5 November 2019

India and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership: Key Issues and Implications

By Biswajit Dhar

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed mega-regional trade pact being negotiated between ASEAN and their six FTA partner-countries (India, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand) since 2012. It covers a wide range of issues, including trade in goods, trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, competition policy, dispute settlement, and economic and technical cooperation.

This briefing paper begins by summarizing the negotiating mandate of the RCEP and shows how major participating countries have pushed the negotiations towards deeper economic integration, influenced by their simultaneous engagements with other bilateral and regional integration initiatives, especially the TPP. The paper provides an assessment of the ongoing RCEP negotiations, keeping in view some of India’s core interests and policy directions in the areas of agriculture, manufacturing, intellectual property rights, and investment protection.

Tackling Naxalism: A New Approach

By: Shubhranshu Choudhary*

When Mr Lahre, a Forest Sub Divisional Officer in Kawardha district of Chhattisgarh, was identified for taking a bribe of Rs. 99,000 from 33 Baiga primitive tribals of Bhangitola village in return of promise of land rights under Forest Rights Act, he returned the money and made a public apology. He broadcast his apology through the same medium that identified him – CGNet’s Bultoo Radio. In fifteen years of operation in Chhattisgarh, this network has solved more than 1000 cases. These have covered a variety of issues, including land rights, missing pensions, broken water pumps and electricity substations, and closed schools. The most dramatic success was in a case of quick intervention to prevent a cholera outbreak.

The common thread in all these cases is that they reconnect citizens to the state, in remote forest areas where Maoists have successfully exploited the failure of state institutions. Through the practical use of communications, CGNet has provided a narrative that directly confronts the claims of the Maoists, particularly in the issue of land rights. The most powerful recruiting call for the Maoists is that they alone will secure land for tribal people. CGNet has shown a way of challenging this. If it was scaled up, alongside other confidence-building measures, it could provide a powerful new tool to re-establish order and stability in left wing extremism (LWE) affected regions.

Bultoo Radio

Was Hack on Indian Nuclear Plant Used to Test Cyber Intrusion Abilities?

Sam Spencer 

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India has confirmed the discovery of malware on its network. According to a statement, the infection was found on a central computer that was not connected to the more sensitive internal systems.

Cybersecurity experts have linked the harmful code to North Korea’s Lazarus Group. The hacker unit uses a spectrum of vector attacks to steal funds for the administration. Pukhraj Singh, a former researcher at India’s National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), indicated via social media that the malware could be traced back to a recent VirusTotal finding.

Dubbed Dtrack, the version uploaded to the platform was specifically coded to target the institution’s IT infrastructure. An analysis of the virus reveals that it was set up to collect data on the facility’s network. The version relies on the Windows SMB Protocol file-sharing permissions to bypass security systems.

Dtrack is primarily configured as spyware and can collect keystrokes, list available files, and record browser history. It can additionally download other malware payloads.

Debates within the Counter-LWE Policy

Bibhu Prasad Routray

On 14 October, India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, speaking at the inaugural session of the National Conference of Chiefs of Anti-Terror Squads/Special Task Force organised by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), seemed to suggest that if the media stops reporting incidents of terrorism, the latter would die a swift death. Mr. Doval quoted former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in his defence. In addition, Mr. Doval touched upon several other important aspects of an effective counter-terrorism (CT) approach, including the need for judicial reform and a central anti-terror organisation. While such proposals may serve as the beginning of yet another CT rejig in the country, the NSA’s thesis brings into focus following debates on why terrorism occurs and the best way to deal with it. The purpose of this column is to contextualise the debates in the context of left-wing extremism (LWE) and identify key features of a successful counter-LWE policy.

(i) Democracies and Terrorism: the debate whether a totalitarian state or a democracy is better equipped to fight terror is inconclusive. Until recently, scholars did consider democracies are inherently prone to terrorism, as terrorists are able to exploit the openness provided by such regimes. Especially following the watershed 9/11 attacks, democracies, in the name of protecting themselves from terrorism, started adopting laws and embracing practices which violated the very principles of liberal democracy. Policy makers and practitioners talked openly about how a free press, which provides a wide audience for acts of spectacular violence, do provide the terrorists some sort of ‘strategic influence’. Individual states attempted in vain to curb such press freedom.

Why Democratic candidates should propose ‘5,000 for 5’ in Afghanistan

Michael E. O’Hanlon

Writing in The Hill, Michael O'Hanlon argues "given likely conditions there in 2020 and beyond, Democratic presidential candidate should develop a plan for a modest but enduring presence of some 5,000 American troops, about a third of the current number, and phasing down to that by 2021 or 2022."

In the aftermath of the mistaken decision of President Trump to pull most of the 1,000 remaining American troops out of Syria, where they had disproportionate influence in helping to protect the Kurds, ward off Iran, and empower Kurdish forces to detain more than 10,000 Islamic State fighters, what might be the next shoe to drop? Are there other unstable places around the world where the American commander in chief, who wields outsize authority in making such decisions despite a Constitution giving Congress the exclusive right to declare war and maintain armies and navies, might suddenly take more bold and precipitous action?

This fear, always present today, has just become much more acute. The abrupt decision was widely and rightly condemned by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. But with an electorate tired of forever wars, Democratic presidential candidates catering to that electorate and a new Pentagon strategy focusing on great power rivalry with Russia or China, Trump is not alone in the sentiments that led to the policy change. If they really wish to portray Trump as reckless and disloyal to valued allies, Democrats who hope to replace him as president need to declare what they would do themselves. The Syria pullout will soon be history, so what comes next?

Bangladesh Booms in a Sluggish World Economy

By Mohammad Ziauddin

While economies slow for its South Asian neighbors, Bangladesh is hitting record growth rates.

Ongoing trade disputes between the United States and China have stymied global markets and shaken the established order. Projected economic growth in South Asia has fallen 1.1 percentage points in just the last six months. Bangladesh, on the other hand, has adapted to the rapidly changing landscape and managed to maintain its impressive record of economic growth.

The Asian Development Bank says Bangladesh has the fastest-growing economy in the Asia-Pacific region. Lately, it’s been closing in on double-digit annual growth in its Gross Domestic Product. The reason: Bangladesh has made enormous strides by finding new markets for its exports and attracting large numbers of foreign investors. It’s also been investing in a variety of modernization projects.

At a time when many countries are looking inwards and closing their doors, Bangladesh is open for business.

Bangladesh can open its doors because of its burgeoning economy. Since 2009, Bangladesh’s economy has grown 188 percent. This year, Bangladesh is on track to post record high annual GDP growth of 8.1 percent, up from 7.9 percent in 2018. By comparison, other South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, suffered significant dips in GDP growth in recent years.

Tibet’s Rivers Will Determine Asia’s Future

By Dechen Palmo

At the dawn of a new era of building dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo, countless lives and ecosystems are being risked in the name of “development” and geopolitics.

Over the last seven decades, the People’s Republic of China has constructed more than 87,000 dams. Collectively they generate 352.26 GW of power, more than the capacities of Brazil, the United States, and Canada combined. On the other hand, these projects have led to the displacement of over 23 million people.

The Tibetan plateau is a rich repository of indispensable freshwater resources that are shared across Asia. After damming most of its rivers, China is now casting its eyes on the major international rivers flowing out from the Tibetan plateau, heralding a new era of damming Tibet’s rivers.

Tibet, known as the “Water Tower of Asia,” serves as the source of 10 major Asian river systems flowing into 10 countries, including many of the most densely populated nations in the world: China, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan.

Dept. of Interior Grounds Its Chinese-Made Drones

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Agency leaders green-lit the purchases in July despite warnings from DHS and outside experts that Beijing might collect data from the drones.

The Interior Department on Wednesday announced it will ground all drones that were manufactured in China or contain Chinese-made parts, pending a review of the agency’s growing unmanned aircraft program.

The decision comes months after agency officials approved purchases of aircraft built by DJI, a Chinese firm that many national security experts see as a potential conduit for government espionage. When authorizing the procurements, the agency took multiple technical precautions to ensure DJI couldn’t access the data collected through the aircraft.

The order to ground Chinese drones wouldn’t apply to aircraft the agency is currently using “for emergency purposes, such as fighting wildfires, search and rescue, and dealing with natural disasters that may threaten life or property,” Interior spokesperson Melissa Brown said in a statement to Nextgov. 

China’s Global Critics Are Helping It Win

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The American public has suddenly awoken to China’s pervasive influence over U.S. corporations. The alarm rang after the severe reaction to a tweet by the general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team in support of democracy in Hong Kong. Chinese demands are a phenomenon with which many companies, including the likes of Apple, Activision Blizzard, Nike, and Marriott, are well acquainted.

Since the Rockets episode, Chinese TV and streaming firms have blacked out the NBA—a cornerstone of U.S. soft power. The profit-obsessed NBA has become a symbol of the tensions that pit fundamental democratic principles such as free speech against capitalist greed. Beijing, it seems, has perfected the application of the saying attributed to Vladimir Lenin that, “The capitalists will sell us the rope to hang them with.”

But the United States is also awakening to another frightening truth about the Chinese government that may be equally hard to face. Contrary to the Cold War stereotype of a rigid, ossified dictatorship, China’s foreign-policy makers have adjusted quite well when they have encountered challenges—especially when Americans and other foreigners point them out.
Contrary to the Cold War stereotype of a rigid, ossified dictatorship, China’s foreign-policy makers have adjusted quite well when they have encountered challenges—especially when Americans and other foreigners point them out. In this way, free critiques and open discourse have inadvertently strengthened China’s geopolitical competitiveness by providing its leaders the very same unvarnished appraisals that they mute at home, where public criticism of the party is a political crime that can land you in prison.

What America Never Understood About ISIS

Shadi Hamid

The Islamic State indulged in some of the most ostentatious brutality and sadism of recent decades. If any extremist group deserves the adjective evil, this would be it. But it is precisely our disgust, which ISIS has well earned, that makes it difficult to talk about what the group was and what it meant—and what it may still mean.

The Washington Post was mocked for describing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as an “austere religious scholar” in the headline of its obituary after the ISIS chief was killed on October 27. (The headline was later changed.) Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that the Post and other mainstream outlets had “harsher criticism for the President of The United States than they do for the leader of ISIS, a known serial rapist and murderer.” He kind of had a point.

Similar criticisms were lobbed against Rukmini Callimachi and Falih Hassan, the authors of a New York Times story about Baghdadi’s death, for describing various government services that ISIS provided in the parts of Iraq and Syria that it once controlled. “The Islamic State collected taxes and saw to it that the garbage was picked up,” they wrote. “Couples who got married could expect to receive a marriage license printed on Islamic State stationery. Once children of those unions were born, their birth weight was duly recorded on an ISIS-issued birth certificate. The group even ran its own D.M.V.” Patrick Osgood, a researcher focusing on Iraq, said on Twitter that the Times story’s “emphasis is utterly wrong, privileging ISIS marginalia over a true reckoning of immense human cost—genocide, multiple massacres of 100s, 1,000s missing, ruinous war—of [Baghdadi’s] fetid ambition.”

The Elimination of al-Baghdadi from the Arena: A Limited Shockwave

Yoram Schweitzer

The death of caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an important intelligence, operational, and moral achievement for the United States, as well as for its partners in the ongoing international campaign against global terrorist threats. However, the practical significance of this event is less than its symbolic significance. Indeed, the main challenge facing ISIS is far greater than the elimination of its leader, as the organization has struggled in recent months to survive physically and to maintain its position as the dominant organization on the global Salafi-jihadi stage. Thus the elimination of al-Baghdadi from the scene – as important and dramatic as it may seem – is far from heralding the downfall of ISIS or any significant reduction in the dangers posed by the organization, due to the capability attributed to it to recover and to launch terrorist attacks and guerilla warfare in the Levant and beyond. For Israel, the elimination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi does not bear much significance. 

Nonetheless, and although the threat posed to Israel from ISIS inside its territory and at its borders is relatively small Israel should invest intelligence efforts in case the situation changes and for the benefit of its allies abroad.The death of caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a commando raid on his hiding place near the village of Barisha in Idlib province conducted on October 26, 2019 by United States special forces is an important intelligence, operational, and moral achievement for the United States, as well as for its partners in the ongoing international campaign against global terrorist threats. However, the practical significance of al-Baghdadi’s death is less than its symbolic significance. The elimination of al-Baghdadi, mainly as an authoritative supreme religious figure of the Islamic State “camp” (rather than as an extraordinary military maverick) is challenging, particularly because the shrinking ISIS organization has struggled in recent months to survive physically. ISIS has also sought to maintain its position as the dominant organization in the global Salafi-jihadi stage against its competitors, al-Qaeda and its allies, and advance preparations to continue and even increase its local, regional, and global activities.

5 lessons from the death of Baghdadi

Daniel L. Byman

Daniel L. Byman writes that although the specifics remain elusive, what we do know about the raid that led to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death — and its consequences — illustrates a series of lessons about US counterterrorism since 9/11, when the United States put the fight against groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State at the top of its priority list. This piece originally appeared on Vox.com.

Success has a thousand fathers, and it’s too early to know who exactly did what when it comes to the reported killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Every agency and ally will want to claim some share of the credit. Although the specifics remain elusive, what we do know about the raid that led to his death — and its consequences — illustrates a series of lessons about US counterterrorism since 9/11, when the United States put the fight against groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State at the top of its priority list.

The US Kurdish allies in Syria — the same ones the United States abandoned when it abruptly withdrew most of its forces from Syria and greenlit a Turkish invasion — reportedly played a key role in providing intelligence for the raid. So, too, did Iraqi allies. This is the norm, not the exception. Much of the intelligence war on terrorism is done by, with, and through allies, which have on-the-ground information as well as a capacity to act locally, neither of which can be replaced without massive US troop deployments.

The Current US Approach to Terror Is a Recipe for Forever War


Without minimizing the bravery and tradecraft that went into killing Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, chasing down terrorist leaders without helping the communities they prey on is a recipe for prolonging, not ending, the war on terror.

Salafi-jihadi groups such as Baghdadi’s Islamic State insinuate their way into communities made vulnerable by local conditions: bad governance, grievances, or external threats. The success of these groups is driven far less by some figurehead who releases occasional exhortations than by their ability to provide physical security, governance, and sustenance. Across the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, there are people who take what the Salafi-jihadis have to offer because they have no choice.

In Iraq, al Qaeda reconstituted from the remnants of its organization to form what would later become the Islamic State. The very Iraqi communities that had fought hard with the U.S. against al Qaeda accepted demonstrators waving the black flag at their protests in early 2013. Sunni Iraqis from Anbar province were calling for the removal of then Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a Shia who strengthened his own power by sidelining Sunni rivals. The marginalization of Iraqi Sunni drove some to support—or at least tolerate—what would become the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The Defeat of General Mattis

Fred Kaplan

When Jim Mattis resigned as secretary of defense in December 2018, he was widely lauded and lamented as “the last grown-up” in the Trump administration. The tributes were commentary more on Trump than on Mattis. For if he had run the Pentagon during a normal presidency, in which grown-ups abound, his tenure would be considered undistinguished, to say the least.Jim Mattis; drawing by John Cuneo

This isn’t to deny that for much of his time in office, Mattis—a retired marine four-star general and charismatic commander in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—served as an effective counter to Trump’s most unstatesmanlike instincts. He assured allies in Europe and Asia of America’s security commitments, which Trump repeatedly disparaged. (Mattis often said it felt like he was running “the Department of Reassurance.”) He initiated programs that bolstered the defenses of NATO’s eastern nations, especially in the Baltics, without stirring Trump’s notice. He resisted pressures to start senseless wars against Iran and North Korea. These are the kinds of things that most secretaries of defense would do routinely.

Yet Mattis left little in the way of a legacy. He slashed no weapons programs, reformed no wasteful practices, and took little part in shaping the $700 billion–plus defense budget—which is where most secretaries make their imprint—leaving those matters to the deputy secretary, Patrick Shanahan, one of the aerospace executives, mainly from Boeing, that the White House had imposed on him. He did accelerate the destruction of ISIS’s caliphate in Iraq and Syria, but mainly by loosening the rules of engagement—the restraints on officers in the field—and otherwise following the strategy put in place by the Obama administration (which, by the time Trump took office, had recaptured half of ISIS’s territory). And he persuaded Trump to continue abiding by the Iran nuclear deal—at least for a while.

The Deadly Protests Shaking Iraq: What to Know

By Max Boot

Iraq’s struggling economy and government corruption sparked the protests, in which hundreds have died. The governing elite appears shaky, and the stability of the country is at stake.

October has been a month of protests around the world, from Hong Kong to Chile. Nowhere have they been as bloody as in Iraq. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have tried to swarm the Green Zone, the area in central Baghdad where Iraq’s governing class lives, enclosed by massive concrete walls built by U.S. troops. They have been met by Iraqi security forces and Iran-backed militias firing tear gas and live ammunition. At least 240 people have been killed, and the protests have spread to the city of Karbala.
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This is the severest crisis of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s year-long tenure, and unless he can mollify the protesters, he may not survive in office.

The Twin Rise of Populism and Authoritarianism

Globally, the past decade has been marked by the twin advances of authoritarianism and populism. The two are not always linked, but in situations ranging from the Philippines and Cambodia to Hungary and Poland, politicians have leveraged populist movements to seize power. Once in office, they have begun the process of dismantling the institutions designed to check their authority and protect human rights, particularly the judiciary and the media.

The populist boom is fueled by disparate, local issues, but these often share common features, such as feelings of disenfranchisement, of being left out of a global economic boom and of discomfort at seeing familiar social orders upended. The movements these grievances generate have spurred anti-immigrant xenophobia—and, in places like Hungary and Greece, even horrifying episodes of political violence—as underlying prejudices are exploited by opportunistic politicians.

Champions of liberal democracy have often appeared hamstrung in their attempts to counter these forces, but there have been some recent successes, including the rise of the Greens across Europe and electoral setbacks for extremist parties in France, Spain and the Netherlands. And in countries where centrist or right-wing parties have chosen to adopt populist policies rather than to push back against them, civil society groups have been resurgent.

What Happens to the United Kingdom Now?

LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Brexit psychodrama continues. Although the UK government and the European Union reached a revised withdrawal agreement in mid-October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unable to push the deal through Parliament so that the UK could leave the bloc by his hoped-for date of October 31. EU leaders have therefore granted a further three-month extension of the Brexit deadline until January 31, and the UK will now hold a parliamentary election on December 12, which may help to resolve the current impasse. 

Johnson secured the withdrawal agreement partly by reversing his previous position and accepting a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and partly by settling for worse terms than his predecessor, Theresa May, had negotiated. Although the deal still must clear some parliamentary hurdles – and, here, the upcoming election could be the biggest hurdle of all – we may before long be able to see for ourselves how good or bad Brexit will turn out to be.

Reimagining U.S. Security Spending For The 21st Century & Beyond

The existential security challenges the United States faces today – such as the deteriorating health of the planet and the spread of nuclear weapons and materials – do not have military solutions. To truly keep Americans safe, policymakers must embrace the reality that the military alone does not safeguard the United States, and make investments in nonmilitary tools. This requires reorienting security spending toward the solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s major security challenges, rather than continuing to buy the weapons of yesterday’s wars.

The United States already spends more than a trillion dollars on security. However, these investments largely do not make Americans or the world more secure. Instead, the U.S. security spending maintains a militarized status quo that jeopardizes the safety of people at home and abroad, from waging endless war to militarizing the United States’ southern border. Drawing down the Department of Defense’s budget will force the military to prioritize missions, plan strategically, and act only as a matter of last resort.

Russia is still a threat, despite what Washington thinks


Having withdrawn from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, due in no small part to Russian violations of that treaty, the Trump administration appears on the verge of withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty. This 2002 agreement, to which 34 countries, but not China, are signatories, has enabled reconnaissance flights over signatories’ territory to monitor and photograph their respective armed forces. 

Analysts and pundits have offered numerous explanations as to why President Trump has signaled his intent to withdraw from the treaty. Some argue that, although John Bolton no longer serves in Trump’s administration, the president shares his former national security adviser’s distaste for international agreements that, in the view of both men, restrict American freedom of action. 

Others note that Russia has been denying overhead access to some regions where its military deploys and that, as with the INF Treaty, Washington is simply withdrawing from what it perceives to have become a one-sided, unfavorable arrangement. Yet others see the sinister hand of those in the administration who would prefer to further strengthen Russia’s hand by preventing Ukraine from having a better sense of Moscow’s troop deployments.

Beirut 1958 How America's Wars in the Middle East Began

By Bruce Riedel

In July 1958, U.S. Marines stormed the beach in Beirut, Lebanon, ready for combat. They were greeted by vendors and sunbathers. Fortunately, the rest of their mission—helping to end Lebanon’s first civil war—went nearly as smoothly and successfully, thanks in large part to the skillful work of American diplomats who helped arrange a compromise solution. Future American interventions in the region would not work out quite as well.

Bruce Riedel’s new book tells the now-forgotten story (forgotten, that is, in the United States) of the first U.S. combat operation in the Middle East. President Eisenhower sent the Marines in the wake of a bloody coup in Iraq, a seismic event that altered politics not only of that country but eventually of the entire region. Eisenhower feared that the coup, along with other conspiracies and events that seemed mysterious back in Washington, threatened American interests in the Middle East. His action, and those of others, were driven in large part by a cast of fascinating characters whose espionage and covert actions could be grist for a movie.

U.S. Deterrence in the Middle East Is Collapsing

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As welcome as was the U.S. raid that lead to the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend, it can’t erase the damage done to U.S. interests in the Middle East over the past few months. Whatever explanations U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters put forward to justify his impulsive decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northeastern Syria earlier this month, the searing images that followed told a far different tale. U.S. soldiers in chaotic retreat. Wartime allies abandoned. Hard-won battlefield gains surrendered to some of America’s most dangerous adversaries. And all to avoid confronting the threats of a viscerally anti-American Turkish authoritarian whose economy and military could be devastated by decisions made in Washington. Rightly or wrongly, both friends and foes of the United States have rapidly been reaching the conclusion that Trump, despite all his bluster and chest thumping, has no stomach for a sustained fight. Baghdadi’s death may mitigate, but does not reverse, the spreading perception that U.S. deterrence in the Middle East is collapsing.

That’s especially the case in the aftermath of Iran’s drone and cruise missile attack against Saudi oil facilities last month. As big a debacle as Syria has been, it’s an extremely complicated situation. The United States found itself caught between two putative allies that are sworn enemies: Turkey, a strategically critical but increasingly troublesome treaty partner, and a Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), that—while serving heroically as the tip of the spear in the successful U.S. campaign to defeat the Islamic State—traces its roots to a group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), that has fought a decades-long separatist insurgency against the Turkish state and remains on the U.S. State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations. As morally repugnant and emotionally wrenching as Trump’s betrayal of the Syrian Kurds has been, his reluctance to risk a military confrontation with an important NATO ally does at least carry the patina of strategic logic to it. Viewed in isolation, there’s perhaps a colorable claim that Syria is unique—an outlier that doesn’t lend itself to any broader conclusions about Trump’s foreign policy.

'I Don't Believe In Limits.' Marathoner Eliud Kipchoge On Breaking the 2-Hour Barrier


“Personally, I don’t believe in limits,” Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge tells TIME. The Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder put his beliefs to the test on October 12 in Vienna, when he attempted to become the first human in history to run 26.2 miles in under two hours. Kipchoge accomplished this breathtaking feat with relative ease, finishing the test in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds. As he approached the finish line, Kipchoge pointed to the crowd before breaking a barrier many had considered impossible.

“My mind was clear,” says Kipchoge, 34, in a phone interview from Kenya, where thousands gathered in the streets to celebrate his accomplishment. “From the first kilometer to the last kilometer, I knew I had it.”

Kipchoge kept a sub-4 minute, 34 second-per-mile pace over the course of 26.2 miles, a stunning mix of speed and endurance. He has an unfathomable motor. “I’m sending a message to every individual in this world,” says Kipchoge, “that when you work hard, when you actually concentrate, when you set your priorities high, when you actually set your goals, and put them in your heart and in your mind and in your mind, you will accomplish, without any question.”

How to Tame Big Tech


ITHACA – The Internet was once hailed as a powerful democratizing force – enabling innovative start-ups to compete with established businesses, disrupt entire industries, and create new ones. But as some of those startups grew into behemoths, they turned this force on its head. Far from leveling the playing field, Big Tech now largely owns it, and rather than democratizing the economy, the Internet has ended up exacerbating the world’s inequality problem.

Big Tech’s rise has made a few people extremely wealthy. The richest among them, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, lost $7 billion – more than the total wealth of several countries, including Burundi and Sierra Leone ($3 billion each) – in a single day last week. And yet the biggest risk he faces as a result is falling to second place in the global wealth ranking, after another tech founder, Bill Gates.

Effective Competitive Advantage: Strategy, Technology and Information

Thomas A. Drohan

In 1983, Project Socrates began as an initiative within the Reagan administration to develop technology-driven competitive advantage. By 1990, the effort had been canceled by the Bush-41 administration because it looked like industrial policy. In fact Project Socrates was not an industrial policy but rather an information-age long-term strategy for technology-based planning. Physicist Michael Sekora, the founder of Project Socrates, resigned after political appointees blocked his work. As pointed out by Stefan Banuch in Small Wars Journal and by Bonnie Gerard in The Diplomat, the change instituted a policy of finance-based planning. 

In 2019, we are immersed in competitions that require persistent advantages to prevail against long-view opponents. Victory is relative and temporary, and our operations need to be influential lest they become irrelevant. This strategic challenge is acute in complex warfare, where operations are waged across domains (land, sea, air, space, cyber, electro-magnetic) using diverse means (diplomatic, informational, military, economic, social—DIMES) to produce synergistic effects (preventive and causative, psychological and physical, cooperative and confrontational).

Quantum leap: why the next wave of computers will change the world

In 1936, Alan Turing proposed the Turing machine, which became the foundational reference point for theories about computing and computers. Around the same time, Konrad Zuse invented the Z1 computer, considered to be the first electromagnetic binary computer.

What happened next is history, and in our world today, computers are everywhere. Our lives are dramatically different from how they were even at the end of the 20th century, and our mobile phones have far more powerful CPUs than desktop computers did only few years ago. The advent of the Internet of Things brings computer power into every minute detail of our lives. The world wide web has had such a transformative effect on society that many people can't even remember a life before they were online.

The major catalyst behind this transformation was the discovery of silicon, and its use in the production of good transistors. This occurred over a period of more than 100 years, dating from when Michael Faraday first recorded the semiconductor effect in 1833, via Morris Tanenbaum, who built the first silicon transistor at Bell Labs in 1954, to the first integrated circuit in 1960.

The Pentagon’s AI Ethics Draft Is Actually Pretty Good

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By seeking reliable, governable, traceable technology, the Defense Department could help set global standards for using artificial intelligence.

The Pentagon leapfrogged Silicon Valley on Thursday — at least in terms of ethical guidelines for the development and use of artificial intelligence by prominent organizations. 

The much-anticipated draft document released on Thursday by a Pentagon advisory group goes beyond similar lists of principles promulgated by big tech companies. If the military manages to adopt, implement, and follow the guidelines, it would leap into an increasingly rare position as a leader in establishing standards for the wider tech world.

After Pentagon leaders asked the Defense Innovation Board to draft a list of principles late last year, the board enlisted “human rights experts, computer scientists, technologists, researchers, civil society leaders, philosophers, venture capitalists, business leaders, and DoD officials,” including representatives from Facebook, Microsoft, Google and other similar outfits. The Board voted to adopt the draft on Thursday.

History’s message about regulating AI

Tom Wheeler
This report from The Brookings Institution’s Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology (AIET) Initiative is part of “AI Governance,” a series that identifies key governance and norm issues related to AI and proposes policy remedies to address the complex challenges associated with emerging technologies.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is “summoning the demon,” Elon Musk warned, continuing a great tradition of fearful warnings about new technology. In the 16th century, the Vicar of Croyden warned how Gutenberg’s demonic press would destroy the faith: “’We must root out printing or printing will root us out,’ the Vicar told his flock.”[1] Preceding Musk’s invocation of the devil by a couple of centuries, an Ohio school board declared the new steam railroad technology to be “a device of Satan to lead immortal souls to hell.”[2] Others warned of secular effects: The passing of a steam locomotive would stop cows from grazing, hens from laying, and precipitate economic havoc as horses became extinct and hay and oats farmers went bankrupt.[3] Only a few years later, demonic fears appeared once again when Samuel Morse’s assistant telegraphed from Baltimore suggesting suspension of the trial of the first telegraph line. Why? Because the city’s clergy were preaching that messages by sparks could only be the work of the devil. Morse’s assistant feared these invocations would incite riots to destroy the equipment.[4]

How Lasers Work, According to the World's Top Expert

Whether you’re losing your mind at a Pink Floyd tribute show or playing with your cat, there’s hardly a situation that wouldn’t be made better with a few lasers. “Optical masers” were first described by physicist Charles Townes in the late ’50s and since then they’ve come to define modern life. They’re used to scan groceries at the checkout, read DVDs, guide missiles, perform surgery, and even to produce nuclear fusion.

But if you’re not exactly sure what lasers are or how they work, you’re not alone. WIRED caught up with physicist Donna Strickland, whose work with lasers earned her a Nobel Prize in 2018, and challenged her to explain a laser at five levels of difficulty. Strickland’s explanation at the expert level made total sense, but she also explained it to a child—you know, just in case.

“A laser is a way to get light to be a single color, going in a single direction, with all the waves peaking at the same time so the intensity can get very high,” Strickland says. Unlike light from the sun, which emits photons at all the visible wavelengths, lasers focus their energy on one specific wavelength. This allows them to be powerful enough to cut through steel and precise enough to shave the hair from your skin.

America’s Military Is Misdirected, Not Underfunded


U.S. strategy should be more focused on preventing conflict with nuclear-armed China than on spinning out elaborate war-fighting scenarios.

The Heritage Foundation released its 500-page index of military strength this week. Unfortunately, what it achieves in length is undermined by its stale and unpersuasive assumptions.

As usual, Heritage gives all of the military services low marks. While there’s always room for improvement, the Heritage methodology seems arbitrary at best, and misleading at worst. The biggest complaint in the index is that America’s military is a “one-war force” that could not win simultaneous wars against Russia and China. But the two-war standard is a convenient myth that has historically had more to do with justifying high Pentagon budgets than it has with any rational assessment of the primary security challenges facing the United States and its allies.

The Center for International Policy’s Sustainable Defense Task Force – a group of ex-White House and Congressional budget experts, ex-military and Pentagon officials, and representatives of think tanks from across the political spectrum – takes a different view of the issue of great power rivalry. 

The grades are in for America’s military strength

By: Aaron Mehta and Joe Gould

WASHINGTON — America’s investments in military readiness are paying off, particularly for the Army, but its armed forces would be stretched dangerously thin if they participate in more than one large war at the same time.

That is the conclusion of the Heritage Foundation’s “2020 Index of U.S. Military Strength,” the think tank’s annual review of the past year’s defense policy issues. The Index assesses the global operating environment and U.S. military strength. It ranks all topics on a five-tiered scale of “very weak,” “weak,” “marginal,” “strong" and “very strong.”

This year’s index is the rosiest of the six that the Heritage Foundation — seen as influential on the Trump administration and congressional Republicans — has issued. Defense News was given an exclusive interview with Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow at the think tank who edited the 500-page report. The full document was released Oct. 30 and can be read here.