SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013
In better shape now than ever before
There’s lots of competition in the media and lots of stuff to read, Matthew Yglesias writes
MERICAN news media
has never been in better
shape. That’s just common
sense. Almost anything
you’d want to know about any subject is available at your ingertips. You
don’t need to take my analysis of the
Cyprus bank bailout crisis as the last
word on the matter: You can quickly and easily ind coverage from The
New York Times, Wall Street Journal,
Financial Times and the Economist or
anywhere else Or if you don’t want
to see your Cyprus news iltered
through an America/British lens,
you can check out the take of distinguished Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis on his blog.
Essentially none of this bounty is
relected in the deeply pessimistic latest edition of the Pew Research Cen-
ter’s annual State of the Media Report. Pew’s overview makes no mention of the Web’s speed, range and
depth, or indeed any mention at all
of audience access to information as
an important indicator of the health
of journalism. Instead we lead with
a lamentation that “in 2012, a continued erosion of news reporting resources converged with growing opportunities for those in politics, government agencies, companies and
others to take their messages directly to the public.” Layoffs of newsroom personnel at newspapers, Pew
reports, have “put the industry down
30 per cent since its peak in 2000 and
below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the irst time since
This viewpoint is not wrong, exact-
ly, but it is mistaken. It’s a blinkered
outlook that confuses the interests of
producers with those of consumers,
confuses inputs with outputs, and neglects the single most important driver of human welfare -- productivity. Just as a tiny number of farmers
now produce an agricultural bounty
that would have amazed our ancestors, today’s readers have access to far
more high-quality coverage than they
have time to read.
Just ask yourself: Is there more or
less good material for you to read today than there was 13 years ago? The
answer is, clearly, more. Indeed, one
thing the Pew report correctly emphasizes is that it’s hard to make lots
of money selling ads online. But it’s
hard primarily for the same reason
that the Internet is such a bonanza
for readers: There’s lots of competition and lots of stuff to read. A traditional newspaper used to compete
with a single cross-town rival. Time
would compete with Newsweek. Time
doesn’t compete with Newsweek anymore: Instead it competes with every
single English-language website on
the planet. It’s tough, but it merely
news distribution are astonishing.
You don’t need to go to a speciality shop to ind out-of-town newspapers or foreign magazines. Just
open a browser. You can check on Israeli news sites when a new government is formed or during an American presidential visit and ignore them
the rest of the year. The Internet also
Digital technology makes it dramatically easier to
produce the news
underscores the extent of the enormous advances in productivity that
are transforming the industry.
The recent improvements in
How to correct
a big mistake
brings the enormous back catalogue
of journalism to life.
And of course digital technology also makes it dramatically easi-
er to produce the news. Charts and
graphs can be manufactured and
published in minutes. Public sector
data, academic research, and think
tank reports are at your ingertips,
instead of gathering dust on random shelves. Email, instant messaging, and mobile phones make it easier to contact sources and collaborate
with editors.
In other words, any individual
journalist working today can produce
much more than our predecessors
could in 1978. And the audience can
essentially read all of our output. Not
just today’s output either. Yesterday’s
and last week’s and last month’s and
last year’s and so forth. To the extent
that the industry is suffering, it’s suffering from a crisis of productivity.
Syrian crisis
Enemies are gaining access to technology that enables
them to harm the US, David W. Barno writes
HE wars of the
21st century will
be dominated by
overlapping types of conlict: Wars of Silicon, Wars of
Iron and Wars in the Shadows. The United States
must design a new readiness and investment strategy to deal with all three. Yet
today it continues to pour
scarce resources chiely into
its sphere of long-held dominance -- Wars of Iron. This is
a potentially disastrous mistake, but one that can be corrected if we act now.
Wars of Silicon represent
the most demanding scenarios that the United States
could face in the coming decades. These wars represent
the ‘high bar’ -- a potential
US faceoff against a deadly
trifecta of cutting-edge technology, advanced military
capabilities and substantial
inancial resources. While
these wars will be built
around cyber-technology,
they may well include highly sophisticated weapons
and other evolving forms of
mayhem -- from malevolent
biological agents to disruptions of critical infrastructure.
Several states loom as possible Silicon War opponents,
the most obvious being China. But the circle of potential
enemies grows each year as
more adversaries gain access
to technology that enables
them to strike and harm the
United States, even without
conventional power projection capabilities. Non-state
actors will pose a threat too,
as even the smallest group
of skilled malcontents can
deliver Silicon War effects
from their home computers.
Immediately attributing certain attacks may prove dificult, complicating both deterrence and counterattack.
At scale, Silicon Wars may
enable powerful state actors to unbalance and unhinge US regional or global
objectives by undercutting
both its civil and military capabilities. A high-end, economically powerful adversary could deploy sophisticated cyberthreats in combination with large numbers
of highly equipped conventional forces. Combinations
of these capabilities could
deny US forces access to critical airspace and waterways.
Although the United States
does not seek such confrontations -- nor see them as inevitable -- it must be prepared for a world in which a
new standard is being set for
advanced military competition. Unquestionably, some
substantial portion of the US
military must be designed
to counter this growing and
most demanding threat.
Investment Implications:
Wars of Silicon require a
different balance of US security capabilities than exists now. These wars present new challenges that cannot be addressed solely with
the forces and systems that
the Pentagon plans to bring
online in the next 10 years.
With the increased possibility of a high-end, economically powerful actor with
regional ambitions -- think
China in 2030 -- it’s time for
Several states
loom as possible
Silicon War
the United States to substantially alter its current investment portfolio. Arguably, the United States remains most deeply exposed
to foreign-directed mayhem
in the cyber-domain, so it
should increase spending
on both defensive and offensive cyber-capabilities.
In anti-access conlicts,
maritime and airpower
will remain high-value capabilities, but only if adapted to this new threat. Forces that today are most effective when operating close to
enemy shores will be particularly vulnerable in a Silicon War because of growing
numbers of advanced longrange missiles, so striking
from greater distances with
unmanned platforms will
be essential. The vulnerability of many of today’s shortrange manned aircraft and
low-end ships makes them
largely unsuitable for this
type of war. It also argues
against buying lots more of
the same, particularly at exorbitant cost. Much better
for the United States to increase its ability to operate
from long distances with
more survivable precisionstrike capabilities. Moreover, standoff air and naval
forces -- partnered with missile US and ground forces
-- will most effectively reassure US allies and therefore
sustain the global credibility of American power as rising regional actors put military pressure on their neigh-
Wars of Iron will continue
to represent the bulk of potential conlicts around the
world over the next several
decades, but they will look
different from conventional
wars in the past. These wars
will originate primarily
from nation-states, triggered
by instability and competing interests. Wars of this
variety could involve a host
of recognisable and as-yet
emerging actors: North Korea, Russia or other autocratic regimes or rogue aggressors. A disruptive change of
government may be all that
divides today’s benign state
from tomorrow’s deadly regional threat. Late-20th-century weaponry will predominate on these battleields.
And yet these wars will not
simply replicate the conventional military symmetry of
the Cold War -- tank armies
battling tank armies or airto-air engagements. Each
will entail a unique blend
of conventional and unconventional capabilities, often
described as ‘hybrid’ warfare. The United States will
have to be prepared to ight
and win in this domain as
well, reinforcing the need
for highly capable and versatile (if smaller) US ground
Most nation-states will
continue to build military
power through conventional weaponry, while also
seeking new advantages in
both cyber- and irregularwarfare capabilities. Others will deploy large militaries well-equipped with
late-20th century capabilities, but leavened by selective new technologies.
Investment Implications:
The United States is immensely well-prepared to
deal with Wars of Iron and
is poised to buy more conventional ‘iron’ weaponry at massive expense -- arguably to face a world of
limited threats, none existential. In the face of growing iscal pressure, the United States is in effect pouring
immense resources into perfecting yesterday’s capabilities, robbing scarce capital
from investments required
to address the growth of
emerging technologies and
high-end competitors. More
short-range strike ighters
and low-end surface ships
mirroring today’s ways of
ighting are not the answer.
These ‘legacy-plus’ systems
come at the cost of essential
research in science and technology. Put simply, over-investment in Wars of Iron is
robbing the US military and
the nation of the resources
it will need to develop and
ield dominant military capabilities for the world of
Wars in the Shadows are
the third type of potential
conlict. A decade of irregular conlict in the aftermath
of September 11, 2001 has
left the United States wellprepared to ight in this domain. It arguably has the
most capable low-level intelligence and special forces capabilities in its history, honed by years of war
against insurgents and terrorists. And it is increasingly apparent that these irregular wars will persist in the
aftermath of the US military
drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps for decades to come. Ongoing
special forces and intelligence operations in Yemen,
the Philippines, Colombia,
Mali, Niger and the Horn of
Africa all speak to the pervasiveness of unconventional
extremist threats in remote
corners of the world. In the
last decade, Al Qaeda has
metastasised across a broad
range of countries and regions, committing the United States to an increasingly global ight aimed at preventing further attacks on
the US homeland or its allies. As a result, the United
States has directed substantial resources into capabilities optimised for ighting
Shadow Wars. Drones, special operators, intelligence
activities, and other tools
of unconventional warfare
will continue to be in high
Investment Implications:
The United States unquestionably needs to sustain its
decade-long investment in
irregular-warfare capabilities. In particular, its ability to collect actionable intelligence from around the
globe provides an irreplaceable bulwark against surprise attacks by Al Qaedalike groups. This worldwide
early-warning network has
become indispensible to the
defence of the nation. Fastgrowing technologies have
advanced the capabilities of
this community dramatically in the last decade -- and
these new tools have in turn
become adjuncts to all three
types of wars. Drones for
surveillance and strike have
become the iconic weapon of this era. They are increasingly long-range, highendurance, and capable of
precision strike. They deserve sustained investment
to push the envelope of new
special operators are becoming a pre-eminent American military capability, providing a scalable, multi-role
tool in an uncertain security environment. Offering
skills ranging from partnership-building and advisory capabilities to strike operations, special operations
forces will continue to be the
weapon of choice for many
complex scenarios. Sustaining recent investments in
this community and its enablers -- not only drones,
but also helicopters and airplanes -- should remain a
top priority. But they remain
an adjunct to, not a replacement for, conventional forces, which are still necessary
to prevail in the bigger Wars
of Iron.
Yaseen Al Khaleel
Karunanidhi’s exercise in hypocrisy
HY are a lot of people, especially the Tamils of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, only talking about the killing of Tamils in Sri
Lanka. True, the Sri Lankan government’s killing of thousands of Tamils constitutes a war crime. The killing of LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran
and his family, including his young
son Balachandran is worthy of condemnation. The murder of young
innocent Balachandran in particular is a terrible crime. But it would
only be fair if the same people crying hoarse about the killing of Sri
Lankan Tamils also condemned
the senseless killings of Sinhalese
by the Sri Lankan Tamils.
It must be noted that thousands
of Sinhalese and moderate Tamils
were killed by Prabhakaran and
his men. Moderate Tamil leaders
were assassinated. Then Sri Lankan president Premadasa and nu-
merous army, police and civilian oficials were also killed. Why
are these killings not being condemned? DMK leader K. Karunanidhi tears for the Tamil Tigers
are unlimited. These are just crocodile tears. Once upon a time, he
was against the Tamil Tigers. Now
he is supporting them. It’s sheer
opportunism and the chief aim of
Karunanidhi is to be back in the
reckoning as Indian parliamentary elections are due next year
or even earlier. Karunanidhi and
others must realise that the Indian
Tamils are not fools to digest everything that hypocrites like him
say and do.
Mahesh Ramalingam,
Achieving a milestone
HE current Pakistani government of President Asif Zardari
has achieved a milestone. And it’s
that it has completed its full term.
That’s commendable. In fact, it is
the irst Pakistani government to
do so. And now comes the toughest
part – fresh elections. On May 11,
Pakistan will go to the polls again
to elect a new government. At this
moment, no one knows which party or coalition of parties will come
to power and who will be the prime
minister and president. The fact
that cannot be ignored is that this
is a new beginning. On the order-
ly conduct of the elections depends
Pakistan’s democracy. Hence, all
political parties must behave in a
decent fashion and ensure smooth
elections and the transition of power to the next government.
Faisal Ahmed,
Letters should be e-mailed to [email protected]
Please provide a daytime contact number also. – Editor