27 February 2020

Eisenhower and Trump in India: A tale of two visits, 60 years apart

Tanvi Madan

Strategic convergence drew the President Dwight Eisenhower and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru together and formed the basis of an India-U.S. partnership. Six decades later, President Donald Trump's visit to India signals another strategic convergence between the two countries. However, Tanvi Madan argues that for more stable and sustainable partnership, it takes more than shared strategic interests. This piece was originally published by the Hindustan Times.

Sixty years ago, India rolled out the red carpet — and the crowds — for American President Dwight Eisenhower. American and Indian differences, including on economic policy, the Soviet Union, or Pakistan had not disappeared. But India and the United States (US) were drawn together by growing strategic convergence. With Sino-Indian boundary skirmishes, the Dalai Lama’s escape to India, and concerns about Beijing’s influence in Nepal, Delhi increasingly saw China as a challenge. This called for domestic strengthening and external balancing, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru saw the US as helpful in both regards. The Eisenhower administration, in turn, had bought into the idea of India as a counterbalance and democratic contrast to communist China, and of, therefore, helping Delhi win “the fateful race” with Beijing. This convergence provided the basis for an India-US partnership, as well as the impetus for Eisenhower’s trip—which was also useful for two leaders who were facing questions at home.

Pakistan-Turkey-Malaysia Bloc to Challenge Arab domination of Islamic World:

Dr Subhash Kapila

Noticeable since last year is the emergence of a new Islamic bloc of Pakistan-Turkey-Malaysia which ostensibly asserts to bring about a renaissance in the Islamic World but essentially comprises three Non-Arab Sunni Muslim nations attempting to challenge the Arab domination of the Islamic World led by Saudi Arabia as the ‘Custodian of the Holy Places of Islam’.

Public assertions that this new Islamic Bloc would attempt to bring about an Islamic Renaissance and break the Islamo-phobia that grips the world leads one to the assumption that Pakistan-Turkey-Malaysia Bloc feels that the Arab-dominated Islamic World has failed to do so and that therefore a newer effort is required. No reactions currently are available from the Arab World led by Saudi Arabia on this development except that Saudi displeasure prompted Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s absence from the First Summit held recently in Malaysia.
Geopolitical, domestic political turbulent dynamics and economic factors portend in 2020 that this emerging Islamic Bloc to challenge Arab domination of Islamic World in terms of gaining substantive cohesiveness and longevity may at best emerge as a ‘Ginger Group’ in the Islamic World but does not have the potential to assume leadership of the Islamic World. 

Is America's Longest War About to End?

by Elizabeth B. Hessami

If a seven-day truce between the United States and the Taliban holds until Feb. 28, 2020, Afghanistan’s decades-long conflict may finally end. A peace deal could be signed as soon as Feb. 29, according to the State Department.

The draft accord follows months of stop-and-go negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, an armed insurgency promoting an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam.

The Taliban has battled the Afghan government for power for three decades. Since the U.S. invasion of 2001 following the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, it has also fought the United States – an 18-year war that killed 2,300 American soldiers and more than 43,000 Afghan citizens.

A peace deal with the Taliban would set the terms for a staged withdrawal of the remaining 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. In exchange, the Taliban must agree to enter talks with Afghan government officials and cut ties with terrorist groups like al-Qaida.

Why Afghanistan Is America’s Greatest Strategic Disaster

Source Link

Way back in January 2002, a few weeks after the Taliban fled terrified from Kabul, Kandahar, and other major cities, I went to Afghanistan to report on the aftermath. In just seven weeks, the world’s lone superpower had pounded Afghanistan’s Islamist occupiers into the ground, literally, with B-52s dropping massive laser-targeted bombs that seemed, to the hapless Taliban, to come from nowhere. It was the moment that “the nineteenth century met the twenty-first century,” an ebullient Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later wrote. As I drove around, there wasn’t a Taliban fighter in sight, and the country seemed to lay wide open, practically begging the Americans to occupy it.

What’s keeping the peace? I asked the warlords I met. Pretty much the same answer came back over and over, often preceded by a gap-toothed grin: “B-52 justice,” said one man, pointing upward. 

Eighteen bloody years later, the conventional wisdom in Washington is that Afghanistan was always destined to be a failure. When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Friday that the United States had reached “an understanding with the Taliban on a significant reduction in violence across #Afghanistan” and announced that peace talks would soon begin in earnest, almost no one complained about the relegitimization of the Taliban, who will now have a powerful voice in ruling the country and may even take it over again. 

How the Good War Went Bad

By Carter Malkasian 

The United States has been fighting a war in Afghanistan for over 18 years. More than 2,300 U.S. military personnel have lost their lives there; more than 20,000 others have been wounded. At least half a million Afghans—government forces, Taliban fighters, and civilians—have been killed or wounded. Washington has spent close to $1 trillion on the war. Although the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead and no major attack on the U.S. homeland has been carried out by a terrorist group based in Afghanistan since 9/11, the United States has been unable to end the violence or hand off the war to the Afghan authorities, and the Afghan government cannot survive without U.S. military backing. 

At the end of 2019, The Washington Post published a series titled “The Afghanistan Papers,” a collection of U.S. government documents that included notes of interviews conducted by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. In those interviews, numerous U.S. officials conceded that they had long seen the war as unwinnable. Polls have found that a majority of Americans now view the war as a failure. Every U.S. president since 2001 has sought to reach a point in Afghanistan when the violence would be sufficiently low or the Afghan government strong enough to allow U.S. military forces to withdraw without significantly increasing the risk of a resurgent terrorist threat. That day has not come. In that sense, whatever the future brings, for 18 years the United States has been unable to prevail. 

US-Taliban Truce Begins, Feeding Hope Of A Peaceful, More Prosperous Afghanistan

by Elizabeth B. Hessami
Source Link

If a seven-day truce between the United States and the Taliban holds until Feb. 28, 2020, Afghanistan’s decades-long conflict may finally end. A peace deal could be signed as soon as Feb. 29, according to the State Department.

The draft accord follows months of stop-and-go negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, an armed insurgency promoting an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam.

The Taliban has battled the Afghan government for power for three decades. Since the U.S. invasion of 2001 following the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, it has also fought the United States - an 18-year war that killed 2,300 American soldiers and more than 43,000 Afghan citizens.

A peace deal with the Taliban would set the terms for a staged withdrawal of the remaining 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. In exchange, the Taliban must agree to enter talks with Afghan government officials and cut ties with terrorist groups like al-Qaida.

The Challenges Facing the World Today: The case of Bangladesh

By Kazi Anwarul Masud

American economist Geoffrey Sachs (Columbia University and an expert on economic development and poverty) considers geography of nations as a true driver of economic development “because it affects the profitability of various kinds of economic activities, including agriculture, mining, and industry; the health of the population; and the desirability of living and investing in a particular place…. As human-led climate change progresses, many regions could well be hit by devastating environmental shocks, such as heat waves, droughts, and floods, that are far beyond their control” (Foreign Affairs Sept/Oct 2012). Sachs counters monocausal theory of Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s (Why Nations Fail) that governments that protects property rights and represent their people lead their economies to prosperity and those that do not end up with stagnant and declining economies. State capitalism that promoted the economic development of South Korea during Park Chung Hee’s military regime coupled with those of China, Taiwan, Vietnam belie the claim that only capitalism with Western values can lead the country to prosperity. China today is the second largest economy in the world though its growth has been recently arrested by the outbreak of coronavirus disease that has virtually quarantined the country from the rest of the world. Given the fact that China accounts for 16% of the global output the disease is bound to have global impact in particular small Asian countries linked to China who do not have sufficient cushion to absorb the ill effects and may slide into recession.

A Reuter report sounds an optimistic note (London 20th February) to the effect that epidemics normally have a severe but relatively short-lived impact on economic activity, with the impact on manufacturing and consumption measured in weeks or at worst a few months. Even pandemics such as the Black Death (1348/49), Spanish influenza (1918/19), Asian influenza (1957/58) and Hong Kong influenza (1968/69) that caused large numbers of deaths had a brief impact on the economy. China's coronavirus outbreak should conform to this pattern of a severe downturn followed by swift recovery, provided it does not initiate a broader cyclical slowdown in the already-fragile global economy. China witnessed an economic growth of 6.1 per cent in 2019, the slowest in recent years. And the International Monetary Fund expects it to slide further to 6 per cent and 5.8 per cent in the next two years. The Coronavirus strike will impact consumer spending in China, which may further impact the economy and the trade pacts with the US.

Can Nepal’s Communist Party Survive Closer Ties With the US?

By Kripendra Amatya

The United States may not have expected the criticism it received for the grant aid, in the form of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) pact, that is in the process to be passed by the parliament of Nepal. However, the Nepali parliament is dominated by the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), and its members have had a strong anti-capitalist education.

“If the MCC will be passed in Nepal, the Communist Party will cease to exist because the U.S. will never tolerate the word ‘Communist,’” remarked a Communist leader in a private conversation with a low depressed voice.

There is mutual hatred between the United States and the international communist movement. Communist cadres look at the dependency theory and assume that the United States is the root of all evil. They also assume that Washington will not hesitate to exploit smaller, “periphery” countries. Nepal, a land-locked country in the Himalayas, is one such state.

Will China Rule 5G Wireless? Can America or Europe Do Anything About It?

by AEIdeas

Last week’s Munich Security Conference (MSC) heralded several positive developments on China and Huawei, but also a depressing stalemate on specific actions. According to Tufts University’s Daniel Drezner, a keen observer who attended the conference, for the first time China dominated the discussion in the formal sessions as well as the side panels: “#MSC 2020 was all about ‘China, China, China’.” He argues that a “consensus” on the China threat is clear and that this could provide the “first step in forming transatlantic cooperation.”

A second striking reality, underscored at the MSC, is the strong bipartisan congressional support for challenging Beijing and a hard line on Huawei and 5G wireless. Members of Congress from both parties attended the conference, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Given the poisonous partisan Washington environment and the venomous personal relationship between the speaker and President Trump, Pelosi’s powerful affirmation of the need to counter Huawei and potential Chinese domination of 5G set the world on notice that the US is politically united.

China’s Counteroffensive in the War of Ideas

By Nadège Rolland

From Beijing's perspective, political influence operations are at least as important as military operations, if not more so. Although the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) military modernisation programs have been at the centre of attention for decades, China's influence operations have only recently begun to be scrutinised. It is easy enough to understand why. Policymakers can easily point to an adversary’s growing military capabilities in order to raise public awareness, highlight the potential danger posed to the nation’s security, and rally their constituents around the need to provide adequate means to address the challenge. By contrast, the potentially devastating effects of influence operations – and even their very existence – cannot be easily visualised. In the case of China, influence operations are also wrapped in mystifying terminology such as “magic weapons” and “united front”, which can be dismissed either as witchcraft or as the exclusive preoccupation of a coterie of obsessive Sinologists.

To help grasp the nature of the challenge at hand, it may be useful to think of China's influence strategy as very similar to its so-called “anti-access, area denial” strategy – in other words, what the Chinese Communist Party is trying to achieve with influence operations in the realm of ideas is similar to what it aims to accomplish in the military domain.

What has come to be referred to in the West as China’s “A2/AD strategy” first appeared two decades ago under the name “active strategic counterattack on exterior lines”. It aims to prevent or constrict the deployment of an opponent’s forces into a given theatre of operations and to limit their freedom to manoeuvre once they are present. Against an adversary that approaches China’s territory, the PLA intends to “strike first, strike deep, hit hard” at the furthest possible distance from the mainland, targeting not only the enemy’s forces in the theatre, but also its supporting command, control, and logistical infrastructure. It is essentially part of a “vision for how to overcome weakness” against a numerically or technologically superior enemy.

Is China Totalitarian?

by Lee Edwards

Some four decades ago, Deng Xiao-ping, the paramount leader of Communist China, took command of a country that had been nearly wrecked through Mao Zedong’s radical Marxist experiments like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution and announced a new economic policy of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Many experts in the West predicted that political liberalization would soon follow the economic “liberalization” initiated by Deng. Others were skeptical that the Communist Party would relinquish any meaningful degree of its political power. After all, they noted, Deng stressed that “we shall adhere to Marxism and keep to the socialist road.”

Has Communist China become more liberal with the passing of the years? Has it demonstrated a willingness to respect the political and human rights widely honored by the world community? It is a critical question for the United States whose president has declared that U.S.-China relations are “perhaps” the best they have ever been. Is the curve in Communist China pointed up to freedom and democracy or down to Marxism-Leninism and totalitarianism?

Chinese Research Funding, Economic Espionage, and Disclosure

By Ankit Panda

In the highest profile case of its type in recent memory, a professor at the U.S.-based Harvard University was charged last month with lying to American officials about links to China’s Thousand Talents Program — a state-backed initiative to offer financing to foreign researchers in exchange for knowhow and assistance in critical technologies and issues.

Charles Lieber, a prominent nanoscientist and the chair of Harvard’s chemistry and chemical biology department, was arrested on January 28. The U.S. Department of Justice released a criminal complaint detailing the wrongdoing that Lieber is accused of.

A few bits about Lieber’s case stand out immediately. First, the complaint against him alleges that he was paid eye-popping amounts for his collaboration with China-based researchers. In addition to $600,000 in annual salary, he was earning some $150,000 in “living expense” — that’s leaving aside the $1.5 million he allegedly received to help set up a laboratory in China.

Nominally and in terms of status, there’s little more that someone of Lieber’s pedigree — chair of a department at Harvard University — could seek. The pay for someone in his position certainly isn’t paltry and, as the complaint makes clear, Lieber was doing just fine seeking funding from American sources. He had received millions in U.S. federal funding, including “more than $15,000,000” in research funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and U.S. Department of Defense.

How Do You Keep China’s Economy Running with 750 Million in Quarantine?

Source Link

Where were all the people? 

The Chinese capital has more than 20 million residents. But the coronavirus that burst out of Hubei province—infecting some 79,000 worldwide and killing more than 2,600 (mostly in China)—had almost emptied Beijing’s vast boulevards. I felt as if I’d stumbled onto the set of a post-apocalyptic film. (Though the city confirmed only four coronavirus deaths, everyone was jittery about infection.) In my silent apartment building, 36 pages of warnings, notices, instructions, and lists of fever clinics were taped neatly to the lobby walls, with 11 more in the elevator. They told returnees to Beijing to scan a QR code (leading to a nosy questionnaire) and isolate themselves at home for 14 days. 

I was asked some obvious questions: “Have you been to Hubei?” where the provincial capital, Wuhan, was the epicenter of the outbreak. (I haven’t been for years.) Plus less obvious questions, like my ethnic background and “Are you a member of the Communist Party?” I thought: Does being a member of the Chinese Communist Party have anything to do with whether one’s infected or not?

Actually, the party has something to do with everything in China, especially under Xi Jinping—and suddenly, for Xi, that has become a double-edged sword. As president, party head, and top military commander, Xi has consolidated his authority, centralized decision-making, abolished presidential term limits, and promoted his loyalists. People expect Xi, China’s “chairman of everything,” to fix everything when it goes wrong.

Global China

From a potential “responsible stakeholder” to a “strategic competitor,” the U.S. government’s assessment of China has changed dramatically in recent years. China has emerged as a truly global actor, impacting every region and every major issue area. To better address the implications for American policy and the multilateral order, Brookings scholars are undertaking a two-year project—“Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World”—intended to furnish policymakers and the public with a new empirical baseline for understanding China’s regional and global ambitions.

The initiative will draw not only on Brookings’s deep bench of China and East Asia experts, but also the tremendous breadth of the institution’s security, strategy, regional studies, technological, and economic development experts. By tapping a range of resident and non-resident Brookings scholars, the project will assess the trajectory of China’s influence in Asia and other regions, as well as its growing influence on key issue domains and institutions.

Areas of focus will include the trajectory of China’s domestic institutions and foreign policy; strategic competition and great power rivalry; the emergence of critical technologies; East Asian security; China’s influence in key regions from Europe to Southeast Asia; and China’s impact on global governance and norms.

US Military Leaders Worry About Iran’s Media Operations


Iran is stepping up its media and influence efforts across the broader Middle East in worrisome ways, the top U.S. commander in the region said.

“One of the key things that we see here is their [Iran’s] use of cyber capabilities to manipulate the information environment,” Gen. Joseph Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command, said Wednesday at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, D.C.“This is where you see the most significant influence of these actors in this particular space. Their ability to use cyberspace to manipulate information, propagate a message is a key aspect of what see.”

Votel said, “Iran is clearly a threat to the long-term stability in this region. They work almost entirely in the gray zone,” a reference to not-quite-warfare waged through non-uniformed fighters and aggressive propaganda.

U.S. troops got a taste of Iran’s media-manipulation efforts in Iraq in 2015, said a senior U.S. military official with extensive command experience in Iraq. 

Lebanon Risks More Lost Decades If Protesters’ Demands Aren’t Met

Maha Yahya 

After four months of widespread protests, Lebanon has a new government. Voted in by a slight majority in parliament in late January, it must deal with the gargantuan task of an economic meltdown of historic proportions, and of assuaging countrywide protesters questioning the legitimacy of the entrenched political elite. Lebanon’s economy, and with it perhaps its long-term political fortunes, are at stake.

Since October, protesters across Lebanon, disillusioned with the gross political and economic mismanagement of successive governments, have demanded sweeping reforms. They have put the blame squarely on elites who draw their influence from Lebanon’s dysfunctional power-sharing system. This confessional model, which distributes the country’s top political seats based on sectarian identity, has weakened state institutions; enabled a culture of clientelism, corruption and rent-seeking; and hindered effective and rational policymaking. Instead of the public good or public commons, there are only the private interests needed to maintain the system, even if they bankrupt the country. ...

Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ), 96 (1th Quarter, January 2020)

o The Intellectual Edge: A Competitive Advantage for Future War and Strategic Competition

o Reconceiving Modern Warfare: A Unified Model

o Adapting for Victory: DOD Laboratories for the 21st Century

o Beyond Auftragstaktik: The Case Against Hyper-Decentralized Command

o Asking Strategic Questions: A Primer for National Security Professionals

o Clausewitz’s Wondrous Yet Paradoxical Trinity: The Nature of War as a Complex Adaptive System

o A Blue-Collar Approach to Operational Analysis: A Special Operations Case Study

o The Bering Strait: An Arena for Great Power Competition

o Peacemakers: Chaplains as Vital Links in the Peace Chain

The "last battlefield" dynamic in Long War finally comes into focus (for those paying attention)

The above slide is from my state-of-the-world brief of the last decade: The basic argument being: Trump will outsource U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to the Saudis, Emiratis, Israelis, and Russians (all of whom played major meddling roles in our 2016 election [and own our POTUS in various financial ways] and are doing the same this time around), leaving the Europeans to handle North Africa on their own. The US-less NATO thus tries a "sea wall" strategy to keep bad things from coming across the Med, but essentially takes a strategy of limited regret regarding the continent, which corresponds to Trump pulling U.S. troops from the continent (well underway). With radical Islam largely crushed in PG and no great escape possible to Central Asia (too many regional powers RWA to do a "Chechnya" on any situations [as Putin did to both Chechnya and now Syria]), then the path of least resistance for the AQs and Islamic States of radical Islam is to come together at create the new caliphate(s)/radical Islamic sanctuary in the Trans Sahel - the least governed territory in the world.

Going back further to a Battleland blog post I wrote in 2011 ("An Explosive Glimpse of the Future of the Long War in Africa"):

As the radical Islamic pulse continues to fail/peter out in the Middle East and North Africa, this is where it comes next.

Why? Globalization is penetrating Africa big-time, mostly driven by ravenous Chinese resource demands, and the socio-economic churn creates potential conflicts that radical Islamists will seek to exploit. So yeah, AFRICOM becomes more important over time.

The Gulf and the Challenge of Missile Defense: Net Assessment Indicators

The Burke Chair at CSIS has developed an analysis of the key factors and requirements for a net assessment of the missile threat in the Arab/Persian Gulf and the need for missile defenses. This analysis is entitled The Gulf and the Challenge of Missile Defense: Net Assessment Indicators, and is available on the CSIS website.

U.S. defense planners have been examining the need to create effective missile defenses in the Gulf since at least Iraq’s first use of ballistic missiles against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War in the mid-1980s. Actual progress, however, has been slow and has taken place on a country-by-country basis rather than a part of an integrated effort to create effective regional defenses.

Israel has developed effective layered missile and rocket defenses for itself, but the defenses of our Arab strategic partners consist largely of limited coverage by dual capable Patriot missile and air defense systems and surface-to-air missiles that provide some coverage against cruises missiles, UCAVs, and drones. Meanwhile, Iraq, Oman, and Bahrain do not have a Patriot missile system.

The United States has deployed Aegis cruisers in the past on a contingency basis and has now deployed THAAD missile defenses to the region. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have also bought THADD systems. As yet, however, there are no clear plans to provide an integrated missile defense system for the region, and the deep divisions between Arab strategic partners make it impossible to even develop integrated air defenses.

An ‘October Surprise’ From North Korea?

By Ankit Panda

North Korea, like all of northeast Asia, is occupied with containing the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. In the meantime, despite ending 2019 with an ominous tone concerning its weapons development programs, Pyongyang’s military activities have been modest.

For instance, despite appearances in mid-January that parade preparation was underway at a well-known site near Pyongyang, no parade took place on February 8 (the Korean People’s Army’s founding day). Since two unspecified engine tests at the liquid propellant engine test stand in December, North Korea has not carried out any major demonstrations.

But even with coronavirus taking up much of the North Korean leadership’s attention lately, efforts are no doubt underway to develop new systems. Kim Jong Un, after all, promised that the world would soon see a “new strategic weapon” during his address to the Fifth Plenum of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in the final days of 2019.

Can the US-Japan Alliance Handle Cyberattacks?

By Sonoko Kuhara

Information technology has enabled the United States to achieve dominance in on the battlefield. However, it also has become a vulnerability, and now the U.S. is the primary recipient of targeted cyberattacks.

Not surprisingly, in 2018, the White House released the National Cyber Strategy, which shows a shift toward a more offensive cybersecurity posture. It emphasizes that the United States will take a strong policy stance, not only for the U.S. but also its allies and partners, to impose costs on attackers, including the use of kinetic means to deter cyber threats.

As cyberattacks pose serious national security risks to each state, the international community has also begun to discuss when cyberattacks should trigger the activation of self-defense and/or collective defense and has started cooperative programs to address the threat. For instance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) initiated cooperative cyber defense after a critical cyberattack on Estonia in 2007. NATO’s Tallinn Manual is a crucial publication that attempts to apply pre-cyber era international law to cyber operations, asserting that both self-defense and collective self-defense are applicable to cyberattacks.

Assessing Asia’s Think Tanks: Ideas and Impact

By Mercy A. Kuo

Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Erin Zimmerman – associate research fellow at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and author of Think Tanks and Non-Traditional Security: Governance Entrepreneurs in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) – discusses the role of Asian think tanks in policymaking, as well as the similarities and differences to U.S. and European counterparts.

Explain the policy role and impact of Asia’s think tanks. 

The roles and policy impacts are as diverse as the countries themselves. In authoritarian countries think tanks have a very limited impact and often function more to legitimize government politics that to inform them. At best, these so-called “think tanks” are apologists for the government’s agenda. At worst, they can be tools for the government to surveil or interfere with political actors which may seek to criticize the government’s policies.

In more open countries think tanks play a variety of roles; they offer locations where new and innovative policy ideas can be introduced, discussed, and disseminated. They hold informal workshops and meetings where officials, policy experts, civil society, and academics can gather and discuss policy at all levels.

Think tanks function at all levels, and some focus solely on local politics while others are more concerned with a specific policy area or an individual nation. Though more rare, Asian think tanks are also beginning to function at the regional level and organize forums and dialogues encompassing participants and policy issues which span multiple countries.

Foreign Interference Starts at Home

Source Link

Until recently, if foreign-policy think tanks in Europe and the United States worked on democracy at all, they focused on promoting and supporting democracy elsewhere in the world. But in the last few years—and in particular since Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president in 2016—a remarkable shift has occurred. There is an active proliferation underway of projects that seek to “defend,” “protect,” or “secure” democracy within Europe and the United States, which are increasingly seen as vulnerable. These days, every foreign-policy conference seems to have a session on the crisis of liberal democracy, usually near the outset.

Despite the foreign-policy establishment’s newfound interest in democracy within the West, the focus of nearly all of these projects is on “foreign interference” in Western democracies and on the role of digital technology—particularly social media—in undermining them. Many of the new democracy projects are about the nexus of “foreign interference” and technology—that is, the use of digital tools by authoritarian states such as China and Russia to “polarize and pervert the politics of democratic societies,” as one Washington-based think tank puts it (in a description of a project funded by, of all people, James Murdoch, who was at the center of a phone hacking scandal in the United Kingdom).

Should the US Have a Secretary For Influence Operations?


Two former top special operations officials say their job was too junior and the Pentagon isn’t taking information warfare seriously enough.

Despite shifting military budgets to better keep up with competitors, there’s one area where countries like China, Russia, and even Iran are proving nimble and frustrating for the Department of Defense: influence operations. 

In this new age of information warfare, the military art of influence ops — otherwise sometimes called psychological ops, information ops, or most-recently, military information support ops — lacks the senior level leadership it deserves, say two former Pentagon officials who were in charge of special operations policies. According to them, the position they once held is too junior for the seriousness of the threat and mission, and influence ops is spread so wide, that nobody is sure who is really in charge. 

Today, there is no one individual that’s directly in command of all “influence operations” across the Department of Defense. But there is some structure. On the uniformed side, at the top, the Joint Staff’s J3 directorate manages information operations across the combatant commands, which make decisions about content and messaging in their respective areas. Below that, the infrastructure for those operations is led by U.S. Special Operations Command’s new Joint MISO WebOps Center. That center was created last year to “address the opportunities and risks of the global information space,” said former SOCOM commander Gen. Tony Thomas, in testimony last February. But it’s the regional combatant commanders who determine the missions and messaging content of influence operations in their geographic theaters. 

From Jargon to Jointness: Understanding the Information Environment and Its Terminology

Robert S. Ehlers, Jr. and Thomas A. Drohan

Information, Competition, and Strategy

The Department of Defense (DoD) spends much time and effort trying to make sense of the Information Environment (IE). While the IE appears new, it is not. Rather, it is simply the latest definition for making sense of the ways in which human beings use information to influence the direction and outcome of competition and conflict. A brief reading of military theory, from any age and across cultures, reveals the ubiquitous importance and often decisive role of having a superior understanding of one’s adversaries, and the centrality of using that understanding wisely to gain advantage. Information is the means by which all parties to a conflict build understanding of one another and themselves, and the IE is the medium through which this information flows as various players use it to influence each other’s decision calculus.[i]

Nonetheless, there is still disagreement and outright confusion about what the IE is, why it matters, how to operate within it, and how to develop a terms and definitions relating to it. While terms and definitions comprise the primary focus of this article, it is most useful to discuss them in the context of interactions between information, competition, and strategy.

At a basic level, “the IE” defines the information-heavy arena within which states and non-state actors “wrestle” with competitors, adversaries, enemies, and others for long-term advantage as they seek to achieve grand-strategic priorities. Grand strategy “exists at a level above those strategies intended to secure particular ends, and above the use of military power alone to achieve strategic objectives. It seeks to secure and advance a nation’s long-term, enduring, core interests over time. A nation’s grand strategy shows great persistence over time, orienting on those interests deemed most important; interests for which virtually any nation will spend, legislate, threaten, or fight to defend or advance.”[ii]

US Department of Defense Adopts Artificial Intelligence Ethical Principles

By Ankit Panda

In a statement on Monday, February 24, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it had formally adopted a set of ethical principles governing American military applications of artificial intelligence. The principles adopted were based on recommendations made to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper by the U.S. Defense Innovation Board in October 2019, the Pentagon said in a statement.

“The United States, together with our allies and partners, must accelerate the adoption of AI and lead in its national security applications to maintain our strategic position, prevail on future battlefields, and safeguard the rules-based international order,” Esper said in a statement.

“AI technology will change much about the battlefield of the future, but nothing will change America’s steadfast commitment to responsible and lawful behavior. The adoption of AI ethical principles will enhance the department’s commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards as outlined in the DOD AI Strategy, while embracing the U.S. military’s strong history of applying rigorous testing and fielding standards for technology innovations,” he added.

The largest cyber exercise you’ve never heard of

Mark Pomerleau
For years, the first time the Department of Defense’s cyber forces faced high-end digital attacks was not in practice or in a classroom, but in actual operations.

For the cyber teams that focused on offense, a playbook developed from years of National Security Agency operations guided their work. But on the defensive side, standards and processes needed to be created from scratch meaning, in part, there was a lack of uniformity and little tradecraft to follow.

Because cyber leaders had focused on staffing, training opportunities for defensive cyber operators had been sparse.

To help solve that problem, the Department of Defense is expected to award a contract worth roughly $1 billion later this year for a global cyber training environment. But in the meantime, some units across the joint force have gone so far as to create their own small-scale training events and exercises to keep their forces’ skill sets sharp.

Perhaps the best example of these efforts are the 567th Cyberspace Operations Group’s “Hunt Event,” which has quickly grown to become one of the largest cyber exercises across the department. The bi-monthly exercise pits teams against each other in a competition for the coveted Goblet of Cyber trophy and bragging rights.

Competition and Cooperation in the Maritime Domain

Competition over the world’s maritime resources and territorial disputes over maritime borders are becoming increasingly prominent in international affairs. At the same time, depleted fish stocks and polluted waters make the question of how countries can collectively manage maritime resources a central one, particularly in discussions over climate change.

Against the backdrop of heightened competition in the maritime domain, China has been rapidly modernizing and expanding its naval capabilities thanks to an unprecedented shipbuilding effort. By contrast, the U.S. Navy is struggling to meet its ambitious goals toward expanding its fleet while nevertheless maintaining a demanding operational tempo. As a result, ship maintenance and crew training have suffered, a dynamic that appears to have contributed to several deadly incidents in recent years.

Meanwhile, the resources that lie beneath the ocean’s surface are increasingly at risk of overexploitation. Illegal fishing is devastating already diminished global stocks and may soon present a severe crisis to countries whose populations depend on seafood for their diets. In the South China Sea, competition over fishing rights as well as offshore oil and gas reserves has been a major driver of tensions and conflict.

The Tyranny of the Minority, from Iowa Caucus to Electoral College

Corey Robin
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It has been more than two weeks since the Iowa caucuses, and we still don’t know who won. That should give us pause. We don’t know in part because of a combination of technological failing and human error. But we’re also in the dark for a political reason. That should give us further pause.

No one disputes that Bernie Sanders won the most votes in Iowa. Yet Pete Buttigieg has the most delegates. While experts continue to parse the flaws in the reporting process, the stark and simple fact that more voters supported Sanders than any other candidate somehow remains irrelevant, obscure.

America’s democratic reflexes have grown sluggish. Not only has the loser of the popular vote won two out of the last five presidential elections, but come November, he may win a third. Like the children of alcoholics, we’ve learned to live with the situation, adjusting ourselves to the tyranny of its effects. We don’t talk anymore about who will win the popular vote in the coming election. We calculate which candidate will win enough votes in the right states to secure a majority in the Electoral College. Perhaps that’s why the scandal coming out of Iowa is the app that failed and the funky math of the precinct counters—and not the democratic embarrassment that the winner of the most votes doesn’t automatically win the most delegates.

The military's 'war for talent' is affecting what the Navy's future ships will look like


Recruiting has emerged as one of the main challenges for the US military service branches in recent years.Each branch is taking steps to attract and retain the personnel it wants. For the Navy, appealing to new sailors now could have a long-lasting impact on its ships.

More than one senior military leader has said the services are facing a "war for talent," as a stronger economy and two decades of war, among other factors, make military service less appealing to young Americans.

The Army, striving to reach 500,000 active-duty soldiers by the end of this decade, has rolled out an esports team to attract recruits. The Air Force, facing a protracted pilot shortage, capitalized on the recent blockbuster "Captain Marvel" with a recruiting drive.

For the Navy, which wants more ships to do more operations across a greater area, the effort to attract more people - and the right people - is influencing ship design, the service's top civilian official said this week.