24 April 2018

Stand Up Against China

Lt Gen Prakash Menon

India should not seek a reset with China that is based on our inferiority. We can and must assert ourselves.

Some of India’s chickens of statecraft have come home to roost. India has embarked on a “reset of relations” with China and simultaneously seeks to “redefine ties” with the USA. The simultaneity is structurally imperative when it comes to India’s role in the context of great power tensions.

In the case of China, it is based on its enormous economic and military power. The Indian political leadership seems convinced that China’s coercive power does not call for a confrontation, but instead demands a form of adjustment that would serve to preserve our national development goals. With the USA, a partnership founded on common interests is expected to provide political, strategic and technological support that can further Indian goals. The reset would also involve a tilt away from the USA, to perhaps, a slightly less-than-neutral position.

How Tibet lost its independence and India its gentle neighbour

It relates to the sequence of events and the role of KM Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador in China, during the weeks after the invasion of Tibet. Claude Arpi, holding the Field Marshal KM Cariappa Chair of Excellence from the United Service Institution of India (USI), for his research on the Indian Presence in Tibet 1947-1962 (in 4 volumes), has extensively worked in the National Archives of India and well the Nehru Library (on the Nehru Papers) on the history of Tibet, the Indian frontiers and particularly the Indian Frontier Administrative Service. The Last Months of a Free Nation — India Tibet Relations (1947-1962) is the first volume of the series, using never-accessed-before Indian archival material. Though Tibet’s system of governance had serious lacunas, the Land of Snows was a free and independent nation till October 1950, when Mao decided to “liberate”it. But “liberate” from what, was the question on many diplomats' and politicians' lips in India; they realised that it would soon be a tragedy for India too; Delhi would have to live with a new neighbor, whose ideology was the opposite of Tibet’s Buddhist values; the border would not be safe anymore.

The Brahmaputra Diversion and the Tsinghai Clique

Some fifteen years ago, a Chinese engineer Li Ling and a retired PLA General Gao Kai, seriously worked on a scheme for the diversion of the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra. Li Ling published a book called Tibet's Waters will Save China in which he detailed the diversion project, also known as Shuomatan Canal (from Suma Tan in Central Tibet to Tanjing in China). At that time, 'experts' denounced the plans of Li Ling and Gao Kai. Beijing also decided to cool down India’s legitimate worries.In 2006, the Chinese Water Resources Minister Wang Shucheng, a hydraulic engineer, affirmed that the proposal was "unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific. There is no need for such dramatic and unscientific projects."

China develops the Indian border

Che Dalha (alias Qizhala), the head of the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Government (and TAR’s Senior Deputy Secretary) visited Chayul area in the vicinity of Yume village adopted by Xi Jinjing. Che, who is also director of the district border defense committee, inspected a Hero Memorial Park in Chayul area. He told the villagers that the masses should deeply cherish the memory of the revolutionary martyrs. He laid a wreath for 447 Revolutionary Martyrs' War Memorial. Why and where these ‘martyrs’ died?

When the snows melt

Every year during the months of May and June, the high passes of Himalayas witness activity as the Chinese cross over and intrude on Indian territory. The Himalayan snows will soon start melting. Every year during the months of May and June, the high passes witness activities not in consonance with the majestic peace-conducive surrounding peaks. This year again, the Chinese will cross over and intrude on the Indian territory, or to put it nicely like the spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs does, “in what we perceived our side of the border”.

EU Ambassadors Condemn China’s Belt and Road Initiative

By Ravi Prasad

On Wednesday, it was reported by Handelsblatt that 27 out of 28 EU ambassadors to China signed a report criticizing China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Hungarian ambassador was the only exception. It is unclear when the report will get published, and whether Handelsblatt saw a draft of the report or a finished version. However, if Handelsblatt’s claims turn out to be true, it will mark one of the biggest setbacks the BRI has seen to date.

CPEC's Environmental Toll

By Shah Meer Baloch

Pakistan’s virgin beaches are located in District Gwadar, which is the major coastal town of Balochistan, and also said to be the epicenter of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). But the beaches are in danger of being badly affected by a newly planned 300MW coal power plant in Gwadar. Besides the beaches, there will be a significant impact on human lives and the environment. Pakistan is already on suffering from climate change. Will the environment and people remain safe as Pakistan carries out plans to invest billions of dollars in imported coal power plants through various projects under CPEC?

China’s Belt and Road, and implications for ASEAN connectivity


The ASEAN Master Plan for Connectivity (AMPC) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative have major commonalities. Both envisage transport connectivity as a way of bringing countries closer to one another, facilitating better access to trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people exchanges. Similar to the BRI project, AMPC calls for a system of roads and railways to link contiguous members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations with one another, as well as a system of ports for vessels and short shipping routes to link Southeast Asian countries with one another.


Europol hosted the second conference of the European Counter Terrorism Centre Advisory Group to present and discuss new strategies against online terrorist propaganda and radicalisation. Terrorist propaganda constantly shifts on to new and diverse platforms and the quantity of information exchanged, either publicly or in private spaces, is increasing. In order to face these evolving threats, Europol hosted the second conference of the European Counter Terrorism Centre Advisory Group on 17 and 18 April 2018. During the conference several academic research papers were discussed, relevant to ECTC’s complex tasks in a way that is effective and in compliance with Europol’s high data protection standards. External and diversified contributions are fundamental to analysing a world-wide phenomenon as terrorist propaganda. This year’s event built on the success of the first conference of the ECTC Advisory Group in April 2017.

Iran's Army of Drones, Target of Syria Strike: Rising Force or Limited Threat?

by Yaniv Kubovich

The recent airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel has brought to the forefront Iran’s intentions of establishing a network of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) in that country. The project could expand the Islamic Republic’s capabilities of gathering intelligence and prepare the groundwork for possible attacks. Iran began producing drones in the 1980s, building dozens of them, mainly for spying and aerial photography. In recent years, since joining the fighting in support of the Assad regime, its drones have been seen in the skies of Syria and Iraq. Israel believes it still has the upper hand when it comes to drones, but that the Iranian ones do constitute a limited threat.

How Can We Know If a Chemical Weapons Attack Took Place in Syria?


Every atrocity in the Syrian civil war provokes a furious row about whether it happened and, if so, who was responsible for carrying it out. The merciless brutality of all sides combines with partisan reporting and lack of access for independent investigators to make it possible for doubts to be generated about even the most blatant war crime. One good rule is that participants in the war are often accurate about the crimes of their opponents while they invariably lie or are silent about their own. This rule appears to hold good in the case of the poison gas attack on the city of Douma on 7 April, which killed at least 34 people and possibly twice as many. The Russian military claim that the attack was faked by pro-opposition activists and that samples taken from the site of where the civilians died were not toxic. The Syrian government issues blanket denials when accused of using poison gas.

Syria, Turkey, and the Eastern Mediterranean

Two Eastern Mediterranean countries—Syria and Turkey—present some of the most vexing problems for U.S. foreign policy today. The Syrian civil war has become a magnet for both terrorists and U.S. adversaries. Turkey, a NATO ally, is facing terrorism and a refugee crisis. Domestically, it is increasingly turning away from democratic principles and making choices that are at odds with the United States. The United States needs to take a new strategic approach to the Eastern Mediterranean, outlined in a CSIS report forthcoming in May 2018. An urgent part of that strategy, outlined here, is recalibrating U.S. policy toward Syria and Turkey. 

A few weeks ago I gave an interview to a French periodical concerning the state of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

A few weeks ago I gave an interview to a French periodical concerning the state of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Today, 19 April 2018, being Israel’s 70th Independence Day, I thought this topic would be of interest to the readers of this blog.

Can you give us an overview of the actual situation of the Israeli armed forces?

One could argue that, taking a grand strategic perspective and starting with the establishment of the State of Israel seventy years ago, some things have not changed very much. First, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) remain the armed organization of a democratic country, one in which it is the politicians who decide and the military which obeys. Second, the objective of the IDF was and remains to defend the country, a outrance if necessary, against any military threats that may confront it. Third, Israel remains in a state of war with several other Middle countries; nor is there any way in the world it can bring the conflict to an end by defeating them and compelling them to make peace against their will. Fourth, the occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights notwithstanding, Israel remains a small country with very little strategic depth. Fifth, the lack of strategic depth implies a heavy reliance on intelligence to detect threats before they materialize. Sixth, and for the same reason, Israeli military doctrine remains basically offensive, with a strong emphasis on destroying the opposing armed forces.

A Thirty Years’ War?

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For those of you who have forgotten, here is a short reminder. The Thirty Years’ War started in May 1618 when the Protestant Estates of Bohemia revolted against the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II. They threw his envoys out of the windows of the palace at Prague. Fortunately for them, the moat into which they fell was filled with rubbish and nobody was killed. Had the revolt remained local, it would have been suppressed fairly quickly. As, in fact, it was in 1620 when the Habsburgs and their allies won the Battle of the White Mountain. Instead it expanded and expanded. First the Hungarians and then the Ottomans were drawn in (though they did not stay in for long). Then came the Spaniards, then the Danes, then the Swedes, and finally the French. Some did less, others more. Many petty European states, cities, and more or less independent robber barons also set up militias and joined what developed into a wild free for all. For three decades armies and militias chased each other all over central Europe. Robbing, burning, raping, killing. By the time the Treaty of Westphalia ended the hostilities in 1648 the population of Germany had been reduced by an estimated one third.

Russia Is Jamming US Drones Flying Over Syria

By Kyle Mizokami

Russian forces are actively trying to jam U.S. military drones flying over Syria, disrupting flight operations by interfering with the signal broadcast by the worldwide Global Positioning System (GPS). The jamming is “seriously affecting” U.S. drone operations, but it’s not yet clear how serious the Russian meddling really is. NBC News, citing four sources inside the Pentagon, reports that the jamming began weeks ago. It started shortly after suspected chemical attacks by the Syrian regime in the rebel-held Ghouta region. Russian forces were reportedly concerned that the U.S. military would retaliate for the use of chemical weapons and jammed drones to prevent U.S. forces gathering information.

Control of the Syrian Airspace: Russian Geopolitical Ambitions and Air Threat Assessment By Can Kasapoglu

Russia has mounted its anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) footprint in the Levant and also boosted the Syrian Arab Air Defense Force’s capabilities. Syrian skies now remain a heavily contested combat airspace and a dangerous flashpoint. Moreover, there is another grave threat to monitor at low altitudes. Throughout the civil war, various non-state armed groups have acquired advanced man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), which pose a menacing challenge not only to the deployed forces, but also to commercial aviation around the world. In the face of these threats, NATO needs to draw key lessons-learned from the contemporary Russian operational art, and more importantly, to develop a new understanding in order to grasp the emerging reality in Syria. Simply put, control of the Syrian airspace is becoming an extremely crucial issue, and it will be a determining factor for the war-torn country’s future status quo.

4 essential elements of a U.S. strategy on Syria

Michael E. O’Hanlon
In April 16’s Wall Street Journal, former U.S. ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker and I suggest how President Trump can build on the recent U.S.-U.K.-French reprisal attacks against Syrian chemical weapons facilities. In our view, this should be with an eye toward developing a fuller strategy for the Syria conflict that could prove at least moderately effective and durable at modest cost. The ideas build on related writings that Ambassador Crocker and I have done recently with Brookings nonresident scholar Pavel Baev of PRIO in Oslo. Specifically, we lay out the following four elements for a broad strategy, some of which build on ideas the Trump administration has itself supported at times:

How Jim Mattis Became Trump’s “Last Man Standing”

By Susan B. Glasser
Last Tuesday, after waking up to tweet about the previous day’s F.B.I. raid on his lawyer’s office (“a total witch hunt!!!”), President Trump called one of his outside Republican advisers to ask what to do about Syria, and its latest chemical-weapons attack on civilians. “We should bomb the shit out of them, Mr. President,” came the answer, which was exactly the one Trump seemed to be looking for. Over the weekend, the President, outraged by the photographs of dead children in the Syrian enclave of Douma he had apparently seen on TV, had tweeted vows of retaliation against “Animal Assad,” and the Syrian leader’s backers in Russia and Iran. Trump’s hawkish new national-security adviser, John Bolton, who had started work that Monday, was also pressing for punishing strikes. On the phone call, Trump listened approvingly to the hit-’em-hard advice: that, politically, “the minimum should be bigger than it was last year,” when Trump had launched a single-day strike on a Syrian airfield, designed—unsuccessfully, as it turned out—to deter future chemical-weapons use.

New U.S. Sanctions on Russia Make It Personal

Recently passed U.S. sanctions against key Russian oligarchs and officials probably won't have a major effect on the Russian economy, but they will hurt key companies such as aluminum producer Rusal. Given Rusal's importance to the global aluminum industry, the effects of the U.S. sanctions will extend beyond Russia, and Chinese companies are the logical replacement for the Russian giant on the international market. Russia will offer financial support to relieve the affected companies and oligarchs while pushing back against the U.S. sanctions, not only through political and economic means but also potentially on the battlefield in Syria and Ukraine. 

Drones Level the Battlefield for Extremists

By Alexander Harper

In early 2016, I contributed to an Armament Research Services (ARES) report on the use of commercially available drones by non-state actors in contemporary conflicts, including in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine. We predicted that the use of commercial drones, which up until that point had been used for reconnaissance purposes predominantly, would soon be regularly weaponised. As recent events in Syria have shown, weaponised commercial drones are now a regular feature in a range of conflicts, notably involving non-state actors. Drone use by non-state actors in the Middle East is not a new phenomenon. Libyan rebels spent more than US$100,000 buying a drone in 2011 to aid their fight against forces loyal to Gaddafi. Hezbollah has been operating Iranian-built drones against Israel for years, but these have been predominantly military-grade models and thus fairly sophisticated.

The Right Way to Coerce North Korea

By Victor Cha and Katrin Fraser Katz

When it comes to North Korea, U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies have been whiplash inducing. On February 23, he appeared to be gearing up for a conflict when he said that if sanctions against Pyongyang didn’t work, Washington would have to move to “phase two,” which could be “very, very unfortunate for the world.” But just two weeks later, Trump abruptly changed course and accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un—a decision that caught even his own White House and State Department by surprise. 

How to build resistance to cyberattacks in 2018 and beyond

If one were to ask who the strongest nation-states of all time were, who would come to mind? The Roman empire, the Ottoman empire (which would span six centuries), the Qing dynasty, France in the 18th century, Great Britain at the turn of the 20th century, The United States post-WWII. What did all of these empires have in common? They were part of major world wars, and they were constantly under attack or in a mode of conquest for land, wealth, and/or resources. Simply put, they were “battle ready.” Resistance to attack builds strength. The best defense is offensive: it’s proactive, aggressive, and anticipating. In the evolving cyber war, we’ve traded physical weapons for malware attacks, but there is no reason we should abandon the tactics that once provided strength and national security to empires that spanned multiple centuries. Today’s cyber leaders, in the private sectors and the public sectors alike, should take a few pages out of the military playbooks throughout history. How can we be the Winston Churchill, the Napoleon, the Dwight Eisenhower of our security teams?

Nation state attacks – the cyber cold war gets down to business

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cyberwarfare defense illustrationCyber weaponry is moving to new frontiers: yours. Businesses are the next target on the nation state menu. Are you protected or vulnerable? Nation state attacks, and the threat of them, appear to be evolving. The theory that these state-backed cybercriminals are focused on hacking into military or diplomatic data for competitive intelligence now needs to be broadened to other motivating factors. Nation state hackers are expanding their targets to not only government institutions, but also businesses and industrial facilities. They are using more sophisticated techniques to disrupt organizations, and their respective countries, by leaking confidential, often sensitive, information.

What Will Space Exploration Look Like In The Future? – Analysis

By Nayef Al-Rodhan*

The process of assembling the International Space Station (ISS) started in 1998 and was completed in 2011, with five partners involved: Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States. It was initially planned to operate only until the year 2020, but in 2014 the US decided to extend its life until 2024. Since then Russia has proposed to extend further the life of the ISS to 2028, and the US space agency NASA seemed ready to accept this new extension. However, major space policy changes happened in the US in 2017, with the revival of a high-level White House body, the National Space Council (NSpC), chaired by the Vice President. The new priority of the White House is a return to the Moon in the 2020s, as a step towards Mars in the 2030s.

The Pursuit of AI Is More Than an Arms Race


Dealing wisely with the challenges of artificial intelligence requires reframing the current debates. Are the U.S., China, and Russia recklessly undertaking an “AIarms race”? Clearly, there is military competition among these great powers to advance a range of applications of robotics, artificial intelligence, and autonomous systems. So far, the U.S. has been leading the way. AI and autonomy are crucial to the Pentagon’s Third Offset strategy. Its Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team, Project Maven, has become a “pathfinder” for this endeavor and has started to deployalgorithms in the fight against ISIS. The Department of Defense also plans to create a “Joint Artificial Intelligence Center,” which could consolidate DoD AI initiatives.

What was Boyd Thinking?

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And when did he think it?

In his own words:

For the interested, a careful examination will reveal that the increasingly abstract discussion surfaces a process of reaching across many perspectives; pulling each and every one apart (analysis), all the while intuitively looking for those parts of the disassembled perspectives which naturally interconnect with one another to form a higher-order, more general elaboration (synthesis) of what is taking place. As a result, the process not only creates the Discourse but it also represents the key to evolve the tactics, strategies, goals, unifying themes, etc., that permit us to actively shape and adapt to the unfolding world we are a part of, live in, and feed upon. Abstract (c. 1987)

23 April 2018

India hauls US to WTO against import tariffs

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India is clear that it in no way deserves to be saddled with the 10% higher import duty on aluminium and 25% on steel - Akos Stiller With the US refusing to roll back the higher duties on steel and aluminium imports from India, the latter has dragged it to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and has sought discussions on adequate compensation for the losses. “The decision to approach the WTO was taken after India’s attempts to sort out the matter bilaterally with the US did not yield results,” a government official told BusinessLine. New Delhi, however, hopes to sort out the issue with Washington at the consultations without having to request for a dispute settlement panel to fight out the matter. “India is clear it in no way deserves to be saddled with the 10 per cent higher import duty on aluminium and 25 per cent duty on steel as it neither poses a security threat to the US nor has it remained unresponsive to the bilateral trade imbalance. If the higher duties on the two items are not rolled back, India has to be compensated as per WTO rules,” the official said.

In Helmand, Taliban dominates security situation


Since US forces withdrew of the bulk of its “surge” forces in 2014 and turned over security to Afghanistan’s military and police, the security situation has rapidly deteriorated in Helmand province, according to information compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. That data is confirmed by Resolute Support (RS), which provided the district level assessments to the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Uzbekistan’s Pivotal Role in Central Asia

Uzbekistan is perhaps the most overlooked country in the most overlooked region of the world.

Uzbekistan plays a pivotal role in regional affairs, and it is able to do so because of its geography – and its geographic position. It is the only Central Asian state that borders every other. Like Kazakhstan, it is rich with oil and natural gas, the revenue from which has enabled it to have at least the semblance of self-determination. It is the second-largest Central Asian state by area and the largest by population. In fact, roughly half the population of the entire region lives within its borders, their livelihoods aided in large measure by the fact that Uzbekistan boasts more land in the Fergana Valley – the most hospitable place for human life in the region, with its comparatively fertile soil and mild climate – than any other country.

Will Malaysia Buy Pakistan’s JF-17 Fighter Jet?

By Franz-Stefan Gady

Pakistan and Malaysia are purportedly engaged in preliminary talks over the possible procurement of an unknown number of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17 “Thunder” multirole fighter jets, a PAC official told IHS Jane’s at the Defense Services Asia (DSA) 2018 exhibition in Kuala Lumpur on April 16. “We are aware of the potential requirements in Malaysia for cost-effective fighter aircraft,” the PAC official said. “There have been no serious talks but through government-to-government channels there have been what we can describe as primary level talks about the JF-17 program.”

China’s currency displacing the dollar in global oil trade? Don’t count on it.

David Dollar and Samantha Gross

On March 26, China launched crude oil futures contracts priced in renminbi (RMB) on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange. These contracts are the first RMB-denominated futures that foreigners can directly buy and sell. China is also taking steps to begin paying for some crude oil in RMB rather than in U.S. dollars. These moves are raising questions about whether China intends to challenge the dollar’s role as the default currency for oil pricing and trading worldwide.

Beware the Xi Jinping reform trade, it may end up getting ‘trumped’

William Pesek

Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s fair to wonder how far Xi can get in the next five years, protecting the root of all financial evil: a 6.5% growth target. In the space of 15 months, the “Donald Trump trade” went from bullish euphoria to complete puzzlement. Might market excitement over Xi Jinping follow a similar arc? The buzz in investment circles is how a newly supersized Chinese president—perhaps even holding power for life—will get a handle on Beijing’s excesses. Xi, the bulls say, just built a new economic dream team to rein in duelling bubbles in credit, debt, property, pollution and corruption.



While U.S. President Donald Trump stewed about Beijing on Twitter, Chinese President Xi Jinping played the role of the grown-up and struck a softer tone. On April 10, Xi said his country was committed to becoming a more “open” market. As evidence, he offered to reduce tariffs, particularly the 25 percent levy China slaps on imported automobiles, as well as the limits on foreign ownership of auto plants. The American president liked what he heard. “Very thankful for President Xi’s kind words on tariffs and auto restrictions,” Trump tweeted. After weeks of declines, U.S. stock prices soared in relief.

The Saudi Export Of Ultra-Conservatism In The Era Of MbS – Analysis

There has long been debate about the longevity of the Saudi ruling family. One major reason for doubts about the Al Sauds’ viability was the Faustian bargain they made with the Wahhabis, proponents of a puritan, intolerant, discriminatory, anti-pluralistic interpretation of Islam. It was a bargain that has produced the single largest dedicated public diplomacy campaign in history. Estimates of Saudi spending on the funding of ultra-conservative Muslim cultural institutions across the globe and the forging of close ties to non-Wahhabi Muslim leaders and intelligence agencies in various Muslim nations that have bought into significant, geopolitical elements of the Wahhabi worldview are ballpark. With no accurate date available, they range from $75 to $100 billion.

Crisis of Confidence


Even barring worst-case scenarios, the West will be facing a new world with new aspirants making new demands about the future. So it would be a fateful mistake to abandon the ideas and institutions that delivered prosperity and stability in previous decades. STOCKHOLM – In an age defined by US President Donald Trump’s rage, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revisionism, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s unbridled ambition, the international order is becoming increasingly disorderly, dysfunctional, and even dangerous. How did we arrive at this state of affairs? And how can we leave it behind? 

Missile Strikes Are Unlikely to Stop Syria’s Chemical Attacks, Pentagon Says

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

A military intelligence report found that the Syrian government is expected to resume its chemical weapons program, despite President Trump saying “mission accomplished.” Here’s how the strike unfolded. ImagePlanning for the strike of 105 missiles on three targets — chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs — took nearly a full week.

The Syria Quagmire

By Charles Hill

In 1947, Arnold Toynbee appeared on the cover of Time magazine. At the time, he was the world’s most renowned scholar, author of the monumental ten-volume A Study of History, praised by the historian William Hardy McNeill for “taking all the knowable human past as his province” and finding “rhythms and patterns which any less panoramic view could scarcely have detected.” Toynbee’s reputation soon plummeted when historians turned away from studying big ideas to nibble away at small-scale trends. But his unique perceptions still are relevant. Decades ago, he recognized that “two relatively small patches of geography”—one in “the Oxus-Jaxartes basin,” i.e. Afghanistan, and the other in Syria—have been “roundabouts” where the traffic of civilizations and religions across the world come together, jostle, and collide at exceptionally close quarters. Just as Afghanistan has proven elusive to conquer and tame over the years, so too is Syria a place of chaos and instability, which is today sucking the great powers of the world into its whirlwind.

Trump, promising hellfire in Syria, blinked. Why that could bode well for the Iran deal

Suzanne Maloney

In the hours after last week’s joint U.S.-U.K.-French airstrikes on Syria, President Trump tweeted that the operation was a “mission accomplished.” That declaration reinforced other signals from the administration that the retaliation against Bashar al-Assad’s latest chemical attacks on civilians would firmly avoid any open-ended military engagement in the Middle East, a region that Trump described in his statement as “a troubled place” whose “fate…lies in the hands of its own people.” By coupling his show of force with an insistence on extracting Washington from the Middle East, Trump was speaking to his domestic constituency, whose weariness over the human and economic cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts contributed to the appeal of his unconventional candidacy in the first place. But his message was heard—and welcomed—well beyond his base.

The Pentagon Is Building an AIProduct Factory


The Pentagon’s research chief is deep in discussions about the newly announced Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC, a subject of intense speculation and intrigue since Defense Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin announced it last week. Griffin has been sparse in his public comments on what the center will do. But its main mission will be to listen to service requests, gather the necessary talent, and deliver AI-infused solutions, according to two observers with direct knowledge of the discussions. Little else about the center has been decided, they say.

AFRICALosing The Battle: How China is Outperforming the USA in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Henry Hama

Under what conditions could the United States regain its position of strategic dominance in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) despite increasingly reduced economic support programs as well as a limited-to-no Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants? With the expansion of China’s economic and military cooperation activities across SSA in the last decade, the United States is increasingly becoming unpopular to much of the region. It is imperative to comprehend that China did not emerge accidentally as a global economic contender. When the United States was engaged in the “Global War Against Terror (GWAT),” following the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks, much of its focus was in Southwest Asia and the Middle East. 

ISIS and the Continuing Threat of Islamist Jihad: The Need for the Centrality of PSYOP

By Kimbra L. Fishel

The National Security Strategy of the United States (NSS) calls for direct military action against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the disruption of terror plots, the destruction of terrorist safe havens and sources of finance, a shared responsibility with allies in confronting the threat and combating radicalization to counter ISIS ideology. The Trump Administration’s NSS accurately identifies the ISIS end goal as creation of the global Islamic caliphate and notes its totalitarian vision. This strategy further acknowledges the threat posed by ISIS will remain after its territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria. 

Falling Into Old Habits at the 38th Parallel

By Ian Morris

After decades of lamenting the Korean Peninsula's division, South Koreans increasingly regard reunification as unnecessary and undesirable. The split between North and South Korea along the 38th parallel, though seemingly arbitrary, follows approximately the same border that divided the peninsula's northern and southern kingdoms in antiquity. The division reflects the reality of contemporary geopolitics, which suggests that if reunification does happen, it will more likely occur under Beijing's wing than under Washington's. According to legend, a gaggle of junior young men from the U.S. Army and State Department divided Korea, armed with nothing more than a pencil and a wall map from National Geographic magazine. The day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, with Japan's surrender imminent, they got abrupt orders to split the Korean Peninsula into Soviet and American administrative zones until elections could be held for a new national government. For lack of a better idea, they simply drew a line along the 38th parallel.

The {Cyber} Guns of August

Michael Senft

"History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes.”

-- Mark Twain

“Why did the lessons of Stuxnet, Wannacry, Heartbleed and Shamoon go unheeded?” asked the inquisitive student to the doleful professor, whose withered, prematurely-aged face bore witness to the shattering of a hyperconnected world. Today students ask the same questions about the Russo-Japanese War and the Spanish Civil War. Voluminous accounts detailed the terrible lethality of modern weaponry at the Siege of Port Arthur and the Battle of Mukden, which foretold the unimaginable bloodshed of the First World War. [1] Likewise, the Spanish Civil War was a harbinger of blitzkrieg warfare and the unspeakable carnage unleashed during the Second World War. [2,3,4] Despite insightful analysis and almost clairvoyant assessments, the lessons from both conflicts were largely ignored as they ran counter to prevailing views, established organizational structures and pre-ordained plans. Are we any different today?

Cybersecurity Tech Accord sets new privacy standards for tech companies

By James Sanders 

The new paper, signed by 34 tech companies, is akin to a 'digital Geneva Convention' to govern the rules of engagement in technology. Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:  Signatories to the accord will not, among other things, "help governments launch cyberattacks against innocent citizens and enterprises. The accord comes amidst a wave of new attempts by governments to compel tech companies to decrypt communications. On Tuesday, a group of 34 technology companies signed the "Cybersecurity Tech Accord," a document that declares that the signatories will protect all of their customers from threats and will not "help governments launch cyberattacks against innocent citizens and enterprises from anywhere."

Notes from the AI frontier: Applications and value of deep learning

By Michael Chui, James Manyika, Mehdi Miremadi, Nicolaus Henke, Rita Chung, Pieter Nel, and Sankalp Malhotra

An analysis of more than 400 use cases across 19 industries and nine business functions highlights the broad use and significant economic potential of advanced AI techniques. Artificial intelligence (AI) stands out as a transformational technology of our digital age—and its practical application throughout the economy is growing apace. For this briefing, Notes from the AI frontier: Insights from hundreds of use cases (PDF–446KB), we mapped both traditional analytics and newer “deep learning” techniques and the problems they can solve to more than 400 specific use cases in companies and organizations. Drawing on McKinsey Global Institute research and the applied experience with AI of McKinsey Analytics, we assess both the practical applications and the economic potential of advanced AI techniques across industries and business functions. Our findings highlight the substantial potential of applying deep learning techniques to use cases across the economy, but we also see some continuing limitations and obstacles—along with future opportunities as the technologies continue their advance. Ultimately, the value of AI is not to be found in the models themselves, but in companies’ abilities to harness them. 

Artificial Intelligence — The Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the mantra of the current era. The phrase is intoned by technologists, academicians, journalists and venture capitalists alike. As with many phrases that cross over from technical academic fields into general circulation, there is significant misunderstanding accompanying the use of the phrase. But this is not the classical case of the public not understanding the scientists — here the scientists are often as befuddled as the public. The idea that our era is somehow seeing the emergence of an intelligence in silicon that rivals our own entertains all of us — enthralling us and frightening us in equal measure. And, unfortunately, it distracts us.

Autonomous weapons are a game-changer

MANY OF THE trends in warfare that this special report has identified, although worrying, are at least within human experience. Great-power competition may be making a comeback. The attempt of revisionist powers to achieve their ends by using hybrid warfare in the grey zone is taking new forms. But there is nothing new about big countries bending smaller neighbours to their will without invading them. The prospect of nascent technologies contributing to instability between nuclear-armed adversaries is not reassuring, but past arms-control agreements suggest possible ways of reducing the risk of escalation.

NIST publishes update to its cyber framework

By: Jessie Bur

The new version 1.1 of the Cybersecurity Framework, which was developed through public feedback collected in 2016 and 2017, includes updates to authentication and identity, self-assessing cyber risk, managing cybersecurity within the supply chain and vulnerability disclosure. “This update refines, clarifies and enhances version 1.0,” said Matt Barrett, program manager for the Cybersecurity Framework. “It is still flexible to meet an individual organization’s business or mission needs, and applies to a wide range of technology environments such as information technology, industrial control systems and the internet of things.”

Army Needs to Maintain Momentum on APS Technologies

By Daniel Gouré

A few years ago, the leadership of the U.S. Army, most notably then incoming Chief of Staff General Mark Milley, concluded that their service had lost overmatch vis-à-vis the Russian military. U.S. ground forces deployed in Europe had been reduced to a faint shadow of their former greatness. They lacked heavy armor, combat aviation, long-range fires, short-range air defense and electronic warfare. In addition, historically low rates of investment left the Army without the modernization portfolio needed to regain its erstwhile dominance in maneuver warfare. General Milley instituted a crash program to fill a number of critical capability gaps. Among the bold decisions the Army made was to initiate a rapid program to provide its ground combat vehicles with an active protection system (APS). APS employs a central computer or controller, sensors that provide 360-degree surveillance of the area around a vehicle and launchers for countermeasures.

Army Air & Missile Defense Faces The Future


"If something kicks off, we're the first ones to see it," the sergeants told us. "We're the first ones to react. And you're on the line, they're coming after you." How busy is US Army Air Defense Artillery? “We have been at war for two decades in the ADA community, operating worldwide, and hardly anyone has noticed,” one general told us a few years ago in the Pacific — and that was before the US deployed the THAAD missile defense system to South Korea.

US Military Dominance Requires Better Command-and-Control Tools


Commanders need an AI-infused infrastructure to keep tabs on friendly and hostile forces, suggest actions, and help carry out orders. To maintain its position as the world’s dominant military, the U.S. needs new command-and-control technologies that can fully connect and put to use the capabilities of every asset available, regardless of service or domain. These new tools will need to be quickly upgradeable – often on the fly – and resilient enough so commanders can trust the data as it comes in and goes out to individual platforms and units. Forward-thinking leaders are starting to get serious about this need. In a speech to the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida in February, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, “If we are going to fight and win in wars of cognition, we’ve got to ask a different series of questions before starting an acquisition program on any platform, any sensor or any weapon. Does it connect? Good. Does it share? Better. Does it learn? Perfect.”