Thursday, January 31, 2013

The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)

The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)

[Ed Note: James Bamford wrote the Puzzle Palace  about the NSA. This NSA Bluffdale UT computer center can store all electronic and public records on everybody in the world for 100 years. All doctors will function as Officers of the Court and program all Personal Data Identifying people seeking medical help in Office of Information Awareness which will distribute it to 600 federal and state civil administrative and criminal agencies cross correlating with FACEBOOK to network co-conspirators. It will open and fully function by September 2013. Families and children will be inquiring about guns and drugs and other security matters to inform on their parents to false flag perceive helping professional Confidential Informants in the medical and hospital offices to cross correlate the data. This will correlate with the other CIA agencies such as FACEBOOK to track and network cells of people who will be diagnosed possibly with Obedient Defiant Disorder release and a psychiatric diagnosis in DMS V in Dec 2012. This will replace the insurrectionist or other identifying "wars" nome de guerre for detention in Psychiatric FEMA re-education camps like GITMO.
The registration of lethal tools such as cars, boats, airplanes, and guns with rights of travel and keep and bear arms will be associated with registration and licensure and will be listed and located for 100 years.

While the focus is on the 2nd Amendment, the 4th Amendment for unwarranted Search and Seizure will become in a few months a complete wash out with no legal test, only the technology to do it and complicity of the electronic medical establishment seen as "helpers" and really are demographic managers. 

The "gun issue" is a false flag diversion to network the medical/psychiatric/social networking surveillance to be fully complete in 8 months. That is why the Medical ObamaCare and the Gun Registration is coequal at the beginning of the second term. 

Arden Gifford, MD ]

Indonesia and the Philippines: Political dynasties in democratic states

RSIS presents the following commentary Indonesia and the Philippines: Political dynasties in democratic states by Julius Cesar I. Trajano and Yoes C. Kenawas. It is also available online at this link. (To print it, click on this link.). Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at

No. 018/2013 dated 31 January 2013
Indonesia and the Philippines:
Political dynasties in democratic states
 By Julius Cesar I. Trajano and Yoes C. Kenawas       

The growth of political dynasties poses a serious challenge to the democratic consolidation in the Philippines and Indonesia. However, the needed reforms to prevent political dynasties from monopolising electoral politics in both democracies remain elusive.
Indonesia and the Philippines, the biggest democracies in Southeast Asia, have been facing a significant threat to the vibrancy of their respective political system, i.e., the rise of political dynasties. The Philippines’ Supreme Court has recently dismissed a petition compelling the Commission of Elections to ban members of the political dynasties from running in the May 2013 mid-term elections, due to the absence of an anti-political dynasty law required by the Philippine Constitution.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed an anti-political dynasty clause in the new Regional Elections Bill, forbidding direct succession of governors, district heads and mayors by their family members. Crucial to this issue of political dynasties in liberal democracies is how to prevent them from monopolising electoral politics.

Politics as a family affair
Since the American colonial rule (1899-1946), political dynasties have long been well-entrenched in Philippine politics. Dynastic politicians are returning to the campaign trail to safeguard turf or to re-capture  old positions in the upcoming mid-term polls. 14 senatorial candidates from the two largest multiparty coalitions possess impeccable political pedigree, including the relatives of the country’s top leaders. 70% of the members of the Philippine Congress belong to political dynasties. According to the Centre for People Empowerment in Governance, there are 178 political dynasties in 73 out of 80 provinces.

Although Indonesia’s political dynasties are not yet as prevalent as in the Philippines, the rise of dynasties in some regional elections could become “the new normal” and threaten the country’s young democracy. Since the introduction of direct local elections in 2005, many political families have been trying to build regional political dynasties, which include the Choisyiahs in Banten, the Yasin Limpos in South Sulawesi, and the Sjachroedins in Lampung. Some of their parents were also influential politicians during the New Order regime (1966-98). However, Suharto’s centralisation policy had prevented them from directly transferring power to their family members.

Perpetuating political dynasties

A key factor which contributes to the perpetuation of dynastic politics in the Philippines is the weak political party system. Political dynasties are the building blocks of Philippine politics. Major political parties such as the ruling Liberal Party, United Nationalist Alliance and Nacionalista Party merely exist through alliances forged among powerful political families. Party leaders and candidates for public office are recruited not through a rigid process of selection within political parties but through traditional kinship network.

Similarly, in Indonesia, weak party institutionalisation has led to the emergence of several regional dynasties. Political families could easily capture the structural organisation of a political party branch in the region or use money politics to get the party’s support. Thus, it is not surprising if a relative of an incumbent local official is chosen as a candidate of a political party despite the lack of an unquestionable track-record.

In the Philippines, several political clans utilise private armies to intimidate or grievously cripple rival dynasties. There are still at least 85 private armed groups throughout the country. Although the utilisation of private security forces in Indonesia is not as widespread as in the Philippines, in some regions such as Banten, the role of jawara (martial arts experts) becomes a forceful instrument to get the support of voters.

The prohibitive cost of running for public office in the Philippines allows affluent political families, which have access to mammoth political machineries and government resources, to have the upper-hand in both local and national polls. This phenomenon could also be observed in several regional elections in Indonesia. During elections, incumbent officials have the advantage to illegally mobilise civil servants and to reward or punish local government officials based on partisanship, which violate Indonesia’s electoral laws. 

In a nation where political pedigree is a crucial political asset, charisma-based or popularity driven elections influence the Filipinos to vote for “trusted brands” i.e., scions of well-known families. Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s clan, for instance, has already produced two presidents and five senators since 1928. The family of Indonesia’s former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, daughter of the country’s first president Sukarno, remains a permanent fixture in national politics. At the local level, many Indonesian voters are still trapped in a ‘personalistic democracy’ mindset that invariably gives rise to ‘popular’ dynasties in some regions.

Anti-political dynasty reforms

In the Philippines, a bill defining the terms and scope of the constitutional ban on political dynasties has already been filed in both Chambers of the Congress. However, it has been effectively placed on the back burner because of the lack of support from many lawmakers. The failure of the Congress, dominated by legislators from political clans, to enact the anti-political dynasty bill, provides a glimpse of the extent of the influence of dynasties on legislation. The passage of Political Party Reform Bill which aims to strengthen political parties also remains uncertain. Meanwhile, government authorities have yet to dismantle all the remaining private armies before the mid-term polls.

In Indonesia, the government-proposed anti-dynastic clause in the new Local Elections Bill is still being discussed. Some lawmakers have raised concerns about the proposal, claiming it would violate a person’s right to run for public office and could be challenged in the Constitutional Court. Additionally, the clause does not address the more fundamental issues in Indonesia’s democratic consolidation, such as strengthening the party institutionalisation and implementation of electoral laws.

Since political dynasties in Indonesia are not yet as ubiquitous as in the Philippines, there are still ample opportunities for Indonesian authorities to reverse the trend of rising regional dynasties in order to avoid the messy track taken by the Philippine democracy.

An electoral competition dominated by moneyed political dynasties would indicate how 'illiberal' a democratic system a country has. The enactment of an anti-dynasty legislation and the enhancement of the political party system will not serve as a silver bullet to the proliferation of political clans. Voters should also scrutinise the platforms and track-record of candidates, rather than their family names. Changing the mindset of the electorate will certainly make a difference.


Julius Cesar I. Trajano is a senior analyst and Yoes C. Kenawas is a research analyst at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

The Consequences of Intervening in Syria


The Consequences of Intervening in Syria

January 31, 2013 | 1030 GMT

By Scott Stewart
Vice President of Analysis
The French military's current campaign to dislodge jihadist militants from northern Mali and the recent high-profile attack against a natural gas facility in Algeria are both directly linked to the foreign intervention in Libya that overthrew the Gadhafi regime. There is also a strong connection between these events and foreign powers' decision not to intervene in Mali when the military conducted a coup in March 2012. The coup occurred as thousands of heavily armed Tuareg tribesmen were returning home to northern Mali after serving in Moammar Gadhafi's military, and the confluence of these events resulted in an implosion of the Malian military and a power vacuum in the north. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other jihadists were able to take advantage of this situation to seize power in the northern part of the African nation.
As all these events transpire in northern Africa, another type of foreign intervention is occurring in Syria. Instead of direct foreign military intervention, like that taken against the Gadhafi regime in Libya in 2011, or the lack of intervention seen in Mali in March 2012, the West -- and its Middle Eastern partners -- have pursued a middle-ground approach in Syria. That is, these powers are providing logistical aid to the various Syrian rebel factions but are not intervening directly.
Just as there were repercussions for the decisions to conduct a direct intervention in Libya and not to intervene in Mali, there will be repercussions for the partial intervention approach in Syria. Those consequences are becoming more apparent as the crisis drags on.

Intervention in Syria

For more than a year now, countries such as the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and European states have been providing aid to the Syrian rebels. Much of this aid has been in the form of humanitarian assistance, providing things such as shelter, food and medical care for refugees. Other aid has helped provide the rebels with non-lethal military supplies such as radios and ballistic vests. But a review of the weapons spotted on the battlefield reveals that the rebels are also receiving an increasing number of lethal supplies.
Visit our Syria page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.
For example, there have been numerous videos released showing Syrian rebels using weapons such as the M79 Osa rocket launcher, the RPG-22, the M-60 recoilless rifle and the RBG-6 multiple grenade launcher. The Syrian government has also released videos of these weapons after seizing them in arms caches. What is so interesting about these weapons is that they were not in the Syrian military's inventory prior to the crisis, and they all likely were purchased from Croatia. We have also seen many reports and photos of Syrian rebels carrying Austrian Steyr Aug rifles, and the Swiss government has complained that Swiss-made hand grenades sold to the United Arab Emirates are making their way to the Syrian rebels.
With the Syrian rebel groups using predominantly second-hand weapons from the region, weapons captured from the regime, or an assortment of odd ordnance they have manufactured themselves, the appearance and spread of these exogenous weapons in rebel arsenals over the past several months is at first glance evidence of external arms supply. The appearance of a single Steyr Aug or RBG-6 on the battlefield could be an interesting anomaly, but the variety and concentration of these weapons seen in Syria are well beyond the point where they could be considered coincidental.
This means that the current level of external intervention in Syria is similar to the level exercised against the Soviet Union and its communist proxies following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The external supporters are providing not only training, intelligence and assistance, but also weapons -- exogenous weapons that make the external provision of weapons obvious to the world. It is also interesting that in Syria, like Afghanistan, two of the major external supporters are Washington and Riyadh -- though in Syria they are joined by regional powers such as Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, rather than Pakistan.
In Afghanistan, the Saudis and the Americans allowed their partners in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency to determine which of the myriad militant groups in Afghanistan received the bulk of the funds and weapons they were providing. This resulted in two things. First, the Pakistanis funded and armed groups that they thought they could best use as surrogates in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. Second, they pragmatically tended to funnel cash and weapons to the groups that were the most successful on the battlefield -- groups such as those led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose effectiveness on the battlefield was tied directly to their zealous theology that made waging jihad against the infidels a religious duty and death during such a struggle the ultimate accomplishment.
A similar process has been taking place for nearly two years in Syria. The opposition groups that have been the most effective on the battlefield have tended to be the jihadist-oriented groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra. Not surprisingly, one reason for their effectiveness was the skills and tactics they learned fighting the coalition forces in Iraq. Yet despite this, the Saudis -- along with the Qataris and the Emiratis -- have been arming and funding the jihadist groups in large part because of their success on the battlefield. As my colleague Kamran Bokhari noted in February 2012, the situation in Syria was providing an opportunity for jihadists, even without external support. In the fractured landscape of the Syrian opposition, the unity of purpose and battlefield effectiveness of the jihadists was in itself enough to ensure that these groups attracted a large number of new recruits.
But that is not the only factor conducive to the radicalization of Syrian rebels. First, war -- and particularly a brutal, drawn-out war -- tends to make extremists out of the fighters involved in it. Think Stalingrad, the Cold War struggles in Central America or the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans following the dissolution of Yugoslavia; this degree of struggle and suffering tends to make even non-ideological people ideological. In Syria, we have seen many secular Muslims become stringent jihadists. Second, the lack of hope for an intervention by the West removed any impetus for maintaining a secular narrative. Many fighters who had pinned their hopes on NATO were greatly disappointed and angered that their suffering was ignored. It is not unusual for Syrian fighters to say something akin to, "What has the West done for us? We now have only God."
When these ideological factors were combined with the infusion of money and arms that has been channeled to jihadist groups in Syria over the past year, the growth of Syrian jihadist groups accelerated dramatically. Not only are they a factor on the battlefield today, but they also will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

The Saudi Gambit

Despite the jihadist blowback the Saudis experienced after the end of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan -- and the current object lesson of the jihadists Syria sent to fight U.S. forces in Iraq now leading groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra -- the Saudi government has apparently calculated that its use of jihadist proxies in Syria is worth the inherent risk.
There are some immediate benefits for Riyadh. First, the Saudis hope to be able to break the arc of Shiite influence that reaches from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Having lost the Sunni counterweight to Iranian power in the region with the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the installation of a Shiite-led government friendly to Iran, the Saudis view the possibility of installing a friendly Sunni regime in Syria as a dramatic improvement to their national security.
Supporting the jihad in Syria as a weapon against Iranian influence also gives the Saudis a chance to burnish their Islamic credentials internally in an effort to help stave off criticism that they are too secular and Westernized. It allows the Saudi regime the opportunity to show that it is helping Muslims under assault by the vicious Syrian regime.
Supporting jihadists in Syria also gives the Saudis an opportunity to ship their own radicals to Syria, where they can fight and possibly die. With a large number of unemployed, underemployed and radicalized young men, the jihad in Syria provides a pressure valve similar to the past struggles in Iraq, Chechnya, Bosnia and Afghanistan. The Saudis are not only trying to winnow down their own troubled youth; we have received reports from a credible source that the Saudis are also facilitating the travel of Yemeni men to training camps in Turkey, where they are trained and equipped before being sent to Syria to fight. The reports also indicate that the young men are traveling for free and receiving a stipend for their service. These young radicals from Saudi Arabia and Yemen will even further strengthen the jihadist groups in Syria by providing them with fresh troops.
The Saudis are gaining temporary domestic benefits from supporting jihad in Syria, but the conflict will not last forever, nor will it result in the deaths of all the young men who go there to fight. This means that someday the men who survive will come back home, and through the process we refer to as "tactical Darwinism" the inept fighters will have been weeded out, leaving a core of competent militants that the Saudis will have to deal with.
But the problems posed by jihadist proxies in Syria will have effects beyond the House of Saud. The Syrian jihadists will pose a threat to the stability of Syria in much the same way the Afghan groups did in the civil war they launched for control of Afghanistan after the fall of the Najibullah regime. Indeed, the violence in Afghanistan got worse after Najibullah's fall in 1992, and the suffering endured by Afghan civilians in particular was egregious.
Now we are seeing that the jihadist militants in Libya pose a threat not only to the Libyan regime -- there are serious problems in eastern Libya -- but also to foreign interests in the country, as seen in the attack on the British ambassador and the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Moreover, the events in Mali and Algeria in recent months show that Libya-based militants and the weapons they possess also pose a regional threat. Similar long-lasting and wide-ranging repercussions can be expected to flow from the intervention in Syria.

Read more: The Consequences of Intervening in Syria | Stratfor

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A tale of two reefs

A tale of two reefs

By Perry Diaz

Scarborough Shoal
In a matter of days, the Philippine government took strong actions against the two most powerful countries in the world – the United States and the People’s Republic of China.  Now, that’s what I call “wow, wow!”  Yep, a double wow, indeed.  But as it turned out, the country was hit with a double whammy!
The first whammy was China’s seizure of the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) that is within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).   Last August, after China tricked the Philippines into withdrawing her vessels from the lagoon, China roped off the only entrance into the lagoon; thus, preventing other fishermen from getting in.  Only Chinese fishing boats are allowed to enter the lagoon.  In effect, China has taken de facto possession of a piece of Philippine territory… without firing a shot.
Bajo de Masinloc, as Scarborough Shoal was named as far back as 1734 during the Spanish era, is 124 miles west of Masinloc, Zambales in the South China Sea.  The shoal is a triangle-shaped chain of reefs with a circumference of 34 miles and an area of 58 square miles.  Many of the reefs are just below water at high tide.  The lagoon contains a large variety of fish and other sea life including endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks, and giant clams.
Helplessly unable to defend her territory, let alone recover those she already lost, the Philippines had no other recourse but to turn to the United Nations to resolve the territorial dispute.
Last January 22, the Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario formally notified China that the Philippines is bringing the case before the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  The issue is China’s claim to about 90% of the entire South China Sea delineated by an imaginary – and arbitrary – “nine-dash line” drawn by China.    
In reaction, the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines, Ma Keqing, reasserted China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.  However, she said that China supports a negotiated settlement through “peaceful means.”  Well, with several Chinese warships permanently deployed inside the lagoon, “peaceful means” might just be another convenient tool from China’s bag of tricks.
Last January 28, China’s supreme ruler, Xi Jinping, told the 25 members of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee Political Bureau (Politburo): “China will stick to the path of peaceful development. No foreign country should expect us to make a deal on our core interests and hope we will swallow the bitter pill that will damage our sovereignty, security and development interests.”  And as before, “core national interest” is not negotiable, peacefully or otherwise.
Xi Jinping
As China had demonstrated in the past three decades, her salami-slicing tactics of grabbing other countries’ territories – Paracel Islands, Mischief Reef, Macclesfield Bank, Scarborough Shoal — have been successful.  And now her biggest – and most ambitious – goal is to annex the South China Sea and the East China Sea all the way to the Okinawa Trough as a prolongation of China’s continental shelf.  That would be the fulfillment of China’s dream.
Evidently, China’s “talk and take” approach is paying dividends… until Japan decided to use force — if necessary — to counter China’s aggressive attempt to grab the Senkaku islands near Okinawa in the East China Sea.
Recently, during Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a “veiled warning” to China not to challenge Japan’s control of the Senkaku islands.  She said that the islands were under Japan’s control and therefore protected under the U.S.-Japan Treaty.  Her remarks instantly ignited a war hysteria in China.  Xi Jinping ordered the People’s Liberation Army to get ready for war, quickly!
Tubbataha Reef
Meanwhile, about 600 south in the Sulu Sea, Tubbataha Reef is getting a lot of attention since an American warship, the minesweeper USS Guardian, ran aground in its vicinity.  The reef consists of two coral atolls five miles apart and each reef has a single small islet protruding from the water.
Tubbataha Reef
More than 1,000 species inhabit the reef of which many are considered endangered including manta rays, tortoises, clownfish, lionfish, and sharks.  There are 350 coral species and 500 fish species.  It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Asia and inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.  It is called the “Crown Jewel of the Coral Triangle.”
On January 17, 2013, the USS Guardian ran aground on the reef.  An initial visual inspection showed that at least 10 meters of the reef were damaged.  Aerial photographs made by the Philippine military showed the “ship’s bow sitting atop corals in shallow turquoise waters, with the stern floating in the deep blue waters.”  The warship was bound for Puerto Princesa after routine refueling and supply replenishment in Subic Bay.
Initial reaction from MalacaƱang defended the Guardian’s presence in the protected area. “I confirmed with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that there was such a port call request made for Puerto Princesa by USS Guardian,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.  “There was a request made and the request was granted.”
The following week, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. apologized for the incident.  When the apology was relayed to President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III — who was attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland at that time – he told reporters who were covering his trip that an apology was not enough.  He wanted a thorough investigation to ascertain how the USS Guardian ran aground on the reef.
Grounded USS Guardian
But the United States Navy already made its commitment to do everything it can to repair the damage caused by the minesweeper.  Didn’t he know that?  Yet P-Noy continued to question, “How it could happen when the minesweeper, a U.S. made vessel, was supposed to be possessing of high technology military navigation devices?” He said that the U.S. would have to comply with Philippine laws regarding the incident.  “They violated it, there are penalties. Then they will have to address all of these violations of our pertinent laws,” he said.
But P-Noy didn’t realize that the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) had already fined the U.S. Navy for “unauthorized entry.”  However, it did not disclose the amount of the penalty.  Under Philippine law, the maximum penalty for unauthorized entry is of up to a year in prison plus a fine of up to P300,000 ($7,300).  The TPAMB decided not to include the jail option in the penalty.
When a reporter asked P-Noy about the call of some groups to review the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the U.S. and the Philippines in the aftermath of the Tubbataha incident, he toned down and said that the VFA only governs the conduct of visiting American troops when they’re in military exercises in the Philippines.  He explained that the VFA has no connection to the Tubbataha incident; it’s a question about violating the country’s ecological laws.
Meanwhile, Fernando Hicap, the chairman of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, called for the filing of a “millennium class suit” against the US Navy for damaging the reef, saying that the US should pay the country a considerable amount following the destruction of the reef.  P-Noy was also criticized by Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo and Kabataan Partylist national president Terry Ridon for his statements, which they claimed was tantamount to a “whitewash” on the incident.
But what is interesting to note is that these leftist groups are quick to attack the U.S. for any “infraction” but are quiet about China’s aggression against the Philippines.  What would they do if one day they wake up to see an armada of Chinese warships in the Sulu Sea on their way to Puerto Princesa?

Why Obama picked Hagel

Why Obama picked Hagel
By Bob Woodward,January 27, 2013

In the first months of the Obama presidency in 2009, Chuck Hagel, who had just finished two terms as a U.S. senator, went to the White House to visit with the friend he had made during the four years they overlapped in the Senate.

So, President Obama asked, what do you think about foreign policy and defense issues?

According to an account that Hagel later gave, and is reported here for the first time, he told Obama: “We are at a time where there is a new world order. We don’t control it. You must question everything, every assumption, everything they” — the military and diplomats — “tell you. Any assumption 10 years old is out of date. You need to question our role. You need to question the military. You need to question what are we using the military for.

“Afghanistan will be defining for your presidency in the first term,” Hagel also said, according to his own account, “perhaps even for a second term.” The key was not to get “bogged down.”

Obama did not say much but listened. At the time, Hagel considered Obama a “loner,” inclined to keep a distance and his own counsel. But Hagel’s comments help explain why Obama nominated his former Senate colleague to be his next secretary of defense. The two share similar views and philosophies as the Obama administration attempts to define the role of the United States in the transition to a post-superpower world.

This worldview is part hawk and part dove. It amounts, in part, to a challenge to the wars of President George W. Bush. It holds that the Afghanistan war has been mismanaged and the Iraq war unnecessary. War is an option, but very much a last resort.

So, this thinking goes, the U.S. role in the world must be carefully scaled back — this is not a matter of choice but of facing reality; the military needs to be treated with deep skepticism; lots of strategic military and foreign policy thinking is out of date; and quagmires like Afghanistan should be avoided.

The bottom line: The United States must get out of these massive land wars — Iraq and Afghanistan — and, if possible, avoid future large-scale war.

Although much discussion of the Hagel nomination has centered on his attitudes about Iran, Israel and the defense budget, Hagel’s broader agreement with Obama on overall philosophy is probably more consequential.

Hagel has also said he believes it is important that a defense secretary should not dictate foreign policy and that policy should be made in the White House.

He privately voiced reservations about Obama’s decision in late 2009 to add 51,000 troops to Afghanistan. “The president has not had commander-in-chief control of the Pentagon since Bush senior was president,” Hagel said privately in 2011.

If Hagel is confirmed, as appears likely, he and the president will have a large task in navigating this new world order. Avoiding war is tied directly to the credibility of the threat to go to war.
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Hagel’s experience provides two unusual perspectives. The first is as a former E-5 Army sergeant in 1968, which he has described as “the worst year of the Vietnam War.” In summation, another Vietnam must be avoided.

The second is the Georgetown University class that he taught called “Redefining Geopolitical Relationships.” He asks the class the basic question: Where is all this going?

For example, he has said that one result of the Iraq war has been to make Iran the most important country in the Middle East, and he worried that Iraq could become an Iranian satellite.

When I interviewed President Obama in the summer of 2010 for my book “Obama’s Wars,” his deeply rooted aversion to war was evident. As I reported in the book, I handed Obama a copy of a quotation from Rick Atkinson’s World War II history, “The Day of Battle,” and asked him to read it. Obama stood and read:

“And then there was the saddest lesson, to be learned again and again . . . that war is corrupting, that it corrodes the soul and tarnishes the spirit, that even the excellent and the superior can be defiled, and that no heart would remain unstained.”

“I sympathize with this view,” Obama told me. “See my Nobel Prize acceptance speech.”

I had listened to the speech when he gave it, Dec. 10, 2009, and later read it, but I dug it out again. And there it was:

“The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another — that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier’s courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause, to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious” — Churchill had called it that — “and we must never trumpet it as such. So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths — that war is sometimes necessary and war at some level is an expression of human folly.”

That is probably the best definition of the Obama doctrine on war. Applying such a doctrine in today’s dangerous and unpredictable world will be daunting — but on these issues Obama seems to have found a soul mate.

Who Runs The World? Solid Proof That A Core Group Of Wealthy Elitists Is Pulling The Strings

Who Runs The World? Solid Proof That A Core Group Of Wealthy Elitists Is Pulling The Strings
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Does a shadowy group of obscenely wealthy elitists control the world? Do men and women with enormous amounts of money really run the world from behind the scenes? The answer might surprise you.

Most of us tend to think of money as a convenient way to conduct transactions, but the truth is that it also represents power and control. And today we live in a neo-fuedalist system in which the super rich pull all the strings. When I am talking about the ultra-wealthy, I am not just talking about people that have a few million dollars.

As you will see later in this article, the ultra-wealthy have enough money sitting in offshore banks to buy all of the goods and services produced in the United States during the course of an entire year and still be able to pay off the entire U.S. national debt.

That is an amount of money so large that it is almost incomprehensible. Under this neo-feudalist system, all the rest of us are debt slaves, including our own governments. Just look around - everyone is drowning in debt, and all of that debt is making the ultra-wealthy even wealthier.

But the ultra-wealthy don't just sit on all of that wealth. They use some of it to dominate the affairs of the nations. The ultra-wealthy own virtually every major bank and every major corporation on the planet.

They use a vast network of secret societies, think tanks and charitable organizations to advance their agendas and to keep their members in line. They control how we view the world through their ownership of the media and their dominance over our education system.

They fund the campaigns of most of our politicians and they exert a tremendous amount of influence over international organizations such as the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO.

When you step back and take a look at the big picture, there is little doubt about who runs the world. It is just that most people don't want to admit the truth.

The ultra-wealthy don't run down and put their money in the local bank like you and I do. Instead, they tend to stash their assets in places where they won't be taxed such as the Cayman Islands.

According to a report that was released last summer, the global elite have up to 32 TRILLION dollars stashed in offshore banks around the globe.

U.S. GDP for 2011 was about 15 trillion dollars, and the U.S. national debt is sitting at about 16 trillion dollars, so you could add them both together and you still wouldn't hit 32 trillion dollars.

And of course that does not even count the money that is stashed in other locations that the study did not account for, and it does not count all of the wealth that the global elite have in hard assets such as real estate, precious metals, art, yachts, etc.

The global elite have really hoarded an incredible amount of wealth in these troubled times. The following is from an article on the Huffington Post website...

Rich individuals and their families have as much as $32 trillion of hidden financial assets in offshore tax havens, representing up to $280 billion in lost income tax revenues, according to research published on Sunday.

The study estimating the extent of global private financial wealth held in offshore accounts - excluding non-financial assets such as real estate, gold, yachts and racehorses - puts the sum at between $21 and $32 trillion.

The research was carried out for pressure group Tax Justice Network, which campaigns against tax havens, by James Henry, former chief economist at consultants McKinsey & Co.

He used data from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations and central banks.
But as I mentioned previously, the global elite just don't have a lot of money. They also basically own just about every major bank and every major corporation on the entire planet.

According to an outstanding NewScientist article, a study of more than 40,000 transnational corporations conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich discovered that a very small core group of huge banks and giant predator corporations dominate the entire global economic system...

An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.

The researchers found that this core group consists of just 147 very tightly knit companies...

When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network.

"In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network," says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.

The ultra-wealthy elite often hide behind layers and layers of ownership, but the truth is that thanks to interlocking corporate relationships, the elite basically control almost every Fortune 500 corporation.

The amount of power and control that this gives them is hard to describe.

Unfortunately, this same group of people have been running things for a very long time. For example, New York City Mayor John F. Hylan said the following during a speech all the way back in 1922...

The real menace of our Republic is the invisible government, which like a giant octopus sprawls its slimy legs over our cities, states and nation. To depart from mere generalizations, let me say that at the head of this octopus are the Rockefeller-Standard Oil interests and a small group of powerful banking houses generally referred to as the international bankers.
The little coterie of powerful international bankers virtually run the United States government for their own selfish purposes.

They practically control both parties, write political platforms, make catspaws of party leaders, use the leading men of private organizations, and resort to every device to place in nomination for high public office only such candidates as will be amenable to the dictates of corrupt big business.

These international bankers and Rockefeller-Standard Oil interests control the majority of the newspapers and magazines in this country. They use the columns of these papers to club into submission or drive out of office public officials who refuse to do the bidding of the powerful corrupt cliques which compose the invisible government.

It operates under cover of a self-created screen [and] seizes our executive officers, legislative bodies, schools, courts, newspapers and every agency created for the public protection.

These international bankers created the central banks of the world (including the Federal Reserve), and they use those central banks to get the governments of the world ensnared in endless cycles of debt from which there is no escape.

Government debt is a way to "legitimately" take money from all of us, transfer it to the government, and then transfer it into the pockets of the ultra-wealthy.

Today, Barack Obama and almost all members of Congress absolutely refuse to criticize the Fed, but in the past there have been some brave members of Congress that have been willing to take a stand.

For example, the following quote is from a speech that Congressman Louis T. McFadden delivered to the U.S. House of Representatives on June 10, 1932...

Mr. Chairman, we have in this country one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Banks.

The Federal Reserve Board, a Government board, has cheated the Government of the United States and the people of the United States out of enough money to pay the national debt.

The depredations and iniquities of the Federal Reserve Board has cost this country enough money to pay the national debt several times over. This evil institution has impoverished and ruined the people of the United States, has bankrupted itself, and has practically bankrupted our Government.

It has done this through the defects of the law under which it operates, through the maladministration of that law by the Federal Reserve Board, and through the corrupt practices of the moneyed vultures who control it.

Sadly, most Americans still believe that the Federal Reserve is a "federal agency", but that is simply not correct. The following comes from

The stockholders in the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks are the privately owned banks that fall under the Federal Reserve System. These include all national banks (chartered by the federal government) and those state-chartered banks that wish to join and meet certain requirements. About 38 percent of the nation’s more than 8,000 banks are members of the system, and thus own the Fed banks.

According to researchers that have looked into the ownership of the big Wall Street banks that dominate the Fed, the same names keep coming up over and over: the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, the Warburgs, the Lazards, the Schiffs and the royal families of Europe.

But ultra-wealthy international bankers have not just done this kind of thing in the United States. Their goal was to create a global financial system that they would dominate and control. Just check out what Georgetown University history professor Carroll Quigley once wrote...

The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole.

This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.

Sadly, most Americans have never even heard of the Bank for International Settlements, but it is at the very heart of the global financial system. The following is from Wikipedia...

As an organization of central banks, the BIS seeks to make monetary policy more predictable and transparent among its 58 member central banks. While monetary policy is determined by each sovereign nation, it is subject to central and private banking scrutiny and potentially to speculation that affects foreign exchange rates and especially the fate of export economies.
Failures to keep monetary policy in line with reality and make monetary reforms in time, preferably as a simultaneous policy among all 58 member banks and also involving the International Monetary Fund, have historically led to losses in the billions as banks try to maintain a policy using open market methods that have proven to be based on unrealistic assumptions.

The ultra-wealthy have also played a major role in establishing other important international institutions such as the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. In fact, the land for the United Nations headquarters in New York City was purchased and donated by John D. Rockefeller.

The international bankers are "internationalists" and they are very proud of that fact.

The elite also dominate the education system in the United States. Over the years, the Rockefeller Foundation and other elitist organizations have poured massive amounts of money into Ivy League schools.

Today, Ivy League schools are considered to be the standard against which all other colleges and universities in America are measured, and the last four U.S. presidents were educated at Ivy League schools.

The elite also exert a tremendous amount of influence through various secret societies (Skull and Bones, the Freemasons, etc.), through some very powerful think tanks and social clubs (the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, the Bohemian Grove, Chatham House, etc.), and through a vast network of charities and non-governmental organizations (the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, etc.).

But for a moment, I want to focus on the power the elite have over the media. In a previous article, I detailed how just six monolithic corporate giants control most of what we watch, hear and read every single day.
These giant corporations own television networks, cable channels, movie studios, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, music labels and even many of our favorite websites.

Considering the fact that the average American watches 153 hours of television a month, the influence of these six giant corporations should not be underestimated.

And of course the elite own most of our politicians as well. The following is a quote from journalist Lewis Lapham...

"The shaping of the will of Congress and the choosing of the American president has become a privilege reserved to the country’s equestrian classes, a.k.a. the 20% of the population that holds 93% of the wealth, the happy few who run the corporations and the banks, own and operate the news and entertainment media, compose the laws and govern the universities, control the philanthropic foundations, the policy institutes, the casinos, and the sports arenas."

Have you ever wondered why things never seem to change in Washington D.C. no matter who we vote for?

Well, it is because both parties are owned by the establishment.

It would be nice to think that the American people are in control of who runs things in the U.S., but that is not how it works in the real world.

In the real world, the politician that raises more money wins more than 80 percent of the time in national races.

Our politicians are not stupid - they are going to be very good to the people that can give them the giant piles of money that they need for their campaigns. And the people that can do that are the ultra-wealthy and the giant corporations that the ultra-wealthy control.

Are you starting to get the picture?

There is a reason why the ultra-wealthy are referred to as "the establishment". They have set up a system that greatly benefits them and that allows them to pull the strings.

So who runs the world?

They do. In fact, they even admit as much.

David Rockefeller wrote the following in his 2003 book entitled "Memoirs"...

"For more than a century, ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions.

Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as 'internationalists' and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure — one world, if you will. If that is the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it."

There is so much more that could be said about all of this. In fact, an entire library of books could be written about the power and the influence of the ultra-wealthy international bankers that run the world.

But hopefully this is enough to at least get some conversations started.

Qatar’s Challenge to Saudi Arabia: An alternative view of Wahhabism

RSIS presents the following commentary Qatar’s Challenge to Saudi Arabia: An alternative view of Wahhabism by James M. Dorsey. It is also available online at this link. (To print it, click on this link.). Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at

No. 017/2013 dated 30 January 2013
Qatar’s Challenge to Saudi Arabia:
An alternative view of Wahhabism
 By James M. Dorsey       

Qatar, whose native population adheres to the Wahhabi creed, poses a major challenge to the puritanical interpretation of Islam of Saudi Arabia, which seeks to make itself impervious to the push for greater freedom, transparency and accountability sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
THE GULF STATE of Qatar, despite its conservatism is hardly a mirror image of Saudi Arabia, with its stark way of life, absolute gender segregation, total ban on alcohol and refusal to accommodate alternative lifestyles or religious practices. Qatar’s encouragement of women’s advancement in society, less strict separation of genders, allowing non-Muslims to consume alcohol and pork, sponsorship of Western arts like the Tribeca Film Festival, and hosting of the 2022 World Cup with its expected influx of Western fans with their un-Islamic ways, offers young Saudis a vision of a conservative Wahhabi society that is less constrained and permits individuals irrespective of gender greater control over their lives.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s diverging world views have manifested themselves in differing policies towards the popular revolts and protests sweeping the region. While Saudi Arabia has adjusted to regional change incrementally Qatar has sought to embrace it as long as it is not at home. Like Saudi Arabia, it seeks to maintain the status quo in its immediate neighborhood, witness the life sentence handed a Qatari poet for criticising the royal family.

At the core of the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are fundamentally different strategies of self-preservation. While the royal families of both have sought to buffer themselves by lavish social spending, Saudi Arabia has opted for maintenance of the status quo where possible and limited engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, toward which it harbours deep-seated distrust.

In contrast Qatar seeks to be on the cutting edge of history and has exercised a sophisticated soft diplomacy with its winning bid to host the World Cup, positioning itself as global hub by developing a comprehensive sports sector, creation of world class museums and sponsorship of the arts. In effect, Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood and popular revolts in the region constitutes an integral part of its foreign and defence policy, designed to embed itself in the international community so as to enhance the chances that other nations will come to its aid in time of need.

That policy is based on Qatar’s realisation that no matter what quantity of sophisticated weaponry it purchases or foreigners it recruits into its military force, it will not be able to truly defend itself. It also stems from uncertainty over how reliable the United States is as the guarantor of last resort of its security. That concern has been reinforced by the United States’ economic problems, its reluctance to engage militarily post-Iraq and Afghanistan and its likely emergence by the end of this decade as the world’s largest oil exporter.

At loggerheads with Saudis
Qatar’s strategy effectively puts it at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia. Whether the Saudi-Qatari rivalry will precipitate change in the kingdom or reinforce monarchical autocracy in the region is likely to be decided in Qatar itself rather than elsewhere in the region. Qatar has already a foretaste of potential battles to come with Saudi -backed conservatives who also enjoy support of some Qatari royals. They have twice boycotted major state-owned companies, and voiced opposition to the sale of alcohol and pork in the country and questioning the emir’s authority to rule by decree.

Qatar’s strategy of embracing the Muslim Brotherhood and putting itself at the cutting edge of change elsewhere in the region as well as it soft diplomacy contain risks that Saudi Arabia is likely to exploit. Fault lines in Egypt have deepened and hardened as it teeters on the brink under President Mohammed Morsi, making Muslim Brothers in Arab nations in the throes of change reluctant to assume sole government responsibility. Jordan’s Brotherhood-related Islamic Action Front (IAF) boycotted parliamentary elections in January 2013 official because of alleged gerrymandering. Privately, the IAF, with an eye on Egypt is believed to have shied away from getting too big a share of the pie for their taste.

Opening a Pandora’s Box

Similarly, Qatar’s winning of the right to host the 2022 World Cup may have opened a Pandora’s Box of change that could reverberate throughout the Gulf starting with the status of foreign workers who constitute a majority in some of the smaller Gulf states serving as the monkey wrench. Under increasing pressure from international trade unions who have the clout to come through on a threat to boycott the Gulf state, Qatar has suggested it would allow the formation of independent unions created to engage in collective bargaining.

If Qatar proves true to its word, it raises the spectre of foreigners gaining greater rights and having a greater stake in countries that have sought to protect their national identity and the rights of local nationals by ensuring that foreigners do not sink roots. That effort even goes as far as soccer clubs opting for near empty stadiums because there are not enough locals to fill them rather than offering the population at large something that could even remotely give them a sense of belonging.

At first glance Qatar’s foreign, sports and culture policy seems forward looking despite conservative opposition at home and appears to put the tiny Gulf state in a category of its own. Yet, the challenge it poses to Saudi Arabia ultimately could prove a challenge to itself. It buys Qatar time but in the final analysis fails to address fundamental issues underlying the wave of protests as well as demographic issues looming in the Gulf.


James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

Revolution in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

Revolution in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

The overthrow of the Saudi royals is finally a possibility. In an excerpt from a new Brookings Institution briefing book for Obama’s second term, Bruce Riedel on what a catastrophe it would be for Obama.

By Bruce Riedel

January 29, 2013 "
Daily Beast" - -Saudi Arabia is the world’s last absolute monarchy. Like Louis XIV, King Abdullah has complete authority to do as he likes. But while a revolution in Saudi Arabia is still not likely, the Arab Awakening has made one possible for the first time, and it could come in President Obama’s second term.
Revolutionary change in the kingdom would be a disaster for American interests across the board. Saudi Arabia is America’s oldest ally in the Middle East, a partnership that dates to 1945. The United States has no serious option for heading off a revolution if it is coming; we are already too deeply wedded to the kingdom. Obama should ensure the best possible intelligence is available to see a crisis coming and then try to ride the storm.
Still , the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a proven survivor. Two earlier Saudi kingdoms were defeated by the Ottoman Empire and eradicated. The Sauds came back. They survived a wave of revolutions against Arab monarchies in the 1950s and 1960s. A jihadist coup attempt in 1979 seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca but was crushed. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda staged a four-year insurrection to topple the Sauds and failed less than a decade ago. Saudi al Qaeda cadres remain in the kingdom and next door in Yemen.
Today the Arab Awakening presents the kingdom with its most severe test to date. The same demographic challenges that prompted revolution in Egypt and Yemen, a very young population and very high underemployment, apply in Saudi Arabia. Extreme gender discrimination, long-standing regional differences, and a restive Shia minority add to the explosive potential. In recognition of their vulnerability, the Saudi royals have spent more than $130 billion since the Arab Awakening began to try to buy off dissent at home. They have made cosmetic reforms to let women sit in a powerless consulting council.
Abroad they have sent tanks and troops across the King Fahd Causeway to stifle revolution in Bahrain, brokered a political deal in Yemen to replace Ali Abdullah Salih with his deputy, and sought closer unity among the six Gulf Cooperation Council monarchies. They also have invited Jordan and Morocco to join the kings’ club. But they are pragmatists too and have backed revolutions in Libya and Syria that fight old enemies of the kingdom
If an awakening takes place in Saudi Arabia, it will probably look a lot like the revolutions in the other Arab states. Already demonstrations, peaceful and violent, have wracked the oil rich Eastern Province for more than a year. These are Shia protests and thus atypical of the rest of the kingdom. Shia dissidents in ARAMCO, the Saudi oil company, also have used cyberwarfare to attack its computer systems, crashing more than 30,000 work stations this August. They probably received Iranian help.
Much more disturbing to the royals would be protests in Sunni parts of the kingdom. These might start in the so-called Quran Belt north of the capital, where dissent is endemic, or in the poor Asir province on the Yemeni border. Once they begin, they could snowball and reach the major cities of the Hejaz, including Jeddah, Mecca, Taif, and Medina. The Saudi opposition has a vibrant information technology component that could ensure rapid communication of dissent within the kingdom and to the outside world.
The critical defender of the regime would be the National Guard. Abdullah has spent his life building this Praetorian elite force. The United States has trained and equipped it with tens of billions in helicopters and armored vehicles. But the key unknown is whether the Guard will shoot on its brothers and sisters in the street. It may fragment or it may simply refuse to suppress dissent if it is largely peaceful, especially at the start.
The succession issue adds another layer of complication. Every succession in the kingdom since its founder, Abdel Aziz bin Saud, died in 1953 has been to his brothers. King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman are the end of the brood; only a couple of possible remaining half brothers are suitable. Both the king and crown prince are ill, and both are often unfit for duty. If Abdullah and/or Salman die as unrest begins—a real possibility—and a succession crisis ensues, then the kingdom could be even more vulnerable to revolution.
As in other Arab revolutions, the opposition revolutionaries will not be united on anything except ousting the monarchy. There will be secular democrats but also al Qaeda elements in the opposition. Trying to pick and choose will be very difficult. The unity of the kingdom could collapse as the Hejaz separates from the rest, the east falls to Shia, and the center becomes a jihadist stronghold.
For the United States, revolution in Saudi Arabia would be a game changer. While the U.S. can live without Saudi oil, China, India, Japan, and Europe cannot. Any disruption in Saudi oil exports—whether due to unrest, cyberattacks, or a new regime’s decision to reduce exports substantially—will have a major impact on the global economy. In addition, the CIA war against al Qaeda is heavily dependent on the kingdom: Saudi intelligence operations foiled the last two attacks by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on the American homeland. The U.S. military training mission in the kingdom, founded in 1953, is the largest of its kind in the world. The Saudis also have been a key player in containing Iran for decades.
The other monarchs of Arabia, meanwhile, would be in jeopardy if revolution comes to Saudi Arabia. The Sunni minority in Bahrain could not last without Saudi money and tanks. Despite all their money, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates are city states that would be unable to defend themselves against a revolutionary regime in what had been the kingdom. The Hashemite dynasty in Jordan would be at risk as well without Saudi and Gulf money and oil. Only Oman is probably isolated and strong enough to endure.
America has no serious options for effecting gradual reform in the kingdom. The Saudis fear, probably rightly, that real power sharing is impossible in an absolutist state. But we should plan very quietly for the worst. The intelligence community should be directed to make internal developments, not just counterterrorism, its top priority in the kingdom now. We cannot afford a surprise like Iran in 1978, and we need to know the players in the opposition, especially the Wahhabi clerics, in depth. This will be a formidable challenge, but it is essential to preparing for a very dark swan.

Bruce Riedel (born 1953) is one of America's leading experts on U.S. security, South Asia, and counter-terrorism. He is currently a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He also serves as a senior adviser at Albright Stonebridge Group. Bruce, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst and counter-terrorism expert, served in the Agency for 29 years until his retirement in 2006. He has advised four presidents advising on Middle East and South Asian issues in the White House on the staff of the National Security Counsel (NSC).

George Carlin The Best 3 Minutes of His Career "The American Dream"

Walking the talk: US service women in combat roles

RSIS presents the following commentary Walking the talk: US service women in combat roles by Fitriani and Ron Matthews. It is also available online at this link. (To print it, click on this link.). Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at

No. 016/2013 dated 29 January 2013
Walking the talk:
US service women in combat roles
 By Fitriani and Ron Matthews       

At the end of January 2013, the Pentagon announced it would lift the ban on women serving in frontline combat roles. Although the services can still object, American women have been given the chance to participate in front-line combat duty by the enduring war on terrorism.
AFTER ALMOST 20 years a 1994 U S rule that limited the roles for women in its armed forces to units below brigade level away from direct combat, was overturned on 24 January 2013 by Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta. He announced the DoD’s renewed commitment that “everyone is entitled to a chance” to serve their nation in a combat role, thereby affecting the existing 14 per cent of America’s 1.4 million active military personnel that are women, opening up 230,000 previously barred frontline positions. However, the services have until January 2016 to come up with reasons why women should remain barred from combat positions.

Welcoming Equality
The debate on whether women should be fully integrated into the armed forces originated in the 1940s by the alignment of the women, blacks and ethnics minorities. The debate led to a breakthrough in allowing interracial military structures, but the admission of women into America’s armed forces was left on the table, for two reasons. Firstly, the belief remained that women were incapable of fulfilling the required fitness standards due to their relatively small body size and reduced endurance compared to men. Yet, the US Chairman of the Joint Military Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey stated that the new regulation will not change the physical and training standards already in place. The difference is that now the US military will allow women the chance to meet them, including the highest levels of fitness required by the Army Delta Force and Navy SEALs.

The second reason women have been excluded from units below brigade level is the need to maintain unit cohesion, as allowing women to operate in male-dominated military roles would distract men from mission aims, by seeking to protect women. The rule of the game was that unit cohesion, the bedrock on which performance of armies rest, has been traditionally built around male bonding; the US military now appears ready to redefine the calculus on unit cohesion, including the challenging issue of male-and-female bonding. For this, the Pentagon may need to evaluate the experiences of other militaries employing women in combat roles.

Trend Changing Law

Several countries already have women serving in combat units. Scandinavian countries, for example, Denmark (1978), Norway (1984) and Sweden (1989), were amongst the first states to pave the way for women to gain equal opportunities in the military. Moreover, the 1980s surge in global advocacy to end discrimination against women pushed countries to issue national and regional Equal Employment Acts to enforce similar legal demands in their respective armed forces. The Canada Human Rights Act tribunal in 1989 ordered the country’s military forthwith to integrate women into the country’s armed forces, except in submarines - due to the limited infrastructure. Germany also faced similar legal processes, because its Constitution prohibited women from bearing arms, until finally the European Court of Justice in 2001 ruled that Germany must allow women the same rights as men in serving their country. Since then women have served in the Bundeswehr in the same operational roles as men.

Pressure for equality in the US army has been rising during the last decade as America’s war against terrorism wore on. The matter came to a head in November 2012, when four women soldiers sued the US DoD because of the inequality of constraining women from serving in the frontlines. The reasoning was that more than 280,000 US female soldiers had been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, and 152 of the 6,600 of US fatalities were women, proving that there is no real difference between front- or rear-lines once troops are deployed. By changing its stand, the US is saving money, time as well as potentially adverse publicity in ending the court hearings initiated by the aggrieved female soldiers. At a stroke, the move also demonstrates that the US Administration is ‘walking the talk’ domestically by supporting women empowerment, freedom and equality; a cause that is currently a major plank of Obama’s foreign policy.   

Looking Ahead
Just as the pursuit of war can be justified by diplomatic jargon, such as the responsibility to protect, the integration of women into the exclusive ‘macho’ military realm is a sound form of public relations for projecting inclusiveness and meritocracy. In 2000, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1325 emphasising the importance of female participation in peace and security processes, not least because women represent the neglected and victimised in conflict situations. A decade on, the UNSC has adopted four more Resolutions both in support of women empowerment and ending gender-based violence. The UNSC’s aim is to change the perception of women in conflict from being the problem to becoming part of the solution. 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has initiated a five year campaign (to 2014), aimed at lifting the percentage of women peacekeepers to 20 per cent for police units and 10 per cent for military contingents. However, until 2012, UN women peacekeepers accounted for only 10 per cent of police units and just three per cent of military attachments. The lack of availability of women in security forces is a problem, but shortages may soon ease. Last year, South Korea and Australia decided to allow women to join frontline combatants. Now that the US has announced its preparedness to allow women the right to take on combat roles, it is anticipated that other countries will soon follow suit, as they run out of excuses to bar women from exercising basic citizenship rights in defending their country.


Fitriani is an RSIS researcher in Gender and Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University and Professor Ron Matthews holds the Chair in Defence Economics at RSIS.