13 March 2020

1.9 Billion People Get Their Water from a Source That Could Soon Disappear

by Bethan Davies

The year 2019 concludes a decade of exceptional heat, and is on track to be the second or third warmest year on record. While the global average temperature teeters on 1.1°C above the pre-industrial record, the world’s glaciers are in stark retreat.

In high mountain areas, the steady trickle of melting snow in spring has nourished people for generations. Today, 1.9 billion people – or 22% of the world’s population – live downstream of snowpacks and glaciers and depend on them as their main source of drinking water. These icy and snowbound mountain regions could be considered water towers, which provide a regular supply of water for drinking, irrigation and power generation, and provide a life-saving buffer during droughts.

But as rainfall patterns shift and temperatures rise due to climate change, these glaciers are thinning and retreating. When snowpacks shrink, so does the amount of water stored in these mountain water towers. I’m part of a team of 32 international scientists that have looked at 78 of these water towers worldwide and tried to find out how much water they store and supply, and how many people depend on them for their survival.

Indian Foreign Policy: A mere jumble of words?

Bharat Karnad

Most countries that matter or think they matter have a fairly standard template for foreign policy, which is to advance the national interest by advantageously managing the existing tiered balance of power system within the region, the continent, and the world at-large. The single best encapsulation in recent times of, or label for, such policy in the Indian context is “strategic autonomy”.

Jawaharlal Nehru conceived of nonalignment, a movement of Third World states, as global balancer and adroitly managed the often conflicting expectations of the US/West and USSR and had the country benefit from the competing attentions of the super powers of the day using the means of moral suasion. It worked only because in the aftermath of the nuclear horrors inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Washington was on the moral defensive and the Communist regime of the Soviet Union, with no such inhibitions but motivated by hard-headed geopolitics, saw the gain from playing to India’s moral pretensions and showing empathy for Third World causes (anti-imperialism, anti-racism, etc).

Mineral-Rich, Productivity-Poor? An Overview Of India’s Mining Sector – Analysis

By Arun Kumar*

India occupies a significant position in the production of many minerals across the globe, while for some, there is acute shortage. There continues to be a huge demand for minerals in view of rapid urbanisation and the growth in the country’s manufacturing sector. Against this background, this article will consider the impact of the 2015 amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957, and the 2020 Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance.

There are several reasons why an assessment of the policy and regulatory landscape governing the sector are germane.

One, out of a total of 32.87 lakh sq km land area, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has identified 5.71 lakh as of Obvious Geological Potential (OGP) for minerals. However, mining is carried out only in 1.5 per cent of the OGP area (not including building material like sand aggregates, etc).

Two, is the sector’s potential to strengthen the economy. The mining and quarrying (including petroleum and natural gas) sector’s contribution to India’s gross value added (GVA) accounted for about 2.38 per cent in 2018-19. The sector’s (including coal but excluding petroleum and natural gas) GDP contribution was 1.63 per cent in the same year. Contrary to this, the sector’s contributions to GDP in other mineral-rich countries like Australia and South Africa are to the tune of 7-8 per cent.

‘Tremendous Uncertainty’ As Competing Presidential Oaths Plunge Afghanistan Deeper Into Crisis – Analysis

By Frud Bezhan
Source Link

(RFE/RL) — Afghanistan has descended into a full-blown political crisis after the two main contenders in a bitterly disputed presidential election — each claiming victory — were sworn in as president in rival ceremonies.

President Ashraf Ghani, the officially declared winner of the vote, was sworn in for a second term by the country’s chief justice in Kabul on March 9. Abdullah Abdullah, chief executive officer after a power-sharing deal settled another election dispute five years ago, took an oath administered by a senior cleric in his own inauguration ceremony nearby at the same time.

The unprecedented move has plunged the country into further uncertainty, with experts warning that the dispute could descend into violence and derail a historic deal to end fighting between the United States and fundamentalist Taliban militants.

As part of that agreement, direct peace talks between the Western-backed Kabul government and the Taliban were scheduled to begin on March 10. But the political crisis in Kabul has thrown those plans into disarray.

Reading Between the Lines of Afghan Agreements

By Elizabeth Threlkeld 

Editor’s Note: One of President Trump’s most significant foreign policy achievements may be the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Whether the U.S.-Taliban deal will hold is an open question, however. Elizabeth Threlkeld of the Stimson Center addresses the deal and the associated U.S.-Afghan joint statement. She finds several areas of ambiguity where the United States, the Afghan government and the Taliban positions disagree or are unclear. All could pose significant problems down the road.

Daniel Byman

The U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in Doha on Feb. 29 is historic, significant and long overdue. After nearly 20 years of war and many failed attempts at striking a deal, it represents the best chance Afghans, the United States and the wider region have of building a more stable and secure future. The deal is also—perhaps inevitably—ambiguous, contingent and preliminary. After trying for years to strike an agreement including both the Taliban and representatives of Afghanistan’s government, U.S. officials determined the only way forward would be to first negotiate with the Taliban.

China, US emerging as adversaries over Tibet

Jayadeva Ranade

Threatening to upset China’s plans is the Tibet Policy and Support Act passed by the US House of Representatives on January 28, amending the Act of 2002. The Act is more direct in its support for the Dalai Lama and incorporates potential punitive measures. Especially important are the recommendations that China resume talks with the Dalai Lama or Tibet’s democratically-elected leaders sans preconditions.

China’s Communist authorities appear to have reached the conclusion approximately 18 months ago that the time for selecting the reincarnation of the XIVth Dalai Lama is drawing near. Since then, they have stepped up efforts to capture the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people and adapt Tibetan Buddhism to ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’. China’s official media has recently begun to frequently refer to ‘Chinese Buddhism’. A blatant indication of the efforts to project Buddhism as Chinese is the article authored by the Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong and published in an Indian newspaper in November last year. The article claimed that ‘Buddhism was introduced into Tibet from the Tang Empire’, completely ignoring that Padma Sambhava and numerous other sages had travelled from India to Tibet and China carrying Buddhist religious texts.

New UUVs: China's Plan to 'Attack from the Sea Floor'

by Lyle J. Goldstein

The Achilles Heel of the Chinese Navy has long been undersea warfare. The Middle Kingdom’s nuclear submarines are considered noisy, with their “boomers” [SSBNs] only recently taking up what might loosely be considered an actual “deterrent patrol.” The diesel force was quite reliant on the imported Kilo-class from Russia until the last decade. Even if China could field quiet submarines with proficient crews, the geography is not very conducive to the extensive operation of submarines given the shallow bathymetry off of most of China’s coastal regions. The PLA Navy also lacks experience in hunting adversary submarines, since it is just now starting to field advanced fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft for that purpose. 

Yet, now these trends are starting to reverse and a whole variety signs are apparent (as occasionally reported in this regular Dragon Eye column for TNI) that the PLAN is now giving the undersea realm the priority it deserves for ambitious naval powers in the 21st century. A somewhat subtle, but nonetheless, important signal of that intention is the PLAN’s fielding of its very first large-size unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV), the HSU001. That vehicle was revealed during the 70th Anniversary Parade by the Chinese military on 1 Oct 2019. A reasonably detailed discussion of the vehicle appeared under the interesting title “Attack from the Sea Floor [从海底出击]” in the final 2019 issue of Shipborne Weapons [舰载武器], published by a CSIC research institute in Zhengzhou. Don’t get too excited, the article does not “reveal all.” But it is nevertheless worthy of closer examination and offers a number of potentially significant hints regarding coming attractions.

Coronavirus: The Deadly New U.S.-Iran Standoff

by Matthew Petti

The official COVlD-19 death toll in Iran has risen to 237 people today as the U.S.-Iranian diplomatic standoff continues to slow down international cooperation to fight the new coronavirus disease.

The Trump administration quietly loosened sanctions on the Iranian banking system to allow for humanitarian trade and offered the Iranian government help in dealing with COVID-19 at the end of February. But the diplomatic breakthrough was short-lived, as Iran has rejected the U.S. offer and U.S. sanctions continue to throw up obstacles in the path of Iran’s pandemic response.

The restrictions on the central bank imposed in September had “created tremendous uncertainty for companies that relied on [humanitarian exemptions] for the export of food, agricultural commodities, medicines, or medical devices to Iran,” the law firm Hogan Lovells explained in a March 5 memo to its clients, so the Trump administration’s “measures indicate an effort on the part of the U.S. Government to facilitate humanitarian trade with Iran.”

“It’s not like they’re doing nothing,” explained sanctions lawyer Erich Ferrari, but “a lot of this is [the Trump administration’s] own doing. They’re trying to reduce the negative effects of their own actions.”

How to Tell the Difference Between a Pandemic, Epidemic and an Outbreak

by Rebecca S.B. Fischer

The coronavirus is on everyone’s minds. As an epidemiologist, I find it interesting to hear people using technical terms – like quarantine or super spreader or reproductive number – that my colleagues and I use in our work every day.

But I’m also hearing newscasters and neighbors alike mixing up three important words: outbreak, epidemic and pandemic.

Simply put, the difference between these three scenarios of disease spread is a matter of scale.

By tracking diseases over time and geography, epidemiologists learn to predict how many cases of an illness should normally happen within a defined period of time, place and population. An outbreak is a noticeable, often small, increase over the expected number of cases.

China's Rise Does Matter and It Is Scarier Than You Think

China is modernizing every element of its military. It has announced plans to field a world-class military by 2035 and a dominant military by mid-century.1 Consistent with its goal of regional hegemony, China is building Navy, Coast Guard, and merchant ships faster than any other nation. Its Navy now directly commands China’s Coast Guard, adding hundreds of ships to its fleet. China’s fleet of warships now outnumbers U.S. warships in the Indo-Pacific by about 10 to 1. With this new capability, China constantly intimidates its neighbors through its increasingly aggressive maritime behavior.2

China intends to control the international waters off its shores.3 It has invested heavily in long-range anti-access area denial (A2/AD) missiles. These missiles represent a serious threat to warships, since considerable uncertainty exists about the effectiveness of the defenses against them.4 A strategic benefit of robust A2/AD missiles is increasing the stand-off distance from China that warships must maintain to avoid attack. By pushing navies further away from shores, these weapons look to turn the China Seas into Chinese territorial waters. According to the Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Phil Davidson, “China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”5

Coronavirus: 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Panic

by Ignacio López-Goñi
Source Link

Regardless of whether we classify the new coronavirus as a pandemic, it is a serious issue. In less than two months, it has spread over several continents. Pandemic means sustained and continuous transmission of the disease, simultaneously in more than three different geographical regions. Pandemic does not refer to the lethality of a virus but to its transmissibility and geographical extension.

We certainly have is a pandemic of fear. The entire planet’s media is gripped by coronavirus. It is right that there is deep concern and mass planning for worst-case scenarios. And, of course, the repercussions move from the global health sphere into business and politics.

But it is also right that we must not panic. It would be wrong to say there is good news coming out of COVID-19, but there are causes for optimism; reasons to think there may be ways to contain and defeat the virus. And lessons to learn for the future.

1. We know what it is

How does water security affect China’s development?

1% of the global population

Access to safe drinking water is essential for communities around the world. Regions without clean and accessible drinking water face serious economic and social challenges.

Globally, 71 percent of people have access to safely managed drinking water at home that is available when needed and free from contamination.

Another 19 percent have basic drinking water service from an improved source that is less accessible.

The remaining 10 percent of the global population relies on limited water service that is far from home, unimproved water from wells or springs, or untreated surface water.

With roughly one-fifth of the global population residing in China, measures taken to manage the country’s water resources have a tremendous impact on hundreds of millions of lives.

Providing safe drinking water to over 1.4 billion people remains a challenge for China. The country’s economic development has raised living standards and expanded access to water for much of the population, yet millions still lack water that is safe and easily accessible.

Two Million Infected? Iran Is Failing To Contain The Coronavirus.

by Masih Alinejad

The deadly COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has wreaked havoc throughout Iran, another disaster that highlights the Islamic Republic’s mismanagement and raises further questions about its legitimacy.

Iranian authorities claim 7,161 cases of COVID-19, ranking fourth behind China, South Korea and Italy. Yet the Islamic Republic has completely botched its response to the coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of a number of high ranking officials and lawmakers.

The regime’s dealing with the virus is similar to how it handles other crises—deny the news; blame foreign enemies, especially the United States; admit there’s a problem and then suppress the news.

Today, even as the contagion threatens to overwhelm the country’s health system, Tehran blames the sanctions and warns of being a victim of an American biological attack. The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Hossein Salami, recently said the virus is part of a biological attack from the Great Satan.

A Royal Purge: The Political Power Grab In Saudi Arabia – OpEd

(FPRI) — On March 7, 2020, Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS, as he is commonly referred to) detained and arrested former head of army intelligence Prince Nayef bin Ahmed, along with Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, purportedly in response to a potential coup attempt. The arrests come just months after Crown Prince bin Salman arrested Mohammad bin Nayef, the former interior minister and the man in Saudi Arabia who worked most closely with the United States on counter-terrorism issues after the 9/11 attacks. To make sense of what is happening in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Aaron Stein, the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Middle East Program Director, spoke with Michael Stephens, an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London about Saudi politics.

Aaron Stein: Mike, thanks for doing this. I have to admit up front, I am not an expert on Saudi politics. I know you are. So let’s start with a basic question. What happened?

Michael Stephens: In classic Saudi fashion, an announcement was made late on Friday night, which is always an indicator that something serious has happened. Three princes, including former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN), former Interior Minister Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz, and Prince Nawaf bin Nayef were arrested supposedly on charges of Treason, although no charges have yet been brought. MbN’s, brother Governor of Eastern Province Prince Saud bin Nayef, was also invited in for questioning as was his son, the current Interior Minister. It has not been a good weekend for the sons of Prince Nayef, the once all-powerful Interior Minister who held office for 38 years.

Crimea After Six Years

by Diana Kadi
Crimea is no longer a part of Ukraine but it is unclear whether it has become part of Russia.

Six years after returning Crimea to Russia and the world community’s position on the Crimean Peninsula has not changed. The United States extends sanctions, and the European states whose leaders are smiling at Russian president Vladimir Putin during official meetings also still label Crimea as part of Ukraine.

In Russia, the word “annexation” is used less and less for describing those events of March 2014. People have grown bored with this issue and are no longer arguing in public about which country is the rightful owner of the peninsula.

But do the Crimeans feel as though they are Russians? Among the arguments for a thesis of Russian aggression, opponents speak about how Russia has been oppressing the rights of the Crimean Tatars. Their argument is rooted in the pro-Ukrainian position. Indeed, plenty of the Crimean Tatars favor Russia but in the West their voices are not being heard. Unsurprisingly, the world community does not need this to bolster its effort to counter Putin. But the pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian division still causes problems.

Cheap Oil Is the Fuel That Makes Climate Change So Hard To Stop

by Scott L. Montgomery
Source Link

Burning fossil fuels, the main source of manmade carbon dioxide, is the biggest cause of climate change. In the U.S. and other wealthy countries, oil is the single largest source of these emissions.

The relationship between supply and demand, a fundamental economic concept, holds that when the price of something rises, people use less of it. Similarly, when prices fall, they use more.

And it may seem logical that low oil prices benefit consumers, countries, even the world. When consumers save money on gas, they can spend it elsewhere.

Yet, I argue that climate change makes this view obsolete.

That’s because cheap oil has two big downsides along with its short-term gains. It erodes the advantages of vehicles that get more miles to the gallon, making consumers less apt to do their share to reduce emissions by buying vehicles that use less fuel – or none at all.

Millions Dead? What If There Is No Possible Plan to Stop Climate Change?

by John Quiggin

There is growing evidence that Earth’s systems are heading towards climate “tipping points” beyond which change becomes abrupt and unstoppable. But another tipping point is already being crossed - humanity’s capacity to adapt to a warmer world.

This season’s uncontrollable bushfires overwhelmed the nation. They left 33 people dead, killed an estimated one billion animals and razed more than 10 million hectares – a land area almost the size of England. The millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide the fires spewed into the atmosphere will accelerate climate change further.

Humans are a highly adaptive species. In the initial phases of global warming in the 20th century, we coped with the changes. But at some point, the pace and extent of global warming will outrun the human capacity to adapt. Already in Australia, there are signs we have reached that point.

Yes, Climate Change Could End Up Killing You

by Chelsey Kivland Anne Sosin

Around the world, the health care debate often revolves around access.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, recently announced: “All roads lead to universal health coverage.” Discussions for how to translate this vision into a road map for action is central to the agenda of the WHO’s executive board meeting this week in Geneva.

Yet focusing on access is not enough. The imperative for access must be paired with a frank acknowledgment that climate change is making communities around the world more vulnerable to ill health. A 2017 commission of The Lancet, a leading health research journal, tracked the effects of climate change on health and found evidence of harms “far worse that previously understood.”

Even as we move to close the access gap, a string of natural disasters in late 2017, including successive hurricanes and widespread forest fires, threaten to widen the vulnerability gap.

As a global health professional (Sosin) and a cultural anthropologist (Kivland), we have witnessed how the global exchange of health technology, expertise and aid has contributed to dramatic gains in the delivery of health care in Haiti and other settings, especially around infectious diseases. Yet climate change threatens to undermine the health gains in vulnerable communities across the globe.

Not Just Climate Change: The Other Dangerous Ways Fossil Fuels Hurt Us

by Noel Healy Jennie C. Stephens Stephanie Malin

The coal, oil and natural gas industries are also major contributors to human rights violations, public health disasters and environmental devastation.

Many Democratic lawmakers aim to pass a Green New Deal, a package of policies that would mobilize vast amounts of money to create new jobs and address inequality while fighting climate change.

Led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, they are calling for massive investments in renewable energy and other measures over a decade that would greatly reduce or even end the nation’s overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels.
As experts in environmental geography, sociology, and sustainability science and policy, we wholeheartedly support this effort. And, as we explained in a recently published study, climate change is not the only reason to ditch fossil fuels.

The coal, oil and natural gas industries are also major contributors to human rights violations, public health disasters and environmental devastation.

The Great Oil Crash of 2020 Has Arrived

by Hunter DeRensis 

Achain of events on the international market, interrelated with fears of the coronavirus, a glut in the oil market, and uncertainty about the strength of the U.S. bull market has led to a dramatic fall in stock prices and a falling out in the price of crude oil.

As the coronavirus began spreading from China to other parts of the industrialized world throughout February, panic about the disease has people self-quarantining themselves. This has caused a dip in the travel market and people fear to go on international flights. A decrease in air traffic and other forms of transportation then caused a minor glut in the oil market, when less fuel was being used.

Last week Saudi Arabia attempted to negotiate a supply cut among OPEC and the other oil-producing nations to absolve the glut and keep prices up. Russia refused this outreach. “I want to stress that for the Russian budget, for our economy, the current oil prices level is acceptable,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russian energy officials. He was skeptical that a supply cut would revive demand in the short term.

The Great 2020 Oil Plunge Completes Iraq’s Perfect Storm

by Michael Rubin
Source Link

2020 is shaping up to be Iraq’s most difficult year since 2003 when the U.S. launched its shock-and-awe campaign to bring down long-time dictator Saddam Hussein.

Lawyer Alaa Kadhem described a perfect storm of political, economic, and social forces. A week ago, that might have been overwrought, but yesterday’s plunge in oil prices makes it a reality. The Iraqi government has suffered three strikes: a constitutional crisis, coronavirus, and now a plunge in oil prices. Iraqis are resilient, but they will now pay the price for their leaders’ populism.

First Strike: Iraq’s Constitutional Crisis

The first strike against the Iraqi government has been widespread, popular protests. On October 1, 2020, young Iraqis took to the streets across Iraq in response to growing public unease with corruption and ineffectiveness in the Iraqi government. Iraqis both regularly vote for change and feel powerless. Consider that as Americans complain about Congress, we regularly return over 90 percent of our representatives to office. In Iraq, on the other hand, Iraqis return only about 25 percent of incumbents. The revolving door parliament, however, has not been enough to bring change because of a flaw in Iraq’s election system, one originally imposed by UN bureaucrats and U.S. diplomats concerned more with the short-term ease of organizing an election than the long-consequences of its misdesign. Iraqi political parties are organized by lists crafted by often unelected political leaders. In short, this means Iraqi politicians are more accountable to the unaccountable than to any constituencies. When the elections do occur—even when the rallying cry for the electorate is against corruption—the same political bosses horse-trade to distribute patronage across parties in a way that essentially disenfranchises the voter. 

Crashing Oil Prices: Do They Help or Hurt the U.S. Economy?

by Samuel Rines 

An often overlooked piece of the U.S. economy is the oil patch, which is a true comeback story of shale and U.S. energy independence. The oil industry is also a deeply intriguing piece of economic history that deserves a deeper look. But this article is going to poke a bit of a hole in that narrative, though.

The U.S. shale patch never actually recovered the jobs lost from the last boom. When the Federal Reserve tightened its quantitative easing up in 2014, the U.S. dollar went parabolic and oil prices collapsed from over a hundred dollars a barrel to the mid-twenties. Reasonably, employment in the sector plummeted (with a lag) to the price of oil. Sure, oil prices eventually found some footing. However, employment never really did. Certainly, there was some movement off the bottom, but not much.

Today there will once again be trouble in the oil patch, but there are not as many workers to suffer. This is because the bubble was never reflated. If the bubble had reflated, the consequences for the U.S. economy would be much different. Without the euphoria and people in the path, the skew of lower oil prices is toward marginal economic benefit, not pain.

Oil Price War

Last week, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), along with a grouping of other countries, including Russia, that have for the last three years formed something known as the OPEC Alliance, or OPEC+, tried to reach an agreement to cut additional oil supply from the market in response to the coronavirus-induced oil price decline. It didn’t work.

Despite clear indications that Russia was not in favor of cutting further production, OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, proposed a sizeable additional cut of 1.5 million barrels per day through the end of June and an extension of the existing supply cut through the end of the year. Russia walked away and the deal collapsed. Over the weekend, news stories circulated that Russia wanted to see oil prices decline in order to harm U.S. tight oil producers. Saudi Arabia cut their official selling prices and have reportedly decided to increase production to 10 million barrels per day or higher in the coming months, sending a strong signal that they have no desire to lose market share to anyone else. As a result, oil prices dropped 30 percent when the market opened in Asia, and at least one prominent forecaster warned oil could see the $20 barrel range with significant risk to the downside.

Erdogan’s Failed Gamble In Syria – OpEd

By Conn Hallinan*
Source Link

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest gamble in Syria’s civil war appears to have come up snake eyes.

Instead of halting the Damascus government’s siege of the last rebel held province, Idlib, Turkey has backed off, and Erdogan’s newest Syrian misadventure is fueling growing domestic resistance to the powerful autocrat.

The crisis began on February 25, when anti-government rebels, openly backed by Turkish troops, artillery, and armor, attacked the Syrian army at the strategic town of Saraqeb, the junction of Highways 4 and 5 linking Aleppo to Damascus and the Mediterranean. The same day, Russian warplanes in southern Idlib were fired upon by MANPADS (man portable air-defense systems), anti-aircraft weapons from Turkish military outposts. The Russian air base at Khmeimim was also attacked by MANPADS and armed Turkish drones.

What happened next is still murky. According to Ankara, a column of Turkish troops on its way to bring supplies to Turkish observer outposts in Idlib were attacked by Syrian war planes and artillery, killing some 34 soldiers and wounding more than 70. Some sources report much higher causalities.

Special Obfuscations: The Strategic Uses of Special Operations Forces

The Issue

Since 9/11, America has more than doubled the size of SOF and tripled the SOF budget. The SOF community has developed an intelligence-driven mode of operations enabled by niche technologies, a decentralized command-and-control structure, and a unique budgeting process. Rebalancing and reorienting the SOF enterprise will require much more than a few strategy statements. It will require detailed guidance about changes, priorities, and cuts, with close follow-on oversight of implementation. It will also require strategic clarity so that the force can accomplish needed reforms and organizational change.

One Strategy, A World of Possibilities

The opening paragraphs of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) contain a stark sentence: “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” With that statement, the Trump administration suggested a strategic reemphasis with far-reaching consequences for the missions and activities of the nation’s special operations forces (SOF). Reading the 2018 NDS, one might conclude that after playing pivotal roles in the terrorism- and insurgency-centric campaigns of the last 18 years, SOF will need to make profound changes to remain relevant.

Much at Stake as EU Battles COVID-19

by Ilona Kickbusch

European Union health ministers are meeting and communicating more frequently as COVID-19 spreads and the situation on the ground changes more rapidly. When they first met on Feb. 13, no viral deaths had been reported in Europe. By the time of their next meeting on Friday March 6, more than 4,000 cases had been confirmed across the EU. According to the latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, as of March 7th 213 deaths have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK and the ECDC has raised the risk of coronavirus infection from moderate to high. 

But there is also concern that not all member states are reporting responsibly. Italy has reported the highest number of deaths outside of China, it is the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, and with Italy declaring a quarantine on the northern region of Lombardi, many people worry that what Italy is experiencing now will happen elsewhere in Europe. Some believe it is inevitable. 

Has Europe Lost Both the Battle and War over Its Digital Future?

Digital technologies are not new, but policymakers have woken up to the fact that they will drive economic growth. European Union officials are the latest to awaken. The European Union’s release of yet another strategy is ambitious, but short on detail, accompanied by statements that "Europe may have lost the battle to create digital champions capable of taking on U.S. and Chinese companies . . . but it can win the war of industrial data."

The first step in solving any problem is acknowledging that the problem exists. Europe has indeed lost the battle to create digital champions. But have they lost the war? Our answer is an unhappy yes. The European Union wants "technological sovereignty" but does not offer to explain how it will achieve this without the politically difficult "creative destruction" of existing businesses and jobs that innovation and technology inevitably bring. Or how Europe—the world’s largest exporter of commercial services and critical infrastructure—would suffer most if its notions of sovereignty took root in other countries.

And this is where the war begins to be lost. In announcing the new EU digital strategy, European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton stated that “Europe is the world’s top industrial continent," (blithely ignoring China) and asserts that the United States has lost its industrial know-how. Europe was indeed the world’s industrial continent—but in the nineteenth century. If the United States has lost know-how, it is for the industries of the last century, like textiles, or steel, politically painful, to be sure but also necessary for growth. To emphasize this point, of the top 10 companies in the United States, five are less than 20 years old, while all of the top 10 companies in Europe are more than a century old.

Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)

o “Fighters Without Borders”—Forecasting New Trends in Iran Threat Network Foreign Operations Tradecraft

o A View from the CT Foxhole: Brigadier General Dagvin R.M. Anderson, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa

o A View from the CT Foxhole: An Interview with an Official at Europol’s EU Internet Referral Unit

o The Cyber Threat from Iran after the Death of Soleimani

o “Breaking the Walls” Goes Global: The Evolving Threat of Jihadi Prison Assaults and Riots

From Hybrid Warfare to “Cybrid” Campaigns: The New Normal?

By Antonio Missiroli for NATO Defense College (NDC) 
Source Link

Antonio Missiroli writes that the speed and intensity at which the strategic landscape evolves now requires actors including the EU and NATO to constantly update their analytical and operational tools. This is to ensure they can capture change as it occurs, anticipate it whenever possible, and frame it in terms that facilitate adaptation, resilience and cooperation. In this article, Missiroli explores how debates over “hybrid’ —including its associations with “warfare” and cyber-​enabled technology working a possible game-​changer— provide an excellent case in point. 

The speed and intensity at which the strategic landscape has evolved over the past two decades requires constantly updating our analytical and operational tools, capturing change as it occurs, anticipating it whenever possible, and also framing it in terms that facilitate adaptation and cooperation. The recent debates over “hybrid” are an excellent case in point. 

What’s in a name? 

Could Armed Drone Swarms Really Wipe out All Submarines?

by Sebastien Roblin

Key point: Drones offer a lot of interesting possibilities for how warfare might change. However, they aren't yet able to displace traditional systems.

After a post-Cold War hiatus, navies across the planet are pursuing new anti-submarine capabilities as a submarine arms race accelerates in the Pacific Ocean. Developing technologies like quantum magnetometers and satellite-based optical sensors are leading to forecasts that submarines may be on the verge of losing their stealthy edge by the mid-twenty-first century.

But swarms of cheap drones both above and below the water (unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs) may pose the biggest and most proximate threat to submarines.

This first appeared earlier in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.