Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

Stratfor: What Kind of Great Power Will China Become?

Summary: How China wields its growing power will help shape the geopolitical world of the 21st century. Here Stratfor looks at China and speculates at what it might become. {1st of 2 posts today.}

Stratfor

What Kind of Power Will China Become?

Stratfor, 3 February 2016

These are grim times for the Chinese economy. In the two years since property markets peaked and subsequently began to slow in most cities across China, it has become abundantly clear that the approach to economic management that sustained double-digit annual growth for two decades has exhausted itself. The unprecedented stock market volatility of the past year, along with signs of spreading unemployment and labor unrest in many regions, are important reminders that the transition to new foundations of national economic growth will in all likelihood be bitter, slow and unnervingly uncertain.

In times like these, it is tempting to embrace visions of irreversible decline — just as it was easy, in the expansive years of consistently high growth, to view China’s rise as straightforward and inevitable. As Stratfor pointed out well before the 2008-09 global financial crisis, which set in motion many of the policies and processes that underlie China’s current woes, the only certainty in the high-growth years was that they would someday end. Their ending, we predicted, would unleash tremendous and potentially destabilizing social pressures long kept at bay by the promise of universal employment and rising material prosperity. At the least, this process would slow China’s political, military and economic rise as the decade ends. At worst, it would send China into a more debilitating and longer-lasting period of crisis and fragmentation.

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Scrum: a new organizational tool that will help shape the 21st century

Summary: A new industrial revolution has begun. We usually think of these are new tech and new machines, but they also create new ways of thinking and new methods of doing business — changes almost as important as the new tech. Here Mike Few discusses new ways of problem solving, which create new forms of organization. {@nd of 2 posts today.}

The F3EAD framework

Scrum: how it works

Combat Scrum: From Iraq to the Research Triangle Park

By Mike Few (Major, US Army, Retired)
Introduction to his presentation at the Global SCRUM GATHERING®
18-20 April 2016 at Orlando, FL

The day was March 25, 2007, our unit was 5-73 Recon (Airborne), and these events would culminate into what was known on the strategic level as the Iraq Surge.   After much failure, we knew that we were losing the war.  We decided to change our thinking and adopt a decentralized, adaptive framework to try and salvage a win. The results were astonishing — real, tangible patterns not whitewashed Orwellian KPI’s {key performance indicators} on a PowerPoint slide to brief the Generals.

Down in a desolate, lonesome river valley, over a 90-day period, things begin to change as we changed our behavior.  Our empowered teams began collecting actionable intelligence, we were able to penetrate deep into enemy territory and neutralize several enemy-training camps, and our squadron became one of the most decorated units during the Surge. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were practicing Scrum,

  • Incremental, iterative operations to accomplish mission, just like sprints.
  • Routine, deliberate adaptive planning meetings to identify and prioritize goals, just like backlogs.
  • Decentralized execution with absolute collaboration at the team level.
  • Post-operation inspection of results followed by debriefs to adapt and restart planning.

Today, I serve as the leader of an Agile Program Office at a Financial Technology company practicing Holacracy.  I help coach, mentor, and guide teams building 30 different hardware and software solutions for handling cash in both financial and retail markets.  However, I have no formal background in software or computer science. I suppose that you could consider me an Accidental ScrumMaster and an Agilist.

Combat taught me Scrum.  Through a trial by fire in an unforgiving environment, I learned to change the way that I see and understand problems.  There are thousands of other veterans out there like me that learned the same lessons, and they could have an immediate impact in your business for real results.  Here’s how we did it.

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Stratfor: Getting to the Root of France’s Muslim Dilemma

Summary:  Generations of immigration gave France cheap docile workers. Now comes the hangover as France struggles to integrate them, amidst concerns about rising Islamic fundamentalism and recruitment by jihadists.

Stratfor

Getting to the Root of France’s Muslim Dilemma

By Joe Parson. Stratfor, 24 January 2016

The jihadist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo signified the beginning of a new period of insecurity for France. Since those shots rang out a little over a year ago, France has been beset by threats, false alarms and more successful attacks. The latest of these, of course, took place in Paris itself, triggering the first nationwide state of emergency since 1961. Having been away for most of 2015, when I arrived back for the holidays I found the country had somehow changed. Disembarking at Charles de Gaulle airport’s oldest terminal, whimsically known as le Camembert for its roundness, I found the same futuristic, grimy moving walkways and familiar odor of the Paris metro. Much was the same, but then I noticed that the usual airport security was gone, replaced by military personnel patrolling with automatic rifles.

France’s security alert system, Plan Vigipirate, was developed in the late 1970s, updated once in the mid-1990s and twice more in the early 2000s. It reached its highest level of alert (scarlet) after the March 2012 Toulouse and Montauban attacks. In January 2015, however, authorities created a new, higher level to reflect the perceived current danger.

As I traveled through Paris and the rest of the country I saw these security measures in action on the city’s metro and on the country’s high-speed train, the Train à Grande Vitesse. Security checks have become much more common, and this has led to some delays. False alarms triggered by such things as suspicious packets of cookies on a Nantes tram or forgotten luggage have stopped trains across the country. Over the New Year holiday, the center of Paris was cordoned off and people were individually screened before being allowed to continue on foot. Even the Christmas market in Strasbourg, far from Paris, was blocked off to automobile traffic, and identification checks were mandatory.

Security measures in the wake of attacks have been made more complex — and politically volatile — by France’s sizeable Muslim population. French Muslims themselves, especially immigrants, have become the focus of a great deal of scrutiny over the past year. In 2010, 4.8 million Muslims lived in France, the second-largest population in the European Union and the largest in proportion to population: 7.5 percent. This has led many on the far right to call for policies specifically limiting Muslim immigration. Opinions, however, are mixed — a 2015 Pew Research poll found that only 24 percent of the country held unfavorable views of Muslims. Popular perception of Islam has played a moderating role in the government’s reaction while ensuring safety for all, including the French Muslim population.

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Does the unrest in Saudi Arabia mean their government is tottering?

Summary: The Saudi Princes rule one of the nations key to the current geopolitical order. Recent news stories suggest it is tottering, such as the execution of a reformist Shiite cleric. A close look at authoritative sources gives the answer, one that also illuminates other questions about current events.

Saud flag

Saudi execution of Shia cleric sparks outrage in Middle East
The Guardian, 2 January 2016

The Iranian government and religious leaders across the Middle East have condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric {Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr} and warned of repercussions that could bring down the country’s royal family.

Nimr had long been regarded as the most vocal Shia leader in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif, willing to publicly criticise the ruling al-Saud family and call for elections. He was, however, careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say. That did not prevent the interior ministry from accusing him of being behind attacks on police, alongside a group of other suspects it said were working on behalf of Iran, the kingdom’s main regional rival.

… The execution was described as a “grave mistake” by the Supreme Islamic Shia Council in Lebanon and a “flagrant violation of human rights” by Yemen’s Houthi movement. … Iran’s Shia leadership said the execution of Nimr “would cost Saudi Arabia dearly”.

…Nimr was one of 47 people Saudi Arabian executed for terrorism on Friday. The interior ministry said most of those killed were involved in a series of al-Qaida attacks between 2003 and 2006. … The simultaneous execution of 47 people on security grounds was the biggest such event in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadi rebels who seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979.

The Mehr News Agency reports strong words by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jaber Ansari…

The Iranian diplomat lamented that while Takfiri and extremist terrorists have disrupted peace in the region and the whole world, executing an unarmed dissident who just criticized the Saudi regime for religious and political issues depicts a total lack of wisdom and shrewdness among Saudies. Jaber Ansari categorically condemned the move and drew attentions to the fact that Saudis, who support and feed terrorists and extremists Takfiries in other countries, are very authoritarian and repressive in dealing with their home dissidents.

Mehr quotes strong language by Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts:

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These are the people responsible for our out of control police…

Summary:  Matthew Harwood’s definitive article shows that America’s police have gone out of control. But nothing will change unless we identify the people responsible, much as the year of outrage following Snowden’s revelations of NSA surveillance produced few reforms. The evidence clearly points to the guilty parties — and a solution.

San Diego policeman Neal Browder shooting from his car at an Rawshan Nehad — an unarmed man 17′ away. Browder said he believed Nehad had a knife and posed an “immanent threat” to him. Nehad died; Browder was not charged. Insurgents struggle to de-legitimize police with large segments of the people; US police are doing it to themselves.

I strongly recommend reading The Logic of the Police State by Matthew Harwood (ACLU) at TomDispatch — “People Are Waking Up to the Darkness in American Policing, and the Police Don’t Like It One Bit.” Here is the conclusion of Tom Engelhardt’s introduction…

In these years, the militarization of the police has taken place amid a striking upsurge of protest over police brutality, abuses, and in particular the endless killing of young black men, as well as a parallel growth in both the powers of and the protections afforded to police officers.

As TomDispatch regular Matthew Harwood, who has been covering the militarization of the police for this site, reports today, all of this could easily add up to the building blocks for a developing police-state frame of mind. If you’ve been watching the national news dominated by panic and hysteria over domestic terrorism, including the shutting down of a major urban school system over an outlandish hoax threat of a terror attack, or the recent Republican debate over “national security,” which turned out to mean only “ISIS” and immigration, can there be any question that the way is being paved for institutionalizing a new kind of policing in this country in the name of American security and fear?

Here are Harwood’s concluding paragraphs…

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Stratfor: Time Is Working Against the Islamic State

Summary: Slowly it the obvious becomes apparent that the hype about the the Islamic State was (like that about the USSR and al Qaeda) bogus, that it is neither a potential superpower nor going to sweep beyond is based in the Sunni Arab areas amidst the wreckage of Iraq and Syria. Here Scott Stewart of Stratfor reviews the evidence.

Stratfor

Time Is Working Against the Islamic State

By Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 5 November 2015

At this time last year, a string of leaderless resistance-style attacks by grassroots jihadists in the West was making people very nervous. And their concern was understandable: In late October 2014, the tempo of attacks by grassroots jihadists in the West reached its highest point in history. The spike in activity largely stemmed from a statement made by Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani a month earlier, urging individuals in Western countries to:

“… single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

The wave of violence continued through the end of 2014 and into 2015, as assailants struck in Australia and in France in December, followed closely by the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January and the Copenhagen attack in February. But since that time, it has become clear that the momentum of the attacks has slowed, and that grassroots jihadists have not been able to keep up a consistent tempo of striking multiple times each month. In other words, the violence taking place in October last year was an anomaly, not the start of an emerging trend. The question is: Why didn’t the movement gain more traction?

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Stratfor: The Coming Age of Cyberterrorism

Summary: For five years readers of the FM website have learned the facts and myths of cybersecurity and cyberterrorism. Now CEOs are fired for big security breeches, wild headlines stoke the public’s fears — and Stratfor declares the “coming age of cyberterrorism”. Their analysis, as usual, gives a solid introduction to this important subject.

Stratfor

The Coming Age of Cyberterrorism

By Scott Stewart
Stratfor, 22 October 2015

The Islamic State is trying to hack U.S. power companies, U.S. officials told a gathering of American energy firms Oct. 15 {CNN: “ISIS is attacking the U.S. energy grid (and failing)”}. The story quoted John Riggi, a section chief at the FBI’s cyber division, as saying the Islamic State has, “Strong intent. Thankfully, low capability … But the concern is that they’ll buy that capability.”

The same day the CNNMoney report was published, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the arrest of Ardit Ferizi — a citizen of Kosovo and known hacker, apprehended in Malaysia — on a U.S. provisional arrest warrant. The Justice Department charged Ferizi with providing material support to the Islamic State, computer hacking and identity theft, all in conjunction with the theft and release of personally identifiable information belonging to 1,351 U.S. service members and civilian government employees stolen from the servers of an unnamed U.S. retail chain.

According to the Justice Department, Ferizi provided the stolen personal information to the Islamic State’s Junaid Hussain (aka Abu al-Britani) who was subsequently killed in an airstrike in the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, Syria.

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