8 February 2017

*** The View From Olympus: Maneuver Warfare and Navies

William S. Lind 

The debate in this country about maneuver warfare has centered on the Army and the Marine Corps, not the Navy. (It influenced the Air Force through John Boyd and Pierre Sprey, especially in the development and procurement of the A-10; for a recent look at air power and maneuver warfare, see the K.u.K. Marine Corps Air Cooperation Field Manual, available here. That traces to the origin of the debate, in my critique of the 1976 version of the Army’s basic Field Manual, FM 100-5. The fact that, of all the U.S. armed services, it was the Marine Corps that showed most interest in the concept kept the focus on land warfare. History also played a role: maneuver warfare as we now know it was developed by and institutionalized in the Prussian/German Army between 1807 and 1945.

But it did not start there. It started in the Royal Navy in the second half of the eighteenth century. Years ago, I asked John Lehman when he thought it began, and his answer was when George Anson became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1751. Anson, who led a round-the-world raid on the Spanish in 1740-1744, taking the Manila Galleon, certainly had the characteristics maneuver warfare seeks in a leader.

Another British admiral, I think, did more than Anson to promote the outward focus maneuver warfare demands. That Admiral was the Hon. John Byng, who, on March 17, 1757, following his court martial, was shot by a firing squad on the quarterdeck of H.M.S. Monarch. Of critical importance, Byng was executed not for what he did, but what he didn’t do. The charge against him was that, in action in command of a British fleet fighting the French off the Mediterranean island of Minorca, Byng had not done his utmost. By punishing with death a sin of omission, not commission, the Royal Navy created a bias for action in its officers that, by the time of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, had largely institutionalized what we know as maneuver warfare: outward focus on decisive results rather than inward focus on rules, orders, etc.; valuing initiative over obedience; decentralizing decision-making and depending on self more than imposed discipline. As Voltaire famously wrote, “Sometimes the British shoot an admiral to encourage the others.”

*** Parrikar Constitutes An Internal Committee To Analyse Recommendations Of Shekatkar Panel

February 4, 2017 By: Anupama Airy
An internal committee has been constituted within the Defence Ministry to analyse the recommendations made by the Shekatkar panel in its report, submitted to the defence minister Manohar Parrikar on December 21.
According to the minister of state for defence, Dr S Bhamre, this internal committee of the ministry will identify the recommendations to be accepted and to frame the key action points as well as a roadmap for their implementation.
It may be mentioned here that the Committee of Experts was constituted by Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of Lt. Gen. DB Shekatkar (Retd) to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces. The Committee has submitted its final report in December 2016.

What’s this Shetakar expert Committee All About :
The Committee of 11 experts led by Lt Gen D B Shekatkar (Retd) was appointed by the Ministry of Defence in May 2016 to “Recommend Measures to Enhance Combat Capability and Re-balance Defence Expenditure of the Armed Forces”.
Exact Role/Mandate: The Committee was mandated to:

* To review training, administrative and logistics establishments vis-à-vis what is described as “best practices under Indian conditions”, the purpose being to optimise manpower in the defence forces and increase ‘teeth to tail’ ratio.

* Suggest “redeployment, repositioning and restructuring of manpower and resources” to improve combat capability.

* Suggest integration of civil infrastructure and resources into the logistic system of the defence forces in war and peace to “avoid duplication and reduce expenditure”.

* Suggest measures to “correct the bias of defence budget towards revenue expenditure”.

What’s Making News:
The experts committee submitted its 561 page report to the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on December 21, 2016 and is under consideration of the government. A host of committee’s recommendations along with the comments of the defence ministry have already been submitted to the finance ministry for inclusion in the forthcoming budget proposals for 2017-18. MoD officials said that the committee’s report will be an important input in finalising of the allocations for India’s defence budget by the finance ministry.
In A Nut-shell: A 4-star chief of defence staff (CDS) as the chief military adviser to the defence minister, devising an integrated war approach by the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, financial management reforms and doing away with the multi-layered system of according financial clearances (first within the finance division of MoD and then at the finance ministry), effective utilisation of resources and roll on of unused funds are some of the proposals of the Lt Gen DB Shekatkar expert committee.

*** Stratfor looks at the stupidity and evil of collective punishment

Summary: This essay by Strafor comes at a critical time for America, reminding us about the folly and evil of collective punishment. Asides from the bad ethics, demagogues use allegations of collective to arouse public passions for their own political gain — which distracts us from focusing on our actual enemies.

By Anisa Mehdi at Stratfor, 4 February 2017.

In the winter of 1917, the French freighter Mont Blanc, laden with picric acid and TNT destined for the European war effort, headed into the great harbor of Halifax to join a convoy bound for Bordeaux. A Norwegian ship, the Imo, was leaving Halifax at the same time, destined for New York. Its mission was to bring food and supplies back to people in German-occupied Belgium and northern France.

On that cold December day, it should have been an ordinary passing of two ships. But as a result of miscommunication, navigational protocols were violated. Seamen, civilians and members of the Royal Naval College of Canada looked on in horror as the Mont Blanc and the Imo collided. The impact caused a fire on the French ship that eventually caused its explosive payload to ignite. For Haligonians, all hell broke loose. As well as destroying much of the harbor, the resulting blast killed almost 2,000 people. The captain of the HMCS Acadia, located 15 miles (24 kilometers) outside of Halifax that day, estimated the smoke rising from the seat of the explosion to be more than 2 miles high.

The Halifax disaster {Wikipedia} was the largest man-made explosion on Earth until World War II, when the United States’ atom bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The small German population of Nova Scotia came under attack as the slogan “Place the Blame” riled people toward vengeance. Because who else could be responsible for the calamity besides the Kaiser? And weren’t all Germans, therefore, collectively culpable? At first, reports emerged of rampaging crowds stoning neighbors with German-sounding names. But less than a week after the explosion, before the fires were even put out or all the bodies recovered, let alone buried, the Canadian military ordered the arrest of every German citizen.

*** The United States: Between Isolation and Empire

February 02, 2017
Since taking office less than two weeks ago, U.S. President Donald Trump has moved quickly to put his policy directives into practice, from placing a temporary ban on the admittance of some migrants and refugees to lengthening the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He has also withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is reportedly reviewing proposals to cut the United Nations' funding and to potentially withdraw from select multinational treaties. The flurry of activity has drawn criticism and support alike, reflecting the deep divides in U.S. politics that were thrown into sharp relief during the campaign season.

Trump's actions are not without precedent, even if their pace and scope are fairly unique in U.S. history. Is banning immigrants from a particular country new? Look at the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. What about the potential detention of dual citizens? Tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were intentionally interned (along with Chinese- and Korean-Americans) during World War II. How about the Mexico City policy, or withholding funds from the United Nations? Ronald Reagan's administration first instituted the ban on aid to overseas relief organizations that included abortion among their family planning options and cut off U.N. funding to coerce changes in its administration. The list goes on. This is not to condemn or justify the current president's acts. For better or worse, American history is filled with examples of decisions that, to some, are contrary to the nation's values, while to others they are consistent with the country's immediate moral and national security needs.

Finding the Past in the Present
If we step back from the politics of personality — something that isn't always easy to do when they hit so close to home — we can see where and how Trump's tactics fit into the evolution of U.S. policy as a whole. In Stratfor's decade forecast for 2015-2025, we predicted two major elements in U.S. behavior moving forward: a partial disengagement from the international system, and a domestic political crisis triggered by the decline of the middle class. Neither of these behaviors was dependent on the outcome of any particular U.S. election; in fact, we identified them as trends that lie beneath the day-to-day vagaries of politics. Two years ago, we said the first behavioral shift was already in motion. At the time we believed the second shift wouldn't manifest until after the coming decade had ended, but now it is clear that both are unfolding before our eyes.

*** Is ISIS Breaking Apart?

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By Charlie Winter and Colin P. Clarke

With the Islamic State (or ISIS) facing setbacks in Iraq and Syria, most observers believe that the group is crumbling. Indeed, just last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” from the group. Evidently, the U.S.-led coalition tasked with countering ISIS, well into the third year of its ongoing military campaign, has made progress. As a result of efforts in Iraq and Syria in 2016 alone, several high-ranking leaders have been killed or captured, the group’s finances have taken a serious hit, and it is hemorrhaging territory. Over the next few years, ISIS is sure to break apart further.

As it does, it will likely walk down one of two paths. In the first possibility, its disintegration could wind up giving more weight to the group’s center of gravity, even as it becomes weaker overall. Alternatively, it could follow the example of al Qaeda in the 2000s and break down in a way that will diminish the influence of its core in Iraq and Syria while providing momentum to its provincial operations in such places as Afghanistan, Libya, the Sinai Peninsula, and Yemen.

ISIS could follow the example of al Qaeda in the 2000s and break down in a way that will diminish its core in Iraq and Syria while providing momentum to its provincial operations.

Some analysts, such as Clint Watts, see ISIS’ splintering as a potential win for counterterrorism, especially if it results in what he calls “destructive terrorist competition,” a dynamic that implicitly subverts the group’s ideology by pushing affiliates into provincialism and rotting the central core.

Others, such as Colin Clarke and Chad Serena, see the dynamic as more problematic, one that could possibly lead to the emergence of smaller, and potentially more extreme groups—thereby making an already long war even longer.

*** Reinforcing the Front Line: U.S. Defense Strategy and the Rise of China

By Evan B. Montgomery

With some of the world’s largest economies, most vital sea lanes, and closest U.S. allies, the Asia-Pacific Region is quickly becoming centrally important to today’s international system.

It is also home to the first new great power of the twenty-first century: the People’s Republic of China. Managing China’s rise will not be easy. In recent years, Beijing has been modernizing its military forces, acting more assertively, and raising the risk of escalation, especially with respect to territorial disputes throughout its near seas.

In Reinforcing the Front Line: U.S. Defense Strategy and the Rise of China, CSBA Senior Fellow, Evan Montgomery outlines the key elements of a U.S. defense strategy for the region—one that is based on the enduring grand strategy of global leadership and engagement, but also recognizes the new challenges posed by China’s growing military power. 

To date, Washington’s preferred option in critical regions like East Asia can be described broadly as “forward defense”: preparing to counter threats when and where they materialize rather than responding directly long after aggression has occurred or responding indirectly by imposing costs in other theaters. By clearly and credibly signaling that the United States will oppose an adversary’s aims and come to the assistance of its allies, forward defense has underpinned both deterrence and assurance—and, as a result, has underwritten stability in the regions where it matters most. Looking ahead, forward defense remains the best approach for the United States in the Asia-Pacific.

DOWNLOAD PDF - Download full “Reinforcing the Front Line: U.S. Defense Strategy and the Rise of China” report.

** The Islamic State Digs In Along Mosul's Southern Edge

The Islamic State has been working feverishly to block Iraqi troops in eastern Mosul from advancing into the western half of the city. Recent satellite images show the fruits of its labor: Since November, the group has fortified its defensive positions along Mosul's southern edge. Three months ago, the area was riddled with the Islamic State's roadblocks and barriers. Now the militants have added at least 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of berms and ditches to the same front line, shoring up their defenses and obstructing one of the few routes left into western Mosul.

There is still a good chance that Iraqi troops in eastern Mosul will try to advance westward across the Tigris River, but there are other ways to reach the western half of the city over land. The Islamic State has firmly indicated its unwillingness to cede control over the river's western bank, and it is doing everything it can to cut off alternative approaches. The group's new defensive position in the south — a high berm with a trench dug in front of it — will do just that, making any effort by Iraqi military vehicles to gain entrance to the city from that direction more difficult and hazardous.
Older satellite images taken in late November show the militants' initial efforts to bolster their positions on Mosul's southern edge by erecting berms and digging trenches. Over the past two months, this activity has spread across almost all of the city's southern border, extending from its westernmost boundary to the Tigris River. If Iraqi troops try to reach western Mosul by coming up from the south, they would now have to traverse large clearings around the city's former airport to reach the militants' heavily fortified outposts. The Islamic State is hoping to target the advancing forces from the safety of its defensive line, greatly weakening them before they even reach the city.

Over the barrel: Prepare for an oil chage

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by Vikram S Mehta

India hasn’t yet joined the global move towards clean energy. But for how long can it hold out?

Exponential advancement of technology leading to the development of a competitive and scalable substitute for the internal combustion engine and liquid fuels for transportation.

A large part of my working life was spent with the Shell Group and I accumulated shares in the company. Last year, I decided to reduce my holdings of these shares. This was because I felt the business model of large, integrated, petroleum MNCs was under threat; public sentiment and the regulatory regime would constrain their licence to operate, and more generally, the oil era had entered a period of secular decline.

I may regret my decision but I know these were the reasons I reacted to the FM’s budget pronouncement that the government was going to create vertically integrated petroleum PSUs and the minister of petroleum’s subsequent explanation that scale and size were necessary prerequisites for international competitiveness with equivocation. I asked myself whether, given the speed with which technology is upending the conventional drivers of the petroleum sector, the government should be contemplating such a move at this juncture. Further, I have to admit to disappointment that the FM did not follow this announcement with a statement that the government would make these changes within the frame of a holistic and integrated approach to energy policy.

In my view, historians will with the benefit of hindsight, look back on 2016 as the year of inflexion for the oil industry. They will see it as the year the oil era began to slowly but inexorably hand over the energy baton to clean energy. They will not adduce any one particular event or decision but they will point to the following five broad trends.

Turning down the heat between India and Pakistan

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Saurabh Todi

One noteworthy casualty of the colorful post-election news in the United States is coverage of the tension brewing in South Asia between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. There have been two notable terrorist attacks on Indian army bases in Kashmir: the Uri attack in September and the Nagrota attack in November. India responded to the September incident with so-called "surgical strikes" in Pakistan, a response that demonstrated growing impatience with attacks by militants that India says are coming from Pakistan.

The new US administration should support India’s efforts to address provocations by terrorists operating from within Pakistan, and also pressure Pakistan to dial down tensions. Relations between the United States and India have grown steadily through both Democratic and Republican administrations. Former US President Barack Obama believed that America can be “India’s best partner,” and Indian Prime Minter Narendra Modi has called the United States "an indispensable partner."

There are many areas of engagement between the two countries: In terms of defense, India became the second largest importer of US arms in 2015; Indian students in US universities contributed $5 billion to the US economy in 2015; and bilateral trade between the two countries has increased several fold in last decade to reach the current level of more than $100 billion annually, with enormous room to grow further. Lockheed Martin has even proposed shifting an entire assembly line of its F-16 fighter jets from Texas to India (though given Trump's emphasis on keeping manufacturing jobs in the United States, that proposal may die on the vine). This booming bilateral relationship needs a stable subcontinent to realize its potential. Recent events in the region, however, do not paint a very encouraging picture.

The politics of forgotten states

States like Uttarakhand and Manipur are indispensable parts of India. Being on the border, they are also our natural guardians. Ignoring them can prove to be a perilous proposition

Insurgency is an organized industry in Manipur. Government agencies, prominent citizens of the state and politicians of all hues have a stake in it.

If you look at the headlines of newspapers and television news, you will realize that 70% of the media discourse is devoted to Uttar Pradesh and 25% to Punjab. States such as Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur never feature in mainstream politics and the media.

Who says smaller states don’t face all-round injustice in the country?

Let me begin with Uttarakhand which is close to my heart. It seems the state is living out a contradiction. Entrepreneurs and job-seekers want to encourage tourism in the state. It has the natural resources to attract tourists. But the facilities are abysmal. When tourists visit, they return home complaining of a lack of facilities. On top of it, they have to pay through their nose for accommodation, eating out and sightseeing. A tourism industry insider says Uttarakhand’s three-star hotels charge higher tariffs from tourists than many five-star hotels in cities such as Bangkok. 

How will Pakistan fare with the new US administration?

Rashmee Roshan Lall

On January 30, the late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal found himself in an unexpected position. He was unwitting proof of the new United States administration’s claims that its brand new travel restrictions on the citizens of seven, mainly Muslim, countries were not a blanket "Muslim ban". For Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was sitting in Washington 48 hours after the travel ban had been introduced. He had not been denied entry to the US even though he is a politician from Pakistan, a country with "problems" as Donald Trump’s senior aides have repeatedly pointed out in the days since the ban. "Perhaps we need to take it further," Mr Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus ominously told America and the world, mentioning Pakistan by name and indicating that the list of visa-proscribed countries may grow longer.

Many, not least Pakistan and its regional rival India, interpreted the remarks differently, each according to its needs. Amid growing domestic concern that Pakistan would be added to the shame list currently comprising Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan warned that the whole idea of a travel ban "will harm the international alliance and consensus against terrorism". But senior Indian diplomats made a snarky dig at Pakistan, saying "countries that have exported terror are not on the list".
And from his vantage point in Washington, DC, where he was visiting the US Institute of Peace think tank and scheduled to meet new administration officials, Mr Bhutto Zardari darkly foresaw "a whole host of hostilities" from the ban. Especially, he said, if Pakistan joins the list.

Could it? Will the vague threat held out by the new US government be enough to keep Pakistan in line? What is the line anyway?

Long-awaited TAPI pipeline to finally see light of day in Pak this month

A team from Turkmenistan will reach Islamabad on February 14 to begin work on the route survey, engineering and feasibility study to implement the TAPI pipeline project.
Work on the long-awaited 1,680 km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline will begin in Pakistan this month, a senior Pakistani official has said.

Leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India performed the ground-breaking of the project in December 2015. The project would help ease energy deficiency in South Asia.

The Express Tribune newspaper reported that the Tapi Company, having the mandate to run the pipeline, has awarded the project management consultant (PMC) contract to German firm ILF.

Pakistan’s Inter State Gas Systems Managing Director Mobin Saulat told the daily that the consultant was ready to conduct route survey, detailed engineering and feasibility study this month.

“A team from Turkmenistan will reach Islamabad on February 14 to begin work on the route survey, engineering and feasibility study to implement the TAPI pipeline project,” he said.

The team will first start work in Pakistan and then it will proceed to Afghanistan.

“Pipeline construction and gas-field development has started in Turkmenistan and we appreciate efforts of Turkmenistan authorities to expedite the project,” said Saulat.

Understanding the BCIM Economic Corridor and India’s Response

The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor (EC) has been receiving increased public attention in the last few months because of a strong push by China. When implemented, the project promises mega cites, infrastructure, jobs and better living standards for people living in its fold. Is the BCIM EC really a gamechanger? Or will this project, like others proposed by China under its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, result in the most benefit accruing only to the Chinese provinces involved? This paper discusses the issues related to OBOR and BCIM EC and attempts to chart a course for India for promoting security, peace and economic development in its northeastern region.

Nepal’s water curse

By Brahma Chellaney

Nepal sits on vast water resources. The United Nations describes the landlocked Himalayan state as “one of the Asian countries with the highest level of water resources per inhabitant.” Water can potentially be to Nepal what oil is to Arab sheikhdoms.

Nepal’s renewable water resources are estimated at 7,372 cubic meters per capita annually, or several times higher than those for the two demographic titans between which it is sandwiched — China and India. Yet Nepal, oddly, seems afflicted by a water curse. A failure to adequately harness water resources has left the nation acutely energy-starved, and water shortages are endemic in major Nepalese cities, including the capital, Kathmandu.

Meanwhile, as it increasingly becomes a theater of geopolitical competition between China and India, Nepal is tilting more toward Beijing and away from India, its main partner through the centuries. China, blending economic and security policies, is steadily making strategic inroads. Beijing’s latest deal with Nepal to build another largely Chinese-owned dam there highlights its growing success in clinching major infrastructure contracts in India’s backyard to advance its foreign policy and commercial interests.

United States Forward Defence Perimeter in Western Pacific 2017 Reviewed

Paper No. 6219 Dated 06-Feb-2017
By Dr Subhash Kapila

The United States Forward Defence Perimeter in the Western Pacific ever since 1945 has been an effective shield and a first line of defence for Mainland USA, first against the Soviet Union and now against an increasingly belligerent China’s geopolitical designs.

China as a military threat weighs heavily in threat perceptions of not only the Asia Pacific nations but increasingly also in threat perceptions of the United States. Militarily, China can be assessed as not being powerful enough to militarily challenge the United States directly. China’s immediate priority, in the interim, is to dilute US Forward Military Presence in the Western Pacific by subtle political and military coercion of US traditional allies in the region like Japan, South Korea and the Philippine. These nations are essential components of the US Forward Defence Perimeter and the United States should never ever allow a rising militaristic China to breach this Perimeter. The United States must guard against any acts of commission or omission in US policies which could facilitate such a breach.

US Forward Defence Perimeter comprises of nearly 100,000 Forward Military Presence deployed on a network of military bases hosted by South Korea and Japan primarily, and a complete US Marines Division-sized Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa, Japan. Supplementing this presence are sizeable US Air Force assets based in both these countries and US Navy Seventh Fleet. Philippines, despite current strains in relationship is likely to fall back in line, once again, as another important component of this network.

Reviewing the United States Forward Defence Perimeter in the Western Pacific in February 2017, just a month away from US President Trump’s inauguration, it is assuring for Asian nations to note that no changes have occurred in terms of dilution of US deployments or putting US traditional security ties with Japan and South Korea under strain, as President Trump’s election rhetoric indicated.

China’s Debt-Trap Diplomacy


If there is one thing at which China’s leaders truly excel, it is the use of economic tools to advance their country’s geostrategic interests. Through its $1 trillion “one belt, one road” initiative, China is supporting infrastructure projects in strategically located developing countries, often by extending huge loans to their governments. As a result, countries are becoming ensnared in a debt trap that leaves them vulnerable to China’s influence.

Of course, extending loans for infrastructure projects is not inherently bad. But the projects that China is supporting are often intended not to support the local economy, but to facilitate Chinese access to natural resources, or to open the market for low-cost and shoddy Chinese goods. In many cases, China even sends its own construction workers, minimizing the number of local jobs that are created.

Several of the projects that have been completed are now bleeding money. For example, Sri Lanka’s Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, which opened in 2013 near Hambantota, has been dubbed the world’s emptiest. Likewise, Hambantota’s Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port remains largely idle, as does the multibillion-dollar Gwadar port in Pakistan. For China, however, these projects are operating exactly as needed: Chinese attack submarines have twice docked at Sri Lankan ports, and two Chinese warships were recently pressed into service for Gwadar port security.

In a sense, it is even better for China that the projects don’t do well. After all, the heavier the debt burden on smaller countries, the greater China’s own leverage becomes. Already, China has used its clout to push Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand to block a united ASEAN stand against China’s aggressive pursuit of its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Raid in Yemen: Risky From the Start and Costly in the End

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WASHINGTON — Just five days after taking office, over dinner with his newly installed secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Trump was presented with the first of what will be many life-or-death decisions: whether to approve a commando raid that risked the lives of American Special Operations forces and foreign civilians alike.

President Barack Obama’s national security aides had reviewed the plans for a risky attack on a small, heavily guarded brick home of a senior Qaeda collaborator in a mountainous village in a remote part of central Yemen. But Mr. Obama did not act because the Pentagon wanted to launch the attack on a moonless night and the next one would come after his term had ended.

With two of his closest advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, joining the dinner at the White House along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Mr. Trump approved sending in the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, hoping the raid early last Sunday would scoop up cellphones and laptop computers that could yield valuable clues about one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups. Vice President Mike Pence and Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, also attended the dinner.

As it turned out, almost everything that could go wrong did. And on Wednesday, Mr. Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be present as the body of the American commando killed in the raid was returned home, the first military death on the new commander in chief’s watch.

The death of Chief Petty Officer William Owens came after a chain of mishaps and misjudgments that plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three others wounded and a $75 million aircraft deliberately destroyed. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on Wednesday night are most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children. The dead include, by the account of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Qaeda leader who was killed in a targeted drone strike in 2011.

Peace is a process

Vijay Prashad

The absentees at the Astana talks on the Syrian conflict hold the cards for the next steps

Two days of talks over the war in Syria ended this week in Astana, Kazakhstan. Iran, Russia and Turkey were the main powers at the table. Kazakhstan was a perfect location for the talks, since it has close ties with both Turkey and Russia. The Syrian government and the armed opposition sat together for the first time in six years. The Syrians came to the table, but they were not party to the final agreement. In the end, the three powers came to an understanding, which is itself a matter of great significance since these powers were major rivals on the Syrian battlefield.

Lack of external support

Wars end either with a decisive victory or in exhaustion. In Syria, neither condition has been reached. What drives the ceasefire talks is the recognition that the major proxies of the armed opposition — Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S. — have withdrawn. Turkey has decided that this war has spilled over into its territory, which could break the country apart. Saudi Arabia, stuck in the Yemeni quagmire, finds that its proxies can no longer compete with Russian air power. The U.S., which failed to create a moderate army, now understands that the most capable fighters on the ground against the Syrian government are not to be trusted. This lack of external support brought most of the armed opposition to Astana, where they took their seats uncomfortably.

Counterinsurgency Options for Ukraine

by Vincent A. Dueñas

The most effective strategy that Ukraine can select against Russian-backed separatists is a population-centric approach; with targeted utilization of their growing special operations units pursue militant separatist leaders in a limited enemy-centric approach. The key point being that the targeting of the separatist leaders should only continue to the extent that it serves political goals in Kiev, since this type of “kingpin” strategy cannot account for extensive degree of Russian involvement in the conflict. If it is not already understood, Kiev should acknowledge that they cannot fight to retake Crimea and that outside support is currently non-existent for such an endeavor. Moscow has made clear that it views the annexation of Crimea as an issue of sovereignty over its territory and the release of audio recordings of Russian presidential advisor, Sergei Glasyev, helps to validate the theory that the justification of the Crimean referendum appears to have been a ruse.[i] The cost-benefit analysis of a Crimean campaign leaves only the possibility of a counterinsurgency strategy for the Donbas.

In assessing the root causes for the Donbas separatist movement and their Russian supporters a short history is useful. From the perspectives of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), the region known as the Donbas, they identify culturally with Russia, as the majority their inhabitants are Russian-speaking. The historical background to the region includes its role as an industrial power base for the Soviet Union. Having been declared independent under the fledgling Ukrainian nation over 23 years ago, it came as a surprise to its inhabitants when they realized they were no longer part of the Soviet Union. From that time forward, corruption and lack of interest in the region saw the Donbas’ oligarch’s take control of the mines and industry that did remain.[ii] The events of the Maidan revolution, followed by the annexation of Crimea set in motion the DNR and LHR’s referendum for independence with Russian support. Today, the region survives on the financial support of Russia, with Russian military leaders continuing to spearhead and fund the organization of the separatist factions.[iii] For the separatists, Russia was their natural ally. Although the people of the Donbas, to include some separatists, understand that to some extent their revolution was for the benefit of Russia, they distrusted Kiev even more. Russian information operations that vilify Kiev as fascist, corrupt oligarchs that have no real connection with the people of the Donbas have been very successful.[iv]

Treason Through the FSB Looking Glass

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By Mark Galeotti

Is espionage or bureaucratic politics behind the leak of news about the arrests of a number of Russian computer security specialists? As often the case in Russia, the story is murky; it is probably a bit of both.

Last week it emerged that back in early December, the FSB had arrested two of its own, Colonel Sergei Mikhailov, head of the Second Operational Directorate of its Information Security Center (TsIB), and one of his subordinates, Major Dmitry Dokuchaev. They also detained Ruslan Stoyanov, head of investigations at Russia’s Kaspersky Lab cybersecurity company. It later emerged that this followed the arrest in October of Vladimir Anikeev, founder of the Shaltai-Boltai group, which hacked and released emails from and to several senior Russian officials, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

All but Anikeev are reportedly being charged with treason, but for what? The leaks and rumors have presented an engagingly eclectic range of options. That Dokuchaev, reportedly a hacker named Forb, offered the choice between prison and the FSB, was part of Shaltai-Boltai (Russian for Humpty Dumpty: members of the group adopted monikers inspired by Lewis Carroll). That Mikhailov was in effect its “curator,” or else a spy, or at least received money from a foreigner, or wanted to undermine the Kremlin.

In the absence of any hard information, two broad narratives have emerged to explain the arrests. The first is that this is essentially a case of espionage, that they knowingly or unwittingly divulged state secrets to the Americans. The second is that this is instead one of the regular ‘silovik struggles’ take place within and around the security agencies, over resources, seniority or personality. The two need not, however, be mutually exclusive.

Obama’s legacy: More war than peace


Obama’s regime-change policy, like Bush’s, showed that the United States has the “reverse Midas Touch” — whatever it touches turns to chaos.

What is the foreign policy legacy of Barack Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize not for his accomplishments as U.S. president but for the expectations that his presidency aroused? Obama is receiving glowing tributes from many Democrats and establishment commentators for his record in clinching deals like the Paris climate change agreement, the nuclear accord with Iran and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But these deals are already under threat from his successor, Donald Trump.

More significant is the fact that even many of his supporters believe, as Nobel committee secretary Geir Lundestad has written in his memoir, that the Nobel prize to him was “a mistake.” The Nobel committee awarded Obama the prize less than nine months after he assumed office in the hope that he would be fundamentally different from President George W. Bush, whose invasion and occupation of Iraq created a failed state.

The paradox is that Obama, the supposed peacemaker, turned out to be a mirror image of Bush on foreign policy.

Long-awaited cyber norms manual published


By: Mark Pomerleau, February 2, 2017 
At long last, the much anticipated second iteration of the Tallinn Manual has been released.
"Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations" follows the first Tallinn Manual, released in 2013, which focused on cyber operations that violate the prohibition of the use of force in international relations, where one state must not coerce another state with regard to things reserved to that state.
Tallinn 2.0 expands its scope to cover international law governing cyber operations to peacetime legal regimes and more common cyber incidents that a state might encounter day to day.
The product of a three-year, follow-on project by a new group of 20 international law experts, and sanctioned by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, the Tallinn 2.0 addresses several topics to include:
State responsibility 
Human rights 
The law of air, space and the sea 
Additionally, the manual identifies 154 “black letter” rules governing cyber operations and provides extensive commentary on these rules.

The Wrong Way to Stop Terrorism

By Claire L. Adida, David D. Laitin, and Marie-Anne Valfort

What the Data Show About Attacks and Immigration

On January 27, true to his campaign promise to suspend Muslim immigration, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order restricting all immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from entering the United States. By doing so, the Trump administration has taken a definite stance on what it holds as the threat posed by immigrants and refugees to U.S. security. As we argued in April 2016, however, democracies like the United States “are not opening their doors to terrorism when they let in Muslim immigrants.”

The order’s proponents, echoing Trump’s rhetoric during his presidential campaign, argue that the United States must avoid the kinds of attacks that Europe has suffered in recent years. But the United States is different from countries like France, where four men posing as Syrian refugees carried out a major attack in November 2015, because those with terrorist intentions from the Middle East cannot slip through American borders as easily. The small number of refugees who are referred by the UN for resettlement in the United States had already been required to undergo three background checks, three fingerprint screenings, two interviews, and two security checks. Syrian applicants have been subject to additional scrutiny, in a process that usually lasts between 18 and 24 months.

It is therefore no surprise that in recent years, terrorist attacks in the United States have been in decline, despite Trump’s suggestions that the country has failed to keep its citizens safe. According to the Global Terrorism Database, between 2001 and 2008, there were 168 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, leading to 3,010 deaths, of which 2,996 resulted from the September 11 attacks. Between 2009 and 2015, there were 137 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, in which 114 people were killed. (Russia experienced 929 terrorist attacks between 2009 and 2015—over six times more than the United States.) Although Trump characterizes his predecessor as weak on national security, the incidence of terror on U.S. soil decreased under former President Barack Obama. Additionally, the two deadliest

How Banks Can Keep Up With Digital Disruptors

Traditional CEOs are terrified of digital disruptors, remembering how the once-mighty Blockbuster was dispatched by Netflix or how taxi services were upended by Uber, for example. Bank CEOs are no exception. Yet banks have the essential assets needed to turn aside many of the assaults on their business now underway from fintech, if only they would use them, notes this opinion piece by Scott A. Snyder, chief innovation officer at venture capitalist firm Safeguard Scientifics and a senior fellow at Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management.
Hardly a day goes by without seeing a new business article or blog on digital disruption published somewhere. Blockbuster is dead. Taxis are struggling. And hotels are losing customers, who are increasingly renting rooms in homes of ordinary people. We get it. Incumbents get disrupted by new entrants armed with digital technologies, talented and highly incented teams and fresh venture capital. There are very few industries where CEOs do not live in fear of digital disruption.

Banking is no exception, where executives believe digital disruption will drive 40% of companies out of the top 10 in the next five years. As Antony Jenkins, former CEO of Barclays, aptly put it in a 2015 speech: “Over the next 10 years, we will see a number of very significant disruptions in financial services, let’s call them Uber moments.”


Matthew Cancian 

How can we study modern warfare through the lens of culture? Different armies fought in different ways for reasons that don’t look very rational without considering cultural context. The ritualized tribal warfare of twentieth-century New Guinea looks more like middle school dodgeball than battle to us, but it probably would have been very familiar to the Mycenaean Greeks of the Iliad. When different cultural systems collide, the results can be devastating to one side until it adapts: in the initial Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274 the samurai challenged the invaders to single combat, only to discover with disastrous results that the Mongols did not share their idea of what a battle was supposed to be. And this isn’t just a topic for military historians. Understanding how culture bounds the way we (and our enemies) think about warfare will help to ensure we’re on the winning side in future conflicts; better to be the marauding Mongols than the stupefied samurai, looking for a divine wind to save them from their lack of cross-cultural understanding.

The Push of the Hoplites

While many contemporary Westerners might assume that the ancient Greeks—to whom we trace much of our cultural lineage—must naturally have had a similar cultural perspective on war as we do today, looking closely at the conduct of their wars shows this not to be the case. In most Greek city-states in the late Archaic period, only the wealthier members of society could become hoplites and serve in the military. Rather than using their income to hire others to fight for them, the yeoman farmers of the Greek city-states bought heavy armor and went to battle themselves. Clashes between city-states could arise from practical concerns like trade disputes, but they also could have their roots in longstanding grudges (like between the Argives and Spartans). Whatever the conflict, the Greeks met their adversaries, who were similarly composed of heavy infantry, on open ground and fought a decisive battle to resolve the issue at hand. Whoever won the battle erected a tropaion (from which we get the word “trophy”) of enemy armor to commemorate their victory, an act which would get an American soldier time at Leavenworth rather than accolades.