15 June 2015

Morning after Myanmar, sobriety dawns

Vinay Kumar
Jun 15 2015 

The effective operation along the Indo-Myanmar border by the Indian special forces was robbed of its seriousness due to the heightened pitch by a few ministers. It is high time that the Modi government held a strategic security review exercise.

The swift and effective operation by the Indian special forces last week along Indo-Myanmar border at two separate places, targeting militant camps has not only come as a morale booster to the armed forces and reinforced their capability but also signalled a tough new approach of the one-year-old Modi Sarkar towards India's security and its readiness in tackling terror strikes. 

Strategic community is inclined to see it as a “pre-emptive” strike against militants who could regroup and indulge in attacks again on Indian security forces and public places. It was the heightened pitch by some of the ministers in the BJP government to reap political harvest out of it that robbed the operation of its seriousness and legitimacy. The rush for claiming credit evoked a response from Pakistan's Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, who reminded that “Pakistan was not Myanmar” and warned India that his country would not be cowed down by threats. 

The hot Saudi-Iran cold war

June 15, 2015

Saudi Arabian-Iranian rivalry is now no longer about two nations vying for supremacy, but intertwined with regional geopolitics and sectarian equations.

The rapid rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a development that must have taken many by surprise. What was once a small group of Sunni militants in north-western Iraq engaged in a sectarian battle with the Shia government in Baghdad till three years ago — the al-Qaeda of Iraq — has now transformed itself into one of the most sophisticated forms of jihadi machinery in the world, controlling territories that are as large as Great Britain with a population of around eight million.

What led to this phenomenal rise? There are multiple explanations, including conspiracy theories such as the United States being responsible for its creation and of Saudi Arabia bankrolling it. If one sets aside the conspiracy theories and starts looking for the historical factors that have led to this emergence, it’s not difficult to see that Iran-Saudi rivalry is one of them.

Growing US Middle East dilemmas

S Nihal Singh
Jun 15 2015 

With President Barack Obama’s decision to send 450 troops to Iraq at its request, in addition to 3,100 already there for training and advisory roles, is it Mission Creep for an America desperate to see an end to its military role in the Middle East, except to succour Israel and its Arab allies? It was the emergence of the Islamic State (IS), or its variant ISIS, that got US military aircraft back in action over the Iraqi and Syrian skies.

President Obama had been bending over backward to ensure that his military could say goodbye to the Middle East in his declared “pivot” to Asia. Even when the Syrian regime had crossed his declared “red line” by using chemical weapons, he hesitated and grasped the Russian proposal to get Syrian chemical weapons out. Indeed, his motto has been to resist Mission Creep.

Yet today we see the dilemmas being presented by a wily enemy who, despite the bombing runs, refuses to surrender or die. In Syria, the Western aim of getting rid of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad gave the IS an opportunity. It got the better of both the West-supported moderate opposition and a weakened Assad regime to impose its own rule over large stretches of the country declaring a caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reportedly injured in a targeted attack. And a year ago the IS captured Iraq's second city Mosul, and most recently, Ramadi.

Internal Security Scenario of North East India

By Brig R Borthakur
The main problem in the North East remains. In spite of the Central Government’s efforts, alienation of the people and perceived grievances still continue. These get multiplied many times as and when reports of molestation and rape of girls from the region and humiliation to North East youth in other parts of the country are reported. These incidents get more than due publicity in electronic and print media of the North East. Such incidents make the North Easterners feel that they are still discriminated against – economically, politically and socially. But all the allegations are not true. The Central Government has provided crores of rupees to all the North East states for development projects. Some of these states survive only on Central Government largesse. The slow implementation of projects cannot be blamed on the Centre alone. Problems such as corruption, bureaucratic delays, power shortages and poor work culture delay completion of projects. Besides, the activities of militants, extremists and Anti-National Elements (ANE) further complicate the situation.

Covert should remain covert

Ajai Sahni
June 13, 2015 

A “new template” for India’s response to “terrorism”, we are being told, has been established by the “unprecedented” cross-border operation against two rebel camps in Myanmar. There has been a great deal of atavistic chest-thumping by the present regime and its camp followers. Prefacing his remarks with some psychobabble about the importance of changing “mindsets”, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar declared: “A simple action against insurgents has changed the mindset of the full security scenario in the country… Those who fear India’s new posture have started reacting.” It is useful to put these vaunting assessments into some perspective.

It is an utter misconception that this is the first cross-border operation by Indian forces. There have been many such operations in different theatres in the past, but these were executed covertly, maintaining full deniability, which is the best, indeed the only, sustainable template for such action. The only “unprecedented” element in the present case is the unseemly tamasha in its wake.

RAILWAY PRIVATISATION India wants private sector participation in railways – just when Britain debates nationalising theirs

As the Debroy panel recommends significant private participation in the railways, the British experience shows that the move will not necessarily make it more efficient.

In a report to be submitted to the Narendra Modi government on Friday, a panel headed by NITI Aayog member, Bibek Debroy has recommended large scale private sector participation in the railways including the entry of private players to run passenger trains. Meanwhile in Britain, Network Rail, the operator of the country’s rail infrastructurereported sharply lower profits for its latest fiscal year. The British railways was privatised in 1993 and trains are run by privately-owned companies. Privatisation though hasn’t yielded any great benefits and Britain’s railways are pricey even when its performance is well below train systems in other developed nations.

Clearly then, there could not be a sharper divergence of opinion in the two countries that began with a common rail history.

Book Review: 88 Days to Kandahar

Jonathan Steele
June 13, 2015

It is easy to forget that until he started criticising the Americans for bombing too many Afghan civilians and comparing them to “occupiers”, Hamid Karzai was Washington’s grateful servant. After all, US officials picked him to be Afghanistan’s first post-Taliban president, armed and financed him to launch an uprising against the mullahs after 9/11, helicoptered him away from imminent capture after one clumsy foray inside Afghanistan in mid-October, reinserted him a few weeks later to march on Kandahar successfully, and finally foisted him on the rest of the Afghan political class at the United Nations-sponsored conference in Bonn in December 2001 as the leader they could not afford to reject.

Robert Grenier’s fascinating book shows just how close the Karzai-US relationship was at that stage. As the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief in Islamabad, Grenier played a key part in what he calls (in a nod to the three Anglo-Afghan wars) the first American-Afghan war. It lasted 88 days, from 9/11 until the capture of the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar’s compound in Kandahar. Much of Grenier’s time was spent trying to persuade tribal chieftains, often with cash, to rise up against the Taliban, or even – in the other hallowed CIA tradition – plotting with a senior Taliban commander to mount a palace coup against Omar. No other US official has yet chronicled this period so intimately, including detailed records of meetings and phone calls.

Taliban Overrun Afghan Police Station and Kill 20 Policemen in Helmand Province

June 13, 2015

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters overran checkpoints in a nighttime raid in Afghanistan’s volatile southern Helmand province, killing at least 20 police officers as the battle raged into Saturday, authorities said.

The assault came as Afghanistan’s military acknowledged the Taliban controls at least four districts across the country.

The attacks in Helmand hit police checkpoints in the Musa Qala district, long a Taliban stronghold, said Mohammad Ismail Hotak, the head of the province’s joint coordination of police and military operations.

He said the attacks wounded at least 10 officers, though the Taliban also seemed to have suffered high casualties.

Saqi Jan, the head of police logistics in Musa Qala, said area checkpoints were manned by officers from the neighboring district of Baghran who had been forced out by earlier Taliban attacks.

Review: Untouchable: Children of God

I recently had the opportunity to attend the documentary Untouchable: Children of God, screened by EmancipAsia.

Produced and directed by Grant Knisely, the film sheds light on the abhorrent treatment of young girls in the notorious Red Light districts of India. Many of these girls are drugged, sold and trafficked from neighboring Nepal. The victims are held captive and raped repeatedly for sexual and commercial exploitation. Many die quickly – murdered, perhaps, or by their own hand – while others suffer more slowly from diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Knisely is the driving force behind Code Red Films, an organization whose motto is “take risks to tell the truth.” The organization has been investigating and documenting the human trafficking syndicate in India and Nepal for several years.

Why China Can't Be Trusted

Jeffrey Ordaniel
June 14, 2015 

In an article published by state-owned newspaper China Daily on May 27, Director-General Ouyang Yujing of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs reported that controversial new installations under construction on islands in the South China Sea are “primarily for civilian purposes,” including “runway, pier, telecommunication, meteorological, navigation safety, and environmental observation facilities.”

Just one day after Ouyang’s statement, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. surveillance spotted two motorized artillery pieces on one of the reclaimed islands. U.S. officials were quoted as saying that the weapons China planted on an unfinished reclamation could reach neighboring islands, many of which have long been under Vietnamese and Philippine control.

Here's why you shouldn't take US-China hacking tensions too seriously

S. Kumar

The U.S. might consider China to be an eccentric and very flawed business partner, but its certainly not an enemy. 

Last week, it was revealed that Chinese hackers launched a massive cyber attack on the U.S. government, affecting 4 million current and former federal employees. The blackmail potential of such information, and the harm to U.S. national security, should be obvious. And the connection with China should not be surprising since the U.S. has been fighting this war for some time. A senior Chinese government official even stated recently that the country is assembling an “online army,” which means that the cyber war between the U.S. and China is bound to heat up.

And given that this comes in the wake of aggressive Chinese military posturing over disputed islands in the South China Sea, you would think the two nations really are at the brink of war.

Interview: Joseph Nye

By Samuel Ramani
June 10, 2015

Joseph Nye is a University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University. He is also the former Dean of the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the Assistant Secretary of Defense under the Clinton administration from 1994-1995, and a current member of the Foreign Affairs Policy Board. He is the author of many books, most recently Is the American Century Over?

Following a speech at the University of Oxford in early June, he spoke with Samuel Ramani. That interview follows.

The Obama administration has made the Pivot to Asia strategy a central element of its foreign policy. The extensive transfer of U.S .military resources to the Pacific has been countered however by China’s rapid military buildup. Since China’s military presence is growing at a faster rate than that of the U.S., do you think the Pivot to Asia strategy will be effective in balancing Chinese regional hegemony in the long run?

Why we have lost the race to China

Aakar Patel

I am in China on holiday for a few weeks. I thought I should record my observations, as they occur to me and in no particular order. We say “Made in China” sniggeringly to indicate cheap and poorly made things. The evidence on China’s streets does not betray this lack of quality. The finish and construction of their pavements and parks, the way their gardens are laid out and the trees in their public spaces. All these things are first rate.

The small things, the details in China are right. Platforms are aligned exactly to the height of train floors. There is cleanliness and it comes from an engagement with surroundings.

When we attribute Singapore’s order to Lee Kuan Yew’s genius, we must be able to explain why Hong Kong is also as clean. The reason is of course that it is the Chinese whom we must credit and not some dictator.

One of the first things that one notices at the table is that the Chinese respect vegetables, unlike us. One can taste the flavour of the food on the plate, which is cooked with a light touch, not assaulted with masala. The other thing is how many vegetables they serve. We stress our vegetarianism but are essentially grain eaters.

Vietnam Muddles China's South China Sea Challenge

June 13, 2015

China’s recently revealed massive land reclamation activities in the South China Sea represent a particular threat to rival claimant Vietnam’s strategic position and interests. Factional competition ahead of next year’s Communist Party National Congress, where five-year plans, policies, and leadership positions are determined, has complicated Hanoi’s ability to devise a coherent and credible response to the maritime area’s increasingly complex geopolitics.

Recent reports on China’s island-building have heralded a strategic shift, one that aims to extend its traditional “offshore waters defense” to “open seas protection.” Financial Times reported on June 7 that the dredging appears “to be aimed at creating military facilities, including a 3km runway capable of handling fighter jets” that could be employed “to claim airspace over the South China Sea by declaring an air defense identification zone once the runway is finished.”

Time for Taiwan's Opposition to Clarify Its Cross-Strait Policy

By Lee Shih-Chuan
June 13, 2015

Upon her return to Taiwan on Tuesday from the United States, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen proclaimed her trip was a success.

The incumbent party in government, the Kuomintang (KMT), finds advances in Taiwan’s international exchanges, including Tsai’s visit, a welcome development. At the same time, it should be noted that if Tsai’s U.S. trip can be called a success, it was mainly made possible by her repeated statements in support of the Kuomintang’s policies toward mainland China. The KMT should thank Tsai for her support and her calls to maintain the status quo developed under seven years of KMT leadership.

Taiwan can choose two directions for its policy toward mainland China. The first is the KMT’s rapprochement policies that allow the two sides to reduce tension, increase investment, cultural exchanges, and tourism, and ensure open and transparent dialogue. This is possible on the basis of the “1992 Consensus,” acceptable to Beijing, where the two sides agree there is one China but differ on its definition. The Kuomintang believes that to be the Republic of China (Taiwan).

ISIS Is Beating U.S. in Social Media War, Report

Mark Mazzetti and Michael R. Gordon 
June 13, 2015 

WASHINGTON — An internal State Department assessment paints a dismal picture of the efforts by the Obama administration and its foreign allies to combat the Islamic State’s message machine, portraying a fractured coalition that cannot get its own message straight. 

The assessment comes months after the State Department signaled that it was planning to energize its social media campaign against the militant group. It concludes, however, that the Islamic State’s violent narrative — promulgated through thousands of messages each day — has effectively “trumped” the efforts of some of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced nations. 

It also casts an unflattering light on internal discussions between American officials and some of their closest allies in the military campaign against the militants. A “messaging working group” of officials from the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates, the memo says, “has not really come together.” “The U.A.E. is reticent, the Brits are overeager, and the working group structure is confusing,” the memo says. “When we convened meetings with our counterparts, I am certain we all heard about various initiatives for the first time.”

Demolishing The Islamic State Myth: Defeating The Propaganda Of ISIS – Analysis

By Mohammad Alami Musa
June 12, 2015

ISIS’ ideology centred on establishing the Islamic State is a powerful lure for global Muslims to seek salvation by emigrating to this Caliphate. The Muslim community has to develop a strong narrative to defeat the ISIS propaganda.

As countries across the world confront the extended reach of ISIS, particular attention is being paid to the ideological appeal of the group. The ideology is centred on the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth through the Islamic State (Daulah Islamiyah), ruled by a Caliph (Khalifa) and its call for global Muslims to emigrate (hijrah) to this borderless state.

The skilful use of these hallowed terms by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has enabled the militants to win the support of many Muslims across the globe who idealise and romanticise the belief that God’s law (Shariah) must rule the earth and His authority resides in the supreme leadership of the Caliphate. They feel obliged to emigrate to the newly established permanent abode of divine blessings to attain salvation.
Need for counter narrative

Greece Hopes For Deal After Being Told ‘The Game Is Over’

June 12, 2015

(EurActiv) — Greece hopes to clinch a deal with its lenders at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on 18 June, as time runs short for the country to stave off default at the end of the month.

“I hope it (a deal) will come very soon, on June 18, when the Eurogroup takes place,” State minister Alekos Flabourari, a close aid to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, told Greek state television ERT on Friday (12 June), a day after the International Monetary Fund walked away from negotiations in Brussels, citing major differences.

The IMF dramatically raised the stakes in Greece’s stalled debt talks on Thursday (11 June), announcing that its delegation had left negotiations in Brussels and flown home because of major differences with Athens.

The surprise IMF move came as the European Union told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to stop gambling with his cash-strapped country’s future and take the crucial decisions needed to avert a devastating default.

Russia threatens 'consequences' if US deploys missiles in Europe

Russia on Thursday warned the United States of consequences if it moves to deploy land-based missiles in Europe in contravention of a key Cold-War era arms control treaty.

"It is clear that such actions would mean complete destruction by the American side of the regime of the treaty with all its attendant consequences," the Russian foreign ministry said, referring to the 1987 INF treaty on intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

"We urge the United States to ensure the full implementation of the INF, (and) not to threaten the feasibility of this document," the ministry said in a statement.

The two countries have accused each other of violating the treaty signed by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.

US defence officials said last week Washington is considering a range of moves to counter Russia's alleged violation of the treaty, including bolstering missile defences or deploying land-based missiles in Europe.

The S-300: Game-Changing Weapon or Diplomatic Bargaining Chip?

By Quentin Buckholz
June 14, 2015

Russia has announced it will supply the missile system to Iran, but Moscow may have another objective in mind. 

On April 13, the Russian government announced that it would supply the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran, provoking predictable consternation in the United States, Europe, and Israel. While U.S. President Barack Obama’s public responsewas unexpectedly understated, American and European officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry andGerman Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, expressed concern about the proposed deal, and the Israeli government angrily threatened to retaliate against Russia by providing Ukraine with weapons. Western analysts and media outlets have suggested that the sale of the S-300 to Iran could alter the strategic balance in the region by greatly complicating any effort by the United States or Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Writing in The National Interest on April 20, Clint Hinote argued persuasively that the delivery of the S-300 to Iran could represent a “fundamental shift of military power for the region.”

Doomsday: The Coming Collapse of North Korea

Jamie Metzl
June 14, 2015 

Those predicting North Korea's imminent collapse have continually been proven wrong. But today, the North Korean madness may well be nearing its endgame.

As a member of the U.S. National Security Council staff in the later 1990s, I worked with colleagues on plans for responding to the potential collapse of the North Korean government. As a self-induced famine ravaged the country, we considered what we might do when the regime finally succumbed to the inevitable consequence of its own insanity. Almost twenty years later, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is still there and those predicting its imminent collapse have continually been proven wrong. But today, the North Korean madness may well be nearing its endgame. I predict it will be gone within a decade.

The continued survival of North Korea’s government is based on its ability to harness absolute terror against its population, its possession of nuclear weapons, and its access to economic resources. Although North Korea requires all three of these to survive, contradictions between what it takes to secure each will make the regime’s demise all but inevitable over time.

Russia Threatens 'Consequences' If US Deploys Missiles

MOSCOW — Russia on Thursday warned the United States of consequences if it moves to deploy land-based missiles in Europe in contravention of a key Cold-War era arms control treaty.

"It is clear that such actions would mean complete destruction by the American side of the regime of the treaty with all its attendant consequences," the Russian foreign ministry said, referring to the 1987 INF treaty on intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

"We urge the United States to ensure the full implementation of the INF, (and) not to threaten the feasibility of this document," the ministry said in a statement.

The two countries have accused each other of violating the treaty signed by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.

US defense officials said last week Washington is considering a range of moves to counter Russia's alleged violation of the treaty, including bolstering missile defenses or deploying land-based missiles in Europe.

Post Crimea Europe: NATO In the Age of Limited Wars

Octavian Manea

SWJ: What is historically the role of limited wars in the context of broader geopolitical power transitions?

Jakub Grygiel: Historically there are two ways in which you can look at limited wars

First, as a small local war meant to readjust some limited, precise territorial claim, but nothing beyond. Such wars of territorial adjustment had little or no systemic effects. Limited wars understood in this way did not fundamentally alter or re-arrange the balance of power. They were limited both in geography and scope.

The other limited war occurs when there is an ongoing change in the balance of power. There is a level of uncertainty about the new balance of power, and the state initiating a limited war is not sure about its own position in the system. It doesn’t want to start a large-scale systemic war because it may turn out to be too costly. A limited war is a good way to test how far it can go. In many ways, the first objective of a limited war is to avoid the big war while trying to gauge the resilience of the existing order. In this sense the significance of a limited war is different: it is a local war, but for larger regional or global purposes. If we can capture this in a bumper sticker it would be: act locally but think globally. It is to some extent what we see now happening in Ukraine: limited wars but with larger global repercussions.

Obama's agenda in the balance

Jun 12th 2015

A FEW years ago a wise pollster—pondering how labels like left-wing and right-wing have been scrambled by globalisation—came up with a different way to sort voters in Western democracies. Electorates, he suggested, broadly divide into two groups, one of which sees change and the outside world as a threat, and a second which takes a more optimistic view, looking for opportunities to harness global forces and turn them to good ends. The pollster, Stefan Shakespeare of YouGov, calls these two camps “Drawbridge Up” and “Drawbridge Down” people.

Just after lunch on June 12th President Barack Obama was mugged by the Drawbridge Up bit of America, or at least by its elected representatives. A large majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives, joined by hard-right Republicans, voted to stall (and potentially kill) his hopes of reaching a big new free-trade pact between America and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Senate has already passed a bill that would allow Mr Obama to press ahead with TPP, and the House may return to the question as early as Tuesday.

Are We About to See the High-Water Mark of Obama’s Foreign Policy?

JUNE 11, 2015 

While national security policy continues to flounder, real progress is being made on the economic front. 

Update: This afternoon the House rejected Obama’s trade initiative after failing to approve the trade adjustment assistance, a major setback for the president’s efforts to strike a major trade deal before he leaves office.

While U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security team remains adrift, strategy-less, incremental, and reactive in crisis zones worldwide, the rest of his international team seems poised to achieve a series of successes that could make 2015 the best year yet for Obama’s foreign policy. The key question will be whether progress with acronyms and abbreviations like TPA, TPP, and Exim can drown out the setbacks and frustrations associated with others, like IS, ISIS, and ISIL, the plethora of shorthand monikers by which we refer to the brutal thugs rampaging through Syria and Iraq.

Five Ways Japan and Korea Can Help the U.S. Pivot

By James Holmes
June 13, 2015

So I winged my way down to Washington, DC last Friday to speak at trilateral discussions among American, Japanese, and South Korean scholars and officials about maritime security in Asia. The topic was how the three allies can sustain freedom of the sea as it comes under duress from a rising, increasingly bellicose China. My chief bit of advice: be pessimistic when charting maritime strategy vis-à-vis China. As a great man once said, it’s best to be pessimistic in great affairs: you’re either right, or you’re pleasantly surprised!

That’s sound strategic counsel, isn’t it? Let’s say you want to deter a prospective foe, preserving an uneasy peace or remaking that peace for the better. To deter in peacetime, you must amass imposing capability and demonstrate the resolve to use that capability to win in wartime. If the antagonist believes in your power and your devotion to purpose, he’s apt to be deterred. Having girded yourself for the worst—having planned pessimistically—you’ve boosted the likelihood of your being pleasantly surprised. That’s the logic of assuming the glass is half empty.

Israel’s Abortion Committees

JUNE 12, 2015 

I KNEW Israeli law required that all abortions be approved by a committee. I also knew that the procedure was widely accessible. I’d never heard of an Israeli woman being denied an abortion (as opposed to say, a divorce, which must be granted by the husband in a religious court).

So I never really gave it much thought, until I found myself sitting in front of such a committee, six weeks pregnant with a 5-month-old baby at home.

When I went to my gynecologist, all he could do was provide me with an ultrasound as proof of my pregnancy. “I don’t do abortions,” he told me. “The committees deal with them. You can call this number.”

Each committee includes a social worker and two doctors. The law stipulates four criteria, any of which is sufficient for approval: If the woman is below 18 or over 40; if the fetus is in danger; if the mother’s mental or physical health is at risk; or if the pregnancy occurs out of wedlock or is the result of rape or incest.

I am 33 and free of medical issues. But because my partner and I are not legally married, I felt some relief knowing that I had a clear ticket out. Still, I balked at the realization that I had to request permission.

New USAF satellites to use updated spacecraft

Richard Tomkins

The fifth and sixth infrared surveillance and missile warning SBIRS satellites are to receive updated technology at no extra cost to the service.

Lockheed Martin, maker of the Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellites, said the new satellites will be based on its modernized A2100 communications satellite spacecraft to improve affordability, resiliency and flexibility for use of future payloads.

The internally funded updates to the A2100, the foundation for more than 40 satellites in orbit today, includes enhanced the spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics.

"Through the leadership of the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center, we have been working to address the Department of Defense's Better Buying Power and Bending the Cost Curve initiatives to deliver more value per dollar on this vital national security system," said David Sheridan, Lockheed Martin vice president and SBIRS program manager. "SBIRS has been providing outstanding global coverage for the Air Force, and migration to the modernized A2100 will help keep SBIRS ahead of America's adversaries while dramatically reducing costs and cycle times."

Future Of International Space Law: Implications And Impediments – OpEd

By Srinivas Raman
June 13, 2015

The idea of humans inhabiting the moon and calling it home may seem like something out of a sci-fi novel; however it is much closer to reality. If news reports are to be believed, people are actually selling property on the moon. What’s more? The United States of America seeks to secure property rights on the moon.[1] When Neil Armstrong first stepped on the surface of the moon and said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, I doubt even he imagined that less than half a century later earthlings would actually start buying land by the acre on the moon. Whimsical as it may seem, several people across the world have indeed entered into ‘Lunar Deeds’ and purchased land on the moon from sellers, notwithstanding the feeble legal standing of such contracts.[2]

Mapping Out The Future of The Internet

June 13, 2015

EU-funded researchers with the MAPPING project have developed a new observatory to monitor policies and projects that focus on the social and legal impact of the internet.

The MAPPING observatory will gather, organize and make publicly available information related to issues such as privacy, intellectual property rights and internet governance. By doing so, the observatory will avoid replicating and duplicating existing research work and allow interested parties to reuse this information free of charge.

Run from a dedicated website, it will also monitor relevant policy decisions and trends, such as the EU’s push for obtaining encryption keys from internet firms to counter terrorism.

The tool is a key deliverable of the MAPPING (Managing Alternatives for Privacy, Property and Internet Governance) project, launched in March 2014. The overall objective of the project is to achieve a better understanding of the many economic, social, legal and ethical aspects related to internet development, along with their consequences for the individual and society. The project brings together universities, research institutes, international organisations, NGOs and software companies.

What is Life in the Aralkum Like?

First the read: There have been a few great features lately on the Aral Sea. This week, Al Jazeera published another. The article by Mansur Mirovalev profiles the life of fishermen in the desert that the Aral Sea has become — the “Aralkum, or Aral Sands.” In the Aralkum the fishing companies are more like mafia, locals fishing illegally probably shouldn’t eat what they catch, and “what looks like snow…is actually salt laced with a cocktail of toxic chemicals.”

Now some things to listen to: Nate Schenkkan’s Central Asianist podcast has quickly become a must-listen for deeper looks into specific regional issues. In the seventh episode, released Monday, Schenkkan and Christian Bleuer focus on Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Bleuer says that Central Asian governments often exaggerate threats emanating from Afghanistan and Afghan local officials often exaggerate the number of foreign fighters causing through in northern Afghanistan.

Chinese Hackers Got Access to Extremely Sensitive Military and Intelligence Data

June 13, 2015 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hackers linked to China have gained access to the sensitive background information submitted by intelligence and military personnel for security clearances, U.S. officials said Friday, describing a cyberbreach of federal records dramatically worse than first acknowledged. 

The forms authorities believed may have been stolen en masse, known as Standard Form 86, require applicants to fill out deeply personal information about mental illnesses, drug and alcohol use, past arrests and bankruptcies. They also require the listing of contacts and relatives, potentially exposing any foreign relatives of U.S. intelligence employees to coercion. Both the applicant’s Social Security number and that of his or her cohabitant is required. 

In a statement, the White House said that on June 8, investigators concluded there was “a high degree of confidence that … systems containing information related to the background investigations of current, former and prospective federal government employees, and those for whom a federal background investigation was conducted, may have been exfiltrated.” 

“This tells the Chinese the identities of almost everybody who has got a United States security clearance,” said Joel Brenner, a former top U.S. counterintelligence official. “That makes it very hard for any of those people to function as an intelligence officer. The database also tells the Chinese an enormous amount of information about almost everyone with a security clearance. That’s a gold mine. It helps you approach and recruit spies.” 

Chinese Hackers Can Now Circumvent VPN and TOR Privacy Tools

Nicole Perlroth
June 12, 2015 

SAN FRANCISCO — Chinese hackers have found a way around widely used privacy technology to target the creators and readers of web content that state censors have deemed hostile, according to new research. 

The hackers were able to circumvent two of the most trusted privacy tools on the Internet: virtual private networks, or VPNs, and Tor, the anonymity software that masks a computer’s true whereabouts by routing its Internet connection through various points around the globe, according to findings by Jaime Blasco, a security researcher at AlienVault, a Silicon Valley security company. 

Both tools are used by Chinese businesses and by millions of citizens to bypass China’s censorship technology, often called the Great Firewall, and to make their web activities unreadable to state snoopers. 

The attackers compromised websites frequented by Chinese journalists as well as China’s Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, Mr. Blasco discovered last week. As long as visitors to those websites were also logged into one of 15 Chinese Internet portals — including those run by Baidu, Alibaba and RenRen — the hackers were able to steal names, addresses, sex, birth dates, email addresses, phone numbers and even the so-called Internet cookies that track other websites viewed by a user.

Cyber Penetration of German Parliament Computers Traced to Two Malware-Laden Email Links

Deutsche Welle 
June 12, 2015 

Emails blamed for Bundestag cyber-attack 

Germany’s Bundestag administration ran into cross-party criticism on Friday for delaying notification of the cyber-intrusion. Some officials were reportedly alerted on May 12, but parliamentarians were only informed on Thursday. 

The “Welt” newspaper quoted security service sources on Friday as saying a link contained in the emails sent users to a website containing malicious software. It then installed itself secretly on Bundestag computers used by parliamentarians and their staff. 

The so-called Trojan was similar to the one that disabled the French television station TV5 Monde in April.

French Test New Nuclear-Armed Cruise Missile

June 13, 2015 

PARIS, June 12 (UPI) – The French military has conducted a successful unit evaluation firing of its air-launched Rafale /ASMPA nuclear cruise missile weapon system. 

The Air-Sol Moyenne Portée – Amélioré missile, by MBDA, is an enhanced variant of the ASMP which entered service is 1986. The ASMP has a range of between 50 and 186 miles. It is being replaced by the ASMPA as France’s primary air-launched nuclear weapon. 

A two-seat Rafale fighter of the 01/091 “Gascogne” Fighter Squadron took off from Saint-Dizier’s Air Base 113 on Thursday for a test that brought together all the characteristic phases of an airborne nuclear strike mission which culminated with the firing a ASMPA missile – without a nuclear warhead – at its target at the Missile Test Center in Biscarrosse, the Ministry of Defense said. 

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian “extends his warm congratulations to all the women and men of the Strategic Air Forces, the Directorate General of Armaments and of the companies who contributed to this success,” the ministry said. 

‘Rain’ Is One of the Best Novels About the Afghanistan War … And I Hate It


Rain, the new Afghanistan war novel from former British Army soldier Barney Campbell, is brutally honest and unforgiving in its realism. It’s one of the best books about the war so far this year.

And I hated it. Rain alternately bored, sickened and angered me — and sometimes all three at once. More than a few times I stopped myself just short of hurling my copy across the room.

I insist you read Rain, too.

Rain is less a novel than a public service announcement about the dangers of stupid wars. And as a PSA, Rain is very, very effective. I’ve been to Afghanistan. I’ve seen its horrors with my own two eyes. Still, Campbell’s tale deeply disturbed me … and lingered in my mind.

What you must appreciate about Rain is that it could have been a memoir. Well, almost. The book’s protagonist Tom Chamberlain is a young university graduate and British Army officer on his first tour of Afghanistan in the later years of that country’s grinding war.

Midway: End of the Beginning

By James R. Holmes
June 3, 2015

Two thousand years ago the Greek historian Thucydides chronicled what he saw as history’s greatest conflict: the 27-year war between Athens and Sparta. He touted his History of the Peloponnesian War as a possession for all time. No humility there. But he was right to boast. We still study—and still learn—from a book about rowboats and spears in fifth-century B.C. Greece.

War pits people against people. And human nature remains largely constant. So no matter what weapons we carry, similar dynamics pervade human strife from age to age. Rowboats and spears in the age of Thucydides, smart bombs and nuclear-powered submarines in ours; conflict is conflict.

But with apologies to the father of history, the twentieth century bore witness to a conflict far bigger and more consequential than the bloodletting between Athens and Sparta. I refer, of course, to World War II. We gather here today to remember the Battle of Midway, a key engagement in that world-historical trial of arms between America and Imperial Japan.

Combat Helmets Have Moved Beyond Just Protection

By Christian Beekman
June 12, 2015 

Combat helmets have come a long way from their humble beginnings during World War I.

One of the most iconic pieces of equipment worn by American service members is the combat helmet. From the flat-brimmed “Brodie” M1917 helmet worn by doughboys in World War I, to the M1 “Steel Pot” that troops wore throughout World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, helmets have come to represent American troops at war. Historically, these helmets have mainly been about protection against bumps, exploding shrapnel, and debris; until recently, helmets were not even rated to stop handgun bullets consistently. But in the past 15 years, helmets have evolved far past simple protection.

At the turn of the millennium, the standard issue battlefield protection gear was the Personal Armor System for Ground Troops, which consisted of an armored vest and helmet. The helmet was referred to by troops as simply a “Kevlar,” for its use of the aramid fiber that provided the ballistic protection. While the PAGST helmet offered better protection than the previous M1 helmet, it was unpopular with troops. In a study of soldier satisfaction with the PAGST helmet, the Army found out how dissatisfied they were: “Only 30% of PASGT users were satisfied with their helmet’s maintainability, and 15% were satisfied with its fit. Less than 10% of PASGT users were satisfied with their helmet’s comfort, weight, and overall impression.” They criticised the poor chinstrap design, padding, and overall fit; these issues, coupled with the distinctive brim of the helmet, led to problems with the PAGST helmet tilting forward, an annoyance when trying to do certain critical tasks such as casualty care or shooting from the prone. It became clear that an updated helmet was needed.

Why America's military is losing its edge

Jun 11th 2015

AMERICA'S ability to project power on behalf of its own interests and in defence of its allies has been the bedrock of the rules-based international order since the end of the second world war. Critical to that effort has been the role of technology in maintaining a military edge over potential adversaries through the first and second “offset strategies”. In the 1950s it offset the Soviet Union’s numerical advantage in conventional forces by accelerating its lead in nuclear weapons. From the late-1970s, after the Soviets closed the gap in nuclear capability, America began making investments in emerging technologies that led to the ability to “look deep and shoot deep” with precision guided munitions. For the next quarter of a century American military dominance was assured.

Now, that decisive military edge is being eroded. Why?

The same technologies that made America and the West militarily dominant have proliferated to potential foes. In particular, precision-guided missiles are widely and cheaply available. Rather than investing in the next generation of high-tech weapons to stay far ahead of military competitors, the Pentagon has been focused more on the very different demands of counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.