31 August 2016

Is PM Modi’s reference to Balochistan Threat to CPEC

By Brig NK Bhatia, SM (Retd)
30 Aug , 2016

The reference to Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir by Indian Prime Minister in his address to the nation from ramparts of Red Fort on 15 August seems to have had the desired effect. The contours of the impact on regional landscape are now slowly emerging.

The Pakistan atrocities in Balochistan were rarely reported due to its remoteness and a miniscule population fighting for their legitimate rights.

The Pakistan government, least expecting India to raise the issue of Balochistan, has been shaken out of its slumber to denounce the reference as a proof of Indian support to covert activities in the region.

The statement however has had a magical effect on the Baloch nationals living in exile and fighting for a rightful resolution of brutal oppression unleashed by Pakistani state over the last seven decades of its existence. World wide support for the numerous demonstrations by Baloch refugees in Europe and North America and protests by them have brought into focus the situation in Balochistan and has awakened the international community to dismal Human Rights situation and atrocities by Pakistan in its largest state which it has been carrying out with impunity.

The Pakistan atrocities in Balochistan were rarely reported due to its remoteness and a miniscule population fighting for their legitimate rights. The statement has had the desired effect with a number of Pakistani activists and scholars highlighted to the abysmal state of affairs in their analysis of situation in Balochistan asking for early resolution of the conflict with Baloch people, including addressing their legitimate grievances which have been simmering for a long time.

A Free and Secular Balochistan will end Extremism and Fundamentalism in Region

By Sobdar Baloch
30 Aug , 2016

The inhabitants of Occupied Balochistan overwhelmingly welcomed the major policy shift of India towards subcontinent by raising the issue of Balochistan globally. Diplomats, historians and intellectuals believe that UN must have intervened in Balochistan in 1948 when Pakistan invaded the sovereign state of Balochistan by violating the UN charter. 

CHAPTER 1, ARTICLE 2, and CLAUSE 4 clearly say “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

The Baloch nation, time and again, has said that Balochistan is not an internal matter of Pakistan because no single document is available which proves Balochistan willingly joined Pakistan. To support their claims, Baloch have piles of historic documents which show that Pakistan forcibly invaded Balochistan on March 27, 1948 and illegally annexed it.

Regional experts say supporting Balochistan’s independence movement is the right decision of the century. The dream of term peace in Afghanistan, regional stability and economic prosperity can only be achieved when Baloch nation is able to regain their independence from Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clear stance on Balochistan definitely is a ray of hope for stability in the region. The Taliban, Haqani Network and other international terrorist organizations, it is known, are using the territory of Balochistan freely under the nose of Pakistan military and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other friendly countries of Balochistan need to work closely and devise solid foreign policies for the sake of regional peace.

Taliban Capture Border District in Eastern Afghanistan

Mujib Mashal
August 28, 2016

Taliban Overrun Afghan Border District, Opening a New Front

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban have overrun a border district in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktia and inflicted heavy casualties on the Afghan security forces, officials said Saturday, as the insurgent fighters opened a new front in a once-volatile region.

Local officials expressed alarm that the attack in the Jani Khel district overnight Friday was led by fighters of the Haqqani network. The network, an arm of the insurgency based in Pakistan, is known for its urban assaults, and the officials say it is trying to create a foothold to re-establish its headquarters in Afghanistan.

Abdul Rahman Zurmati, Jani Khel’s governor, said his troops had been under siege for nine days. The district fell to the Taliban late Friday, he said, because his forces ran out of ammunition and reinforcements did not arrive.

“We were 90 people, and we had to fight against 1,200 Taliban,” Mr. Zurmati said in a phone interview. “Twenty-seven of my men have been killed. At first, some of them were wounded and we brought them to the main road, but then a land mine exploded and they were killed. We killed 130 of the enemy.”

Janat Khan Samkanai, the deputy head of the Paktia provincial council, said senior police officers and army generals were at the front line with reinforcements to try to retake the district.

USAF Airman Who Served With SEAL Team 6 in Afghanistan Being Considered for Medal of Honor After Being Left for Dead

August 29, 2016

SEAL Team 6 and a Man Left for Dead: A Grainy Picture of Valor

Britt Slabinski could hear the bullets ricochet off the rocks in the darkness. It was the first firefight for his six-man reconnaissance unit from SEAL Team 6, and it was outnumbered, outgunned and taking casualties on an Afghan mountaintop.

A half-dozen feet or so to his right, John Chapman, an Air Force technical sergeant acting as the unit’s radioman, lay wounded in the snow. Mr. Slabinski, a senior chief petty officer, could see through his night-vision goggles an aiming laser from Sergeant Chapman’s rifle rising and falling with his breathing, a sign he was alive.

Then another of the Americans was struck in a furious exchange of grenades and machine-gun fire, and the chief realized that his team had to get off the peak immediately.

He looked back over at Sergeant Chapman. The laser was no longer moving, Chief Slabinski recalls, though he was not close enough to check the airman’s pulse. Chased by bullets that hit a second SEAL in the leg, the chief said, he crawled on top of the sergeant but could not detect any response, so he slid down the mountain face with the other men. When they reached temporary cover, one asked: “Where’s John? Where’s Chappy?” Chief Slabinski responded, “He’s dead.”

India and the US Sign the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)

By IDR News Network
30 Aug , 2016

India and the United States have signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum Of Agreement (LEMOA) in Washington DC, USA on 29 August 2016. 

LEMOA is a facilitating agreement that establishes basic terms, conditions, and procedures for reciprocal provision of Logistic Support, Supplies, and Services between the armed forces of India and the United States.

Logistic Support, Supplies, and Services include food, water, billeting, transportation, petroleum, oils, lubricants, clothing, communication services, medical services, storage services, training services, spare parts and components, repair and maintenance services, calibration services, and port services.

Reciprocal logistic support would be used exclusively during authorized port visits, joint exercises, joint training, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

Logistics support for any other cooperative efforts shall only be provided on a case-by-case basis through prior mutual consent of the Parties, consistent with their respective laws, regulations and policies.

China Is Fueling a Submarine Arms Race in the Asia-Pacific

AUGUST 26, 2016

A damaging leak of data on India’s new submarine highlights how undersea warfare is at the heart of a regional contest for naval supremacy.

With China plowing money into its military machine and making aggressive claims to disputed island chains, Beijing’s regional rivals are investing in the one weapon that can undercut the increasingly potent People’s Liberation Army. Across South and East Asia, China’s neighbors are spending heavily on submarines, purchasing silent diesel-electric machines capable of slipping past Chinese defenses.

So when the Australian reported this week that detailed technical plans — totaling some 20,000 pages — for a French-made submarine had leaked from the manufacturer, the reaction was one of widespread panic. The leaked plans outlined in minute detail the capabilities of a Scorpene-class vessel purchased by India, and New Delhi immediately demanded that French authorities investigate how the respected DCNS shipbuilder had lost control of the plans. In Australia, where DCNS has been tapped to build the country’s next-generation submarine, officials warned the contractor needed to step up security.
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The sharp reaction reveals the central place of submarines in Asia’s accelerating arms race. Submarines are one of the few weapons with which countries warily eyeing Beijing’s military buildup can send a signal that they do not plan to stand idly by as China asserts its interests through coercion and unilateral moves, particularly in the South China Sea. Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and India can do little about the formidable radar installations and missile batteries dotting China’s coastline, as well as its expanding fleet of naval ships and warplanes, but they can build vessels capable of slipping underneath Beijing’s naval cordon.

China: the new space superpower

28 August 2016 

For years, its space programme was shrouded in secrecy. Now, with plans for lunar and Mars missions, and crowds at its launch sites, China is ready for liftoff

The Long March 7 carrier rocket blasts off on 25 June 2016 at the Wenchang launch site in the Hainan province of China. 

At 8pm Beijing time on 25 June this year the tropical darkness over China’s Hainan province was temporarily banished by a blinding orange light. Accompanied by the thunderous roar of engines, a 53m-tall rocket pushed itself into the sky.

China is developing rapidly into one of the major space playersFabio Favata, European Space Agency

An increasing number of Chinese rockets have launched in the past few years but this one was significant for three reasons. It was the first launch of the new Long March 7 rocket, designed to help the Chinese place a multi-module space station in orbit. It was the first liftoff from China’s newly constructed Wenchang launch complex, a purpose-built facility set to become the focus for Chinese space ambitions. And it was the first Chinese launch where tourists were encouraged to go along and watch.

For a space programme that has long been shrouded in secrecy, it’s a major step. The Wenchang complex has been designed with large viewing areas, and in the sultry heat of that June night, tens of thousands of spectators stood cheering as the rocket began its 394km journey above the Earth and into orbit.

Myanmar and China: Is Daw Suu Kyi The Pivot?

By Bhaskar Roy
30 Aug , 2016

Myanmar’s State Counsellor and head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has just concluded a five- day (Aug 17-21) official visit to China at the invitation of Chinese premier Li Keqiang. She was accorded the protocol of a visiting prime minister of a country that the Chinese leaders see not only as being of economic importance but also of great strategic interest.

Is the Chinese leadership viewing her as more acceptable than Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw?Some have questioned whether Su Kyi is a rising star or a fading beacon. The Chinese seem to regard her as a rising star, for at least the near future. Suu Kyi remains debarred from the post of president of Myanmar by the 2008 constitution. Despite the huge victory of the NLD in the last election, the army retained by law 25 per cent of the seats in parliament to block any amendments to the constitution. Nevertheless, Suu Kyi was confident enough to say, even before the president was elected, that she would control the presidency.

President U Htin Kyaw, a long time aide of Su Kyi, was handpicked by her without opposition. Her power and acceptance by the people is palpable. She chose her official position as State Counsellor, a post that did not exist before. After deliberations she also chose to become foreign minister. These two posts give Suu Kyi a very wide range of powers both internally and internationally. Even if much is mentioned in the international media about her one must remember that she is a Nobel Laureate for peace, and has an international status above just politics.

Leaked ISIS Documents Show Internal Chaos


What appear to be internal documents from the administration of the so-called Islamic State, obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast, show the terrorist organization under strain from financial misappropriation, embezzlement, alleged infiltration by anti-ISIS spies, and bureaucratic infighting.

These documents, originally captured by a Syrian rebel group near Damascus, are stamped by official ISIS “ministries.” They show the dollar salaries ISIS paid to its jihadist fighters, at least as of a year ago, in addition to other income earmarked for those fighters’ dependents.

The information contained in the documents confirms what various ISIS defectors and deserters have disclosed previously to The Daily Beast about the inner workings of the organization.

ISIS Kids Execute Prisoners on Tape


ISIS released a new video Friday showing children of its foreign soldiers shooting a group of prisoners. The terror group said the executed men were members of the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish force that is supported by the United States and has been one of the most effective armies fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

ISIS is known for its grisly videos of beheadings and other sadistic killings. But the new video is particularly grisly and horrific even by ISIS’ cruel standards. It shows five boys, some of them visibly frightened, shoot kneeling prisoners in the backs of their heads. One boy speaks to the camera while the others look on silently.

The SITE intelligence group, which analyzes the terror group’s propaganda, said the boys are British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian, and Uzbek citizens. Their parents came to fight with ISIS and apparently brought their kids along.

It’s not clear when the video was made. However, it was released at a particularly important moment in the United States’ war against ISIS, which has been making progress as a combination of air and ground strikes takes back territory from the group.

This week, Turkish air and ground forces pounded ISIS positions in northern Syria along the Turkish border. U.S. officials have long been urging Turkey to get into the fight, and Turkish intervention helped to evict ISIS from the Syrian town of Jarabulus.

Ground Zero in the New Cold War

08.29.16 10:30 AM ET

THE CURONIAN SPIT — A bus ride from the last town in the European Union—Nida, Lithuania—across the border into Russia’s Kaliningrad region took less than an hour. The morning sun warmed sandy dunes along the shore of the Baltic Sea. There was hardly any traffic, just a few tourists and mushroom pickers stalking wild fungi in the lush vegetation of a national park. The bus glided quietly under pine trees on the only road in the Curonian Spit, a narrow stretch of land that is divided between two nations and, perhaps more critically at this moment, between two armies.

The northern part of the 98-kilometer-long peninsula belongs to Lithuania and is defended by thousands of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, while the rest of the peninsula is Russian, and similarly militarized.

Since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Lithuanian and Russian residents on both sides of the border in this once peaceful corner of Europe have been witnesses to frequent shows of military force.

This month, both NATO and Russia flexed their muscles. Lithuania’s Flaming Thunder 2016 drills brought together more than 1,000 ground troops to fire artillery and mortars.

On the other side of the frontier, Russia was reinforcing, too, in preparation for September’s large-scale drills by coastal forces. Dwarfing the NATO contingent, at least in numbers, the Russian Baltic Fleet is equipped with at least 75 combat ships, dozens of jet fighters and assault helicopters. Last week, the fleet fired BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers.

Sweden Hit by Wave of Russian Disinformation on Social Media During Debate on Greater Cooperation With NATO

August 29, 2016

A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories

STOCKHOLM — With a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue.

The claims were alarming: If Sweden, a non-NATO member, signed the deal, the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil; NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval; NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges.

They were all false, but the disinformation had begun spilling into the traditional news media, and as the defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, traveled the country to promote the pact in speeches and town hall meetings, he was repeatedly grilled about the bogus stories.

“People were not used to it, and they got scared, asking what can be believed, what should be believed?” said Marinette Nyh Radebo, Mr. Hultqvist’s spokeswoman.

As often happens in such cases, Swedish officials were never able to pin down the source of the false reports. But they, numerous analysts and experts in American and European intelligence point to Russia as the prime suspect, noting that preventing NATO expansion is a centerpiece of the foreign policy of President Vladimir V. Putin, who invaded Georgia in 2008 largely to forestall that possibility.

In Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now Syria, Mr. Putin has flaunted a modernized and more muscular military. But he lacks the economic strength and overall might to openly confront NATO, the European Union or the United States. Instead, he has invested heavily in a program of “weaponized” information, using a variety of means to sow doubt and division. The goal is to weaken cohesion among member states, stir discord in their domestic politics and blunt opposition to Russia.

The Illusion That America Can Fix Libya

August 29, 2016

Will we ever learn? How many people will have to die, and how many more hundreds of billions of dollars will be squandered, before we get that long-distance social engineering does not work? One would think that the experience in Afghanistan and Iraq would be clear enough. It is fifteen yearslater, and we are still told that unless we send more advisers, more troops and more shiploads of cash, these nations will fall into the hands of the Taliban, ISIS, Iran—or their regimes will just collapse. Now comes a slew of mavens who argue that the fact that civil war is raging in Libya and that ISIS is finding a foothold there, is because we left after deposing Qaddafi. They say we should have stayed—or move now—to “stabilize” Libya.

From the left, Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, holds: “If you are going to carry out a military intervention to decapitate the government, you are making a commitment and you should be making a commitment to the stability of that country over the long haul.” From overseas, Jean-David Levitte, senior diplomatic adviser to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, believes that “it was a big mistake not to stay. We should have helped them create a proper police force. As Colin Powell used to say to President Bush, you break it, you own it.” And former UK prime minister David Cameron holds that “we have to do as much as we can now – with I hope a willing Libyan population and politicians – to try and bring that national unity government together.” General David Petraeus acknowledges the difficulties involved but concludedsimply that “what we did was certainly not enough.” The Washington Postfinds that “pacification of Libya would probably require another Western intervention and a peacekeeping force, coupled with a far more robust international mediation mission.”

A Taiwan Plan for the Next U.S. President

August 29, 2016

Like the rest of the world, Taiwan’s twenty-three million people will look on with expectation—and perhaps some trepidation—on November 8 when Americans elect a new president. Whether Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton or Republican Donald J. Trump prevails in the race will, to some extent, determine how Taiwan’s principal security guarantor will deal with its democratic East Asian ally and the authoritarian giant that claims sovereignty over it.

Notwithstanding the fundamental differences that have been highlighted during the long and bitter presidential campaign, it is unlikely that a President Clinton or Trump would be able to implement a drastic shift in the United States’ Asia policy. As with every incoming administration, the nature of the U.S. government system and the sprawling civil service militate against sudden shifts in direction and ensure continuity, regardless of the promises made by a presidential candidate.

Recent history is replete with examples of continuity. Keen to distinguish himself from his predecessor, Democratic candidate Barack Obama vowed during his campaign to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facilities in Cuba. In January 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13492 to “promptly” close the holding facilities at Guantánamo. By 2016, Obama was still vowing to close the base.

Sorry, Folks. There Is No Rules-Based World Order.

August 28, 2016

If there is one concept, endlessly recalled, that rings through debate about foreign affairs, it is the “rules-based” international order. The notion that all are bound by a global set of rules, an international law above power, is foundational to the UK National Security Strategy and the Australian Defence White Paper, and to the United States’ National Security Strategy. The United Nations itself was created to end the scourge of war and erect a rule of law in its place. This was always difficult, especially so now in an age of greater multipolarity and contestation, where the claims of sovereignty and the claims of human rights conflict, and observers worry that the very idea of rules is being eroded. “Rules-based” has become an incantation, summoned often and automatically, as though repeating it will make it so.

Order is better than chaos, obviously. A degree of regularity and process is better than the arbitrariness of power untamed, and it is better for states to formulate rough principles for the road, even if the road is unruly. The problem is not law. The problem is legalism, the ambition that formal rules can supplant power politics and substitute for wider judgement, that politics itself can be obviated by codes and institutions.

If faithfully observed, the idea that the world should revolve strictly around laws and their enforcement would quickly destroy a country’s ability to have a foreign policy. Five years ago, Amnesty International demonstrated where such doctrines lead, when it insisted that the Canadian government arrest former President George W. Bush for his part in torture while on a visit. Canada, surprisingly, resisted the temptation, deciding that it had other interests at stake in its relationship with a neighboring superpower—such as survival. Like other concepts that attempt to reduce the world to one big thing, legalism is of limited value. We can’t have a rules-based world order. Indeed, a fetish for rules is more the problem than the answer.

Why Washington Is Addicted to Perpetual War

August 28, 2016

The last two administrations have followed a bipartisan policy of constant war. Unfortunately, the consequences have been ugly: every intervention has laid the groundwork for more conflict.

Yet the architects of this failure claim that all would be well if only Washington had acted more often and more decisively. In their view, the problem is not that America goes to war, but that it doesn’t go to war nearly enough.

This approach is based on the belief that Washington is capable of solving every international problem. If only unnamed bright people implemented theoretically brilliant strategies backed by unidentified resolute citizens, terrorism would be suppressed, ISIS would be defeated, Russia would be compliant, Iraq would be successful, Syria would be peaceful, Libya would be united and China would be respectful.

Alas, our experience suggests that such people and policies don’t exist. Otherwise, why would recent military operations have turned out so badly? If the right conditions for success weren’t present in the last fifteen years, why should we expect them to occur in the next fifteen?

The biggest problem is the belief in immaculate intervention. More troops should have stayed longer, more bombs should have been dropped, and more no-fly zones should have been established. Advocates rarely bother to explain the practical requirements and consequences of those policies.

Finland: America's Next Top Ally?

August 28, 2016

“Finlandization” is the term for a small nation, located next to a much bigger nation, that maintains a foreign policy of careful neutrality. In return, its bigger neighbor doesn't crush it.

Can you guess which country Finlandization is named after? Good guess! Having your country become a synonym for neutrality isn't exactly a compliment, but if national survival is a worthy achievement, then Finlandization has worked for Finland for almost a century. Despite being on Russia's northern border and losing two wars with the Soviet Union in 1939–40 and 1941–44, Finland has remained independent and democratic.

No, Finland could not join NATO (nor did it even join the European Union until 1995, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.) Yet even if its choices were constrained by the Muscovite behemoth to the south, at least Finland had a freedom of choice that the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians could only envy during the Cold War.

But is Finland about to abandon neutrality and become America's newest Nordic ally?

Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto told Reuters on Monday that his nation is negotiating a defense agreement with the United States. Niinisto expects the agreement to be signed by this fall.

How America Can Work with Turkey without Losing Syria's Kurds

August 27, 2016

Turkey’s military has staged a ground attack in Syria, sending in tanks and troops alongside Syrian Arab rebels to push the Islamic State group (ISIS) from the border town of Jarabulus and to block further territorial gains by Kurdish forces. Turkish action to stop ISIS is welcome, but not if it comes at the expense of America’s Syrian Kurdish allies. The United States must balance its support for the Kurds with its desire to see Turkey fully engaged against ISIS. Failure to do so will jeopardize the gains made against ISIS in Syria and risk a new conflict between America’s two partners.

Certainly, given the ease with which extremists traversed Turkish territory into and out of Syria, it’s critical to have Turkey as an ally in the fight against ISIS. The question is whether Turkey will be content with carving out a limited zone of control in Syria, or whether it will use this as a pretext to try to defeat the United States’s Syrian Kurdish ally. Already, there are reports of Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions south of Jarabulus. The United States needs to make clear to Turkey that its intervention must be limited, and that respect for Syrian Kurdish interests is part of the deal.

Until now, the United States has relied on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units—the YPG—to fight against ISIS in Syria. This wasn’t America’s first choice. The preferred partner was the Free Syrian Army, a coalition of Arab forces that Turkey also supported. However, the Free Syrian Army was ineffective, riven by infighting, and at times elements within it allied with extremists. Turkey, meanwhile, was reluctant to deploy ground forces. The United States turned to the Kurds only when it had no other options.

The Colombia Accord: When Negotiations and Concessions are Necessary

August 26, 2016

The peace accord between the Colombian government and the guerrilla group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC deserves our applause and our support. It makes possible the end of one of the longest-running wars in the Western hemisphere. The agreement is good news for Colombians, for the hemisphere, and for the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes.

Significant resistance to the accord exists, however, and the outcome of a referendum in October to approve the agreement, although it probably will be favorable, is by no means a sure thing. The most significant figure in opposition is the immediate past president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe. Uribe deservedly got high marks from Colombians and from Washington for significant improvements to security during his time in office. Perhaps Uribe sees the peace negotiations conducted under current president Juan Manuel Santos (who was Uribe's defense minister) as some kind of rejection of his own policies. He shouldn't. The proper way to look at the policies of the last two Colombian presidencies is that Uribe's success in weakening and containing the FARC set the stage for successful negotiations under his successor.

Any attempt now at a purely military solution to the insurrection would be unsuccessful. The war has gone on too long and there are too many interests identified with the insurgent side for it to succeed. Measures taken in an attempt to crush the FARC would introduce their own forms of insecurity for Colombians—who have gotten a taste of this with the excesses of right-wing paramilitaries that initially were formed to combat leftist guerrillas.


AUGUST 29, 2016

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the sixth installment in our new series, “Course Correction,” which features adapted articles from the Cato Institute’s recently released book, Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role. The articles in this series challenge the existing bipartisan foreign policy consensus and offer a different path.

“The Constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates,” James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1798, “that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war…. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature.” As James Wilson had earlier explained to the delegates at the Pennsylvania ratifying convention: “This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it.”

In the post-9/11 era, the United States has drifted towards a radically different regime. Two successive presidents have treated the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) as a wholesale, potentially permanent delegation of congressional war powers — a writ for war without temporal or geographic limits.

The 2001 AUMF was passed by the 107th Congress three days after the 9/11 attacks and targeted those who “planned, authorized, [or] committed” the attacks and those who “aided” or “harbored” them. This referred to, respectively, al-Qaeda and the Taliban although they were not named in the authorization. Judging by what they said at the time, the legislators who passed the resolution did not imagine that they’d sanctioned an open-ended, multi-generational war. This AUMF was nothing like the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that authorized the Vietnam War, then-Sen. Joe Biden insisted after the vote. This authorization was limited: “we do not say pell-mell, ‘Go do anything, any time, any place.’”

Germany Trying to Prevent Islamist Militants From Joining the German Military

August 28, 2016

German military wants security checks on recruits, newspaper says

There are signs that Islamists are trying to join the German armed forces to get military training, and there is a risk they might use that training to carry out attacks in Germany or abroad, a German newspaper cited a draft document as saying.

Consequently, the armed forces want applicants to undergo a security check by the military counter-intelligence agency, starting in July 2017, so they can swiftly spot extremists, terrorists and criminals, Welt am Sonntag newspaper said in an article due to be published on Sunday.

Such security screening would require changes in the laws governing the military. A draft document justifying such changes, seen by Welt am Sonntag, said there are indications that Islamists are trying to get “so-called short-term servicemen into the armed forces” for training.

Germany is on edge after a series of violent attacks in July, two of which were claimed by Islamic State, and the interior minister has already announced plans to step up security.

The cabinet is set to approve a change to the military act next week, the newspaper said, citing security sources. A spokesman for the Defence Ministry said the government was in the process of deciding on the law.

The military counter-intelligence agency is looking into 64 suspected Islamists, 268 suspected right-wing extremists and six suspected left-wing extremists in the armed forces, the newspaper said.

Russia Re-Ups Its Land and Strategic Forces

August 29, 2016

The Russian military continues its long-term modernization drive, aiming to re-equip its land and strategic forces. Russian daily Lenta.ru reports on the recently declassified new armored personnel carrier for the marines, designated as BT-3F. The prototype was built on the chassis of the long-serving BMP-3 line of combat vehicles and is designed both for export and for equipping Russian units. This new carrier’s armament includes a remote-controlled weapons module, as well as a remote-controlled combat module equipped with a 7.62mm machine gun.

In addition to weapons, the new vehicle is equipped with a thermal sight with a laser rangefinder. Other potential combat modules can include heavy machine guns and automatic grenade launchers. BMP personnel carriers have been a mainstay for the Soviet and later Russian armed forces since the 1960s, with thousands supplied for export all over the world. Numerous BMP upgrades and variants continue to serve with dozens of international forces and have participated in practically all major military conflicts since the line's initial 1967 unveiling. This vehicle remains the mainstay of many land armies, and is expected to operate for decades to come.

According to Lenta.ru, the designers decided to get rid of the turret and its 100mm gun -- the weapon choice of the original BMP-3 -- in order to increase the crew capacity of the new machine, which can now transport seven to 14 people. In a 2016 interview with the magazine Moscow Defense Brief, Alexey Losev, the head of export department and planning for Tractor Plants Corp. (KTZ), said that the company took the initiative and designed the vehicle at its own expense, adding that a prototype is scheduled to appear in the Army 2016 military forum this September. According to Lozev, there is already an export potential -- Indonesia recently expressed interest in the new vehicle.

Russia Strengthens Its Military Capabilities in Southern Russia, the Crimea, and South to Syria

August 29, 2016

Russian Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2AD) Range: August 2016

Russia has altered the security balance in the Black Sea, Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East by establishing large anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) exclusion zones. Russia’s power projection in these regions has been further extended by the deployment of the S-400 air defense system to Crimea in August 2016 and to Syria in November 2015. Advanced air defense systems create A2AD “bubbles” that prevent Russia’s opponents from establishing air supremacy in strategically significant theaters. The Baltic States, much of Ukraine and the Black Sea, northern Poland, Syria and parts of Turkey fall under Russian A2AD bubbles created by S-300 and S-400 air defense systems. Russia operates advanced air defense not only within its own territory, but from sites in Syria and occupied Crimea, as well as cooperatively through the Joint Air Defense Network in Belarus and Armenia. Russia can use these systems to impede the ability of the U.S. to defend its NATO allies by disrupting the ability of US air forces to access conflict zones in the event of a crisis. 

Chief of Naval Operations Richardson: US Aircraft Carriers Can Fight Inside A2/AD Zones

August 29, 2016

The United States Navy is absolutely confident in the ability of its aircraft carriers and carrier air wings to fly and fight within zones defended by so-called anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) weapons. Both Russia and China—and to a lesser extent Iran—have been developing layered anti-ship and anti-aircraft defenses that would make it more difficult for the U.S. Navy to operate closer to their shores.

In the view of the U.S. Navy leadership, A2/AD—as it is now called—has existed since the dawn of warfare when primitive man was fighting with rocks and spears. Overtime, A2/AD techniques have evolved as technology has improved with ever-greater range and lethality. Rocks and spears eventually gave way to bows and arrows, muskets and cannons. Thus, the advent of long-range anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles is simply another technological evolution of A2/AD.

“This is the next play in that,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, told The National Interest on Aug. 25 during an interview in his office in the Pentagon. “This A2/AD, well, it’s certainly a goal for some of our competitors, but achieving that goal is much different and much more complicated.”

Indeed, as many U.S. Navy commanders including Richardson and Rear Adm. (Upper Half) DeWolfe Miller, the service’s director of air warfare, have pointed out, anti-access bubbles defended by Chinese DF-21D or DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missile systems or Russian Bastion-P supersonic anti-ship missile systems are not impenetrable ‘Iron Domes.’ Nor do formidable Russian and Chinese air defense systems such as the S-400 or HQ-9 necessarily render the airspace they protect into no-go zones for the carrier air wing.

Is Obama's Syrian Chemical-Weapons Legacy So Bad?

August 29, 2016

President Barack Obama would like nothing more than to cruise the next five months into retirement after eight grey-hair-inducing years. The world, of course, would keep on going and new crises would inevitably put up during those five months, but one could argue that Obama deserves at least a little downtime; Congress took seven weeks off, so why can't he play a few more rounds of golf with his buddies?

If Syria weren't such a catastrophe—with more refugees and fresh war crimes almost every day—cruising towards Inauguration Day may actually be possible. But the civil war in Syria will be keeping the president and his staff awake at night to the very last moment of the Obama presidency. Despite the intervention in Libya being labeled by Obama himself as his biggest mistake and greatest regret, it will be the slaughter in Syria and what is conventionally perceived as a weak U.S. response that will likely be viewed by historians and pundits as the biggest stain on his legacy. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has alreadyleapt to that conclusion: "I admire Obama for expanding health care and averting a nuclear crisis with Iran, but allowing Syria’s civil war and suffering to drag on unchallenged has been his worst mistake, casting a shadow over his legacy."

The year-long investigation by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which found that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in at least two instances (likely many more) on the battlefield in 2014 and 2015, has onlycompounded that judgment in the minds of many. Those in the liberal-internationalist and neoconservative crowds in Washington who were already aghast at Obama's deal with Vladimir Putin to remove and destroy Syria's chemical-weapons stockpile have crowed that this latest report is an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of the president’s naïveté in the face of a dictator. Ditto Speaker Paul Ryan, who blasted the chemical-weapons agreement at the time and marked the three-year anniversary of the gas attack with a terse statement claiming that the agreement "stabilized the regime." And ditto Elliott Abrams, George W. Bush's top Middle East official in the National Security Council: "If President Obama had reacted strongly to previous uses of poison gas by Assad, this would not be happening in Syria today." Even Roger Cohen of theNew York Times piled on: "Obama’s decision in 2013, at a time when ISIS scarcely existed, not to uphold the American ‘red line’ on Assad’s use of chemical weapons was a pivotal moment in which he undermined America’s word."

Shinzo Abe's Pork-Stuffed Stimulus Won't Save Japan's Economy

August 28, 2016

In the heat of summer, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announced yet another set policies to revive Japan’s still failing economy. His program has more flaws than anything else. It not only neglects the structural reforms the country desperately needs to cope with its aging demographics, but what he has proposed is a reprise of the political gamesmanship his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has indulged in for decades—since, in fact, it first came to power in the 1950s. These channel pork-barrel projects in the direction of LDP donors and constituents and over the years have done less and less to spark growth. If the prime minister wants to help Japan, he will resist these old and largely corrupt policies and, in their place, give the country ways to deal with its chronic labor shortage and otherwise help it address pressing demographic and competitive realities.

The Japanese economy certainly needs help. After a brief surge last year in response to Abe’s earlier stimulus, it has relapsed into recession and stagnation. Real growth during the last four quarters came in little different from zero. Three of the last five quarters have registered no growth or outright economic declines. The country’s unemployment rate remain relatively low at 3.1 percent of the workforce, but only because decades of low birth rates have slowed the flow of young people into the labor market so completely that even this stagnant economy faces a labor shortage, itself a contributing cause of the economic malaise. Meanwhile, Japan continues to suffer from deflation. Consumer prices fell on balance during the past four quarters, helping to stall growth by prompting both households and businesses to wait for lower prices before consuming or spending on expansion.