12 March 2020

** Oil Prices

By George Friedman

Since before World War I and throughout the 1970s, the people who controlled oil had a lever for controlling others. Since the 1980s, the equation has shifted; oil producers have become dependent on oil consumers. Demand was always there, and then it started to vary and the political stability of oil producers also varied.

Geopolitical Futures’ forecast for 2020 was that there would be a global economic slowdown, whose effects would be intensified by dynamics kicked off by the 2008 crisis. We saw the 2008 crisis as being an exporters’ crisis, in which countries dependent on exports, particularly China, had been badly hit by the decline of global demand for manufactured goods, and exporters of raw materials, particularly Russia and Saudi Arabia, were hurt by the decline of demand in manufacturing countries like China. Our view of 2020 was that a routine business cycle would resurrect those pressures.

We did not anticipate the coronavirus, nor the global panic, particularly the disruption of the Chinese economy. We predicted that the Chinese economy would be disrupted as a result of a decline in global demand, and this would be followed by a decline in oil prices. The result would be increased global political stress, particularly on oil producers. Energy accounts for 30 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product and 60 percent of Russia’s exports. It accounts for 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP and 70 percent of its exports.

India: To What Extent Should Government Involve Itself In Reviving Yes Bank – OpEd

By N. S. Venkataraman

In several countries, number of medium and large scale private banks have collapsed and gone into liquidation in the past. In such cases, depositors and share holders have lost their hard earned money. When such private banks fail, inevitably the depositors expect that government should protect their interests and ensure that they would get back their deposits. While in some cases, the governments have responded at least partly to the expectations of the depositors, on many other occasions, government have ignored such appeals from depositors and kept silent about the unfolding events which lead to closure of the banks.

Now, the question arises as to what extent the government should be held accountable, if the banks would collapse.

The recent collapse of Yes Bank in India and the Government of India taking steps to ensure the future of this bank by extending financial assistance from government owned State Bank of India has raised lot of questions and concern.

What Is in India’s Sweeping Personal Data Protection Bill?


This publication was produced under Carnegie India’s Technology and Society Program. For details on the program’s funding, please visit the Carnegie India website. The views expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.


Introduced in India’s parliament on December 11, 2019, the Personal Data Protection Bill sets rules for how personal data should be processed and stored, and lists people’s rights with respect to their personal information. It also proposes to create an independent new Indian regulatory authority, the Data Protection Authority (DPA), to carry out this law. The bill also sets out grounds for exemption.


The bill imposes hefty new compliance requirements for data protection on most businesses in India.

Almost all businesses across India’s economy will have to meet the bill’s conditions. This will include not just e-commerce, social media, and IT companies, but also brick-and-mortar shops, real estate companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. The only exceptions will be “small entities” (businesses like small retailers that collect information manually and meet other conditions to be specified by the DPA).

There's No Easy Exit For The US In Afghanistan

by Madhav Joshi
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After 18 months of negotiations, the U.S. and the Taliban signed a peace deal on Feb. 29. It is expected that the deal will provide a plan for a comprehensive Afghan peace process.

The deal addresses the security of foreign troops; the Taliban's commitments to sever ties with terrorist organizations; prisoner exchange; a gradual withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops; and the beginnings of a negotiation between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The Afghan government was not a party to the deal, and the Taliban must now negotiate a final peace agreement with that government. Yet that prospect is far from certain.

Retreat, Return, Repeat

By Alan W. Dowd

The Trump administration has announced a long-awaited peace deal with the Taliban and a phased, “conditions-based” total withdrawal from Afghanistan. Yet as these words are being typed, the U.S. military confirms it has conducted airstrikes against Taliban fighters. The reason: Our Taliban partners in peace carried out 43 attacks—on a single day—against Afghan security forces in Helmand Province. This is an indication of where Afghanistan is headed—and a reminder of where we’ve been.

The peace deal calls on the U.S. to decrease troop strength from the current 12,000 troops down to 8,600 troops over the next 135 days, with a full U.S. withdrawal 14 months from now. For its part, the Taliban vows that it “will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

That is why it pays to recall, U.S. troops have been fighting in Afghanistan since the autumn of 2001. They didn’t go to war for oil or territory. They went to war in Afghanistan because the Taliban regime allowed Afghanistan to be used as a training ground and launching pad for Osama bin Laden’s global guerilla war. On September 11, 2001, that war reached our shores. Amidst all the talk of “ending endless wars” and “nation-building here at home,” too many Americans somehow forget or willfully ignore this.

Taliban religious decree calls for its emir to rule ‘Islamic government’ in Afghanistan

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The Taliban has issued a religious decree, or fatwa, calling for an “Islamic government” to be formed in Afghanistan. This Islamic government is to be led by Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, its current emir, and “lawful ruler” of Afghanistan. The Taliban fatwa says the group “shall continue waging armed jihad” until it establishes the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The fatwa flies in the face of the hopes of U.S., Afghan and Western officials who maintain that the Taliban will participate in an inclusive democratic government, or agree to some other long-term, power-sharing arrangement. However, as FDD’s Long War Journal has reported for well over a decade, the Taliban has been very clear that the goal of its insurgency is to regain control of Afghanistan and impose its rule.

The statement was released on the Pashto version of Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, on Mar. 5, just five days after the Taliban signed an agreement securing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Voice of America first reported on the fatwa. FDD’s Long War Journal has obtained a translation of the Taliban’s religious decree.

Will Pakistan Continue to Play a Constructive Role in the Afghan Peace Process?

Michael Kugelman 

The United States and the Taliban signed an agreement in late February that sets a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The negotiations leading up to the deal were long and fraught, and they almost fell apart last September, after President Donald Trump suspended talks and canceled a planned summit with Taliban leaders at Camp David.

But as difficult as the talks were, they pale in comparison to what lies ahead: launching, sustaining and successfully concluding a formal intra-Afghan peace process between the government in Kabul and the Taliban, as well as other Afghan political leaders

Who Will Intervene in the World’s Hot Spots?

As conflicts and crises persist around the world, there is growing uncertainty about how—or if—they will be resolved. The international order is fraying, generating uncertainty about who will intervene and how humanitarian responses might be funded.

There are interminable conflicts, like the situations in Yemen, Afghanistan and South Sudan, which have produced years of violence, countless thousands of deaths and even more refugees. Then there are the emerging hotspots, including Mali and Burkina Faso, and any number of potential flashpoints, including in the South China Sea, which is dogged by territorial disputes. Even situations where there was some tenuous hope of reconciliation—such as the Central African Republic, where 14 armed groups signed a peace deal early last year—are in danger of unraveling.

At the same time, the nature of terrorism is also changing. The Islamic State is in the midst of a tactical shift following the loss of its caliphate in western Iraq and Syria, and more recently the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group appears to be transitioning to guerilla-style tactics and dispersed terrorist attacks, while shifting its focus to new theaters of operation, like Southeast Asia. But it is unclear if Western powers have the appetite for mounting the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns needed to meet these new challenges.

Get Ready for Merkel’s Pro-Russia, China-Friendly Successor


“Angela Merkel should quit soon,” the Economist declared last month. “Angela Merkel is running out of road and should step down,” the Financial Times opined last week. Some leading German media haven’t been much kinder—and it’s not difficult to see why.

After more than 14 years in power, and with nearly two more to go, the German chancellor and her loveless grand-coalition government seem tired and out of ideas. At home, the economy is faltering and the far-right is on the rise. In neighboring France, President Emmanuel Macron can barely hide his frustration with Merkel’s risk-averse approach to Europe. A new world shaped by competition between China and a U.S. administration that calls Europe a “foe” has shaken the foundations of German prosperity and security. And yet Merkel has failed to articulate a new vision for the country.

But it would be wrong to see her departure as the solution to Germany’s strategic ambiguity problem. How Germany defines its foreign-policy interests in the post-Merkel era, and whether it can emerge from a prolonged period of drift, will ultimately depend on who replaces her and what sort of government that person leads. And the early signs suggest Germany could continue down the enigmatic policy path that has defined the end of the Merkel era, confounding Berlin’s partners in Europe and beyond.

Make No Mistake, China Really Does Want to Dominate the Pacific

by Patrick M. Cronin 
In this decade, the United States Navy may be displaced as the most formidable maritime presence in the Pacific Ocean. China is determined to challenge America’s ability to project military power forward into the Western Pacific. It seeks to undermine the U.S. capability of standing with its allies and deterring China from using military force to coerce small nations into making concessions on their sovereignty and the enforcement of binding treaty commitments. Denying Beijing’s quest to become the region’s dominant land and sea power will require more than traditional naval strength. A comprehensive strategy that understands the unfolding fourth industrial revolution and the Chinese government’s problematic activities will be necessary to deny China’s bid for maritime primacy.1

The PLA Navy Challenge

China’s emerging blue-water navy, backed by comprehensive national and maritime power, is “tipping the balance in the Pacific.” In the span of 35 years, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been transformed from a coastal defense force into a serious peer competitor for the U.S. Navy and its allies in the Western Pacific. The balance of naval power is particularly favorable to China in its near seas where shore-based missiles and aircraft can support the PLAN fleet. Together, China’s shore-based weapon systems and its fleet of small combatants are likely now sufficient to defend China’s near seas, which frees up the PLA Navy’s growing inventory of large vessels for power projection.

How Europe Should Manage the Coronavirus-Induced Crisis


BRUSSELS – The spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus across Europe and the United States has led to a sharp financial-market correction and prompted calls for active monetary and fiscal policy to prevent a recession. But a closer look suggests that such an approach might not help much at all.

For 40 years, Republicans have been insisting that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” But now that COVID-19, climate change, and other collective threats are bearing down on the US and the rest of the world, the bankruptcy of this nostrum has been laid bare.

The COVID-19 epidemic is marked by uncertainty. Technically, it does not represent a “black swan” event, because there have been other pandemics before. But it was, until a few months ago, unforeseeable, at least in specific terms. And it will have a long-lasting impact even if its precise evolution cannot be predicted today.

For now, it seems that the virus is moving westward. In China, where the virus emerged, infections are declining after the authorities implemented radical measures – including lockdowns that brought the economy to a standstill for over two weeks. Although it is too early to tell whether the virus has really been contained, economic life now seems to be normalizing gradually, implying that the “China shock” may be unwinding.

Who Will Be the 21st Century’s Rule Maker?

By Sam Roggeveen

Asia needs a new order for the post-American era, and it cannot be a liberal one.

Mike Mazarr and I are debating the way Asia will be “governed” in future. That term needs to be placed in quote marks because international affairs aren’t analogous to domestic politics – there is no supreme sovereign authority with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, so states compete for status and influence. And yet the system is not purely anarchic; it has the characteristics of a loosely knitted society whose members subscribe to a common set of rules and practices.

So what is at stake in this debate is the question: who gets to make the rules?

Mazarr argues that the U.S. has an advantage in the contest with China to be Asia’s rule-maker. Washington’s legacy, he says, is an order which has achieved legitimacy and free consent from allies and partners, and which boasts “mutually beneficial economic, business, social and cultural, and military networks”. This, he says, will give the U.S. “tremendous competitive advantages in the rivalry with China – if we do not abandon it”.

I would grant much of that, but there’s a contradiction in Mazarr’s argument. If the post-war U.S.-led order remains as attractive to Asian states as he claims, we wouldn’t need to be debating whether China’s rise poses a threat to that order. Yet clearly there is a leadership contest afoot.

Coexistence or War in the Indo-Pacific

By Graeme Dobell

‘A path can be charted between conflict and capitulation. The future is not solely in the hands of an authoritarian China or an unpredictable, self-centred America. In the end, the Indo-Pacific is both a region and an idea: a metaphor for collective action, self-help combined with mutual help. If things go badly awry, it could be the place of the first general and catastrophic war since 1945. But if its future can be secured, it can flourish as a shared space at the heart of a reconnected world, in ways its early voyagers could have scarcely imagined.’

The Australian National University’s Rory Medcalf ends his impressive book on the Indo-Pacific with an upbeat flourish, yet he paints with dark colours.

‘Pride, blowback and rebalancing’ seem to accompany every empire that tries to rule the Indo-Pacific, he writes, because the super-region is too vast and complex for any country to succeed alone.

An Indo-Pacific that avoids the cataclysm of war, Medcalf argues, will be constructed on ‘multipolarity, solidarity and a confident kind of strategic patience’.

Taiwan accuses China of waging cyber 'war' to disrupt virus fight

Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan’s foreign minister on Saturday accused giant neighbor China of waging cyber “war” on the island to disrupt its fight against the coronavirus by using fake news, as the island Beijing claims as its own reported a jump in new cases

The coronavirus outbreak has strained already poor ties between Taipei and Beijing, with Taiwan especially angry at China’s efforts to block its participation at the World Health Organization (WHO).

China says Taiwan is merely one of its provinces with no right to membership of the WHO. Taiwan has called China “vile” for not allowing it real time information about the virus from the WHO. China says Taiwan gets the information it needs.

This week Taiwan’s government reported an increase in fake online reports about the virus on the island, and blamed China’s “internet army” for being behind the misinformation. China has not responded to the allegations.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Twitter that Chinese officials claim to care about the health of the Taiwanese “as if we’re blood relatives”.

Iran May Be Eyeing the United States’ Soft Underbelly

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Following the U.S. killing of Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, in January, most attention focused on how Iran would react. Ultimately, the Iranians did so with rocket attacks targeting Iraqi bases where both Iraqi and American troops were stationed. The attacks did not result in any American deaths (although soldiers reported traumatic brain injuries), and shortly after Iran stated publicly that it had achieved the “great revenge” it sought against the United States.

Yet few knowledgeable observers believe that Tehran is finished with its response to the loss of its high-level military commander, who also held unique political clout in Iran. Esmail Qaani, Suleimani’s replacement as the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, inherits a deep proxy network of capable actors such as Hezbollah in far-flung places, raising the specter of a retaliatory attack against U.S. interests or U.S. allies abroad.

The Oil Price War Is Turning Into a Debt War

David Fickling
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David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.

In a war of attrition, the winner isn’t the force with overwhelming power, but the one with the greatest capacity to sustain damage. 

The current price war in the oil market is little different. Brent crude fell the most since the 1991 Gulf War Monday, dropping 31% in a matter of seconds, after Friday’s OPEC+ meeting broke up in disarray and Saudi Arabia slashed its crude prices and promised a surge in output.

That decision to open the spigots may seem contradictory from a country that just days ago was trying to coax Russia to join a 1.5 million barrels-a-day production cut. What’s happening, though, is really just a change of tactics. While previously Saudi Arabia hoped to maintain its position and revenues in the oil market by encouraging cooperation between major players, it’s now betting that its best prospect is to do the opposite: Engage in a game of chicken with Moscow and the U.S. independent oil industry, and count on being the last player standing.

Oil to hit $20 amid Saudi-Russian price war


The breakdown of the OPEC+ alliance and the ensuing Saudi flooding of the markets could drive oil down to $20 a barrel this summer.

“$20 oil in 2020 is coming. Huge geopolitical implications,” tweeted Ali Khedery, who previously served as ExxonMobil’s senior advisor for the Middle East.

While this would mean a “timely stimulus” for global consumers, it will be “catastrophic for failed / failing petro-kleptocracies Iraq, Iran, etc,” he said.

The crash “may prove [an] existential 1-2 punch when paired with Covid-19.”

Goldman Sachs also warned that quarters three and four could see “possible dips” in Brent crude to near-$20 per barrel.

Your Tanks Cannot Hide

Nick Reynolds and Jack Watling

Massed Turkish drone and artillery strikes against Syrian tanks and armoured vehicles have major implications for the viability of traditional armoured manoeuvre warfare on the modern battlefield

33 Turkish soldiers were killed on the night of 27 February in an airstrike in Idlib, northern Syria. The precision strike was an uncharacteristically competent operation by what Russian and Turkish diplomats insisted were Syrian military aircraft. Whether undertaken by Moscow or Damascus, the intent was clearly to suppress Turkish forces, allowing the Syrian government to occupy the final rebel redoubt. It was a calculation that backfired spectacularly. 

Over the following 48 hours Ankara unleashed UAV and artillery strikes across Idlib against Syrian regime forces. Footage released by the Turkish military clearly shows that they destroyed dozens of Syrian Army armoured vehicles and killed over a hundred soldiers. The diplomatic repercussions remain to be seen, but the military lessons of Turkey’s onslaught pose serious questions for future concepts of operation. In short, armoured vehicles on the modern battlefield cannot hide.

The Great Oil War of 2020 Has Begun. Can Russia Win?

by Nikolas K. Gvosdev
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After the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Russia was signed into law last year, Russian president Vladimir Putin warned that Russia would retaliate at a time and place of its own choosing. Wrecking the OPEC-Plus arrangement and provoking a demolition-derby price war with Saudi Arabia may seem to be an odd and puzzling way to respond, but there may be a method to that madness. I believe that the Kremlin is gambling that, by year’s end, it will be able to not only push back against the United States but also to reconstruct its partnership with Saudi Arabia.

One of the major flaws of U.S. politicians is their bad habit of loudly proclaiming their strategies months or even years in advance, giving their adversaries plenty of time to prepare. Over the past two years, members of Congress have made it absolutely clear that Russia’s Ukraine bypass pipeline projects—Turkish Stream and Nordstream-2—were in their crosshairs. Moscow attempted to accelerate the completion of these projects before a slow-moving U.S. legislative process could finalize another round of punitive sanctions. Turkish Stream was completed just in time and is already sending Russian energy to Turkey and Southern Europe. Meanwhile, Nordstream-2 would have made it if it hadn't been for those pesky Danes and their environmental protection processes, which held up work on Nordstream just long enough for an eleventh-hour U.S. sanctions push. Even with that assistance—and thanks to a spat with Denmark over a possible sale of Greenland—Moscow had so much advanced warning that it asked its European contractors to focus on the most technically challenging parts of the line first. Gazprom possesses the technical capacity to finish the line—way behind schedule, to be sure—but Nordstream is likely to be completed by the end of 2020. Yes, the delay was sufficient enough to compel Russia to continue to use Ukraine for some export transit, but Moscow’s position in the European energy markets remains largely intact.

An Economic Pandemic

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The coronavirus now appears to be infecting economies as quickly as it does people.

An oil price war is fueling a broader, global market rout as investors are increasingly panicking over the economic impact of the COVID-19. Meanwhile, yields on long-term U.S. government debt—a port in a storm for nervous investors—fell to all-time lows, a clear indicator of a looming recession that could come more quickly than many experts feared.

Oil prices plunged about 25 percent in New York and London, dragging down stock markets in Europe and Asia. In New York, stocks fell 1,800 points within minutes of the opening bell before trading was briefly suspended, and traded well down the rest of the day, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average finishing down 2013.76 points or nearly 8 percent, the worst single-day drop since the financial crisis of 2008.

“This virus is as economically contagious as it is medically contagious,” said Richard Baldwin, a professor of international economics at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. It amounts to a triple whammy for the manufacturing sector in most major economies: outright closures in many Asian plants, supply chain disruptions all over, and topped off with a plunge in demand for cars, electronics, and many other manufactured goods as people take a wait-and-see attitude to the crisis.

Russian Railway System in Trouble, Threatening China Trade and Russian Economy

By: Paul Goble
Given Russia’s lack of a developed highway system (see EDM, October 6, 2015) and its increasing difficulties with the use of rivers for transport (Ritmeurasia.org, October 22, 2019), Moscow not only relies more heavily on the country’s long-haul railway network but counts on it to allow Russia to play a key role in trade between China and Europe. However, because of Moscow’s failure to invest in the maintenance and development of that network, Beijing is increasingly skeptical that Russia can be such a land route. Consequently, China is looking to send its goods either by sea or by routes that bypass the Russian Federation entirely. So what might seem to be a domestic problem is rapidly becoming an international one for Moscow.

The seriousness of this situation is reflected less in the frequent reports about train accidents—like the one this morning (February 25) in Vladivostok, where a 20-car coal train derailed (TASS, February 25, 2020)—than by the fact that, as a result of Russia’s failure to modernize its rail system, trains travel across the Trans-Siberian Railroad (TransSib) at rates too slow to make that route economically viable. In China, cargo trains travel at up to a hundred kilometers an hour (passenger train speeds can reach several hundred miles per hour), but Russian ones in general average only 35–40 kilometers an hour. And as Andrey Ivanov of Svobodnaya Pressa reported last year, “on certain parts of the TransSib in Siberia” that Russia wants China to use, their speed does not even exceed 10 kilometers per hour (Svobodnaya Pressa, April 27, 2019).

Hypersonic weapons and strategic stability

Hypersonic weapons, which combine the speed of the fastest ballistic missiles with the manoeuvrability of cruise missiles, will enter the arsenals of China, Russia and the US over the next five years. Whether their arrival starts an action–reaction cycle in military spending or further weakens crisis stability may depend on whether the countries building these weapons can agree on ways to control their proliferation.

On 27 December 2019, Russia’s defence ministry announced that its Yasnensky Missile Division, based in the Orenburg region bordering Kazakhstan, had deployed a missile regiment armed for the first time with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). Many additional countries – including Australia, China, France, Germany, India and the United States – are also developing hypersonic weapons for their potential to penetrate advanced missile-defence systems and threaten mobile missile launchers.

Russia and the US have the oldest research programmes focused on hypersonic technology, dating to the 1980s. Currently, China appears to have the largest and best funded research programme, with the most aerospace graduates produced by its universities, scientific publications on hypersonics, operational ground-test facilities, hypersonic tests performed and systems in prototype development. The amount China spends each year on research and development has not been publicly disclosed, but statements by US Department of Defense officials suggest that China is spending more per year than Russia, and also more than the US, which spends US$1–2 billion annually. China’s first HGV, the DF-17, is expected to become operational some time in 2020 and has the potential to function as a highly effective anti-access/area-denial weapon in the Western Pacific.

Plagued by Trumpism


NEW YORK – As an educator, I’m always looking for “teachable moments” – current events that illustrate and reinforce the principles on which I’ve been lecturing. And there is nothing like a pandemic to focus attention on what really matters.

For 40 years, Republicans have been insisting that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” But now that COVID-19, climate change, and other collective threats are bearing down on the US and the rest of the world, the bankruptcy of this nostrum has been laid bare.12Add to Bookmarks

The COVID-19 crisis is rich in lessons, especially for the United States. One takeaway is that viruses do not carry passports; in fact, they don’t observe national borders – or nationalist rhetoric – at all. In our closely integrated world, a contagious disease originating in one country can and will go global.

The spread of diseases is one negative side effect of globalization. Whenever such cross-border crises emerge, they demand a global, cooperative response, as in the case of climate change. Like viruses, greenhouse-gas emissions are wreaking havoc and imposing massive costs on countries around the world through the damage caused by global warming and the associated extreme weather events.

Europe fails to help Italy in coronavirus fight

EU countries have so far refused Italy's plea for help fighting coronavirus, as national capitals worry that they may need to stockpile face masks and other medical gear to help their own citizens, officials and diplomats said.

The refusal so far to volunteer help for Italy, which requested face masks through the EU's civil protection mechanism, highlights the urgency for Brussels as it seeks to orchestrate a coordinated response to the epidemic, and to make use of its still relatively limited powers during public health emergencies compared to the broader authority of member states.

Indeed, Rome's hopes for assistance are now pinned on the Commission's triggering of an emergency joint procurement process that allows the EU to purchase urgent medical supplies and to distribute those resources where most-needed across the Continent, even if capitals are reluctant to help each other.

Military Review, April-May 2020, v. 100, no. 2

o Preventing the Collapse: Fighting Friction after First Contact at the National Training Center

o Lightning Strike

o We Are Missing Opportunities to Build Sustained, Total Force Readiness inside Brigade Combat Teams

o Death Ignores the Golden Hour: The Argument for Mobile, Farther-Forward Surgery

o Divided We Fall: How the U.S. Force Is Losing Its Joint Advantage over China and Russia

o Gap-Crossing Operations: Medieval and Modern

o Utilizing Army Historians in the Operational Force

o “Trans-Rational” Iran’s Transnational Strategy for Dominance and Why It Cannot Survive Great Power Competition

Understanding Mission Command

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Mission command is a philosophy for command and a system for conducting operations that is widely understood within the Australian Army to be fundamental to the way we operate. 

However, I’ve found that Army’s junior leaders, myself included, typically don’t have a sophisticated understanding of it. 

Mission command is taught widely, but it is unusual to find someone who has a more nuanced understanding that goes beyond the oft-repeated mantra: ‘the commanders says what is to be achieved, but the subordinate decides how to achieve it’. Definitions also tend to use the word ‘trust’ liberally. 

That’s a good starting point, but its commonly said that mission command is only well understood and implemented in the special forces while the conventional forces just don’t get it.

‘What’s the next step?’: US officials are rethinking how to dissuade cyberattacks

Andrew Eversden

In a coordinated show of force last month, the State Department and the Department of Defense joined more than 20 other nations in attributing and condemning a 2019 cyberattack on the country of Georgia to Russia’s military intelligence wing.

The move was part of a broader “name and shame” strategy aimed at slowing cyberattacks from foreign adversaries, part of a deterrence policy that also includes indictments and sanctions.

But during the one of the cybersecurity community’s biggest trade shows, just days after the State Department announcement, U.S. policymakers repeatedly acknowledged their strategies for discouraging state-backed cyberattacks aren’t working. And, in that vacuum, what’s re-emerging is a debate over what the federal government should do now — especially given the expanding threat several nation-state actors pose to the 2020 presidential election.

The EARN IT Act Is a Sneak Attack on Encryption

A bipartisan pair of US senators today introduced long-rumored legislation known as the EARN IT Act. Meant to combat child sexual exploitation online, the bill threatens to erode established protections against holding tech companies responsible for what people do and say on their platforms. It also poses the most serious threat in years to strong end-to-end encryption.

As the final text of the bill circulated, the Department of Justice held a press conference about its own effort to curb online child predation: a set of 11 "voluntary principles" that a growing number of tech companies—including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap, and Twitter—have pledged to follow. Though the principles the companies are pledging to adopt don't specifically impact encryption themselves, the event had an explicit anti-encryption message. The cumulative effect of this morning's announcements could define the geography of the next crypto wars.

Child predators "communicate using virtually unbreakable encryption," US attorney general William Barr said during the press conference. "The department for one is prioritizing combatting child sexual exploitation and abuse in our prosecution efforts. And we are also addressing child exploitation in our efforts on retaining lawful access and in analyzing the impact of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act on incentives for platforms to address these crimes."

Is Facebook Forever?

Facebook started in 2004 as a simple network for connecting students at Harvard University. At the time, nobody could have predicted that it would grow to become the largest social network in the world, with 2.5 billion active monthly users, or that it would wield such tremendous influence over our lives, our politics, and our concept of free speech on the web.

The progression of events between the Facebook of then and the Facebook of today is catalogued with great detail in Steven Levy’s new book, Facebook: The Inside Story. It’s the product of four years of reporting, including a series of exclusive interviews with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. Levy, an editor-at-large at WIRED, joins the show this week to talk about Facebook’s past, present, and future.

Steven Levy is on Twitter @StevenLevy Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our consulting executive producer is Alex Kapelman (@alexkapelman). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

If you're on an iPhone or iPad, open the app called Podcasts, or just tap this link. You can also download an app like Overcast or Pocket Casts, and search for Gadget Lab. If you use Android, you can find us in the Google Play Music app just by tapping here. We’re on Spotify too. And in case you really need it, here's the RSS feed.

Winning Small Wars in Contests for the People

M. Knight


In 425 BC, during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, a contingent of elite Spartiac hoplites found themselves stranded and surrounded on the island of Sphacteria. They had been unable to subdue their opponents who insisted on using slings and arrows as an effective distance-weapon to counter the heavy infantry close-quarter tactics of the Spartans. The Athenians refused to engage the Spartans in a manner that would ensure their own defeat, much to the chagrin of the Spartans. Facing defeat themselves, the Spartan forces on Sphacteria send a message to Sparta asking what they should do. The reply was clear, “Do nothing shameful”(Nichols, 2015). Following discussions the Spartans on Sphacteria decided that their best course of action, and one that held no shame, was to surrender.

A similar dilemma is now facing western militaries, in-so-far as, the contextual terrain has shifted to such an extent that their enemies refuse to engage them in a manner that would ensure their own destruction. Focus on this modern Sphacterian-dilemma has led to discussions and debates that are encapsulated within the ‘War amongst the people’ arena. A recent notable addition to this discourse is “War Amongst the People: Critical Assessments” (Brown, et al. 2019) that summarises the present thinking and highlights common themes along with critical questions. This paper is a response to the ‘Critical Assessment’ in Brown (2019), and aims to deliver an equally Laconic response as that received by the Spartans on Sphacteria, to the dilemmas identified in ‘War amongst the people’ (Rossi. N, & Riemann. M. ‘Conclusion’ in Brown, et al. 2019).[i]