13 May 2014

U.S. Military Trying to Stop the CIA From Closing All Its Intelligence Facilities in Afghanistan Ahead of Pullout

CIA, U.S. military at odds over Afghanistan pullback plan

David S. Cloud
Los Angeles Times
May 9, 2014

The CIA has made plans to close its network of secret bases in Afghanistan and pull its personnel back to Kabul this summer, an unexpectedly abrupt withdrawal that the U.S. military fears will deprive it of vital intelligence while thousands of American troops remain in the country, U.S. officials said.

CIA Director John Brennan informed U.S. military commanders in March that his agency would start to shutter Afghan operations outside Kabul, the capital, removing CIA clandestine officers and analysts as well as National Security Agency specialists responsible for intercepting insurgents’ communications, which have been a rich source of daily intelligence, the officials said.

Pentagon officials warn that the CIA drawdown is coming at a time when insurgent attacks normally intensify, after a winter lull. As a result, the plan has strained relations between the agency and military commanders in Kabul, the officials said.

Caption Afghanistan patrol

Scott Olson / Getty Images

The CIA is planning to close its satellite bases in Afghanistan and pull all its personnel back to Kabul by early summer. The U.S. military says it needs the intelligence the CIA provides. Above, Army 1st Lt. Eric Cannon speaks by radio on patrol near a village south of Kabul.

"They are beginning their own retrograde and they kind of sprung it on the military, which is raising concern," said a senior military official, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss classified CIA plans.

Intelligence officials confirmed the drawdown would occur, but said the pace remained uncertain and no final plan had been approved.

They linked the move to the steady pullout of U.S. combat troops from America’s longest war. Soldiers and Marines have provided protection and logistics support for intelligence-gathering outposts, which often are inside U.S. military facilities. Hundreds of those frontline military bases and camps have now closed, although dozens are still operating.

Soldering soldiers

May 13, 2014

General elections 2014 turned out to be elections like no other, and if this is indeed what the practice of democracy has been reduced to in our country, then we should look forward to the future with some degree of trepidation. But right now the wait is to see what kind of a dispensation will take office in the country after this massive (and massively expensive) exercise in democracy.

There are many question marks, some of them enormous, but hopefully they will all be answered come May 16.

However, what has been of particular concern this time around is the emergence of a particularly virulent type of rabble-rouser to whom no sacrilege is too egregious in the pursuit of votebank electoral advantage, even if it calls for deliberate disrespect of even the most highly respected institutions in the country. One amongst these is undoubtedly the Indian Army, which was targeted recently by one such street corner demagogue who is also (along with several others of his kind) a state-level government minister in a north Indian state (no prizes for guessing the state!). In a supremely vicious display of the lowest form of communal sentiment and disregard for all norms of propriety, this person attempted to besmear the Kargil War itself by reducing one of the Indian Army’s greatest achievements down to the level of the communal gutter he himself inhabits. That such an approach is not a flash in the pan, or limited to one particular instance was confirmed by the statement of another politician (this time from a metropolis in western India) — that members of a particular community who do not vote in favour of a particular “secular” party should have their collective DNA examined.

These comments were widely projected on the visual media, and the Election Commission did take note of them but, in the opinion of some, not proactively or strongly enough. The case of these two politicians (amongst others), notorious enough to begin with, must now be taken up strongly so that freedom of speech is not interpreted as liberty to blaspheme. No one, not even street politicians, have so far plunged into such depths of perversity as to cast aspersions on the totally impartial, secular image of the Army.

The Election Commission of India — yet another world-class institution every Indian is proud of — has done its best to civilise the electoral jamboree, but has not succeeded in doing so in every case. That the EC has incurred the wrath of both sides is a striking testimonial to its fairness. Meanwhile, the Indian Army soldiers on, loftily oblivious to the shrill political cacophony all around, though truth to tell, it has its own share of problems, wounds and injuries inflicted by some of its best and brightest who once marched in its ranks and attained its highest echelons. As the saying goes, it is enough to make an angel swear!

Defending India’s patent law

May 12, 2014 

APNON-COMPLIANCE: If Gleevec was refused a patent, it is only because it failed the test of Indian law. India's Supreme Court rejected drug maker Novartis AG's attempt to patent a new version of a cancer drug Gleevec, in a landmark decision that healthcare activists say ensures poor patients around the world will get continued access to cheap versions of lifesaving medicines. 

No one can attack India’s well-founded Intellectual Property regime as being weak merely because a drug that is claimed to be an invention fails the test of law

India and its intellectual property (IP) laws have been the subject of sharp criticism recently. Now, there is talk of the government invoking emergency provisions with regard to Dasatinib, a cancer drug. The decibel level may go up several notches.

Let us look at our law. The sovereignty of a country includes its power to make laws. Any person who pursues commercial interests in another country must submit himself/herself to the laws of the country. No one can attack our regime as being weak only because his/her invention did not stand up to the test of our legislation. Nor can India be accused of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It sounds romantic, but it is still robbery.

The Novartis case and the Nexavar case of compulsory licence (CL) are what have impelled this attack. Innovation and invention have speeded up in myriad ways in the last few decades and our country had committed itself to the obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Therefore, it was necessary for India to revisit its patent law; in 2005, the Indian Patents Act was amended, Section 3(d) being one of the amendments. It was the basis of the Novartis case.

TRIPS recognises that members have the right to use/adopt measures to protect public health so long as they are consistent with TRIPS. A recent study notes: “Policy makers in developing and developed countries need to base their implementation of intellectual policy rules on these pro-public health and pro-access principles.” The Doha Declaration is an affirmation of the right to use the flexibilities in TRIPS, especially by developing and less developed countries, regarding access to medicine. The language of the Doha Declaration emphasises the importance of implementing and interpreting the TRIPS Agreement in a way that supports public health.

Settling differences with China

May 7, 2014

The relations between India and China need not be – and should not be – a zero sum game, and the time is ripe for settling differences with China as the major political parties share this objective.

The Congress manifesto speaks of "resolution of the differences of perception about the border and the line of control" and Narendra Modi, the leader of the BJP, in an interview to theTimes of India, stated that “it is in the realm of possibility for us to solve our problems with China and take our relationship with China to a new level”. What would that entail?

The current importance of the Henderson-Brooks Report on the events of 1962, for foreign policy rather than military operations, is the light it sheds on the border, which is the root cause of the problem between the two countries. The operational issues raised in the Report are rightly of concern only to the military and the Ministry of Defense. The public interest is also not being served by focusing on the individuals involved, as that is largely of historical interest.

The national debate should really be on whether the assertion in the leaked report that Dhola Post, where it all started, was located north of the McMahon line, and whether this was known to the Defense and Foreign Ministries, or inadvertently located wrongly by local commanders and the mistake was not brought to the notice of the government. If this was indeed the case then statements made by the Chinese leaders at that time of teaching India a lesson would reflect a response to a local situation rather than Chinese expansionism.

There are other references in the leaked Report that the Government was advising caution, and the entire communication from the Defense Ministry was not transmitted by Army Headquarters to the ground formations. There are also statements that new posts were to be established only in Ladakh, where there was no agreed border, and their location was being ordered directly from Army Headquarters.

Apparently, there was no government direction to establish new posts as part of the “forward policy” in Arunachal Pradesh with its McMahon Line. The report categorically states that Dhola Post was established inadvertently north of this line, on the basis of incorrect coordinates, by the ground formation and not by Army Headquarters. The mistake was realized and reported but no action taken, and it invited immediate requests from the Chinese not to cross the agreed border.

The nation needs to know whether this was indeed the case, and what the files of the Government of India have to say, because they were not available to the Henderson-Brooks Committee.

Subversive Blinkers - Sustaining Separatism by Emasculation of Common Sense

The subversive war in Jammu and Kashmir is not only about keeping the destabilizing internal security challenges alive through calibrated terrorist attacks from time to time. In the recent past, it has been more about successfully deploying blinkers on the policy making about internal security by using the democratic space and the fault lines in the nation building processes in the country. The separatist establishment through its subversive tentacles has forced the government at the helm to focus primarily on managing public perception more than the impending security challenges.

In the last week of February this year, a “confidential document” of the J&K Police was made available to the print media. It contained the data of the latest census conducted by the state police about the number of active terrorists operating in Kashmir. As per this census, 104 terrorists are active out of which 60 percent are of foreign origin.

The self patting by the State Police and the administration, after they made the census of the active terrorists operating in Kashmir region public and the State Police Chief proclaimed decimation of the terrorist command structure in the state, must have been still on when the terrorists struck in a big way in Pulwama town of South Kashmir, followed by a major strike in Kathua district of Jammu province.

In Pulwama, the incident took place outside the well guarded court complex. Two terrorists fired upon two cops on routine duty from a close range. One of the cops died on the spot while the other succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.

These strikes were not merely for rebutting the government claims. They have been followed by a spate of strikes with an alarming frequency. Just a few days back on April 13, two policemen were killed in a terrorist attack on the house of a National Conference (NC) leader at Khrew area near Srinagar in Kashmir. Two Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists were killed in the subsequent police action. Days before this terrorist strike near Srinagar, on April 8, three security personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer of Rashtriya Rifles, and two terrorists were killed in a fierce encounter in the frontier Kupwara district of North Kashmir. The encounter and the exchange of fire continued throughout the night. The terrorists who were killed belonged to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). A huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from the place of encounter.

On March 28th, a major fidayeen terrorist attack took place on the Army camp in Kali Bari, Kathua of Jammu region near the LoC. Three heavily armed terrorists intercepted a Bolero SUV near Dayalachack Kathua in the Jammu region, asked its occupants to alight after separating the driver. They sprayed bullets on the disembarked passengers and drove away. After two and a half hours at 7.15 am, they stormed the Army’s III rocket camp some 15 kilometers from Dayalachack at Janglote. An alert sentry repulsed the attack and then in a day long encounter all the three terrorists were killed. An army Jawan and two civilians were also killed in the terrorist attack.

The Message and Meaning of GSLV Success

No technology, however complex and challenging it might be, is beyond India’s capability to develop and deploy from ground zero. And this truism was amply demonstrated by the spectacularly successful flight of the heaviest ever Indian rocket, the three stage 414.75-tonne Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), the “crowning glory” which was the home grown, upper cryogenic engine stage. The January 5 flawless mission of GSLV, which placed into orbit the 1982 kg GSAT-14 communications satellite, has verily boosted India’s prestige sky high in one quick sweep. The 17-minutes long “text book” perfect mission of GSLV encasing the painstaking endeavours of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) spread over twenty years catapulted India into the ranks of elite space faring countries—USA, Russia ,China, Japan and European Space Agency(ESA)—which have the proven capability to build and launch cryogenic fuel driven space vehicles.

The precise performance of the Indian cryogenic engine which-- burnt for a total 12 minutes-- was such that the GSAT-14 spacecraft was injected into the orbit with a perigee (lowest point) of 176-km against the calculated value of 180-km and the apogee (farthest point) achieved was off the mark by a mere 50-kms from a target of 36,000-km.

ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan was right in his observation, “With the successful GSLV programme, we have paid back all the debts to the country.” The vibrant technological breakthrough achieved by the successful GSLV flight has brought to the country a range of long term, immense and diverse benefits spanning strategic, commercial industrial and space exploration sectors.

But then the most telling and conspicuous message of the unqualified success of GSLV is that India don’t need to care or worry about the notorious technology denial regime spearheaded by USA. The successful development and flawless performance of the cryogenic engine stage built by ISRO, virtually from scratch, stands out as a challenge to USA which left no stone unturned to prevent India from accessing the critical cryogenic engine technology which continues to be a zealously guarded secret. On a more practical plane, the success of GSLV has helped ISRO cross a higher technological threshold in its quest to sustain India’s leadership position in space. As picturesquely pointed out by K.Sivan, GSLV Project Director, the indigenous cryogenic engine has given wings to GSLV which had suffered “setbacks and failures” that had come in for flak from the media.

More importantly, the successful flight of GSLV has helped ISRO break the technological barrier for building better, bigger and more powerful launch vehicles designed to meet the growing and varied needs of India in space sector in the years ahead. For with a single operational vehicle in the form of the four stage PSLV(Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) with a modest launch capability, ISRO had to look beyond the shores of the country for getting its heavier class INSAT/GSAT satellites off the ground at the head of procured launchers whose launch fee involved a huge outgo of foreign exchange. For instance, ISRO had to pay something like US$85-90 million (around Rs.5000 million) as a launch fee for getting its 3.5-tonne class satellite launched. In contrast, a single flight of GSLV costs just Rs.2200 million. This implies that with GSLV at its disposal, India will be in a position to take care of the orbital missions of home-grown satellites in 2-.2.5-tonne class. What’s more, by offering the services of GSLV for the global customers planning to get their commercial class communications satellites off the ground, India can stand to earn a tidy launch fee. By all means, ISRO is in a very comfortable position to offer a highly competitive fee—in comparison to European and American commercial space launch service—for the services of GSLV. Radhakrishnan has made it clear that with one more fight, GSLV will be ready for commercial use. ”After flying one more GSLV, we will be in a position to declare the rocket as a commercially operational,” noted Radhakrishnan. The next flight of GSLV, which will carry GSAT-6 communications satellite into orbit, is planned to be achieved within a year from now.

Religion as the Foundation of a Nation: The Making and Unmaking of Pakistan

IDSA Monograph Series No. 36

Pakistan owes its origin to the ‘Two Nation Theory’ in the sub-continent’s polity. Leaders of the Pakistan Movement were convinced that Muslims were a separate nation from the Hindu nation and the two could not live together. In their zeal to create a modern progressive Muslim state in the sub-continent they chose to down-ply, or even ignore, the sectarian divide that had been manifesting in South Asian Islam even when the British were still at the helms. Came independence and these sectarian fault-lines began to manifest themselves in Pakistan’s polity. It would be erroneous to blame General Zia ul-Haq with triggering the big Islamic theological divides, they were already there. Even General Ayub Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto tried to politically manipulate the sectarian divide in Pakistan to suit their needs. What Zia ul-Haq did was to build a common cause with Islamic zealots and provide them Army/ISI’s patronage and access within the structures of the government. Various national and regional events since then have allowed these Radical Islamists (RIs) become almost a state within the state.

Which way this sectarian divide going to turn? Would Pakistan as came into existence in 1947 going to survive? What is going to be the future shape and structures Pakistan is likely to acquire under the Radical Islamist’s (RIs) onslaught? These are some of the questions this monograph seeks to examine and hopes to trigger a debate on ways to assess and deal with the impending catastrophe in Pakistan which is likely to be cataclysmic by any yard stick.

About the Author

Pakistan: Military and the Myth of Independent Media

 8 May 2014 
Sushant SareenSenior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation 

When Pakistani journalists interact with Indians, it is a fairly common practise for many of them to label others of their ilk as an ‘agencies man’; i.e. being on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)/Intelligence Bureau/Military Intelligence (MI) payroll. Quite asides whether this is just a tack to win the confidence of their Indian counterparts or there is an element of truth in the insinuation, the general impression one gets is that virtually every other media-man is a mole of the ‘deep state’. Despite the raucous, robust and often reckless nature of the Pakistani media, which in recent years has been pushing the envelope that much more, the infiltration and even influence of the ‘agencies’ over journalists was nothing extraordinary in what is by all accounts a National Security State.

Establishment’s Control over the Media

In the recent years, however, the sort of control that the ‘deep state’ exercised over the media loosened considerably; at least in terms of its ability to shape the narrative and public discourse. Not surprisingly, the media had begun to feel empowered and top media persons would often boast about how they were now a power to reckon with and could make, break or save governments. But in the aftermath of the botched assassination attempt on journalist Hamid Mir, and with the ‘empire’ striking back not just against its detractors but also against ‘deserters’ (those who once worked hand-in-glove with the ‘establishment’), the media has been disabused of its hubris. 

Even though the dust is still to settle on L’affaire Hamid Mir, the military versus media (specifically only the biggest media house: the Jang/Geo group) fight has exposed the divisions in the ranks of the media between the ‘agencies men’ and independent journalists. Worse, it has laid bare the dark underside of the machinations and manipulation of the ‘deep state’ to regain control over the national narrative.

Bribing and browbeating journalists and media houses to make them fall in line is nothing new in Pakistan. What is new is the addition of bullets that have journalists in their cross-hairs. While in the past this sort of intimidation was the sole prerogative of the ‘state’ actors – in the Pakistani lexicon, ‘sensitive agencies’, better known as ISI and MI – now even non-state (the Taliban and the Baloch insurgents, among others) and quasi-state actors (state-sponsored terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa) have jumped into the game. Resultantly,journalists are having to walk on the razor’s edge, caught as they are in a pincer between the military and the militants.

The Campaign Against the Jang/Geo group 

Inside Pakistan: The Establishment’s Two-Front War

D Suba ChandranDirector, IPCS 
5 May 2014 

The Establishment in Pakistan may have worried about a two-front war bordering India and Afghanistan for a long time, but it never would have imagined a two-front war within the country itself, vis-à-vis the elected political leadership and the media. After enjoying a preponderant position within the power structure of Pakistan, it is not an easy situation for the leadership of the military and its ISI to handle.

From Impregnable to Vulnerable: Echoes of Iftikhar Chaudhry and Pervez Musharraf on GHQ

The factors that have made the military vulnerable within Pakistan have undoubtedly been caused by two individuals – Iftikhar Chaudhry and Pervez Musharraf. 

Justice Chaudhry fired the first salvo when Musharraf was the President. It all started in March 2007 when Musharraf decided to suspend Justice Chaudhry, the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; worse, he summoned the Chief Justice, asking him to resign. The judge decided to take on the Commando - he refused to step down. Seven years earlier, almost to the day, he addressed a huge rally in Lahore, which he later repeated in Karachi in May 2007. The subsequent violence that led to the killing of more than 40 people was orchestrated by Musharraf and his supporters to prevent Chaudhry from entering Karachi.

What followed was a slow but steady movement - that was initially led by the legal community but later expanded to include a substantial section of the civil society - with the catchy slogan, 'Go Musharraf Go'. Ultimately, Musharraf had to reinstall Justice Chaudhry, but the ghosts of 2007 were to come back strongly and haunt Musharraf seven years later in 2014, with the judiciary opening up a treason case against the former president, who also happened to be a former military Chief of Pakistan.

It was the trial that exposed the chinks in the Pakistani military’s internal armour. Though the previous Chief of Army Staff Gen Kayani, who was also Musharraf’s successor, had reportedly advised Musharraf’s against returning to Pakistan, the latter did not listen. Perhaps reasoning has never been Musharraf’s forte. Not many even within Pakistan were able to comprehend Musharraf’s decision to return.

Once Musharraf decided to return, he should have been prepared to face the consequences of a legal trial for acts of omission and commission as the former President. Iftikhar Chaudhry may have been less lenient towards Musharraf, but the trial continued even after his retirement. Nawaz Sharif, who had been thrown out by Musharraf in a military takeover, and later sentenced to exile, also did not have a stake in looking for a way out or a compromise.

What was essentially a trial against a former President snowballed into an issue between the civilian and military leaderships. The trial against Musharraf is being projected as a trial of the military as an institution by two other institutions – the Parliament and Judiciary.

The larger question here is regarding the role of Nawaz Sharif in attempting to undermine the military and its ISI as an institution and bring it under civilian control. Is this at the core of the differences between the two leaders and three institutions? Or is the issue about the izzat (honour) of a predominant institution within the political structure of Pakistan?

Afghan Taliban Announce That Their 2014 Nationwide Offensive Will Begin on May 12th

May 9, 2014
Khaama Press

Afghan Taliban to launch summer offensive from 12th May

The Taliban militants group in Afghanistan said Thursday that the group’s annual summer offensive will be launched in Afghanistan by next week.

According to a statement released by Taliban group, the annual summer offensive has been named as “Khaibar” and various modern military techniques including back-breaking suicide attacks, insider attacks and head-on offensive operations shall be utilized to carry out the operations.

“The upcoming ‘Khaibar’ operation shall begin with the cries of Allah u Akbar throughout the country at 5am local time on Monday 13th of Rajjab ul Murrajjab of the year 1435 (Hijri Lunar) corresponding with 22ndThuwar of 1393 (Hijri Solar) and 12th May of 2014,” Taliban said in its statement.

Taliban said foreign invaders and their backers under various names like spies, military and civilian contractors and everyone working for them like translators, administrators and logistics personnel will be targeted in their operations.

The group said all high ranking government officials, cabinet ministers, members of parliament, security officials, occupation backing officers in the Interior and Foreign Ministries, attorneys and judges that prosecute Mujahideen as well as agents in the National Directorate that pursue and torture Mujahideen will also be targeted.”

Taliban said the military gatherings of foreign invading forces, their diplomatic centers and convoys as well as the military bases of their internal mercenary stooges, their convoys and the facilities of foreign, interior, intelligence and Arbaki militia will be their main target.

“The plans for upcoming spring operations entitled ‘Khaibar’ have been drawn up by the specialists and courageous military commanders of the Islamic Emirate while also paying heed to the environmental and seasonal conditions of each region of the country and so will be launched in each area according to the laid out plans,” Taliban said.

Taliban also called on Afghan people to aid the group’s fighters and “avoid working with the enemy, to keep away from their military and intelligence gatherings and bases.”

South China Sea: China Regenerates Coercion and Brinkmanship against Vietnam

By Dr. Subhash Kapila

China has once again endangered security and stability in the maritime expanse of the South China Sea region by repetition of its traditional strategy of military coercion and brinkmanship against Vietnam in early May 2014.

In what looks as a calculated strategy, the renewed Chinese provocations in the South China Sea in disputed waters against Vietnam in the last three days soon after US President Obama’s visit to Asia Pacific and reaffirming US security commitments to Japan and the Philippines, suggests that more provocative and brinkmanship by China in the South China Sea can be expected.

Vietnam may not be covered by any US security commitments but would the United States be able to be a passive bystander when China resorts to unprovoked coercion and brinkmanship against Vietnam in disputed waters of the South China Sea and thereby endanger regional security and stability.

With China regenerating fresh tensions in the South China Sea against Vietnam, strategic planners in Washington would be well advised to dust-off their contingency plans in the South China Sea which are also said to cover the contingency of China-Vietnam clashes in South China Sea escalating to a full-blown conflict.

China provoked the on-going conflagration by what can be termed as unilateral and incendiary provocation by despatching the Chinese drilling rig HD-981into Vietnamese waters. In what could have been dismissed as a mere provocation, China gave it added military contours by despatching a Chinese flotilla of naval ships and other dozen ships to provide cover to the Chinese drilling rig. As on May 06 2014 the Chinese flotilla is reported to number about 53 vessels. Chinese Air Force MIG 29 fighters are also reported to have made overflights in the area of confrontation. Vietnamese fear that China may have also positioned submarines in the area. 

The general area of the present China-Vietnam confrontation is about 120 nautical miles from Vietnam’s coast and as per the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson was “undeniably within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf”.

Consequently, ships of Vietnam maritime police and other agencies proceeded to the area and sought to prevent the Chinese drilling oil rig to establish a fixed installation in Vietnamese waters. Short of actual firing of shots the detailed video-footage released by Vietnam in its official briefings for the international media vividly show Chinese naval vessels “intentionally” ramming Vietnamese vessels and using high-velocity water cannons causing damage and injuries to Vietnamese personnel.

The 2 Cultures of China

May 08, 2014  

China's Yangtze River. (Photo: PRILL/Shutterstock)

The U.S. has red states and blue states. China has rice provinces and wheat provinces, and the profound differences between them provide evidence of how cultural assumptions arise.

According to conventional wisdom, Westerners and Asians see themselves, and the world, in fundamentally different ways. Americans are individualistic, independent, and analytical, while the Chinese take a more holistic view of life, emphasizing interdependence and context.

But of course, different regions of the U.S. have very different cultural norms. And according to provocative new research, the same is true of China.

Writing in the journal Science, a team led by University of Virginia psychologist Thomas Talhelm provides evidence that China can be divided into two regions with distinct mindsets: the area south of the Yangtze River, which conforms to the aforementioned stereotypes, and the area north of the river, where residents’ attitudes are much closer to those of Westerners.

The researchers refer to these as the “rice provinces” (those in the south) and the “wheat provinces” (the north). And they provide evidence their different agricultural traditions are the keys to these divergent cultural traditions.

Talhelm and his colleagues conducted a study of 1,162 Han Chinese college students at six testing sites across the country. A series of tests revealed their cultural assumptions, including the well-known triad task, in which participants are given lists of three items and asked which two should be paired together. Their answers reveal underlying thought patterns.
This fascinating paper offers further evidence that relationship between man and the land shapes cultural assumptions, which are then passed down from generation to generation.

For example, if the words aretrain, bus, and tracks, people with an individualistic/analytical mindset would pair train and bus,since they belong to the same category (modes of transportation). In contrast, those from holistic cultures are more likely to pair train with tracks,since “they share a functional relationship,” the researchers note.

Sure enough, “people from provinces with a higher percentage of farmland devoted to rice paddies thought more holistically,” Talhelm and his colleagues report. What’s more, when analyzing differences between neighboring counties in the nation’s center, they again found “people from the rice side of the border thought more holistically than people from the wheat side.”

To get at these differences in a different way, the researchers had participants draw diagrams of their social networks, “with circles to represent the self and friends.” Much like Europeans taking that same test, participants from the wheat provinces drew their own circle significantly larger compared to those representing their friends and acquaintances. In contrast, those from the rice provinces drew their circle just a bit smaller than the others.

South China Sea Dispute Overshadows ASEAN Summit

At a historic summit in Myanmar, the bloc’s leaders express concern over escalating tensions.

By Philip Heijmans
May 12, 2014

The ongoing dispute over the South China Seas carried into the 24th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw over the weekend as leaders from the 10-member nations uniformly expressed their concern over the escalating situation.

On May 1, the stand-off between Vietnam and China reached new heights after China moved a deep-water oil rig into an area near Paracel Islands, a territory claimed by Vietnam. There have since been several collisionsbetween ships from the two sides, along with the use of water cannons. The broken glass from the ensuing attacks has injured at least six people, Vietnamese officials claim.

Since then, anti-China protests have gripped Vietnam, while officials accuse China of illegally drilling in their waters.

The recent escalation prompted ASEAN foreign ministers to issue a statement on Saturday calling on all involved parties to restrain themselves from a violent outbreak and follow the protocol of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

“ASEAN Foreign Ministers expressed their serious concerns over the on-going developments in the South China Sea, which have increased tensions in the area,” the statement reads.

“They urged all parties concerned, in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including … to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions which could undermine peace and stability in the area; and to resolve disputes by peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force.”

The statement represents what experts believe is a bold first offering of a joint stance on the ongoing conflict on behalf of the entire ASEAN community, which comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“The statement by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers was issued as a standalone document and not buried in the longer summary of proceedings. This is significant,” Southeast Asia expert and emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales, Carl Thayer, told The Diplomat. “It highlights ASEAN unity on the fact that ongoing developments in the South China Sea are a source of serious concern because they have raised tensions.”

Vietnamese officials have reacted to last week’s development saying that restraints on continued provocation “have limits” as officials from Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affair’s claim that there are at least 60 ships, including military ships, escorting the oil rig.

Immediate East


The over 56 million population of Myanmar (68 percent Burman, 9 percent Shan, 7percent Karen, 4 percent Rakhine, 3 percent Chinese, 2 percent each Indian and Mon, and 5 percent others) has never really seen sustainable peace despite over 53.42 million people following Buddhism (2011 official figures), a religion that preaches non-violence. Refugee exodus has been a constant feature; 3,00,000 Burmese Indians to India in 1960s, some 2,00,000 Rohingya’s to Bangladesh 1n 1978 followed by another 2,50,000 in 1991. More than 73,000 Myanmar refugees are settled in the US. Ethnic strife and struggle for sub-national autonomy has been a constant feature in Myanmar. Recent years are witness to conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myanmar Military, internecine conflict between Shan, Karen and Lahu tribes, plus civil wars between Rohingya Muslims with government forces and non-government groups of Arakan State. 

2012 saw major riots between the Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Buddhist Rakhines resulting in the displacement of some 60-80,000 people. Though the riots came after weeks of sectarian disputes, what caused the major clashes is not very clear. In a statement on 28 June 2012, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) stated that 650 Rohingyas had been killed, 1,200 missing, and more than 80,000 displaced. Myanmar official figures say violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left 78 people dead, 87 injured, with 52,000 people displaced. While the Rohingya accused the military and police for targeting them, Buddhist organisations, especially those who played a vital role in Myanmar's struggle blamed the Rohingyas for initiating the riots. Such ethnic strife is on-going. The tremors have also been felt outside Myanmar. The July 2013 bombing of the Mahabodhi Temple complex in Bodh Gaya was perhaps reaction to the Buddhist-Muslim clashes in Myanmar. Significantly, while Myanmar has been hounding out Rohingyas to Bangladesh, unconfirmed reports indicate that India has about four million Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh spread in various states, 2,300 even in Jammu. How many of them were trained in terrorist camps in Bangladesh during erstwhile regimes is unknown. Bloodshed in Kachin State of Myanmar has uprooted tens of thousands of people and tempered optimism about sweeping political reforms, displacing some 100,000 people as per the UN. Last month, fighting between the military and KIA left 22 dead including one military officer, eight soldiers and 14 fighters of KIA, dimming hopes of a nationwide peace deal. 

Then is the question of a Federal Union Army (FUA) of ethnic armed groups, initiated by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army. Two conferences have been held and ethnic groups say that a nationwide ceasefire is possible if the government guarantees political dialogues. The FUA would include various ethnic groups including the Karen Army, Kachin Army and Bamar (Burmese) Army but it appears utopian because the ethnic groups want to retain their weapons. The prospects of nation-wide ceasefire look grim (though negotiations by the government are continuing) with on-going military operations since April 2014 against the KIA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Shan State Army (North), termed as strategic offensive by the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) – a key alliance of ethnic groups headquartered in Chiang Mai in Thailand. Whether a FUA will fructify is yet to be seen but if it does, it certainly will be fully under the Chinese influence with China having armed to the teeth the Shan State Headquartered United State Wa Army (USWA) complete with armoured vehicles, shoulder fired AD weapons, missile fitted helicopters and the like. Pros and cons of FUA, if formed, can be debated but its merger with the Myanmar Military appears impossible considering the problems in Nepal faced with merger of the Maoists into the Nepalese Army. 

U.S. Government Has Covererd Up Israeli Spying Inside the U.S. for Decades

Jeff Stein
May 8, 2014

Israel’s Aggressive Spying in the U.S. Mostly Hushed Up

When White House national security advisor Susan Rice’s security detail cleared her Jerusalem hotel suite for bugs and intruders Tuesday night, they might’ve had in mind a surprise visitor to Vice President Al Gore’s room 16 years ago this week: a spy in an air duct.

According to a senior former U.S. intelligence operative, a Secret Service agent who was enjoying a moment of solitude in Gore’s bathroom before the Veep arrived heard a metallic scraping sound. “The Secret Service had secured [Gore’s] room in advance and they all left except for one agent, who decided to take a long, slow time on the pot,” the operative recalled for Newsweek. “So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.”

Did the agent scramble for his gun? No, the former operative said with a chuckle. “He kind of coughed and the guy went back into the vents.”

To some, the incident stands as an apt metaphor for the behind-closed-doors relations between Israel and America, “frenemies” even in the best of times. The brazen air-duct caper “crossed the line” of acceptable behavior between friendly intelligence services – but because it was done by Israel, it was quickly hushed up by U.S. officials.

Despite strident denials this week by Israeli officials, Israel has been caught carrying out aggressive espionage operations against American targets for decades, according to U.S. intelligence officials and congressional sources. And they still do it. They just don’t get arrested very often.

As Newsweek reported on Tuesday, American counter-intelligence officials told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees at the end of January that Israel’s current espionage activities in America are “unrivaled and unseemly,” going far beyond the activities of other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan. 

“It has been extensive for years,” a former top U.S. security official toldNewsweek Wednesday after Israeli Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, among other top Israeli officials, “unequivocally” denied the Newsweek report, saying Israel stopped all spying operations in the U.S. after Jonathan Pollard was convicted of spying for Israel in 1987. One anonymous official was quoted in the Israeli media as saying Newsweek’s account “had the whiff of anti-Semitism in it.”

But a former U.S. intelligence operative intimately familiar with Israeli espionage rejected the anti-Semitism charge. “There is a small community of ex-CIA, FBI and military people who have worked this account who are absolutely cheering on [theNewsweek] story,” he said. “Not one of them is anti-Semitic. In fact, it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. It has only to do with why [Israel] gets kid-glove treatment when, if it was Japan doing it or India doing it at this level, it would be outrageous.”


May 12, 2014 
The National Interest

Tom Nichols

Americans don’t think very much about nuclear weapons, and they certainly don’t think very often about their own arsenal, at least until something goes wrong with it, like the recent scandals involving the U.S. ICBM force. The Obama administration completed a nuclear posture review in 2010, a document that supposedly lays out the purpose and future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Like previous U.S. reviews conducted in 1994 and 2002, it sank without a trace. The fact of the matter is that nuclear weapons and their mission simply do not matter much to post–Cold War American leaders.

Nuclear weapons, however, certainly matter to the Russians. Nuclear arms have always been the source of superpower status for both Soviet and Russian leaders. This is especially true today: the Soviet collapse left the Russian Federation a country bereft of the usual indicators of a great power, including conventional military force or the ability to project it. Little wonder that Moscow still relies on its nuclear arsenal as one of the last vestiges of its right to be considered more than merely—in President Obama’s dismissive words—a “regional power.” (Or in the caustic words of Senator John McCain: “A gas station masquerading as a country.”)

Today, nuclear weapons have retained not only their pride of place but an actual role in Russian military planning. Unlike the Americans, who see little use for nuclear weapons in the absence of the Soviet threat, the Russians—wisely or not—continue to think about nuclear arms as though they are useful in military conflicts, even the smallest. Some of this might only be the bluster of officers who have never overcome their Soviet training, but some of it is also clearly based on the Russian General Staff’s understanding of Russia’s military weakness against far superior adversaries, including the United States and NATO.

Before considering the future of the Russian nuclear arsenal and its role in Russian defense policy, a quick review of the development of Russia’s nuclear forces might be helpful.

Once freed from Stalinist orthodoxy, Soviet thinkers, like their Western colleagues, wrestled throughout the Cold War with the implications of nuclear weapons. Early on, Soviet theorists decided that while nuclear warheads were a remarkable development, it was not only their appearance but the ability to deliver them rapidly over long distances—that is, the development of ICBMs—that overall constituted a “revolution in military affairs.” (This phrase was later adopted and almost completely misunderstood by American strategists in thinking about the role of technology in warfare, but the Soviets pioneered the term.)

The Soviets rejected—at least in public—any notion that the sheer destructiveness of nuclear weapons defeated traditional aims of strategy. They held firmly to the assertion that nuclear war, as awful as it would be, would nonetheless be a war with a political character like any other, with a winner and a loser. Later evidence revealed that this idea was prevalent mostly among the Soviet military; Soviet civilians were far less sanguine about nuclear war and far less willing than their generals and marshals to court it. (There are undeniable and unsettling parallels here with American civil-military relations on nuclear issues.)

During this time, the Soviets and the Americans constructed nuclear forces that mirrored each other in important ways. Both relied on a mixture of ICBMs, submarine-launched missiles, and bombers to ensure the survivability of their deterrent and to maintain the ability to deliver a massive retaliatory strike no matter how bad the first wave of nuclear exchanges. To this day, only Russia and the United States maintain this “triad” of delivery systems. There were differences, however, that reflected geography and tradition: the Soviet Union, a massive land empire spanning two continents, commanded plenty of real estate and therefore buried most of its deterrent in silos. The United States, a maritime superpower, put most of its megatonnage underwater on submarines. The Soviet long-range bomber force never progressed beyond propeller-driven aircraft that had only enough range for one-way suicide missions, while the Americans developed the workhorse B-52 bomber and its stealth follow-on, the B-2.

The Battle in Ukraine Means Everything

Fascism returns to the continent it once destroyed

MAY 11, 2014

We easily forget how fascism works: as a bright and shining alternative to the mundane duties of everyday life, as a celebration of the obviously and totally irrational against good sense and experience. Fascism features armed forces that do not look like armed forces, indifference to the laws of war in theirapplication to people deemed inferior, the celebration of “empire” after counterproductive land grabs. Fascism means the celebration of the nude male form, the obsession with homosexuality, simultaneously criminalized and imitated. Fascism rejects liberalism and democracy as sham forms of individualism, insists on the collective will over the individual choice, and fetishizes the glorious deed. Because the deed is everything and the word is nothing, words are only there to make deeds possible, and then to make myths of them. Truth cannot exist, and so history is nothing more than a political resource. Hitler could speak of St. Paul as his enemy,Mussolini could summon the Roman emperors. Seventy years after the end of World War II, we forgot how appealing all this once was to Europeans, and indeed that only defeat in war discredited it. Today these ideas are on the rise in Russia, a country that organizes its historical politics around the Soviet victory in that war, and the Russian siren song has a strange appeal in Germany, the defeated country that was supposed to have learned from it.(Read Leon Wieseltier's announcement about The New Republic's forthcoming conference in Kiev.)

The pluralist revolution in Ukraine came as a shocking defeat to Moscow, and Moscow has delivered in return an assault on European history. Even as Europeans follow with alarm or fascination the spread of Russian special forces from Crimea through Donetsk and Luhansk, Vladimir Putin’s propagandists seek to draw Europeans into an alternative reality, an account of history rather different from what most Ukrainians think, or indeed what the evidence can bear. Ukraine has never existed in history, goes the claim, or if it has, only as part of a Russian empire. Ukrainians do not exist as a people; at most they are Little Russians. But if Ukraine and Ukrainians do not exist, then neither does Europe or Europeans. If Ukraine disappears from history, then so does the site of the greatest crimes of both the Nazi and Stalinist regimes. If Ukraine has no past, then Hitler never tried to make an empire, and Stalin never exercised terror by hunger.
The Granger Collection, NYC
In an early battle for Kiev, nomadic invaders laid siege to the city. 968 A.D.

Ukraine does of course have a history. The territory of today’s Ukraine can very easily be placed within every major epoch of the European past. Kiev’s history of east Slavic statehood begins in Kiev a millennium ago. Its encounter with Moscow came after centuries of rule from places like Vilnius and Warsaw, and the incorporation of Ukrainian lands into the Soviet Union came only after military and political struggles convinced the Bolsheviks themselves that Ukraine had to be treated as a distinct political unit. After Kiev was occupied a dozen times, the Red Army was victorious, and a Soviet Ukraine was established as part of the new Soviet Union in 1922.

With Nigeria’s Military Beset by Corruption, Mismanagement and Low Morale, Boko Haram Steps Into the Vacuum

May 9, 2014

Boko Haram exploits Nigeria’s slow military decline

ABUJA - Two decades ago Nigeria’s military was seen as a force for stability across West Africa. Now it struggles to keep security within its own borders as an Islamist insurgency in the northeast kills thousands.

A lack of investment in training, failure to maintain equipment and dwindling cooperation with Western forces has damaged Nigeria’s armed services, while in Boko Haram they face an increasingly well-armed, determined foe.

A foe that abducted more than 200 secondary school girls in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, nearly a month ago. The military still appears to have no idea exactly where they are, but denies it lacks the capacity to get them back.

President Goodluck Jonathan has said that Boko Haram has “infiltrated … the armed forces and police”, sometimes giving the militants a headstart, but the problems go much deeper.

"The Nigerian military is a shadow of what it’s reputed to have once been," said James Hall, a retired colonel and former British military attache to Nigeria. "They’ve fallen apart."

Unlike Nigerian peacekeepers in the 1990s, who were effective in curbing ethnic bloodshed in Sierra Leone and Liberia, those in Mali last year lacked the equipment and training needed to be of much use in the fight against al Qaeda-linked forces, sources involved in that mission say.

Hall said the Nigerian peacekeepers had to buy pick-up trucks and their armour kept breaking down. They spent a lot of time on base or manning checkpoints.

Military education is still taken very seriously, he said, but equipment and training to use it have been neglected, with radio equipment in particularly short supply.

Army spokesman Brigadier-General Olajide Laleye recognised some of these problems in a news conference on Tuesday. He said the army would “undertake an equipment audit … with a view to identifying areas where equipment and material are in short supply, unserviceable or even obsolete”.

The defence headquarters did not respond to a request for comment, but the military argues that counter-insurgency is something new that they are slowly learning to take on, just as the U.S. military had to learn they couldn’t fight al Qaeda in western Iraq using conventional warfare.

"They’re having to learn new counter-insurgency skills and get new equipment … like armoured vehicles," said Kayode Akindele of 46 Parallels, a Lagos-basedinvestment management firm that also consults on financial, political and security risks for foreign investors.

Schoolgirl Abductions Put Scrutiny on U.S. Terrorism Strategy

MAY 8, 2014 

WASHINGTON — The abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria has led to new scrutiny of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy toward Boko Haram during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

At the heart of the issue is a debate carried out within the Obama administration on whether it was time to officially designate the group as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

Republican lawmakers assert that the delay in making that designation shows that Mrs. Clinton was not firm enough in dealing with Boko Haram. But some former officials say that the issue is being politicized because of Mrs. Clinton’s status as a likely presidential candidate.

The debate took place in 2011 and 2012 amid mounting concern about the group’s attacks.

The Justice Department, the F.B.I., American intelligence officials and counterterrorism officials in the State Department favored the designation because of Boko Haram’s role in the growing violence in Nigeria and because of intelligence reports that some of its members had links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Some background on the Islamist group that has been trying to topple Nigeria’s government for years. 

CreditSunday Alamba/Associated Press 

Iran Admiral: U.S. Ships Are a Target in Case of War

Iran will target American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf should a war between the two countries ever break out, the naval chief of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard warned Tuesday as the country completes work on a large-scale mock-up of a U.S. carrier.

The remarks by Adm. Ali Fadavi, who heads the hard-line Guard's naval forces, were a marked contrast to moderate President Hassan Rouhani's recent outreach policies toward the West - a reminder of the competing viewpoints that exist at the highest levels within the Islamic Republic.

Iran is building a simple replica of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in a shipyard in the southern port of Bandar Abbas in order to be used in future military exercises, an Iranian newspaper confirmed last month.

Fadavi was quoted Tuesday by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying the immense size of the U.S. carriers makes them an "easy target." He said contingency plans to target American carriers are a priority for the Guard's naval forces.

"Aircraft carriers are the symbol of America's military might," he said. "The carriers are responsible for supplying America's air power. So, it's natural that we want to sink the carriers."

The Revolutionary Guard's naval forces are separate from the main Iranian navy. They are primarily based in and around the Gulf and include a number of missile boats and fast-attack vessels.

The commander said the Guard navy has already carried out exercises targeting mock-ups of American warships. In one case, he said, it took 50 seconds to destroy one of the simulated warships.

Tasnim, another semi-official news agency close to the Guard, reported that "an investigation" has found that the Nimitz-class carriers used by the U.S. could be seriously damaged or destroyed if 24 missiles were fired simultaneously.

An American Navy official in the Gulf was dismissive of the Iranian claims, and of the simulated carrier in particular.

"Whatever Iran hopes to do with the mock-up, it is likely to have zero impact on U.S. Navy operations in the Gulf," said Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based across the Gulf in the island kingdom of Bahrain.