2 February 2016

Seizing the ‘One Belt, One Road’ opportunity

February 2, 2016

AP"The ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative of Xi Jinping’s government is likely to become the lynchpin of Chinese engagement with the world." Picture shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with the Chinese President at the Sa'dabad Palace in Tehran, Iran. The two leaders signed several agreements, including on the OBOR.

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ could potentially allow India a new track on its own attempt to integrate South Asia.

The central feature of much of the post-World War II American external engagement has been the security of its energy interests. Likewise, recent conversations with Chinese scholars, Communist Party of China members and officials indicate that the ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative of Xi Jinping’s government is likely to become the lynchpin of Chinese engagement with the world. If, to understand American foreign policy of the years past, many have ‘followed the oil’, to decipher Chinese interests going forward, we may just have to ride the Belt and the Road.

Don’t shoot the messenger, Israel

February 2, 2016

I will always stand up to those who challenge Israel’s right to exist, just as I will always defend the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own

In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, 2016 has begun much as 2015 ended — with unacceptable levels of violence and a polarised public discourse. That polarisation showed itself in the halls of the United Nations last week when I pointed out a simple truth: history proves that people will always resist occupation.

Some sought to shoot the messenger — twisting my words into a misguided justification for violence. The stabbings, vehicle rammings and other attacks by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians are reprehensible. So, too, are the incitement to violence and the glorification of killers.

Nothing excuses terrorism. I condemn it categorically.Fifty years of occupation

Govt plans to defuse ticking bank bom

With the bad loan crisis casting a shadow on the ability of banks to lend as and when private sector investment picks up, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is deliberating on a proposal to set up an asset reconstruction company with equity contribution from the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
It’s learnt that the Union Finance Ministry and Niti Aayog have separately pitched for “taking the tumour (of non-performing assets or NPAs) out” of the banking system. Apart from making balance sheets look better, a recapitalisation will enable banks to service the growing credit needs of the economy.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has convened a meeting in mid-February of experts, including from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to discuss ways to operationalise an asset reconstruction company, or ARC. The IMF is expected to share its global experience on a relief programme for troubled assets.

An ARC acquires bad loans from banks and financial institutions, usually at a discount, and works to recover them through a variety of measures, including sale of assets or a turnaround steered by professional management. Relieved of their NPA burden, the banks can focus on their core activity of lending.

“There has been a lot of discussion within the government on the crisis in banking. The RBI, too, has taken some tough action during the last year-and-a-half. But bank NPAs continue to be the ‘white elephant’ in the cupboard. Too little has happened all this while to pull the elephant out,” a senior government functionary, who did not wish to be named, told The Indian Express.

U.S. considers re-merger of India, Pakistan desks

February 1, 2016 

This will be a reversal of the de-hyphenation policy started by Bush.
Seven years after the State Department was restructured to ‘de-hyphenate’ U.S. relations with India and with Pakistan, it is considering a reversal of the move.

De-hyphenating refers to a policy started by the U.S. government under President Bush, but sealed by the Obama administration, of dealing with India and Pakistan in different silos, without referring to their bilateral relations. It enabled the U.S. to build closer military and strategic ties with India without factoring in the reaction from Pakistan, and to continue its own strategy in Afghanistan with the help of the Pakistan military without referring back to India.

‘Active’ consideration
A proposal to re-merge the office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) back with the Bureau of South and Central Asia (SCA) that handles India, the rest of the subcontinent and Central Asian republics is under “active” consideration, senior-level sources told The Hindu.
The re-merger proposal is ostensibly timed with the international troops pullout from Afghanistan.

** How Larry Page’s Obsessions Became Google’s Business

JAN. 22, 2016 

Three years ago, Charles Chase, an engineer who manages Lockheed Martin’s nuclear fusion program, was sitting on a white leather couch at Google’s Solve for X conference when a man he had never met knelt down to talk to him.

They spent 20 minutes discussing how much time, money and technology separated humanity from a sustainable fusion reaction — that is, how to produce clean energy by mimicking the sun’s power — before Mr. Chase thought to ask the man his name.

“I’m Larry Page,” the man said. He realized he had been talking to Google’s billionaire co-founder and chief executive.

“He didn’t have any sort of pretension like he shouldn’t be talking to me or ‘Don’t you know who you’re talking to?’” Mr. Chase said. “We just talked.”

* A pilot responds: No, General Petraeus, airpower isn’t the answer in Afghanistan

JANUARY 19, 2016 

Seriously. Did retired Army General David Petraeus forget his doctoral training at Princeton?

For those unaware of his background, he wrote a 328-page dissertation called “The American military and the lessons of Vietnam: A study of military influence and the use of force in the post-Vietnam era,” which earned him a doctorate in international relations in 1987. In it, he essentially makes the argument (ironic now) that military leaders are more cautious in the use of military force due to their experiences of fighting an insurgency in Vietnam. Additionally, Petraeus also famously led the writing of The US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (“FM-3-24″) and he was hailed a hero for his role in crafting the Iraq Surge (something that can now be debated given the rise of the Islamic State, ex post facto). Seeing how Petraeus is considered the brains behind the “COINista” (population-centric counterinsurgency) movement, why is he changing his tune (incorrectly) about fighting insurgents?

Inside India's Afghanistan Part 2: Want AK-47, fake currency? Get to Malda

January 29, 2016

In Malda, fake currency is easily delivered at your door step, it is as easy as ordering lemonade.

On Thursday, India Today Television showed you how paddy has been replaced with opium as the main crop in West Bengal's Malda. In few parts of India opium farming is permitted for medicinal purposes. But in Malda it is neither legal nor regulated. That hasn't stopped farmers from shifting en masse from cultivating rice and wheat to growing poppy. Today, opium farming is the most lucrative cottage industry in Malda worth almost Rs 3200 crore.

In the second part of our investigative series on Malda, which has now earned the dubious moniker of India's Afghanistan due to the thriving opium farming, fake currency and arms trade, we focus on the huge fake currency racket being run from this region.

Why the Dalai Lama may be India’s noblest resident

Ramachandra Guha 
Jan 31, 2016 

For a man who has suffered so much, the Dalai Lama is altogether without bitterness. 

Unlike the airport in my home town, Bengaluru, or the airports in two cities I visit often, Mumbai and Delhi, the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport in Kolkata is run not by a private firm but by the Airports Authority of India. This must be why, unlike in Bengaluru, Delhi or Mumbai, as one approaches the security check counters of the Kolkata airport, one is confronted by a sign-board listing all those who are exempt from frisking and having their bags x-rayed.

So far as I recall — I haven’t been to Kolkata for about a year now — that board listed 18 individuals who enjoy privileges the rest of us are denied. Most were defined by the post they held. They included the President and Vice President, the Chief Justice of India, and governors and chief justices of states. One omnibus category was ‘those under SPG protection’; another, ‘holders of the Bharat Ratna’. Only two of these exempted individuals were listed by name. These were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Robert Vadra.

1962 – The War That Wasn’t book review: A Himalayan debacle

Shiv Kunal Verma
January 31, 2016

An immaculately-researched study of how warriors paid, while netas and babus got away clean in the 1962 war against China

WE HAVE, unfortunately, not seen too many dedicated scholars of military history on our shores. This is despite the fact that India has never lacked historians of the highest quality. Even though we have had academicians and scholars who have documented wars and battles, we still lack writers and analysts who have assessed military events with the same level of dedication and commitment that general historians have given to their fields of study. Sadly, India has too few writers like Alan Clark, who covered the titanic Soviet-German conflict in the last world war (Barbarossa), or Hugh Trevor-Roper, who analysed the fall of Nazi Germany and the Red Army’s triumphant capture of Berlin in his seminal study, The Last Days of Hitler (1947). Even Hugh Thomas, who was not a military historian, did a commendable job on the military aspects of the Spanish Civil War in his remarkable book.

How Pakistan’s Zia Handed The Baton Of Bigotry To The Next Generation

31 Jan, 2016

In her book Purifying the Land of the Pure: Pakistan’s Religious Minorities, writer-politician Farahnaz Ispahani discusses the choices made by the successors of Muhammad Ali Jinnah that has led to the current state of religious intolerance and persecution of minorities. Edited excerpts:

For thirty years after Independence, Pakistanis at least debated the role of Islam in matters of state, even as the political balance gradually shifted against secular and pluralist ideas. Once General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq seized power through a military coup in 1977, debate was terminated and replaced by arbitrary and forced Islamization. Zia changed laws by decree, imposed draconian punishments based on medieval interpretations of Islam, silenced secular critics and changed school curricula to pass on his bigoted worldview to the next generation.

Hardline clerics with limited followings now preached on national television, and orthodox religious schools (madrasas) proliferated with state and foreign funding. Islamist militias, trained to fight the Communist occupation in Afghanistan, also turned their guns on non-Muslims, Ahmadis and Shias within Pakistan, often with a nod from Zia’s officials and political allies. If the 1947 Partition virtually cleansed Pakistan of Hindus and Sikhs, Zia-ul-Haq’s decade-long dictatorship marked the beginning of a period of heightened sectarian violence, in which all but the most obscurantist Muslim sects and groups were targeted…

China’s Bumpy New Normal

Joseph E. Stiglitz, recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001 and the John Bates Clark Medal in 1979, is University Professor at Columbia University, Co-Chair of the High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress at the OECD, and Chief… read more

JAN 27, 2016 7SHANGHAI – China’s shift from export-driven growth to a model based on domestic services and household consumption has been much bumpier than some anticipated, with stock-market gyrations and exchange-rate volatility inciting fears about the country’s economic stability. Yet by historical standards, China’s economy is still performing well – at near 7% annual GDP growth, some might say very well – but success on the scale that China has seen over the past three decades breeds high expectations.

There is a basic lesson: “Markets with Chinese characteristics” are as volatile and hard to control as markets with American characteristics. Markets invariably take on a life of their own; they cannot be easily ordered around. To the extent that markets can be controlled, it is through setting the rules of the game in a transparent way. 

China's Recent Struggles and Proposed Strategies Moving Forward

On January 7th China's renminbi devalued 0.5% to 6.5646 per dollar, the lowest it's been valued against the US currency since March 2011. Following this news, the Shanghai Composite dropped 7% in a matter of 30 minutes before officials shut down the market prematurely. Paired with the recent announcement of China's 6.9% GDP growth, their slowest in 25 years, questions have been raised over the country's stability and potential moving forward.

Worries over China's growing debt, changing demographic structure, and weakening ability to effectively use government policies have pushed many economists and Chinese officials to project tougher years ahead. Furthermore, the total capital outflows for the year 2015 have been estimated at as much as $1 trillion, according to Bloomberg, which is only hurting investor confidence more. Many are still skeptical of the reliability of China's growth figures and these findings have only strengthened worries. Dropping oil prices and shaky commodity markets have contributed to a plunging Shanghai Composite, which YTD has erased all gains and ended lower by 444.667 points.

Chinese officials hope to ease credit to consumers moving forward and propel this sector of the economy, though they face a balancing act of not putting too much downward pressure on the yuan. Much of the worry rests on the amount of money leaving the country in search of safer investments, though Chinese officials are considering lowering the reserve requirement ratio to encourage more lending at home, namely through a higher level of consumption by consumers. Exporters have also began holding their earnings in USD, as opposed to converting them into yuan, which has fed into the fear held about the country's future potential. The biggest concern of investors has been the lack of communication of the People's Bank policies, as well as confidence in their ability to uphold the currency.

5 Unique Chinese Weapons (and Why They’ve Built Them)

By Leo Timm
January 30, 2016

China's new ZTQ light tank in Tibet. (Sina Military Network)

Chinese military hardware has a tendency to be dismissed as second-rate knockoffs of Soviet Cold War models and stolen Western tech, like the Soviet-built “Chinese” aircraft carrier, or the two Chinese fifth-generation jets under development that closely resemble the American F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters.

China reorganizing military to close gap with US

January 31, 2016

Troops from the U. S. Army and Air Force demonstrate ways to secure and evacuate casualties to their People’s Republic of China People’s Liberation Army counterparts during the Disaster Management Exchange held at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wash., Nov. 20, 2015. 
Lt. Col. Jason Shelton, plans officer, I Corps, gets some hands-on learning on the use of some of the machinery used by soldiers in the People’s Republic of China People’s Liberation Army during emergency and disaster relief efforts at the Disaster Management Exchange held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Nov. 16-21, 2015.

A new report released on Wednesday highlights the vulnerabilities the Pentagon has in space, and calls for a shift in strategy to safeguard it. 

China’s armed forces are undergoing a sweeping five-year reorganization aimed at creating central control over the military’s nearly autonomous branches and creating a more lethal fighting force to close the gap with U.S. capabilities, analysts say.

Trump, China, And Lessons For India

31 Jan, 2016

Why Trump's comments on Chinese economic nationalism cannot be ignored, especially by India

Donald Trump, the surprising front-runner in the race for the presidential nomination in the Republican Party, has been haranguing about how China is “killing” the United States in trade. Needless to say, the chorus of globalist, cosmopolitan elite immediately dumped on Trump, bringing up the shop-worn clichés about the wonders of free trade.

Still, Trump soared in the polls because his message resonated with the felt experience of thousands of blue-collar workers in the United States. Indeed, recent polls have shown that Trump draws heavy support from the industrial heartland, from secular blue-collar workers, not church-going conservatives. Yet, Trump may have hit on more than just the fears of the unwashed. A recent study by top mainstream economists (Autor et al) shows that trade with China has had deeply depressing effect on the long-term prospects of workers displaced by Chinese competition. So, what does this all have to do with India? 

The Army And Its President

JANUARY 28, 2016

To keep the armed forces happy, President Sisi is giving them Egypt’s economy. 

A year and half since taking office, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continues to enjoy a broad base of popular support thanks to his zero-tolerance policy on Islamism, his grandiose nationalist development projects, and his tight grip on public discourse. But popular support can be fickle, and unlike Hosni Mubarak, his predecessor in authoritarianism, Sisi doesn’t have a dominant political party to mobilize on his behalf. In fact, he doesn’t have any formal political institutions behind him at all; his abrupt rise to power through what was essentially a popular military coup never afforded him that opportunity.

While the country’s new parliament has an all-star cast of high-profile Sisi supporters, most ran as independents and have yet to assemble into a reliable, lasting coalition, much less a single party with as much political clout as Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. When the going gets tough,

Why the 1648 Peace of Westphalia treaty merits scrutiny today

Alan Philps
Friday, January 29, 2016 1

Henry Kissinger, right, with president Richard Nixon, in Vienna in 1972.

One-page articleWhen foreign policy experts put their minds to ending the Syrian war, they often reach for the history books and the example of the treaties which ended religious conflicts in Europe in the 17th century. As Syrian peace talks are due to start in Geneva today, with few observers seeing a chance of a breakthrough, it is worth looking at how Europe brought an end to the Thirty Years War in 1648.

The mere mention of that long and bloody conflict is enough to spread alarm and despondency. Is the Arab world really set for a generation of warfare in its heartland? That certainly seems to be the feeling among the tens of thousands of Syrians who are trekking northward to Europe, having despaired of any chance of a speedy return to their homes.

New nuclear reactors are being built a lot more like cars

January 26, 2016

At its birth, nuclear power was a closely guarded national enterprise, only accessible to the most prosperous nations. But over the last 50 years it has evolved into a robust international market with a global supply chain. Not only are more countries starting or considering new nuclear plants, a great many more countries are contributing to their construction.

According to data from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 66 nuclear reactors are under construction around the world. Dozens more are in various stages of planning.

The vast majority of new reactors are being built in China, which has invested in nuclear power in a way not seen since the United States and France first built out their capacity in the 1960’s and 70’s. China’s 2015 Five Year Plan calls for 40 reactors to be built by 2020 and as many as ten more are planned for every year thereafter. Fifteen other countries around the world are also building reactors.

The Chinese sprint toward nuclear power is along a path toward becoming a major exporter of nuclear technology and expertise. In addition to adopting western designs, China also has its own reactor designs. Plants based on those designs are also under construction both China and in Pakistan. Other countries are considering them. At the same time China has upgraded its capacity to produce pressure vessels, turbines and other heavy manufacturing components—all of which it is expected to begin exporting.

How Diverse Is Britain's Military?

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

How diverse is Britain's military today?

According to the Ministry of Defence, there are 15,550 females serving across the armed forces today, accounting for 10 percent of military strength. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic account for 7 percent of all personnel serving in the military - 10,680 individuals in all.

This chart shows female and BAME representation in the British military in April 2015.

You will find more statistics at Statista.

Russia and Ukraine

By: Hugo Spaulding

Deterring Russian aggression is the top U.S. military priority in Europe in EUCOM’s new theater strategyreleased on January 26. U.S. European Command (EUCOM) pledged to build the defensive capabilities of Eastern European NATO members and non-NATO partners facing the threat of Russia revanchism. EUCOM argued that rotating U.S. troops into Europe was an insufficient substitute for an “enduring forward deployed presence” and limited the U.S.’s ability to contribute to regional security. The U.S. has roughly halved force levels forward deployed in Europe since 2004, leaving approximately 65,000 in theater in 2015. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that “new investments” to bolster European security were included in his fiscal year 2017 defense budget request. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile called for the establishment of a “cooperative and constructive” relationship with Russia in his newly released 2015 annual report and revealed that NATO may soon hold its first formal talks with Russia since June 2014.

He also announced plans to increase its presence in Poland after the July alliance summit in Warsaw and revealed that defense spending cuts among NATO allies in Europe had “practically stopped” in 2015. Poland announced plans to station the first three brigades of its new national guard on its border with Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, the site of the westernmost Russian military base. The Polish defense minister also hosted his Lithuanian and Ukrainian counterparts to discuss the anticipated launch of a joint brigade in January 2017, a formation that will increase the interoperability of Ukraine’s forces with the transatlantic alliance. Secretary General Stoltenberg stressed that the alliance’s efforts to strengthen its defenses while re-engaging Russia did not present a “contradiction” and instead fostered “mutual respect.” Moscow’s envoy to NATO nevertheless accused the alliance of creating a new “iron curtain” by strengthening its defenses in Eastern Europe and promised Russian retaliation against efforts to upset the regional “military equilibrium.”

Pikettys Book And Macro Models Of Wealth Inequality

from the Chicago Fed

-- this post authored by Mariacristina De Nardi, Giulio Fella, and Fang Yang

Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century is, in the author's own words, a book about the history of the distribution of income and wealth. Among other interesting and important facts, the book quantifies the evolution of wealth inequality and wealth concentration over time and across a number of countries.

Wealth is highly concentrated, and its distribution is skewed with a long right tail; a small number of very rich individuals hold a large share of total wealth in the economy. The book documents that the share of aggregate wealth in the hands of the richest individuals displays a U shape over time, trending downward for most of the twentieth century and then increasing from the 1980s onward. In other words, wealth has become more concentrated over the past 35 years.

Although Piketty discusses a number of mechanisms affecting wealth inequality - the role of tax progressivity, top income shares, and heterogeneity in saving rates and inheritances - he singles out a "fundamental force for divergence" in the size of the difference between the post-tax rate of return on capital and the rate of output growth. According to this mechanism, a higher post-tax rate of return increases the rate at which past accumulated wealth compounds, thus magnifying wealth inequality. Conversely, a higher rate of output growth reduces wealth concentration by increasing labor earnings and, therefore, saving by individuals whose main source of income is labor earnings.

Massive Fiscal Transfers, The Only Chance For Survival Of The European Union

Written by Laurentiu Nicolae

Germany and other richer European states oppose massive fiscal transfers inside the European Union. They wrongly think that poorer EU member states may reduce the gap between them and the richer side of Europe through 'reforms'.

It is just wishful thinking. Germany itself managed to keep its Eastern side (the former GDR) afloat only through enormous fiscal transfers, maybe the biggest ones in the history of mankind. West Germany flooded East Germany with trillions of Deutsche Marks, then Euros: pensions, benefits, procurements, everything was financed in East Germany on a par with West Germany, using West's money.

The German narative for Eastern Europe proves wrong again and again. They wrongly supposed that granting only the freedom of movement and some meager founding would be a panacea for Eastern Europe. They imagined that poor people from the East would work in the West only for a while, saving money and then returning in their native countries to invest their savings into new businesses. That assumption was completely wrong.

GAO: Feds' Einstein Program Comes Up Short

January 29, 2016 

The U.S. government's intrusion detection and prevention program known as Einstein has limited ability to detect breaches of federal information systems, according to a new Government Accountability Office report

"It doesn't do a very good job in identifying deviations from normal network traffic," says Gregory Wilshusen, the GAO director of information security issues who co-authored the audit of the Department of Homeland Security's National Computer Protection System, or NCPS, which includes Einstein.

Einstein comes up short, according to the report, because it relies on known signatures - patterns of malicious data - to identify intrusions rather than a more complex anomaly-based approach, which compares network activity to predefined "normal behavior" to identify deviations and identify previously unknown threats. 

How Apple's 'thermonuclear war' on Google has changed since Alphabet

JANUARY 29, 2016

The search engine giant, which recently reorganized under the name Alphabet has seen its market value soar and invested in moonshot bets such as self-driving cars. Meanwhile, analysts have wondered about Apple's future, as smartphone sales slip and both companies vie to be No. 1 in schools.

In an interview with biographer Walter Isaacson before his death in 2012, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs venomously described his feelings toward Google’s Android operating system, arguing that Apple had originally developed its technology.

“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product," he said. "I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

Five Years On, The Spirit Of Tahrir Square Has Been All But Crushed

from The Conversation -- this post authored by Lucia Ardovini, Lancaster University

Five years ago, the chant "El‑sha'ab, yureed, isqat el‑musheer!" ("the people want the fall of the regime!") resounded through the streets of Cairo, marking the start of a popular uprising that saw one of the region's longest-standing dictators deposed in just 18 days.

The so-called Egyptian revolution of 2011, part of the wider trend of the Arab Springs or Arab Awakening, was seen by many as being as significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall because of its potential implications for both the country and the region. However, five years on, it seems as if little has changed in Egypt - and the country's proud revolutionary spirit has been almost completely wiped out.

The demands made by Tahrir Square's revolutionaries haven't been met - and in some cases they have been downright betrayed.

NSA’s ANT Division Catalog of Exploits for Nearly Every Major Software/Hardware/Firmware

NSA’s ANT Division Catalog of Exploits for Nearly Every Major Software/Hardware/Firmware

After years of speculation that electronics can be accessed by intelligence agencies through a back door, an internal NSA catalog reveals that such methods already exist for numerous end-user devices.

When it comes to modern firewalls for corporate computer networks, the world’s second largest network equipment manufacturer doesn’t skimp on praising its own work. According to Juniper Networks’ online PR copy, the company’s products are “ideal” for protecting large companies and computing centers from unwanted access from outside. They claim the performance of the company’s special computers is “unmatched” and their firewalls are the “best-in-class.” Despite these assurances, though, there is one attacker none of these products can fend off — the United States’ National Security Agency.

Law of Armed Conflict, Attribution, and the Challenges of Deterring Cyber-attacks

January 28, 2016 

Recent history is full of events demonstrating the serious effects of cyber-attacks and the prominent role they play in global events. Incidents such as the 2010 Stuxnet attack on an Iranian Uranium enrichment facility, the 2008 Russian cyber-attack on the country of Georgia, the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, and the 2015 discovery of a substantial compromise of the United States Office of Personnel Management are just a few recent examples of the significant and dangerous role cyber operations play in world conflicts. The United States possesses the most powerful and technologically advanced military forces in the world and has successfully deterred most conventional attacks against its homeland. Yet when it comes to cyber-attacks, the Sony and OPM incidents show the U.S. has proven seemingly unable to deter these attacks and remains notably vulnerable to attacks in cyberspace. Traditional models of deterrence such as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) have worked well with nuclear weapons but applying these traditional models to cyber-attacks becomes challenging when one considers the difficulty of attribution and the limitations of operating within the confines of the international Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC).

This research examines the unique new cyber battle space and explains why it poses a significant threat to the U.S. It studies attribution and how difficulties in this area create significant issues for deterrence of cyber-attacks. LOAC is explored with consideration of how these international laws apply to operations in the cyber domain. Finally, the research will show that if the U.S. continues to apply LOAC to cyber conflicts and remains unable to definitively attribute attacks, it will be unable to deter future cyber-attacks. 

The other side of the CGSC story: Some of our Army officers are functionally illiterate

JANUARY 5, 2016

By “Flash Override” 

I would like to take the discussion regarding CGSC even further. Yesterday you heard from the top of the class. But there is another side to this story. Unlike the other armed services, who only send 25 percent or fewer members of each year group to resident staff college, the Army sends almost 50 percent of each year group. This results in functionally illiterate Army majors coming to CGSC. 

Think I’m exaggerating? Then you need to see the test scores from the Nelson-Denny Reading Exam. The Nelson-Denny, which has been around since 1929, measures the reading and comprehension ability of students. Approximately five percent of incoming U.S. Army students at CGSC each year score so low on the Nelson-Denny that they could fairly be classified as functionally illiterate. 

Military Ethics and Moral Injury: experts on dilemmas of war


JANUARY 30, 2016

Innovations in warfare keep adding to the philosophical conundrums surrounding battlefield conduct.

Sane people resist killing, whether from physical repulsion or moral scruple. In times of war, they must be primed to do it — with flags, drums, bagpipes, trumpets, battle cries, propaganda, exhortations to patriotism and honour, the berserkers’ frenzy. Even so, soldiers’ compunction causes them to desert, to shoot to miss, to drop bombs wide.

And yet, once the blood is raised the opposite also happens. Fighting goes out of control, to the death and on to mutilation. Rape of unarmed non-combatants is a timeless instrument of war, and the razing of houses, towns and crops the final act of total war.

The ancient world privileged what it thought of as the “necessities” of power, honour and revenge. “Laws are silent amid the clash of arms,” Cicero wrote. In the Christian era, leaving aside the Crusades and the colonial wars of conquest for a moment, the idea was planted that restraint was morally required.

In defense of the Army’s Command & General Staff College: A rebuttal to Tom

JANUARY 4, 2016 

By MAJ John Q. Bolton

Best Defense guest respondent

In a recent post, Foreign Policy’s Tom Ricks accuses the Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC) of treating its faculty in a “knuckle-headed way.” Using an internal staffing document Ricks proceeds to make broad generalizations about the College’s education priorities, staff, and, by implication, its raison d’etre.

Feeling the need to write a rebuttal to Ricks came as a surprise to me. He is one of my favorite authors; indeed, reading Fiasco during my first deployment in 2006 brought me some needed perspective as we cleared IEDs daily around Baqubah, Iraq. Moreover, in The Generals, Ricks taught me to question the military’s professional education paradigm along with the Army personnel system.

But his perennial criticism of CGSC is, at least in this case, off-base and borders on hyperbole. This article examines Ricks’ criticism before moving on to a general assessment of CGSC. The memo Ricks uses as evidence that, “the inmates are running the asylum,” is, in fact, a planning document that simply acknowledges that the CGSC curriculum, like many educational and governmental programs, has become too bloated.

COIN Logistics: Let’s Do Camels

January 31, 2016 

After reading Capt. Jason Topshe’s article “Evolving the Marine Corps for Irregular Warfare,” I was struck by his unashamed call for the return to pack animals. It piqued my interest - I’m a Logistics Officer by trade. It wasn’t until the day after Topshe’s article was published - when I read David Kilcullen’sCounterinsurgency - that it all came together and I realized how right Topshe was.[i]

Dr. Kilcullen has six maxims to manage company-level counterinsurgency (COIN) operations, and for me the most interesting one of the six is “travel light, and harden your combat service support.” It blew my mind when I interpreted his proscription - I don’t think he meant “slap armor onto hundreds of Palletized Loading Systems and ride over the roads looking for IEDs with a week’s worth of food and ammunition on the back;” I felt he meant train your CSS (Combat Service Support) soldiers to be fighters and make it easy to integrate these CSS soldiers into the overall COIN fight. Mass of CSS isn’t important; it’s the quality of your CSS soldiers that will make the difference.

Report calls for sweeping Army changes while praising Colorado Springs brigade

January 30, 2016

The 100th Missile Defense Brigade, a National Guard unit based out of Colorado Springs, has been cited as a "very good example" of how the Army can integrate full-time and part-time forces. U.S. Army photo. 

The Army needs to better focus on missile defense and anti-aircraft duties and should cut two infantry brigades to beef up other areas that have withered since the 9/11 attacks, retired Gen. Carter Ham and a panel of experts wrote in a report to Congress that will help shape the Army's future.

The National Commission on the Future of the Army also chided lawmakers about the need for stable Army budgets and called for better integration of part-time troops so the Army can respond to emerging threats including rising Russian aggression.

In a Friday interview with The Gazette, Ham, who led the panel, said he expects some resistance to the 63 recommendations it issued, especially cutting infantry brigades.