Month: May 2016 (Page 2 of 3)

Here’s the causality behind the “Rhodes Must Fall” activism

I’m sure you’ve heard the latest in this maddening saga.

I don’t have the answer to the question as to which moron decided to give the Rhodes scholarship to this specimen, but I think I have a hypothesis as to the causality of the movement.

You see, the more one hates the West, from Western socialists, to Islamists, to Russian law makers, to activists like this idiot, the more inclined they are to live in the West, and NOwhere else.

To sum it up, here’s the theory.


Think I’m gonna write a longer post on this, when I have time. How should be the research design to prove this hypothesis, meanwhile? Anyone?

Secrecy, privacy, security, transparency

End-to-end encryption for civilian messaging services is a dearly-held dream of many outside the intelligence and security communities. It certainly isn’t something that I myself disagree with; I’d like to think that the messages I send to my loved ones are, in fact, being read only by my loved ones. However, every time that somebody uses an app with E2EE to send a message or make a call, members of the worldwide intelligence communities cradle their heads in their hands and cry.

Allo-app-img_6663-640x427Yesterday, Google jumped on the ‘encryption-for-all!’ bandwagon, announcing their new messaging service Allo, messages sent through which not even Google itself will be able to decrypt (theoretically, and for now) when the app is operating in Incognito mode. After all, to the average citizen it is perfectly reasonable to take steps to ensure one’s privacy, especially when you know good and well that there are those out there with the capacity to intercept and read your unencrypted (and therefore insecure) messages should they choose to.

In fact, Google is actually late to the game on this one. As Wired pointed out earlier today, Facebook (with Messaging and Whatsapp) as well as Apple (iMessage, Facetime) have been quietly encrypting your communications for some time now. More people are aware of this now, due both to the consequences of the Snowden revelations and the extremely public throw down between Apple and the FBI over getting into the iPhone of the San Bernadino shooter. And that’s the real rub. For all that we are entitled to privacy (and so we should be, not disagreeing with that!), our intelligence services and security organizations have the duty to protect against threats to the security of the State and the citizens therein (that would be us). Of course, the problem with that is privacy for everyone means privacy for everyone….including criminals and terrorists. Apple cannot build the FBI a backdoor into an iPhone, because that sets a dangerous precedent for the future. Not to mention, once that capacity exists it can’t be taken back, and absolutely nobody can guarantee that it won’t eventually trickle down to some who will use it negatively. This is an ethical as well as legal dilemma, and there really is no simple (or, so far, complex) solution.

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PODCAST: In case you didn’t have enough hilarity this week, Belgium joins Syria bombing campaign

How will that make any tangible difference in operational outcome, is however, anybody’s guess.

(In the immortal words of William Hague, “oooh scary!”)

Really…Belgium, of all countries suddenly decided to drop a few bombs. I mean, seriously, I am just a humble political scientist, but strictly by the dictates of logic and prudence, shouldn’t that money be better spent on Human Intelligence (HUMINT) gathering inside Belgium? Or Counter Terrorism operations? Or securing borders and improving surveillance and monitoring within Europe? 1448313843772

How much does one laser guided bomb, one mission, one sortie, one refueling cost, compared to CCTV monitoring, or a yearly salary of a beat-Cop or intelligence officer in Molenbeek, Europe’s jihadist breeding ground and capital? Considering the fact that the majority of Euro terrorists are from within Europe, often second generation, disgruntled urban youths, lonely losers, listening to hip hop and smoking pot, and looking for ultra-violence and misogyny, wouldn’t it be logical to monitor and control that, rather than providing them with more narrative of West interfering in the Middle East?

Just this morning, there was report, how migrant flow from Libya is not controlled. The migrants are not even war refugees, widows, elderly, infirm or children from Middle East, but healthy young men looking for jobs from Sub-Saharan Africa. Shouldn’t the money be better spent in stopping that?

I’ve written an entire essay before for War on the Rocks, on how Libya intervention was a mistake and how there are other ways of containing ISIS and stopping mass migration. But nothing really changes as Europe tries the same process of coalition, bombing, and state building, when the strategy should be one of containment and tactical amputation.

On that frustrating note, here’s the podcast.

In the words of David Petraeus, “Tell me how this ends”?

Listen, and share.


Bombs and Dollars quoted by Public Diplomacy Council

Earlier Sumantra noted how Russia has taken to tweeting images of Command and Conquer, a computer game, along with allegations about Ukraine. In more serious discourse, the Public Diplomacy Council has quoted Sumantra and I from our essay, “’New Cold War’ And Policies To Confront Russia.”

In particularly, the council, a nonprofit organization committed to the importance of the academic study that was founded in 1988 as the Public Diplomacy Foundation, quoted our recommendation that the West does a better job responding to Kremlin propaganda. If it were all just Command and Conquer tweets, it might be easier to manage (though one worries a certain U.S. presidential candidate might start talking about the need to seize Iraq’s Tiberium). Unfortunately, the problem is bigger than that, and the Kremlin has useful idiots in much of the populist far-right.

The “leave Syria to Russia” crowd certainly buys into their arguments. It’s time to identify Western activists and “useful idiots,” along with active Russian agents, who spread propaganda on Facebook and Twitter and comments boards and forums. Reach out to misinformed masses who innocently buy into these narratives, with structured and semi structured interviews and surveys, to find out what’s bothering them, and why they believe Kremlin more than their own government or news sources from their country.

See the post here where we were quoted, and read our full essay here.

Why Sadiq Khan just might be the hero UK Labour needs right now

I was in London over the weekend, on the eve of Sadiq Khan’s victory, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Sadiq Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants, charismatic, suave and secular, was elected the Mayor of London, after a grueling and ugly campaign against the former mayor Boris Johnson supported, Etonian Zac Goldsmith. Aristrocratic and uptight Goldsmith, started the campaign after accusing Khan of being an Islamist sympathizer. It wasn’t easy for Labour, being beset with internal squabbles and a bland leadership, which almost relegated the party to a sideshow and a mere spectator in the ongoing Brexit debate, where the biggest arguments are happening between and within the Tory ranks, between PM David Cameron who is supporting an In campaign, and the rebels led by Boris Johnson. Boris was also an extremely popular mayor, having overseen London turn to a financial capital of Europe beating Frankfurt, and host a tremendously successful Olympic games.

But Goldsmith, compared to the erudite Boris, was an obnoxious candidate, smug and cold and boorish, and that reflected in the campaign when he tried to gain on the xenophobic and anti-migrant sentiment with a streak of racism against Khan. It didn’t help the Tories as they are themselves in a civil war, and Goldsmith is in the Brexit rebel club, alongside Johnson, which means he didn’t have the full backing and support and groundwork help and effort from Tory volunteers.

In this toxic scenario, Sadiq Khan is a whiff of fresh air. Son of Pakistani immigrant of humble and modest origin, he is a brilliant speaker, and is considered an able administrator. He is also the modern pragmatic wing of Labour, and alongside Chuka Umunna and Liz Kendall, is considered as the future leadership contenders.

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Russian Embassy just tweeted screenshot of Command and Conquer to show “extremists”

In case you thought it couldn’t get weirder in Russia…the Russian Embassy tagging Russian MOD just tweeted this.


It will inevitably be deleted, but we found some exclusive footage of our own.

Here’s Russian Spetsnaz securing Palmyra.


And here’s the exclusive Su-27 flight cam footage of a bombing run against ISIS.


If you find more such Russian action exclusive footage, tweet tagging @BombsAndDollars for sure!



So, next time anyone tells you wars are all about oils…

Cg5NHGAWsAAjTa-I met Dr Joseph Parent from Miami Uni today. Also attended his seminar and talk, and frankly, it was the best talk I heard since I started my PhD! Dude’s an absolute legend!

The basic idea of his talk was the Great powers retrench, whether they like it or not, and it’s upto them how they can use it to their advantage and what policies they can adopt. Here’s his Website and his published papers. Check it out.

But that’s not what I am here for. There is a common argument, from the left and ultra right, that all the wars that happens, are because of oil. You can see the echo in conspiracy theories, in journalists who has no knowledge of IR trying to find a meaning and causality in an anarchic world, and people find it hard to believe that, take it or not, oil is not why states go to war. So, next time, you see a Greenpeace/CodePink/StopTheWar protest placard about war and oil, or Donald Trump lamenting how he would have “taken the oil” after “bombing the sh*t” out of the ISIS oilfields, (whatever in seven hells, that means) just know it’s garbage.

Here’s the path breaking research paper that dispels the “war for oil” myth. The abstract goes like this. 

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A hungry economist takes a cross country bus back home…

This is why you shouldn’t let hungry researchers on a long cross country bus ride back. Sorry I have been busy, I was in London, as most of you who follow me on Facebook already know. Will write about it more soon! However, this is about a bus I took back from London to Nottingham, and it made me realise some dark grave philosophical truths of human lives. I live tweeted some of them. It was grim.

Here they are…

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Bernie Sanders’ delusional plan to “steal” the nomination from Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders is delusional.

The socialist senator from Vermont who has long admired the Nicaraguan Sandinistas now thinks he can win the Democratic nomination at a contested convention.

After losing to Hillary Clinton in 25 of the first 43 primary contests, Sanders announced he was planning on contesting the nomination all the way to the Democratic National Convention. Sanders thought that by the end of April he had a wave of momentum, even though, at that time, Clinton had just won 4-out-of-5 of the contest held on April 26. Sanders had won 7-out-of-8 contests between May 22 and April 9. Now Sanders thinks he’s back on track after winning Indiana by just 5 percentage points (and 5 pledged delegates).

Sanders at a contested convention? The numbers tell a different story. Clinton leads in pledged delegates by 290 and in total votes by 3.2 million. Clinton is leading 56.2% to 42.3% in votes received. If you want to talk about “stealing” a nomination from the will of the people, that would be what Sanders would need the Democratic Party to do for him to win.

Pledged delegate count as of May 4, via Wikimedia, created by Wikipedia user Abjiklam.

Pledged delegate count as of May 4, via Wikimedia, created by Wikipedia user Abjiklam.

With no mathematical basis to claim victory, Sanders has been reduced to grousing about unfairness.

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#NeverTrump means never Trump

Never. Adverb. Synonyms include “not ever, at no time, not at any time,” and “not once.” That means neither on May 3, nor on May 4. Neither on July 18, nor on July 21, and certainly not on November 8, 2016, either. Never.

The #NeverTrump movement didn’t end on May 3 with Donald Trump winning the Indiana primary, causing Ted Cruz and John Kasich to drop out. Trump may now win the Republican nomination, but Never Trump means never Trump, not #MaybeLater.

The Republican establishment is putting forth all their efforts now to try to “unite” conservative voters behind their party’s unfortunate nominee. Many unprincipled people are reversing their past statements and saying they’d be open to backing Trump. RNC chairman Reince Priebus tweeted, “[W]e all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton #NeverClinton.” Dan Patrick, Ted Cruz’s Texas Campaign Chairman and Lieutenant Governor of Texas, called on Republicans to unite behind Trump just two days after Cruz told voters “we will not give in to evil.”

A pledge is a pledge, however. Anyone who said they would never vote for Trump and then ends up voting for Trump is a liar.

“Oh, but not voting for Trump will result in Hillary Clinton being elected!” Trump apologists shriek. Is the only case to be made for Trump one of fear of the other? There is no affirmative case for Trump. But there may be one thing scarier than that which Priebus, McConnell and company are warning of, and that is this: Voting for Trump could result in Trump being elected.

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