24 July 2017

Doklam, Gipmochi, Gyemochen: It’s Hard Making Cartographic Sense of a Geopolitical Quagmire


While India has been assertive in protecting interests it considers vital to its security posture in the region, New Delhi remain cagey when it comes to drawing lines on a map. 

Screenshot of satellite image of disputed area near India-Bhutan-China tri-junction 

To start at the very beginning: the Sikkim-Tibet border was defined in 1890 through the Anglo-Chinese Convention that was signed in Kolkata on March 17, 1890. 

Article I of the convention said that the boundary of Sikkim and Tibet would be “the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Sikkim Teesta…from the waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu.” The beginning point of the boundary line would be “Mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier….” 

As is evident, Bhutan played no role in this, nor did Sikkim or Tibet; the agreement was between two empires – the British and the Qing. The Tibetans refused to implement the convention and for this they were punished when the British stormed Lhasa and later signed a convention with the Chinese in 1906 and 1910 recognising the authority (suzerainty, they said) of China over Tibet in exchange for a number of rights. 

US Expresses Concern Over Sikkim Stand-Off; Says India, China Should Come Up With ‘Better Arrangement’

India and China should work together to come up with “some better sort of arrangement” for peace, the US said today, expressing concern over the standoff between their troops in the Sikkim sector.

Chinese and Indian soldiers have been locked in a face- off in the Dokalam area of the Sikkim sector for over a month after Indian troops stopped the Chinese army from building a road in the disputed area.

“I know that the US is concerned about the ongoing situation there,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters at her daily news conference.

She was responding to questions on the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the Dokalam area.

“We believe that both parties, both sides should work together to try to come up with some better sort of arrangement for peace,” Nauert said.

Earlier, a State Department official told PTI that the US encourages India and China to engage in a direct dialogue to reduce border tensions.

Trump suggests that more U.S. troops might not be needed in Afghanistan

By Greg Jaffe

President Trump suggested in a visit to the Pentagon Thursday that he might hold off on sending more troops to Afghanistan, despite a recent order that he signed authorizing the Pentagon to add more forces. 

Asked if he would send more troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban have made significant gains in recent months, Trump replied: “We’ll see. And we’re doing very well against ISIS. ISIS is falling fast.” 

The fight against the Islamic State in Afghanistan is only a tiny piece of the broader battle in the country to stabilize Afghanistan’s faltering central government and slow the Taliban’s battlefield momentum. 

Trump gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority more than a month ago to send as many as 3,900 additional troops to Afghanistan on top of the 8,500 currently there. Most of those forces would be used to bolster the Afghan Army in its fight against the Taliban, rather than battle the relatively small Islamic State force in the country. 

But Mattis has yet to send those additional forces and some U.S. officials have speculated that either he or the White House could be having second thoughts. 

Afghanistan’s Opium Trade: A Free Market of Racketeers

By Franz J. Marty

DARA-I MAZOR, NURGAL, KUNAR, AFGHANISTAN — It is only a short drive into a side valley just off the busy main road between Jalalabad and Asadabad, the capitals of Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar. The narrow dusty road passes fields of golden blades of wheat that slightly sway in the light breeze. Beyond the fields and the scattered verdant trees, barren craggy hills frame the valley called Dara-i Mazor in Kunar’s district of Nurgal. Across the small river, some of the traditional mud houses resemble tiny bulky castles, hinting at the fact that Afghanistan’s violent past dates much further back than the U.S. or Soviet-led invasions.

Behind a low farm house that lies quietly in the shadows of surrounding trees, there is yet another wheat field. But next to it several patches of land are covered in other plants whose single green stems topped by golf-ball sized pods rise above the bushy leaves at their roots. It is opium-yielding poppy.

Opium has an analgesic effect and is the base for morphine, heroin, and other opioids that are used for medical purposes, but also for illegal drug consumption. Afghanistan accounts for some 70 percent of the global opium production, according to the World Drug Report 2016 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Although poppy cultivation is concentrated in southern Afghanistan, it can be found throughout the country. And while opium production is more prevalent in ungoverned areas like Dara-i Mazor, it also exists in government-controlled zones, as security forces, often struggling to keep insurgents at bay, are hardly able to prevent poppy cultivation.

Where Is China's Corruption Crackdown?

By Chris Zhang

The campaign continues despite a somewhat rocky road. 

The head of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), has blasted President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government’s lack of progress in eradicating corruption since he took power five years ago.

Wang Qishan’s comments follow reports that a senior official, previously considered a contender for promotion, was being investigated for “discipline violations.” As the chief enforcer of Xi’s widespread anti-corruption campaign, Wang lamented a weakening party leadership and unhealthy party culture, citing the need for a long process to effectively root out corruption within the ruling apparatus.

The criticism comes just days after the CPC issued revised regulations on internal party inspections, the latest move in a renewed campaign to improve supervision and governance of its 89-million strong membership. The amendment lifts political inspections to a higher place on the supervision agenda, with inspections required to preserve the centralized, “unified” leadership of the CPC. The new regulations are tied to an agreement reached on May 26, when the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee decided to amend the Party’s approach to inspections to better reflect the “latest innovative practices.” With the trajectory set, China’s ruling party appears determined to achieve true political transparency – or, at the very least, give the impression of real lucidity.

China´s Well-crafted Counterspace Strategy

By Brian G Chow 

China’s counterspace strategy is based on taking advantage of not only its own strengths but also the weaknesses of its potential adversaries. Such a strategy can reinforce the United States’ inertia in following essentially the same national security space strategy since the dawn of the space age that can only deal with traditional threats. Thereby, China can use a new threat to achieve its ultimate goal of deterring U.S. military intervention in the Asia-Pacific theater and can accomplish this without firing a shot.

In 2007, China successfully tested its ground-based direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) ballistic missile. Seemingly, China did not expect the worldwide outcry over the space debris created by the test. Mallory Stewart, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for emerging security challenges and defense policy called the 2007 event a “remarkable incident of irresponsible behavior,” as the test created one-sixth of all radar trackable debris. Moreover, SpaceNews reported that “other government estimates say the event led to 3,400 pieces of [radar trackable] debris, more than half of which is expected to still be in orbit in 2027.” The world was justifiably concerned about the large number of enduring debris generated, especially when this event could set a dangerous precedent for ASAT testing.

Amid China-India Border Standoff: China Holds Military Exercise in Tibet

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The People’s Liberation Army military drill was purportedly intended as a clear warning to India. 

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a military exercise on the Tibetan Plateau in Western China as the most serious border standoff in over three decades between India and China near the Doka La pass in Doklam in the Himalayas continues, Chinese state media reported on July 15.

The live-fire drill involved a ground combat brigade of the PLA Tibet Regional Command and took place on the 5,000 meter high plateau. Neither the exact time nor location of the military exercise has been disclosed.

According to the PLA, the drill intended to improve the troops combat capabilities and involved the assault on enemy positions and the destruction of stationary targets such as bunkers. “The exercise effectively tested the brigade’s joint strike capability on plateaus,” a PLA press release notes.

In a video clip shown on China Central Television (CCTV), PLA infantry armed with assault rifles, machine guns, and rocket launchers were seen advancing across open terrain under covering fire provided by PLA, mortars, rocket artillery and towed and self-propelled 155milimeter howitzers.

The Comeback Caliphate: How ISIS Could Regain Control of Iraq

Daniel R. DePetris
For a country that has been all too accustomed to terrible news over the last fourteen years, the liberation of Mosul was a big breath of fresh air for Iraqis of all ethnicities and sectarian affiliations. The Islamic State, an organization so incredibly inhumane and medieval that it makes Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri look like a grandfatherly scholar, outlasted its welcome in Iraq’s second largest city long ago. So when the Iraqi army, the elite counterterrorism service, the federal police and the U.S.-led multilateral coalition finally squeezed ISIS fighters from a small enclave in the old city along the Tigris River after nine months of brutal house-to-house, room-to-room combat, there was plenty for Iraqis to celebrate.

And yet despite this triumphant victory and the celebratory mood enveloping Baghdad, the Iraqi government is quickly squandering whatever goodwill it earned among Iraq’s Sunni population. The reconciliation, reintegration and reconstruction that is critical to rebuilding Mosul’s infrastructure and bringing the nation closer to an intercommunal awakening is instead being replaced by revenge, bloodlust and score-settling—the very conditions that assisted ISIS’s success in Iraq in the first place.

Reports of Iraqi security forces or pro-government militias committing human-rights abuses, illegal detentions of Mosul residents, and extrajudicial killings of ISIS detainees or sympathizers have become the norm during and after the Mosul operation. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of Iraqi security forces randomly picking men and boys out of the crowd at checkpoints, beating them severely and taking them away to makeshift bases. Witnesses have told Human Rights Watch that some people have been killed at those bases, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that more have been tortured when they were interrogated.

Isis may be on its knees but it will rise again if we don’t break the cycle

A day before the battle to expel Islamic State from Mosul began, the group’s propaganda was dealt a potentially significant blow that was quickly forgotten. Turkish-backed Syrian rebels drove Isis out of Dabiq, a small town in northern Syria, where Mohammed Emwazi, the British extremist known as Jihadi John, beheaded Peter Kassig, an American aid worker, declaring: “Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.”

With the rise of Isis in 2014, the town served as the centre of its propaganda. This was where Isis promised a final showdown between the forces of good and evil, an epic battle supposedly foretold by Islamic prophecies in the seventh century. Isis named its main propaganda magazine after the town.

To depict its story as a coherent one foreseen by its visionary founders, each of the magazine’s editions began with a quote from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who founded the group in Iraq in 2004: “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify – by Allah’s permission – until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.”

The Real Reason You Should See Dunkirk: Hitler Lost World War II There

Michael Peck

A British writer whose father fought at Dunkirk wrote that the British public was under no illusions. “If there was a Dunkirk spirit, it was because people understood perfectly well the full significance of the defeat but, in a rather British way, saw no point in dwelling on it. We were now alone. We’d pull through in the end. But it might be a long, grim wait…”

Their patience and endurance were rewarded on May 8, 1945, when Nazi Germany surrendered.

War movies tend to depict the battles a nation wins—not the ones it loses.

So with a blockbuster Hollywood movie on Dunkirk hitting the silver screen this week, one would think that Dunkirk was a British victory.

In fact, Dunkirk was the climactic moment of one of the greatest military disasters in history. From May 26 to June 4, 1940, an army of more than three hundred thousand British soldiers was chased off the mainland of Europe, reduced to an exhausted mob clinging to a flotilla of rescue boats while leaving almost all of their weapons and equipment behind.

The British Army was crippled for months. If the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force had failed, and the Germans had managed to conduct their own D-Day invasion of Britain, the outcome would have been certain.

Russia: Too Many Threats

July 18, 2017: Ukraine and the “war against NATO” is becoming an expensive distraction for Russia. While Russian backed rebels still hold parts of eastern Ukraine (the Donbas) it is costing Russia a lot of money to support the civilians there and the heavy-handed discipline (assassination and so on) required to keep rebel leaders in line also requires more efforts to keep foreign journalists out. Too many people in Russian occupied Donbas are willing to talk with foreign reporters. In the rest of Ukraine security measures and increasing popular hostility towards Russia has made it more difficult and expensive to carry out covert operations. Making matters worse is the fact that no matter how much Russia threatens Ukraine the Ukrainians become more determined to develop stronger economic, cultural and military ties with nations to the west, especially NATO and the EU (European Union). Every month Ukrainians are reminded that Ukrainian soldiers are still dying while confronting the Russian aggression in Donbas. In June 28 Ukrainian troops died in the east and over 170 were wounded. Since the Russian invasion began in 2014 about 10,000 Ukrainians have died, 70 percent of them civilians.

The Campaign for Ar-Raqqa City: June 20 – July 17, 2017

By Christopher Kozak

The U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) achieved small but significant gains against ISIS in Ar-Raqqa City between June 20 and July 17. The SDF completed its full encirclement of Ar-Raqqa City on June 29 after seizing a number of villages on the southern bank of the Euphrates River. Operation Inherent Resolve Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend stressed that the maneuver emplaced a “physical band” that would “prevent escape or reinforcement” by ISIS in Ar-Raqqa City. The SDF later breached the heavily-fortified Old City of Ar-Raqqa on July 3 after coalition airstrikes destroyed two twenty-five meter sections of the historic Rafiqah (Old City) Walls. These breaches enabled partner forces on the ground to avoid pre-positioned ISIS defenses at existing channels through the wall, including prepared direct and indirect fire zones, land mines, IEDs, and SVBIEDs. The SDF simultaneously continued to secure incremental gains along both the eastern and western axes of Ar-Raqqa City.

The Summer of Misreading Thucydides

There’s a delicious irony in the Trump team’s affection for the historian—who repeatedly shows how populists lead societies to ruin. 

This year is the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love,” those months in 1967 when a hundred thousand hippies convened in Haight-Ashbury. Flower children held a Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, and Timothy Leary coined the phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out.” It was the heyday of the counterculture, now enjoying nostalgic celebration here in the city by the bay. 

Across the country in our nation’s capital, another nostalgic countercultural event transpires: the summer of Thucydides. Senators quiz the secretary of defense on Thucydides, a subject on which he is admirably knowledgeable, during congressional testimony. A distinguished Ivy League professor is invited to the White House to discuss with the national security adviser and staff the “Thucydides Trap,” where fear of a rising power by a hegemon precipitates war, as Thucydides explains occurred between Sparta and Athens in the 5th century B.C. The president’s political amanuensis, Steve Bannon, is reportedly obsessed with the martial prowess of Sparta. One of the main proselytizers of Trump’s worldview, who has written under the pretentious pseudonym Publius Decius Mus (a Roman consul from 340 B.C.“noted particularly for sacrificing himself in battle”), disparages readers of any except the Hobbes translation. A New York Times columnist decries the national security adviser and national economic adviser as Athenians creating enemies by their self-defeating pursuit of the state’s interest. Bemused international-relations professors leap on the rare moment of public interest to teach a little theory. Classicists gnash their teeth at simplistic readings of a classic that encompasses myriad perspectives on war.

Sea Power: US Maritime Leadership in Asia

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Admiral James Stavridis – dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University; former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO and commander of U.S. European Command (2009-2013); and author of Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans – is the 100th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Assess the role of sea power – past, present, and future – in U.S. maritime leadership.

As I write about in Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans, (Penguin Press, 2017), global history so often reflects whether or not a nation or empire has effective control. From the Peloponnesian Wars 2,500 years ago to the Cold War, the ability of nations to ensure access to the global commons matters deeply, both in peace and war. The oceans matter today because of the environmental and ecological challenges (acidification, global warming, melting Arctic ice, falling fish stocks); because of trade (95 percent of all internationally traded goods move by sea); and geopolitically as great powers contest the seas for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Sea power continues to matter deeply to American power around the world.

Elon Musk: regulate AI to combat 'existential threat' before it's too late

Tesla and SpaceX CEO says AI represents a ‘fundamental risk to human civilisation’ and that waiting for something bad to happen is not an option
Tesla and Space X chief executive Elon Musk has pushed again for the proactive regulation of artificial intelligence because “by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late”.

Speaking at the US National Governors Association summer meeting in Providence Rhode Island, Musk said: “Normally the way regulations are set up is when a bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry.

“It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation.”

Musk has previously stated that AI is one of the most pressing threats to the survival of the human race, and that his investments into its development were made with the intention of keeping an eye on its development.

“AI is the rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’ll be too late,” Musk told the meeting. “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation.”

Earth Is Choking on 8.3 Billion Metric Tons of Plastic Waste


For the first time, scientists have calculated how much plastic we've produced, and its fate. It isn't pretty.

If you think about it, plastics should be considered one of the defining technologies of the 20th century. Their flexibility, cheap manufacturing costs, and resistance to degradation has meant the use of plastics outpaced most other man-made materials. Today, many of us can't remember a world without plastic, which went into large-scale production in the 1950s. But we're now learning the costs of this wonder material—oceans full of indestructible micro-particles that are harming sea life and polluting waterways. We have no idea how to get rid of them.

With a study published on Wednesday in Science Advances, we know how much plastic we've created, and where most of it has gone. This represents the first global analysis of all the plastics ever made on the planet, and big surprise, it isn't pretty.

As of 2015, it finds, humanity has produced over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. Of that, 6.3 billion metric tons has become waste. With just over 7 billion peopleon the Earth as of 2015, this would represent more than one metric ton per human being. Most plastics don't really biodegrade, and can hang around for hundreds or thousands of years.

US Army Seeks Internet-of-Battlefield-Things, Distributed Bot Swarms


After nearly two decades of war against technologically unsophisticated foes, the Army Research Lab is reorienting to counter China and Russia. 

The Army Research Lab is turning more of its attention to fighting land wars against far more technologically sophisticated adversaries than it has in the past several decades. In the coming months, the Lab will fund new programs related to highly (but not fully) autonomous drones and robots that can withstand adversary electronic warfare operations. The Lab will also fund new efforts to develop battlefield communications and sensing networks that perform well against foes with advanced electronic warfare capabilities, according to Philip Perconti, who became the director of the Lab in June. 

After nearly two decades of war against determined but technologically unsophisticated foes in the Middle East, U.S. Army tech has, in some ways, fallen behind that of competing states, according to a May report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies on U.S. Army modernization.

For instance, Russia has invested heavily in anti-access / area denial technologies meant to keep U.S. forces out of certain areas. “There are regions in Donbass where no electromagnetic communications—including radio, cell phone, and television—work,” says the CSIS report. “Electronic warfare is the single largest killer of Ukrainian systems by jamming either the controller or GPS signals.”

The Forgotten Weapon That Helped the Allies Win World War II

The origins of the Universal Carrier can be traced to the Ford T-powered Carden-Loyd machines developed in Great Britain in the mid-1920s, specifically the Mark VI model of 1927. When Carden-Loyd merged with Vickers-Armstrongs in 1928 the small machine-gun carrier—cramped, lightly protected, unreliable but cheap to produce—became a major component of the British Army.

In 1934 Vickers-Armstrong launched a new model carrier designated the D50. The body was limited to a two-man compartment at the front, while narrow seats, running lengthways along the track guards at the rear, would accommodate the rest of the crew of six. The engine was located in the middle of the chassis and was the standard commercial Ford V-8 linked by a four-speed and reverse gearbox also made by Ford. The suspension and steering systems were good especially when it came to cross country travel.

In 1935, Vickers-Armstrongs offered another carrier model to the British War Office. Titled the Experimental Armored Machine Gun Carrier, it was fitted with the same engine, transmission, and suspension as the D50. Armor protection was provided by 6mm of medal plate. It could carry a Vickers heavy machine-gun which could be fired from either the carrier or dismounted by its crew from a tripod.

Be Honest About the B-21: When Strategic Bombing Works and When It Doesn't

By Robert Farley

Supporting the B-21 Raider means looking back critically at previous strategic bombing failures. 

Late last month, the Center for New American Security (CNAS) released a new report from Jerry Hendrix and James Price on the history of strategic bombing, and on the place that the Northrop Grumman B-21 “Raider” will occupy in the lineage of strategic bombers. Reminiscent of Jerry Hendrix’ structurally similar report on the history of the carrier air wing, and the place of the CVN-78 carrier in U.S. naval doctrine, the report concludes that the U.S. Air Force may need more Raiders (164) than it currently expects to acquire (100).

Unfortunately, the strategic bombing paper lacks the tight analytical hook of the earlier report. The carrier air wing built a coherent narrative around the idea that the relative ranges of land-based aircraft and carrier-based aircraft told us something useful about the effectiveness of the latter, and made a compelling case that this relationship held irrespective of the characteristics of specific aircraft or aircraft carriers. The report had deep roots in the Navy’s own understanding of the value of a carrier air wing, but did not shy away from criticizing decisions that the Navy had made, or was about to make.

COMMENT SHARE ANALYSIS & OPINIONS - Council on Foreign Relations Is the Strategic Corporal on Your Twitter Feed?

"When did your Facebook page become a weapon? The dissemination of targeted information and propaganda has been an enduring characteristic of local and international politics, yet Western discussions of cybersecurity have historically given it comparatively little emphasis. This changed with Russian efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 U.S. election. These efforts were neither the first nor the last but certainly one of the most dramatic instances of information as a tool of conflict in recent memory. 

In trying to structure an evaluation of information operations like Russia’s work to undermine confidence in the recent U.S. presidential election, analysts face the challenge of the strategic corporal in a more dramatic fashion: tactical behaviors can rapidly have strategic effects. Much as the actions of a corporal interacting with an angry crowd can resonate across oceans, a few users reposting on Twitter can spiral into a campaign of rumor and falsehood that shakes the faith of an electorate. 

How then do analysts distinguish between levels of war in information operations and appropriately categorize means and effects? The traditional paradigm considers three levels—strategic, operational, and tactical. The strategic is the realm of state power: diplomatic tools mated with military force to advance national priorities. The operational level of war considers the combined engagements of an ongoing campaign, along with the logistics and planning supporting them (e.g. how an air tasking order is generated to manage the flights of bombers and refueling aircraft). The tactical level, in contrast, is concerned with the particularities of a single engagement (e.g. whether the caliber of an armored vehicle’s main gun can penetrate a certain thickness of armor). 

Cyber Warfare Has Taken A New Turn. Yes, It’s Time To Worry

The recent “ransomware” events created headaches and headlines — but also masked a greater cyber-issue: chaos and disruption on the Internet as the new normal. Earlier this week, in fact, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a new effort headed by former U.S. national security officials, formed as a separate, nongovernmental program to investigate Russian cyber-meddling.

Previous cyber-incidents focused on information acquisition, network infiltration or precision strikes to sabotage the opposition. What are we seeing now are disruptive cyber-actions — with the apparent goals of signaling capability, disrupting normal systems and demonstrating the instability of Western democratic models.

Ransom is not the issue

A number of analysts described the Petya/NotPetya incident of June and the WannaCry event in May as ransom attacks, aimed at gaining as much bitcoin as possible. But our analysis of cyber-coercion highlights how ransomware events such as the Petya are often strategically motivated and less about gaining funds than they are about sending a signal. The primary goal instead appears to be limited destruction through malware wiping systems.

Report Watch Vol. III: State Control of Online Content

A look at the latest digital and cyber scholarship: computational propaganda, trolls in China, and internet censorship. 

Christopher Zheng is an intern and Alex Grigsby is the assistant director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Net Politics report watch series of posts distills the most relevant digital and cyber scholarship to bring you the highlights. In this edition: computational propaganda, the Chinese fifty cent party, and global internet censorship.

Woolley, Howard, and their team at the Oxford Internet Institute examine the manipulation of public opinion in nine countries, including Brazil, China, Russia, and the United States. Their assessment of what they call computational propaganda—“the use of algorithms, automation, and human curation to purposefully distribute misleading information over social media networks”—is impressive and draws upon insights gleaned from interviews and analyzing millions of posts across seven social media platforms.

In their review of the data, they find that: 

In some countries a significant chunk of social media activity is generated by automated accounts (approximately 45 percent of Twitter activity in Russia is automated and that a “tiny number of right wing accounts generate 20% of the political content” on Twitter in Poland); 
Not all computational propaganda is automated (opinion manipulation occurs on Chinese Weibo but mostly through human curation, not automation); 

Is the Strategic Corporal on Your Twitter Feed?

Is the Strategic Corporal on Your Twitter Feed? 

Understanding the levels of conflict—strategy, operations, and tactics—can help policymakers mitigate the effectiveness of a disinformation campaign. Russia's operation against the 2016 U.S. election is a case in point. 

Melissa K Griffith is a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and Trey Herr is a post-doctoral fellow with the Belfer Center’s Cyber Security Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

When did your Facebook page become a weapon? The dissemination of targeted information and propaganda has been an enduring characteristic of local and international politics, yet Western discussions of cybersecurity have historically given it comparatively little emphasis. This changed with Russian efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 U.S. election. These efforts were neither the first nor the last but certainly one of the most dramatic instances of information as a tool of conflict in recent memory.

In trying to structure an evaluation of information operations like Russia’s work to undermine confidence in the recent U.S. presidential election, analysts face the challenge of the strategic corporal in a more dramatic fashion: tactical behaviors can rapidly have strategic effects. Much as the actions of a corporal interacting with an angry crowd can resonate across oceans, a few users reposting on Twitter can spiral into a campaign of rumor and falsehood that shakes the faith of an electorate.

Information Warfare: Israel Plays Rough

July 12, 2017: The Israeli domestic intelligence service (Shin Bet, similar to the British MI5) recently confirmed what was already widely known among hackers; trying to hack Israeli networks will often trigger instant counter-hacks that will at least halt the hackers with unexpected error messages or, worse, generate a powerful counter-hack directed against the attackers system. The worst result is that, as several thousand foreign hackers have already discovered, the Israelis will identify who you are and where you are operating from. If the hacker is in a nation that has extradition or similar arrangements with Israel the hacker can start worrying about getting arrested or, at the very least, being placed under investigation and added to a list of the usual suspects.

Shin Bet could not hide the fact that it was expanding its Cyber War operations and recruiting additional personnel. So announcements like this are considered part PR and part recruiting. Since 2010 various Israeli government and military organizations have been seeking additional staff for new Cyber War efforts that can detect and thwart enemy hackers. This included seeking expert hackers willing to train to operate in the field with Israeli commando units. That new Cyber War unit was actually part of military intelligence and sought recruits from those already in the military as well as civilians.

Can America Win the High-Tech Information War?

America is at war – from cyber attacks by world powers to ISIS and even homegrown terrorists planning attacks on U.S. soil – but most of its citizens don't know it.

In one recent example, cyber hackers tried to break into nuclear power plants across the U.S. Thankfully their attempts were not successful.

And in one of the biggest stories of the year, federal investigators are still trying to determine how the Russians may have interfered in our election.

This new type of warfare is part of the Information Age that has come to dominate our lives.

New York Times bestselling author and veteran Washington Times columnist Bill Gertz says this war has been designed to defeat and ultimately destroy the United States of America. 

Gertz writes about the covert information warfare that's being waged by world powers, rogue states—such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea—and even terrorist groups like ISIS. 

CBN's Pat Robertson talks to Bill Gertz about his new book, iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age, on Monday's 700 Club.