25 February 2016

Does the U.S. military have too many senior officers in its ranks?

1. Armed Forces all over the world have similar problems.
2. Could something like the following be done for Indian Armed Forces. We do not have institutions like  CRS or GAO. Can the generously funded IDSA from MoD take up such issues. Unfortunately MoD does not take much interest in affairs military in cognitive domain and organisations like IDSA remain busy in writing/ thinking on Indo Latin American Relations, for example.  It may well be an important issue for MEA but should IDSA do such studies or they put their heads together for matters military. MEA funds lot of Think Tanks for their needs, IDSA may not become their work horse.
3. Your take on this?
4. Meanwhile read on.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service does not answer that question, but it explains why the question could arise, and provides relevant background for addressing it.

“While always very small in comparison to the total force, the general and flag officer (GFO) corps has increasedas a percentage of the total force over the past five decades.”

“GFOs made up about one-twentieth of one percent (0.048%) of the total force in 1965, while they made up about one-fifteenth of one percent (0.069%) of the total force in 2015, indicating that the share of the total force made up of GFOs increased by 43%.”

“Some argue that this increased proportion of GFOs is wasteful and contributes to more bureaucratic decisionmaking processes. Others counter that the increased proportion is linked to the military’s greater emphasis on joint and coalition operations, core organizational requirements, and the increasing use of advanced technologies.”

“This report provides an overview of active duty GFOs in the United States Armed Forces–including authorizations, duties, and compensation–historical trends in the proportion of GFOs relative to the total force, criticisms and justifications of GFO to total force proportions, and statutory controls.”

See General and Flag Officers in the U.S. Armed Forces: Background and Considerations for Congress, February 18, 2016.

Shuja Pasha Admitted ISI's Role In 26/11 Mumbai Attacks, Says Ex-CIA Chief

February 23, 2016
Source Link

WASHINGTON: Soon after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack the then chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) conceded that some of the powerful spy agency's retired members were engaged in training those involved in the heinous crime but refused to take action, a former CIA chief has said in a new book.

In his latest book 'Playing to the Edge', Michael Hayden, the former CIA Director, expressed his deep frustration of the "duplicity" of the Pakistani leadership when it came to taking action against terrorist groups in particular Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Haqqani network.

Arguing that the Pakistan Army is built to fight against India and not terrorists, the top leadership in the country, particularly those from its military in the past one decade, have repeatedly expressed its inability to take on the terrorist groups in the tribal regions as desired by the US, he wrote.

Referring to the Mumbai terrorist attack, Mr Hayden, who was the CIA chief till 2009, said it was very clear that there seemed to be so many Pakistani fingerprints on the atrocity.
"I began routinely harassing my counterpart in Pakistan, now Ahmed Shuja Pasha (the former director general of Military Operations, the Pakistan army's top operational post), on the phone, urging him to get to the bottom of the attack and to discuss it frankly with us," he wrote.

"We had no doubt that the attack was the work of LeT, and there was mounting evidence that preparation for and direction of the attack took place from within Pakistan, where LeT enjoyed the protection and support of ISI," Mr Hayden said.

Gen. Malik, Please tell the nation what Barkha did at Kargil — Jay Bhattacharjee

Jay Bhattacharjee writes an open letter to former Army chief General Malik who led the army in 1999 during the Kargil war. Read on…

General V.P. Malik (Retd.)
Former Chief of Army Staff
Panchkula (Haryana)

Dear General Malik : 23 February 2016

Sir, please allow me to state upfront, that I have been (and will continue to be) one of your admirers for a number of reasons. The first one, of course, is that, from Sept.1997 to Sept.2000, you commanded a 1.4 million strong Army that has protected and guarded our young Republic (which is, at the same time, an ancient and venerable civilisation) with the utmost commitment, valour and loyalty. For almost the entire Indian population (barring a minuscule minority), the nation’s armed forces are the most admired and venerated institution by a thousand miles (please pardon the hyperbole). No other institution comes anywhere remotely close, in this contest.
The other reasons are personal. You have a natural dignity, composure sang froid, and articulateness that are exemplary. Truly befitting a military leader. Then, of course, it is a matter of record that you led the Army to resounding victory (at an incredible cost) in a war that had everything stacked against it. This does not take away the magnificent contribution of our air warriors, the men in blue, who carried out very difficult operations to support their OG comrades. Your famous statement that the armed forces would do their best with whatever equipment and resources they had at their disposal, is still etched in my mind and brings back painful memories when I think of the Kargil war.

However, the reason why I am penning this letter to you is because of certain developments that are not of your doing. The provocation is the “open” letter sent a few days ago by a prominent Indian journalist, Barkha Dutt, to the Prime Minister. The communication has been uploaded on the internet portal of the media house where Ms. Dutt works (http://www.ndtv.com/opinion/a-letter-to-pm-modi-from-anti-national-sickular-presstitute-barkha-dutt-1279441).
As you can see, the title of this article is deliberately provocative and eye-catching. Nothing wrong in this, per se, since the media in our shores and in other countries derives its bread and butter from self-generated publicity,whether in the form of TRPs for TV programmes or the number of “likes” / “shares” for a written piece. However, the latest salvo of Ms. Dutt (BD) needs to be closely scrutinised and assessed. Please permit me, dear General, to spell out the broader concerns I have with this piece, before I come to the thrust of my letter to you.

.It is a matter of enormous mystery to me (and countless others) how BD and her employer company have survived, let alone prospered. If you remember, and I am sure you do, the episode of the Nira Radia tapes and how BD and her shenanigans were mercilessly exposed, you will surely ask yourself how this person continues in public life. In any other civilized, democratic country, she would have been hung out to dry and banished to the 4th Estate’s version of Siberia, to live in oblivion. In fact, BD’s shameless shenanigans were briefly featured in a crudely-crafted “apology” on her own channel and she was seamlessly “rehabilitated” in her job, where she continues till today. If anything, she has prospered and flourished, and her amour-propre has gone up in geometric progression. It is only in good old Bharat (and in some tin-pot banana Republics like North Korea, Haiti and some Islamic dictatorships) that miracles like this happen.

Rafale and F/A-18 - The Right Way Forward

By Sachin A
24 Feb , 2016

The MMRCA deal and its subsequent avatar in the form of an off-the-shelf purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets have been making news for a long time now. Of late, there have been a lot of contradicting statements by the defence minister, the Air Force chief, representatives of Dassault – the makers of the much talked about fighter, and other stakeholders about the outcome of the price negotiations. But, even after all this hype, one would wonder whether the government is doing the right thing by opting for the 36 fighters (2 squadrons) of the seemingly exorbitantly expensive Rafale, with a possible additional order for 18 fighters (1 Squadron).

…the purchase would do little to arrest the worrying shortfall in the IAF’s squadron numbers, not to mention that the original MMRCA requirement was for 126 fighters with a possible option clause for 60 plus additional aircraft.

North Korean Rocket Test Sparks International Revulsion

By Radhakrishna Rao
23 Feb , 2016

North Korea, described as a “rouge state” and “reclusive kingdom”, has done it once again. Defying the UN sanction and sparking widespread global revulsion, North Korea claimed that on Feb.7 it successfully carried out a rocket test.

…this rocket launch could be a cover for testing a long range ballistic missile. Indeed, the US Strategic Command has claimed that it had detected a missile entering space.

North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration, which described this accomplishment as an “epochal event,” said a long range rocket successfully launched an earth observation satellite, Kwangmyongsong-4. Further, it stated that the satellite entered into its pre-designated orbit ten minutes after a smooth lift off of the rocket.

The political dispensation in Pyongyang was quick to state that the rocket launch was a legitimate exercise in the use of space technology for peaceful, civilian purposes. However, the South Korean Defence Ministry said that there was no immediate confirmation whether the final stage of the satellite carrying rocket stage has successfully achieved the orbit.

Pathankot Attack: Oil, Globalization & Terror

By Shelley Kasli
Date : 23 Feb , 2016

Punjab, for many years, has been a transit point for drugs from Afghanistan. The drug money has become a major source of funding of elections in Punjab and over the time a well-organized drug cartel has come into existence with active connivance of politicians, police officers and drug lords. This drug money is used in financing militancy. To check militancy we will also have to control the drug problem.

The NIA probing the attack learned from the Gurdaspur (Headquarter) Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh after interrogations that he got paid in diamonds for every drug consignment smuggled across the border.

On the night of 31 December 2015, four men hijacked a multi-utility vehicle belonging to Salwinder Singh, a superintendent of the Punjab Police, in Dinanagar. In the process, they slit the throat of his jeweler friend Rajesh Kumar, who was later admitted to a hospital. The vehicle was found abandoned about 500 meters away from the airbase. On 2 January 2016, a heavily armed group attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station, part of the Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force.

Time to change the secessionist narrative in Kashmir

By Col Jaibans Singh
24 Feb , 2016

Five brave soldiers of the nation and one innocent civilian have lost their lives on the altar of mindless terrorist violence in the Kashmir Valley. A terrorist attack in Kashmir was expected due to a number of reasons.

First, security forces have been proactive in counter-terrorist operations all through the winter and have achieved considerable success. In the last month or so, more than 16 terrorists have been eliminated. Naturally, the terror set up operating in the valley would have been under pressure from their masters in Pakistan to retaliate.

Second, the manner in which the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) incident has played out in the national capital would have been perceived as an advantage by the terror strategists sitting in foreign lands. Exploiting the same with a daring strike in the heart of the Kashmir Valley was the next logical step for them.

Third, the political instability in the state due to inability of the political parties to put in place a credible government has given space to the separatist and terrorist ideologues to attempt reestablishment of their writ. Carrying out a daring terrorist strike is a good step in this direction.

Better news needed - How the economy is faring

Writing on the Wall - Ashok V. Desai 

I warned in my column on December 8, 2015 that this year would see the worst drought in a quarter century, quite possibly a famine if the government does not act intelligently in time. I now look at the economy, and have equally sombre news to convey about it.

The Central Statistical Office issued a press note towards the end of January with an embargo on publication, telecast or internet circulation till Magha 9, 1937 saka, a day better known as January 29. Buried in its last page was a mea culpa: it changed its recent figures of gross domestic product, net domestic product and gross value added, its new concept. It reduced GDP figures by 1.1 per cent for 2011-12, 0.4 per cent for 2012-13 and 0.6 per cent for 2013-14. It also raised depreciation figures, so the fall in net national product was larger for all three years.

Why did it do so? Earlier it used to base its estimates of industrial production on the annual survey of industry. It covered only registered firms - that is, firms employing over 20 workers, plus those employing 10-19 workers if they used electricity. It changed the sample coverage in 2012-13. The new scheme is complicated. Basically, it takes a sample of companies registered under something called MCA21, which makes all companies file their quarterly returns online. As far as I know, these returns cover financial results; presumably the CSO either deflates sales figures with some price index, or uses data of companies which also give physical production figures. It is also unclear if the output of unincorporated firms is covered.

Sharif 2.0

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
24 Feb , 2016

As reported in the media “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has accepted that the occupation of Kargil by Pakistani troops in the year 1999 was a misadventure and a stab in the back for the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, especially when the two countries were involved in a peace process at Lahore”. He said this while addressing a rally in Muzaffrabad, adding, “I would have said the same thing – he was certainly backstabbed …. But, who do I complain to about that now…. People of India and Pakistan are alike, except for the border in between. We both cherish Aloo Gosht delicacy.”

The ISI may be far more powerful than the IB in Pakistan but the latter would have kept Nawaz Sharif informed of the developments, thereby making him complicit to the Kargil intrusions.

Afghanistan: The Uncertain Impact of a Year of Transition

FEB 22, 2016 

A previous Burke Chair report has addressed the fact that it has now been a year since U.S. and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat forces formally left Afghanistan. It has also addressed the fact that a wide range of indicators warn that the Afghan government and Afghan forces are losing at many levels: politics, governance, economics, security, and popular support.

This report has been updated to include a wide range of additional indicators. This expanded overview of key data and metrics is available in a report available on the CSIS website entitled Afghanistan: The Uncertain Impact of a Year of Transition is available athttp://csis.org/files/publication/160211_afghanistan_failed_state_Wars.pdf.

This report also reflects the fact that the Obama administration is revising its plans for Afghanistan, extending the military train and assist mission from a planned end in 2016 to well beyond 2017, and gradually adapting the size and nature of U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan to reflect the fact that the various threats to the Afghan government and Afghan forces are gaining in military terms and in their political presence, control, and influence.

The trends shaping the war in Afghanistan are complex, and involve the civil dimension as much as the military one. They go far beyond the tactical issues that are the focus of many studies and media reports. Even with the additional data in the new Burke Chair report, it is still impossible to put all of the key variables in their proper context. There are many areas where reliable data and summary metrics are not available, or where summary maps, graph, and charts do more to reveal key analytic and policy differences than some clear conclusion about the course of the conflict and the outcome of the deep political, governance, and economic problems that divide the Afghan civil sector.

China Putting Surveillance Radars on Disputed Islands in South China Sea

Michael Forsythe
February 23, 2016

Possible Radar Suggests China Wants ‘Effective Control’ in Disputed Sea

HONG KONG — China may be building a series of radar facilities on artificial islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea, which would help it to establish “effective control” over sea and air in one of the world’s busiest waterways, according to a reportreleased this week.

The report, released on Monday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, based on satellite images taken as recently as Feb. 12, comes less than a week after the United States said that China appeared to have deployed surface-to-air missiles on another island in the disputed sea, parts of which are claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The possible radar facilities are far to the south of the missile batteries, on a series of artificial islands in the Spratly chain, closer to the shores of Vietnam, the Philippines and the island of Borneo than to China. In September, China’s president, Xi Jinping, speaking with President Obama at the White House, said that Beijing “does not intend to pursue militarization” in the Spratlys, or the Nansha, as the islands are known in China.

Last week, Wang Yi, the foreign minister of China, said that the country’s artificial islands in the South China Sea were being used for civilian purposes, pointing out that Beijing had built lighthouses and weather observation facilities there.

Seeing the Forest through the SAMs on Woody Island

FEB 19, 2016 

The recent deployment of Chinese surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to Woody Island is a notable tactical development, but a far more significant strategic signal.

Tactically, the HQ-9 batteries deployed to Woody Island could target aircraft at ranges up to 125 miles (200 kilometers), covering much of the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. Such air defenses are a core element of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) anti-access umbrella. China is rumored to have previously placed less-advanced defensive systems in the Paracels, and Vietnam on some of the Spratly Islands. However, imagery showing Chinese SAMs on disputed islands depicts a noteworthy step in the militarization of the Paracels because it shows the extension of China’s anti-access umbrella south from the mainland into the South China Sea.

On the other hand, Woody Island has long been prepared for air defenses using its 8,900 foot (2,700 meter) airstrip, radars, and aircraft shelters. PLA fighter aircraft flying from Woody Island would have a far greater range than the HQ-9 system. Moreover, fighter aircraft could challenge the freedom of overflight by foreign aircraft operating near the Paracels without resorting to actual combat. Mobile SAM systems are certainly less vulnerable than airstrips, but their deployment to Woody Island does not fundamentally alter the regional military balance.

Xi’s Master Plan for a Stronger, Leaner, More Lethal Chinese Military

February 23, 2016 

China continued to make waves in the South China Sea last week with itsdeployment of surface-to-air missile launchers and a radar system on the contested Woody Island. While this development undoubtedly challenges both the claims of littoral states and the U.S. regional presence, China’s actions should be thought of as part of a much broader agenda aimed at modernizing the capabilities and operations of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Beyond China’s posturing lies an important process of structural and organizational reforms that will shape the war-fighting capabilities of the PLA for the decade ahead. While a lot remains unknown, President Xi Jinping’s planned comprehensive reforms of the PLA appear to target the development of a leaner, stronger Chinese fighting force, an enhanced power projection capability, and an even greater focus on deterring threats along the periphery.

Blurred Lines — China’s competition with US resembles low-level warfare: Gertz

The era of US government policies designed to play down or dismiss growing strategic challenges from China seems to be ending. 

For the first time in years, the nation’s most senior intelligence official revealed that China now poses a regional security threat engaged in hostile activities that blur the line between war and peace. 

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, testified before the US Senate that the threat from Beijing is not limited to the large-scale buildup of both strategic nuclear and conventional forces. It includes new forms of competition involving information operations, cyber attacks, intelligence activities and other non-kinetic forms of warfare. 

Clapper testifies to Senate committee 

Clapper warned that China, along with Russia, is challenging the US for regional power and influence in ways that will increase competition, especially in vital sea lanes in Asia where trillions of dollars of commerce could be threatened. 

ISIS Struggles to Grow in Afghanistan

Slobodan Lekic
February 23, 2016

Islamic State struggles to grow in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — An offshoot of the Islamic State has failed so far to replicate its success in Syria and Iraq and is struggling to expand its footprint in Afghanistan.

Analysts attribute the group’s inability to expand rapidly to Afghanistan’s traditional resistance to foreign domination and to the fact that the group’s violent ideology doesn’t resonate among even the most conservative segments of society.

By contrast, the Taliban are a purely local guerrilla movement that has rejected any internationalist ideology. They have strongly resisted encroachment by Islamic State militants while continuing to fight the government they consider to be a U.S. vassal.

“The Taliban are the main danger to the (Afghan) national government, not Daesh,” Gen. John Campbell, the outgoing commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told reporters earlier this month, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group.

However, Campbell, who also oversees counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan, added that despite the reverses it has faced in Afghanistan, the Islamic State offshoot remains resilient and retains the ability to recruit “quite well.”

An estimated 1,000 to 3,000 Islamic State fighters are concentrated in the area bordering Pakistan, mostly in the isolated, mountainous parts of eastern Nangarhar province, Campbell said.

Fewer Foreign Fighters in ISIS And They Are Making Less Money Than Before

February 23, 2016

U.S.-led coalition sees fewer fighters, lower pay in Islamic State

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. estimates of the number of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria have been reduced while cuts in their pay are evidence they are on the defensive, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group said on Monday.

But the task of defeating Islamic State is complicated by Russian air strikes in Syria which are 90 percent targeted at opposition fighters and not at the jihadist group, U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren said.

Warren said increases in forced conscription, the recruitment of child soldiers and the use of elite fighters in common units were all evidence that Islamic State was seeing a slowing in the influx of foreign fighters.

“We believe that Daesh is now beginning to lose. We see them in a defensive crouch,” Warren told reporters in London, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

U.S. intelligence estimates of the number of Islamic State fighters, which for the first 17 months of coalition operations ranged from 19,000 to 31,000, had been revised to 20,000 to 25,000 - a level he said the group would struggle to maintain.

Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Oil

Dear Friend, you want to stay as informed as possible, so Geopolitical Futures and Mauldin Economics have created an exclusive partnership in which we share with you critical information and in-depth analyses to keep you updated 24/7.

As part of this partnership, we have collaborated with leading economics expert John Mauldin to produce this free, members-only, special report. This report will be the first in an ongoing series in which we combine our perspectives on finance and geopolitics to offer a complete analysis of issues at the intersection of the two interests.

Elite Iranian IRGC Special Forces Fighting in Syria

Amir Toumaj
February 23, 2016

IRGC Saberin Special Forces at work in Syria

Elite Iranian Special Forces, named “Saberin” units, have been deployed as part of the broader Iranian expeditionary force to Syria. Iran’s Ground Forces significantly escalatedtheir involvement in October 2015, coinciding with Russia’s military intervention.

There has been a corresponding spike in Saberin fatalities since the escalation. Their deaths have been publicly announced, and funeral ceremonies have been held in their hometowns across Iran.

The Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) held its fourth annual commemoration of elite Special Forces killed in combat at the Ground Forces Headquarters in Tehran on Feb. 11. This year, the Guard honored six commanders and eight members of the Saberin Commando Brigade killed during their “advice and assist” missions in the Syrian Civil War. They also commemorated 19 members killed in a major operation in 2012 against the Kurdish separatist group PJAK (Free Life Party of Kurdistan) in northwestern Iran.

IRGC Ground Forces Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour delivered remarks, stressing the importance of winning the wars in Syria and Iraq to “defend” sacred Shi’a shrines. He warned that if they failed to achieve victory, Iran could face the same foes and Sunni extremists at its western borders.

Origin of Saberin

Book Review: Mike Hayden’s New Book Blames US Intel Community for Iraqi WMD Failure, Not White House

Mark Bowden
February 23, 2016

Review: In ‘Playing to the Edge,’ Michael V. Hayden Discusses Bush-Era Intelligence

According to Michael V. Hayden, President George W. Bush personally intervened in 2005 to try to stop The New York Times from publishing an explosive scoop.

In one of his book’s most memorable moments, the paper’s Washington bureau chief, Philip Taubman; the executive editor, Bill Keller; and the publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., met with Mr. Bush in the Oval Office to hear his objections to The Times’s running a story about Stellarwind, a top-secret National Security Agency surveillance program. For several years, the program had been sweeping up telecommunications data for the National Security Agency without obtaining a warrant.

Mr. Sulzberger, the fourth-generational head of this publication and a man with a notoriously awkward sense of humor, joked to Mr. Bush that they both now worked in their father’s old office. “No ice was broken,” Mr. Hayden writes. The president argued that exposing Stellarwind, which was meant to intercept the communications of suspected foreign plotters, would invite another 9/11-style attack. If that happened, Mr. Bush told the Timesmen, they ought to be prepared to shoulder some of the blame.

Latest Papers

Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)

· CTC Sentinel, February 2016, v. 9, no. 2 https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/february-2016

o A View from the CT Foxhole: An Interview with GEN(R) John P. Abizaid

o University Radicalization: Pakistan's Next Counterterrorism Challenge

o The First Islamic State: A Look Back at the Islamic Emirate of Kunar

o The Ties that Bind: How Terrorists Exploit Family Bonds

o The Military Doctrine of the Islamic State and the Limits of Ba'athist Influence

o Junud al-Sham and the German Foreign Fighter Threat

o Depictions of Children and Youth in the Islamic State's Martyrdom Propaganda, 2015-2016

Jamestown Foundation

· Terrorism Monitor, February 19, 2016, v. 15, no. 4 http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/February_19__2016_TM_03.pdf

o The Battle for the Euphrates: Turkey's Response to Kurdish Expansion

o Kashmir Jihadism and the Threat to India

o Capitalizing on Chaos: AQAP Advances in Yemen

Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI)

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

· Counterfeit Parts: DOD Needs to Improve Reporting and Oversight to Reduce Supply Chain Risk. GAO-16-236 http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-236

Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre

Union of Concerned Scientists

· China’s Military Calls for Putting Its Nuclear Forces on Alert http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2016/02/China-Hair-Trigger-full-report.pdf

America’s Post-Oil Grand Strategy

Thomas P.M. Barnett
FEBRUARY 18, 2016

[Wrote this last June as possible publication, but it was a bit beyond the pale for journal, which wanted dramatic changes. Not unusual for me - happens with every new tack I undertake (the "new map" suffered similarly). I liked it as it was, so we parted on that disagreement. I later used it in China as a written version of the presentations I gave there in Beijing and Shanghai (August 2015). I post it here now because I've recently received a number of requests based on my 2015 presentation in DC (a further iteration of my presentations in China). I also post it because these things just get lost over time if I don't.]

America's Post-Oil Grand Strategy

The United States defaulted to a Middle East-centric grand strategy in the waning years of the Cold War and has remained stuck there ever since – sometimes in denial (like now) and sometimes in fervent embrace (George W. Bush and his neocons) but always in a manner that demanded some measure of White House attention. That seemingly unbreakable focus – particularly in relation to allies Israel and Saudi Arabia – now rapidly dissipates, falling victim first to a technological curveball and ultimately to a demographic shift that leaves Americans less willing to police the world and more interested in recasting their pursuit of happiness. 

Who Will Be Left Standing At The End Of The Oil War

22 February 2016

This is a financial cold war—nothing more, nothing less.

While there are billions of reasons to cut output, and every major producing country is reeling from the loss of revenues, some are weathering the current bust better than others, but the devil is in the details, and the details contain tons of variables.

Production cost and breakeven figures that analysts enjoy bandying can trap you in bubble of black-and-white mathematics that is a few brush-strokes shy of a full picture.

Breakeven prices are hard to pin down, and harder yet because they fluctuate. OPEC governments downsize their budgets, cut social spending and put big projects on hold to lower the breakeven price. Independent producers likewise cut spending and delay development to get closer to a feasible breakeven. So the breakeven is elusive.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait enjoy some of the lowest production costs in the world, at about $10 and $8.50, respectively, according to Rystad Energy data. Production in the UAE costs just over $12 per barrel, which is pretty much the same as in Iran, though Iranian officials say they will eventually be able to produce for as low as $1 per barrel from their central fields.

But these are just the costs of lifting oil out of the ground. State-owned oil companies often have many more responsibilities than just producing oil. They underpin generous spending levels by their governments, and thus any estimate of a “breakeven” price should include the cost of those obligations.

The Use and Abuse of Law

By Jacob L. Shapiro 
Feb. 23, 2016 

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics. 

We examine the relationship between law and power in geopolitics. 

In the West, the rule of law has become a sacrosanct principle. Whether the rule of law is applied in an equal manner is a different story – but in the West, by and large, law defines what is acceptable behavior and what behavior will be punished by the state. Laws, however, are also an illusion. A sheet of paper that says murder is a capital crime means nothing without the power to investigate, prosecute and punish. And having the law on your side doesn't mean you have power. Power is the ability to force someone to do what you want them to do. Law can be a useful way of doing that – but laws are not always respected. This is true in every aspect of political life – from the very local to the international – and we have witnessed this in many recent and historical geopolitical developments. Let’s pick just three examples – criminal justice, nationalization and international legal organizations – to demonstrate.

On Feb. 21, the South China Morning Post reported it had uncovered court documents showing that law enforcement agencies in Macau had turned over both Hong Kong residents and Chinese citizens to the Chinese government for investigation and prosecution. Macau is a former Portuguese colony that was only integrated into China in 1999, and even then as a special administrative region. The Macau Basic Law stipulates that Macau is to operate with a high degree of autonomy – which includes maintaining its own legal and law enforcement system – until at least 2049.

Should Silicon Valley Go to War?

February 23, 2016 

Politicians are trying to recruit technology companies to help fight ISIS. Does it make sense? 

n Friday, January 8, several high-level officials from the Obama administration—including the attorney general, the White House chief of staff, and the directors of the FBI and the NSA—met at a federal office in San Jose with senior executives from Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Apple (including CEO Tim Cook himself). On the agenda for the discussion, according to a one-page memo widely leaked to the press, was this question: “How can we make it harder for terrorists to [use] the Internet to recruit, radicalize, and mobilize followers to violence?” 

For the previous month, since the ISIS-inspired shootings in San Bernardino, California, President Obama, as well as some of the candidates vying to succeed him, had been calling on Silicon Valley to join the government in this fight. As Hillary Clinton put it in a campaign speech, “We need to put ‘the great disrupters’ at work disrupting ISIS.” In one of the Republican presidential debates, Donald Trump said he would ask “our brilliant people from Silicon Valley” to keep ISIS from using the Internet—a notion that reflected a misunderstanding of how the Internet works but also a widespread desperation for Silicon Valley to do something. 

U.S. government, Apple take encryption case to court of public opinion

Feb 22, 2016

Apple Inc on Monday urged the creation of a government panel on encryption, the latest salvo in a standoff over a locked iPhone linked to the San Bernardino shooting that has escalated into a public relations battle between the revered technology company and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook also sent a letter to employees Monday morning, making clear the company's hardline stance refusing to make software to unlock the phone addresses broader issues, not just a single device linked to a grisly attack. 

"This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation," Cook said in the email to employees, seen by Reuters. "At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties." 

But FBI Director James Comey, in an article published late Sunday on the national security legal blog Lawfare, asserted the case was not about setting a new legal precedent but rather about "victims and justice." 

"Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined," Comey wrote. "We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That's what this is." 

Service Chiefs Reject Proposal to Develop New Military Cyber Force

by Hope Hodge Seck
Feb 22, 2016 

The Cyber Operations Center on Fort Gordon, Ga., is home to signal and military intelligence non-commissioned officers, who watch for and respond to network attacks from adversaries. (U.S. Army photo)

Former NATO commander and retired Navy admiral James Stavridis speaks often of his proposal to develop a fifth U.S. military service branch — a cyber force that would own operations in the virtual domain.

But comments last week from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller indicate the time has not come for that idea just yet.

Speaking at a San Diego panel moderated by Stavridis on Feb. 19, Richardson and Neller both declined to offer support for such a cyber force when pressed on the topic.

“I think that this must be integrated. I think if we have a completely standalone type of thing, it’s just going to be much more difficult to integrate it into operations, into planning and execution, debriefing, all of that,” Richardson said. “So while there are potentially some unique skill sets and capabilities, it’s through that deep integration into the fundamentals, the basic ingredients of warfare going forward that I think is going to make cyber achieve its full potential.”


By Jon Solomon

The following article is part of our cross-posting partnership withInformation Dissemination’s Jon Solomon. It is republished here with the author’s permission. You can read it in its original formhere.

Candidate Principle #2: A Network’s Combat Viability is more than the Sum of its Nodes

Force networking generates an unavoidable trade-off between maximizing collective combat capabilities and minimizing network-induced vulnerability risks. The challenge is finding an acceptable balance between the two in both design and operation; networking provides no ‘free lunch.’

This trade-off was commonly discounted during the network-centric era’s early years. For instance, Metcalfe’s Law—the idea that a network’s potential increases as the square of the number of networked nodes—was often applied in ways suggesting a force would become increasingly capable as more sensors, weapons, and data processing elements were tied together to collect, interpret, and act upon battle space information.[i] Such assertions, though, were made without reference to the network’s architecture. The sheer number (or types) of nodes matter little if the disruption of certain critical nodes (relay satellites, for example) or the exploitation of any given node to access the network’s internals erode the network’s data confidentiality, integrity, or availability. This renders node-counting on its own a meaningless and perhaps even misleadingly dangerous measure of a network’s potential. The same is also true if individual systems and platforms have design limitations that prevent them from fighting effectively if force-level networks are undermined.


By Jon Solomon

The following article is part of our cross-posting partnership withInformation Dissemination’s Jon Solomon. It is republished here with the author’s permission. You can read it in its original formhere.

Future high-end maritime warfare tends to be described as the use of distributed, networked maritime sensors that ‘seamlessly’ cue the tactical actions of dispersed forces armed with standoff-range guided weapons. Most commentary regarding these ‘sensor-to-shooter’ networks has been based around their hypothesized performances under ‘perfect’ conditions: sensors that see all within their predicted fields of view, processors that unfailingly discriminate and classify targets correctly, communications pathways that reliably and securely transmit data between network nodes, and situational pictures that assuredly portray ground truth to combat decision-makers. While it is not unreasonable to start with such an idealized view in order to grasp these networks’ potential, it is misguided to end analysis there. Regrettably, it is not unusual to come across predictions implying that these networks will provide their operators with an unshakable and nearly-omniscient degree of situational awareness, or that the more tightly-networked a force becomes the more likely the geographic area it covers will become a graveyard for the enemy.