24 March 2019

India one of world’s fastest growing large economies: IMF

India has been one of the fastest growing large economies in the world, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said, asserting that the country has carried out several key reforms in the last five years, but more needs to be done.

Responding to a question on India’s economic development in the last five years at a fortnightly news conference here, IMF communications director Gerry Rice Thursday said, “India has of course been one of the world’s fastest growing large economies of late, with growth averaging about seven per cent over the past five years.” “Important reforms have been implemented and we feel more reforms are needed to sustain this high growth, including to harness the demographic dividend opportunity, which India has,” he said.

Details about the Indian economy would be revealed in the upcoming World Economic Outlook (WEO) survey report to be released by the IMF ahead of the annual spring meeting with the World Bank next month, he said.

Jaish-e-Mohammed: Under the Hood

By Ayesha Siddiqa

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are engaged in showboating again, each side raising the temperature to make the other blink. India hoped that escalating tensions would force Pakistan to punish militant groups based in its territory. The pressure has worked to some degree as Islamabad ordered arrest of 44 Jaish-e-Mohammed members (JeM, meaning “Army of Mohammed”), the group India has accused of carrying out an attack in Indian-administered Kashmir on February 14. The suicide attack took place in Pulwama, just south of state capital Srinagar, killing more than 40 Indian paramilitary troopers.

Masood Azhar, who is the leader of JeM and writes a regular column under the pen name Saadi in his organization’s weekly journal Al-Qalam (“The Pen”) didn’t seem to take India’s upping the ante — demonstrated through a strike on February 26 against one of the JeM madrassas — seriously. He said in the issue of February 28:

The Pakistani Nuclear Bombast! Is there a method in the madness?


Several times in the recent past senior Pakistani officials have warned that dispute over Kashmir could escalate into a nuclear war on the sub-continent. These statements by themselves do not constitute acts that will push the South Asian nuclear clock any closer to Armageddon. Yet this nuclear saber rattling is not without reason and purpose. Even though there is little risk of a nuclear world war anymore, because of their awesome power and potential to inflict sudden and massive violence on large populations, nuclear weapons inspire tremendous and often irrational fear, however infinitesimal the probabilities of their use. When both the adversaries have nuclear weapons you have a balance of terror. The fact that the fallout from nuclear explosions tend to impact on countries quite distant from the sites of usage, gives other nations the right to be concerned. 

As a matter of fact, under the prevailing international regime any war involving even conventional forces cannot remain a local affair for long to be sorted out by just the two adversaries. Where there is even the smallest risk of an escalation to nuclear conflict, that intervention could be quite quick. This is what the Pakistanis are counting on. Given the prevalent worldwide mood on terrorism and the general acceptance that Pakistan has been involved up to its neck with terrorists like the late but less lamented Osama bin Laden and the Lashkar-e-Tolba, it would seem that even India plays this game from time to time. During Op Parakram we witnessed a deliberate turning up of the ratchet towards a war with Pakistan. Nevertheless were are not closer or farther from war when Indian strike formations were deployed to the front line for the simple reason that there is no such thing as being close to war. One can only be ready for war. 

Poor Nation, Rich Army


On March 23, Pakistan will celebrate its Republic Day with the same “zeal and fervor” as it does every year. As usual, the Pakistani military will come out in full force, with joint parades by the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. The ostentatious marches will include a display of Pakistan’s nuclear-capable missile system, an air show, and gun salutes to local and international dignitaries present for the occasion.

The extravaganza is always broadcast live on local television channels, set to the fanfare of new propaganda songs produced especially for the event by the military’s media wing. It is rare for the public to question these theatrics—but doing so is more urgent than ever.

Pakistan is going through some serious financial turmoil. Over the last few months, Prime Minister Imran Khan has crisscrossed the globe in search of aid to shore up the economy. Before one recent trip, he even acknowledged the country’s desperation for foreign money. Meanwhile, the country’s finance minister, Asad Umar, has been busy negotiating a new bailout package with the International Monetary Fund—Pakistan has been in the care of the IMF for 22 years out of the last 30. Inflation is at a four-year high, reaching over 8 percent, and Islamabad believes that it could tick even higher.

US-Taliban Talks: To What End?

By Umair Jamal

The peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the United States have not progressed despite the fact that both parties have steadily been meeting for weeks.

There has not been any significant news when it comes to the parties mutually agreeing to some sort of overarching peace formula. About two months ago, a peace plan that was reportedly proposed and drafted by the RAND corporation was projected as an agreement that the Taliban and the U.S. may sign on in the near future. The reports related to the future of the RAND formula have also gone out of the picture, for that document has been criticized as being too simplistic and academic.

So, why have both parties been meeting for weeks and yet there is no reported progress in talks except the news that significant differences remain concerning both party’s positions?

Arguably, the ongoing talks between the U.S. and Taliban are perhaps the only bout of serious engagement over the past decade. All previous initiatives to engage the group fell apart right after they began. One of the reasons that the current engagement between the two parties has continued is due to Washington’s intent to keep the Taliban engaged at any cost.

Helmand’s Flower That Threatens Us All: The Opium Trade and Peace in Afghanistan

by Matthew S. Reid and Cybele C. Greenberg

A peace deal in Afghanistan may be on the horizon. The latest round of high-level negotiations between the United States and the Taliban ended last week in Doha without a formal agreement, but with cautious optimism on both sides. If the U.S. envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, gets the deal he reportedly seeks, all parties in Afghanistan will observe a general cease-fire, the United States will withdraw its forces, the Taliban and the Afghan government will open a dialogue, and the Taliban will pledge to harbor no foreign terrorist organizations on Afghan soil.

These developments are, in theory, encouraging: the United States’ longest war may finally be coming to an end. But in practice, the peace negotiations are unlikely to achieve Washington’s main national security objective in Afghanistan—preventing the formation of a terrorist safe haven—if they do not include a plan to directly address the country’s opium problem…

The State Department is Putting Ego Above Security in Afghanistan

by Michael Rubin 

U.S. Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the State Department continue to seek to silence any criticism of their framework deal with the Taliban. Prior to Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib’s visit to Washington last week, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul refused to issue a visa to Amrullah Saleh, the former chief of Afghan intelligence and interior minister and a man who has literally put his life on the line to protect U.S. troops and fight the Taliban. The reason was to prevent Saleh from briefing congressmen on the direction of Khalilzad’s framework deal with the Taliban.

Such effort to prevent criticism is already a bad sign. After all, if the deal is as solid as Khalilzad and the State Department say, the merits of the deal should survive open and honest debate.

Mohib, who is personally and professionally close to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, did level such criticism which, while blunt, was also valid. The core of his complaint was that Khalilzad was cutting the elected Afghan government out of the process and thereby undercutting it.

Trump’s Bad Deal with the Taliban

by Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio 

Last week, Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, launched into a broadside against Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief American diplomat responsible for negotiating with the Taliban. Addressing reporters in Washington, Mohib insinuated that Khalilzad is seeking to install himself as the “viceroy” of a new “caretaker government.” The State Department quickly issued a sharp rebuke, saying that any condemnation of Khalilzad was really a critique of its leader, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

While Mohib’s specific charge may have been hyperbole, it almost certainly wasn’t a slip of the tongue. Mohib has been around Washington for years, including as Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.S., so he knew how his words would be received. His harsh critique of Khalilzad reflects the Afghan government’s deep mistrust of the Trump administration’s plans. Everyone knows that President Donald Trump wants out of Afghanistan, and the Afghans know that the State Department’s dealings with the Taliban will not deliver “peace.” Instead, Khalilzad’s talks have further empowered the same jihadists America has been fighting for nearly two decades…

China Is Winning the War for Nepali Buddhism

By Lauren Jackson

In the course of her lifetime as a Tibetan Buddhist nun, Nawan Dima has watched brigades of foreigners, both violent and peaceful, traverse her home amid the clouds. The first came with force; as a young Tibetan girl raised in a Buddhist nunnery, Dima watched the Chinese People’s Liberation Army enter her village in the early 1950s, destroying her school in Khari Gompa.

Later, after fleeing over the Namgpa-La Pass to northern Nepal, Dima watched as a second wave of foreign men arrived, eager to summit the sacred homes of her gods — the now-legendary peaks of Jongmala (Everest), Lhotse, and Nuptse. Since then, the annual flow of tourists hiking by her monastery has grown to a small army, with tens of thousands of North Face-clad trekkers pouring money into the Nepali tourism market each year.

In Search of ‘Real’ Data on China’s Economy

By Dmitriy Plekhanov

Information about economic activity is a key ingredient for policymaking and business decisions. However, official statistics in China have long been criticized for lack of transparency, data collection problems at the grassroots level, and frequent data manipulation. The inadequacy and insufficiency of official statistics have created a desperate need for alternative data. In an attempt to meet the market demand for data, investment banks, academic researchers, and media have raced to deliver their own estimates on various aspects of the Chinese economy (the banking and financial system, real estate markets, consumer markets, etc.). However the recent advent of new technologies can be a game-changer for the industry. It has created new opportunities for data collection in China and produced a plethora of indicators that are capable of satisfying the growing demand for quantitative measures of economic activity.

The Spread of Internet Use in China Is Leading to New Data Sources

China’s Next Phase of Militarization in the South China Sea

By Scott N. Romaniuk and Tobias Burgers

China’s astonishing expansion into the South China Sea’s 1.35 million square miles and its subsequent militarization of the region over the past several years has cultivated a complex security environment. The initial phase of that growing complexity was predicated on geopolitical interest and expansion, notably during U.S. President Barack Obama’s second term in office.

Although it has been argued that regional tensions may remain stable because China has ceased its land acquisition endeavors to the south, the complex regional security environment may enter into a new phase of heightened tension and complexity during 2019. This next phase could emerge as a result of China’s dedicated push to consolidate its gains in the South China Sea (SCS) through the use of military and political powers in tandem with sharp threats as a result of military patrols and a quantum leap in the deployment of surveillance aircraft, guided-missile destroyers, and a bank of military equipment.

China's new Silk Road OBOR (One Road One Belt) project

By T.V. Paul*

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has usually been analysed for its economic and geopolitical importance. There is a third crucial function of BRI − the prevention of military as well as soft balancing coalitions against Beijing by smaller Asian states along with countries such as the US and India. BRI thus is a major instrument in the hands of China in its wedge strategy in the Indo-Pacific.

The rise of China and the expansion of its naval presence in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea have not produced an intense balance of power coalition directed against Beijing. Even the military buildup by the United States in the Pacific before and after the Pivot to Asia strategy of 2012 has not been as strong as one would expect if balancing was the intent.

Xi and Trump Miss Their Chance


A successful US-Japan agreement on structural reforms three decades ago could potentially serve as a useful model for the current China-US trade negotiations. But Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to care only about maintaining political control, while US President Donald Trump seems to care only about himself.

CAMBRIDGE – President Donald Trump has postponed until at least April the supposed deadline for concluding the United States’ current trade negotiations with China. A good outcome for both sides would be reached if China agreed to protect property rights better and reduce the state’s role in its economy; the US agreed to strengthen national saving and public investment; and both sides agreed to reverse their recent tariff increases. Unfortunately, this is not the deal that is likely to materialize.

A Rising China Is Driving the U.S. Army’s New Game Plan in the Pacific


FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii—As an organization based solidly on dry land, the U.S. Army’s increasing focus on the Pacific might seem puzzling to some.

But with China continuing to expand its military, building islands in the South China Sea, and spreading fear among neighbors, the Army wants to up its game in the region with more firepower and additional rotations of U.S. troops—not only to reassure key U.S. allies such as Japan, South Korea, and Thailand that the United States has their back, but also to prevent a potential war.

“China is the priority,” said Gen. Robert Brown, U.S. Army Pacific commander, during a March 19 roundtable with a handful of reporters at Fort Shafter in Hawaii.

The push to ramp up presence in the Pacific is in line with the U.S. military’s strategic shift from the counterterrorism fight in the Middle East to competition with potential near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis laid out the approach in a National Defense Strategy last year.

Did the New Zealand Shooter Change the Cultural Script?

By David French

As the number of massacres mounts, the best explanation for the never-ending stream of copycat killers, both here and abroad, remains the one articulated by Malcolm Gladwell in his seminal article on school shootings, called “Thresholds of Violence.” Essentially, he argues that each mass shooting lowers the “threshold” for the next, and inspiration matters — a lot.

Gladwell’s focus was on school shootings, and he does an effective job of demonstrating the way the Columbine killers laid down a “cultural script” for subsequent school shooters. In fact, subsequent shooters often imitated the Columbine killers so much that their own shootings were essentially “versions” of the Columbine attack.

If you translate this analysis to the horrific New Zealand massacre, you can see similar patterns emerge. The New Zealand suspect allegedly called out previous mass shooters, such as the Charleston church shooter, and even apparently went so far as to pay tribute to mass killers by name on his magazines, including the Quebec mosque killer. Note that two of the individuals he highlighted slaughtered innocent people in houses of worship. To an extent, his crime was a version of theirs.

Bloodbath In Christchurch: The Rise Of Far-Right Terrorism – Analysis

By Natasha Quek*

Last Friday, 50 Muslims were killed when a white supremacist, Brenton Tarrant, targeted two mosques in a shooting spree in Christchurch, New Zealand. Long overshadowed by Islamist radicalism, questions are now asked about what drives the far-right ideology and, specifically, what is the role of the Internet as a driver and enabler of violent far-right extremism and terror.

On March 15, 2019, simultaneous attacks were carried out at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, where Friday prayers were in session. The attacks resulted in 50 deaths. The perpetrator responsible for the shooting at the Al Noor Mosque recorded the shooting live on Facebook, where he revealed himself to be Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian-born far-right extremist. Tarrant was swiftly arrested and brought to court the next day where he was charged with murder; two others have also been detained in connection with the attacks.

Carnage In Christchurch: The Logic Of Live-Streaming Slaughter – Analysis

By Irm Haleem*

On 15 March 2019, New Zealand and the world were shocked by an Australian self-declared fascist who rampaged into two mosques and opened fire on worshippers, slaughtering 49 people. Brenton Tarrant recorded and live-streamed the slaughter on Facebook. What does this latest act of terror, this time by a far-right extremist and white supremacist, portend?

On March 15, 2019, Brenton Tarrant, an Australian self-declared fascist, opened fire on congregants in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, slaughtering 49 worshippers. Tarrant recorded and live-streamed the slaughter on Facebook using a helmet camera. Prior to the attack, he also left a 74-page manifesto on a Twitter account which detailed his hatred for immigrants, Muslims, and Jews, and in which he explained his actions as wanting to defend “our lands” from the “invaders”.

The tactic used by far-right violent extremists and white supremacists like Tarrant of slaughtering unsuspecting individuals in their place of worship is not new: February 1994, an American-Israeli Jewish extremist, slaughtered nine congregants in a Hebron mosque, in West Bank; June 2015, a white supremacist slaughtered nine individuals in a black church in South Carolina, United States; February 2017, another white supremacist slaughtered six people in a Quebec mosque, in Canada; October 2018, an anti-Semitic white supremacist slaughtered 11 people in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pennsylvania, United States.
Logic of Live-Streaming Images of Slaughter

US Army Moving Forward on Hypersonic Missile and 1,000-Mile Super Cannon

By Steven Stashwick

The U.S. Army is moving quickly to develop and test new long-range strike weapons in the early 2020s, with plans to test a ground-based hypersonic missile by 2023 and prototype a super-cannon with a planned range of 1,000 miles.

The U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force are all working on hypersonic weapons with major shared components, with the army designing the maneuverable warhead likely to be used by all three services. One of the principle reasons the United States says it needs these weapons is to defend against similar long-range and hypersonic weapons being developed or already fielded by China and Russia. While the United States is exploring possible space-based and laser weapons to complement its missile defenses, their viability against hypersonic weapons is doubtful. A 2016 study concluded that the only likely way to defend against hypersonic weapons was for the United States to use its own hypersonic weapons to destroy its adversaries’ weapons before they are launched. The Pentagon’s chief of research and development has said recently that the United States cannot intercept hypersonic weapons in the air and they will need to be destroyed on the ground.

Rethinking Japan’s Energy Security 8 Years After Fukushima

By Xie Zhihai

It’s been eight years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster. Since then, the utilization of nuclear energy, which accounted for more than one-tenth of Japan’s energy mix before 2011, has become a controversial issue in Japan. Japan thus started to face the severe challenge of energy security.

First, due to the shutdown of most nuclear power plants, Japan’s energy self-sufficiency rate plummeted from 20.2 percent in 2010 to 11.5 percent in 2011. Since then, the self-sufficiency rate has remained under 10 percent, which is extremely low compared to other countries.

Japan has significantly increased its energy imports from overseas. The reliance on foreign energy not only deteriorates the government budget deficit, but also brings increasing political risk. More than 80 percent of Japan’s imported oil comes from the Middle East. It is not easy to assure a stable supply of oil from those politically unstable countries.

Wars, Not Brexit, Destroyed Britain’s Global Power

by Douglas Macgregor

The British people’s decision to leave the European Union—also known as Brexit—will mark the end of Britain as a world power, Fareed Zakaria argued in a March 14 Washington Post column. The United Kingdom will become a modern “Banana Republic,” Zakaria argues, falling from heights of power to a stunning low “for Britain, Europe and the West.” This fact-free assertion is dangerously wrong.

Contrary to Zakaria’s account of British history, from the time of Cromwell until 1914, British national military strategy was guided by a prudent foreign policy that saw little strategic value in permanent alliances with continental European states. In numerous wars with France and Spain, Britain relied on German-speaking powers and, in 1812, on its Russian allies to carry the burden of war on the continent. Meanwhile, British sea power supplied Britain’s friends and blockaded Britain’s enemies.

Tokyo’s ‘Free And Open Indo-Pacific’: Quality Infrastructure And Defence To The Fore – Analysis

By Axel Berkofsky*

Tokyo’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) is the core of Tokyo’s strategy and policies in and towards the Indo-Pacific. The FOIP is fairly obviously designed as a competitor to Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI), enabling Tokyo to regain some of the economic and political clout lost over the countries in East and South-East Asia since Beijing announced the BRI in 2013. The main goal of Japan’s FOIP is to promote what is referred to as ‘connectivity’ between Asia, the Middle East and Africa. ‘Connectivity’ stands for, above all, the expansion of trade and investment ties helped by improved infrastructure links. At the core of Japan’s FOIP is what Tokyo calls ‘Quality Infrastructure’, ie, infrastructure development projects funded or co-funded by Japan in Asia and Africa. Tokyo’s FOIP is complemented by the so-called ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’ (Quad), an Indo-Pacific security forum facilitating dialogue and consultation between Japan, Australia, India and the US. What Japan is doing in terms of ‘Quality Infrastructure’ and expansion of bilateral (with India) and multilateral (with India, the US and Australia) security and defence ties is examined in this paper.

CTC Sentinel - March 2019 - Volume 12, Issue 3, Now Online

In our cover article, Matthew Levitt examines Hezbollah’s procurement channels, documenting how the group has been leveraging an international network of companies and brokers, including Hezbollah operatives and criminal facilitators, to procure weapons, dual-use items, and other equipment for the group and sometimes Iran. Levitt details how in the context of the war in Syria, “some of Hezbollah’s most significant procurement agents—such as Muhammad Qasir—have teamed up with Iran’s Quds Force to develop integrated and efficient weapons procurement and logistics pipelines through Syria and into Lebanon that can be leveraged to greatly expand Hezbollah’s international weapons procurement capabilities.” Levitt reveals Qasir appeared in footage of meetings last month between Syria’s President Assad and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, underscoring the importance Damascus and Tehran attach to Qasir’s efforts.

Let’s Talk About Geoengineering


There is growing scientific interest in solar geoengineering as a possible means of combating climate change in conjunction with emissions cuts. But by foregoing debate and research on these new technologies now, political leaders may actually increase the risks of their future misuse.

CAMBRIDGE – Negotiations on geoengineering technologies ended in deadlock at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, last week, when a Swiss-backed proposal to commission an expert UN panel on the subject was withdrawn amid disagreements over language. This is a shame, because the world needs open debate about novel ways to reduce climate risks.

Specifics aside, the impasse stemmed from a dispute within the environmental community about growing scientific interest in solar geoengineering – the possibility of deliberately reflecting a small amount of sunlight back into space to help combat climate change. Some environmental and civil-society groups, convinced that solar geoengineering will be harmful or misused, oppose further research, policy analysis, and debate about the issue. Others, including some large environmental groups, support cautious research.

A New Age of Warfare: How Internet Mercenaries Do Battle for Authoritarian Governments

By Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman, Ronen Bergman and Nicole Perlroth

The man in charge of Saudi Arabia’s ruthless campaign to stifle dissent went searching for ways to spy on people he saw as threats to the kingdom. He knew where to go: a secretive Israeli company offering technology developed by former intelligence operatives.

It was late 2017 and Saud al-Qahtani — then a top adviser to Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince — was tracking Saudi dissidents around the world, part of his extensive surveillance efforts that ultimately led to the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In messages exchanged with employees from the company, NSO Group, Mr. al-Qahtani spoke of grand plans to use its surveillance tools throughout the Middle East and Europe, like Turkey and Qatar or France and Britain.

The Saudi government’s reliance on a firm from Israel, an adversary for decades, offers a glimpse of a new age of digital warfare governed by few rules and of a growing economy, now valued at $12 billion, of spies for hire.

Today even the smallest countries can buy digital espionage services, enabling them to conduct sophisticated operations like electronic eavesdropping or influence campaigns that were once the preserve of major powers like the United States and Russia. Corporations that want to scrutinize competitors’ secrets, or a wealthy individual with a beef against a rival, can also command intelligence operations for a price, akin to purchasing off-the-shelf elements of the National Security Agency or the Mossad.

Secret Weapon: Immigrants Help America Keep Its Technological Edge

by Sam Peak Ryan Khurana

Leading nations around the world are enacting strategies for artificial intelligence (AI) and, after much pressure , the United States is finally getting in on the action. President Donald Trump has vowed to maintain and strengthen America’s AI leadership with an Executive Order , dubbed the “American AI Initiative,” calling for prioritizing investments in AI research, enhanced data sharing, and training programs in science, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). “Continued American leadership in AI is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States,” the order read.

But if President Trump truly wants to maintain America’s AI advantage, he must start supporting policies that capitalize on foreign students’ contributions. Right now, he’s just driving them out through overzealous crackdowns.

Preparing for “NATO-mation”: The Atlantic Alliance toward the Age of Artificial Intelligence

By Andrea Gilli

The unprecedented pace of technological change brought about by the fourth Industrial Revolution offers enormous opportunities but also entails some risks. This is evident when looking at discussions about artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and big data (BD). Many analysts, scholars and policymakers are in fact worried that, beside efficiency and new economic opportunities, these technologies may also promote international instability: for instance, by leading to a swift redistribution of wealth around the world; a rapid diffusion of military capabilities or by heightening the risks of military escalation and conflict. Such concerns are understandable. Throughout history, technological change has at times exerted similar effects. Additionally, human beings seem to have an innate fear that autonomous machines might, at some point, revolt and threaten humanity – as illustrated in popular culture, from Hebrew tradition’s Golem to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, from Karel Čapek’s Robot to Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and the movie Terminator.

There Are Too Many Red Lines in Cyberspace

By Max Smeets 

U.S. officials increasingly express old frustrations about the lack of standards for appropriate state behavior in cyberspace. As U.S.-China trade tensions soar, cybersecurity firms have reported that China is renewing its cyber-enabled economic espionage efforts against U.S. companies—if they ever ceased. Russia does not seem to be scaling down its cyber-enabled disinformation operations, threatening democracies worldwide. The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal is also reported to have inspired Iranian actors to conduct a new wave of disruptive attacks. Concerns over North Korean hostile cyber activity have not gone away either.

Commentators and lawmakers have described the problem as twofold. First, U.S. government officials fail to set red lines, fearing that doing so would cede freedom to maneuver when responding to cyber operations. But second, whenever red lines are established, the U.S. fails to enforce them. 

Beware the Mideast’s Falling Pillars

By Thomas L. Friedman

AMMAN, Jordan — For the last half-century the politics of the Middle East has been shaped by five key pillars, but all five are now crumbling. A new Middle East is aborning — but not necessarily the flourishing one that people imagined in the 1990s.

This one is being shaped more by Twitter memes than by U.S. diplomats, more by unemployment than by terrorism, more by upheavals on the streets than by leaders in palaces, more by womenthan by men. Can’t say where it will all settle out, but for now, beware falling pillars.

How so? For starters, there was always a deep U.S. involvement in shaping the future of this region. But just look around today: The U.S. doesn’t even have ambassadors in Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, a former Trump bankruptcy lawyer, is so enthralled with the right-wing Jewish settler movement that he is more a propagandist than a diplomat. Bye-bye American pie.

We Got Our Hands on an HK G11, the Space-Age Rifle That Never Was

By Matthew Moss

Affectionately referred to as "Kraut Space Magic" in reference to its over-engineered-yet-brilliant West German design, the G11 does look like it belongs in the hands of some space trooper rather than a typical infantryman. But the true "magic" of the G11 is much more than meets the eye, because inside that boxy frame was a gun unlike any ever made.

By encasing its ammunition in a chemical propellant rather than a typical brass casing, the G11 was more accurate, efficient, and potentially deadly than any rifle of its time. But even after millions of dollars in R&D spent, the gun never saw combat, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union it mostly passed into obscurity.

Dispelling the Myth of Women in Special Operations

By Nicole Alexander and Lyla Kohistany

The military often promotes a culture of hypermasculinity and is largely seen as a “man’s world,” which is not surprising given that the overall number of active duty women officers and enlisted across all military services is 16.6 percent. The special operations community is disproportionately affected by these stereotypes and perceptions, since women service members, both active duty and reservists, comprise an even smaller percentage of the total U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) enterprise. The Director of Intelligence for USSOCOM is Brigadier General Michelle Schmidt, making her the senior intelligence officer for the entire USSOCOM enterprise. Much attention has been paid to the women who are assessing and selecting into the previously closed combat positions, such as U.S. Navy SEALs, U.S. Army Rangers, and U.S. Army Special Forces (SF), commonly referred to as Green Berets. Coverage that “these are the first women in Special Operations” is factually incorrect.

Women served in the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Department of Defense Special Operations, during WWII. Although the majority of the 4,500 women of the OSS served in support roles based in Washington D.C., about 900 of them served in overseas postings and several were recognized for their unique capabilities and attributes in operating behind enemy lines in conventional warfare. Women have served in modern special operations units for decades and fought the United States’ wars across multiple combat zones. But their contributions remain largely untold, or they are often viewed as “extras” rather than mission-critical members of the team. In reality, women serve not only as enablers or in support roles, but also as branched members of the special operations community and have led and commanded across the special operations enterprise.