15 April 2016

*No Exit in China

April 13, 2016

In the 18th century after a passing breeze caused him to lose his place in a book, a Chinese scholar named Xu Jun wrote this short poem: "The clear breeze is illiterate, so why does it insist on rummaging through the pages of a book?" Though this couplet was seemingly harmless, the Manchu-ruled Qing Dynasty (1645-1911) executed Xu in 1730 for seditious thought. The Qing, invaders from the Manchurian steppe whose dynastic name meant "clear" or "pure," were acutely sensitive to the insinuation that they were illiterate barbarians despite adopting the trappings of Chinese civilization. Countless other poets shared Xu's fate during the dynasty's infamous literary inquisitions. While this paranoia appears excessive, it was a reflection of a very real problem for the Manchus.

The Qing, like all other Chinese central governments, struggled to contain dissent across a continent-sized empire. This proved doubly difficult because a small number of ethnic Manchus ruled over a far larger population of resentful Han Chinese. Han rebellion, which often coalesced around the purported superiority of Han culture, was a constant threat, shaking the foundations of the empire from the mid-19th century. Eventually, Han-led revolution swept away the Qing - and the entire imperial Chinese system - in 1911, leading to the formation of the Republic of China. This, in turn, quickly split along factional lines into warlord cliques. Truly effective central rule did not return until the Communists seized power in 1949.

India Has The Most Sophisticated Payments System In The World – And Six Men Made It Happen

April 12, 2016

Apart from the JAM trio, banking is being transformed by the creation of new forms of differentiated banking entities: payment banks and small banks. 
Raghuram Rajan has now released a new unified payments interface for mobiles, which will move money between mobile phones linked to unique IDs. 
The biggest losers in the changing game may be the public sector banks, which are too slow to insure themselves against competition by moving fast enough. 

Technology is changing the financial sector of the Indian economy at jet speed, thanks to the ubiquity of Jan Dhan bank accounts (215 million accounts and counting – which means nearly all households covered), the spread of mobile phones (one billion mobile users in a population of 1.25 billion), and the Aadhaar unique ID (again, one billion IDs this month).

This means that with one click, information and money can move to the last mile and the last Indian living in a remote village. India now has the most sophisticated payments system in the world, and six men were responsible for it: Manmohan Singh and Nandan Nilekani (for creating Aadhaar), Arun Shourie and A Raja (for making mobile phones affordable, through policy and crookery respectively), and Narendra Modi and Raghuram Rajan, who tied it all together. Modi deserves extra praise for making Jan Dhan bank accounts universal and making Aadhaar the route to subsidy and payments reform.

What can Pakistan do right in the face of India’s growing military might

Apr 9, 2016 
Source Link

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) registered a $1.7 trillion increase in military spending in 2015. Its depiction in percentage (1%) by news sources worldwide does not paint a proper picture, writes Naveed Ahmad in The Express Tribune on April 7.

Ahmed says that ‘Military expenditure’ is a wider term compared to ‘arms spending’ as it refers to all government expenses on current military forces and activities, including salaries and benefits, operational expenses, arms and equipment purchases, military construction, research and development and central administration, command and support.

Defence anxieties

Last year’s data brings India to the sixth place, moving up a notch from 2014. The spending trajectory is on the rise there too. This , Ahmed in his article in Express Tribune says that that so will be the case with China, Saudi Arabia and Russia. Interestingly, Pakistan does not rank among top 15 military spenders. Unlike India and Iran, Islamabad has not been able to allocate funds for military modernisation due to domestic financial conditions, wrote Ahmed.

Ahmed in Express Tribune further wrote that in 2015, India registered an 11% increase in military expenditure, with acquisition of the latest nuclear submarines, INS Arihant, being the highlight. The $3 billion strategic vessel that cleared all sea trials is definitely worrisome for Pakistan as it gives Delhi assured second-strike capability in a nuclear standoff. This was followed with the purchase of 36 Rafael fighter jets from France in addition to 270 Russia-made SU-30MKIs, making the threat more real for Islamabad amid no progress in composite dialogue – renamed after Modi government as comprehensive dialogue – on dispute resolution, observed Ahmed.

US Navy nine AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters for Pakistan

Apr 9, 2016 

US Navy orders nine AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters for Pakistan

The United States (US) Navy awarded a $170 million contract for the manufacture of nine AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters to Bell Helicopter, reports DAWN quoting the US Department of Defense statement on April 4.

The combat helicopters will be manufactured and delivered to Pakistan under the Foreign Military Sales Program, the statement was further quoted as saying.

DAWN reported that the Bell AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine combat chopper based on the previous SuperCobra model developed for the US Marine Corps, Sputnik reported. It has a top speed of 420 kilometres per hour and a range of 610km.

The contract awarded "for the manufacture and delivery of nine AH-1Z aircraft and nine auxiliary fuel kits for the government of Pakistan" is "expected to be completed in September 2018" said the report quoting the Defense Department statement as saying "Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $170,173,188 will be obligated at time of award," stating that the Naval Air Systems Command is contracting the activity for the Pakistani government.

According to DAWN report, last April, the US State Department approved the Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan for the AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and AGM-114R Hellfire II Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $952 million.

Afghan Taliban Announces Spring Offensive

April 12, 2016

The Taliban announced the start of their warm-weather fighting season on Tuesday, vowing "large-scale attacks" in the 15th year of their war against the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

In an email to media, the militants said the spring offensive had begun at 5 a.m. They dubbed the campaign "Operation Omari" in honor of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, who died three years ago.

The Taliban added that in areas under their control, "mechanisms for good governance will be established so that our people can live a life of security and normalcy." The insurgents control several rural districts and last year seized the northern city of Kunduz and held it for three days.

The Taliban said they would try to avoid killing civilians or destroying civilian infrastructure, and would carry out a "dialogue with our countrymen in the enemy ranks" to try to convince them to join the insurgency.

More than 11,000 civilians were killed or wounded in 2015, according to the U.N.

The Taliban went through a period of infighting after Mullah Omar's death became public last summer. Mullah Omar's deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, had run the insurgency in his name and was elected as his successor by a small clique amid mistrust from the rank and file.

How big a threat is Islamic State in Central Asia?

Islamic State has been spreading its influence beyond the Middle East – and Central Asia could be in the firing line.Image credit: Stringer/Reuters

The self-proclaimed Islamic State is seen as a growing threat throughout much of the world, its influence extending to North Africa, Europe, and even as far as Indonesia. Yet for the post-Soviet Central Asian republics the potential consequences of the rise of radical Islamism are not clear.

For some, IS is simply the latest version of the “Islamic threat” to Central Asian security. The International Crisis Group, for example, links growing support for violent extremism with the last few decades’ Islamic revival in Central Asia. Others in the media have been more sceptical about the influence of IS in the region, and the attitude of some Western officials has, more than anything, been rather cheerful.

Yet Central Asian governments have continued to use the “war on terror” as an excuse to crack down on opposition, whether Islamic or otherwise. Oppressive security policies towards Islam in Central Asia are often just short-sighted “fixes” that do little to address the long-term structural problems, and if anything, only aggravate them. In their attempts to deal with perceived threats to civil stability, Central Asian governments may actually end up deepening the very problem they seek to resolve.
What is the threat?

Reed Bank: China-Philippine Joint Development Area – Analysis

APRIL 13, 2016

Reed Bank off Philippine Palawan could become the South China Sea’s second Joint Development Area (JDA). The first would be off Triton Island in the Paracels.

The Sampaguita Field within Reed Bank could be developed as a JDA connected to southern Luzon via an extension of the existing Malampaya pipeline.

A Chinese-Philippine JDA in the Spratly Islands would reassure Southeast Asia’s smaller countries about China’s intentions.

For years, talks have been going on between Philippine oil and gas explorer Philex Petroleum Corp., and China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).

CNOOC’s been cool, claiming such cooperation acknowledges Philippine jurisdiction. A JDA skirts this problem. Under a JDA, two countries agree to postpone resolution of jurisdiction over a disputed area while they cooperate to develop the resources within it.

An agreement between the two would bind China and the Philippines more closely together, and benefit both sides. This would occur through a combination of carrots and sticks.

Will China save its last undammed river?

April 10, 2016 

A greener outlook Opponents of plans to build five dams on the Nu say they scent victory after more than a decade battling the project. 

A’eyaku, China — In a remote corner of southwestern China, close to the Myanmar border, the towering Nu River gorge narrows to a frothy boil of rushing water, its powerful flow creating swirling eddies.

Thrown across the river from one rock face to the other hangs a flimsy suspension bridge. “No entrance” reads a sign on its locked and rusting gate. “For construction only.”

The abandoned bridge is the sole hint here of a lengthy environmental battle that may be nearing its end. For more than a decade, activists have fought a state-owned hydropower company’s plans to build giant dams on the Nu, the last natural river in China. Now, dam opponents say they scent victory.

China Is Still The World's Top Executioner

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

According to a recent report from human rights group Amnesty International, 2015 saw a huge rise in the number of executions globally, the highest total since 1989.

At least 1,634 people were executed worldwide with 90 percent of that number occurring in just three countries: Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

That's excluding China and North Korea where precise numbers are a state secret. However, Amnesty still believes China executes thousands every year, making it the world's top executioner. Despite the spike in executions, Amnesty reported that there is still some hope with four countries expunging the death penalty for good last year.

This chart shows the number of executions by country in 2015.

Eye on China, U.S. and Philippines Ramp Up Military Alliance

APRIL 12, 2016

Marines from the Philippines during joint exercises with the United States in Antique Province this week.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

MANILA — After a rocky patch of 25 years, the United States and thePhilippines will solidify a new, increasingly complex military relationship this week, driven partly by China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea.

An agreement that allows the United States to build facilities at five Philippine military bases will spread more American troops, planes and ships across the island nation than have been here in decades.

Joint military exercises this week and the arrival of Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter on Wednesday will allow the two countries to show off their cozy relations and will include events rich in military symbolism.

Mr. Carter is scheduled to observe the firing of a long-range missile system, one that could cover all the Philippines’ maritime claims in the South China Sea if needed, though the United States has not confirmed that the missiles will be deployed here.

Analysts say the resurrected American presence here could tilt the balance of power in this part of the South China Sea.

ISIS Struggling to Gain Support in Libya

April 13, 2016

In Libya, Islamic State struggles to gain support

WADI BEY, Libya, April 13 (Reuters) - Packed into a battered car, a family of nine joined the steady flow of residents fleeing Islamic State’s Libyan stronghold of Sirte. They were heading to a nearby town to pick up essentials: cash, medicine and food.

A few kilometres beyond the militant group’s zone of control, the family gave an account of life in the city: young men murdered for refusing to pledge allegiance to Islamic State, public beatings for dress violations, property seizures and growing food shortages.

“They’re there to occupy the city,” said the wife from behind her black veil, as her children glanced nervously from the rear of the vehicle one afternoon in late February. “They’re killing, kidnapping and torturing.”

Sirte is a city upended. Once given favoured treatment by former leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was born there, it now serves as a Mediterranean base for the most important Islamic State branch outside Syria and Iraq. That has left Western intelligence agencies struggling to figure out how far Islamic State can extend its influence across Libya - and how to stop the group.

Some Libyan and Western officials see Sirte as a foothold for further Islamic State expansion. From there the ultra-hardline Sunni group has ventured east along the coast, edging closer to major oil fields. It now controls a thin strip along about 250 km (155 miles) of Libya’s central coastline.

Iran’s Finance – Analysis

By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
APRIL 13, 2016

Iran’s leadership is not satisfied with the pace and the way in which international sanctions are about to be lifted definitively. On the one hand, Iran still has many difficulties in having access to global financial markets by using standard procedures; on the other hand there are significant shortcomings and delays in the domestic banking system.

The current yearly inflation rate is 11.9%; the maximum interest rate has fallen from 24% to 22% while, as announced by President Rowhani, the trade surplus is now positive for the first time after 37 years.

At the end of March 2016, the oil and non-oil exports were 41 billion and 42 billion Us dollars, respectively, with an expected annual growth of 0.7% only.

The exports of the free economic zone of Anzali, in the Northern province of Gilan, are growing to an impressive level of 40 million US dollars as against the 20 million US dollars of last year.

Iran’s economy clearly needs to quickly reduce its dependence on oil sales, while the Bandar Abbas refinery will be doubled in terms of extraction and condensation of natural gas, with capital and equipment largely of Iranian origin.

Here the real problem is cultural and political: the Iranian banking system has been segregated for many years with respect to international flows and now the country’s financial leaders do not know how to handle the new, inevitable globalization of the Shiite Iran.


APRIL 13, 2016

Editor’s note: The authors are both former Marine Corps officers whose combined service includes experience in wars ranging from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

In March 2016, the authors visited the front outside Kirkuk where the Peshmerga (Iraqi Kurdish military forces) face fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Below are some of the observations we made during the visit (in italics), along with commentary that draws on our professional military experience.

After leaving the headquarters, we drove down several highways with lots of civilian traffic. We could see families picnicking on the side of the road, enjoying the nice weather and the day off (being the holy day of Friday) not ten miles from the frontlines. Signs casually showed the way to Mosul, currently occupied by ISIL.

Whereas most American civilians would panic if they knew that artillery and mortars were dropping a few miles away, civilians here had clearly become accustomed to living near the front. It was their “new normal.”


APRIL 13, 2016

Half of Americans say they support barring Muslim refugees from entering the country and a similar number support establishing “security patrols” in America’s Muslim neighborhoods. And a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that two-thirds of Americans said they believe that some form of torture can be justified to elicit information from suspected terrorists. Anti-Muslim rhetoric currently receives widespread media coverage. In the face of a massive refugee crisis and growing instability across the Middle East and North Africa, the public discourse often eschews nuanced distinctions about extremism and misappropriation of violence and instead takes the form of broader attacks on Islam.

Political correctness, politicians and others have argued, is keeping America from adopting policies that would help keep the country safe. They contend that this political correctness is obscuring what they see as the true problem: a widespread belief that the majority of terrorists are Muslims, and Muslims are terrorists.

Globalization of bad food and poor health

05 April 2016

The proportion of deaths due to cancer around the world increased from 12 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2013

Globally, cancer is already the second-leading cause of death after cardiovascular diseases.

In India, government data indicates that cancer showed a 5 percent increase in prevalence between 2012 and 2014 with the number of new cases doubling between 1990 and 2013. 

The incidence of cancer for some major organs in India is the highest in the world

Reports have also drawn attention to rising rates of breast cancer in urban areas, and, in 2009, there was a reported increase in cancer rates in Tamil Nadu's textile belt, possibly due to chemically contaminated water.

The Unrelenting Global March Of Diabetes

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

Diabetes is the world's eighth biggest killer, accounting for some 1.5 million deaths each year.
A major new World Health Organization report has now revealed that the number of cases around the world has nearly quadrupled to 422 million in 2014 from 108 million in 1980. The Eastern-Mediterranean region had the biggest increase in cases during that time frame. Diabetes now affects one in 11 adults with high blood sugar levels linked to 3.8 million deaths every year.

This chart shows the percentage prevalence and number of adults with diabetes by WHO region in 1980 and 2014.

This is the advanced Russian helicopter that just crashed in Syria

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff 
April 12 2016
Source Link

Russian military personnel watch Mi-28 helicopters fly during the opening of an army international military forum in Kubinka, outside Moscow, in 2015.

A Russian Mi-28 helicopter crashed in Syria Tuesday, according to a statement by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Its two crew members were killed, and the aircraft was said to have crashed because of technical reasons.

Reports on social media indicated that the helicopter, known in Russia as the Mi-28 Night Hunter and among NATO countries as the Havoc, is an advanced gunship that appears to have first arrived in Syria in November but has only recently been used extensively in combat. In late March, videosposted online showed the helicopter supporting Syrian army offensive operations in Islamic State-held Palmyra.

The Mi-28, like the United States’ Apache gunship, was designed in the waning years of the Cold War. Similar to the Apache, it boasts a 30mm forward-mounted cannon and a slew of underwing armaments, including guided and unguided missiles and rockets. The manufacturer’s website, Russian Helicopters, indicates that the Mi-28’s cockpit is reinforced with armor and shock absorbers to protect its crew members and is equipped with advanced sensors for day, night and inclement weather conditions. The Mi-28 can fly faster than 150 mph and is used by a Russian air acrobatics team.

Ransomware Cyber Attackers Using Normal Customer Service Tactics

April 13, 2016

Ransomware: Extortionist hackers borrow customer-service tactics

TEWKSBURY, Mass. (Reuters) - When hackers set out to extort the town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts with “ransomware,” they followed up with an FAQ explaining the attack and easy instructions for online payment.

After balking for several days, Tewksbury officials decided that paying the modest ransom of about $600 was better than struggling to unlock its own systems, said police chief Timothy Sheehan.

That case and others show how cyber-criminals have professionalized ransomware schemes, borrowing tactics from customer service or marketing, law enforcement officials and security firms say. Some players in the booming underworld employ graphic artists, call centers and technical support to streamline payment and data recovery, according to security firms that advise businesses on hacking threats.

The advancements, along with modest ransom demands, make it easier to pay than fight.

“It’s a perfect business model, as long as you overlook the fact that they are doing something awful,” said James Trombly, president of Delphi Technology Solutions, a Lawrence, Massachusetts, computer services firm that helped three clients over the past year pay ransoms in bitcoin, the virtual currency. He declined to identify the clients.


APRIL 13, 2016

Once the pinnacle of national achievement, space has become a trophy to be traded between two business owners. On April 8, Elon Musk’s SpaceX finally succeeded at landing its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the ocean, reinforcing its lead over Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, which claimed a marginal victory over the Thanksgiving weekend late last year. Both companies have passed notable milestones towards affordable spaceflight for private citizens. But perhaps most remarkable is that we’re talking about two private companies at a time when most still view space exploration as the territory of governments. In many ways, our narrative of space is still dominated by our memory of the space race set in motion by the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957 — an event that shaped government investment and global power for the past six decades. That era is over.

While we could certainly carry the “space race” analogy too far, one trend is clear: Private groups and even private citizens are achieving advances in many domains that were once the exclusive dominion of the world’s most powerful nations.

Of Handwara Massacre And Beyond – OpEd

APRIL 13, 2016

The history of hitherto Kashmir is the history totalitarianism, terrorism, violence, torture, brutality, murder, loot, rape and molestation. Every ruler so far has experimented, employed and enjoyed every kind of barbarism and beastliness on poor and hapless Kashmiri. Irrespective of religion, region (origin) and race of rulers’ terrorism, violence, torture, brutality, murder, loot, rape and molestation has been their weapon and policy to tame people and rule, rather suppress the people of Kashmir. Whether it was the ancient and medieval Hindu rulers or Muslim rulers of medieval period savagery and barbarism had been their religion.

With advent of British, and their withdrawn from Indian subcontinent new class of barbarians with modern, deceiving labels and apt ideology of democracy, security, liberation and protection have been installed. They carry forward subtle and obvious forms of barbarism, touching the new zeniths of terrorism, violence, torture, brutality, murder, loot, rape and molestation.

The present Handwara massacre in which already three innocent persons have lost their lives and dozens battling with death in different hospitals of valley is just a link to obvious atrocities Kashmiri’s have been experiencing in new form since late 1980’s.

Get ready: Syria will need peacekeepers

Editors’ Note: One key to a serious Syria strategy is recognizing that an international peacekeeping force will almost surely be needed someday, in order to uphold any peace deal that eventually emerges, write Mike O’Hanlon and Sean Zeigler. This post originally appeared on The National Interest.

The most recent tragic attacks in Brussels as well as the thousands of Syrian immigrants that continue to arrive in Europe underscore the need for an improved strategy in Syria. Defeating ISIS in Syria is crucial to the broader struggle against this brutal group that still draws many recruits from a vague argument that it is somehow “winning” its broader fight against the West. Relying on Assad and Putin will not, of course, work. The recent success of the Syrian army in Palmyra, while not intrinsically unwelcome, could further inflame passions of Sunnis against a regime that most see as itself virtually genocidal, and wind up doing little net good.

One key to a serious Syria strategy is recognizing that an international peacekeeping force will almost surely be needed someday, in order to uphold any peace deal that eventually emerges. A demonstration of willingness to deploy such a force may, in fact, improve the chances of peace, while making the international community and the parties to the conflict more realistic about what kind of peace is possible—and what kinds of other steps, including greater Western military aid for the moderate opposition, will also be needed to effect peace.

Understanding how civil wars end and the factors that spark their recurrence is one of the bright spots of political science, an academic discipline often derided by policy practitioners as too arcane and abstract to be of much practical use. Happily, that is not the case for this subject. Employing a blend of methods—sophisticated statistical analyses of many past wars, case studies informed by field research, interaction with policymakers who wrestled with specific conflicts over the years—researchers including Nicholas Sambanis at Yale, Michael Doyle and Page Fortna at Columbia, Barbara Walter at the University of California at San Diego, Stephen Stedman at Stanford and a number of others have advanced our knowledge in ways that speak directly to the current situation with Syria. Yes, there are differences in their arguments, but there are also key common threads that can guide policymakers as they seek a way out of the current morass. Among the key insights are the following: 

Wars with high casualties, ethnic or sectarian components, and multiple actors are particularly hard to stop. Syria, of course, suffers from all three afflictions. 

Tactical and very often short-term alliances between and among rival warring factions can contribute to failed peace efforts and occasion war’s relapse; Syria, again, includes such shape-shifting coalitions. 

Peacekeeping or peace enforcement tends to improve the odds that any agreement ending a war will survive. To the surprise of many researchers, including Paul Collier of Oxford, evidence strongly suggests that peacekeeping reduces the risk of countries backsliding into violence in post-conflict settings. Page Fortna of Columbia puts it thus: peacekeeping works. 

Peacekeeping forces are most often sent to the hardest wars—those where the risk of war recidivism is highest. 

Detailed peace agreements, with numerous stipulations that allow for confidence to be built up among various parties gradually and in step-by-step fashion, do better than simpler deals. 

U.N. or other peace operations deployed to a complex conflict zone to uphold a peace deal need multiple tools at their disposal: economic resources, strong political leadership, an ability to pressure recalcitrant parties to comply with earlier deals, and enough military force to protect themselves, providing a credible presence for monitoring a cease-fire and other stipulations of any accord, such as partial demobilization of combatant forces. 

Certainly, when it comes to the size of forces, evidence suggests that more is better. Fortunately, the literature also suggests that not every successful peace operation need have a huge force. The U.S. military favors muscular missions as a matter of doctrine, as attested by its counterinsurgency and stabilization manuals, written late in the Bush presidency. To be sure, there are good arguments in favor of raw strength. But the preferred U.S. method of deploying at least one peacekeeper for every fifty citizens of the country being stabilized, which in Syria would imply a force of at least four hundred thousand, is not essential in all cases and may not be politically practical for Syria. 

As such, a force in the range of thirty thousand to sixty thousand peacekeepers, empowered by firm rules of engagement, backed up by the right kind of strike force to deal with extremist spoilers, and reinforced by a modern command, control and logistics system, may have a good chance of success, especially if it is able to concentrate its main efforts in those parts of the country where conditions are most tense. 

These basic tenets suggest at least a partial path forward for Syria. The writing is on the wall: we will almost surely need a peace operation, under the auspices either of the U.N. or NATO and the Arab League, if any ultimate deal is to succeed. All the variables present in Syria’s tangled conflict suggest that, however the war may end, it will reignite without a viable external entity. While a muscular force is ideal, a more modest one would still have solid odds of success, though it would need to be well protected and resourced, and be able to concentrate efforts in certain parts of the country.

The size of the force obviously depends on the nature and design of any potential settlement. These arguments may favor a confederal model for Syria with autonomous regions that largely police themselves in many parts of the country, allowing peace operations forces the ability to focus primarily on intermixed areas.

Furthermore, this means that whether or not the United States participates with its main infantry units in such a force, its logistics and command structures will be needed. And finally, since ISIS will likely remain a threat even after any deal, and since spoilers may try to disrupt any agreement, a strong counterterrorism capability of at least several thousand troops will be needed in the region over the longer term; that force will almost surely require U.S. backstopping and participation.

So we should brace ourselves. Syria need not be America's third big war of the twenty-first century in the Middle East; indeed, it should not be. But to have a chance of solving that acute threat to regional security—and to deprive ISIS of what is still its most compelling and important sanctuary in the world today—America needs a new strategy that includes willingness to contribute (in at least some capacity) to a substantial postwar military operation to stabilize the country. The sooner the United States says so, the sooner it can get serious about a broader strategy, and the sooner others will realize it and shape their own actions accordingly.

Fixing the Military-Industrial Complex!

Written by Frank Li

It looks more and more likely that the Donald Trump train and the GOP establishment bus will collide at the GOP convention. With more independents and more Democrats jumping on the Trump train, there is no better time than now to address a core GOP problem: the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC). It is totally out of control, it is inherently anti-America, and it's time to fix it with Donald Trump!

1. What is the MIC?

The military - industrial complex (MIC) is an informal alliance between a nation's military and the defense industry which supplies it, seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy.[1][2][3][4] The term is most often used in reference to the system behind the military of the United States, where it gained popularity after its use in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961,[5] though the term is applicable to any country with a similarly developed infrastructure.[6][7] In 2011, the United States spent more on its military than the next 13 nations combined.[8]

2. Why is our military so big?

Air Force F-22s deploy to England

April 12, 2016

23 photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleet
RC-135U – The RC-135U Combat Sent, based at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, provides strategic electronic reconnaissance information to the president, secretary of defense, Department of Defense leaders and theater commanders.
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23 photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleet
AC-130 gunships – The AC-130H Spectre and the AC-130U Spooky gunships are designed for close air support, air interdiction and force protection. Armaments on the Spectre include 40mm and 105mm cannons. The Spooky adds a 25mm Gatling gun.
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23 photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleet
C-130 Hercules transport – First delivered to the Air Force in 1956, the C-130 remains one of the service's most important airlift platforms. More than 140 are still in active units, with more than 180 in the National Guard and a hundred more in the Reserve. The C-130 is powered by four turboprop engines.
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Special Forces: A unique national asset


There is only one unit called Special Forces: the men who make up the Special Forces Regiment consisting of 1st Special Forces Group, 3rd Special Forces Group, 5th Special Forces Group, 7th Special Forces Group, 10th Special Forces Group, and the two National Guard components, 19th and 20th Groups. Nicknamed the “Green Berets,” these soldiers specialize in unconventional warfare (UW) which emphasizes working though, with, and by host-nation partner forces or irregular guerrilla forces. Rangers, SEALs, MARSOC, and JSOC counterterrorism units are not Special Forces, they are special operations forces. The Green Berets are the only ones organized and trained to fight unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency campaigns.

During the Global War on Terror, there has been a shift in missions, however. Although Rangers and SEALs are designed to conduct direct action (DA) missions, Special Forces have also gravitated toward DA, leaving behind much of their roots in unconventional warfare. Colonel (ret.) Mark Boyatt is the former commander of 3rd Special Forces Group, and has written a book about taking Special Forces back to their core mission in “Special Forces: A Unique National Asset.”

Special Forces: Direct action versus unconventional warfare


APRIL 13, 2016

After four decades of the great experiment called the All-Volunteer Army, it has become abundantly clear that recruiting and retaining quality soldiers is a vital prerequisite to the success of America’s Army. While superior American technology, competent training, and efficient logistics are undoubtedly critical aspects of battlefield dominance, it is the Army’s resolute reliance on high quality officers and soldiers that has kept the All-Volunteer Army the world’s premier fighting force.

One might assume — given the critical national security role of the Army — that consistent, rigorous metrics are part of the accessions effort for soldiers and commissioned officers. Surprisingly, quality metrics in enlisted accessions are measured and monitored closely, while quality metrics for officer accessions are uneven and oftentimes meaningless. Thus, despite the Army’s focus on achieving cognitive dominance on the future battlefield, officer accession quality standards are inconsistent, sometimes non-existent, and not on par with enlisted accession standards.

American enlisted soldier quality, as defined by the Department of Defense, is measured by two fairly straightforward indicators: a high school diploma and performance on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). A high school diploma is a metric that, at first blush, appears to characterize academic success. Rather than indicating intellectual ability, however, the high school diploma provides evidence that a potential soldier has the persistence and stamina to complete an enduring challenge. A diploma is merely a proxy for perseverance and motivation. It serves as a signal that candidates have the stick-to-it-iveness required to make it through their basic training and term of enlistment.