7 December 2015

The Thai Monarchy and Its Money



BANGKOK — The Crown Property Bureau, which manages the Thai royal family’s properties and investments, controls assets that may amount to as much as 1.9 trillion baht, about $53 billion. It is the biggest corporate group in the country and one of the biggest landholders in the capital. It is also one of the more mysterious arms of the Thai government.
The agency was created in 1936 and remained under civilian supervision until 1948, a period of ascendancy for royalists, when control was handed to the crown. Little is known about how it spends its money. It does not make its financial statements public. Six of its seven managers are appointed by the king. Although the finance minister chairs its board, the government exercises no oversight over its operations.

The Crown Property Bureau’s annual returns today probably near $840 million (assuming its portfolio is managed according to best investment practices, with one-third held in low-risk assets such as cash, bank deposits, bonds and government securities). It holds more than 21 percent in Siam Commercial Bank, Thailand’s oldest and most influential bank, and 30 percent in Siam Cement Group, the country’s biggest industrial conglomerate. Its equity wing has a controlling stake in the luxury hotel group Kempinski and minority stakes in the Thailand-based subsidiaries of Honda and other Japanese manufacturers, as well as in domestic firms that run shopping malls, hotels, insurance businesses and fast-food chains.
By law, the Crown Property Bureau’s annual income may be disposed of “at the king’s pleasure.” Its returns are tax-exempt.

Learning to channel a force multiplier

Posted at: Dec 7 2015 Raghu Raman


The impasse in the ongoing one rank one pay protest can be broken by innovative thinking. Stakeholders must explore out-of-the-box options. The data made available by the armed forces can help the State to cut the Gordian knot.

THE one rank one pension (OROP) stir has reached a stage most soldiers, bureaucrats and politicians are familiar with. In military parlance, this situation is called an impasse where neither side seems to be making much headway. Now it's a question of who has more stamina to last out the war of attrition. Despite posturing by veterans, eventually the state (with its infinite capacity to linger endlessly) is more likely to win. But leaving a demoralised armed forces in its wake, this will be a pyrrhic victory indeed. It need not be. 
The Indian Armed Forces have always more than earned their keep. Here are some thoughts on how they can continue to do so if only stakeholders were willing to look at imaginative options instead of taking trite intractable positions. 

The Indian Army is the world's largest demographic experiment whose invaluable results can be monetised in countless ways. This 1.3-million strong standing force is mostly organised by regiments based on demographics. Gurkhas, Rajputs, Madras, Jat, Maratha and so on for over 32 Infantry Regiments, 62 Armoured regiments and several hundred battalions. In other words, we possess the data base of millions of soldiers with their annual medical records over several decades. 

This includes their exact place of birth and nurturing. Add retired soldiers and this database multiples manifold. These millions of records are an incredible control group. Though the soldiers come from different districts and villages of India, their state of physical fitness, the calorific value of their diet and their physical exertions are exactly the same. 

In the hands of data scientists this is veritable gold. Analytics can yield genetic strengths and weaknesses of specific locations. Medicinal effects and side- effects on different populace. Bone density, calcium, mineral, iodine deficiencies, water-related problems and hundreds of other data points that can assist in medical and pharmacological research are just waiting to be tapped. The entire pharmaceutical industry will be an eager customer for these insights and that's just one of the uses. These insights can be used to steer health programmes, create custom drugs for specific regions, and study the effects of pollution or contamination of food and water sources. The possibilities and potential are limited only by imagination. And for a government that advocates technology in every breath, technical imagination should not be a problem.

What India Can Teach the World About Fighting ISIS


India’s experience combating terrorism within its region bears lessons for those fighting the Islamic State.
By Neelam Dao, December 04, 2015

The global reach of terrorism in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been on devastating display in three continents in just three weeks – from the downing of a Russian passenger aircraft over Mount Sinai in Egypt on October 31 to the attacks in Paris on November 13.

The threat of ISIS now looms so large that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has characterized the organization as “the gravest extremist threat faced by our generation and the embodiment of evil in our time.” To tackle this threat, U.S. President Barack Obama told the press on November 22, 2015 at the ASEAN summit in Malaysia that a broad global coalition of 65 nations to fight ISIS has emerged. However, rhetoric and bombings by Western powers aside, numerous other choices will determine the fate of ISIS and similar organizations. Crucial among them would be the willingness of western allies to contribute troops on the ground, the alignment of opposing objectives being pursued by different countries, the ability and willingness of the international community to curb the propagation of toxic religious creeds, and finally, choking off funds to terrorist organizations.

While the U.S.-led West seeks to forge a coalition to fight ISIS and simultaneously topple the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria, it is not eager to put its own troops on the ground. Therefore, it has encouraged countries in the region to engage ISIS. But the realities on the ground are complicated. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran have divergent objectives, particularly regarding the continuation of the Assad regime in Syria.

Month of remembrance - Britain and World War II's Indian casualties

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

November was Britain's month of nostalgic remembrance. It meant poppies, Queen Elizabeth in black at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, and smaller but no less moving services all over the country, including St Mary Abbots Church down the road in Kensington High Street. The Whitehall ceremony was slightly abbreviated this year in deference to Her Majesty's age. But remembrance was generally more inclusive with references to the Second World War's 89,000 Indian casualties. Highlighting racial unity, attention focussed on the friendship that binds the descendants of a British officer and the Sikh batman who saved his life on the Western Front.

It was in that context that a senior public servant wondered at a dinner party in St John's Wood why there should be a separate memorial for "non-white countries". He meant the Memorial Gates the Queen unveiled on Constitution Hill in November 2002. This is not what Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck - the Auk as many called him - had in mind when he wrote to Clement Attlee in June 1949 that a monument marking the Indian army's role in the Second World War would be "a mark of gratitude from the British people to those soldiers who served Britain and the Empire for 200 years". These were men, he said, who "putting their trust in us, fought and fell in our wars all over the Old World". Auchinleck wanted the monument in Green Park. Others suggested the South Bank. Whitehall consulted India and Pakistan whose governments wanted some say in the design. Nothing happened. The file was closed and put away. Britain had other priorities then, according to Yasmin Khan's excellent new book, The Raj at War, subtitled somewhat enigmatically A People's History of India's Second World War.

What intrigues me is the motivation of the soldiers Auchinleck sought to honour. No doubt he sincerely believed in the sepoy's faith in Britain's cause and identification with it. But was this true of all those who enlisted? It was different during the First World War when leaders like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi urged Indians to enlist as a national duty in return for dominion status when peace was established. But all such illusions had gone by September 3, 1939, when the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, announced that India was at war. Convinced Britain's "moral case (was) so strong" it ought "to make an appeal to anyone who is prepared to approach it with an open mind," Linlithgow had no interest in knowing whether Indians agreed. "Heavy of body and slow of mind, solid as a rock and with almost a rock's lack of awareness", according to Jawaharlal Nehru, he had declared war without even telling any Indian.

Stopping dangers from the sea


Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Times do change. Till now, it is navyversus navy, army vs army and fighter plane vs fighter plane. Yet the conventional scenario faces challenges from technology, new ideas and the concept of minimizing the loss of trained men in war. Not that what has been referred to above was a fixed formula, as ever since the arrival of the air force on the combat scene, the increased synergy of the land and air warriors ensured the capture of land and the subjugation of enemy forces more easily than ever before. Although the navy was perceived to be a silent service, yet the reality is that it may be silent but it is most effective. History shows that it has done it all: "Attack, capture, hold." The navy conquered the world and built empires.

However, with changing times, naval ship design and deployment are also changing, along with their future role in war. A cursory glance around the geography of South Asia and naval forces operating in the vicinity would give a picture of the emerging geopolitical-cum-geostrategic scenario.

Of the three conventional naval war tactics, 'fleet-in-being', 'blockade' and 'decisive battle', one is interested to try analyse what is in store for the future of the three main navies, east of Aden - Iran, Pakistan and India, which together constitute a long, continuous and virtually contiguous arch of land of 5700 nautical miles (approximately) with a shoreline along the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and through to the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and then to the upper stretch of the Bay of Bengal, overseeing the critical sea route and the oil supply line of the world.


December 6, 2015 
I can’t think of many other targets of high-value that need to be obliterated. This qualifies as one of them. 
Latest pictures show Isil training camp in Afghanistan The images show masked terrorists training near Afghanistan’s mountainous border with Pakistan

One of the pictures released by the terrorist organsiation Photo: www.longwarjournal.com
By Foreign StaffT 05 Dec 2015
Hooded terrorists pose with handguns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. They wear camouflage print and the black flag of jihad flies in the background.
The latest pictures of terrorists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) are familiar except for one twist. They were taken not in the deserts of Syria or Iraq, but in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, where Isil’s latest “province” spans the border with Pakistan.
Isil has declared the birth of “Wilayat Khorasan” – or Khorasan province – in the area of Afghanistan that was once al-Qaeda’s heartland.
Islamic State recruits at the so-called “Sheikh Jalaluddin training camp.” Photo:www.longwarjournal.com
Existing radical groups, including the Haqqani network and factions of the Taliban, have declared allegiance to Isil. One training camp is named after “Sheikh Jalaluddin” – or Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the extremist network that carries his surname, who died last year.

Mystery Surrounds What Has Become of the Wounded Chief of Afghan Taliban

Agence France-Presse, December 4, 2015

Confusion surrounded the fate of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was shot in a firefight during an argument with commanders of the divided movement, after an Afghan government spokesman tweeted Friday that he has died. 
The Islamist group has vehemently rejected claims by militant sources and intelligence officials that Mansour was critically wounded in a shootout at an insurgent gathering near the Pakistani city of Quetta.

A government spokesman on Friday went further, claiming that Mansour did not survive the clash, which threatens to derail a fresh regional push to jump-start Taliban peace talks.
“Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour died of injuries,” Sultan Faizi, the spokesman for the Afghan first vice president, wrote on Twitter without citing any evidence.

He did not immediately respond to AFP requests for more information.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the claim as “baseless”, telling AFP that Mansour was alive and well. The group kept longtime chief Mullah Omar’s death secret for two years.
The reported clash, which exposes dissent within the Taliban’s top ranks, comes just four months after Mansour was appointed leader in an acrimonious leadership succession.

If confirmed, his death could intensify the power struggle within the fractious group and increase the risk of internecine clashes.
“If Mansour has died, the Taliban will do everything in its power to keep that a secret for as long as possible,” Kabul-based military analyst Atiqullah Amarkhil told AFP.

The curse of the law Victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy law are mostly the poor and the helpless


Written by Khaled Ahmed,  updated: Dec 5, 2015, 
Only one death sentence was overturned in 2013-14. Today, 17 innocent citizens are waiting for their trial to end while 20 others are consoled that they have to serve life sentences.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered a historic “observation” on October 27 when it decided that asking for “improvements” in the country’s blasphemy law was not objectionable. Imagine, it took a court verdict to enable a citizen to criticise what is the most draconian law in Pakistan, snagging innocent citizens to death.
The court actually stated: “Any call for reforming the blasphemy law (Section 295-C Pakistan Penal Code) ought not to be mistaken as a call for doing away with that law; and it ought to be understood as a call for introducing adequate safeguards against malicious application or use of that law by motivated persons.”

The court was hearing the case of a murderer who can’t be hanged despite a conviction because he had killed a man after blaming him for blasphemy in 2011 — then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. There is the street power of conservative lawyers and religious sects favouring him. In the background, there are more powerful elements with outreach, which protect them and scare normal citizens, including the judges — the terrorist organisations Pakistan first gave birth to and now fears.

5 Myths About Chinese Investment in Africa


XiJinping just announced announced billions of dollars worth of aid and financing for Africa. Here’s why the Chinese president is sure to be misunderstood.
DECEMBER 4, 2015

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Santa Claus arrived early in South Africa — on a Chinese jet. This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed multiple business deals and brought offers of billions in new grants, loans, export credits, and investment funds as African leaders met for the sixth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, a triennial extravaganza that showcases development and security issues of concern to Chinese and African leaders.

Not surprisingly, Xi’s second presidential visit to Africa, which also included a stop in Zimbabwe, has refocused attention on China’s expanded role on the continent. The story has dominated the airwaves and has been splashed across broadsheets around the world. But as is so often the case with China-in-Africa coverage, much of it should come with a warning label: Consume with a grain of salt. Here are five of the most dangerous — and persistent — myths about Chinese engagement in Africa that are reliably recycled by the press.

The first — and most damaging — myth is that China is in Africa only to extract natural resources. There is no question that the continent’s vast natural resource endowments are a big draw for Chinese firms — just as they are for Western oil and minerals giants like Shell, ExxonMobil, and Glencore. Yet even in oil-rich countries like Nigeria, this is far from the whole story. In 2014 alone, Chinese companies signed over $70 billion in construction contracts in Africa that will yield vital infrastructure, provide jobs, and boost the skill set of the local workforce.

THE FIRST GLOBAL CIVILIZATION The Big China Story Nobody’s Really Covering


The Chinese Discovery of the World is one of major stories of our age: For the first time in China’s 2,500 years of history, millions of its citizens are venturing beyond their home towns and cities and out beyond the boundaries of the Middle Kingdom itself. According to theWall Street Journal, economic troubles mean that fewer Chinese have been traveling abroad this year. Yet despite the tourist slowdown, a large number of Chinese citizens are still going abroad:
Spending on travel abroad fell to $19 billion in October, a chunky drop from the $25 billion spent in September, according to services trade data published Monday. The level is still above the $16 billion spent a year ago in October, but the year-over-year growth rate is ebbing to around 20% from more than 60% in the first half.

The least adventurous of these travelers go with tour companies of the “if today is Tuesday, this must be Belgium” variety. But more and more are coming for longer stays, getting an appreciation for cultures and civilizations very different from their own.
This matters. China has always been the most insular of the world’s great civilizations. At one end of the Silk Road, and cut off by geography from the other great centers of civilization, China never experienced the constant interplay between high civilizations and great empires that characterized, for example, both European and Middle Eastern history from ancient times. China never lived in the presence of the Other, sometimes admired, sometimes feared, in the formative way that German, Latin, Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Iranian, and Indian civilizations did.

When the outside world burst into Chinese awareness in the 19th century, it came as a horror show. Weakened by isolation and introspection, China struggled for 150 years to adapt and to maintain its independence and dignity. Now, thanks to China’s economic development and the technological progress that allows human beings to travel the world, millions of Chinese people are immersing themselves in other cultures and civilizations.

China Seeks Wider Global Reach With African Loans, Naval Presence: Analysts


China on Friday announced it would extend $60 billion in debt facilities to African countries as well as writing off existing loans in a three-year plan to extend its influence in the region.
President Xi Jinping unveiled the plan in conference with leaders at a meeting of the African Union, while pledging at the same time not to “interfere in the internal affairs” of sovereign African nations.

But analysts said Beijing is now engaged in a long-term strategy to expand its political and military influence around the world.
Xi’s announcement comes after China said last week it was in talks with the Horn of Africa country Djibouti to build a permanent military logistics base to support Chinese peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions.

Beijing has repeatedly said it does not want military bases abroad, nor does it seek political interference in the “internal affairs” of other countries.
African critics of China’s already extensive presence in the continent say Beijing favors Chinese companies for major infrastructure projects, and imports Chinese workers rather than creating jobs for Africans.

But Xi told the two-day Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in South Africa that Beijing wants to “address issues holding back Africa’s development.”
“[These are]: inadequate infrastructure, lack of professional and skilled personnel, and funding shortages,” according to Xi, who addressed the conference following a visit to Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe’s government signed 10 economic accords with Beijing.
Long-term strategy

On security, Britain and France can be leaders of Europe

With Germany playing just a supporting role, and the continent facing multiple crises, the war on Isis could define how Europe rebuilds itself

Friday 4 December 2015 

It’s no surprise that Britain’s decision to extend its military efforts against Islamic State with airstrikes in Syria has been met with a sigh of relief in France. It was appreciated both as a vindication of François Hollande’s strategy of reaching out to allies after the Paris attacks, and as a welcome break from what had been perceived in recent years as a worrying British strategic withdrawal from European security issues.
From a French perspective, that was starkly illustrated by Britain’s refusal to join airstrikes in Syria in 2013, at a time when the chances of getting President Assad to the negotiating table were possibly at their highest. However, where to go from here is now the key question.

There is no escaping the fact that the UK and France are two medium-sized powers with constrained resources. On their own, the influence they can bring to bear on the Middle East has its limits. As the US vice-president, Joe Biden, said recently to reporters: “We [the US] have been doing it all, basically.” How the two European nations manage to frame the campaign against Isis – a danger that is international and domestic – will go a long way to defining whether the continent can pull out of its doldrums and build itself up as a global force.

The backdrop to this is that America’s commitment to European security has altered as it focuses on other, mostly Asian, issues. Asking how Britain’s decision to strike in Syria can affect the overall picture in fact raises the question of what Europe’s impact can be. Breaking out of nationally focused debates on strategy, however passionate, appears urgent. Europe’s crises are all interconnected: the violence and radicalisation spewing out of the Middle East, the rise of populist movements, the difficulties in addressing the refugee crisis, and the growing assertiveness of Russia. For a while now, Germany has come across as the natural leader on many issues. But European security is an area where France and Britain could have greater influence.

Analysis of Expanding ISIS Terror Operations in Europe

ISIS’s Campaign for Europe

Institute for the Study of War, December 4, 2015
ISIS is executing a campaign to terrorize and polarize Europe. The organization has inspired, resourced, and directed attempted and successful attacks in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Turkey since January 2014. ISIS aims to punish countries acting against it in Iraq and Syria. It also seeks to polarize the West by inspiring state and social backlash against European Muslim communities. ISIS believes increased cultural strife will destabilize Europe and encourage Muslims to join it in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS maintains an extensive support network across Europe to advance this polarization campaign. ISIS benefits from historic recruitment and attack cells developed by al-Qaeda (AQ) and by ISIS’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). ISIS has also developed its own network of recruiters who have helped thousands of Europeans travel to fight with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Finally, ISIS has inspired a widespread base of digital support through its media outreach. ISIS frequently releases recruitment videos targeted at specific European nationalities. The foreign fighters in these videos echo the September 2014 call of ISIS’s spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani to “kill any disbeliever, whether he be French, American, or from any of their allies.” ISIS’s supporters have attempted or executed at least nineteen inspired attacks since January 2014 as a result of this encouragement.

The graphic below depicts all attacks inspired or coordinated by ISIS in Europe from January 2014 to December 4, 2015. It also marks locations where ISIS-linked individuals have been arrested between those dates. Locations with more than two arrest events are marked with a number and a single icon. The graphic additionally reflects which countries have increased national threat levels in the wake of the Paris attacks, and shows where ISIS has directed public threats or recruitment calls. Individuals inspired by and responsive to ISIS are active across Europe, particularly in Western countries with high populations of foreign fighters. This activity contrasts with ISIS-linked arrests and attacks in Turkey, which reflect spillover from ISIS’s campaigns in Iraq and Syria rather than ISIS’s campaign to attack the West.

Russia and Ukraine

By: Hugo Spaulding

Russia’s standoff with NATO in Europe escalated as the alliance moved to include Montenegro. NATO extended an invitation to the western Balkan state of Montenegro to begin formal accession talks to become the alliance’s 29th member-state on December 2. Russia termed the invitation a “confrontational step” and promised “retaliatory actions” aiming at restoring “parity” between Russia and NATO. The accession process may take several months, opening the opportunity for political destabilization in a country which only gained independence from Russian ally Serbia in 2006. Montenegro’s pro-Russian political opposition has played a leading role in weeks of intermittently-violent anti-government demonstrations that have included condemnations of possible NATO accession. Russia may respond to NATO’s planned expansion by stoking political instability in Montenegro and moving forward with previous plans to bolster security ties with neighboring Serbia. Russia may also expand its destabilization operations in the former Soviet Union, including eastern Ukraine.

This geostrategic escalation between NATO and Russia in Europe comes as Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet that had crossed into its airspace, the first such incident in over sixty years. Continued Russian posturing against NATO, including a recent violation of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, has prompted the U.S. to increase its own investment in advanced drones, long-cruise missiles, and strategic bombers, according to a senior U.S. defense official. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford also spoke with his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov in the first top-level military-to-military communications between the two countries since 2014. Escalating tensions have nevertheless driven splits among European NATO allies. Germany in particular has sought to smooth relations with Moscow. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that Russian has played a definite “constructive” role in reaching a political settlement to the Syrian Civil War and later called upon NATO to revive a special communication channel with Russia that had been suspended following the annexation of Crimea in March 2014. The Russian military interventions in Ukraine and Syria have further widened the rift between eastern member-states in the former Soviet sphere and Western Europe, ensuring that closer dialogue between NATO and Moscow will support the Kremlin’s grand strategic objective of weakening the alliance.

See: “Russian Security Update: November 25 - December 1, 2015,” by Hugo Spaulding, December 1, 2015;“Russian Security Update: November 18 - 25, 2015,” by Hugo Spaulding, November 25, 2015; “Russia Security Update: November 11 - 18, 2015,” by Hugo Spaulding, November 18, 2015; Putin’s Information Warfare in Ukraine: Soviet Origins of Russia’s Hybrid Warfare, by Maria Snegovaya, September 21, 2015. Direct press or briefing requests for Russia and Ukraine analyst Hugo Spaulding here.


To Defeat ISIS, Focus on Its Real Sources of Strength


Metastasizing abroad may help ISIS revitalize its campaign for recruits and money in Iraq and Syria.

December 4, 2015 

In the past several weeks, ISIS poured out its violence on three of the group’s main enemies across the globe. First, Russian authorities concluded that a terrorist attack brought down a civilian airliner in late October, likely an ISIS response to the country’s recent major intervention in Syria. Then ISIS claimed responsibility for a major attack against a Hezbollah-controlled area in Lebanon, demonstrating strategic depth and capability against its regional rivals. One day later, it conducted a series of horrific coordinated attacks in Paris.

But ISIS’s recent turn to international terrorism comes against a broader backdrop of stagnation and military losses in Iraq and Syria. In the past six months, the anti-ISIS coalition, the Iraqi government, and U.S.-backed Kurdish forces have enjoyed some significant successes against the group. Recent ground operations have expanded Kurdish control in northern Syria and in western Iraq. Furthermore, over a third of the group’s leadership has been eliminated over the past year. ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was injured in an airstrike and was reportedly incapacitated. His heir apparent was killed in a separate airstrike. Earlier this month, so-called “Jihadi John,” ISIS’s British executioner, and ISIS’s leader in Libya were both killed in U.S. airstrikes.

Despite these successes, the swath of territory ISIS controls in its self-proclaimed caliphate is more than sufficient to provide a sanctuary for terrorist attacks in the region and overseas. Moreover, ISIS’s succession scheme and extensive bureaucracies limit the impact of the coalition killing or capturing its senior leaders.

Islamist terror, security and the Hobbesian question of order


Liberals often worry about the need to protect citizens from the state. Yet in the age of global terror, the risk posed by failed states is by far the greater danger. 

Among the consequences of the atrocities in Paris – many of them impossible to foresee so soon after the terrible events – one seems reasonably clear. The state is returning to its primary function, which is the provision of security. If the SAS has been on the streets of London and Brussels under lockdown, these are more than responses to the prospect that further attacks may occur. What we are witnessing is the rediscovery of an essential truth: our freedoms are not free-standing absolutes but fragile constructions that remain intact only under the shelter of state power. The ideal liberal order that was supposedly emerging in Europe is history. The task of defending public safety has devolved to national governments – the only institutions with the ability to protect their citizens.

The progressive narrative in which freedom is advancing throughout the world has left liberal societies unaware of their fragility. Overthrowing despots in the name of freedom, we have ended up facing a situation in which our own freedom is at stake. According to the liberal catechism, freedom is a sacred value, indivisible and overriding, which cannot be compromised. Grandiose theories of human rights have asserted that stringent limitations on state power are a universal requirement of justice. That endemic anarchy can be a more intractable obstacle to civilised existence than many kinds of despotism has been disregarded and passed over as too disturbing to dwell on.

But one modern thinker understood that a strong state was the precondition of any civilised social order. With his long life spanning the English Civil War, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was convinced that only government could provide security against sectarian strife. Anyone who wanted the amenities of “commodious living” had to submit to a sovereign power, authorised to do whatever was necessary to keep the peace. Otherwise, as Hobbes put it in a celebrated passage in his masterwork Leviathan (1651), there would be “no arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

Muslims Say They Know How To Reform Islam And Now Is Time To Actually Do It


Islam needs a “reformation” that can only be achieved by Muslims speaking out against extremism and promoting human rights, said a panel of Muslim public figures on Thursday.
“If Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries are to be protected, we must demand the protection of non-Muslims within Muslim-majority countries,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, former member of the Pakistani Parliament, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

Ispahani was part of a panel of Muslims speaking out against ISIS and Islamist extremism. The panel agreed that Muslims and Western democratic countries must not deny that Islamist extremism is behind acts of terrorism and human rights abuses worldwide, but rather work to counter that ideology.
“As Islamic extremists gain power and rule, human rights abuses including oppression of women, homosexuals, and religious minorities, as well as governmental tyranny, sectarian warfare, and bigotry inherent in Sharia law come to the fore,” Ispahani said.

Muslims should promote “modern pluralistic values” and “human rights” as established by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, she added.

“Right now there is no clear ideological campaign to fight ISIS and to fight Islamism.”

“We have all heard ‘Where are the Muslim voices?’” that are speaking out against ISIS, she noted, adding that “here we are, and we have others like us.”

Kurdish Intelligence Chief Talks About the War Against ISIS on the Frontlines in Iraq

On the Front Line Against Islamic State

Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal, December 4, 2015

Dohuk Province, Iraq
Kurdish intelligence chief Masrour Barzani’s forward base on the Iraqi-Syrian border isn’t easy to reach. On a bright Sunday morning, two members of his staff drive me there from Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. We race four hours around Kurdistan’s barren hills, passing numerous checkpoints, a circuitous route that avoids the tentacular territory that Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has carved out of Iraq and Syria.

It is late November, and the Kurds have just severed one of those ISIS tentacles by capturing Sinjar, 15 months after the jihadist army overran the Iraqi city and forced Kurdish Peshmerga forces to beat a hasty retreat. The Kurds’ comeback at Sinjar means the main highway linking ISIS-controlled Mosul, Iraq, and the so-called caliphate’s capital in Raqqa, Syria, is now cut off.

Security is tight at the base. Mr. Barzani, who heads the Security Council of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, is dressed in fatigues, with a pistol at his waist. We sit in a trailer that serves as a conference room. A portrait of Kurdish-nationalist hero Mustafa Barzani—Mr. Barzani’s grandfather; his father is KRG President Masoud Barzani—hangs above opulent furniture with golden, rococo details that look oddly out of place. Liberated Sinjar lies 40 miles southwest. A little beyond it is an ISIS front that stretches for 650 miles.

“The Kurds have broken the myth of ISIS,” says Mr. Barzani, who speaks English fluently. Including Sinjar, Peshmerga forces have retaken 7,700 square miles of territory and nearly double that if you count the successes of Syrian Kurds across the border. The Kurds’ front-line efforts combined with coalition airstrikes, Mr. Barzani says, have removed about 20,000 ISIS fighters from the battlefield.

The Latest Videos from Around the World Is Political Islam Compatible with Democracy?


The Latest Videos from Around the World

Is Political Islam Compatible with Democracy? 

Posted on November 25, 2015

Al Jazeera English ask Tunisia’s Ennahdha Party co-founder Rachid Ghannouchi about the future of democracy in the country - from Al Jazeera English

Press Has Made Mistakes While Reporting the New Encryption Debate, And Some of Them Are Bad

How not to report on the encryption ‘debate’

Trevor Timm, Columbia Journalism Review, December 4, 2015

Rarely has a public debate been ignited so fast as the one about whether to ban online encryption after the tragic Paris attacks two and a half weeks ago. And rarely has the coverage of such a debate been so lacking in facts—especially considering that encryption is a tool reporters increasingly need to do their jobs.

The deplorable terrorist attacks in Paris occurred on the evening of Friday, Nov. 13. By the end of that weekend, news organizations had published dozens of articles linking the Paris attackers with the use of encrypted messaging apps that prevent the companies that make them—and therefore governments—from easily accessing the messages their users send back and forth. By the following Monday, there were literally thousands of articles questioning whether such apps should be outlawed, spurred on by the Sunday talk shows that gave intelligence officials license to speculate on the “likely” use of encryption as a catchall excuse for why the attacks had not been detected, and to condemn the technology without a single skeptical follow-up.

Why were officials saying it was “likely”? Not because they had actual evidence, but because they assumed that if authorities didn’t know about the plot in advance, the terrorists must have used encryption. (Yes, that was the actual explanation Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr later gave reporters when pressed.) Meanwhile, an early New York Times article on the attackers’ supposed use of encryption—sourced to anonymous European officials, whose assertions became the launchpad for many of the weekend’s think pieces—was quickly rewritten and the anonymous reference to encryption removed (without a note to readers about why).

“We think that’s a likely communication tool because we didn’t pick up any direct communication” (2/2)

By Monday night, the Times made clear in its lead story about the still-raging encryption debate that there was “no definitive evidence” that encrypted communications had been used by any of the attackers, but by then the terms of the discussion were already set, and the CIA had no problem continuing its epic game of blame deflection throughout the week.

Infographic Of The Day: The Rise Of The Cybercriminal


Cybercrime is on the rise all over the world. Protecting yourself from increasingly more sophisticated cybercriminals is becoming more difficult. Cybercriminals can get to you on your computer, tablet, cell phone, or via your credit cards and debit cards.

Why Inking a Global Climate Deal Is Such a Tricky Business


It doesn’t help that only 18 percent of Chinese think climate change is a very serious problem.
NOVEMBER 30, 2015

At a time when global publics are distracted by concerns about terrorism, in a city still reeling from the carnage of terrorism, negotiators from over 190 nations have gathered in Paris for the 21st United Nations-led conference on climate change. Their avowed goal is an international agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Whatever the distraction of recent terrorist events, a Pew Research Center surveyconducted this year finds that publics around the world overwhelmingly see climate change as a problem and that many believe it is a very serious one. Moreover, a median of nearly eight in 10 people across the 40 countries surveyed say they support their government signing a deal in Paris to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

But concern about climate change is notably less intense among the publics of the nations most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. Publics are more divided about whether rich countries should do more than developing nations to address global climate change, a particularly contentious diplomatic issue. And ideological and partisan divisions over global warming within a number of democracies serve notice that, if a deal is struck in Paris, implementation may face obstacles at home.

Around the world, a global median of 54 percent say climate change is a very serious problem, with 85 percent citing global warming as at least a somewhat serious challenge. Few people around the world believe global warming is not a problem at all: 12 percent in the United States and 10 percent in Australia being among the most notable exceptions.

Egypt’s new masters are wrecking its long tradition of religious freedom

Jack Shenker

Through the revolution, many Egyptians sought to remake the state. Now Sisi is trying to remake the people’s identity by exploiting division
Thursday 3 December 2015 1
Almost 1,000 years ago, under the Fatimid caliphate, which at its height stretched from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian peninsula in the east, a potter sat down in his workshop in Cairo and made a bowl. The techniques he used – from the shape of the clay to the metallic glaze and lustre decoration applied after firing – were distinctly Islamic. The priest he painted on the bowl’s interior is unmistakably Christian.

The bowl is one of several objects currently on display at the British Museum that tell a story of flow between faiths in Egypt. In a yellowed letter, nearly a millennium old, a Jewish trader sings the praises of his Muslim business partners; pages from medieval Hebrew and Christian bibles sit side by side with those of an eighth-century Qur’an. Egypt’s history of religious pluralism is rich and nuanced. So too, unfortunately, is the track record of those in power who have exploited and manipulated religious differences down the centuries to serve their own ends.
Today, as the country approaches the fifth anniversary of the start of its revolution, this tension between synthesis and separation is apparent once more.

When the uprising that would eventually topple former dictator Hosni Mubarakerupted in January 2011, it brought Muslims and Christians together, side by side in the streets. Much has been made of the unity Egyptians displayed in their fight against the state’s ageing patriarch and his security forces; what receives less attention is that, for many of those involved, participation in the protests also represented a rebellion against other patriarchs much closer to home: officially sanctioned religious leaders from both faiths who had either ignored the growing unrest or directly prohibited their followers from taking part.

Agreements on Commercial Cyber Espionage: An Emerging Norm?


By Matthew Dahl Friday, December 4, 2015, 

When the U.S. and China reached an agreement in late September not to engage in commercially motivated cyber espionage it was viewed as a significant step forward in cybersecurity relations between the two countries. A few weeks later, China reached the same deal with the U.K., and soon after Germany announced that it would likely enter into a similar agreement. Suddenly, the progress initially made between the U.S. and China, took on global significance as governments representing four of the top five economies in the world addressed the issue of cyber espionage carried out for commercial gain. The rapid succession of these deals raises an interesting possibility: we may be moving towards the formation of international law norms against economically motivated cyber espionage.

[Note: As a primer, “The Nature of International Law Cyber Norms” is an excellent general background on the existence and formation of norms in international law and how they are formed.]

There is currently little by way of international law norms pertaining to activities in cyberspace; in fact, there is little international law of any type applicable to the domain. Generally, norms arise from either treaties or customary international law. The agreements that the U.S. and U.K. have reached—and Germany hopes to reach—with China are not treaties because the agreements do not create any legally binding rights between the parties. In particular, the U.S.-China deal cannot constitute a treaty because it was made without the “advice and consent” of the Senate, as constitutionally required. It is possible, however, that these agreements lay the foundation for the formation of customary law against commercially motivated cyber espionage.

ARGUMENT Stop Saying Climate Change Causes War The dangerous ethical implications of letting humans off the hook for their conflicts.

DECEMBER 4, 2015

an interview with Sky News on Nov. 23, Britain’s Prince Charles made headlines when he informed listeners of a direct link between climate change and the ongoing civil war in Syria. “There’s very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria … was a drought that lasted for about five or six years,” he said. His remarks came just weeks after U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced that climate change was “directly related to the growth of terrorism” and is “the biggest national security threat facing the United States.”

Both sets of remarks received widespread news coverage. But neither the Prince of Wales nor Sanders was breaking new ground. They were each echoing a refrain that has wound its way through op-eds and magazine articles, and books with titles like Climate Wars. As Gwynne Dyer, Climate Wars’ author, put it: “For every degree that the average global temperature rises, so do … the number of failed and failing states, and very probably the [incidence of] internal and international wars.”

This way of foretelling humanity’s destiny has been embraced by journalists and politicians, popular science writers and academics alike: Global warming means certain war, famine, and death — with the how and when sometimes calculated with incredible specificity. The National Geographic Channel’s 2007 documentary Six Degrees Could Change the World, for instance, explained that at 2 degrees Celsius warmer, urban Bolivians will move into rural areas in search of water; at 4 degrees hotter, we are set to experience worldwide political upheaval, economic disaster, and armed conflict as heat-weary migrants seek climate refuge in places like Northern Europe and New Zealand. Humanity’s future is laid out for us, literally one degree after another.

Social Media as Force Multiplier


Recently, James Carafano wrote a though-provoking article based on the premise that American leadership has lost the ability to think deeply and well. This is not an uncommon refrain, nor is the solution he proposes — improved education — but, in elucidating his point, he makes the following argument:
Next, the quality of the education matters. Here both form and content have to be addressed. It might be “deeply unfashionable,” writes Molly Worthen, but emails, Facebook, blog posts, videos and PowerPoint slides aren’t good tools for teaching deep thinking. Daniel Levitin comes to the same conclusion in his book. Deep thinking is stimulated by prolonged attention to a subject that requires activities such as reading books; listening to live, interactive lectures; and experiencing Socratic teaching. If school officials are not building programs around these time-consuming, contemplative and challenging activities, they are just delivering diplomas.

He’s right, of course, but hidden in his truth is a deeply problematic issue regarding “emails, Facebook, [and] blog posts.” Most fundamentally, he misframes the issue as it regards these media, describing an implicit expectation that deep thought and deep learning must come from a single experience and that these activities are not meaningfully additive to the reading of books, interactive engagement, Socratic teaching, etc. And in this regard, he is simply wrong. So, what is the value of these electronic media to those looking to develop deep knowledge?
A Word on Definitions

To begin, and to make sure we’re all on the same argumentative page, what do we mean by social networking? The dictionary, that most reliable of sources, defines it as “the development of social and professional contacts; the sharing of information and services among people with a common interest.” Like many definitions, this doesn’t necessarily clear things up, not least because under this definition prolific and brilliant correspondents such as Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus were a social network. While this is accurate, it also isn’t the focus of the contemporary conversation; one suspects Carafano would read with interest their correspondence and view that reading as deep thinking. These legacy networks all still exist, but there are new technologies that facilitate the creation of new (or if not entirely new then at least new in scale) networks. So, what we’re talking about here are the new, technologically-enabled forms of social networks and social media. But “social media” isn’t much better as a terminology, since the same objections apply. More and Erasmus interacted in a social network via the available social media of letters.

Text Analytics Gurus Debunk Four Big Data Myths

 Barbara Thau Contributor l 11/14/2015 
Could text analytics be the unsung hero of big data?

Text analytics mines reams of often ephemeral, unstructured data — from a voice recording of a customer call to emails or a Tweet — for meaningful insights that can inform business decisions, be it a branding strategy or a product launch.
And while retailers have hailed big data as the key to everything from delivering shoppers personalized merchandise offers to real-time metrics on product performance, the industry is mostly scratching its head on how to monetize all the data that’s being generated in the digital era.

One point of departure: Over 80% of all information comes in text format, Tom H.C. Anderson, CEO of OdinText, which markets its text analytics software to clients such as Coca-Cola told Forbes.
So if retailers, for one, “aren’t using text analytics in their customer listening, whether they know it or not, they’re not doing too much listening at all,” he said.

Anderson and chief technology officer Chris Lehew shared how OdinText’s clients are leveraging what the startup dubs its “next generation” text analytics software, while also putting a few big-data myths to rest.

Myth: Big Data Survey Scores Reign Supreme

“A lot of people think that common structured data, especially survey data, is the gold standard, especially if it comes with a large sample size,” Anderson said. “Many retailers and other businesses glommed onto something called the ‘Net Promoter Score’ about a decade ago when the term was first coined by Bain & Co consulting, and frequently touted as linked to business growth. It was believed this one survey question, ‘how likely are you to recommend our business/service to a friend or colleague?’ asked on an 11-point scale, was the only customer satisfaction number you needed.”

China ‘Behind Massive Cyber-Attack’ On Australian Government, State Broadcaster Claims


by REUTERS, 2 Dec 2015

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A major cyber-attack against Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology that may have compromised potentially sensitive national security information is being blamed on China, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported on Wednesday.

The Bureau of Meteorology owns one of Australia’s largest supercomputers and the attack, which the ABC said occurred in recent days, may have allowed those responsible access to the Department of Defense through a linked network.

The ABC, citing several unidentified sources with knowledge of the “massive” breach, placed the blame on China, which has in the past been accused of hacking sensitive Australian government computer systems.

“It’s China,” the ABC quoted one source as saying.

The Bureau of Meteorology said in a statement on its website that it did not comment on security matters, but that it was working closely with security agencies and that its computer systems were fully operational.

The Australian Federal Police declined to comment on the matter. The Department of Defense said in a statement that it was barred by policy from commenting on specific cyber security incidents.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra could not be reached for comment.




In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, French President François Hollande’s declaration of war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s deployment of a new permanent “expeditionary force” to Iraq make it clear that “small wars” have not yet become a thing of the past. As these limited operations move forward, policymakers and military leaders in America and Europe have to prepare for the very real possibility that mission creep will bring the need to wage another large-scale counterinsurgency.

The counterinsurgency (COIN) debate is one of the most controversial and divisive in recent strategic memory, and I will not weigh in on the utility — or futility — of COIN writ large. Rather, I suggest that as we consider the future of irregular warfare, we fundamentally rethink our approach to the historical case studies that have stood at the center of American counterinsurgency since 2007. For U.S. military leaders on the hunt for new strategic orientations ahead of the surge in Iraq, the challenges the French Army faced in Algeria seemed to offer remarkable parallels. In the wake of the U.S. Army’s publication of its counterinsurgency field manual FM 3-24, critics and defenders vigorously debated the extent to which American military commanders looked (or should look) to the French experience in Algeria to glean insights for population-centric COIN. For all the heated discussion about the Algerian War’s appropriateness as a case study, however, we’ve forgotten to examine French strategy itself. Our understanding of French “pacification” efforts in Algeria remains at best underdeveloped and at worst critically misinformed.

Before we can draw any practical lessons from the Algerian War, we need a deeper, more analytic, more rigorously researched history of French strategy. And we can gain it by altering our perspective on the war in three ways.

What Norman Schwarzkopf Taught Me From War


By Gus Lee • 12/02/15 

I had a mentor who was committed, for the sake of others, to my moral being. He was four-star General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who, following his victory in Desert Storm, was known to an admiring world as The Bear.
In 1966, jobs were plentiful, The Sound of Music won Best Picture, the Beatles ruled radio, college cost $200 a year, a big-block Corvette Stingray was a daylight robbery at $5300, the national debt was 3% of today’s, and Boomers were pushing sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

I was at monastic West Point when we heard of a highly-decorated and scary new professor who’d been wounded in distant Vietnam. Sensing he’d land with the compassion of a tornado in a trailer park, those of us with low engineering grades began praying to avoid him.
No one achieves character without hardship; this was as easy as a self-inflicted root canal.

“Section, Ten-HUT!” A tall, hard, wide-shouldered, bear-like officer entered our 12-man bottom-scraping section. He had short-cropped light-colored hair, a deep tropical tan, and wore every medal we admired. He’d absorbed the sun and blotted it out. He was that guy.
“You are lazy, gutless wonders! Why are you down here?!” His anger was like a sharp right cross to the head. It quickly passed: I was a junior who was proficient in English, poker, the weight room and pranks, and was therefore logically full of myself. But my radiant indifference was a fly in the Bear’s ointment. He ordered me to report to him for correction.

He wore gray Academy sweats. Big forearms, a watch on each wrist, writing left-handed at a desk for smaller humans in tiny quarters filled with thick books written for big brains. A miniature fan riffled ranks of thumb-tacked notes on an organized bulletin board.
He opened with gentle banter: “Why don’t you study?” “What’d you learn from your dad?” “You’d hate to fail so why don’t you work on succeeding?” “You know the Harder Right – why not do it?” My puny excuses seemed to be making him physically ill. He coughed.

43 Books About War Every Man Should Read

War is unquestionably mankind at his worst. Yet, paradoxically, it is in war that men — individual men — often show the very best of themselves. War is often the result of greed, stupidity, or depravity. But in it, men are often brave, loyal, and selfless.

I am not a soldier. I have no plans to become one. But I’ve studied war for a long time. I am not alone in this.

The greats have been writing and reading about war — its causes, its effects, its heroes, its victims — since the beginning of written text. Some of our most powerful literature is either overtly about war or profoundly influenced by it. Homer’s epic poems are about war — first, ten years of battle against Troy and then ten years of battle against nature and the gods. Thucydides, our first great historian, wrote about the Peloponnesian War — the great war between Sparta and Athens. Rome was built by war and literature, and the world has been influenced by that ever since. The American Empire is no different — our men came home and wrote about the Civil War, about the Spanish-American War, about WWI, about WWII. A new generation has come home and has written (and is still writing) powerful books about the counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The study of war is the study of life, because war is life in the rawest sense. It is death, fear, power, love, adrenaline, sacrifice, glory, and the will to survive.

As Virgil put it, “the sword decides all.” We must learn how: the strategy, the motivation, defenses. We must understand and respect the darkness and the consequences: pain, death, evil, greed.

This is a post about the canon of books about war. Each book is about a different civilization, a different set of tactics, a different cause. But timeless themes always emerge. The lessons are always there. They do not — despite what the History Channel and school teachers try to make you think — pertain to flanking movements, or dates, or locations. I don’t really know those things. What’s the point? What matters is what we can take from them and apply to our own lives and society.
I’m certainly not recommending every book about war ever written, or even every book I’ve read on the subject, but instead a collection of the most meaningful. I’m sure I’ll miss some great books you’ve loved, so please suggest them in the comments.

The Obama Pentagon’s Disastrous Decision on Women in Combat


December 4, 2015 

With its decision mandating that the Pentagon open all combat jobs to women, the Obama administration has put social justice over combat readiness. Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made it clear that the military would be fully gender-integrated. “There will be no exceptions,” he said. “As long as they qualify and meet the standards,” women can serve in the infantry, in the special forces, and in any other military capacity in each branch of service, including the Marine Corps. 

Carter made this decision in spite of extensive evidence — put forward by the Marines — that mixed-gender units were less capable than their all-male counterparts. They were less accurate with their weapons, the women were twice as likely to be injured, and mixed-gender units were less capable of evacuating the wounded from the battlefield. Indeed, the strongest women were only as strong as the weakest men. A public and political class largely insulated from the realities of ground combat has become ignorant of its excruciating and unforgiving physical demands. Prolonged infantry operations — including operations common in the War on Terror — place immense strains on the mind and body.

Unit cohesion is critical, and physical breakdowns can be costly both to combat power and to unit morale. Moreover, given how beholden the administration is to the Left, there is no reason to believe that it will hold firm on physical standards if few women prove capable of joining and — crucially — thriving in the infantry environment. Experience with less demanding jobs in law enforcement and firefighting shows that the legal and political pressure to lower standards will be immense. Under the best of circumstances, combat effectiveness will be degraded.