28 March 2017

*** China set to gain a decisive military advantage

Nitin Pai

More than a trillion yuans, the restructuring of the PLA calls for a wholesale review of India’s defence structure beyond what the Kargil Review Commission advised.

In my Business Standard column I draw attention to Beijing’s bold steps to restructure the Chinese armed forces and make them capable of modern warfighting.

The conventional view is that Xi Jinping’s moves, including PLA reform, are intended to grab as much power as possible. My own take is that as far as the PLA is concerned, the reforms are primarily intended to create a force that can meet and challenge the United States in the medium term. The structural reforms are bold and politically risky, and also ensure that no PLA general is too powerful.

It is a question for our strategists, high policymakers and national leaders to assess whether India can afford to delay the structural reforms that were deemed urgent in 2002.
The Asian Balance: Look at China’s defence reforms

Image: Li Chao, et al/Wikimedia Commons
What caught public attention last week was the announcement that China’s defence outlays have crossed a trillion yuan ($151 billion) for the first time, albeit growing at a slower 7 per cent in line with slower economic growth expectations.

*** Nuclear power promise fades

Brahma Chellaney

It is often said that China could become the first country in the world to age before it gets rich. India faces no such spectre. However, India has already become the first important economy in the world to take on onerous climate-related obligations before it has provided electricity to all its citizens.

This reality has greatly accentuated India’s energy challenge, which is unique in some respects. Consider the scale of its challenge: Before its population stabilizes, India will add at least as many people as the U.S. currently has. Even if India provided electricity to its projected 1.6 billion population in 2050 at today’s abysmally low per capita energy consumption level, it will have to increase its electricity production by about 40% of the total global output at present.

India’s domestic energy resources are exceptionally modest in comparison to population size and the demands of a fast-growing economy, with energy demand projected to rise 90% just over the next 13 years. And, unlike China, India does not share common borders with any energy-exporting country and thus must rely on imports from beyond its neighbourhood, making it vulnerable to unforeseen supply disruptions.

*** China´s Kashmir Policies and Crisis Management in South Asia

By I-wei Jennifer Chang 


Since the 1980s, China’s policy on Kashmir has shifted from a strong pro-Pakistani stance to a more balanced one between Pakistan and India. 

Chinese diplomatic support for internationalizing the Kashmir issue in the United Nations has diminished over time, though Beijing also has blocked UN action against Pakistan-linked terror groups. 

During crises, Chinese concerns about preventing war between India and Pakistan outweighed political considerations to defend Pakistan, and Beijing worked closely with Washington to mitigate regional tensions. 

China’s Evolving Approach to Kashmir

China’s policies on the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan affect regional stabilization and crisis management efforts in South Asia. Following the September 2016 terrorist attack that killed nineteen Indian troops in India-administered Kashmir, China raised concerns about rising tensions in Kashmir and reiterated its calls for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute through dialogue and consultation.1 In recent decades, China has played an important third-party role in helping to deescalate tensions between its nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, in stark contrast to its more belligerent foreign policy in the 1960s.

** Shed the Indus albatross

Brahma Chellaney, The Times of India

At a time when India is haunted by a deepening water crisis, the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) hangs like the proverbial albatross from its neck. In 1960, in the naïve hope that water largesse would yield peace, India entered into a treaty that gave away the Indus system’s largest rivers as gifts to Pakistan.

Since then, that congenitally hostile neighbour, while drawing the full benefits from the treaty, has waged overt or covert aggression almost continuously and is now using the IWT itself as a stick to beat India with, including by contriving water disputes and internationalizing them.

A partisan World Bank, meanwhile, has compounded matters further. Breaching the IWT’s terms under which an arbitral tribunal cannot be established while the parties’ disagreement “is being dealt with by a neutral expert,” the Bank proceeded in November to appoint both a court of arbitration (as demanded by Pakistan) and a neutral expert (as suggested by India). It did so while admitting that the two concurrent processes could make the treaty “unworkable over time”.

World Bank partisanship, however, is not new: The IWT was the product of the Bank’s activism, with US government support, in making India embrace an unparalleled treaty that parcelled out the largest three of the six rivers to Pakistan and made the Bank effectively a guarantor in the treaty’s initial phase. With much of its meat in its voluminous annexes, this is an exhaustive, book-length treaty with a patently neo-colonial structure that limits India’s sovereignty to the basin of the three smaller rivers.

** Notes from Europe's Periphery

Friedman's Weekly
By George Friedman

Both ends of the Continent's periphery are shifting away from the core.

I’m writing this from London and heading from here to Poland and Hungary. This seems like a trip from one Europe to the other. In fact, at this point in history, these places have a great deal in common. They are each on Europe’s periphery, trying to define their relationship to Europe and trying to cope with the radical implications of the right to national self-determination.

Europe’s core since the late 19th century has been Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In some ways, this was Charlemagne’s Europe, which was the organizing core of the European Peninsula. These countries, with the addition of Italy and Luxembourg, also established the European Coal and Steel Community, which eventually evolved into the European Union. Together they account for a substantial proportion of Europe’s wealth.

Europe’s periphery consists of the countries and regions that surround this core: Scandinavia, the British Isles, Iberia, the Balkans and what used to be called Eastern Europe. A strong argument can be made that Italy also should be considered part of the periphery. Italy had been the center of a great Mediterranean empire in the distant past, but it was never part of the Europe that Charlemagne created.

Is The Aadhar Grounded In Adequate Law And Regulations?

Vrinda Bhandari and Renuka Sane

Aadhar enrollment goes on. Aadhar being made compulsory for various public services. All of this, in a legal vacuum.

The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, ["the Aadhaar Act"], as the name suggests, aims at targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services by providing unique identity(UID) numbers based on an individual's demographic and bio-metric information. Aadhaar enrollment is, in principle, voluntary - both as per the Central Government's own stand and repeated orders of the Supreme Court since 2013. The Government has, however, slowly been linking government (and other services) to the Aadhaar card. Since January 2017, the Government has issued 22 notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining a range of services, ranging from the Mid-Day Meal scheme to maternity benefits. The Aadhaar number is likely to become a pre-requisite for filing income tax returns and applying for a PAN card.

As of March 2017, more than 1.1 billion individuals have been enrolled in the system and 4.9 billion authentication transactions have taken place. In the process, the Government has expanded the scope and coverage of Aadhaar while the Supreme Court is yet to decisively settle questions about constitutional challenge.

Nuclear Ban Treaty Conference and Universal Nuclear Disarmament

Manpreet Sethi

A nuclear weapons free world (NWFW) has been on the global agenda since 1945. Only, it has never been a global priority. In 2009, when the president of the militarily most powerful country talked about it in Prague, there was a brief upsurge of hope. But, the moment passed all too quickly and by the time President Obama demitted office, he had been persuaded to approve an unprecedented modernisation of the US nuclear arsenal and infrastructure. President Trump is likely to stay the course. Not surprisingly, Russia is keeping nuclear pace. And, China is keeping them company with the induction of new conventional, nuclear and dual-use capabilities. All three are also experimenting with newer technologies ranging from hypersonics to underwater nuclear drones.

Ironically, it is at this juncture that a conference to negotiate a treaty prohibiting the possession, use, development, deployment and transfer of nuclear weapons is scheduled to be held in the last week of March 2017. Engaged as all the nine nuclear-armed states are in nuclear modernisation, it is not surprising that this initiative is being led by a set of non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS), mostly from Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and some from Europe. The conference is the outcome of the UNGA resolution 71/258 that was adopted on 23 December 2016. The Resolution itself arose out of three meetings in 2016 of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on disarmament. The OEWG was the result of the three conferences that were held as part of the Humanitarian Initiative (HI) since 2013. The HI brought focus to the fact that any nuclear detonation would be a catastrophic disaster beyond human handling capability. It also highlighted the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons given that the NPT itself does not delegitimise these weapons, certainly not for the five recognised NWS. It only prohibits their possession by the NNWS parties to the treaty. The nuclear ban treaty plans to plug this gap.

Aadhaar Over-Reach: Making It A Must For PAN Will Leave Millions Vulnerable

R Jagannathan

First things first: this should happen only when the ordinary citizen can be guaranteed full privacy protection, and quick justice when breaches occur.

Till we find a way to ensure speedy justice on privacy issues, it is better to let a few evaders go unpunished than to try and punish the whole country.

The Finance Ministry’s decision to make Aadhaar, the unique biometric identity issued to over a billion residents of India, compulsory for filing returns is a dangerous move. It will convert what was originally intended to give the poor an ID, and the government an efficient way to target benefits and weed out fake beneficiaries, into a financial Frankenstein.

The ostensible reason for making Aadhaar mandatory for issuing PAN numbers and filing income-tax returns is that there are too many people with multiple PAN numbers, which makes detection of evasion difficult. But this is tosh. It speaks more about the incompetence of the state and its tax officials than about a real need for linking Aadhaar to PAN.

It can be argued that every country has some form of national identification process. The US has its social security number, and so India can well have its Aadhaar. But the difference is this: there is simply no privacy protection in the Indian system that is legally strong enough to deliver justice to people whose IDs have been misused or compromised by the state or even private parties.

Has Afghanistan Become America's Afghanistan?

Paul R. Pillar

Fifteen years and counting. America’s longest war keeps getting longer. The very duration of the expedition, with an end no more in sight now than it had been at any of several points one could have chosen over the last several years, ought to indicate the need for a fundamental redirection of policy. And yet there continue to be calls, including from influential members of Congress, to sustain and even enlarge the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan.

That campaign has now continued under three U.S. presidents, two Afghan presidents, too many U.S. military commanders to count, and a variety of operational strategies associated with the different generals. Different levels of U.S. troops also have been tried, with the peak of just over 100,000 American troops reached in 2011.

Something approaching peace and stability will come to Afghanistan the only way it ever has come to Afghanistan in the past: through deals reached among the different factions, power centers, and ethnic groups within Afghanistan. External military intervention does not negate or obviate that process, and instead becomes the object of Afghan resistance to outside interference. It is not for nothing that the place is called the graveyard of empires.

The shape of any deals reached among Afghan factions matters relatively little to the United States. One need make no apologies for borrowing from old speeches in describing the current conflict in Afghanistan as a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing. Unlike the circumstances in which that phrase was first used, there is no hostile and threatening power poised to exploit passivity on our part.

Afghan Taliban capture crucial town of Sangin in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province

BBC News

March 23, 2017

The Taliban have captured the crucial south Afghan district of Sangin after a year-long battle, officials say.

Government forces say they have made a tactical retreat from the centre of Sangin.

A spokesman for Helmand’s governor confirmed the district police and governor’s headquarters were now in militant hands.

Almost a quarter of British troops killed during the UK’s combat mission in Afghanistan died defending Sangin.

Hundreds of members of the Afghan security forces died there in recent fighting.

Separately, at least nine local policemen were killed in an “insider” attack in Kunduz in the north early on Thursday.

A guard who officials say was linked to the Taliban reportedly gave access to insurgents at a security checkpoint located on the Kunduz-Kabul highway. The attackers took weapons and ammunition with them.

America Needs an "Engage and Contain" Strategy for China

Robert D. Blackwill

Will the Trump administration develop the right grand strategy to deal with China and protect U.S. vital interests?

For the United States, the headline concerning China should not be “engage and hedge” as it has been for decades. Given China’s systematic destabilizing external behavior, the time is past for hedging. Rather, for the foreseeable future, U.S. policy should be “engage and contain.”

With President Trump’s first meeting with President Xi Jinping of China scheduled for next month in Palm Beach, Florida, President Obama’s ambassador to China, Max Baucus, a longtime Montana Democrat senator, recently said that the United States needs to stop getting pushed around by China and work out a long-term strategy to deal with that country’s rise. Baucus expressed frustration with the Obama administration’s lack of strategic vision and its weakness when it came to China. China, Baucus said, has a long-term objective to build up its economic might and global influence at the expense of the United States. The United States, by contrast, often appears distracted by problems in the Middle East.

“The Washington foreign-policy establishment tends to put China on another shelf, to deal with it later,” he said. “We’re much too ad hoc. We don’t seem to have a long-term strategy, and that’s very much to our disadvantage.”

Breaking down China’s electronic warfare tactics

By: Mark Pomerleau

In the wake of Russia's demonstrations of advanced electromagnetic spectrum and communications jamming capabilities, most recently displayed in their incursion into Ukraine, China also is upping its game in this space, demonstrating similar capabilities in the Pacific.

The U.S. Department of Defense, in an annual report to Congress on China’s military and security developments, assessed that the country is placing greater importance upon EW, on par with traditional domains of warfare such as air, ground and maritime.

“The [People’s Liberation Army] sees EW as an important force multiplier, and would likely employ it in support of all combat arms and services during a conflict,” the 2016 report asserts. “The PLA’s EW units have conducted jamming and anti-jamming operations, testing the military’s understanding of EW weapons, equipment, and performance. This helped improve the military’s confidence in conducting force-on-force, real-equipment confrontation operations in simulated EW environments.”

According to the report, China’s EW weapons include “jamming equipment against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems. EW systems are also being deployed with other sea- and air-based platforms intended for both offensive and defensive operations.”

North Korea Might Be Getting Ready for Its Next Nuke Test

By John Power

U.S. and South Korean officials are bracing for Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test.

North Korea may be just days away from carrying out its sixth nuclear weapons test, a U.S. media outlet said Friday, citing unnamed government officials.

Defense officials believe Pyongyang has completed work on fresh tunnels at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, where five previous detentions were carried out, according to the report by Fox News. North Korean authorities, however, still need to move essential equipment into place for the test, which would violate numerous UN resolutions, the anonymously-sourced report said.

While the report could not be independently confirmed, Reuters on Friday quoted an anonymous South Korean military official as saying Pyongyang was ready to carry out a detonation “at any time,” although he declined to confirm if evidence pointed to an imminent test.

The warning comes after the isolated nation tested a new type of rocket engine last weekend and carried out a failed missile test on Wednesday.

North Korea has tested increasingly powerful nuclear weapons since 2006, defying decades of international censure, sanctions, and diplomatic overtures. In an indication of its accelerating capabilities, it carried out its fifth test in September, just months after the fourth. Prior tests were carried out at intervals of around three years. A major priority of Pyongyang, analysts say, is to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland, an eventually President Donald Trump has vowed “won’t happen.”

Get Ready, NATO: Russia's New Air Defense Tech (Think Missiles and Lasers) Looks Dangerous

Dave Majumdar

Russia will start research and development (R&D) work on a new generation of surface-to-air missiles for its army in 2018. The research work will be used to inform a full-scale development effort that will start in 2020.

The new prospective new family of weapons—which the Russians have code-named “Standard”—would replace all of the Russian Ground Forces air defense missiles including the Tor, Buk and some versions of the S-300. However, the prospective new system would not replace the Russian Aerospace Forces’ air defense weapons such as the S-400 and the forthcoming S-500.

“By 2020, the main focus of development will be the creation of a single universal multifunctional weapons system for the Army Air Defense troops,” Lt. Gen. Alexander Leonov, commander of the Russian Army Air Defense troops told the TASS news agency. “It will be necessary in 2020–2025 to lay the technological foundation for such a system by opening an innovative R&D division.”

When full-scale development starts in 2020, the Russians hope to develop a fully integrated and networked air defense system that would utilize a modular family of missiles, Leonov said. The missiles would come in short, medium and long-range variants. Moreover, the future system could potentially incorporate novel technologies such as lasers and other directed energy weapons, Leonov added.

What We Know About the London Attack

Four people were killed — including the attacker and one police officer — and 40 others were injured in the March 22 vehicular assault on Westminster Bridge and in the knife attack near the Houses of Parliament in London. The attacker drove a Hyundai Tucson over Westminster Bridge toward Parliament, striking several people, including three police officers, before crashing into a gate. He then left the vehicle, knife in hand, and sprinted into Old Palace Yard, where he was tackled by an unarmed police officer. He stabbed the officer, who later died from his wounds, before being shot by a second officer. The attacker would later die from his wounds as well. The area was then put under security lockdown.

Parliament was in session and preparing for Prime Minister Theresa May's questions session, which meant the full legislature was in the building. May was moved to a secure location, but the evacuation of Parliament was held up while the bomb squad checked a suspicious package in the vehicle. Eventually the lockdown was lifted. Meanwhile, authorities carried out searches in six locations across London and Birmingham, arresting eight people.

The attacker was initially identified in major media reports as British citizen Abu Izzadeen — born Trevor Brooks. But those reports were withdrawn after his lawyer said Izzadeen is currently incarcerated, a report many major outlets have corroborated. Prime Minister May said March 23 that the attacker was born in the United Kingdom and had been investigated by British intelligence agency MI5, but was "a peripheral figure." London police have since identified the attacker as Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old native of Kent who had previously been convicted for crimes, unrelated to terrorism.

Help Wanted: National Security and State Department Reporter

The National Interest, a print and online magazine focusing on international affairs, foreign policy, national security, domestic politics and more is searching for a national security reporter to join our online editorial team. This position is based in Washington, D.C.

This exciting position entails writing daily news articles concentrating on the State Department and National Security Council from a realist and restraint-oriented perspective in foreign affairs.

This position requires the following skills:

• Reporting and writing on defense and national security issues on a daily basis.

• Covering key players in the foreign policy establishment. A proven record and extensive contacts are a must.

• Ability to break news and cover emerging events.

• Experience in journalism (2 years or more) or online writing/blogging, a background in defense and national-security writing and familiarity with tools used in web production will particularly stand out on an application.

Counter-drone is the new counter-IED

By: Mark Pomerleau

The current effort to thwart the “ingenious” application of unmanned aerial systems being used by the Islamic State group, which include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as lethal payload delivery, is reminiscent of the counter-improvised explosive device effort undertaken by the Defense Department, according to one top intelligence official.

“There is a departmentwide effort underway, which if you go back to the days of the stand up of [Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization] … and the department just went at the [counter-IED] with everything we had. This is that but in a different environment,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director for defense intelligence (warfighter support) within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, said during a March 17 luncheon hosted by AFCEA’s Northern Virginia Chapter.

Following a trip to Iraq, Shanahan asserted that Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, the main counter-ISIS effort, described counter-UAS as his No. 1 force protection priority. While no American personnel have perished at the hands of ISIS drones, it is only a matter of time, Shanahan said, paraphrasing Townsend.

The U.S. Army Can't Get Ambushed by the Future

Douglas Macgregor

More money without new leadership won’t fix the Army.

When U.S. forces begin the destruction of the Islamic State, it will defend its territory—its so-called caliphate—and “hold ground.” Without air and missile defenses, or rocket artillery and mobile armored forces with accurate, devastating firepower, “holding ground” is the only option. U.S. air and ground forces with token “allied and partner” participation will methodically grind Islamic State fighters out of existence. “Holding ground” will be a death sentence for ISIS.

However, the destruction of ISIS belongs to the past; battles between the U.S. armed forces and insurgent enemies without armies, air forces or air defenses. Future battle will be different.

Recent events in eastern Ukraine, Mesopotamia and the western Pacific suggest the potential for conflicts in regions where major wars incubated in the past. When and how these wars will break out is difficult to predict, but the trend lines suggesting how they will be fought are visible now.

In a future conflict with nation-state opponents, U.S. command, control and communications, particularly space-based capabilities, will be disrupted. Theater ballistic missiles and self-navigating long-range cruise missiles will strike ports, airfields, refineries, desalination plants and food-storage facilities vital to U.S. forces.

Why No Nation Wants to Go to War Against America's Military in a Fair Fight

Robert Farley

The ability of the United States to completely destroy a more or less modern Iraqi military establishment remains a remarkable achievement. Only a few doubted at the time that the United States Army, supported by airpower and by a huge international coalition, could prevail over the Iraqis. The extent of the victory, and its relative bloodlessness on the American side, surprised almost everyone.

This is especially true given that the influence of airpower was overstated. To be sure, Coalition air attacks badly attrited Iraqi main forces, damaged Iraqi logistics and broke the morale of many front-line Iraqi conscript units. However, Iraqi armored units nevertheless maneuvered under fire, moving into blocking positions and carrying out counterattacks. Even in these conditions, U.S. and British armored forces shattered their Iraqi opponents with only trivial casualties.

The United States and its coalition partners evicted Iraq from Kuwait over twenty-three years ago. Temporally, the Gulf War is closer to the fall of Saigon than it is to us today. Given the struggles of the past years, it’s difficult to remember how important the Gulf War seemed in 1991, as the Soviet Union neared its collapse.

Rebuild Our Defenses For The Information Age


President Trump has pledged to rebuild both America’s military and its infrastructure—priorities that are more intertwined than they might appear. In the 21st century, “infrastructure” means more than roads, bridges and airports. Just as American life increasingly relies upon the virtual infrastructure of internet and satellite connectivity, so does the Pentagon.

The Global Positioning System is a prime example. The same GPS signal that helps you navigate around a traffic jam or lets your kids play Pokémon Go also guides the Air Force’s smart weapons and enables American commanders to direct ground forces in battle. But much of this widely used technological infrastructure is out of date, unreliable or easily tampered with.

The Defense Department still uses 8-inch floppy disks and computers from the 1970s to coordinate nuclear forces, according to a report last year from the Government Accountability Office. Many of the Pentagon’s communications systems are so vulnerable to sabotage that the Army and Navy regularly practice fighting without them. Satellites can be shot down by missiles or have their sensors dazzled by lasers. Their ground links can be jammed or hacked.

Visualizing The Global Weapons Trade

The visualization below sums up the global weapons trade during the Obama era, minus data from 2016.

It was created by data scientist Hai Nguyen Mau, and each relationship plots the value of the weapons trade between two countries based on data from SIPRI.

It’s important to note that while this data includes major weaponry transfers such as tanks, jets, missiles, and ships, it excludes guns and ammunition or military aid. Lastly, the thickness of each line represents the total value of each trade relationship, while the proximity of two linked countries shows how close each relationship is. (i.e. if a country only imports from Russia, they will be much closer to Russia than the U.S.)

Former top cyber officials: ‘Don’t stove pipe cyber’

by Mark Pomerleau

Ken Foster, a computer network analyst with the California Army National Guard Computer Network Defense Team, assists one of his fellow analysts to defend against a simulated virus attack during the 2014 Cyber Shield exercise at the National Guard Professional Education Center in North Little Rock, Ark., April 30, 2014. 

With recent high-profile cyber incidents and intrusions, many are left with the idea that cyber is so special and unique that it does not fit the rational roles of international, military or civilian relations. Some top current and former officials have poured cold water on these perceptions, warning that siloing cyber is not a winning formula.

“Don’t stove pipe cyber,” Suzanne Spaulding, former undersecretary for National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS, said March 20 at the Cybersecurity for a New America conference in Washington, hosted by the New America Foundation. “We think of cyber in stove pipes still, as if you can put it over here with all of your cyber ninjas and understand and solve the problem.”

This model does not help to understand the nature of the threat, she said, especially when trying to prioritize cyber threats as an administrator. To prioritize, one must understand consequences and consequences are not just going to be within one’s IT system, she added.

Army Central can’t 'look the other way' from network vulnerabilities

By: Mark Pomerleau

The Army is working cyber into everything under its purview. U.S. Army Central decided to go one step further than the Army’s Cyberspace Strategy for Unified Land Operations 2025 in creating its own cyberspace strategy. The move is aimed at helping the organic ARCENT workforce understand cyberspace and cyber operations to better position the agency to aid cyber warriors and succeed in missions.

Lt. Col. Dwyke Bidjou, ARCENT’s deputy chief of information operations and one of the main officials behind the strategy’s development, spoke to C4ISRNET reporter Mark Pomerleau about the strategy, which is still classified.

C4ISRNET: Can you provide an overview of the strategy? Is it more along the lines of cybersecurity or war fighting?

Lt. Col. Dwyke Bidjou: This strategy encompasses all three mission sets of cyberspace operations: offensive, defensive and [Department of Defense Information Network] operations. The intent was to make sure the ARCENT staff had our commander’s vision and understanding and priorities for execution of cyberspace operations, hitting on all three mission sets.

How The Citizen Lab polices the world's digital spies

Anita Elash

DECEMBER 22, 2016 TORONTO—It's well known that WeChat censors conversations between hundreds of millions of mainland Chinese who regularly use the country's most popular chat app.

Censorship is a fact of life in China, and Beijing's censors have raced to keep pace with the rapid spread of digital communications. But the full scope of how WeChat controls what users say, read, and share wasn't known until a small team of technology researchers at the University of Toronto began to suspect the company was blocking conversations among users in North America, too.

“In the past, when we spoke about globalization, we said it would erase censorship because there were no borders. Now we’re seeing that argument disappear,” says Jason Ng, a researcher at The Citizen Lab, an outfit based based at the university's Munk School of Global Affairs that focuses on exposing how technology can be used to violate free speech and endanger human rights. “This is a new way of thinking about how to restrict information based on who or where users are.”

Through his work examining what WeChat users are able to see – whether they are in China or abroad – revealed that the company's digital filtering technology tracks users around the globe, blocking content without users' knowledge.

The battle between Washington and Silicon Valley over encryption

by Sara Sorcher

When Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson arrived in San Francisco for one of the world’s largest technology conferences, it was almost like a foreign emissary entering enemy territory. 

The epicenter of the country’s technology community has been openly hostile toward its government ever since whistleblower-turned-fugitive Edward Snowden revealed two years ago the National Security Agency was collecting troves of Americans’ communications records and hacking into the Internet backbone. Mr. Johnson had arrived at the RSA Conference, an annual gathering of thousands of influential cybersecurity professionals, with an olive branch. He sought to encourage collaboration between Washington and the nation’s tech industry, including by announcing a new Homeland Security office to work with what he called “friends” in Silicon Valley. 

But it wasn’t just the long shadow of the Snowden revelations that Johnson had to overcome. Another battle between the Obama administration and the tech community was just beginning to heat up, as senior US officials called on major tech companies such as Apple and Google to weaken encryption technology so that law enforcement and national security agencies have easier access to their customers’ data. 

This is the Pentagon's vision of the Interne

Source Link

This is the Pentagon's vision of the Internet.

The US military's cyber warriors, unlike soldiers patrolling a battlefield overseas, will not hear the sound of an attack coming. They will not see their opponents in the flesh. They will not die because they were in their line of fire.

Like information security professionals at private companies, they spend long hours hunkered over computers, analyzing lines of code, trying to detect breaches – a laborious process that requires advanced engineering skills. Though their networks are scanned up to millions of times every day, there is no alarm system that triggers when an enemy hacker crosses a virtual tripwire to breach their network. There’s no virtual explosion if they destroy the data inside.

The Pentagon's research arm wants to change this.

With a project called Plan X, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is building what could one day become a virtual reality that gives cyber warriors "instantaneous knowledge of the fact [their] network is being attacked," says its program manager Frank Pound.

27 March 2017

*** China's Urbancide in Tibet

By Rinzin Dorjee

China’s urbanization policies have a particularly telling impact on Tibet.

The State Council of China unveiled the National New Type Urbanization Plan (NUP) in 2014 to increase the percentage of urban residents in the total population of China from 52.6 percent in 2012 to 60 percent by 2020. The ratio of citizens with urban hukou (resident permit) will increase 35.3 percent to approximately 45 percent. After many decades of deliberations and halt in reforms to the strict urban hukou system, the Chinese government has finally loosened procedures for rural migrants to transfer their household registrations to urban areas.

This policy has a unique impact on Tibet, where urbanization has become a major burden. Ethnically Chinese migrants coming from China’s densely populated coastal provinces have started moving to Tibet and the reformed hukou system has made it easier to transfer their household registration in Tibet.

By “urbancide,” I refer to the extinguishing of Tibetan culture and identity through an influx of millions of Chinese migrants in Tibet. At the same time, Tibetans in rural regions are made landless through expropriation of their land. As suggested by Emily T. Yeh in her book, Taming Tibet, this is part of China’s state territorialization of Tibet.

*** Assessing and Evaluating Department of Defense Efforts to Inform, Influence, and Persuade

To achieve key national security objectives, the U.S. government and U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) must effectively and credibly communicate with a broad range of foreign audiences. These activities also represent a significant investment: DoD spends more than $250 million per year on inform, influence, and persuade (IIP) efforts. It is clearly important to measure the performance and effectiveness of these efforts, but assessment has remained a challenge for DoD. To better support IIP planners and assessment practitioners, this report presents a realistic but fictional scenario as context for a step-by-step example of how assessment planning should work in practice. In the process, it demonstrates several core principles of effective assessment articulated in previous RAND research, along with insights and best practices for developing assessments that can accurately measure progress toward campaign objectives and directly support decision-making.


Ensure that the objectives of an IIP effort are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). 

Break objectives into smaller subordinate objectives or sequential steps for a clearer picture of progress toward larger objectives. 

** Beware the rhyme of history

by Arun Prakash
It is “Peace for our time”, declared British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on September 30, 1938, as he returned from the Munich Conference having tamely agreed to the German annexation of Czechoslovakian territories. This was to be the penultimate act of appeasement before Germany triggered World War II by invading Poland on September 1, 1939.

Well before it sparked this global conflagration, Germany had provided enough evidence of its hegemonic intent and utter disdain for the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, crafted for the purpose of preventing German re-militarisation. In contravention of its provisions, Adolf Hitler introduced conscription, sent his military to gain combat experience in the Spanish civil war and then, in 1936, re-occupied Rhineland. Emboldened by the passivity of Britain and the European powers, this was followed, in 1938, by the forcible union (Anschluss) of Austria with the Third Reich because of its German-speaking majority. Craven appeasement and hopeless optimism had set the stage for the Gotterdammerung that was to follow, exactly a year after Munich.

History, according to Mark Twain, “does not repeat itself but it rhymes”. On the 100th anniversary of World War I, Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan had pointed out uncanny similarities between the contemporary geopolitical landscape and the Europe of 1914. She argued in an essay that the same structural forces that led to the Great War a century ago could be in action in 2014. Mercifully, the centennial of WW I came and went peacefully, but MacMillan endorses Mark Twain with her advice: “If we can see past our blinders and take note of the telling parallels between then and now… history does give us valuable lessons.”


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by Manpreet Sethi

Imminent use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan will make India go first, carry out a comprehensive first strike, and take out Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. So said an MIT scholar at a recent conference on nuclear policy. He opined that India will mount a “full comprehensive and preemptive nuclear counterforce strike” that could “completely disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons so that India does not engage in iterative tit-for-tat exchanges and expose its own cities to nuclear destruction.”

There are several problems with this hypothesis. Firstly, there never is any guarantee that “imminent” use of nuclear weapons is not an exercise in coercive diplomacy by the adversary. By doing preemption then, the first user would have guaranteed retaliation on oneself. Secondly, carrying out a full, comprehensive counterforce strike requires a credible first-strike-capable nuclear force. This means large numbers of nuclear-tipped missiles of very high accuracy, an early warning and intelligence capability of a very high order given the mobility of the adversary’s nuclear assets, nuclear targeting coordination, and logistics of a very high capability to obviate all chance of retaliation. The demands of such capabilities require deep pockets and a full panoply of high-end technology. India neither has nor will have spare cash of this kind in the foreseeable future. Therefore, complete disarming of Pakistan is just not possible. And if that doesn’t happen, then despite the first strike, Indian nuclear use would only have ended up exposing its cities to nuclear destruction, the very scenario Narang presupposes India would go nuclear first to avoid.

America Can't Terror-Proof Afghanistan

Barnett R. Rubin

More U.S. troops in Afghanistan may result in more direct combat with the Taliban.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a conflict in possession of no military solution must be in want of more troops. Or so one would think from the recommendations on how to succeed in Afghanistan made by Gen. John Nicholson, the force commander in Afghanistan; Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of Central Command; and Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. More troops with “greater authorities” will “break” or “end” the stalemate that all agree exists. “Greater authorities” means putting U.S. troops back in direct combat with the Taliban and authorizing them to risk killing more Afghan civilians.

More troops may shift the terms of the stalemate slightly and make it last longer, though it will probably last as long as the United States wants to pay for it. With or without more troops, under the present strategy, the U.S. commitment would have to be eternal, because it does nothing to mitigate the geopolitical conditions that created an enabling environment for global terrorism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and which can be addressed only by political means. Terrorism is not caused by the existence of “terrorists,” and killing “terrorists” does not eradicate terrorism. The United States may define counterterrorism as its core interest in the region, but both those we label terrorists and those fighting them have political objectives rooted in the history of their societies. The Taliban were a product of the decades-long collapse of the Afghan state under the pressure of Cold War and regional rivalries. Al Qaeda, a product of the Arab world, developed in the ungoverned space created by war and support for, first, Afghan mujahidin fighting the Soviet Union and then the Taliban. The Islamic State, a product of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, has gained a foothold in Afghanistan by exploiting these same conditions.

The Graveyard of Empires and Big Data


The only tiki bar in eastern Afghanistan had an unusual payment program. A sign inside read simply, “If you supply data, you will get beer.” The idea was that anyone — or any foreigner, because Afghans were not allowed — could upload data on a one-terabyte hard drive kept at the bar, located in the Taj Mahal Guest House in Jalalabad. In exchange, they would get free beer courtesy of the Synergy Strike Force, the informal name of the American civilians who ran the establishment.

Patrons could contribute any sort of data — maps, PowerPoint slides, videos, or photographs. They could also copy data from the drive. The “Beer for Data” program, as the exchange was called, was about merging data from humanitarian workers, private security contractors, the military, and anyone else willing to contribute. The Synergy Strike Force was not a military unit, a government division, or even a private company; it was the self-chosen name of the odd assortment of Westerners who worked — or in some cases volunteered — on the development projects run out of the guest house.

The Synergy Strike Force’s Beer for Data exchange was a pure embodiment of the techno-utopian dream of free information and citizen empowerment that had emerged in recent years from the hacker community. Only no one would have guessed that this utopia was being created in the chaos of Afghanistan, let alone in Jalalabad, a city that had once been home to Osama bin Laden. Or even more unlikely, that the Synergy Strike Force would soon attract the attention of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Will China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative Deliver?

One-Belt-One-RoadAs advertised by Beijing, the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative, China’s grand scheme for knitting a network of roads, ports, railways and other links from East China through Southeast and South and Central Asia all the way to Europe exceeds both in scope and ambition the Marshall Plan used to rebuild Europe after World War II.

The “belt” of land-based links is paired with a 21st century “Maritime Silk Road” stretching from Australia to Zanzibar. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the OBOR initiative in 2013, two years after then-U.S. President Barack Obama initiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trading bloc across the Pacific region. Now that Obama successor Donald Trump has carried out his pledge to withdraw from the TPP, the expectations are that Chinese-backed strategies like the OBOR will gain momentum. China experts say that this is a positive development, but there is skepticism over whether Beijing will follow through with the gargantuan amount of funding needed, whether big debt-financed projects bankrolled by China will benefit the recipient countries, and whether those projects will actually make sense in the long run.

For many countries in the region, China is by far the biggest source of financing: Beijing’s Export and Import Bank of China alone lent $80 billion in 2015, compared with more than $27 billion from Asian Development Bank. Chinese involvement in building railways, ports, roads, dams and industrial corridors is helping to expand its economic and geopolitical sway across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

The Shocking Way a War Between China and America Could Begin

Chen Pokong

In the air, the American and Japanese pilots reigned supreme. Chinese fighters proved no match for American fifth generation F-22 and F-35 fighters. Below the seas, the Los Angeles-class submarines overwhelmed the Chinese navy. Tomahawk missiles, fired from the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, wrecked and ruined virtually all Chinese military airfields in the theater of conflict.

The turning point of the war came with the sinking of the Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. During early days of the new Sino-Japanese war, a Chinese fleet consisting of the Liaoning, four destroyers, four corvettes and other support vessels had played a key role in the East China Sea, destroying any Japanese warship it chanced upon, and forcing the retreat of Japan’s main naval force.

But the Liaoning-led Chinese fleet was soon repelled by continued assaults from American and Japanese aircraft and warships. One Chinese destroyer was sunk after being hit with a barrage of guided missiles, while two other destroyers were so badly damaged that they were rendered combat ineffective. The Liaoning was stripped of protection as the other Chinese warships were deployed for other sorties. During a bout of bitter fighting, a Lanzhou-class destroyer even broke formation and tried to escape the fighting altogether.

Caught between the dragon and the elephant

Rajrishi Singhal

Two large beasts cramp our geostrategic mindspace. One, China’s dragon refuses to vacate our imagination. The second one stirring about in the same space is expected to further cramp room for manoeuvrability. The current US administration, much like the Republican Party’s elephant symbol, is steamrollering global multilateral negotiations. Both these heavyweights present India with a difficult balancing act.

The first inkling of India’s expected high-wire act came from Chile last week when 11 members of the floundering Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), all founding nations barring the US, met to revive the plurilateral agreement. An added twist was China’s presence at the meeting.

It is expected that China will step into the US’ large shoes. America’s withdrawal from the TPP was seen as a parting kiss of death since its stewardship had kept negotiations alive. Having invested time, resources and political capital—especially on beyond-the-border issues like labour standards, environment rules and intellectual property laws—many developing countries are loath to let all that work go to waste.