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 on: August 02, 2015, 08:49:53 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
 Balancing Hopes and Fears in the Middle East
Global Affairs
July 29, 2015 | 08:00 GMT
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By Philip Bobbitt

It's encouraging that reports from Washington suggest the administration has settled on a new strategy for confronting the Islamic State. Our reluctance to commit to a strategy as we sought, unsuccessfully, to find a middle ground that would minimize risks while serving contradictory objectives has been costly to the stability of Iraq and to our goal of removing Bashar al Assad's regime from Syria.

Sometimes it is less appealing to confront one enemy than to avoid advantaging another enemy. Thus England tolerated the rise of Nazi Germany, a growing threat, rather than confront it to the advantage of Bolshevism. In the Middle East, the example is quite exquisite because the phenomenon is double-sided: We cannot truly commit ourselves to the removal of al Assad because we believe his ruin will offer rich opportunities to the Islamic State, and we are equally reluctant to take some aggressive measures against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria because we surmise our success would mean further empowering Iran and increasing Tehran's influence in Baghdad and Damascus. We are paralyzed because we prefer foregoing potential but significant gains to enduring certain losses whose significance is no greater.

I suppose this a kind of strategic "loss aversion." Many studies in behavioral economics have confirmed that a consistent majority of people would rather forego a gain than suffer a loss, even when the outcomes are statistically indistinguishable. For example, psychologists have repeatedly demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of subjects would prefer to avoid a $1.00 surcharge rather than receive a $1.00 discount. Moreover, subjects routinely report that they would rather accept a 50 percent chance of losing $2.00 than a certain loss of $1.00. Similarly, perhaps, states are reluctant to risk giving an uncertain advantage to an enemy, even if inaction means certain gain for another enemy. This irrationality is of more than academic interest when we actually forego potential gains that would exceed our losses.

But, one may object, this can be no more than a metaphor — states don't have "psychologies." Yet their leaders do, and they may identify the wins and losses of the state with their own. Wars fought to defend the national honor may have such a basis (as well as, of course, having practical bargaining effects).

What is Global Affairs?

Then one may object that nothing is lost by inaction because states possessed nothing of materiality. Here the answer is: hope. Some of Samuel Johnson's most acute — and disturbing — insights about human nature occur in his remarks on hope. "Hope," he wrote, "is happiness and its frustration, however frequent, are less dreadful than its extinction." Giving up something is giving up hope, which is much more costly than foregoing a receipt.

This paralysis is nevertheless approvingly encouraged by the counsels of inaction whenever the available options are fraught. "Don't just do something, stand there!" may be one way of characterizing this advice. By avoiding action, at least we avoid making things worse. But this ignores the fact that things may get worse without our help, and indeed inaction may be more costly to our interests because we have not been able to mitigate our losses through action. It may even be the case that the wrong decision — a decision in favor of a course of action that leaves us less well off than we would have been, had we acted otherwise — might still be better for us than inaction. That is often the case where the costs of inaction to the strength of our alliances outweigh the immediate costs of acting. It's often said that our alliance partners do not accord their relations with us more weight when we act recklessly, and that is doubtless true. But on whom would you rely in a crisis: the partner who comes to your aid even when, in the short term, it may not be in his interest, or the partner who carefully weighs the benefits of each action?

This is tricky; after all, didn't the arguments that a withdrawal from Vietnam would undermine our European alliances keep us in South Asia long past a sensible departure date? And how do we measure such imponderables? How does a "gain" for an increasingly assertive Iran measure against a "loss" to the deadly Islamic State?

This example of the phenomenon of "loss aversion" — perhaps it is best thought of as a metaphor rather than as a matter of microeconomic analysis — is also manifesting itself in the debate over the proposed agreement with Iran to restrict its nuclear capabilities. We are rightly concerned that an infusion of more than $50 billion will strengthen the theocratic state in Tehran and find its way into the forces of terror that the Iranian regime has so notably deployed. We are loath to give up a sanctions regime that has been a quite remarkable achievement in its breadth and coherence. Many thoughtful critics would rather forego the conceded benefits of a 15-year hiatus in Iran's nuclear development than lose a sanctions program that restricts so many of the regime's other activities. Alas, we cannot depend upon the endurance of the existing sanctions, and should the treaty fail to be enacted, we are likely to reap the worst of both worlds: an unrestricted program of nuclear development by an Iranian state that has been greatly enriched by the removal of those sanctions that the United States does not control. And here, too, the neglect of the impact on our alliances that is a feature of loss aversion in other contexts could well prove to be the greatest cost of all. By contrast, in the aftermath of the Iran agreement, restoring confidence in their relations with the United States is the first item on our agendas with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states.

Here, we must depart from the Great Cham, Dr. Johnson. For he warned us to "remember that we only talk of the pleasures of hope; we feel those of possession, and no man in his senses would change the last for the first."

 on: August 02, 2015, 08:48:07 PM 
Started by G M - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: August 02, 2015, 03:40:21 PM 
Started by Dog Dave - Last post by G M

 on: August 02, 2015, 03:13:28 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by G M

I strongly suggest picking this book up. A very fast and entertaining read with very realistic points to consider.

 on: August 02, 2015, 08:15:39 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by G M

 on: August 02, 2015, 01:47:29 AM 
Started by ccp - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Joe Biden is said to be taking new look at presidential run

Saturday, August 1, 2015 2:55 PM EDT

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his associates have begun to actively explore a possible presidential campaign, an entry that would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton, say several people who have spoken to Mr. Biden or his closest advisers.
Mr. Biden’s advisers have started to reach out to Democratic leaders and donors who have not yet committed to Mrs. Clinton or who have grown concerned about what they see as her increasingly visible vulnerabilities as a candidate.
The conversations, often fielded by Mr. Biden’s chief of staff, Steve Ricchetti, have taken place in hushed phone calls and over quiet lunches. In most cases they have grown out of an outpouring of sympathy for the vice president since the death of his 46-year-old son, Beau, in May.

 on: August 02, 2015, 01:40:58 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
U.S. Decides to Retaliate Against China’s Hacking


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The Obama administration has determined that it must retaliate against China for the theft of the personal information of more than 20 million Americans from the databases of the Office of Personnel Management, but it is still struggling to decide what it can do without prompting an escalating cyberconflict.

The decision came after the administration concluded that the hacking attack was so vast in scope and ambition that the usual practices for dealing with traditional espionage cases did not apply.

But in a series of classified meetings, officials have struggled to choose among options that range from largely symbolic responses — for example, diplomatic protests or the ouster of known Chinese agents in the United States — to more significant actions that some officials fear could lead to an escalation of the hacking conflict between the two countries.
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    Network specialists at the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Va., during an unclassified tour for members of the news media last week. Classified information was excluded from screen displays.
    U.S. vs. Hackers: Still Lopsided Despite Years of Warnings and a Recent PushJULY 18, 2015

That does not mean a response will happen anytime soon — or be obvious when it does. The White House could determine that the downsides of any meaningful, yet proportionate, retaliation outweigh the benefits, or will lead to retaliation on American firms or individuals doing work in China. President Obama, clearly seeking leverage, has asked his staff to come up with a more creative set of responses.
The home of the Office of Personnel Management headquarters in Washington. The Obama administration has decided that it must retaliate against China for the theft of personal information from the office. Credit Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“One of the conclusions we’ve reached is that we need to be a bit more public about our responses, and one reason is deterrence,” said one senior administration official involved in the debate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House plans. “We need to disrupt and deter what our adversaries are doing in cyberspace, and that means you need a full range of tools to tailor a response.”

In public, Mr. Obama has said almost nothing, and officials are under strict instructions to avoid naming China as the source of the attack. While James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said last month that “you have to kind of salute the Chinese for what they did,” he avoided repeating that accusation when pressed again in public last week.

But over recent days, both Mr. Clapper and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the military’s Cyber Command, have hinted at the internal debate by noting that unless the United States finds a way to respond to the attacks, they are bound to escalate.

Mr. Clapper predicted that the number and sophistication of hacking aimed at the United States would worsen “until such time as we create both the substance and psychology of deterrence.”

Admiral Rogers made clear in a public presentation to the meeting of the Aspen Security Forum last week that he had advised President Obama to strike back against North Korea for the earlier attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. Since then, evidence that hackers associated with the Chinese government were responsible for the Office of Personnel Management theft has been gathered by personnel under Admiral Rogers’s command, officials said.

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Admiral Rogers stressed the need for “creating costs” for attackers responsible for the intrusion, although he acknowledged that it differed in important ways from the Sony case. In the Sony attack, the theft of emails was secondary to the destruction of much of the company’s computer systems, part of an effort to intimidate the studio to keep it from releasing a comedy that portrayed the assassination of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

According to officials involved in the internal debates over responses to the personnel office attack, Mr. Obama’s aides explored applying economic sanctions against China, based on the precedent of sanctions the president approved against North Korea in January.

“The analogy simply didn’t work,” said one senior economic official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations. North Korea is so isolated that there was no risk it could retaliate in kind. But in considering sanctions against China, officials from the Commerce Department and the Treasury offered a long list of countersanctions the Chinese could impose against American firms that are already struggling to deal with China.

The Justice Department is exploring legal action against Chinese individuals and organizations believed responsible for the personnel office theft, much as it did last summer when five officers of the People’s Liberation Army, part of the Chinese military, were indicted on a charge of the theft of intellectual property from American companies. While Justice officials say that earlier action was a breakthrough, others characterize the punishment as only symbolic: Unless they visit the United States or a friendly nation, none of them are likely to ever see the inside of an American courtroom.

“Criminal charges appear to be unlikely in the case of the O.P.M. breach,” a study of the Office of Personnel Management breach published by the Congressional Research Service two weeks ago concluded. “As a matter of policy, the United States has sought to distinguish between cyber intrusions to collect data for national security purposes — to which the United States deems counterintelligence to be an appropriate response — and cyber intrusions to steal data for commercial purposes, to which the United States deems a criminal justice response to be appropriate.”

There is another risk in criminal prosecution: Intelligence officials say that any legal case could result in exposing American intelligence operations inside China — including the placement of thousands of implants in Chinese computer networks to warn of impending attacks.

Other options discussed inside the administration include retaliatory operations, perhaps designed to steal or reveal to the public information as valuable to the Chinese government as the security-clearance files on government employees were to Washington.

One of the most innovative actions discussed inside the intelligence agencies, according to two officials familiar with the debate, involves finding a way to breach the so-called great firewall, the complex network of censorship and control that the Chinese government keeps in place to suppress dissent inside the country. The idea would be to demonstrate to the Chinese leadership that the one thing they value most — keeping absolute control over the country’s political dialogue — could be at risk if they do not moderate attacks on the United States.

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But any counterattack could lead to a cycle of escalation just as the United States hopes to discuss with Chinese leaders new rules of the road limiting cyberoperations. A similar initiative to get the Chinese leadership to discuss those rules, proposed by Mr. Obama when he met the Chinese leader at Sunnylands in California in 2013, has made little progress.

The United States has been cautious about using cyberweapons or even discussing it. A new Pentagon strategy, introduced by the secretary of Defense, Ashton B. Carter, in the spring, explicitly discussed retaliation but left vague what kind of cases the United States viewed as so critical that they would prompt that type of retaliation.

In response to the Office of Personnel Management attack, White House officials on Friday announced the results of a 30-day “cybersecurity sprint” that began in early June after the federal personnel office disclosed the gigantic theft of data.

Tony Scott, the government’s chief information officer, who ordered the review, said in a blog post that agencies had significantly ramped up their use of strong authentication procedures, especially for users who required access to sensitive parts of networks.

By the end of the 30th day, officials said that more than half of the nation’s largest agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, Veterans Affairs and the Interior, now required strong authentication for almost 95 percent of their privileged users.

For Mr. Obama, responding to the theft at the Office of Personnel Management is complicated because it was not destructive, nor did it involve stealing intellectual property. Instead, the goal was espionage, on a scale that no one imagined before.

“This is one of those cases where you have to ask, ‘Does the size of the operation change the nature of it?’ ” one senior intelligence official said. “Clearly, it does.”

 on: August 01, 2015, 07:46:53 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Body-by-Guinness
And these are the same fools protecting protecting all the other information they gather about Americans, et al.

 on: August 01, 2015, 03:11:29 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by G M

Does anyone take Trump seriously? Looking for intellectual consistency from the Donald is like looking for legitimate athletic competition at a professional wrestling show.

 on: August 01, 2015, 01:40:25 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Probably not a reliable source, but , , ,

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