21 January 2020

Why protests in India over the new citizenship law are much ado about nothing

Rajiv Sikri
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A widespread and unseemly controversy has broken out in India over the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Indian Parliament in December 2019 that fast-tracks Indian citizenship for persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Parsee faiths.

The act brings closure to a sad and messy legacy of the Partition of India in 1947 when the new, expressly Muslim, state of Pakistan was carved out of India. There was widespread bloodshed and killing in both India and Pakistan as millions of Hindus and Sikhs migrated from Punjab, Sindh and the Northwest Frontier Province of West Pakistan (now Pakistan) to India, and Muslims, mostly from Punjab, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, in India migrated to West Pakistan.

Many Hindus and Sikhs living in Afghanistan also migrated to India since there was an open, undefined border and free movement of people between Afghanistan and undivided India. However, the exchange of populations was not comprehensive. Some chose not to migrate, others just couldn’t manage to do so.

On the India-East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) border, although the Partition was less violent and bloody, there has been a steady inflow of Hindu refugees into India from East Pakistan/Bangladesh over the last seven decades.

America Should Have Left Afghanistan 8 Years Ago, And The Same Problems Remain

by Daniel L. Davis 
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The Washington Post published on Monday morning an explosive, in-depth report exposing how American military and civilian leaders have been systematically deceiving the public, since at least 2003, on the conduct of the war in Afghanistan. 

The report may be more painful to me than most, however, because I first publicly exposed our leaders’ duplicity almost eight years ago—yet because the government and military leaders were unwilling to take corrective action. Since then, the war continued without pause and thousands of American service members have since been killed and wounded pointlessly pursuing the unattainable. 

My hope is that now, with this comprehensive report detailing how top leaders in three consecutive Administrations have ignored the evidence, the Trump Administration will end the war and bring our troops home. As the Washington Post reveals and I have personally observed, it should have happened long ago. 

South Africa's leaders are facing impending disaster

South Africa is on the brink of collapse. After years of corruption, mismanagement and poor investment, the fruits of the once-promising country have turned rancid. As the country’s leaders grapple with the impending disaster on their hands, tensions are boiling over. On January 10, Tito Mboweni, the finance minister, launched a series of tweets underscoring the gravity of the situation: “If you cannot effect deep structural economic reforms, then game over! Stay as you are and you are downgraded to Junck [sic] Status!! The consequences are dire. Your choice.”

The ANC’s bruising internal battles have stymied critical reforms to jumpstart the economy, prompting outbursts of frustration from officials like the finance minister Tito Mboweni. Yet while the short-term consequences are readily obvious to many, the long-term reckoning that South Africa will face is less clear

While his direct audience was unclear, the message was clear. More than a decade of worsening economic indicators has wreaked havoc on the African giant. From eye-popping unemployment of over 29 per cent to stupefying levels of violent crime, South Africa is sinking ever further into the muck.

China’s Energy Options Narrow As Mideast Risks Rise – Analysis

By Michael Lelyveld
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The threat of conflict between the United States and Iran will pressure China to deal with its rising reliance on foreign oil and gas after years of unchecked growth, analysts say.

China’s petroleum demand has been racing ahead of domestic production for over a decade, leaving it vulnerable to price spikes and disruptions in the Middle East.

China’s dependence on foreign oil is particularly dire, rising to over 70 percent of consumption last year since topping 50 percent for the first time in 2008.

While China has sought to diversify its sources, the world’s largest crude buyer still relied on OPEC suppliers for 54 percent of its imports in 2018, Enerdata’s Global Energy Research said.

Despite several flare-ups of U.S.-Iran tensions in the past year, China’s dependence has deepened with record oil imports averaging 11.13 million barrels per day (bpd) in November as refiners rushed to use up annual import quotas, according to Reuters.

China’s Top Five War Plans

by Ian Easton

This publication breaks down Beijing’s likely top five war plans to understand what may be driving China’s military reorganization and reform campaign. Easton analyzes available Chinese military sources and concludes that China’s primary strategic goal is to take Taiwan using one or more of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s five outlined combat operations, in the 21st century’s foremost flashpoint. He also explains how these five different joint operations could be used to isolate or occupy Taiwan, thwart American intervention in offensive operations against U.S. military units, and repel potential border threats from India in the event of aPLA invasion of Taiwan.

Taiwan Stands Up to Xi

Thomas Wright

Taiwan can seem like the third rail of international diplomacy. If a country wants a good relationship with China, Beijing has effectively stated, it cannot have a meaningful relationship with Taiwan. Just this week, the city of Shanghai broke off official contacts with the city of Prague for signing a partnership treaty with Taipei. Beijing has long regarded Taiwan as nothing more than a renegade province. Under President Xi Jinping, China has systematically tried to reduce Taiwan’s international space, forcing it out of global organizations and forums, as well as increasing military and economic coercion to force it into a process of reunification.

By this measure, Tsai Ing-wen’s landslide reelection on Saturday as president of Taiwan will come as a great disappointment to Beijing. Tsai’s victory seemed very unlikely nine months ago. She was more than 20 points behind in the polls. Her party, the DPP, suffered a big defeat in midterm elections in 2018. But China’s actions in Hong Kong gave the Taiwanese a glimpse of their possible future. In his 2019 New Year’s Day message, Xi demanded that Taiwan look to the “one country, two systems” approach as a model for future relations. The Taiwanese had their worst fears about what that meant confirmed in Hong Kong and gave a resounding “No, thanks.”

Trump Signs China Trade Deal, Putting Economic Conflict on Pause

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an initial trade deal with China on Wednesday, bringing the first chapter of a protracted and economically damaging fight with one of the world’s largest economies to a close.

The pact is intended to open Chinese markets to more American companies, increase farm and energy exports and provide greater protection for American technology and trade secrets. China has committed to buying an additional $200 billion worth of American goods and services by 2021 and is expected to ease some of the tariffs it has placed on American products.

But the agreement preserves the bulk of the tariffs that Mr. Trump has placed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, and it maintains the threat of additional punishment if Beijing does not live up to the terms of the deal.

The deal caps more than two years of tense negotiations and escalating threats that at times seemed destined to plunge the United States and China into a permanent economic war. Mr. Trump, who campaigned for president in 2016 on a promise to get tough on China, pushed his negotiators to rewrite trade terms that he said had destroyed American industry and jobs, and he imposed record tariffs on Chinese goods in a gamble to get Beijing to accede to his demands.

What's inside the U.S.-China Phase One Deal?

On January 15, President Donald Trump and China’s Vice Premier Liu He held a long-anticipated ceremony in the East Room of the White House to sign a “Phase One” U.S.-China trade deal. The document, entitled “Economic and Trade Agreement Between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China,” runs to 96 pages with eight chapters, covering intellectual property, technology transfer, trade in food and agriculture products, financial services, macroeconomic policies and currency, expanding trade, and dispute resolution. As part of the deal, China has agreed to increase its purchases of U.S. goods and services by at least $200 billion over the next two years compared to 2017 imports. For its part, the United States will trim some tariffs but maintain them on $360 billion worth of Chinese imports, the bulk of the bilateral trade.

The deal is written like a traditional trade agreement, with a range of substantive and process commitments by both sides that will only be as strong as the degree to which they are implemented by both sides. For now, it puts a pause on trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies that had been escalating for much of the past two years. However, it leaves many structural issues—notably Chinese subsidies and other industrial policies—unaddressed. Whether, when, and how “Phase Two” negotiations between the two sides move ahead remains unclear.

The US Wants to Intimidate China with Hypersonics, Once It Solves the Physics


The U.S. is pressing ahead with new missiles, but questions remain about engineering, tactics, and even geopolitics.

A set of small, uninhabited Pacific islands, very close to China, may be the destination of some of America’s most sophisticated and controversial future weapons: hypersonic missiles that remain nimble even at five times the speed of sound. On Friday, U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said the still-in-development weapons would likely change the future of war.

The Army — along with the Air Force, Navy, and Missile Defense Agency — has been advancing work on a variety of hypersonic capabilities. The Army expects to begin testing aspects of its Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon this year, with full flight testing expected in 2023.

Speaking at a Brookings Institution event, McCarthy said hypersonics would be key to a new kind of multi-domain task force that he was rolling out. These highly mobile units will be deployed to attack enemies at long ranges with electronic warfare, cyber attacks, and long-range munitions such as hypersonic missiles. He said the new units could be deployed to the Senkaku or Ryukyu island chains.

A WIN FOR DEMOCRACYA Stunner in Taiwan


On the ground, among the remarkable crowds, there was nevertheless a sense of foreboding among some Taiwanese about how these elections would turn out.

It was only a year ago that Taiwan’s incumbent President, Tsai Ing-wen, was down in the polls by double-digit margins to the prospective Kuomintang (KMT) candidate, Han Kuo-yu, the recently elected Mayor of the southern port city Kaohsiung. Even as late as May, she was behind by 15 points. Yet, on Saturday night, President Tsai was re-elected in a landslide, totaling up a record presidential vote count of more than eight million and with a margin of nearly 20 points over Han. It was an unprecedented swing.

Arriving Friday morning from an overnight flight from the United States, I was taken aback by how nervous friends in Taiwan were about the election itself. Tsai, after all, was ahead in the polls, and by a good margin in most cases. Even on the streets, the KMT’s final rally in Taipei on Thursday evening drew at most 300,000, while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rally on Friday evening was probably closer to half a million.

Yet the uncertainty was palpable: How successful had Chinese interference in the electoral process been? What would the turnout be? So much of Tsai’s popularity in the polls appeared to rest on the support of younger Taiwanese—an age group notoriously noisy and active, but less likely to vote. Confusing things further, Han had told his supporters to stop answering their phones and the pollsters’ questions in the weeks headed into the election. How accurate, then, were the late polls showing Tsai with her double-digit lead? Would there be, as many expected, the normal closing of the gap as Election Day neared? And how would you know whether that was actually happening given Han’s directive?

A Delicate Truce in the U.S.-Chinese Trade War

By Weijian Shan

Temporary cease-fires and false dawns have punctuated the 19-month-long trade war between China and the United States, only to dissipate with a sudden setback in negotiations, or a tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump that dialed up the heat on China while chilling global markets. And so the world heaved a sigh of relief when the two sides announced Phase I of a trade deal in December, the first step toward a negotiated peace.

Predictably, the Trump administration claimed a major victory, calling the deal “historic.” The Chinese side offered a positive spin of its own, noting that the deal would promote high-quality growth and facilitate necessary economic restructuring. As part of the deal, the United States agreed to cancel the 15-percent tariffs that had been scheduled to take effect on December 15 on $160 billion worth of Chinese goods, and to halve an earlier set of tariffs on another $120 billion worth of goods. In exchange, China agreed to increase its purchase of U.S. products by $200 billion in the next two years.

History's first superpower sprang from ancient Iran

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I am Cyrus, king of the universe, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world . . . Found on a cylindrical tablet in the 19th century, these words commemorate Persia’s conquest of Babylonia and the taking of its capital city, Babylon, in 539 B.C. (Babylon was the jewel of the ancient world.)

After Cyrus came to power in 559 B.C., Persia expanded its holdings to become the world’s original empire. Previously, other peoples such as the Assyrians had held sway over vast tracts of Mesopotamia, but none had reached the geographical extent as Persia, whose territory stretched from eastern Europe to the Indus River. Strengthening the empire, Cyrus’s policy of tolerance toward the conquered allowed local peoples to maintain their languages, traditions, and religions, which in turn allowed Persian culture to benefit from a truly global exchange.

Cyrus’s construction of an imperial identity made up of many religions and languages continues to inspire the modern world. As the Greek historian Xenophon wrote, “Cyrus eclipsed all other monarchs, before or since.”

Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi on War and National Resilience

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi stated in a recent public speech that “national resilience is…a positive multiplier for the IDF and a negative multiplier, when the IDF is strong and steadfast, for our enemies…When they realize that the people here understand what is expected from them…this has enormous significance…for the IDF…[and as a phenomenon] that will lessen the determination of the enemy.” The question, then, is how the State of Israel ensures that the civilian front continues to function as reasonably as possible during a war in which it can expect to suffer severe blows to the population, to property, and to critical infrastructures. Thus far the Israeli government has deliberately refrained from updating the public on its assessment regarding the potential consequences of war, wary of causing panic and lessening the public’s sense of security. Perhaps the Chief of Staff’s speech reflects a change in the military’s approach to this critical issue. This article contends that it is necessary to consider ways to gradually enhance the public’s mental preparedness for the next war by providing in advance a rational depiction of what is expected on the civilian front in a large-scale war. Sound information of this kind disseminated by the establishment has the ability to bolster national resilience.Senior IDF commanders do not comment frequently about the link between war and national resilience. A notable exception was the address in late December 2019 by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi in memory of the 15th Chief of Staff, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. In his address, Kochavi stated:

Will Mirziyoyev’s Plodding Reforms Be Enough for Uzbekistan?

Paul Stronski 

Last month, The Economist boldly labeled Uzbekistan its “country of the year,” declaring that “no other country travelled so far in 2019.” It is a remarkable achievement for a state that perennially finds itself at the bottom of international rankings on corruption, governance and human rights issues. But while Uzbekistan certainly is changing, the government’s quest for economic stability, not democracy, is driving the process.

After taking power in 2016, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev quickly recognized that growing socioeconomic discontent could destabilize his regime. He saw that resentment toward a corrupted status quo could push angry populations into the streets, as it did in neighboring countries like Iran, Kazakhstan and Russia. Mirziyoyev wants none of that, so he launched a preventative program of political and economic reforms instead. ...

The President, His Relationship with Intelligence, and the Soleimani Strike

by Douglas London

When it comes to intelligence, like with so much else, President Donald Trump likes big names. It’s this focus on celebrity, headlines, and immediate gratification — versus substance, impact, and consequences — that so often motivates him. Partly because of this, as a senior CIA counterterrorist manager, my team and I often struggled in persuading the president to recognize the most important threats. Now, with the killing of Qassem Soleimani, I worry that while Trump got a big name and lots of headlines, the long-term impact on U.S. strategic interests was not fully considered. 

At CIA, I saw this play out more than once. Trump’s obsession in focusing resources against Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza is one example of the president’s preference for a “celebrity” targeted killing versus prioritizing options that could prove better for U.S. security.

CIA had not overlooked the value in Hamza’s name recognition, nor his musings posted by al-Qaeda’s media cell, but he was young, lacked battlefield experience, and had yet to develop a serious following. Despite having the opportunity to be tutored by his eventual father-in-law and indicted al-Qaeda operative Abu Muhammad al-Masri, Hamza was not under serious consideration in succeeding Ayman Zawahiri, the group’s current leader.

The Death of Oman’s Sultan Leaves a Void of Stability in a Volatile Region

Kelly M. McFarland

Sultan Qaboos bin Said died recently at the age of 79. The enigmatic Sultan skillfully led Oman since he overthrew his father, with Britain’s help, in 1970. Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, Qaboos’s 66-year old cousin and Minister of Culture, was swiftly named the new Sultan on Saturday. Haitham’s name was in a sealed, secret envelope that Qaboos left behind naming his successor.

Stability in an unstable region

Qaboos, and Oman, have been pillars of stability in a normally fraught region. After defeating an insurgency in the Dhofar region of Oman — which borders Yemen in the south — early in his reign, Qaboos led a remarkable modernization program within Oman. With barely any paved roads when he took power, he implemented infrastructure and education programs that have led to a more vibrant nation today. In stark contrast to its Gulf neighbors in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain, Oman has also done a remarkable job of maintaining its cultural heritage — you won’t see any glitzy skyscrapers dotting the Muscat skyline.

The United States Influence And Competitors In The Indo-Pacific – Report

By Peter Tase

In December 2019, the Hudson Institute published a comprehensive report on the views of United States towards the Indo-Pacific region, entitled: “Strategies for the Indo-Pacific: Perceptions of the U.S. and Like-Minded Countries.” This volume is edited by Dr. Satoru Nagao, Hudson Institute Visiting Fellow. 

In this publication Dr. Patrick M. Cronin, the Asia-Pacific security chair at the Hudson Institute emphasizes: “Critics may fixate on the isolationist-sounding “America first” focus of the NSS, but that strategy signals the first time since the end of the Cold War that the United States returned to a focus on major-power competition. The 2017 strategy report also shifts attention away from global terrorism, which has dominated security strategy since 2001. Although the strategy was seen as overdue in the United States, leading voices in the region fear the tilt toward confronting China could create conflict.

As Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong remarked in his opening address at the 2019 ShangriLa Dialogue, “There is a growing bipartisan consensus in the U.S.: that China has taken advantage of the U.S. for far too long; that China has overtaken, or will soon overtake the U.S. in areas of advanced technology…through underhanded means; that instead of opening up and becoming more like the U.S., China has regressed in terms of political openness, and hence represents a challenge to American values and leadership.” 

Could New Research on A.I. and White-Collar Jobs Finally Bring About a Strong Policy Response?

By Sheelah Kolhatkar

The encroachment of automation and robotics into the workplace has forced us to rethink the way that certain jobs are done, and it has produced anxiety about whether there will be enough jobs in the future for the human workers who need them. So far, much of the attention has focussed on blue-collar work, as factory assembly lines and warehouses have adopted automated processes more quickly and visibly than other industries. Automation on a factory floor evokes a simple image: robotic arms assembling parts into Tesla cars; mobile robots driving pallets of goods through Amazon distribution centers. In either scenario, the impact on human workers is easy to see. What is harder to visualize is how similar technology might find its way into the aspects of human labor that are invisible and not as easily routinized, such as complex decision-making, strategic planning, and creative thought.

Until recently, the consensus among researchers seemed to be that workers with higher levels of education would be less affected by automation than those lower down on the economic hierarchy. Now, though, new research suggests that higher-educated, white-collar workers may be facing significant disruption, as well. In a study published in November by the Brookings Institution, researchers found that certain higher-wage occupations might be more deeply intertwined with A.I. technology in the future than previously thought. “The big takeaway is that manufacturing professions and occupations will be heavily affected,” one of the study’s co-authors, Mark Muro, told me recently. “But so will white-collar jobs—managerial and office activity.” Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, who specializes in economic development and technology and who wears spectacles that lend him a bookish air, noted that whether these jobs are likely to be replaced by A.I. or simply changed by it is still unclear; in some cases, A.I. may end up assisting human workers rather than doing their jobs for them. Either way, the uncertainty is likely to cause alarm in some circles.

'We want to win the next war': US Army will revamp cyber operations to counter Russia and China

by Russ Read

As warfare continues to enter the digital realm, the Army plans to transform its cyber operations branch into a full-scale information warfare command, according to a top U.S. general.

The service will convert Cyber Command into the Army Information Warfare Command, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said at a panel on Tuesday. It’s one of the several modernization efforts the Army is taking on to counter "great power" opponents like Russia and China.

“We’re recognizing the importance of information operations, so our Cyber Command is going to become an information warfare command,” McConville said.

Other innovations include the creation of “cyber ranges,” where soldiers can practice digital operations just like they would practice with a rifle on a shooting range.

“We’re going to use virtual reality, augmented reality, so our soldiers can train on missions before they actually have to go,” McConville said.

A Dangerous Escalation

by Dan Steinbock
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The True Story of Trump’s Perilous Iran Escalation

The Trump assassination of major general Qasem Soleimani reflects regime change efforts - withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal, new sanctions, covert operations, undermined de-escalation, plunging oil production and diminished economic prospects - that have taken a perilous turn.

On January 3, 2020, the plane of Qasem Soleimani, major general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and commander of its elite Quds Force, arrived at Baghdad International Airport. At the same time, the US MQ-9 Reaper, a prime assassination drone, was loitering in the area with other military aircraft.

At the Airport, Soleimani left with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces. As they entered two vehicles, the convoy headed toward downtown Baghdad. At 1 am local time, the Reaper launched several missiles on Baghdad Airport Road. The two cars exploded in flames killing some 10 people, including Soleimani and al-Muhandis.

Putin Signals Intention to Continue Steering Russia Beyond 2024, but Will He Solve Country’s Structural Problems?

Simon Saradzhyan
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Vladimir Putin appeared to have caught much of Russia’s ruling elite off guard when he fired the entire government on Jan. 15. With implementation of Putin’s much-prized national projects by the government in trouble and real incomes declining year after year, it was, perhaps, only a matter of time before Russia’s ultimate decision-maker was to sacrifice someone from the government’s socio-economic bloc. However, few Kremlin insiders expected Putin to fire not only all the ministers, but also the premier (and one-time president), Dmitry Medvedev, with more than four years still left in Putin’s fourth term. Yes, Medvedev has been chronically unpopular, but some Kremlin watchers thought that the loyal premier would only be axed sometime closer to the end of Putin’s fourth term to please the public ahead of a reconfiguration of power in Russia in 2024. 

In May of that year, Putin’s fourth presidential term expires and, sometime before that, Putin needs to decide whether to amend the Russian Constitution and stay on in the Kremlin or whether to pick a successor and relocate to the White House—the premier’s residence—while expanding his powers at the expense of the next hand-picked president. Other options Putin has reportedly entertained include becoming the head of the Russian-Belarussian Union state or transforming Russia’s State Council from a consultative body into an executive body, expanding its powers and staying on as its chairman. Of these four posts, the second (become an empowered premier) and fourth (stay on as an empowered head of the State Council) seem more likely to appear on Putin’s resume in 2024 following Putin’s annual address to both chambers of the Russian parliament, which Putin delivered on the same day he fired Medvedev. In the address, he stated “it would be appropriate to fix the status and role of the State Council in the Russian Constitution” and called for transferring the right to name the premier and most of his ministers from the president to the parliament. He also said he supported a “constitutional provision under which one person cannot hold the post of the President for more than two successive terms.” It is ultimately immaterial, however, in my view, which of the options Putin may choose as the address has made it crystal clear that no matter what title(s) he ends up with, Putin has no plans to stop steering Russia after his fourth term expires.

The Race for Big Ideas Is On

Amy Zegart

In the past two weeks, escalating hostilities brought the United States to the brink of yet another conflict in the Middle East—this time with Iran. But such a conflict might not look much like the others that American forces have fought in the 21st century.

Tank-on-tank warfare, this isn’t. While crises are inherently unpredictable, Iran’s decision on Tuesday to lob missiles at bases housing American troops in Iraq might well be the last of its conventional retaliation for the American air strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani. Future hostilities are more likely to occur in cyberspace, not in physical space.

The Soleimani strike is a harbinger in other ways. Historically, targeted killing has been rare as an instrument of war because it has been so difficult technically. The last time the United States killed a major military leader of a foreign power was in World War II, when American forces shot down an airplane carrying the Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. These killings are unlikely to be so rare in the future. Because drones allow constant surveillance and can strike precise targets, states may credibly threaten so-called decapitation attacks in ways that nobody imagined possible short of all-out nuclear war.

Brexit could spell the end of globalization, and the global prosperity that came with it

William Hauk
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The U.K. House of Commons has finally voted for Brexit. If the plan passes the House of Lords without much delay, the U.K. will leave the European Union several years after a 2016 referendum set it down this path.

More than merely tossing aside the EU, this vote represents a rejection of globalization and the implicit trade-off of some democratic control over economic policy for prosperity. It’s an exchange that more citizens across the world, including the United States, are unwilling to make – often believing they can earn the same gains without a loss of economic control.

As an economist, I believe this trend of turning away from the institutions that facilitated economic globalization is troubling and may lead to the unraveling of more than a half century of growing global integration – and the economic growth that came with it.

To avert that outcome, we need to answer the seemingly simple question: How can societies reap the economic benefits of globalization while maintaining democratic participation within it?

Traditional trade barriers

Why Is the United States So Bad at Foreign Policy?

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In my last column, I described the “brain-dead” qualities of the Trump administration’s approach to the Middle East and especially Iran. In particular, I stressed that the administration had no real strategy—if by that term one means a set of clear objectives, combined with a coherent plan of action to achieve them that takes the anticipated reactions of others into account.

What we have instead is brute force coercion, divorced from clear objectives and implemented by an ignorant president with poor impulse control. After nearly three years in office, President Donald Trump has managed to increase the risk of war, push Iran to gradually restart its nuclear program, provoke Iraq into asking the United States to prepare to leave, raise serious doubts about U.S. judgment and reliability, alarm allies in Europe, and make Russia and China look like fonts of wisdom and order. The Trump administration has made it clear that it thinks assassinating foreign officials is a legitimate tool of foreign policy and that war criminals should be lionized, a move that nasty governments are likely to welcome and imitate.

Unfortunately, this strategic myopia goes well beyond the Middle East.

Prepare For the Worst From Iran Cyber Attacks, As DHS Issues Warning: Experts


“I’m going to tell you a painful truth. When you have actors like this that are well trained — in the thousands — by a nation-state, if they are targeting something they will probably succeed,” says Diana Volere, whose (wonderful) title is “Chief Security Evangelist” at Saviynt. Over the past few years “Iran has been successful” in attacking a number of defense and civil aviation firms. Saviynt, based in El Segundo, helps organizations authenticate that people, software and systems accessing their networks are who and what they say they are, and not malicious actors.

Further, experts warn, Iran almost certainly has the cyber tools to inflict physical damage on US critical infrastructure. For example, Volere said, hacking the smart electrical grid could shut down power on the West Coast, or they could target military drones to crash them.

(Readers may remember that in 2011, Iran announced the capture of a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) near the city of Kashmar in northeastern Iran — with Tehran saying it was brought down by a military cyber warfare unit. And in 2012, Iran formally established a special high-level command for cyber war, led by the Revolutionary Guards and directly overseen by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.)



Rarely is there as much agreement about the importance of an emerging technology as exists today about artificial intelligence (AI). Rightly or wrongly, a 2019 survey of 1,000 members of the general population and 300 technology sector executives found that 91 percent of tech executives and 84 percent of the public believe that AI will constitute the next revolution in technology. Along with the public, companies, universities, civil society organizations, and governments are all rushing to understand exactly what sort of impact AI will have on their respective daily operations. Most people will not be AI experts, but just as military personnel, policymakers, and intelligence analysts in previous generations needed to adapt and learn the basics of electricity and combustion engines in order to drive national security forward then, the same will be true of AI now. A renewed emphasis on AI education for those that will make key decisions about programs, funding, and adoption is essential for safe and effective U.S. adoption of AI in the national security sphere.

Within the U.S. government, there are several ongoing initiatives designed to ensure U.S. leadership in technology development and adoption. The February 2019 White House strategy on AI, for example, backed by an executive order, demonstrates broad recognition of AI’s importance. Within the Defense Department, the creation of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant programs on AI highlight the military’s interest in AI. Moreover, U.S. leadership in AI may be one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill at present. The congressionally authorized National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which released its interim report in November 2019, is investigating how to ensure the United States remains the world leader in AI research and uses algorithms in a safe and effective way in multiple areas.

How one official wants to increase DHS cyber efficiency

Andrew Eversden
The new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency assistant director shared that adversaries switching up tactics are challenging CISA, which is looking to evolve how it collects and shares threat indicators. (JuSun)

The new assistant director for cybersecurity within the Department of Homeland Security has outlined his top priorities for making the agency more “effective and efficient.”

Bryan Ware, who replaced Jeanette Manfra as assistant director for cybersecurity at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said Jan. 14 at FedScoop’s Data Cloud Summit that CISA Director Chris Krebs tasked him with modernizing CISA’s legacy infrastructure and tackling some of the challenges the agency has with the data it collects.

At the heart of that is modernizing artificial intelligence and tools it uses to sift through data. There are big implications in that effort for CISA — charged with protecting critical infrastructure and federal networks from cyberattack — as the agency is already collecting significant net flow records every day: 55 billion, or almost two terabytes of data, Ware said. On top of that, he’s sharing millions of threat indicators weekly with intelligence companies and other industry stakeholders.

Windows 10 Has a Security Flaw So Severe the NSA Disclosed It

Microsoft released a patch for Windows 10 and Server 2016 today after the National Security Agency found and disclosed a serious vulnerability. It's a rare but not unprecedented tip-off, one that underscores the flaw's severity—and maybe hints at new priorities for the NSA.

The bug is in Windows' mechanism for confirming the legitimacy of software or establishing secure web connections. If the verification check itself isn't trustworthy, attackers can exploit that fact to remotely distribute malware or intercept sensitive data.

"[We are] recommending that network owners expedite implementation of the patch immediately as we will also be doing," Anne Neuberger, head of the NSA's Cybersecurity Directorate, said on a call with reporters on Tuesday. "When we identified a broad cryptographic vulnerability like this we quickly turned to work with the company to ensure that they could mitigate it."

When Both Sides Have Drones, How Do You Know Which Ones to Kill?

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In November, the Army hosted a test of Pierce Aerospace’s Flight Portal ID at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. A friendly drone was equipped with a Bluetooth beacon, then sent aloft with a host of enemies, company CEO Aaron Pierce said. Air-defense operators in a Stryker ground vehicle was able to down the “enemy” drones and avoid the friendly one, using a Northrop Grumman anti-drone system called the Sophisticated Counter Unmanned Systems Weapon Radio Frequency that includes a 30mm X 113mm chain gun and a LiteEye electronic warfare system.

Defense One reached out to the public affairs office at Fort Sill and did not immediately receive comment.

“This was the first time getting kinetic with FPID and the results were desirable. I had eyes on the operation from the pilots’ location watching multiple UAS fly down range from the Stryker’s position. I was enthused when the system engaged the hostile UAS with a high explosive round fired from the Chain Gun, leaving our friendly, FPID equipped UAS, to continue operating in an airspace that was no longer contested,” Pierce said in a statement.

Further research will in part ways to better secure the transmission between the beacon and the receiver. 

Today’s Army Is More Than Tanks, Bradleys, Army Secretary Says

Ryan D. McCarthy addressed Indo-Pacific region Army strategy at the nonprofit public policy organization today.

“Our modernization focus — how we fight, what we fight with and who we are — is in part driven by new challenges and potential adversaries,” he said.

The secretary said the Army remains ironclad in its priorities of readiness, modernization and reform, and the Army budget and investments are aligned with its priorities.

“In this era of great-power competition, China will emerge as America’s strategic threat,” McCarthy said. “Over 60% of the world’s [gross domestic product] flows through the Strait of Malacca, and China is militarizing the global commons.”

He noted that having the Army in that region of the world with modernized weaponry “changes the calculus and creates dilemmas for potential adversaries.”

Having the Army in the region also strengthens America’s position to conduct global commerce, build confidence with investors and compete economically, he added.

8 truths to remember before starting another military campaign

Eric Reid

The Founding Fathers had high hopes that military adventurism could be prevented through constitutional checks. As Alexander Hamilton wrote: “The legislature…will be obliged…every two years, to deliberate upon the propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter, by a formal vote in the face of their constituents…As often as the question comes forward, the public attention will be roused and attracted to the subject” (emphasis added). Hamilton was mistaken.

As the U.S. has preserved and expanded its global military posture, post-Cold War presidents of both parties have consistently committed the military abroad in an expanding series of campaigns or other obligations. These endeavors frequently lack a compelling enough relationship to American vital security interests to justify their costs and consequences.

Nonetheless, presidents are politically rewarded by rallying the nation around the flag during military crises, both real and contrived. Likewise, members of Congress perpetually seeking reelection are rewarded for pandering to military forces, veterans, and an influential defense industry. Admiring a military which they increasingly neither know nor understand, citizens uncritically support overseas uses of American force without demanding meaningful public discourse before the commitment of lives, treasure, and national reputation.