also happy to see developed countries sharing in the dividends of China’s development. The recently concluded Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee has put forth specific goals for a comprehensively deepened reform in the political, economic, cultural, social and ecological fields. In all these areas, Europe is our important cooperation partner. We hope to see a combination of China’s ongoing programme of urbanisation, industrialisation, IT application and agricultural modernisation with Europe’s project of economic recovery. We would also like to see the Chinese and European markets reinforce each other to boost our respective development and provide fresh impetus to a dynamic, sustainable and balanced growth of the world economy.

Defeat in the first Sino-Japanese war haunts China 120 years on

By Ching Cheong ,The Straits Times/Asia News Network
January 18, 2014

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894, known to the Chinese as the Jia-Wu war, which dealt China a devastating blow. It comes at a time when bilateral ties between the Northeast Asian neighbors are at an all-time low since the end of World War II.

Many wonder if the two regional powers will go to war again.

While actual war is not yet in sight, a propaganda war is well under way. Chinese envoys to the United States, Russia and United Kingdom published newspaper commentaries in these countries urging people to stop the revival of militarism in Japan.

Among other themes, the articles argued that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to challenge the post-war world order defined by these World War II allies, which are therefore duty-bound to foil his attempts.

Abe instructed Japanese envoys to retort.

As the situation stands now, a hot war is unlikely. China has made it clear it will not fire the first shot. But if Japan should do so, it will “not have a chance to fire the second one,” Admiral Wu Shengli, commander of the Chinese navy, was quoted saying last September.

Short of a hot war, Beijing will pressure Japan to oust its prime minister. In a rare move, a foreign ministry spokesman called Abe a persona non grata, and said the Chinese leaders would not have any dealings with him.

Beijing also tried to persuade Washington to take a similar stand by suggesting Japan's militarism was not in the U.S.' interest.

This year is another Jia-Wu year. The traditional Chinese calendar names a year by matching 10 “heavenly stems” with 12 “earthly branches.” The year 1894 happened to be the pairing of Jia (a heavenly stem) with Wu (an earthly branch) and therefore, was called the Jia-Wu year.

Under this system, the same name would recur every 60 years, as it did in 1954 and now in 2014. Since the 1894 defeat, the term Jia-Wu has become a symbol of national humiliation, arousing strong anti-Japanese feelings among the Chinese.

Asked what to expect for another Jia-Wu year, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang put it tersely last month: “Today's China is not the same one as 120 years ago.”

The Global Times compared the three Jia-Wu years: The first Jia-Wu, 1894, precipitated the end of old China, whose 3,000-year-old dynastic system collapsed 17 years later in 1911.

The second Jia-Wu, 1954, heralded the rise of a new China, marked by its ability to match the U.S. in the Korean War.

The third Jia-Wu this year brings the “grand revival of the Chinese nation,” through which the Chinese aspire to attain world supremacy in 2049, when the new China under Chinese Communist Party rule turns 100.

This newfound confidence explains why Beijing is now less tolerant of Japan.

There are also sober minds warning against recklessness, like Wu Jinan, director of Japan studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies. They caution that while stronger than before, China may not be able to win another Sino-Japanese war because the fundamental reason for its defeat 120 years ago — corruption — remains as serious.

Many Chinese studies on the cause of China's defeat in 1894 quote the intelligence reports by two famous Japanese spies Arao Sei and Munakata Kotarou. Both said corruption had decayed Chinese society from top to bottom, and that China was not war-worthy, although its economic and military powers were considered superior to Japan's. Japan went on to invade and defeat China, proving the spies right.

Since the key factor that contributed to the defeat 120 years ago is still haunting China now, there is clearly no room for complacency on the part of China.

The Possibility of Regime Change in the Middle East: The Egyptian, Syrian, Saudi Arabian and Iranian Case Models

January 18, 2014

The Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University has produced an interesting study looking at how the rapidly evolving security situation that began with the Arab Spring in 2011 threatens to destabilize certain regimes in the region. This case study looks at the multitude of factors which led to the downfall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt in 2011. The study then examines whether the Syrian, Saudi Arabian and Iranian regime face similar problems that could potentially lead to the collapse of their governments. The study can be accessed here.

The BRICS’ African Safari
Image Credit: Flickr/Blog do Planalto

The BRICS’ African Safari

It’s not just China; the BRICS are all active in Africa and taking divergent paths.
By Oliver Stuenkel
January 17, 2014

China’s growing presence in Africa has attracted considerable attention from both academia and the international media over the past years, partly because the rapidly growing influence of the BRICS in Africa may portend the future for other regions.

While opinions about the consequences of China’s presence in Africa diverge, most analysts know very little about India, Brazil, South Africa or Russia’s activities across the African continent. In this context, Pádraig Carmody, who teaches at Trinity College in Dublin, has written a well-researched and highly readable analysis of the BRICS in Africa.

One of the obvious questions is whether the rise of the BRICS portends a mere extension of the “Great Game” in Africa, or is South-South cooperation somehow less competitive and more responsive to the needs of the poor? Carmody favors the latter interpretation early on in his book, arguing that in the South, “material flows and purportedly more equal, and less exploitative, social relations than those of North-South relations.”

This is a big statement to make – and paradoxically, the reader comes across a considerable amount of information that seems to undermine the argument. For example, a mere page later Carmody admits that “over 90% of China’s exports are manufactured goods (….), whereas Africa still exports mostly primary products, largely reinforcing a colonial division of labor (…).”

The Future of War (III): Some questions for consideration in light of the changes

JANUARY 17, 2014

By the Future of War team, New America Foundation 
Best Defense office of the future

Law, institutions, and political organizations always lag behind changing technologies. While no one can predict with any certainty precisely how evolving technologies will change the future shape of law and political structures, New America's "Future of War" project will map out the key conceptual and legal questions that we need to grapple with as we move forward.

Changing technologies are simultaneously increasing and decreasing state power; how will these countervailing trends change the nature of state power vis à vis other states and non-state actors?

Will they drive changes in how states interact with one another? On the one hand, wealthy and powerful states -- in particular, the United States -- now have unprecedented means of exercising power. Massive surveillance power, space-based weapons systems, and so on remain within the sole province of powerful states. Even drones are primarily tools of powerful states, since only those states have the anti-aircraft capabilities to prevent incursions by "foreign" drones and the broad-based intelligence capabilities that permit drones to target specific individuals. On the other hand, individuals and non-state organizations can confound state power in new ways, both through the use of sophisticated cyber tools and through the dispersed and decentralized use of simple, low-tech weapons such as IEDs, which are difficult to track and control.

As technologies of violence and control change, so do the concepts of "war" and "peace." Does "armed conflict" versus "unarmed conflict" still make sense as a distinguishing category? Should we seek to develop rules governing the "state use of force across national borders"?

If we retain existing constructs of war and peace, how do we define these? In the "war" against al Qaeda and its allies, "the battlefield" is potentially anywhere on the globe and "the enemy" is not another army but a loosely associated group of individuals of varying nationalities. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were armed conflicts, but as a legal matter, is the United States in an "armed conflict" with suspected violent extremists living in Bosnia, or with militant leaders in Pakistan's tribal regions? Are we in an armed conflict with suspected al Qaeda "associates" in Somalia? Is a U.S. drone strike in Somalia a lawful strike against an enemy combatant in an armed conflict, or the illegal, immoral murder of a human being in a foreign country (and a possible violation of sovereignty and the United Nations Charter to boot)?

New Issue of CTC Sentinel Now Available

January 19, 2014

The Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, has just put online that January 2014 edition of its monthly publication, the CTC Sentinel.

Highlighting this issue are in-depth articles about whether the security of the Suez Canal is in jeopardy because of the growing number of terrorist attacks in Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula; an excellent article by former intelligence analyst Jeffrey White detailing the role that fighters belonging to the Lebanese militant groupHezbollah have played over the past year in the Syrian civil war; and an interesting article that questions whether the al Qaeda affiliated, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been behind a string of assassinations of high-ranking Yemeni military and civilian officials in recent months.

America is slipping to No. 2. Don’t panic.

By Charles Kenny,

Charles Kenny is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. This essay is adapted from his new book, “The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest Is Good for the West.”

America will soon cease to be the world’s largest economy. You can argue about why, when and how bad, but the end is indeed nigh. According to the Penn World Tables — the best data to compare gross domestic product across countries — China’s GDP was worth $10.4 trillion in 2011, compared with a U.S. GDP of $13.3 trillion . But with China’s economy growing 7 to 10 percent a year, compared with the recent U.S. track record of less than 3 percent, China should take the lead by 2017 at the latest.

Already, China is the world’s top trading nation , edging the United States in total imports and exports in 2012. And Arvind Subramanian, an economist formerly with the International Monetary Fund, predicts that by 2030 the world will have four major economic players: China will be the heavyweight, followed by the United States and European Union, with economies about half as large, and then India close behind.

Time to panic? A recent Chicago Council survey found that only 9 percent of Americans believe that Chinese growth will mostly benefit the United States, while 40 percent think it will be mostly negative for us. And a 2012 YouGov survey suggests that about half of Americans would prefer to see the United States stay on top, even with anemic economic growth, rather than grow rapidly but be overtaken by China. You only need recall President Obama and Mitt Romney sparring over who would be tougher on China to see how Washington channels this popular angst.

Certainly, China’s growth poses some challenges — but the opportunities it offers far outweigh them. And no matter the hand-wringing, losing the title of largest economy doesn’t really matter much to Americans’ quality of life.

Regardless of its current perch atop the global economy, the United States is only the 19th least corrupt nation, according to Transparency International. It rates 67th in equality of pay between men and women according to the 2013 Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum. And among 31 high-income countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States ranked third in GDP per capita as of 2011 — but 27th in life expectancy, 29th in infant mortality, 23rd in unemployment, 27th in math test scores (as of 2012) and 30th in income equality.

In fact, the link between the absolute size of your economy and pretty much any measure that truly matters is incredibly weak. Whenever China takes over the top spot, it will still lag far behind the world’s leading countries on indicators reflecting quality of life. For starters, there are a lot more people sharing China’s GDP; even the rosiest forecasts for the country’s economic growth suggest that per capita income will be lower than in the United States for decades to come. The average American lives five years longer than the average person in China, and civil and political rights in the world’s soon-to-be-biggest economy are routinely abused. Living in an America that ranks second in GDP to China will still be far, far better than living in China.

There are some real economic costs related to losing the top spot in the GDP rankings, but they are small and manageable. The dollar might lose its dominance as the currency of choice for central bank reserves and trading, and some predict that will increase the cost of U.S. borrowing and exporting. In fact, the dollar share of global reserves has already fallen from about 80 percent in the 1970s to about 40 percent today, with the euro and the renminbi gaining ground, but there isn’t much sign that that has spooked global markets. Meanwhile, businesses in the rest of the world still manage to export, even though they must go through the trouble of exchanging currencies.

***Coming next in military tech

Despite uncertainty in defense funding levels, several emerging technology areas could shape the US military over the next decade or so, including unmanned systems, autonomous systems, cyber weaponry, three-dimensional printing, and directed-energy weapons. Whether the US military capitalizes on these technologies will depend greatly on organizational decisions. Given the likely fiscal challenge of sequestration, the US government may find it challenging to sustain funding for emerging defense technologies, but, the author writes, investing in the future is necessary if the US military is to retain the technological edge it holds today.

Predicting the future of technology is hard, and it is much easier to be wrong than right. Americans are still waiting for the flying cars depicted in The Jetsons more than 40 years ago, though cleaning products created by companies like iRobot suggest that the Jetson family maid, Rosie the Robot, could become a reality. In the military realm, predictions that look smart in retrospect—for example, British Adm. John Fisher’s premonition at the dawn of the 20th century about the significant effect of the submarine on warfare—are the exception rather than the rule (Horowitz, 2010).

Most Americans assume that the United States will lead the charge into the next generation of technology. Technological superiority is not a US birthright, however; it was hard earned throughout the Cold War and over the last two decades. Paired with the best-trained military forces in the world, technological superiority is the backbone of US conventional military power. Yet, there are reasons for concern about what the next decade may bring for US military technological superiority. The rest of the world has not stood still in its response to the US military’s exploitation of unmanned aerial vehicles, precision strike weapons, and radar-evading stealth technologies over the last generation.1

U.S. in Space: Superiority, Not Dominance

U.S. in Space: Superiority, Not Dominance
NASA Endeavor
Image Credit: Buglugs via Flickr
Trying for dominance in space is counterproductive. The U.S. should settle for a more modest goal.
By Travis C. Stalcup
January 16, 2014

Director Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film, Gravity is a sci-fi thriller about a lone astronaut fighting to live where “life is impossible.” Following a Russian missile strike against an aging spy satellite that shreds the American space shuttle and its crew, protagonist and mission scientist Sandra Bullock struggles to evade a predictable but lethal field of orbiting debris. Cuarón’s story dramatizes a stark future – one in which nations vie to control the cosmos and in doing so make life on earth as we know it considerably harder. Gravity makes an implicit argument about the folly of space dominance: operating in space is hard enough so why make it harder by testing and using kinetic kill anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons?

The Gravity of the Situation

Freedom of action in space is essential not only to the American way of war but to the American way of life. Everything from theater missile defense to Facebook relies on satellites high above that beam signals back and forth to Earth. Despite the importance of these assets, at no time since it first placed satellites into orbit in 1958has the United States enjoyed space dominance. The Soviets acquired ASAT capabilities early in the space race(albeit it by heavenly nuclear detonations) and even now, the U.S. is dependent on Russia to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. As an interest “vital to U.S. national security,” it is important to determine under what conditions the United States can achieve – or to many, maintain – dominance in space. (For a hardnosed view of U.S. space policy, see the 2006 National Space Policy, which calls for the denial of space to adversaries.) American space policy, sometimes out of the limelight, is growing even more important. Other nations are growing their capabilities to access space including China, which is also intensifying its investment in anti-satellite weaponry. America’s strategic advantage is eroding.

New Detailed Analysis of How NSA and Its Foreign Partners Intercept Undersea Fiber Optic Cable Traffic

January 18, 2014

Slides about NSA’s Upstream collection

Peter Koop


January 17, 2014

In July and September of last year, the Brazilian television magazine Fantástico broadcasted news reports about NSA operations, while in the background showing a series of slides from an unpublished NSA powerpoint presentation.

The slides seem to be about NSA’s corporate partners for the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past” - which became known as “Upstream collection”, a term mentioned in one of the PRISM-slides.

The corporate partnerships are one of three ways NSA is intercepting the world’s main internet cables:

- Cooperation with telecommunication companies
- Cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies
- Unilateral cable tapping operations

On twitter, Glenn Greenwald once said that these slides would also be published and explained separately, but so far this hasn’t happened - that’s why it’s done here.

The first series of slides was shown in the weekly television magazine Fantásticoon September 8, 2013. These slides are posted here in the order in which they were seen in the report, which might be the order of the original NSA powerpoint presentation.

The slides show the logos of the National Security Agency (top left) and its Special Source Operations (SSO) division (top right). They are marked TOP SECRET // COMINT // NOFORN, which means they are classified Top Secret, in the compartment for Special (Signals) Intelligence and that it’s not allowed to distribute them to foreigners, not even to the Five Eyes partners.

Probably one of the first slides of the presentation shows a map of “optical fibre submarine networks”, which was prepared by the telecommunications company Alcatel Lucent in 2007. Therefore this presentation must have been made in 2007 or later.

The Corporate Portfolio of collection programs in which SSO is cooperating with corporate partners is listed in the following slide. It is assumed that FAIRVIEW, BLARNEY and STORMBREW are for collection within the US and the programs under the OAKSTAR umbrella are intercept facilities elsewhere in the world. Two programs seem to be conducted by SSO in cooperation with TAO, which is NSA’s computer hacking division:

NSA Surveillance Will Change. Just Not Very Much

Seeking a middle ground on surveillance, Obama pleases few.
JANUARY 17, 2014

In an expansive speech on Friday that covered the history of American surveillance from the ride of Paul Revere to the leaks of Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama sought to assure critics and supporters of the National Security Agency that he'd heard their concerns and would make historic changes to way America spies. But at a fundamental level, Obama showed that he's unwilling to dismantle or significantly curtail an apparatus of global surveillance that, he insisted, keeps Americans safe from terrorists, weapons proliferators, spies, and emerging threats in cyberspace.

Notably, the president's speech on Friday was the most spirited defense of the NSA he has offered since the first classified documents exposing its operations appeared in the press last June. "Laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends, they know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked, by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots," Obama said. "What sustains those who work at NSA through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation."

In proposing a way to move past the scandals of the past seven months, Obama tried to thread a tricky needle. With regards to the collection of Americans' phone records, by far the most controversial of the programs Snowden revealed, Obama said the NSA itself will no longer be allowed to retain the so-called metadata. But the agency will still be allowed to access the records, which will be stored with a yet-to-be-determined organization. The agency will have to get permission from a court every time it wants to search the records -- which, to be sure, was an outcome that intelligence officials wanted to avoid, and represents a defeat for the NSA. But that permission will come from the same court that has approved of the legality and constitutionality of the phone records program every six months for the past seven years.

In a similar vein, the president took the unprecedented step of extending the privacy protections afforded to Americans who have their personal information collected by the NSA to foreigners as well. From now on, U.S. intelligence agencies will have to follow the same safeguards when disseminating and storing foreigners' communications and using their names in reports as they do with American citizens. But those rules, spelled out in a new presidential policy directive, don't cover the collection and analysis of foreigners' personal information. And it's that practice that has so disturbed individuals, technology companies, and leaders around the world, who have criticized the NSA for casting a vast surveillance net that collects and analyze the data of millions of innocent people.

Still Unprotected

President Obama’s reforms at the NSA won’t protect Americans’ privacy from continued government intrusion.

JANUARY 19, 2014

When we learned the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting the phone data of every American last June, it posed a serious constitutional question: Do we no longer have a Fourth Amendment?

On Friday, Jan. 17, President Barack Obama essentially responded, "No, we really don't."

The president is to be commended for trying to enact reforms at the NSA. At the very least, he recognized a problem and sought to address public concerns.

But nothing he said in his speech reverses or even significantly impedes the government from prying into the private lives of citizens as a general practice. Nothing fundamentally changes about how our privacy is still unprotected.

The Fourth Amendment was included in the Constitution precisely to prevent the issuing of general warrants, in which blanket authority is given to the government to spy on citizens at will. The American colonists had to endure general warrants used by the British, who went to door to door searching as they pleased.

The lesson of the American Revolution was that this should never happen again, and yet the NSA's data collection program is the modern equivalent of this practice. President Obama cited Paul Revere in his speech, but Paul Revere rode through the streets to tell us the British were coming -- not that the Americans are coming.

In misdiagnosing the problem, the president offers the wrong solutions. The primary question remains, "Can a single warrant be applied to millions of Americans records?" President Obama still says yes.

Even though President Obama assures us "the United States is not spying on ordinary people," this statement does not jibe with any of his suggested reforms. Plus, we've heard these types of assurances before. 

Obama saying that his new policy will only examine private information "two steps" removed from the target, as opposed to the current policy of three steps, is no comfort at all. The president might as well be saying we're only going to abuse the Fourth Amendment twice, not three times.

Our current mass surveillance policies are either proper or improper. Unfortunately, even after the promise of minor tweaking, the president still considers them far too proper.

Attempts to seek permission for surveillance from designated offices of the NSA, independent contractors, or some special third party will not alleviate the problems in question. We have always separated police power from the judicial power. Warrants come from judges and are supposed to be focused on specific persons or tasks. I would not trust the NSA to police itself outside the bounds of the Constitution any more than I trust Congress to do the same.

An America in which the president of the United States essentially approves of the government collecting your phone records, your emails, your texts, your credit-card records, and other private information is not an America that those who founded it would recognize.

Today, the NSA provides a dragnet that picks up virtually everything we do, and President Obama simply attempting to poke a hole here or there does not change the unconstitutionality of this still widely cast net.

The president sees a different kind of America than what our Founding Fathers envisioned. I still think they got it right, and in my capacity as a United States senator will work diligently to restore and defend the Constitution that both the president and I swore to uphold.

We Goofed: Historical Writings in Britain, Russia and the U.S. on Communications Security Failures

January 18, 2014

Christos military and intelligence corner

January 13, 2014

In the course of WWII the Anglo-Americans were able to gain information of great value from reading their enemies secret communications. In Britain the codebreakers of Bletchley Park solved several enemy systems with the most important ones being the German Enigma and Tunny cipher machines and the Italian C-38m. Codebreaking played a role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the North Africa Campaign and the Normandy invasion. 

In the USA the Army and Navy codebreakers solved many Japanese cryptosystems and used this advantage in battle. The great victory at Midway would probably not have been possible if the Americans had not solved the Japanese Navy’s code.These events have gained great publicity and countless books have been published about them. People like Friedman and Turing are widely known to readers of WWII history. 

While there are countless books on Bletchley Park and the American codebreakers, there are only a handful dealing with the operations of the Axis codebreakers. This would be natural if there wasn’t much to write about. Yet the exact opposite is true. German, Italian, Japanese, Finnish and Hungarian codebreakers were able to exploit many important enemy codes and their successes directly affected important campaigns and battles of the war.For example:

French War Ministry communications to Army groups were solved in 1939-40.Without the B-Dienst the U-boats would not have been able to locate Allied convoys in the Atlantic

Rommel’s successes in N.Africa owed a great deal to the information he received daily from his signals intelligence unit NFAK 621 and the decoded messages of colonel Fellers.In the Eastern Front the Germans were able to exploit a large part of the enemy codes, including the systems of the NKVD and the high level military ones in 1941-42.

U.S. super-snipers: ‘Smart’ rifles tested by military could be game-changers

The Washington Times

Friday, January 17, 2014 
Is this the dawn of the American super sniper? The U.S. military has acquired and is now testing “smart” rifles with the potential to be a game-changer on the modern battlefield.

“The military has purchased several units for testing and evaluation purposes,” said Oren Schauble, a marketing official with Texas based TrackingPoint Inc., defense website Military.com reported. The firm specializes in creating precision guided firearms.

While at the nation’s largest gun show in Las Vegas, Nev., the SHOT Show, the U.S. Army is said to have purchased six “smart” rifles after witnessing the product’s performance in the hands of novice shooters. Each rifle can cost up to $27,000, according to Military.com — but the rifle’s performance won them over.

A correspondent working for Military.com hit a target from roughly 1,000 yards away on his first shot. He reported that of 70 or so reporters and novice shooters who tried the rifle, only “one or two” missed from the extended range.

TrackingPoint Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jason Schaubie told the defense website that military snipers have a fire-shot success rate from that range of between 20 percent to 30 percent (which jumps to 70 percent on their second attempt).

“That is a better day than usual,” said Schaube. “I would say we’re at about 70 percent first-shot success probability at 1,000 yards … with inexperienced shooters.”

According to Military.com, the weapon collects “imagery and ballistic data such as atmospheric conditions, cant, inclination, even the slight shift of the Earth’s rotation known as the Coriolis effect,” for soldiers. In short, the rifle gives troops data on the most important data accept wind speed; the soldier must calculate that manually.

When Military.com asked Mr. Schaube what the sniper community thinks of the smart rifle, he replied: “This is not necessarily for them. This is for guys who don’t have that training who need to perform in greater capabilities. This is more for your average soldier.”

Could the smart rifle turn average soldiers into sniper-caliber marksman and snipers into super snipers? Only time will tell.

Yes, The US Navy’s Been on a Strategic Holiday

Yes, The US Navy’s Been on a Strategic Holiday
Image Credit: Flickr/US Navy
For the past 2 decades plus the US Navy hasn’t had to fight for command of the sea. Is it now hungover?
January 16, 2014

So the Naval Diplomat evidently touched a nerve within the naval community with Sunday’s column musing about whether America suffers from a maritime-strategists gap. Oh, well. He Was Uncontroversial isn’t an inscription I would want etched on my gravestone. For instance, an old friend who wears the naval-aviation community’s Wings of Gold sends the following cri de coeur:

“As an aviator, I must disagree with one statement: that the ‘sea services have been enjoying a prolonged strategic holiday since the Soviet Navy evanesced two decades ago.’

“When I was getting shot at over Iraq in the late 1990s and 2000s and was pickling bombs in return, I didn’t feel like I was on a holiday!?!”

He, she, or it refers, of course, to allied air forces’ enforcement of the no-fly zones over Iraq. Iraqi air-defense rocketeers made a habit of illuminating allied warplanes with fire-control radar, whereupon allied pilots thoughtfully replied with ordnance. Peril was a daily companion. Some holiday!

Holiday is the objectionable word in this exchange of friendly fire. My hero Mark Twain joked that the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning-bug. Butstrategic holiday is the right term for this interlude. It accurately captures the U.S. Navy’s respite from any navy’s chief function, namely preparing to wrest command of the sea from rival fleets. My reply, edited for clarity and to remove the vulgarities to which we sailors are lamentably prone:

Travis Dove for The New York Times

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Spec. Perez Brown Jr. spent three years in the Army and two tours in Afghanistan, where on his 23rd birthday a homemade bomb blew up a vehicle in his convoy and he came close to driving over another one just down the road. “That second one might have been for me,” he said.

Now Specialist Brown is safely home with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, where he goes on field marches in the frosty forests near Lake Ontario. He will not be sent again to Afghanistan, where American involvement is winding down, so he is part of an Army that is no longer carrying out war plans, only training for them.

Although he is glad to be back, Specialist Brown misses the intensity and purpose that deployments brought to his life. Here in upstate New York, he said, it is peaceful but a little boring. “There are too many slow days,” he said.

A dozen years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, most of the two million American men and women who went to war are home, adjusting to new lives. Slightly more than half remain in the armed services, where many are struggling — like America’s ground forces over all — to find relevance in the face of an uncertain future.
Launch media viewer“You can compare it to a football player who trains for years and doesn’t want to sit on the bench for the Super Bowl.” LT. ANDREW MAYVILLE, back home at Fort Drum, N.Y., but applying to the Special Forces Brett Carlsen for The New York Times

Their restlessness is a particular challenge for the Army, which sent 1.3 million troops to war after 9/11 and created the most combat-tested force in the nation’s history. But now it must sustain the morale of soldiers who have returned to American bases and are living what the military calls garrison life.

“You have to ask yourself if you want to be that leader who is relegated to navigating garrison bureaucracy — submitting ammo requests, coordinating weapons ranges and conducting inventories,” said Capt. Brandon Archuleta, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who returned to Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. “I know those processes are in place for a reason, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.”