7 July 2015

Joseph Stiglitz: How I Would Vote in the Greek Referendum

Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks.

29 Jun 2015 – The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony withinEurope might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

India’s passage through Central Asian steppes needs rethink

The steppes of Central Asia give away their secrets only grudgingly. The deserving ones have to convincingly show their capacity for persistence and tenacity – and, of course, sheer audacity. That was how Genghis Khan succeeded in conquering Bukhara.

Nonetheless, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s whirlwind tour of Central Asia – five «Stans» in 5 days – serves a purpose insofar as it is a region where India is traditionally well regarded but, paradoxically, chose to remain a marginal presence on the political or economic landscape. Any gain that Modi makes, howsoever marginal, will still be a positive gain, since he is starting with a relatively clean slate.

Modi will be henceforth sitting down with the Central leaders annually under the canopy of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO] to discuss regional security and cooperation. A structured relationship is in the making. The Central Asian countries have been uniformly enthusiastic about India’s SCO membership, given Russia’s strong backing (or canvassing) for it in the recent years.

Decision-making is exasperatingly slow in those parts – even by Indian standards – and is highly centralized at the pinnacle of power. In Inner Asia, personal equations do matter and Modi is an exceptionally good communicator. That is to say, Modi’s regional tour could herald the beginning of a new chapter in India’s relations with the Central Asian states, provided we go about it purposively.

People have noted that every trip – at least, most trips – Modi makes and every word he utters while abroad, is with one eye on matching China’s influence as a rising power. A good case can be made that this Central Asian tour should be an exception to such thumb rule.

The Assassination of Indira Gandhi

By B Raman
06 Jul , 2015

Till 1985, the IB was the over-all in charge of the security of the Prime Minister — while he or she was in Delhi as well as during his or her travels in India and abroad. The IB’s duties,inter alia, included updating from time to time the Blue Book instructions relating to the security of the Prime Minister, issuing circular instructions on the subject, assessing threats to the security of the Prime Minister, co-ordinating physical security for the Prime Minister at Delhi through the Delhi Police, co-ordinating security arrangements for the Prime Minister during his or her travels in liaison with the concerned State agencies and foreign security agencies etc.

While the IB co-ordinated and supervised the security, the actual security-related tasks, including those of bodyguards, were performed by the staff of the police concerned. India did not have a dedicated physical security agency for the Prime Minister like the US Secret Service.

Till 1975,the Division in the IB responsible for the Prime Minister’s security had a very small set-up with just three officers — a Joint Director at the head, who was of the rank of an Inspector-General of Police (IGP), a Deputy Director, who was of the rank of a Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) and an Assistant Director, of the rank of a Superintendent of Police (SP). This expanded after 1975 partly due to perceived threats to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and partly due to the Anand Marg, a Hindu spiritual group with an international following, indulging in acts of violence in order to protest against the detention of its leader by the Indian authorities.

Europe and India: Testing New Delhi’s New Diplomacy

An underperforming relationship could benefit from some Indian reforms.

At a recent business event in a major European city, a senior executive was heard to explain why his company did not do business in China. His main argument was economic: The Chinese market was crowded with competitors to midsize companies such as his. But the executive also said that he felt more comfortable doing business in democratic economies such as India, even if it takes more effort and time for projects to come to fruition.

While that view may be in the minority among corporate investors, it offers one more reason why India, the world’s largest democracy and a market economy set to be the world’s fastest growing by next year, should become a global economic hub without any further delay. In fact, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now moving to realize this ambition, and the world is showing renewed interest in the India story following the change in government last year. Yet the European Union remains an elusive and highly uncelebrated entity in Indian polity, business, and diplomacy.

Can Modi Visit Move TAPI Forward?

A visit to Turkmenistan this week is an opportunity to jump-start the flagging project.

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swings through Central Asia over the next week, his docket looks to be full. As Catherine Putz detailed, Modi’s focus will range from security concerns to regional projects, from ISIS to investment to improving relations between New Delhi and all the Central Asian states.

And while there’s plenty on Modi’s plate, it’s worth highlighting one project that help encapsulates India’s sputtering relationship with the region. The Diplomat has already covered the issues besetting the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, but given Modi’s visit, they are worth looking at once more. The $10 billion, 1,078-mile planned pipeline, set to transit Turkmen gas to customers in the three southern states, has long stood as something of an idealized project – fantastic on paper, but with little traction on the ground. While Turkmenistan needs to diversify its gas exports away from Beijing, and while Afghanistan-Pakistan-India all require Turkmen gas for economic expansion, the project hasn’t congealed in a way any of them want. Turkmenistan remains wary of allowing a foreign major to access its infrastructure. India and Pakistan have their own tensions that barely require detailing. And Afghanistan’s security – especially as it pertains to an above-ground pipeline – remains, at best, questionable. The Chinese factor also plays a role, with Beijing unwilling to see its client-state in Ashgabat casting about for other patrons, while Iran may soon prevent an alternate route for Turkmenistan to shuttle its gas.

Guns and Butter in Pakistan

JULY 2, 2015

Nuclear weapons have drastically reduced Pakistan's vulnerability to India. So why doesn't it slow spending on conventional arms and increase spending on its population?

Guns and Butter in Pakistan

Earlier this year, retired Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, who was in charge of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons for 15 years, delivered a message to policymakers in the United States. In his prepared remarks, Kidwai argued that nuclear weapons have rendered conventional war in South Asia “near redundant.” In turn, if conventional war is unimaginable, Kidwai reasoned, India and Pakistan should be able to invest more in their populations’ socioeconomic well-being — as long as their leaders are up to it.

I Played Make-Believe With the Pakistani Military

JULY 2, 2015

Islamabad tells its military embeds that it is fighting terrorists backed by Indian, Afghan, Israeli and American agents. However, the truth is far more interesting.

In the summer of 2010, I was teaching at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. When I was not teaching, I was conducting research for my book Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War.

Pakistan’s army and various intelligence agencies organized a series of visits to important facilities and regions where military and anti-terror operations are ongoing, including the Swat valley and North and South Waziristan.

Could India's Military Really Crush Pakistan?

July 2, 2015

India's conventional military superiority over Pakistan is exaggerated.

Following a raid by Indian special forces into Myanmar early this month, increasing attention has been given to the prospect that India might use similar means against Pakistan to pressure it to end support for anti-Indian militant groups. India’s on-going military modernization and headline-grabbing increases in defense spending have already raised concerns that it threatens to upset the delicate conventional military balance in the region and make military action a more attractive prospect for New Delhi.

Taken at face value, there appears to be some validity to this line of thinking.Indian defense spending has doubled in real terms since 1997, growing at an average of 6.3 percent per year. The Modi announced a further 11 percent hike, raising the 2015–2016 military budget to $39.8 billion. Moreover, India is presently the world’s largest buyer of conventional weapons, with upwards of $100 billion expected to be spent on modernizing its defense forces over the next decade.

Pakistan's New Military Budget: By the Numbers

July 5, 2015

While the release of Pakistan's new defense budget went unremarked in Washington, the country's importance demands an in-depth review.

It should come as no surprise that the release of Pakistan’s federal budget on June 5 went unremarked in Washington. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s budget—particularly its defense budget— will quietly attract the attention of American officials and analysts who work this issue because important U.S. interests are engaged in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a large country with the potential to enjoy robust economic growth and attract foreign investment. It is a front-line state in the fight against violent extremism, and it is one of the world’s nuclear powers. The United States, in other words, wants Pakistan to succeed. Its national budget can help or hinder success.

7 Pakistani Troops Killed After Pak Army Begins “Final Offensive” Into Last Taliban Stronghold Along Afghan Border

July 5, 2015

Seven Pakistani troops killed as army pushes to finish anti-Taliban offensive

DERA ISMAIL KHAN (Reuters) - Taliban ambushes and bombings killed at least seven Pakistani soldiers in the northwest as the military made a new push into the militants’ last major stronghold near the border with Afghanistan, intelligence officers said Sunday.

Pakistan began a major offensive in North Waziristan last summer to drive out Pakistani Taliban and other extremist Islamist militants who launch attacks on government and civilian targets.

The army is meeting fierce resistance as it moves further into the lower-lying areas of the Shawal Valley, the Taliban’s last stronghold, military officials said.

Asia’s Biggest Worry Isn’t Grexit

July 06, 2015

A potential meltdown closer to home has regional investors far more concerned.

Greece’s financial meltdown has sent shockwaves throughout the world, sending markets tumbling and wiping billions of dollars off equity valuations. Yet for the Asia-Pacific region, the biggest economic threat lies closer to home.

Asia awoke Monday morning to news that the Hellenic Republic had voted in a referendum to reject bailout terms demanded by creditors. This followed reports last Wednesday that Greece had become the first developed nation to default on a loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMF confirming that Greece had joined Cuba, Zambia, and others in the defaulters’ club after failing to make a 1.5 billion euro ($1.7 billion) payment to the Washington-based institution.

Greece and its Eurozone creditors had failed to agree on further Greek economic reforms, which would have unlocked an extra 7.2 billion euros, the last of 240 billion euros in aid offered to Athens by the IMF, European Central Bank, and the European Commission since the global financial crisis.

The result of referendum has intensified speculation over Greece’s pending default and potential exit from the Eurozone (known as “Grexit”), and has sent shudders across financial markets worldwide. In Asia, stock markets across the region posted significant losses early in the week, before recouping some ground midweek. This morning, though, Australian stocks saw $22 billion in value wiped out in just 20 minutes of trading, on news of the referendum.

“Greece A Sideshow”

The Years of Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai

By Claude Arpi
03 Jul , 2015

Zhou’s First Visit to Delhi
During the years following the signing of the Panchsheel Agreement, Delhi continued its efforts to champion the newly independent nations of Asia and Africa. The intellectual elite in Delhi looked at the Chinese revolution as part ‘of the great Asian Resurgence’; its politicians thought that India could enhance her image by becoming the champion of China’s cause in every possible forum and became the promoter of Beijing’s entry into the United Nations.

Zhou stopped in Delhi for three days and had five long sessions with Nehru. The most surprising aspect of these talks was that Tibet as well as the border problem which had been the main issues between the two nations, were not mentioned even once.

The New Normal: China's Risky Intelligence Operations

July 6, 2015

"Chinese leaders may not think China and its peaceful development project face significant international consequences for its intelligence operations abroad."

Thirty years ago, Beijing placed restrictions on its overseas intelligence gathering to prevent political blowback from exposed operations from jeopardizing Deng Xiaoping’s Reform and Opening Policy. Today, such political considerations no longer appear to influence Chinese policymakers and intelligence policy. China’s widespread theft of information in cyberspace probably has done more to poison the well of U.S.-China relations than almost anything else. The possibility of any meaningful fallout from such operations seems remote from the concerns of Chinese leaders, even as Washington considers more aggressive responses to cyber intrusions.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: China, America and the Balance of Power

July 6, 2015

The TPP is not just about economics as it has the potential to be a pillar of American grand strategy in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.

At first glance, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) looks much like any other trade deal. By increasing trade and investment among its partners, the TPP sets out to stimulate a higher rate of economic growth in the United States and among many of its Pacific friends. As with similar treaties, the TPP has been the subject of controversy in the U.S. Congress, which very nearly killed a key piece of legislation necessary to America’s ratification of the agreement. But while American lawmakers attacked and defended the treaty largely in narrow economic terms, they appeared to disregard its main strategic promise.

Could China Save Greece from Financial Ruin?

JULY 4, 2015 

With the failure to pay $1.73 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Greece now enters the history books as being the first developed country to default on an IMF loan, with the single largest missed payment in that institution’s history. On Sunday, Greece will hold a referendum, to see whether the people will support further cuts in pensions and increases in the sales tax in order to try and bring the nation’s finances into order.

In the run-up to this default, many observers had watched with concern and curiosity as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for discussions during the St. Petersburg International Investment Forum. Greek statements hinted that a failure to grant Greece more time and funds might result in a turn by Athens toward Moscow. Reports suggest, however, that Tsipiras returned from St. Petersburg empty-handed. Indeed, it is an open question whether Russia, itself suffering from economic sanctions, has the resources to keep Greece afloat.

China's Unsettling Stock Market Collapse

JUL 4, 2015 

As the world frets over Greece, a separate crisis looms in China.
An investor is reflected in a screen showing stock information at a brokerage house in Hefei, Anhui province.Reuters

This summer has not been calm for the global economy. In Europe, a Greek referendum this Sunday may determine whether the country will remain in the eurozone. In North America, meanwhile, the governor of Puerto Rico claimed last week that the island would be unable to pay off its debts, raising unsettling questions about the health of American municipal bonds.

But the season’s biggest economic crisis may be occurring in Asia, where shares in China’s two major stock exchanges have nosedived in the past three weeks. Since June 12, the Shanghai stock exchange has lost 24 percent of its value, while the damage in the southern city of Shenzhen has been even greater at 30 percent. The tumble has already wiped out more than $2.4 trillion in wealth—a figure roughly 10 times the size of Greece’s economy.

If ISIS Doesn’t Liberate Palestine, Who Will? – OpEd

Syrian refugee camp on Turkish border. Photo by Voice of America News, Henry Ridgwell

This is one of the questions ricocheting between Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, posed also by ISIS (Da’ish) operatives, as the hot summer months and plummeting quality of existence raise tensions in the refugee camps and social gatherings.

With its resilience, on-the-ground “achievements”, adaptability, global franchising, copy-cat knock-offs, chameleon-like adaptations, combinations and permutations, and slick honing of medium and message, ISIS is offering oppressed and desperate populations in this region both hope and fantasy for escaping their deepening misery. The dream is to escape abject poverty and indignity by any means necessary, and joining ISIS or other like-minded cash-flush groups, which seem to appear out of thin air these days, is the most promising way to do it.

Syrian and Hezbollah Forces Reported to Have Captured Part of City of Zabadani Along Lebanese Border From Rebels

July 5, 2015

Lebanese Hezbollah and Syrian Army Enter Rebel-Held Border City

BEIRUT — The Syrian army and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters said on Sunday they had entered the rebel-held city of Zabadani on the second day of a major offensive to capture the border area around the Beirut-Damascus highway.

The army, backed by Hezbollah, has long sought to wrest control of Zabadani, near the Lebanese border, from the rebels who have held it since 2012, a year after the start of the Syrian civil war.

The Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah’s al Manar television station said its fighters and the Syrian army had entered the Jamaiyat district in the western part of Zabadani, about 45 km (30 miles) northwest of the capital Damascus.

Nazarbayev: ‘There are no untouchables in Kazakhstan’

Kazakhstan’s president speaks on language, corruption, and the transition of power.

After a dramatic announcement, the channels KTK and Khabar aired an hour-long interview with Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev last week. Nazarbayev spoke at length and was only interrupted by short questions and clips of his past speeches. The title of the talk made it all very personal: “With Nazarbayev, about the chief [issues]” (S Nazarbayevym o glavnom) was the quirky headline, a clear play on words between what and who is more important. Starting from the hard days of the 1990s, the interview went on to praise the president’s foresight, drawing parallels between then and now with reference to the economic crisis, the Eurasian idea, and the fight against corruption. Most importantly, Nazarbayev used the occasion to put his latest policies in perspective for his fellow citizens, something that was much needed after he repeatedly appeared on TV in the past months announcing new reforms and state programs.

Syria's Last Best Hope: The Southern Front

July 6, 2015

Beyond Assad and ISIS, a third moderate way can still exist for Syria if the Southern Front is empowered.

The Syrian regime is weakening militarily in the face of the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) as well as the Islamist rebel coalition Jaysh al-Fateh that issponsored by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar; in addition, gains have been made by the moderate opposition coalition in the south known as the Southern Front. The regime’s strain means it is no longer able to fight all those groups directly. It has instead begun to indirectly use ISIS to fight them by not standing in the way of ISIS advances in their areas.

This new regime strategy aims at letting ISIS overwhelm the moderate opposition as well as other Islamist groups. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s calculation is that if the only actors left on the ground in the conflict are ISIS and the regime, he can then argue that Syria’s choices are either the Islamic State or his regime, and appeal to the international community on that basis. But there is a third way for the future of Syria that can happen if Syria’s only remaining moderate opposition coalition, the Southern Front, is empowered.

Saudi Arabia field report: Another potential oil crisis in the Middle East

Yukari Hino
July 2, 2015

Saudi Arabia is the biggest oil exporter in the world. However, this status may be threatened as a result of domestic oil consumption. Several recent studiespredict that Saudi Arabia will be a net oil importer by 2030 or 2038. Other regional energy exporters such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Iran have worked to control their domestic consumption to address the skyrocketing costs, economic distortions, and potential vulnerabilities of high rates of internal energy utilization. The current efforts of Saudi Arabia to curb domestic consumption offer an excellent litmus test for its neighbors, as well as other oil and gas exporting countries.

Saudi Arabia is currently the biggest energy consumer in the Middle East. Energy demand in Saudi Arabia has increased annually by an average of 7.5 percent over the last five years. Economic and population growth explain some of the surge; even with oil prices flat or decreasing, real GDP rose by 3.6 percent in 2014. However, Saudi Arabia has not used energy efficiently. The kingdom’s energy intensity (defined as total energy consumption per unit of GDP, where Saudi Arabia is 4.1 when the UK sets 1 at 2013) is four times that of energy efficient countries, such as Britain and Germany, and their energy consumption per capita is high (see Figures 1 and 2). Saudi Arabia consumes the largest amount of oil in the world for electricity: according to the Saudi Electricity Company, 58 percent of the country’s total electricity supply comes from oil, with associated gas generating nearly 42 percent of the country’s total electricity in 2013. Domestic oil consumption has risen faster than of production and exports since 1991 (see Figures 3 and 4).
Figure 1: Energy intensity ranking in 2013

How France Can Fix Its Homegrown Terror Problem

JUNE 27, 2015

The man who allegedly attacked a factory outside of Lyon had been on a security watch list. So why weren't French authorities able to stop him?

The list of names in the French hall of shame just keeps growing. There’s “Toulouse gunman” Mohamed Merah, “Paris kosher store attacker” Amedy Coulibaly, “Charlie Hebdo assailants” Cherif and Said Kouachi, and now there might well be “gas factory decapitator” Yassin Sahli — these are names known across France and, indeed, the world today.

But these names were known to French security services years before they gained national and international notoriety. And an argument could be made that if surveillance systems hadn’t failed, these young Frenchmen would never have gotten the chance to make the headlines.

Martin van Creveld asks who will stop the Monster, the Islamic State?

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 13 August 2014

Summary: Today Martin van Creveld looks at the Islamic State. Are they ethnic militia unable to expand from their home zone, or a modern version of the Asiatic hordes? Who will stop them? (1st of 2 posts today.}

The monster — the Sunni militias which, equipped by the Saudis with the active backing of the U.S, have been waging civil war in Syria for over three years — has risen against its benefactors. Unable to make headway against Syrian dictator Basher Assad, they have turned to the much softer target that once constituted Iraq but is now, thanks to George Bush Jr, no more than an awful mess. Doing so, they shed any “secular” and “liberal” character they may once had possessed. Instead they revealed their true colors as murderous bandits who wage war with a ferocity rare even among Arabs.

Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and home to one of the world’s most important oil fields, has already fallen to them. As resistance seems to be crumbling, the capital, Baghdad, may well be next in line. Should that happen then the way to Basra and the Gulf countries in the south will be open. The outcome could well be another Afghanistan threatening to export terrorism, and perhaps more than just terrorism, both to the Gulf States in the south and to Jordan in the west — not to mention what may happen to the world’s economy should one of its main oil-exporting countries be knocked out.

Here's the manual that al Qaeda and now ISIS use to brainwash people online

JUL 2, 2015

A young ISIS supporter in Raqqa, Syria August, 2014

The US and other western countries have been alarmed at how the Islamic State terror group has been able to lure teenagers and young people to the Middle East to join their ranks.

Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times recently wrote about a 23-year-old American woman from Washington state who has been communicating with Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) recruiters online.

The woman, "Alex," showed Callimachi the messages and reading materials these recruiters had sent her, and their approach to grooming her seems textbook.

Littoral Combat Vessel: The U.S. Navy's Great Relearning

"Has the U.S. Navy become the Haight-Ashbury of sea power? In a way."

The U.S. Navy, it seems, is undergoing what literary gadfly Tom Wolfe styles a “great relearning.” Wolfe recounts a 1968 visit to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, one of the meccas of hippiedom. Doctors at the district’s Free Clinic, he found, were “treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that had disappeared so long ago they had never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot.” Such maladies made a comeback because the hippies “sought nothing less than to sweep aside all codes and restraints of the past and start out from zero.”

In short, Sixties youth rejected all precepts bequeathed by their elders—including basic hygiene. Having scoffed at accumulated wisdom of the ages, the hippies had to either put up with the rot or reacquaint themselves with common sense. Observes Wolfe: “This process, namely the relearning—following a Promethean and unprecedented start from zero—seems to me to be the leitmotif of the twenty-first century in America.”

Russia's Nuclear Bluster: How Should America Respond?

"There are no winners in nuclear chess; each player ends up in checkmate."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been shy in brandishing his country’s nuclear weapons. Not since Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev boasted of “producing missiles like sausages” and issued his warning to Western ambassadors that “we will bury you” has the world been subjected to a leader in Moscow so loudly rattling his nuclear saber. With U.S.-Russian relations continuing to deteriorate and worldwide nuclear arsenals still holding some 15,700 warheads and bombs, it is all the more important to deliberate on guidelines for effectively dealing with such conduct.

Nuclear Bluster

Since the Ukraine crisis, Putin has explicitly reminded his audiences of Russia’s large nuclear arsenal and, following the seizure of Crimea, he declared that he had been ready to put Russian nuclear forces on alert. He has also gone out of his way to herald the production of new nuclear missiles and bombers, and has authorized active, and sometimes reckless, nuclear-capable aircraft activity on the periphery of NATO. And he has apparently authorized the testing of ground-launched cruise missiles that violate the 1987 Treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces.

Is Vietnam Pivoting Toward the United States?

In an unprecedented move, the secretary-general of Vietnam’s Communist Party will visit the United States.
Nguyen Phu Trong, the Secretary General of the Vietnam Communist Party, will visit Washington from July 6-9 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the United States.

Trong’s visit is unprecedented because it marks the first time that the leader of the Vietnam Communist Party will visit the United States in an official capacity.

Diplomatic sources report that Vietnam lobbied for this visit and that one sticking point was protocol. The Vietnamese side wanted Secretary General Trong to be received by President Barack Obama in the White House. This created a protocol issue because Secretary General Trong has no counterpart in the U.S. political system.

Strategy in Real Time: Dueling with an Enemy That Moves

JULY 1, 2015

Strategy is a two-way street. But many commentators act as though formulating a strategy is the same as solving a chess problem. Chess problems are artificially constructed arrangements on a chessboard where the goal is to find a series of moves that leaves the other side no room to evade a checkmate within three or four turns. The sorts of conflicts bedeviling us these days, however, are more like the game of chess itself, in which there is no determinate, continuous series of moves that will guarantee victory every time. Each new contest depends on the actions of the other side, how we react to them, how they respond to our reactions, and so on.

Ignoring this aspect of strategy seems to contribute to the widespread view that victory in warfare amounts to the destruction of the enemy, a facile assumption that is all too unthinkingly held. "Defeating the enemy" may be the definition of victory in football, or even in chess for that matter, but not in warfare. Victory in war is the achievement of the war aim, and if, after Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, we still think that victory is simply the devastation of our adversaries, we have a lot of reflecting to do.
The Triage of Terror

Ukraine's Orange Blues

29 June 2015

The most striking thing about Lviv, Kyiv, and a number of small towns and villages I’ve recently visited is their normalcy. Walk down the streets or dirt roads and you’d never think Ukraine’s economy is depressed and that the country is at war. A village church I visit is full of people dressed in their Sunday best. Lviv’s cafes are packed. Kyiv’s main drag, the Khreshchatyk, is as fashionable as before Russia’s onslaught.

But that’s just the outward appearance. Talk to people and their current or impending economic travails—inflation, stagnant wages, corruption, and the growing cost of gas and electricity—quickly come to the fore. Talk a little longer and the war in the east soon becomes a topic of conversation.

The appearance of normalcy is both a façade and a coping mechanism. People know full well that times are hard and that soldiers are dying—usually one or two a day, sometimes up to four or five a day. They know that Vladimir Putin and his proxies are threatening to unleash a devastating war against Ukraine and kill thousands more.

The Worst-Case Scenario for the Global Economy

JULY 2, 2015

If Greece and China both falter, here’s how it could all come tumbling down.

Let me start by saying that I have no idea what the worst-case scenario looks like, as indeed no one does. Because of unexpected events — black swans, unknown unknowns, or, to use the term of the moment, Knightian uncertainty — it’s impossible to know just how bad things could get in the global economy. But a few dominoes could fall that might make things very uncomfortable in the markets, and it’s worth considering what the world would look like then.

The most obvious risks are in the eurozone and China. If Greece defaults and eventually has to abandon the euro, the currency’s sheen of invulnerability will disappear. The impossible will have become possible, and investors will be forced to consider the fact that other countries — Portugal may be next in line — might someday exit the eurozone as well.

What Are the Geostrategic Implications of a Grexit?

JULY 1, 2015

A spurned Greece could become a nightmare for the EU and NATO.

At the moment, it is unclear how Greece will ultimately fare in the current duel of wills with the Troika over its technical default, the upcoming referendum, and the possibility of a continuation of the long-running bailout drama. The two sides are locked in acrimonious finger-pointing, Greek banks are shuttered for the week, and the logical but ever elusive diplomatic and economic solution — a reasonable negotiation between the parties — seems further away than ever. As a proud Greek-American, I am saddened by the situation.

Meanwhile, the July 5 referendum is judged too close to call at the moment, and most Greeks will likely be confused about the implications and uncertain how to vote. Macroeconomic theory appears to have been the first casualty of the process, and the doomsday economic scenarios — a crashed Greek economy, a battered if not broken euro, and a deeply shaken European project — are looming large on the horizon.

What's Motivating China's Military Push in Africa?


China is steadily expanding its military footprint in Africa, highlighted by the recent deployment of 700 combat-ready troops to join a multinational peacekeeping operation in South Sudan. In all, the People's Liberation Army and Navy now have anestimated 2,700 soldiers, sailors, engineers and medical staff stationed across the continent.

The number of troops deployed in Africa is extremely small, even insignificant, in the broader context of the massive Chinese military. However, a discernible trend is becoming increasingly apparent as Beijing expands the range of operations that its forces are engaged in Africa to include post-conflict stabilization (Mali), medical humanitarian missions (Liberia), ongoing conflict stabilization (South Sudan) and anti-piracy operations (Somalia) among others. In all, Chinese military personnel are now involved in 7 out of 9 UN peacekeeping operations on the continent, the most of any permanent Security Council member.

Although it will be a long time, if ever, that China's small military footprint will rival those of the United States and European countries in Africa, the steadily rising number of PLA/PLAN forces on the continent may indeed have profound consequences. Africa appears to be the theater of operations that is testing two bedrock principles of Chinese foreign policy:

A Frightening Thought: Nuclear Weapons are Back (And So Is Deterrence)

July 5, 2015 

With nuclear modernization programs under way across a range of countries, Russia asserting its right to deploy nuclear weapons in the Crimea, NATO reviewing the role of nuclear weapons in the alliance, and a recent report in the U.S. arguing for a more versatile arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, it’s clear the world’s revisiting an old problem: how to build effective nuclear deterrence arrangements.

Since the end of the Cold War, thinking about deterrence issues has been mainly confined to the academic and think-tank world. But policymakers are now having to re-engage with those issues. And the problem has a new twist: we no longer enjoy the luxury of a bipolar world. Indeed, as Therese Delpech observed in her RAND monograph Nuclear deterrence in the 21st century, nowadays “the actors are more diverse, more opaque, and sometimes more reckless.”

A Frightening Thought: Nuclear Weapons are Back (And So Is Deterrence)

July 5, 2015

With nuclear modernization programs under way across a range of countries, Russia asserting its right to deploy nuclear weapons in the Crimea, NATO reviewing the role of nuclear weapons in the alliance, and a recent report in the U.S. arguing for a more versatile arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, it’s clear the world’s revisiting an old problem: how to build effective nuclear deterrence arrangements.

Since the end of the Cold War, thinking about deterrence issues has been mainly confined to the academic and think-tank world. But policymakers are now having to re-engage with those issues. And the problem has a new twist: we no longer enjoy the luxury of a bipolar world. Indeed, as Therese Delpech observed in her RAND monograph Nuclear deterrence in the 21st century, nowadays “the actors are more diverse, more opaque, and sometimes more reckless.”

Done properly, deterrence is a contest in threats and nerve, or—to use Thomas Schelling’s phraseology—“the manipulation of risk.” (The chapter so titled in Schelling’s Arms and influence is a great starting point for anyone wanting to think through the broader deterrence problem.) That helps explain why some thought the concept ‘ugly’. It’s hard to make a policy threatening massive damage to societies and civilians sound noble and aspirational. Still, the bad news is that the alternatives are worse. And if deterrence is going to remain the dominant approach in nuclear weapon strategy, we need to fit the strategy to the contemporary geopolitical environment.

U.S. Government Conducting Large-Scale Cyber Military Exercise

Damian Paletta
July 5, 2015

U.S. Agencies Conduct Cyberwar Games

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency and a host of other agencies joined British officials and a number of private companies for a three-week cyber war game, testing 14 teams on a range of simulated attacks on two continents.

The exercise, held in June at a military facility in Suffolk, Va., aimed to prepare the U.S. military, security officials and others for what some believe is the next frontier in warfare: cyberattacks.

“The outcome we are seeking is operational readiness,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Kevin E. Lunday, director of exercises and training at U.S. Cyber Command, a division of the military. “They say the best steel is forged and tempered in the hottest furnace,” he said in an interview last week, adding, “We put them under that pressure so that they can learn.”

The Real, Great Greek Dilemma

July 3, 2015

"If Greece leaves Europe, or is kicked out, the consequences might well be far beyond financial. Nations also react from pride, not just dollars, euros or drachmas."

During the Second World War, Italy invaded Greece and received such a thrashing Hitler was obliged to come to Mussolini’s aid. Against the combined Axis nations, Greece held out longer than any country conquered by Nazi Germany, and German forces were so mauled in the invasion of Crete, they never conducted another airborne operation again. The holiday celebrating when Greece said "no (Οχι)” to Italy’s surrender demands almost eclipses Greek Independence Day; not surrendering and fighting back is in the national psyche. All to say, Greeks are an intensely independent and proud people.

Their perception of themselves is that they are productive in contrast to descriptions of their economy which have accompanied their recent budgetary woes.