30 June 2018

** Warming World Why Climate Change Matters More Than Anything Else

By Joshua Busby

The world seems to be in a state of permanent crisis. The liberal international order is besieged from within and without. Democracy is in decline. A lackluster economic recovery has failed to significantly raise incomes for most people in the West. A rising China is threatening U.S. dominance, and resurgent international tensions are increasing the risk of a catastrophic war. Yet there is one threat that is as likely as any of these to define this century: climate change. The disruption to the earth’s climate will ultimately command more attention and resources and have a greater influence on the global economy and international relations than other forces visible in the world today. Climate change will cease to be a faraway threat and become one whose effects require immediate action.

Making No Assumptions: India's Seychelles Conundrum

By Harsh V. Pant

After all the hullabaloo about the state of India-Seychelles ties in the Indian media, no dramatic deceleration was evident if one looks at the outcome of the visit of Seychelles President Danny Faure to India this week. On the much-discussed Assumption Island project, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested that the two nations “have agreed to work on the Assumption Island project based on each other’s rights,” Faure made it clear that the two nations remain engaged and “will work together bearing each other’s interests [in mind].” It is clear that despite the domestic turbulence in the Seychelles on the issue, both sides recognize the need to maintain a level of engagement which their convergent interests in the Indian Ocean region demand.

Friendly fire: The curious case of US sanctions on India


Determined to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, last August Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The bipartisan legislation requires the president to sanction foreign and domestic entities doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. Congress’s intentions were noble. Russia should pay a price for meddling in America’s democratic process. Unfortunately, the way CAATSA was drafted it threatens to penalize not just Russia, but India and the promising U.S.-India partnership as well. That is, unless lawmakers move quickly to forestall this misguided burst of friendly fire.

New STAR in the East may Herald an India-China Partnership

By Mohan Guruswamy 

A new Star is rising over the East, and it may herald a world changing era of partnership between Asia’s two giants and a corridor of prosperity to Europe.

Will the Pause in South Asian Conflicts Last?

Arif Rafiq

On June 14, an American drone appears to have finally taken out Mullah Fazlullah, the Pakistani Taliban leader who ordered the attack on Malala Yousafzai and the massacre of Pakistani students at a school in Peshawar. Fazlullah had been based in Afghanistan for roughly the past nine years. He was sheltered and funded by the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security. The next day, the Afghan Taliban’s ceasefire—made possible in part by Islamabad—came into effect, overlapping with the unilateral ceasefire announced earlier by the Kabul government. The scenes were nothing short of stunning. Tens of thousands of Afghan Taliban fighters who had massed near many of the country’s urban centers entered provincial capitals peacefully to perform the Eid prayer with government officials and security personnel. Beleaguered Afghans thirsting for an end to the war were able to taste but for a moment what an eventual peace between Kabul and the Taliban could look like.

A Way Forward in Afghanistan: Q and A with Laurel Miller

by Dori Walker

Laurel Miller is a senior foreign policy expert at RAND. From 2013 to 2017, she served as the U.S. State Department's deputy and then acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, overseeing U.S. diplomatic efforts in the region. She returned to RAND after the Trump administration folded the responsibilities of that office back into the State Department's broader South and Central Asia bureau.

How do you see the war in Afghanistan ending?

What Lies Beneath the Enduring Stalemate in Afghanistan

The stalemate in Afghanistan endures, with the Afghan government continuing to control the country's urban areas while the Taliban command large areas of the countryside. Foreign support, the Afghan government's failures and the Taliban's deep ties within Afghanistan's rural social fabric are central to the persistence of the Afghan insurgency. Negotiations are the only real alternative toward ending the conflict in the short term, but myriad obstacles stand in the way.

Ripples of reform in Dhaka

by Isher Judge Ahluwalia
Dhaka, with a population of 12.5 million, is the sixth-largest megacity in the world. Indians often think we have little to learn from our neighbour Bangladesh, which has a per capita income in PPP terms less than 60 per cent of India’s. But Dhaka has a lot to teach our megacities since it has one of the worst vulnerabilities to water of any urban setting in the world, and is handling it in an inclusive manner which is also financially sustainable. Dhaka’s water challenges are similar to what we experience in our megacities, only worse. Having polluted its rivers with industrial effluents and municipal sewage, the city remains heavily (80 per cent) dependent on groundwater for its drinking water needs. The temptation to source groundwater using deep tube wells is enormous, particularly since the water quality is good and is potable without any treatment. The water-table is at least 600 feet deep and it amounts to water mining from a resource that has accumulated over thousands of years. It has resulted in a rapid decline in Dhaka’s water table at the rate of about two to three metres per year for close to three decades. Moreover, indiscriminate suction pumps installed beneath underground tanks in the city tend to reduce or choke off pressure elsewhere in the system causing backwater and stagnation, and hence contamination of water. Only a little over 10 years ago, the WHO had declared that the entire population of Dhaka was at the risk of cholera.

Here's How China Is Achieving Global Semiconductor Dominance

Greg Levesque

China is adapting to a range of new legislative efforts to curb its acquisition of cutting-edge technologies in the United States and Europe. Last week, the Chinese government launched a price-fixing investigation into Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, and Micron—three companies that collectively account for ninety-six percent of global dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) production. It was also announced that the state-funded Hou An Innovation Fund acquired a controlling interest in the China operations of ARM, the world’s leading semiconductor IP provider. Hou An Innovation Fund purchased that controlling stake in ARM from Japan’s Softbank to the tune of $775 million. Furthermore, China’s Ministry of Science & Technology was involved in forming that $800 million Hou An Innovation Fund with funding from the Silk Road Fund, CIC, Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, and the Shenzhen municipal government.

Here's How China Is Achieving Global Semiconductor Dominance

Greg Levesque

China is adapting to a range of new legislative efforts to curb its acquisition of cutting-edge technologies in the United States and Europe. Last week, the Chinese government launched a price-fixing investigation into Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, and Micron—three companies that collectively account for ninety-six percent of global dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) production. It was also announced that the state-funded Hou An Innovation Fund acquired a controlling interest in the China operations of ARM, the world’s leading semiconductor IP provider. Hou An Innovation Fund purchased that controlling stake in ARM from Japan’s Softbank to the tune of $775 million. Furthermore, China’s Ministry of Science & Technology was involved in forming that $800 million Hou An Innovation Fund with funding from the Silk Road Fund, CIC, Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, and the Shenzhen municipal government.

China’s Peaceful Modernization Does Not Mean Westernization

By Jin Kai

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis was wrong when he criticized China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by saying that “the Ming Dynasty appears to be their model, albeit in a more muscular manner, demanding that other nations become tribute states kowtowing to Beijing.” Following this logic, the deduction that China’s rise and its ultimate modernization can be and will be peaceful appears to be completely unacceptable. Mattis is implying that the U.S.-anchored rules can never be changed, destinies can never be shared, and political and cultural diversities can never be allowed.

The Quad: Second Verse, Same as the First?

by Ali Wyne

The recently concluded Shangri-La Dialogue focused heavily on China's conduct in the South China Sea, unfolding developments in nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, and the potential strategic contours of “a free and open Indo-Pacific.” Little mentioned, however, was the quadrilateral security dialogue — known as “the Quad” — an informal collaborative arrangement among the United States, Japan, India, and Australia. J. Berkshire Miller, a senior visiting fellow with the Japan Institute of International Affairs, tweeted shortly after the gathering's conclusion that it received “almost no institutional backing [in] high-level speeches.” While a compact of this nature would seem sensible, especially amid growing concern over the postwar order's erosion, it has once again failed to take flight.

An Extraordinarily Expensive Way to Fight ISIS

Owen Freeman

Target The B-2 stealth bomber is the world’s most exotic strategic aircraft, a subsonic flying wing meant to be difficult for air defenses to detect—whether by radar or other means—yet capable of carrying nearly the same payload as the massive B-52. It came into service in the late 1990s primarily for use in a potential nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and clearly as a first-strike weapon rather than a retaliatory one. First-strike weapons have destabilizing, not deterrent, effects. It is probably just as well that the stealth bomber was not quite as stealthy as it was meant to be, and was so expensive—at $2.1 billion each—that only 21 were built before Congress refused to pay for more. Nineteen of them are now stationed close to the geographic center of the contiguous United States, in the desolate farmland of central Missouri, at Whiteman Air Force Base. 

The United States Cannot Afford to Pick a Side in the Shia-Sunni Fight

Payam Mohseni, Ammar Nakhjavani

The President of the United States has decided that the best approach to Iran is to speak loudly and carry a big stick—in the hopes that relentless pressure on Iran will either lead to regime change or the country abandoning its contentious foreign policies. Such saber-rattling will more likely enfeeble American power within the region and set U.S. policy on track for yet another dangerous conflict in the Middle East. Just as importantly, increasing tensions with Iran also bode poorly for sectarian de-escalation in the Muslim world. This is because the Shia view American policies without a balance between regional Sunni and Shia actors.

Turkey’s Elections: Will It Be More of the Same?

Mohammed Ayoob

Preliminary results show that President Recep Erdogan of Turkey has been re-elected in the first round with 52.6 percent of the votes. His closest rival, Muharrem Ince of the Republican People's Party (CHP), polled 30.6 percent. The opposition’s strategy of setting up several candidates in the first round who could appeal to different constituencies was aimed at forcing Erdogan to contest the second round by denying him a majority in the first. This would have detracted from Erdogan’s image of invincibility; it also would have helped the opposition to improve the morale of its supporters and to consolidate its votes in the second round, thus increasing the possibility of defeating Erdogan. This strategy has obviously failed and Erdogan is now in a position to act for the next four years (and possibly more) with almost unrestrained authority with all executive powers concentrated in his office and with the National Assembly’s oversight reduced drastically under the new constitution.

Trump Administration Trump's Trade War Escalates

By Allison Carnegie

Trade hostilities between the United States and China continue to escalate. Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to place tariffs of ten percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods after China retaliated against his previous threats to put tariffs of 25 percent on $50 billion worth of its products. Washington has warned of additional trade protection if China retaliates again. The latest move comes in addition to the 25 percent tariff on steel and the ten percent tariff on aluminum that the United States has placed on several countries, including China. 

Turkey’s Warning


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and wife, Emine Erdogan, wave to supporters outside a voting station after casting their votes in the country’s parliamentary and presidential election on Sunday in Istanbul. A couple of years into Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule, much of the outside world hailed him as a great statesman. America’s major publications argued that he would deepen the country’s democratic institutions and reconcile its observant Muslim residents to the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The picture in Europe was not so different. From Germany to Sweden, everybody who was anybody celebrated the changes Erdogan was ushering in. In October 2004, the European Commission even helped him deliver on one of Turkey’s most long-standing aspirations: In recognition of the country’s democratic progress, it formally invited Turkey to apply for membership of the European Union.

If they needed to fend off war with Russia, U.S. military leaders worry they might not get there in time

By Michael Birnbaum

The Post's Michael Birnbaum traveled the route connecting Poland to Lithuania in May to see the challenges NATO troops could face if war with Russia loomed. (Michael Birnbaum, Sarah Parnass, William Neff/The Washington Post)  SUWALKI, Poland — U.S. commanders are worried that if they had to head off a conflict with Russia, the most powerful military in the world could get stuck in a traffic jam.  Humvees could snarl behind plodding semis on narrow roads as they made their way east across Europe. U.S. tanks could crush rusting bridges too weak to hold their weight. Troops could be held up by officious passport-checkers and stubborn railway companies. Although many barriers would drop away if there were a declaration of war, the hazy period before a military engagement would present a major problem. NATO has just a skeleton force deployed to its member countries that share a border with Russia. Backup forces would need to traverse hundreds of miles. And the delays — a mixture of bureaucracy, bad planning and decaying infrastructure — could enable Russia to seize NATO territory in the Baltics while U.S. Army planners were still filling out the 17 forms needed to cross Germany and into Poland. 

US Retakes Supercomputing Crown, But China Has Far More of Them


The US has regained its crown of owning the world’s fastest supercomputer—the machines that can achieve medical and scientific breakthroughs thanks to their enormous processing power—for the first time in six years. But China’s leaving the USin the dust when it comes to their respective shares of the world’s top supercomputers. According to the latest Top 500 list, published Monday (June 25), China has 206 supercomputers and is leading the US by a record margin—82. The US has just 124 machines on the list, “a new low,” according to the statement accompanying the ranking. Just six months ago, China, with 202 of the top computers, was only ahead of the US by 59. Top 500 has been releasing the supercomputer ranking, compiled by prominent computer scientists, every six months since 1993.

Populist Narratives and the Making of National Strategy

By Michael Hatherell

That populism can impact international politics has been clear for some time. As a political style that emphasises a struggle between the people and elites, populism has a long history in societies around the globe. Yet as populist politicians and leaders have increasingly emerged over the last two decades in a globalised world, the security implications of populism have received more attention. Writing in 2005, Steve Ropp noted: Populist politicians have already altered the U.S. military’s operating environment in Europe and Latin America and are likely to alter it much more dramatically. Were bursts of populist turbulence to occur on a large scale, they would have the potential of undermining the democratic core of representative democracies in two regions of the world that are vital to the protection of U.S. global security interests.[1]

The Wiretap Rooms: NSA’s Hidden Spy Hubs in 8 U.S. Cities

Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke

THE SECRETS ARE hidden behind fortified walls in cities across the United States, inside towering, windowless skyscrapers and fortress-like concrete structures that were built to withstand earthquakes and even nuclear attack. Thousands of people pass by the buildings each day and rarely give them a second glance, because their function is not publicly known. They are an integral part of one of the world’s largest telecommunications networks – and they are also linked to a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.
Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.

What's at Stake as the U.S. Considers Recognizing Israel's Claim to the Golan Heights

Israel is lobbying the United States to recognize the Golan Heights, occupied since 1967, as Israeli territory. If the United States agrees, it will be recognizing territory captured by military means for the first time since World War II. That move would add to a growing trend of America reshaping its relationship with post-World War II norms, possibly prompting more international instability.

Part Two: Wargaming Moscow’s Virtual Battlefield

Response: The U.S. has responded to Russian activity in cyberspace through diplomatic measures, such as the expulsion of intelligence officials from Russian consulates in the country, economic methods, such as targeted sanctions, and legal actions, such as indictments of government personnel, criminal proxies and contracting entities that enable Russian network intrusions and influence operations. But indictments of Russian hackers often do not result in their eventual incarceration, given the protections provided to them by the Kremlin. Therefore, the more realistic intentions of U.S. indictments are to publicly name alleged perpetrators and impose increasing costs on them to travel or continue clandestine work.

AI Solutionism

THE GIST: Although media headlines imply we are already living in a future where AI has infiltrated every aspect of society, this actually sets unrealistic expectations about what AI can really do for humanity. Governments around the world are racing to pledge support to AI initiatives, but they tend to understate the complexity around deploying advanced machine learning systems in the real world. This article reflects on the risks of “AI solutionism”: the increasingly popular belief that, given enough data, machine learning algorithms can solve all of humanity’s problems. There is no AI solution for everything. All solutions come at a cost and not everything that can be automated should be.

Mattis declares vigilance to be the best cyber defense

By: Justin Lynch 

Scrawled in ink at the bottom of the memo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ warning could not be clearer: “Be alert!” In the lineage of warnings like “loose lips sink ships,” Mattis warned Department of Defense employees in a memo to “remain vigilant” in a world where secrets can fall into the hands of digital intruders, coming after a series of high-profile data breaches that has embarrassed America’s top defense officials. For the estimated 2 million Defense Department employees, the secretary’s warning served as more of a pep-talk than a crash course in digital security. “There can be no complacency,” the memo warned. “Vigilance is our best defense” against losing sensitive data, it added.

Additive Manufacturing in 2040

by Trevor Johnston, Troy D. Smith, J. Luke Irwin

Additive manufacturing (AM) — colloquially known as three-dimensional, or 3D, printing — is an emerging technology with potential local and international security implications in the near and long terms. This Perspective — part of a series examining critical security challenges in 2040 — offers a new framework for exploring the disruptive dimensions of AM technology, helping to inform which sectors and industries might be the most affected in the future. To better understand the security implications, a RAND research team briefly reviewed the existing literature, conducted interviews with stakeholders and subject-matter experts, and convened a workshop with technology and security experts. Two overarching security threats emerged: the proliferation of weapons and economic insecurity. This Perspective explores each of these security threats and offers a series of mitigation strategies and policy recommendations to help manage and regulate the negative impacts of this technology.

Four Ways 3D Printing May Threaten Security

by Chrissy Sovak

3D printers already produce everything from prosthetic hands and engine parts to basketball shoes and fancy chocolates. But as with any technological advance, new possibilities come with new perils.​​​​​​​ A new RAND paper, Additive Manufacturing in 2040: Powerful Enabler, Disruptive Threat, explores how 3D printers will affect personal, national, and international security. The paper is part of RAND's Security 2040initiative, which looks over the horizon to anticipate future threats.

Sharpening Our Military Edge: The NDS and the Full Continuum of Conflict

Frank Hoffman

The new National Defense Strategy (NDS) identifies China and Russia as our primary competitors.[1] Some members of the defense community misread the NDS as embracing great power wars and perceive these as purely conventional wars. Some even suggest that the Pentagon reflexively yearns for a large conventional threat, so it can get back to what it wants to, fighting peers and justifying its technologically oriented hardware programs. This oversimplifies the underlying assessment of the future environment in the strategy and misreads the strategy’s explicit appreciation of the various dimensions of great power competition. Concerns about the future of small wars should not be dismissed, but proponents of the study of irregular wars should also accept the need to prioritize threats and risk in any strategy. The NDS does reflect a mindset shift and shift in modernization given the scale of the two major competitors.

The Army is most excited about these 3 capabilities

By: Mark Pomerleau

A current Army exercise seeks to inform operational concepts and capability needs based on putting emerging technologies into the hands of soldiers for their direct feedback. The Army is staging its third annual Cyber Quest, which started June 11 and runs through June 27, and top officials spoke to the media about the capabilities that most excited them. Situational understanding Multiple officials discussed the importance of situational understanding tools that provide a view inside the unseeable cyber domain, allowing commanders to see enemy cyberspace, friendly cyberspace and even gray cyberspace.

How industry helps shape the Army’s emerging tech

By: Mark Pomerleau

The Army continues to shape and evolve its concepts for cyber and electronic warfare operations, and it is using exercises such as Cyber Quest to identify what might be possible soon and what can be improved upon now. Cyber Quest, which runs June 11 to June 27, seeks to inform operational concepts as the Army continues to build cyber capacity and reestablish electronic warfare capacity and serves to inform operational requirements of new systems to counter threats, Maj. Gen. John Morrison, commander of the Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, which hosted the exercise, said during a media call.