15 April 2020

To Lockdown or Not

Amb Satish Chandra
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All Indians await with bated breath the government's decision as to what should be done on expiry of the current countrywide lockdown. There are no easy answers and this is an occasion when no one would envy being in Prime Minister Modi's shoes. India is, however, fortunate in having him at the helm of affairs as he is not one to dither and to shy away from taking hard decisions. 

In fashioning the national response to the situation one must take into account the following hard realities:

The choice between a lockdown and opening up is projected as a choice between saving lives and saving the economy. The reality is, however, not so simple. Saving the economy is equally necessary to save lives particularly as millions in India live from hand to mouth. The lockdown related disruptions have brought the economy to a standstill and caused life threatening starvation and hardship. Treatment of those with other serious ailments is being put on hold and there are reports that to conserve beds for coronavirus cases the same are being denied to patients afflicted with other serious illnesses. Supply disruptions are assuming serious proportions with around 3.5 lakh trucks stuck on our roads with Rs 35,000 crores worth of supplies ranging from cars to white goods to essentials. Clearly, a lockdown jeopardises India's dreams of even a modicum of economic growth, leave aside the rapid economic growth, so critical for its well being and all the more necessary at a time when it has been in an economic slump for months on end marked by massive unemployment. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) is quoted to have pegged the unemployment rate in March at a worrying 8.7% which with the lockdown at the end of the month it now projects at 23.8%

Coronavirus outbreak: India shows economic common sense

By: Gautam Mukherjee

In terms of fixing global responsibility for the situation, Communist China and a collaborative WHO under its present Director General, are being squarely blamed.

The world has admired the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the Wuhan virus threat. A near prompt national lockdown of over three weeks has limited the number of those infected to a few thousand, and those killed by the virus to under 300 at this point. Had we not done this, a recent statistical analysis by the Union Health Ministry states that we may have had 8.2 lakh infected by April 15, with a proportionately high death count. 

The war against the Wuhan virus is far from over even now, and it will be, perhaps only by the end of 2020, that we will gain perspective on how well we eventually did. 

India seems to have made a terrific, unmatched start, however, given our gargantuan population of over 1.3 billion. But as the saying goes- it is equally important to win the peace. And preparations for doing so cannot wait till the end of the war. 

Thousands of techies in locked-down India are braving coronavirus daily to keep the world running

By Ananya Bhattacharya

The world’s abrupt slowing down in the past few weeks may have introduced millions of Covid-19-wary professionals to the whole new paradigm of work-from-home. Yet, a third of India’s four million IT employees are still trudging regularly to the office even if mostly to make life easier for clients abroad.

Every working day, these thousands risk contracting coronavirus, jeopardising even their families’ health, by going to work amid India’s ongoing 21-day lockdown. Only because their jobs, in cities like Bengaluru, Pune, and Hyderabad, form the backroom spine of some of the world’s corporate behemoths.

Indian IT majors like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, and Wipro service giants like General Electric, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, Fidelity, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Airbus, Cisco, British Telecom, Vodafone, and Nielsen, among thousands of other companies across the globe. “We power the financial backbones of several countries, support some of the largest health care and pharmacy companies in the world, run technology for governments and public services organisations,” a TCS spokesperson told Quartz when asked about the lockdown.

Getting ahead of coronavirus: Saving lives and livelihoods in IndiaApril

By Rajat Gupta and Anu Madgavkar

DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCESOpen interactive popup

The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest global humanitarian challenge the world has faced since World War II. The virus has spread widely, and the number of cases is rising daily as governments work to slow its spread. India has moved quickly, implementing a proactive, nationwide, 21-day lockdown, with the goal of flattening the curve and using the time to plan and resource responses adequately.

Along with an unprecedented human toll, COVID-19 has triggered a deep economic crisis. The global economic impact could be broader than any that we have seen since the Great Depression.1 To understand the probable economic outcomes and possible interventions, McKinsey spoke with more than 600 leaders, including senior economists, financial-market experts, and policy makers, in 100 companies across multiple sectors. Based on these inputs, we modeled estimates for three economic scenarios in India (Exhibit 1).2

Political Warfare, Sharp Power, the U.S., and East Asia

Authoritarian regimes use the weapons of political warfare and the tools of sharp power to influence, and sometimes undermine, liberal-democratic polities. As classically defined by George Kennan, political warfare is “the logical application of Clausewitz’s doctrine in the time of peace” and includes “the employment of all means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives.” Its modern form includes overt and covert uses of diplomatic, political, economic, and information means to affect policy decision-making or the political context affecting such decision-making in another state through means that are neither violent nor limited to persuasion or voluntary transaction. Distinguished from coercive hard power and persuasive soft power, sharp power seeks, as Christopher Walker puts it, to “pierce, penetrate, or perforate” political, media, and social environments of targeted countries, to manipulate their politics and, at times, to erode their political institutions.

Political warfare and sharp power, and the attention paid to them, have been increasing, with the Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election being

a pivotal moment. East Asia has not been immune to the phenomenon. Polities in the region have been both sources and targets, with the People’s Republic of China’s increased capacity and seemingly growing will to use political warfare and sharp power being the most transformative development.

Coronavirus chaos could strengthen China's debt hold on struggling nations

Helen Davidson
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Construction has stalled on the rail line between China and Laos, one the many infrastructure projects funded by the Chinese Belt and Road initiative. Photograph: Aidan Jones/AFP via Getty Images

As the coronavirus pandemic causes global economic devastation, China could take control of debt-struck nations’ assets at an accelerated rate, or it could boost its soft diplomacy by forgiving debt.

The choice has been laid out by the authors of a Harvard report on a Chinese tactic dubbed “debtbook diplomacy”, and comes amid calls for G20 nations to endorse a year-long debt moratorium for the poorest countries.

State-owned Chinese companies and banks have become major international lenders, including through large scale infrastructure investments under Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative.

The looming threat from China in space


With much of the world's focus fixated recently upon China because of the coronavirus pandemic that originated there, this is an opportune time to direct attention toward another threat emanating from the communist nation: its militarized space program that could affect the well-being of the United States and the rest of the free world.

China has ended its lockdown of Wuhan, where the virus first was detected, and like the rest of the world will begin the difficult work of trying to get the country back to business. In the United States, where most of the country remains under shelter-in-place orders, millions of people are filing unemployment claims and worried about a COVID-19 recession that has begun to take hold. 

As Americans wonder about the state of our nation — and the world — post-pandemic, it may be a perfect time to contemplate a United States where we could suddenly lose all communications, blindside our military, and send our banking system back to the Stone Age. Yes, China’s military-controlled space program has been war-gaming those potential outcomes

National coronavirus response: A road map to reopening

Key Points

This report provides a road map for navigating through the current COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. It outlines specific directions for adapting our public-health approach away from sweeping mitigation strategies as we limit the epidemic spread of COVID-19, such that we can transition to new tools and approaches to prevent further spread of the disease.

The authors outline the steps that can be taken as epidemic transmission is brought under control in different regions. They also suggest measurable milestones for identifying when we can make these transitions and start reopening America for businesses and families.
In each phase, the authors outline the steps that the federal government, working with the states and public-health and health care partners, should take to inform the response. This will take time, but planning for each phase should begin now so the infrastructure is in place when it is time to transition.

Learning the Value of Solidarity in Coronavirus-Stricken Spain

Alana Moceri 

MADRID—On the first Friday in March, Spain was deep into the rigorous hand-washing phase of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, but still about a week away from a lockdown. That night, I met a friend at a quiet tapas bar close to home. Afterward, we went to another bar in the Arguelles neighborhood, a popular late-night haunt for students at several nearby universities. It was the typical Friday pandemonium of people yelling orders, drinks and plates being passed around, and used napkins covering the floor. As I washed down my Spanish omelet with a glass of Verdejo, I looked around and remarked, “This is the perfect place to pass around the virus.”

It would be my last night out for the foreseeable future, yet even at that point, it was pretty stupid to head into any bar, let alone one that crowded. Since then, Spain has become one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with a confirmed death toll of more than 15,000 people. No one can say whether that number might now be lower if authorities had acted more quickly or if people had taken the virus more seriously. But there are still some broad lessons to take from countries like Spain. .

When pandemics come to slums

Vanda Felbab-Brown and Paul Wise

Slums provide uniquely challenging conditions for containing the coronavirus and confronting the threat of COVID-19. There may be no ambulances. No hospitals. No tests. No or few police. Only some of the most densely populated places on earth. When COVID-19 reaches the world’s slums, few policy options are available; and those that exist often entail hellish bargains with the criminal groups that so often rule such areas.

Poor areas that surround the developing world’s great urban centers are crowded places where one-room shacks may house a multi-generational family. They are deprived of public services, with water for drinking and washing often only available at communal distribution points. Sometimes, criminal groups in collusion with corrupt water authorities sell water from tankers or street carts. Washing hands diligently is impossible. Shacks lack toilets and entire neighborhoods have no sewage systems. Since households don’t have electricity or refrigerators, stocking up on food is not feasible. In the absence of a safety net, staying at home can mean starvation.

Coronavirus Exposes Central Asian Migrants’ Vulnerability

By Aruuke Uran Kyzy

As the new coronavirus spreads and gives borders — of any kind — new meaning, nation-states are closing their physical borders at a staggering pace. Even borders that were usually open, such as between Russia and Central Asia, have hardened. As COVID-19 appeared in the region, a travel lockdown was imposed, banning “migrants” from accessing local public health infrastructure and putting them into an even more vulnerable situation. The label “migrant” unfortunately comes with a stereotype, a general categorization of a person as an uninvited burden.

In times like the COVID-19 crisis, the nation-state appears at the forefront, with “citizenship” as its dividing line. While some countries like Portugal have regularized the status of migrants to give them access to healthcare as well as other government support, Russia has gone a different route. It didn’t take long before Russia’s response to the coronavirus was tainted by the elements of discrimination always overshadowing migration debates. Closing its borders is just one of the measures Russia has taken to defend itself from the pandemic. But for Central Asian migrants, that’s created a new crisis. 

The Illusion of Perfect Protection

EVERYTHING ARRIVES IN one large package. I tear off the tape and peel open the panels of the box to reveal four plastic bags. In one bag is the PRESS patch, in another the ceramic rifle plates, in another a matte-black tactical helmet, and, in the last, my new bulletproof vest. I hold it up and immediately feel disappointed.

Clips and straps hang from the side, making the vest bulky—like something a Navy SEAL might wear. I thought I had ordered something concealable. I wanted something I could wear under clothing without anyone knowing; I would look confident, experienced. I pull open the velcro pouches in the front and back of the vest, slide the ceramic plates into them, making the vest nearly twice as effective, and pull the rig over my head. I buckle the clasps, cinch tight the rib bands.

I walk into the bathroom and stop at the mirror. I see that the vest fits. I also see fear in my eyes. I am heading overseas to a war zone on a reporting trip. Elettra, my girlfriend at the time (this was back in 2017, we got married in 2018) understands the trip is important, but she’s worried about my safety. I put the vest and helmet into a closet. I don’t want her to see them. I show her no fear.

Anjem Choudary’s Ties to Extremists

Through al-Muhajiroun and its various successor organizations, Anjem Choudary has influenced hundreds of violent extremists around the world.

British authorities arrested Choudary in 2014 for supporting ISIS and sentenced him in 2016 to five-and-a-half years in prison. Choudary was released on parole in October 2018 after serving half his sentence.

British media has reported that former al-Muhajiroun members drew inspiration from Choudary’s release and started to revitalize the network, even though authorities continue to closely monitor Choudary’s movements and communications.

British citizen Anjem Choudary is an internationally designated Islamist cleric and convicted ISIS supporter. Choudary’s Islamist speeches, anti-Western rhetoric, and declared support for violent Islamist movements drew the attention of British authorities, who connected Choudary to manifold terror-related cases in the United Kingdom and Europe. Choudary was arrested in 2014 after he pledged allegiance to ISIS, but he was released on parole in 2018 after serving only half of his sentence. Though British police continue to monitor his movements and communications, Choudary remains a dangerous and influential figure. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has compiled a list of violent individuals and organizations that Choudary influenced or communicated with throughout his career.

Covid-19 at Sea: Impacts on the Blue Economy, Ocean Health, and Ocean Security

The COVID-19 pandemic will be a history-altering event. But where will it take us? In “On the Horizon,” a new CSIS series, our scholars offer their insights into the fundamental changes we might anticipate for our future social and economic world.

The blue economy—including both those who work at sea and those whose livelihoods depend on it—presents a unique challenge for efforts to address the Covid-19 pandemic. Ports depend on the movement of goods and people, something antithetical to pandemic control. Many of the world’s 4.5 million fishing vessels remain at sea for weeks or months at a time, leaving them intensely vulnerable to shipboard Covid-19 outbreaks that may arise from stops at harbors around the world. Yet ports must remain open, and fishing vessels must continue to fish—90 percent of the world’s cargo moves by sea, and fish provide essential protein for 1 billion people, many of whom would be undernourished and vulnerable to the disease without it. This commentary examines how Covid-19 will affect life at sea, outlining the potential impact of the pandemic on ocean security, the marine environment, the blue economy, and health and human rights aboard fishing vessels.
Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Ocean Security and Sustainability

Trump Doesn’t Know How to Safely Reopen the Country. Here Are 3 Ways to Do It

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The president isn't talking about America's need to vastly expand testing and tracking — and the tradeoffs that might require.

Donald Trump made it clearer than ever Thursday evening that he doesn’t understand the crucial role that widespread coronavirus testing plays in getting America back to work again safely.

So while he talks a lot about reopening the country “very, very soon,” what he’s actually showing the world, every night, is that he has no idea what it will take to do that.

The overwhelming consensus among public-health experts is that it won’t be safe for Americans to resume anything like their normal lives until the country has the ability to test magnitudes more people than it does now. Social distancing appears to be reducing the uncontrolled spread of the virus, but if we can’t figure out who still has the virus, and keep them away from healthy people, then when we emerge from our homes, we’ll just start the cycle over.

Anatomy of the Coronavirus Collapse


ITHACA – The world economy is on the precipice of its worst crisis since World War II. As the newly updated Brookings-FT TIGER (Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery) makes clear, economic activity, financial markets, and private-sector confidence are all cratering. And if international cooperation remains at its current level, a far more severe collapse is yet to come.

To be sure, the current extraordinarily sharp downturn could prove to be relatively brief, with economic activity snapping back to previous levels once the COVID-19 contagion curve is flattened. But there is good reason to worry that the world economy is heading into a deep, protracted recession. Much will depend on the pandemic’s trajectory and whether policymakers’ responses are sufficient to contain the damage while rebuilding consumer and business confidence.

But a rapid recovery seems highly unlikely. Demand has been ravaged, there have been extensive disruptions to manufacturing supply chains, and a financial crisis is already underway. Unlike the 2008-09 crash, which was triggered by liquidity shortages in financial markets, the COVID-19 crisis involves fundamental solvency issues for firms and industries well beyond the financial sector.

Russia’s Defense Industry: Between Political Signicance and Economic Inefciency

The Russian Federation’s defense industry provides the authoritarian regime with military power that is used for maintaining its domestic and foreign legitimacy. The industry’s top-management is a major part of Russia’s governing establishment. Nevertheless, the industry suffers from economic inefficiency, lack of human capital and advanced technologies, and governmental over-regulation. These challenges are enhanced by confrontation with the West and efforts to maintain the stability of the regime, which spur Russia’s leaders to rely on economic protectionism and self-isolation.

This trend means that Russia’s political system will rely more on its military power than on diplomacy to achieve foreign policy goals. The Kremlin wants military power will be permanently maintained and developed. The defense industry has bolstered Russia’s relatively high status in international affairs for now, but there is no guarantee that the industry can sustain this trajectory, given the vast problems it faces.

How Anthony Fauci Became America’s Doctor

By Michael Specter
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Just before midnight on March 22nd, the President of the United States prepared to tweet. Millions of Americans, in the hope of safeguarding their health and fighting the rapidly escalating spread of covid-19, had already begun to follow the sober recommendation of Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious disease. Fauci had warned Americans to “hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing.” Donald Trump disagreed. “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he tweeted.

Trump had seen enough of “social distancing.” In an election year, he was watching the stock market collapse, unemployment spike, and the national mood devolve into collective anxiety. “I would love to have the country opened up, and just rarin’ to go by Easter,” he said, on Fox News. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it’ll be a beautiful time.”

Trump’s Easter forecast came more than two months after the first U.S. case of covid-19 was identified, in Washington State, and more than a hundred days after the novel coronavirus emerged, first from bats and then from a live-animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Every day, more people were falling sick and dying. Despite a catastrophic lack of testing capacity, it was clear that the virus had reached every corner of the nation. With the Easter holiday just a few weeks away, there was not a single public-health official in the United States who appeared to share the President’s rosy surmises.

Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies

Security Nexus, 2020, v. 21

An Analysis of Australian Defense Policy from 1901 to Present 

The Battle of Sense-Making and Meaning-Making During the COVID-19 Crisis 

Can the Pacific Island Games be a Positive Influence to Bring Pacific Island Nations Together to Affect Positive Change Regionally? 

Coronavirus, Terrorism, and Illicit Activity in the Indo-Pacific 

COVID-19: End of Hyper-globalization and Start of Hyper-Localization? 

The COVID-19 Crisis and the Coming Cold War 

Definitions in Crisis Management and Crisis Leadership 

Enabling the Sharing of Original, Timely and Creative Macro-and Micro-Level Response Concepts, Systems, and Ideas 

Incremental Community-Based Exit Strategies for Initiating and Removing COVID-19 Lockdowns 

Implementation of Lockdown and Social Distancing 

Mass Surveillance and Individual Privacy 

North Korea as a Land of Cooperation between America and China 

The State Of The World Order In The Time Of Coronavirus: Time for a Responsible Connectography 

Strategic Crisis Leadership In COVID-19 

Terrorism in the Indo-Pacific: The Year Gone By and the Road Ahead 

The Value of Thought Leadership in a World in Crisis

The Beginning of Social Dysfunction

By George Friedman

A few weeks ago, I laid out a model for thinking about the coronavirus crisis. I argued that there were four structures operating: medical, economic, social and military, with the political structure attempting to coordinate all four while managing its own disorder. This is an American model, but it maps to other nations reasonably well.

To this point, the medical structure has defined the basic framework. Having no vaccine to prevent the virus, nor proven medications for alleviating symptoms (I stay out of the chloroquine debate, lacking any right to an opinion), the only medical option was a social one: social distancing. Put differently, where quarantines were meant to create barriers to those who were ill with a disease, this was extended to everyone. In its most extreme form, this meant shelter in place: Stay home with your family and don’t venture out. Even the more moderate forms, such as putting six feet between yourself and others, were fairly radical.

The medical solution created an economic crisis. Many cannot go to work. Shopping, eating out and other activities are limited. Unemployment soared, supply chains are strained, demand for goods and services has fallen. The political structure crafted strategies for mitigating the crisis, cushioning unemployment and preventing business failures with stimulus packages and so on. The amount of money committed is about 10 percent of U.S. gross national product, with the assurance that more will be committed. It is not clear that these economic events will cause economic failure, but it is clear that they will cause distortions in the economy on the order of the infusions. The economy will not function as it has before, and the distortion will not rapidly end.

When School Is Online, the Digital Divide Grows Greater

LIKE MANY STUDENTS around the world, Nora Medina is adapting to online learning. But Medina, a high school senior in Quincy, Washington, who also takes classes at a local community college, faces an additional challenge: She doesn't have reliable internet service at home. She lives 7 miles outside of town where she says neither cable nor DSL internet is available.

She can access the internet on her phone, and her family has a wireless hot spot, but she says the service isn’t up to the task of doing homework online. "It's hit and miss," she says. "Sometimes I can watch a video, but sometimes I can't even refresh a page, or it will take minutes to load something on a page."

Washington governor Jay Inslee this week said the state’s schools will be closed for the rest of the school year. Quincy High School is still planning how best to help students finish the year. But Medina’s classes at Big Bend Community College have shifted online. "I'm just going to hope the hot spot works and wish for the best for my final quarter," she says. "If that doesn't work, I'll do my work from my car in the parking lot at the library to access their Wi-Fi."

Apple and Google are teaming up to fight Covid-19 with contact tracing

By Amrita Khalid

Apple and Google are teaming up to allow contact tracing on many of the world’s smartphones. The partnership, which the companies announced today, will allow an estimated 3 billion people to opt in to location tracking through Bluetooth on their smartphones for the purposes of combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

Users will be able to receive alerts if they came into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. The collaboration will require the world’s two biggest mobile operating systems, Android and iOS, to work together in a way that is unprecedented.

Both companies wrote in nearly identical announcements published on their respective websites:

How are you holding up in these strange, difficult times? As we face this new global crisis together, Quartz’s reporters in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the US can help you see beyond the immediate emergency. We’ll explain the potential impact on every aspect of the global economy, put incomplete data in context, help you work in a new way, and consider how we might all contribute to building a more humane and resilient economy.

Citizens and States: How Can Digital ID and Payments Improve State Capacity and Effectiveness?

Alan Gelb , Anit Mukherjee and Kyle Navis

In Bangladesh, a mother can now receive her child’s education scholarship through her mobile phone account instead of having to stand in long lines at the school on a prearranged day for a cash handout. Not only does this save her time and effort and provide accurate and documented payment, it also relieves school officials of a burdensome administrative process and of the risk that—rightly or wrongly—they can be accused of corrupt handling of funds. In Kenya, a farmer can invest his or her savings directly in a small slice of a government bond through a mobile phone. He can become eligible for a small loan on the basis of a stable record of receipts and payments on his mobile account without posting collateral. In Andhra Pradesh, a state in India with 50 million people, the authorities can drill down through statewide reporting data, in real time and across thousands of delivery points, to monitor the provision of rations to poor beneficiaries. They can detect transaction failures almost immediately and require rapid follow-up and remediation.

Digital technology, notably in the areas of identification (ID), mobile communications, and financial payments, is impacting societies and economies in many ways. It is changing the way that citizens (in the sense of individuals) and states can interact and transact business with each other across a wide range of programs and services. This offers new levers to states to implement a wide range of policies and programs, to increase effectiveness and accountability, and also to include many who have been effectively shut out—whether through lack of recognition, high transactions costs, or the inability to ensure that payments or other services are delivered accurately, to the right person, and at the right time.
Expanding the policy possibility frontier

Unclassified and Secure

by Daniel Gonzales

The defense industrial base (DIB) is under attack. Foreign actors are stealing large amounts of sensitive data, trade secrets, and intellectual property every day from DIB firms — contributing to the erosion of the DIB and potentially harming U.S. military capabilities and future U.S. military operations. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has taken steps to better secure systems against cyber threats, but most protections in place focus on classified networks, while unclassified networks have become an attractive entrance for adversaries seeking access to cutting-edge technologies and research and development efforts. To address this problem, DoD has increased regulations and introduced new security controls, but the current approach may be insufficient.

This report offers DoD a way ahead to better secure unclassified networks housing defense information — through the establishment and implementation of a cybersecurity program designed to strengthen the protections of these networks. The program offers a means for DoD to better monitor the real-time health of the DIB and ensure that protections are in place to prevent the disclosure of sensitive corporate information from DIB firms or sensitive supply chain information across the DIB. The program also includes a means to offer qualified small DIB firms access to cybersecurity tools for use on unclassified networks, for free or at a discounted rate, to ensure that affordable protections are accessible to all DIB firms. Advanced persistent threats and sophisticated cyber attacks will not stop, but this program can help build stronger defenses, develop more-coordinated responses, and help maintain the technological superiority of U.S. military forces.

5 cyber issues the coronavirus lays bare

Laura DeNardis and Jennifer Daskal

As more and more U.S. schools and businesses shutter their doors, the rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic is helping to expose society’s dependence — good and bad — on the digital world.

Entire swaths of society, including classes we teach at American University, have moved online until the coast is clear. As vast segments of society are temporarily forced into isolation to achieve social distancing, the internet is their window into the world. Online social events like virtual happy hours foster a sense of connectedness amid social distancing. While the online world is often portrayed as a societal ill, this pandemic is a reminder of how much the digital world has to offer.

The pandemic also lays bare the many vulnerabilities created by society’s dependence on the internet. These include the dangerous consequences of censorship, the constantly morphing spread of disinformation, supply chain vulnerabilities and the risks of weak cybersecurity.

1. China’s censorship affects us all


During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States Army undertook a comprehensive review and analysis—demonstrated principally by the Russian New Generation Warfare study—of the rise in aggressive behavior exhibited by potential great-power competitors (then called near-peer competitors). This resulted in several disturbing observations. 

First, but not surprising, there are nations (most notably Russia and China) that have studied the American way of war and developed concepts and doctrine to counter traditional U.S. advantages. Second, adversary nations have invested in capabilities to deny the United States and our allies access to theaters where we might want to operate; this is known as anti-access and area denial, or A2AD. Third, countermeasures taken against the United States and our allies are not mirror images of our own capabilities. Sophisticated counter-capabilities have been developed that are likely to gain dominance in operational domains where there is either parity or where the United States is deficient. Fourth, the framework of the competitive space has changed dramatically. Where once the tactical and operational definition of deep, close and rear was limited to a particular theater, today’s framework is expanded in both time and space and includes a less well-defined area of operations. Finally, the psyche of America, and arguably that of our western allies, is predominantly binary, i.e., if there is no war, then we are at peace. This notion is not shared by most of the non-western world, certainly not by our most provocative great-power competition. On the contrary, for many nations, competition of states and ideologies is a constant. Periodically, competition escalates into highly-lethal armed conflict. However, rather than having peace upon cessation of armed hostilities, there is actually a return to competition—shaped by the results of the armed engagement, but still a competitive state.