26 December 2016

*** Special Operations Forces: Let SOF Be SOF

by Kristen R. Hajduk


Thus far, the incoming Trump Administration has expressed interest in easing restrictions and White House oversight on military decision-making. A willingness to place more agency in the hands of operators could provide breakthrough opportunities and flexibility for Special Operations Forces (SOF) as they continue to combat terrorism.

Bottom Line

The future of global security—from both non-state and state actors—will depend on preventing slow-burning and asymmetric threats from sowing instability abroad. Fully supporting the roles and resources of special operations is the best, most effective way to ensure America retains its strength and security.


The U.S. Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) direct action missions provide immediate response capabilities during violent conflict. This includes counterterrorism (CT), high-value targeting, countering weapons of mass destruction, personnel recovery, and hostage rescue operations. These direct operations buy time for longer-term indirect approaches—including civil affairs, building partner capacity, information operations, and special reconnaissance—to take effect. Indirect operations address the sources of terrorism or instability by increasing partner nations’ resilience and rule of law. 

*** Rethinking the Threat of Islamic Extremism: The Changes Needed in U.S. Strategy

Anthony H. Cordesman

The Burke Chair at CSIS presents a new view of Islamic extremism and the Islamic world. The Burke Chair has carried out an analysis of the trends in global and regional terrorism, and the causes and impact of violent Islamic extremism. 

Main Conclusions

The analysis is supported by a wide range of data drawn from U.S. government, UN, World Bank, and NGO sources where the key statistics and data are presented in the various figures and tables in each section. It concludes that the United States needs to fundamentally rethink key aspects of its struggle against terrorism and Islamic extremism.

The United States has made great progress in improving its homeland defenses and international counterterrorism efforts. It has restructured its security partnerships with largely Muslim states to help them give the same emphasis to counterterrorism that they have given to military security. The United States is also making major progress in defeating the ability of ISIS to hold territory, act as a protostate, provide sanctuary for training fighters, and ISIS’s efforts to widen its grasp and number of affiliates.

** The Great Water Folly

Brahma Chellaney

The linkages between water stress, sharing disputes and environmental degradation threaten to trap Asia in a vicious cycle. In a continent where China’s unilateralism stands out as a destabilizing factor, only four of the 57 transnational river basins have a treaty on water sharing or institutionalized cooperation. Indeed, the only Asian treaties incorporating specific sharing formulas are between India and its downriver neighbours, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

When Pakistan was carved out of India as the first Islamic republic of the post-colonial era, the partition left the Indus headwaters in India, arming it with formidable water leverage over the newly-created country. Yet India ultimately agreed under World Bank and US pressure in 1960 to what still ranks as the world’s most generous (and lopsided) water-sharing pact.

The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) reserved for Pakistan the largest three rivers that make up more than four-fifths of the Indus-system waters, leaving for India just 19.48% of the total waters. After gifting the lion’s share of the waters to the congenitally hostile Pakistan, India also contributed $173.63 million for dam and other projects there. The Great Water Folly — one of the major strategic problems bequeathed to future Indian generations by the Nehruvian era — began exacting serious costs within a few years.


Pravin Sawhney

What is needed, as the first step to reforming the functioning of our defence establishment, is institutionalised interaction between the political and the military leaderships. This has never been attempted in right earnest before, though it’s been greatly talked about

Quick on the heels of the appointment of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next Army chief, superseding two qualified officers, an inside media report has suggested that major military reforms are in the offing. While Minister for Defence Manohar Parrikar will reportedly discuss the need and mandate for a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) post with the Prime Minister, work on creating joint commands has begun.

The above contentious issues have resurrected three old debates: Seniority versus political discretion in the selection of the Army chief; whether a CDS post is the panacea for India’s anachronistic higher defence management; and the need for theatre commands.

In an interview with the Business Standard of April 19, 2014, I had argued that the appointment of Service chiefs should be a political act. As wars now require politico-military synergy to continuously review crisis and escalation, the political leadership, in the absence of a formalised structure, should be free to choose an officer it is most comfortable working with from the panel of contestants given to the leadership by the Defence Ministry. This will ensure maximum collaboration between the political leadership and the Service chief.


Gwynne Dyer

The Islamists want gross over-reactions from the West to terror attacks. They can then recruit more of their kind on the pretext of victimhood and revenge

Twelve people were killed in a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday, mowed down by a terrorist in a big truck. Elsewhere in Germany, if it was an average day, another 10 people were killed in or by motor vehicles. They are all equally dead; the only difference is the motivation of the man in the truck.

Three other people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Germany this year, so the total this year will be probably end up at 15. That's the highest number since 1972, but there are 80 million people in Germany, so the average German's risk of being killed in a terrorist attack is considerably less than the risk of drowning in the bathtub.

The sensible response to such pinprick attacks is prevention: Good intelligence-gathering and smarter security measures, not mass arrests and foreign wars. That will reduce the number of attacks and hopefully keep them small (no more 9/11s). It's not possible to eliminate terrorism entirely, any more than a ‘war on crime’ can end all crime. It can, however, be kept down to nuisance level.

The Parched Nation

Tilak Devasher

Pakistan may be heading towards a water crisis that could be a tipping point

First, the growth rate of Pakistan’s population has been one of the fastest in South Asia.

Pakistan has been inching towards a water crisis for decades. In 1951, it was a water-abundant country with an annual per capita availability of around 5,260 cubic meters (m3). By 2013, this declined to as low as 964 m3 per annum. The country is expected to become “absolute water scarce” — less than 500 m3 per capita per annum — by 2035.

Two studies show how declining water availability works in practice. According to the first, while average surface flows for a 30-year period from 1978-2008 were 140 million acre feet (MAF), the same for 1998-2008, was 128.52 MAF. According to the Economic Surveys of Pakistan, the availability of water during the Rabi season in 2013-14 was 10.7 per cent less than normal; in 2014-15 it was 9.1 per cent less than normal and according to media reports for 2015-16, the availability of water was estimated to be 20 per cent below normal. Declining water supplies have an immediate impact on agriculture. In 2015-16, agriculture recorded a negative growth of 0.19 per cent against a targeted growth of 3.9 per cent and a growth of 2.53 per cent in 2014-15. Three main factors are responsible for the decline in water availability.

Ex-air chief marshal SP Tyagi seems to have wandered into a minefield

Arun Prakash

‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a part of the main....... never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ There is no doubt that these words of poet John Donne echoed subliminally in the mind of every soldier, sailor and airman as he watched TV footage of a man, who once headed the world’s fourth largest air force, being led into a Black Maria to be lodged in the company of criminals in jail. Given the position he held, the arrest of Air Chief Marshal (ACM) SP Tyagi by the Central Bureau of Investigation and his detention for “custodial interrogation” has shaken the armed forces’ community to the core and it should also stir our collective conscience. 

This piece is not being written in defence of the man, but as an expression of anguish by a senior citizen and a cry of dismay by a veteran at this insensitive act of the State. 

Investigations into allegations of corruption relating to the purchase of VVIP helicopters from M/S AugustaWestland of Italy have been going on since early 2013, with bursts of sporadic activity and publicity being triggered by the actions of Italian courts. The manner in which investigations have suddenly acquired urgency is an indication of the high political stakes involved. 

J&K Domicile Row: Why Kashmiri Leaders, Without Any Exceptions, Are Anti-Jammu And Anti-Hindu

Hari Om Mahajan

One thing is absolutely clear: Kashmiri leaders, without any exception, are not just separatist and half-separatist, but they are also rabidly anti-Jammu and anti-Hindu.

New Delhi should understand this stark reality and take a final decision that frees Jammu and Ladakh from the 70-year-old Kashmiri Sunni rule.

It was on 6 December 2016 that a great news of sorts broke for the first time in 70 years for the suffering Hindu (mostly Dalit) and Sikh refugees from Pakistan – all leading a wretched life in Jammu and its Kathua and Samba districts, since their migration in the wake of the communal partition of India. It said the Jammu & Kashmir government will issue domicile certificates and Scheduled Caste certificates to them and there will be reservation for them in the Central forces, including five battalions of Indian Reserve Force, which were being raised in Jammu & Kashmir (Daily Excelsior, 6 December).

Notwithstanding the fact that they had been demanding full-citizenship rights in Jammu & Kashmir ever since their migration from Sialkot and surrounding villages in the then West Pakistan, the thrilled refugees celebrated the day as a day of thanksgiving. They expressed hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had during the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign held out a solemn commitment that the refugees from Pakistan shall be granted citizenship rights, will one day surely grant them all their natural rights in Jammu & Kashmir, including the right to property, right to vote in the Assembly and local body elections, right to government jobs, right to higher education and right to a bank loan. They said in joy that “a good beginning has been made by taking a decision on issuing domicile and Scheduled Caste certificates to them” (The Tribune, 10 December).

Trashing Nirbhay?

by Bharat Karnad

The fourth test-firing of the vertically launched Nirbhay subsonic 1,000km range cruise missile ended in failure with the wings failing properly to deploy in horizontal flight to target. In four test launches so far, the missile has failed for different reasons to perform in three of them. The first test of the Nirbhay in March 2013 was terminated because it veered off course. The second flight in October 2014 was successful to its extreme range. In the third testfiring in October 2015, the Nirbhay became uncontrolled in flight early in the second stage.

Is this reason enough to abort the entire DRDO Nirbhay project? A powerful but motivated section within the Defence Ministry seems inclined to cut the losses by pursuing this drastic option. These people are the same people who will doubtlessly push for importing such a missile type. The brouhaha in the Press with insiders describing the Nirbhay’s latest as “utter failure” is no doubt meant to discourage and despirit the missile designers and developers and to pressure the Modi government into heeding their advice. But trashing the Nirbhay will only confirm the MOD and GOI’s absolute ignorance about the normal problems faced by any R&D programme developing any sophisticated technology. Instead of putting this momentarily derailed missile project back on track, doing a post mortem of the failures, and redoubling the efforts to iron out the technological kinks that have apparently crept into the missile system since the second successful test, the talk in official quarters, including in certain parts of the DRDO, of trashing Nirbhay may be designed to pressure the government into trashing it. Hopefully, Messrs Modi and Parrikar will not just resist such pressures but actively dissuade the naysayers and trash-talkers from mouthing defeatist sentiments.

Is Pakistan's National Action Plan Actually Working?

By Zeeshan Salahuddin

Two years after Pakistan unveiled its strategy for fighting terrorism, the results are mixed.

The National Action Plan (NAP) was created on December 25, 2014, in reaction to 133 children being murdered by the Taliban. Ostensibly, NAP was designed with the consent of all political parties, and the blessing of both civil and military leadership, as a comprehensive document detailing ideal steps to rid Pakistan of the menace of terrorism and militancy. Two years on, this idealism is tempered by ground realities, the limited ambit of political will, and a tenacious, unrelenting enemy. Thus, Pakistan’s course of action is nebulous, unrealized, and incomplete.

The first point in the NAP is the controversial lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty. The problem is that there is no mechanism to selectively apply the lifting of the moratorium to a particular group of death row inmates. Once it is lifted, all on death row must be put to death. During the first 13 months, there was a surge in executions, 345 to be exact, catapulting Pakistan to the country with the second highest number of executions worldwide. This year, that figure has crept up to 419. This impedance in the frequency of executions comes from pressure from civil society and rights groups. The government was mired in scandals earlier this year as it tried to execute a quadriplegic inmate. A scathing report recently also showed that the bulk of executions, an alarming 98 percent, are not related to terror convictions at all.

Should you say Myanmar or Burma?

And how much does it matter anymore?

“FOLLOW local practice when a country expressly changes its name,” advises “The Economist Style Book”, the Bible of this newspaper. Among the list of examples that follow (“Lviv, not Lvov” etc) only two rate authorial interjections: “Myanmar, not (alas) Burma” and “Yangon, not (alas, alack) Rangoon”. We follow that dictate in our pages, of course, but not everyone else does. Upon landing at the country’s busiest airport, your pilot may welcome you to Yangon, but your luggage will still be tagged RGN. Though Barack Obama referred to Myanmar when he met the country’s former president, Thein Sein, for the first time, the American embassy still gives its address as “Rangoon, Burma”. And ordinary Burmese tend to refer, at least in conversation, to their country as “Burma” and its capital as “Rangoon”. Which should you use, and why?

The Chinese Army's Sneaky Ploy to Take Over China's Military

Michael Peck

After decades as primarily a ground force with the world’s army (go tell China to never fight a land war in Asia), the Chinese military is reorienting itself toward an air-sea conflict in waters such as the South China Sea. For more than a decade, it has been China’s air and naval forces that have growing in budget and stature, while the army has not.

Yet two China scholars ask a perceptive question: Why is the Chinese army going along with these reforms? As we well know from the U.S. military, no service ever voluntarily cedes power to another. It would be like the U.S. Army telling Congress, “cut our budget and give the Air Force more money.”

The answer, the scholars suggest, may actually be Machiavellian. The Chinese army is going along with the reforms because it actually believes it will gain more power from them.

In an article in Joint Forces Quarterly, Phillip Saunders and John Chen begin their analysis by noting the decline within the People’s Liberation Army—the general name for Chinese military—of the PLA Army (PLAA), the ground force component of the PLA and traditionally the dominant service.

'This is militarization': We finally know what China's mysterious hexagonal structures in the South China Sea are for


WASHINGTON, DC - The mysterious hexagonal facilities the Chinese began installing on man-made islands in the South China Sea appear to be anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a unit of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In August, AMTI published satellite imagery of several unidentified hexagonal structures on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief reefs.

The formations are always oriented toward the sea and started to appear in May, according to experts at AMTI.

"More recent satellite imagery suggests that these hexagonal structures are point defense systems that are designed to defend the land features and the assets on them from an attack," Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.

What's more, Glaser notes that China is building these structures on all seven of the islets and reefs it occupies in the Spratly Islands.

A Puzzle of Rising Coal Power Capacity in China

China embarked on a highly visible effort of addressing the twin problems of air pollution and climate change when President Xi Jinping announced in November 2014 that the country would reach peak carbon emissions by 2030. One key focus has been on how to control the use of coal in its power generation and industrial activities. The 13th Five-Year Plan (FYP), covering 2016–2020 and released in spring 2016, put forward major economic targets and a list of nonquantitative goals that provide the overall direction for individual fuels that will together help reduce coal use. A major question, however, has been whether or not China will continue to focus on the key drivers behind climate change and air pollution reform measures in the face of sluggish economic growth and the temptation to use cheap coal resources and energy intensive economic activity to stimulate growth. The 13th FYP for the electricity sector, released last month, offers some details about how China views these challenges as they relate to electric power and acknowledges that coal capacity will increase. The plan underscores the challenge of shifting electricity supply mix, as well as the staying power of coal in the largest carbon emitting country in the world.

Several targets in the 13th FYP for electricity warrant particular attention. First and foremost, the plan states that installed capacity for coal power generation will rise by 200 gigawatts (GW), to 1,100 GW—roughly a 20 percent rise—by 2020. To give a sense of scale, this increment of growth in coal-fired power generation capacity is more than the total installed solar photovaltaic capacity in the world through 2014. Even if the share of coal in the power supply mix remains on track to decline by 10 percentage points by 2020, the rise in generation capacity is likely to complicate the country’s ability to achieve the carbon emissions peak by 2030.

Is China Scared Of Dalai Lama? – OpEd


In recent times, China appears to be closely monitoring the movement of the Dalai Lama and has been protesting to every country that has received the Dalai Lama or given prominence to him.

It is strange that China which is a large country with huge population, strong economy and mighty military power is giving an impression that it is scared of the Dalai Lama, who is a frail elderly person with no military at his command and only possessing attributes of goodwill for everyone.

China opposes the Dalai Lama everywhere

Even after six decades of occupying Tibet, China seems to be concerned that the independent spirit of Tibetans living in exile around the world continue to remain very high. China seems to be so scared of the Tibetan spirit that it opposes the visit of the Dalai Lama to any country in the world.

Due to objection from China and fearing China, Sri Lanka refused to give visa to the Dalai Lama, in spite of millions of Buddhists living in Sri Lanka. A few weeks back, the U S President Obama received the Dalai Lama through the back door, to keep China in good humor.

Democracies like India face a threat of jihadism


On December 19, a terrorist ploughed a lorry into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and wounding a dozen others. On July 18, an Afghan teenager used an axe to launch attacks on a train in the German town of Wuerzburg. On July 22, a teenager of Iranian origin shot dead nine people in Munich.

On July 24, a Syrian refugee killed a woman with a machete and another Syrian refugee exploded himself in the German town of Ansbach. Similar attacks have taken place in Western cities in recent years.

In India too, such attacks have occurred regularly; for example, jihadis cut off professor TJ Joseph's hand in Kerala in 2010, or Guru Teg Bahadur was hanged in Delhi in 1675 for refusing to convert to Islam.


Nations are nowadays invaded by ideas, not necessarily by militaries. Recently, television debates about the use of pellet guns in Kashmir appeared more threatening to the cohesion of India than the actual terror threat from Pakistan.

A New Development in the Fight Against Online Extremism

by Nicole Magney

Over the past several years, tech and social media companies have struggled to provide a comprehensive response to the problem of terrorism-related content posted online. In early December, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, and YouTube announced a new initiative to share databases of online “hashes” in an effort to curb the spread of extremist material online. As defined in a statement released by Twitter, hashes are digital fingerprints for “violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images” that have been posted on social media sites. This new measure will increase the efficiency of removing similar terrorist content across multiple social media networks. However, the announcement raises the questions of why it took so long for companies to agree to this and whether sharing these databases will actually be successful in reducing terrorist content online. Therefore, tech and social media companies should continue to build on this new shared data initiative, rather than assume that this initiative alone will be enough to curb the future spread of online extremist material.

Particularly since the rise of the Islamic State’s online presence, social media and tech companies have grappled with striking a balance between removing offensive and violent content and protecting users’ freedom of expression. While companies were right to question the legitimacy of limiting users’ online rights in murky situations, they also struggled to respond to seemingly clear-cut cases. In early 2015, Facebook and YouTube instituted policies that allowed users to flag and report terrorist-related content to site administrators for removal. However, particularly egregious cases where content clearly violated terms of use—for example, an Islamic State YouTube video published three days before the attack in Sousse, Tunisia in June 2015, which showed three grisly mass executions—continued to proliferate.

“Fake News” and the Post-Trump Media


IN HIS 1997 ESSAY “The Arc of the Moral Universe,” philosopher Joshua Cohen, Ph.D. ’79, asked whether the injustice of American slavery contributed to its demise. To anyone but a philosopher, his answer might sound underwhelming: it did, but its influence was limited. “If there is an arc, King is right about its length,” he wrote, riffing on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s now-famous idea, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Two decades and one Donald Trump election later, Cohen’s view hasn’t changed. “Right makes might,” he says, but “It is just not the only thing that does. Not by a long shot.” 

Cohen has edited the Boston Review, a magazine of literature and political ideas, since 1991, alongside appointments at MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, and Apple University, Apple’s corporate training arm. He left MIT for the Bay Area a decade ago, but the magazine’s office and core staff, including Cohen’s co-editor Deborah Chasman ’85 and managing editor Adam McGee Ph.D. ’14, remain in Cambridge, at MIT’s campus. The Review aims to link academic debates to a wider public discourse, counting among its contributors leading intellectuals like government and education professor Danielle Allen, Walmsley University Professor Cass Sunstein, Boskey professor of law Lani Guinier, and others. Each issue headlines with a beefy “Forum” section, where heavy-hitters answer ambitious questions like “What is education for?” (answered by Allen, and then engaging others’ perspectives). “What are foundations for?” “Ferguson won’t change anything. What will?” Once a distinctly literary publication, the Review’s arts and culture contents now lie deeper in, including a fiction section edited by Junot Díaz, RI ’04. The Review’s website underwent a gut renovation this fall, at the peak of the election cycle, shedding what Cohen called its “dull as dishwater” look. Its new bold-faced, blue-and-yellow design resembles a new-media startup more than a bookish bimonthly magazine; Cohen hopes it will enliven the readership for a Trumpian era. In the wake of the election, he reports, the Review has benefited from a spike in public support for independent media.

Robert Steele: Augmented Intelligence with Human-Machine Integrity – Future-Oriented Hybrid Governance Integrating Holistic Analytics, True Cost Economics, and Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE)

Robert David Steele

Future-Oriented Hybrid Governance Integrating Holistic Analytics, True Cost Economics, and Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE)


The gatekeeper companies in the Data and Information Technology (IT) industries, both old and new, have betrayed the public trust at multiple levels – good people, no doubt, but trapped in bad systems. Their “Balkanization” of software, hardware, data, and spectrum has handicapped humanity and despite some stellar offerings in a micro sense, at the macro level they have imposed an opportunity cost against innovation, integrity, and intelligence of 90%. Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE), when combined with holistic analytics and True Cost Economics (TCE) and placed squarely upon a foundation of human ethics and human thinking, can achieve the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) at 10% of the cost of the old predatory proprietary paradigm, in half the time or less. This is a major augmentation of C. K. Prahalad’s vision of “the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid,” (Prahalad) and the only means by which we can achieve “Inclusive Capitalism” (Rothschild).


Stepping back from the many unsubstantiated claims of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) community, I humbly suggest that Intelligence Augmentation (IA) is also making many of the very same mistakes common to the over-sold and under-performing computers “ubber alles” mindset, a mindset that currently dominates thinking within the Singularity/AI domain, with a troubling creep into the IA world.

The Donald and nukes, again

Steven Pifer

During the course of the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said a number of things about nuclear weapons that gave the impression that he knows little about U.S. nuclear forces or the consequences of nuclear use. He confirmed that impression with a tweet sent this morning:

This could have been an ill-thought-out response to comments made earlier in the day by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said that Moscow needed to enhance its nuclear potential—perhaps just a rhetorical tit-for-tat exchange. (Note to the Kremlin: get used to foreign policy by Twitter.)

But the tweet also raises a question: is Mr. Trump really so ignorant of the size and state of the powerful nuclear forces that he will control beginning on January 20?


As commander-in-chief, the president-elect will have sole authority to order the use of American nuclear weapons. They comprise an awesome force.

The National Security Threats You're Underestimating

Gary Hart

IN RECENT years, there has been an evolution in the understanding of the nature of security, both national and international. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it the definition of security as exclusively a military affair, it is becoming clear that threats can come from nature, from technology and from the failure of traditional political structures.

Consider natural threats: first and foremost, climate change and global warming. Despite flat-earther denial, senior military commanders and serious security students agree that appreciable rises in sea levels will be hugely destabilizing in many parts of the world, including in American coastal urban areas. Given widening fractures in the traditional governing consensus, and the power of energy and developmental lobbies, there is little hope for mature policymaking on carbon taxes or other macrodepartures in the short term of a single administration.

A second natural threat is pandemics. Serious plans are being thought up for dealing with a highly contagious viral outbreak that can spread through intercontinental air travel across continents in a matter of hours. Those plans include quarantining outbreaks, stockpiling immunizations and rapid-response medical SWAT teams. They are, of necessity, multinational in nature. Confounding these efforts is the reality that a naturally occurring viral outbreak will look very similar to one created by the hand of man in a planned biological attack.

** As more wars are fought in cities, new technology can help and hurt

When the most important battle in the campaign to dislodge ISIS from Iraq and Syria—the offensive to retake Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul—began on October 17th, the UN Refugee Agency warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe. International aid agencies fear that urban warfare in a densely populated city inevitably puts large numbers of civilians in grave danger from crossfire, snipers, and artillery barrages. The United Nations has estimated that as many as one million Iraqis may flee their homes as the fighting continues to unfold, resulting in one of the largest displacement crises in recent years. Over 70,000 people have fled Mosul and surrounding areas thus far, with temperatures dropping below freezing. Incidents of ISIS using crude chemical weapons that can be especially dangerous in close city quarters, and recent reports about thousands of men, women, and children being used as human shields to reinforce ISIS positions, suggest that the human toll could be staggering.

The offensive to liberate Mosul, and even more recently the battle for Aleppo in Syria, illustrate the complex challenges and ruinous effects of military operations that occur in cities. Unfortunately, as the world continues to urbanize, this kind of combat will become increasingly hard to avoid. How should science and policy experts respond to the trend towards urban conflict? And what role might emerging technologies play in decreasing the human suffering involved?

Emotional worlds: Letters Indian soldiers sent home during World War II

Source Link 

What was it like fighting for the British at a time when the struggle for India’s freedom was at its peak?

“I have written to you many times but God alone knows why I don’t get your letters. You say you write regularly. Letters mean half meetings and they are a great consolation to us.” 

— Written in Urdu by an Indian sepoy from Tunisia on May 16, 1943.

An Indian soldier guards a group of Italian prisoners near El Adem aerodrome, during the pursuit of Axis forces westwards after the relief of Tobruk -Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum © IWM (E 7180)

Two-and-a-half million men from undivided India served the British during the Second World War. Their experiences are little remembered today, neither in the UK, where a Eurocentric memory of the war dominates, nor in South Asia, which privileges nationalist histories of independence from the British Empire.

And yet, military censorship reports from the Second World War, archived at the British Library’s India Office Records and containing extracts from Indian soldiers’ letters home, bear witness to this counter-narrative. What was it like fighting for the British at a time when the struggle for India’s freedom from British rule was at its most incendiary?

Great question…what DID I learn in command?

by Gregg Sanders

The question shouldn’t have been a surprise. “So, you just came from command. What did you learn?” Here was my chance to impart all the wisdom I had accumulated over the previous 18 years, culminating in command of a Navy Super Hornet squadron. “So, what did you learn?…”, the inquisitor repeated. “Um…” I sputtered. I had no clue what to say.

I had just concluded my command tour with Strike Fighter Squadron 147 in Lemoore, CA when I began my Navy Federal Executive Fellowship at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University. With this amazing opportunity to broaden my skillset as an officer, I was excited to share anything I could to help this impressive group of mid-20s civilians. I recognized very early that I could learn a lot from them, as well.

I quickly struck up a friendship with an incoming master’s student named Colin Steele. I was impressed with him as a person, by his depth of knowledge on security issues, and how he carried himself. It was clear that he was eager to learn from anyone who had anything useful to teach, and the military fellows appeared to be pretty high on his list. Little did I know his curiosity would provide me with my first big learning opportunity.

America’s Cyber Security Dilemma — and A Way Out


The network era has changed the rules of arms buildups. 

A security dilemma occurs when one nation’s efforts to improve its security prompts other nations to take similar actions — often provoking arms races, instability, even war. But while such dilemmas have typically led to more-or-less balanced buildups on all sides, today’s U.S. military spending patterns are driving adversaries in a different direction: towards cheaper, cyber-focused means of undermining a network-dependent force and the society it protects.

The way out of this cybersecurity dilemma must be equally unconventional: continue to establish cyberspace rules of engagement, improve and increase government-industry partnerships, and strengthen oversight and regulation of cyber-enabled technologies. 

Among the actors working to exploit new network-enabled technologies and the American dependence on them are the Islamic State, al-Qaida, Russia, and China, but perhaps the archetypal example is Iran. Its political and defense leaders realize that they cannot compete militarily against the United States, and stand little chance against Israel, a U.S. ally, in conventional combat. Iran also recognizes that it is in many respects outgunned by its regional rival, Saudi Arabia, and has on occasion sought to redress its differences through hostile actions in cyberspace.

Report documents Russian malware targeting Ukrainian military

By: Mark Pomerleau

Report documents Russian malware targeting Ukrainian military

A unit within the Russian military intelligence, which was also subsequently attributed by some private security firms for part of the hacks against the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has implanted malware within the Android platform allowing for easier reconnaissance and even targeting of Ukrainian soldiers using these mobile devices.

According to a new report released Dec. 22 by the security firm CrowdStrike, a unit within Russian military intelligence, known as GRU and named by the firm as Fancy Bear, distributed something called an X-Agent implant on Ukrainian military forums within a legitimate Android application that was developed by a Ukrainian artillery officer to more quickly process targeting data from minutes to under 15 seconds

The successful deployment of this malware on this application, the report notes, “may have facilitated reconnaissance against Ukrainian troops. The ability of this malware to retrieve communications and gross locational data from an infected device makes it an attractive way to identify the general location of Ukrainian artillery forces and engage them.”

Blockchain technology could minimize risk from data attacks

By: Vince Alcazar

Blockchain technology could minimize risk from data attacks

If the Defense Department deploys blockchain, a new and radically different data management technology, the data attacks of today would become much less damaging, with the key benefit being that the data in war fighters' hands become more dependable by being incorruptible.

The reasons to adopt blockchain technology are twofold: avoiding downside disruption risk and maximizing upside war-fighting opportunity. Regarding downside risk, war fighters need to mitigate the operational disruption and degradation that results from an absence of authentic data because so many of our weapons systems require data to effectively function or to function at all. Blockchain’s upside is that our military could take data corruption and compromise off the table as things an enemy could do to military data. The first reason is important; the second reason is game-changing in warfare. 

A New Development in the Fight Against Online Extremism

By: Nicole Magney

Over the past several years, tech and social media companies have struggled to provide a comprehensive response to the problem of terrorism-related content posted online. In early December, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, and YouTube announced a new initiative to share databases of online “hashes” in an effort to curb the spread of extremist material online. As defined in a statement released by Twitter, hashes are digital fingerprints for “violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images” that have been posted on social media sites.[i] This new measure will increase the efficiency of removing similar terrorist content across multiple social media networks. However, the announcement raises the questions of why it took so long for companies to agree to this and whether sharing these databases will actually be successful in reducing terrorist content online. Therefore, tech and social media companies should continue to build on this new shared data initiative, rather than assume that this initiative alone will be enough to curb the future spread of online extremist material.