29 January 2020

20 years after Clinton’s pathbreaking trip to India, Trump contemplates one of his own

Bruce Riedel

President Trump is planning on a trip to India — probably next month, depending on his impeachment trial in the Senate. That will be almost exactly 20 years after President Clinton’s pathbreaking trip to India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan in March 2000. There are some interesting lessons to be learned from looking back.

Presidential travel to South Asia began with President Eisenhower in 1959, the first-ever voyage by Air Force One. Ike also visited Afghanistan and Pakistan. Jacky Kennedy visited India and Pakistan as first lady, as well. But it was not a frequent occurrence. After President Carter visited New Delhi in 1978, almost a quarter-century went by with no presidential travel to India — until Clinton’s trip. Clinton spent five days in India and did a day trip to Bangladesh from New Delhi, the only U.S. president ever to visit the capital of Dhaka.

The visit to India ended a turbulent period in America’s relationship with India following the Indian nuclear weapons tests in 1998. It also followed Clinton’s intervention in the 1999 Kargil War between India and Pakistan, which threatened to go nuclear. Clinton persuaded Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to withdraw his troops from territory seized by Pakistan in the spring of 1999. India was considering expanding the war outside Kashmir, and possibly blockading Karachi. Pakistan was preparing its nuclear arsenal for use. It was a perilous moment.

After Sharif backed down — something Clinton arranged in a summit at Blair House on July 4, 1999 — he was ousted in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf, who was the mastermind behind the Kargil fiasco. All American assistance to Pakistan was suspended.

African Democratisation and the One China Policy


Democracy in Africa is among the most contentious issues in the continent’s relationship with China. On one hand, many reform-minded scholars, international organisations, and western governments criticise the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for its indifference to the unsatisfactory levels of democracy within many of the African states it deals with. On the other hand, Rich and Banerjee (2015), who carried out a study seeking to identify variables which led African states to have relations with the PRC over Taiwan/Republic of China (ROC) and vice versa, found out that in the continent, Taiwan tended to be more recognised by states that were non-democratic. The paper does not elaborate on why, however; noting only a positive correlation. What mechanisms may underline such a phenomenon? Subsequent literature has likewise not answered this and has thus far placed much emphasis on the economic factors; namely, that African countries have recognised China because of its economic strengths and gains to be made from increased trade with it. As it stands, only a single state recognises Taiwan on the continent. However, the continent has had domestic governance changes that began in the 1990s – the so-called ‘Third Wave’ of democratisation (Huntington, 1991: 12) – and culminated in the 2000s, which merit analysis alongside the One China issue in Africa.

The Geopolitics of the Yangtze River: Wuhan's Rise

Editor's Note: In an effort to contain the outbreak of a deadly coronavirus strain, Chinese authorities have shut down all travel into and out of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province and a key logistical, manufacturing and research center on the Yangtze River. This assessment, originally published in April 2013, explores the strategic importance of the city to China.

In a sense, Wuhan is the heart of modern China. It is not the country's most important economic or cultural hub, and aside from a brief stint in the 1920s as the Nationalist Party government's capital, it has never been China's official political center. But while Wuhan wields less heft than Beijing, Shanghai or Chongqing, its location at the intersection of the country's most important transport routes gives it a different kind of strategic significance for the Communist Party.

Situated at a bend in the Yangtze River near the geographic center of Han China, Wuhan is a natural transportation crossroads. From west to east, it binds the upper and lower stretches of the Yangtze together, serving as the intermediary for goods passing between the Sichuan Basin — western China's industrial powerhouse — and the Yangtze River Delta. From north to south, it anchors the Beijing-Guangzhou railway, a 2,324-kilometer-long (1,444-mile-long) trunk line that gives China's traditional political core, the North China Plain, direct access to the prosperous but historically restive Guangdong province.

The Fate of the China-Russia Alliance

by Lyle J. Goldstein
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Even as Democrats bash the Republicans for being too soft on the Kremlin, the Republicans are inclined to point out that the Obama administration was far too accommodating of China. After all, President Barack Obama prioritized the climate change issue that necessitated a high degree of cooperation with Beijing. Yet in today’s toxic partisan warfare, a winning electoral strategy will be to declare the political opponent as insufficiently xenophobic and thus lacking “true” patriotism.

These days, many people in the Washington foreign policy establishment seem to agree that most of the world’s problems can be put down to either Beijing’s purported insistence on building a new, nefarious world order comprising “all under heaven,” or Moscow’s wily attempts to spread its tentacles everywhere from Madagascar to Libya and possibly even America. Thus, Russian “stooges” and Chinese “useful idiots” are lingering around every corner, so it seems. Even those arguing against a conflict with Iran may find the great-power competition concept useful to the extent that yet another war in the Middle East could dangerously distract the United States from the “main event” in either East Asia or in Eastern Europe.

Opinion – Challenges for Oman’s New Sultan

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Sultan Qaboos of Oman passed away on Friday, 10 January, ending his 50 year-rule since 1970. He had been the longest-serving ruler in the Arab world. Haitham bin Tariq Al Said was agreed to be appointed as the new Sultan by the Defence Council and the country’s Royal Family. The country faced both difficult and prosperous times under Sultan Qaboos’s rule. His father, who had been considered eccentric after surviving an assassination attempt by Communist rebels, had not effectively responded to the politics of the time, thereby isolating Oman from the rest of the world and generating many internal problems for it. Under this political atmosphere, Sultan Qaboos, who was young, energetic, and supported by the British, removed his father from the throne in 1970 through a bloodless coup and declared himself the new Sultan with promises of modernising the country. He dealt with a civil war and an underdeveloped country during the first years of his reign. By the time of his passing, he had not only consolidated his power but also achieved noteworthy development of his country thanks to oil revenues. Qaboos’s reign is known by state elites as the “Omani Renaissance” and is praised at every possible opportunity.

Recently, however, Sultan Qaboos faced unrest because of the increasing unemployment rate, especially amongst university graduates, compounded by political demands which became more visible with the Arab Spring protests. If there was one thing that Oman has succeeded at most under Sultan Qaboos, it is the delivery of non-interference and impartial, mediating policies in international affairs. With the death of Sultan Qaboos, the challenges of unemployment and human rights, coupled with recent successes in the international arena, will shape the politics of the new Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said. Most probably, he will have to follow and acknowledge the achievements and policies of Sultan Qaboos, while, at the same time, presenting to his nation his own vision and plans for responding to the challenges of both domestic and international policies.

Striking Oil Ain’t What It Used to Be

By Amy Myers Jaffe 

On January 7, the oil and gas companies Apache Corporation and Total SA announced a major oil find off the coast of Suriname, not far from enormous offshore deposits in neighboring Guyana discovered by ExxonMobil last year. The size of the Suriname discovery is yet to be determined, but it could be large enough to transform the small South American country, where per capita income is less than $6,000. Just three months prior on the other side of the Atlantic, the British oil major BP announced the largest natural gas discovery of 2019: the energy equivalent of 1.3 billion barrels of oil lies waiting to be extracted off the coast of Mauritania, more than enough to support a liquefied natural gas (LNG) hub. And the same year in Mozambique, Total acquired a $3.9 billion stake in an LNG project whose total cost will likely dwarf that country’s national economy.

At a time when many countries are finally trying to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, the world is suddenly awash in oil and gas discoveries. But for the countries with the newest finds, many of them in Africa and South America, mineral wealth may not be the bonanza it was in decades past. Large oil and gas companies see long-term prices trending downward. As a result, they are investing in fields that can be brought into production quickly instead of developing expensive, far-flung reserves. Global natural gas markets, in particular, face a huge glut of resources and projects that must compete against the falling price of renewable energy technologies. As a result, Suriname, Guyana, Mauritania, Mozambique, and a handful of other developing countries with recent fossil fuel finds are in a desperate race against time.


As Trump says injuries suffered by U.S. troops in Iranian attack are ‘not very serious,’ Pentagon offers few details

Dan Lamothe

President Trump on Wednesday addressed injuries suffered by U.S. troops in Iran’s recent ballistic missile attacks in Iraq, saying that he can report “it is not very serious” and that defense officials told him about them days after the fact.

“I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things,” the president said. “But I would say, and I can report, it is not very serious, not very serious.”

The comments came after the Pentagon acknowledged Tuesday evening that more U.S. service members have been removed from Iraq for treatment and testing after experiencing concussion-like symptoms caused by the Jan. 8 attack on al-Asad air base in Iraq in which 11 ballistic missiles caused massive explosions and deep craters and left charred wreckage.

Trump and defense officials initially said that no one was injured, but the Pentagon reported last week that 11 service members had been flown out of Iraq to receive follow-up treatment. Defense officials said Tuesday that even more had left, but they declined to say how many or to address questions about whether anyone has been sent back to the United States or been returned to duty.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, a senior commander for the U.S. mission in Iraq and Syria, told reporters outside Washington on Wednesday that he thinks the number of service members who will need treatment is “in the teens.” He said that they were “looked at for TBI,” an acronym for traumatic brain injury that can range from a mild concussion to something more serious.

34 Injured in Iran Attack, Pentagon Now Says; Launches a Review of Reporting Procedures

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SecDef Mark Esper ordered a review of “processes for tracking and reporting injuries” after criticism in the wake of the Iranian missile attack.

Thirty-four U.S. troops have been diagnosed with concussions and other traumatic brain injuries suffered in the Jan. 8 Iranian missile attack in Iraq, senior Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Friday. 

Of those, 17 have returned to active duty, Hoffman said. Eight arrived in the United States today for continuing out-patient treatment, and nine remain at the medical facility in Landstuhl, Germany. Sixteen were diagnosed in Iraq, remained there, and have since returned to active duty. 

Hoffman described those figures as a “snapshot in time” and said they could change in coming days. 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered a review of “processes for tracking and reporting injuries,” Hoffman said. 

The Bezos Hack and the Dangers of Spyware in the Hands of Autocrats

Candace Rondeaux 

The stunning allegation this week that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hacked the phone of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, according to a report by United Nations investigators, may come as a shock to some. But for most people tracking the rise of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler over the past five years, it’s business as usual. From his disastrous proxy war in Yemen to the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, the young crown prince, known as MBS, has demonstrated time and again his hubristic belief that there are no limits to his power.

What is more shocking is that anyone truly believes that another investigation into Saudi malfeasance will curb the use of spyware by autocratic governments against their perceived critics at home and abroad. To be sure, for the sake of accountability, the FBI should heed the call by U.N. experts Agnes Callamard and David Kaye to open an investigation into how the heir to the Saudi kingdom apparently used Israeli-made spyware to breach the personal phone of the world’s richest man, who owns a leading American newspaper and runs one of the world’s most valuable publicly traded companies. But in the grand scheme of things, investigating the hack of Bezos’ phone might not make all that much difference in preventing these kinds of abuses.

From Bezos to bots, cyber espionage is fraying the world order


The rising importance of cyber warfare has, as we've seen with regards to the West's relations with Russia in particular, increasingly blurred the line between war and peace. Where once an aggressive act – shooting down a plane, landing troops on a beach, manoeuvring missiles into an offensive position – was clear and obvious, things are not now so clear cut.

Are troll farms and bot attacks acts of war? How should we react to attempts at election rigging? Or cyber hacking?

All of these are undoubtedly unfriendly. But just how unfriendly? Where war was once a black and white issue, there are now increasing shades of grey.

Iran Has a Bitcoin Strategy to Beat Trump

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In narrow terms, the economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran in the last two years have been effective, shrinking the Iranian economy by 10 to 20 percent. But they have also accelerated Iran’s use of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which are increasingly used by the Iranian government and public to evade legal barriers. This has led to an attempted crackdown on bitcoin by international regulators—but the cryptocurrency industry is proving more nimble than the enforcers of sanctions.

The Iranian government has long had an interest in using cryptocurrencies to support international trade outside of the traditional banking system. In July 2018, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration declared its intention of launching a national cryptocurrency; one month later, a news agency affiliated with the Central Bank of Iran outlined multiple features of the national cryptocurrency, stating that it would be backed by the rial—Iran’s national currency. Multiple blockchain projects—developing the underlying technology for cryptocurrencies—were revealed by the central bank at a digital payments conference last year, one of which is reportedly already being tested by four Iranian banks (three of which are under sanctions).

What new documents say about US-partner cyber operations

Mark Pomerleau

Cyber operations were given their first big real-world test in November 2016, during the Department of Defense’s largest cyber operation to date. Now newly released documents reveal that U.S. Cyber Command proposed passing some targets to coalition partners — information typically held closely.

The documents, released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request from the National Security Archive at George Washington University, are a series of internal briefings and lessons from Operation Glowing Symphony. The operation was part of the larger counter-ISIS operations — Joint Task Force-Ares — but specifically targeted ISIS’s media and online operations, taking out infrastructure and preventing ISIS members from communicating and posting propaganda.

New documents received via the Freedom of Information Act reveal new details regarding Operation Glowing Symphony, Cyber Command's largest operation to date.

The WTO's Existential Crisis: How to Salvage Its Ability to Settle Trade Disputes

Jeffrey J. Schott (PIIE) and Euijin Jung (PIIE)

US refusal to allow the appointment of new judges (or members) to the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body—a key component of its renowned dispute settlement system—has pushed the organization into an existential crisis. The Appellate Body no longer has the requisite number of members to hear new cases on appeal. The terms of two of the three remaining members have expired, leaving the WTO without an appeal function. US officials charge that certain Appellate Body decisions on WTO dispute panel rulings have expanded WTO obligations and constrained WTO rights—what trade lawyers call “judicial overreach”—and so they have blocked the appointment of new Appellate Body members until other WTO countries address US complaints. Schott and Jung analyze the WTO cases brought against the United States and find that the problem of judicial overreach seems to surface primarily in a subset of US losses in antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) cases that target specific methods of calculating dumping margins. They warn that disabling the whole appellate system is a disproportionate response to the specific problem. It will weaken enforcement of WTO obligations and undermine prospects for negotiations to update the WTO rulebook, thus corroding the rules-based trading system, one that has been modeled on US law and practice. A better approach would be to exempt AD/CVD cases from appellate review (while still subjecting them to dispute panel rulings). This targeted change in the WTO Appellate Body process, coupled with procedural reforms already advanced in proposals that have been widely supported by WTO members, could mitigate US concerns and allow the Appellate Body to be repopulated.

Brexit Will Be Britain's Never-Ending Story

by Peter Harris

At the end of this month, Britain will formally leave the European Union (EU). Regardless of whether Big Ben “bongs” in celebration of the occasion, there will be a shared sense of relief that the long-running and rancorous debate over how to move ahead with Brexit is coming to a close. Even those who have steadfastly opposed Britain’s exit from the EU will surely be glad that, at last, the national conversation can now take a new and more hopeful turn.

But “Brexit Day” will provide only a momentary reprieve, if it brings even that. The reality is that leaving the EU is a process, not an event. On February 1, Britons will still awake to newspapers that are filled Brexit-related headlines. And while Prime Minister Boris Johnson will no doubt claim to have made good on his recent promise to “get Brexit done,” his government must nevertheless spend the rest of this year hammering out a permanent relationship between London and the EU. It will be impossible for Johnson to carry out this immense task without inviting severe criticism from domestic groups across the political spectrum. And all of this before the economic impact of leaving the EU has properly begun to be felt.

This Man Is Trump's Biggest Problem in the Middle East

by Daniel R. DePetris
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The United States has a big problem in the Middle East. His name: Mohammed Bin Salman.

The young Saudi crown prince once praised by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as an Arab version of Nelson Mandela (my words, not his) is back in the news again. And as has become common fare for Bin Salman, the news is all negative.

Last week’s report that Saudi Arabia hacked Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s cell phone and later attempted to blackmail the multi-billionaire into silencing criticism of the kingdom read like a Tom Clancy spy novel. But sure enough, it was real. 

"The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia,” U.N. special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye wrote in a joint statement on January 22. “The allegations reinforce other reporting pointing to a pattern of targeted surveillance of perceived opponents and those of broader strategic importance to the Saudi authorities, including nationals and non-nationals.”

How Washington's Infinite CAATSA Sanctions May Actually Help Russia Sell More Weapons

by Stratfor Worldview
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In the competition to sell arms around the world, the United States and Russia are on a collision course. And in this battle, the former happens to have a trick up its sleeve: the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a law that gives Washington the ability to impose punitive measures on countries that purchase weaponry from Moscow and, in theory, tilt the playing field in its favor. In the year to come, however, the CAATSA threat might not land the United States all the arms business it is expecting; indeed, in chafing at America's heavy-handed approach, plenty of middle powers could spurn Washington in favor of other suppliers — or even Russia itself.

Trump's 'Buy American' Push

When Donald Trump took over as U.S. president in 2017, he ushered in a significant shift in the United States' arms exports. While past administrations had typically taken into consideration the interests of the U.S. defense industry when formulating foreign policy, the Trump administration has put the sector at the forefront of its approach. A few months into Trump's presidency, the United States approved a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain by dropping the previous human rights conditions that had slowed down the deal. The White House subsequently proceeded with several other big arms sales to Saudi Arabia, overriding not only restrictions imposed by the Obama administration on certain weapons but also pushing past Congress by declaring a national emergency after lawmakers blocked arms sales to Riyadh over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. 

The Twin Rise of Populism and Authoritarianism

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

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

5 reasons why US-Europe tensions will grow in the 2020s — and how to stop it


The United States’s strike on an Iranian commander opened another rift with its European allies. Transatlantic relations are at a low. From Iran to trade with China to climate change, the two sides of the Atlantic disagree: the West is split. 

Many in Europe blame President Trump for the situation — and, indeed, the Trump administration clearly bears some responsibility. But transatlantic tensions run much deeper than America's 45th president. Without corrective action, the U.S. and Europe will drift further apart over the 2020s, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

U.S. tensions with Europe are not new. The Iraq War famously divided the Atlantic partners. But previous fallouts have been over policy. Today, the very concept and value of the transatlantic alliance is questioned. Donald Trump is the first modern U.S. president to undermine, rather than encourage, European integration; to view the European Union as a threat instead of an ally; to inject conditionality and uncertainty into NATO.

Brexit Could Spark a Return to Violence in Northern Ireland

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The conflict in Northern Ireland was thought to have ended with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The Troubles—as the conflict is known colloquially—was a low-level ethnonationalist war fought between militant republicans (who strove to unify Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland) on one side and militant loyalists (who wanted to preserve the union between Northern Ireland and Britain) on the other.

The conflict left more than 3,600 people dead, mostly at the hands of republican paramilitaries such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and their loyalist counterparts in the Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force. When the Good Friday Agreement went into effect, the bulk of those organizations ceased to operate, but a few small splinter groups continued to wage low-level campaigns of violence.

Splinter groups are common in post-conflict settings, and they typically wield outsized influence, because, even if an all-encompassing political settlement is reached, the infrastructure for terrorism is still readily available. Paramilitaries usually retain access to at least some weapons, and the institutional memory of intelligence techniques, operational security, and critical skills like bomb-making and surveillance detection is passed on. Politics plays a role, too.

Africa Is a Continent on the Brink ... but of What?

It makes sense that a continent home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people would also house a mass of contradictory developments. Africa features several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a burgeoning middle class. But much of the continent remains mired in debt, ravaged by conflict, disease or terrorism, and plagued by elites clinging to power.

Even as economies expand, people are driven to migrate—either within Africa or across continental borders—because of humanitarian catastrophes or because opportunities are not coming fast enough for everyone. Yet, many remain behind and look to disrupt the status quo. Civilian-led reform movements toppled regimes in Algeria and Sudan last year.

From a geopolitical perspective, European nations and the United States are looking to shore up bilateral trade across the continent. These moves are driven both by an interest in spurring individual economies to help stem migration flows, but also to counter China’s growing presence in Africa. On the back of its Belt and Road Initiative, China has been leveraging infrastructure financing deals for access to resources and increasing influence.

Artificial Intelligence and the Manufacturing of Reality

by Christopher Paul and Marek N. Posard

In 2016, a third of surveyed Americans told researchers they believed the government was concealing what they knew about the “North Dakota Crash,” a conspiracy made up for the purposes of the survey by the researchers themselves. This crash never happened, but it highlights the flaws humans carry with them in deciding what is or is not real.

The internet and other technologies have made it easier to weaponize and exploit these flaws, beguiling more people faster and more compellingly than ever before. It is likely artificial intelligence will be used to exploit the weaknesses inherent in human nature at a scale, speed, and level of effectiveness previously unseen. Adversaries like Russia could pursue goals for using these manipulations to subtly reshape how targets view the world around them, effectively manufacturing their reality. If even some of our predictions are accurate, all governance reliant on public opinion, mass perception, or citizen participation is at risk.

One characteristic human foible is how easily we can falsely redefine what we experience. This flaw, called the Thomas Theorem, suggests, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”[1] Put another way, humans not only respond to the objective features of their situations but also to their own subjective interpretations of those situations, even when these beliefs are factually wrong. Other shortcomings include our willingness to believe information that is not true and a propensity to be as easily influenced by emotional appeals as reason, as demonstrated by the “North Dakota Crash” falsehood.[2]

The case for AI transparency requirements

Alex Engler

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


We are nearing a new age of ubiquitous AI. Between our smartphones, computers, cars, homes, the internet of things, and social media, the average citizen of developed countries might interact with some sort of AI system dozens of times every day. Many of these applications will be helpful, too. Everyone will welcome better automated customer service, where you can get accurate and thorough answers to questions about complex topics. For example, soon, it might be easy for AI to convey what your health insurance actually covers, based on a database of similar prior claims.

ABMS Demos Speed New Capabilities To Warfighters

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Advanced Battle Management System Overview

WASHINGTON: Keen to build support for its Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) for command and control of future multi-domain operations, the Air Force will let combatant commands “walk away” with and field emerging technologies tested in its quarterly series of exercises, senior officials say.

“The whole plan here is that If something is built and that warfighter says ‘I like that; I’m good with that 10 percent or 20 percent solution,’ we want to be able to let them go home with it,” Preston Dunlap, the Air Force’s Chief Architect, told reporters today in a briefing with Will Roper, the service’s acquisition chief.

Another goal of the ABMS exercises is to demonstrate how existing platforms can be upgraded to allowing them to communicate machine-to-machine with each other, sensors such as satellites and soldiers on the field. The capability to communicate in near-real time is the linchpin in DoD’s evolving concept for MDO.

Crippling the capacity of the National Security Council

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas

@kdtenpasThe Trump administration’s first three years saw record-setting turnover at the most senior level of the White House staff and the Cabinet. There are also numerous vacancies in Senate-confirmed positions across the executive branch. As of September 22, 2019, the turnover rate among senior White House aides had reached 80 percent, a rate that exceeded President Trump’s five predecessors after their entire first terms in office. The frequent departure of senior staff has been one of the most noteworthy features of this administration.

My previous analysis examined the first instance of turnover on the president’s “A Team,” and includes 65 individuals in key White House offices e.g., Legislative Affairs, White House Counsel, as well as the Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Council (NSC) and smaller entities. Senior level departures were so frequent that I created a table that documents serial turnover (repeat instances of turnover in particular offices). As of January 2020, over 1/3 of the offices experiencing turnover had more than two occupants—in some cases, as many as six. The most upheaval has occurred in the NSC, a highly influential office that provides the president with advice on national security and foreign policy issues and coordinates these policies with other key departments and agencies, including State, Defense, Homeland Security and the CIA.

Whoever leads in artificial intelligence in 2030 will rule the world until 2100

Indermit Gill

Acouple of years ago, Vladimir Putin warned Russians that the country that led in technologies using artificial intelligence will dominate the globe. He was right to be worried. Russia is now a minor player, and the race seems now to be mainly between the United States and China. But don’t count out the European Union just yet; the EU is still a fifth of the world economy, and it has underappreciated strengths. Technological leadership will require big digital investments, rapid business process innovation, and efficient tax and transfer systems. China appears to have the edge in the first, the U.S. in the second, and Western Europe in the third. One out of three won’t do, and even two out three will not be enough; whoever does all three best will dominate the rest.

We are on the cusp of colossal changes. But you don’t have to take Mr. Putin’s word for it, nor mine. This is what Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and a serious student of the effects of digital technologies, says:

“This is a moment of choice and opportunity. It could be the best 10 years ahead of us that we have ever had in human history or one of the worst, because we have more power than we have ever had before.”

What new documents reveal about Cyber Command’s biggest operation

Mark Pomerleau

New documents provide insight into the growing pains U.S. Cyber Command faced in building a force while simultaneously conducting operations.

The documents, which were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request from the National Security Archive at George Washington University and later shared with journalists, are a series of internal briefings and lessons from the Defense Department’s most complex cyber operation at the time, Operation Glowing Symphony.

That operation was part of the larger counter-ISIS operations — Joint Task Force-Ares — but specifically targeted ISIS’s media and online operations, taking out infrastructure and preventing ISIS members from communicating and posting propaganda.

While Cyber Command described the operation, which took place in November of 2016, as a victory in the sense that it “successfully contested [ISIS] in the information domain,” the documents demonstrate the extent to which the command was still learning how to conduct operations and the exact steps to follow.

Future battles will require these 5 pillars of cyber resilience

Mark Vriesenga

Imagine a brigade combat team deploying into a heavily contested cyber environment where soldiers and commanders must conduct operations, fight, and win while continuing to protect the information and networks they use. This scenario happens in today’s war, but how can soldiers move, shoot, and communicate with yesterday’s approach to cyber hardening platforms?

Today’s systems (satellites, aircraft, surface ships, ground vehicles, and subsurface vehicles) have large numbers of electronic components including microprocessors, microcontrollers, sensors, actuators, and internal (onboard) and external (off-board) communication networks. Hardening and securing these systems is currently performed using checklist approaches like the Risk Management Framework (RMF) that derive from decades of information technology best practices. Over the last decade, these techniques have served these industries well and have protected platform operators from harm. However, more sophisticated cyberattacks are challenging the military and industry every day, proving that defense-in-depth solutions are not enough to evade and recover from tomorrow’s adversarial attack.

Shifting Cyber Perspective

How military hacking can improve

Mark Pomerleau

It’s not just the United States that has unique offensive cyber capabilities.

In a March 27 speech, Mike Burgess, Australia’s director general of the Australia Signals Directorate, detailed how his government’s hackers conducted operations against ISIS in Syria to aid military ground forces as part of the global coalition to defeat the terrorist group.

Burgess said this was “the first time that an offensive cyber operation had been conducted so closely synchronized with the movements of military personnel in theater.”

The Australian offensive cyber operation took place in conjunction with a ground raid on an Islamic State position and degraded ISIS communications 11,000 km from the battlespace so commanders couldn’t connect to the internet or communicate with each other.

The operation is similar to those described by U.S. officials, who have detailed operations conducted by U.S. Cyber Command as well as partner forces supporting ground operations as part of the coalition.

Here's How We Can Stop The Coming Space Arms Race

by Su-Yin Lew
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Laws and regulations covering outer space are mired in geopolitical gridlock and are failing to keep pace with burgeoning commercial use of space and new technologies. Dependency on space is increasing both in everyday civilian life and military applications, yet, despite its cross-cutting importance, space security continues to be considered a niche field.

While outer space is often conceptualised as infinite, space that can be used for human activities is a finite resource, much like minerals or fossil fuels. Earth orbits where human space activities in telecommunications, geolocation or satellite broadband can occur are limited in range. In low-earth orbit (LEO), where most space activities and satellites are located, objects ranging in size from a fleck of paint to a school bus are components of the growing amount of space debris. Tracking capabilities can cover only a fraction of those objects.

Think of the earth’s orbits as highways in space, where traffic and congestion are rapidly increasing without the road rules to match. It’s a potential minefield of problems, as collision with debris poses a risk to spacecraft that in worst-case scenarios can escalate into a domino cascade of collisions known as the Kessler effect. As with all limited resources, exercising sustainable practice is key. A failure to manage and minimise space debris will reduce the long-term viability of satellites in LEO and render outer space less usable for future generations.

The Killer Algorithms Nobody’s Talking About

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This past fall, diplomats from around the globe gathered in Geneva to do something about killer robots. In a result that surprised nobody, they failed.

The formal debate over lethal autonomous weapons systems—machines that can select and fire at targets on their own—began in earnest about half a decade ago under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the international community’s principal mechanism for banning systems and devices deemed too hellish for use in war. But despite yearly meetings, the CCW has yet to agree what “lethal autonomous weapons” even are, let alone set a blueprint for how to rein them in.

Meanwhile, the technology is advancing ferociously; militaries aren’t going to wait for delegates to pin down the exact meaning of slippery terms such as “meaningful human control” before sending advanced warbots to battle.

To be sure, that’s a nightmarish prospect. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, echoing a growing chorus of governments, think tanks, academics, and technologists, has called such weapons “politically unacceptable” and “morally repugnant.” But this all overlooks an equally urgent menace: autonomous systems that are not in themselves lethal but rather act as a key accessory to human violence.