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HERITAGE FOUNDATION – Reforming Intelligence: A Proposal for Reorganizing the Intelligence Community and Improving Analysis

Despite significant post-9/11 reforms, the U.S. intelligence community (IC) is still not as effective as it could—and should—be. As soon as the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act passed, security experts warned that the act had not fully dealt with the challenges facing the IC. The critics pointed to lack of strategic analysis, politicization of intelligence, and the difficulties that the IC has learning from failures. The need for reform is made more urgent by the increasingly complex national security environment that the United States is facing, dominated by violent non-state Islamic extremists; anti-status-quo states China, Russia, and Iran; and weakened or alienated allies and partners around the globe on which the U.S. must depend for support in dealing with these threats and challenges. There are also well-grounded fears that this situation will be the “new normal” for at least the next decade. The IC must, therefore, become the kind of federated enterprise—organizationally, analytically, and culturally—that can constantly learn from, and adapt to, this highly volatile environment.


  • Despite deep reforms of the U.S. intelligence community (IC) post-9/11, much more remains to be done to keep Americans safe.
  • Over the past seven years, the IC failed to predict the Arab Spring, al-Qaeda’s resurgence, Putin’s adventurism, China’s aggressiveness, and multiple terrorist attacks on the U.S.
  • The intelligence failures surrounding the Arab Spring were especially important, since the IC had not understood the implications of seismic shifts in the strategic landscape, suggesting that there are serious problems with the analytical side of the community. The need for reform is made more urgent by the increasingly complex environment—dominated by violent non-state Islamic extremists; anti-status-quo states China, Russia, and Iran; and a weakened or alienated set of partners around the globe on which the U.S. must depend for support in dealing with these threats.
  • The IC must become an enterprise that can constantly learn from, and adapt to, a highly volatile environment.

  • The Current Situation

    Despite the deep reforms of the U.S. intelligence community (IC) carried out after 9/11, including the creation of the Director for National Intelligence (DNI) and the National Combatting Terrorism Center (NCTC), there is widespread agreement that more remains to be done. This is not a new thought. Before the ink was dry on the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA), there were warnings from insiders as well as outside experts that the law had not fully dealt with the challenges facing the IC. The critics pointed to the anomalous position of the DNI, a neglect of strategic analysis, accusations of the politicization of intelligence, and the difficulties that the IC has with failure, learning, and adaptation, as signs that all was not well within the IC.

    A series of stumbles over the past seven years have given credence to the red flags raised by these experts. In quick succession, the IC failed to predict the so-called Arab Spring, the resurgence of al-Qaeda,[1] the adventurism of Putin, the aggressiveness of China,[2] and a number of terrorist attacks on the U.S., from the Detroit “underwear bomber” to the San Bernardino massacre.[3] The intelligence failures surrounding the Arab Spring were especially important, since the IC had not understood the implications of an entire series of seismic shifts in the strategic landscape, suggesting that there are serious problems with the analytical side of the community. It is noteworthy that the community’s intelligence collection—clandestine and open source—appears not to have focused on the deeper questions of regime stability and the underlying causes for the Arab Spring. In this Backgrounder, the focus will remain on analysis and improvements to the analytic aspects of the IC.

    The need for reform is made more urgent by the increasingly complex national security environment that the United States is facing, one that is dominated by violent non-state Islamic extremists; anti-status-quo states China, Russia, and Iran; and a weakened or alienated set of allies and partners around the globe on which the U.S. must depend for support in dealing with these threats and challenges. There are also well-grounded fears that this situation will be the “new normal” for at least the next decade. The IC must, therefore, become the kind of federated enterprise—organizationally, analytically, and culturally—that can constantly learn from, and adapt to, this highly volatile environment in order to better support decision makers.

    Defining the Problem Set

    Before presenting potential solutions to the serious challenges that exist within the intelligence community, it is important to carefully describe the specific structural, analytical, and cultural issues that must be reformed if the community is to be made ready to deal with the new security environment.

    Structural Challenges. There are two main structural challenges confronting the IC, each of which seems to contradict the other.

    A Powerless DNI and Bureaucratic Bloat: Too Much Centralization or Too Little? The current organizational structure of the IC is dominated by 17 diverse agencies, with the DNI as the nominal head. There are also a few mission-organized units, such as the NCTC, that bring together intelligence professionals from all the agencies with their own organically grown workforce to address specific areas of concern. Criticisms of this structure have come from two completely different directions, with some experts arguing that the DNI has too little power, while others argue that there is already too much centralization and bureaucracy in the IC. These two criticisms are not mutually exclusive.

    A number of observers and experts have noted that the Director of National Intelligence lacks any real control over the IC. Unlike the Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense, the DNI does not oversee his entire domain, nor do the various agencies, other than the CIA, report directly to him. The DNI also cannot dictate to the heads of the CIA or Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in the way that the Secretary of Defense, for instance, can issue orders to combatant commanders. This is an authorities issue, bureaucratic problem, and personality challenge combined. The IRTPA sets out the position of DNI as one that would coordinate and encourage cooperation, rather than a “command” position like the Secretary of Defense.[4] And while the Director of Central Intelligence should report directly to the DNI, the powerful and independent-minded leadership and bureaucracy of the CIA reportedly resented the intrusion of another layer of administration into their affairs and have fought against DNI attempts to assert his legal authority.[5] In addition, the personalities of the DNI and President matter: A determined leader might be able to use his authorities to enforce more unification of effort but only if supported by the President.

    The problems created by the anomalous position of the DNI are legion: There is no central hub that can enforce change throughout the IC, make the entire community more adaptable, or root out and fire bad managers and leadership. The DNI must be prepared to exercise the firing authority often in tandem with the head of the Department where the poor performance is observed. If the President wants to enquire about issues handled by multiple agencies, the President can turn to the DNI, but obtaining an answer requires strong White House backing for the DNI as opposed to the DNI resting on relatively weak authorities in law or policy to push IC elements for answers.

    For some observers, this is a feature, not a bug, since they worry about too much centralization within the IC rather than too little.[6] The intelligence community’s bureaucracy, in their view, presents a serious challenge to sound and independent analysis and the creation of the DNI position has only compounded this problem. These experts point out that there are too many layers of management within the CIA in particular, creating unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for intelligence professionals and separating the writers of intelligence products from their customers by as many as eight distinct managerial levels.[7] In their opinion, adaptation and learning must come from multiple directions, and the relatively loose control of the DNI allows each agency to find the best way forward for dealing with the myriad challenges confronting the U.S.

    Organized for Individual Missions, Not Cooperation. Despite the relative weakness of the DNI, there is no doubt that the creation of this office has facilitated better, though not perfect, collaboration and cooperation between the other 16 agencies that make up the IC. At the same time, the new bureaucratic layer did not deal with the disparate organizational structures within each of the intelligence community’s constituent parts. Every agency creates subdivisions according to what its leadership feels best fits its own mission, rather than working together to create an overall structure that would facilitate cooperation throughout the community.[8] Even the recent reorganization by John Brennan of the CIA, while integrating the analytical and operational sides of that agency, does not seem to take into consideration the need to cooperate with other institutions.[9] The result is that there are only a few issues, such as counterterrorism, where cross-agency cooperation is fully supported by organizational design and structure.

    Analytical Challenges. Perhaps the most serious problems confronting the IC are those related to analysis—the core function for most of the community. The challenges come from many different directions and include pressures to maintain consensus, a failure to encourage the development of real subject-matter expertise, a neglect of open-source materials, and a strategic analysis gap.

    Lack of Diversity in Analysis. The widely studied problems of groupthink, confirmation biases, and cultural norms have all had their role in limiting how intelligence analysts have perceived and described problem sets.[10] The group-style of writing all products makes these problems a critical threat to dissenting opinions and alternative viewpoints from the lowest to the highest levels of the IC. There are also a few additional issues, the result of the specific circumstances under which intelligence professionals must work, that might impose greater uniformity on analysis than the data supports. The ongoing investigation into allegations of intelligence-analysis manipulation at Central Command’s intelligence shop, for instance, has exposed the problem of a preferred “narrative” that analysts were pressured to maintain.[11] It has even been alleged that managers altered finished products, and that analysts’ jobs were threatened if the analysts did not toe the party line. The problem of potential politicization, then, whether directly by an Administration or by managers eager to please their political leadership, remains a serious one. Another IC-specific challenge is created by the need for consensus when writing the intelligence community’s premier products, such as a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). This might lead to a less than full exposure and discussion of objections to received wisdom or the downplaying of alternative viewpoints.

    Failure to Encourage Expertise. Personnel and promotion incentives within the IC encourage generalization rather than specialization and can hinder the development of real area, or subject-matter, expertise.[12] There are, in addition, no incentives to discourage analysts from changing subjects frequently, preventing them from ever having enough time and study to become experts on any one topic.[13] Richard Russell describes the almost palpable disdain held by managers at the CIA for PhDs, and the lack of encouragement to hire new analysts with doctorates.[14] While there is certainly a need for generalists in the IC,[15] the current career expectations discourage the formation of internal experts and force agencies to rely on external subject-matter experts.[16] This is a serious issue for the new challenges that the U.S. faces in little-studied regions of the Muslim-majority world, since there are relatively few such subject-matter experts for the IC to rely upon and many of them, for ethical or political reasons, will not work with the IC.

    An Open Source-Classified Divide. The IC naturally prizes classified intelligence and prioritizes it over other sorts of information. After all, if intelligence professionals simply read newspapers or other published sources to gather information, how would they differ from outside experts or reporters? But this natural tendency is unhelpful when it leads to neglect, or even downplaying, of the value of open-source materials.[17] This is especially troubling when dealing with non-state actors like al-Qaeda and ISIS, which put out a great deal of public information about their plans, objectives, and even failings. The terrorists’ decisions to use Twitter, Telegram, and other social media, as well as to publish biographies of members, demonstrate that open source can also be a rich source of detailed information about jihadist groups, one that the IC, by discounting unclassified material, may be failing to fully exploit.

    Strategic Thinking Lapses. The IC, driven by the demands of its customers as well as the community’s own hierarchy of importance, engages mostly in short-term, tactical analysis and thinking, rather than strategic and long-term consideration.[18] Although it seems reasonable that current intelligence must be the focus of the majority of the IC’s analytical work, neglecting longer-term strategic analysis can create key vulnerabilities by de-emphasizing strategic warning, forecasting, and prediction. One exception to this general problem is Global Trends, produced by the National Intelligence Council every four years.[19] However, this public document, which analyzes likely developments in national security issues over the succeeding two decades, is apparently a stand-alone product that might have little influence on analysis within the IC. No publicly released NIE, for instance, has ever cited Global Trends in its analysis or conclusions. In addition, a look at Global Trends documents since the publication’s inception in 1997 shows a clear focus on current challenges and a bias toward straight-line assumptions about future developments.

    Cultural Challenges. Cultural problems can seem even more intractable than analytical challenges, since they are “baked into” the very essence and structure of institutions. In the IC, two cultural issues in particular have prevented the community from being an adaptable and learning organization.

    Fear of Failure. With the caveat that there have indeed been actual intelligence failures, it is also true that the intelligence community is often the whipping boy for national security policy mistakes. It is far too easy for policymakers and political leadership to blame errors of judgment and policy on the IC rather than take responsibility for their own failings. The result is that the entire IC, and the CIA in particular, has developed a well-founded fear of failure and, consequently, of being blamed by the public and policymakers. This can lead to a number of serious problems, including risk aversion and an analytical tendency to overcompensate for previous errors by going too far in the other direction with subsequent assessments.[20] In addition, the CIA’s response in 2013 and 2014 to the Senate detainee report shows that CIA leadership will go to great lengths to avoid being “stuck” with the blame for actions that are later called into question or outright discredited, a tendency perhaps sparked by the Church Committee process of the 1970s.[21]

    Problems with Learning. Mistakes should be opportunities for learning, but—despite some positive examples of learning and adaptation, best exemplified by George Tenet’s reform efforts during the 1990s and the lengthy process undertaken after 9/11—the IC as a whole has great difficulty looking at failures objectively and making adjustments to prevent mistakes in the future.[22] It is also unclear whether there is an institutionalized learning process for the IC, one that would capture lessons learned from both successes and failures and pass them on to future generations of operators and analysts.

    A Strategic Vision for the Intelligence Community

    This set of challenges requires a series of deep reforms, not just one or two small tweaks to the community. Overall, the basic concept for reform is to help create a more flexible and adaptable institution that can evolve with the changing national security situation rather than requiring serious reforms every decade or so. This Backgrounder offers proposals to do this by creating stronger leadership for the IC while streamlining the bureaucracy, and by encouraging a good balance of cooperation, diversity of views, and learning by intelligence professionals throughout the entire community.

    Meeting the Structural Challenges.

    Overhauling the Bureaucracy. While the ODNI has improved cooperation and collaboration across the community, the DNI is relatively weak and must be given the power to actually control the IC, including the CIA. At the same time, the bureaucratic layers between analysts and their customers need to be reduced to allow more analytical freedom and diversity, and to prevent the massaging of information to fit a preferred narrative or achieve consensus by going to the lowest common denominator in making hard judgment calls.

  • To empower the DNI, the equivalent of combatant commands that would be under the DNI’s direct control and supervision should be created. The basis for these “commands” would be the National Intelligence Council (NIC) and its members and National Intelligence Officers (NIO), both of which are already directly tied to the DNI. Under this proposal, NIOs would be “super-empowered” to oversee both collection and analysis on their issues across the IC. To ensure proper coordination and control of these matters, NIOs would meet regularly as the NIC, with the DNI as chair.
  • Since there will be a new office in each agency tasked with strategic thinking and planning, the NIC will also need an office organically embedded within it that oversees foresight, strategic warning, and strategic thinking and planning throughout the IC. Given the NIC’s collection and analysis oversight function as well as its need for this new office, the council will require a sizeable staff associated with it, drawn from the very best analysts and collectors across the IC. The de facto mission managers of today who evaluate and advocate resource allocations to specific country or transnational portfolios would move under the NIC.
  • The heads of the various agencies would then become more like the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) than their current capacity, charged with manpower, building the futures of their agencies, research, and training and education for their workforces. They would also meet regularly with the DNI, who in this capacity would be acting somewhat like the Chairman of the JCS. Potential modifications to the Intelligence and Terrorism Prevention Act would need to be made to clarify the reporting relationship to the DNI.
  • To ensure that the new NIOs would have good supervision of their regions and issues, there should be an IC-wide reorganization that structures the highest-level offices uniformly across the community. There would necessarily be some offices and bureaus that would exist in certain agencies and not in others, but the top-level organization of all the analytical pieces of the IC would match each other, as would the top-level organization of the collection parts.
  • Finally, to ensure proper political oversight of this entire new structure, the NIC chairman would need to follow the same appointment process as other Senate-confirmed positions. In this case, the NIC chairman would be selected by the DNI, nominated by the President, and confirmed by the Senate.

  • Fixing Management Problems. The creation of this new structure for the IC makes flattening the current unwieldy bureaucracy all the more urgent. Yet there seems to be a serious dilemma for any attempt to rid the IC of its layers of management: No outside group of experts would be able to quickly grasp the complex system of administration of the IC and understand how best to reorganize the entire community for its many missions—while any group of insiders might be both too close to the problem for objectivity, and too timid in proposing changes.

  • Bring in a world-class consulting firm and pay it to determine the best way to flatten the IC bureaucracy to ensure the most effective and efficient ratio of management to analysts and collectors. It would be like reinventing the wheel for any group of IC experts to attempt to take the place of an experienced firm that brings with it decades of experience in advising businesses how to reorganize themselves. A consulting firm would also be more objective and ruthless than any group drawn from within the IC. The firm’s proposals should be implemented in toto to streamline administration and management.
  • Unifying the Community. While reorganization of the IC leadership can ensure good cooperation and coordination at the very highest levels of the community, it will not break down the walls that exist among the all-source analysis agencies (such as the CIA, DIA, or the Bureau of Intelligence and Research). Exposure to the culture and viewpoints of other agencies will also help to foster a broader range of views and undermine groupthink around the IC.

  • Cooperation with other all-source agencies should be encouraged and groupthink or cultural norms undermined by making certain that the very best analysts take part in Joint Duty Assignments. In addition, serving on the NIC staff at regular intervals, for at least six months at a time, should be a prerequisite for promotion to the SES level throughout the IC. By working side by side with peers from the various agencies, young analysts would come to understand the viewpoints of other institutions, see the biases that exist in their own agencies, and learn new ways of doing their profession.

  • Fixing Analysis.

    Encouraging Diversity of Views. Given the dangers of groupthink suggested by the investigation at Central Command, as well as the failures to foresee the Arab Spring, the resurgence of al-Qaeda, and other national security challenges, much more needs to be done to encourage diversity of views and analytical conclusions. One traditional answer would be to establish red teams, and these should indeed be an integral part of the intelligence community’s analytical and product writing processes. Yet red teams alone will not provide well-sourced, reliable, and widely disseminated new ways of understanding ongoing challenges. Established views will always be seen as the norm, while the concepts proposed by red teams will be understood as exceptional, marginal, and therefore perhaps ignored in writing NIEs or other major products.

  • In order to empower and disseminate alternative views more widely, red teams should generate counter-narratives and opposing analytical frameworks to feed into Team A and Team B exercises. This structure, used in 1976 to challenge received notions about Soviet doctrine and objectives, leveled the ground between a new analytical concept and the established views, and allowed a more objective testing of received wisdom. The participation of analysts from multiple agencies, as well as outside experts, would also allow fresh thinking on stubborn strategic challenges, as well as those that seem well-understood and manageable. These sorts of exercises should be uniformly applied when writing any major product, such as an NIE, but that they also should be encouraged as part of writing other, widely distributed products.
  • These exercises will not, in themselves, guarantee that all sound and relevant viewpoints are captured and presented to the President and other customers. In addition to Team A/Team B exercises, the community should produce multiple major products, such as NIEs, when necessary. When there are serious disagreements among either relevant offices or even entire agencies, the dissenting entity, rather than being relegated to a footnote, will be encouraged to produce a competing product—that is, a dissenting NIE—for customers. The dissenting NIE would be distributed with the consensus NIE and to the same consumers. This will be true as well for the President’s Daily Briefing (PDB), which should include a text box expressing significant dissenting views when present.
  • A culture of dissent should be encouraged even at the lowest analytical levels by rewarding helpful alternative views. Proposing a novel and sound concept, framework, or view that differs significantly from that of one’s peers, and that shows itself to be correct, should result in a step promotion, for instance. It might even be institutionalized across the IC by the DNI that one must have proposed a number of dissenting views—that proved correct—before one can be promoted. Managers should be trained to encourage young analysts to take chances and to reward disagreeing (respectfully and with sound analysis) with their peers, and the managers themselves should also be granted rewards and promotions when their charges propose sound alternative views.
  • To further aid dissenting views, access to all relevant information or intelligence should be granted to every analyst working on a particular assessment. Today, the views expressed by all sides suffer from insufficient access to the most sensitive information that might in turn alter either the mainstream judgments or the dissent. (Note: The removal of several layers of bureaucracy, discussed above, should also allow a freer flow of information from the analysts and experts to the President and his principals. With fewer managers editing the analysis, the information to the customers should be less massaged, subject to groupthink, or politicized.)
  • To help encourage real expertise, incentives should be established to encourage the hiring of PhDs and the granting of leaves of absence so that well-qualified junior analysts can work on doctorates and become experts on issues of concern. The threats the U.S. is facing will not disappear overnight. It is now that the U.S. must create the experts who will provide the necessary insight to deal with these issues over the long term. On a practical level, Joint Duty Assignments could be expanded to include these sorts of opportunities at academic institutions, as well as immersive experience at think tanks or high-tech firms in Silicon Valley.
  • To maintain morale and to keep the majority of the workforce as generalists, no one should be prevented from moving to another subject area, but those who choose to stay in one subject area their entire careers should be rewarded with faster promotions (as their work indicates, of course). For promotion to the Senior Executive Service level, the DNI should consider making a PhD—in a relevant field—obligatory, or at least rewarded.

  • Ending the Open Source–Classified Divide. Classified information must remain the centerpiece for intelligence analysis, not only because it is the sole provenance of the IC, but also because it is often unequaled in value and, if correctly interpreted, can give a view of the enemy that is closer to reality than open-source information alone. At the same time, given the difficult problem set and the new complex security environment that the U.S. is facing, the IC can no longer neglect open-source materials as it has lately been wont to do. Instead, the IC needs to return to the earlier way when publicly available sources were exploited in the decades-long fight with the Soviet Union—as an additional resource that can be combined with classified information to present a more complete picture of these problem sets.

  • The Open Source Center (OSC) should be significantly expanded to become an IC center of excellence, rather than its current incarnation as a largely CIA entity. The OSC needs a broadened mandate to provide open source tools and products. Combining open source materials with classified sources should become a routine part of writing every product throughout the IC. There should be continuous training of analysts to demonstrate the value of open sources and the OSC in particular and analysts should be asked to justify their neglect of open source materials if this occurs.
  • Instilling Strategic Thinking. Finally, there is the issue of too little strategic and long-term analysis by the IC. While it is true that this can be customer-driven, and that current intelligence must remain the primary focus of analysts, a neglect of longer-term thinking and writing will force the IC to remain reactive rather than proactive when dealing with the many challenges ahead. Because tactical analysis and strategic thinking are two completely different sorts of mental activities, which generally require two different sorts of analysts, it is necessary to create a separate structure within each agency—as well as one within the NIC—to adequately cover this gap within the IC.

  • Create an office for long-range forecasting and strategic thinking and planning within each of the 16 agencies, perhaps called the Office of Strategic Analysis (OSA). Each OSA would be charged with considering non-current issues as broadly as possible to understand the entire complex strategic environment confronting the U.S. An OSA would also look at issues over the longer term, up to 10 years in the future, and consider broad trends affecting the national security sphere as a whole. To prevent these OSAs from being marginalized and excluded from giving input into the main documents produced by the IC, these analysts should be required to participate in the NIE, PDB, and other regular analytical product processes. They should also meet regularly with the equivalent office within the NIC to brainstorm, exchange views, and to work on the main analytical products written by each of the offices.
  • The OSAs will be charged with producing a series of strategic documents, looking, for instance, one year, two years, and five years ahead, taking into consideration the national security landscape as a whole, not just narrow issues or current topics. These documents should build on each other and should be produced every year, with “lessons learned” taken from previous years’ products to improve and sharpen strategic thinking. The documents will then feed into an equivalent series of NIC documents that will attempt to take the soundest strategic analysis from the individual agencies and synthesize them into a high-level strategic analysis for the IC as a whole.
  • While the current national security situation lasts, the OSAs should also be charged with producing, every six months, net assessments of the enemies the U.S. is facing and a comprehensive review of the current global position of the United States. These documents can then be used by operators, the Armed Forces, and others to feed into their strategic planning processes.
  • Because there are equivalent offices within other departments around the interagency, the IC OSAs—either through the NIC OSA or through individual agency offices—should participate in National Security Council staff meetings on strategic planning and long-range forecasting with high-level members of these other entities, helping to create cross-fertilization of ideas, and perhaps even common documents, across the interagency.

  • Allowing Failure While Encouraging Learning. Despite the very best efforts to encourage diversity of opinions, to create the capacity for strategic analysis, and to allow analysts to speak as clearly as possible to policy leaders, there will always be intelligence failures and mistakes. The important point is to make learning from experience, whether good or bad, an integral part of the training process throughout the IC. While not guaranteed to fix poor analysis, it will help to prevent repeated misdiagnoses, wrong analytical frameworks, and poor predictions, and also to foster adaptability. In addition, much more remains to be done to encourage agencies to admit errors and fix them, while providing some cover when Congress or policymakers attempt to blame the IC for errors that are the result of mistaken policies.

  • All managers, analysts, collectors, and operators should routinely write after-action reports (AAR). For operators and collectors, this should be done whether there is success or failure, while managers and analysts should only write them in cases of failure. The AARs on successes would be immediately placed in the new center described below, while those on failures would go through a lengthier process. First, these particular AARs would not be written jointly or as part of a group; everyone who participated in the failed project would write a separate, anonymous AAR that would not be shared with anyone else until the process discussed below. The individual AAR would describe precisely what occurred (the facts of the case), the analysis and analytical framework that were applied to the case, and what—in the opinion of the intelligence professional—caused the failure. These anonymous AARs would provide the basis for a special gathering of NIC staffers, outside experts, and internal managers and analysts to determine what went wrong, and the actions that need to be taken to prevent its reoccurrence. Their recommendations would be presented to the DNI as a memorandum for further action by the ODNI.
  • To institutionalize this process for further learning and training, all AARs and memos, along with the actions taken to prevent reoccurrence, would be gathered in a Center for Lessons Learned housed at the NIC. Sessions at the center should be an integral part of the ongoing training process of analysts throughout their careers. In addition, analysts and managers who were participants in any failure would be asked to work with the DNI to implement the lessons learned in their case and to take further retraining, if the DNI believes it is warranted. Despite this lengthy learning process, the IC needs to encourage well-grounded risk-taking within both the analytical and operational sides of the IC. Unless malicious or negligent actions led to the error, no penalty should be assigned to the managers, analysts, or operators.
  • To help protect the analytical branch in particular from political blame for errors, the IC as a whole should move to more specific percentage-based assessments rather than amorphous labels, such as “likely” or “unlikely.” A 50 percent assessment, for instance, would mean that both courses have exactly the same chance of occurring. Analysts will be encouraged to be honest and put the percentage as high as possible, with rewards for those who rate actions at 70 percent or above and are correct; but only certainties like “the sun rising in the East” would warrant a 90 percent rating. Such a rating approach would help to push the dilemmas of decision-making back on the policy leadership rather than intelligence analysts. Barring serious errors in judgment by the IC managers, analysts, or collectors themselves, the President and his principals should be the ones taking the risks and the ones who are blamed when their decisions do not work out as they had hoped.

  • A Final Word

    The recommendations presented here could make the intelligence community into a very different enterprise—more unified and with a clearer chain of command, leaner bureaucracy, better analysis, and a concept for strategic analysis that preserves the necessity for current intelligence. But the most important change would be to help the new IC become a more adaptable, learning organization. These proposals are not the final reforms that are necessary for the intelligence community. History shows that there will be unforeseeable events and processes that will require flexibility and changes to structure, analysis, and the culture of the IC. If these proposed reforms accomplished only one thing—to make the IC an institution that welcomes change rather than rejects it for fear of punishment, and that can evolve with the complex national security environment—they would have succeeded.

    Source: Mary R. Habeck (Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute) and Charles “Cully” Stimson (Manager of the National Security Law Program and Senior Legal Fellow in the Center for National Defense, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy) of the Heritage Foundation. Image via Security Intelligence.

    A full list of references can be found here.

    HRW – Stifling Dissent: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in India

    When it comes to democracy, liberty of thought and expression is a cardinal value that is of paramount significance under our constitutional scheme. —Supreme Court of India, Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, March 24, 2015.


    Freedom of expression is protected under the Indian constitution and international treaties to which India is a party. Politicians, pundits, activists, and the general public engage in vigorous debate through newspapers, television, and the Internet, including social media. Successive governments have made commitments to protect freedom of expression.

    “Our democracy will not sustain if we can’t guarantee freedom of speech and expression,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in June 2014, after a month in office. Indeed, free speech is so ingrained that Amartya Sen’s 2005 book, The Argumentative Indian, remains as relevant today as ever.

    Yet Indian governments at both the national and state level do not always share these values, passing laws and taking harsh actions to criminalize peaceful expression. The government uses draconian laws such as the sedition provisions of the penal code, the criminal defamation law, and laws dealing with hate speech to silence dissent. These laws are vaguely worded, overly broad, and prone to misuse, and have been repeatedly used for political purposes against critics at the national and state level.

    While some prosecutions, in the end, have been dismissed or abandoned, many people who have engaged in nothing more than peaceful speech have been arrested, held in pre-trial detention, and subjected to expensive criminal trials. Fear of such actions, combined with uncertainty as to how the statutes will be applied, leads others to engage in self-censorship.

    In many cases, successive Indian governments have failed to prevent local officials and private actors from abusing laws criminalizing expression to harass individuals expressing minority views, or to protect such speakers against violent attacks by extremist groups. Too often, it has instead given in to interest groups who, for politically motivated reasons, say they are offended by a certain book, film, or work of art. The authorities then justify restrictions on expression as necessary to protect public order, citing risks of violent protests and communal violence. While there are circumstances in which speech can cross the line into inciting violence and should result in legal action, too often the authorities, particularly at the state level, misuse or allow the misuse of criminal laws as a way to silence critical or minority voices.

    This report details how the criminal law is used to limit peaceful expression in India. It documents examples of the ways in which vague or overbroad laws are used to stifle political dissent, harass journalists, restrict activities by nongovernmental organizations, arbitrarily block Internet sites or take down content, and target religious minorities and marginalized communities, such as Dalits.

    The report identifies laws that should be repealed or amended to bring them into line with international law and India’s treaty commitments. These laws have been misused, in many cases in defiance of Supreme Court rulings or advisories clarifying their scope. For example, in 1962, the Supreme Court ruled that speech or action constitutes sedition only if it incites or tends to incite disorder or violence. Yet various state governments continue to charge people with sedition even when that standard is not met.

    While India’s courts have generally protected freedom of expression, their record is uneven. Some lower courts continue to issue poorly reasoned, speech-limiting decisions, and the Supreme Court, while often a forceful defender of freedom of expression, has at times been inconsistent, leaving lower courts to choose which precedent to emphasize. This lack of consistency has contributed to an inconsistent terrain of free speech rights and left the door open to continued use of the law by local officials and interest groups to harass and intimidate unpopular and dissenting opinions.

    The problem in India is not that the constitution does not guarantee free speech, but that it is easy to silence free speech because of a combination of overbroad laws, an inefficient criminal justice system, and the aforementioned lack of jurisprudential consistency. India’s legal system is infamous for being clogged and overwhelmed, leading to long and expensive delays that can discourage even the innocent from fighting for their right to free speech.

    The Sedition Law

    The sedition law, section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), is a colonial-era law that was once used against political leaders seeking independence from British rule. Unfortunately, it is still often used against dissenters, human rights activists, and those critical of the government.

    The law allows a maximum punishment of life in prison. It prohibits any signs, visible representations, or words, spoken or written, that can cause “hatred or contempt, or excite or attempt to excite disaffection” toward the government. This language is vague and overbroad and violates India’s obligations under international law, which prohibit restrictions on freedom of expression on national security grounds unless they are strictly construed, and necessary and proportionate to address a legitimate threat. India’s Supreme Court has imposed limits on the use of the sedition law, making incitement to violence a necessary element, but police continue to file sedition charges even in cases where this requirement is not met.

    Convictions for sedition are rare, but this apparently has not deterred the authorities from booking and arresting people for it. According to the government’s National Crime Records Bureau, which started collecting specific information on sedition in 2014, that same year 47 cases were registered across the country, 58 people were arrested, and one person was convicted. The official 2015 data is not yet available, but, media watchdog website The Hoot reported a significant increase in arrests in the first quarter of 2016. 11 cases were booked against 19 people, in the first three months of 2016, compared to none during the same period in the previous two years.

    In February 2016, police in Delhi arrested Kanhaiya Kumar, a student union leader at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, after members of the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused him of making anti-national speeches during a meeting organized on campus. The public meeting was held on February 9 to protest the 2013 hanging of MohammadAfzal Guru, who was convicted for his role in a December 2001 attack on parliament that killed nine people. Afzal Guru’s execution remains a matter of intense debate in the country. The Delhi police admitted to the court that Kumar had “not been seen” raising any anti-national slogans in the video footage available. The Delhi High Court granted him bail in March. Five more students were booked in the case; two, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, were also arrested and later released on bail.

    However, despite the police’s admission that they had no evidence of anti-national sloganeering by Kumar, and certainly no evidence of incitement to violence, the government has yet to admit that the arrests were wrong. Kumar’s arrest thus reveals how divided the country remains over the meaning of tolerance and the imperative of legal protection of peaceful, if disfavored, expression.

    There are many other prominent examples of use of the sedition provision to silence political speech. In May 2012, for example, police in Tamil Nadu filed sedition complaints against thousands of people who had peacefully protested the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kudankulam. According to S.P. Udaykumar, founder of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, which led the struggle against the project, 8,956 people face allegations of sedition in 21 cases. A public hearing organized by activists belonging to the Chennai Solidarity Group in May 2012, which included a former chief justice of the Madras and Delhi High Courts, found that the state had denied the protesters both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

    A report by a different fact-finding team in September 2012 alleged that state authorities had used “unjustified” force against peaceful protesters to silence dissent. As that report concluded:

    If people who have resisted and protested peacefully for a year can be charged with sedition and waging war against the nation in such a cavalier way as has been done here, what is the future of free speech and protest in India?

    In September 2012, the authorities in Mumbai arrested political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on sedition charges after a complaint that his cartoons mocked the Indian constitution and national emblem. The charges were dropped a month later following public protests and furor on social media.

    In March 2014, authorities in Uttar Pradesh charged over 60 Kashmiri students with sedition for cheering for Pakistan in a cricket match against India. The Uttar Pradesh government dropped the charges only after seeking a legal opinion from the law ministry. In August 2014, the authorities in Kerala charged seven youth, including students, with sedition, acting on a complaint that they refused to stand up during the national anthem inside a movie theater.

    In October 2015, authorities in Tamil Nadu state arrested folk singer S. Kovan under the sedition law for two songs that criticized the state government for allegedly profiting from state-run liquor shops at the expense of the poor.

    Criminal Defamation

    Human Rights Watch believes that criminal defamation laws should be abolished, as criminal penalties infringe on peaceful expression and are always disproportionate punishments for reputational harm. Criminal defamation laws are open to easy abuse, resulting in very harsh consequences, including imprisonment. As the repeal of criminal defamation laws in an increasing number of countries shows, such laws are not necessary for the purpose of protecting reputations.

    The frequent use of criminal defamation charges by the Tamil Nadu state government, led by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, against journalists, media outlets, and rival politicians is illustrative of how the law can be used to criminalize critics of the government. The Tamil Nadu government reportedly filed nearly 200 cases of criminal defamation between 2011 and 2016. The Tamil-language magazines Ananda Vikatan and Junior Vikatan, both published by the Vikatan group, face charges in 34 criminal defamation cases, including for a series of articles assessing the performance of each cabinet minister.

    In November 2015, while staying a criminal defamation case by the Tamil Nadu state government against a politician from an opposition party, the Supreme Court questioned the large number of such cases coming from the state. The judges said:

    These criticisms are with reference to the conceptual governance of the state and not individualistic. Why should the state file a case for individuals? Defamation case is not meant for this.

    In recent years corporations and businesses have also used criminal defamation laws to suppress critical speech and harass journalists and writers. The Indian Institute of Planning and Management, a business school with its headquarters in New Delhi, filed several criminal (and civil) defamation lawsuits to prevent the publication of content critical of the institute. For example, in2009, IIPM filed a criminal defamation complaint against Maheshwer Peri, publisher of the Outlook and Careers360magazines, for an article on private educational institutions that were allegedly deceiving students. The article mentioned IIPM and was the first in a series of investigative articles questioning the authenticity of claims made by IIPM. The suits were often filed in remote parts of the country such as Silchar, Assam, where neither IIPM nor the defendant were based nor had any presence.

    By January 2016, after the courts quashed a couple of criminal defamation cases against Peri, IIPM had withdrawn all legal cases against him. Peri told Human Rights Watch: “Criminal defamation is used to threaten and bully rather than to seek justice, and should be done away with.”

    In May 2016, a two-justice bench of the Supreme Court, upheld the constitutionality of India’s criminal defamation law, saying: “A person’s right to freedom of speech has to be balanced with the other person’s right to reputation.” The court did not explain how it concluded that the law does not violate international human rights norms, which do not allow imprisonment for criminal defamation, or offer a clear or compelling rationale why civil remedies are insufficient for defamation in a democracy with a functioning legal system.

    Laws Regulating the Internet

    Indian authorities appear to be unnerved by the explosion of the Internet, and have stumbled in their efforts to regulate it.

    Laws to regulate social media, such as India’s Information Technology Act, can and do easily become tools to criminalize speech, often to protect powerful political figures. Section 66A of that act, which criminalizes a broad range of speech, has been repeatedly used to arrest those who criticize the authorities and to censor content.

    For example, in May 2014, five students were temporarily detained in Bangalore for allegedly sharing a message on the mobile application “WhatsApp” that was critical of newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In April 2012, Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor of chemistry at Jadavpur University in the eastern state of West Bengal, was arrested under section 66A for forwarding an email featuring a spoof of the state’s chief minister, Mamata Bannerjee. A month later, police in Puducherry arrested a businessman for posting messages on Twitter questioning the wealth amassed by the son of the country’s then-finance minister.

    Section 66A was declared unconstitutional by the Indian Supreme Court in March 2015. The government has said that it is examining the Supreme Court judgment and may enact an amended version of section 66A to bring it into line with constitutional requirements. The Supreme Court judgment lays down important safeguards for the future of Internet freedom in India. While aspects of the judgment relating to the blocking of Internet content raise concerns (detailed later in this report), any new laws should be consistent with the safeguards set forth in the court’s ruling and with international human rights standards.

    Counterterrorism Laws

    Counterterrorism laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) have also been used to criminalize peaceful expression. In India, counterterrorism laws have been used disproportionately against religious minorities and marginalized groups such as Dalits. Between 2011 and 2013, the authorities in Maharashtra arrested six members of Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural group, under counterterrorism laws, claiming that they were secretly members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a banned organization. The authorities produced no evidence of such membership, however, and the members dismiss the claim as entirely unfounded. The Pune-based group of singers, poets, and artists consists largely of Dalit youth and uses music, poetry, and street plays to raise awareness about issues such as oppression of Dalits and tribal groups, social inequality, corruption, and Hindu-Muslim relations.

    Those charged with violating the counterterrorism laws are considered “anti-national,” so simply being charged can have a severe impact on the lives of the accused and their families, even if they are ultimately judged innocent. Mumbai-based lawyer Vijay Hiremath, who has worked on counterterrorism-related cases, told Human Rights Watch:

    They will be under surveillance and police will keep a watch on them. It will be difficult for them to lead normal lives even after acquittal because whatever they do will be looked at with a lot of suspicion.

    The Process is the Punishment

    Going through the legal process in India can often be a punishment in itself. Defendants in the country’s criminal justice system often face lengthy, drawn-out proceedings. In some cases, judges also appear to be poorly trained in issues of freedom of expression and fail to heed Supreme Court guidance when it comes to imposing limits on peaceful expression.

    While the higher courts, and particularly the Supreme Court, often end up dismissing cases brought under laws criminalizing peaceful expression, the dismissals are often too late to protect those arrested or charged from serious consequences. Some offenses under these laws can be non-bailable and the accused may be taken into pre-trial custody. Laws dealing with sedition, terrorism, and national security extract a heavy price from the accused during the trial process. Legal proceedings can take a heavy toll on the financial resources of the accused.

    For instance, the Official Secrets Act, a law that criminalizes the disclosure, possession, or receipt of a wide range of documents or information without requiring proof that such acts threaten national security or public order, fosters a culture of secrecy that runs counter to the public’s interest in access to information about government activity. Journalists covering defense or intelligence matters are particularly at risk of being charged under the law. The penalty for “spying” under the law allows for imprisonment of up to 14 years. While some of the cases filed under the Official Secrets Act are ultimately dismissed by the higher courts, the dismissal does not obviate the harm suffered by those charged.

    While the Official Secrets Act is not as frequently used as some other laws discussed in this report, such as sedition or criminal defamation, it has a serious chilling effect. The accused can end up spending months, or even years, in jail without being granted bail. One of the most prominent cases of misuse of this law is that of journalist Iftikhar Gilani. His 2002 arrest also illustrates the toll the process takes on the accused. Gilani was accused of possessing a classified document even though the document was available both on the Internet and in public libraries in Delhi. He was acquitted in January 2003, but spent seven months in jail without bail while the case was pending. Gilani said it took four months for him to even get a hearing for bail, and then his application was rejected. Those accused under the OSA are considered serious enemies of the state, which makes obtaining bail extremely difficult.

    “By the time you prove that the material you have is not a secret, you may have been in jail for many years. That’s the kind of bias judges have when someone is charged with OSA,” said Trideep Pais, a lawyer who has dealt with Official Secrets Act cases in Delhi.

    Other laws which criminalize peaceful expression can be quite punishing, too. For instance, criminal defamation cases filed by Tamil Nadu state have been dragging on for years and require the accused, many of whom are journalists and editors, to appear in court every couple of weeks. At most hearings, the case is simply adjourned and the date for a new hearing is set. This costs both time and money, as the editor of Junior Vikatan magazine, P. Thirumavelan, who faces several cases himself, said.

    The government is not interested in pursuing a case. The intention of the government is only to create a fear psychosis among journalists and newspapers. Because if the government were really serious, they would counter with evidence in a court of law.
    According to media lawyer Gautam Bhatia, criminal cases restrict speech to a far greater extent than civil cases, by placing onerous burdens upon the accused. In an article on the news website, Bhatia wrote:

    The threat of arrest at any moment, and the possibility of eventual imprisonment exercise a deep and pervasive chilling effect upon would-be speakers; the requirement that the accused must be present at the place of hearing, coupled with the fact that there is no limit to the number of cases that can be filed, is an open invitation to harassment. And even if the accused has a good defence, he is only allowed to bring up his defence after the trial commences. Consequently, in even the most frivolous of cases, the accused must face the legal process throughout the long pre-trial stage, which itself has the potential to drag on for months, if not years.

    As a result, those faced with even unfounded criminal charges often withdraw the “offending” words rather than endure the often prolonged legal, financial, and personal impact of those charges. On the other hand, there is little consequence for the complainant if the case is found to be frivolous.

    The Heckler’s Veto

    Several Indian laws prohibit “hate speech,” such as speech that causes enmity between different groups of people, or speech that insults religion. While the goal of preventing inter-communal strife is an important one in a country as diverse as India, that goal should be pursued through prompt and vigorous prosecution of perpetrators of violent acts and incitement to violence, not through broadly worded laws limiting expression.

    India’s hate speech laws are so broad in scope that they infringe on peaceful speech and fail to meet international standards. Intended to protect minorities and the powerless, these laws are often used at the behest of powerful individuals or groups, who claim that they have been offended, to silence speech they do not like. The state too often pursues such complaints, thereby leaving members of minority groups, writers, artists, and scholars facing threats of violence and legal action.

    The example of Maqbool Fida Husain, among India’s best-known artists, is an emblematic case of public intolerance. Husain was forced into exile after Hindu right-wing groups targeted him, accusing him of painting nude pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses, and thus offending their sentiments. Hardline Hindu groups attacked Husain’s house and art galleries which exhibited his works, but the governments in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Delhi states failed to protect him or his work. Instead, Bal Thackeray, a senior leader from the ruling Shiv Sena party in Maharashtra state, endorsed the attack on Husain’s home in Mumbai in 1998, saying, “If Husain can enter Hindustan [India]…why can’t we enter his house?” Private individuals filed cases against him in different cities across the country under criminal hate speech and obscenity laws, forcing him to travel around the country to answer the complaints.

    The Delhi High Court in 2008 upheld Husain’s right to free speech and dismissed charges of obscenity and of hurting religious feelings against him in a case related to the “Bharat Mata” painting. The court said:

    There should be freedom for the thought we hate…It must be realised that intolerance has a chilling, inhibiting effect on freedom of thought and discussion. The consequence is that dissent dries up. And when that happens democracy loses its essence.

    Despite a ruling by the Indian Supreme Court that freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threats of violence because “that would be tantamount to negation of the rule of law and a surrender to black mail and intimidation,” the police routinely arrest individuals based on the reactions to their speech. For instance, in November 2012, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan, both 21 years old, were arrested in Maharashtra for a Facebook post questioning the shutdown of Mumbai following the death of a powerful political leader. The police acted after the politician’s supporters complained and mobs engaged in violent attacks.

    Similarly, Shirin Dalvi, editor of an Urdu newspaper in Mumbai, was charged by police with “outraging religious feelings” with “malicious intent” in January 2015 after numerous First Information Reports (FIRs, or criminal complaints) were filed by individuals and Muslim groups offended by her reprinting of a cartoon originally published by the controversial French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Dalvi said she had to go into hiding and temporarily move away from her house after her release on bail to escape the constant harassment and threats on the phone. The cases against her are pending at time of writing.

    In January 2015, local caste groups in Namakkal village in Tamil Nadu protested against a book by resident Tamil author Perumal Murugan. They burned copies of his book, shut down shops, and asked the police to take action against him. Police and district administration officials, instead of protecting Murugan from angry mobs, asked him to tender an unconditional apology. As a result of the harassment, Murugan decided to give up his writing career and withdraw all his works from publication.

    International Law

    In 1979, India ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which sets forth internationally recognized standards for the protection of freedom of expression. Yet, as detailed here, a series of Indian legal provisions, some of them used by prosecutors and litigants on a regular basis, continue to restrict speech in ways inconsistent with that covenant. In some cases, the Indian Supreme Court has properly issued rulings narrowing the scope of the laws, but they continued to be misused, making clear that the laws themselves need to be amended or repealed if India is to comply with its international obligations.

    Importantly, the consequences of violations go beyond improper limits on speech. As former UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression Frank La Rue has stated, freedom of expression is not only a fundamental right but also an “enabler” of other rights, “including economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to education and the right to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, as well as civil and political rights, such as the rights to freedom of association and assembly…. [A]rbitrary use of criminal law to sanction legitimate expression constitutes one of the gravest forms of restriction to the right, as it not only creates a ‘chilling effect,’ but also leads to other human rights violations.”

    Key Recommendations

    Indian laws and practices that criminalize peaceful expression are inconsistent with its international legal obligations, undermine rather than strengthen efforts to combat communal violence, and, because freedom of expression is an enabler of other rights, threaten to erode human rights protections more generally.

    Human Rights Watch recommends that India:

      Develop a clear plan and timetable for the repeal or amendment of laws that criminalize peaceful expression as detailed at the end of this report and, where legislation is to be amended, consult thoroughly with civil society groups in a transparent and public way.
      Drop all prosecutions and close all investigations into cases where the underlying behavior involved peaceful expression or assembly.
      Train the police to ensure inappropriate cases are not filed with courts. Train judges, particularly in the lower courts, on peaceful expression standards so that they dismiss cases that infringe on protected speech.

    Continue reading the full report here.

    Source: Jayshree Bajoria (Asia consultant) and Linda Lakhdhir (Legal consultant) at Human Rights Watch. Image via Time.

    CPPR – India’s Failed NSG Bid: Unlearn, Learn, and Proceed

    India was denied entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG) at the Seoul Plenary session held on 23 and 24 June 2016 at South Korea. The NSG is a 48 – member body formed to ensure that the transfer of nuclear material and technology for peaceful purposes between nations does not lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Ironically, the group came into existence in 1974 after Smiling Buddha – the codename of India’s first successful nuclear test – Pokhran -I. India had put forward its track record of non-proliferation over the years to attain membership in the NSG. A series of headlines of recent past centre-staged India’s long cherished NSG dreams. The timing of India’s application, immature diplomacy and the accruable benefits of entry were the issues. The country had also intensified efforts at gaining membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) , the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. It paid off when India formally joined the MTCR, which controls the export of items used in the development of systems used to deliver Weapons of Mass Destruction(WMD), on June 27 2016.

    A Necessary Demand

    As a responsible nuclear weapon state, India’s commitment to non-proliferations has remained intact. On account of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal signed in 2008, India undertook separation of its nuclear facilities, placed its civil nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, and tightened the domestic export control regimes. The country has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) because of the purely discriminatory nature of the former and the inability of the latter to ensure time-bound disarmament of nuclear weapon states. India focuses on complete elimination of nuclear weapons rather than a discriminatory restriction on a few countries. While some NPT members have violated the norms of the treaty, India, a non-signatory, has even adopted the Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act 2005 and synchronised its export control lists with those incorporated in the NSG and MTCR guidelines.

    India’s entry into the NSG cannot be termed unnecessary because along with the MTCR membership, it would open doors for India’s permanent membership at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and even its long pending entry into Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The 2008 NSG waiver freed India from restrictions on nuclear trade and helped conclude bilateral nuclear trade agreements with the U.S., Russia and France. It also sealed trade arrangements with nuclear fuel supplier-nations such as Kazakhstan and Australia. However, there is a potential danger of alterations in the NSG guidelines which can affect India’s nuclear industry. Such modifications in the guidelines, can be avoided if India becomes a member as any change can take place only with consensus.

    India’s Uranium imports as of 2014 has been depicted in this chart. (Source: Press Information Bureau, Government of India – Department of Atomic Energy, August-2014)

    Hasty Diplomacy

    Diplomatic failures are inevitable in the foreign policy arena. But, India has to unlearn many things before moving forward. It is true that discussions regarding India’s membership had begun in 2011 after the US circulated – “Food for thought” paper in May 2011. These discussions can be said to have remained abstract until India went for a formal application in May 2016. The application was untimely not because India was too early, but because the diplomatic engagement- post the application was hasty. Media reports suggest that most of the foreign visits in 2015, especially the President’s visit to Sweden and the Prime Minister’s visit to Ireland, were part of the outreach strategy. If a formal application had preceded these efforts, it would have seen a better chance at the Seoul plenary session. The celerity in the application process and diplomatic efforts which followed suit seemed to show that this was more of a US pressure than an Indian initiative. The 300-page long application submitted in May 2016 did not give enough time for India to put across the rationale behind the bid and the NPT adherents to digest the same. An early start of silent diplomacy at the multilateral level without the hype of outright support from different countries in a short period would have served India better.

    The neglected Manmohan doctrine would have worked at least in this case. The UPA government had created a highly specialised Strategy Programme Staff ‘to work on a perspective plan for India’s nuclear deterrence in accordance with a 10-year cycle’. Hard fought negotiations before and during Dr Manmohan Singh’s US visit in July 2005 paved way for the long-awaited nuclear breakthrough. The Indo-US nuclear deal was at its zenith amidst strong domestic political opposition. Interestingly, it was the BJP led Nationla Democratic Alliance (NDA), which when in opposition, vengefully criticised the Indo-US nuclear deal and forced stringent clauses of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Act (CLND) 2010.The whole drama turned against the present government when it desperately had to create a $ 222 million insurance pool to shield the operator and even ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) .

    Opposition against India’s entry

    While a diplomatic setback for India, the failure was also a litmus test for the US. The US was helpless in front of China’s outright opposition. Beijing argued that any consideration of the inclusion of a non-NPT signatory must be done with caution. It also demanded Pakistan’s entry if India were to be considered for accession into the NSG. Pakistan being a known proliferator, it was a move to thwart India’s entry by equating the credentials of the two. China also indirectly benefitted from India’s hasty diplomatic process. US was able to convince China tactically to grant an NSG exemption to India in 2008. But this time around, it failed to do the heavy lifting. With the rising tensions in the South China Sea and while awaiting the court ruling on the Philippines case, China took it as the best opportunity to demonstrate its new rebalancing strategy.

    China was not the only country that raised questions about India’s NSG entry. Strong NPT adherents like Turkey, Austria, Ireland, Brazil, Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland were critical of such a move. These countries have taken a negative view of India remaining a non-NPT signatory. Despite being a member of BRICS, Brazil’s call for common criteria for all non-NPT states was a surprise for India. South Africa, another BRICS member, though supportive of India’s entry, was implicitly reluctant. This raised a fear of an increasing Chinese influence on in the country that led to the reluctance more than any ideological reasons. The BRICS summit to be held in Goa this year will be an excellent platform for India to establish its rationale behind the bid. A few bilateral issues too worsened the situation for India at some point or another as in the Italian Marines case pending in India, resulting in Italy’s opposition to India’s MTCR membership.


    India can be hopeful of a prospective entry since it has stood by its credentials so far and has the time for active diplomacy in the days to come. A caveat here is that even if India becomes a member, the revision of NSG guidelines to prohibit trade in enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) with non-NPT states will mean an ENR trade ban between NSG members and India. However, a membership now, would prevent any such alterations in the future. Apart from the BRICS summit, the G-20 meet to be held in China can also be utilised for intense negotiations with Turkey, China, Brazil and South Africa. The special plenary session of the NSG, which is expected to be held this year-end will thus give India a chance to put forth its demand legibly.

    Source: Christi Thomas of the Centre for Public Policy Research. Image via India Today.

    HERITAGE FOUNDATION – Raising Minimum Starting Wages to $15 per Hour Would Eliminate Seven Million Jobs

    Prominent Members of Congress have proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, more than doubling the federal minimum wage. States with lower costs of living would see an even greater real increase. At the state level, the minimum wage would cover one-third of wage and salary workers. The new minimum-wage legislation, including payroll taxes and the employer mandate, would increase the minimum cost of hiring a full-time worker to $18.61 per hour.

    Businesses would respond to these higher labor costs by reducing employment of affected workers by over one-sixth, thus eliminating approximately seven million full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2021. Forcing employers to pay starting wages of $15 per hour would make many less skilled workers unemployable.

    Growing Support for $15-an-Hour Starting Wages

    A $15-per-hour minimum wage was once a fringe idea. Politicians of every ideological stripe agreed that raising starting wages that high would eliminate too many job opportunities. Nonetheless, recent, union-backed campaigns have pushed the idea into the mainstream.

    The California and New York legislatures recently passed bills raising minimum starting wages in their states to this level.[1] Several cities, including Washington, DC, have also passed $15-per-hour minimum wages.

    In Congress, Senator Bernie Sanders (I–VT) has introduced the Pay Workers a Living Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15.00 per hour over four years.[2] Prominent Senators, including Assistant Minority Leader Dick Durbin (D–IL), have co-sponsored this bill. The Democratic Party has formally included a $15-per-hour minimum starting wage in its 2016 campaign platform.[3]

    Since the $15-per-hour minimum wage was a fringe proposal, it received relatively little empirical examination. Economists widely agreed $15 was too high, and instead examined smaller increases that actually had political support. This Issue Brief fills that gap, examining how a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage would affect workers.

    Unprecedented Increase

    If Congress passed the Pay Workers a Living Wage Act in 2017, the federal minimum wage would rise to $15 by 2021 (equal to $13.80 in 2016 dollars).[4] In contrast, adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage has never stood higher than $8.55 per hour.[5] No state has increased starting wages above $10.00 per hour. (The California and New York increases have not yet taken full effect.)[6] Raising minimum starting wages this high has no historical precedent.

    Table 1 shows how raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2021 would directly affect one-third of wage and salary workers (44.9 million employees).[7] Lower-wage jobs are more likely to be part-time than higher-wage positions, so the increase would affect a somewhat smaller proportion (28.2 percent) of total hours worked in the economy. Those work hours still represent 37.5 million FTE jobs.[8] These numbers do not include “spillover effects” from near-minimum-wage employees getting raises to maintain pay differentials.

    At the $15-per-hour level, minimum starting wages would affect a greater proportion of workers than ever before. Chart 1 shows the proportion of workers directly affected by the minimum wage by state and year, along with average coverage across the U.S.[9] Federal and state minimum wages typically cover between 4 percent and 10 percent of the workforce. At present, 5.5 percent of workers across the U.S. make the minimum starting wage. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the federal minimum wage briefly covered as many as one in five workers in some Southern states with low costs of living (Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama).

    Chart 1 also shows how raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour using the schedule proposed by Senator Sanders would bring it to cover one-third of the workforce.[10] The minimum wage has never before come close to covering such a large share of workers. Whether expressed in real dollars or as a proportion of workers directly affected, no state has experienced minimum starting wages this high.

    Larger Impact in Areas with Lower Living Costs

    A $15 federal mandate would have a greater effect in states with lower costs of living. Employers in lower-cost areas generally pay lower wages, although those wages purchase more goods and services than they would in high-cost areas.[11] The federal minimum wage ignores these regional living cost differences. Thus, employers in Mississippi or Ohio would have to pay the same starting wages as employers in California or New York—even though those wages purchase considerably more goods and services in low-cost areas.

    A federal minimum-wage increase disproportionately affects states with lower living costs. Map 1 shows the value of $15 per hour, relative to living costs in the state with the highest living costs (Hawaii). As the map illustrates, living cost differences considerably affect effective wages. A minimum starting wage of $15 per hour has similar purchasing power in high-cost states like Hawaii, New York, and California. However, it would take approximately $20 per hour in Hawaii to purchase the same goods and services that $15 per hour buys in low-cost states like South Dakota, Arkansas, or Alabama.

    Employer Costs Would Rise Above $15

    Raising minimum starting wages to $15 per hour would actually raise hiring costs well above $15 per hour. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) requires most employers with 50 or more employees to offer full-time workers qualifying health coverage.[12] Failing that, they must pay a per employee penalty (after the first 30 workers) out of after-tax dollars.[13] The penalty currently stands at $2,160 per employee and is projected to rise to $2,886 by 2021.[14] This equates to a $4,731 increase in pre-tax payroll costs[15]—$2.27 per hour for a full-time worker.[16]

    These costs come on top of other government mandates. Businesses must also pay the employer share of payroll taxes and unemployment insurance (UI) taxes. Businesses normally defray these costs by reducing workers’ wages by an offsetting amount. However, employers cannot reduce the pay of minimum-wage employees, so they must pay these payroll costs themselves or forgo hiring.

    Chart 2 shows the minimum costs of hiring a full-time worker in 2021 under current federal and state laws. Under current law minimum hiring costs will stand at $12.84 per hour.[17] This includes the effect of states like California and New York raising their minimum wage, as well as payroll and UI taxes and the Obamacare mandate.

    If Congress raises the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, minimum hiring costs will rise to $18.61 per hour. That figure includes:

  • $15.00 for the minimum wage,
  • $0.19 in unemployment insurance taxes,
  • $1.15 in payroll taxes, and
  • $2.27 per hour in Obamacare penalties.
  • Government mandates add at least $3.61 to employers’ full-time hiring costs, although employees do not see those costs in their paychecks.

    Hurting Less Skilled Workers

    Raising minimum starting wages to $15.00 would badly hurt many workers. Companies hire workers when the additional earnings their labor creates exceeds the cost of employing them. Starting wages of $15.00 per hour mean full-time employees must create at least $38,700 a year in value for their employers. Such a high hurdle would make it much harder for less experienced and less skilled workers to find full-time jobs. Many of these workers are not yet productive enough to create that much value for their employers, and businesses will not hire them at a loss.

    Moreover, Senator Sander’s legislation does not establish lower starting wages for youth; it covers everyone irrespective of age. This lack of distinction would make it particularly difficult for younger workers to find entry-level jobs. Most teenagers lack the skills necessary to produce over $15 per hour in additional earnings for their employer.[18]

    Even Liberal Economists Agree $15-an-Hour Mandate Hurts Workers
    Raising starting wages to $15 per hour has gained political support. However, even liberal economists widely agree it would hurt workers. Princeton economist Alan Krueger, the former Chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, explained that “a $15-per-hour national minimum wage would put us in uncharted waters, and risk undesirable and unintended consequences…. [T]he push for a nationwide $15 minimum wage strikes me as a risk not worth taking.”[19]

    Harry Holzer, a senior researcher affiliated with both the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, who previously served as the chief economist in the Labor Department under President Clinton, also opposes a $15 minimum wage:

    [S]uch increases are extremely risky. In job markets where young or less-educated workers already have difficulty finding jobs and gaining important work experience, such mandates will likely make it much harder…. Many employers will be very reluctant to pay high wages to workers whose skills—including the ability to speak English, in the case of many immigrants—are so modest.[20]
    These views appear widespread among liberal economists, although many have kept quiet about their reservations. Dylan Matthews, a writer for the liberal news site, recently wrote he had observed “[o]ne really fascinating phenomenon: left-wing economists saying off the record that $15/hr is super-dangerous, but not saying that publicly.”[21]

    Wage Mandates Eliminate Jobs

    Economists have good reason for these reservations. If Congress passed a $15 federal minimum wage, employers would have to increase affected workers’ wages by an average of 27.4 percent.[22] Additional raises are likely for workers currently making near $15 per hour.[23] Quantifying the magnitude of these “spillover” effects, however, is highly subjective.[24] Wages will almost certainly increase more than the minimum necessary to comply with the law, but predicting how much more is difficult.

    Increasing starting wages to $15 per hour would eliminate jobs and reduce hiring. When a good or service becomes more expensive, consumers buy less of it. Employers react the same way when wages rise. If Congress raised minimum starting wages to $15—and total hiring costs to $18.61 per hour—businesses would respond by eliminating positions, cutting hours, and looking for new ways to implement labor-saving technology. Some companies might have to face shutting down or leaving America entirely to cope with the additional expenses.

    In fact, that process has already begun in California. Shortly after Los Angeles raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour, American Apparel eliminated 500 clothing manufacturing jobs in the city. The Los Angeles Times reports the company planned to relocate those jobs within California. After California raised minimum starting wages statewide, however, American Apparel began examining options to move production outside California.[25]

    Seven Million Jobs Lost

    Existing minimum-wage studies shed little light on the total number of jobs a $15 mandate would cost. Those studies examined much smaller minimum-wage increases that affected relatively few workers. Most of these studies look at just teenage employment or the restaurant sector—the only sectors significantly impacted by the increase. They provide little guidance on the effects of a minimum wage covering one-third of the workforce.

    However, economists have extensively studied how businesses respond to higher wages overall, not just minimum-wage increases.[26] On average these studies find a 10 percent increase in labor costs causes firms to reduce employment of less-skilled workers by 6.8 percent in the long run.[27] This is not a precise estimate—some studies find greater job losses, others find lower. This average does indicate, however, the approximate magnitude of job losses that occur when labor costs rise.

    These studies imply that if Congress raised starting wages to $15 employers would reduce employment of affected workers by approximately 19 percent.[28] That represents about 6.9 million fewer FTE jobs in the U.S. by 2021.[29] These job losses come on top of jobs lost by state-level minimum-wage increases. The Pay Americans a Living Wage Act would prevent seven million workers from getting paid anything.


    Raising minimum wages to $15 per hour has quickly gone from a fringe idea to a serious policy proposal. Such an increase would bring the federal minimum wage into uncharted territory. At that level, the minimum wage would cover one-third of the U.S. workforce—37.5 million FTE jobs. The increase would have particularly large effects on states with lower costs of living. Including the cost of mandatory employer taxes, minimum hiring costs for a full-time worker would rise to $18.61 per hour.

    Such a large increase in starting wages would make it difficult for less skilled workers to find jobs. Employers will not pay workers more than the value they produce. Employers would respond by reducing employment of affected workers by approximately one-fifth, eliminating roughly seven million FTE jobs.

    Source: James Sherk (@JamesBSherk)of the Heritage Foundation. Image via PBS.

    James Sherk is Research Fellow in Labor Economics in the Center for Data Analysis, of the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity, at The Heritage Foundation.

    You can find a detailed list of references and appendix here.

    HERITAGE FOUNDATION – The Threat of Islamist Terrorism in Europe and How the U.S. Should Respond

    As recent events in Nice and Ansbach demonstrate, Europe faces an ongoing threat from Islamist terrorism. The United States also remains a key target for ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their supporters. The U.S. and Europe have a shared enemy and must assist each other in the defense of liberal and democratic values. For its part, the U.S. must take the fight to ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Middle East and Africa and be willing to kill or capture its enemies. The U.S. must also take a multifaceted approach to trying to halt the flow of foreign fighters. In Europe, several countries blighted by terrorism not only have devoted scant resources to tackling this problem, but also have taken an insufficiently robust line on terrorist activity. The U.S. should encourage its European allies to reverse this trend. It can also assist Europeans in breaking down intelligence firewalls that exist within individual nations while trying to improve pre-existing intelligence-sharing arrangements.


      The likelihood of a terrorist attack has increased in both Europe and the United States. ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their affiliates must be militarily defeated abroad to help ease the threat at home.
      The threat to Europe is multifaceted: Attacks could be planned by al-Qaeda or ISIS, by cells or radicalized loners they have inspired, or by returnees trained by terrorist groups abroad. Europeans are also vulnerable to being targeted in al-Qaeda operations across the Middle East and Africa.
      The U.S. must step up its war against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their affiliates by reviewing the current strategy for breaking the Islamic State’s territorial control and trying to plug its flow of foreign fighters.
      The U.S. should encourage European countries to take a more robust approach to counterterrorism, break down internal intelligence firewalls within individual nations, and attempt to improve pre-existing intelligence-sharing arrangements.

    Europe faces a persistent threat from Islamist terrorism.[1] It is one that has increased with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the al-Qaeda offshoot that now controls significant parts of Iraq and Syria. The director of Europol recently described the current situation as “the highest terrorist threat we have faced for over 10 years.”[2] These security concerns are being exacerbated by unprecedented levels of migration into Europe from impoverished and/or war-torn areas of the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, with ISIS known to have targeted such routes for infiltration.

    ISIS displayed its ability to strike at the heart of Europe during attacks in Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in January 2016, while those trained by al-Qaeda carried out the January 2015 raid on the Charlie Hebdo offices (also in Paris). The potency of these groups is enhanced by their ongoing ability to inspire small cells of radicalized supporters living in the West to carry out attacks on their behalf. The vast majority of plots in the West emanate from such supporters, who have claimed affiliation with a terrorist group without ever having traveled to popular safe havens such as Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen. It appears as though Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the terrorist who killed 84 people with a 19-ton truck in Nice recently, was one such individual.

    The U.S. should assist Europe by stepping up military activities against al-Qaeda, ISIS, and their affiliates. There is much it can do to ease the foreign terrorist fighter threat while also reminding the continent of its own military responsibilities. In addition, the U.S. should assist Europeans in breaking down intelligence firewalls that exist within individual nations, making better use of pre-existing intelligence-sharing arrangements and adopting a tougher approach to law and order.

    ISIS: The Context

    The Islamic State of Iraq, the precursor of ISIS and an al-Qaeda offshoot, was perceived by some Western policymakers as having been strategically defeated following the U.S. “surge” of 2006–2007 in Iraq, but the terrorist group had benefited from America’s effectively having withdrawn—both politically and militarily—from Iraq in the 2010–2011 period. It was also boosted by the chaos in Syria, where the Arab Spring protests were met with bloody persecution from Bashar al-Assad. In both Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq now had significant space from which to operate.

    In April 2013, Islamic State of Iraq emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared that the al-Nusra Front (ANF), the al-Qaeda affiliate operating in Syria, was essentially a front for his group. He announced the creation of a new organization: the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). This led to internal squabbling, with both al-Qaeda leaders Ayman al-Zawahiri and ANF emir Abu Mohammed al-Joulani attempting to bring al-Baghdadi to heel. Unsuccessful in doing so, ISIS was expelled from the al-Qaeda network in February 2014.

    Undeterred, in June 2014, ISIS cut a swathe throughout parts of northern and western Iraq, gaining significant amounts of territory to complement the territory that it already controlled in Syria. ISIS leaders in the same month declared the return of the “caliphate,” with its capital in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. Thousands of Europeans answered al-Baghdadi’s call to leave their homes—at times, taking entire families with them—and going to live in the newly declared Islamic state.

    With ISIS gathering in strength, taking more territory and committing genocide against minority groups, the United States intervened. Since August 2014, the U.S. and its coalition partners (including Europeans) have carried out airstrikes against ISIS targets, stalling their advance but loosening the group’s grip on its territory only very slowly.

    ISIS initially responded with a series of videos aimed at Western audiences that featured British terrorist Mohammed Emwazi beheading multiple American and British citizens in the Syrian desert. Yet the threat to life was destined to spread beyond the Middle East, and ISIS increasingly displayed a capacity to strike at targets based well beyond its “caliphate.”

    ISIS and Europe

    Europe’s secularism and democratic values of equality and liberty represent a direct challenge to the ISIS ideology. Therefore, the ISIS strategy focuses on carrying out attacks to present Muslims living in the West with a clear (yet false) choice: apostasy or allegiance to their “caliphate.”[3] In order to present this choice, ISIS has taken a multi-pronged approach to striking Europe.

    Centrally Controlled Attacks. Carrying out attacks in Europe has been an ISIS goal for over two years.[4] A key figure in these plans has been Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian citizen of Moroccan origin who first traveled to Syria at the beginning of 2013. He was tasked by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, ISIS spokesman and the head of ISIS’s external operations wing, with planning terrorist operations in Europe and was quickly connected to a series of plots in Belgium and France.

      May 2014: Brussels, Belgium. Mehdi Nemmouche, a French citizen of Algerian origin, shot and killed four civilians at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Nemmouche, an ISIS-aligned terrorist who had fought in Syria, is thought to have spoken to Abaaoud over the phone in January 2014.
      January 2015: Verviers, Belgium. By January 2015, Abaaoud had returned to Europe from Syria and was in contact with three other recently returned ISIS terrorists based in Verviers, Belgium. According to a Belgian federal prosecutor, the Verviers cell was plotting “imminent terrorist attacks on a grand scale,” which were thwarted by Belgian authorities in January 2015 when they stormed a building occupied by the cell, killing two and arresting one. Explosives, AK-47s, walkie-talkies and police uniforms were discovered in the building.
      April 2015: Paris, France. Algerian-born Sid Ahmed Ghlam planned what French authorities described as an “imminent” attack on churchgoers and is suspected of having murdered a gym instructor whose body was discovered on April 19, 2015. Before he could carry out his plot, Ghlam accidentally shot himself in the leg and had to call an ambulance. French authorities connected not only Abaaoud to the plot, but also another ISIS operative, Fabien Clain, a French citizen based in Syria. It is thought that Ghlam and Clain were in contact and that Ghlam had met multiple associates of Clain’s in Turkey before the planned attack.
      August 2015: Paris, France. Four months later, in August 2015, Ayoub el-Khazzani, a Moroccan, attempted to gun down passengers in a train travelling between Amsterdam and Paris. Passengers, including two members of the U.S. Army, restrained him. El-Khazzani is believed to have been sent on this mission by Abaaoud. In the same month, French authorities arrested a French citizen, Reda Hame, on his way back from training in Syria. Abaaoud had dispatched Hame back to Europe with instructions to acquire a gun, kill civilians, and then hold hostages until he was “martyred.”
      November 2015: Paris, France. On November 13, 2015, one of ISIS’s grandest European plans succeeded. A shocking total of 130 people were killed in Paris after a series of shootings and suicide bombings carried out by ISIS operatives in four cafes, a football stadium, and a music venue. The primarily French cell that conducted the attacks contained returnees from the Syrian–Iraqi conflict, and Abaaoud was suspected of being on the scene during the attacks on the cafes in Paris.

      In the aftermath of the Paris atrocities, Abaaoud was killed in a French police raid in St. Denis, a Paris suburb. The suspected overall commander of the cell, an Algerian called Mohammed Belkaid, was then killed in a police raid in Brussels on March 15. Belkaid had already begun to plot a set of follow-up attacks in Brussels, with two teams carrying out gun and bomb attacks. Salah Abdeslam, a member of the Paris cell who ditched his suicide vest and returned to Brussels on the night of the attack, was arrested days later.

      March 2016: Brussels, Belgium. The ISIS threat to Europe extended beyond these individuals. On March 22, other members of the network—Ibrahim al Bakraoui, Najim Laachraoui, and Mohamed Abrini—travelled to Brussels Airport armed with Kalashnikov rifles and several bombs. They fired into the crowd at the check-in area and then detonated nail bombs that they had placed on their luggage trolleys. Just over an hour later, Khalid al-Bakraoui committed a suicide bombing in a Brussels metro station using the same type of bomb. The attacks killed 32.

    The Paris and Brussels attacks were precisely what intelligence officials hoped was a thing of the past: A large cell was able to acquire guns, ammunition, and triacetone triperoxide (TATP), the explosive used in the suicide vests, all without detection. Difficulty in pulling off an attack on this scale in recent years had meant that aspiring terrorists had emphasized the use of guns and knives in simpler, cruder attacks. A plot such as the May 2013 deadly stabbing of a British soldier by violent Islamists in London was regarded as the template for the future: a very small team carrying out a crude attack using a weapon that was legal to possess and easy to acquire. The recent ISIS attacks in Europe have shown that this is not necessarily the case.

    Crowdsourcing. Former New York Police Department Director of Intelligence Analysis Mitch Silber has described another ISIS tactical approach: “crowdsourced jihad.”[5] This involves “taking work traditionally performed by ‘employees’ (aka card-carrying members of ISIS) and issuing an open call for individuals outside the organization to carry it out.” This approach was encapsulated in an audio recording released in September 2014 and featuring Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who implored supporters to launch a series of operations, regardless of their sophistication.

    If you can kill a disbelieving American or European—especially the spiteful and filthy French—or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war…then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict…. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.[6]

    The message from al-Baghdadi was clear: Supporters of ISIS should do whatever they could with whatever came to hand.

    There are numerous examples of ISIS-inspired but not ISIS-controlled terrorism in the West. There were 32 ISIS plots in the West from the declaration of the “caliphate” in June 2014 through August 2015.[7] America, Canada, and Australia were targeted on multiple occasions, and 13 plots targeted seven separate European countries. These included the attacks by Omar Abdel Hamid el-Hussein, the Moroccan gunman who targeted a free speech event and a synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark, in February 2015, killing two, and Amedy Coulibaly, the French gunman who killed five people over a two-day period in Paris January 7 and 8 and pledged loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video that was uploaded to the Internet and disseminated on Twitter after his death.

    Al-Qaeda and Europe

    Like ISIS, al-Qaeda wants to create a caliphate that serves as a base from which to expand and attack the West. The groups differ mainly over tactics. ISIS focuses on carrying out attacks immediately; al-Qaeda is playing a longer game. Abu Mohamed al-Joulani, the head of Syria’s al-Qaeda–affiliated al-Nusra Front, has spoken of how “[t]he instructions that we have are not to use al-Sham as a base to launch attacks on the west or Europe.” This is not due to an ideological distaste for doing so, but rather “so as not to muddy the current war” in Syria.[8] Thus, despite al-Qaeda’s not carrying out attacks with the frequency of ISIS, this does not mean that the threat has disappeared.

    Open Source Jihad. Under significant pressure from U.S.-led counterterrorism operations against its senior leadership, al-Qaeda has modified its approach to targeting Europe. Complex operations such as 9/11 have become less feasible, and one branch of al-Qaeda has instead attempted to inspire supporters living in the West to act independently.

    In the summer of 2010, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) published its first edition of Inspire, an English-language magazine. The brainchild of two American al-Qaeda members based in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, Inspire championed the notion of “Open-Source Jihad,” providing “[a] resource manual [that] includes bomb making techniques, security measures, guerrilla tactics, weapons training and all other jihad related activities…. [T]he open source jihad is America’s worst nightmare. It allows Muslims to train at home instead of risking a dangerous travel abroad….”[9] A recent Institute for the Study of War paper characterized Inspire as “revolutionary for the Salafi-jihadi community in that it was the first to combine the religious justifications for jihad in colloquial English with how-to manuals.”[10]

    Copies of Inspire frequently turn up in terrorism investigations in the West. Particularly popular is the article on how to “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” which gives instructions on building a bomb using easy-to-acquire ingredients and material.[11] This was thought to be of use to Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev in making the bombs they used in the Boston marathon bombing of April 2013, which killed three and injured 264.

    Training and Financing. Prior to 2015, al-Qaeda’s last major successful operation in Europe was the suicide bombings on the London transport network on July 7, 2005. Yet the raid on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine proved that terrorists were still those operating in Europe who had been trained by the group and were determined to carry out attacks on its behalf.

    Charlie Hebdo was selected for targeting by al-Qaeda’s central leadership after the magazine published a picture of the Islamic prophet Mohammed. Cherif and Said Kouachi, two French terrorists trained by AQAP in Yemen in 2011, carried out the raid. Senior AQAP figure Nasser bin ali al-Ansi claimed credit for the attack on the group’s behalf, with the group deferring to the Kouachis when it came to tactics and timing of the operation.

    Attacks Abroad and Kidnap for Ransom. Al-Qaeda poses a significant regional threat, and Europeans based in al-Qaeda’s favored areas of operation have been murdered by the group in the following terrorist attacks:

      The January 2013 In Amenas gas complex assault, carried out by a faction of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM);
      The September 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, carried out by al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate, al-Shabaab;
      The November 2015 AQIM attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali; and
      The January 2016 AQIM assault on the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

    Al-Qaeda also has regularly kidnapped Europeans in order to extract ransoms from their governments. The U.S. and the United Kingdom have been highly critical of this, believing that these payments not only sustain al-Qaeda operationally, but also incentivize further kidnappings.[12]

    Insufficiency of Europe’s Approach to Counterterrorism

    Following the Paris attacks, Foreign Fighter Surge Teams comprised of representatives from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State were deployed to a number of European nations to provide counterterrorism assistance on border issues and intelligence sharing. This assistance has included Belgium and Greece but will also include France and Germany. This was a welcome development, as the approach of individual European countries to Islamist terrorism is failing in several key areas. The following shortcomings in Belgium, for example, were exposed by the latest ISIS attack.

    Domestic Intelligence Sharing. After terrorist attacks in Europe—both those that are thwarted and those that are not—there are consistent calls from leaders and officials of the European Union (EU) for much greater intelligence sharing through a new European body designed specifically for this purpose. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has even called for the creation of a “European CIA.”[13]

    Yet the very nature of intelligence gathering means that countries will be reluctant to give away their secrets and how they acquired them to other countries, even allies. As Sir John Sawers, the head of Britain’s MI6, has stated, “the service who first obtains the intelligence has the right to control how it is used, who else it can be shared with, and what action can be taken on it. It’s rule number one of intelligence sharing.”[14] There are sound reasons for this: If disclosures are made too readily, sources can easily be compromised and agents identified, killed, or tortured.

    There also are very different privacy and surveillance expectations within Europe. The Edward Snowden disclosures were treated somewhat apathetically in the U.K., for example, compared to how they were treated in Germany. This is partially due to historical experience. In Britain, the concept of spying conjures up images of James Bond and Bletchley Park; in Berlin, it evokes recent memories of the Stasi.

    There is, however, a much more immediate problem than a lack of continent-wide intelligence sharing: European countries’ domestic police, military, and intelligence agencies do not share information. As U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond recently commented:

    [M]ost of our partners in Europe have an internal and an external agency and the two don’t always work closely together. Usually for historical reasons they have regarded themselves as totally different…. [T]hey just don’t have the operational integration…. [T]here are different legal structures, different powers…even turf wars.

    This is partially due to size and structure: France has 33 separate intelligence-collection agencies, for example,[16] and there are six separate police forces in Brussels alone.[17]

    When it comes to intelligence sharing, multiple attempts have been made to help governments coordinate efforts to track foreign terrorists across international borders. Interpol’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter (FTF) program was formed in September 2014 for precisely this purpose. The Focal Point Travelers (FPT) agreement, launched by Europol in February 2015, had a similar aim: focusing on collaboration between law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and the EU.

    However, a similar issue has blighted both programs. The FPT initiative also suffers from a lack of buy-in from partner nations and an incomplete database of names (approximately only 2,000).[18] More than 50 countries have contributed to the FTF database, but only around 5,000 names are on this database.[19] This is approximately one-fifth of the total of foreign terrorists thought to have travelled to Syria and Iraq.

    There is also another issue with the use of Interpol: It has been unwilling to suspend the many despotic, authoritarian governments that are members of the organization and that have access to its databases.[20] The potential for abuse of the system, with such governments issuing Red Notices for political dissidents and opponents, is clear; in fact, this abuse has already taken place.[21] This makes relying on the veracity of the information in the FTF database highly problematic.

    Funding. The Brussels attack demonstrated a worrying lack of capability among certain partner nations. Few European countries have advanced counterterrorism apparatuses or have devoted significant resources to defending homeland security. For example, Belgium’s domestic intelligence agency has only slightly more employees than there are Belgians who have gone to fight in the Syria–Iraq theater.[22] With the ISIS threat in Europe as advanced as it is, even countries that have not been scarred by terrorism must increase spending in this area.

    Law and Order.
    Despite arresting Salah Abdeslam, a member of ISIS’s European network cell, Belgian authorities did not question him until the day after he was captured, and then for just two hours. This interrogation focused on the attacks in Paris and France’s application for a European arrest warrant. No questions were asked about future operations. The Brussels suicide bombings occurred shortly thereafter. It is this type of intelligence failure that led one U.S. counterterrorism official to question the competence of certain European intelligence agencies: “When we have to contact these people or send our guys over to talk to them, we’re essentially talking with people who are—I’m just going to put it bluntly—children. They are not pro-active, they don’t know what’s going on. They’re in such denial.”[23]

    Belgium’s tolerant approach to law and order also contributed to the Brussels attacks. One of the bombers, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, was released approximately six years early from a 10–year sentence for shooting a police officer with a Kalashnikov rifle during a bank robbery. Despite breaking his parole conditions that he not be allowed to travel abroad—he was picked up in Turkey in June 2015 near the border with Syria—el-Bakraoui remained free to carry out his attack in February 2016.

    Ability of ISIS to Hide in Plain Sight and the Lack of Human Intelligence. In the case of both the Paris and Brussels attacks, a major terrorist cell used a European capital city as a base from which to acquire all of the materials needed to construct suicide vests and plan complicated assaults. On multiple occasions, this planning went unnoticed or unreported by the local community, suggesting distrust of the local police within this community. Furthermore, the Belgian authorities, despite being aware of the Molenbeek municipality’s reputation for radicalism, were unable to penetrate this cell with a human asset in order to gain intelligence. An improvement in either of these areas could have prevented the Brussels bombings.

    Current and Future Challenges

    Military Impediments. It is imperative that the ability of ISIS to govern territory be removed entirely or shrunk massively, and this can be achieved only militarily. In the short term, ISIS would seek to lash out against the West in retaliation. Therefore, security may be most imperiled in the immediate aftermath of any significant loss of territory that ISIS suffers. In the long term, however, loss of territory will puncture the image of invincibility that ISIS attempts to convey. It will help to discredit its ideology and legitimacy and subsequently will make it harder for ISIS to recruit foreign terrorist fighters.

    The current U.S. military strategy against ISIS involves airstrikes and dispatching a limited number of U.S. troops to provide support to local forces attempting to retake ISIS territory. As part of this strategy, it is expected that the Iraqi army eventually will attempt to retake Mosul from the South, and Turkey will have to close the border with Syria so that ISIS has no space from which to regroup. Even if this strategy were to prove successful, however, the entire venture is complicated by the significant presence of Iranian-backed Shia militia groups that are fighting for territory of cultural and strategic influence to them and are heavily mistrusted by the Sunni population.

    Several other factors are undermining the American military effort. For example, as the attacks in Brussels and Paris prove, ISIS currently poses a greater threat to European security than it poses in the U.S., yet approximately 80 percent of airstrikes against ISIS are carried out by the U.S.[24] When it comes to the military contribution against ISIS, the U.S.’s closest ally is France, which carries out approximately 12 percent of the airstrikes.[25] The U.K. also has contributed airstrikes, but the overall European effort (not to mention the meager contribution by the Gulf Cooperation Council) is clearly dwarfed by the Pentagon’s.

    While the size and capacity of its military make it logical for the U.S. to assume a leading role in this war, this does not mean that European governments should shirk their responsibilities. Only five of NATO’s 28 members (the U.S., U.K., Greece, Estonia, and Poland) meet the requirement to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Given the variety of dangers the West currently faces, this is unacceptable.

    Independent Returnee Fighters. ISIS has encouraged foreigners to travel to the “caliphate” and fight alongside it in Iraq and Syria. This has increased the manpower of its army and the legitimacy of its newly formed state. While not all joined ISIS, between 5,000 and 6,000 Europeans are now thought to have traveled to Iraq or Syria.[26] It is believed that almost 2,000 have now returned to their country of origin.[27]

    There is concern about the threat that these terrorist-trained individuals pose upon return. As FBI Director James Comey has commented, “Foreign fighters traveling to Syria or Iraq could, for example, gain battlefield experience and increased exposure to violent extremist elements…. [T]hey may use these skills and exposure to radical ideology to return to their countries of origin.”[28] There does not need to be operational oversight from Raqqa for returning terrorists to carry out attacks; the “caliphate” has already provided all of the ingredients they need.

    So far, the returnees that have carried out attacks appear to have been a part of the Abaaoud nexus. Therefore, while the threat from returning fighters is very real, it has not yet provably manifested itself with lone, radicalized actors carrying out attacks. The presence of a surrounding network has remained important—so far.

    Turkish Border Issues. The European foreign fighter pipeline to and from Syria/Iraq commonly runs through Turkey, a country that is a short, cheap flight away from Europe. The threat to Europe from ISIS-inspired terrorism cannot be eased unless the long-running issue of the porousness of the Turkish–Syrian border is resolved.

    This is no easy matter; the border between Turkey and Syria is over 500 miles long. However, the U.S. government has specifically encouraged Turkey to deploy thousands of troops between the border towns of Kilis and Jarabulus, a 60-mile stretch that ISIS currently uses to shuttle foreign terrorist fighters—including the Paris attackers—in and out of the “caliphate.”

    Turkey has recently made attempts to improve border security, but this was not always the case. Turkey adopted a staunchly anti-Assad approach from the early days of the Syrian civil war. This was due in part to legitimate concerns about a massacre occurring in a neighboring country (more than 250,000 have died in the Syrian civil war, with Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons and barrel bombs and carrying out torture on an industrial scale) and in part to sectarian impulses coinciding with strategic interests in expanding the influence of Sunni governance in the Middle East.

    The consequence of this approach was that Turkey opened its border to Syrian rebels following the 2011 revolution. One U.S. official commented that “[t]hey more or less let all kinds of people in—Nusra was some of them, some of them were secularists, Islamist, non-al-Qaeda groups…. They weren’t singling out any group to favor, it was more of a laissez faire approach.”[29] According to a paper published by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Turkey is using these “irregular fighters” in a bid to facilitate Assad’s overthrow.[30]

    This attitude allowed large numbers of Westerners to travel to Syria via Turkey and join al-Qaeda and ISIS-aligned groups. As violent Islamist groups became more prominent in the opposition, Turkey failed to toughen its border security. Turkey retains its anti-Assad position, one that has been hardened by Russia’s influence on Assad and a sharp deterioration in relations between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin occurring following Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet in November 2015.

    There is now a suggestion from U.S. officials that Turkey’s attitude toward border security has changed.[31] This change, however, has surely occurred because ISIS has now carried out bombings within Turkey itself.

    The Refugee Crisis. An unprecedented level of migration into Europe from the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans is fundamentally changing the continent. Even excluding legal migration, the EU’s external border force estimated that 1 million people entered Europe illegally in 2015.[32] The true number, as the agency accepts, will clearly be larger. There are no easy answers in dealing with this problem, but security concerns must go hand in hand with humanitarian concerns, and there is no doubt that there is a severe problem when it comes to screening.

    One diplomat told the House Committee on Homeland Security that refugees were barely screened at all, commenting that “there are no real controls. [The authorities] take fingerprints, accept whatever identification they provide—if they have one—and send them on their way.” The committee concluded that a “large proportion of the refugees and migrants that have entered Europe this year are unregistered, and even those who have been registered upon arrival have gone through a process that is rife with security holes.”[33 ]For example, even if registration forms, photographs, and fingerprints are taken, they are rarely cross-checked with counterterrorism watch lists.

    It is hardly surprising, then, that Hans Georg-Maassen, head of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, has concluded that “we have repeatedly seen that terrorists…have slipped in camouflaged or disguised as refugees”[34] and that General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the terrorists, and the returning foreign fighters are clearly a daily part of the refugee flow in Europe.”[35]

    This has already shown itself to be a productive tactic for ISIS. Two Iraqi cell members who carried out suicide attacks in Paris were able to enter Greece as refugees after producing fake Syrian documentation. A Palestinian bomb maker, Ahmad al-Amin, also entered Europe with Syrian refugees in the summer of 2015.[36]

    The impact of using the refugee crisis to infiltrate Europe in this manner is exacerbated by the fact that large numbers of ISIS sympathizers and other pre-existing radical networks were already operating in the continent. Some of these sympathizers have carried out attacks in Europe or have been thwarted from doing so. The presence of hardened ISIS terrorists, recruiters, and bomb makers from the Syria–Iraq conflict who are now potentially operating among, or even guiding, some of those already radicalized individuals only heightens the threat that Europe faces.

    Impact on the United States

    Europe and America possess a shared value system and way of life. Both (broadly) share a belief in freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, free speech, religious freedom, judicial independence, and a respect for minority rights. They also share many of the same enemies, including ISIS and al-Qaeda. There is clearly a shared interest in not allowing mutual values to be imperiled by a mutual enemy.

    The U.S. has demonstrated an enduring commitment to European security. Over 50,000 Americans were killed in World War I, and another 291,577 died during World War II. During the Cold War, the Western alliance—particularly the U.S.–U.K. Special Relationship—was fundamental in facing down the threat of Communism. It is vital that this alliance remains intact if ISIS, al-Qaeda and its supporters are to be strategically defeated. Otherwise, previous American sacrifices for Europe will have been in vain.

    U.S. lives also are at risk. Americans have been killed by European ISIS terrorists. It was a radicalized British citizen, Mohammed Emwazi, who in August 2014 beheaded James Foley and Steven Sotloff, the American hostages captured in Syria. Americans were imperiled by Ayoub el-Khazzani’s planned train attack in August 2015, an American college student was killed in Paris in November 2015, four Americans were killed in the Brussels attack of March 2016, and another three were killed in the Nice attack of July 2016.

    The potential for further casualties is clear. Americans make around 2.5 million trips to Britain per year. An estimated 187,000 Americans (approximately the same as the population of Salt Lake City, Utah) live in the U.K., and approximately 100,000 more live in France. American companies and military bases housed throughout Europe also are potential terrorist targets; al-Qaeda’s Nizar Trabelsi was convicted in September 2003 for planning a suicide attack against a NATO base housing U.S. soldiers in Brussels.

    Without American engagement, Europe also might disengage militarily. Europe is overwhelmingly reliant on the U.S. military’s capacity to wage war, but the U.S. also requires military support from its European allies. As well as contributing to the actual fighting, European powers can provide logistical support and training assistance; European backing also adds international legitimacy to military interventions.

    Yet a January 2014 article in The Guardian, based on conversations with senior officials at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), reported a “growing reluctance in an increasingly multicultural Britain to see U.K. troops deployed on the ground in future operations abroad.” This subsequently affected MoD strategic defense reviews. According to these military sources, there was “a resistance in an increasingly diverse nation to see British troops deployed in countries from which U.K. citizens, or their families, once came. There is also concern that British troops have been seen taking action mainly in Muslim societies.”[37]

    This was a euphemistic way of saying that as domestic Muslim opinion disapproved of British military action abroad, deploying troops abroad—as in Iraq and Afghanistan—would no longer be possible due to the U.K.’s demographic composition.

    In the U.K.’s case, although many European countries are vulnerable to similar pressures, the scale of immigration into Europe cannot be completely disassociated from national security and foreign policy strategy. This can only have been exacerbated by the refugee crisis. It is therefore vital that the U.S. remains engaged in the region to remind Europe of its international responsibilities militarily, as unpalatable as they may be to parts of the European electorate.

    What Needs to Be Done

    There are several actions that the United States can take to limit and ultimately to defeat the threat of Islamist terrorism, both in the U.S. and in Europe. Specifically:

      Break the Islamic State’s control of territory. The Islamic State derives much of its legitimacy from its success. The group’s magazine, Dabiq, trumpets ISIS victories as a sign of Allah’s favor and even has a recurring feature, “In the Words of the Enemy,” which consists of quotations by senior Western officials lamenting ISIS gains. Driving ISIS from its conquered territories will undermine the group’s legitimacy and hurt its ability to recruit. American leadership is needed to achieve this. In the first instance, the U.S. should work to liberate Iraq and help it to retain territorial integrity.
      Continue to focus on defeating both al-Qaeda and ISIS, including their regional affiliates. Military defeat of ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Middle East and Africa will enhance security in both the U.S. and Europe, and ISIS and al-Qaeda’s regional affiliates must all be considered part of the same fight. This means focusing not just on northwest Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, but also on such countries as Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
      Be willing to capture the enemy. Intelligence is vital to the war effort. That means the U.S. must focus not solely on killing al-Qaeda and ISIS leaders, but also on capturing them. This has not been prioritized during the Obama Administration. The capture and interrogation of terrorists provides an insight into their operations that is not acquired with a drone strike.
      Keep up the pressure on Turkey and be willing to assist in securing Turkey’s border with Iraq and Syria. This is vital to preventing the foreign terrorist flow in addition to being a key component of the current U.S. military strategy to deny ISIS territory from which to regroup.
      Expand the Foreign Fighter Surge Teams program throughout Europe. The U.S. must also provide assistance to vulnerable European governments in identifying those who aspire to travel to Syria or Iraq and those who have returned. The Departments of Homeland Security and State are already assisting in European border security efforts, as well as encouraging greater intelligence sharing and coordination where possible. This should continue.
      Reform Interpol to improve tracking of foreign fighters. No organization is perfectly placed to share information internationally regarding foreign fighter travel, but Interpol may be the one that is best suited to this task. These efforts must be appropriately staffed and funded and must be secure against efforts by dictatorships to exploit them.
      Encourage European nations that are vulnerable to terrorist attack to increase spending on intelligence and adopt a more aggressive approach to counterterrorism. By carrying out two major attacks in a matter of months, ISIS has proved that the current approach to counterterrorism in Europe is insufficient. The U.S. should encourage European countries to adopt a much more aggressive stance toward this issue.
      Reject calls for an EU-wide information-sharing network but encourage European partners to break down domestic intelligence firewalls. Instead of focusing on creating an overly ambitious new transnational EU framework, Europe should focus on encouraging achievable domestic intelligence reforms within individual European countries. The U.S. should provide assistance to its European allies on the breaking down of intelligence firewalls within countries, which would help them to streamline their operations and their dissemination of data.
      Urge NATO members to share the military burden. Europe’s reluctance to devote sufficient resources to its military has been an area of contention for successive U.S. Administrations, but it still needs to be emphasized. While the U.S. cannot force Europeans to spend more on defense, choosing not to highlight the issue amounts to tacit approval of current spending levels.
      Support measures to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable to the Syrian people. Assad must answer for his crimes, and the Syrian people should be given discretion as to how this process is conducted. Their options could include trial in a domestic court, inviting the International Criminal Court into Syria, or establishing a truth and reconciliation commission. Such a measure might also help to reduce the flow of foreign fighters into Syria.
      Be cognizant of the need to defeat Islamist ideology. ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their supporters are manifestations of a broader Islamist movement. Winning the ideological battle of ideas against this movement is just as important as military victories on the battlefield.


    European security—and therefore stability—remain vital to American interests. Both are currently imperiled by the sustained threat from Islamist terrorism. There is much that the U.S. could and should do to assist, as America and Europe share not just key values, but also key enemies.

    Military victories against Islamist extremism abroad will lessen the danger at home. Because the acquisition of territory gives ISIS a vestige of legitimacy and a base to which recruits can travel, reclaiming this territory must therefore be prioritized. So too must addressing the foreign terrorist issue more robustly. Killing or capturing leaders of ISIS and al-Qaeda will also be an area where the U.S. can make headway in targeting those who are threatening Europe.

    Outside the military sphere, assisting European nations in breaking down intelligence firewalls that exist within individual nations and attempting to improve pre-existing intelligence-sharing arrangements are worthwhile endeavors. None of the above would remove the threat to Europe—or, indeed, the U.S.—but they would certainly help to ease it.

    Ultimately, however, Europe has to help itself. There is only so much that American urgings and advice can achieve. Leaders in Europe have to choose to dedicate more resources to counterterrorism and adopt a tougher approach to the dangers posed by Islamism generally. They have to be the ones, for example, who deal with ISIS by targeting refugee routes for infiltration and devising ways to counteract the radicalization of Europe’s Muslim communities.

    In other words, the buck stops in Europe. At present, it is unclear whether the leaders in place are capable of meeting these significant challenges.

    Source: Robin Simcox (@RobinSimcox) of the Heritage Foundation. Image via Fortune.

    Robin Simcox is Margaret Thatcher Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.

    A full list of references can be found here.

    BREXIT: A Climate of Political Uncertainties

    The referendum in Britain to exit from the European Union revealed how an extended caveat of global warming – Syrian refugee crisis has indebted to the death knell for European Union’s stability as a united bloc. The refugee crisis in Syria was aggravated by the prolonged droughts in the region, devastating the core sector of its economy (agricultural sector accounted 19% of Syrian Gross Domestic Product). By a quirk of fate, the resultant refugee crisis in Europe became the propaganda machine for Brexit, and the Tories camp of climate skeptics who led the Leave campaign seems to have downgraded climate change from its new agendas. This warrants a look at how Brexit stands to affect the consensus arrived at recent Paris climate agreement.

    BREXIT & Climate Change Negotiations

    Constituting 7.3 % of global demographics (third largest as a combined bloc after China & India) and with a GDP valued at $ 18.495 trillion (as of 2014), European Union – the 28 member bloc of Europe is that one supranational body whose global influence catapulted it to a superpower. However the same European dream is struggling to stay afloat with the recent developments and a divided Europe, puts the Paris treaty is on the verge of disarray.

    The Paris climate agreement was instrumental in achieving a global consensus to limit global warming to below 2C and is presently awaiting ratification from its parties. In ongoing melee on Brexit and its implications, the Paris deal was found itself amiss. For the Paris climate deal to be legally binding, a minimum of 55 members who were party to the convention (from 195 countries) and whose GHG emissions accounts 55% of total global emissions have to ratify the agreement.

    Being the world’s largest single market with a share of 13.10% of total emissions, EU‘s ratification of the treaty is critical for the deal to enter into force. EU represented itself as a union when giving its climate pledges, and with Brexit, the status of its climate pledges – Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC s) are at stake. The exit in the 5th largest economy of the world (4.6% GDP value globally) and the 2nd largest in the Union (GDP worth $2849.35 billion as of 2015) from its ambit may entail the existing 27 member E.U and the U.K to present their revised pledges to the UNFCC (United Nations Framework on Climate Change.

    The leadership role of E.U in global climate negotiations was characteristic in the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol(at a time of U.S veto) and the referendum, therefore, augurs for a need to look at the energy and climate policies in all the key economies within the Union to which Britain is still a party. In the INDCs, EU pledged towards reducing 40% of GHG emissions by 2030. In pursuit of energy security and fuel savings EU aims for a cut of 19 % in its energy imports, compared to 2010, besides saving up to 14 billion euros on an average annual basis between 2010-2030 respectively.Notwithstanding these, E.U was also pitted to be a forerunner towards setting appliance and regulatory standards that can shape policies in all major economies within the union.

    Climate of Political Uncertainties

    Brexit will cast a gloom on a prime climate instrument of EU – the European Emission Trading System (ETS), set up 2005. The EU ETS, the largest and the only international carbon market aims to reduce emissions in a cost effective manner. It operates within the Union, and in Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. It aims to reduce emissions by 21% by 2020 based on 2005 levels, besides limiting emissions from over 11,000 installations (power and heavy industry) and commercial airlines sector in the region. U.K has 1,000 installations which operate under this system and accounts for 10% of verified emissions. If Britain chooses to be party to the emissions trading system aka the Swiss or Norwegian model, it would end up as a silent spectator without a say in the decision-making processes, and a complete exit would imply U.K to devise new arrangements in its cap and trade scheme.

    UK’s emissions (GHG) constitute 2% of global emissions and its role in pushing EU 2030 carbon target from 40% to 50% cuts on 1990 levels is notable. Domestically too, Britain has engaged itself in committing to a low – carbon future. The Climate Change Act (2008) – set up with the objective of reducing the UK’s GHG emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels; and the Finance Act 2011 – aimed for the development of a carbon price floor, were crucial interventions in this regard. But if recent reports of U.K National Grid are to be believed, U.K will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets owing to the failure to employ renewables in the heat and transport domain. Capital Intensive energy projects funded by EU- offshore wind, may take a backseat. Nevertheless, it aims to reduce its GHG emissions 57% by 2032 compared with 1990, with adoption of its fifth carbon budget.

    Brexit being a protracted process with uncertainties, is likely to affect the carbon price mechanisms in E.U, giving incentives for the heavy industries (fossil powered plants) to disregard the pollution standards or the energy businesses to flout pollution norms when such processes are in limbo. The spill over-effect over the renewable energy sector with 28.9 billion Euros investments is precarious.

    Hopes to refurbish the chaotic political situation were evident in the cabinet reshuffle by the new Prime Minister Theresa May. Ironically, one of the first major change was to merge the Energy and Climate Change department with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Tories are known for their extreme stand on negating climate science, and with Andrea Leadsom, a staunch climate skeptic as the new Environment Secretary, the new government has seems to have snubbed efforts to tackle climate change from its policy agenda. Nonetheless, both the Conservatives and Labor camps agree on diversification to energy sources like renewables, domestic shale, and nuclear technologies to achieve the proposed decarbonization plans (to cut emissions by 80% by 2050).

    A divided Europe may scuttle any concerted effort on climate change. In the ongoing clamor for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty to leave the bloc, it will be hard for U.K to remain in the union and negotiate its terms. The call for re-calibration of the Paris treaty by the outgoing UNFCC Executive Secretary Christina Figures in the wake Brexit, is a stark reminder of the varied unintended consequences of public opinion given a leeway over such decisive matters with long term implications.

    Source: Vinny Davis of the Centre for Public Policy Research. Image via Occupy.

    A full list of references can be found here.

    *Any views expressed are unintentional, personal, and might not be representative of the IndoAmerican Center.

    Foreign Affairs – Bridges to Nowhere

    As countries grow economically, they often invest in huge public works projects. Grand infrastructure undertakings, such as Germany’s Autobahn, Japan’s bullet trains, and the United States’ Hoover Dam, showcase a country’s mastery of technology; they become a symbol of a country’s ascendance as a world power.

    Over the past ten years, the BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—have built hundreds of such projects. The industrial parks, highways, overpasses, pipelines, dams, and sporting venues came to symbolize their rise. But as these governments emphasized speedy, showy results, they paid less attention to quality and underestimated the costs involved. Opaque procurement processes allowed corruption to thrive and standards to fall.

    The results have not just tarnished the reputations of these new economic powers; they have also cost lives. And they call into question the group’s most recent creation, the New Development Bank. Originally funded with $50 billion, most of it from China, its advocates hoped that the bank—meant as an alternative to the World Bank and the regional development banks—would provide quicker access to funds for infrastructure. But it is likely, given the failure of these countries to deliver accountability in overseeing their domestic infrastructure projects, that the New Development Bank will repeat the same costly mistakes.


    Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O’Neill first grouped Brazil, Russia, India, and China together in 2001, when he argued that they were the countries that would most likely produce rapid economic growth over the next decade (South Africa joined in 2010). But today another phenomenon binds the BRICS together: in every one of them, corruption scandals have hit state-funded infrastructure companies and the projects they’ve overseen.

    In Brazil, a massive corruption scandal involving the semi-state petroleum company Petrobras and the country’s top construction companies has thrown the nation into political and economic chaos. The country’s four biggest infrastructure companies—Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa, OAS, and Andrade Gutierrez—developed an elaborate plan to collude in bribing and overcharging Petrobras for procurement and construction contracts to the tune of $3 billion. They were able to get away with it because the bidding processes for the projects were closed from public scrutiny; national laws mandated that local companies provide anywhere between 37 to 55 percent of content for investments in Brazil’s off-shore, pre-salt oil deposits; and because those four companies were the only ones large enough to bid for many of the projects. The proceeds of their ill-gotten gains found their way into the pockets of at least 200 politicians across 18 parties, including $1.5 million to allegedly finance the political campaign of Michel Temer, the former vice president and now the interim president, who replaced Dilma Rousseff as she undergoes impeachment hearings.

    The corruption isn’t limited to Petrobras. Bids for the construction of Brazil’s largest dam, the controversial Belo Monte dam, allegedly generated $41 million in illicit campaign contributions from three of the big four mentioned above: Andrade Gutierrez, Odebrecht, and Camargo Corrêa. And as the country prepares to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the safety of Brazil’s infrastructure has come under scrutiny. During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, an overpass collapsed, killing two people and injuring 22, and in April this year, a new, 2.5-mile bike bridge collapsed, killing two.

    In Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s friends have enjoyed a windfall from inflated public construction contracts, often at several times the estimated cost. The Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 were a boon to Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s Judo partner, who garnered over $7 billion in Olympic construction contracts. Putin awarded other friends deals worth $15 billion; many of the people who won them had little experience in construction. Former President Dmitry Medvedev’s ski instructor earned $2.5 billion for his services, although how exactly he merited such a large sum remains unclear. The most notorious cases of corruption came during the run-up to the Olympics, when the state lost at least $245 million thanks to malfeasance and unexplained cost overruns in the building of just one ski-jump. One opposition leader estimated that in all, $30 billion disappeared as a result of corruption related to hosting the games. But more prosaic corruption occurs every day. According to a recent report by the consulting firm Grant Thornton, the cost of fraud in Russia’s construction industry will reach $1.5 trillion by 2025.

    In India, meanwhile, in the latest in a long series of construction projects gone awry, a shoddily built overpass in Calcutta collapsed in March, killing more than 20 people. According to a World Economic Forum report, infrastructure and construction are the two sectors in the country “more affected by corruption than other industries.” Corruption scandals have plagued India’s planned $1 trillion, ten-year infrastructure investment plans. In March, the opposition accused Union Minister Nitin Gadkari of “crony capitalism” when it was revealed that he had allocated the contract to build a tunnel between Jammu and Kashmir to the sole bidder for the project, IRB Infrastructure Developers, Inc., a company with ties to his son. The contract was later suspended. The $13 billion Golden Quadrilateral highway project to link four Indian cities has also been at the center of a corruption scandal after an engineer, Satyendra Dubey, raised suspicions over corruption. Dubey was later killed in suspicious circumstances by a rickshaw driver.

    The building boom that accompanied—and in many ways symbolized—China’s return to the world stage was the result of a close alliance between the state and a small network of construction firms, many of them obscure and untraceable. The government occasionally chooses to highlight public malfeasance. For instance, a report by the Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog found that officials at the Three Gorges project, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, were guilty of nepotism, dubious property deals, and corrupt bidding procedures. But normally, censorship of the media and strict limits on public discussion mean that the accounts are hard to come by or confirm. An NPR story on an epidemic of collapsing bridges quoted Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance in Beijing, saying that bid rigging is the norm and that there are no checks or balances in the procurement process. Since 2011, eight bridges have collapsed around China because of faulty construction and substandard materials, including one in the northeastern city of Harbin that killed three people in 2012. After the Harbin bridge collapse, state authorities claimed that they couldn’t find the contractors responsible for the project. And in one of the worst cases, when an earthquake struck Sichuan province in 2008, 700 children were crushed when a school collapsed in Hanwang. Another 1,300 children and teachers died in similar circumstances at Beichuan Middle School.

    Similar scandals have hit South Africa. A constitutional battle erupted there over the $23 million renovation of President Jacob Zuma’s house, complete with an amphitheater, a cattle enclosure, and a movie theatre. The construction company in charge of the project had close links to the government and had recently won a series of public contracts, including a project to build 20 housing units for the police. Although the company is not accused of any wrongdoing, Zuma had actively lobbied to prevent other companies from competing in both projects. The matter became a broader political issue after the president refused to respect the public prosecutor’s decision that he should repay the state for his lavish housing upgrade, which the Constitutional Court ruled was a violation of Zuma’s constitutional responsibilities. Elsewhere in South Africa, the Kwa-Zulu High Court suspended an aqueduct project awarded by the eThekwini (Durban) municipality on the grounds that there had been “unlawful and unconscionable misconduct by officials.” And in the wake of the country’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa’s Competition Commission investigated 65 more bid-rigging cases totaling more than $1.8 billion.


    Cronyistic relations between construction companies and governments are not unique to the BRICS. In the aftermath of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s, the U.S. government squandered between $31 billion and $60 billion in taxpayer money, according to the congressionally-mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting, through waste, fraud, and abuse in projects including a police station in Iraq and highways in Afghanistan, many of them poorly built and plagued by cost overruns. Many of the contractors that benefitted from the flood of public money, such as the oil services company Halliburton, had close ties to government officials. These examples, show that developed nations are not immune from corruption. When vast sums of money chase too many ambitious and possibly unrealistic goals, with poor oversight, fraud tends to follow.

    In the BRICS countries, rent-seeking by public officials and closed, monopolistic markets for contracts are not new. But over the past 20 years, the booming global economy injected billions of dollars into public construction investments without transparent and well-regulated processes. The lesson from the string of failed, grandiose infrastructure projects is simple. Hubris, profligacy, and a misguided sense of destiny—without the proper regulatory structures and a more competitive system for bidding—will backfire.

    In the more democratic countries, such as Brazil, India, and South Africa, these revelations are rocking governments and sparking mass anti-corruption movements. The Chinese government has conducted a selective political witch-hunt to show that it’s taking the problem seriously, and Putin has blamed the United States for revelations about his corruption.

    If the BRICS have learned from their mistakes, in the New Development Bank they will establish a well-regulated, transparent process for evaluating projects and overseeing their implementation. The World Bank and regional development institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank adopted similar procedures after years of trial and error, and some tragic disasters. Yet it was these checks that led to the bureaucratic delays that the BRICS countries complained about and that resulted in the creation of the New Development Bank. It may not be possible to square a more nimble, responsive development bank with the demands of transparency and the appropriate checks and balances.

    In April this year, the New Development Bank issued its first loans: $300 million to Brazil, $250 million to India, $180 million to South Africa, and $81 million to China, all for projects related to renewable energy. If those projects proceed smoothly, it will be because the bank has broken with the practices of its benefactors. If they don’t, the New Development Bank will find itself crippled by the same political turmoil and economic inefficiencies that afflict its founders.

    Source: Christopher Sabatini – Lecturer of international relations and policy at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and Executive Director of Global Americans. This article first appeared and can be accessed here: Foreign Affairs.

    HERITAGE FOUNDATION – “Free” Community College Is a Bad Deal for Taxpayers and Students

    In response to a growing student debt problem, some policymakers have proposed making community college free at the point of delivery, financed entirely by taxpayers. President Obama has suggested making “two years of college…as free and universal in America as high school is today.”

    Yet such proposals are problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is subjecting community colleges, considered by many today to be an affordable option, to the same types of subsidies-induced inflation endemic at four-year institutions. Taxpayer-financed “free” community college also prefers the community college sector over for-profit and trade schools, and creates potential opportunity costs for those students who might have been better served by immediately entering the workforce. Further, community colleges suffer from generally poor academic performance, with few students graduating within 150 percent of program time. Finally, low-income students already have access to federal Pell Grants, which can cover the bulk of community college tuition.

    Indeed, the idea of “free” community college itself is misleading, as the cost of education for these students would not disappear. Rather, because the American taxpayer would pick up the tab entirely for a community college system that is universally available—just as the K–12 system is today—such proposals are more likely to look like extended high school than a rigorous higher education experience.

    Do Community College Students Need Additional Subsidies?

    Is tuition within the community college sector currently too burdensome for students, and are existing subsidies inadequate? Federal subsidies already exist to make community college more affordable for low-income students. According to the Association of Community College Trustees, 3.2 million of the 8 million students attending community college each year finance their tuition through Pell Grants. The average Pell Grant award for a community college student is $3,200, which covers nearly all of the annual average community college tuition of $3,440. For many low-income students, Pell Grants cover most of the tuition at community college, and only 17 percent of students at public two-year schools borrow through federal student loans.

    Community colleges may not be adequately preparing students for success in the workforce, if student loan default rates are any indication. Many students with federal loans are having difficulty repaying them. Of the community college graduates who started to repay their loans in 2009, 38 percent defaulted on their loans within five years, compared to 10 percent of students at four-year institutions and 47 percent of for-profit students over the same time period. The answer to this problem is not to remove any financial responsibility on the part of the student; rather, students need to examine whether community college is a good investment in the first place.

    Academic Underperformance at Community Colleges

    Community colleges have a poor track record of getting students on the path to upward mobility. Fewer than 20 percent of students attending community college full-time for the first time complete their program within 150 percent of the time their program is supposed to take. In other words, the vast majority of students are taking three years or more to complete a two-year course of study. While it is often assumed that the low on-time graduation rates are due to most students transferring to four-year institutions, only two in 10 students at public two-year colleges do so. Additionally, The Community College Research Center found that only 38.1 percent of students who enrolled in community college in 2009 earned a two-year or four-year degree within six years. By comparison, for-profit two-year institutions have an average completion rate of 63 percent.

    Turning the K–12 System into a K–14 System

    Entirely taxpayer-subsidized community college would more resemble two extra years of high school than a rigorous higher education track, and could dampen the urgency for American high schools to graduate students on time and with the necessary skills for postsecondary life. With more than one-third of college freshman reporting taking remedial courses, the shortcomings in the K–12 system should be addressed. Subsidizing community college outright is likely to only worsen the problem of credential inflation.

    Although President Obama has stated that everyone needs at least some college, there is little evidence to suggest that such an emphasis reflects the labor market’s increased demands for a college diploma. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected that between 2012 and 2022, only 27 percent of new jobs will require a bachelor’s degree, and twice as many will require no postsecondary degree at all. As Richard Vedder, an economist at the University of Ohio, has argued:

    [T]he BLS says registered nurses or secretaries and administrative assistants need less than a bachelor’s degree, employers of those workers are increasingly demanding degrees—because they can—causing large-scale credential inflation and increasing unemployment among the lesser educated.

    More Federal Programs Are Not the Answer

    Federal subsidies have not led to increased efficiency, affordability, or financial solvency in the higher education sector. Since 2008, policies promulgated under the Obama Administration have more than doubled the number of Pell Grant recipients. These federal grants exist to help low-income students attend college. Yet an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that institutions increased tuition by 40 cents for every one dollar increase in Pell Grant funding. Subsidized loans similarly lead to a tuition increase of 63 cents for every additional dollar spent. Colleges and universities are responding rationally to the economic incentives provided by unfettered access to federal student loans—by spending more—while students and taxpayers bear the burden of federal largesse.

    Since more are students taking out federal loans to finance higher education, universities are able to increase tuition without students feeling the immediate impact of the price increase. More federal money in the community college system is likely to produce similar incentives in the community college sector. President Obama’s plan, America’s College Promise, for example, would require the federal government to cover two-thirds of a student’s tuition and require states to pick up the remaining tab to ensure that community college tuition comes at no cost to the student. Missing from the President’s plan are any measures to keep community colleges from increasing spending, and thus capturing the new subsidies.

    Conclusion: Rein In Subsidies to Create Tuition Price Discipline

    The current community college system has a poor track record of graduating students on time and preparing them for promising careers. Transferring the financial burden from students to taxpayers will more heavily subsidize and favor this deficient education model and increase the overall price of education. By contrast, a more open market of alternative schooling models, such as online or vocational education programs, could better tailor degrees to a specific skill set and at a lower cost. Improving the higher education system overall requires targeting the actual root cause of tuition inflation: unfettered federal subsidies and grants.

    Source: Mary Clare Reim (Research Associate in Domestic Policy Studies, of the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity) of the Heritage Foundation. Image via Republic 3.0.

    Follow Mary Clare Reim on Twitter.

    A full list of references can be found here.

    Awaiting the ruling on South China Sea

    The contending states in the South China Sea disputes are awaiting the verdict of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration this month. The case was brought by the Philippines primarily concerning the legality of China’s “Nine-dash line”, a map inherited from the Nationalist period that claims almost 90% of the South China Sea. The Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Pratas Islands, Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal are the main islands under dispute.

    While the Philippines considers the issue as a violation of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea agreements), China treats it as a matter of sovereignty. The United States has warned China against provocations after the verdict. The above matter was also the dominant issue of deliberation during the 2016 Shangri-La Dialogues which took place in Singapore in June.

    Strategic and Economic Significance of South China Sea

    The strategic and economic significance of maritime prowess clearly explains the rising conflict. It reminds one of the extraordinary relevance of the insights of American strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan even a century after the spread of his geopolitical vision. His definition of the history of sea power as a narrative of contests between nations, of mutual rivalries, of violence, frequently culminating in war has become the present fear. Control of the sea, by maritime commerce and naval supremacy, means predominant influence in the world; because, however great the wealth product of the land, nothing facilitates the necessary exchanges as does the sea.

    South China Sea which covers around 3,500,000 square kilometers and through which $5.3 trillion in trade traverses each year, functions as the economic ligament between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean where global sea routes integrate. While being the second most used sea lane in the world, regarding world annual fleet tonnage over 50% passes through the Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait, and the Lombok Strait. It is an area where more than half-a-dozen countries have overlapping territorial claims over a seabed with an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil as well as 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves.

    Relative Peace to Rising Tensions

    However, the fact that it is after decades of relative peace and cooperation, Asia has emerged as the main source of this risk gives enough thoughts to ponder over. Asian regionalism was quite strong in the 1990s and even China was altruistic enough to keep its currency stable amidst currency devaluations by crisis ridden countries in the aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98. As Charles Tiefer points out in his article on China’s World Trade Organisation accession (WTO), Beijing also with stood its internal protectionist forces to pave the way for its WTO accession in 2001.

    The US ‘pivot’ to Asia declaration in the 2010s accompanied by a deepening of its diplomatic, military, and economic ties with the major Southeast Asian claimant states, and the resulting reactions both from China and from America’s allies in the Asia-Pacific has been a major factor contributing to rising tensions. This is the 2011 strategic re-balancing of US military resources, to the effect that by 2020 some 60 percent of US naval forces will be deployed in the Indo-Pacific region. The US disavows any Cold War-like containment mechanism aimed at China and portrays the economic logic of closer ties with Asia. However, China complains of deliberate exclusion by the US in trade agreements like Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which has resulted in the rise of alternatives like Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

    Moreover, increasing economic asymmetry and sensitivity among Asian economies are a major cause of concern. This is evident through the increasingly export dependent output growth of Asian economies pointing towards lagging domestic consumption which has happened despite the resilience shown in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. A 2015 report by U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission states that China was also the largest individual trading partner of ASEAN (14 percent share of ASEAN trade).

    Apart from the above factors, the increasing salience of non-traditional security challenges for countries in the region around the South China Sea and the associated negligence on this front has added to an imbalance in the region. Despite being an area which is prone to frequent non-traditional security threats such as natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, efforts to harmonize regional interests through prompt and coordinated action have been limited. Though ASEAN incorporated ‘human security’ discussions a decade ago, there has been little progress on this front because of increasing maritime concerns. This has led to the ‘securitization’ of non-traditional’ security issues which in turn has paved the way for national interest discourses on Sea Lines of Communication(SLOCs) ripping apart the previously accepted norms of Freedom of Navigation and access to resources.

    Economic Impact of a Crisis

    Chinese activities in the region and what US calls as its ‘pursuit of national interest’ through Freedom of Navigation Operations(FONOPs) has equally contributed to the tensions in this region. The muscle flexing in the region has led to routinised close encounters between warships of different nations creating an alarm of conflict any time soon. Though presently there are no major disruptions to the flow of trade in this region, the economic and strategic importance of the region risks potential direct conflicts. Latest reports point towards the parading of two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers by the US with Chinese ships shadowing US carrier task force.

    Although economic integration between China and ASEAN has been deepening since the 1990s regarding trade and investments, the South China Sea issue remains a significant stumbling block for further integration concerning to an institutional arrangement for dispute settlement mechanism. Also, as experts suggest, though US and China may not go for a direct nuclear conflict, the factor of economic inter-dependency cannot be neglected at ease. Even a short term trade disruption in the region will affect the global economy. In 2015, the US trade deficit with China was $365.7 billion. The deficit keeps growing because imports are rising faster than exports. The main reason for the trade deficit is because of import of cheaply assembled goods from China produced through raw materials sent by US based companies. Though this is profiting American based companies, US companies are incapable of competing with low-cost Chinese firms resulting in significant job loss in the US. Although there has been a slight fall in unemployment rates in the US, it is mainly due to Americans dropping out of the workforce. Hence with respect to Sino-American trade the economic effects of open warfare are bound to affect both the countries though the relative impact may vary.


    For a rational solution to the ‘security dilemma’ in the region, the demands of all the stakeholders have to be met with equal consideration but obviously at varying levels. Contending States, China and US, in particular, should exercise statesmanship to demilitarize the zone and maintain freedom of navigation in the region. The impending ruling should be taken in the right sense and the consequences of any provocation which violates international law should remain a caveat while taking future steps. ASEAN, which is a major stakeholder in this issue, has to improve relations among its members as its key challenge is that it is a very loose agglomeration of countries at different levels of development. Their lack of a common stand which was expected to be overcome once the ASEAN Political-Security Community took shape still awaits to see the light of the day. The diverse nature of ASEAN politics which is a major challenge for such a move has to be dealt with at the first place to encounter the rising tensions related to maritime security. The rights of all the nations in the region regarding sovereignty and freedom of navigation should remain intact at any cost for peace and stability in the region.

    Source: Christi Thomas of the Centre for Public Policy Research. Image via The Japan Times.

    A full list of references can be found here.

    *Any views expressed are unintentional, personal, and might not be representative of the IndoAmerican Center.

    CFR – U.S. Relations With India

    In testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on May 24, 2016, Alyssa Ayres discussed areas of progress and the importance of managing expectations in U.S.-India relations. Drawing on recommendations made by the 2015 CFR Independent Task Force on U.S.-India Relations, Ayres recommended reframing the bilateral relationship as a joint venture instead of as a not-quite alliance, arguing that such a shift would allow for increased cooperation in areas of convergence without letting differences undermine progress.


  • The CFR Independent Task Force found that India could grow to be another $10 trillion economy in the next twenty to thirty years if it can maintain its current growth rates, let alone attain sustained double digits. Although India must overcome its own domestic political challenges to its economic reform process, the United States can elevate its support for India’s reform agenda. The most immediate action the United States should take is to champion actively India’s candidacy for membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. The United States should also take steps to enhance trade and offer technical assistance that India seeks to advance its reform goals, as recommended by the CFR Independent Task Force.

  • India and the United States have much in common as the world’s two largest democracies, but differ in their tactical approaches to advancing democracy and human rights. Opportunities for partnership in third countries in this area should focus on technical training on the mechanics of democracy, a recommendation also made by the Independent Task Force. Bilaterally, the United States can gain a more receptive hearing through private diplomacy to raise concerns about human rights in India, and pursuit of shared objectives can help broaden the bilateral rights dialogue.

  • The transformation of the U.S.-India defense and strategic relationship stands as one of the greatest changes of the past fifteen years, but there is much room to grow. In addition to expanding security cooperation in the areas of homeland security and counterterrorism—areas that the Independent Task Force identified for further emphasis—the United States should be doing more with India on civilian security in Afghanistan.

  • Prioritization of India in U.S. colleges and universities compares unfavorably with other global regions. Twice as many American students study abroad in Costa Rica than India, and enrollments in all Indian languages combined account for less than one-quarter those of Korean. The United States should review federal funding incentives to encourage study abroad in India and the study of Indian languages.

  • Source: Alyssa Ayres (Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia) at the Council on Foreign Relations. Image via Nevada County Scooper.

    Download Alyssa Ayres’s Full Testimony from the Council on Foreign Relations’ website.