By Emily Schneider
Best Defense office of cyberpower affairs
We're all familiar with the concepts of "soft power" and "hard power" in international relations, but there's a new kind of power afoot, at least according to Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google. That power is network power, the exchange of ideas fueled by the growing global connectivity that sparks change. Network power is shaking up the current world order by allowing ideas to spread more rapidly and across more borders than was possible before.
Eric Schmidt, speaking to students at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on Nov. 20, said that technology, and network power, will allow for the emergence of new leaders in the private and public sectors. In fact, he said, it already has in places like Tunisia and Egypt. Of course, it worked better in Tunisia than in Egypt, but both countries demonstrated how the masses were able to mobilize around a movement through their local and global networks to initiate widespread change. According to Schmidt, the difference in outcome between these two countries shows the effects culture, education, and societal values have on network power.
There are still serious hurdles in allowing network power to take root in some countries where the state censors the Internet. Schmidt, using China as an example, pointed out that the reason the government allows only state-approved social media sites instead of ones like Facebook is to have control over the exchange of ideas within their borders. But he was quick to note that this is actually a futile effort; he believes China will change and it will be because of tech-enabled networks.
But change won't happen without the right kind of global support. Schmidt said that education is critical in fostering the development of ideas, especially the types of ideas that have the power to translate into social movements across networks. Creativity in expressing ideas and generating new solutions to old problems must be encouraged and human compassion will always be necessary for engaging in cross-cultural dialogue. But on a statewide scale, change in government policies, like immigration, is also necessary. States cannot limit their ability to innovate because immigration regulations don't foster recruitment of top talent in a global pool. Even more critical, governments cannot afford to have regulations and public policies that chill freedom of expression and movement of ideas across networks.
In China, he observed, censorship -- that is, perceived control over the populace -- also has a chilling effect on entrepreneurship and innovation. Sure, the Chinese government believes their ability to censor the Internet is a benefit, but what they don't see is the downside. They're wasting so much potential -- for change, for innovation, for the creative exchange of new ideas -- all for the sake of some semblance of control over an ultimately uncontrollable force.
Schmidt said he strongly believes that that all censorship around the world will end in a decade, provided the values of free speech and individual empowerment continue to spread via local and global networks.
Emily Schneider, a recent graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, works for the National Security Program at the New America Foundation, where Tom is senior advisor on national security and Eric Schmidt is chairman of the board.
A monograph written at Ft. Leavenworth's School for Advanced Military Studies finds that "the likelihood of military aggression in the immediate future is low."
The reasons for that conclusion, writes Maj. Corey Landrey, are that:
China's military doctrine is clearly focused on local and regional conflicts.... Though it has aggressive leaders within the PLA, they answer to the less aggressive leaders of the CCP. While the possibility exists for aggressive leadership to emerge in China, such transition of power would not occur without warning.... Combined with its reliance on international trade and manufacturing, China's foreign debt holdings provide serious financial incentive to avoid conflict. China's economy, while slowing its pace of growth, is still expanding at a rate much higher than that of developed countries, and the quality of life of its citizens continues to rapidly improve. It is also expanding its access to foreign resources with little resistance from the international community. China is also an active participant in all major international organizations, and one of only five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
By Andrew Kwon
Best Defense diplomatic bureau
Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai, speaking recently at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, took as his lesson the need to respect others and act responsibly.
That's a pretty powerful message to convey, given that the man at the lectern was the ambassador of the very state the United States has long criticized for not being a responsible power. Responsibility, the ambassador said, is "being prudent and cautious" in regards to interests, "acting positively and constructively" when confronting and managing differences and challenges, and "taking the long-term view" when calculating gains.
In addition, the talk provided the platform for unveiling China's proposed linchpin for the "new great power relationship": mutual respect. The ambassador stressed that, to understand China and its policies it requires "a close look at its history and culture." He later added, "To respect [each other's] differences, is to show respect to history ... to appreciate why there are these differences will lay the foundation for constructive and productive relations." Overall, if the United States seeks to work with China, it asks to be accepted, and respected, as it is.
It was an interesting time for such a lecture, given the current shutdown of the federal government.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Oddly enough, I couldn't help but think of the Postal Service motto when I saw this photo, a postcard from snowy scene in China -- a soldier posing with a dog (I'm assuming it's one of China's MWDs) in Heilongjiang Province on Jan. 29. The two were photographed at a military training exercise where the temperature dipped to minus 30 degrees Celsius.
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night..." It seems just as fitting here as a way of relaying the devotion and partnership inherent in the closest MWD teams.
Diving deeper into that partnership, on the side of the dog, at least, was this New York Times op-ed, "Dogs Are People, Too," written by Gregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, that I saw was circulating MWD handler Facebook groups. Berns and his colleagues have been training dogs to undergo MRI scans while completely conscious so they can look at their active brains. What they discovered is quite remarkable and possibly not all that surprising, depending on whether or not you believe a dog is capable of feelings of love -- beyond obedience, beyond a relationship based on need and survival.
"Dogs, and probably many other animals (especially our closest primate relatives)," Berns writes, "seem to have emotions just like us." Now this is hardly a revolutionary idea -- even Darwin wrote about his own dog and the clear indications he saw in the dog's behavior to indicate that canines are indeed emotional beings and possess the ability to very clearly express those emotions. But Berns's examination of the canine brain yielded some noteworthy results, or if one were making an argument, evidence.
Although we are just beginning to answer basic questions about the canine brain, we cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.... Because of the overwhelming complexity of how different parts of the brain are connected to one another, it is not usually possible to pin a single cognitive function or emotion to a single brain region.... But the caudate may be an exception. Specific parts of the caudate stand out for their consistent activation to many things that humans enjoy. Caudate activation is so consistent that under the right circumstances, it can predict our preferences for food, music and even beauty.
Berns writes on to discuss whether or not these findings should not only change the way we see dogs but also how we treat them ... but I thought the above finding is enough food for thought on its own.
ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
It kind of surprised me. Why is Turkey doing this?
I hear from a friend who is a political scientist that the hottest study in his world is a paper by Harvard's Gary King on social media censorship in China. Or, as King puts it, "the largest selective suppression of human communication in the history of the world."
The bottom line seems to be that, going by what they censor, Chinese authorities most fear collective action -- that is, not individual protests or outcries, but the threat of people getting together.
Here is a link to the paper. Here is the summary of it from Professor King's website:
Chinese government censorship of social media constitutes the largest selective suppression of human communication in the history of the world. Although existing systematic research on the subject has revealed a great deal, it is based on passive, observational methods, with well known inferential limitations. We attempt to generate more robust causal and descriptive inferences through participation and experimentation. For causal inferences, we conduct a large scale randomized experimental study by creating accounts on numerous social media sites spread throughout the country, submitting different randomly assigned types of social media texts, and detecting from a network of computers all over the world which types are censored. Then, for descriptive inferences, we supplement the current approach of confidential interviews by setting up our own social media site in China, contracting with Chinese firms to install the same censoring technologies as existing sites, and reverse engineering how it all works. Our results offer unambiguous support for, and clarification of, the emerging view that criticism of the state, its leaders, and their policies are routinely published whereas posts with collective action potential are much more likely to be censored. We are also able to clarify the internal mechanisms of the Chinese censorship apparatus and show that local social media sites have far more flexibility than was previously understood in how (but not what) they censor.
A friend in Beijing sent along this article from Global Times, an English-language publication related to the People's Daily, advising Chinese tourists against certain behaviors overseas. Among them:
Meantime, the South China Morning Post reports that the most popular articles it runs consistently are those about rude Chinese tourists. "You cannot reason with these kinds of people," said Jenny Wang, a Beijing-based travel agent. "They think they can do anything with their money."
By Stuart Herrington
Best Defense guest columnist
Unless he was an asset of the Chinese or some other foreign intelligence service prior to "coming out" as he did, I don't think it's likely any foreign intel service is going to latch onto Edward Snowden.
If he were already a recruited asset, one would think that his case officers would have given him a better exfil plan than "fly to Hong Kong and hold a press interview." In fact, were he already on some service's payroll, the counsel would have been "stay right where you are, you can do us the most good in your current Booz Allen position." He is a "property," but don't think it likely that he would be picked up in such a short time by any country's service, China included.
To use jargon, Snowden is "blown" -- that is, he is a hot potato, with many downsides politically and from almost any perspective. My guess is that he realized after his flight to HK and going public that this was not a very swift move, and that he was in danger of being picked up by the authorities, acting on behalf of the local U.S. mission there (or, in his paranoid mind's eye, snatched and rendered by the hated CIA) -- and he was relentlessly besieged by media -- so he disappeared himself for the moment, which won't last in Hong Kong, a very well-organized society with a super security force. In short, any service that might like to contact him for a debriefing or other relationship would right now be appealing to its highers (the very top) with arguments as to just why they would wish to touch this guy at this time.
Based on what we know now, which could change in a flash, I would vote that no service, Chinese or otherwise, will touch this fellow; and, if they do, it would be a quiet interview, just to sniff out what, if anything, he might have that would merit undertaking political risks to touch him.
Stuart Herrington is a former commander of the U.S. Army Foreign Intelligence Command, INSCOM. He also is the author of several books about intelligence, including Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher's World.
By Adrian Lewis
Best Defense guest columnist
The Creation of Cultural Amity: the Israeli Policy and Strategy, a Lesson and Model for South Korea, and other Small, Democratic Nation-States in Tough Neighborhoods
Amity, from the Latin, amicus, friend, friendly. Friendship and goodwill especially as characterized by mutual acceptance and toleration of potentially antagonistic standpoints or aim (so the two women kept up an elaborate pretense of warm amity); specifically: friendly relations between large groups (nations striving for lasting amity).
The North Korean Threat. U.S. intelligence agencies believe that [in 2004] North Korea has "one, possibly two" nuclear weapons. It agreed to freeze its nuclear weapons program in a 1994 deal with the United States but is now preparing to resume those activities. If unchecked, experts say, North Korea could produce five to seven nuclear bombs this year -- and eight to 10 by the end of 2005 -- enough to alter the strategic balance in East Asia. North Korea is probably capable of deploying nuclear or chemical warheads on ballistic missiles able to strike South Korea and Japan, and it has worked on the Taepo Dong-2 missile, which has an estimated range that could include Alaska.
In December 2012, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) successfully launched a three-stage rocket that placed a satellite in orbit. In February 2013, the DPRK/North Korea tested its third nuclear weapon. Following the test, on 12 February during a debate at the United Nations, North Korean diplomat Jon Yong Ryong threatened South Korea, the Republic of Korea (ROK), with "final destruction." And, on 5 March, North Korea threatened to nullify the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, suggesting a state of war will again exist between the two countries. In April, the leader of the DPRK threatened South Korea and the United States with nuclear war and prepared to launch missiles. For decades there has been a persistent threat of war from North Korea. When the DPRK achieves the technological ability to place a nuclear warhead on its new missile, the new, young dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, will have the ability to destroy Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo, Japan, fulfilling the threat made at United Nations. Alone, neither South Korea nor Japan possesses the ability to guarantee the security of its people. Only the military power of the United States can guarantee their national security, and the sustainment and commitment of that military power, is at least in part, a function of cultural amity.
Let me give you an argument: Cultural amity is a critical element in the national security of nation-states. This argument is particularly true of smaller nation-states dependent upon the military power of larger, more powerful nation-states for their security. The nation-state of Israel has created genuine affection, genuine concern, a very real cultural amity for itself in the hearts of many Americans. And this amity, to a large degree, guarantees the security and prosperity of the state of Israel. Cultural amity gives Israel the ability to influence decision-making in Washington. It gives Israel the ability to acquire resources and guarantees. The American people have been extraordinarily generous to the state of Israel. Few nations in history have been as generous to a foreign state, thousands of miles from its geographic borders. Cultural amity facilitates the Israeli acquisition of billions of dollars in economic and military assistance from the United States annually. It ties the American people, the nation, to the Israeli state in significant ways, ways which matter and produce real American resources for Israel. Other small, democratic nation-states in tough neighborhoods, such as, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines should learn from the Israeli example.
One of the great things about writing this blog is the reading suggestions made to me by readers. About a year ago, one of youse suggested David Fromkin's Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?. I finally got around to it and am really enjoying it.
For some time, the unspoken text of some in the West on China has been to avoid making some of the mistakes the British and French made in the late 19th century as Germany became Europe's leading economic power. In this view, the argument is that the British (primarily) stymied Germany instead of bringing it to the table where great power decisions were made.
But in reading this book, I began to wonder if we have been looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Fromkin, who also wrote the terrific A Peace to End All Peace, argues that Germany brought about its own fate: "the hostile encirclement that Germany so much feared was achieved by Germany itself." German leaders moved toward war in the belief that it was inevitable, and that not only brought it on, they did so in the belief that "Germany ought to launch a war as soon as possible precisely because the chances of winning it would be less every year."
To apply his observation to China: What, if by its own over-reaching, and through its cultural contempt for all things not Chinese, it is likely to provoke a reaction to its growing economic and military power? If that is a plausible possibility, it has huge implications for Western policy. Among other things, we'd need to consider whether the best policy is to give them enough rope.
A second thought: At the time it started World War I, Germany was the leading country in the world in technology, basic science, and perhaps in music. German often was the language of scholarly discourse. None of that applies to today's China. Yet another observation by Fromkin does evoke China a bit: "An advanced country inside a backward governmental structure, broadly humanist yet narrowly militarist, Germany was a land of paradoxes."
This is the second time I've heard lately about China perhaps deciding that regime change is the best course for handling North Korea. Fine by me.
Meanwhile, gunmen who may have been members of the North Korean military took over a Chinese fishing boat, stole its food and fuel, and demanded a ransom. "Rogue border guards" are being blamed. The Chinese captain says he was in Chinese waters.
The AP quotes a Chinese officer, Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, as writing that, "North Korea has gone too far! Even if you are short of money, you can't grab people across the border and blackmail."
I always read the Pentagon's flag officer announcements, mainly to see if someone I know has gotten an interesting job. (It is nice to see people I knew as majors are now making three and four stars. Unfortunately, it also reminds me that people who joined the military when I started covering the Pentagon are retiring.)
In this case, I don't know Rear Adm. Metts, but I sure found the move of this information warfare specialist interesting. Maybe the U.S. government is going to respond more actively to the stream of Chinese intrusions into American government and business computers:
Rear Adm. (lower half) Willie L. Metts will be assigned as director for intelligence, J2, U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii. Metts is currently serving as deputy chief, tailored access operations, S32, National Security Agency, Fort Mead, Md.
And yes, that is the way the press release spelled Fort Meade.
The other day FP carried a standard carriers-are-great piece by a trio of admirals. A friend of mine, appalled at what he regarded as the ostrich-like views of the high-ranking authors, sent a corrective note to me:
Key questions to be considered would be:
- To what degree will China be able to impede our ability to freely use carriers in the Pacific in the future?
- How willing would U.S. political leadership be to commit carriers in a high-threat environment where China would view a negative outcome for them as a threat to the survival of the Party (recognizing that in that culture every defeat, even small ones, are a threat to the survival of the Party)?
- Would POTUS commit a carrier if there was a 10 percent chance it would be hit?
- How about 20 percent, or 30 percent?
- How many of the vertical launch tubes on the destroyers and cruisers are committed to defending the carrier vs. carrying Tomahawks to carry out power-projection missions?
- When does the Navy come in a la Bay of Pigs and say that it can only operate carriers forward to accomplish the mission if it is allowed to hit targets on the mainland, placing CONUS at risk to reprisal, and how does the president respond?
- When does the POTUS realize that for years we have built platforms that we cannot afford to lose, either in monetary cost or the cost of lives? That is the key question. Rule number three of war is never build a weapon that you cannot afford to lose or have defeated. We seem to proceed on an assumption that no one will ever attack our carriers. I think the Chinese will see themselves as being in a position that they cannot afford NOT to attack our carriers.
- How does this all affect our position vis a vis Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and India? All of those relationships will be at risk if we don't have an alternative.
Final thought: The Navy has already accepted that the fleet is going to shrink to 270 ships, and I am here to tell you that it will go smaller than that, probably 230 before this is all done. This is largely because all of those ships that were built by Reagan are all retiring at the same time and we are not building replacements at the same rate right now. That will be the price of maintaining 10-11 supercarriers at $12-13 billion with an annual shipbuilding budget of $15 billion. The price will decrease overall naval presence, and raise questions as to the U.S. commitment to local security concerns.
Navy Capt. Henry Hendrix has just written one of the best papers I've seen in the last several years by an active duty officer. In it, he challenges some of the central beliefs of his service. "After 100 years, the [aircraft] carrier is rapidly approaching the end of its useful life," he asserts.
Hendrix, the current director of naval history, says the current aircraft carrier is too expensive, inefficient, and of doubtful survivability. It is now in danger of becoming, like the battleship during the mid-20th century, "surprisingly irrelevant to the conflicts of the time."
"If the fleet were designed today," he observes, "it likely would look very different from the way it actually looks now -- and from what the United States is planning to buy."
He would like to see unmanned combat aerial vehicles, more than mere drones, capable of flying off both big carriers and the smaller "amphibious" carriers.
What would the equivalent of this paper be in the Army? Has it been written? Any smart colonels out there challenging sacred cows?
By Katherine Kidder
Best Defense office of Communist Chinese capitalist studies
China's growing role in Africa over the past decade-or-so has raised some eyebrows. Questions surrounding China's motives for investment abound: Are they purchasing U.N. votes? Simply extracting natural resources? Expanding the rhetoric of revolution, as it did in the 1960s?
Yet most of these questions presuppose state-led investment in Africa. Xiaofang Shen, a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University SAIS China Studies Program and former investment climate specialist at the World Bank, said in a recent talk at SAIS that the more notable increase over the past decade has been the rise in Chinese private-sector investment on the continent.
Pre-2001, Chinese private investment in Africa was negligible; by the end of 2011, there were 879 private companies and OFDI projects registered with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Contrary to the image of state-led extraction, Chinese entrepreneurs focus their energies mainly on manufacturing and service industries. They increasingly are forging relationships with local management, and aware of the value of learning local customs, religions, and languages.
So, what does this mean for the West? Interestingly enough, Chinese private investment in Africa may be a hat tip to Western models of development and governance: Xiaofang Shen's study finds that going overseas to do business was much easier for up-and-coming Chinese entrepreneurs than starting a business in inland China.
Most of China's industry grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, with little-to-no regulation. By contrast, many African laws (at least on paper) were copied and/or imposed by the West through such mechanisms as Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). As a result, Chinese entrepreneurs find African processes more conducive to business, from obtaining licenses and navigating the bureaucratic process to trusting that the food they eat for lunch is safe. African governments face higher incentives to improve infrastructure and devote resources to political stability and regulatory efficiency in order to attract capital -- precisely the same goals reflected in SAPs.
By Alexander Sullivan
Best Defense department of psynology
Contrary to some of the more sensationalist appraisals of China's rise in world rankings, David Shambaugh argues in his new book, China Goes Global: The Partial Power, that despite China's undeniable achievements, it has succeeded in becoming a global actor but not a global power. Hence the word "partial."
Shambaugh, a George Washington University political scientist, introduced his book last week in a February 13 talk at Johns Hopkins SAIS. He focused less on China's "vertical" rise -- its skyrocketing GDP and increasing military sophistication -- than on the extent of its "horizontal" expansion of its influence to the rest of the planet. He analyzed China's current global presence along five vectors: diplomacy, global governance, economics, culture, and security.
China has expanded its reach in most of these areas: It is the world's second largest economy and possibly the largest trading nation; it has relations with over 170 countries; it sits at the main table in most global multilateral fora; its official media outlets are opening new bureaus abroad; and it just launched its first aircraft carrier to lead its navy ever farther out in the Western Pacific. But according to Shambaugh, all the government's efforts along these lines have yielded precious little in the way of real power, as understood by people like Joe Nye -- that is, influence exerted to make actor A do thing X.
On the face of it, Shambaugh's conclusions are not unwarranted. China remains a "lonely power" with few genuine friends in the world. Increasing assertiveness in the East and South China Seas has helped roll back diplomatic gains made in its neighborhood since the Asian financial crisis, and even in African and Latin American countries where Chinese investment dollars (untrammeled by governance guarantees) had gained fast new friends, the picture is becoming less rosy.
One of Shambaugh's most interesting arguments is that while China's economic statistics are worthy of admiration, its "multinational" corporations have abysmal international brand recognition and an overall poor track record of breaking into overseas markets, calling into question whether China's corporate sector is really as much of a global business player as it is assumed to be.
He acknowledged that China has tremendous latent potential as a true global power and that its capacities will likely increase. What provoked by far the most interest during the Q&A session was one of his explanations for why China has so far failed to convert its potential into power, namely that Chinese elites are divided over China's identity in the world and the values it should represent. The lack of coherence among decision-makers in China, he said, has been one of the biggest impediments to their effective exercise of power. Absent consensus, the one thread that runs through it all (yi yi guan zhi) is poorly disguised, narrowly defined self-interest, which inevitably provokes counterbalancing by other international actors.
I've long found Paul McHale, a former member of Congress and also a former Pentagon official, a clear thinker. Here he questions the Pentagon's "pivot" to Asia:
"Does it make sense for the United States Army to prepare for a protracted land war against China? . . . Should the Army really be focused on North Korea while paying insufficient attention to Iran? And if a post-2014 civil war in Afghanistan spills over the Durand Line and threatens the stability of Pakistan's government, are there any issues in Myanmar that trump the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Taliban?"
By Jim Gourley
Best Defense commenter of the year
Last week Tom requested suggestions for new blogs to add to his daily reading list. I thought there were some interesting recommendations from readers, but after investigating each one I went back and clicked through the different windows in succession to gain a little more perspective.
Looking at them in aggregate provoked questions. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so what world view would the range of sites produce? How does the news feed presented by these sites differ from what Tom is probably already reading? Grouping the sites by their emphasis implies that view would be primarily technology-based, lightly seasoned by some current events in specific regions with dubious commentary. There is very little context. By and large, it lacks breadth and depth. The spectrum of information is narrow and the range of subjects too one-dimensional to provide necessary background.
I read lots of blogs, none of them regularly and not all of them related to defense matters per se, but I tend to see value in unique cultural overlaps. I seek context, perspective, answers. Lately, I find the blogosphere giving me more questions than answers.
Spend enough time
reading the tech blogs and you'll see that there are scores of unmanned weapons
systems in development in the United States and throughout the world. Within
fifteen years we may have a UAV that brings J.J. Abrams' new television series to life, warships with lasers, and bipedal battlefield
terminators assistants. All of these blog posts follow the same thematic
approach. They simply show us the technology. That's valuable information, but
I only need to see it once.
Nowhere can I find answers to the immediate questions I ask upon reading these blogs. Why are we developing these technologies? What existing weapons programs that we're currently shoveling money into will be rendered obsolete by these new weapons? Where does the care and equipping of human service members fit into this? Exactly what threats and enemies are such weapons meant to counter, and what retaliatory developments do we anticipate said enemies to attempt? Do we have a plan or are we just building stuff?
Intelligence and strategy blogs have made the pivot to China well in advance of the defense department, it seems. The American political discourse about the Chinese threat was electrified during the presidential campaign and think tanks are moving apace with speculations of what a conflict with China would look like. But in all the debate over who would do best at "getting tough with China," I didn't hear a compelling argument for getting tough in the first place. Is China really our enemy? Do they have to be our enemy? Is the conventional wisdom more conventional (or perhaps convenient) than it is wise? I have no end of questions about what the American security establishment thinks of China because there is no clear explanation of how it thinks about China. Is there a blog for that?
The defense, intelligence and national law enforcement architectures continue to meld in ways both mysterious and disturbing. The DEA has operated in Afghanistan for a number of years. Predator drones have been used to track cattle rustlers in North Dakota. Part of President Obama's legacy will be a government that can wire-tap my phone without a warrant and assassinate me without due process. I see these developments and I have more questions. Are there still such things as American defense, intelligence and law enforcement establishments, or is it gelling into a monolithic "security establishment?" How long a shadow does it cast and do civil liberties and posse comitatus fall underneath it? Is everyone contributing to this emergent construct actually okay with the potential consequences, or are we just following orders?
Blogs are a relatively new species in the journalism environment, but already the conceptualization of them has become traditional. They were conceived as web-based forums for microbursts of data to help news organizations keep up with the increasing pace of information flow. It was believed that the in-depth analysis would be left to the more substantive print media side of the house. The value of print has already been challenged and found lacking, but so too should the idea that synthesis and analysis can maintain the old pace as developments continue to accelerate. Blogs can't just be places to collate data points any longer. They need to start connecting the dots that are rapidly accumulating. I think 'Best Defense' has succeeded in that endeavor, but Tom depends on good sources of information like any human being. There are more questions than ever. More blogs ought to attempt answering them. Those answers matter now more than ever, because the new pace to which blogs have contributed is not going to wait.
Jim Gourley has been elected to the Best Defense all-star commenter team three years running.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on June 7, 2010.
Interesting comment on U.S.-China relations from Defense Secretary Gates in Singapore over the weekend:
Last fall, President Obama and President Hu made a commitment to advance sustained and reliable military-to-military relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China. The key words here are "sustained" and "reliable" -- not a relationship repeatedly interrupted by and subject to the vagaries of political weather.
Regrettably, we have not been able to make progress on this relationship in recent months. Chinese officials have broken off interactions between our militaries, citing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as the rationale. For a variety of reasons, this makes little sense:
First, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are nothing new. They have been a reality for decades and spanned multiple American administrations. Second, the United States has for years demonstrated in a very public way that we do not support independence for Taiwan. Nothing -- I repeat, nothing -- has changed in that stance. Finally, because China's accelerating military buildup is largely focused on Taiwan, U.S. arms sales are an important component of maintaining peace and stability in cross-strait relations and throughout the region."
Zakaria has more on Beijing's new arrogance.
(HT to AD)
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 26, 2010.
Earlier this week I ran into a friend who offered a correction on my comment that Iran has been the big winner in the Iraq war, gaining much influence inside its western neighbor and indeed across the region.
Yes, he said, Iran has certainly done well, and is more powerful than it was in 2003. But, he continued, the biggest strategic winner in the war so far is China. That's not only because the U.S. government financed the war with borrowings from China, but also because while we were distracted, Beijing has been a busy bee diplomatically, especially in East Asia.
I think my friend is probably right. Thanks a lot, W. (Sarcasm.)
Meanwhile, for all of youse who think this Google thing is just a PR move by that company, chew on this interesting roundup. On the other hand, I hear those who say we are crazy to let software engineers lead the way politically.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 13, 2010.
Over the weekend I finished The Vagrants, a terrific novel by Yiyun Li about China in the late 1970s, in the ebb tide period after the Cultural Revolution but before the economic opening. I think this is the richest novel I've read in a year or more. Anyone curious about China at all would enjoy it, as would anyone who simply likes a good novel.
It is perhaps the most scathingly anti-revolutionary book I've ever read, except perhaps for Andrei Platonov's The Foundation Pit. At one point the wisest (and most broken) character in the book asks,
... what is a revolution except a systematic way for one species to eat another alive? Let me tell you -- history is, unlike what they say on the loudspeakers, not driven by revolutionary force but by people's desire to climb up onto someone else's neck and shit and pee as he or she wants.
But it is more than a political novel, it is a great story, beautifully written. It begins in March 21, 1979, with the execution of a young woman who had been a fanatical Red Guard but had lost her faith in Communism and become a determined counterrevolutionary. As she is paraded before being killed, it becomes clear that her vocal cords have been cut, to prevent her from making a final statement. We also learn that one possible reason for her being sentenced to death is that a Party official needs new kidneys, and hers are extracted before she is put to death. It ends about five weeks later, on May Day.
Postscript: Life goes on. After I wrote this item, I went shopping at the Pentagon City Costco. In the cashier's line I stood behind what looked to be a group of visiting Chinese officials, looking very FOB. They were buying tons of bottles of Rogaine and One A Day multivitamins.
By Dean Cheng
Best Defense department of corporate intelligence
This past week, a remarkably disturbing case of arms export control violations came to light, and one which comes at a terrible time for the administration.
From the various accounts, it would appear that a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation (UTC) was exporting software that was used in China's new Z-10 attack helicopter program. Worse, according to the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, where the parent company is headquartered, this was not a case of technology diversion by the Chinese, but a case where the company, Pratt and Whitney Canada (PWC), deliberately engaged in violations of the Export Control Act.
The apparently deliberate nature of this violation makes it distinct from something like the Loral-Hughes problems of the late 1990s which led to the Cox Commission report on China-related security issues and the shift of satellites and aerospace technology to the Munitions List for export controls. In the Loral and Hughes cases, the really important technology wasn't even technology, it was "know-how," in the form of failure analysis in the wake of several failed Chinese space launches. The Chinese had very little understanding of how to conduct a proper failure analysis, which involves systems analysis, systems integration (almost in reverse), and a willingness to look objectively at problems, without allowing "guanxi" to divert criticism or blame. (Note that the latter aspect is not necessarily restricted to the Chinese, but they have had far more problems in this regard than we have.)
By contrast, the more recent case was not one of dual-use technologies, but clearly military ones. The Z-10 attack helicopter is patterned on the U.S. AH-64, Russian Mi-28, Eurocopter Tiger model, with a classic two-man fore-and-aft crew disposition. There is no mistaking it for a passenger helicopter. PWC was apparently willing to violate U.S. export control laws, so as to gain access to the large Chinese civilian helicopter market.
For the administration, which has been striving to modify and modernize the U.S. export control regime, the case may raise questions about how carefully this task much be approached. PWC's illegal exports occurred under the current system, one which has been patched and modified but not truly overhauled. Indeed, the administration's proposed changes would rationalize much of the current system, allowing clearer oversight rather than the current patchwork of sometimes contradictory lines of reporting and responsibility.
The UTC case demonstrates the continued need for export controls on advanced, sensitive technology, but it would be unfortunate if it discouraged, rather than encouraged, badly needed reforms to protect that technology better.Dean Cheng is a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation for Chinese political and security affairs.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 20, 2009.
In the year 2000, the PLA [People's Liberation Army] had more students in America's graduate schools than the U.S. military, giving the Chinese a growing understanding of America and its military."
(p. 27, 2008 Joint Operating Environment, a study by the U.S. Joint Forces Command)
PETER PARKS/Getty Images
Word arrives from across the wide Pacific that the Chinese military conducted a bridge placement exercise at a Yalu River crossing, a hand grenade's throw from North Korea.
This article speculates that this is a move that signals that the Chinese are worried about refugee flows should Lil Kim's regime collapse. They'd need to bridge to insert troops to create a buffer zone along the border. And maybe also quietly collect those nukes (which is a mission I would support -- better they have them than some nut in NoKo).
Speaking of NoKo, a friend asks how FP can rank it 21st on the list of most failing states. He thinks it should be much higher. I suspect he is correct.
For a security conference focused on the U.S. in Asia, it is amazing how little Taiwan is mentioned. I can remember when it dominated discussions of the American relationship with China. I think this is a sign of progress.
Army Capt. D.J. Skelton in a good Stars & Stripes profile on losing an eye and part of the left side of his head. "So I spend the rest of my life bumping into things on my left . . . So what." He's heading to China as a foreign area officer.
Courtesy of the U.S. Army
Bain Capital, his old outfit and home of some of his money that hasn't moved offshore, is helping the Chinese government with domestic surveillance. Why am I not surprised?
This Tibetan monk doesn't sound like a Romney supporter: "There are video cameras all over our monastery, and their only purpose is to make us feel fear."
Awhile ago one of the more astute grasshoppers recommended watching Red Cliff, a film by John Woo that came out a few years ago. When it arrived from Mr. Netflix I cooked up some chicken Penang curry, cracked open a Rolling Rock, and popped the DVD into the machine. My wife bailed after 10 minutes, but I enjoyed the whole nearly-three-hour shebang. I'd call it a Chinese David Lean's mix of Saving Private Ryan, Gone with the Wind, and Star Wars. Except with more battle scenes -- the last hour was just one big old firefight. (You'll see what I mean.)
I'd thank the grasshopper in question but I can't find the comment.
Just make sure you watch it with subtitles instead of the incompetent dubbing.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
When I came across this photo I was struck by how it so fully captures a necessary growing pain that all handlers experience at one point or another during their careers -- having to part ways with a dog they've grown close to, a dog they love.
"In a picture taken on November 23, 2011, two Chinese paramilitary policemen from the canine unit wipe their tears after they bid farewell to their dogs, as they retire from the unit in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province."
I wasn't at all surprised to see these two men openly wiping tears from their eyes. I've had handlers tell me that the day they were separated from their dog -- whether because of diverging deployment orders or for receiving a promotion that graduated them for their work as handlers -- was one of the worst they can remember. They're not bashful about this emotion either; it just comes with the territory.
I was, however, fairly surprised to see a late-December headline reporting that China currently employs upwards of 10,000 military working dogs in its armed forces. China uses breeds like Labs and Shepherds as well as the Kunming dog for patrol and detection work. According to Wang Han, the quoted official from the Beijing dog breeding and training centre, China's dogs "serve in more than 5,000 army divisions," doing all the things you might expect: "missions like peacekeeping, post-disaster search and rescue and border patrolling."
While overall, not a terribly enlightening story, the high number of China's MWDs is worth noting and keeping an eye trained on the growth of their programs. Otherwise it's just another military catching on to the intrinsic value of these dogs and proof that the handler-dog bond is universal.
In other war dog news: The 673rd Security Forces Sqaudron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska held a memorial service for not one, but two of its MWDs. RIP Jack and Benjo.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.