3 July 2020

Will the India–China Border Conflict Lead to a Naval War?

By Abhijit Singh

The recent developments in Ladakh on the disputed border between India and China were shocking and tragic. The clash in Galwan Valley last week has opened up a deep fissure in India–China ties, spawning tensions that could even escalate into an all-out-war. The latest reports suggest the Indian armed forces have begun a rapid mobilisation and the Chinese military has been shoring up its positions, even as political efforts are on to defuse the crisis.

With a spiral of escalation building, a conflict so far limited to the Line of Actual Control with China could see other theatres open up, including one in the Indian Ocean. Unlike on the land border, where China has a relative advantage of terrain, military infrastructure and troop strength, India is better placed at sea. In the Eastern Indian Ocean through which most of China’s cargo and energy shipments pass, the Indian Navy is the dominant force.

In recent years, the Indian Navy has sought to consolidate strength in India’s near seas through its mission-based deployments. Since 2017, Indian warships have patrolled Indian Ocean sea lanes and choke points, including the approaches to the Malacca Strait. In its bid to keep track of Chinese submarines in the Eastern Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy has also been operating P-8I maritime patrol aircraft from the Andaman Islands. A chain of radar stations along the Indian coast has helped in providing better information about maritime movements, and a fusion centre in Gurgaon near New Delhi is helping manage tactical information in the near seas.

Pakistan a ‘Safe Haven’ for ‘Terror Groups’: U.S. State Department

By Bill Roggio

Pakistan remains a “safe haven” for a host of regional terror groups, including the Afghan Taliban and its integral subgroup, the Al Qaeda linked Haqqani Network, according the the State Department’s newly released Country Reports on Terrorism 2019.

“Pakistan continued to serve as a safe haven for certain regionally focused terrorist groups,” State notes in its opening paragraph on Pakistan. “It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated HQN [Haqqani Network], as well as groups targeting India, including LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa] and its affiliated front organizations, and JeM [Jaish-e-Mohammad], to operate from its territory.”

After noting that Pakistan has taken “modest steps in 2019 to counter terror financing and to restrain some India-focused militant groups,” State criticizes Pakistan for failing “to take decisive actions against Indian- and Afghanistan-focused militants who would undermine their operational capability.”

State also blasts Pakistan for harboring wanted terrorists, including JeM emir Masood Azhar and LeT commander Sajid Mir, who was a mastermind of the Nov. 2008 terror assault on Mumbai India.

Azhar and Mir “are widely believed to reside in Pakistan under the protection of the state, despite government denials,” the report states.

Ironically, State praises the Pakistani government for playing “a constructive role in U.S.-Taliban talks in 2019.”

A Divided Taliban Could Unleash a New Proxy War in Afghanistan

By Jared Schwartz, Yelena Biberman

The COVID-19 pandemic is transforming international relations not just by straining relations among powerful states, but also by disrupting violent nonstate actors. Perhaps no major militant outfit has felt the impact as much as the Taliban. The group’s leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, is either seriously ill with the virus or possibly dead. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the powerful Haqqani Network and deputy leader of the Taliban, is also very ill with COVID-19. This has allowed Mohammad Yaqoob, the other deputy leader, to take operational control of the organization.

The shift in the balance of power within the Taliban has the potential to upend Afghan security, India-Pakistan relations, and the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Haqqani is an ally of Pakistan and al-Qaeda, while Yaqoob favors the peace process with the United States and rapprochement with India. Yaqoob’s rise might therefore seem like good news for Washington. But, as Yaqoob and Haqqani factions compete with each other for power, a spike in violence against soft targets by the Haqqani faction and its allies as well as a new proxy war between India and Pakistan are likely to ensue. 

Biden’s China Policy Starts With Building a Stronger America

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In April, Joe Biden, the former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee, issued a controversial campaign ad slamming President Donald Trump for “roll[ing] over for the Chinese” in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak. 

The ad cast Biden as tough on China, showing him on the debate stage reeling off demands for Beijing — “I would be on the phone with China and making it clear: ‘We are going to need to be in your country’” — and rolling footage of what appear to be Chinese security forces. 

It sparked immediate blowback from some on the left, who criticized it as inflammatory and a failed attempt to out-hawk Trump on one of country’s thorniest foreign-policy problems. But it signaled clearly that within the Biden campaign, “tough on China” was seen as a winning issue.

But what would “tough on China” mean in a Biden administration?

Everyone Misunderstands the Reason for the U.S.-China Cold War

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The United States is pretty polarized these days, but nearly everyone seems to agree that China is a big problem. The Trump administration has been at odds with China on trade issues since day one, and its 2017 National Security Strategy labeled China a “revisionist power” and major strategic rival. (President Donald Trump himself seems to have been willing to give Beijing a free pass if it would help him get reelected, but that’s just a sign of his own venality and inconsistent with the administration’s other policies.) Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden may have started his campaign in 2019 downplaying fears that China was going to “eat our lunch,” but his campaign has grown increasingly hawkish over time.

Not surprisingly, hard-line Republican members of Congress like Josh Hawley and Matt Gaetz have been sounding the alarm as well, while progressives and moderates warn of a “new cold war” and call for renewed dialogue to manage the relationship. Despite their differing prescriptions, all of these groups see the state of Sino-American relations as of vital importance.

New Challenges are Emerging in China

by Sina Azodi

Long before prominent European realist thinkers such as Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli emerged, Kautiliya in his famous work Arashastra, argued that a conqueror shall always seek to add to his own power and increase his own happiness. For modern realist scholars, too, power is a means to survive in the brutal arena of international politics.

The end of the Cold War, and the ascendency of liberal hegemony meant to bring the “end of history,” and an end to the “cynical calculus of power” as former President Bill Clinton observed. However, evidence suggests that the United States, under President Donald Trump, is increasingly acting like an old-fashioned realist, primarily concerned with the balance of power calculations, acting unilaterally to preserve and enhance its own national interests.

The rise of China has been a looming threat to the U.S. primacy on the world stage, as Beijing increasingly seeks to push the United States out of its immediate periphery and ultimately Asia. Facing an increasingly powerful China, Obama initiated the strategic rebalancing of U.S. interests from the Middle East to East Asia. The “pivot to Asia” aimed to slow down the rise of China as a great power, and also to free the United States from the shackles of the Middle East wars. In this context, Obama’s successor, Trump, in his 2019 State of the Union address noted that “great nations do not fight endless wars.” For that matter, the Trump administration has followed its predecessor’s overall strategy to pull the United States out of the Middle East and refocus on its attention on the looming threat of rising China. 

Companies Prodded to Rely Less on China, But Few Respond

By Joe McDonald

The United States, Japan, and France are prodding their companies to rely less on China to make the world’s smartphones, drugs, and other products. But even after the coronavirus derailed trade, few want to leave China’s skilled workforce and efficient suppliers of raw materials to move to other countries.

Disruptions from the pandemic, on top of the U.S.-Chinese tariff war, fueled warnings that relying too much on China leaves global companies vulnerable to costly breakdowns in the event of disasters or political conflict.

Drug makers stand out as one industry that is trying to reduce reliance on Chinese suppliers by setting up sources of raw materials in the United States and Europe. But consumer electronics, medical devices, and other industries are sticking with China.

“I don’t know of a single company right now that is moving ahead with any plans to move,” said Harley Seyedin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China.

China’s explosive rise as the world’s low-cost factory helped to hold down consumer prices and boosted Western corporate profits. But it has fueled political tension over lost American and European blue collar jobs. Governments and industry consultants fret that dependence on China can be a threat to supply chains and possibly national security.

China Approves Contentious Hong Kong National Security Law

By Zen Soo and Ken Moritsugu
China on Tuesday approved a contentious national security law that will allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, a move many see as Beijing’s boldest yet to erase the legal firewall between the semi-autonomous territory and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Party system.

President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order promulgating the law after it was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It will be added to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.

Few details were given but China’s liaison office in Hong Kong issued a statement warning opponents of the law not to “underestimate the party center’s determination to safeguard Hong Kong’s national security” or its willingness and ability to enforce the new rules.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s government will mark the 23rd anniversary of the territory’s passing from British to Chinese control. A series of official events are scheduled and a heavy police presence is expected to deter any anti-government protests of the type that rocked the city for the second half of last year.

China’s Charmless Offensive

By Mark Beeson

The shine has come off what was once seen as China’s deft ability to make friends and wield influence.

Nearly a century ago, Dale Carnegie achieved world renown for his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. I’m not sure if it was ever translated into Mandarin, but I’m guessing that Chinese President Xi Jinping has never read it, either way. Perhaps he should. Under Xi’s leadership, China is currently giving the world a masterclass in how alienate and alarm even those of us who aren’t instinctively hostile toward the People’s Republic.

It may be hard to believe and remember, but only ten years or so ago, we were all talking about the surprising emergence and effectiveness of China’s “charm offensive”. In this incarnation, China’s policymaking elites were showing an unexpected deftness and subtlety, especially in relation to Southeast Asia, where the region’s perennially Nervous Nellies were trying to decide whether the sudden rise of China was a threat or an opportunity.

If this sounds familiar, it should. It is precisely the same dilemma consecutive Australian governments have been wrestling with for the last decade or more. The jury now seems to be in: the People’s Republic in its new more assertive/aggressive mode is clearly a danger, according to many of our prominent strategic commentators, and we must act accordingly.

Bullied by Beijing, America’s Closest Allies Regret Saying ‘Yes’ to China

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On June 29, Australia will probably overlook an anniversary it would rather forget. Five years ago this month, Australia broke ranks with the United States to join one of China’s most important foreign-policy initiatives, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). It was the price Australia paid to get a free trade agreement with China, which had been stalled in endless negotiations for more than a decade. The Australian government tried to get the agreement over the line by entering into a comprehensive strategic partnership with China in 2014, but even that wasn’t enough to satisfy Beijing. Joining the AIIB in 2015 did the trick.The most trusted U.S. allies—the countries in the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network— have all agreed to such partnerships with China.

Australians may be surprised to discover that their country is one of China’s dozens of “strategic partners,” “comprehensive strategic partners,” and “comprehensive strategic cooperative partners,” terms Beijing uses to describe its formal relationships with other countries. The most trusted U.S. allies—the countries in the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network— have all agreed to such partnerships with China. Australia’s neighbors across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand also enjoy a comprehensive strategic partnership with China, while Canada’s relationship with China, though of longer standing, is merely an ordinary strategic partnership. The language around the U.K.-Chinese partnership may be the grandest of all: The two countries are locked together in a “global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century,” per an agreement signed in October 2015.

China Swallows Hong Kong


Anti-government demonstrators sit while being detained by riot police during a lunch-time protest as a second reading of a controversial national anthem law takes place in Hong Kong, China, May 27, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

The Chinese Communist Party, through what it portrays as its legislature (the “National People’s Congress”), has enacted a law crushing democracy in Hong Kong.

Under the guise of protecting “national security,” the new law criminalizes as “subversion” and “terrorism” various expressions of protest and political dissent. It further endeavors to cut off Hong Kong’s support lines by criminalizing, as conspiracy to endanger national security, sundry exchanges with other countries and outside groups.

The people of Hong Kong have been protesting against Beijing’s increasingly overt repression for over a year. President Trump, however, has prized what he claims is a strong personal relationship with China’s CCP strongman, Xi Xinping; he has thus been reluctant to pressure Beijing or lend rhetorical support to democracy activists — in stark contrast to President Reagan’s support for the anti-Communist democracy movement in Poland.

The WTO and TPP amid the U.S.-China trade war

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Robert Azevedo, director-general of the World Trade Organization, will leave the office in August, a year before the end of his term. Behind his sudden resignation is the disfunction of the WTO.

The WTO has two key functions. One is legislative — drawing up new rules on trade in response to economic changes over time through negotiations among the member countries. The other is a judicial — dispute settlement procedures to judge whether member states are following its rules when a trade dispute crops up and to call on violators to correct their behavior.

What's going in the rule-making negotiations at the WTO? The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade governed goods trade. The Uruguay round negotiations under GATT, which started in 1986 and were concluded in 1993, strengthened rules on agricultural and textile trade — which had been insufficient — and made new rules on services trade and intellectual property rights, areas that had previously not been covered. Out of this the WTO was born.

What Cyber Command’s ISIS operations means for the future of information warfare

Mark Pomerleau

The Defense Department’s information warfare leaders want to know what they can learn from U.S. Cyber Command’s online offensive against the ISIS.

Defense officials have been applying lessons learned in combat to the hotly contested information space. To date, this process has involved a variety of reorganization efforts across the services, but the approach is changing. One starting point includes Joint Task Force-Ares — U.S. Cyber Command’s online offensive against the Islamic State group — and its Operation Glowing Symphony, the command’s largest and most complex operation.

That operation targeted ISIS media and online operations, taking out infrastructure and preventing ISIS members from communicating and posting propaganda.

New documents received via the Freedom of Information Act reveal new details regarding Operation Glowing Symphony, Cyber Command's largest operation to date.

The task force’s former director of plans and strategy, Col. Brian Russell, is now leading II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, or MIG, one of the Marine Corps’ new information warfare units.

Hot Issue – The Houthi Art of War: Why They Keep Winning in Yemen

By: Michael Horton

Executive summary: After five years of war against the Saudi-led coalition and its allies, Yemen’s Houthi rebels remain defiant and are once again on the offensive. The Houthis’ keen understanding and consistent application of the algebra of insurgency are fundamental to their martial success in Yemen. Ironically, the greatest threat to the Houthi leadership may be peace. Peace will bring internal tensions within the Houthi leadership and growing discontent among the Yemeni people to the fore.


Underestimating or having contempt for an enemy, argues Lao Tzu, is among the costliest mistakes a commander can make. [1] This alone has led to more defeats than any other miscalculation. Conversely, underestimating the enemy is a great asset to those who are underestimated. The military and political capabilities of Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been underrated for nearly two decades. First, by the government of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and then by Saudi Arabia and its supporters, including the United States.

From 2004-2010, the government of Ali Abdulla Saleh fought and lost six wars against the Houthis. The Houthi takeover of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in September 2014 and their subsequent move southward toward Aden partly prompted Saudi Arabia and the UAE to launch their ill-fated intervention in Yemen in March 2015. The Saudis and Emiratis bet on a quick victory over the Houthis. Now, more than five years on, it is clear they have lost their bet. The Houthis and those allied with them have proved themselves to be resilient, capable, and strategically and tactically creative.

SPECIAL REPORT: What if Biden Wins?

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“The world does not organize itself.” That’s the standout line in Joe Biden’s keynote article in January’s Foreign Affairs, in which the presumptive Democratic nominee laid out his vision for America’s role in global security. It’s also the one to which Americans should be prepared to hold him accountable if the former vice president beats Donald Trump in November. 

In speeches and statements and interviews, the candidate and his advisors have been sketching out a foreign policy that would put the United States, as Biden has said, “back at the head of the table.” And over the past month, Defense One asked dozens of his aides, advisors, surrogates, and former Obama administration colleagues what the world might expect from his presidency. What they said is that Biden may not radically change the nation’s military, deviate from the era’s so-called great power competition, or even slash the bottom line of the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget. But how that money is spent, how the United States competes, and how the military is deployed to advance American interests certainly would. 

But if Biden wins, will the world follow him? Will Americans?

Facing Trump, Putin, and Xi, London Needs Old Allies for New Ideas

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Hong Kong, where the sun finally set on the British Empire in 1997, is now the fulcrum of London’s most fateful foreign-policy decisions since Brexit. But as Beijing tosses away its past commitments and imposes a draconian new security law on the territory, a geopolitically intriguing club of three is emerging, as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom support one another against Beijing.

This collaboration is an old idea, but it’s one with a surprising valence right now. Vague ideas for “CANZUK,” which included New Zealand with the three, as an economic community have gathered steam inside conservative parties in Canada, Australia, and Britain for some years. Like most analysts, I had dismissed these as imperial nostalgia projects that made little sense given the countries’ widely divergent economic interests and the reality that such collaborations were likely to do little to reinforce the rules-based global order.

Last year, the University of Cambridge historian Christopher J. Hill dismissed the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which unites Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the United States, as a “sub-optimal relic of war-time days” that was “never going to be an ‘action organization’ in the sense of formulating joint foreign policies.” But events in China and Hong Kong should change everyone’s minds. Five Eyes has shown itself to be a crucial tool for coordinating a global response to China in the age of Chinese companies’ attempts to dominate 5G mobile communications networks. Canada, Australia, and Britain produced their own strong joint statement on Hong Kong before a follow-up added the United States.

From Development to Democracy, Africa Is a Continent of Contradictions

It makes sense that a continent home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people would also house a mass of contradictory developments. Africa features several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a burgeoning middle class. But much of the continent remains mired in debt, ravaged by conflict, disease or terrorism, and plagued by elites clinging to power. Now, although the human cost of the coronavirus pandemic has so far been less catastrophic than many feared, its economic impact could undo much of the continent’s growth over the past two decades.

Even during the years when economies across Africa expanded, many people were driven to migrate—either within Africa or to Europe and even South America—because of humanitarian catastrophes or because economic opportunities were not coming fast enough for everyone. Those who remained behind at times succeeded in disrupting the status quo. Civilian-led reform movements toppled regimes in Algeria and Sudan last year. And while the phenomenon of long-ruling authoritarian leaders—known as “presidents for life”—is still common, recent examples of independent courts overturning fraudulent elections and other signs of democratic institutions taking hold in previously corrupt or authoritarian states offer hope for the future of democracy in Africa.

Can an Open World Exist After COVID-19?

Edward Alden 

Along North America’s 49th parallel, where it meets the Pacific Ocean, a huge white stone arch stands on the border between the United States and Canada. Called the Peace Arch, it was built in 1921 to commemorate the resolution of boundary disputes that dated back to the War of 1812. Inside the arch, there is an iron gate attached to both walls, and an inscription that reads, “May these gates never be closed.” ...

Covid-19 and the Global Financial Safety Net

The CSIS Economics Program is tracking commitments, approvals, and disbursements by major international financial institutions (IFIs) to meet the massive financing needs generated by the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. These IFIs include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and regional development banks. We also include select regional financing arrangements (RFAs), which, together with the IFIs, central bank bilateral swap lines, and individual countries’ foreign reserve holdings, comprise the Global Financial Safety Net (GFSN).

Updated data as of June 19 show several key trends:

We estimate IFIs have approved $117 billion in Covid-19-related support since January 27. The IMF has approved $77.1 billion, including emergency assistance and precautionary lines of credit, while the multilateral development banks (MDBs) combined have approved a total of $39.3 billion. Among the MDBs, the World Bank has approved $13.0 billion, followed by the European Investment Bank, which has approved $7.7 billion, and the Asian Development Bank, which has approved $7.2 billion.

What Annexation Would Really Mean for Middle East Peace

By Aaron David Miller

Israel could soon begin the process of annexing some of the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to unilaterally apply Israeli law to portions of the territory—virtually guaranteeing their the permanent retention by Israel—looms alongside an even larger elephant in the room: Netanyahu is well on his way to ensuring that a real Palestinian state based on June 1967 borders with a capital in East Jerusalem goes the way of the dodo. Regardless of what happens with annexation, that will be his legacy—and it will likely be an irreversible one.

Leaders inside and outside the Middle East are now practically begging Netanyahu to show restraint. In recent weeks, the debate in Israel has shifted from whether to annex to how much to annex, underscoring the extent to which the game is being played on his terms. The Israeli prime minister faces trial for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust; a challenge from unruly right-wing coalition partners; a resurgence of COVID-19; an economic recession; and the perpetual problem of Iran. But if staying in power and permanently closing the door on the creation of a real Palestinian state are his immediate goals, he is winning, with a good deal of wind at his back.

US could buy Turkey’s Russian-made S-400 under Senate proposal

By: Joe Gould  
WASHINGTON ― The U.S. would be able to buy Turkey’s Russian-made S-400 air defense system under legislation proposed in the Senate last week. The proposal is one powerful lawmaker’s attempt to alleviate the impasse between Washington and Ankara over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., has proposed an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the purchase to be made using the U.S. Army’s missile procurement account. The move comes a year after the U.S. expelled NATO ally Turkey from the multinational F-35 program because it received the S-400 in a $2.5 billion deal.

However, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, has introduced an amendment that would take a tougher stance, mandating the Trump administration implement CAATSA sanctions on Turkey within 30 days of passage of the NDAA. Risch has been critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and accused him of bad faith in dealings with the U.S. over the S-400.

The COVID Class War


ATHENS – The euro crisis that erupted a decade ago has long been portrayed as a clash between Europe’s frugal North and profligate South. In fact, at its heart was a fierce class war that left Europe, including its capitalists, much weakened relative to the United States and China. Worse still, the European Union’s response to the pandemic, including the EU recovery fund currently under deliberation, is bound to intensify this class war, and deal another blow to Europe’s socioeconomic model.

With hopes of a sharp rebound from the pandemic-induced recession quickly fading, policymakers should pause and take stock of what it will take to achieve a sustained recovery. The most urgent policy priorities have been obvious since the beginning, but they will require hard choices and a show of political will.1Add to Bookmarks

If we have learned anything in recent decades, it is the pointlessness of focusing on any country’s economy in isolation. Once upon a time, when money moved between countries mostly to finance trade, and most consumption spending benefited domestic producers, the strengths and weaknesses of a national economy could be separately assessed. Not anymore. Today, the weaknesses of, say, China and Germany are intertwined with those of countries like the US and Greece.

Hacking Brains: Enhancing Soldier Cognitive Performance

by Gareth W

The Future Land Action Seminar discussion on the utility, ethics and legality of pharmacological enhancement of soldiers was a bold step. It is logical for a military to consider if it should enhance personnel. The physical and cognitive demands of soldiering have not abated. If anything, pressure is likely to continue to grow as technology and doctrine begin to ask ever more from personnel. In addition, Britain’s allies and competitors have declared an interest in enhanced performance. Britain faces the prospect of being caught out if it does not consider enhancement. But operational logic does not neatly translate into a case that is understood and accepted by all of those that have an interest in what the Army does to, and with, its personnel. There will inevitably be moral vertigo for those charged with making decisions and those who observe from the side-lines. And the causes of moral vertigo are increasing. It is this context that made the discussion a bold step. 

Contemplating pharmacological enhancement may have been a bold step but it was a small one. Increasing knowledge of physiology and neuroscience, combined with an expanding biotechnology sector, results in many more alternatives to enhancement than simply popping a pill. It is these far more radical forms of enhancement, brought to public attention by science fiction and increasingly a technological reality, that the Army ought now to consider for military utility. The British Army must not limit thinking about enhancements solely to pharmaceuticals. Instead it, along with wider Defence, must begin to consider how biotechnology will begin to alter who fights and how. A balance must be found between the needs of state and institution with the duty of care that is owed by state and institution to those affected by enhancement.

Broadband for All


STANFORD – COVID-19 has revealed both the strengths and weaknesses of America’s broadband Internet infrastructure. On the positive side, supply has not only withstood the remarkable increase in demand for e-commerce, telehealth, and communications, but expanded. As shelter-in-place measures and social-distancing rules reduced normal access to education and health services, the Internet compensated, at least in part, by providing remote connectivity to tens of millions of people.

With hopes of a sharp rebound from the pandemic-induced recession quickly fading, policymakers should pause and take stock of what it will take to achieve a sustained recovery. The most urgent policy priorities have been obvious since the beginning, but they will require hard choices and a show of political will.1Add to Bookmarks

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the US Congressional Budget Office, argues persuasively that, by unleashing competition and innovation, government regulatory policy in the United States has allowed the tech sector to grow. Computing power has increased 100-fold in the past 15 years. The US today has more high-speed broadband than Europe, and has avoided many unnecessary regulations that would have constrained private-sector initiative. As a result, 90% of American adults now use the Internet, and 25% of companies use the Internet of Things.

The Military We Have Vs. The Military We Need

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“Disruptive change” is probably the most rhetorically popular, yet intellectually vacuous, turn of phrase now in use throughout the U.S. defense establishment. For an inherently conservative, parochial institution whose conception of the future is dominated by its preference for a canonical past, disruptive change is an attractive meme meant to convey progressive imagery to audiences inside and outside who might otherwise be inclined to expose the institution’s well-established lack of imagination and originality. 

What is seen as the blueprint for disruptive change is the National Defense Strategy, or NDS, promulgated by the Trump administration’s first Defense Secretary, James Mattis, and his Marine brother in arms, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford. Together, they passed this ideological tract off as a legitimate strategy based on bona fide strategic thinking to indoctrinate the defense establishment and its bureaucratic and political disciples. Their successors and their successors’ subordinates have unquestioningly and unthinkingly endorsed the stultifying received truths of the document, so much so that any thought of meaningful transformative change within the institution, however much needed, seems frustratingly out of the question in the absence of some jolt to the system.

The NDS — here’s the unclassified summary — epitomizes the intellectual stagnation that pervades the military. It is predicated on the asserted “truths” that: