15 November 2014

The lost university

November 15, 2014 

Nehru realised that higher education is also the main instrument of a new form of sociability.

One legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru that has been systematically dismantled over the years: his instinctive understanding of higher education.

The financial outlays to higher education have increased. The clamour for more higher education has been growing. But we have failed to create the capillaries that can sustain and nourish a vibrant higher education system. It is a sector peculiarly resistant to reform. This has one reason, which Nehru recognised well. Education, more than any other sector, depends on the accumulation of a lot of soft skills and tacit understanding, which if lost, are hard to recreate. This is reflected, for instance, in his deep concern about the quality of academic leadership in education. It is a concern we barely seem to understand. Nehru’s weakness on primary education was, in retrospect, a great failing. But he was more clear-headed on higher education. He realised that independence in thinking and technical capacity was a necessary correlate of political independence. While it was necessary to be open to ideas from everywhere, it was also important to develop an independent locus of thought. Above all, this has meant that we have an elite that is not content with the idea that much of our research and higher education can be outsourced. But, though we do not say so, implicitly, we are quite content with outsourcing higher education to the United States. We cannot “make in India” if we don’t “think in India”.

Nehru realised that higher education is also the main instrument of a new form of sociability. It should be a site where group identities can be transcended. Just read his speech from the Aligarh Muslim University convocation, in which he warns against the dangers of aligning reason and identity. But sectarian universities have become even more ghettoised. Nehru also realised that an indigenously educated middle class that has not seceded is necessary for an enlightened vanguard. He was perhaps overly optimistic about how higher education could produce it, but the aspiration was not off the mark.


Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Let us be real and follow law and logic to counter the lethality of the deliberate mischief being resorted to by actors of all hues with mala fide intent. Pakistan became independent on August 14, 1947. India followed suit on August 15, 1947; Jammu and Kashmir, which was a princely state till Partition in 1947, was given the choice by the British to opt for either India or Pakistan or to remain independent.

Pakistan invaded Srinagar in October 1947. Later that month, Independent India received a “desperate appeal” for help from the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, as its independence was being violated by an aggressive and violent Pakistan. The maharajaappealed for help to Governor General Mountbatten, who agreed to assist on condition that the maharaja accede to India. The maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession to India on October 26, 1947, followed by its acceptance by New Delhi on the next day.

In spite of being a monarchy, Jammu and Kashmir had a constitution in place since 1939. And defining the powers of the maharaja of the Jammu and Kashmir State and his jurisdiction, Section 4 of that constitution clearly and emphatically said that the maharajawas “an absolute Monarch” in whom are vested all the powers in relation to the State: “The territories for the time being vested in His Highness are governed by and in the name of His Highness, and all rights, authority and jurisdiction which appertain or are incidental to the government of such territories are exercisable by His Highness...”

Section 5 too clarified: “Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any other Act, all powers, legislative, executive and judicial, in relation to the State and its government are hereby declared to be and to have always been inherent in and possessed and retained by His Highness ...” Hence, when the maharaja acceded to India, the act was legal, bona fide, unequivocal and irrevocable, in accordance with the law of the independent State of Jammu and Kashmir as well as with international conventions and laws guiding relations between sovereign States.

The school that says Osama Bin Laden was a hero

By Mobeen AzharBBC World Service, Islamabad
12 November 2014 

A hardline cleric in Pakistan is teaching the ideas of Osama Bin Laden in religious schools for about 5,000 children. Even while the Pakistani government fights the Taliban in the north-west of the country, it has no plans to close schools educating what could be the next generation of pro-Taliban jihadis.

"We share the same objectives as the Taliban but we don't offer military training. We work on minds. The Taliban are more hands-on," says Abdul Aziz Ghazi, imam of Islamabad's controversial Red Mosque.

"We teach about the principles of jihad. It's up to students if they want to get military training after they leave here. We don't discourage them."

Ghazi runs eight seminaries - madrassas as they are known - the first of which was founded after his father went on a journey to meet Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

"Osama Bin Laden is a hero for us all. He stood up to America and he won. He inspired the mission of the school," says Ghazi.

In one of the seminaries, the library is named in honour of Bin Laden, who was killed by US Navy Seals in Pakistan in 2011.

Ghazi, his mosque and his seminaries, have come a long way since 2007, when the Pakistani army was sent to lay siege to the radical mosque, and later stormed it. The events left 100 dead, including many militants, and Ghazi's younger brother, mother and son.

Ghazi himself became known as the "Burka Mullah" after he was caught trying to escape wearing a woman's face veil and robe as a disguise.

China's maritime threat: How India let its best bet Vizhinjam be sabotaged

Nov 10, 2014 

India’s maritime interests are under threat – mostly from China. There were three news items this week of some significance, both commercial and military. The first was that, despite a strong warning from National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, a Chinese submarine, Changzheng 2, docked at Colombo, along with warship Chang Xing Dao, according to the Times of India 

The second was the sinking of a naval vessel off Vishakhapatnam and the loss of life of Navy personnel. Preliminary reports seemed to indicate that the ship was over 30 years old, which would mean it is older than what a military vessel should be. Besides, given the catastrophic failure of the ship, it is not clear that sabotage can be ruled out. Given the previous tragedy of the Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhurakshak, which sank with all hands in Mumbai, we have to worry about our Navy ships. The INS Sindhuratna, another submarine, also had an on-board fire.

Naval security challenges for India. Reuters

The third event was the series of intelligence warnings that the airport and seaport in Kolkata were under serious threat of an attack by un-named terrorists. According to the Hindustan Times(Kolkata port on high alert after terror threat), two Indian warships, INS Khukri and INS Sumitra, were moved out of the port where they had been for routine visit, with an open house scheduled for 5 and 6 November.

In light of an attempt by Al Qaeda terrorists to capture a Pakistani Navy frigate at Karachi in September, the threat of an attack in Kolkata is credible. In Karachi, the intent was to capture the frigate and then attack American and Indian vessels in the Indian Ocean. Although far-fetched, the idea has merit, and it was purely through good luck that the attack was foiled and no rogue Pakistani ship loomed on the horizon.

For some years, India has under-invested in its Navy, and also in its commercial port infrastructure. These mistakes are now coming back to haunt the country, as our trade capability is affected, and there are long-term strategic holes that our adversaries are looking to exploit. One such is the lack of container ports and the concomitant dependence on the kindness of strangers

To go back to the appearance of Chinese submarines in Colombo, this is an explicit statement by Sri Lanka that it prefers China to India. It may also well be a subtle Chinese warning against India getting too close to Vietnam. Apparently the previous visit by Chinese submarines to Colombo took place in secret at the very time the President of India was in Vietnam earlier this year.

The U.S.-China Climate Change Pact: A Silver Lining?

Nov 11, 2014 

Jacques deLisle and Barry Lefer on APEC and Climate Change

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping trumped naysayers with Wednesday’s landmark agreement to jointly combat climate change. The setting was the meetings in Beijing this week of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a forum of 21 Pacific Rim countries. For the first time ever, China agreed to stop emissions from growing by 2030, while the U.S. agreed to revised targets to reduce carbon emissions. The agreement could pave the way for a global accord on climate change next year. However, according to experts, the two countries must sort out differences for the rest of the world to take them seriously, even as China confronts pollution concerns from its own citizens.

On its part, the U.S. has agreed to accelerate efforts to reduce carbon emissions. If all goes well, by 2025 it would cut its carbon emissions levels of 2005 by between 26% and 28%. “[That] target is both ambitious and feasible,” wrote U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a New York Times op-edon Wednesday. China has committed to ensure that by 2030, clean energy like solar and wind power would account for a fifth of its total energy production. Unlike with China, Obama still has to sell the agreement to Congress back home, where Republicans wrested a majority in the November 4 midterm elections.

The real question is whether the U.S. and China, who are the two biggest emitters and the two biggest economies, can get together and lead on this, Twitter ” said Jacques deLisle, director of the University of Pennsylvania’sCenter for East Asian Studies and professor of law and political science. “The political will is not there right now,” said Barry Lefer, University of Houston professor of atmospheric science and atmospheric chemistry. “Unfortunately, we’re going to probably end up doing nothing. The current Congress is not interested in climate change.”

China Is Financing Putin’s Aggression

Russia’s economy is tanking, but Putin is sending long-range bombers on sorties in the Gulf of Mexico and combat troops into Ukraine—thanks to billions in new energy deals from Beijing. 

President Obama may say China can be America’s “partner,” as he did Monday in Beijing, but the Chinese calculate their interests differently. The real partnership is between the Dragon and the Bear. 

On Sunday in Beijing, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom signed a contract to sell gas from western Siberia to China’s own state energy giant, China National Petroleum Corp. 

The Gazprom-CNPC deal is not the only major recent Russia-China energy deal. Last October, state-owned Rosneft, Russia’s biggest oil producer, gave CNPC an equity stake in an oil field in eastern Siberia. This May, Gazprom and CNPC inked a 30-year, $400 billion gas pact, another landmark arrangement in what AFP has described as a rapidly expanding “energy alliance.” 

And this week CNPC agreed to buy 10 percent of Vankorneft, a Rosneft subsidiary, which operates the lucrative Vankor oil field. As the Financial Times noted in September, the deal “represents a stunning change in strategy.” In the past, Russia brought in a foreign energy company only if it needed technology. For Vankor, Russia has all the expertise it requires, as the field is already in production. In short, it looks as if Russian President Vladimir Putin sold a stake to China because he needed cash quickly. 

The Secret Sauce: If China Wants to Lead Asia, Here Is How

November 13, 2014 

Recently the growing rivalry between the United States and China seems to be spilling over into the economic and institutional arenas. The US is leading the push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new regional free-trade agreement which excludes China. And Beijing appears to be implementing a new strategy for transforming its own economic strength into regional leadership.

Whereas China previously used bilateral channels to build relationships and acquire influence, it’s now leading multilateral initiatives, headlined by the US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and US$40 billion Silk Road Fund—the latter planning to build a network of trade-and-transport infrastructure linking China to Central and South Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Those initiatives have the potential to eclipse the World Bank and Asian Development Bank as the dominant multilateral lending institutions in Asia, shaking the foundations of the regional order set up by the United States following World War II.

Beijing is also pushing back on the multilateral trade front, securing an agreement from APEC leaders for a two-year study of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. The FTAAP could become adirect competitor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the central economic component of the Obama Administration’s rebalance to Asia.

There’s a clear strategic logic to China’s multilateral approach. The existing system is a product of US leadership and undeniably favours American interests, but it’s also open, rule-based, and structured around institutions. As John Ikenberry has argued, countries accepted American leadership in part because they were given a say in how the regional order was built and maintained.

China’s Deceptively Weak Anti-Satellite Capabilities

By Jaganath Sankaran
November 13, 2014

Relax, China’s ASAT capabilities do not threaten U.S. satellites. 

In May 2013, the Pentagon suggested that a high altitude Chinese sub-orbital space launch—claimed to be a scientific mission by China—was in reality the first test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) interceptor that would reach all the way to geo-synchronous earth orbit. Previously, on January 11, 2007, China had successfully launched an ASAT missile against one of its own low earth orbit (LEO) weather satellites.

These and other Chinese actions have provoked strong concerns within the U.S. about China’s motivations.James R. Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, for example, recently told a Senate hearing that: “Chinese and Russian military leaders understand the unique information advantages afforded by space systems and are developing capabilities to disrupt U.S. use of space in conflict. Chinese military writings highlight the need to interfere with, damage, and destroy reconnaissance, navigation, and communication satellites.”

While these concerns have some validity, all U.S. military satellites are not equally vulnerable to a Chinese ASAT attack. Furthermore, the benefits from an ASAT attack are limited and would not confer decisive military advantage in every plausible conflict.

Limits of the Possible

The Faux US-China Climate Deal

November 12, 2014

In the “historic” U.S.-China climate agreement this week, Beijing simply reiterated previously announced targets. 

The big headline coming out of the second summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama is a climate agreement the two sides reached about cutting carbon emissions in the coming decades. News stories have used sweeping language like the “historic climate change agreement” to describe the deal.

This seems to greatly exaggerate the significance of the deal, at least from the perspective of China. In fact, in the agreement Beijing simply reiterates commitments it had previously announced.

According to the White House, the agreement states that “The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%. China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030.”

As numerous news accounts have pointed out, this means the U.S. will cut its emissions at a significantly faster rate than it had previously announced. According to the New York Times, under the new deal the U.S. will “double the pace of reduction it targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020.”

This is unimpressive compared to the commitments China made, according to the same article. “China’s pledge to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, is even more remarkable. To reach that goal, Mr. Xi pledged that so-called clean energy sources, like solar power and windmills, would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030,” the NYT article stated.

Actually, China does not appear to have committed itself to anything new in the agreement. Indeed, following an Obama speech on U.S. climate policy back in June, China outlined its own future emissions policy. Specifically, He Jiankun, chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing that China would set an absolute cap on its CO2 emissions when it released its next five year plan in 2016. He refused, however, to say what that cap would be.


9 NOV 2014

China aims to redraw the geopolitical map of Asia with plans to bind other countries closer to it through a network of new ports, pipelines, roads and railways. One plan is to build a “Silk Road Economic Belt” through Central Asia. China’s biggest land port on that route is the newly established city of Horgos on the border with Kazakhstan.

Horgos became a transit point on the ancient Silk Road in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), according to local authorities. They say Horgos means either “place of much camel dung” or “place of good pasture” in the language of the Junggar people who dominated the area in the 17th and 18th centuries. The border was closed after the Russian revolution in 1917, and several times thereafter during periods of tension between Moscow and Beijing. Although the border reopened in 1983, trade was negligible until recently because of continuing tensions and poor transport links.
China upgraded Horgos to a city in September. The Chinese side of the free-trade zone features five multistory wholesale markets where Kazakh traders buy Chinese tires, furs, electronics and other consumer goods. A gas pipeline from Turkmenistan enters China in Horgos. China has built an expressway to the border here and a railway connecting China’s network to Kazakhstan’s. Official maps and statements now describe Horgos as China’s main land port on the Silk Road Economic Belt. 

Will ASEAN Forge an Economic Community By 2015? Wrong Question.

November 12, 2014

The AEC is part of a broader vision that will require greater participation in and outside the community. 

Another round of ASEAN summits in Naypyidaw also means another wave of articles speculating whether ASEAN will be able to forge an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015 – a term generally taken to imply the freer flow of goods, services, skilled labor and capital in the region.

The short answer has long been – clearly not. The quantitative metrics in the AEC scorecard, qualitative surveysby business groups, reports by notable institutions and even conversations with ASEAN elites have all told the same story for a few years now: Progress has been made over the past few years but the AEC still has a long way to go.

More importantly, though, the question itself seems rather misguided for several reasons. First, as former ASEAN Secretary General and Philippine diplomat Rodolfo Severino likes to say, the AEC is not a deadline but a process of regional integration. The original deadline for the AEC was actually in 2020, but it was subsequently moved forward to the beginning of 2015 before being pushed back to the end of that year. However, beyond these moving goalposts the critical point is that the conversation within ASEAN circles has already shifted to a “post-2015 agenda” for the AEC and other issues, reflecting a consensus among elites that there will still be a lot left to accomplish in 2016 and beyond.

Second, the yes-no dichotomy that the question lends itself to both understates what ASEAN has achieved thus far and underestimates the difficulty of what lies ahead for the AEC. The AEC scorecard suggests that the region met around 77.5 percent of its targets between 2008 and March 2013, with substantial progress made in several areas such as reducing tariffs and implementing national single windows. Over the past few years, ASEAN’seconomic heft as a market with 600 million people and a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion in 2013 has also increasingly attracted foreign businesses searching for new opportunities.


November 13, 2014

Journalist Rohini Mohan’s recently released book, her first, recounts the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war – which raged from 1983 to 2009 – and the years that follow. Written unpretentiously, The Seasons of Trouble focuses on three real-life protagonists: Indra, Sarva and Mugil. The book will be of interest to both keen observers of Sri Lankan affairs and a more general audience.

Led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who remains in power to this day, the Sri Lankan government militarily defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist group that was fighting for an ethnic Tamil state in the island’s northern and eastern provinces. Sinhala people, the vast majority of whom are Buddhist, comprise the overwhelming ethnic majority in Sri Lanka – approximately 75 percent of people – on an island whose population exceeds 20 million.

Part of Mohan’s book recounts the war’s final stages in the country’s northern province – events which are still hotly contested even today.Violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including war crimes, were allegedly committed by both sides during the war. The Tamil Tigers were a ruthless group and their tactics over the years included bombings, massacres and assassination. They were also, to say the least, careless when it came to civilian casualties. Mohan notes that as of January 2009, “Tamil villagers had been appalled at the Tigers’ casual neglect of people’s safety in the battle zone.” Their program of forced conscription, including of children, is also very troubling. Of course, that is not to say that Sri Lankan government forces, composed almost exclusively of ethnic Sinhalese, did not also commit their fair share of atrocities.

If Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Is Dead: Could This Be the End of ISIS?

November 12, 2014 

Numerous news outlets have reported that the U.S.-led coalition operating in Iraq and Syria may have injured or killed the overall leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an air strike near Mosul. If this is true, it is welcome news, but it will not signal the end of the movement. Instead, this is a significant part of the overall military strategy to apply broad pressure to ISIS and halt its momentum. Over the long run, stopping ISIS will require alleviating the underlying conditions that drive violence and gave rise to the movement in the first place. While the outside world can help create the necessary conditions, only repudiation by the local population will kill ISIS.

The best research on the subject shows that attacking individual enemy leaders is very difficult to do and often requires an intense intelligence-gathering effort combined with good luck. Moreover, while successful attacks can weaken a terrorist organization—sometimes dramatically—this approach is not a panacea; a broader strategy is still necessary.

With history as our guide, we should expect the following regarding ISIS and al-Baghdadi:

1. The loss of leaders will weaken ISIS:

If Oil Disappears in the Desert, Does the Market Notice?

NOVEMBER 12, 2014 

Libya's crude production is again imperiled, but an oversupplied market doesn't seem to mind. 

The stunningly improbable return of oil production in Libya, right in the middle of a civil war, is one of the reasons crude prices have been tumbling. But now this Libyan crude renaissance looks to be ebbing -- with potentially nasty consequences for Libya and a fresh dose of uncertainty for an already rattled oil market.

The latest development is an armed struggle for control of Libya's biggest oil field, El Sharara, in the country's south. Reuters reported that an armed group linked to the rebel government in Tripoli stormed the field last week, marking the first time that the breakaway government sought control of the country's oil resources.

On Monday, Nov. 10, that militia appeared to have control of the field; even so, Libya's National Oil Corp.hopes to restart production as soon as Wednesday. In the meantime, that struggle disrupted the power supply to another nearby oil field, taking it offline too. Together, those losses have temporarily cut Libya's precarious oil output by about 300,000 barrels a day. Back in the summer -- during an apparent high-water mark -- Libya was pumping as many as 900,000 barrels daily. Fresh protests in an eastern Libyan port are disrupting oil exports there, further complicating matters.

Libya's oil miracle looks like the latest victim of the factional violence that has rent the country to pieces since the 2011 uprising and fall of former dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. Libya's civil war has spawnedrival governments, each with its own loyal militias. On Wednesday, car bombs ripped through cities in eastern Libya, including Tobruk. To make matters worse, last week the Libyan Supreme Court in Tripoli declared the exiled, internationally recognized parliament in Tobruk illegal, sowing further political uncertainty that could worsen conditions for Libya's oil industry.

Beware the Siren Song of ISIS

November 13, 2014 

As part of its ideology, ISIS proposes an alternative to the current world order. For those who view the current state of affairs as a Western, imperialistic hegemony, ISIS is offering a different world view.

AMMAN, Jordan—For many in the West, it seems abhorrent that anyone would voluntarily join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, it is only through support from local Iraqi communities that the militants have been able to conquer cities, such as Mosul, while waiting at the gates of Baghdad.

In recent interviews with Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders, the ISIS appeal became more apparent. When ISIS began taking territory in Iraq, “Sunnis had no choice but between fleeing or getting killed or defending themselves. To defend themselves they could either possess weapons or turn to ISIS as an alternative because they had weapons, and followed Islamic thinking,” said one Sunni tribal leader, who travels to Iraq frequently from Jordan, and wished to remain unidentified for his own safety.

While much focus has been centered on the economic incentives ISIS provides, its powerful religious and ideological appeal to Iraqi communities, particularly the younger generation, is perhaps most luring. It is simplistic to dismiss the ISIS Caliphate as neither “Islamic nor a state,” as is often stated in the Arabic press. Among Western governments, the religious dimension of the ISIS appeal is downplayed for two primary reasons: Admitting religion as a role is an acknowledgement that little can be done to stop the spread of ISIS. And two, if ISIS is about religion, then how is it that the vast majority of Muslims condemn the movement?

Beware the Siren Song of ISIS

November 13, 2014 

As part of its ideology, ISIS proposes an alternative to the current world order. For those who view the current state of affairs as a Western, imperialistic hegemony, ISIS is offering a different world view.

AMMAN, Jordan—For many in the West, it seems abhorrent that anyone would voluntarily join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, it is only through support from local Iraqi communities that the militants have been able to conquer cities, such as Mosul, while waiting at the gates of Baghdad.

In recent interviews with Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders, the ISIS appeal became more apparent. When ISIS began taking territory in Iraq, “Sunnis had no choice but between fleeing or getting killed or defending themselves. To defend themselves they could either possess weapons or turn to ISIS as an alternative because they had weapons, and followed Islamic thinking,” said one Sunni tribal leader, who travels to Iraq frequently from Jordan, and wished to remain unidentified for his own safety.

While much focus has been centered on the economic incentives ISIS provides, its powerful religious and ideological appeal to Iraqi communities, particularly the younger generation, is perhaps most luring. It is simplistic to dismiss the ISIS Caliphate as neither “Islamic nor a state,” as is often stated in the Arabic press. Among Western governments, the religious dimension of the ISIS appeal is downplayed for two primary reasons: Admitting religion as a role is an acknowledgement that little can be done to stop the spread of ISIS. And two, if ISIS is about religion, then how is it that the vast majority of Muslims condemn the movement?

U.S. Cyber Command Holds Large-Scale Cyber War Games

Bill Gertz
November 12, 2014

U.S. Cyber Command recently conducted large-scale digital war games that involved cyberattacks and defense against foreign strikes on critical infrastructure.

Cyber Command — led by Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, who is also director of theNational Security Agency — said in a statement that the exercise “Cyber Flag” was “force-on-force” training, “fusing attack and defense across the full spectrum of military operations in a closed network environment.”

The drills were held Friday at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and sought to gauge military cybercapabilities that will be integrated with other war-fighting commands.

Future conflicts are expected to involve cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, specifically electrical grids and communications networks that can be hacked and shut down or ordered to conduct self-destructive operations.

Few details on exercise scenarios were disclosed, in fitting with Cyber Command’s NSA-like penchant for secrecy.

“This year’s scenario, devised by exercise planners, involved a simulated combined joint task force response to a notional regional crisis involving fictional state and nonstate actors conducting significant activity in cyberspace,” the command statement said.

A Cyber Command spokesman did not respond to a request for details on the exercise.

Adm. Rogers, according to the release, wants the Pentagon to build cyberwarfare capabilities “to generate military options for senior military leaders and decision-makers.”

Adm. Rogers “stressed that the U.S. cannot wait until a cyberspace crisis affects the nation or DOD’s ability to conduct military operations to develop partnerships, generate cybercapacity and capability and ensure coordination processes are in place for national or military response.”

Gulf Security, Stability, and Terrorism: Country Rankings

By Anthony H. Cordesman, Aaron LinMichael Peacock 
NOV 13, 2014 

Much of the analysis of political instability, security problems, and terrorism in the Gulf and the Middle East focuses on the most serious immediate problem or key causes of the current rise in violence like religious extremism.

There are, however, a wide range of metrics that explain the series of crises that have affected the region since 2011. They demonstrate that terrorism is not a new phenomenon and has many different causes, and underscore the significance of key problems in governance, economics, and demographics.

The Burke Chair has prepared an analysis of these trends for each Gulf state and for key neighboring states like Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. This analysis is entitledGulf Security, Stability, and Terrorism: Country Rankings, and is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/Gulf Security, Stability, and Terrorism Country Rankings 13 NOV 2014.pdf.

A comparison of these country analyses provides considerable insight into the pressures that affect each state, as well as highlight the differences from country to country, emphasizing the danger of generalizing about the region, the Arab world, or single causes of instability and violence

No set of metrics can speak for itself, and efforts at quantifying key trends cannot stand alone without far more narrative explanation than is possible in this survey. In the same light, narrative analysis that does not incorporate metrics and quantitative data fails to put key issues into proportion and sharply oversimplifies complex patterns in security, stability, and terrorism without nuanced explanation.

This report is not free from shortcomings, and there also are key areas of uncertainty in the trends and data involved here. While acknowledged in this study, this inherent uncertainty is often sharply understated in both official and academic reporting.

This report highlights four key sources to portray security:

World Bank Governance Indicators: These estimate the trends in Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and the Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, and Control of Corruption for the period from 1996 to 2013. In broad terms, they provide a consistent set of warnings when governments fail to meet the needs of their people, and lay the groundwork for violence and terrorism.

They do, however, have the limit that they do not address the seriousness of given trends. For example, the same ranking for corruption may reflect the fact that most transactions involve some extra “fee” or a truly serious level of extortion that deprives the government of popular support and sharply favors some elite, sect, or ethnic group.

Similarly, problems in the rule of law can range from weak policing, inefficient courts and long delays to critical problems in administering justice and repression.

Inside the Mind of a British Suicide Bomber

NOVEMBER 12, 2014

Briton Ahmed Kabir, who used the name Abu Sammyh after heading to Syria, is believed to have killed himself and eight police officers in a suicide bomb attack in Beiji, north of Baghdad. RUI VIERA/PA

If Kabir Ahmed is dead, as suspected, he will have become Britain’s first ISIS suicide bomber. For those struggling to understand why a 30-year-old with a wife and three children would end his life in an ISIS attack on an army convoy in a small town north of Baghdad, he left an extensive record. In several interviews over the summer of this year, he told Newsweek how he came to join ISIS and why, in the end, he wanted to give his life to the terrorist cause.

He feared his family would struggle with his choice. “I don’t know if my wife will understand to be honest – even my mother, who I have a good relationship with. They are going to hate me, maybe,” he said in a phone interview from Raqqa, Syria.

“It is for the sake of their religion and their honour. We are not for his life but but the afterlife.”

An American journalist friend put me in touch with Ahmed in early June, introducing him by his ‘kunya’ or nom de guerre Abu Sammyh al-Britani. Abu Sammyh was rarely online, so it was difficult for us to talk for any length of time. By the time we did schedule an interview, in late June, I was in Gaziantep and interviewing the same ‘Free Syrian Army’ rebels who were fighting against him. In the afternoon heat of a Gaziantep hotel room, I spoke to him for nearly two hours about his motivations for travel to Syria, his thoughts on David Cameron, his fractured relationship with his mother, his wife and children, and the atrocities which seemed to be piling up in the wake of the Islamic State’s blitzkrieg through Western Iraq.

Sources: Obama seeks new Syria strategy review to deal with ISIS, al-Assad

By Elise Labott, CNN Global Affairs Correspondent
November 13, 2014

NEW: Rep. Ed Royce said Thursday he had heard the White House was shifting its Syria strategy 
Some sources deny a review has been ordered, but cite concerns about strategy 
Sources tell CNN President Obama wants a review of the administration's strategy in Syria 
The review suggests the administration will refocus on ousting Bashar al-Assad in Syria 

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama has asked his national security team for another review of the U.S. policy toward Syria after realizing that ISIS may not be defeated without a political transition in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, senior U.S. officials and diplomats tell CNN.

The review is a tacit admission that the initial strategy of trying to confront ISIS first in Iraq and then take the group's fighters on in Syria, without also focusing on the removal of al-Assad, was a miscalculation.

Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Thursday on CNN's "New Day" that he had also heard that the White House was shifting its strategy, in part because Turkey and other Gulf states -- which are hosting refugees from Syria -- were pushing for the removal of Assad.

New ISIS plan to include Assad's removal?

Welcome to the World Without the West

"What is happening is a concerted effort by the emerging powers to construct parallel multilateral architectures that route around the liberal order, and will likely reshape international politics and economics in fundamental ways."

It’s become standard practice for U.S. officials to describe the future of Sino-American ties as the central drama of international politics. In early November, just ahead of President Obama’s summit with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience in Washington that, “The U.S.-China relationship is the most consequential in the world today, period, and it will do much to determine the shape of the 21st century.” National Security Adviser Susan Rice took to the Twittersphere shortly after touching down in Beijing in September to reiterate the oft-repeated phrase that, “Most major global challenges of 21st century cannot be addressed effectively without U.S. and China working together.”

This isn’t just diplomatic courtesy; it’s a core signal of how American foreign-policy makers see the world. The dominant framing in Washington is that the United States and China will in the final analysis sink or swim together, and carry most of the rest of the world with them. If the two powers manage to get their relationship right and cooperate effectively, things go well; if they don’t, then the coming decades will be difficult to navigate for just about everyone.

There’s an academic foundation to this worldview. It assumes that rising powers, now as in the past, face a clear choice when they confront a prevailing international order that was established by a previous generation of great powers. They can either assimilate into the international order or challenge it. As a result, Washington’s China policy has aimed to encourage the former as much as possible, while preparing to limit damage in case China chooses the latter. This logic has formed the basis of America’s hedging strategy toward China for more than two decades.

A Grave Threat to the NATO Alliance (And It's Not Russia's Military)

November 13, 2014 

Beware of the emergence of ugly authoritarian trends in some members, especially Romania, Hungary and Turkey.

Even as NATO adopts a confrontational policy toward Moscow reminiscent of the chilliest days of the Cold War, the Alliance faces multiple internal problems. Doubts remain about whether members are willing to match their strong rhetoric regarding Russia and other security challenges with substantive upgrades to their military capabilities. In the aftermath of the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and its continued support for secessionists in eastern Ukraine, promises of greater efforts surged, especially from Poland and the Baltic republics—the countries most at risk if Russia turns aggressively expansionist. But we’ve heard such promises before. At the 2006 NATO summit, all members pledged to devote at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product to defense. Eight years later, only the United States, Britain, Greece and Estonia among the twenty-eight member states fulfill that commitment. There is scant evidence that the new round of paper promises will fare any better.

Flexing Its Muscles: Russian Navy Task Force Operating Off Northern Australia Ahead of G20 Conference

David Wroe
November 12, 2014

Russia sends warships towards Australia before G20 meeting

Russia has sent a fleet of warships towards Australia in an apparent display of muscle-flexing ahead of the G20 meeting amid tensions between the two countries over the MH17 crash.

Defence announced late on Wednesday it is “monitoring Russian naval vessels that are currently transiting through international waters to the north of Australia”.

It stressed: “The movement of these vessels is entirely consistent with provisions under international law for military vessels to exercise freedom of navigation in international waters.”

Tony Abbott speaks to Vladimir Putin in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Alexey Druzhinin

Defence Force chief Mark Binskin confirmed Defence was watching the fleet. In a reference to the fact it was a considerable distance for the Russian navy to travel, he noted one of the ships was an ocean-going tug, which tows other ships.

"Their confidence? One of them is an ocean-going tug," he said. "It’s just part of their operation. They are in international waters. They are allowed to do that. They are in our approaches and we will continue to surveil them with air and maritime assets."

Defence noted that Russia had sent naval battle groups to international meetings previously.

"Russian naval vessels have previously been deployed in conjunction with major international summits, such as the APEC meeting in Singapore in 2009. A warship from Russia’s Pacific Fleet also accompanied former Russian President Medvedev’s visit to San Francisco in 2010," its statement said.

APEC 2014: Russia Tries To Leave Europe Behind

12 November 2014 

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The 26th, and perhaps most anticipated, iteration of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit concluded Tuesday, kicking off a busy week for several of the world’s most powerful leaders. The 2014 edition was set against a backdrop of tempered global economic growth, Russia’s declining relationship with the West, continued Chinese and Japanese dispute, and of course low oil prices. While the summit was short on physical confrontation, Russia supplied the drama as President Putin put his chivalry on display and launched, in earnest, his country’s Asian pivot.

The 21-member nation forum – headlined by China, Russia, and the United States – accounts for nearly 40 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of world GDP, and approximately 60 percent of world energy consumption.

Of the member economies, perhaps none was more eager to get the ball rolling than Russia. Last week, Russia’s central bank slashed economic growth forecasts for 2015 and predicted record capital outflows. Moreover, the bank anticipates Western sanctions, which have limited the country’s development of their vast energy reserves, will last until at least the end of 2017. Dependence on oil revenue remains dangerously high, but the ill effects of declining prices have ac

With his sights firmly set on the East, Putin acted quickly and inked a second big gas deal with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. The accord, signed Nov. 9th, follows the 30-year, $400 billion deal signedin May, which will move up to 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year through the 2,500 mile Power of Siberia pipeline currently under construction. The two nations’ most recent cooperation centers on the long-discussed Altai pipeline – a 1,700 mile route from Russia’s productive Western Siberian fields to China’s restive Xinjiang region. Under the new deal, China will purchase an additional 30 bcm of gas for a period of 30 years. Once both pipelines are complete, China will become Russia’s largest gas customer, surpassing Germany.

Oriental Despotism

November 13, 2014

Karl Marx had a phrase for the kind of tyranny that has existed in parts of the developing world in our era: "oriental despotism." In an article in an 1853 edition of The New York Tribune, Marx said that beyond the West, where civilization was in a political sense underdeveloped and there was a need to organize vast waterworks over a vast territory encompassing many isolated communities, an oppressive centralizing power perforce came into existence.

Marx never elaborated on his theory, and so it remained an alluring phrase until Karl Wittfogel, a former German communist who immigrated to the United States to escape the Nazis, took Marx's concept and shaped it into a book he published in 1957, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power. Wittfogel believed that outside of Europe and North America there existed a form of absolutism and despotism so unique he invented a term for it: "hydraulic society." This was a bureaucratic tyranny that raised massive armies and produced architectural immensities. The aesthetic effect was "a minimum of ideas and a maximum of material." Of course, the pyramids come to mind, along with the Egyptian pharaohs who attempted to control the waters of the Nile through an absolutist regime.

If you think of oriental despotism and hydraulic society as less a verifiable theory than a description of a type of regime given to large-scale application of terror and massive public works projects -- oppressing sedentary societies that are, in any case, difficult to change -- you have a phenomenon that in a number of variations we are familiar with.

Egypt has been governed by absolutist means for almost all of its history, which since 1952 has taken the form of a modernizing military tyranny. The Aswan High Dam, completed in 1970 under this tyranny, was one of the world's great hydraulic projects. This military tyranny was briefly interrupted in early 2011 when the reigning pharaoh-of-sorts, Hosni Mubarak, was toppled, ostensibly by demonstrators in Tahrir Square, but really by his own military officers who feared that military rule was drifting into Mubarak family rule. The result was an unruly Islamic democracy that so mismanaged the country that the military returned to power with the same pharaonic characteristics. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has even proposed a dramatic widening of the Suez Canal. Egypt thus remains a hydraulic society.