Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pay To Slay

Legalism is common among authoritarians.

Created under the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the PA serves as the government of the Palestinian-administered territory in the West Bank. It was originally intended to exercise authority in both the West Bank and Gaza, but Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Palestine, violently expelled it from Gaza in 2007 and now administers Gaza itself.

Within the PA, the predominant political organization is the PLO. Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO’s chairman, was elected PA president in January 2005 for a four-year term. Though that term expired long ago, the PA hasn’t held a more recent presidential election; Abbas remains president.

Nondemocratic societies lack rule of law, but they generally don’t lack laws. Their laws, in fact, tell us a lot about them. In the case of “pay for slay,” the relevant legislation is the PA’s “Amended Palestinian Prisoners Law No. 19 (2004).”

It guarantees “a dignified life” to anyone Israel has imprisoned “for his participation in the struggle against the occupation.” That is, it promises benefits to anyone caught for knifing, shooting, running over, or bombing people in Israel. The law lauds current and former terrorist prisoners as “a fighting sector and an integral part of the fabric of the Arab Palestinian society.”

Articles 5 and 8 apply to terrorists released from Israeli prisons. Those who served a year or more are exempted from:
a. tuition fees at government schools and universities.
b. health insurance payments.
c. tuition fees for all professional training programs offered by the relevant official bodies.

Some released prisoners work as PA civil servants. For each of these, prison time served is accounted for as if it had been civil-service work: The law says the PA “shall pay his social security and pension fees . . . for the years he spent in prison.”

Articles 6 and 7 apply to terrorists still incarcerated. “Every incarcerated prisoner” is entitled to a monthly salary “linked to the cost-of-living index.” A portion thereof goes directly to the prisoner’s family.

The Palestinian Authority promotes violence against Israel. Officials do it in public speeches. PA-run television and radio make it a theme, as do the curricula and textbooks of PA schools. The incitement is so unrelenting that it’s drawn criticism even from supporters of the PA, such as 44—and, remarkably enough, from the United Nations Security Council.

Palestinians have had wretched political leadership for a century, since World War I, when Britain ended Turkey’s 400-year ownership of Palestine. Their leaders have chosen the anti-democratic—and losing—side of every major conflict for the last hundred years. They chose the Turks in World War I, the Nazis in World War II, the Soviets in the Cold War, Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, and the West’s enemies in the War on Terrorism.

Most catastrophically for themselves, they chose Israel’s enemies in the Arab–Israeli conflict.

Despite everything—despite the long history of conflict—it remains possible that the Palestinians might someday achieve peace, prosperity, and some kind of national independence. But they’ll never get it if they continue to be dominated by dishonest, corrupt, authoritarian, and violent leaders.

They’ll never get it if their leaders are the kind of people who pay rewards to terrorist murderers.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


The Qaher, which means "Conqueror," was first unveiled in February 2013 during a ceremony marking the 34th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the current Iranian government into power. The fifth-generation jet was hailed by leaders at the time as a breakthrough for the nation's military, which both Western and Gulf Arab nations have long considered a regional threat.

Savvy observers, however, noted inconsistencies in the plane's design including apparent errors in cockpit size and the absence of a nozzle for the engine, according to The National InterestThe irregularities caused a number of critics to consider the 2013 model a simple prop.

Iran showcased its first ever domestically-manufactured stealth fighter jet Monday, but a number of critics in the West have called the aircraft a hoax.

Iran's Qaher F-313 jet was presented by leaders of the nation's defense industry at a ceremony attended by top government officials near the Meherabad Air Base, United Press International reported. Days earlier, Iran's Irib News Agency released footage showing the aircraft making its hardware debut. In the video, the Qaher F-313 performed a taxi test, but did not take off, leading some to speculate as to whether the supposedly high-tech warplane was capable of flight yet.

Saturday's footage showed a different jet than the one previously seen in 2013 and one that was at least capable of being operated on the ground. The black-painted Qaher was approximately 45-feet long with a 17-feet wingspan and large downturned wingtips. The twin-engined jet also bore traditional features of stealth fighters such as facets and edge alignment, according to an article published Friday by Aviation International News. The report said the Qaher seen Saturday may have been radio-controlled or a subscale mockup of the actual design.

Criticism from abroad has not deterred Iran from boasting of its military accomplishments. At Monday's ceremony, the likes of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan showed up to praise the Qaher, which could be used for short-range aerial support missions and carrying various natively-produced missiles, according to Iran's Tasnim News Agency. Rouhani said the aircraft, along with the weapons Iran planned to fit it with, were proof that Iran would not be intimidated by foreign powers seeking to limit its military capabilities.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Président de la République Française

As soon as the new president is elected, he or she will face three challenging realities. The first is France’s place in the NATO security alliance. Even if unappreciated by the French public, relations with Washington and London have been pivotal for France’s security policy since 1917, and the so-called P3 continues to design France’s security policy in terms of nuclear cooperation and intelligence sharing.

The new French president will have his or her first international meeting at the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25, just weeks after taking office. After stating that NATO is no longer obsolete, 45 is expected to participate in this summit as well.

They would need to express their intentions regarding France’s future role in the alliance at this summit without any real preparation.

The second reality is French relations with the EU and Germany. Contrary to NATO, this reality is well known to the French public. The 1957 Treaty of Rome initiated reconciliation between France and Germany and was the cornerstone of the European project. However, the two countries do not see eye to eye because of their economic asymmetry, which has dramatically increased over the last decade.

In 2016, France’s trade deficit with Germany deepened to around 14 billion euros, its highest point in a decade. In view of France’s sluggish economic growth, it remains to be seen whether it really has a choice when it comes to breaking ties with the EU and Germany. In the past, strong political will on both sides served to gloss over the structural differences between Paris and Berlin. This political will is likely to be tested before summer.

The third reality is military spending. Like its European allies, France is facing a deteriorated strategic environment with diverse threats ranging from terrorism on its soil to coercive military strategies in regions including the Levant and the Sahel. To put it bluntly, if the financial resources devoted to defense are not significantly increased, France’s military model of strategic autonomy, which is at the core of its international positioning, will soon be at risk.

Le Pen has proposed increasing the defense budget to 2 percent of GDP by 2018, and closer to 3 percent by 2022. She has stated she intends to protect and maintain the two legs of France’s nuclear deterrent: submarines and aircraft. On the other side of the political spectrum, Mélenchon remains unclear on his preferred defense budget, only refusing to comply with NATO’s standard of 2 percent of GDP. However, he has said he intends to make cuts to funding for aircrafts.

There are of course other pressing foreign policy issues, which include sovereign debt, trade, energy and climate, digital autonomy, migration, as well as French policy toward Africa, Asia, and Russia. But everything starts in Europe. As a founder of the EU and a first-rate power able to exert influence outside Europe, France carries weight in European debates. If the next president chooses to transform France’s existing alliances without any credible alternative or real preparation, these will be huge risks in a context of global strategic instability. A realignment of this magnitude would weaken, and possibly destroy, the Western community and would mark a sharp break from de Gaulle’s legacy.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

China, Russia send ships after U.S. aircraft carrier

China and Russia have dispatched intelligence-gathering vessels from their navies to chase the USS Carl Vinson nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which is heading toward waters near the Korean Peninsula, multiple sources of the Japanese government revealed to The Yomiuri Shimbun.

It appears that both countries aim to probe the movements of the United States, which is showing a stance of not excluding military action against North Korea. The Self-Defense Forces are strengthening warning and surveillance activities in the waters and airspace around the area, according to the sources.

The aircraft carrier strike group, composed of the Carl Vinson at its core with guided-missile destroyers and other vessels, is understood to be around the East China Sea and heading north toward waters near the Korean Peninsula.

China and Russia, which prioritize stability in the Korean Peninsula, showed concern over the tough U.S. stance, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying the issue should be resolved peacefully through political and diplomatic efforts.

The dispatch of the intelligence-gathering vessels appears to be partly aimed at sending a warning signal to the United States.

Following the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founding father, on April 15, North Korea will celebrate the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its military on April 25. It maintains the stance that it intends to conduct its first nuclear test since September last year, which would be its sixth test, and test-launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.

By conducting joint exercises with the Maritime Self-Defense Force and through other means, the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group is poised to increase military pressure on North Korea and urge Pyongyang to engage in restraint

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Air Power

Air Power: A Global History offers a comprehensive history of the aircraft and its use in combat; Jeremy Black notes that the doctrine of air power has been constantly updating and evolving in a fluid environment, most recently impacted by the advent of unmanned aerial platforms in combat.

The pace of Air Power is rapid, yet comfortable even for a reader unfamiliar with air power doctrine. In just over a century, the aircraft has evolved from the single-pilot invention of the Wright brothers to a symbol of national power and lethality. The platform has evolved and expanded to include various armaments and weapons. These weapons possess not only the capability of engaging personnel and equipment on the ground, but add an extra dimension to the battlefield, as an aircraft can engage another aircraft or a craft at sea—or, in the age of atomic weaponry, decimate an entire population.

Black discusses military aviation generally, giving equal attention to individual air forces as well as naval and army aviation. He also addresses the different approaches some nations, like the United States, have taken to integrating aviation components by assigning them individual service departments, while other countries may have grouped all of their air assets under an umbrella department regardless of the platform of their projection.

Where the Royal Air Force is and has been a single, separate service since its inception and has incorporated naval and ground based aviation assets, allowing for unity of air command from the beginning, the United States created separate air services under the army and navy. Brigadier General Billy Mitchell was a strong advocate of a separate air force, but was distrustful of naval aviation. The author demonstrates equal knowledge of the topics of fixed- and rotary-wing aviation, Airborne, and Air Assault operations, and the tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with each topic.

Black includes the domains of cyber and space in his history, as the cyber domain permeates every aspect of air power and space is the next logical frontier for air operations. Beginning with a discussion of common-sense developments like cycling propellers synced with an aircraft’s weapons systems, the author illustrates modern developments as well, such as the relationship between the advent of radar and the development of stealth technology.

Air Power presents commanders using this aspect of warfare with a number of ethical dilemmas; commanders and civilian leaders must make decisions which may result in massive civilian casualties, and, in some cases, the possible annihilation of entire territories. Black provides a lively consideration of proportionality regarding air power on the modern battlefield. Different airframes and platforms are considered in terms of their effectiveness and employment in counterinsurgency operations and on the modern battlefield of forces using hybrid methods.

Black concludes with additional questions: How can air power effectively be employed on the modern, hybrid battlefield? While unmanned systems may be used to eliminate high-value targets over great distances, should they be employed against enemy command and control cells? Does such employment amount to assassination? Should military force be deployed from space? The book ends with a consideration of issues pertaining to the costs of air power; as the military budgets of developed nations continue to contract, the rising powers continue to invest in their growing air capabilities.

Air Power should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in military history, but specifically for those interested in joint doctrine and the way forward for the armed forces. Air Power corresponds fairly directly to conversations I've had with the Air Staff of my own service; where the platform of the Army is the soldier, the platform for the Air Force and its reserve components is the aircraft. The book has made a significant contribution to my understanding of leadership at the operational level and has clarified some of the lessons I've learned in the course of my own professional military education, especially those dealing with force capabilities.

 In context of the modern, hybrid battlefield, the author acknowledges the opportunities offered by air power to substitute firepower for mass in conventional warfare; Black also acknowledges the value of air power to counterinsurgency operations in reconnaissance and harassment demoralization of insurgent fighters—without falling into the trap of arguing that strategic bombing is a panacea. The writing is accessible and fast-paced, without any haughty scholarly pretension, yet it is clear that the author is a subject matter expert who has conducted years of research.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Rules For Semi-Authoritarians

The votes from Turkey’s constitutional referendum are in, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory for his side, even as the result remains disputed. What’s clear is who the winner is not: constitutional democracy. On the surface, the amendments turn Turkey into a presidential system instead of a parliamentary one. Underneath, they strengthen the personal authority of Erdogan, who in the last decade and a half has gone from prime minister to president to quasi-authoritarian leader.

Erdogan has shown once again that he is the vanguard of a new breed of semi-authoritarians that includes Viktor Orban of Hungary and potentially Jaroslaw Kaczynski of Poland. These aren’t your grandfather’s would-be fascists, who might have come to power by election but then planned to abolish them and assume total dictatorial power.

Instead, the new authoritarians’ playbook calls for maintaining regular elections and the outward forms of multiparty democracy, while in fact consolidating power and cooking the books just enough to keep winning the popular vote. Erdogan, like his emulators and colleagues, has weakened the free press and free speech without completely shutting down all alternative political voices.

All this leads to a genuine puzzle: Why bother? If your plan is to erode constitutional democracy in favor of authoritarianism, why follow most of the rules most of the time?

The other partial explanation for semi-authoritarianism is that today’s rulers don’t actually believe in total dictatorship as a desirable method for staying in power. Erdogan had the experience of being banned from politics for Islamic rhetoric. Orban lived through the fall of Communism, as did Kaczynski. That should be enough to teach anyone that rule without meaningful opposition doesn’t work very well.

Of course the new semi-authoritarians might fantasize about total power. But their real fantasy seems to be getting re-elected forever by more than 50 percent of an adoring public.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The End Of Strategic Patience

The VP made an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone at the start of his 10-day trip to Asia in a U.S. show of force that allowed the vice president to gaze at North Korean soldiers from afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire. As the brown bomber jacket-clad vice president was briefed near the military demarcation line, two North Korean soldiers watched from a short distance away, one taking multiple photographs of the American visitor.

"The era of strategic patience is over"

Pointing to the quarter-century since the United States first confronted North Korea over its attempts to build nuclear weapons, the vice president said a period of patience had followed.
"But the era of strategic patience is over," he declared. "45 has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable."

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking to reporters Monday evening, said he hopes the United States "there will be no unilateral actions like those we saw recently in Syria and that the U.S. will follow the line that President Trump repeatedly voiced during the election campaign."

Meanwhile, China made a plea for a return to negotiations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute there to a peaceful resolution. Lu said Beijing wants to resume the multi-party negotiations that ended in stalemate in 2009 and suggested that U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea were damaging its relations with China.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking to a parliamentary session Monday, said: "Needless to say, diplomatic effort is important to maintain peace. But dialogue for the sake of having dialogue is meaningless."

Later Monday, Pence reiterated in a joint statement alongside South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn that "all options are on the table" to deal with threat and said any use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang would be met with "an overwhelming and effective response." He said the American commitment to South Korea is "iron-clad and immutable."