Thursday, March 23, 2017

Problems With Land Of The Pure

Nishan E Hador!

Pakistan was meant to be a model, an example for other nations to emulate. It was founded after World War II, as the sun was setting on the British Empire and India was preparing for independence. India’s Muslims, though glad to see the end of the Raj, were apprehensive about becoming a minority in a Hindu-majority land.

They envisioned instead what might be called a “two-state solution”: the establishment of a homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims in areas where Muslims were in the majority. Their new nation was to be free, pluralist and tolerant. “We are starting with this fundamental principle,” Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader) declared in 1947, “that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”

What went wrong? In an excellent new book, “Purifying the Land of the Pure,” Farahnaz Ispahani both recounts and laments Pakistan’s “descent” into what it has become today: unfree, undemocratic, intolerant and both a sponsor and victim of terrorism.

A Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Ms. Ispahani spent years as a journalist and high-ranking Pakistani official. She clearly loves the land of her birth. It’s doubtful that she’ll ever be able to safely return.

Pakistan, she writes, started out “as a modern state led by secular individuals.” But it was not long before important “religious and political leaders declared the objective of Pakistan’s creation to be the setting up of an Islamic state.”

This tension reveals itself even in the country’s name. Pakistan is an acronym for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. But in Urdu, the country’s lingua franca, the word means “Land of the Pure.” To what Ms. Ispahani calls “Islamist activists,” that implied a state that would embrace Muslim values and Islamic laws — as they defined them.

What went wrong? In an excellent new book, “Purifying the Land of the Pure,” Farahnaz Ispahani both recounts and laments Pakistan’s “descent” into what it has become today: unfree, undemocratic, intolerant and both a sponsor and victim of terrorism.

A Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Ms. Ispahani spent years as a journalist and high-ranking Pakistani official. She clearly loves the land of her birth. It’s doubtful that she’ll ever be able to safely return.

Pakistan, she writes, started out “as a modern state led by secular individuals.” But it was not long before important “religious and political leaders declared the objective of Pakistan’s creation to be the setting up of an Islamic state.”

This tension reveals itself even in the country’s name. Pakistan is an acronym for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. But in Urdu, the country’s lingua franca, the word means “Land of the Pure.” To what Ms. Ispahani calls “Islamist activists,” that implied a state that would embrace Muslim values and Islamic laws — as they defined them.

A subsidiary point: Ms. Ispahani could not have written this book had she observed the strictures of “political correctness.” The belief systems that have led Pakistan to where it is today cannot be adequately described as “violent extremism.” She talks instead of “Islamism,” “jihadism,” “Islamist militancy” and “Islamist terrorism” — terminology that begins to open a window into the ideologies and theologies that now threaten free peoples (and those who might like to be) around the world.

Pakistan’s history teaches at least three lessons.

The first: Elections alone do not produce democracy. The second: Majority rule without minority rights leads to egregious illiberalism. Third: A state committed to the pursuit of religious “purity” will always find some of its subjects in need of “cleansing.”

Down that path despotism lies.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Coming Carrier Gap

Ahoy!

If U.S. lawmakers fail to approve a full-year budget and rely on a stopgap measure instead, the Navy will face maintenance backlogs and other shortfalls that will keep its biggest warships from deploying on schedule and leave critical carrier gaps around the world, an official said.
Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, this week said the prospect of shutting down two air wings, going to minimal operations on three more, and delaying 14 ship maintenance availabilities — a scenario predicted by Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran in February — was the minimum damage the Navy could expect if the service did not receive the readiness finding it needed for the rest of the fiscal year.

“We have not developed those specifics, but we will relay those to Congress in a classified document later to say what are the impacts,” Mulloy said Thursday during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing. “It will be that or more, and will very likely be more depending on the date that that kicks in.”

The brunt of the impact, Mulloy said, would be felt in fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, when squadrons and units currently without funding to conduct training workups or maintenance would face related deployment delays.

“You would start seeing the same carrier gaps and start seeing other impacts around the world,” Mulloy said.

The Navy has had to contend with several high-profile carrier gaps in recent months due to sequestration budget caps in 2013, which led to massive maintenance backlogs and threw scheduled ship maintenance availabilities off-schedule.

In October 2015, the carrier Theodore Roosevelt redeployed from the Persian Gulf, leaving the region without a carrier to conduct airstrikes on Islamic State targets — a carrier gap directly linked to maintenance delays for the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, which had been scheduled to deploy. In November 2015, the Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group deployed to the region, ending a one-month carrier gap.

Just before the start of 2017, the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group returned home from the Middle East following a seven-month deployment, leaving a gap of nearly a month while the carrier George H. W. Bush completed preparations for its deployment. This gap too was a direct result of maintenance delays in the shipyard for the Bush.

Congress has until April 28 to pass the fiscal 2017 defense appropriations bill, avoiding a year-long continuing resolution that would keep existing budget caps in place. Mulloy said he also hoped to see predictability in future defense budgets, enabling the Navy to better plan and spend its money.

“For the current 2017 budget … we had approximately three weeks to cut $6.5 billion out of the Department of the Navy, $4.5 billion out of the Navy itself, and $2 billion out of readiness,” he said. “Cutting $6.5 billion out of the Department of the Navy in a matter of weeks causes some very hard choices.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Panzers

As reported on military tech website Scout.com earlier this month, the U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, is currently hard at work designing a new tank to serve in the Army, and hoping to get it ready by 2030. Equipped with "advanced sensors and light-weight composite armor," says Scout, this new tank would be "high-tech," "lightweight," and able to do things the Abrams can't, like "destroy a wider range of targets from farther distances, cross bridges, incinerate drones with lasers and destroy incoming enemy artillery fire."

It would also incorporate advanced communications systems permitting it to network with other combatants on the battlefield, and even control its own drone detachments.

Specifics of the new tank design are still being worked out -- for example, will it sport the new lightweight XM360 120mm cannon the Pentagon has been working on, or perhaps a futuristic XM813 rapid-fire 30mm auto-cannon capable of rattling off 200 rounds per minute?

This all remains to be seen.

What does seem clear, though, is that if the Army decides to proceed with investment in a new 21st-century super-tank, then this would provide the funds to keep General Dynamics' Lima plant busy building and testing prototypes. Thus, it wouldn't be necessary to continue pouring money into the production of circa-20th-century Abrams tanks that no one seems to want anymore.

And that would be a win-win-win scenario -- for the Army, taxpayers, and General Dynamics.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Don't Buy China's Peace Plan

Juche!

In a matter of weeks, all of China’s fears have come to a head on the Korean Peninsula. At an airport in Malaysia in mid-February, the exiled half-brother of North Korea’s ruler was assassinated with a nerve agent, reminding the world that the Hermit Kingdom is run by a paranoid and violent regime.

Closer to home, North Korea conducted two rounds of ballistic missile tests in stark violation of UN Security Council resolutions. In response, the United States, South Korea, and Japan all vowed to tighten military ties and step up pressure on Pyongyang, underscored by the initial deployment, much to China’s dismay, of a new U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

Leaders in Beijing had reason to be nervous. An unpredictable ruler in North Korea was once again tempting war on the Peninsula, which would be disastrous for China in the form of refugees flooding across its border and loose nukes on its doorstep. In addition to the immediate crisis, a collapsing North Korea would likely result in a unified country led by a U.S.-friendly government in Seoul, removing China’s strategic buffer that keeps the United States and its South Korean ally at a more comfortable distance. At the end of the day, Beijing isn’t happy with Pyongyang’s saber rattling, but trying to manage a nuclear North Korea remains preferable to rolling the dice with instability.

Under the rubric of a “double suspension,” China recommended that North Korea halt its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for the United States and South Korea cancelling major military exercises.

First, particularly given North Korea’s record of evasion and deceit, any reasonable suspension would require an extraordinarily invasive verification regime, well beyond what even the most sympathetic observers believe Pyongyang would stomach. If you can’t verify, the deal isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Second, U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises are not just symbolic shows of force. They are necessary to ensure that the United States and its allies are prepared for what would assuredly be a nasty war. Pentagon officials are quick to warn against putting the reduction of military readiness on the table, much less as an opening gambit.

Finally, and this is the kicker, it’s bad strategy to agree to a mutual suspension at this particular moment—even if you think negotiations are the only viable path to stabilizing the Peninsula. Instead, as the dust settles around South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, the United States should continue working with allies and partners, as well as China, to implement fully the two UN Security Resolutions secured by the 44th administration last year.

These provide unprecedented sources of financial and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, including strict limits on the export of raw materials and access to global financial markets. If faithfully enforced, North Korea’s hard currency could be cut by upwards of $800 million, slowing its ability to fund its weapons programs while creating potential antibodies to Kim Jong-un’s rule. Several elements of the new sanctions package have never been tried and were only put into place in recent months, meaning skeptics will have to hold their breath before assessing the true effectiveness of the pressure campaign—it is simply not the case that this is old wine in new bottles.

All this is to say that diving into negotiations now would be throwing away a key source of leverage over North Korea. It would also take the pressure off of China prematurely, just when newfound U.S. resolve is driving Beijing to finally step up its game in constraining North Korea’s economy. Why start bargaining when you’re on the cusp of dramatically strengthening your hand? Instead, the United States can create more favorable conditions for successful negotiations by first demonstrating seriousness of purpose to Beijing and imposing novel costs on Pyongyang.

Only after the new sanctions regime is fully implemented will the time be ripe to consider mutual concessions.





Thursday, March 16, 2017

Akula!

Flood Tubes Two and Four!

The Soviet Union produced hot-rod submarines that could swim faster, take more damage, and dive deeper than their American counterparts—but the U.S. Navy remained fairly confident it had the Soviet submarines outmatched because they were all extremely noisy.

Should the superpowers clash, the quieter American subs had better odds of detecting their Soviet counterparts first, and greeting them with a homing torpedo. However, that confidence was dented in the mid-1980s, when the Soviet Navy launched its Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Thirty years later they remain the mainstay of the Russian nuclear attack submarine fleet—and are quieter than the majority of their American counterparts.

Today the Russian Navy maintains ten to eleven Akulas, according to Jane’s accounting in 2016, but only three or four are in operational condition, while the rest await repairs. Nonetheless, the Russian Navy has kept its boats busy. In 2009, two Akulas were detected off the East Coast of the United States—supposedly the closest Russia submarines had been seen since the end of the Cold War.

Three years later, there was an unconfirmed claim (this time denied by the U.S. Navy) that another Akula had spent a month prowling in the Gulf of Mexico without being caught. The older Kashalot even has been honored for “tailing a foreign submarine for fourteen days.” All of these incidents have highlighted concerns that the U.S. Navy needs to refocus on antisubmarine warfare. In the last several years, Russia has also been upgrading the Akula fleet to fire deadly Kalibr cruise missiles, which were launched at targets in Syria in 2015 by the Kilo-class submarine Rostov-on-Don.

Despite the Akula’s poor readiness rate, they continue to make up the larger part of Russia’s nuclear attack submarine force, and will remain in service into the next decade until production of the succeeding Yasen class truly kicks into gear.

Until then, the Akula’s strong acoustic stealth characteristics will continue to make her a formidable challenge for antisubmarine warfare specialists.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Syria's Puppet Regime

Both former 44 and 45 have considered deeper cooperation with Russia – and thereby Iran and Assad – against ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria. This idea is based on two fundamental fallacies.

First, Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime cannot recapture Salafi-Jihadist safe havens and secure them over the long-term given their severe manpower shortages and shortfalls in command-and-control.

Second, Assad is not sovereign. Iran and Russia have both inserted themselves deep into the framework of the state. Both states aim to entice the U.S. into actions that advance their own strategic interests and ultimately facilitate the expulsion of the U.S. from the Middle East.

Money Shot:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is neither sovereign nor a viable U.S. partner against ISIS and al-Qaeda. Russia and Iran have penetrated the Syrian Arab Army’s command-and-control authorities at all levels and propped up the force by providing the bulk of its offensive combat power. The pro-regime coalition cannot secure all of Syria and primarily serves as a vehicle for Moscow and Tehran’s regional power projection. Any U.S. strategy in Syria that relies on pro-regime forces will fail to destroy Salafi-Jihadists while empowering Iran and Russia.

The U.S. will not find a partner willing or capable of advancing its national security interests within the pro-regime coalition. Pro-regime forces are not capable of independently expelling ISIS and al-Qaeda from Syria. Iran currently provides the high-end combat units that lead pro-regime offensives on the ground.

Any policy that leverages Russia and Assad against Salafi-Jihadist groups will thus empower Iran in Syria by default. Conversely, any effort to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran in Syria in the near-term will also fail due to the critical role of Iran in supporting both parties. Russia has no proxy in Syria without Iran.

Russia and Assad cannot afford to divorce themselves from Iran even if they intended to do so. Neither Russia nor Iran requires an end to the Syrian Civil War or the defeat of ISIS in Syria. Rather, Russia and Iran have consistently intervened in the conflict in order to suppress the opponents of the regime, enhance their own regional freedom of action, and oust the U.S. from the Middle East.

Their public appeals for political and military cooperation with the U.S. are disingenuous and unconstructive. The U.S. must focus on regaining leverage and extracting meaningful concessions from the pro-regime coalition rather than surrendering to the interests of strategic adversaries for unsustainable gains against ISIS and al-Qaeda.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Swarm Baby Swarm

The South Korean Army is considering using drones equipped with explosives, an army official said Sunday.

The army plans to carry out extensive research into "military swarming, which is already in operational use in the U.S., China and Russia, to our ground and naval operations," the official said.

The battlefield tactic uses dispersed combat units to attack designated targets at once.

The research will focus on the possibility using AI-based drones, and on ways to develop techniques based on Korea's advanced science and technology.

The military will analyze the effects of drone swarming on naval operations, including port defense, attacks, search and rescue, and lighting.

If the research results ― due within this year ― are positive, the Army will begin arming military drones.

In January, the U.S. Defense Department said it successfully tested 103 Perdix drones ― each 16 centimeters long ― released from three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets.

In November, China released an image of scores of mini-drones in flight, while Russia is reportedly studying fighter-drone joint operations.

The South Korean military said it could use the similar Coyote drone, developed by leading U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and successfully tested by the U.S. Navy in 2015, in combat exercises.

The drones can carry up to a one kilogram and can fly for up to 90 minutes at up to about 100 kilometers per hour.

North Korea may already be using drones capable of targeting South Korea