24 December 2018

The ghosts of Mrs Gandhi: Amitav Ghosh looks back at the 1984 massacre of Sikhs

Nowhere else in the world did the year 1984 fulfill its apocalyptic portents as it did in India. Separatist violence in the Punjab, the military attack on the great Sikh temple of Amritsar; the assassination of the Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi; riots in several cities; the gas disaster in Bhopal – the events followed relentlessly on each other. There were days in 1984 when it took courage to open the New Delhi papers in the morning.

Of the year’s many catastrophes, the sectarian violence following Mrs Gandhi’s death had the greatest effect on my life. Looking back, I see that the experiences of that period were profoundly important to my development as a writer; so much so that I have never attempted to write about them until now.

At that time, I was living in a part of New Delhi called Defence Colony – a neighborhood of large, labyrinthine houses, with little self-contained warrens of servants’ rooms tucked away on roof-tops and above garages. When I lived there, those rooms had come to house a floating population of the young and straitened journalists, copywriters, minor executives, and university people like myself. We battened upon this wealthy enclave like mites in a honeycomb, spreading from rooftop to rooftop. Our ramshackle lives curtailed from our landlords of chiffon-draped washing lines and thickets of TV serials.

Taliban Acknowledges 'Thousands' of Foreign Fighters in Their Ranks

By Bill Roggio

In a startling admission, a senior leader in the Afghan Taliban told NBC News that “thousands” of foreign fighters are currently embedded in the group in Afghanistan. The admission is astonishing as the Taliban has attempted to obscure its relationship with al Qaeda, even though it slips up every now and then. FDD’s Long War Journal has maintained for the last eight years that US military and intelligence estimates of between 50 to 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan (later modified to 200) have been woefully low.

The Taliban leader, who has not been named, admitted this to NBC News as the group was conducting negotiations with the US in Qatar. From the report:

A senior Afghan Taliban commander who is also a member of the group’s leadership council told NBC News that there were around 2,000 to 3,000 non-Afghan fighters in their midst, mostly from China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Tunisia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Prosecuting Pakistan’s New Extremists

By Michael Kugelman, Adam Weinstein

Last year, a new and relatively unknown religious movement led by a cleric named Khadim Hussain Rizvi staged a sit-in that brought the Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi to a standstill. The action was meant to protest a change made to a religious oath uttered by new Pakistani parliamentarians. Nearly a year later, his Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party took to the streets again, this time to protest an Oct. 31 Supreme Court verdict acquitting Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, of blasphemy.

On Dec. 1, he was charged with sedition and terrorism.

TLP has not perpetrated deadly attacks. But it subscribes to a violent ideology that includes calling for the deaths of liberal Pakistani activists and anyone accused of blasphemy. It also lionizes figures like Mumtaz Qadri, who assassinated Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, in 2011 because of his support for Asia Bibi.

China, Russia, and the greater morality of American realism

by Tom Rogan

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping's comfort with Venezuela's dystopia encapsulates their utter disinterest in basic human interests. But that speaks to something broader: the contrast between Russia and China's foreign policy doctrine, and that of America, is defining.

Yes, the world of 2018 is better than it has ever been. It offers historically unrivaled human prosperity, and a relative peace devoid of major wars of the kind that marked the 20th century. And thanks largely to American capitalism, our world benefits from constantly advancing technologies that make our lives happier and healthier. But to adapt a line from the HBO series, "Game of Thrones," Venezuela also proves that the world is also dark and full of horrors.

Even as we seek to change it for the better, foreign policy realists must accept this world as it is. We must do so because absent that choice we risk policies that damage our citizens' interests and make the world less safe. For the authors of statecraft the priority, then, is to balance the long-term advancement of national and allied interests with human interests in any one moment. The best examples of this balance are the best alliances: NATO, for example. Yet realism also requires us to sometimes work with unpleasant actors to achieve preferable long-term outcomes.

Xi's Scary Interpretation of the Last 40 Years of Chinese History

By Shannon Tiezzi

December 18 marked the 40th anniversary of China’s “reform and opening” policy, which was inaugurated at the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), held December 18 to 22, 1978. The entire year has seen a number of events and exhibitions celebrating the anniversary, which effectively gave birth to “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” All the previous festivities were leading up to the anniversary proper, where President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping was expected to give a speech outlining not only the past but the future of China’s economic reforms.

Ahead of December 18, there was a wave of guarded optimism overseas about Xi’s speech. The thaw in the U.S.-China trade war is holding, and China made good on promises to lower tariffs on U.S. automobiles and agricultural products. Yet those are temporary fixes that don’t address U.S. concerns about the very structure of the Chinese economy, in which the CCP and its state apparatus play a huge role. Accordingly, some China experts thought that Xi might take the opportunity of the anniversary celebration to embrace a more ambitious reform agenda – without appearing to bow to U.S. pressure.

The U.S. and Its Allies Need to Understand China's North Korea Policy

By Taisuke Mibae
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on October 26 marked the first time in seven years that a serving Japanese prime minister has traveled to China for official bilateral meetings with his counterparts. Lost in the headlines of this historic summit was the fact that the two leaders discussed North Korea and recommitted their nations to close cooperation on denuclearization and the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions aimed at Pyongyang.

Many experts are cynical about Chinese cooperation on North Korea. They tend to focus on the unique aspects of the China-North Korea relationship, such as shared communist ties and geographical proximity, and view China’s proactive diplomacy with North Korea, starting with the first summit between Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un summit in March, as an attempt to maximize its own interests, which do not coincide with those of the United States and its allies.

Xinjiang’s Re-Education and Securitization Campaign: Evidence from Domestic Security Budgets

By: Adrian Zenz

In August 2018, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed its concern at reports the PRC had detained as many as a million members of Muslim ethnic minorities in extrajudicial re-education camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). At the same meeting, the PRC flatly denied the existence of “re-education camps”, with United Front Work Department official Hu Lianhe arguing that “criminals involved only in minor offenses” are assigned to “vocational education and employment training centers to acquire employment skills and legal knowledge” (China Daily, August 14). Other officials, including Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir, subsequently echoed his denial (Xinhua, October 16).

But the PRC government’s own budgets appear to contradict these assertions. Xinjiang’s budget figures do not reflect increased spending on vocational education in the XUAR as the region ramped up camp construction; nor do they reflect an increase in criminal cases handled by courts and prosecutors. Rather, they reflect patterns of spending consistent with the construction and operation of highly secure political re-education camps designed to imprison hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs with minimal due process.

The Three Issues Trump and Xi Need to Iron Out, to End the Trade War


Markets soared in early November when US President Donald Trump took the initiative to call Chinese President Xi Jinping and discuss ongoing trade tensions, but the optimism waned amid signals that attitudes have not shifted. As Washington waits to see what Beijing has to offer and Beijing waits to see what Washington wants, a prolonged stalemate is a more likely outcome.

The stalemate comes from a wide chasm in perceptions, as well as the absence of any institutional framework for resolving differences. Washington’s demands fall into three categories. Trump is fixated on the US’ huge trade deficit with China. The US business community is fixated with Chinese regulations that force foreign firms to transfer technology in exchange for access to the vast Chinese market. Washington’s geo-strategists are fixated on how China plans to become a technological power, thereby threatening the US’ global dominance. Put all three concerns together, and an impasse emerges.

US, UK allege China-backed global hacking scheme


The US Justice Department announced charges against two Chinese nationals on Thursday, alleging participation in a campaign of cyber-espionage backed by China’s Ministry of State Security.

The two defendants, named as Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong in the announcement, are accused of conducting cyber attacks which targeted entities in at least a dozen countries.

“China stands accused of engaging in criminal activity that victimizes individuals and companies in the United States, violates our laws, and departs from international norms of responsible state behavior,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.

“Faced with the detailed factual allegations released today, and the corroborating statements of other victimized nations, China will find it difficult to feign ignorance,” he added.

A Damning Measure of the War on Terror's Failure

By Ivan Eland

The New York Times recently ran a piece with astounding implications that didn’t get very much attention. The headline read: “Two Decades After 9/11, Militants Have Only Multiplied.”

The story reported on a recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a pillar of the American foreign policy establishment. CSIS concluded that the number of Islamist militants operating around the globe is nearly four times what it was when the U.S. government began fighting them in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Despite a cost of nearly $6 trillion dollars and the loss of nearly 7,000 U.S. military service members, the war on terror has clearly failed.

The study estimated that Islamist militants now number 230,000 and are spread across 70 countries, with fighters recovering from conventional battle defeats in Iraq and Syria likely to launch guerrilla attacks there and in other nations. Yet CSIS warns that withdrawing American forces from Africa and the Middle East, which the military has already started to do as it prioritizes countering conventional powers, will only help terrorists. The report states that the West has failed to address the root causes of terrorism and concludes that “[p]erhaps the most important component of Western policy should be helping regimes that are facing terrorism improve governance and deal more effectively with economic, sectarian, and other grievances.”

Iraq’s Post-ISIS Campaign of Revenge

By Ben Taub

A September morning in Baghdad. Traffic halted at checkpoints and roadblocks as bureaucrats filed behind blast walls and the temperature climbed to a hundred and fifteen degrees. At the Central Criminal Court, a guard ran his baton along the bars of a small cell holding dozens of terrorism suspects awaiting trial. They were crammed on a wooden bench and on the floor, a sweaty tangle of limbs and dejected expressions. Many were sick or injured—covered in scabies, their joints twisted and their bones cracked. Iraqi prisons have a uniform code—different colors for pretrial suspects, convicts, and those on death row—but several who had not yet seen a judge or a lawyer were already dressed as if they had been sentenced to death.

Down the hall, the aroma of Nescafé and cigarettes filled a windowless room, where defense lawyers sat on couches, balancing stacks of paper on their laps. Most were staring at their phones; others sat in silence, arms crossed, eyes closed. In terrorism cases, lawyers are usually denied access to their clients until the hearing begins.

Is Israel Winning the Underground Fight?

Daphné Richemond-Barak

The past few weeks have once again brought Israel’s ongoing battle against tunnel warfare to the spotlight. Tunnels drew the country to the brink of war with Hamas in mid-November, when the militant group fired 500 missiles into Israel in response to the killing of a central figure in Hamas’s tunnel warfare program. Then, just three weeks later, the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Northern Shield along the country’s border with Lebanon with the aim of destroying cross-border tunnels dug by Hezbollah over the past decade.

These events come as a sharp reminder that tunnel warfare has become as central to modern conflicts as it was in centuries past. Tunnels have been a feature of war since time immemorial, typically as an anti-personnel tactic or as a means to overcome fortifications. Their appeal has grown on the modern, high-tech-dominated battlefield, where surveillance and intelligence capabilities can detect virtually any movement of personnel or vehicles above ground. The escalation in Gaza and the discovery of four cross-border tunnels at the Israel-Lebanese border, capture both the complexity of subterranean threats and the challenge of finding solutions to them.


Arin Kumar Ghosh

After a string of alarming defeats to ISIS in 2014, the Iraqi Armed Forces rebounded to ultimately evict ISIS from Iraq by the end of 2017. The military ballooned to 2 million serving as Iraq finally got a much deserved rest after shattering the dreams of ISIS, or so they thought. Iraq continues to be at risk of every political disease a nation can be infected with: terrorism, militancy, sectarianism, and a slew of other issues. Outstanding political issues with post-ISIS emerging terrorist organizations, the Kurds to the north, coupled with an uneasy arrangement with Iran in the post, non-ISIS threat centric region, beckon Iraq not to repeat the same steps which allowed ISIS to gain so much ground in the first place. 

One of the key umbrellas that shields all the political plagues that could topple a future Baghdad administration lies in its future counter insurgency (COIN) planning. Part of Iraq’s COIN strategy has more recently been to conduct F-16 airstrikes against Daesh positions, including in neighboring Syria as Iraq tries to insulate against sub state existential threats – but this strategy will not prevent the inevitable. The real threat to Iraq’s future stability is from inside its borders. In this struggle, the ability of the armed forces will be tested to contain a future rise of ISIS type elements or the rise of organized sectarian enemies.

The West at an Impasse

By Ross Douthat

In France, where the extraordinarily unpopular Emmanuel Macron presides over a country roiled by populist protests, a leading politician of Macron’s centrist party was asked in a televised interview what policy mistakes his peers had made: “We were probably too intelligent, too subtle,” he told the interviewer, whose eyebrows danced with disbelief.

Around the same time a Hungarian newspaper ran an interview with Radek Sikorski, the former foreign minister of Poland and a member of a centrist party that has been swept aside by the populists who currently rule in Warsaw. Asked to explain the chaotic European situation, he cited a recent Atlantic essay by his wife, the Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, which portrayed populism as, in part, a revolt by the resentfully unsuccessful against “meritocracy and competition.” The centrist alternative to populism, he suggested, was embodied by Macron, who won the French presidency on “positive ideas” rather than “what is worst in us.”

“Macron’s poll numbers are breaking negative records,” the interviewer dryly noted.

Overestimating the EU Economy


If the EU were a soccer team, it would not lose games for lack of a game plan or due to inadequate capacity. The problem is that the team as a whole is not playing cohesively, and all of the top players are struggling individually, owing to messy problems at home.

ABU DHABI – The European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and the OECD predict that, on average, the European Union’s economy will grow by 1.9% next year, a rate that is broadly consistent with the average of 2% expected for this year. But the picture this paints may prove to be overly optimistic, not only because the growth rate itself is likely to disappoint, but also because there is significant downward pressure on the EU’s growth potential beyond 2019 – pressure that, at present, European leaders seem unprepared to counter effectively.


Nathan Jennings

Since the close of the Second World War the United States has retained a significant ground force presence in Europe to defend against Russian aggression. While laudable during the halcyon days of the Soviet Empire, it is past time for this anachronistic policy to end. Europe now has the unrealized economic and political capacity to overmatch a weakened Moscow that can only provoke with economic and informational warfare while accosting weak states along its borders.[1] In the 21st century, the United States Army should accordingly adopt a more dynamic strategy for how it contributes to European security and would join a potential, though improbable, NATO war to defeat Russia. 

A modernized approach could reimagine America’s military role in Europe, as once criticized by Dwight Eisenhower, where it is not “carrying practically the whole weight of the strategic deterrence force.”[2] More specifically, it would remove permanent US ground forces while empowering allies to create integrated area denial defenses at scale. It does not mean, however, reducing diplomatic engagement, withdrawing from NATO, ending multi-national exercises, or endangering commercial access. Instead, American landpower should enable Europeans—whose combined annual expenditure of 226 billion dollars on defense spending dwarfs Russia’s 47 billion—to organize and unify to counter aggression.[3]

New Strategy, New Opportunities

Europe in Disarray

by Richard N. Haass

It was not all that long ago – just a few years, as hard as that it is to believe – that Europe appeared to be the part of the world most closely resembling the end-of-history idyll depicted by Francis Fukuyama at the end of the Cold War. Democracy, prosperity, and peace all seemed firmly entrenched.

Not anymore. Parts of Paris are literally burning. The United Kingdom is consumed and divided by Brexit. Italy is led by an unwieldy left-right coalition that is resisting EU budget rules. Germany is contending with a political realignment and in the early phases of a transition to a new leader. Hungary and Poland have embraced the illiberalism seen across much of the world. Spain is confronting Catalan nationalism. And Russia is committing new acts of aggression against Ukraine.

Strategic Implications of Russia and Ukraine’s Naval Clash on November 25

By: Ihor Kabanenko

Russian Coast Guard assets rammed a Ukrainian naval tugboat, on November 25, and then opened fire on it and two accompanying Gurza-class gunboats, which were sailing from Odesa to Mariupol (see EDM, Blackseanews.net, November 26). Subsequently, Russian personnel forcibly boarded the vessels, resulting in injuries to six Ukrainian sailors. The damaged Ukrainian naval ships were seized by the Russians and directed to the port of Kerch, in occupied Crimea. The Ukrainian crews remain in Russian custody (5.ua, November 26). The Russian side fired upon the Ukrainian ships in Black Sea international waters, off the southeastern coast of Crimea (Pravda.com.ua, November 28).

The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine qualified this naval clash as an act of military aggression and made the decision to implement Martial Law across the country (Rnbo.gov.ua, November 26). It was approved, albeit in more limited form, by the Verkhovna Rada (national parliament) of Ukraine on November 26. Martial Law will enter into force for a period of 30 days in ten Ukrainian oblasts: five that border on Russian territory, two adjacent to Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria (which hosts a Russian military presence), and three oblasts along the Black Sea and Sea of Azov coasts (Interfax, November 27).

Text of a Memorandum From The President To The Secretary of Defense Regarding The Establishment Of The United States Space Command

SUBJECT: Establishment of United States Space Command as a Unified Combatant Command

Pursuant to my authority as the Commander in Chief and under section 161 of title 10, United States Code, and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I direct the establishment, consistent with United States law, of United States Space Command as a functional Unified Combatant Command. I also direct the Secretary of Defense to recommend officers for my nomination and Senate confirmation as Commander and Deputy Commander of the new United States Space Command.

I assign to United States Space Command: (1) all the general responsibilities of a Unified Combatant Command; (2) the space‑related responsibilities previously assigned to the Commander, United States Strategic Command; and (3) the responsibilities of Joint Force Provider and Joint Force Trainer for Space Operations Forces. The comprehensive list of authorities and responsibilities for United States Space Command will be included in the next update to the Unified Command Plan.

From ‘Turn to the East’ to ‘Greater Eurasia’: Russia’s Abortive Search for a Far East Strategy

By: Sergey Sukhankin

On November 14, Dmitry Peskov the press secretary for the president of Russia, stated, “I am not a supporter of the theory that Russia is making some sort of drift to the East […] these words were said by political scientists… China will not be able to replace [Russia’s] multi-vector cooperation with other partners.” Peskov added that Moscow highly values cooperation with business partners from the United States and Europe, warning that “turns to one direction will inevitably result in shrinking our growth and development potential” (Lenta.ru, November 14). Sergei Karaganov, one of Russia’s key ideologists and advocates of the “Turn to the East” strategy, voiced a similar idea on December 4, though in a much more cautious way. Praising the achievements of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Karaganov nonetheless claimed that the most adequate step for Russia to take now would be tightening ties between the EEU, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the European Union—thus, creating an inter-organizational and supra-regional nexus under the umbrella of a so-called “Greater Eurasian Partnership” (GEP). Karaganov further asserted that, “based on the analysis of undisputed successes and some problems, it would be prudent to undertake a tactical pause when it comes to the EEU” (Rossyiskaya Gazeta December 4). It thus appears that the idea of pursuing the GEP strategy is potentially becoming the dominant theme in Russia’s geopolitical discourse, gradually superseding Moscow’s previous Eurasian integrationist initiatives (see EDM, October 7, 2011; China Brief, June 19, 2018).

What Drives the Russian State


Since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, analysis of Russia, both inside and outside the country, has largely focused on two interpretations of his regime. The first argues that Russia is a mafia state in which the main aim of the ruling elite is to steal money at home to conceal and spend abroad. The second states that Mr. Putin is a hostage of his own popularity and that whatever is done in or by Russia is done for the sake of his approval rating.

These theories provide a convenient framework for making sense of Russia; they are also tinged with moralism. For these reasons, many politicians, analysts and scholars both in Russia and in the West have embraced them. But these explanations fundamentally clash with reality. To truly understand what motivates the Kremlin, we must see how the Kremlin itself undermines those myths.

Strategy, Tactics and Doctrine

The terms "strategy", "tactics" and "doctrine" express three related, but distinct, concepts. The distinctions are important to note if we are to understand the concepts.


Strategy describes a broad perspective on how resources are to be used to achieve some goal.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed., 2000): "1a. The science and art of using all the forces of a nation to execute approved plans as effectively as possible during peace or war. b. The science and art of military command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of large-scale combat operations."

The Department of Defense definition is: "The art and science of developing and using political, economic, psychological, and military forces as necessary during peace and war, to afford the maximum support to policies, in order to increase the probabilities and favorable consequences of victory and to lessen the chances of defeat." (http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/doddict/)

DARPA Prototypes New AI-Enabled "Breakthrough" Cyberattack "Hunting" Technology

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

DARPA and BAE Systems are prototyping a new AI-empowered cybersecurity technology to fight new waves of highly sophisticated cyberattacks specifically engineered to circumvent the best existing defenses.

The program, called Cyber Hunting at Scale (CHASE), uses computer automation, advanced algorithms and a new caliber of processing speed to track large volumes of data in real-time, enabling human cyber hunters to find advanced attacks otherwise hidden or buried within massive amounts of incoming data.

DARPA information explains the technology as “adaptive data collection” able to conduct real-time investigations by sifting through enormous amounts of information not “trackable” by human defenders.

“The CHASE program seeks to develop automated tools to detect and characterize novel attack vectors, collect the right contextual data and disseminate protective measures both within and across enterprises,” DARPA CHASE Program Manager Jennifer Roberts said in a written statement.

The Much Ado About Huawei Continues

By Elsa Kania 

Lately, Huawei has been a recurrent flashpoint in U.S.-China relations. Since early December, the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei, over allegations of bank fraud and sanctions violations has provoked intense controversy. While she has since been released on bail, this case will likely remain a point of friction ahead of the hearing on her potential extradition to the United States, which is scheduled for February. At stake are questions at the intersection of the law, security and technological competition; and answers are unfolding in a complex geopolitical landscape, as U.S.-China talks on trade continue with no clear resolution in sight. From a U.S. perspective, Huawei often epitomizes three core issues in U.S.-China relations today: Chinese companies’ often flagrant disregard for U.S. laws; the threat of vulnerabilities in supply chains and critical infrastructure; and the competitive challenge of China’s emergence as a technological powerhouse, including in AI and 5G. As the U.S. deals with the delicate matter of Meng’s extradition, it will important to handle appropriately the broader policy challenges that this controversy has thrown into stark relief. Going forward, U.S. policy towards China must be nuanced and targeted in undertaking appropriate countermeasures in response to these distinct policy concerns.

Closing the Global Cyber Enforcement Gap

By Allison Peters 

Last month, more than 50 countries and over 200 major corporations and organizations came together to agree that the international nature of cyber threats needs a cooperative global response and a common set of principles as a basis for security. This conclusion seems obvious—millions of people have been affected by malicious activity perpetrated through the internet—and yet consensus has proved difficult to obtain until now.

This declaration, known as the “Paris Call For Trust and Stability in Cyberspace,” is an important step in defining common principles to secure cyberspace. But the global norms it attempts to establish will only be as good as their enforcement. As the supporters of this declaration move forward in thinking through what comes next to enforce these principles, they must now consider one important question: What can be done to find those who violate these norms and bring them to justice? The Paris Call reflects growing consensus among governments and industry of the rules of the road for their operation in cyberspace. Its commitments include: working to prevent activity that intentionally and considerably damages the general availability or integrity of the “public core” of the Internet; strengthening capacity to prevent malign foreign influence operations, such as those conducted by Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election; and preventing and recovering from malicious cyber activity that threatens or harms people and certain critical infrastructure. These commitments reflect much of the consensus already built on behavior in cyberspace by groups including the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Securityand the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace.

Visualizing 2019: Trends to Watch

This past year was one of tariff wars, unprecedented cyberattacks, and nuclear saber rattling. CFR editors asked five senior fellows to highlight in charts and graphs how political, economic, environmental, and security developments will play out in 2019.

1. Responding to State-Backed Hackers


By Robert C. Rubel

The Problem

Wargaming is ubiquitous throughout the U.S. Armed Forces as a tool for research, education, training, and influence. It is a flexible tool, adaptable to different scenarios, purposes, and levels of war. It is in this last arena, levels of war, that gaming organizations and their sponsors can bump up against the limits of wargaming.

The inherent nature of wargaming requires delineation and focus in game objectives and design. A game to address all three levels of war, strategic, operational, and tactical, is simply not feasible, requiring too many players, too much money, and too much time. The normal approach is to pick a level of war to play, with the other levels being either scripted, managed by the control cell, or ignored altogether. Even when a game is designed to incorporate free play at two levels, some kind of pruning of factors – frequently time – must occur to make the game feasible within budget and schedule constraints. The net result is that a robust exploration of therelationships among the levels of war becomes a casualty, missing in action.

Governing Private Sector Self-Help in Cyberspace: Analogies From the Physical World


Cyberspace is transforming the relationship between states and private entities. States have benefited immensely from the autonomy given to corporations driving technological innovation, but rapid innovation and growing societal dependence upon data and information and communications technologies have brought significant exposure to cyber risks. The consequences of these risks increasingly extend beyond corporate assets to broader public safety, economic prosperity, and even national security interests. Yet despite growing awareness of the extent of the problem, the roles and responsibilities of government and the private sector in cyberspace remain largely ambiguous.

This ambiguity leaves unresolved the proper scope and limits of self-help in cyberspace: How far are private actors allowed, expected, or even obligated to go when providing for their own security from malicious cyber activities?

Artificial Intelligence and the Military

by Robert Warren Button

The Department of Defense (DoD) is increasingly interested in Artificial Intelligence (AI). During a recent trip to Amazon, Google, and other Silicon Valley companies, Secretary of Defense James Mattis remarked that AI has “got to be better integrated by the DoD.” What do we mean by the term AI? In particular, what does “deep learning” mean? What are the advantages, disadvantages, and risks of using AI? What are potential additional military applications for AI?
What Is AI?

AI is poorly understood in part because its definition is constantly evolving. As computers master additional tasks previously thought only possible by humans, the bar for what is considered “intelligent” rises higher. Recently, one of the most productive areas in the field of AI has been in technologies that can train software to learn and think on its own. This area is moving swiftly and appears to be accelerating. Simultaneously, “old school” AI using rule-based approaches are being abandoned. In the next decades, AI systems that can be trained, learn, and think independently will likely dominate the field of AI. This brings us to deep learning, a field that has made tremendous strides in recent years and generated considerable excitement.

What Is Deep Learning?



Totalitarian regimes are increasingly turning to the Internet as a way to control their own publics and as a tool to use to undermine democracies and threaten dissidents abroad.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to critique some of these regimes, as major social media companies such as Facebook and Google cater to requests by regimes to remove content, ban users, or make it difficult to find content.

It used to be, in the 20th century, that totalitarian regimes were at a disadvantage to democracies because their publics were able to import dissident material from democracies. The dictatorships had a difficult time controlling or threatening dissidents in democracies, because their reach was curtailed by the method of disseminating information. Because democracies tend to have more media, by the very nature of having internal competition, dictatorships in the 20th century were often under siege, trying to keep information from entering their country. 

Porous borders and radio waves and other methods enabled people to learn what was happening outside of various police states, such as the Soviet empire.