6 December 2019

4 Lessons for India From China’s October 2019 Military Parade

By Suyash Desai

With the People’s Republic of China (PRC) marking its 70th founding anniversary on October 1, the grand military parade at Tiananmen Square was the highlight of the celebrations. It showcased China’s newer arms, ammunition, and technology. Over 15,000 personnel, 160 aircraft, and 580 pieces of military equipment participated in the military parade, including sophisticated weaponry such as hypersonic missiles, intercontinental-range land and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, stealth combat and high-speed reconnaissance drones, and fifth-generation fighter jets.

China intended to address both domestic and international audiences through this parade. At home, the leadership hoped that the parade would stir up feelings of nationalism. Internationally, the display of force was intended as a warning to the United States and China’s neighbors. Further, the parade reflected the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) progress toward becoming a “world-class military” by 2050.

Although policymakers and military leaders across the world were keeping a close eye on China’s military display, perhaps those in India should have been paying the most attention. The parade was not directed at India, but New Delhi can learn a lot from China’s use of military modernization and its ongoing defense reforms. Here are four key lessons New Delhi can take from China’s 2019 military parade.

Improve Electronic and Cyber Warfare Capabilities

Hot Issue – Al-Qaeda’s Long Game in the Sinai

By: Michael W. S. Ryan

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s long-game strategy has created international networks with the ultimate intention of creating a united Islamic Emirate to take the place of the lost Ottoman Caliphate, across a continuous band from Turkistan to the Atlantic coast. [1] Bruce Hoffman brought the implications of al-Qaeda’s expansive international presence, including countries beyond Zawahiri’s traditional caliphate, into bold relief over a year ago when he argued that al-Qaeda “should now be considered the world’s top terrorist group.” [2] A renewed look is especially important now that the United States has shifted its national security priorities away from counterterrorism in the Greater Middle East and North Africa to focus on the threats posed by Russia and China. Now, President Donald Trump has also signaled his intention to abandon the successful American counterterrorism strategy that is based on strategic relationships with local partners who provide ground forces and are assisted by small cadres of American Special Forces.

While the world press has been focused on the potential resurgence of Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq in the aftermath of the fall of the physical caliphate and the death of its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a serious threat may emerge from al-Qaeda’s networks of like-minded Jihadi-Salafist groups. Many IS fighters in Syria are not Syrians. Academic studies and past experience have shown that once converted to an extremist ideology, such individuals resist surrendering to reason. If they escape from Syria, do they return to another prison in their home countries, or do they travel to another “hot jihad” location with an IS affiliate in Egypt or North Africa, or perhaps this time disappear into al-Qaeda’s networks? [3] Like others before them, will Egyptians with significant experience fighting with Jihadi-Salafist groups in Syria or Iraq decide to find their way to use their battle skills in the Sinai or elsewhere in North Africa? Al-Qaeda’s online voices are suggesting that IS fighters join them in a common struggle against the forces of unbelief. Could IS under its new caliph, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, allow cooperation in the field with al-Qaeda networked groups without requiring a formal alliance? While this decision will likely come slowly, if at all, in the battlefields across the Greater Middle East and Africa, the lines between IS and al-Qaeda have begun to blur. If the recent past has one lesson, Sinai could provide logistical and command links from the central Muslim lands into the active fields of jihad in North Africa, the Sahel, and sub-Saharan West Africa.

The al-Qaeda Approach in the Egyptian Cauldron

The Larger Significance of Pakistan’s Army Chief Extension Debate

By Daud Khattak
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In Pakistan, the word “extension” has become synonymous with one particular usage: extending the service of a retiring chief of the country’s all-powerful military. The concept has a history as old as Pakistan itself — six army chiefs in the past have either extended their period of service upon reaching the age of retirement, or their term was extended by the then-governments.

However, the floodgates opened by the term extension of General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s current army chief whose service term was ending on November 28, was unprecedented.

The government notification granting Bajwa another three years as chief of the army staff (COAS) was challenged by the country’s top court and the issue remained the subject of public and private debates and speculations for three consecutive days across Pakistan.

The impasse was averted with the court decision allowing a six-month reprieve to the general, during which time the government must sort out the matter through legislation. Parliament must define the reasons for granting an extension to an army chief’s service term, tenure, and other necessary terms and conditions.

Sri Lanka’s New Government Seems Serious About Revisiting the Hambantota Deal With China

By Ankit Panda

Barely two weeks into office, it appears that Sri Lanka’s new government may follow up on one of its election manifesto promises: a bid to renegotiate the terms of its 99-year-lease on the port of Hambantota to a Chinese firm. As I discussed recently at The Diplomat, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna had pledged in their manifesto before the 2019 presidential elections that they would seek to revisit the debt-equity swap agreement, which was effectuated under the previous government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe under Maithripala Sirisena’s presidency. In July 2017, a deal saw the port transfered to China Merchant Port Holdings—a massive, partially state owned Chinese holding company—on a 99 year lease.

In a recent interview, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, a former central banker in Sri Lanka and now adviser to Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former president who oversaw the initial agreement to develop Hambantota with China and current prime minister, made the new government’s goal clear. “We would like them to give it back,” he said. “The ideal situation would be to go back to status quo. We pay back the loan in due course in the way that we had originally agreed without any disturbance at all.”

Russia and China's High-Tech Bet

By Sintia Radu 

A Huawei engineer displays parts in the research and development area of the Bantian campus in Shenzhen, China. The ban imposed by the United States on Chinese mobile giant Huawei has increased cooperation between Russia and China. The company has centers in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kazan, Novosibirsk and Nizhny Novgorod.

AS THE United States increases its geopolitical and economic pressure on China and Russia, the two countries are expanding not just their military cooperation but increasing their economic ties, highlighted by a stronger high-tech partnership spanning telecommunications, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and the digital economy, new research shows.

This increased collaboration – which includes efforts to improve censorship and surveillance techniques, create new media distribution channels and promote cyber strategies abroad – will pose new challenges for Western countries, say the authors of a report produced by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, or ASPI, an independent think tank in Canberra, Australia.

A Common Theme of Global Unrest

By George Friedman

From Hong Kong to Tehran to Buenos Aires, the world appears to be destabilizing. The question that has been raised is whether there is an underlying cause triggering this global unrest. On the surface, the answer to that ought to be no. There is so much unrest throughout the world at any point that it would appear to be merely the normal chaos. Unrest, moreover, is unique to every country and usually has multiple causes. Hong Kong, Tehran and Buenos Aires are very different places, each with its own geopolitical circumstances.

Still, there is in this instance one element that is common to them all: 2008. In 2008, the international economic system shifted dramatically, and the changes it wrought have not been fully metabolized. The weakness in the global economy is magnified by the unsolved problems left over from 2008. As a result, there are economic problems that have transformed into political ones. Add to this the shift in U.S. strategy away from military interventions and toward economic confrontations, and the problems are magnified further still. The U.S. is the world’s largest economy and importer and a shift in strategy to economics necessarily affects the economic system.

Consider the riots in Hong Kong. In 2008, China was a powerful exporter, dependent as it was on exports for social stability. The financial collapse created a profound crisis. An economy built on efficient exporting staggers when its customers are unable to buy its goods. The export crisis compounded an incipient financial crisis as cash flow from exports contracted. What followed was a series of purges designed officially to weed out corruption and unofficially to find scapegoats for China’s problems and to intimidate potential opposition. After all, the government had promised prosperity and was now facing the need for austerity. The purges were the beginning of a systematic repression in China that sought to retain Chinese economic dynamism without an equivalent political dynamism.

Chinese Use of Marmaray Subsea Tunnel Another First for Belt and Road Initiative

By: John C. K. Daly
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On November 7, at 3:30 A.M., a westbound train from Xi’an, China, for the first time ever used Istanbul’s $4 billion Marmaray sub-Bosporus railway tunnel to dispatch goods to central Europe (Haber.sol.org.tr, November 7). The train’s voyage represents another of China’s attempts to shave time off its trans-Eurasian rail shipments; the train crossed 2 continents, 10 countries, 2 seas and 7,135 miles of railway in 12 days.

Organized by China Railway Express and carrying 42 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers, each packed with 76 cubic meters of high-value, low-volume electronics, the train started in Xi’an in central China, crossing Kazakhstan before being loaded on an Aktau train ferry to cross the Caspian to Baku. From there, it proceeded to Turkey via the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars (BTK) Railroad (Star.com.tr, November 8). Upon arriving in Istanbul, the train traveled northward to Kapıkule, on Turkey’s Bulgarian border, before continuing onward to Prague.

The Marmaray passage underlines the growing potential of the Trans-Caspian Silk Road “Middle Corridor” rail route—Turkey’s vision for connecting China to Europe via Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Also known as the “Trans-Caspian International Transport Route” (TITR), the corridor’s genesis dates to 2015, when Turkey and China signed a memorandum of understanding to align Turkey’s Middle Corridor initiative with the China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR—since renamed the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI), coordinating transportation and logistics cooperation.

Japan can teach Australia how to carefully handle China

Richard McGregor

In search of a role model in foreign policy after coming to office last year, Scott Morrison, Australia's prime minister, has found himself looking north, to Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

At first blush, Japan seems like an unlikely source of diplomatic inspiration. After all, Sino-Japanese relations have always been conducted in the shadow of their wartime history, a legacy that Australia does not carry with China.

Nor does Australia have a territorial conflict with Beijing as Tokyo does, an issue which cratered Sino-Japanese bilateral ties in 2012 when the two countries last faced off over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

But the problems that Morrison and Abe share in Asia are far more striking than what divides them.

Don’t Fuel China's Paranoia in Hong Kong

by Doug Bandow 
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The denizens of Zhongnanhai have never understood democracy. In the People’s Republic of China, people are expected to do and believe what they are told. Few disobey, especially under Xi Jinping, who has moved Chinese society back toward Maoist totalitarianism.

Dictating to others does not work overseas, however. In 1996 Beijing’s leaders attempted to use missile tests to intimidate Taiwanese voters, who instead increased their support for Lee Teng-hui’s reelection.

In recent days the Xi government insisted that the Hong Kong authorities crackdown on democracy demonstrators and expected support from the special administrative region’s “silent majority.” Instead, the recent local election resulted in a popular tsunami against the PRC’s tightening noose. Even areas considered to be pro-China chose young freedom activists to dominate local councils.

Beijing was uncharacteristically stunned into silence. Eventually, the regime fell back on blaming America for manipulating public sentiment. As if pontificating diplomats convinced thousands of young Hong Kongers to create chaos on the streets and fortify universities against the unpopular, unrepresentative SAR government.

In Dire Straits?

By Ilan Goldenberg, Kaleigh Thomas and Jessica Schwed

In recent months, Iran has responded to rising tensions with the United States—particularly the US launch of the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran—by attacking oil tankers and infrastructure in the Persian Gulf region around the Strait of Hormuz (the Strait). These actions have been designed to signal to the United States, the Gulf states, and the international community that the American strategy of strangling Iran economically will not be cost-free, and to Saudi Arabia in particular that it is highly vulnerable to Iranian retaliation.

As the Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most critical energy chokepoints, the implications of Iran’s efforts merit close scrutiny and analysis. This study was designed to examine three scenarios for military conflict between Iran and the United States and assess the potential impacts on global oil prices—as one specific representation of the immediate economic impact of conflict—as well as broader strategic implications. The three scenarios are:

Increasing US-Iran tensions that ultimately lead to a new “Tanker War” scenario similar to the conflict of the 1980s, in which Iran attacks potentially hundreds of ships in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman over a prolonged period while also launching missiles at Gulf oil infrastructure.

An escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States in which Iran significantly increases the scope and severity of missile attacks directed at major oil and energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

A major conflict between Iran and the United States that includes damage to Gulf oil infrastructure and a temporary closure of the Strait of Hormuz.

This Is Your Brain on Terrorism

By Scott Atran 

In September 2014, when the Islamic State (ISIS) was at the height of its power, Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that the United States had underestimated the terrorist group’s will to fight. “We underestimated the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese and overestimated the will of the South Vietnamese,” he told The Washington Post. “In this case, we underestimated ISI[S] and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army … It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable.”

Scholars and policymakers have long sought to determine what drives people to keep fighting when the chips are down, and, if need be, to give their lives to a cause. Traditional explanations, based on rational choice theory or focused on mental abnormalities, have largely failed to explain what motivates the members of extremist insurgent movements. But Clapper was wrong to suggest that the will to fight is imponderable. In fact, it is possible to predict who is willing to fight and die, based on a combination of cultural and psychosocial factors. Research on the human brain suggests that people fight when their sacred values—that is, the values that define their identity and therefore can’t be compromised—are under threat.

Iranian regime's priority is ensuring its survival and quashing regional protests

Iranian leaders and their allies are counting on stamina to weather the storm and are hoping demonstrators’ energy and fervour will wane as the year draws to a close. In Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, the Iranian regime’s priority is securing its survival and preventing the three uprisings from bearing fruit by any means necessary – whatever the cost.

Russia remains committed to its Iranian ally and is confident of its promise to stop the spread of instability. What is new is the shift in the European position with regards to Iran. The Europeans have run out of patience with Iran’s violations, not just in terms of the 2015 nuclear deal but also the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps's direct participation in staging riots, and stoking sectarianism and violence against peaceful protests in Lebanon, from its outposts in Syria and the Bekaa Valley.

This has made countries like Germany draw closer to the US position, despite previous opposition, causing concern and anger among the ranks of the Iranian leadership. A few days ago, German daily Der Spiegel reported that the nation’s interior ministry had requested an inquiry into Hezbollah’s activities, with an agreement reached by the government in Berlin to impose a total ban on the organisation in Germany next week. The report said Germany would treat members of Hezbollah members as it treats ISIS.

Is Iran Near Collapse?

by Mohammed Ayoob
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The events of the last few weeks in Iran indicate that the country may be in for a repetition of the events of 1978 that led to the toppling of the Shah. Anti-government protests in Iran have reached a boiling point with the streets of several of Iran’s cities and towns reverberating with slogans demanding the overthrow of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. One can hear echoes of the “Death to the Shah” slogans of 1978–79 in these frenzied chants. Security forces have repeatedly opened fire, killing people by the dozens—possibly by the hundreds—in order to disperse protestors just as they did in the autumn of 1978.

Iran’s economy is in a tailspin, which is what triggered the protests. It is in far worse shape today than was the case on the eve of the Shah’s fall when there was a severe economic downturn because of economic mismanagement and misdirection despite the oil boom of the 1970s. The economic distress of the late 1970s was intimately related to the crony capitalism of the Shah’s regime that hurt the traditional merchant class, symbolized by the “bazar,” as well as the newly developing middle class. It was no coincidence that the religiously observant bazaris bankrolled the movement led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that overthrew the Shah.

National Defense University Press

· Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ), 95 (4th Quarter, October 2019)

o Strategic Army: Developing Trust in the Shifting Landscape

o Maximizing the Power of Strategic Foresight

o Strengthening Mission Assurance Against Emerging Threats: Critical Gaps and Opportunities for Progress

o Pakistan’s Low Yield in the Field: Diligent Deterrence or De-escalation Debacle

o The Second Island Cloud: A Deeper and Broader Concept for American Presence in the Pacific Islands

o America First ≠ America Alone: Morocco as Exemplar for U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy

o Why Normandy Still Matters: Seventy-Five Years On, Operation Overlord Inspires, Instructs, and Invites Us to Be Better Joint Warfighters

o Attacking Fielded Forces: An Airman's Perspective from Kosovo

o Countering Threat Networks to Deter, Compete, and Win: Competition Below Armed Conflict with Revisionist Powers

o Development Beyond the Joint Qualification System: An Overview

o 3D Printing for Joint Agile Operations

o The Chain Home Early Warning Radar System: A Case Study in Defense Innovation

o Wolfe, Montcalm, and the Principles of Joint Operations in the Quebec Campaign of 1759

o Unmasking the Spectrum with Artificial Intelligence

Breaking the impasse on strategic disinvestment and privatisation

Suyash Rai

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given an in-principle approval for strategic disinvestment of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), and Container Corporation of India (CCI), and for sale of two power sector enterprises to National Thermal Power Corporation.

In early 2016, the government announced that it would start strategic disinvestment of central public sector enterprises (CPSEs). The CCEA had approved 28 CPSEs for this purpose. Five transactions were completed, but all these were sales of CPSEs to other CPSEs.

As Minister Anurag Thakur said in the Parliament on November 18th, strategic disinvestment is about government not continuing in business in a sector. While the outcome of the recent decision on BPCL, SCI and CCI is still to be seen, the sale of stakes of one to another CPSE cannot be called real strategic disinvestment, for it is essentially taking money from one pocket and putting it in another. Why has the government not managed even one real strategic disinvestment almost four years after the announcement?

Ties that Bind: Family, Tribe, Nation, and the Rise of Arab Individualism

Social changes around the world are having a disproportionate im­pact on Arab societies. Loyalty and obligation have played a particu­larly strong role in how Arabs relate to each other and to their rulers, and a rising individualism in the region poses challenges for family patriarchs, tribal elders, and government leaders.

NETWORKS OF TRUST are a universal phenomenon. They have been partic­ularly influential in the Arab world in part because of cultural and religious affinity but also for practical reasons: sustained security challenges, limit­ed government capacity, and limited mobility. Arabs have committed time and money—and sometimes blood— to sustain ties with family and tribe.

Arabs increasingly report that these networks no longer serve their inter­ests and are too time consuming. They live farther from extended families and work longer hours, and they seek to de­vote more time to friends and immedi­ate family. Communications and social media have also given them alternative sources of information and alternative entertainment options. Technology also gives people privacy, and individ­uals seek it much more than in the past. As Arabs feel more economically strapped, and as a sense of individual­ism grows, families and tribes become less consequential. Some people are more willing to put their faith in gov­ernment; more simply feel a need to become more self-reliant.

U.S. Strategy — Strategic Triage and the True Cost of War: Supporting Enduring Commitments versus “Endless Wars”

By Anthony H. Cordesman

There are good reasons why the United States should constantly reexamine the cost of its military commitments and deployments overseas, and especially of its active uses of military force. The U.S. may not face endless wars, but it does face endless threats and instability. History has not ended and will not end, and “Globalism” has not put the world on a path towards growth, progress, peace, and stability.

The ISIS territorial “Caliphate” may be gone, but ISIS, its affiliates tied to its global network, Al Qaida, and a host of other extremist and terrorist movements survive. No MENA, South Asian, or Central Asian country has made a major reduction in the political, economic, or demographic causes of instability that triggered the political upheavals in the Arab World in 2011 or that shape the future of all too many countries in the developing world.

Defeating one movement in one location does not secure even a single country in the face of continued failures in politics, governance, economic, and demographics that have been the source of extremism, uprisings and civil war. And, these same failures affect all too many countries in the rest of Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. The U.S. cannot afford to ignore these forces, let them destabilize the global economy, or become direct threats to the United States.

Moscow Seeks to Sow Discord During NATO Jubilee

By: Pavel K. Baev

Russia regularly mixes demonstrations of military might and claims of devotion to cooperation with the West as a means of weakening Western solidarity. And Moscow has been fine-tuning this conspicuously contradictory signaling ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) 70th anniversary, which is being celebrated at the London Summit this week (December 3–4). Russian propaganda inflates every sign of disagreement in the Alliance, which is due to increase to 30 member states, to a purported symptom of its irreversible decline (Rossiiskaya Gazeta, November 28). At present, Kremlin-linked media is most vociferously advertising the alleged erosion of the United States’ transatlantic leadership, as marked by the Donald Trump administration’s announcement that it would cut the US contribution to NATO’s budget (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 28). Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron’s curious choice of words last month, describing NATO’s “brain death,” has invited much speculation in Moscow regarding European frustration with Washington’s abrasive unilateralism (Novaya Gazeta, November 9). Russian President Vladimir Putin certainly hopes to hear more on that during his visit to France next week.

After Almost a Year, Russia Returns Seized Ukrainian Naval Ships

By: Pavel Felgenhauer
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Almost one year ago, on November 25, 2018, two small Ukrainian Gyurza-M-class gunboats, together with a tug, attempted to cross from the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine controls two major port cities: Mariupol and Berdyansk. The Ukrainian convoy was stopped and attacked by Russian forces. One of the gunboats, the Berdyansk was hit multiple times as the Ukrainians, who did not return fire, were attempting a retreat. The boats were boarded and all 24 Ukrainian service members (some were wounded, though none fatally) were imprisoned in the Federal Security Service’s Lefortovo prison, in Moscow; they were questioned and accused of crossing the Russian border illegally, despite the existence of a 2003 Russo-Ukrainian treaty defining the Kerch Strait as a joint sovereignty “internal” waterway. The seized ships were impounded in Kerch (see EDM, November 26, 28, 29, 2018).

Ukraine and the international community protested. United States President Donald Trump canceled a summit with President Vladimir Putin, planned for December 1, 2018, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, demanding the sailors be freed. But Moscow dug in its heels (see EDM, December 3, 2018). Apparently, the Kremlin considered the small Ukrainian naval contingent to be part of a major Western-led conspiracy to undermine Russian control of Crimea and the Sea of Azov or possibly to sabotage the Kerch Strait bridge to Crimea, which Russia built after 2014, at great expense. The FSB interrogated the sailors but apparently was unable to produce much concrete evidence to warrant a public show trial. On September 7, 2019, the 24 sailors were returned to Ukraine as part of a larger Russo-Ukrainian prisoner exchange. On November 18, 2019, the naval branch of the FSB Border Guard Service handed over the Ukrainian ships—the two gunboats and the tug—to the Ukrainian Navy in the international waters of the Black Sea, off the Crimean coast. By November 21, Ukrainian salvage ships pulled the released ships into the port of Ochakiv. The hand-off was described in Moscow as a good-will gesture (Interfax, November 21).

Judy Asks: Is NATO Brain-dead?

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s interview with the Economist will be remembered for his criticisms of NATO and not for his views about Europe’s future. During the annual Berlin Foreign Policy Forum, I asked several participants if they thought NATO was brain-dead. Here are their responses.

There is no way to know whether NATO is brain-dead or not. The response will be given by the U.S. president and the U.S. electorate in 2020. As Europeans, we should do everything in our power to strengthen NATO as much as possible and to be ready for the day that it ceases to exist.

I agree particularly with Macron that we need a more open political dialogue. Several countries have to do their homework—especially when it comes to capabilities. The pressure from the United States is good, but it needs to be much more constructive.

2019 was supposed to be a big birthday party for NATO. Unfortunately, the celebrations did not exactly go as planned. In fact, at every party you have two main groups: those who come to have a good time, and those who join mainly to criticize the host.

Japan today is an artistic, culinary and cultural superpower.


NEW YORK – Writing in these pages previously I’ve made the case that given the current leaderless world, this is Japan’s global moment. Having recently returned from Eurasia Group’s G-Zero Summit in Tokyo, which built upon this theme, I’ve never been more convinced of Japan’s ability to lead through harmony and humility rather than polarization and arrogance.

Simply looking at Japan through the prism of geopolitics doesn’t do justice to the broader perspective and value that it brings to the world. Japan today is an artistic, culinary and cultural superpower. Its unique soft power extends far beyond sushi and sake to the designs and philosophies that have been popularized from Muji to Marie Kondo. In the age of social media and short attention spans, this soft power has never been more necessary or valuable.

Populism and polarization have overtaken Washington along with most other Western capitals, but not Tokyo. Instead a new emperor and the longest serving prime minister in Japanese history are bucking the trend with an island of stability in the midst of protests rocking Hong Kong, Chile, Lebanon and beyond. While America is consumed by the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump and Britain is twisted up with the Brexit saga, Japan’s scandals such as the most recent cherry blossom viewing inquiry seem almost quaint.

Towards a Sino-Russian entente?

by Michael Kofman

At a recent gathering in October Vladimir Putin announced that Russia has been helping China develop its own ballistic missile early warning system. From a technical point of view, this development is not especially significant, improved early warning only serves to benefit crisis stability between the major nuclear powers. The relevance lies in the underlying political decision, Russia is willing to collaborate on technology related to strategic nuclear arsenals, which is an important step forward in the kind of technical assistance it is willing to offer the Chinese. Kremlin spokespersons are keen to emphasize the special nature of Russia’s relationship with China, particularly when it comes to military ties and defense cooperation. Russian senior officials have increasingly characterized their ties in terms of a strategic partnership, or a ‘strategic alliance.’ An intensifying regimen of military exercises, military consultations, and codified frameworks for military cooperation substantiates some of these claims. Indeed, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest a growing military alignment between the two countries. However, the proposition of a Sino-Russian alliance remains a difficult and analytically divisive question, one that has steadily increased in significance for U.S. policy considerations.

Does France Really Need an Aircraft Carrier?

by Robert Farley
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France’s first carrier entered service in the interwar period, but for a very long time the French navy trailed behind international counterparts in naval aviation. This changed in the Cold War, however, and today France operates the world’s most advanced carrier outside of the U.S. Navy. How did France build its naval aviation force, what does it do today and what direction will France take next?

The History of French Carriers

Soon after World War I, France joined the international carrier community through the conversion of the battleship hulk Bearn. Although large, Bearn did not carry many aircraft and never actively participated in combat, even during World War II. The construction of two additional large carriers was suspended by World War II, but after the war the French navy gained access to light carriers transferred from Britain and the United States.

Modern neon lighting is first demonstrated by Georges Claude at the Paris Motor Show.

Korea Wakes up to the Deadly Consequences of Spy Cams and Cyberbullying

By Jenna Gibson

In the last two years, the Me Too movement sparked tough conversations in South Korea about the role of women in society, and thousands of women took to the streets to protest against leniency for spy cam crimes. Now, three high-profile deaths have highlighted three interconnected problems facing Korean women: assault, online harassment, and hidden spy cameras. These recent tragedies have called attention to the need for serious, societal change to address these problems, which disproportionately affect women, galvanizing a growing movement in South Korea to improve protections for its citizens — especially women.

On November 28, K-pop star Goo Hara was found dead in her home in a suspected suicide. Hara had been in the public eye for over a decade as a member of the popular girl group Kara. Earlier this year, the singer, who went by the stage name Hara, sued her ex-boyfriend for abuse and for blackmailing her with threats to release a sex tape he had taken of the two of them. The man, Choi Jong-bum, was convicted on several charges including assault, threats, and property damage, but found not guilty of sexual assault. He received a suspended sentence of just one year and six months, with three years’ probation. Both sides have appealed the verdict.

Syria Stands No Chance Against Israel's F-35s And Kamikaze Drones

by Sebastien Roblin
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On January 21, Iranian, Syrian and Israeli forces unleashed a hail of missiles upon each other in what is becoming yet another flare-up of violence along the Syria-Israel border. Afterwards, the Israeli Defense Force released a video depicting unidentified munitions eliminating two or three short-range air defense systems—apparently including Russia’s latest short-range system, the Pantsir-S2.

In fact, the recent raids may reveal improvements to Syria’s air defense forces due to ongoing Russian training and weapons transfers. However, they also reveal Israel’s continuing ability to defeat, including through likely use of kamikaze-drones.

The succession of tit-for-tat attacks apparently began with the launch of a Fateh 110 short-range ballistic missile by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, targeting an Israeli ski-resort on Mount Hebron in the Golan Heights. As the solid-fuel rocket blazed towards to the snowy mountain, it was intercepted and destroyed by two missiles from the Israel Iron Dome air defense system, as you can see in this video.

The Limits of Russian Strategy in the Middle East

by Becca Wasser

Russia is seemingly resurgent in the Middle East, using a short-term focused, transactional approach to develop diplomatic and economic relationships across the region. Russia's Middle East strategy appears to be reaping dividends, but it is not without significant challenges and risks. It remains to be seen whether Moscow can sustain its present level of engagement and meet its geopolitical ambitions in the region. This Perspective presents the limits of Russia's strategy in the Middle East, including the challenges stemming from Russia's own political and economic system, the limitations created by regional actors in the Middle East, and those imposed by the United States. The author presents how the very elements that make Russia's strategy successful in the short term will ultimately limit the depth of Russia's regional approach in the long term.

License to kill: Era of the cyber warrior dawns


In the darkness of night, the cyborg warrior excels … it can see beyond what you can see, sense beyond what you can sense, and make determinations instantly, not to mention, fire its weapon accurately … but is it friend or foe? And, can it be trusted.

Let’s face it, it’s isn’t a question of whether cyborg killers will be launched on the battlefield … it’s is a question of when … and, how much leeway they will be given. That much we know, from recent discussions by the US Army at the AUSA conference in Washington, D.C., in October.

According to a study released this month by the US Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command, ear, eye, brain and muscular enhancement is “technically feasible by 2050 or earlier, ” the Army Times reported.

The demand for cyborg-style capabilities will be driven in part by the civilian healthcare market, which will acclimate people to an industry fraught with ethical, legal and social challenges, according to Defense Department researchers.

Small Contractors Struggle to Meet Cyber Security Standards, Pentagon Finds

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Even large companies aren’t doing as well as they think they are, the assistant acquisition chief said Monday.

Small companies are struggling to meet the Pentagon’s newish network security rules, and even larger contractors aren’t doing as well as they think they are, a recent department study has found.

“For the most part, the big companies do very well,” Kevin Fahey, assistant defense secretary for acquisition, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. “But in no case do they meet everything that they thought they met.”

For one thing, big companies tend to give their smaller subcontractors a lot of data they don’t need, which then becomes vulnerable to foreign hackers. 

“The biggest part of our training and the problem is that our adversaries don’t try to come in through the big companies, they come in through the fifth-, sixth-tier,” Fahey said. “If you’re flowing down information they don’t need, then that’s bad. That’s where we’re seeing our biggest problem.”

iPhones As a Drug? Are Your Kids Addicted to Technology?

by Ben Carter Nicola Kalk

We conducted the first ever systematic review investigating what we called “problematic smartphone usage” in children and young people. We defined problematic smartphone usage as behaviours linked to smartphone use that resemble features of addiction – such as feeling panicky when the phone isn’t available, or spending too much time using the smartphone, often to the detriment of others. Based on our findings, we estimate that a quarter children and young people show signs of problematic smartphone usage.

While numerous large-scale studies have found there’s no link between the amount you use your smartphone and harm to your mental health, the popular perception that smartphones are addictive still persists. Previous studies investigating their harm often had contradictory conclusions.

This is partly because many studies lumped all technology use together under the umbrella term “screen time”. This overlooks the fact that harm often comes from the way we interact with technology, not from screens themselves. For example, watching TV is very different to experiencing cyberbullying on Facebook. Other studies often only measured the total length of time spent in front of a screen, instead of perhaps looking at what effect engaging with certain apps or websites had on people.

Did No One Audit the Apple Card Algorithm?

by Osonde A. Osoba
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In the world of social media, tech executive David Heinemeier Hansson's thread of outrage about Apple Card has been categorized as viral Twitterstorm.

Data scientists would call it a rather tidy example of an algorithm audit.

Here's what happened: Jamie Heinemeier Hansson, Hansson's wife, asked to increase the line of credit on her Apple Card, a credit card Apple created in partnership with Goldman Sachs. The increase was denied. At the same time, her husband—with whom she shares all assets as a married couple in a community property state—had a credit line 20 times higher. Apple reps' reply: “It's the algorithm.”

So in this mini-audit, does the algorithm produce the same results (credit limits) for the same relevant inputs (reported personal assets)? Not so much.

The Ties That Bind Ethnicity, Pro-government Militia, and the Dynamics of Violence in Civil War

How do pro-​government militia (PGM) influence the dynamics of violence during civil conflict? In this paper, Luke Abbs, CSS’ Govinda Clayton and Andrew Thomson address this question by looking at ethnic ties between militia and governments. The authors find that the presence of co-​ethnic militia, that is groups composed of the ruling elite’s ethnic kin, are associated with longer and more intense civil conflict. 

Pro-​government militia (PGM) are organized armed groups that support the government but are not part of the “official” state armed forces. Previous research shows that they are likely to emerge in weak states facing acute security threats, including, but not limited to, insurgency and civil war. In addition, several studies have found that the presence of PGMs exacerbate and prolong conflict either because states are unable to control militias or they are unwilling to do so. However, these existing studies overlook how the ethnic ties between PGMs and the government could have an influence on conflict. 

The Effect of Co-​ethnic Militia on Conflict 

Co-​ethnic militias are militia groups that are clearly pro-​government, not part of the regular security forces and specifically recruited along ethnic lines in order to uphold ethnic goals. A new paper in the Journal of Conflict Resolution by Luke Abbs from the University of Essex, Govinda Clayton from the CSS and Andrew Thomson from Queen’s University Belfast shows that the presence of these groups is often associated with more intense and longer civil wars. According to the authors, this is the result of a combination three factors. First, co-​ethnic PGMs are relatively loyal irregular forces that multiply a state’s military capacity to resist insurgent challenges. Second, since they are usually deployed against insurgents from other ethnic communities, co-​ethnic PGMs play a significant role in increasing interethnic polarization and ethnic extremism. Third, these groups themselves have an incentive to undermine any peacemaking attempt that could compromise their ethnic group’s privileged status.