20 November 2017



Ten years ago, an American, an Australian, an Indian, and a Japanese walked into a room in Manila. This was no joke. They were representing their governments at a quadrilateral meeting also known as “the Quad.” The initiative, meant to facilitate conversation and cooperation between the four maritime democracies in the context of the rise of China and India, lasted from mid-2006 to early 2008. Since it fell apart, analysts have perhaps spent more time discussing it than the officials did in implementing it.

How Abe and Modi Can Save the Indo-Pacific

By J. Berkshire Miller

If the United States wants a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged and U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed at their recent meeting in Tokyo, no two powers will be as important as India and Japan

The two countries are among the most concerned about security in the region and are also increasingly ready to work with each other on it. The relationship between the two countries—historically strategically distant—has grown increasingly robust under the stewardship of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Abe, with regular high-level summitry (Abe traveled to Delhi to visit Modi last month) combined with increasingly frequent and deepening exchanges at the diplomatic, defense, and business levels.

Trump's New Afghanistan Strategy Isn't Really a Strategy

Gerald F. Hyman
Principles guiding a strategy are no substitute for an actual strategy whether developed by Washington or by field commanders.

To much anticipation, on August 21 President Donald Trump announced “our new strategy” for Afghanistan. Unfortunately, it revealed neither a succinct strategy nor even anything new. It was instead a list of a dozen pronouncements defining various U.S. policies tied to Afghanistan. Leaving aside their wisdom, they describe almost perfectly the policy of President George W. Bush and the initial policy of President Barack Obama.

Lethal Autonomous Dragon: China’s approach to artificial intelligence weapons


China does not want to be at the receiving end of a technological asymmetry in what may very well be the conventional approach to war in the future. In part, it is guided by its own ambitions and more importantly confidence in being a step ahead of other countries in the creation of lethal autonomous weapons.

This week, over 80 countries have gathered at the United Nations office in Geneva to discuss emerging technologies in the field of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS). Following three informal meetings of experts on the issue, this Group of Governmental Experts convened under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). It marks the formal beginning of what is likely to be a long and protracted process of deliberations on regulating and potentially banning these weapons.

Islamic State Distortion Of Hijrah: Emigrating For A Lost Cause – Analysis

By Muhammad Saiful Alam Shah Bin Sudiman

Since 2015 there have been at least a dozen Singaporeans investigated by the Singapore authorities for harbouring intention to travel or emigrate to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). This year four individuals were detained for the same reason. In September, IS issued a propaganda video featuring a Singaporean who is known to have gone to Syria to join IS. In the brief three-and-a-half minute video, Megat Shahdan Bin Abdul Samad calls on Muslims to relocate to IS-controlled territories or locations where the group’s influence is present.

Ali Shihabi explains what the media won’t about Saudi Arabia

Larry Kummer

Summary: This is the best analysis I have seen of the recent events in Saudi Arabia, which will shake the region and perhaps the world. It is by someone with deep knowledge of that nation. It is a perspective seldom seen in the US news media — but which matches the known facts and is consistent with history. However, remember when reading it that there are no neutrals among experts. The bottom line: change was necessary, since Saudi Arabia could not long continue as it was.

This past weekend, Saudi Arabia detained numerous members of the royal family, as well as current and former ministers and prominent businessmen, on charges of corruption. Many argued that the detentions constitute a thinly veiled attempt by the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to consolidate political power. However, this narrative misses the mark; the “purge” is not about removing political rivals who threatened MBS’s position as heir apparent but rather about sending a message to political and economic elites that their entitlement to extreme wealth and privilege, and their impunity, is coming to an end.

Monthly Summary of Russian Military and Security News

Despite being under all sorts of sanctions for bad behavior Russia is backing the Assad government of Syria (subject to even more sanctions and war crimes charges) in its efforts to be considered the legitimate government of Syria and able to invoke international law to order American (and other unwanted UN member) forces out of the country. Even before the 2011 Arab Spring and subsequent rebellion against the Assad government it was generally agreed that the Assad clan were bad people with decades of well-documented misbehavior to prove it. The 2011 rebellion would have won had it not been for regional curse of fanatic factionalism within the Islamic world.

William Lind: China’s fateful decision about North Korea

Larry Kummer

Summary: William Lind gives a brilliant analysis of the situation in East Asia — North Korea’s provocations, China’s fateful choices, and the response of our allies if they choose unwisely. Trump’s visit to Asia provides an opportunity for him to display Bismarck-level geopolitics.

America’s fixation on the threat from North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons evinces the usual American dive into the weeds. If we instead stand back a bit and look at the strategic picture, we quickly see that the North Korean threat to China is far greater than its threat to us.

Omar Ali: Islam vs. Western liberalism; only one can win

Larry Kummer

Summary: The clash of Islam and West has just began and none can see its end — or its consequences for us all. Here Omar Ali looks at Islam’s effect on the West, and draws some fascinating conclusions.From a demonstration in Kabul on 25 October 2009. 

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such…. That is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Can Two Nuclear Powers Fight a Conventional War?

Source Link

The Pentagon just wargamed that scenario as part of its effort to determine what it needs for 21st-century deterrence.

As the U.S. military reviews the makeup of its nuclear arsenal, among the questions being asked is: Can two nuclear powers fight a conventional war without going nuclear?

Just last week, this scenario was among the mock battles when U.S. Strategic Command ran its annual Global Thunder nuclear wargame, Army Brig. Gen. Greg Bowen, the command’s deputy director of global operations, said Thursday at the Defense One Summit.

“It gets into a very difficult calculus,” Bowen said. “It’s clearly a place that we don’t want to go.”

Nudging the world

Some economists spend their professional lives in a cloud-cuckoo-land building abstract models of a rational economy that doesn’t exist, never existed, and never will exist. But Richard Thaler, the University of Chicago professor who just won the 2017 Nobel Prize in economics, is that rare academic whose ideas not only address real-world problems but have also been put into effect. In the United Kingdom, for example, a “nudge unit” (actually, the Behavioural Insights Team) inspired by his work aims to develop policies helping citizens make better choices. It got its nickname from the title of the book Thaler wrote with Harvard’s Cass Sunstein, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, about applying behavioral economics to the functions of government. As Thaler said in a 2011 McKinsey Quarterly interview, “My number-one mantra from Nudge is, ‘Make it easy’”—one of many principles that are no less applicable to business. Read “Nudging the world toward smarter public policy: An interview with Richard Thaler.”

The View From Olympus: The Hezbollah Model Wins

When we think of ISIS’s enemies, we usually list religions other than Islam, Islamics who reject Sunni puritanism, local states, Western states and so on. But from the perspective of Fourth Generation war theory, ISIS’s most important competition may be with Hezbollah. These two Islamic Fourth Generation entities represent two different models of 4GW. Hezbollah’s model hollows out the state where it is based but leaves it standing. The ISIS model does away with the state and creates a replacement in the form of a caliphate, which is a pre-state type of government. (Ironically, the ultra-puritan ISIS proclaimed a caliphate that, under Islamic law, is illegitimate, because the legitimate caliph is still the head of the house of Osman; the Ottoman sultan was also a caliph). 

China overtakes US in TOP500 list of world's fastest supercomputers

By Conner Forrest

China has officially overtaken the US as the country with the largest number of supercomputers to grace the TOP500 list, according to a recent article on TOP500's website. China had 202 systems on the list, compared to the 144 from the US, according to the report.

The 202 systems marks the largest number of supercomputers that China has ever had on the TOP500 list at once. The rankings also point to the US having the lowest number of listed systems it has ever had, since the list was first compiled 25 years ago.

What's interesting, the report noted, is that these rankings weren't the case a mere six months ago. At that point, the US had 169 systems on the list, leading China by 9 ranked systems. Still, the report noted, 144 systems puts the US in second place for the most recent rankings, with Japan in a far third place with 35.

A Fight Is Brewing Between Congress and the Military Over Cyber War


Should in-theatre commanders be allowed to launch attacks that currently require approval from the national command authority?

U.S. military commanders want more authority to launch cyber operations. But Congress is mulling new restrictions and reporting requirements, setting up a showdown that will shape American defense in the network era.

In one corner, you have commanders like Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone. The head of U.S. Army Cyber Command recently said that his service is producing hackers who are better than their peers in the civilian world by orders of magnitude. “I’ve been in a number of different army units. I’m trying to think: is there a sniper I’ve ever met, or a pilot, or submarine driver, or anyone else in the military who is 50 times better their peer? It’s hard to imagine. but I will tell you that some of the coders that we have are 50 times their peers,” he said, speaking at the Army’s CyCon event earlier in November.

Stop Blaming the NSA for the Ransomware Attack

Source Link

An inside look at how the intelligence community deals with the exploitable software bugs it finds.

Friday’s global ransomware attack has reignited the debateabout how the U.S. intelligence community conceals or reveals knowledge about critical software bugs. As confirmed by a former NSA official, WannaCry exploited a vulnerability stockpiled by the agency and exposed in last year’s Shadow Brokers dump. But how much blame should the NSA bear for WannaCry’s rampage across 200,000-plus computers in 130 countries?

On the one hand, the intelligence community really does keep a trove of zero-day bugs. Spies need them to intercept communications — and much more, according to Michael Daniel, an Obama-era White House cybersecurity coordinator.

U.S. intelligence warns high-tech firms of flaws in software – and often gets ignored

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government informs software companies of 90 percent of the security flaws the intelligence community finds in their products, but a significant number of vendors ignore the warnings, the federal cyber czar said Wednesday.

Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, said many high-tech firms act quickly to issue patches when told of vulnerabilities. But some firms balk, leaving consumers exposed.

“We’ve gone to companies and told them, ‘Here’s a flaw. It needs to be fixed in your device.’ And they’ve said, ‘That’s great but we’re telling customers they need to buy our new, shiny, next-generation thing, right?’ So they have no intention of patching,” Joyce said.

Russian Hackers Aren’t NSA’s Biggest Problem

It’s hard to say which is more disturbing: Reports that hackers have obtained some of the National Security Agency’s most classified cybertools and are auctioning them off on the internet – or that, 15 months into its investigation, the agency still doesn’t know if it’s dealing with an outside hack, a leak or both.

In short, the agency is reeling. What the NSA needs most of all – aside from finding out how the hackers, suspected to be a Russian group known as the Shadow Brokers, got the material – is a change in culture. Fortunately, there are precedents for a security agency seeking to restore its reputation and credibility: the actions taken by the FBI and CIA after the moles Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, respectively, were exposed in 2001 and 1994.

The critical human element in the machine age of warfare

Elsa B. Kania

In 1983, Stanislav Petrov helped to prevent the accidental outbreak of nuclear war by recognizing that a false alarm in Soviet early warning systems was not a real report of an imminent US attack. In retrospect, it was a remarkable call made under enormous stress, based on a guess and gut instinct. If another officer had been in his place that night—an officer who simply trusted the early warning system—there could have been a very different outcome: worldwide thermonuclear war.

Regulating Autonomous Weapons

By Sean Welsh

This week, the UN is meeting for a fourth time to discuss how ‘lethal autonomous weapons systems’ (LAWS) should be governed within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. NGOs such as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots have continued to press for a ban such weapons. NATO-aligned powers (the UK and Australia) have resisted a ban as premature due to lack of agreed definitions. Many nations have repeated requests for clear definitions as to what exactly they’re being asked to ban.

Given the absence of agreed definitions, the Dutch in their working paper suggested that people propose working definitions. Here are mine. First, I agree with the definition of ‘autonomy’ that George Bekey offers in his book Autonomous robots: ‘Autonomy refers to systems capable of operating in a real-world environment without any form of external control for an extended period of time.’

The New Era of the Proliferated Proxy War

By Andrew Mumford

War in the modern world is changing. Since the end of the Cold War inter-state war has declined globally, whilst even civil wars have become a relative rarity. But war is not becoming an obsolete element of human interaction.[1] Governments and militaries around the world are simply changing the way that their strategic objectives are secured. An approximate 50% reduction in major inter- and intra-state conflicts between 1990 and 2010 belies a significant shift in global attitudes to war.[2] A heightened perception of risk, greater restrictions on military expenditure as a result of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, and a greater public aversion (in the West at least) to conventional confrontation has led to an accentuated appeal for national security goals and defence priorities being attained by other means. This is the era of indirect war by proxy.



The American public and its policymakers remain enamored with Gen. (ret.) David H. Petraeus. Despite pleading guilty in 2015 to mishandling classified material and suffering the attendant legal consequences, the former U.S. Army officer and CIA director still commands a wide audience in national security and foreign policy circles.

When the Trump administration, for example, considered reinforcing the stalled war in Afghanistan during the summer of 2017, it was Petraeus who came forth to help silence the critics of the campaign he once commanded. Appearing on PBS NewsHour in June, the general defended staying the course in what some have viewed as a Vietnam-esque quagmire. “This is a generational struggle,” Petraeus declared. “This is not something that is going to be won in a few years. We’re not going to take a hill, plant a flag and go home to a victory parade.”