18 November 2019

Tiger Triumph: US-India Military Relations Get More Complex

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

A new exercise has reinforced the trend of deepening defense collaboration between the two sides.

The Indian and U.S. militaries are engaged in their maiden joint tri-services humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) exercise, which they are calling “Tiger Triumph,” in Visakhapatnam and Kakinada in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. This represents an improvement over the type of joint military exercises that the two countries have held to date, and is an indication that defense relations between the two sides are steadily deepening.

The U.S. and Indian militaries have been engaged in a number of different military exercises since the early 1990s, including Yudh Abhyas and Vajra Prahar (army), Malabar and RIMPAC (multilateral, navy) and Red Flag (air force). This followed the big boost to U.S.-India defense relations with the Kicklighter proposals in 1991, which included service-to-service exchanges between India and the United States.

The first India-U.S. military exercise codenamed “Teak Iroquois” took place between the two armies in February 1992; the first naval exercise named Malabar-I in May 1992. In addition to generating interoperability, these exercises have been great familiarization opportunities for the two militaries to understand each other’s strategic and security perspectives. With each iteration, these exercises have grown in terms of the number of personnel and platforms involved, and the exercises themselves have become much more complex and useful.


By Rishika Pardikar

In monsoon season, farmers in Maharashtra’s Dhule district are torn between hoping for a downpour and dreading it. The barren area needs water — but as the already dry ground becomes increasingly degraded, rainwater could erode the shallow topsoil that remains and destroy the few plants still able to grow there.

Almost 45 percent of Maharashtra’s land area is turning into a desert, as is a huge chunk of India. Land degradation — the process by which land loses its productivity and ability to support plant life — is normally caused by climate change, human activity or a combination of the two. When land in dry areas degrades, that’s desertification — and desertification’s pace has intensified. It’s now happening at as much as 35 times the historical rate, according to the United Nations.


That’s more than 204 million acres, concentrated in the country’s west. An estimate last year found that land degradation alone cost India over 2 percent of its gross domestic product. According to the U.N., 50 million people across the world are at risk of being displaced in the next decade due to desertification. According to a special report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in August, desertification has affected the living area of approximately 500 million people since the 1980s.

Why India's financial system is vulnerable to hacks

A recent cyber-attack on a nuclear power plant has sparked a debate on the country's ability to protect itself in a cyber-war. But experts say Indians should be more worried about the vulnerability of its financial systems. The BBC's Ayeshea Perera finds out more.

News that India's biggest nuclear plant - the Kudankulam facility in the southern state of Tamil Nadu - had been subject to a cyber-attack made headlines across the country last month.

It sparked conversations about whether the country was "cyber-ready" and many questioned whether it would be able defend critical infrastructure from malicious digital attacks.

But there is a much bigger issue that affects millions of Indians - debit card hacks and other forms of financial fraud.

Just last month, India's central bank asked banks to investigate a warning by the Singapore-based cyber-security firm Group-IB that the details of 1.2m debit cards were available online.

And last year hackers were able to siphon off 900m rupees ($12m; £9.7m) from Cosmos bank in the western city of Pune through a malware attack on one of its data suppliers.
Why is India so vulnerable?

Prolonged Patience: Elections in Afghanistan

By Gabriel M. Piccillo

The results are still being debated and turnout was low. But Afghanistan’s democracy remains the lone source of hope for the country.

On September 28, 2019, presidential elections took place in Afghanistan for the fourth time since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. Nearly two months later, the results of the elections are yet to be released. Voter turnout during this year’s presidential election reached its lowest point in the country’s democratic history, raising concerns over whether the results could be seen as a comprehensive representation of the interests of the Afghan people. More concerningly, it raised questions of whether the Afghan people have lost faith in the effectiveness of democracy and the legitimacy of the decisions made through democratic processes.

Out of an estimated total population of 35 million people (an uncertain figure due to the lack of reliable census data), approximately 9.6 million people (one-third being women) were registered to vote in Afghanistan during the most recent elections. Initial results suggested that voter turnout was historically low, with only between 20 and 25 percent of registered voters taking part. According to Dermalof, (the German company tasked with assisting the Afghan government in its use of electronic voting systems and biometric voter registration — a tall order), out of the 1,929,333 votes transferred to the IEC’s central database, 1,843,107 votes were determined to be valid.

Pakistan’s Sit-In Protests Come to an End, But Key Issues Remain Unresolved

By Daud Khattak

The protest might be over, but the central civilian-military tussle persists.

Pakistan’s two-week-long protest in Islamabad came to an end, but that doesn’t mean relief for the government. The political temperature will continue to stay high and may rise further as Maulana Fazlur Rahman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, ordered his party workers to block main highways in their respective cities and towns.

Rahman, whose pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party did not perform well during the July 2018 elections, alleges that the military manipulated the poll results in favor of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Both the military and Khan deny the charge.

Khan, Pakistan’s former cricket star who also won recognition in social work by constructing the country’s first modern cancer hospital, promised an end to corruption, improvement in the country’s economy, and creation of millions of jobs for youth during his election campaign.

Outside Pakistan, Khan is being seen as a strongly believer in civilian supremacy. But his opponents allege that Khan’s PTI came into power with the backing of the country’s powerful military.

China’s Pacific Challenge

By Lucio Blanco Pitlo III

China’s outreach to Pacific island states is gaining steam, to the chagrin of other regional powers.

Growing aid, trade, and diplomatic outreach and rumored interest in securing bases heighten worries about China’s expanding footprint in the Pacific. But while Pacific island states are not naïve to growing great power competition, they do not necessarily share the same level of concerns as those held by Oceania’s longstanding powers. Some even welcome China’s arrival as a way to compel traditional Pacific powers to recommit to the region. Besides, while Beijing certainly wants to increase its influence in the Blue Continent, the attitudes of longstanding powers, especially in relation to climate change, provide greater push for island countries to accommodate new suitors.

China’s Pacific outreach is on a roll. From 2011 to 2019, China provided $1.47 billion in concessional loans to Pacific island states. If it pays up to its pledges, it may overtake Australia to become the region’s top donor. Last month, the Third China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum was held in Apia, Samoa attended by Vice Premier Hu Chunhua. In the same month, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang met Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in Beijing. Xi also met former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in Beijing. In September, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, a timely meeting given increasingly frayed bilateral ties.

China: The Great Rebalancing

China’s path from world’s factory to world market

The rise of the Shanghai Import Expo reflects China’s huge transformation from world producer and cheap prices to world consumer and innovator.

Speaking at the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged China will stimulate increased imports, continue to broaden market access, foster a world-class business environment, explore new horizons of opening-up and promote international cooperation at multilateral and bilateral levels.
China is now promoting the Shanghai CIIE as the world’s first international import expo.

In order to safeguard and promote economic globalization, Xi said two years ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that

“efforts to reduce tariff barriers and open up wider will lead to inter-connectivity in economic cooperation and global trade. [In contrast,] the practices of beggaring thy neighbor, isolation and seclusion will only result in trade stagnation and an unhealthy world economy."

WTO Reform: Will China Be Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?

By Stephen Olson

China’s centrally managed economy continues to pose challenges for the international trading system. Will Beijing acknowledge that fact?

China recently convened a “mini-ministerial” meeting of about 30 World Trade Organization (WTO) members on the fringes of a massive import fair in Shanghai. On the surface, the purpose of the meeting was clear and entirely constructive: to discuss the international trading system and WTO reform. The hope was to lay the groundwork for a productive outcome from the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, to be held in Kazakhstan in June 2020.

The international trading system continues to teeter, and few issues in trade are more urgent than undertaking the necessary WTO reforms. The continued relevance of the institution is at stake, and any useful dialogue that could be conducted in Shanghai under Chinese leadership would be welcome.

There is however a powerful subtext to the mini-ministerial, which, over the longer term, might prove to be of equal if not greater importance than the ostensible purpose of the meeting. As the United States continues to withdraw from its historical role as de facto leader of the global trade system, China is in the process of defining the nature and the parameters of the role that it intends to play.

Look Out, Israel: China May Have Stolen The Iron Dome

A cybersecurity firm reports that Chinese hackers have stolen technical data for the Iron Dome rocket-defense system from Israeli computers.

Maryland-based Cyber Engineering Services detected the cyber burglary, according to cybersecurity writer Brian Krebs.

“Between Oct. 10, 2011 and Aug. 13, 2012, attackers thought to be operating out of China hacked into the corporate networks of three top Israeli defense technology companies, including Elisra Group, Israel Aerospace Industries, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems,” Krebs writes.

“By tapping into the secret communications infrastructure set up by the hackers, CyberESI determined that the attackers exfiltrated large amounts of data from the three companies,” he continues.

Holocaust: In occupied Poland, the Nazis close off the Warsaw Ghetto from the outside world.

Qantas, Australia's national airline, is founded as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited.

China, Vietnam will never agree on South China Sea


While Hanoi threatens an arbitral complaint at The Hague, Beijing avers its competing sea claims are rooted in ‘historical fact’

China is ratcheting up pressure on Vietnam in the South China Sea, urging Hanoi to back away from its legal threat to pursue international arbitration over their festering territorial disputes.

Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said on November 8 that Vietnam “needs to avoid taking actions that may complicate matters or undermine peace and stability in the South China Sea as well as our bilateral relations.”

Geng also stated that Vietnam would have to “face up to the historical fact”, by which he presumably meant that China’s claims to disputed islands and features in the South China Sea date back centuries.

Vietnam, for its part, has recently signaled it could seek arbitration and even litigation if bilateral negotiations do not soon deliver a mutually agreed solution.

Vietnam’s Deputy Foreign Minister Le Hoai Trung recently said their disputes, including over the energy-rich Vanguard Bank, where the two sides have been locked in a months-long naval standoff, should be resolved according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The World’s Migration and Refugee Challenge in 2019

Karl Kaiser

The migration and refugee crisis is getting worse. Though the sudden influx of migrants into Europe in 2015/2016 did not repeat itself today’s overall figures speak for themselves: 26 million refugees worldwide, 800 thousand apprehensions at the US-Mexican border, 184 thousand asylum applications in Germany in 2018, 120 thousand in France and 581 thousand in the European Union. The Venezuelan crisis where 5 million persons left the country spills over into the EU where a growing number of Venezuelans and Latin Americans apply for asylum. The living conditions of migrants are appalling as hundreds of thousands survive illegally in the EU, many of them in dreary tent cities or squatting on streets.

The world has not faced the inadequacy of the present distinction between, on the on hand, “refugees” under the Geneva Refugee Convention dating back to the Cold War and the concern about persecution and on the other hand the reality of what many if not most migrants escape from, notably violence, therefore rightly coined “survival migration” (Alexander Betts) which also requires protection. Conservatives do not want to induce an enlargement of the circle of persons to be protected, liberals are afraid that such an opening might bring down the already weakened legal framework of the Geneva Convention. As a consequence the seriousness of the challenge is underestimated resulting in reluctance to act.

Beating Nazi Germany's Enigma Code Won The Allies World War II

Nothing seemed to work. The Allied codebreakers tried every possible trick and combination, but these new ciphers defied all attempts at decryption. On February 1, 1942, British analysts discovered they could no longer read intercepted radio communications between German U-boat captains and their commanding officer, Vice Admiral Karl Dönitz. Overnight, a vital part of the United Kingdom’s super-secret cryptanalytic program—Ultra—had been plunged into darkness.

This intelligence blackout could not have come at a worse time for the Allies. Already, a handful of aggressive Nazi submarines were wreaking havoc all along North American shipping lanes. Dönitz’s Operation Drumbeat would result in 216 merchantmen sunk off the U.S. East Coast during the first three months of 1942 alone. American countermeasures all proved hopelessly inadequate.

Something needed to be done about Admiral Dönitz’s deadly underwater predators before they completely choked off the supplies of food, munitions, and fuel needed to keep Britain in the war. It was a daunting task; defeating the U-boats meant conducting a maximum coordinated effort among the air, sea, and intelligence services of two distrustful allies. Could the United Kingdom and the United States put aside their suspicions and join in a common endeavor to penetrate the enemy’s new communications procedures?

River of the Dammed

In October, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in starting peace negotiations with Eritrea. But his country is still in the middle of another major dispute that threatens regional stability. This one is over the waters of the Nile River, specifically, Ethiopia’s plans to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the river’s Blue Nile tributary. Egypt considers the dam to be a looming threat to its very survival. Ethiopia, on the other hand, sees the undertaking as essential for its development and has vowed to continue the project no matter the ramifications.

Ethiopia and Egypt are two of Africa’s most populous and powerful countries; any ongoing showdown between them is a major threat to peace, which is why the international community should press for an equitable settlement.

Both countries have expressed their preference for a negotiated long-term settlement for the dispute, but the road there has not been smooth. A round of negotiations in early October—following many others over the last few years—failed to reach a compromise. Egypt accuses Ethiopia of dismissing concerns its officials have raised about the threat to its water security. Ethiopia insists that pending issues will be resolved before the completion of the dam.

Could The Latest Threat To America's Aircraft Carriers Be From A Russian Anti-Tank Missile?

by Charlie Gao

Could Russian Kornet Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) attack the USS Abraham Lincoln, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier?

Using limited analysis of the capabilities of the Kornet and the carrier’s defensive capabilities, Mark Langfan, the Chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel, has come to the conclusion that Kornets were a serious threat to the carrier.

However, Langfan’s research misrepresents many aspects of the Kornet and displays a large oversight of many aspects of naval warfare.

First, he analyzes the attack on the carrier in a vacuum. In a deployment around the shores of Iran would be backed up by a litany of smaller destroyers and patrol ships. In particular, the Cyclone-class patrol ships are assigned to the waters in the Persian Gulf.

The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States officially opens.

New York City's "Mad Bomber" George Metesky places his first bomb at a Manhattan office building used by Consolidated Edison.

The Indo-Pacific: A Survival Guide for ‘Hobbits’

By Natasha Fernando

Using Tolkien’s Middle Earth as a metaphor for the complexities of the region.

For J.R.R Tolkien fans familiar with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Middle Earth is a fascinating political landscape where elves and men — along with a few dwarves and hobbits — have rallied together to ward off evil. Today, the “hobbits” of the world could use some guidance on how to find their own place in a titanic power struggle.

The modern day Indo-Pacific is a geopolitical construct spanning a vast maritime space joining the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but placing more emphasis on Asia. It is clear now after the launch of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Indo Pacific Report in 2019 that the United States perceives China as dangerous to its position and influence. Therefore, amplifying its capabilities, the U.S. works closely with allies in the maritime domain to counter Chinese naval ambitions. This situation places small states in the region in the precarious position of pursuing an equidistant foreign policy to ward off threats to their sovereignty and territorial integrity, all the while improving both security and economic relations. Therefore, small states, like the hobbits of Tolkien’s Shire, must carefully negotiate with powerful giants, being fully aware of their agenda.

Counting the Cost of Financial Warfare: Recalibrating Sanctions Policy to Preserve U.S. Financial Hegemony

By Enea Gjoza

Bottom Line: The U.S. is overusing sanctions, which are rarely effective in achieving their goals and threaten to balkanize the global financial system. U.S. policymakers should recalibrate sanctions policy to be targeted, sunsetted, multilateral, and applied to effect modest policy change. The U.S. should acknowledge the limitations of its financial power and use it strategically and in pursuit of clear, attainable goals if it wants to preserve it well into the future.

Thanks to American financial hegemony and the power of the dollar, the U.S. has disproportionate power over the global economic system and can engage in deficit spending. Most global trade has long been conducted in U.S. dollars.

The U.S. is using this financial and economic advantage to issue sanctions not only on weak or rogue states but also on great powers as punishments. These sanctions include economic sanctions, individual sanctions, financial sanctions, and secondary sanctions, which sanction third-parties who do business with sanctioned entities. Each of these sanctions approaches have their own costs and benefits.

Trump’s Abandonment Of Syria’s Kurds: A Catalyst For Division In Europe? – Analysis

By Pieter-Jan Dockx*

On 6 October, after a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces from Kurdish-held areas in Syria. The move allowed Turkish President Erdogan to launch his long sought-after military operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG)—a group that formed the backbone of the US-led campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria, but is considered a terrorist organisation in Turkey. Trump’s decision will not only have long-term consequences with regard to Syria, West Asia, and foreign relations in general, but is also likely to impact European politics.
Repercussions for Europe

Trump’s decision could reinvigorate the IS, which in turn will negatively impact Europe. Due to the Turkish threat, the YPG has halted its operations against the IS and relocated forces northwards. The ensuing security vacuum could form an opportunity for the militant group to regain strength. Following the Turkish offensive, IS militants have already escaped from Kurdish-controlled prisons owing to lack of manpower. European policymakers would want to avoid an emboldened IS—after all, the IS attacks in Paris and Brussels were coordinated from Syria and carried out by militants who returned from the country.

What does a Chinese superpower look like? Nothing like the U.S.

by Marc Champion

What struck Wang Wen about Antarctica, beyond the brutality of the December cold, was the scale of U.S. operations in such an inhospitable environment and the American flag fluttering by the sign that marks the geographic South Pole. Observing the academic mission of hundreds of U.S. scientists in a region rich in resource potential, he was determined that China must catch up.

The report Wang wrote this summer for the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, where he’s executive dean, reflects China’s growing dilemma as it muscles its way into an international system it didn’t create.

For the first time in its long history, China has in President Xi Jinping a leader with a truly global vision. So, inevitably, Beijing looks to the U.S., the sole superpower, for a yardstick as to what that requires—be it a blue water navy or more research stations in Antarctica.

Yet Communist Party leaders also recoil at being seen as the next global hegemon and are reluctant to shoulder the expense that goes with it. They studiously avoid the word “superpower” and see the American version of it as ideologically unacceptable and spent.

Bolivia’s Lithium Isn’t The New Oil

By Keith Johnson , James Palmer

The recent ouster of Bolivian President Evo Morales has sparked plenty of theories, especially on the left. One of the most prominent has been the idea that the military’s intervention is a coup intended to ensure U.S. control of a critical global resource: lithium.

That’s part of a tradition that sees U.S. foreign policy as being essentially about controlling natural wealth by any means necessary—one rooted in real American practices, from the deployment of U.S. Marines in defense of the United Fruit Company’s interests in Central America to President Donald Trump’s repeated orders to troops to protect oil, not Kurds, in Syria. But in this instance, the idea, heavily touted in the online left-wing media and by the occasional politician, is fundamentally mistaken.

Lithium is critical to batteries, clean energy, and electric cars—is lithium the new oil?

Lithium is undoubtedly important to the future economy, because it’s one of the key components in lithium ion batteries that power everything from laptops to many electric cars. U.S. strategists have been interested in it since the 1960s for just these reasons. And it’s only going to become more important as electric vehicles increasingly replace traditional cars. The lithium industry is currently trying to figure out just how it will supply roughly twice as much high-end lithium for batteries by 2025: Low prices currently have discouraged investment, which points to a possible supply shortfall in the near future—making any country with a lot of lithium potentially appealing.

Trump’s Boasts of an Economic ‘Boom’ Are Misplaced and Misguided

Neil Bhatiya

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week.

President Donald Trump this week laid out his most direct case yet for staying the course in the run-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election. In a speech to the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday, he boasted that his “America First” policies had delivered stronger-than-expected economic growth and new jobs for millions of Americans, despite the disruption caused not only by his trade war with China, but also by the tariffs he has imposed on close U.S. allies in Europe. ...

The End of Antibiotics?


Antibiotics are facing an existential crisis less than a century after their introduction. The bacteria-fighting drugs are becoming less effective as a result of their overuse in both humans and animals. At the same time, research and development (R&D) on new antibiotics has slowed to a crawl, putting the world at risk of entering a dangerous era in which routine infections are untreatable.

The global death toll from drug-resistant infections, estimated to be at least seven hundred thousand people annually, could reach into the millions by 2050. Some governments and international organizations are investing billions of dollars to tackle the problem, but many analysts say its scope and immediacy require a globally coordinated response.
What are antibiotics?

Introduced in the late 1920s with the discovery of penicillin, antibiotics are a class of drugs used to treat bacterial infections. They fall into a larger drug class, antimicrobials, which includes medications to fight microorganisms such as viruses, fungi, and parasites. Antibiotics were mass produced during World War II, and their use soared in the second half of the twentieth century. More than one hundred antibiotics have been developed.

Are We Witnessing the End of Multilateralism?

The United Nations' ability to carry out its mission has been severely constrained in recent years by its member states. And many of its agencies are now facing funding shortages that could severely curtail their work. In fact, multilateralism of all stripes is under strain, from the International Criminal Court to the World Trade Organization.

The United Nations is perhaps the most prominent manifestation of an international order built on balancing sovereign equality with great-power politics in a bid to maintain international peace. But its capacity to do that—and to meet its other objectives, which include protecting human rights and delivering aid—have been severely constrained in recent years by its member states.

The real power in the U.N. lies with the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council—the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain and France. And they have used their positions to limit the institution’s involvement in major recent conflicts, including civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile, peacekeeping operations, one of the U.N.’s critical functions, are in need of significant reform. Blue helmets are ensnared in difficult, unwieldy missions in places like Mali and South Sudan. But Russia and the United States shut down attempts to act on initial reform discussions that began last year.

The Challenge of Operating Integrated Manned and Unmanned Systems

By John Conway

The concept of a ‘wingman’ is as old as military aviation itself. Providing mutual support within a formation, the purpose of a wingman was established to protect the flight lead and provide him or her with the additional mental capacity to manage the formation, operate the aircraft, and make decisions.

As the role developed, the most important tasks for the wingman were to help avoid an attack by an unseen enemy, contribute to the formation’s situational awareness, and watch out for obvious signs the leader had either missed something or made an error. At the very heart of the idea was an acceptance that the human is fallible and, in the heat of battle, task saturation was likely to result in mistakes and errors in tactical decision-making.

In the early years of aviation, a wingman would be positioned slightly behind the lead aircraft in close visual proximity to the wings of the leader. But as advances in technology introduced new inter and intra-flight data links, such as Link 16, and increased levels of integration with airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems such as the E-7 Wedgetail, formations became invariably separated beyond visual range of each other and able to benefit from the ‘god’s eye view’ of the world and shared situational awareness.

US Is Moving Too Slowly to Harness Drones and AI, Former SOCOM Commander Says


AUSTIN, Texas — It’s been more than a decade since Adm. Mike Mullen, then-Joint Chiefs chairman, predicted that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be the last manned fighter jet.

Now, years later, the Pentagon needs to do more to move to a robotic force, says a recently retired commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

“I can’t see anything that we couldn’t [or] shouldn’t go unmanned,” Tony Thomas said Wednesday at a conference hosted by SparkCognition, an artificial intelligence startup.

Whether in the air, on the ground, or at sea, robots would take troops out of harm’s way and could give the U.S. military a leg up on its enemies.

“If you push a force out there that is mostly unmanned, and that’s your attack surface, I think you have a decided advantage and maybe even the best possible deterrent,” said Thomas, who retired earlier this year as a four-star Army general.

In one of his first post-retirement public appearances, Thomas said the military is not embracing artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technology quickly enough. Instead, he said, the military is “iterating on what we already do, what we already have, instead of more aggressively and more creatively thinking what the art of the possible is.” 

Russia and China may not be the top cyberthreats

By: Mark Pomerleau

While Russia and China pose significant threats, especially in the cyber domain, one expert worries that lesser known actors might be a more immediate concern.

“The biggest challenge is we focus too much, especially according to the [National Defense Strategy], on great powers. I think the most cyber activity we’re seeing now is minor or middle powers: UAE, Qatar, Philippines, Vietnam,” said Brandon Valeriano, chair of Armed Politics at the Marine Corps University and a member of the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Valeriano was speaking during a panel at CyberCon 2019 Nov. 12. "That’s where the evolution of cyber conflict really is. I’m worried too much about our great power politics focus. I think we need to think a bit better about the realities of conflict.”

The 2018 National Defense Strategy was the Department of Defense’s attempt to shift the focus away from counterterrorism operations, such as missions in Afghanistan, to more sophisticated threats from Russia and China.

Let’s Encrypt Doubled Internet’s Percentage Of Secure Websites In Four Years

The percentage of websites protected with HTTPS secure encryption –indicated by the lock icon in the address bar of most browsers–has jumped from just over 40% in 2016 to 80% today.

That’s largely due to the efforts of Let’s Encrypt, a nonprofit certificate authority co-founded in 2013 by J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan professor of computer science and engineering.

By offering a free service, Let’s Encrypt has turned the implementation of HTTPS from a costly, complicated process to an easy step that’s within reach for all websites. The certificate authority is now the world’s largest, providing more HTTPS certificates than all other certificate authorities combined.

Halderman and his collaborators at Let’s Encrypt–the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Cisco and Stanford University–have published a paper detailing how the project came to fruition. They hope it serves as a model for streamlining other aspects of the internet infrastructure we all rely on every day.

Why agencies need to work together to defend forward

By: Andrew Eversden

There is currently not a whole-of-government approach to the Department of Defense’s “defend forward” strategy and, according to Brandon Valeriano, a senior adviser to the Cyber Solarium Commission and the chair of armed politics at the Marine Corps University, there needs to be.

The policy, which says DoD can operate on foreign networks to stop attacks before they happen, needs engagement from other government agencies in order to be successful. “The defend forward strategy, properly implemented, wouldn’t just be DoD,” Valeriano said Nov. 12 at Fifth Domain’s annual CyberCon conference. “It would include everything.”

Valeriano said that the major players in government cybersecurity — the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State and Defense, as well as the intelligence community — aren’t properly communicating.

“Not everyone is on the same page and that’s been the most disappointing thing I’ve found looking at cyber policy," said Valeriano.

The defend forward strategy is meant to change adversary behavior in cyberspace, but Valeriano said that the DoD hasn’t established how it can measures the before and after of adversary behavior. Valeriano also said that there is not a “clear conception of metrics" to measure the success of the new strategy.

AI and Quantum Supremacy Will Not Defeat Revolutionary Warfare

By Nathaniel L. Moir

Google’s recent “Quantum Breakthrough” is great for American science but irrelevant for foreseeable conflict. It is ironic that “quantum supremacy” emerged in late October while America conceded its small but stabilizing position in Syria. The Syria decision is understandably construed as unwise because it relieves pressure on ISIS, forfeits a presence now occupied by Russia, and it provides Iran a corridor to Hezbollah in Lebanon. As it currently stands, the U.S. may possess the most advanced computing power known to humankind. Still, none of it ensures commitment to allies, such as Kurds forsaken by the United States, let alone the formation of wise foreign policy elsewhere. Quantum supremacy, A.I., and other technological advancements will not compensate for commitments and partnerships we abandon. 

The dissonance between advancing technology and retreating political commitments to allies should buzz between the ears. The problem is also embodied by the fact that, while the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) poses over a dozen essential and enduring questions on A.I.'s future, the most basic components of warfare -- political rationale for operations and partnered cooperation -- are kicked to the curb. How can we square the circle when the problem is more like a parallelogram? 

3 Major Reforms NATO Needs To Keep From Collapsing

By Daniel DePetris

NATO is doing a relatively poor job, buttressed by a static decision-making process, a bureaucracy resistant to change, and unaccountable member states who are happy to cheap-ride and get away with it.

French President Emmanuel Macron is never afraid to speak his mind, as he demonstrated again sitting down with The Economist to admonish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a “brain dead” organization whose strategic utility desperately needs a reevaluation.

Macron lambasted the alliance for everything from disorganized planning and the lack of internal coordination to the increasing willingness of some member states, such as Turkey, to act unilaterally and in contravention to NATO principles. “[S]trategically and politically, we need to recognise that we have a problem,” Macron said.

Other NATO dignitaries quickly swatted his remarks away. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg claimed the organization is as unified as it has ever been, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly called Macron’s remarks “inappropriate.”

The Frenchman, however, is onto something. Some 30 years after the Berlin Wall crumbled, NATO is increasingly anachronistic. It is a 20th-century military organization without a foe, trying to remain relevant in a 21st-century world. The alliance is also doing a relatively poor job, buttressed by a static decision-making process, a bureaucracy resistant to change, and unaccountable member states who are happy to cheap-ride and get away with it.

The Situation Room, November 2039


It is 20 years in the future. The US president and vice-president, senior generals and admirals, key cabinet members, and other top national-security officers huddle around computer screens as aides speak to key officials across the country. Some screens are focused on Hurricane Monica, continuing its catastrophic path through the Carolinas and Virginia; others are following Hurricane Nicholas, now pummeling Florida and Georgia, while Hurricane Ophelia lurks behind it in the eastern Caribbean.

On another bank of screens, officials are watching horrifying scenes from Los Angeles and San Diego, where millions of people are under mandatory evacuation orders with in essence nowhere to go because of a maelstrom of raging wildfires. Other large blazes are burning out of control in northern California and Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington state. The National Guard has been called out across much of the western US, while hundreds of thousands of active-duty troops are being deployed in the disaster zones to assist in relief operations and firefighting.