2 January 2020

India and Pakistan Are Edging Closer to War in 2020


Turmoil is never far away in South Asia, between disputed borders, acute resource shortages, and threats ranging from extremist violence to earthquakes. But in 2019, two crises stood out: an intensifying war in Afghanistan and deep tensions between India and Pakistan. And as serious as both were in 2019, expect them to get even worse in the coming year.

Afghanistan has already seen several grim milestones in the last 12 months that attested to the ferocity of the Taliban insurgency. Casualty figures for Afghan security forces and civilians set new records. It was also the deadliest year for U.S. forces since 2014.

Ironically, violence soared even as there was unprecedented momentum toward launching a peace process. U.S. President Donald Trump, eager to exit Afghanistan, stepped up efforts to secure a deal with the Taliban that would give him the political cover for a troop withdrawal. U.S. negotiators and senior Taliban representatives held multiple rounds of talks, and by September the two sides were finalizing a deal that centered on a withdrawal of U.S. troops coupled with a commitment by the Taliban to renounce ties to international terror groups.

Assessment of the U.S. Presence in Afghanistan

By Adam A. Azim

Adam A. Azim is a writer and entrepreneur based in Northern Virginia. He holds a Master’s Degree in U.S. Foreign Policy at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC. His areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy and strategy, as well as political philosophy. He can be found on Twitter @adamazim1988. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Summary: Afghanistan is part of an American effort to create a world system based on liberal-democratic principles. This effort began in post-World War II reconstruction projects, the success of which rested on abstention from extending the project into countries like Russia and China and accommodating their security and military interests.

Text: The rationale for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan can vary depending on whether one views the presence through a realist or liberal lens. On one hand, there is sufficient cause to suggest that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is based on realpolitik, where the U.S. is pursuing security and economic interests by thwarting the possibility of Afghanistan again becoming a transnational terrorist safe haven all while tapping into natural resources such as uranium, lithium, rare earth materials, and opium that are vital for the sustenance of modern high-tech industries and the pharmaceutical industry. On the other hand, an idealist would justify the U.S. presence in Afghanistan as part of an overall pursuit of what John Mearsheimer calls “liberal hegemony” where the U.S. is seeking to establish a world system based on the principles of liberal democracy, such as global peace and security, free-market economics, as well as rule of law and the adjudication of conflicts.

40 Years After His Death, Hafizullah Amin Casts a Long Shadow in Afghanistan

By Christopher Solomon
Source Link

The Tajbeg Palace’s ruins are a ghostly sight on the outskirts of Kabul. By contrast the Darul Aman Palace, recently restored to splendor, emotes a proud and hopeful future for Afghanistan. The Tajbeg’s last resident, the notorious Hafizullah Amin, only ruled over Afghanistan for a mere three months, yet his legacy set the country on a long, sorrowful path of war, terrorism, and political upheaval. Today, as Afghanistan navigates the results of a contested election and revived peace talks with the Taliban, the long shadow of Afghanistan’s 1979 and the short reign of Amin demonstrates how rival factions of the Afghan elite prompted a desperate geopolitical gamble against the backdrop of the Cold War. The history of Amin shines a light on how far the country has come — and how far it still has to go.

The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), the communist party that ruled the country from 1978 until 1992, remains largely forgotten in Afghanistan’s long story of bloodshed. The PDPA had two main factions, the Khalq (masses) and the Parcham (banner). Hafizullah Amin, who emerged as the leader in the radical Khalq faction, brutally eliminated his party rivals, forcibly disappeared thousands of Afghans, confounded the Soviet Union’s leadership, and forced a series of foreign interventions that drastically sealed Afghanistan’s fate for the next 40 years.

Asia's flashpoints: What could go wrong in 2020

The Nikkei Asian Review has looked into its crystal ball to predict possible sources of military friction, political tension and economic trouble across the region in 2020. Some scenarios focus on specific countries, while others span borders. Several involve an increasingly dominant China.

Read on for our non-exhaustive list of what may go wrong in Asia.

North Korea fires missiles at U.S. bases

The U.S. and North Korea are unlikely to reach an agreement on denuclearization before Kim Jong Un's end-of-2019 deadline for sanctions relief, and this may prompt the young dictator to revert to a more aggressive posture.

What would happen next is anyone's guess. One particularly dire scenario could play out like this: Pyongyang fires intercontinental ballistic missiles from its Tongchang-ri launch site on its west coast, breaking its promise to demolish one of its key missile facilities. U.S. President Donald Trump issues a stern rebuke, pushing for stronger sanctions, resuming military drills with South Korea and dispatching strategic military assets to the region.

Five Key Developments in South Asia in the 2010s—and What They Mean for the 2020s

By Michael Kugelman

South Asia, according to a recent IMF study, houses more than a fifth of the world’s population and contributes to more than 15 percent of global economic growth. The region is also highly vulnerable to threats from terrorism to climate change. Additionally, it is home to America’s longest-ever—and still raging—foreign war, and to bitter rivals that happen to be nuclear-armed neighbors.

In short, South Asia matters. As the 2010s draw to a close, it’s worth highlighting five of the region’s most notable events of the last decade—and what they may portend for the next 10 years.

Assassination of Salman Taseer (2011)

In January 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, was gunned down by his own bodyguard—a religious extremist who turned on his boss because of Taseer’s strong public opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. These laws are meant to punish people for offending Islam, but are often exploited to falsely accuse religious minorities. Taseer’s assassination foreshadowed the religious extremism that would flare across South Asia, in various forms and in varying intensities, over the course of the decade. Street protests led by Islamist hardliners, sectarian and communal violence, increasingly toxic brands of Buddhist and Hindu nationalism: The region had it all in the 2010s, and this pattern shows no sign of letting up in the next decade—and especially with India, the region’s most powerful and populous country, led by a Hindu nationalist government that is pursuing, in increasingly aggressive fashion, an overtly communal agenda.

What New Weapons Systems Will the Indo-Pacific See in 2020?

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The Indo-Pacific will remain the most militarized region in the world in 2020. The two largest global military spenders — the United States and China — will continue to be responsible for a large chunk of regional defense expenditure in the new year. Other Indo-Pacific nations are also set to spend large amounts of money on new military hardware over the next twelve months. All major Indo-Pacific nations are currently pursuing big-ticket military acquisition programs. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the new weapons systems that are slated to be commissioned or deployed with Indo-Pacific militaries in the new year.

Missiles and Interceptor-Based Missile Defense Systems

Missile systems will continue to dominate military news headlines in 2020. North Korea has tested over 100 missiles since 2011 and unveiled various new missile systems (e.g, the Pukguksong-3 in October) in recent years. Pyongyang recently hinted at the introduction of “another strategic weapon,” which may imply that it will unveil a new long-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile in 2020.

A Turning Point for Development Aid


BEIJING – Since the 1960s, more than $4.6 trillion (in constant 2007 dollars) in gross bilateral and multilateral official development assistance (ODA) has been transferred to low-income countries. Yet extreme poverty and stagnant growth remain widespread. The message is clear: traditional North-South aid is not nearly as effective as it could be and should be.

A major problem is that, for the last two decades, Western donors and bilateral and multilateral development institutions have paid far too little attention to meeting the demands of structural transformation and industrialization, such as removing infrastructure bottlenecks in the countries receiving development aid. For example, developed-country donors have failed to invest sufficiently in Africa’s power sector since the 1990s. This failure has led to deindustrialization in many countries.

Far from designing aid programs that give developing countries the guidance they need to develop their manufacturing sectors and advance technologically, Western governments and development institutions have treated industrial policies as taboo. Compounding the problem, the standard ODA model separates aid from trade and private investment, hampering countries’ ability to exploit their comparative advantages.

China’s Damaging Policy Disruptions


SHANGHAI – China’s economic growth is expected to have slowed to just over 6% this year, and it is unlikely to accelerate anytime soon. In fact, economic commentators generally agree that China’s economic performance in 2019 – the worst in nearly 30 years – could be the best for at least a decade. What observers can’t seem to agree on is how worried China should be, or what policymakers can do to improve growth prospects.

Optimists point out that, given the size of China’s economy today, even 6% annual GDP growth translates into larger gains than double-digit growth 25 years ago. That may be true, pessimists note, but slowing GDP growth is hampering per capita income growth – bad news for a country at risk of becoming mired in the middle-income trap – and compounding the fiscal risks stemming from high corporate and local-government debt.

Whichever side of the fence one falls on, one thing is indisputable: policy inconsistencies and governance errors have contributed significantly to China’s economic slowdown. The problem lies in the slow pace of progress on structural reforms. Long-term growth depends on decentralization of government authority, increased marketization, and greater economic liberalization, with the private sector gaining far more access to finance and other factors of production.

Inside China’s Push to Turn Muslim Minorities Into an Army of Workers

China is relocating Uighurs and other Muslim minorities to urban areas as part of a contentious labor program. The Times obtained rare footage taken inside one.

In a far corner of northwestern China, a car drives along a wall lined with barbed wire, heading towards what looks like a standard apartment complex. Access here is restricted, and the cameraperson is filming secretly … … because this is no ordinary residence. It’s part of a contentious labor resettlement program run by the Chinese government to extend state control over Muslim minorities, mostly Uighurs, by moving them from one part of China to work in another. This covert, low-quality footage that we’ve adjusted to reveal some details, and obscure others, gives us some rare insights into how people in this program live and are indoctrinated. 

Over the last few years, the mass incarceration of more than a million Uighurs and Kazakhs by the Chinese government has led to international outrage. These labor programs are part of that larger story. Let’s take a closer look at the compound we showed you at the beginning. It’s in Xinjiang, in the northern city of Kuitun, where the population is mostly China’s Han ethnic majority. But the workers in the compound are Uighurs, and other minorities transferred there from their homes in Hotan and Kashgar, hundreds of miles away. At the Kuitun complex there are multiple dormitories. We see that right around the time the transfer started in 2017, a security checkpoint and another building, a cafeteria, were built at the site. 

Opinion – Trump’s Effective China Strategy

One of the most common lines of thinking iterated by American politicians and academics in the last thirty years regarding the U.S. foreign policy towards China is this idea that, as long as the United States keeps helping China modernize and prosper economically, China will eventually come to face the constraints of its own political system and have no choice but to liberalize. In March 2000, a couple of months before China’s official entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), then American President Bill Clinton delivered a speech on his rationale in incorporating China into the global trade system. He said, “[W]e can work to pull China in the right direction, or we can turn our backs and almost certainly push it in the wrong direction…The WTO agreement will move China in the right direction. It will advance the goals America has worked for in China for the past three decades…Membership in the WTO, of course, will not create a free society in China overnight or guarantee that China will play by global rules. But over time, I believe it will move China faster and further in the right direction, and certainly will do that more than rejection would. [my emphasis]” Throughout his speech, Bill Clinton repeatedly stated that accepting China into the WTO was a step to pull China in the “right direction”, and that such a move would force China to “open up” not only economically, but also, eventually, politically i.e. becoming a “free society”. A good political orator as he is, Clinton’s speech at that time seems to have convinced most of the world about the positive impact of opening the Chinese markets for global competition.

Harvest year for military equipment

By Liu Xuanzun and Liu Yang 

The year 2019 has been a year of harvest for China's military equipment, as the country revealed and showcased a massive selection of the latest, advanced and powerful weapons that operates on land, sea and in the air. 

These displays of China's new weapons showed transparency in the country's military development, Chinese experts said on Sunday, and sent a message to the world that China was determined to safeguard sovereignty and peace.

China will not be invaded and robbed of the fruits of development and countless lives like a hundred years ago, but China will also not use them to seek hegemony, the experts said.

China launched the country's sixth Type 055 10,000 ton-class destroyer and the 23rd Type 052D destroyer in Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning Province on Friday, news portal wenweipo.com reported on Friday, which analysts said was a high note to mark the end of 2019.

In retrospect, China's first Type 055 Nanchang made its debut at the fleet review in celebration of the founding anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in April.

Europe’s Reluctance to Take Back ISIS Supporters Could Lead to a New Crisis

Pilar Cebrián 

ISTANBUL—A German woman suspected of supporting the Islamic State was repatriated from Syria along with her three children last month, in the first case of an adult European ISIS member brought home through official channels. On Nov. 22, the family was released from the overcrowded detention camp in northern Syria where they’d lived for almost a year and transferred to the Iraqi city of Erbil, where they boarded a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.

The mother, known only as Laura H., had her passport confiscated upon arrival. She cannot leave Germany, as she is being investigated for belonging to a terrorist group.

Cases like this one are notable but rare, as most European countries resist taking back their citizens who joined the Islamic State, concerned about potential security risks and a political backlash. As a result, hundreds of Europeans remain in detention in Kurdish-controlled camps in northern Syria and in Iraqi jails, where many European officials would prefer they stay. Whether such a policy is consistent with international law is questionable, especially given the deplorable conditions in those Syrian and Iraqi detention facilities. From a security standpoint, too, the camps are hotbeds of radicalization that are creating fertile conditions for the growth of another international terrorist movement.

Turkey Makes Its Move

By George Friedman

In “The Next 100 Years,” I described Turkey as an emerging regional power that would over time extend its sphere of influence to resemble the range of the Ottoman Empire. Over the past decade, in spite of pressure from various directions, it has refrained from taking risks to assert itself. This changed significantly in recent weeks, signaling what is, in my opinion, the inevitable emergence of Turkish power.

The shift came in two steps. First, Turkey announced that it had expanded its exclusive economic zone in the Eastern Mediterranean in collaboration with Libya’s Government of National Accord. Second, Turkey announced that it was building six new submarines. The construction of new submarines is not of immediate significance, nor is Turkey’s relationship with Libya, whose cooperation it needed to extend its EEZ. But together, these moves indicate a change in Turkish posture.

A Significant Gesture

Iraq president offers to quit after rejecting PM nominee


BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s president refused on Thursday to designate a prime minister candidate nominated by the Iran-backed parliamentary bloc and offered to resign, plunging the country into further political uncertainty amid nearly three months of unprecedented mass protests.

President Barham Salih said in a statement issued by his office that he would not name the governor of the southern Basra province, Asaad al-Eidani, as the country’s next prime minister “to avoid more bloodshed and in order to safeguard civil peace.”

Al-Eidani’s name was proposed on Wednesday by the Fatah bloc, which includes leaders associated with the Iran-supported paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces. His nomination was promptly rejected by Iraqi protesters who poured into the streets Wednesday demanding an independent candidate.

Demonstrators first took to the streets on Oct. 1 to call for the overthrow of Iraq’s entire political class over corruption and mismanagement. The mass uprisings prompted the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi late last month. More than 450 people have been killed since October, the vast majority of them protesters killed by security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition.

Concentrated in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite-inhabited south, the protests have since evolved into an uprising against Iran’s political and military influence in the country.

Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

Perspectives on Terrorism, December 2019, v.13, no.6

o Terrorism and Ideology: Cracking the Nut

o The Crime and State Terrorism Nexus: How Organized Crime Appropriates Counterinsurgency Violence

o Political Violence from the Extreme Right in Contemporary Portugal

o Civil Liberties, National Security and US Courts in Times of Terrorism

o Southeast Asian Fighters from Islamic State Document Leaks: A Historical Snapshot

o Converging Patterns in Pathways in and out of Violent Extremism: Insights from Former Canadian Right-Wing Extremists

o Effectiveness in Counter-Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism: A Literature Review

o Counterterrorism Bookshelf: 20 Books on Terrorism & Counter-Terrorism-Related Subjects

o Bibliography: Terrorism Prevention

o Bibliography: Terrorism by Country – Mali

o Recent Online Resources for the Analysis of Terrorism and Related Subjects

Europe’s New Green Identity


PARIS – Most countries’ flags are multicolor. Together with red-flagged China, the blue-flagged European Union is one of the few monochrome entities. Not anymore, apparently: the EU’s new defining project colors it green. At a meeting in mid-December, the leaders of all EU countries except one (Poland, not the United Kingdom) officially endorsed the goal of achieving climate neutrality – zero net emissions of greenhouse gases – by 2050.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to go further. Next March, she plans to introduce a “climate law” to ensure that all European policies are geared toward the climate neutrality objective. She wants member states to agree next summer to cut emissions by about 50-55% between 2017 and 2030. She also proposes to allocate half of the European Investment Bank’s funding and a quarter of the EU budget to climate-related objectives, and to devote €100 billion ($111 billion) to supporting regions and sectors most affected by decarbonization. If non-EU countries drag their feet, she intends to propose a carbon tariff.

Grand plans for a distant future rightly elicit skepticism. For leaders facing reelection every four or five years, a 2050 objective is hardly binding. A battle is to be expected: opposition by fossil fuel-producing member states, energy-intensive sectors, trade-sensitive industries, and car-dependent households will be fierce. The EU has already invested so much of its political capital into the green transition, however, that a failure to deliver would severely damage its legitimacy. The Green Deal is not just one of many EU projects. It is the Union’s new defining mission.

Trump Wants a ‘Big Deal’ on Arms Control, Even If It Sinks the New START Treaty

Thomas Countryman

A key arms control treaty that limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons the United States and Russia can deploy is set to expire in February 2021. Without it, the two countries could be locked into a nuclear arms race not seen since the height of the Cold War. Fortunately, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as New START, is popular in both Washington and Moscow, and it can be extended for an additional five years with just the signatures of Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Renewing it should be the easiest foreign policy decision Trump can make. However, he is holding out in hopes of getting a bigger deal, one that covers other types of nuclear weapons and also involves China. While this is a worthwhile goal in principle, focusing on it and letting the existing deal lapse could have disastrous consequences.

New START was signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It verifiably limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed delivery systems, which include missiles, bombers and submarines.

What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane

by William Langewiesche
Source Link

1. The Disappearance

at 12:42 a.m. on the quiet, moonlit night of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur and turned toward Beijing, climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was 370. Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator. He flew it frequently, and often posted to online forums about his hobby. In the cockpit, Fariq would have been deferential to him, but Zaharie was not known for being overbearing.

In the cabin were 10 flight attendants, all of them Malaysian. They had 227 passengers to care for, including five children. Most of the passengers were Chinese; of the rest, 38 were Malaysian, and in descending order the others came from Indonesia, Australia, India, France, the United States, Iran, Ukraine, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Russia, and Taiwan. Up in the cockpit that night, while First Officer Fariq flew the airplane, Captain Zaharie handled the radios. The arrangement was standard. Zaharie’s transmissions were a bit unusual. At 1:01 a.m. he radioed that they had leveled off at 35,000 feet—a superfluous report in radar-surveilled airspace where the norm is to report leaving an altitude, not arriving at one. At 1:08 the flight crossed the Malaysian coastline and set out across the South China Sea in the direction of Vietnam. Zaharie again reported the plane’s level at 35,000 feet.

Competing in the Gray Zone Russian Tactics and Western Responses

by Stacie L. Pettyjohn, Becca Wasser

Recent events in Crimea and the Donbass in eastern Ukraine have upended relations between Russia and the West, specifically the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Although Russia's actions in Ukraine were, for the most part, acts of outright aggression, Russia has been aiming to destabilize both its "near abroad" — the former Soviet states except for the Baltics — and wider Europe through the use of ambiguous "gray zone" tactics. These tactics include everything from propaganda and disinformation to election interference and the incitement of violence.

To better understand where there are vulnerabilities to Russian gray zone tactics in Europe and how to effectively counter them, the RAND Corporation ran a series of war games. These games comprised a Russian (Red) team, which was tasked with expanding its influence and undermining NATO unity, competing against a European (Green) team and a U.S. (Blue) team, which were aiming to defend their allies from Red's gray zone activities without provoking an outright war. In these games, the authors of this report observed patterns of behavior from the three teams that are broadly consistent with what has been observed in the real world. This report presents key insights from these games and from the research effort that informed them.

Key Findings

What Would a Pluralist US Asia Policy Look Like?

By Prashanth Parameswaran

US President Donald Trump speaks on the final day of the APEC CEO Summit, part of the broader Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit, in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on Friday Nov. 10, 2017.

On December 2, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell delivered an important address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. laying out a U.S. vision for Asia based on “pluralism” – where, in essence, Asian countries will be able to make their own choices free from coercion. While this vision will find no shortage of proponents in the region worried about a bipolar framing of U.S.-China rivalry and some of Washington’s past unilateral impulses, it nonetheless leaves open the question of the exact form of pluralism that Washington supports and how that might translate into concrete policy.

The notion of pluralism is not entirely new within the broader history of U.S. foreign policy, and indeed, aspects or versions of it can be seen historically depending on how it is defined. The spirit of freedom of choice was embedded in Woodrow Wilson’s notion of self-determination, even though this was selectively applied in practice. And the more general notion of Washington having to accept the rise of other powers in the region apart from preserving its own primacy in a balance of power sense – often loosely described in international relations parlance as “multipolarity,” which Stilwell referred to in his remarks – was recognized by multiple past presidents in different ways, be it Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vision of The Four Policemen during World War II or Richard Nixon’s post-Vietnam War era conception of Asia, as articulated in Foreign Affairs before he entered office.

The Three Global Crises the World Faces in 2020

Stewart M. Patrick 

2020 dawns with the multilateral system in crisis. The next 12 months will determine whether the world is capable of controlling nuclear proliferation, arresting runaway climate change and restoring faith in the United Nations. Some pivotal events will shape success or failure in the coming year.

Preserving the Nuclear Regime. Of the several potential catastrophic risks confronting humanity, the specter of nuclear war remains the most terrifying. Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the world has escaped the horror of nuclear weapons. Much of the credit, beyond deterrence and plain dumb luck, goes to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, known as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or NPT. Yet 50 years after the NPT came into force, nuclear anxieties are increasing. ...

Russia Deploys Hypersonic Weapon, Potentially Renewing Arms Race

By Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger
WASHINGTON — The Russian military on Friday said it had deployed a hypersonic weapon that flies at superfast speeds and can easily evade American missile defense systems, potentially setting off a new chapter in the long arms race between the world’s pre-eminent nuclear powers.

American officials said Friday they have little doubt that the Russians have a working hypersonic weapon — which sits on top of a modified missile and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead at speeds faster than 3,800 miles per hour.

Moscow has been working on the technology for years and has invested heavily in it, determined to reverse the pattern in the Cold War, when it was often struggling to catch up with American nuclear weapons systems. If the new system, called “Avangard,” works as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia boasted when he described the weapon a year ago, it would significantly enhance Moscow’s already powerful nuclear forces, American officials said.

Weekly Economic Release Summary: Trade War

by Steven Hansen

Nobody wants a trade war. All sides suffer to varying degrees - but I continue to see completely erroneous information still abounds. Some of the falsity is so bad that I want to compare it to smelly stuff being distributed with a shovel.

The recent U.S. tariffs on China are expected to reduce economic efficiency. First, the higher tariffs will render some of China's exports to the U.S. uncompetitive, thus reducing imports. The move from a more efficient producer in China to a less efficient domestic source is an efficiency loss.

Second, the tariffs could lead to what trade economists refer to as "trade diversion." A less efficient producer in, say, Vietnam may become competitive relative to a more efficient Chinese producer due to tariffs, incentivizing the U.S. to switch imports from China to Vietnam. This would also be an efficiency loss for the U.S. as imports would be sourced from a less efficient nation.

I am confused about economic efficiency.

A Low, Dishonest Decade


MUMBAI – I write this not as a professional economist, nor as a policymaker, but as a citizen of a tiny planet that is spinning through a vast universe that we barely understand. I write this “As the clever hopes expire / Of a low dishonest decade,” and as “Waves of anger and fear / Circulate over the bright / And darkened lands of the earth.” It was 80 years ago that W.H. Auden wrote those lines, in his poem “September 1, 1939.” We find ourselves in a similar position today.

As the current decade draws to a close, large parts of the world are mired in conflict, stable democracies have suddenly been knocked off kilter, and societies are increasingly divided by race, religion, and political ideology. And as the planet warms, millions of people are feeling compelled to move elsewhere in search of survival and opportunity. But new barriers, born of a renascent nationalism and narrow tribalism, are increasingly standing in their way.

I am not foolish enough to be certain that this will all pass. The world may not, in fact, turn back from the brink of political and environmental disaster, and continue to prosper and grow, just because it did so in the past. As Bertrand Russell cautioned about the dangers of such inductive reasoning, in The Problems of Philosophy, “The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.” Like Auden in 1939, we must accept the possibility that things could become far worse than they already are.

DHS wants more input on how to share vulnerabilities

Andrew Eversden

The public comment period on the draft vulnerability disclosure program for federal agencies published by the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency has been extended until Jan. 10, 2020.

The draft binding operational directive (BOD), one of few authorities Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has to force entities to take action, would require that federal agencies establish a VDP, in which security researchers could report vulnerabilities in agencies’ public-facing websites. The original comment period was set to expire Dec. 27, but CISA extended the deadline after a “phenomenal response" from stakeholders.

So far, CISA has received comments from stakeholders both at federal agencies, industry and think tanks, concerned with everything from legal protections for researchers submitting vulnerabilities to mandated remediation time frames. Several comments have expressed concern about resources agencies ultimately dedicate to the disclosure programs.

“Effectively implementing a vulnerability disclosure policy across federal agencies and departments ... will take adequate resources, funding, and a sufficiently trained workforce,” wrote John Miller, senior vice president of policy at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a trade association representing firms in the information and communications technology industry.

Thinking in Space: The Role of Geography in National Security Decision-Making

Andrew Rhodes

Only statesmen who can do their political and strategic thinking in terms of a round earth and a three-dimensional warfare can save their countries from being outmaneuvered on distant flanks.

-Nicholas Spykman

Leaders who fail to think in space do so at their own peril. Nicholas Spykman published the above warning on the importance of mental maps in the context of World War II and the global challenges it presented, but his argument regarding the importance of spatial thinking to the nation’s security has never been more relevant. Thinking in space has long been an essential tool for thinking critically and communicating clearly when it comes to national security decision-making. The importance of mental maps and geographic communication are only growing in an era of new global challenges and renewed great power competition. Strategists and diplomats would benefit from gaining greater insight into the ways geographic information shapes national security decision-making. Moreover, understanding this impact can help produce recommendations for how American strategists can more effectively think in space.

Worried About 5G’s Health Effects? Don’t Be

Even as carriers around the world race to build 5G networks, some government officials are reaching for the throttle, citing fears that the new generation of wireless technology could pose health risks.

Earlier this year the Portland, Oregon, city council passed a resolution asking the Federal Communications Commission to update its research into potential health risks of 5G. (In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics made a similar request to the FCC about its research on cell phone use more generally.) In May, Louisiana’s House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the state Department of Environment Quality and Department of Health to study the environmental and health effects of 5G. Meanwhile, a few Bay Area towns, including Mill Valley and Sebastopol, want to block carriers from building 5G infrastructure.

"The impending rollout of 5G technology will require the installation of hundreds of thousands of 'small cell' sites in neighborhoods and communities throughout the country, and these installations will emit higher-frequency radio waves than previous generations of cellular technology," US representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) wrote in a letter to the FCC echoing concerns about the new technologies involved with 5G.

What happens if the Air Force’s command center for all its tankers and cargo planes gets hacked?

By: Valerie Insinna  
Members of the 618th Air Operations Center gather for a morning meeting during a Dec. 11 exercise simulating an emergency that has knocked out network connectivity. The 618th AOC, located at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is responsible for planning, tasking and controlling air mobility missions worldwide. (Capt. Krystal Jimenez, U.S. Air Force)

Suddenly, everyone’s computer screens go blank, as does the massive wall-sized projection that tracks air mobility missions worldwide. Classified and unclassified networks are down, leaving landline phones as one of the only communications means available to airmen needing to pass on vital information to squadrons.

The execution floor, once almost silent, erupts into chatter as members of the 618th try to make sense of how to do their jobs without the tools they depend on most.

This scenario is a drill, a 24-hour exercise meant to test the ability of the 618th’s operations center to respond to degraded communications that could arise from situations ranging from a power outage to a coordinated cyber attack by an adversary nation. (Defense News, which embedded with members of the 618th to observe the Dec. 11 exercise, was not permitted to disclose the exact nature of the scenario for security reasons.)

2019 Was An Important Year In Submarine Developments

H I Sutton

The world submarine scene is changing fast, and it feels as if 2019 was the start of a sharp rise in the rate of development. Perhaps because of a lull following the end of the Cold War, or because of the dawn of the next industrial revolution, things are hotting up.

The launch of Russia's special mission submarine Belgorod was one of the major submarine stories of ... [+]H I SUTTON

From the perspective of the history books, in my view by far the most significant new submarine of 2019 was Belgorod. Russia’s latest super submarine, she was launched on April 24 in Severodvinsk. She is second only to the famous Typhoon Class in terms of size. But her significance is not in her size alone. She is expected to be the first submarine to carry Russia’s enigmatic super weapon, the Poseidon Intercontinental Nuclear-Powered Nuclear-Armed Autonomous Torpedo. A better term might be ‘mega torpedo.’ It is designed to be around 20 to 30 times the size of a regular torpedo, or twice the size of a ballistic missile, and to carry a 2 megaton nuclear warhead, able to target coastal cities such as New York or San Francisco. With essentially unlimited range and deep diving capability, if it performs as described, it will be challenging to counter.

This is how the US military is protecting the Strait of Hormuz.

By: Shawn Snow  
A Griffin missile is launched from the patrol coastal ship USS Hurricane (PC 3) during a test of the MK-60 Griffin guided-missile system. The exercise demonstrated a proven capability for the ships to defend themselves against small boat threats and ensure maritime security through key chokepoints in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (Spc. Benjamin Castro/Army)

Iranian small boat threats, limpet mines and Tehran-backed forces armed with cruise and anti-ship killing missiles are just a few of the threats to the shipping channel in the Persian Gulf that supplies nearly one-fifth of the world’s global crude oil.

To bolster the security of US warships at sea operating in tight waterways around the Middle East, the U.S. conducted an exercise in December using Griffin missiles fired from the U.S. Cyclone-class ship Hurricane.