26 October 2019

What a Withdrawal From Afghanistan Would Look Like

By Carter Malkasian 

Over the past two years, a bipartisan consensus has emerged that the United States should leave Afghanistan. This summer, President Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that he wanted out. So did the Democratic presidential candidates. During a September debate, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren promised to bring troops home without any deal with the Taliban, and former Vice President Joe Biden was just as strident, declaring, “We don’t need those troops there. I would bring them home.” But advocates of the mission argue that a full withdrawal courts disaster, paving the way for terrorist groups to reestablish a safe haven in Afghanistan.

That distaste for remaining in Afghanistan is widespread is unsurprising after 17 years of war. And U.S. involvement in active military operations in Afghanistan has greatly decreased since 2010 and 2011, when nearly 100,000 U.S. troops were deployed. The remaining 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan support local security forces with airstrikes, surveillance, and advising. Afghan soldiers and police do the frontline work of defending cities against the Taliban, while U.S. special operations devote significant effort to battling al Qaeda and the Islamic State (or ISIS). The United States has fought a relentless campaign against these groups, and many opponents of the effort can endure it no longer. 

US and European Support for New Afghan Peace Talks

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and EU envoy Roland Kobia, among other representatives from the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United Nations, met in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss peace in Afghanistan.

A statement from the group acknowledged that “a sustainable peace can only be achieved through a negotiated political settlement,” and, to achieve this, the US and European representatives pledged support for talks between the Afghan government, the Taliban and other Afghan political and civil society leaders.

The statement urged immediate steps to reduce violence and civilian casualties and called for a ceasefire while intra-Afghan peace talks take place.

While applauding the Afghans for participating in the recent election polling, the participants called on President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to “focus immediately” on preparing “an inclusive, national negotiating team.”

NATO’s Lessons from Afghanistan

Seth Johnston 

ABSTRACT: This article identifies the importance of NATO’s role as a facilitator of multinational collaboration. The Alliance’s established processes and standards worked well, enabling countries whose available resources might otherwise prohibit their participation to fully-contribute to the mission in Afghanistan.

Today’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization is no Cold War alliance. Few developments illustrate NATO’s capacity for adaptation more than its 21st century role in Afghanistan.1 NATO allies invoked the collective defense provision—Article 5—of its founding treaty for the first and only time just one day after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.2 Few present at the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 could have imagined it would be invoked by European countries and Canada seeking to support the United States or that the Alliance’s largest and longest military operation would occur in central Asia. Fewer still might have predicted NATO allies would agree to the mission so soon after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, a crisis the then US ambassador to NATO described as a “near death experience” for the Alliance.3 Yet NATO assumed control of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2003 and has remained in Afghanistan for the better part of two decades.

As the United States has begun negotiating a political settlement to the Afghanistan conflict with a view to the eventual withdrawal of international forces there, an assessment from the overall NATO perspective will complement the national initiatives.4 This effort will also support ongoing efforts to reassess NATO’s priorities in the face of other security challenges.5

China to give $21 million to Nepal army to help future disaster relief

Gopal Sharma

FILE PHOTO: Nepal's President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and China's President Xi Jinping inspect an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal October 12, 2019. Bikash Karki/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal said on Monday that China will give its army about $21 million in unspecified “disaster relief materials” over the next three years, as Beijing strengthens its ties with Kathmandu.

Xi Jinping visited the Himalayan nation, which has traditionally leaned on neighboring India for help, on Oct. 12 in the first such trip by a Chinese president in more than two decades.

Nepal and China signed several agreements during Xi’s visit, including two connectivity projects that the Nepali government hopes will eventually reduce its dependence on India.

China has made rapid inroads into Nepal with aid and investment, amid growing concerns in India which considers the landlocked nation its area of influence.

After a devastating earthquake in 2015, which killed 9,000 people, China was among the first countries to send rescue and relief teams to Nepal.

What True Reciprocity for U.S. and Chinese Diplomats Would Look Like

Howard W. French 

It’s not every day that one gets a chance to assess a Trump administration decision made on what looks like solid foreign policy principles. But unexpectedly last week, the State Department announced that it had established new rules governing the activities of Chinese diplomats posted to the United States. The changes require Chinese envoys to notify the State Department in advance of “official meetings with representatives of states, local and municipal governments; official visits to educational institutions and official visits to research institutions” in the U.S.

Since the rationale given for this measure was reciprocity, meaning that Washington claims to be merely applying some of the conditions that Beijing imposes on the activities of American diplomats in China, one might easily conclude there’s not much to see here, and simply applaud the measure as long overdue. But there is more here than meets the eye. ...

Hollywood Is Paying an ‘Abominable’ Price for China Access

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Hollywood’s China reckoning has come. But unlike the NBA’s recent China debacle, this time it’s not the United States but China’s nearest neighbors who’ve had enough.

Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia have all expressed outrage at a map of China that flickers across the screen in a new film released in late September. The animated film, Abominable, is a joint production of DreamWorks and Pearl Studios, which is based in Shanghai. The map includes China’s infamous “nine-dash line”—the vague, ambiguously marked demarcation line for its territorial claim over most of the South China Sea.

The dispute points to a new problem for Hollywood as studios move closer to Beijing’s positions. Silence on China is nothing new—but positively pushing the Chinese government’s view of the world is.

Hollywood’s traditional self-censorship on China has market roots. China’s burgeoning market of movie-goers is expected to soon surpass the United States as the largest in the world. China’s censors have wielded this power adroitly, mandating that production companies abide by the party’s bottom lines in order to earn one of the 34 coveted spots allotted to foreign films for distribution in China each year. That has resulted in a deafening silence from Hollywood on the realities of Chinese Communist Party rule.

The Open Secret of Development Economics


BEIJING – This year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences recognizes Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer for their work using randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in developmental studies. This year’s selection has elicited a broad array of reactions from around the world, not least because RCTs are a source of controversy among academic economists. To many in China, the Nobel Committee seems once again to have missed the Chinese development experience, which, after all, had nothing to do with RCTs.

To be sure, some of this criticism amounts to sour grapes. The Nobel Prize has been awarded to only three Chinese nationals – for literature, medicine, and peace – since its inception. Nonetheless, China’s economic history offers important lessons that today’s RCT-driven approach to development research has missed. Researchers in the field seem to have forgotten the wisdom imparted by the classical development economists of the 1950s: economic development is about taking the difficult but necessary steps to achieve sustained growth.

Aircraft Carriers, Stealth Bombers and Killer Tanks: China's Military Has Arrived

by Sebastien Roblin
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On January 12, 2019, the Defense Intelligence Agency released an annual report highlighting the radical reorganization of China’s People’s Liberation Army to become faster-responding, more flexible and more lethal than ever before.

The PLA was formed in 1927 as a Communist revolutionary force to oppose the Nationalist Kuomintang government and (later) invading Japanese forces. Unlike Western militaries, the PLA remains loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, not a theoretical independent Chinese state. A cadre of political officers (commissars or zhengwei) still operate at every level of the command structure to ensure loyalty and manage personnel.

Even after securing the mainland in 1949 and sprouting Navy and Air Force branches, the PLA adhered to a defensive “People’s War Strategy” which assumed that technologically superior foreign invaders (the United States or Soviet Union) would need to be lured deep into Chinese territory to be worn down by guerilla warfare and superior numbers.



The United States' decision to abandon its posts in northern Syria was not simply the result of an abrupt decision by President Donald Trump, but the product of a longer, systematic shift in the balance of power across the Middle East, where Russia and China have established new, leading roles.

The recent handover of U.S. military positions in Syria's northern city of Manbij to Russian forces, first reported by Newsweek, was a symbolic moment in this trend, a move that accompanied Syrian and Russian troops moving into a number of outposts once occupied by the Pentagon. The event occurred as Russian President Vladimir Putin made high-profile visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two close U.S. partners increasingly convinced of Russia's weight in the region.

U.S. Syria Envoy Admits 'Dozens' of ISIS Fighters Have Escaped Detention

Tuesday, as a failing, five-day ceasefire brokered by Washington between Turkish-led and Kurdish-led forces neared its expiration, it was Russian President Vladimir Putin who sat down with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in hopes of reaching a more lasting solution to his problem with Kurdish-led forces. With all the pressure of solving this decades-long conflict now primarily resting on his shoulders, however, the Russian leader still had to prove himself as a peacemaker.

When Espionage Skills Are for Sale, So Is Your Security

Scott Stewart

Anyone with the intent, interest and budget to buy espionage tools and expertise can now acquire the capability to steal a specific piece of information. 

It can thus be presumed that any national intelligence agency, large corporation or organized crime group can access whatever data they deem valuable enough to pay for.

Reports emerged Oct. 16 that UAE-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter recruited officers who had previously worked for Israel's elite cyber intelligence outfit, Unit 8200. Interestingly, the story also noted that many of the Unit 8200 personnel had first worked at the Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group before reportedly departing the company for larger salaries at DarkMatter. Both NSO Group and DarkMatter have generated a great deal of media coverage for allegedly arming governments with intelligence tools to spy on potential dissidents and journalists, among other targets. These cases, however, undoubtedly only scratch the surface of a much larger threat — that is, the increasing proliferation of intelligence tools and skills on the open market. Today, more actors than ever can purchase advanced intelligence capabilities, forcing us to reconsider the way we think about, analyze and protect against corporate espionage threats.

The Big Picture

Iran Is Losing the Middle East, Protests in Lebanon and Iraq Show

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In less than a month, demonstrations against corruption and a lack of economic reform erupted in both Iraq and Lebanon. In both countries, the unprecedented protests, which rocked Shiite towns and cities, have revealed that Iran’s system for exerting influence in the region failed. For the Shiite communities in Iraq and Lebanon, Tehran and its proxies have failed to translate military and political victories into a socioeconomic vision; simply put, Iran’s resistance narrative did not put food on the table.

Since the very beginning of the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have had a clear, long-term, and detailed policy on how to export its revolution to the region, mainly in countries with a substantial Shiite majority. Iran had been very patient and resilient in implementing its policy, accepting small defeats with eyes on the main goal: hegemony over Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

With God on Our Side


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has resurrected a campaign promise to annex all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley if his Likud Party wins the Israeli parliamentary elections scheduled for September 17.

“With God’s help,” Netanyahu said, “we will extend Jewish sovereignty to all the settlements as part of the (biblical) land of Israel, as part of the state of Israel.” His use of the term “Jewish sovereignty” instead of “Israeli sovereignty” and his reference to “the land of Israel” were deliberate. Netanyahu is attempting to normalize the idea that Jewish individuals living anywhere in the world hold a super-nationality that trumps Palestinian indigeneity on either side of the 1967 “green line” demarcating the internationally recognized border between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The false notion that Jewish citizens of other states owe allegiance to “the land of Israel” is apparently not problematic for Netanyahu as long as it is in the service of his reelection. Less fashionable are security justifications for Israel’s hold on the occupied Palestinian territories, though Netanyahu also cited this pretense in the context of Israel’s decision to retain the Jordan Valley. Netanyahu prefers to rely on a narrow understanding of Judeo-Christian scripture to line up the nationalist-religious parties to support him and Likud.

Turkey's Offensive in Northeastern Syria: The Expected, the Surprising, and the Still Unknown

Gallia Lindenstrauss, Eldad Shavit
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Operation Peace Spring, Turkey's third operation in northern Syria since 2016, constitutes its most ambitious action in Syria yet. The developments leading up to the offensive and the outcomes of the operation have regional and international ramifications well beyond this specific campaign – particularly for the conduct of the various actors in light of President Donald Trump's desire to end US involvement in conflicts in the region. The offensive was not in itself surprising given the numerous Turkish threats to this effect, and the Kurds' deal with the Assad regime once the threats were carried out was also expected. However, the emergence of the deal after only four days of fighting was a surprise. Following the deal, a question arises as to what will remain of Kurdish autonomous rule in northeastern Syria. There are concerns that the weakening of Kurdish forces will enable a resurgence of the Islamic State and its control over territory. In the Israeli context, the departure of US forces from Syria grants an easier-than-expected victory to adversaries of the United States, especially Iran. The US withdrawal is further expected to significantly ease Iran's operation of a land route from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, and in effect leaves Israel alone in the fight against Iran's entrenchment in the northern theater.

Operation Peace Spring, the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria that began on October 9, 2019, is the third offensive carried out by Turkey in northern Syria and its most ambitious action in Syria to date, as well as the one that has elicited the most international censure. The developments that led to this offensive and its outcomes have regional and international significance that go well beyond the specific campaign.

Turkey: Which countries export arms to Turkey?

Many European states have suspended arms exports to Turkey following its military incursion into northern Syria.

Its major suppliers have traditionally been the United States and Europe, but more recently Turkey has turned to Russia for the purchase of a missile defence system.

So which countries have imposed bans and where does that leave Turkey to buy its weapons from?

We have faced threats like economic sanctions and embargoes on weapons sales. Those who think they can make Turkey turn back with these threats are gravely mistaken.

Nine European countries have imposed controls on arms sales to Turkey.

The Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK have all - along with Canada - announced they are halting or restricting arms export licence approvals for Turkey.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said Britain would continue selling arms to Turkey but would not grant new export licences for weapons which might be used in military operations in Syria.

The World Can Make More Water From the Sea, but at What Cost?

By Henry Fountain

THUWAL, Saudi Arabia — Desalinated seawater is the lifeblood of Saudi Arabia, no more so than at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, an international research center that rose from the dry, empty desert a decade ago.

Produced from water from the adjacent Red Sea that is forced through salt-separating membranes, it is piped into the campus’s gleaming lab buildings and the shops, restaurants and cookie-cutter homes of the surrounding planned neighborhoods. It irrigates the palm trees that line the immaculate streets and the grass field at the 5,000-seat sports stadium. Even the community swimming pools are filled with hundreds of thousands of gallons of it.

Desalination provides all of the university’s fresh water, nearly five million gallons a day. But that amount is just a tiny fraction of Saudi Arabia’s total production. Beyond the walls and security checkpoints of the university, desalinated water makes up about half of the fresh water supply in this nation of 33 million people, one of the most water-starved on Earth.

Worldwide, desalination is increasingly seen as one possible answer to problems of water quantity and quality that will worsen with global population growth and the extreme heat and prolonged drought linked to climate change.

With Another Brexit Delay, More Uncertainty—and a Glimpse at Future British Trade

Kimberly Ann Elliott

Despite saying that he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to do just that late Saturday night, sending a letter to the European Commission requesting another extension for the United Kingdom’s long-awaited departure from the European Union. As with two earlier delays, the core challenges to resolving Brexit remain avoiding a highly disruptive, “no-deal” exit; keeping the Irish land border open; and defining trade relationships with the EU and the rest of the world that mitigate the costs of leaving the world’s largest customs union.

The British Parliament refused a clean vote on Johnson’s Brexit deal Saturday because its priority is to ensure the U.K. will not “crash out” of the EU without a deal. The problem is that a majority of members of Parliament do not trust Johnson to deliver that outcome. The failure of his government’s push to gain approval for the deal was sealed by the loss of crucial votes from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, on whose support the Conservatives depend, since they lack a parliamentary majority. Those DUP members do not like how the renegotiated Brexit deal addresses the Irish border. One benefit of all this continued uncertainty, however, is that it has provided a glimpse into what an independent British trade policy might look like. ...

Brains, not brawn, matter most in the next war — and we're not being smart about it


Throughout the millennia, war was essentially defined by muscular prowess on the battlefield. Advances in technology, from the longbow to gunpowder, to the tank and even the airplane, did not change the fundamental calculus involving the ability of troops on the ground to seize and hold territory.

To some extent that calculus remains unchanged, but it is ever-diminishing in light of technological breakthroughs that have been taking place at accelerating speed.

Moore’s Law, which in essence postulates that computing power doubles every two years, has had a huge impact on the very nature of military weaponry — and may already have been overtaken by the development of ever more powerful computer systems. The creation of the U.S. Space Force is an indication of the degree to which space has become an additional battlefield domain, alongside land, sea and air, and to a significant degree is a result of advances in software development. 

Even more striking is the increasingly central role of cyber warfare, a realm that was nonexistent only decades ago. 

Russia has been playing a canny game in the Middle East, but can it continue?

Olga Oliker

Recent events in Syria suggest that Russia isn’t just taking Washington’s place as the Middle East’s power broker – it seems to be doing a more effective job of it, too.

The latest evidence came yesterday, when Vladimir Putin held a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As a US-brokered ceasefire in Syria’s north-east expired, they struck a deal to evacuate the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish-led militia, from a buffer zone near Turkey’s border. Russian and Turkish troops will begin patrols of that area, giving them joint control. But while Russian diplomatic skill is to be commended, America’s loss may yet prove Russia’s headache.

Few expected such a turn of events in 2015, when Russia launched a military operation in support of Bashar al-Assad. At the time, the Syrian president was at significant risk of losing control of his country to a disparate assortment of forces: US-backed groups including the YPG; Turkish-backed forces; Islamic State; al-Qaida; and others.

Assad Is Now Syria’s Best-Case Scenario

Stephen M. Walt

The ruthless Syrian dictator is guilty of countless war crimes—and regrettably represents his country's least bad remaining option.

President Donald Trump is taking considerable flak for his impulsive decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria. He deserves it because it is hard to imagine a more inept or ill-considered response to the imbroglio he inherited there. But let's not lose sight of the bigger picture: U.S. policy toward Syria has been a failure for years, and the American strategy—if that word is even appropriate—was rife with contradictions and unlikely to produce a significantly better outcome no matter how long the United States stayed. (For a good brief summary of "how we got here," see Max Fisher's piece in the New York Times.)

As depressing as it is to write this sentence, the best course of action today is for President Bashar al-Assad's regime to regain control over northern Syria. Assad is a war criminal whose forces killed more than half a million of his compatriots and produced several million refugees. In a perfect world, he would be on trial at The Hague instead of ruling in Damascus. But we do not live in a perfect world, and the question we face today is how to make the best of a horrible situation.

The View From Olympus: A Comprehensive Settlement

President Trump’s decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria is wise and, in fact, long overdue. There is no natural end-point for serving as a buffer between the Turks and the Kurds; their feud will go on forever. We should never have gotten ourselves into it in the first place.

Similarly, the President was correct in refusing to attack Iran in response to the Houthis’ strike on Saudi oil facilities. His refusal to pull the Saudis’ chestnuts out of the fire has led them to approach Iran about reducing mutual tensions, which is just the outcome we should desire. As the New York Times reported on October 5, “Any reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran could have far-reaching consequences for conflicts across the region.”

President Trump understands that our involvement in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf should be minimized. It brings us no benefits and carries the risk of high costs, i.e., more wars in which our interests are not really at stake. What we need is a comprehensive settlement of all major disputes across the region. This is what Bismark sought and reached in the face of a number of European crises that could have brought on a general war.

U.S. Military Forces in FY 2020: The Struggle to Align Forces with Strategy

Annually, CSIS Senior Adviser Mark Cancian publishes a series of papers on U.S. military forces--their composition, new initiatives, long term trends, and challenges. The overall theme of this year's report is the struggle to align forces and strategy because of budget tradeoffs that even defense buildups must make, unrelenting operational demands that stress forces and prevent reductions, and legacy programs whose smooth operations and strong constituencies inhibit rapid change. Subsequent papers will take a deeper look at the strategic and budget context, the military services, special operations forces, DOD civilians and contractors, and non-DOD national security organizations in the FY 2020 budget.
Strategic and Budget Context

The Trump administration’s 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) drives its FY 2020 budget proposal, which aims to fix readiness and increase modernization to prepare for long-term competition with China and Russia. Force structure expands very little. Thus, the Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, has chosen capability over capacity, but unrelenting operational demands are pushing the services towards a high-low mix in order to cover both.

To pay for these initiatives, the proposed FY 2020 defense budget rises 4.9 percent above the FY 2019 level and continues a five-year streak of increases. However, the budget is projected to be flat in real terms after FY 2020, requiring internal offsets to pay for any future initiatives.

Strategic Deterrence Redux: Nuclear Weapons and European Security

Leo Michel, Matti Pesu 
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Leo Michel and Matti Pesu write that the post-​Cold War era may have initially been characterized by optimism, but geopolitical competition now dominates once more. What might this mean for deterrence, and nuclear deterrence in particular? To find out, Michel and Pesu look at 1) the basic principles of deterrence; 2) the nuclear-​related policies and capabilities of the four nuclear weapon states most directly involved in European security affairs – Russia, the US, France and the UK; 3) what recent trends in strategic deterrence mean for Northern Europe, and more. 

The P5 Must Reaffirm that Nuclear War Can’t Be Won and Mustn’t Be Fought

By Ramesh Thakur

There are three sets of reasons for a palpable rise in nuclear anxieties around the world: growing nuclear arsenals and expanding roles for nuclear weapons, a crumbling arms-control architecture, and irresponsible statements from the leaders of some nuclear-armed states.

One way to counter this would be for the P5 (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which are also the five states recognised by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as lawfully possessing nuclear weapons) to co-sponsor a resolution affirming that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’.

Ronald Reagan first made that statement in 1984, and he and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reaffirmed it in 1987 at the signing of the historic Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Today, their successors seem determined to restart a nuclear arms race and look for ‘usable’ nuclear weapons.

India, Pakistan and North Korea are enlarging their nuclear arsenals as fast as they can. China’s military has called for a strengthening of its nuclear-deterrence and counter-strike capabilities. Earlier this month in Beijing, the People’s Liberation Army paraded a range of new missiles, including the DF-41 heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and the DF-17hypersonic glide vehicle.

Taking Responsibility in a Dangerous World

By Federica Mogherini

Federica Mogherini contends that Europe is finally taking greater responsibility for European and global security. For instance, the EU has recently developed three key tools to reduce the long-​standing fragmentation of Europe’s defense sector: the European Defense Fund (EDA), the coordinated annual review of national defense budgets and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). However, Mogherini stresses that the EU wants to take such efforts and assume its responsibilities in the spirit of cooperation with its partners, starting with NATO and the US. That is, the EU wishes to pursue ‘cooperative autonomy’. 

For as long as I can remember, I have heard my U.S. colleagues ask we Europeans to take greater responsibility for European and Transatlantic security. I have always agreed with that sentiment. Seventy five years ago, hundreds of thousands of Americans sacrificed their lives to liberate Europe from Nazism and Fascism. The United States contributed to rebuilding our devastated continent and to preserving freedom in Europe after the war. Such debt is impossible to repay. But after decades of American support to Europe, the transatlantic partnership has become more mature. Europe is now a global power, one of the three largest global economies, the biggest market in the world, and we invest in development aid at twice the level of the United States, and more than the rest of the world combined. Taken together, the 28 Member States of the European Union have a defense budget second only to that of the United States. We feel the responsibility that comes with greater strength. When America came under attack on 9/11, we immediately showed our full solidarity: for the first time in history, NATO’s collective defense clause was activated in support of the United States. And in recent years we Europeans have taken unprecedented steps to fulfill our responsibility and increase our contribution to global security. 

National Cybersecurity and Cyberdefense Policy Snapshots: Updated Collection 2

In this volume, Sean Cordey et al. examine the cybersecurity policies and architecture of Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United Kingdom. By doing so, they shed light on how cyberdefense is embedded in these states’ cybersecurity postures. The authors find that these countries’ approaches have notable differences, including in their understanding of cybersecurity. However, the text also highlights common trends, including a move toward civilian leadership and oversight as well as the centralization of control and implementation responsibilities for cybersecurity and cyberdefense. 

We aren’t in a cyber war – despite what Britain’s top general thinks

David J. Lonsdale

The UK is “at war every day”, the country’s chief of the defence staff, General Sir Nick Carter, recently declared. The reason for Carter’s rather bleak assessment is the proliferation of cyber attacks against Britain’s information networks, and other aggressive but non-violent actions (such as disinformation campaigns) from rival states. He further claimed that the distinction between war and peace has broken down, as competitors increasingly ignore established norms of acceptable behaviour.

Although Carter is right that cyber attacks are a threat to national security, to describe them as war is problematic. War is a distinct activity, with a particular nature. But most cyber attacks are a kind of non-military activity that fall under the broad banner of “grand strategy”.

To be sure, Carter is right that warfare is always evolving in line with technology. But our common definitions of the nature of war still largely exclude cyber attacks. War is best defined by scholar of international relations Hedley Bull, as “organised violence carried on by political units against one another”.

Quantum Computing Is Coming, Bit by Qubit

By Dennis Overbye
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YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. — A bolt from the maybe-future struck the technology community in late September. A paper by Google computer scientists appeared on a NASA website, claiming that an innovative new machine called a quantum computer had demonstrated “quantum supremacy.”

According to the paper, the device, in three minutes, had performed a highly technical and specialized computation that would have taken a regular computer 10,000 years to work out. The achievement, if real, could presage a revolution in how we think, compute, guard our data and interrogate the most subtle aspects of nature.

In an email, John Preskill, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology who coined the term “quantum supremacy,” said the Google work was potentially “a truly impressive achievement in experimental physics.”

But then the paper disappeared, leaving tech enthusiasts grasping at air.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Accused of Lying, Withstands a Washington ‘Beating’

By Cecilia Kang, Mike Isaac and Nathaniel Popper
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WASHINGTON — Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, traveled to Washington to defend a cryptocurrency project that has become the latest target of lawmakers frustrated with the social media giant.

He ended up answering a smorgasbord of questions on other issues on Wednesday, as members of the House Financial Services Committee took him to task for everything from political advertising and disinformation campaigns to work force diversity and child pornography.

Representative Maxine Waters, the Democratic committee chairwoman, set the tone of the hearing early. She grilled Mr. Zuckerberg on Facebook’s willingness to allow unfettered speech across the platform and its recent decision to avoid vetting political advertising.

“The impact of this will be a massive voter suppression effort. Your claim to promote freedom of speech does not ring true,” Ms. Waters said.

The Emerging Risk of Virtual Societal Warfare

by Michael J. Mazarr, Ryan Michael Bauer, Abigail Casey, Sarah Heintz, Luke J. Matthews

What are the characteristics of virtual societal warfare, and what risks does it present to advanced societies?

What is the social and technological context in which cyberaggression, such as hostile social manipulation and virtual societal warfare, will be employed?

What might the world look like 10–15 years after the advent of virtual societal warfare and related techniques of cyberaggression?

The evolution of advanced information environments is rapidly creating a new category of possible cyberaggression that involves efforts to manipulate or disrupt the information foundations of the effective functioning of economic and social systems. RAND researchers are calling this growing threat virtual societal warfare in an analysis of its characteristics and implications for the future.

Contested Public Attributions of Cyber Incidents and the Role of Academia

By Florian J. Egloff

In a recent article in Contemporary Security Policy, Florian J. Egloff reflects on the contested nature of public attributions of cyber incidents and what role academia could take up.

In the last five years, public attribution of cyber incidents has gone from an incredibly rare event to a regular occurrence. Just in October 2018, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre publicized its assessment of cyber activities conducted by the Russian military intelligence service (also known by its old acronym, the GRU). Clearly, publicizing activities that other political actors like to keep secret is a political act – but what kind of political act is it and what happens when a government publicly attributes?

For research on governmental public attribution, one can split the public attribution process into two phases: mechanisms that lead to public attribution and what happens after an incident is publicly attributed. Little research exists on either phase with regard to attribution of cyber incidents. This is problematic as our understanding of contemporary security policy rests on knowledge about what drives threat narratives, how and why particular attributions are introduced publicly, and how contestation of threat narratives takes place in the public sphere.

Eight Lieutenants Deliver a Tough Message

By James R. Holmes

In September, the Tailhook Association—the nonprofit association of naval aviation—convened its annual symposium in Reno, Nevada. This year’s symposium commemorated the 50th anniversary of the founding of TOPGUN, the U.S. Navy’s Fighter Weapons School. A crisis in air-to-air combat in the early days of Vietnam brought the school into being in 1969; commentary from Tailhook 2019 suggests a new crisis is at hand.

If so, its consequences could prove dire. Back then the foe was North Vietnam, a doughty opponent that nonetheless posed little threat outside its borders. Today, China has emerged as a serious military competitor across the Indo-Pacific even as Russia resumes its station as a world power. It is one thing to reinvent yourself when you can learn from past mistakes without fear of losing a war—quite another when you are fighting a peer competitor and could suffer a defeat of seismic proportions while trying to adapt.

A mix of material and cultural factors brought TOPGUN into being. By the 1960s the Navy fielded carrier-based fighter jets whose design philosophy centered on guided missiles. It had become an article of faith that U.S. aircraft would prosecute missile engagements at “standoff” range, firing beyond enemy weapons range and beyond visual range. Adversaries would never get off a shot in reply. Missiles had rendered gunfights a thing of the past, or so it was thought in the early 1960s. Yet Ho Chi Minh’s pilots were an ornery lot, refusing to follow the script American tacticians had written for them. Rather than remain at standoff distance to be blasted out of the sky, North Vietnamese airmen closed to dogfighting range and took their chances in gun duels.