17 October 2019

India’s National Security Challenges: The Growing Chinese Footprint in Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Shantanu Roy-Chaudhury
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The Indian Ocean has gained geostrategic importance due to the volume of trade that passes through it. At the same time, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is increasing Chinese influence in numerous countries in Asia and across the globe. Against this backdrop, this paper seeks to examine how the growing Chinese footprint in Sri Lanka and the Maldives can have implications for India’s national security and how the Chinese expansion is of strategic importance to New Delhi.

The world’s third-largest body of water, the Indian Ocean is an extremely important region for India due to its connectivity and the volume of trade and energy resources that pass through it daily. Not only is most of India’s trade transported by sea, but also forty per cent of the world’s oil supply and sixty-four per cent of global oil trade travel through the Indian Ocean[1]. It provides critical sea trade routes that connect the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia with the broader Asian continent to the east and Europe to the west[2]. The region, therefore, is of immense security and strategic significance to India. To further place India in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), one analyst has stated that “India’s 7,500 km-long coastline is geographically contiguous with the Indian Ocean — the western side being flanked by the Arabian Sea and the eastern side by the Bay of Bengal. Indian islands on each side, Lakshadweep and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands respectively, host forward naval bases overlooking the vast spans of maritime waters. As a natural barrier, the Indian Ocean is central to India’s territorial defences, privileging it with a built-in strategic depth”[3].

Modi-Xi meet: China will not de-hyphenate India and Pakistan for now, courtesy Sun Tzu

By Raj Kumar Sharma
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It is a bit of good advice that India and China should develop their relations without keeping in mind any third country but Xi reached India after meeting Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan in Beijing where he expressed China’s support to Pakistan on core issues (read Kashmir) citing UN Charter and resolutions.

The sketchy details of their meeting are out in the public domain and none of them points to the elephant in the room – Pakistan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has left India after holding second informal summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mamallapuram. The sketchy details of their meeting are out in the public domain and none of them points to the elephant in the room – Pakistan. It is a bit of good advice that India and China should develop their relations without keeping in mind any third country but Xi reached India after meeting Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan in Beijing where he expressed China’s support to Pakistan on core issues (read Kashmir) citing UN Charter and resolutions. However, China tends to ignore the fact that its flagship initiative, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has changed the status quo in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir which is against the spirit of the UN resolutions, it cites. In addition, China was not even a party to the UNSC resolution passed in 1948 on Kashmir as it joined the UN as a permanent member in 1971.

Is Democracy Dying in Afghanistan?

By Jumakhan Rahyab

The latest presidential election in Afghanistan on September 28, witnessed only 26 percent turnout, the lowest since 2001. Aside from serious questions about whether such a dismal turnout can grant enough legitimacy to the forthcoming president elect, it reminds Afghans of a crucial fact that they direly need to rethink the democratization process in the country. 

The low turnout was not a fluke. It needs to be acknowledged that the reasons underpinning such a low turnout can be found in grievances that have built up over a long period of time, at least since the contentious 2014 presidential election. By and large, the performance of National Unity Government (NUG) in the past five years has yielded endemic corruption, adverse poverty, pervasive insecurity, undermined rule of law and, most importantly, undemocratic practices, all of which in turn have caused distrust in the government and democratic institutions. 

Chinese Investments in Nepal in the Context of BRI

Prof Hari Bansh Jha


All countries, big or small, promote investment as it plays a crucial role in capital formation and in increasing production, generating employment opportunities and boosting exports. Foreign investment is required when the domestic investment proves inadequate in meeting the requirements. In Nepal, a number of policies have been formulated to attract foreign investment. To promote the industries to be set up in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), the SEZ Act was passed in 2016. It offers various incentives to the industries on the use of domestic raw materials as well as on the imports of raw materials from outside. Industries to be established in the SEZ were required to export up to 75 percent of their products to other countries.

Nepal is in dire need of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as it envisions graduating from a low-income country to a low-middle country by 2030. Therefore, the present government seems to have adopted "Look North" policy to benefit from the Chinese development. Accordingly, the government of Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the framework agreement on Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with China in Kathmandu just two days before the Belt and Road Summit began in Beijing on May 14, 2017, and ten days before the military exercise with China, with a view to attract investment from north.

China, Nepal sign trade, infrastructure and security deals

President Xi Jinping has wrapped up a landmark visit to Nepal, the first by a Chinese president in 23 years, with 20 deals signed and nearly $500m in financial aid pledged amid Beijing's growing influence in the impoverished Himalayan nation.

After talks in the capital, Kathmandu on Sunday, Xi and Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli witnessed the signing of 18 agreements and two letters of exchange in areas of connectivity, security, border management, trade, tourism and education.

Along with a Chinese delegation, Xi arrived in Kathmandu from Chennai on Saturday for the start of his two-day state visit after meeting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He departed for Beijing on Sunday.

Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali described Xi's visit as one of "historic significance" for Nepal.

"Our priority is to create opportunities for Nepal, joining it to China's development. We are focusing on connectivity between the two countries," he said.

What’s Pushing China’s Tech Sector So Far Ahead?

China’s technology sector has grown so rapidly in the last two decades that it is pushing the United States out of its long-held position at the top of the digital food chain. Advancements by companies like Huawei, WeChat, Baidu, Tencent and others are helping the Chinese economy grow at an unprecedented rate and influencing the global economy. China and the U.S. are battling to be the leader in 5G technology, a fight it seems that Chinese tech companies are winning. A new book by journalist Rebecca Fannin looks at how China has come to dominate areas ranging from telecommunications to artificial intelligence to e-commerce. It is titled Tech Titans of China: How China’s Tech Sector is Challenging the World by Innovating Faster, Working Harder and Going Global. Fannin, who is also the founder of media platform Silicon Dragon Ventures, joined the K@W radio show on SiriusXM channel 132 to talk about her book. (Listen to the full podcast at the top of this page.)

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: How has the tech sector in China been able to develop so quickly?

The Free World at 30

By Roger Cohen

ATHENS — Perhaps you know the story of the parrot in Soviet Russia that escapes from its cage and flies out the window. Its owner rushes out and hurries down to the Ministry of State Security.

“I just want to assure you,” he tells the Soviet agents, “in case the situation arises, that my parrot’s views are not my own.”

None of us wants to live in a society where we worry what our parrots might say. Nor for that matter in a society where the presidential parrot would repeat: “I am a genius! America first! Witch hunt! Coup!”

China has banned Winnie the Pooh online and in theaters. Pooh, who memorably said, “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day” — among other incendiary remarks. A society that bans Winnie the Pooh, because of a supposed resemblance to its Great Leader, is a society with some serious issues.

As the three-decade mark of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches, free speech must be safeguarded with great tenacity, for when it dies, as when truth dies, the worst becomes possible and probably inevitable.

China's Missiles Could be a New 21st Century Kamikaze Weapon

by Michael Peck

Key Point: Should conflict erupt between America and China, or should U.S. vessels face advanced antiship missiles in a flashpoint like the Persian Gulf, I suspect the most profound impact of these weapons will be psychological. Whether these missiles sink ships, or whether U.S. defenses shoot them down, I think what will dominate the headlines and public opinion will be stories of missiles streaking toward ships at incredible speeds. Missiles that can't be driven off or deterred—only killed.

Like an urban dweller fearful of muggers around every corner, the U.S. Navy is now contemplating a grim future where no neighborhood is safe. Whether it operates in the South China Sea, the Baltic or the Persian Gulf, the Navy has to reckon on salvos of deadly antiship missiles. When even an organization like Hezbollah can get its hands on ship-killer missiles, it's a signal that world's oceans are a dangerous place.

But decades ago, the U.S. Navy faced a similar threat. By late 1944, the U.S. Navy was the mightiest fleet on Earth. The Nazi U-boat threat had been mostly vanquished, the Japanese surface fleet decimated, and Japanese airpower a shadow of its former glory.

Defining and Understanding the Next Generation of Salafi-Jihadis

by Richard C. Baffa, Nathan Vest, Wing Yi Chan, Abby Fanlo

As the first members of Generation Z, or Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012), enter adulthood, how might Salafi-jihadism manifest differently in Gen Z than in previous generations? How will the political upheavals of the Middle East, socioeconomic trends throughout the Muslim world, and rising digital connectivity affect susceptibility to radicalization in Gen Z?

In this Perspective, the authors explore the unique characteristics and expected drivers of Salafi-jihadism in Gen Z, elucidate potential threats and challenges from the next generation of Salafi-jihadis, and put forward recommendations for counter violent extremism programming to address the future threat. A review of the literature suggests that many of the overarching factors that drove past generations of Salafi-jihadis will remain salient in the coming generational cohort, although the manifestations of these factors will vary across localities. However, Gen Z's unprecedented familiarity with and connection to the internet and modern technology differentiate these members from previous Salafi-jihadis and portend an adaptive, tech-savvy future terrorist threat.

The Origins of New US-Turkish Relations

By George Friedman

For several years, there has been a significant shift underway in U.S. strategy toward the Middle East, where Washington has consistently sought to avoid combat. The United States is now compelled to seek accommodation with Turkey, a regional power in its own right, based on terms that are geopolitically necessary for both. Their relationship has been turbulent, and while it may continue to be so for a while, it will decline. Their accommodation has nothing to do with mutual affection but rather with mutual necessity. The Turkish incursion into Syria and the U.S. response are part of this adjustment, one that has global origins and regional consequences.

Similarly, the U.S. decision to step aside as Turkey undertook an incursion in northeastern Syria has a geopolitical and strategic origin. The strategic origin is a clash between elements of the Defense Department and the president. The defense community has been shaped by a war that has been underway since 2001. During what is called the Long War, the U.S. has created an alliance structure of various national and subnational groups. Yet the region is still on uneven footing. The Iranians have extended a sphere of influence westward. Iraq is in chaos. The Yemeni civil war still rages, and the original Syrian war has ended, in a very Middle Eastern fashion, indecisively.

Iran Is Winning Trump's Foreign Policy Gamble

by Steven R. Kopits
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Dissatisfied with the Iran nuclear deal signed under the Obama administration, Trump terminated U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement in 2018 and has since imposed “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran. Most importantly, these sanctions have seen Iranian crude oil exports fall from around 2.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) to as low as 0.1-0.2 mbpd this past summer. Even during the height of sanctions prior to the nuclear deal, Iran was allowed to export approximately 1.1 mbpd.

“Maximum sanctions” has led to considerable hardship within Iran. Oil exports of 2.5 mbpd bring in 40 percent of Iranian government revenues. On the spending side, Iran’s national budget allocates 15 percent to defense and 85 percent of other programs like pensions, healthcare, subsidies, education and infrastructure. The collapse of oil revenues, combined with the effect of sanctions, has prompted the Iranian government to reduce or defer some outlays, as well as paying the bills by printing money. Officially, inflation has risen to 43 percent, and the cost of food and medicine has soared 40 percent to 60 percent, according to European Union figures. As a result, some Iranians are no longer able to afford fresh food, and many in middle-class neighborhoods in Tehran “have resorted to buying withered cucumbers and rotting tomatoes, grapes, apples and peaches that grocery store salesmen put aside every day at dusk,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Notwithstanding, in an economy facing collapse, housing prices have doubled, according to the Financial Times. This kind of hyperinflation is usually consistent with aggressive money printing by the government in an attempt to pay its bills in the absence of revenues – oil revenues in this case. Iran’s situation is all but untenable.

The U.S. Military Has a Lot of Firepower in the Middle East to Deter Iran

by Bradley Bowman Mikhael Smits
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In response to continued threats from Iran and a request from Riyadh, the Pentagon announced Friday the deployment of additional U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia. Washington is seeking to strengthen U.S. combat power in the Middle East as a means to deter additional Iranian aggression and avoid a wider conflict.

The deployment represents the latest U.S. response to the September 14 attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Khurais oil field and Abqaiq oil-processing facility. The attack featured a swarm of cruise missiles and low-flying drones. Abqaiq represents the world’s largest such facility, and the attack temporarily knocked-out nearly 6 percent of global crude oil production.

Shortly after the September 14 attacks, the Department of Defense deployed an additional Patriot missile defense battery, four Sentinel radars, and 200 support personnel to Saudi Arabia. Friday’s announcement adds two additional fighter squadrons, two more Patriot batteries, one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, and one air expeditionary wing.

US policy changes leave Israel alone against Iran

Ben Caspit 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally found time to react to the Turkish invasion of northern Syria, condemning it in a politically correct tweet Oct. 10. While he warned of the “ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies,” he made no mention of how the United States had abandoned northern Syria, the issue reverberating most loudly across the Middle East and in the corridors of Israel’s worried defense establishment.

It took Netanyahu three long days to release his feeble condemnation of the Turkish attack. They were three very difficult days, as befits the difficult process of waking up about President Donald Trump. The president’s surprising announcement that the United States would immediately withdraw from Syria, followed by the no less sudden Turkish invasion of the Kurdish region, dealt the death blow to Israel’s hopes and expectations regarding its northern front.

“We’ve been left all alone now,” a high-ranking defense official admitted to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “The strategic balance of power is shifting right before our eyes. The bad guys won, and the good guys are abandoning us. Now, Israel is left almost on its own to deal with the powerful Turkish-Russian-Iranian axis.”

The Kurdish Awakening

By Henri J. Barkey
We’ve been fighting for a long time in Syria,” said U.S. President Donald Trump in the last days of 2018. “Now it’s time for our troops to come back home.” The president’s surprise call for a rapid withdrawal of the nearly 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria drew widespread criticism from members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. But it came as an even greater shock to the United States’ main partner in the fight against the Islamic State (or ISIS), the Syrian Kurds. For weeks prior to the announcement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been threatening to invade areas of northern Syria controlled by Kurdish militants. The only thing stopping him was the presence of U.S. troops. Removing them would leave the Kurds deeply exposed. “If [the Americans] will leave,” warned one Syrian Kurd, “we will curse them as traitors.”

Details about the U.S. withdrawal from Syria remain sketchy. But whatever Washington ultimately decides to do, Trump’s announcement marked a cruel turn for Kurds across the Middle East. Back in mid-2017, the Kurds had been enjoying a renaissance. Syrian Kurds, allied with the world’s only superpower, had played the central role in largely defeating ISIS on the battlefield and had seized the group’s capital, Raqqa. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia, controlled large swaths of Syrian territory and looked set to become a significant actor in negotiations to end the country’s civil war. Turkish Kurds, although besieged at home, were basking in the glow of the accomplishments of their Syrian counterparts, with whom they are closely aligned. And in Iraq, the body that rules the country’s Kurdish region—the Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG—was at the height of its powers, preparing for a September 2017 referendum on independence.


For old Cold Warriors like me, it’s Groundhog Day. For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the ground services are beginning to emerge from two decades of fighting insurgents to refocus on fighting a big war against Russia or China. The Army in particular has been successful in founding an institution, Army Futures Command, specifically tailored to the task of future-gazing. The command is beginning to resurrect an empirical process by which the military looks into the future. This process has a provenance that goes back 30 years to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the onset of the Gulf War.

The American ground services won a crushing victory against Saddam Hussein’s army by following a game plan, AirLand Battle, that the Army devised in the late 1970s to halt a Soviet invasion across the inter-German border. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s hundred-hour “Great Wheel” maneuver succeeded in part because the inept Iraqi army put up little resistance. Further, the billiard table terrain of Iraq and Kuwait was perfectly suited for large-scale blitzkrieg warfare reminiscent of the German Ardennes offensive in 1940 and Patton’s armored rush across France in 1944. Desert Storm was a catharsis for the Army. The victory cast off the stigma of Vietnam and reestablished the respectability of the Army among America’s warfighting institutions.

Turkey-Syria offensive: Kurds reach deal with Syrian army

The Kurds in Syria say the Syrian government has agreed to send its army to the northern border to try to halt Turkey's offensive against them.

Syrian state media earlier reported that government forces had been deployed to the north.

It follows the US decision to pull all its remaining troops from the area over the "untenable" situation there.

The Turkish assault, launched last week, is aimed at forcing Kurdish forces from along the border area.

Areas under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main US ally in the area, have come under heavy bombardment over the weekend, with Turkey making gains in two key border towns.

Dozens of civilians and fighters have been killed on both sides.

A Hyper-Mobile Defense: Iran’s Novel Strategy to Sustain Proxy Conflicts in the Middle East

Andrew Narloch

In 2004, King Abdullah of Jordan first warned that a "Shia crescent" stretching from Damascus to Tehran, threatened Middle Eastern stability via a Persian sponsored sectarian power play.[i] His words would hold true as the Iranian influence over Shia militants has projected Tehran’s power will well beyond its borders. The expansive nature of this greater-Iranian strategy has culminated in a political completion of the land bridge from Tehran to Beirut. In 2016, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman reiterated the continued threat "by a Shia full moon” as the result of Iranian-backed Shia militias in both Yemen and the Levant.[ii] These forces present a difficult problem not only to the infiltrated host nations but also to that of neighboring and international states, seeking to pacify the region. With Persian and American tensions at a breaking point it is imperative to understand not only Iran’s national capabilities but also that of its cultivated proxy organizations in the Middle East whose potential for global disruption cannot be discounted.

The most developed of these Iranian surrogates is Hezbollah, which has consistently destabilized peace along the Israeli-Lebanese and Jordanian borders since 1982.[iii] Currently, this organization holds de facto control over strategic zones along the Judean border and in the capital of Beirut. Due to its cult like effect on the Shia population, Hezbollah has become a major part of the Lebanese government since 1992.[iv] In 2006, Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, sparking a conflict with Israel. The insurgents would employ a hyper-mobile style of defense in urban areas and other complex terrain which would successfully grind the conflict to a stalemate. This result prompted semi-legitimate claims that they were the first Arab group to defeat Israel since the Jewish state’s inception.[v] As conflicts in the Middle East continue to arise, it is imperative to understand the underlying strategy that contributed to Hezbollah’s military successes in 2006 in order to minimize the role that they or their fellow Iranian proxies can play in future confrontations.


Disaster in the Desert

By Martin Indyk 

In July 2019, Jason Greenblatt, then U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, attended a routine quarterly UN Security Council meeting about the Middle East. Providing an update on the Trump administration’s thinking about the peace process, he pointedly told the surprised audience that the United States no longer respected the “fiction” of an international consensus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Greenblatt went out of his way to attack not some extreme or obscure measure but UN Security Council Resolution 242, the foundation of half a century of Arab-Israeli negotiations and of every agreement Israel has achieved within them, including the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. He railed against its ambiguous wording, which has shielded Israel for decades against Arab demands for a full withdrawal from occupied territory, as “tired rhetoric designed to prevent progress and bypass direct negotiations” and claimed that it had hurt rather than helped the chances for real peace in the region.

Climate Change and Food Security: A Test of U.S. Leadership in a Fragile World

Climate change poses a considerable threat to global food security, with potentially existential economic, political, and social outcomes for humanity. As climate impacts worsen and further stress an already hungry world, the United States should claim the mantle of global leadership in responding to the impacts of climate change, double down on domestic efforts to promote climate-smart agriculture, elevate the issue of climate change and food insecurity in national security circles, and leverage the reorganization of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to further mainstream climate resilience into U.S. global food security programs.

As people around the world increasingly feel the impacts of climate change, the collective call for action grows louder and louder. The effects of climate change on food production—often neglected in favor of stories on melting glaciers, tropical storms, and sea level rise—are receiving more and more mainstream attention. This brief seeks to summarize the relationship between climate change and food insecurity, highlight salient trends and controversies, and comment on U.S. government global policies and programs that tackle this important issue.


Missing the Bigger Picture in Kurdish Syria

By Lt. Col. Robert L. Maginnis

President Trump’s decision to withdraw our few troops from the Syria-Turkey border area earned him considerable criticism from allies. Senator Lindsey Graham said the decision is “a catastrophe in the making.” Representative Lin Cheney said it’s “a catastrophic mistake.” Former UN Secretary Nikki Haley said, “We must always have the backs of our allies.”

President Trump has answered these critics. The Kurds were engaged in a contractual relationship fighting the Islamic State (ISIS). They were well paid and equipped for their fighting, much like any mercenary group. Further, they were given three years to consolidate eastern Syria to feed their long-held desire to form an independent Kurdistan with other Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. They failed.

The Kurds’ problem, and by association that of the U.S., is that regional powers like Turkey and to a lesser extent Iran and Syria have long held the Kurds in disdain. In fact, Turkey considers the Syrian Kurds to be allies of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or (PKK), which are Turkish Kurds and terrorists fighting for independence for the last 35 years.

Basically, the Kurds hijacked our fight with ISIS to feed their regional civil war to earn independence.

An Innovation Challenge for the United States

Continued innovation leadership is essential to peace and economic prosperity for the United States and the global community. The post-war structural advantages that allowed the United States to dominate innovation have diminished or vanished entirely. Investment is essential for innovation, but it is not the only factor that enables it. For the United States to remain the global innovation leader, the federal government must lead the way.

The United States became the undisputed global leader in innovation following World War II. From transistors to personal computers, from the development of the Internet to the evolution of the smart phone, America was at the frontier of the world’s technological transformation. Multiple factors drove this advancement in the post-war era: consumer demand, Cold War competition, the relentless pursuit of advancement, and strong federal leadership. High risk tolerance, competition, and the insatiable appetite to create and improve technology forged an innovation culture that has benefited the United States and the world.

Dry Hills, Full Ponds: Climate Change, Resilience, and Agriculture in Nepal

It is well understood that climate change is destabilizing agricultural livelihoods throughout the global South. Rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, declining soil moisture, and a rise in the incidence of drought are, increasingly, forcing vulnerable smallholder farming populations to adapt to the new world in which they farm.

In places like Nepal, where two-thirds of the labor force rely on agriculture to earn a living, the impacts of rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, and protracted droughts are becoming especially severe. The U.S. government is expanding its investment in programs that build climate resilience, but how can we ensure these investments are inclusive and beneficial to the most vulnerable populations?

This report, by Christian Man, illuminates the challenges stemming from climate change for resilience programming while also exploring how U.S. programs and policies might better achieve inclusivity in these resilience building initiatives. As the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) completes the conversion of its Bureau for Food Security into the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, a window of opportunity exists to further ensure the new emphasis meaningfully addresses very vulnerable populations. This report examines how these opportunities present themselves in USAID Nepal programming.

Who’s Who in Northern Syria?

By Lindsay Maizland
With Turkey’s latest military offensive, here’s a rundown of the different forces in the region.

In a new escalation in Syria’s civil war, Turkey has launched a military operation aimed at removing Kurdish fighters from areas in northern Syria near the Turkish border. Here’s what you need to know about the many actors in the region: 

The People’s Protection Units (YPG) is the main Kurdish armed group in Syria. It has long sought to create an independent state for the Kurds within Syria. In 2015, the YPG formed an alliance with Arab and ethnic Turkmen militias in the region, creating the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). It is estimated to have around forty thousand fighters, about half of whom are from the YPG. The SDF has been backed by the United States, and the two sides defeated forces from the self-proclaimed Islamic State in northern Syria. The YPG has links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting Turkey for decades and is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara and Washington.



In this episode of Horns of a Dilemma, John Gans, director of communications and research at Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania, sits down with several members of the University of Texas faculty to discuss his new book, White House Warriors: How the National Security Council Transformed the American Way of War. The discussion is led by William Inboden, editor-in-chief of the Texas National Security Review and director of the Clements Center, Steve Slick, director of the Intelligence Studies Project and former director and senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, and Aaron O’Connell, a veteran of the National Sescurity Council staff and faculty fellow at the Clements Center. The discussion dives into the role of the National Security Council and the challenges it faces. They also discuss Gans’ process in researching and writing White House Warriors.

The Return of Geoeconomics

by Michael Lind

FOR DECADES, the study of international security has been divorced from the study of international trade and investment, along with domestic economic development. In political science departments on university campuses, self-described realists debate defense and diplomacy with idealists of various kinds. In the economics department next door, there is no debate; the academic economists almost unanimously agree that free trade and investment benefit all sides. They instead postulate an ideal world where national borders would be insignificant and there would be free flows of goods, services, money and labor.

Even before Donald Trump became the first president in living memory to explicitly promote U.S. economic nationalism, the wall that divided the national-security realists and the free-market economists was crumbling—mainly because of the rise of China, which has benefited from a version of statist economics while challenging U.S. military hegemony in Asia. Slowly but inevitably, debates about national security and the global economy are merging into a single dispute about relative national power. This marks a revival of what Edward Luttwak has called “geo-economics.”

Abandoned by U.S. in Syria, Kurds Find New Ally in American Foe

By Ben Hubbard, Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Patrick Kingsley
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DOHUK, Iraq — Kurdish forces long allied with the United States in Syria announced a new deal on Sunday with the government in Damascus, a sworn enemy of Washington that is backed by Russia, as Turkish troops moved deeper into their territory and President Trump ordered the withdrawal of the American military from northern Syria.

The sudden shift marked a major turning point in Syria’s long war.

For five years, United States policy relied on collaborating with the Kurdish-led forces both to fight the Islamic State and to limit the influence of Iran and Russia, which support the Syrian government, with a goal of maintaining some leverage over any future settlement of the conflict.

On Sunday, after Mr. Trump abruptly abandoned that approach, American leverage appeared all but gone. That threatened to give President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers a free hand. It also jeopardized hard-won gains against the Islamic State — and potentially opened the door for its return.

Inside the Race to Break the Two-Hour Marathon

By Ed Caesar

On Saturday, Eliud Kipchoge, the best marathon runner of his generation, will attempt to become the first person to complete twenty-six miles and three hundred and eighty-five yards in less than two hours. The time trial will take place on an avenue in Vienna’s Prater park, which for centuries was a hunting ground for Austrian emperors and princes. Kipchoge, wearing white, will be surrounded by interchanging teams of black-clad pacers, who will run in a counterintuitive open-V-shaped formation, to protect him from the head wind. If nothing else, the event will look beautiful: “Swan Lake” meets “Chariots of Fire.”

Just as the race to break the sub-four-minute mile engrossed the public in the nineteen-fifties, so the sub-two-hour marathon has beguiled contemporary students of running. For most of the history of the sport, the “sub-two” existed in the realm of science fiction. At the first Olympic marathon, in Athens in 1896, only one man broke three hours. And that race was shorter than it is now, at around twenty-five miles. Running a marathon in less than two hours requires an outlandish average speed of a little more than thirteen miles per hour. (Try the pace on a treadmill; if you are very fit, you might last two minutes.) But for at least two decades—as the marathon has professionalized, and the world record dropped to within a few minutes of two hours—there has been a debate about if, or when, the mark could be broken.

America’s Slipping Edge—Cyber Saturday

By Robert Hackett

The Aspen Cyber Group, a nonprofit organization that convenes a security-focused partnership between the public and private sectors in the U.S., released a report this week warning that the conditions that led to American prosperity—and supremacy—in the post-World War II era “no longer exist and are unlikely to be seen again.”

The paper hits like a bucket of ice-cold water. It’s a painful reality check—and an alarming wake-up call urging the nation not to rest on its laurels. If America does not lead in innovation in the years ahead, the world runs the “risk that new technologies will be developed and implemented by nations that do not share values of liberty and freedom.”

The subtext of the report is, obviously, China. While the paper does not directly state the most worrisome concerns—that new technologies, created abroad, could propel censorship, surveillance, and the persecution of state-disfavored populations—it does chide the U.S. for falling behind in many basic areas of economic investment. China is, in contrast, pouring loads of money into infrastructure, research and development, and science and engineering education. In case one needed any convincing, the strategy is deliberately “designed to leapfrog the United States and Europe.”

Without encryption, we will lose all privacy. This is our new battleground

Edward Snowden
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In every country of the world, the security of computers keeps the lights on, the shelves stocked, the dams closed, and transportation running. For more than half a decade, the vulnerability of our computers and computer networks has been ranked the number one risk in the US Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment – that’s higher than terrorism, higher than war. Your bank balance, the local hospital’s equipment, and the 2020 US presidential election, among many, many other things, all depend on computer safety.

And yet, in the midst of the greatest computer security crisis in history, the US government, along with the governments of the UK and Australia, is attempting to undermine the only method that currently exists for reliably protecting the world’s information: encryption. Should they succeed in their quest to undermine encryption, our public infrastructure and private lives will be rendered permanently unsafe.

The Air Force Is Testing A Secret Weapon: Drone Swarms

by Kris Osborn

Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention.

The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th-Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.

Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combing ground-based simulators with airborne leer jets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.

“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake strikes the Philippines, resulting in more than 215 deaths.