28 May 2019

India 2024: Policy priorities for the new government

Shamika Ravi

A changing global order, energy transitions and climate change and rapid technological advancement – India’s next government has the difficult task of steering the country through an interesting and crucial time. India 2024: Policy Priorities for the New Government, is a compendium of policy briefs from scholars at Brookings India, which identifies and addresses some of the most pressing challenges that India is likely to face in the next five years. Each policy brief is based on longer, in-depth and academically rigorous publications from the scholars.

For a fast-growing large democracy, human capital will be the driving force behind future growth. India must significantly invest in health and education to leverage its demographic dividend. Ayushman Bharat is a big step towards easing the healthcare burden on poor households. But to improve health outcomes, equal emphasis must be placed on the scheme’s other objective —of improving primary health infrastructure at the local level. Scaling up this initiative would require expanding and strengthening primary health infrastructure, enforcing quality standards and conducting periodic audits.

The Rising Threat in Central Asia

By Ekaterina Zolotova

Something’s stirring in Central Asia. Nearly a year ago, we wrote an article about the threat of Islamist radicalism in the region. Central Asia has long been vulnerable to such destabilizing movements, in part because of events that have unfolded over several years. In Afghanistan, the U.S. has effectively given up on trying to rid the country of jihadists and is now looking for a way to leave without sacrificing any more blood or treasure. In Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Islamic State fighters are returning home, experienced, motivated and facing uncertain futures. But a number of more recent developments have forced us to take a harder look at the region and examine whether it’s now reaching a turning point.

The most recent event that caught our eye was a riot on May 19 in a Tajik prison where Islamic State militants are being held. According to the Ministry of Justice, the rebellion, which killed three guards and 29 prisoners, started late Sunday in the city of Vahdat, located 10 kilometers from the capital. The ministry claims that the riot was organized by 35 Islamic State fighters, including Behruz Gulmurod, a former military leader for IS and the son of the former commander of the Tajik special forces.

US-China Trade War And The High Technology Sector – Analysis

By Munish Sharma

On May 15, 2019, the Donald Trump administration issued an Executive Order (EO) entitled “Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain”. While it does not specifically mention the Chinese telecommunications major, Huawei, the EO does bring to an end speculation over the future of the Chinese company’s presence and operations in the United States. Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act, the EO declares “a national emergency with respect to the threats against information and communications technology and services in the United States.”1 It does not name any country or company per se, but describes the threat as “information and communications technology or services designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of foreign adversaries.”2 The EO comes in the wake of serious allegations against Chinese telecommunications equipment suppliers, Huawei in particular, on account of malicious cyber-enabled actions, including spying, economic and industrial espionage and close ties to the Chinese government.

The Growing Dangers of Trump’s Trade War with China

By John Cassidy

The Dow Jones averages fell nearly three hundred points on Thursday, which, in itself, wasn’t a big deal. (It amounted to a fall of about 1.1 per cent.) But the dip was another indication of the increasing nervousness on Wall Street about the trade war between the Trump Administration and China. After assuming for months that the two sides would eventually reach a deal to avoid a full-scale conflict that would inflict considerable hurt on both countries, investors and analysts are now reassessing the situation.

Following the breakdown of talks between the two sides, during the past two weeks, the Trump Administration has raised tariffs on roughly two hundred billion dollars’ worth of Chinese imports and threatened to impose similar duties on another three hundred billion dollars’ worth of other goods. In another escalation, the Administration, citing national-security concerns, placed China’s leading telecommunications company, Huawei, on a blacklist that could prevent it from buying the components it relies on from American companies. The Commerce Department subsequently announced that, to avoid supply disruptions, it would give U.S. companies that do business with Huawei a ninety-day exemption. But in a possible sign of things to come, reportsemerged on Monday that Google was suspending some updates for Android phones made by Huawei.

War: Easy To Start, Hard To End

Jim Welsh

In the August 2018 Macro Tides note entitled “China Will Be No Trade Pushover" I discussed why the trade negotiations might prove more difficult than expected:

“In the U.S. time is measured by quarters, but in China it is measured in decades. China’s leadership is not immune from short term considerations, but their focus is not centered on the next year or two but where things will be in 5 to 10 years and beyond. China has been taking steps to insulate and bolster its economy from any short term negative impact from trade. By stimulating its economy, China can weather the storm in the short term and achieve its long term goals. According to Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu,

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

Why Xi's China Is In Jeopardy

In the eyes of some, after four decades of rapid economic growth, the Chinese economy is unstoppable, and even when it encounters problems, the wisdom and power of the Chinese Communist Party will pull it through.

But not so writes long-time China watcher, George Magnus, who argues persuasively that China faces four critical traps -- a debt trap, a Renminbi trap, a demographic (ageing) trap, and a middle-income trap.

For all the Chinese Communist Party’s reputed brilliance, it has got China mired in enormous debt, like the much-maligned West did over a decade ago writes Magnus. China has seen a rapid tripling in total domestic debt to about 300 per cent of GDP -- notably for debt of state-owned enterprises, local governments, and more recently for citizens. The Chinese government is keen to deleverage its debt. But this is difficult because it is also very keen to maintain economic growth, which it is fuelling with credit expansion.
China [is] mired in enormous debt, like the much-maligned West did over a decade ago

Here’s How Fast China’s Economy

By Malcolm Scott and Cedric Sam

President Donald Trump says China won’t become the world’s top economic superpower under his watch because of the trade war he’s “very happy” with. Even without his tariff salvos, China was unlikely to take that mantle by early 2025—when a second Trump presidency would be due to end should he win reelection. But it was catching up fast, even if its growth moderates back closer to the 6 percent mark as seen by most economists.
China’s GDP will overtake the U.S. level in 2030 at these projected average growth rates:

Even on a purchasing-power parity basis that adjusts for price differences, the average person in China still has only about a third the spending power of an American. So even if China buys additional U.S. grains and natural gas—as had been expected before talks blew up this month—it will be tough to cut the trade deficit if American shoppers accelerate their own spending.

The Iran War Crisis: Are We Headed Towards a Gulf of Tonkin Incident?

by Lawrence J. Korb

One can only hope that an isolated incident or an alleged attack does not spark a retaliation that could lead to a Vietnam-style conflict with Iran, one that could necessitate sending hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East.

Many analysts have argued that the rising tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region, especially the claims by the United States that Iran is increasing its military capabilities bear disturbing similarities to the run up to the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003, when the Bush administration falsely hyped Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. While this analogy may be correct, the events are actually more similar to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which occurred in August 1964—something I remember well.

On August 2, 1964, the destroyer Maddox—which was part of a carrier battle group deployed to the Gulf of Tonkin to conduct reconnaissance and intercept North Vietnamese communications in support of attacks by South Vietnamese patrol boats on North Vietnamese coastal targets—was approached by three North Vietnamese torpedo patrol boats. As they drew near, the Maddox fired three warning shots and the North Vietnamese responded with torpedoes and machine gun fire. The Maddox returned fire, eventually expending 280 shells and damaging the North Vietnamese torpedo boats. These attacks also killed four North Vietnamese sailors and wounded six more. There were no U.S. casualties and the Maddox was essentially unscathed.



YOU CAN ALMOST hear the gleam in Fred Kennedy’s eyes when he talks about the Space Development Agency, a new US Department of Defense organization. The agency's new director, Kennedy uses words like agile and innovative. He makes statements such as, "We’re going to break a little glass and be a little provocative."

Not the usual tone of a military man.

The Space Development Agency, which has only existed since March 12 (happy 2.36-month anniversary!), is supposed to define the what’s-next of military presence in space, develop it, and then make it a reality—fast. The vision, right now, mostly involves hordes of small satellites keeping constant watch and shucking constant intel to Earth (be not afraid). Later, the agency could keep watch on spacecraft speeding beyond the usual orbits.

The current administration has been hot on whipping up space initiatives, particularly in the form of new, nebulous organizations, like the (under-fire) Space Force and now the SDA. Space has become what military types like to call a contested domain, a place where one’s enemies are apt to mess up one’s operations. A Defense Intelligence Agency report details some of the anxieties up there: China and Russia can jam signals zipping up and down from orbit, and are working on satellites that can sidle up to other satellites and bully them. They have or soon will have “anti-satellite” missiles. India recently tested its own. There are laserweapons.

The radical plan to change how Harvard teaches economics

By Dylan Matthews

If Harvard has a most famous course, it’s Economics 10.

The introductory economics class is reliablyone of the most popular courses offered to undergraduates. It’s usually taught in a massive Hogwartsian auditorium, where hundreds of students either dutifully take notes or mess around on laptops as one of the school’s star economists leads them through the basics of supply and demand.

Because Harvard has a tendency to set the pattern for other universities, Ec 10’s textbook is amassive best-seller, used at dozens of other schools, earning its author, professor Greg Mankiw, an estimated $42 million in royalties since it was first released in 1998. Mankiw’s introduction to economics has set the tone not just at Harvard but for how Econ 101 is taught across the country.

Mankiw’s textbook covers the abstract theory that underpins economics as it has been understood for decades. It is about supply and demand, about how prices can be used to match production of a good to its consumption, and about the power of markets as a tool for allocating scarce resources. Students in Ec 10 are asked to plot supply and demand curves, to solve simple word problems about what happens when the mayor of Smalltown, USA, imposes a tax on hotel rooms.

The idea is to impart a basic theory, to lay a foundation for understanding how society works. And that theory strongly implies that markets tend to work without much intervention, and that things like minimum wages might hurt more than help.

Good-bye, Theresa. Hello, Boris?

By Andrew Sullivan

If you were hoping that the recent wave of global right-wing populism might be declining, it has not been a very good couple of weeks. In India, the Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi, was just reelected handily — with a hefty majority in the Parliament, despite expectations that he’d do far worse. Buoyed by resurgent nationalism and his standing up to China and Pakistan, as well as appealing to the left-behinds, he achieved something historic: the first full second term for a prime minister in nearly 50 years. But it’s impossible to understand Modi’s success without seeing his exploitation of Hindu anti-Muslim religious bigotry at the heart of it. This was a victory for illiberal democracy — one in which Muslims are used as a classic minority threat.

In Australia, in what some have called the biggest upset in recent political history, the Liberal Party coalition government (the center-right option) swept back into power against all predictions, while the expected Labor Party victory evaporated somewhere between the polls and the election. Some have argued that this was just another case of Australians’ discomfort with radical change, as pledged by Labor. But a key factor is that the Labor Party’s traditional working-class base — guess what? — lurched right. Claire Lehmann notes:

Facial Recognition and Fear

Facial recognition technology provokes unease, but many of the charges against it do not bear scrutiny. A survey of facial recognition shows that the trend is for this technology to become more accurate and less biased without the need for policy intervention. 

The disconnect between public discourse and actual performance raises three problems. How do we clarify the discrepancies in the public discussion of facial recognition? How do we construct a better research agenda for policy issues? And how do we avoid imposing policies that are unnecessary or harmful as we create reasonable protections?

One way to think about facial recognition (and artificial intelligence in general) is to compare the concern that greets these technologies with the commentary that greeted the commercialization of the internet. The internet created vast opportunities, but it also came with new risks for security and privacy. It can be seen as a mixed blessing, but while cybercrime and other malicious acts cost billions of dollars, the internet generates trillions in revenues. The internet's growth was intentionally unhampered, as the policy of the 1990s was to seize opportunity despite the risks. Overregulation would have stifled growth. Twenty-five years later, the internet is no longer a fragile blossom that needs protection, but if it were commercialized today, it might have met with a very different response, one that slowed or even blocked deployment in the United States. This would have been a disaster.

The 'Forever Wars' Enshrined

By Andrew Bacevich

Earlier this month, I spent a day visiting Marseilles to videotape a documentary about recent American military history, specifically the ongoing wars that most of us prefer not to think about.

Lest there be any confusion, let me be more specific. I am not referring to Marseilles (mar-SAY), France, that nation’s largest port and second largest city with a population approaching 900,000. No, my destination was Marseilles (mar-SAYLZ), Illinois, a small prairie town with a population hovering around 5,000.

Our own lesser Marseilles nestles alongside the Illinois River, more or less equidistant between Chicago and Peoria, smack dab in the middle of flyover country. I have some personal familiarity with this part of America. More than half a century ago, the school I attended in nearby Peru used to play the Panthers of Marseilles High. Unfortunately, their school closed three decades ago.

Back then, the town had achieved minor distinction for manufacturing corrugated boxes for Nabisco. But that factory was shuttered in 2002 and only the abandoned building remains, its eight-story hulk still looming above Main Street.

Russia’s Special Operations Forces Command and the Strategy of Limited Actions

by Roger McDermott

Since Moscow’s military intervention in Syria, expert attention has intermittently turned to the role played by Russian special forces in this theater of operations. On May 10, a number of photographs were published online showing Russian special forces operating in northwestern Syria (Almasdarnews.com, May 10). These photographs, however, did not show the real backbone of the deployed special forces, drawn from the elite and secretive Special Operations Forces Command (Komandovaniye Sil Spetsialnykh Operatsiy—KSSO). The development, training and mission types for these highly trained specialist troops appears to be linked to what the chief of the General Staff (CGS), Army General Valery Gerasimov, terms Russia’s “strategy of limited actions.” This strategy envisages the use of military power beyond Russia’s borders in the protection of the state’s interests. The KSSO fits into this overall strategy since it is designed mainly for use outside Russia (see EDM, March 6, 2019; April 26, 2016).

The General Staff’s interest in finding ways to enhance and streamline the capability of the Special Forces stretches back over two decades, and precedes the reform initiated in 2008, following the Russia-Georgia conflict. Resistance to making changes to the existing special forces structures came from the leadership of the Main Intelligence Directorate (Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye—GRU) Spetsnaz. In the formative period of the KSSO (2009–2013), the General Staff leadership extensively studied the development, training and methods used by the special forces of the world’s leading military powers. Finally, in March 2013, the KSSO was formally created and subordinated directly to the CGS (Novosti Rossiya, February 28, 2019).

China In US’ Adversarial Crosshairs In 2019: Contours Visible – Analysis

By Dr Subhash Kapila

China has decidedly moved up in adversarial crosshairs of the United States in 2019 when the geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomics dots are joined on the United States radars both globally and regionally in terms of Indo Pacific Security. United States President Trump seems to be moving towards a more robust strategy of checkmating China, short of containment.

US President Trump unlike past US presidents had put China on notice in his very first National Security Strategy Document that United States perceives that China is engaged in undermining US global and regional influence and many of its moves impact adversely on United States national security interests.

Unlike past US Presidents strikingly noticeable was that in terms of United States policy approaches and policy thrust lines towards China, earlier US policy terms like ‘Cooperative Engagement’, Competitive Partnership’ and ‘Congagement’ stood discarded.

In my assessment the term best appropriate to describe United States policy formulations in 2019towards China would be “Combative Engagement”, not strictly in military terms but in a cross-spectrum switch in attitudes from economic to strategic and military.

Brookings survey finds three-quarters of online users rarely read business terms of service

Darrell M. West

As more human activities move online, companies are accumulating extensive information about consumers. The sheer amount of data involved raises important questions regarding personal privacy. People worry that companies have too much confidential information, the material is at risk of being compromised, and data will be publicized or used against them in some manner. Figuring out how to deal with these issues represents a major challenge for consumers, businesses, and government officials.

To examine attitudes toward consumer privacy, researchers at the Brookings Institution undertook an online U.S. national poll with 2,006 adult internet users between May 8 to 10, 2019. The survey was overseen by Darrell M. West, vice president of Governance Studies and director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution and the author of The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation. Responses were weighted using gender, age, and region to match the demographics of the national internet population as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

U.S. Security Policy in the Trump Era Has Been Marked by Change—and Continuity

When President Donald Trump entered office under an “America First” banner, it seemed to herald a new era of U.S. isolationism. More than two years into his term, though, and the shifts in military strategy are minimal. Though their numbers are down, U.S. troops are still stationed in Afghanistan, and the Trump administration left unchanged the strategy against the Islamic State that it inherited from its predecessor. 

Nevertheless, Trump’s isolationist instincts have come into regular tension with his closest advisers, many of whom espouse a more traditional view of American power projection. This was never clearer than in December 2018, when Trump ignored his aides and announced his decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria, prompting then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign in protest. Trump subsequently softened his rhetoric, without definitively articulating a final policy, contributing to the sense of uncertainty over America’s security policymaking. 

Meanwhile, Trump’s vision has not stopped his advisers from hinting at military intervention as a path to regime change in places like Venezuela and Iran. In the latter case, Trump has recently made his opposition to war clear. Trump’s America First agenda has actually taken its heaviest toll on long-standing alliances. While he has prompted moderate increases in European defense spending, his vocal criticisms of NATO have weakened the alliance’s cohesion. 

Trump’s Pardons of U.S. Soldiers Send a Very Dangerous Message, at Home and Abroad

Judah Grunstein

Of all the constitutional powers enjoyed by the U.S. president, perhaps none is so vulnerable to abuse as the presidential pardon. As a check against the potential abuse of power by the judicial branch, it serves an important constitutional function. As a public demonstration of clemency and the power of redemption, it contributes symbolically to the health of the republic. But when used improperly, the pardon becomes a poison to the body politic, rather than an antidote to what is ailing it.

This is certainly the case when it comes to President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon Michael Behenna, a U.S. special operations forces officer convicted by a court martial of murdering a detainee in Iraq in 2008. Trump is also reportedly considering pardons for several other U.S. officers accused of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, but who have not yet stood trial. 

Much of the criticism of the pardons, which are apparently being planned to coincide with Memorial Day, has come from veterans like retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling and Andrew Exum, who argue that military discipline and cohesion depend on respect for lawful orders. In practical terms, the responsibility for enforcing that discipline falls to the commissioned and noncommissioned officers commanding troops on the ground. But in symbolic terms, it begins and ends with the commander-in-chief. In this case, by removing any consequences for the wanton disregard not only of official orders, but also international law governing warfare, Trump is undermining the chain of command.

Drought Hits Australian Wheat Supplies

Australia, normally a net exporter of wheat, has had to import wheat for the first time since 2007.

Huawei Banned From The Wi-Fi Alliance: No More Wi-Fi

By Tushar Subhra Dutta

We all know very well that recently, we reported that the well-known Chinese smartphone manufacturer, of course, Huawei was suspended from the SD Association, hence, as a result, Huawei will not be able to implement microSD card slot in their future smartphones, tablets and any other devices. But, after the suspension of the SD Association now the company, of course, the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer Huawei is now suspended from the Wi-Fi Alliance and the JEDEC as well, who is responsible for certifying devices with WiFi and components with RAM, respectively.

Huawei Banned From The Wi-Fi Alliance: No More Wi-Fi

Recently, we reported that the well-known Chinese smartphone manufacturer, of course, Huawei was suspended from the SD Association, hence, as a result, Huawei will not be able to implement microSD card slot in their future smartphones, tablets and any other devices.

But, after the suspension of the SD Association now the company, of course, the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer Huawei is now suspended from the Wi-Fi Alliance and the JEDEC as well, who is responsible for certifying devices with WiFi and components with RAM, respectively.

NEWS FROM SOFIC: New Software Can Sift Through Decades of Stovepiped Intelligence Data

By Stew Magnuson

TAMPA, Fla. — Defense contractor Leidos revealed a new big data analytics tool that an intelligence community customer has been using for the past six months to sift through terabytes of data previously stored on different devices.

The company publicly spoke on May 21 for the first time about the Advanced Analytics and Machine Learning Microservices Platform on the sidelines of the Special Operations Force Industry Conference, which is sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association.

The problem for intelligence analysts has been that data that can be useful for them has been stored on a variety of stovepiped software systems, or in different digital mediums, said Christine J. Harney, data systems engineer in the surveillance and reconnaissance group at Leidos. They are too massive and there isn’t enough manpower to look through it all, she added.

“These data collections are very complex and there are multiple types of devices and the number of those devices grows over time,” she said. An analyst could never hope to see all the data available with manual searches, she added.

Algorithmic bias detection and mitigation: Best practices and policies to reduce consumer harms

The private and public sectors are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) systems and machine learning algorithms to automate simple and complex decision-making processes.[1] The mass-scale digitization of data and the emerging technologies that use them are disrupting most economic sectors, including transportation, retail, advertising, and energy, and other areas. AI is also having an impact on democracy and governance as computerized systems are being deployed to improve accuracy and drive objectivity in government functions.

The availability of massive data sets has made it easy to derive new insights through computers. As a result, algorithms, which are a set of step-by-step instructions that computers follow to perform a task, have become more sophisticated and pervasive tools for automated decision-making.[2] While algorithms are used in many contexts, we focus on computer models that make inferences from data about people, including their identities, their demographic attributes, their preferences, and their likely future behaviors, as well as the objects related to them.[3]

Who’s responsible for executive cyber safety?

By: Daniel Woolfolk

As agencies get harder to penetrate, hackers are looking to a softer target: the personal lives of its leadership. That puts targets on the backs of leaders — all while they are focused on those they serve.

Ben Shapiro of Cypient Black discusses where the responsibility of executive cyber protection lies.


IR Theory and ‘Game of Thrones’ Are Both Fantasies


Since the start of the series, Game of Thrones has been catnip for scholars of world politics and foreign policy.

They eagerly applied their talents and theories to ranking each character’s chances of winning the throne—repeatedly. There are scholarly journal articles about how to use a simulation based on the show to teach international relations theory. Rand Corp. has compared the show’s dragons to nuclear weapons. A Foreign Affairs article argued that, despite its use of violence, the show was no realist text but “a critique of the myopic focus on national security over the needs of individuals and the collective good.” (The author cited as evidence Daenerys Targaryen’s concern for civilians, a point that didn’t fare so well.)

There’s a good reason for this. It would be hard to imagine a fantasy world better concocted to appeal to international relations scholars than that of Westeros, the setting of Game of Thrones. After all, in many ways, international relations theory and Westeros are cousins since they descend from the same source material: bad European history.

Characteristics of Successful U.S. Military Interventions

by Jennifer Kavanagh

What types of political objectives has the United States historically pursued through military interventions?

How successful has the United States been historically at achieving political objectives during military operations?

What are the characteristics of U.S. military interventions that are most likely to achieve their political objectives?

How do such factors as the size of the intervention, the operating context, the local dynamics, and the international system influence the outcome of the intervention?