Monday, August 10, 2015

Escalation Framework Discussion (Refer to P. Kotasthane @ TI)

A paper has been brought to my attention (P. Kotasthane et. al.)

Some comments on this:

0) The representation pattern demonstrated in the document is sound and aligns well with my basic thinking on the issue. This is not surprising, this diagram is very similar to a state diagram used in my line of work. Now again - borrowing from my line of work - I tend to use this kind of plot at an instant in time to capture the trajectory of India-Pakistan relations. So in my head, I am plotting the situation in a third axis perpendicular to the page of the diagram, and there is a continuous line that captures the instantaneous situation.

1) As the paper's authors posit, the situation line in my head - typically remains constrained to region A. In summer when the rivers are swollen, the line trends towards the top of zone A. Pakistan secure in the notion that India's retaliation will be limited pushes with aggressive behaviour on the border. In winter, when Pakistan's defensive measures in Punjab (i.e. the major rivers) are dry, and the cold prevents much movement in J&K/Siachen etc..., the situation line trends back down towards A.

2) At any given time, there is noise on the situation line, this noise represents highly local escalations. Each escalation is captured in terms of a number of fatalities per hour rate. Again in summer, the spikes are much higher than in winter where there limited movement in the northern and glaciated regions.

3) In general, I use the y-axis of this plot in my head as an exponentially increasing casualty rate. Neither India nor Pakistan have the ability to sustain very high magnitude excursions in the situation line.
  • Zone A lies between the mean traffic accident fatality rate (27 dead/hr) and the low level conventional warfare rate (41 dead/hr) (the number of people that die when an armor or mechanized infantry column walks through a target area).
  • Zone B lies in between ~ 100 dead/hr and the 1000 dead/hr which is comparable to fatality rates in regular conventional warfare. (Any battle involving artillery against a city or aerial bombardment like the Nazi bombings of London)
  • Zone C lies in the ~ 1000 dead/hr to 10,000 dead/hr rate which is where most high intensity conventional warfare falls. (ex. Battle of Somme, Battle of Kursk - i.e when two panzer armies meet on the field, or the murder rate at Treblinka/Sobibor/Belsen other Vernichtunglagers)
  • Zone D lies in the ~ 10,000 dead/hr to the 100,000 dead/hr rate - which is something like the bombings at Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Zone E lies in the >1,000,000 dead/hr rate region. This kind of thing has only been talked about in Rand Corp studies on full-on nuclear warfare with the Russians, or Indian mythology or in speculative fiction (ex. Japanime - the Macross Saga, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek  etc...).
4) If you think about it my fashion, then the Pakistani and Indian attempts to drive the conflict thresholds towards their national acceptable optima become understandable - you simply divide out the casualty rate by the population of each country to get a sense of the apparent fatality rate.

The Pakistanis has roughly 10x lesser population than India, Zone B level fatality rates (100-1000 dead/hr) feel like Zone C level fatality rates (1000-10000 dead/hour), hence they desire to push the nuclear threshold down till the perceived fatality rates (i.e. actual rates/population size) are matched exactly. This maximizes the Pakistani strategic leverage (this kind thinking is at the root of the 1 Pakistani = 10 Indians logic that many Pakistanis tell their Indian counterparts).

As India's population size is much larger it can prevail in any conflict of attrition. So India prefers to keep the zone boundaries at a point where the exact fatality rates (as opposed to the population normalized rates) are matched. This maximizes India's strategic leverage (this is the famed "11th Indian" problem as articulated by many Indians to their Pakistani counterparts).

5) Either ways - changing strategic thresholds is fraught with complications and the possibility of unintended accidental escalations. The same is true of these ideas of India initiating sub-conventional warfare. This can easily trigger something that no one wants. There can be a runaway process which takes on a life of its own. It is best if one doesn't go down that route.

6) I think it is wise for someone to propose that India pursue options that make it harder for the situation line to drift towards zone B. I understand George's point about sub-conventional options but an equally productive venture from a strategic perspective is one where India puts in place a conflict resolution tool that ends the certainty of martyrdom for Fidayeen and eradicates all deniability for ISI sponsorship. If the fidayeen and their ISI sponsors have to consider the prospect of spending a lifetime rotting in Indian prison, I am sure they will reconsider their course of action.


At 12:35 AM, Blogger Biggus Slickus said...

I don't think there'll be a Nuremberg trial in our context. For one, there'll be a lot of discomfort when things like jihad, Muslim rule, Maududi etc are dragged through. Something like all references to the Emperor being verboten in the Japanese trials. They had to forcibly shut up Tojo a few times. Then there's the 420 sans frontiers stuff which the Mullahs and Uniforms will bring up.... Things many Indian politicians have links to. Think IG staring down the Shah Commission and pretty much gelding them from the accused stand with a few subtle threats. There's also the threat of naming hitherto hidden virulent islamopasands in various parties. Etc etc
And all this would be in the background of a probably nuclear war where millions died.... and assuming we annexed the whole hellhole!
There might be Aabpara Auto da Fe fest, but there probably won't be an Aabpara Trials.

PS: check out "Judgement at Nuremberg", I liked it very much. For some reason it's the Montgomery Clift cameo that haunts me the most...

At 11:56 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I feel the critical thing is to recognize that the Pakistanis feel pain at the 10x level when the actual casualty rates are normalized by populations.

This is analogous to what Germany felt during the WWI and WWII period or what Israel currently feels during everytime around there is a terrorist attack somewhere.

If you normalize by the populations, the behavior becomes quite understandable.

The Pakistanis have their backs to the wall right now. Between the economic issues they have and their home grown terrorism problem, they are experiencing death rate to due to terrorism that is almost the same order of magnitude as their traffic fatality rate. That is unheard of in India - at most even at the height of terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir the terrorism related fatalities rate was 10x less than the population normalized traffic casualty rate!

At 12:18 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Regarding your point about nuremberg style trials. Yes that is an interesting prospect, but honestly once a fidayeen is captured alive and he names his ISI collaborators, the concerned ISI officer could be named publicly, and tried in absentia in India.

Once this was done, an interpol red corner notice could be issued in his name and if for any reason the ISI officer was in a country with which India had an active extradition treaty, the matter could be resolved per the dictates of the law.

At 5:33 AM, Blogger maverick said...

FWIW - angst from the usual quarters non-withstanding - engaging the Emiraatis is a very good move.

I have a very positive impression of the Emiraatis. They are the most progressive and economically aggressive people in the ME. Unlike other nations whose oil reserves have acted as a barrier to rapid progress, the Emiraatis have gone a long way with whatever little they could pull together.

It is unfair to compare Iran to the Emirates, Iran is a massive country. At a per-person level the Emiraatis are 10x more productive than their Iranian counterparts.

Yes, there are problems in the Emirates, labor rights is an issue, but I believe the Emiraatis will find a way to address those concerns if their are brought up in an acceptable way.

At 5:53 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I sincerely hope that the visit to the Emirates is a sign of things to come. Things have been very shaky for the past year. It has not been clear what the exact direction of the new government will be. The Sheikh came down to the airport himself, so that summarizes about how I feel on this issue. These are very old friends of India. I hope this trend continues.

The MMS government for all its flaws was exceptionally committed to shoring up capital reserves and defraying risks for all investors before embarking on massive capital intensive infrastructure projects. For the Modi government to deliver on any of its promises, it would have to embrace a similarly conservative posture - i.e. rigorously schedule risks and eliminate threats to large investments.

For the last year, I have been wondering if the Modi government would truly accept the challenge that lies before it. Having seen their use of social media and the ruthless manner in which they struck down potential opponents, I could see they had a sense of resolve and belief in their inevitability, but I did not see the balls it takes to make truly hard decisions. Actually changing anything in India is next to impossible, and simply tweeting about change is a lot easier than then actually making it happen.

The real reason why the speech on I-day fell short of expectations is that the Modi government has learned a very harsh lesson in the last year - it is easy to make promises but impossible to keep them if you don't have the necessary capital. This problem existed in Gujurat also in 2001, we all know how that shortage issue was addressed so there is no point in going into it. Let us just say - if you hold land in India - industry will follow you. That is where Indian industry finds itself most hampered today, in land acquisition.

If one were to attempt the same trick at the national level, this would leave an enormous mess. I didn't know if the Modivadis understood that what works at the regional level in India does not work at the national level. The solution in Gujurat is not scalable.

A completely new approach is needed at the national level, one which minimizes the risks of polarization not raises them to unmanageable heights as it did in Gujurat. The problems associated with infrastructure development in India are huge, convincing investors to stay the course is difficult.

Even if one group of investors (oh for example some extremely rich Hindu Americans for example) say that they will stay the course, that doesn't mean that they will actually do that. If other investors pull out, then even the super-duper Modi friendly Hindu Americans will have to do the same.

The best bet then is to engage all investors and identify key risks and contain them. This will automatically sort things out with extremists and radicals. That kind of behavior is too risky for investment security. Once that message goes out - people automatically distance themselves from it and India will be back on track towards real growth.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

it seems to me that in order for Modi to achieve some of the more grander goals that got him elected he is going to have to effect a cultural change. I think cultural changes can be very hard to do unless the majority of the population already appears to be headed in that direction (of the change).

The Emirates had scads of oil money to develop properties and install toilets, sewer systems and potable water into every house almost *overnight* (comparatively speaking). So cultural change was very easy for them to accomplish.

India doesn't have that kind of resources. So it will be a lot more time consuming.
And that is only one area that Modi wishes to change. There are many others, such as "made in India" manufacturing imperative. I think it will be great if Modi even accomplishes just a few of these grand goals, but the Hindutvas may be sorely disappointed.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

More on cultural changes....

a great many Hundutvas are dreaming of the day the US economy will collapse and the dollar becomes worthless. It seems they do not understand that there are some cultural reasons why the American economy is so strong (so far). Things like the mobility of labor, the abandonment of the rural areas to the major cities starting back in the 1920's (and still going on today), universal public education based on property taxes of peoples homes that started over 100 years ago, etc.

A lot of countries want what America has but do not want the cultural changes. so they blame unfair advantage like reserve currency, racism, or any other negative aspect of American culture (and there are many negative aspects).

So they dream of America's failure and firmly avow that America is soon to collapse and they never look inward to themselves to see why they are not achieving so called "super power" status. Just my thoughts.

At 4:24 AM, Blogger maverick said...

The Hindutva types - very frankly - are out to lunch.

This article captures the reality of what India is coping with. Ignore the investment advice - because that is the standard advice for anyone investing in India.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I think it is crucial that India find a way to connect with the Pakistanis on this per capita casualty rate situation. Absent this the core concerns on either side will remain unaddressed and all communications will fail to have the desired impact of reducing the overall escalation potential. Without this crucial piece of understanding in place, the entire effort will be equivalent to a little boy putting his pinkie finger in the hole in the dam. Nothing will come from it.

In reality an accurate appraisal of the per capita casualty rate requires that one re-scale the raw casualty number by the population density and the apparent economic disruption.

Given that Pakistan's population density and economic activity distributions are not the same as India's one needs to address the issue in greater detail.

This kind calculation can be the basis of an enduring understanding between the two nations. It requires a very simple set of detailed calculations done based on internationally acceptable data.

India and Pakistan have to recognize publicly that a escalation in fatalities rates is different at the raw and per capita levels. And that the per capita calculations are sensitive to population density and apparent economic disruption.


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