Thursday, September 19, 2019

"Taking POK" - a discussion of some technical aspects - V

In the previous post, I worked through my understanding of the Pakistani strategic perspective and how that might influence their response to an Indian attempt at "Taking POK".

Now I want to walk through some of the loose ends. These are things to which I feel there are no obvious answers or no answers at all.

Let's start with the issue of nuclear weapons.

Can Pakistan use its tactical nuclear weapons in a "counterforce" role in this conflict? - Well... yes but if used in "Azad Kashmir" - the clouds of radioactive dust will end up falling on Pakistan's national capital region. In Gilgit Baltistan, if such weapons are used, then it is likely the fallout will contaminate the Indus River which supplies water to most of Pakistan. A certain group of Indians believe this makes it unlikely that Pakistan will use nuclear weapons in this case. I do not agree with this assessment as it assumes a "rational actor" model. I am more inclined to take an expansive view of the Kidwai "red lines" (sometimes called Musharraf's Red Lines) - as I feel any immediate loss of face in Kashmir is likely to have personal repercussions for Pakistan's military leadership - that makes a discussion on "rationality" difficult.

Can India use its nuclear weapons to coerce Pakistan into backing off on its land grab? - Sure - but then that visibly crosses a red line. If India does that, Pakistani Generals will simply as - "So what is to stop them from doing this and marching into Karachi or Islamabad tomorrow? ". You can see where that thinking leads.

I think it is safe to say - that as soon as the conflict erupts Pakistan will clearly signal its desire to use nuclear weapons for its defense. How the Modi government will manage that - I cannot foresee. I feel a race a to dominate the ensuing escalation will follow. I cannot guarantee that in the fog of war - mistakes will not be made and a breakdown of nuclear deterrence will not occur.

Even if neither of those things happen - i.e. no mistakes and no breakdown - there is a problem. Truth be told, no one wants to really fight a nuclear war but just look like they will do it if needed. The real strategic use of nuclear weapons is mainly to create a circumstance by which your opponent is bankrupted by arsenal servicing costs. If in the rush for escalation dominance - the "no mating" clause is broken, then it unclear if either Indian or Pakistani economies will survive the costs of maintaining a sizable nuclear arsenal at a high level of readiness.

There is the troubling matter of the fog of war.

Communications in the mountains are quite challenging. Mountains absorb radio waves and unless satellites are available to bounce signals over them, it is difficult to retain connectivity. I am obviously touching upon the "third dimension" aspect of modern warfare which is quite crucial to success in any military expedition, but I do not want to get into the specifics of how that will play out. It suffices to say that whoever is able to maintain the logistics of information (high velocity data transport, and reliable encryption) will have an advantage in the battles that follow. There is no clarity on this issues really and the entire field is rife with disruptive technologies. It is impossible to really estimate the impact this will have on the fog of war on either side.

And will the fog of war created in one theater of operations couple to others? Will the fog spread from conventional theaters to nuclear theaters? - I don't know if there an answer to that*.

Now we can briefly talk about the thing that we should ONLY have talked about - the economic cost of "Taking POK".

I pointed out that the gains for India for "Taking POK" are more in the non-monetizable realm - but the costs of mobilizing such a military expedition are in the monetizable realm. As with any war - one can pay for it by creating debt as long as there is some hope of economic growth which will pay the war debt. If such growth can't be arranged, the expedition will result in more damage to the aggressor than to the target. An economy with a declining growth rate offers little chance of paying off war debts. And paradoxically in history - every failing economy has a political group that attempts to promote war as an avenue to economic revitalization**. When the war inevitably leads to an internal economic collapse, the resulting famine and disease kill far more people than the enemy fire ever did. No matter how many times nations play this game - they always lose and somehow generations of people forget to learn this key lesson. There is no way to predict economic growth obtained by stealing the land next door - especially when the land grows no food, has no minerals and generally brings with it hostile populations who resist assimilation.

In short - Yes India can think about "Taking POK" and probably do it too - but the Indian economy may not grow as a result of this campaign and without growth - the war debt will not be serviceable. This bad debt will cause a depression. If you think the present recession is bad, perhaps you should not consider ideas that will invite a depression.

That is all I have to say for now. If I think of anything more I will write about it.

* Usually when a physicist tells you "I don't know if there is an answer to that question" - you should really consider stopping that line of thinking - but that's just my suggestion. I provide physical models of complex dynamics for a living, and I usually see great misfortunes when people forge ahead with poorly posed physics at the root of their engineering schemes.

** I actually use the desire to go to war in a national security mechanism as  good gauge of how bad the true growth in the economy is.  Today in developed economies it is very easy to hide debt and create hedonomic numbers that look awesome while the real economy crumbles. When elements of a national security mechanism start talking about war - that suggests to me that their nation is in a very different economic place than the numbers are showing on their central bank's website.

"Taking POK" - a discussion of some technical aspects - IV

In the last post, I brought up the basic challenge associated with running a logistical line in this context. Needless to say - there are way more issues than I touched upon but those are big ones I see.

I left out the details of the formations and locations and kept to a high level picture. In this post I will talk through how I feel  Pakistanis will think about this conflict. As before I will restrict myself to a high level picture and leave out details of formations and locations.

Again - I do not think this action by India is productive, but the idea of "Taking POK" has become very popular among some people in India and I just want to point out how this may not go as they naively think it will.  

The Pakistani Army is quite used to the threat posed by the Indian Army in Kashmir. They are well aware of their own logistical weaknesses and that is one of the key reasons why they chose to support the Khalistan and Kashmiri insurgencies - to keep the ground wet under India's feet. If India's feet were on dry ground, it's army might break out into a run straight at Pakistani Kashmir!

While much is made of Pakistanis and their kinship with Kashmiris and the shared religion etc..., the reality of Pakistan's interest in Kashmir is quite pragmatic and driven by geography. The Kashmir area affords them a lot of depth for their national capital region and critical national security facilities like the Mangla Dam, the Mashood Test Firing Range, the Kahuta Nuclear Facility and so on. The Pakistan Army would take a very negative view of an Indian intrusion into "Azad Kashmir" and react very strongly to that.

The Pakistani Army most likely thinks that Gilgit Baltistan defends itself due to geography. The Karakoram Highway is a very big expression of the closeness of Pakistan-China ties, but fundamentally moving anything down the KKH is quite costly and it is more cost effective just to provide the Chinese berthing facilities and base in Gwadur. The one part about an Indian move on Gilgit Baltistan that will really upset the Pakistanis is the possibility of India grabbing control over so much hydroelectric potential, but as I said elsewhere this discussion is not as big a part of Pakistani national security discussions as it should IMHO be.

So Yes, Pakistanis will be angry with India's actions and they will feel violated by the Indian Army but they have felt that way forever now and quite frankly they know how to cope with those feelings a lot better than India knows how to cope with whatever it's feelings are on Kashmir. For decades now Pakistan has told the world that India is a belligerent terrorist state that will stop at nothing to destroy Pakistan. Over the last three decades that view has been difficult to sell internationally as India had successfully portrayed Pakistan as the epicenter of global Jihadi terrorism.

So looking at things pragmatically (not to make light of any true concern that Pakistanis may have for their Kashmiri neighbors) - from the Pakistani Army perspective - Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan are merely mountainous sponges where Indian Army resources will be sucked in and bled out. As a result of this, quite literally these places will draw fire away from sensitive national security zones further to the south. This picture (though terrifying in humanitarian terms) is actually quite logical.

When Indian Kashmir ran like a real democracy, it was very difficult for Pakistani strategists to provoke Indians into a self-destructive conflict there. They had to use Jihadis to stir up the pot and in doing so provoke India into stupid and outrageous behavior. The tactic works well when India is feeling particularly foolish. After the missteps in the late 80s, India lost ground to Pakistani provocations but through pain toil and tears, things were returning to normalcy prior to 2014. Now sadly, India is pursuing an aggressive nationalist image, we are wedded to a timeline where the amount of effort Pakistan has to put in to get India to behave stupidly is reducing precipitously. Once the Indian Army crosses the LoC in pursuit of a "Taking POK" mission - the level of Pakistani effort at sustaining their strategic vision of Kashmir will be minimal. The mountains will be doing all the work and the Pakistan Army General Staff will be largely sitting on its rear drinking whiskey.

An effective Pakistani strategy in the context of India "Taking POK" would be to put up a solid effort of resisting the rapid Indian advances in the Muzaffarabad area and Gilgit Baltistan but to really concentrate its reserve formations south of Muzaffarabad closer to its own crucial national security zone. The sacrifice of a few defensive formations (Chakothi, Rawalakot, Bagh, Muzaffarabad, Minimarg to name a few) alone would be sufficient to give the impression that Pakistan did everything possible to stop an Indian advance.

In the highly constrained movement corridors of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan - the most successful approach for mounting a defense would be similar to the Finnish Motti tactic used in the Winter War against the Soviet Union. It is unclear if the Pakistan Army would be able to action on such a tactical approach or it would revert into the Niazi approach of trying to hold major population centers. I feel they could use their considerable local knowledge and supportive population to mount this type of attack against Indian Army columns. If they use this tactic in Gilgit Baltistan,  a relatively small number of Pakistani units should be able to inflict disproportionate damage on India's forces in this way. This is exactly what happened in Kashmir during the 1990s (in case you didn't know that).

As the Indian offensive would naturally create massive refugee crises and staggering collateral damage and the Pakistanis would have to provide relief to them, they would project these efforts on the international stage and successfully be able to push its narrative on India as a bellicose regional power.

This mostly concludes what I have to say on this part of the "Taking POK" story. A few loose ends remain and I will address those in the next post.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

"Taking POK" - a discussion of some technical aspects - III

As I said at the end of the last post, I will restrict this part of the discussion to a high level and avoid getting drawn into discussions on OrBats or exact positions of various POL dumps in the region. And again to reiterate I do not think this kind of operation is a good idea as India-Pakistan relations go or as global stability goes.

A sustainable operation is one where the operator is able to bring enough POL to last the duration of the operation and a significant time beyond. This is the hardest part of the entire "Taking POK" idea - Pakistani Kashmir has no native oil reserves or refineries. Every drop of POL used in this conflict will have to be brought from reserves or refineries a thousand miles away. This is not an unusual aspect as modern warfare goes - the sinews of war have to be strong otherwise the war-fighting muscles will not flex properly.

Generally speaking - the amount of fuel use scales with number of troops committed, the number of armored vehicles (AFV, Tanks, APC etc...) and the number of artillery pieces committed.  For each of those things, apart from whatever POL is required for the actual maneuver - repair/resupply operations (machines need spares and munitions to remain viable, and the human beings need food) also need POL.

When planning such an operation, one has to consider how to correctly forecast the POL usage scenarios down to each unit in the expeditionary force. Prediction relies on having good models of what will happen under combat conditions. As India has indulged in numerous feuds with Pakistan in these mountains, there are good models for this kind of thing in India. I am reasonably confident that the Indian Army with its extensive experience in operating the logistics in the Saltoro War and in the Kargil War is capable of building a workable forecast for POL use at least for the period of the operation.

As long as there are good prediction models, it should be possible to stockpile the right amounts of men and materiel on India's side of Kashmir.  There are stable rail links in the Valley right from Banihal to Baramulla. The railway line from Katra to Banihal is still under construction but there are multiple roads that can be used go around this bottleneck and is a working railway line from Katra to Jammu.

It is plausible the PAF could disrupt the Indian supply lines. It has the necessary capabilities, but what it lacks is real numbers needed to dominate the airspace for extended periods of time. Similarly Pakistani backed Kashmiri insurgents could disrupt the lines of communication inside Indian Kashmir but these would at best be temporary disruptions and the Indian Army could bypass these disruptions with its vast reserves inside Kashmir. This kind of thing was also at play during Soviet operations in Afghanistan. The Soviet Army devised an ingenious solution to the mobility issue. It created special units that would quickly seize heights overlooking the main supply routes just before a maneuver or movement. The result was a rapid suppression of opposing activity and pin point strikes against any mujaheddin who were in parked there. These tactics were used to some extent by the US also after 2001. It is possible to counteract such interference.

The picture of the logistics as one goes deep into Pakistani Kashmir becomes cloudy. The Indian Army model for the logistics is likely to have more assumptions built into it as it has little direct knowledge of the transportation inside Pakistani Kashmir and the Pakistani holding formations will mount significant resistance to the advance of Indian forces.

The picture of logistics presented above will also be very cloudy for the "morning after" i.e. if the Indian operation in POK does succeed, they will then be holding a large chunk of Pakistani Kashmir and India will be on the hook for providing government services and relief to the local population and any prisoners of war they have. I feel the forecasts for POL use after the maneuver period of the operation will be quite useless and fresh models will be needed.

This all looks quite good - until one realizes that merely having a forecast and actually getting POL to the forward edge of operations are two entirely separate things. As one gets to the forward edge, one runs into a last mile issue. For example consider what happens to a column on one of these mountain roads. Say the lead vehicle has to be supplied with fuel. One has to mount a bucket brigade of jerrycans from the tanker to the lead vehicle. That takes time. The time required rises substantially if the column is also taking fire.

So all in - I feel there are some open questions whether the supply chain of the Indian Army will be up to the immense task of a rapid maneuver in these constricted mountain spaces of Pakistani Kashmir. The Indian Army has had some experience in Kargil and Saltoro conflicts but in both those cases the operational supply lines passed through Indian Kashmir and not Pakistani Kashmir, the tempo of operations was low, and mechanized forces were not involved - so it is not clear how much by way of learning can be transferred from there.

I feel the problem of the "morning after" is quite serious and has to be dealt with in a separate framework or India will end up in the same place as the US in Iraq 2004 - rapidly seizing control of the land but facing an uphill or impossible task of governing the space.

In the next post, I will speak to the issue of likely Pakistani responses and how those might be different from what most might naively expect in this context.

"Taking POK" - a discussion of some technical aspects - II

As seen in the earlier post, "Taking POK" is possible in a limited sense (even though I don't think it is a good idea) and there are reasons why India might choose to take such an approach but there is a lot of technical aspects that could strongly affect the ability to actually do this.

The tactical picture of fighting in the mountains favors whoever holds the heights but the strategic picture of fighting in the mountains favors whoever can keep their supply lines clear. Higher is better in most warfare, but in paradoxically in mountain warfare - higher is harder to resupply.

If the Pakistan Army holds heights above key roads in the region, it can direct plunging fire to disrupt movement on those roads*.  Similarly if the Indian Army takes Skardu Airport, the Pakistani Army will seize nearby heights and direct fire at the airport runway preventing India from turning it into a logistical hub**. This sort of counter-intuitive tactical picture will continue to present in the event of any Indian action in the region.

That said - all those Pakistani Army positions will have to be resupplied in some way, otherwise they will run out of food and weapons and eventually be taken out by Indian forces. So here we see a very crucial aspect of mountain warfare - that the fighting is only sustainable as long as key positions (OP/LPs) can be re-supplied***. All resupply operations revolve around the availability of enough POL so it all basically boils down to logistics. And if the cost of Pakistani jerrycan of petrol in the theater of conflict is higher(lower) than the cost of an Indian jerrycan of petrol then India wins (loses).

While it is easy in a discussion about "Taking POK" to get drawn into parallels with Manstein's plan for the Maginot Line (yes there are some similarities there but many differences). It is important to note that window for operations is very short in the "POK" theater. For example - the best case time for

1) Skardu to Skardu Mor (R. Gilgit meets R Indus) along S-1 is 5 Hrs.
2) Kaksar to Jn of Astore Valley Road and KKH is 5 Hrs.
3) Khrool to Skardu (Along the Shingo River Road) is 4 Hrs.
4) Uri to Muzzarfarabad (along the S-3) is 2 Hrs.
5) Titwal to Muzzafarabad (assuming you cross R Jhelum somehow) is 2 Hrs.
6) Poonch to Rawalakot is about 2 Hrs
7) Baghsar to Mangla Dam is about 3 Hrs.

Assuming a constant inflation factor to account for all possible vagaries - we are looking at a window of ONE DAY here. This is a reasonable amount of time in the context of modern military logistics but it does form a critical boundary of sorts on what can be reasonably expected out of a modern military expedition.

Then there are Pakistani redlines to consider. Critical Pakistani resources like the Mangla Dam lie in southern parts of Pakistani Kashmir. Any Indian invasion force that comes too close to those will end up raising the possibility of a nuclear escalation.

So we can see a natural contour for operations emerging from such thinking.

The proposed operation will have to work within a limited time window (including allowances for Pakistani counter-actions and natural obstacles).  It will have to steer clear anything too far south as that will invite a nuclear escalation. So basically it has to remain north of Rawalakot and west of Skardu.

As far the first objective of ending the "Azad Kashmiri" will to fight goes, the Muzaffarabad area is the relevant center of gravity. It is a large population center and "investing" (i.e. with stand off weapons) in it will paralyze the region as refugees fleeing the Indian Army advance will clog all roads leading west.There are two ways to get to Muzaffarabad from the Indian side, one from the Tangdhar side and one from the Uri side, both offer some challenges by way building a bridge or two across fast moving waters but nothing that seems impossible on the face of it. It is likely that in the event that India makes a move towards Muzaffarabad, it will effectively pin the Pakistani Army Reserve North (ARN/ 1st Strike Corps) to a position between Muzaffarabad and the Mangla reservoir. The ARN will want to refrain from getting in the middle and instead remain in reserve should Indian eyes wander towards Mangla or the Kahuta area.

As regards the second objective of permanently snapping the KKH, again we see two options. First goes from Khrool area in India, up the Shingo River Road to Skardu and then along the S-1 to Skardu Morr (north of Jaglot) where the R Indus and R Gilgit meet. The second goes from Kaksar to junction of the Astore Valley Road and the KKH at the point where the R Indus and R Thelichi meet near the base of Nanga Parbat. At a simple analysis - the latter seems preferable to the former (as the former has a longer window of action and meets more Pakistani Army formations). Either ways breaking the KKH at Skardu Morr or at the sangam of the Thelichi and the Indus will force the Chinese and Pakistanis to build out a highly unstable bypass through the Gilgit River valley north from Gahkuch to Chitral.

In the next blog post, I will focus on the battle of the logistics accompanying this sort of thing and how the price of petrol at the forward edge of battle plays into the notion of sustainable operations in this context. I will leave the discussion of the order of battle and other similar details as an exercise to the reader or to other commentators who may be in a position to offer insight****. I will also leave details of positions of known dispersal areas for POL dumps to other OSINT experts.

*They already demonstrated the ability to do this in Kargil in 1999 in case some of you have forgotten. They nearly shut the 1-Alpha down.
** They keep trying to do this with Jihadi proxies in Indian Kashmir. It is a major pain to keep the zone around the airports sanitized.
*** Something the Pakistani Army didn't do well in the Kargil War or on the Saltoro Ridge.
**** I no longer trust the OrBat data and Corps Commanders lists I have. I haven't bothered to update them so I am reluctant to base a discussion off them.

"Taking POK" - a discussion of some technical aspects - I

An old friend asked me to comment on some of the technical issues involved in "Taking POK" and I agreed to do it.

I want to be clear about this from the outset. I am merely analyzing the technical aspects as best known to me. I am not in any way/shape/form advocating that "taking POK" is a good thing, only recognizing that it has become a popular discussion and it is time to highlight the technical aspects.

Let us begin by briefly reviewing key facts about the region.

Pakistani Kashmir consists of two parts - "Azad Kashmir" and "Gilgit-Baltistan". Both areas are very mountainous and many parts are covered with snow during the bulk of the year. As the snow melts, water from the melting snow causes unpredictable shifts in the patterns of the flow in rivers and streams. As the entire area is at a high altitude, there is little vegetation and soil erosion from mountains results in unpredictable silt dams being formed. The same kind of thing also happens in winter where snow collects in unexpected ways along rivers and streams creating snow dams. All this complicates the picture of flooding and communication in the region.

There are very few roads between key population centers in "Azad Kashmir" or "Gilgit Baltistan" and for the most part these communication links are easily snapped by bad weather or avalanches or landslides. It is common to experience "heave" in many of these roads - the routine seasonal temperature changes (winter to summer and back) produce shifts in the soil and which in turn weaken or break the tarmac above it.

Most of the roads here are one lane only - it is difficult for two vehicles to pass each other. In many places along these roads, there are bridges that cross various rivers and streams. A number of these bridges can only support small loads and thus are likely to break if one drives a lot of vehicles over them in a short amount of time.

If you start driving on one of these roads, you find yourself stuck for hours behind traffic. A single motor vehicle accident or landslide or bridge collapse can shut down the road for hours or even days. It is a very shaky picture as road transportation goes. The Pakistani Army relies on air mobility to supplement critical road transport but it still has to transport the bulk of its supply by truck and that is quite expensive. A liter of petrol costs way more in Pakistani Kashmir than it does in Karachi!

Neither "Azad Kashmir" nor "Gilgit Baltistan" are really known for possessing great mineral wealth. There is a small robust tourism industry in these parts and small amounts of mining. There are too few people there to really exploit this economic potential and a large fraction of the population is made up of expats from Pakistani Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunwa.

The economy of Pakistani Kashmir is largely held in place by shipments of oil to Pakistani military installations which create the necessary infrastructural pull to make it economically feasible to supply local populations. There is a great ongoing discussion in Pakistan that this region can be used to create massive hydroelectric power resources for the rest of Pakistan* but that has yet to make the huge impact it should (sadly).

Normally invading a mountainous region like this is senseless (Look at Europe - no one ever invades Switzerland for the same reason!) but over the last thirty years, there has been a slow and steady improvement in the regional infrastructure (in part because of the Saltoro War and the Kargil War) and this has enhanced the ability to do certain things. So is an Indian invasion of POK possible? Yes, but... there is more to think about... lots more.

It is reasonable to ask why would India attack POK?  I can see only two likely reasons for India doing this.

1) To punish the people of "Azad Kashmir": Most of the people in Pakistani Kashmir live in the southern part (from Muzaffarabad down). A number of these people are refugees from the Indian side. Having been most affected by the ongoing tragedy of Kashmir, these populations have a deep hostility towards India and form a perennial source of manpower of groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. Those groups have killed a lot of Indians. Any move to punish the people of "Azad Kashmir", to impose 10,000 KIA/hr death rates on them and end their will to fight India - is likely to be extremely popular among Modi worshipers.

2) To snap the Karakorum Highway:  If there is anything Modi haters and Modi worshipers both dislike - it is the manner in which China exploits Pakistan's fight with India. The Karakorum Highway (KKH) links Pakistan to China and is a vital part of the China reach for the Arabian sea. Most senior members of the Indian national security establishment openly take a negative view of the KKH and the debt obligations imposed on Pakistan by the China Pakistan Economic Cooperation agreement (CPEC). They seem to think that Pakistan will never repay this debt and India will have to indirectly pay it - so they would much prefer it if this KKH and CPEC were brought to an abrupt end.

In the next blog post - I will discuss the technical challenges associated with proceeding towards the aforementioned objectives with military options.

* No surprise that I am a huge supporter of that idea. I have always supported the idea of a prosperous and confident Pakistan and this is a much better use of Pakistani Kashmir than the previous use popular in the last thirty years - i.e. a laboratory for crazy Jihadi ideas!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Climate Change and Security

I have decided to speak to this issue in the broadest possible sense.

Scientists (barring a tiny minority) are pretty certain that Anthropogenic Climate Change is happening. While many the carbon energy mafia intends to resist a shift away from using fossil fuels, we the people of Earth will eventually pay the price of this phenomenal stupidity.

Long before we drown in the rising waters from molten polar ice caps or burn up as global temperatures spike, a myriad variety of security threats will emerge.

A peculiar aspect of anthropogenic climate change is that it is not reversible on the scale we might think. It has taken us a hundred years to get here and even if we were to stop fossil fuel utilization today it would not mean that warming would stop [1]. Cutting fossil fuel use helps but not as much as one would think [2]. And the mere act of curtailing fossil fuel use is fraught with complications - there is no clarity on whether the debt created in the changeover is serviceable at all.

With that in the background, we need to accept that certain realities and restructure our national security frameworks to accommodate these realities.

The realities I refer to above are as follows

0) We may not be able to reduce emissions enough by 2030 to keep the global temperatures below 1.5C and the excursions from the mean temperature will likely grow in the foreseeable future.

1) Abrupt Climate Change may NOT be avoidable (this contrasts with the latest IPCC assessment that it is not presently considered a low likelihood event). This kind of event represents a catastrophic risk, no amount of resources set aside for mitigation will be enough. There is NO response modality that is sufficient. An Abrupt Climate Change situation will most likely be an extinction level event.

2) Climate Change driven dynamics will present itself in unpredictable ways. There is a relatively small fraction weather patterns where we have *some* predictive power.  Where possible we may be able to leverage this into a real world prediction of where to deploy mitigation resources - but in all probability - the prediction will be crap. We will be hit by extreme climate events in places we are least prepared to cope with.

In the face of these realities there will be certain social and political consequences.

a) There has always been a class divide in human society - this will unfortunately hold true for climate information as well. A social ordering will develop based on the foreknowledge of imminent climate events. The "Haves" will possess the knowledge and be better positioned to handle the consequences than the "Have Nots" who will essentially pay for their ignorance with their lives.

b) Among the "Haves" there will always be too factions - the first that seeks to preserve the exclusivity of their club and the second that seeks to spread the knowledge and expand the club.

c) The "Have Nots" will also have two factions - one which accepts the massive reduction in their life expectancy and the second which does not and fights to establish a more equitable distribution of knowledge.

(No prizes for guessing which faction I belong to).

Having put all that out there - we have what it takes to flesh out emergent national security threats or perhaps I should call them what they are "Global Security Threats". Post globalization, national security seems like a poor framework to capture events that clearly span the planet. I mean even those anti-Globalization Nationalism movements are acting in concert and building a global alliance ... so ... yeah.

A quick list of the major global security threats in order of priority

1) A millenarist cult that seeks to precipitate a Climate apocalypse and ensure that only its "chosen ones" survive.

2) A cabal of "Haves" that obsesses about loss of primacy in global affairs and triggers obscure conflicts in the hope of keeping the "Have Nots" preoccupied.

3) A disorganized "Have Not" led "Resistance" which seeks to coerce the "Haves" into sharing information.

4) A pervasive apathy by the first faction of the "Have Nots" which makes meaningful resolution of climate mitigation issues impossible.

I hope to discuss each of these four threats in some detail in upcoming posts.

Apologies in advance for the delays and typos, it is a lot of thinking and it is difficult to get it all down in a concise text.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Food insecurity and political stability

Political systems are often anchored to key economic flows.

For example, in the medieval period, feudals earned their keep by ensuring a steady flow of agricultural taxes. The extent of food commodities recovered from taxation effectively capped their ability to access strategic metals, fabrics and ceramics. Those caps in turn kept the size of the feudal's army in check and that led to obvious limits on the size of the fief etc... 

If there was a drought and the feudal did not possess enough reserve to keep the famine small (i.e. as situation where commodity prices are extremely unstable or worse still - farmers are too hungry to farm) - the feudal was kicked out of power. In this fashion the productivity of the land determined the half life of the local feudal order.

In our modern world - a variant of the same phenomena is at work.

I say "productivity of the land" but more correctly it should be the apparent or perceived productivity of the land.

This is because productivity is (at its core) a psychological construct. I have to believe/feel that the effort I am putting into the doing this activity is going to yield a large bounty in the future. This is a very big part of agro-economics as it takes time for the crops to grow, the herds to grow etc... there is no instant gratification.

There is a flip side to this.

If the land grows things I do not want/cannot eat - I feel it is not productive. If I fear I will not be able to eat my next meal per my choices - I become what the US agro-economists called "Food Insecure".

At one extreme "Food Insecurity" relates to the physical availability of food - but in another extreme it relates to the perception of the loss of a part of my preferred diet *and* any ensuing loss of status.

A very good example of this is the attitude of midwestern White Men towards beef. Having grown up in a culture of farming (which Sarah Taber refers to a "Farming Cosplay") - Beef is seen as the ultimate symbol of the productivity of the land. To be able to afford beef on the table is a big deal, it is correlated the status in society, to wealth, the number of women you can put in your bed at any given time etc... (Hence Trump Steaks was a status symbol - never meant to be successful as a product but meant to show that Trump was a guy who could afford big steaks!).

I am not saying that the thickness of the steak you eat is thickness of you penis but ... yeah it is just like the thickness of your penis. This why mere talk of vegan ideas bring forth a very derisive response from this demographic. Losing access to beef - is losing status in society.

This is not unique to the US, on a global scale it is observed that richer nations eat more meat. Meat eating correlates with wealth.

Now think about India.

India does not have enough land to allows free grazing like the US or Australia. Here meat is a luxury - even more tied to status. Populations that live along the peninsula - have a diet that emphasizes eggs and seafood. This is also India's most productive belt economically - having benefited from participation in the sea borne trade. The result is a deep sense of economic security, tradition and culture surrounding eating meat.

Now you take a population like that - and you impose vegetarianism on them. Either by indirectly taxing the trade in meat (eg "Cow Slaughter") or by directly imposing dietary bounds on any free meals you supply (such as the approach of the Akshaya Patra Foundation*). What would be the result of this?

The consequence will be a deep sense of food insecurity. This is because food insecurity is a metric that captures the psychological factors associated with the fear of the loss of a food source.

And how will that be different from a situation in Medieval India where a drought has wiped out the land?

Okay there is still food on the plate, but when your culture, ethnic identification etc... are deeply tied to your diet - will not food insecurity bleed over into political insecurity?

And what if the people of these states already fear loss of political representation due to demographic shifts? or the linguistic hegemony?

And what will be the outcome for a political formulation which is already so inefficient? where the Rs/Vote is at least 10x higher than it's peer competitor?

Will there be political stability?

Sure the Left rules WB with a similar structure in place for decades, but is that sustainable at scale? or will one see the kind of dynamics one saw in Soviet Union? Where brutal subterranean battles raged while the General Secretary ruled largely at the pleasure of a highly militarized Siloviki?

They say Amit Shah will become PM. I welcome it - I like him more than I like Modi or Yogi or other incompetents.

Also please forget about Art 370 removal. It is more important to focus on crafting a new Art 370 framework for southern states, otherwise when the redistribution of LS seats occurs the Peninsular states will simply secede from the Republic.

* Being a Brahmin myself I am extremely reluctant to criticize Akshaya Patra Foundation as it is one of the *few* Brahmin organizations that are actually doing socially productive work, but I feel compelled to say something because of the possibility that its efforts may be perceived as negative and the ensuing social opprobrium will derail a vital effort.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Shift in national security priorities

After reviewing data emerging *after* the recent election in India - I am reasonably convinced that a shift in national security priorities is necessary.

Heretofore - national security priorities in India centered on the notion that India was an agrarian economy that needed to transition to an industrial economy that self sufficient in critical resources. This transition needed the development of high-intensity energy resources - i.e. the kind that could power the machines used in new industrial economy. In order to build enough of those energy resources, one needed to build a capital reserve and ensure access to fossil and nuclear fuel supplies that could keep the energy conversion machines running. To that end whatever was needed was to be done. (if that meant turning the youth of an entire state into slaves in a foreign land that accepted payment in rupees for oil - then so be it. If that meant getting in bed with a dictator who wanted rotting rice in exchange for oil - then so be it.... Gandhiji needed enough oil for one kerosene lamp... lighting a billion lamps would require making realistic compromises - or so it was said).

A critical aspect of that older way of thinking was that the energy resources needed for India's transformation were physically quite large. This "large" estimate captured the inefficient nature of resource utilization. A greater portion of the inefficiency was the lack of actionable information. If there was a better way to do things, the people in charge of making the executive decisions were not as informed as they could have been and so bad decisions were made routinely. Additionally a lot of the machines were old - and quite inefficient also.

Over the past three decades in India, there has been significant growth of personal communication and computation devices. This has significantly reduced barriers to information transport inefficiency. This lowering of information flow barriers represents a major advance in managing the shortage in transformative energy resources in India.

The best case scenario would be a secure sharing of mission critical data that results in a gradual increase in energy utilization efficiency and a gradual reduction in the amount of energy resources needed by India to reach a sustainable industrial economic position.

Despite any guidance on best practices, everything is shaped by individuals that make decisions, so in that sense - one has to think of this issue in the widest possible way.

With that in the background, the immediate priority for national security activities becomes clear - the preservation of a secure national mission critical data space.

Data is almost continuously being created, harvested and trafficked over the electronic networks that now span the length and breadth of India. In order to maintain a high level of integrity and reliability in the data streams - one needs multiple layers of security. Essentially - one needs security of the hardware side, software side and use case side.

So far there is little to be comfortable about.

Simplistic approaches like the ECIL EVM though quite effective at scaling in volume are not scalable in time. In fact they appear to be highly insecure* in the light of what is known now. Hardware side security challenges are getting much more complex and difficult to manage (see the case of the Chinese hardware hack). With 5G on the horizon, the entire picture is making most heads spin.

Then beyond that there is issue of the security of the software layers - both at the user accessible front end and at the much deeper layers in the network itself (even down to layers of embedded software that perform a variety of algorithmic data filtering). There is a good bit of knowledge in India on embedded software design on various platforms and the ensuing peculiarities of each platform - unless some sort of position of leverage is reached - it will be very difficult to ensure that mission critical software is not completely filled with backdoors and penetrations by hostile actors (see example of Aadhar fiasco).

And there is the issue of user security culture in India - which as most of you know is a baffling wilderness of encryption, authentication and security consciousness problems. There is no way to easily inoculate the population of India to the dangers here. A disaster will occur, the only hope is to have some bitter medicine handy during the recovery period - that way at least - the lesson is memorable.

One needs to think afresh in the light of current events and what they are really saying.

* A device that breeds a false sense of security is the worst form of device in the world.

PS. If you don't like thinking at this high a level, then perhaps you could think of it in terms of the upcoming discussion with the Chinese on 5G infrastructure deployment in India. and try to answer the following question - what will India hold as leverage over China to preserve its IC's dominance over the large mass of data that these new devices will inevitably harvest?

PPS. And to those of you who love Modi, I ask this - sure today the EC will say nothing is wrong with the "Machine"....(even though everyone can clearly see it is not) but then tomorrow when something else goes wrong the Chinese impose their own will on things - will the EC have the credibility to object? And if it does object, will that not throw into question everything it said before? So will it have an incentive to say anything besides "No No ... everything is fine..."?

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Mnuchin, Barr fall on the sword to save Trump

As I had indicated earlier, the only way Donald Trump could evade accountability for his actions was to shutdown Congress and its powers of oversight. As there was no constitutional framework to do this, he would have to do this in illegal ways - essentially conduct a coup.

I had sensed that Barr and Mnuchin would be first to defy Congress. Both men had given off really defiant vibes in their testimony before congressional committees, but there was still some doubt in many quarters whether they would relent and submit to the power Congress. That doubt stands resolved.

It is clear the Barr lied to Congress and does not want to be held accountable for it. He was hired with the sole aim of protecting Trump and he is doing the job he was paid to do. Barr is totally reliant on Trump to protect him and Trump is reliant on Barr.

Mnuchin for his part knows that Trump cannot protect him, he relies on Barr to keep the handcuffs at bay.

So one can think of this as a game of chess, where Mnuchin - a lower power is reliant on Barr - a higher power to protect him, but Barr and Trump are covering each other.

To get to Trump, one has to go through Mnuchin and Barr - but as seen in the above sequence - Barr is a critical piece. Without Barr to protect Mnuchin, the exposure at the Treasury end rises abruptly. Mnuchin like so many people in this government may have money to fight of minor legal challenges, but if Barr can't cover him, his legal expenses explode - and he is smart enough (like Gary Cohn) to know when to bail out.

I think Speaker Pelosi is correct that going after Trump will enable him to sell his "persecution card" to his followers and get them to turn out in record numbers to vote for him again in 2020. While this may not bring him back to power, the gerrymandering will allow the GOP to ride to power in 2020 in both the Senate and Congress. Quite naturally the objective of the Democratic party is to end the power that gerrymandering brings to the GOP's political causes. As legal challenges to the gerrymandering system are out of the question given Trump's adjustments to the Supreme Court and lower courts - the only way to prevent the GOP from coming back to power is to undermine their appeal to "the base".

While the numbers of "the base" may be small, but their sense of embarrassment (at having elected Trump in the first place) is quite great. As with most human beings, Trump supporters do not want to take responsibility for Trump, and are looking for ways of dumping this shit at someone else's door. Quite naturally they will buy into any narrative that spares them further humiliation and they will be more than happy to vote against a Democratic candidate.

So in sum - Democratic Party political priorities remain to contain Trump's "persecution card" while continually exposing his crimes and effectively holding him accountable. As every charge of incompetence injures his ego, he will continue to make more and more mistakes and eventually turn on his base. Right now - he is struggling to pull in enough revenue to keep his legal costs tended, this will rise as his exposure to own stupidity increases.

What can I say...

"The fear of impeachment is much more deadly than impeachment itself."

- Maverick's First Law of American Politics.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The real "Coup" that has just occurred this week.

Trump is banging on about a "coup" and an "illegal" investigation that took place into his campaign. That is obviously nonsense aimed at distracting from the very real coup that he is mounting as we speak.

At the big picture level, Trump wants to stay out of jail for all the illegal things he has done. He can't have the Mueller report be scrutinized by Congress and he must shut down Congressional oversight functions. As those oversight powers are welded into the Constitution, Trump would have to revise the US Constitution to stop Congressional oversight. However as only Congress can re-write the Constitution, Trump can't get his way. So the only alternative is to ignore the Constitution and attempt to bypass Congressional power. When a someone does things like that - it is called a  "Coup" and the form of government that emerges from that is called a "Dictatorship".

This week - Trump went "full Palpatine". As the Senate is in his pocket - thanks to Mitch McConnell's failure to defend the Constitution, Trump went ahead and dismissed the last remaining members of the Congresionally approved leadership of the armed services. He now has "Acting" leaders in these positions and these people are beholden to Trump for their continued service. This already fractures Congressional oversight and injures the constitution.

Congress still has the power to withhold budget allocations and order the DOJ to act against people that break the laws laid down by Congress - but as the testimony two days ago of Barr and Mnuchin indicates - neither is interested in what Congress asks them to do. Mnuchin is actively obstructing Congress attempts to get Trump's taxes and Barr has indicated he intends to give the President an exception from common sense notions of legal accountability.

So the the way the Trump coup works is like this -

1) Acting leaders in various armed services departments are asked to do illegal things and when those are exposed - Congress attempts to withhold funding until greater transparency of Trump's exposure is obtained.

2) Mnuchin offers the department under scrutiny emergency funding and stonewalls or ignores all Congressional demands for staying within its directives.

3) Seeing Mnuchin's illegal actions, Congress order Barr to go after Mnuchin and Barr ignores or stonewalls Congress.

In this way Trump gets his dictatorship and Congress is shut out completely from the process of governance. The Senate passes whatever resolutions Trump wants and along with Mnuchin rubber stamps all the money he wants funneled into his personal accounts. Any government department that attempts to obstruct this illegal activity is promptly punished by Mnuchin who shuts down its funding.

At this point - the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is effectively suspended and whatever amendments that you like - they are suspended also.

Specifically - with the DHS in his thrall, Trump is able to restore the old system of voter fraud that dominated US elections for decades - i.e. back when the Sheriffs would just stuff the ballot boxes. Using the DHS' counter terrorism initiatives he is able to coerce Sheriffs departments across the US into doing his will. With GOP appointed Judges embedded in various parts of the Judiciary (thanks to Mitch's "fast track" for Judicial appointments) - there is no way to legally appeal this kind of action.

I am sure by now  - you have seen the fatal flaw in Trump's plan.

Trump's entire power structure relies on projecting his base as being a set of deathly loyal followers who are prepared to wage "Civil War" if he doesn't get his way.  Given how so many Trump supporters hoard guns and munitions and openly endorse violent behavior towards political enemies, it is unsurprising that Trump's claim of knowing some "hard people" is credible and serves as a deterrent to openly going after him.

But by cutting off access to peaceful means of enforcing the laws as they stand. Trump invites the same Civil War like conditions that he hopes to hold as a barrier against his arrest.

Most minorities are used to operating under the permanent threat of being killed by Trump supporters like Sayoc, Fields and Taggart. Such minorities are used to operating under the perpetual threat of having a pair of cross-hairs on their back.

Trump supporters like Sayoc etc... are unprepared to bear such risks.

Unfortunately for the United States - I have seen this in other lands.

For example in Punjab (Iraq)[Syria] the Sikh (Sunni) [Alawaite] male patriarchy felt threatened by the rising levels of empowerment among socially subaltern groups of people, and in the vain hope of retaining their power - they initiated what they thought would the Khalistan (Iraqi)[Syrian] Civil War they would easily win. Unfortunately died in the blaze they started.

We will witness a similar trajectory in the US.

Why would sensible people want to support this kind of madness. Here is a clue. [Hint ... it doesn't work like this].