8 May 2019

Why India’s Jet Airways Lost Its Wings

After 26 years in operation, India’s Jet Airways had its final flight last week, following a refusal by lenders for emergency funding. The lenders’ action came as a result of a string of missed debt-servicing payments by the airline and disagreement over whether it could be revived under the management of its founder and 51% equity owner, Naresh Goyal.

Jet Airways had also missed payments to aircraft leasing companies, which led to the grounding of about two-thirds of its 121-strong fleet in March. The airline posted a loss of Rs. 588 crores ($86 million) on revenues of Rs. 6,198 crore ($911 million) in the quarter ended December 2018, its fourth consecutive quarter in the red. Jet’s 15% share of the Indian civil aviation market is up for grabs by rivals, while the fate of its 22,000 employees remains uncertain.

The U.S. Public Will No Longer Have A Key Data Point About Afghanistan War


A group of Afghan National Army soldiers watch others participate in a live fire exercise at the Afghan Military Academy last October in Kabul, Afghanistan.Rahmat Gul/AP

The U.S. has lost more than 2,200 lives and spent more than $840 billion on Afghanistan, its longest-ever war.

But the U.S. public is steadily provided with less and less key information about how the war is going. Now, another crucial measure of the war's progress is no longer public.

For years, the U.S. military has released basic information about how much of Afghanistan is under Afghan government control and how much is under control of the Taliban. And it's shown that the amount of land under government control has dropped over time, from 72% of districts in Nov. 2015 to 54% of districts in Oct. 2018.

The Hail Mary for Peace in Afghanistan

by Charles Ray - The National Interest

There are many difficult jobs in the U.S. government today, but Zalmay Khalilzad holds perhaps one of the most excruciatingly painful slots that are available. The former ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the United Nations has been tasked by the Trump administration to find a way out of the bloody conundrum that is Afghanistan, a country whose people have known nothing but war and turmoil for the last four decades.

Peace in Afghanistan still remains beyond the horizon’s edge. The United States and its allies recently discovered just how quickly a relatively promising negotiation can stall at a moment’s notice when the intra-Afghan dialogue scheduled for Doha this month was postponed due to disagreements over the Afghan government’s large delegation. If the main parties in the room can’t even agree on who will be sitting around the table, then how on earth can Washington organize—let alone sustain—a comprehensive peace process between combatants who openly despise each other? …

2019 World Press Freedom Index – A cycle of fear

The 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows how hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear. The number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media.

The RSF Index, which evaluates the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories every year, SEE THE MAPHEREshows that an intense climate of fear has been triggered — one that is prejudicial to a safe reporting environment. The hostility towards journalists expressed by political leaders in many countries has incited increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence that have fuelled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists.

PLA’s furtive underwater nukes test the Pentagon

Until recently, China lacked a reliable nuclear second-strike capability. Its ballistic missile submarines, which can deliver a nuclear weapon, are changing that. Now, the United States is pursuing these subs in a cat-and-mouse contest reminiscent of the Cold War.

Recent visitors to the bay surrounding a submarine base on the southern coast of China’s Hainan Island describe a curious nocturnal phenomenon. Powerful spotlights are sometimes trained directly on the ocean frontages of neighboring hotels at night, making visibility out to sea virtually impossible. Some of the lights are mounted on land and others on passing naval patrol boats.

“The effect is incredible,” said one recent visitor. “The glare is so great you can hardly stand it on the balcony. You go inside and draw the curtains tight.”

The blinding lights cannot obscure something of intense interest to the world’s military intelligence agencies: evidence that China has made a breakthrough in its drive to rival America and Russia as a nuclear arms power.

The Future of the China-Russia Alliance

By Dr. James M. Dorsey

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Odds are that China and Russia will prove to be long-term US rivals. However, it may just as well be that their alliance will prove to be more tactical than strategic, with the China-Russia relationship resembling US-Chinese ties: cooperation in an environment of divergence rather than convergence.

Addressing last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, then US defense secretary Jim Mattis dismissed fears first voiced in 1997 by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, that long-term US interests would be most threatened by a “grand coalition” of China and Russia “united not by ideology but by complementary grievances.”

On the contrary, Mattis suggested. China and Russia have a “natural non-convergence of interests” despite the fact that both countries have defined their relationship as a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” he argued.

China’s Belt & Road and the World: Competing Forms of GlobalizationEtudes de l'Ifri,


China increasingly sees its flagship foreign policy project as a tool for restructuring global governance and a vector for promoting a new form of globalization.

The project known as the “Belt & Road Initiative” (or “Chinese New Silk Roads”, or “One Belt, One Road” – referred to as “B&R” in this report), launched in autumn 2013, is one of President Xi Jinping’s priorities. He has placed the concept at the heart of China’s domestic and foreign policy. The project could even remain relevant until 2050, the centenary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) - major deadline for the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). Although the project raises concerns due to its geographical scale (more than “130 countries and international organizations” are supposed to be involved – according to the latest official statements) and sectoral reach (transportation, energy, telecommunications, finance, tourism, culture, digital, space, among many other sectors), it is mainly characterized by its methodology, which is uncommon. First, the concept was launched before its concrete content was defined, and China’s partners were and still are frequently encouraged to provide ideas to the Chinese government on how to make it concrete. Second, it is difficult to identify a project that has been launched by a state in recent decades with so much determination, and so much investment in its national and international promotion, and yet with so much ambiguity. Third, the project, which is constantly evolving, is promoted in accordance with communication and implementation methods usually used in China, but never on this scale internationally. Faced with the novel approach and speed with which the project has gained in awareness and importance, many foreign countries appear unsettled.

CO19084 | China’s Digital Silk Road: The Integration of Myanmar

Chan Jia Hao, Deepakshi Rawat

RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical and contemporary issues. The authors’ views are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. These commentaries may be reproduced with prior permission from RSIS and due recognition to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email to Mr Yang Razali Kassim, Editor RSIS Commentary at RSISPublications@ntu.edu.sg.

Although relatively new to the information and communication technologies (ICT) field, Myanmar has made rapid progress in the technological domain in the past few years. This, coupled with the country’s unique geographical location between South Asia and Southeast Asia makes Myanmar an increasingly vital intersection in China’s Digital Silk Road.

The 1 Thing China's Military Is Missing To Become a Superpower

by David Axe 

Today the U.S. military possesses arguably more combat experience than any other armed forces, owing to the long-term American-led operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But it's debatable whether this experience in low-intensity warfare would matter in what would probably be a high-tech war with China.

The Chinese military has almost no combat experience, analyst Timothy Heath wrote for the California think-tank RAND. But that inexperience might not matter very much, Heath explained.

“Today, China's military has an increasingly impressive high-tech arsenal, but its ability to use these weapons and equipment remains unclear. There are reasons to be skeptical.”

U.S. Tech Needs Hard Lines on China


In April, reports emerged that academics at Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing had collaborated on artificial intelligence research with individuals affiliated with China’s National University of Defense Technology—an institution under the direction of China’s top military body, the Central Military Commission. Revelations about this AI collaboration came on the heels of other headlines: In February, Microsoft employees protested a company contract with the U.S. Defense Department, and the following month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff remarked that big tech collaborations abroad may or may not help foreign governments.

Companies incorporated in democratic countries will soon find themselves forced to draw lines on whether AI collaborations with entities in China and elsewhere are acceptable—especially for those firms that balk at working with the U.S. military.

Ruling the Waves China’s vast fleet is tipping the balance in the Pacific


A generation ago, from mid-1995 into early 1996, China lobbed missiles in the waters around Taiwan as the self-governing island prepared to hold its first fully democratic presidential election. Washington forcefully intervened to support its ally, sending two aircraft carrier battle groups to patrol nearby. The carriers, then as now the spearhead of American power, intimidated Beijing. The vote went ahead. The missiles stopped.

Today, with tension again running high, Washington still backs Taiwan. Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 2 renewed Beijing’s longstanding threat to use force if necessary to restore mainland control over the island. But the United States is now sending much more muted signals of support.

On Sunday, American ships sailed through the Taiwan Strait. This was the seventh passage of U.S. warships through the narrow, strategically sensitive waterway since July. Each time, though, just two U.S. vessels have ventured through; this week, it was a pair of destroyers. No powerful flotillas and certainly no aircraft carriers. It has been more than 11 years since an American carrier traversed the Taiwan Strait.


IT IS WINTER. Along the Iraq-Syria border, Iraqi patrol forces have swapped their hard tactical helmets for the warmth of beanie caps. The soldiers look out from their observation towers, across a stretch of desert into Syria.

From this concrete tower on the border, you can almost see the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has made its final stand. Over there, Syrian Democratic Forces—a Kurdish-led alliance dedicated to rooting out ISIS and backed by the US—have nearly liberated the city and its suburbs, and American troops are beginning a long-awaited drawdown. A plume of gray-white smoke breaches skyward as an artillery strike reaches the villages and towns near Deir ez-Zor. The horizon is a diaphanous blur of dark smoke.

Between us and Syria is a fence. It is about 43 miles long, and a guard tower is located every few hundred feet, manned by squadrons from the Iraqi border security forces. The roughly 10-foot-tall chain-link barrier bucks and rattles in the wind. Barbed wire unspools along the top, and about 20 feet beyond the fence, on the Syrian side, there’s a ditch to stop explosive-laden ISIS vehicles that might charge the border. Beyond the ditch is a desiccated stretch of desert now mostly cleared of booby traps.

The World’s Next Big Growth Challenge

by A. Michael Spence

MILAN—The global economy is undergoing very large structural shifts, driven by three megatrends. One is the digital transformation of the foundations on which economies are built and run. Another is the growing purchasing power and economic strength of emerging economies, and China in particular. Lastly, there are broad-based political-economy trends, which include rising nationalism, various forms of populism, political and social polarization, and a possible breakdown of the multilateral framework within which the global economy has functioned since World War II.

The media devote most of their attention to the economic, social, and regulatory challenges arising from these megatrends, and to the trade, investment, and technology tensions between China and the United States. Yet a significant share of the world’s population lives in poor countries, or in poorer parts of developing countries. Furthermore, the rapid reduction in global poverty over the past three decades is primarily the result of sustained growth in developing economies.

The Senkaku paradox: Preparing for conflict with the great powers

Michael E. O’Hanlon

Since roughly 2014, when Russia seized Crimea and China solidified its push to militarize the South China Sea, Washington has been abuzz with worry about war against one or even both of these nuclear-armed behemoths.

The Obama administration’s “Third Offset” strategy and former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s 2018 National Defense Strategy made deterrence of great-power threats the nation’s top military planning priority for the first time since the Cold War ended 30 years ago.

But over what issues might war against Russia or China really erupt? While it is important to take many scenarios seriously, an outright Russian invasion and annexation of a Baltic state or a Chinese enforcement of its claims to the entire South China Sea or attempted takeover of Taiwan, seem quite unlikely.

Beijing and Moscow probably understand that the United States and allies could never tolerate such brazen acts; war would almost surely follow.

We just might be at a tipping point on how seriously the world treats climate change

By Tripti Lahiri & Akshat Rathi

Following the days-long protests by environmental group Extinction Rebellion that paralyzed parts of London, the UK became the first country to declare a “climate emergency.”

The declaration, the result of a motion called by the opposition Labour party, was followed by the release of a report from an advisory committee to the UK government that urged it to set a target of getting to “net-zero” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The committee had refrained, as recently as 2016, from urging the UK to set such a target.

“We now conclude that it is the right time to set a net-zero GHG target in the UK. The required evidence is now available and the evidence is robust. It is also an important moment for the UK to make a positive international impact,” said the committee, noting that decreases in the cost of key zero-carbon technologies mean the stricter goal is now possible within the economic costs accepted by parliament a decade ago. In 2008, the UK parliament passed a bill to cut GHG emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

Mind the Gap: National Views of The Free and Open Indo-Pacific

Aaron Friedberg

When the eighth iteration of the Young Strategists Forum (YSF) took place in January 2018, the concept of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) was uppermost in the mind of virtually every policymaker, diplomat, and official in Tokyo. At the same time, the term was then still little more than a catchphrase, a geographical framing originally articulated by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016 that had taken root in the U.S. policy lexicon after it was adopted by the administration of President Donald Trump, during a speech by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in October 2017.

As in previous years, the eighth YSF began with a seminar and discussion of the security dynamics in Asia, with a particular focus on the U.S.-Chinese relationship. This was followed by a grand strategy simulation exercise in which participants were divided into country teams and asked to specify a set of national objectives and to devise a strategy for attaining them over a 20-year time period. The teams were then asked to make decisions allocating resources across military, economic, and diplomatic policy tools, and to respond to a sequence of complex regional crises. The key lesson from the exercise was that, in an era of intensifying strategic competition with China and a perceived relative decline in U.S. power, the United States needed to be prepared to seize the initiative if it is to achieve its long-term objectives. Participants observed that, instead of simply managing crises and attempting to restore the status quo as quickly as possible, Washington needed to exploit the opportunities provided by crises to solidify its alliances and win support from other potential partners.

The EMP Executive Order — Where Were Bush and Obama?


Department of Homeland Security workers at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Va., January 13, 2015. (Larry Downing/Reuters)A threat that could literally mean the end of civilization is finally getting the attention it needs under Trump.

Washington and the press call almost everything an “existential threat” these days. But the threat from a natural or man-made electromagnetic pulse (EMP) really is one, as our congressional commission reported in 2017:

The critical national infrastructure in the United States faces a present and continuing existential threat from combined-arms warfare, including cyber and manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, as well as EMP from a solar superstorm. During the Cold War, the U.S. was primarily concerned about an EMP attack generated by a high-altitude nuclear weapon as a tactic by which the Soviet Union could suppress the U.S. national command authority and the ability to respond to a nuclear attack — and thus negate the deterrence value of assured nuclear retaliation. Within the last decade, newly-armed adversaries, including North Korea, have been developing the ability and threatening to carry out an EMP attack against the United States.



A COUPLE OF hours after the Christchurch massacre, I was on the phone with Whitney Phillips, a Syracuse professor whose research focuses on online extremists and media manipulators. Toward the end of the call, our conversation took an unexpected turn.

Phillips said she was exhausted and distressed, and that she felt overwhelmed by the nature of her work. She described a “soul sucking” feeling stemming in part from an ethical conundrum tied to researching the ills of online extremism and amplification.

In a connected, searchable world, it’s hard to share information about extremists and their tactics without also sharing their toxic views. Too often, actions intended to stem the spread of false and dangerous ideologies only make things worse.

US Needs Bounty Hunters For Cyber: Ex-DoD Officials Say


An American privateer captures a British vessel in the War of 1812

WASHINGTON: Cyber bounty hunters waging “active defense” of critical infrastructure (CI) is only one among a number of explosive ideas in a new Atlantic Council study by two former DoD officials.

Because the US government does not have enough capacity to defend the nation’s networks — despite recent efforts to beef up the authorities and capabilities of the military’s Cyber Command — the study proposes the deputization of private sector “actors” (read: hackers) as “certified active defenders.” These would be “private-sector entities with high cyber capabilities who will work under government direction and control,” the study explains.

A loose analogy is privateers in the age of sail: “The Constitution provides for ‘letters of marque,’ and certified active defenders … would be a modern version,” the study says, except with a “focus on defense and resilience” and, unlike privateers, under government control.

Software Security is National Security

Software development that does not incorporate comprehensive security throughout the lifecycle of the application jeopardizes national security by increasing the threat landscape surrounding high-value networks and sensitive data. Unfortunately, many of today’s technology manufacturers prioritize speed to market over security, have adopted a ‘deploy now, patch later’ culture, and shift the liability of their vulnerable technology onto consumers through EULAs and SLAs.

It is vital to national security that stakeholders, their partner organizations, and their supply chains understand and subscribe to the notion that “it takes a village” to secure software development in today’s complex and interconnected global economy. In this paper, entitled “Software Security is National Security: Why the U.S. Must Replace Irresponsible Practices with a Culture of Institutionalized Security” ICIT and Micro Focus Government Solutions, an ICIT Fellow Program Member, explore systemic problems in the software security landscape and offer recommendations on how to improve application security.

Big Tech and Democracy: The Critical Role of Congress

Bogdan Belei

Technology has reached a critical juncture in American society. The unfettered optimism of recent decades is now tempered by rising concerns over privacy and security, the impact of disinformation campaigns, and increasing calls for digital accountability. It is clear that the 116th Congress will face pressure to shape technological innovation through policies that protect and serve the best interests of their constituents.

In March 2019, two projects at Harvard Kennedy School—the Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Platform Accountability Project at the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy—hosted a workshop for Congressional staff to identify and discuss policy approaches to the dilemmas of big tech platforms. Rather than seeking consensus or prematurely delving into specific solutions, the day-long educational workshop sought to create an open space for discussion among congressional staffers and experts in the field. Underscoring the interest in this topic, the workshop included Chiefs of Staff, Committee Counsels, and Legislative Directors from both Senate and House offices.


Cheng, Wallace / Clara Brandi 

Digitalisation is transforming the economy and redefining trade. Recently, members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have started to discuss how trade policies and rules should be adapted to address this transformation. For example, in January 2019, 76 WTO members announced the launch of “negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce”. The scope of these e-commerce negotiations is yet to be defined, but to ban tariffs on electronic trans­missions will certainly be on the priority list of WTO members such as the United States (US) and the European Union (EU).

The idea of banning tariffs on electronic transmission originated at the WTO’s Ministerial Conference (MC) in 1998, when Members declared that they would “continue their current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions”. This temporary moratorium on e-commerce tariffs needs to be regularly extended, requiring a decision made “by consensus”. Members have repeatedly extended the moratorium on tariffs on “electronic trans­missions”, most recently at the latest WTO MC in 2017. But the WTO e-commerce moratorium is increasingly disputed:

The EU Cybersecurity Act: When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

Samuele Dominioni 

“Cyber-attacks can be more dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies than guns and tanks”, the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated in 2017. Today, the adoption of the Cybersecurity Act is a key step towards further strenghtening the European Union’s posture in cyberspace. The implications of this Act go beyond the mere technical dimension: they directly impact the private sector, the establishment of a single digital market, and the projection of EU as a digital power vis à vis other international actors. What is political meaning of the Act? What role does the private sector hold in this framework? And, how does the EU cyber strategy differ from the strategies put in place by other actors?

Tackling Domestic Disinformation: What the Social Media Companies Need to Do

Author: Paul M. Barrett

A growing amount of misleading and false content infests social media. A 2018 study by researchers at Oxford University found that 25 percent of Facebook and Twitter shares related to the midterm elections in the U.S. contained “junk news” — deliberately deceptive or incorrect information. A majority of this harmful content came not from Russia or other foreign state actors but from domestic U.S. sources.

This report focuses on domestically generated disinformation in the U.S.: the nature and scope of the problem, what the social media platforms have done about it, and what more they need to do.

Sizing Up Twitter Users


Twitter is a modern public square where many voices discuss, debate and share their views. Media personalities, politicians and the public turn to social networks for real-time information and reactions to the day’s events. But compared with the U.S. public overall, which voices are represented on Twitter?

To examine this question, Pew Research Center conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,791 U.S. adult Twitter users who were willing to share their Twitter handles.1The design of this survey provides a unique opportunity to measure the characteristics and attitudes of Twitter users in the United States and link those observations to actual Twitter behaviors, such as how often users tweet or how many accounts they follow.

Will AI Save Journalism — or Kill It?

In the past year, you have most likely read a story that was written by a bot. Whether it’s a sports article, an earnings report or a story about who won the last congressional race in your district, you may not have known it but an emotionless artificial intelligence perhaps moved you to cheers, jeers or tears. By 2025, a bot could be writing 90% of all news, according to Narrative Science, whose software Quill turns data into stories.

Many of the largest and most reputable news outlets in the world are using or dabbling in AI — such as The Washington Post, The Associated Press, BBC, Reuters, Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times and Sunday Times (U.K.), Japan’s national public broadcaster, NHK, and Finland’s STT. Last year, China’s Xinhua News Agency created the world’s first AI-powered news anchor, a male, using computer graphics. This year, it debuted the first AI female news anchor.

Cyber officials call for coordinated 5G security approach


Cybersecurity officials from dozens of countries drew up a blueprint on Friday to counter threats and ensure the safety of next generation mobile networks that their nations are set to start deploying.

Officials hammered out a set of non-binding proposals published at the end of a two-day meeting organized by the Czech government to discuss the security of new 5G networks.

The meeting comes amid a simmering global battle between the U.S. and China's Huawei, the world's biggest maker of network infrastructure equipment.

The U.S. has been lobbying allies to ban Huawei from 5G networks over concerns China's government could force the company to give it access to data for cyberespionage. Huawei has denied the allegations.

The Promise and Pitfalls of 5G: Will It Kill Cable?

In December, the Federal Communications Commission will undertake the largest spectrum auction in U.S. history — putting 3.4 GHz of airwaves on the market to free up space for 5G communications. As the next generation in wireless technology, 5G promises to boost data speeds by up to 100 times, making them competitive with the fastest wired broadband networks. In April, the White House planted an official stake in the 5G race, with President Trump calling it a “big deal,” as it will change the way Americans work, learn, communicate and travel.

A lot of expectations are riding on 5G, for good reason. The technology offers “potentially gigabyte speeds over wireless, fast enough that for the first time wireless could be a competitive alternative for wired systems — like cable- and phone-based and fiber-based systems — for basic broadband access,” said Kevin Werbach, a Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics who used to work for the FCC, on the Knowledge@Wharton radio show on SiriusXM.

Military Robotics Might Enable Conict While Reducing Costs

The views presented herein represent those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. government, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Air Force.

For most of U.S. history, the decision to go to war has not been made lightly, in part due to the legal requirements enacted to make it very difficult to do so. In Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the president is tasked with the responsibility of serving as the commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces. However, the authority to declare war rests with Congress, as clarified in Article I, Section 8. When a conflict has run its course, it is the president’s duty to negotiate a peace treaty, which is then ratified by the Senate to formally end the state of war. Because wars fundamentally involve the death of citizens and the destruction of property, usually on a very large scale, they are not commenced lightly—every decision to put troops in harm’s way carries a certain degree of political cost. However, the development of autonomous weapons is changing the calculus associated with going to war, by offering the tantalizing possibility of using force without risking the lives of U.S. citizens. By removing the human costs from the equation, military robotics are not only changing the manner in which wars are fought, they are reducing the political barriers associated with going to war in the first place.

The instruments of national power can be categorized into the DIME model (Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic). Each element of the DIME provides the opportunity to influence other nations and non-state actors, and the combination of all of them into a single, unified effort can provide an enormous amount of leverage for the U.S. Traditionally, presidents have attempted to rely upon the non-military options as much as possible, leaving the use of force as a last resort. In part, this is due to international law—overt acts of war are more likely to provoke opposition from disinterested parties than the use of other elements of national power. In part, presidents have been constrained by the possibility of domestic unrest, as the public does not react well to battlefield casualties unless the conflict is perceived as a matter of national survival. The deadliest war in American history, the Civil War, cost the lives of more than 600,000 soldiers—and left the nation with a strong distaste for taking heavy casualties. In the modern era, when the United States has chosen to go to war, it has done so very consciously attempting to utilize technology and industrial production as a means to offset the human costs of national conflicts. 
U.S. Casualties in Modern Wars

World War II was the last time the United States formally declared war, entering a conflict that had already cost millions of lives in Europe and Asia. Yet, despite nearly four years of continual fighting, the war resulted in the deaths of 418,500 American citizens. On its face, this seems a terrible cost—until it is compared to the losses of the other major combatants, including our allies the Soviets, who lost 24 million citizens in the same conflict. The battlefields of the Eastern Front were bloody ground engagements conducted on a massive scale. In comparison, the U.S. and Britain spent much of the war attempting to bomb Germany into submission, substituting the technological wonders of airpower for the traditional approach to military conquest. Against Japan, the air war included the firebombing of cities and the only atomic attacks in human history—in large part to prevent the massive casualties expected from a ground invasion.

After World War II, the American reliance upon technology to offset the numbers of potential enemies became even more pronounced, with increasing reliance upon aerial campaigns and the development of extremely sophisticated weaponry. In Korea and Vietman, this led to extremely lopsided casualty counts, although in neither case could it deliver victory. By 1991, the technological dominance of American systems was definitively displayed in Operation Desert Storm, with stealthy airplanes attacking hapless Iraqi formations and the eventual ground invasion wreaking incredible destruction at a cost of less than 400 U.S. troops, more than half of whom died in accidents or fratricidal incidents.
Congressional Control Over Conflicts

At the end of the Vietnam War, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, an attempt to limit any president’s ability to commence or expand a conflict without significant legislative oversight. After overriding President Richard M. Nixon’s veto, Congress effectively reestablished itself as the ultimate arbiter of when and where the nation should conduct long-term military operations. The War Powers Resolution sought to limit a president’s ability to utilize military force without explicit permission from Congress, essentially reining in some of the excesses of recent events. It required any future president to notify Congress of any deployment of military forces within 48 hours of commencing operations, and to withdraw those forces if Congress refused to authorize them to stay longer than 60 days.

In the 21st century, Congress has proven amenable to supporting the presidency in using military force to counter violent extremist organizations (VEOs), such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The 2001 Authorization to Utilize Military Force(AUMF) provided the necessary legal permission for President George W. Bush to deploy forces against al Qaeda and its allies, without setting any geographical or chronological constraints. The AUMF remains in force, and has been interpreted to include combat operations against the Islamic State, which emerged from al Qaeda’s regional franchise in Iraq. The AUMF has been cited to justify combat operations in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa; and there has been no significant move to rescind or restrict the authorization. Three presidents have ordered military operations to be conducted under the AUMF, and so long as al Qaeda remains a viable organization determined to kill Americans, it will likely remain in effect.

The introduction of advanced military robotic platforms is changing the calculus of how the elements of DIME work together, and at the same time, making the military option a much more attractive choice in many circumstances. In part, this is due to capability—military robotics offer an offensive option of such precision and range as to increase the chances of successfully striking a given target. It is also due to the lowered risk associated with conducting military operations from a standoff distance without placing U.S. military personnel into harm’s way. The most advanced systems, if developed and placed into the field, might essentially remove all political risk from the resort to military operations, and hence make offensive action substantially more likely to occur in a given situation.

Another significant factor in the use of robotic platforms to conduct violence comes in the separation between military and intelligence forces. In the United States, the military is governed by Title 10 of the U.S. Code, while intelligence agencies are governed by Title 50. The different rules that apply to each service in terms of transparency and the use of force have been a key element in the use of remote-controlled platforms in the War on Terror. Both the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency have chosen to utilize such aircraft to launch strikes against enemy forces. However, according to the War Powers Resolution, the president is only required to report the actions of the military to Congress; it makes no mention of the CIA or similar organizations. Under international law, a lawful combatant must bear arms openly; wear a uniform or recognizable insignia; maintain an organizational structure holding leaders responsible for the behavior of subordinates; and follow the laws of war. There is no effective way to adapt that law to apply to robotic platforms—they are not able to precisely follow it, but they also do not inherently violate it. As such, they fall into a very attractive gray area regarding the use of force between belligerents, one that might be exploited by any commander-in-chief under the current approach to military robotics.
Autonomy and Lethality

“Autonomy” is a term that refers to a machine’s ability to make decisions based upon environmental factors without further human input. It may be severely constrained, often by limiting the number of available responses, or requiring extremely specific stimuli to trigger a response. In theory, it could be effectively unlimited, by allowing a machine to respond to its environment in any fashion it deems fit, although no such system has yet been developed. Kenzo Nonami, Farid Kendoul, Satorshi Suzuki, Wei Wang, and Daisuke Nakazawa collaborated to define autonomy in terms of a series of steps. A machine with a level of autonomy rated as five or greater, on a scale of ten, would probably not react in the same fashion as a human being when facing the same situation, due in large part to its different perception of the environment and the lack of any emotions influencing its cognition. As such, it is improper to think of such a machine as an artificial version of human intelligence—although it undoubtedly possesses its own form of intelligence. One of the key points within Nonami et al’s hierarchy of autonomy is the question of when an artificially intelligent machine is given the ability to make lethal decisions without human input or oversight—particularly if such a machine is utilized in an offensive fashion. Because their system is designed only to define autonomy, and not specific autonomous actions, it does not have a specific level for the introduction of lethality—but it is clear that it could be done by a machine at level three or above.

Lethal autonomous machines have been used by American military units for several decades. The most well-known system, the Patriot Missile, serves as an air-defense weapon against enemy aircraft and missiles. It has a fully autonomous mode, allowing the battery to classify inbound targets as hostile, track their movements, and attack them at its own discretion. Although such a mode is necessary in point-defense weapons, which must detect and engage the enemy and its weaponry at a speed much greater than human reflexes allow, it has remained an element of defensive platforms to date. Such systems have advanced a great deal since the American public took note of the Patriot during the 1990-1991 Gulf War. For example, the Israeli Iron Dome system, primarily designed and produced by Rafael Defense Industries, has proven extremely effective at classifying inbound missiles and projectiles, determining their likely impact point, and engaging or ignoring them based upon the likelihood of human casualties at the projected impact points. While not perfect, Iron Dome’s public track record has likely had a deterrent effect upon non-state actors, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, who have a long history of firing missiles toward inhabited Israeli territory. Knowing that the probability of inflicting significant casualties upon the target population has dropped, the return upon the necessary investment for such attacks has declined to the point of making them almost useless as anything but an empty gesture of defiance. Further, Rafael has continued to upgrade the system to make it more cost-effective, resulting in Iron Beam, a high-energy laser defense system.

Despite the obvious utility of defensive weapons with substantial autonomy, thus far there has been no overt effort to deploy similar machines to the battlefield in an offensive capacity. However, it is not difficult to envision the creation and usage of such machines, and the violence they might unleash. Robots have mostly been relegated to performing the dull, dangerous, and dirty tasks that humans prefer to avoid. Unfortunately, when that concept is applied to weaponry, particularly if used for conquest, robots offer a potential means to eliminate the need for humans to be involved in the dangerous and dirty task of killing other humans. Already, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) prowl the skies over Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen, seeking out appropriate targets in the War on Terror. Pilots operating such vehicles sit far away from the site of the war, rendering them immune from the physical effects of the conflict. However, they cannot avoid the psychological toll of such activity—both the boredom of endlessly scanning the terrain for movement, and the emotional investment associated with taking a life, even one belonging to a sworn enemy. Not surprisingly, RPA operators demonstrate high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), on approximately the same scale as troops engaged in combat in the same theaters of war. It is almost inevitable that some policymakers, inside the Pentagon and out of it, will seek to alleviate this stress by removing humans from its source. Rather than eliminating the RPA program, which has been remarkably effective at hunting down and killing members of terror organizations, they are likely to push for greater autonomy in the machines of modern war.
Ramifications of Autonomous, Offensive, Lethal Weapons

Taken to its logical extreme, the development of autonomous, lethal machines capable of offensive action might render the War Powers Resolution obsolete. Because it requires the president to notify Congress of the deployment of troops, there is an inherent expectation that it pertains to humans—and if a commander-in-chief does not actually deploy military personnel outside of the nation’s borders, it might not be necessary to keep Congress inside the decision cycle. While the current generation of RPAs require a substantial ground element of personnel for takeoff and landing operations, and typically are based far closer to their intended areas of operations than would be possible from the United States, there are a host of systems in development that would not require such a large contingent of military personnel in a foreign location. Thus, further developments along this technological path might ultimately offer a future president the ability to conduct warfare with impunity, secure in the knowledge that no American personnel will be forced to deploy to a combat zone. Instead, a virtually limitless force of robotic “mercenaries” might be sent to any location on the planet, without any significant legislative oversight, and left there indefinitely to engage in violence against the local inhabitants. Politically, such a move might even be popular, as it would demonstrate resolve against terror groups without risking American troops in the process.

Were such a situation to come to pass, it is highly unlikely that VEOs would give up their ambitions to hurt the United States and its allies. Instead, such a scenario would almost certainly incentivize them to step up efforts to attack American citizens, particularly civilians, in any location they can be reached. The burden of casualties in the War on Terror might thus shift from the military force, which accepts the possibility of being wounded or killed as an aspect of military service, and transfer it to tourists, embassy personnel, students engaged in foreign exchange programs, and members of the media. This violence would, in turn, provide the necessary cause for the president to continue the use of offensive action through robotic platforms, perpetuating the conflict into an indefinite length.

Military Review, May-June 2019

o Reinvigorating the Army’s Approach to Mission Command: It’s Okay to Run with Scissors (Part 1)

o Responding to the Perfect Storm: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Disaster Response in Puerto Rico, 2017

o Civil Authority in Manbij, Syria: Using Civil Affairs to Implement Stabilization Activities in Nonpermissive Environments

o How We Win the Competition for Influence

o Symphony or Jazz: Mission-Planning Timelines

o Targeting in Multi-Domain Operations

o When the Balloon Goes Up: High-Altitude for Military Application

o Decision Conflict in Army Leaders