30 January 2020

A New Look At Ritwik Ghatak’s Bengal

Ratik Asokan
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In February 1972, three months after the close of East Pakistan’s bloody war of secession, the Indian filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak traveled to Dhaka, capital of the new nation of Bangladesh, as a state guest. It was a kind of homecoming. Born in 1925 in the eastern part of Bengal province, then an undivided state in British-ruled India, Ghatak grew up in the region before he relocated west to Calcutta in the early 1940s. Since 1947, when the province was split in two during Partition, its western half going to India and eastern half to Pakistan, he had not returned east.

As his flight crossed over the River Padma, which runs down Bangladesh, and on whose banks Ghatak had played as a child, the director was so moved that he burst into tears. “I felt that Bengal in plenty and beauty as I knew her years back was still there untransformed,” he recalled years later. Inspired, he returned to Bangladesh the same year to shoot a film, his first in a decade, A River Called Titas. But up close, he saw that the world of his childhood had all but disappeared. “Everything has changed out of recognition—people’s thought, mind, and soul,” he admitted. “They have lost culture.”

Afghanistan at an Impasse

Joseph J. Collins
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The war in Afghanistan is at an impasse. The current and next U.S. administrations will have to grapple with the aftereffects of an 18-year campaign in a country that has been at war for over 40 years. The war in the field is a stalemate. Neither side seems able to win. At home and abroad, among friends and even some enemies, war weariness and a desire for peace is very much in evidence, even as the fighting continues. Neither side has been able to find a path to a negotiated settlement.

The Taliban refuses to even talk to the Afghan government, which they characterize as a puppet of the United States. At the same time, it is doubtful that the Taliban ideology would tolerate participation in democratic power sharing or electoral politics. Human rights remains another sticking point. While the sharia-bound Taliban suggest that they are more enlightened than in the past, the ambiguity in their statements and distrust among the populace is at a high level. As one female judge hiding from Taliban noted, "A Talib is a Talib …. They have proven what type of people they are, what their ideology is. And if they return with the same ideology, everything will be the same again.”[1]

The roots of the conflict are deep and include ethnic strife and contending interests and policies from Pakistan, Iran, India, and others. After 20 years of aid, the Afghan government cannot stand on its own politically, economically, or militarily. To achieve its ends, the United States must avoid impatience, stay true to its goals, and develop a strategy to bring about a stable, enduring peace. Like most things in Afghanistan, it will be extremely difficult.

The Wuhan Virus: How to Stay Safe

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As the new Wuhan coronavirus has spread not only all over mainland China, but also worldwide, panic is rising. Inside China there is a growing sense of helplessness, as the government is compelled to take drastic measures to stop the virus, including introducing some travel restrictions in Beijing. I have received panicked queries from journalists and public health workers in China, asking, “How can we protect ourselves and our families?”

The epidemic could have been controlled fairly easily three weeks ago had there been more openness, swift action, and no attempted cover-up. But now it’s too late, and this virus is spreading globally. Because there is no vaccine or treatment for nCoV2019—the Wuhan pneumonia—and infection has spread throughout China, the government is forced to turn to its 2003 SARS playbook. And that means entire cities must be cut off, and the population of the nation must be restricted in its movements and potential disease-spreading behavior. It is not surprising then that travel out of Beijing may be forbidden; the entire mainland could go on lockdown soon.

How to Tell What’s Really Happening With the Wuhan Virus


It’s Lunar New Year, usually a time of celebration in China, but instead of heading into the streets to let off fireworks, people are staying at home out of fear of contracting a fast-spreading coronavirus. The quarantine in China has now extended to nearly 50 million people, as sweeping restrictions on travel are expanding daily out from the epicenter of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan. These include bans on tour groups across the country, on long-distance travel in some cities, and on private transport in the center of Wuhan itself. The number of officially confirmed cases has reached 2,018, and continues to rise fast, with at least 56 dead, mostly elderly. China is struggling to cope with its worst health crisis since SARS in 2003, amid fears that Lunar New Year travel has already spread the infection far and wide. Every province and region in China, barring Tibet which is geographically and politically isolated, has had cases of the virus. The United States has sent charter planes to evacuate its approximately 1,000 citizens and consular staff from the quarantine zone.
Is the quarantine working?

It’s too soon to tell, but quite probably not. The confirmed numbers may be just a fraction of the real total of infected victims, with many not yet diagnosed or even showing symptoms. But the biggest problem is that the long incubation period means hundreds of thousands of people left Wuhan long before the virus was seen as a major problem—especially as the Lunar New Year, when hundreds of millions of people return to their families across China, was coming up. A lot now depends on where they ended up. The constant expansion of the quarantine zone, which now covers a huge chunk of the central Chinese province of Hubei, suggests that local transmission may have been fierce and fast, outrunning the authorities. Modeling by foreign scientists is producing disturbing results—250,000 or more infected inside Wuhan and large outbreaks elsewhere, with 60 percent or more of possible transmissions needing to be blocked to contain the outbreak. [The authors of the original paper have since revised their estimations of the transmission rate down, though have not yet produced new figures for likely infections.]

Global Shipping Would Be The First Victim Of A U.S.-Iran War

by Sidharth Kaushal
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The recent mining of two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, attributed to Iran by the United States, offers an important window into the strategic thinking of Iran and similarly situated regional powers. The incident is notable because the act of mining a limited number of vessels makes relatively little sense when viewed through the lens of traditional patterns of coercive behavior. Limited coercive acts typically have little value with regards to gaining concessions from a determined opponent. Generally, these acts may serve as a visible demonstration of a state’s willingness to enact some other, more substantial threat, such as shutting down the Strait of Hormuz outright. However, this requires the state making the threat to have the capacity to make good on its more substantial threats and for its opponents to believe that it is willing to incur the risks entailed. Iran, however, could not shut down the Strait of Hormuz for very long even if it wished to—something noted by President Donald Trump—and is unlikely to incur the substantial risks that an attempt would entail. Iran’s opponents, then, clearly don’t see its limited provocations as harbingers of something worse.

If Iran cannot shut down the Strait of Hormuz, or convince either the United States or its regional allies such as Saudi Arabia that it can do so, then it becomes attendant to ask what the value of limited coercive acts is. One argument goes that limited actions can achieve disruption and price spikes with regards to oil irrespective of whether Iran can shut down the Strait o Hormuz. However, it is unclear how this would help coerce either the United States or Iran’s regional adversaries. Driving up the price of oil globally does not hurt regional countries, which rank among the world’s major oil producers, and will likely have mixed effects on the economic health of the United States, which is an increasingly large player in the energy market. To the extent that limited attacks could serve a coercive role, it would be as costly signals of Iran’s willingness to shut down the Strait of Hormuz entirely—something that would have a major effect on regional powers which rely on the straits for up to 90 percent of their imports and exports. Given that Iran’s ability to sustain such an operation is limited, however, and given that shutting down the Strait of Hormuz entirely entails unacceptable escalatory risks , it is unclear why decisionmakers in Tehran would expect their counterparts in Riyadh or Washington to treat the threat to do so as being credible irrespective of Iran’s limited provocations. Even if leaders worry that they might have miscalculated Tehran’s intentions, the fact remains that Iran’s capabilities cannot sustain the closure of the Strait of Hormuz for a prolonged period of time. To make this threat credible then, Iran’s likely opponents would have to believe that Iran would risk heavy retaliation, the possible dismantlement of IRGCN facilities at Abu Musa and Farsi and a postwar settlement which would almost certainly be negative in order to create a temporary closure of the Strait of Hormuz.

Why Did Iran Finally Tell the Truth About Accidentally Shooting Down Flight 752?

After three days of denial, it was a stunning about-face. On Jan. 11, Iran's Armed Forces General Staff admitted that one of its surface-to-air missile systems had shot down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 due to human error. The full acknowledgment turned heads, yet there was a reason for Iran's reversal: The country has no desire to turn itself into an international pariah, but would rather find a way to engage with the rest of the globe, limit the impact of U.S. sanctions and negotiate with the West. The frank admission goes to show that such strategic goals influence many of Iran's choices — including its volte-face on the aviation disaster.

The Limits of Denial

It is not common for countries to quickly offer a mea culpa after accidentally downing civilian aircraft. The most recent comparable incident was the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014. A Dutch-led investigative team concluded that pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine used a Russian surface-to-air missile to down the plane during its Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight; more than half a decade on, Russia continues to deny any involvement. The reasons to admit responsibility can vary, but for Tehran, domestic concerns and worries about potential legal quarrels down the road ultimately tipped the balance.

Iraq: Time for A Different Approach

As cold weather blows into Iraq, it appears the fires of passion, energy and commitment to change will not be dampened after months of protests. The protests are about the deteriorating situation in Iraq including lack of essential services, rampant corruption and high unemployment rates. The government representatives elected in 2018, have tried a number of tactics to stop the protests, which continue into 2020. Their demands are the same, they demand a complete overhaul of the current political system and politicians in their country to effect significant change.

However, no definitive action, new policies or programs have been created. The reprisals continue against those protesting and reporting on the cathartic events happening everyday in various parts of Iraq. Those governing continue to authorize the use of "excessive force” in spite of international pressure and condemnation of violence against the mostly peaceful protests. Reports from Iraqi medical sources state as of December 2019, 19,000 have been wounded, over 500 people killed, 2,800 known arrests, internet access and social media platforms have deliberately been restricted.

Islamic Republic of Iran’s Strategic Culture and National Security Analysis

Euan Findlater
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The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has a strategic culture that is a confluence of and contestation between history, ideology, religion and modernity. Together, these influences shape Iranian national security outlook, setting, and implementation. The ultimate strategic goals and objectives of Iran are to:

Safeguard the IRI regime, national sovereignty, security, and prosperity, as well as revolutionary ideals, by diffusing and defeating both internal and external threats.

Enhance IRI’s role and influence as a genuine regional and global power in keeping with Iran’s size, capabilities and historical experience.

Achieve IRI’s comprehensive and sustainable long-term development culturally, politically, economically and militarily through the balancing of resources and strategic limitations and by improving geopolitical calculations, stature and engagement.

To achieve these ends, Iran currently acts on a strategic spectrum from historical nationalism, religion and political ideology to modernisation, moderation and pragmatism.

Influences, Motivations and Factors

Israel is the Proof: Walls Work

by Victor Davis Hanson
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Whether by accident or by deliberate osmosis, Israel and the U.S. have adopted similar solutions to their existential problems.

Before 2002, during the various Palestinian intifadas, Israel suffered hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries from suicide bombers freely crossing from the West Bank and Gaza into Israel.

In response, Israel planned a vast border barrier. The international community was outraged. The Israeli left called the idea nothing short of “apartheid.”

However, after the completion of the 440-mile border barrier—part concrete well, part wire fencing—suicide bombings and terrorist incursions into Israel declined to almost nil.

The wall was not entirely responsible for enhanced Israeli security. But it freed up border manpower to patrol more vigorously. The barrier also was integrated with electronic surveillance and tougher laws against illegal immigration.

The cyberwar with Iran is already a decade old: So where does it go now?


In the past weeks, much attention has gone toward the possibility of tensions with Iran spilling over into cyberspace. But the reality is that cyber warfare with Iran is already more than a decade old. The question is not, “Could it happen?” but instead, “What will the next chapter bring?”

The origin of a cyberwar with Iran can be traced back to the 2009 Stuxnet attack on Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant which disrupted its development of nuclear weapons. The attack has largely been attributed to Israel and the United States. Since that time, Iran, which presently does not have the sophisticated cyberwarfare capabilities of the United States, Russia and China, has nonetheless vastly expanded its cyberwarfare program.

In 2012 and 2013, Iranian hackers attacked large American banks such as Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup through a denial-of-service attack that temporarily took their computers offline. A denial-of-service attack renders a website inoperable by flooding it with excessive traffic. Seven Iranians were indicted by a New York grand jury for these attacks.

Opinion – Iranian Soft Power in a Post Soleimani Era

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On 18 January 2020 there were two demonstrations by Iranian dissidents in Trafalgar Square, London. One was the NCRI, with posters of Massoud Rajavi, who has been in hiding for many years and the other was a demonstration by the Marxist Fadaiin. Both demonstrations by exiled Iranians were supporting the protests that are taking place across Iran and both condemned the mass killing of protesters by the Islamic regime. There were reporters from many newspapers in the UK and from Agence Press covering these demonstrations. This press coverage of Iranian opposition group activity contrasts with coverage in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Qasem Soleimani on January 2nd 2020. Most of the press coverage in the West (apart from the Trump supporting press) highlighted condemnation of the manner of his killing and the risks to the Middle East and to the world of this ‘unprovoked’, illegal and foolhardy attack. See, for example here. However bad the deeds of this man, it was said, the manner of his killing was unjustified. A few days later, there was coverage of mourners in the streets of his hometown in Iran.

However, matters changed following the horrific accidental shooting down of the Ukrainian plane in Iranian air space and the death of all 176 passengers on board. Since then, press coverage in the West has taken a dramatic turn. There is now widespread coverage of the protests inside Iran and elsewhere against the regime of Iran and against Khameini in particular. Most of the coverage takes the form of ascribing to the protesters the motive of anger about the plane being shot down.

Spies Like AI: The Future of Artificial Intelligence for the US Intelligence Community


America’s intelligence collectors are already using AI in ways big and small, to scan the news for dangerous developments, send alerts to ships about rapidly changing conditions, and speed up the NSA’s regulatory compliance efforts. But before the IC can use AI to its full potential, it must be hardened against attack. The humans who use it — analysts, policy-makers and leaders — must better understand how advanced AI systems reach their conclusions.

Dean Souleles is working to put AI into practice at different points across the U.S. intelligence community, in line with the ODNI’s year-old strategy. The chief technology advisor to the principal deputy to the Director of National Intelligence wasn’t allowed to discuss everything that he’s doing, but he could talk about a few examples. 

At the Intelligence Community’s Open Source Enterprise, AI is performing a role that used to belong to human readers and translators at CIA’s Open Source Center: combing through news articles from around the world to monitor trends, geopolitical developments, and potential crises in real-time.

Europe Needs to Make Some Hard Choices in 2020

By Zaki Laïdi

For the first time since 1957, Europe finds itself in a situation where three major powers—the United States, China and Russia—have an interest in weakening it. They may squeeze the European Union in very different ways, but they share an essential hostility to its governance model.

The European model, after all, is based on the principle of shared sovereignty among states in crucial areas such as market standards and trade. That liberal idea is antithetical to the American, Chinese and Russian view of sovereignty, which places the prerogative of states above global rules and norms of behaviour. Shared sovereignty is possible only among liberal states; unalloyed sovereignty is the preserve of populists and authoritarians.

But today’s anti-EU hostility also owes something to Europe’s undeniable economic weight in the world. Without the EU, the US under President Donald Trump would likely have succeeded already in forcing Germany and France to surrender to its trade demands. Had it been on its own, France wouldn’t have been able to reject bilateral negotiations with the US over agricultural issues. The EU, as a ‘common front’, works as a power multiplier for its constituent parts in all areas in which sovereignty is shared.

DARPA's 'Counter-Hypersonics' Could Shake Up The 21st Century's Arms Race

by Michael Peck
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Key Point: Hypersonic weapons may be able to penetrate U.S. missile defenses or streak past the defenses of U.S. aircraft carriers.

DARPA calls it "counter-hypersonics."

The rest of us would call it a way -- or a prayer -- to stop nuclear warheads coming down on our heads at 20 times the speed of sound.

DARPA, the Pentagon's pet research agency, wants an interceptor that can stop weapons that are hypersonic (travel faster than Mach 5). The agency has begun soliciting proposals for Glide Breaker , its project to stop boost-glide vehicles that are lofted high into the atmosphere atop a ballistic missile, and then glide down to Earth. The current exemplar is Russia's Avangard, touted by President Vladimir Putin as unstoppable by anti-missile defenses. The Avangard is lofted by a giant RS-28 Sarmat ICBM, and then glides down to its target at Mach 20. But China and the U.S. are also developing boost-glide vehicles.

DARPA seeks to "develop and demonstrate a technology that is critical for enabling an advanced interceptor capable of engaging maneuvering hypersonic threats in the upper atmosphere." And it wants this technology in a hurry: Glide Breaker should be tested in 2020. Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency -- the Pentagon organization charged with stopping ballistic missiles -- also has its program to develop defenses against hypersonic weapons.

Israel Wants to Use Lasers to Shoot Down Everything From Drones to Rockets to Missiles

JERUSALEM – The Israeli military is developing laser weapons to defeat drones, rockets, artillery, mortars and anti-tank guided missiles, calling the effort a major research breakthrough by its Directorate of Defense Research and Development. Defense News reports. Continue reading original article

The Military and Aerospace Electronics take:

22 Jan. 2020 -- Lasers are seen as a major new frontier in combating munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The U.S. Air Force has used a Raytheon-made high-energy laser to destroy “dozens of small drones,” according to the company. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ Drone Dome can also use lasers to address drone threats. Rheinmetall’s high-energy laser has also been used against small drone swarms.

Israel has faced an array of threats in recent years, including an armed drone launched from Syria in February 2018, drones that a team attempted to launch from Syria in August 2019, as well as 2,600 rockets fired by militants based in Gaza. Israel’s multilayered air defense architecture successfully confronted these threats thus far.

Blurred Lines: Gr ed Lines: Gray-Zone Conflict and Hybrid W one Conflict and Hybrid War—Two Failures of American Strategic Thinking

Donald Stoker Craig Whiteside

Among today’s great ironies is that, despite the fact that the United States has been at war for the better part of two decades, rare is the American policy maker who speaks adeptly about our use of military power in a coherent manner. On the one hand, political leaders attempt to avoid categorizing our air strikes and raids targeting al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in countries around the world as war, while on the other hand they conflate hostile Russian acts with some form of hyphenated war. 

This article argues that the adoption of two prominent and fashionable theoretical terms and their various iterations—the gray zone or grayzone conflict (usually described as the space between peace and war) and hybrid war (often described as Russia’s new form of mixed-methods warfare birthed by General Valery Gerasimov)—is an example of an American failure to think clearly about political, military, and strategic issues and their vitally important connections. These terms, as well as the concepts arising from them, should be eliminated from the strategic lexicon. 

Why America Loses Wars

By Heather Venable

Donald Stoker—an instructor for many years at the Naval Postgraduate School and the author of several books including, importantly, a biography on Clausewitz—has now written another book to take the Western national security community to school. In Why America Loses Wars, Stoker gives that community a failing grade for, among other things, an inability to understand limited wars. This problem is epitomized by the general belief that the U.S. has only fought limited wars since World War II, determined more often than not by definitions stressing the constraints imposed on the means used in conflict.[1] Other problematic factors in discussions about limited wars include geography, the length of conflict, and the amount of violence.[2] Likewise, total wars are often defined by the lack of limits placed upon means, even if it is theoretically impossible for all means to be used.[3] For that reason, Donald Stoker prefers not even to talk about total war in his latest work.[4]

Instead, inspired by Clausewitz, Stoker focuses on whether or not the political objectives or ends are limited.[5] In this light, the U.S. has fought unlimited wars. The operation against Islamic State—Operation Inherent Resolve—for example, can be considered an unlimited war because the U.S. sought to destroy its caliphate. Likewise, the first part of Operation Iraqi Freedom should be viewed as unlimited because the U.S. sought to remove Saddam Hussein from power.[6] In essence, an unlimited war seeks regime change.

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.

The Twilight of America’s Financial Empire

By Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman

When Iraqi lawmakers voted to expel U.S. forces from the country earlier this month, the Trump administration’s response was swift and forceful: it refused to withdraw and, for good measure, threatened financial retaliation, saying it would freeze Iraq’s accounts at the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The threat seems to have been effective. Although Iraqi officials still seethe over a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad on January 3, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has said that his caretaker government lacks the authority to push for a U.S. withdrawal, and American troops have resumed joint operations with their Iraqi counterparts. 

But that sense of normalcy is deceiving. U.S. forces were in the country at the invitation of the Iraqi government to help in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS. By refusing to withdraw them, the Trump administration is turning a relationship of choice into one of coercion. Just as alarming, Washington is doing so by threatening to starve its ally of critical funds, a step that could set off a financial crisis in Iraq, perhaps even economic collapse.

Russia Takes a Hard Approach to Soft Power

Kseniya Kirillova
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In exerting its soft power, Russia is not only trying to portray itself in a good light but also spread illusory fears, phobias and hatred in countries it sees as a threat.

Moscow, however, cannot sow discord out of thin air; instead, it seeks to exploit existing divisions in Western countries.

If Western nations are going to try and popularize their values in Russia, they would do well to consider whether their efforts will be immediately discredited by Kremlin propaganda.

For all its prodigious hard power, Russia's soft power is no trifling matter. In recent years, the Kremlin has resorted to plenty of channels to undermine Western democracies by spreading propaganda — including false-flag operations and other "information operations" — bribing officials and politicians, cultivating corrupt ties through business lobbies and immigrant organizations, targeting specific (often radical) segments of the population with carefully tailored ideologies and making special attempts to sow friction, disagreement and conflict.

Capitalism Must Reform to Survive

By Klaus Schwab 

Companies today face an existential choice. Either they wholeheartedly embrace “stakeholder capitalism” and subscribe to the responsibilities that come with it, by actively taking steps to meet social and environmental goals. Or they stick to an outdated “shareholder capitalism” that prioritizes short-term profits over everything else—and wait for employees, clients, and voters to force change on them from the outside.

This assessment may seem harsh coming from someone who has always believed in the pivotal role companies play in the global economy. But there is no alternative. Our ecological footprint has expanded far beyond what the earth can sustain. Our social systems are cracking. Our economies no longer drive inclusive growth.

Today’s younger generations simply do not accept that companies should pursue profits at the expense of broader environmental and social well-being. We know that a free-market economy is essential for producing long-term development and social progress. We should not want to replace that system. But in its current form, capitalism has reached its limits. Unless it reforms from within, it will not survive.


France poised to drop plan to tax tech giants amid signs of US deal

Larry Elliott

France is poised to announce on Wednesday that it is dropping its go-it-alone plan to tax big US tech companies in exchange for Washington’s agreement to press ahead with attempts to find a multilateral solution.

Hopes of an agreement were rising in Davos after several days of intense talks involving the French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, the US treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, and Ángel Gurria, the head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The deal is likely to leave Britain – which will introduce a digital services tax in the spring – more exposed to Washington’s anger over what it sees as attacks on its companies.

Gurria, speaking to the Guardian, said: “There have been a lot of conversations. The exchanges have involved the French showing a willingness to make a move if the Americans do the same.”

The OECD has been working on plans to find an internationally agreed ways of taxing digital commerce and is planning an announcement in the summer.

Why Does the US Spend So Much on Defense?

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It is well to remember that the real bill includes not just DOD spending but VA, intelligence, and more. But those who would cut spending must also propose a new strategy.

It is common in nearly every election cycle for at least one candidate to claim that the United States spends too much on defense. Elizabeth Warren said it last year in a Foreign Affairs article, Bernie Sanders in a Vox interview, and we are likely to hear it again as the general election approaches. Unfortunately, these claims almost always fail to explain just how much America spends on national security, why it traditionally spends so much, or what a major budget cut really entails.

Yes, the United States spends a lot on defense. Probably even more than you think. In fiscal 2019, the Defense Department’s budget, plus money appropriated for nominally unanticipated operational expenses, was $686 billion. A DOD chart shows that amount as part of a trend of generally rising budgets since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with some reductions after drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan began. 

Bees Can Teach Engineers a Thing or Two about Robotics

by Orit Peleg
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Gathered inside a small shed in the midst of a peaceful meadow, my colleagues and I are about to flip the switch to start a seemingly mundane procedure: using a motor to shake a wooden board. But underneath this board, we have a swarm of roughly 10,000 honeybees, clinging to each other in a single magnificent pulsing cone.

As we share one last look of excited concern, the swarm, literally a chunk of living material, starts to move right and left, jiggling like jelly.

Who in their right minds would shake a honeybee swarm? My colleagues and I are studying swarms to deepen our understanding of these essential pollinators, and also to see how we can leverage that understanding in the world of robotics materials.

Many bees create one swarm

The swarms in our study occur as part of the reproductive cycle of European honeybee colonies. When the number of bees exceeds available resources, usually in the spring or summer, a colony divides into two groups. One group, and a queen, fly away in search of a new permanent location while the rest of the bees remain behind.

Is the Eurozone disintegrating? Macroeconomic divergence, structural polarisation, trade and fragility

Claudius Gräbner, Philipp Heimberger, Jakob Kapeller, Bernhard Schütz

This paper analyses macroeconomic developments in the Eurozone since its inception in 1999. In doing so, we document a process of divergence and polarisation among those countries that joined the Eurozone during its first two years. We find evidence for a ‘core–periphery’ pattern among Eurozone countries, that is, however, marked by substantial heterogeneity within these two clusters. We show how the polarisation process underlying this pattern first manifested in increasing current account imbalances, before it translated unto the level of general macroeconomic development when the crisis hit. Empirically, we demonstrate how this macroeconomic divergence is tied to a ‘structural polarisation’ in terms of the sectoral composition of Eurozone countries; specifically, the emergence of export-driven growth in core countries and debt-driven growth in the Eurozone periphery can be traced back to differences in technological capabilities and firm performance. Pushing for convergence within Europe requires the implementation of industrial policies aiming at a technological catch-up process in periphery countries in combination with public investment and progressive redistributional policies to sustain adequate levels of aggregate demand in all Eurozone countries.

1. Introduction

Technology and Great Power Competition: 5 Top Challenges for the Next Decade

by James Jay Carafano
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Welcome to the age of great-power competition. Much more than a geopolitical bumper sticker, this label describes the foundation of what has become the free world’s new grand strategy, not just for the United States, but for many of our friends, partners and allies as well.

It is a competition without precedent. One aspect of this new world disorder—advanced technological competition—is particularly noteworthy. It will be infused throughout the struggle, and if Washington wants to win, America will have to do better.

A New World View

Today, the United States sees China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and transnational Islamist terrorism as the chief threats to world stability. That is not just the Trump administration’s view; Bush and Obama had the same list, although they had different strategies for dealing with these threats.

How the Pentagon’s JAIC Picks Its Artificial Intelligence-Driven Projects

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The Pentagon launched its Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in 2018 to strategically unify and accelerate AI applications across the nation’s defense and military enterprise. Insiders at the center have now spent about nine months executing that defense driven AI-support. 

At an ACT-IAC forum in Washington Wednesday, Rachael Martin, the JAIC’s mission chief of Intelligent Business Automation Augmentation and Analytics, highlighted insiders’ early approach to automation and innovation. 

“Our mission is to transform the [Defense] business process through AI technologies, to improve efficiency and accuracy—but really to do all those things so that we can improve our overall warfighter support,” Martin said. 

Within her specific mission area, Martin and the team explore and develop automated applications that support a range of efforts across the Pentagon, such as business administration, human capital management, acquisitions, finance and budget training, and beyond. Because the enterprise is vast, the center is selective in determining the projects and programs best fit to be taken under its wing. 

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.

How a Democratic Counteroffensive Can Win


DAVOS – We’re living at a transformational moment in history. The survival of open societies is endangered, and we face an even greater crisis: climate change, which threatens the survival of our civilization. These twin challenges have inspired me to announce the most important project of my life.3

As I argue in my recent book, In Defense of Open Society, in revolutionary moments, the range of possibilities is far wider than in normal times. It is easier to influence events than to understand what is going on. As a result, outcomes are unlikely to correspond to people’s expectations. This has already caused widespread disappointment, which populist politicians are exploiting for their own purposes.3

Open societies have not always needed defending in the determined way that they do today. Some 40 years ago, when I became engaged in what I call my political philanthropy, the wind was at our back and carried us forward. International cooperation was the prevailing creed. In some ways, it prevailed even in the crumbling and ideologically bankrupt Soviet Union – remember the Marxist slogan “workers of the world, unite”? The European Union was in the ascendant, and I considered it the embodiment of the open society.


Matt Clark

If ever we’re asked to do anything in the future, whatever it is . . . you can requisition whatever you need. If you need tents, I’ll get you tents. If you need canteens, I’ll get you canteens. If you need more rifles, I can get you more rifles. Or shovels, vehicles. You can requisition that. You can’t requisition, when the moment comes, trust, discipline, and fitness.

— Gen. Martin Dempsey

The US Army is a force with extraordinary expeditionary capabilities. We send our soldiers around the world with remarkable regularity to fulfill a range of vital missions. But when we deploy units globally—whether to the ongoing mission in Afghanistan, to work with partners to defeat ISIS, or to reassure allies and conduct combined exercises in Europe or the Pacific—a big problem arises, one that we unfortunately don’t talk about. The Army routinely deploys its soldiers when they are at their lowest level of physical fitness.

This needs to be fixed. It is not only unacceptable but also entirely preventable. The Army’s replacement of the Army Physical Fitness Test with the more wholistic Army Combat Fitness Test is designed to “transform the Army’s fitness culture” and improve readiness for ground combat. This goal is laudable and the new test does signal a shift in the Army’s focus to a more functional form of fitness. However, this effort will fail to maximize combat readiness without addressing a deeper cultural issue that is largely ignored. It is not enough to train on the right tasks; that training must be maintained through consistency.