Friday, September 30, 2011

WAKE UP DC - THE ASIAN CENTURY IS HERE, Part 4 (CP-Counter Proliferation)

The Counter Proliferation (CP) challenge in the Asia Pacific (AP) region is more complex than at first meets the eye. A mix of state and non-state actors (NSAs) are engaged in proliferation activities across the many wide-open seams of ungoverned spaces that exist in the region and between the PACOM and CENTCOM AORs. These spaces are physical, ideological, political and temporal. Asia has been an afterthought compared to the Middle East in US foreign policy for the past decade. At the same time, the US security alliance system in the region is under challenge. Long removed from the Philippines and unlikely to be invited back, the US is under pressure to move units from Okinawa. The problems extend beyond military force posture. Both the US nuclear umbrella and the Non Proliferation Treaty appear weak at best, and a chimera at worst, thereby tempting legitimate states to consider developing their own nuclear deterrent. 



JUST THIS WEEK it was revealed that the Head of the Republic of China "command’s communications and electronic information department", Maj. Gen. Lo Hsien-che, has been sentenced to life for spying for the PRC. In an interesting side note AFP reports the honey trap operative who lured the general to give up Po Sheng was carrying an Australian passport.
Lo’s betrayal has stirred particularly acute alarm. His job gave him access to some of Taiwan’s most closely guarded secrets — involving a new command, control and communications system known as Po Sheng, or “Broad Victory,” long a target of Chinese espionage here and in the United States. [Po Sheng is ] built around sophisticated and highly secret American technology. Reported Andrew Higgins in the Post.

al-Awlaki - A VICTORY for SMART CT

Home run (again)!
A key driver of the Yemeni AQ threat against the US has been eliminated. al-Awlaki had become much more operationally significant than bin Laden. Many of the recent attacks against the US homeland over the past few years originated in Yemen. Instead of invading, installing a democracy and spending hundreds of billions on civic projects, the US followed a SMART CT strategy that targeted the worst of the worst and removed the threat. SMART CT has greatly improved democracy's chances in Yemen, by removing a key threat to democracy and stabilization, thereby opening a space for Yemeni's to choose their own path.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

FBI Foils Pentagon/Congress Plot

“I just can’t stop; there is no other choice for me.” Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen, was intent on killing the “enemies of Allah.” 

It was revealed today that the FBI has foiled a home-grown terrorist plot aimed at the Pentagon and Congress. The following is from the FBI's account:
Ferdaus described his expanded attack as follows:

...with this aerial assault, we can effectively eliminate key locations of the [Pentagon] then we can add to it in order to take out everything else and leave one area only as a squeeze where the individuals will be isolated, they’ll be vulnerable and we can dominate.

Once isolated, Ferdaus planned to “open up on them” and “keep firing” to create “chaos” and “take out” everyone. He also provided the expanded plan to the UC on a thumb drive.

The Hinsley Raid - A Video

MIL INT with The Cardinal 1994 St John's College, Cambridge
Professor Sir Harry Hinsley, is featured in the in THIS documentary on breaking the enigma code. For non US viewers, it is the "ULTRA Enigma" episode of the The Secrets of War documentary.

US-British SIGINT Agreement Revealed

Harry Hinsley, Sir Edward Travis and Brig Tiltman, who helped negotiate the intelligence sharing agreement between Britain and the US, in Washington in November 1945
MIL INT's PhD supervisor, Professor Sir Harry Hinsley, seen here on the left, was a 'behind the scenes' player in the establishment of the 'diamond in the allied SIGINT Crown' - the 1946 UK-USA Agreement. While the existence of the agreement has been public knowledge for years, the text of the agreement was only released in 2010. The NSA released the text along with a useful catalog of early primary documents from its secret archives. A joint effort to the very end, GCHQ also released a series of related documents on the same day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Click here for Part 1

THE CRITICAL QUESTION - How will China manage its "Great Leap Outward"?
Is China approaching its 1898 point in history? Given its vastly different political and cultural make up to the US, how might China manage its transformation to a global power? Will it be a benign hegemon or will the nationalist passions aroused by a century of 'humiliation' by the West (here I include 1930s Japan) and its sense of exceptionalism (Middle Kingdom narrative) drive it to assert itself in ways that will prove counter productive to world order?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dangers to the Republic!

“Those who think that they alone have the right answers, those who demonize those who think differently, and those who refuse to listen and take other points of view into account—these leaders, in my view, are a danger to the American people and to the future of our republic.”

Sounds like one of those crackpot conspiracy emails that circulate daily...

Saturday, September 24, 2011


(Picture Credit: BBC)
"China has indisputable sovereignty of the South Sea, and China has sufficient historical and legal backing" to support its claims, Senior Col. Geng Yansheng, a Ministry of Defense spokesman, told reporters.
--- And there it is.

This is the first part of a 4 part series that canvas a range of national security issues concerning US policy.

The US foreign and security policy community has to get back up to speed on Asia - and do so as quickly as possible - transforming it from a niche concern to a central focus of effort. It is a choice between the 'Middle East Decade' of the past, and the 'Asian Century', not of the future, but of the now. A global power shift has been in progress for some time. While Washington has been enmeshed in the intricacies of understanding myriad sub-cultures in the Middle East (and more recently, North Africa [MENA]), in an effort to hasten the kind of political and social change that took the West 500 years of bloody religious wars to master, two titans have emerged in Asia. During the past 'middle east decade', Asia has transformed from a comparatively benign and largely stable zone, to a rapidly growing fulcrum of issues spanning the power spectrum (soft to hard), for states and non-state actors (NSAs) alike. This is not just about China's rise, it is also about India's rise, economic competition, trade, energy, proliferation, terrorism, cyber security, and old fashioned nationalism and territorial disputes;  all set against growing military capabilities. 

Despite the best efforts of officials like Kurt Campbell at DoS for example, Washington is not as fully engaged intellectually, physically, politically, or diplomatically, as it needs to be to keep ahead of rapid change in Asia. For a simple but telling example, according to the DoD policy website the Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs is vacant. Can anyone but a few insiders even name the DASD? This is not an attack on the incumbent. Rather it is an indicator of the place Asia holds in official Washington. In private, intelligence and security officials routinely refer to Asia as a "backwater", an "after thought", it is as if Washington can only concentrate on one problem at a time. As the US starts to contemplate a post-2014 world order, it will need to quickly grasp the significance of Asia.  To get an idea of the extent of radical change in the global balance of economic, social and political power look at this excellent short video by Hans Rosling.

The really big meta-trends are coming out of Asia. For example, energy demand is expected to soar in coming decades according to the US Dept of Energy. Until now analysts have thought of energy security as supply driven, from here on out analysts should see it as demand driven. Looked at from that perspective, a whole new world opens up. Consider this projection from the NYT:
Global energy demand will increase 53 percent from 2008 through 2035, with China and India accounting for half of the growth, the United States Department of Energy said on Monday. China and India will consume 31 percent of the world’s energy by 2035, up from 21 percent in 2008, the department’s International Energy Outlook projected. In 2035, Chinese energy demand will exceed that of the United States by 68 percent, it said.
Despite the Fukushima disaster, analysts expect nuclear power to continue to be a focus of interest in SE Asia.


The US, China and Japan are the world's top 3 economies respectively (India is 9, Australia 13, S Korea 15, Indonesia 18). The US is still clawing its way out of recession while China is experiencing 10% growth year on year. If that rate were sustained China would double its GDP in seven years. The future of the US dollar as the global reserve currency will be determined in Asia. In March 2011, China held $3.04tn US dollars in reserves, Xinhua news agency reported. It is the largest holder of US treasuries, or government debt, with $1.166tn as of June 30, 2011. Ever wonder why Gold prices continue to soar? Part of it is due to general market uncertainty, but behind the scenes China has been buying gold to mitigate its exposure to the USD.  Following the downgrading of US credit to AA+, Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson at China Signpost blog observed:

Beijing is lecturing the U.S. to protect its investments. In a strongly worded editorial on 6 August 2011, Xinhua, one of China’s main state-controlled media entities, declared that “China, the largest creditor of the world’s sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States to address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China’s dollar assets." 
Chinas global investments provide the PRC with tremendous access and influence from Africa to Latin America. The People's Daily reported in March 2011
In 2009, China became the world's fifth largest ODI investor, rising from 12th in 2008. In 2010, China's ODI surged 36.3 percent to $59 billion, while its FDI rose 17.4 percent to $105.7 billion.
This FT graphic gives an idea of the global scope and reach of Chinese investments. PRC trade within  the ASEAN block is a useful example of the power of its economy. According to the China Post
China's trade with ASEAN has jumped six-fold since 2000 to US$193 billion last year, surpassing that of the U.S. China's share of Southeast Asia's total commerce has increased to 11.3 percent from 4 percent in that time, whereas the U.S.'s portion of trade with the bloc fell to 10.6 percent from 15 percent, ASEAN statistics show. During that time, ASEAN's trade deficit with China widened by five times to US$21.6 billion. The bloc reported a US$21.2 billion trade surplus with the U.S. last year, down 12 percent from 2000. 
But the story does not stop with economic power. From advances in medicine to green tech, China is surging ahead in science and technology far surpassing expectations. The Guardian reported that China is poised to overtake the US in scientific research output:
The Royal Society said that China was now second only to the US in terms of its share of the world's scientific research papers written in English. China could overtake the United States as the world's dominant publisher of scientific research by 2013.
The dominant language in many of the labs in the National Institutes of Health in Washington DC is mandarin. In a very smart move the Chinese are now engaged in the Thousand Talents Program - which is designed to take advantage of the exceptional education and training Chinese nationals have received around the world by luring them back home with money and state of the art labs to work on projects of national significance. Many top scientists and entrepreneurs sometimes referred to as "sea turtles" are taking the education and running: here is an example, and another and another.  For entrepreneurial examples see here. 


China has an advanced space program. It became only the third country to launch an astronaut into space in 2003; its first space walk followed in 2007; it has already launched 6 indigenous Beidou satellites to provide it with an independant GPS capability in the Asia Pacific region; and it is soon to send the first element of its own space station into orbit.  Scott Pace, an associate NASA administrator in the George W. Bush administration compared the US and Chinese space program thus:
Space leadership is highly symbolic of national capabilities and international influence, and a decline in space leadership will be seen as symbolic of a relative decline in U.S. power and influence.
Space is a vital enabler of advanced science, communications (including cyber), navigation, and war. Notably, it has also demonstrated an anti-satellite kill capability back in 2007 when it shot down one of its own old weather satellites. From a first manned space flight in 2003, to a GPS network and space station in 2011, is a frightening pace of advanced application of science and technology. 


Official Washington has spent the past decade concerned about around 432 million people of the MENA region, while Asia's 4.2 billion have been, quite frankly, an afterthought.  The terrorist threat posed by AQ is serious, but the global stakes in Asia are profound. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

China - Nationalism Trumps Smarts in Military Modernization

Since 1978 when it cleverly decided to engage in economic reform in order to avoid political reform - an ordering of change the Soviets probably regretted not following as their union collapsed under the pressure of instant political reform between 89-91 - the PRC has steadily risen from 3rd world backwater to regional power, and now global aspirant, completely unmolested.

All that time the United States provided the international good of securing the global commons. More recently, the US has secured Iraq and to a lesser extent Afghanistan. In both cases Chinese companies have secured business contracts for energy and rare earth goodies in each locale respectively. Of course US intent was not aimed at that outcome specifically, but the Chinese nevertheless seized the opportunity.

All of this raises the point - if the Chinese were the superior long range thinkers that many analysts fear they are, GO v chess and all that pap, wouldn't it make more sense not to build an advanced military?
For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.

CT - AQ "On Ropes" Brennan

Army Times has a report with more strong words from top CT official John Brennan, echoing Secretary Panetta's assessment that AQ is in serious decline. It is interesting to see that Sec Panetta has backed away from the earlier strong language because of the fiscal need to keep the DoD drumbeat going, as opposed to the 'Attaboy' he rightly issued CIA as he left.
WASHINGTON — White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said al-Qaida is “on a steady slide” after the death of al-Qaida’s latest second-in-command in Pakistan.
Brennan told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it’s a “huge blow” in the first official White House comment since Atiyah Abd al-Rahman’s reported killing by CIA drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas last week.
“Al-Qaida is sort of on the ropes and taking a lot of shots to the body and the head,” Brennan said.

War Costs - $31 BILLION wasted

An ongoing interest of MIL INT is the strategic impact of the costs of war and related issues of mismanagement. DR has a story  on the recent Commission on Wartime Contracting report. This is in addition to the stunning Senate and academic reports on related topics previously noted by MIL INT.

Homegrown Terror Overblown

So argues a DR post that is well worth  a look. Here's a taste:
The prospect of homegrown terrorists keep U.S. security officials up at night. But although more homegrown jihadis have popped up lately, the so-called “lone wolves” aren’t always as solitary as officials fear; their plotting is amateurish; and they’re a meager fraction of America’s Muslim communities. To put it bluntly, these are the scrubs of international terrorism.

China - Consolidated List of Recent Work

A quick reference blog to recent China related work appearing out there in the world. Secrecy news has links to recent China related CRS reports - check out the China Naval Modernization piece in particular.

Friday, September 2, 2011

5 Myths of 911

As the 10th anniversary fast approaches there will be a lot of media hype and far too little serious re-evaluation. Brian Michael Jenkins has a piece in the Post on 5 myths of 911 - MIL INT does not agree with all of them but that does not mean they do not deserve considered thought.

CT - CIA in Wash Post

Today's Washington Post has an extended story on the CIA's greatly enhanced role in CT.