Showing posts with label Blog Master Recommended Reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blog Master Recommended Reading. Show all posts

1 April 2017


CLAWS is going to organise a seminar on Made in India - Defence Sector on 05 April 2017.

I wrote this in Feb 2016, enclosed for your reading pleasure.

Please tell me what is more difficult : sending a vehicle to the moon with completely indigenous technology made in India or making an aircraft. If we can do the former with all non IIT engineers, why can't we do the later. Can somebody tell me the answer, or you know it! 

As my boss GI Joe used to tell us : Sannu Ki, Maro Jhadu.

18 October 2016

China: The Virtues of the Awful Convulsion

by Guobin Yang 

Columbia University Press, 262 pp., $60.00 

by Frank Dikötter 

Bloomsbury, 396 pp., $32.00 

edited by Jeremy Brown and Matthew D. Johnson 

Harvard University Press, 468 pp. $49.95 
“Bianyuanren” Jishi [A Record of “Marginal People”] 

by Yang Kuisong 

Guangzhou: Southern Publishing Media, 364 pp., 56 yuan 
Secret Archives of the Cultural Revolution in Guangxi 

edited by Yongyi Song et al 

8 October 2015

Russia-China Strategic Nexus: How Strategic?

Paper No. 6016 Dated 05-Oct-2015

By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Russia-China strategic nexus and the troubled China-US relations are the most hotly debated topics in global strategic nexus in the 21st Century.

These revolve around the unpredictability of China whose aspirational objective of emerging as the next global superpower impinges heavily on Russian and American strategic interests, and ironically both of these mighty nations tend to appease and aid China’s not so peaceful rise in global affairs.

China has not been steadfast in its loyalty to either Russia or to the United States even when in different periods in the last few decades it has oscillated in swinging its strategic proximities between Russia and the United States. This is all part of recorded history. China more pointedly was never fully loyal even to its ideological mentor and strategic patron of the formative stages of consolidating its nationhood, namely the former Soviet Union.

The Russia-China strategic nexus is an opportunistic so-called strategic arrangement which sprung into existence in the immediate wake of the first few years of the Post-Cold War era in the 1990s. It is difficult to designate it as a ‘Strategic Partnership’ because today there are less of strategic convergences and more of perceptional strategic divergences of their respective neighbourhoods. The Russia-China strategic nexus was a reactive knee-jerk reaction to the emergence of unbridled United States strategic dominance of the last two decades.

Russia and China have divergent views on Japan and the most serious in terms of differing perceptions. China views Japan as an implacable enemy because of its historical experiences and fears that a Japan reorienting its military priorities and security philosophies can in the future again emerge as a security concern for China.

24 May 2015

65 war

Is ’65 forgotten because it was a damp squib of a war?

A war often defines a nation. Long after it’s over, it continues to dominate a nation’s narrative and shape its relations with the country it went to war with. “The sense of national identity is never stronger than when countries are at war with each other, at imminent risk of war, or remembering war,” observes former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans.

Since independence in August ’47, India has fought five wars. Four were with Pakistan, mostly over Kashmir. The fifth, fought in 1962 with China, was over the disputed boundary, which till date remains unresolved.

19 February 2015

Why Did We Lose In Afghanistan? That’s Easy: We Failed To Execute The Basics

FEBRUARY 17, 2015 

"Why did we lose in Afghanistan?" In hindsight this seems like an easy enough charge to answer: FM 3-24 was a cherry-picked collection of flawed logic and history; the Pakistani government enabled the very enemy we were fighting against and we never seriously dealt with the safe haven across the Durand Line; the US DoD was ill-prepared to fill all the socio-political and economic requirements of nation-building; NATO never fully signed on to the fight; the civilian surge fizzled out after never really materializing; we overemphasized the “human terrain” in relation to warfighting, etc. These answers are all true, to some extent.

Many more excuses exist with varying levels of veracity or relevance. But the honest answer is simple enough. We didn’t understand ourselves.

Many more excuses exist with varying levels of veracity or relevance. But the honest answer is simple enough. We didn’t understand ourselves.

While saying ‘we didn’t understand ourselves,’ the reader must also acknowledge that a lot of other misunderstandings spawn from that, each going off in different directions, chipping away at the effectiveness of ISAF’s chosen lines of operation, our larger strategy, or even our fundamental comprehension about war and policy. But it all starts with us; our image of ourselves, our role in the world, the yes-men and sycophants to power in our military who refuse to acknowledge critical thought, and how our liberal, 21st-century Western minds see the messy world of geopolitics. With these problem factors in tow there was no way we could “win” Afghanistan. No COIN strategy, no better synchronized civil-military operations, no “better war” to save us. From the moment our war changed in 2001/2002 from a punitive expedition to exact justice and topple a regime to a large-scale and long-term nation building effort while never really settling the valid causes of the insurgency, we were doomed to fail. No amount of warrior-scholars who bought into the "graduate level of warfare" drivel could have saved that.

9 September 2014

Essay: Dumb-dumb bullets

July 1, 2009 

By T.X. Hammes
As a decision-making aid, PowerPoint is a poor tool

Every year, the services spend millions of dollars teaching our people how to think. We invest in everything from war colleges to noncommissioned officer schools. Our senior schools in particular expose our leaders to broad issues and historical insights in an attempt to expose the complex and interactive nature of many of the decisions they will make.

Unfortunately, as soon as they graduate, our people return to a world driven by a tool that is the antithesis of thinking: PowerPoint. Make no mistake, PowerPoint is not a neutral tool — it is actively hostile to thoughtful decision-making. It has fundamentally changed our culture by altering the expectations of who makes decisions, what decisions they make and how they make them. While this may seem to be a sweeping generalization, I think a brief examination of the impact of PowerPoint will support this statement.

The last point, how we make decisions, is the most obvious. Before PowerPoint, staffs prepared succinct two- or three-page summaries of key issues. The decision-maker would read a paper, have time to think it over and then convene a meeting with either the full staff or just the experts involved to discuss the key points of the paper. Of course, the staff involved in the discussion would also have read the paper and had time to prepare to discuss the issues. In contrast, today, a decision-maker sits through a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation followed by five minutes of discussion and then is expected to make a decision. Compounding the problem, often his staff will have received only a five-minute briefing from the action officer on the way to the presentation and thus will not be well-prepared to discuss the issues. This entire process clearly has a toxic effect on staff work and decision-making.

The art of slide-ology

Let’s start by examining the impact on staff work. Rather than the intellectually demanding work of condensing a complex issue to two pages of clear text, the staff instead works to create 20 to 60 slides. Time is wasted on which pictures to put on the slides, how to build complex illustrations and what bullets should be included. I have even heard conversations about what font to use and what colors. Most damaging is the reduction of complex issues to bullet points. Obviously, bullets are not the same as complete sentences, which require developing coherent thoughts. Instead of forcing officers to learn the art of summarizing complex issues into coherent arguments, staff work now places a premium on slide building. Slide-ology has become an art in itself, while thinking is often relegated to producing bullets.

Our personnel clearly understand the lack of clarity and depth inherent in the half-formed thoughts of the bullet format. In an apparent effort to overcome the obvious deficiency of bullets, some briefers put entire paragraphs on each briefing slide. (Of course, they still include the bullet point in front of each paragraph.) Some briefs consist of a series of slides with paragraphs on them. In short, people are attempting to provide the audience with complete, coherent thoughts while adhering to the PowerPoint format. While writing full paragraphs does force the briefer to think through his position more clearly, this effort is doomed to failure. People need time to think about, even perhaps reread, material about complex issues. Instead, they are under pressure to finish reading the slides before the boss apparently does. Compounding the problem, the briefer often reads these slides aloud while the audience is trying to read the other information on the slide. Since most people read at least twice as fast as most people can talk, he is wasting half of his listeners’ time and simultaneously reducing comprehension of the material. The alternative, letting the audience read the slide themselves, is also ineffective. Instead of reading for comprehension, everyone races through the slide to be sure they are finished before the senior person at the brief. Thus even presenting full paragraphs on each slide cannot overcome the fundamental weakness of PowerPoint as a tool for presenting complex issues.

14 August 2014

The Great Battle for Asia: China vs. America

August 12, 2014inShare4

Editor’s Note: The Australian Policy Institute (ASPI) has recently been debating the future of the Asian security order. We present the final part of this debate:

Well, this has been an interesting exchange and I thank Peter Jennings for launching it, the team on The Strategist for hosting it, and distinguished colleagues for taking the time to contribute. The exchange has helped to clarify the most important underlying points of difference between us about Australia’s interests in the Asian order. And I’m grateful for the chance to offer some brief concluding thoughts.

In fact Nick Bisley put his finger on it: the key difference between my view and many others’ lies in our different ideas about the future of the regional order. I think the strategic status quo in Asia will not last, while others believe it will.

Let me recap why I think the order is going to change—indeed, is already changing. It’s simple. Asia has been stable since 1972 because China has accepted U.S. primacy as the foundation of the Asian order. China did so because it believed it was too weak to contest it effectively. Now China believes it’s strong enough to contest U.S. primacy, and it’s doing so.

Asia’s post-Vietnam order, based on uncontested U.S. primacy, has therefore passed into history. The question now is what kind of new order will take its place. There are several possibilities. None of them would be as good for Australia as the order we have known since 1972, but some would be much better for us than others. We should be trying to nudge the region towards a new order that would work well for us, and away from ones that would be bad for us.

Most of the posts in our debate differ from my position by arguing, or implying, that we should aim to preserve the status quo instead. That case is made in several different ways.

Rod Lyon rightly draws attention to the risks of moving to a new order that concedes a bigger role to China. But those risks must be balanced against the risks of trying and failing to preserve the status quo. If we refuse to accommodate China to some extent, the most likely result is escalating strategic rivalry.

1 August 2014

U.S. paratroopers in Afghanistan hope to deal a few final blows against the Taliban

July 28, 2014

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan have widely divergent outlooks about the odds that this nation stymied by a rocky political transition, a stubborn insurgency and an anemic economy will somehow stabilize.

June 23, 2014Pfc. Charles McCullough, 24, from Brooklyn walks back with other soldiers to a landing spot after spending several hours trying to disrupt Taliban smuggling routes in this barren stretch of Zabul. Ernesto Londoño/The Washington Post

SHINKAI, Afghanistan — It was a homecoming of sorts for Lt. Col. Paul Larson, returning to this remote corner of southern Afghanistan at the twilight of America’s longest war. He was back to take stock of a slice of the battlefield that seemed brimming with possibility when he last led soldiers here a decade ago. 

In 2005, Larson was zealous about counterinsurgency, convinced that irrigation projects, agrarian reform initiatives and new schools would plant the seeds of peace, rendering this impoverished, barren area inhospitable to an insurgency that appeared on the brink of defeat. 

As he flew to his former outpost late last month, commanding the last U.S. battalion conducting full-spectrum combat operations in Afghanistan, Larson’s mission was narrower, less ambitious and without altruistic impulses. 

“It’s a pleasure to be here to help you finish off the last little pockets of Taliban,” the American officer told Col. Gada Mohammed Dost, the Afghan commander who for the past two years has muddled through in this contested sector of southeastern Afghanistan with virtually no American help. 

The 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers under Larson’s command have been tasked with dropping into contested areas to examine how Afghan troops are faring as U.S. forces have thinned out and to deal a few final blows to militant groups that have withstood nearly 13 years of American firepower. 

14 people were shot dead by Taliban gunmen who stopped their minibuses in central Afghanistan. A 3-year-old child was among the victims. (Reuters) 

The mission has given them a rich vantage point on the state of a war the United States will largely disengage from by year’s end — and the soldiers here have divergent outlooks about the odds that this nation stymied by a rocky political transition, a stubborn insurgency and an anemic economy will somehow stabilize. 

As the conflict’s final lethal act, Larson’s men hope to tilt the scales, even if just slightly. 

Turmoil among militants 

Civilians have been killed and maimed at a growing rate this year as insurgents have sought to make inroads in populated areas where foreign troops have left, according to figures compiled by the U.N. mission in Kabul. 

18 June 2014

Maharaja Hari Singh's Letter to Mountbatten

Text Of Letter Dated October 26, 1947 From Maharaja Hari Singh,
The Maharaja Of Jammu & Kashmir to
Lord Mountbatten, Governor General of India .
Dated: 26 October 1947

My dear Lord Mountbatten,

I have to inform your Excellency that a grave emergency has arisen in

my State and request immediate assistance of your Government.

As your Excellency is aware the State of Jammu and Kashmir has not

acceded to the Dominion of India or to Pakistan . Geographically my

State is contiguous to both the Dominions. It has jvital economical

and cultural llinks with both of them. Besides my State has a common

boundary with the Soviet Republic and China . In their external

relations the Dominions of India and Pakistan cannot ignore this fact.

I wanted to take time to decide to which Dominion I should accede, or

whether it is not in the best interests of both the Dominions and my

State to stand independent, of course with friendly and cordial

relations with both.

I accordingly approached the Dominions of India and Pakistan to enter

into Standstill Agreement with my State. The Pakistan Government

accepted this Agreement. The Dominion of India desired further

discussions with representatives of my Government. I could not arrange

this in view of the developments indicated below. In fact the Pakistan

Government are operating Post and Telegraph system inside the State.

Though we have got a Standstill Agreement with the Pakistan Government

that Government permitted steady and increasing strangulation of

supplies like food, salt and petrol to my State.

Afridis, solidiers in plain clothes, and desperadoes with modern

weapons have been allowed to infilter into the State at first in

Poonch and then in Sialkot and finally in mass area adjoining Hazara

District on the Ramkot side. The result has been that the limited

number of troops at the disposal of the State had to be dispersed and

thus had to face the enemy at the several points simultaneously, that

it has become difficult to stop the wanton destruction of life and

property and looting. The Mahora powerhouse which supplies the

electric current to the whole of Srinagar has been burnt. The numer of

women who have been kidnapped and raped makes my heart bleed. The wild

forces thus let loose on the State are marching on with the aim of

capturing Srinagar , the summer Capital of my Government, as first

step to over-running the whole State.

The mass infiltration of tribesmen drawn from distant areas of the

North-West Frontier coming regularly in motor trucks using

Mansehra-Muzaffarabad Road and fully armed with up-to-date weapons

cannot possibly be done without the knowledge of the Provisional

Government of the North-West Frontier Province and the Government of

Pakistan. In spite of repeated requests made by my Government no

attempt has been made to check these raiders or stop them from coming

into my State. The Pakistan Radio even put out a story that a

Provinsional Government had been set up in Kashmir . The people of my

State both the Muslims and non-Muslims generally have taken no part at


With the conditions obtaining at present in my State and the grreat

emergency of the situation as it exists, I have no option but to ask

for help from the Indian Dominion. Naturally they cannot send the help

asked for by me without my State acceding to the Dominion of India. I

have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of

Accession for acceptance by your Government. The other alternative is

to leave my State and my people to free-booters. On this basis no

civilized Government can exist or be maintained. This alternative I

will never allow to happen as long as I am Ruler of the State and I

have life to defend my country.

I am also to inform your Excellency's Government that it is my

intention at once to set up an interim Government and ask Sheikh

Abdullah to carry the responsibilities in this emergency with my Prime


If my State has to be saved immediate assistance must be available at

Srinagar . Mr. Menon is fully aware of the situation and he will

explain to you, if further explanation is needed.

In haste and with kind regards,

The Palace, Jammu Your sincerely,

26th October, 1947

Hari Singh

15 April 2014

China’s Growing Military Might Hides Vast Insecurity and Frustration

April 11, 2014
During Hagel Visit, China Showed Its Military Might, and Its Frustrations
Helene Cooper
New York Times

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — When Robert M. Gates visited China in 2011 as the United States defense secretary, the military greeted him with an unexpected and, in the view of American military officials, provocative test of a Chinese stealth fighter jet, a bold show of force that stunned the visiting Americans and may even have surprised the Chinese president at the time, Hu Jintao.

When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited China this week, the military greeted him with a long-sought tour of the country’s lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in what many American officials interpreted as a resolve to project naval power, particularly in light of recent tension between Beijing and its neighbors over disputed islands in the East and South China Seas.

The displays of China’s military power reveal some dividends from years of heavy investments, and perhaps a sense that China is now more willing to stand toe-to-toe with the Americans, at least on regional security issues.

But American officials and Asia experts say the visits also showed a more insecure side of China’s military leadership — a tendency to display might before they are ready to deploy it, and a lingering uncertainty about how assertively to defend its territorial claims in the region.

Mr. Hagel encountered both combative warnings in public forums and private complaints that Beijing felt besieged by hostile neighbors, especially Japan and the Philippines, which it asked the United States to help address. The impression for some American officials was that China still has not decided whether it wants to emphasize its historical status as an underdog or adopt a new posture as a military powerhouse.

On the tough side, China’s minister of defense, Gen. Chang Wanquan, announced that his country would make “no compromise, no concession, no treaty” in the fight for what he called its “territorial sovereignty.”

“The Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle, and win,” he said.

But the tough stance belies a different reality on the ground, a military with little or no combat experience, outdated or untested equipment, and a feeling of being under siege. The Liaoning, according to American defense officials who toured the ship, still lags well behind the United States’ 10 aircraft carrier groups. While Mr. Hagel spoke expansively about how impressive he found the Chinese sailors he met aboard the ship in his public remarks, one American defense official who accompanied Mr. Hagel noted privately that the Liaoning was “not as big, it’s not as fast,” as American carriers.

Some experts on China were more dismissive. The Liaoning is “a surplus ship from the Soviet era that had been used as a hotel after it was decommissioned,” said Andrew L. Oros, an associate professor of political science at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and a specialist on East Asia.

“In my view this is about national pride, about being on the cusp of being able to challenge the powers that wrought such destruction and misery on China in the 19th and 20th centuries,” Mr. Oros said. “I think this leads them to over-flaunt, both out of genuine satisfaction in being able to do so, but also as a domestic crowd-pleaser.”

10 January 2014

*** On Forecasting

January 9, 2014

Soon after George W. Bush was elected president and before his inauguration in January 2001, there was a quiet assumption among some in Washington that Bush would appoint then-former senator from Indiana, Dan Coats, as his defense secretary. A second quiet assumption followed that Coats would appoint the bipartisan realist Richard Armitage as deputy defense secretary. Coats and Armitage would no doubt have run the Defense Department from the philosophical vantage point of tough caution in world affairs -- never flinching from a challenge, but also never overreacting.

Coats apparently failed his interview with President-elect Bush; or Bush simply had a change of heart. There was reportedly a need to balance Colin Powell at the State Department with an equally towering figure at Defense, and Coats apparently wasn't the one to do that. It was Bush's vice president-elect, Dick Cheney, who reportedly had an idea to solve the dilemma: bring back Donald Rumsfeld, who had already been defense secretary in the Ford Administration in the mid-1970s, and who therefore could both handle the job and stand up to Powell. Rumsfeld became defense secretary and appointed Paul Wolfowitz as his deputy. Armitage, meanwhile, went to work at the State Department as Powell's deputy. Thus, largely because of a series of events involving personnel that few could have predicted, you had the aggressive team of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz reacting to 9/11 rather than the more cautious team of Coats and Armitage. Moreover, you now had a bureaucratic war between the restrained team of Powell and Armitage at the State Department and the newly aggressive team at the Defense Department.

Such factors, again, all having to do with personnel, and all exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to predict in advance, would have a profound effect on geopolitics in the ensuing decade. Indeed, the Iraq War, which defined the last decade for American foreign policy, might well not have happened, or, at a minimum, would not have played out at as it did, had Coats become defense secretary.

In other words, to say that individuals do not matter amid larger forces is rubbish. Think of World War II without Hitler, of the Balkans without Slobodan Milosevic or Richard Holbrooke, or of Russia in the 1990s without the indiscipline of Boris Yeltsin.

Moreover, very odd, utterly unpredictable events matter greatly to world history. Imagine the decade after 9/11 if only a few votes in Florida had shifted -- or if just one Supreme Court vote had shifted -- giving Al Gore the presidency. Would we have gone to war in Afghanistan the way we did? Or gone to war in Iraq at all?

And yet events can be forecast. Or rather, trends can be discerned that the daily media regularly miss. They can be forecast because, as I have detailed, while half of reality is utterly unpredictable events involving individuals, the other half is composed of large geographical, demographic, economic and technological forces whose basic trend lines can be foreseen, however vaguely at times. If one concentrates on those larger forces, it still won't be possible to predict, say, the philosophical makeup of a particular president's foreign policy team, but it can be forecast to some impressive degree the kind of world that team will face. 9/11 itself may have been unpredictable, but the trend of an emboldened al Qaeda mixed with further radicalization of the Middle East clearly was predictable.

13 December 2013

***** 5 Reasons Why 2013 Was The Best Year In Human History

By Zack Beauchamp on December 11, 2013

Between the brutal civil war in Syria, the government shutdown and all of the deadly dysfunction it represents, the NSA spying revelations, and massive inequality, it’d be easy to for you to enter 2014 thinking the last year has been an awful one.

But you’d be wrong. We have every reason to believe that 2013 was, in fact, the best year on the planet for humankind.

Contrary to what you might have heard, virtually all of the most important forces that determine what make people’s lives good — the things that determine how long they live, and whether they live happily and freely — are trending in an extremely happy direction. While it’s possible that this progress could be reversed by something like runaway climate change, the effects will have to be dramatic to overcome the extraordinary and growing progress we’ve made in making the world a better place.

Here’s the five big reasons why.

1. Fewer people are dying young, and more are living longer.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar

The greatest story in recent human history is the simplest: we’re winning the fight against death. “There is not a single country in the world where infant or child mortality today is not lower than it was in 1950,” writes Angus Deaton, a Princeton economist who works on global health issues.

The most up-to-date numbers on global health, the 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) statistical compendium, confirm Deaton’s estimation. Between 1990 and 2010, the percentage of children who died before their fifth birthday dropped by almost half. Measles deaths declined by 71 percent, and both tuberculosis and maternal deaths by half again. HIV, that modern plague, is also being held back, with deaths from AIDS-related illnesses down by 24 percent since 2005.

In short, fewer people are dying untimely deaths. And that’s not only true in rich countries: life expectancy has gone up between 1990 and 2011 in every WHO income bracket. The gains are even more dramatic if you take the long view: global life expectancy was 47 in the early 1950s, but had risen to 70 — a 50 percent jump — by 2011. For even more perspective, the average Briton in 1850 — when the British Empire had reached its apex — was 40. The average person today should expect to live almost twice as long as the average citizen of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country in 1850.

The Decay of American Political Institutions

 Francis Fukuyama

We have a problem, but we can’t see it clearly because our focus too often discounts history.
Published on December 8, 2013

Many political institutions in the United States are decaying. This is not the same thing as the broader phenomenon of societal or civilization decline, which has become a highly politicized topic in the discourse about America. Political decay in this instance simply means that a specific political process—sometimes an individual government agency—has become dysfunctional. This is the result of intellectual rigidity and the growing power of entrenched political actors that prevent reform and rebalancing. This doesn’t mean that America is set on a permanent course of decline, or that its power relative to other countries will necessarily diminish. Institutional reform is, however, an extremely difficult thing to bring about, and there is no guarantee that it can be accomplished without a major disruption of the political order. So while decay is not the same as decline, neither are the two discussions unrelated.

There are many diagnoses of America’s current woes. In my view, there is no single “silver bullet” cause of institutional decay, or of the more expansive notion of decline. In general, however, the historical context of American political development is all too often given short shrift in much analysis. If we look more closely at American history as compared to that of other liberal democracies, we notice three key structural characteristics of American political culture that, however they developed and however effective they have been in the past, have become problematic in the present.

The first is that, relative to other liberal democracies, the judiciary and the legislature (including the roles played by the two major political parties) continue to play outsized roles in American government at the expense of Executive Branch bureaucracies. Americans’ traditional distrust of government thus leads to judicial solutions for administrative problems. Over time this has become a very expensive and inefficient way to manage administrative requirements.

The second is that the accretion of interest group and lobbying influences has distorted democratic processes and eroded the ability of the government to operate effectively. What biologists label kin selection and reciprocal altruism (the favoring of family and friends with whom one has exchanged favors) are the two natural modes of human sociability. It is to these types of relationships that people revert when modern, impersonal government breaks down.

4 October 2013

China's Ambitions in Xinjiang and Central Asia: Part 2

October 1, 2013 

Editor's Note: This is a three-part series on China's evolving strategic interests in Central Asia and in its own far northwest, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Part 2 examines how Beijing is looking to Xinjiang and Central Asia for natural gas, oil, coal and other industrial inputs to help fuel future inland development in China. Read more in Part 1 and Part 3

For centuries, geography and an abundance of domestic resources limited China's need to seek material inputs and project power far beyond its borders. Over the past two decades, however, this dynamic began to break down as China's demand for energy and raw materials outstripped its existing production capacity. As a result, Chinese manufacturers, real estate developers and other businesses found themselves sourcing an increasing share of their energy supplies from overseas, dramatically expanding the Chinese economy's exposure to political and economic forces far beyond the government's control. China has never been more vulnerable -- economically, socially and politically -- to supply disruptions overseas.

At the same time, China's supply-demand imbalance has compelled radical changes in the geography and logistics of domestic Chinese resource industries. Most notable has been the rapid migration of energy and raw materials production bases from China's populous core provinces to underdeveloped,sparsely populated "buffer zones" as output from older coal and oil deposits stagnated or declined.
Xinjiang's Energy Promise

In many respects, Xinjiang represents the far frontier of this process. The Chinese government and outside observers alike have touted Xinjiang as the next Inner Mongolia -- a reference to that region'sunprecedented coal output growth between 2004 and 2012. Xinjiang is indeed blessed with some of the world's largest untapped reserves of thermal coal, and its coal output could reach 750 million metric tons by 2020 (up from 141 million metric tons in 2012). But compared with well-developed coalfields in western Inner Mongolia and northern Shaanxi province, much of Xinjiang's reserves remain untapped and understudied.

Prior to the mid-2000s, the logistical challenges of transporting coal from Xinjiang to coastal consumer bases overwhelmed whatever strategic or political rationale there might have been for its development. Now, stagnant and declining output in many parts of northern China, the prospect of rising coal demand from industrializing inland provinces, and Xinjiang's low production costs have tipped the balance in the region's favor.

Over the next five years, the Chinese government plans to invest some $196 billion on expanding power generation and ultra-high voltage transmissions lines linking Xinjiang coalfields to inland consumer bases. Xinjiang will also figure prominently in Beijing's planned $392 billion rail expansion over the next five years, especially as the government's focus shifts from high-speed rail to national freight transport networks.

30 April 2013

China’s Black Hole


Let's face it: We have little idea what's actually going on in Xinjiang and Tibet.

On Tuesday, or so it seems, 21 people were killed in the region of Xinjiang in northwest China. According to Hou Hanmin, a Xinjiang propaganda bureau spokeswoman, a gang of 14 "suspicious people" took three community workers hostage. When police and officials rushed to the scene, the gang attacked them with axes and large knives, murdered the hostages, and then set the house on fire. Hou told the New York Times that the 14 assailants were all Uighurs who "had been influenced by ‘religious extremism' and had been plotting a ‘jihad' since the end of last year, though there was no evidence they were working with foreign forces."

Many of the Western reporters who wrote about the incident noted the unreliability of the government's version. "As with many such events in Xinjiang, details of the fighting on Tuesday remained murky even a full day after the violence had transpired. Some elements of the official accounts were bizarre," wrote Times correspondent Ed Wong. It's possible that the deadly violence occurred just five days after the United States discovered that Muslim extremists were responsible for a series of explosions at the Boston Marathon that killed 3 and injured more than 170 -- though the timing is certainly fortuitous. After the United States declined to condemn the Xinjiang attack, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that its "refusal to do so showed double standards, considering that it had been the recent victim of a terrorist attack."

Like with many events in Xinjiang, and in nearby Tibet, what actually happened remains unknown. "Fifteen people were killed in their house? That's very suspicious to us," said Alim Seytoff, President of the Uighur American Association, an advocacy organization. "They said they were armed with knives and axes -- to kill so many people in such short time is unbelievable." A Uighur activist in Germany told the Associated Press that local residents reported the police had sparked the incident when they shot a Uighur youth. The problem is that no Western reporters have been able to go in and investigate for themselves.

Beijing's media blockade has been successful. Instead of allowing some access to Western reporters, Beijing a few years ago resumed an old strategy and restricted their ability to enter Xinjiang, and almost entirely banned them from entering the mountainous, 460,000-square-mile Tibetan Autonomous Region. Millions of Tibetans live in the neighboring provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Gansu, so with some difficulty, journalists have been able to visit Tibetan areas in those provinces. But on the whole, Western journalist are extremely curtailed in their ability to report on these regions, which has implications for American understanding of Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as for the worrying situation on the ground.

Just how bad is it? Xinjiang, a resource-rich region of 22 million people, often erupts in ethnic violence between the roughly 45 percent of the population that is of the Turkic-speaking Uighur minority, and Han Chinese, most of whom have migrated to the region since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Tuesday's alleged incident was the deadliest since riots in July 2009 killed nearly 200 people. Tibet is worse. The independent watchdog organization Freedom House annually ranks countries and territories on their level of political rights and civil liberties. The group's most recent report, released Jan 2013, included Tibet in its "Worst of the Worst" category, joining North Korea and Somalia. More than 100 Tibetans have immolated themselves in protest since 2011; three apparently did so on Wednesday, though details are sparse. AP reported on the story from Beijing, and sourced "exiled Buddhist monks and reports." "Even Pyongyang has foreign journalists coming and going," says Lhadon Tethong, director of the Tibet Action Institute, a project affiliated with the activism organization Students for a Free Tibet. "It's appalling."

19 April 2013

Red Lines, Deadlines, and Thinking the Unthinkable: India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and China

Apr 16, 2013

Early in the thermonuclear age, Herman Kahn warned the world that it had to “think about the unthinkable”: The consequences of an actual nuclear war, and consider which side – if any – might “win.” While the story may be apocryphal, Kahn is also said to have told Curtis Lemay – then head of the Strategic Air Command – that Lemay did not have a war plan because he focused too heavily on strikes and inflicting maximum damage, while ignoring the consequences of nuclear weapons. Kahn is said to have told Lemay that he lacked a war plan and all he had was a “wargasm.”

The end of the Cold War seemed to put an end to the need for such thinking, but recent developments in North Korea and Iran make it all too clear that there is still a need for such horrifying yet “realist” analysis. Of course, calmer heads may prevail. Reason, deterrence, and arms control may still curtail nuclear proliferation, and are the most probable result of today’s nuclear arms races. But, that probability is declining. Four different nuclear arms races are now interacting to change the need for strategic calculus and demand a strategy that looks beyond arms control and considers a much grimmer future.

India and Pakistan: Suicide with Minor Grand Strategic Consequences

Any war between India and Pakistan would be a pointless human tragedy, and a serious nuclear exchange would bring about the worst possible outcome. Of the current potential nuclear arms races, a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan risks the most damaging consequences in terms of human deaths, as well as the costs and time necessary to recover. Ground burst strikes on Indian and Pakistani cities – “countervalue” strikes – would produce extremely high immediate and long-term deaths. Neither country has the medical and security facilities necessary to deal with such casualty burdens; no emergency aid agency is equipped and trained to deal with such events; nor is it clear significant outside aid could come or would come in time to be effective.

At present, both countries continue to build up their nuclear-armed missile forces and stockpiles of nuclear weapons. While unclassified estimates are very uncertain and differ greatly in detail, an Open Briefing report on Indian nuclear forces drawing on material published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists noted that India continued to improve the nuclear strike capabilities of its combat aircraft and develop sea-based ballistic and cruise missiles, and that its nuclear weapons stocks and missiles could be summarized as follows: 

“India is estimated to have produced approximately 520 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium (IPFM, 2011), sufficient for 100–130 nuclear warheads; however, not all of the material has been converted into warheads. Based on available information about its nuclear-capable delivery vehicles, we estimate that India has produced 80–100 nuclear warheads. It will need more warheads to arm the new missiles it is currently developing. In addition to the Dhruva plutonium production reactor near Mumbai, India plans to construct a second reactor near Visakhapatnam, on the east coast. India is building an unsafeguarded prototype fast-breeder reactor at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research near Kalpakkam (about 1,000 kilometers or 620 miles south of Visakhapatnam), which will significantly increase India’s plutonium production capacity once it becomes operational.

“… India has three types of land-based missiles that may be operational: the short-range Prithvi I, the short-range Agni I, and the medium-range Agni II. The Prithvi I has been deployed for almost 15 years, but the Agni I and II, despite being declared operational, both have reliability issues that have delayed their full operational service.

“India has been busy growing its missile program, with four more Agni versions in progress: an Agni II+ was test-launched in 2010 but failed; the longer-range Agni III, after at least four flight-tests, remains under development; and the Agni IV may be a technology bridge to the newest type, the long-range Agni V, which had its first test-launch in April. Some of these Agni programs may serve as technology-development platforms for longer-range versions.

“The bulk of the Indian ballistic missile force is comprised of three versions of Prithvi missiles, but only one of these versions, the army’s Prithvi I, has a nuclear role. Given its small size (9 meters long and 1 meter in diameter), the Prithvi I is difficult to spot on satellite images, and therefore little is known about its deployment locations. The Prithvi I is a short-range missile (up to 150 kilometers or 93 miles) and is the mainstay of the Strategic Forces Command, India’s designated nuclear weapons service.

“In December 2011, India successfully test-launched its two-stage Agni I missile, which has a range of 700 kilometers (435 miles), for the eighth time—suggesting that the missile might finally have become fully operational. But a ninth test-launch scheduled for early May 2012 was postponed due to a technical glitch.

“The road- or rail-launched Agni II, an improvement on the Agni I, can fly up to 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) and can carry a 1,000-kilogram payload, and it takes just 15 minutes for the missile to be readied for firing. The missile has been test-fired eight times with several failures, but more recent test-flights, on May 19, 2010 and September 30, 2011, were successful, demonstrating some progress toward making the Agni II fully operational. A 2010 test-launch of an extended-range Agni II, known as the Agni II+, failed.

“Still under development is India’s rail-mobile Agni III, a two-stage, solid-fuel missile with a range of more than 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles)…. India took a significant step forward with the successful test-launch of the Agni V ballistic missile on April 19, 2012. With a range reportedly greater than 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles), the Agni V can reach any target in China; however, the missile needs more testing and is still several years away from operational deployment.

18 April 2013

Irregular Warfare: Network Warfare and the Venture Capital Green Beret

Journal Article | April 4, 2013


“The Human Domain is the totality of the physical, cultural, and social environments that influence human behavior to the extent that success of any military operation or campaign depends on the application of unique capabilities that are designed to fight and win population-centric conflicts.[1]

Population-centric conflict is about people, about ever evolving, investment intensive, highly complex networks of personal relationships, meaning, on the most fundamental of levels this warfare is about establishing and maintaining shared purpose and obligations between individuals over protracted periods of time. The purpose of this article is to propose a partial solution to the three interwoven limitations confronting SOF when conducting this type of Human Domain warfare at the level of the Operator. The first is the ‘Last-mile’ effect, whereby the investment required when building and maintaining a core infrastructure, though prohibitive, is infinitesimal compared to the investment required to establishing and maintaining connections between that core and the ever expanding number of individuals out beyond the Edge or Last Mile. The second leads from the first and is the requirement for the Operator to employ highly innovative and cost-effective strategies, drawing upon all Seven Elements of National Power simultaneously, as they conduct the work of establishing and maintaining the near infinite number of relationships necessary to effective Network vs. Network Warfare. Third is the constant struggle to recruit and develop in sufficient numbers those rare individuals capable of full-spectrum Human Domain thinking, a struggle only made more difficult by the requirement to retain the life-long commitment and contributions of those few who go through the rigorous process and become an Operator but go on to find success elsewhere.


“The environment continues to evolve as a result of strategic trends, including demographic shifts, globalization and financial crises, technological change, and resource scarcity.[2]

As urbanization and population densities increase globally, as financial and economic decline progress in the West, as power shifts from West to East and as warfare shifts from holding geographic terrain to holding Human Terrain, USSOCOM finds itself in a place where it must evolve far beyond traditional roles and capabilities. The full scope and scale of the evolution of SOF is far beyond this paper, however central to most changes is the need to engage in Network vs Network Warfare, the success of which is highly dependent on an extensive base of personal relationships at the level of the individual SOF Operator. However, traditional government, military and SOF investment, asset development and return on investment models are inadequate to the task of putting in place the necessary networks of relationships to meet the enemy where they are now already well entrenched in the Human Terrain. What is required is a new conceptual framework allowing for a network of networks approach whereby SOCOM may realize the greatest multiple gain from existing and emerging local assets and individuals with only minimal direct investment in manpower and capital expenditure. Of course this will also require a new breed of SOF Operator, one trained and skilled at investing minimally available resources to the development and maintenance of personal relationships and to long-term, self-sustaining and expanding networking. Fortunately there is a well developed framework for this type of investing consisting of more than sixty years of proven practice that is readily adaptable to address the specific limitations inherent in Net on Net Conflict and which would provide for rapid fielding of the next generation SOF Operator, one that is a master of the Human Domain.

22 February 2013

How Wars Start **

21 Feb 2013

Just as Herodotus is the father of history, Thucydides is the father of realism. To understand the geopolitical conflict zones of the 21st century, you must begin with the ancient Greeks. Among the many important lessons Thucydides teaches in his History of the Peloponnesian War is that what starts a war is different from what causes it. 

Thucydides chronicles how the Peloponnesian War began in the latter part of the late fifth century B.C. with disputes over the island of Corcyra in northwestern Greece and Potidaea in northeastern Greece. These places were not very strategically crucial in and of themselves. To think that wars must start over important places is to misread Thucydides. Corcyra and Potidaea, among other locales, were only where the Peloponnesian War started; not what caused it. What caused it, he writes in the first book of his eight-book history, was the growth of perceived maritime power in Athens and the alarm that it inspired in Sparta and among Sparta's allies. Places like Corcyra and Potidaea, and the complex alliance systems that they represented, were in and of themselves not worth fighting a war over -- a war that would last more than a quarter century, no less. That didn't matter. They were pretexts. 

No one understood this distinction, which was perhaps made first in literature by Thucydides, better than Thucydides' most distinguished translator, the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes writes that a pretext for war over some worthless place "is always an injury received, or pretended to be received." Whereas the "inward motive to hostility is but conjectural; and not of the evidence." In other words, the historian or journalist might find it hard to find literal documentation for the real reasons states go to war; thus, he often must infer them. He often must tease them out of the pattern of events, and still in many cases be forced to speculate. 

In applying the wisdom of Thucydides and Hobbes to conflict zones across Asia, a number of insights may be obtained. 

15 February 2013

What Arms Race? Why Asia Isn’t Europe 1913

By Geoffrey Till
February 15, 2013

Asia is not experiencing an arms race like the one that preceded World War I -- at least not yet.

Arms races, naval or otherwise, get a bad rap. They are usually regarded as the military expression and consequence of the existing state of international relations, but they can also develop a momentum of their own, wasting money, exacerbating already tense relations between states and threatening to destabilize whole regions. Instead of reflecting policy as Clausewitz reminds us the military should do, arms racers determine it. All too often, moreover, they seem to make conflict more likely. 

In the Asia-Pacific region many media outlets and pundits fear that a naval arms race is indeed developing and lament its possible consequences. It is not hard to see why— Whether it is Malaysia’sScorpene submarines, Vietnam’s Kilos, India’s unprecedented naval building program or China’s new carrier the Liaoning and its carrier-killing ballistic missiles, naval modernization across the region is producing, if not always an overall increase in numbers, then at least substantially more impressive offensive and defensive naval capabilities. 

And all of this is coinciding with, or even produced by, rising maritime tensions in the East and South China Seas. There are more narrowly focused tensions too, with analysts especially debating the dismayingly competition between China’s “counter-intervention” strategies and capabilities, and the U.S.Air-Sea Battle construct. Vietnam’s Kilos can also be seen as a more modest version of an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategy. These examples all suggest a worsening competition between “offensive” and “defensive”capabilities. 

But is all this really developing into a naval arms race similar in style (and potentially effect) to theDreadnought race that took place between Britain and Germany before the First World War – and even if it is, how serious might its consequences in the Asia-Pacific Region actually be?