3 August 2020

Is India Missing Its Chance to Learn From the COVID Crisis?

By Rwitoban Deb
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Back in April, as hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic would be reduced by the Indian summer crumbled with the consistent rise of cases, famed author Arundhati Roy penned an article that offered much-needed solace. Roy, in a powerful piece, argued the possibility of the crisis being our doorway to a more just, compassionate, and rational world. The sentiment became mainstream after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded a clarion call to turn the crisis into an opportunity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and fed off the vulnerabilities of existing systems. As the virus continues to spread across India, with a potential vaccine at best several months off, the only glimmer of hope was that India would take the lessons from this pandemic, introspect, and act. This could have been a watershed moment. 

But did India really turn this crisis into an opportunity? 

Health Care

India’s health care expenditure, or the lack thereof, has been a perpetual concern, but COVID-19 made it impossible to look away anymore. As Indians watched first-world health care systems crumble, World Bank data from 2011 revealed India had just 0.7 beds per 1,000 people, compared to the world average of 2.7. That placed India on par with Togo, which is classified as a Least Developed Country (LDC) with 50 percent of its population below the poverty line.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

By: Syed Fazl-e Haider

Since its advent in 2015, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)—an ambitious program of infrastructure development projects primarily financed by Chinese capital and built by Chinese state-owned companies—has been a key component of China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) (China Brief, July 31, 2015; China Brief, December 10, 2019). Following a series of setbacks over the past two years, in June and July the Chinese and Pakistani leadership launched new projects that signaled a mutual commitment to revitalize a CPEC program hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors.

On June 25 and July 6, representatives of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) signed deals for two major hydropower generation projects under CPEC, at a reported total value of $3.9 billion dollars: the Kohala project ($2.4 billion) and the Azad Pattan project ($1.5 billion), both to be constructed on the Jhelum River, located in the Muzaffarabad region of Pakistan-administered Kashmir (NDTV, 16 July; Economic Times (India), July 17). Furthermore, in early June the two governments agreed on a deal to upgrade the 1,872 kilometer-long railway lines between Karachi and Peshawar—a three-phase, six-year project valued at $7.2 billion dollars (Belt and Road News, June 9).

These three major deals show a renewed commitment by both sides to CPEC, and bolster other initiatives taken this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese enterprises involved in CPEC projects have also made active contributions to the prevention and control of the virus in various locations in Pakistan, including donating supplies to local governments, schools and hospitals. Chinese technicians have returned to some project sites by chartered airplanes, due to the temporary interruption of normal flights between the two countries caused by the pandemic (Express Tribune (Pakistan), May 6).

CPEC Project Delays Resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Panopticon Is Already Here

Northwest of beijing’s Forbidden City, outside the Third Ring Road, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has spent seven decades building a campus of national laboratories. Near its center is the Institute of Automation, a sleek silvery-blue building surrounded by camera-studded poles. The institute is a basic research facility. Its computer scientists inquire into artificial intelligence’s fundamental mysteries. Their more practical innovations—iris recognition, cloud-based speech synthesis—are spun off to Chinese tech giants, AI start-ups, and, in some cases, the People’s Liberation Army.

I visited the institute on a rainy morning in the summer of 2019. China’s best and brightest were still shuffling in post-commute, dressed casually in basketball shorts or yoga pants, AirPods nestled in their ears. In my pocket, I had a burner phone; in my backpack, a computer wiped free of data—standard precautions for Western journalists in China. To visit China on sensitive business is to risk being barraged with cyberattacks and malware. In 2019, Belgian officials on a trade mission noticed that their mobile data were being intercepted by pop-up antennae outside their Beijing hotel.

After clearing the institute’s security, I was told to wait in a lobby monitored by cameras. On its walls were posters of China’s most consequential postwar leaders. Mao Zedong loomed large in his characteristic four-pocket suit. He looked serene, as though satisfied with having freed China from the Western yoke. Next to him was a fuzzy black-and-white shot of Deng Xiaoping visiting the institute in his later years, after his economic reforms had set China on a course to reclaim its traditional global role as a great power.

China’s catastrophic success: US strategic blunders fuel rivalry


The Trump administration publicly identified China as a great power competitor in its November 2017 National Security Strategy. This followed the Obama administration’s eventual rejection of Xi Jinping’s 2013 proposal for a grand bargain – “a new type of great power relations” – to manage bilateral tensions and avoid war. At first the US engaged under this “new type” construct. But Obama’s White House apparently came to view Beijing's overture as a trap designed to elicit American endorsement of what Washington saw as the Chinese Communist Party’s revisionist agenda – after 2014, US officials stopped using the phrase.

From Beijing’s perspective, China and the United States have been moving toward a strategic “systems rivalry” for the past decade. The CCP apparently reached this strategic conclusion after the 2008–2009 Global Financial Crisis and framed some of the more dire implications for its rule in the 2012 CCP “Document No. 9”. 

Beijing assumes that this rivalry will last decades. It could involve periods of “cold war” and military conflict – especially in East Asia, where US alliance responsibilities and Chinese sovereignty claims and “red lines” converge. From the CCP’s Marxist-Leninist perspective, the side that best marshals superior domestic stability, economic performance and relevance to international conditions will prevail. 

China Has Squandered Its First Great Opportunity

Richard Fontaine
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Foreign-policy observers have long debated: What if Beijing were handed a golden opportunity to strut on the world stage, absent a more powerful United States? Would it seize the opportunity, acting for the good of all and convincing the globe of its peaceful intentions? Or would it pursue a cramped vision of national interest? The world has inadvertently run that very experiment since January.

The combination of China’s early coronavirus recovery, the catastrophic health and economic situation in the United States, an administration whose “America First” instincts have turned the country inward, and a mostly every-country-for-itself response to the global pandemic has put China in the geopolitical driver’s seat. So far, Beijing has squandered the opportunity in dramatic fashion.

The news of Chinese diplomats burning documents in Houston represents just the latest, most dramatic development in Washington’s quickly deteriorating relationship with Beijing. The United States is not the only country with worsening ties. In the first half of 2020, Beijing has been ecumenical in its assertiveness: Britain, Japan, Australia, India, Canada, and others have been on the receiving end of China’s so-called wolf-warrior diplomacy

Chinese shipbuilder planning advanced amphibious assault ship

Minnie Chan

A Chinese shipbuilder is planning to build a more powerful amphibious assault ship that would be able to carry more helicopters and drones and help the country’s marine corps to fight more effectively on the high seas.

The ship would have a similar design to the Type 075 landing helicopter deck, but it would be equipped with an electromagnetic catapult launch system of the type that is currently only found on the most advanced aircraft carriers.

News about the proposal of the new design, which shipbuilders and military enthusiasts have called the Type 076, has been circulating on military websites since the start of the month.

Military observers said the plans, from the China Shipbuilding Group, the main government contractor, have not yet been approved by the leadership and work on the new ships will take at least five years.

Is Turkey headed for compromise or fresh fighting in Idlib?

Fehim Tastekin
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The de-escalation zone in northwest Syria has been the scene of puzzling developments lately, overshadowed by the conflict in Libya. Turkish military convoys have continued to stream to rebel-held Idlib, and the Syrian army has stepped up reinforcements to the region. While the mutual buildup raises the specter of a new confrontation, Syrian opposition forces claim that Ankara has reached a new understanding with Moscow under which the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey would be left to Russian control along with the key M4 and M5 highways.

The accord that Turkey and Russia sealed in Moscow March 5 called for joint patrols along M4 to secure the reopening of the road. It was only on July 22 and on their 22nd attempt that the joint patrols managed to fully cover the slated route from Taraba, west of Saraqeb, to Ain Hour in the Latakia countryside. 

Around the same time, sources close to Turkish-backed factions claimed that Turkey had agreed to let Russia control the route from Zawiya Mountain to Jisr al-Shughur on the southern side of M4 and keep allied militia away from the area in return for keeping its military observation posts in Idlib.

Also, allegations circulate that M5, under Syrian army control since February, will be connected to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing via Atarib and that Russia will assume control of the crossing, which is currently in the hands of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the dominant armed group in Idlib. 

An Israeli Escalation Against Iran?

by Dalia Dassa Kaye
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Over the last few weeks, Iran has been hit by a series of unusual explosions at such sensitive facilities as its nuclear enrichment complex, factories, and gas pipelines. Many analysts and diplomats suspect sabotage by Israel, the United States, or some other outside force. While reliable information from within Iran is difficult to come by, and conflicting accounts are emerging, at least two of the incidents occurred at sites linked to Iran's missile and nuclear programs. The New York Times quoted a “Middle Eastern intelligence official” claiming that Israel planted a bomb at the Natanz nuclear facility in the building where Iran had resumed work on advanced centrifuges. The Times of Israel reported that the “official” may be Mossad head Yossi Cohen.

These incidents reflect growing tensions and escalation between Iran and the United States and Israel since the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018. Heightened tensions (PDF) between Washington and Tehran are a familiar story, including a targeted U.S. drone strike that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian commander of the Quds forces, the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in January. Iran retaliated by launching a dozen missiles at Iraqi bases, one of which housed U.S. personnel.

With Rollout of Caesar Sanctions on Syria, U.S. Is Just Getting Started in New Bid to End War

by Howard J. Shatz

In mid-June, the U.S. government announced the implementation of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act with a flurry of sanctions against 39 people and entities connected with the brutal government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

“Today's designations send a clear message that no individual or business should enter into business with or otherwise enrich such a vile regime,” the White House announced. The Departments of State and Treasury made similar announcements affirming a new chapter to bring the devastating Syrian civil war to a humane end.

Yet a closer look at the 15 Department of State sanctions and the 24 Department of Treasury sanctions reveals a puzzling fact. All of the targets could have been sanctioned without the Caesar Act.

All of the people and entities sanctioned were sanctioned under existing executive orders that pre-dated Caesar, two (PDF) from 2011 (PDF) and one from 2019 (PDF). And only nine of the 34 were sanctioned specifically under Caesar authorities, but they were also sanctioned under existing executive orders.

What are we to make of this? First, although implementation started in June, there is much more to come. Syria—and Russia and Iran—have not yet felt the Caesar Act in full force.

30 years after our ‘endless wars’ in the Middle East began, still no end in sight

Bruce Riedel

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 marked the beginning of America’s “endless wars” in the Middle East. Before that point, American combat operations in the region had been generally temporary and short-term. President George H.W. Bush wanted to continue that pattern when he responded forcefully and appropriately to Iraq’s aggression, but it did not work out that way. Four presidents since have discovered it’s hard to get home.

Americans — including my father — fought the Nazis in North Africa in World War II, but the first combat operation in the Middle East proper did not come until July 18, 1958, when President Dwight Eisenhower sent Marines ashore in Beirut, Lebanon. Operation Blue Bat was prompted by a coup, not in Lebanon but in Iraq. On July 17, 1958, the Iraqi army overthrew the most pro-Western government in the Middle East, the Hashemite monarchy that then ruled both Iraq and Jordan. King Faisal II and his family were brutally murdered.

The normally cautious Ike panicked and sent the Marines to Beirut to prop up a Maronite Christian president facing a popular revolt against his effort to get a second and unconstitutional term in office. President Eisenhower was worried that the whole region was about to fall into the hands of the charismatic Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, hailed throughout the Arab world as an anti-colonialist who was routing the forces of Western imperialism. Nasser was a Soviet proxy, Ike believed, but he had not been behind the coup in Baghdad. In fact, Nasser was as surprised as Eisenhower.

Trump Isn’t Serious About Russia. But Neither Is Biden.

by Noah Rothman

There was a time when Donald Trump could make a compelling case for his administration’s approach to containing the aggressive and reckless regime in Moscow. To judge from the president’s performance during a recent interview with Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, that time is over.

When the president was pressed about recent intelligence reports that suggest Russia has paid bounties to Afghan insurgent groups, including the Taliban, to mount attacks on U.S. troops, Trump became defensive. Not of his administration’s conduct, mind you, but of himself. He confessed that he did not bring up the matter in a bilateral conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He claimed the intelligence was “fake news,” and that it never got to his desk or he would have acted on it (it did, and he did not). He spent the next 60 seconds explaining how much literature he consumes—a point of personal pride that generated more visible indignation from the president than Russia’s alleged acts of war against the United States.

More disturbing, when pressed about Russia’s strategic investments in Afghanistan, the president reverted to an odious form—deploying bankrupt moral equivalencies in place of a convincing argument. Presented with the hypothetical that the intelligence around the bounties plot was flawed, Swan noted that there is no dispute from the Pentagon, at least, that Russia is providing material support (including weapons) to the Taliban. “I’m just saying, we did that, too,” the president replied. Trump played dumb when pressed on the matter, insisting that he had “heard that” Moscow could be funding Taliban operations—perhaps when Gen. John Nicholson testified to that effect before Congress—but the matter, again, never reached his desk. Moreover, “Russia doesn’t want anything to do with Afghanistan.” Maybe you’ve heard about a little thing called the Soviet-Afghan War? Checkmate.

What Were Russian Mercenaries Doing in Belarus?

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Authorities in Belarus announced on Wednesday that they had arrested 33 fighters from Russia’s quasi-private military contractor the Wagner Group just as President Aleksandr Lukashenko faces an unprecedented opposition challenge ahead of elections next month.

The arrests were first reported in the Belarusian state news agency Belta, which alleged that over 200 Russian-backed militants have been dispatched to the country to destabilize it ahead of the Aug. 9 vote. But many experts suspect the mercenaries were simply using Belarus as a convenient transit point on their way to Sudan, Syria, or Libya—all countries where they have been operating lately.

The publicized arrest appears to have been an attempt on the part of Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for over 25 years, to stoke fears of a Russian intervention in a bid to shore up support ahead of the election. The 65-year-old president faces a rare challenger on the campaign trail (after arresting and barring prior opposition candidates from running): Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the wife of a popular blogger who was arrested after announcing his own candidacy. Tikhanovskaya has been drawing significant crowds in smaller cities and towns long thought to be Lukashenko bastions.

Defund America’s Endless Wars

by Aslı Bâli

President Trump’s remarks last week characterizing purported lawlessness in cities like Portland and Chicago as “worse than Afghanistan” were offered as grounds for sending federal officers into these and other cities over the objections of local officials. President Trump has also characterized Black Lives Matter protesters themselves as terrorists, while also floating the possibility of designating Antifa as a terrorist organization. These actions have all been rightly and widely condemned. The President does not have the authority to designate “Antifa” or other domestic groups as terrorist organizations. And the President’s treatment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or other federal law enforcement agencies as paramilitary forces that he can deploy at his discretion against cities “run by Democrats” has produced substantial legal and political pushback (with lawsuits, a Department of Justice investigation, resistance from mayors, criticism from former Republican DHS officials and legal scholars).

Yet the common thread between would-be terrorist designations and the suggestion that American cities should be subjected to the same treatment as those in Afghanistan – where the United States military once served as a belligerent occupier – deserves more sustained attention. By making visible relationships that are usually obscured from public view, President Trump’s brutal instincts may inadvertently help connect the dots between two important movements that have both gained momentum in part thanks to his presidency. What the President has made plain is the deep connection between militarized domestic policing and America’s wars abroad. Understanding this broader context means that calls to defund the police must also echo demands to end this country’s endless wars.

Pax Americana Comes Home

The Economic Costs of National Security


HONG KONG – By disrupting the world’s interconnected economic, social, and geopolitical spheres, the COVID-19 crisis has exposed just how fragile and inequitable the institutions that govern them really are. It has also highlighted how difficult it is to address systemic fragility and inequity amid escalating national-security threats.

In 2007, Harvard’s Dani Rodrik proposed an “impossibility theorem” for the global economy, according to which democracy, national sovereignty, and global economic integration are fundamentally incompatible. “We can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full.”

To see how social, economic, and national security policies are entangled in this trilemma, consider Hong Kong’s experience. Since British colonial rule, a policy of “positive non-interventionism” has enabled the city’s economic growth. Hong Kong’s colonial administrators knew that a relatively small market, manufacturing sector, and trade volume meant that a commitment to openness, rather than a targeted development strategy, was the surest route to prosperity.

They were right. Today, Hong Kong possesses one of the world’s busiest ports, and has long permitted capital, information, and people to move freely. Near-zero tariffs and ultra-low taxes have enabled the city to become a global financial hub, and one of the world’s biggest markets for equity and debt financing. And, from the start, China’s process of “reform and opening up” included deeper economic engagement with Hong Kong, which reinforced the city’s dynamism.

The American Way of Irregular War

by Charles T. Cleveland, Daniel Egel

American irregular warfare is the United States' unique and, in recent times, troubled approach to conflict in which armed civilian or paramilitary forces, and not regular armies, are the primary combatants. In most forms, it emphasizes the importance of local partnerships and gaining legitimacy and influence among targeted populations. It is thus a critical capability in contests in which populations, rather than territory, are decisive.

This memoir explores the strengths and limitations of America's current irregular warfare capability and provides recommendations for what the United States must do to develop the world-class American way of irregular war it needs. This analysis is based on a detailed examination of Lieutenant General Charles T. Cleveland's career, the majority of which was spent with U.S. Special Forces, and his experiences in Europe during the Cold War, Bolivia, El Salvador, Operation Just Cause, Bosnia, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as in command of 10th Special Forces Group, Special Operations Command South, Special Operations Command Central, and U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

The United States, despite the admirable performance of civilian and military tactical-level irregular warfare formations, has failed to achieve its strategic objectives in nearly every population-centric military campaign during the past 40 years. The memoir concludes that the reason for this consistent failure is that the United States lacks the concepts, doctrine, and canon necessary to be effective in population-centric conflicts and as a result is not well organized for irregular warfare.

Deadly Terrorist Threats Abound in U.S. and Abroad. Here Are Key Dangers

by Brian Michael Jenkins

While the world battles the microscopic coronavirus, terrorists have not moved on to a peaceful retirement. It would be a mistake to forget about the continuing threat they pose while our attention is understandably focused on the battle against COVID-19.

Spectacular events dominate our recollection of terrorism: coordinated airline hijackings, airliners bombed out of the sky, large-scale hostage seizures, huge truck bombs, mass shootings, nerve gas dispersed on subways, and, of course, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

From the 1970s on, terrorist attacks increased in number, even as death tolls in the bloodiest incidents escalated from the tens to the hundreds to the thousands. That terrorists would eventually acquire biological or nuclear weapons capable of killing tens of thousands was seen as inevitable—“not if, but when,” to use the well-worn phrase.

But looking back from 2020, 9/11 turned out to be a statistical outlier—a high point in death and destruction rather than an indicator of worse to come. Terrorist attacks continued after 9/11, but with casualties at pre-9/11 levels.

By focusing on the pinnacles of terrorism past or the doomsday apprehensions of terrorism future, we overlook some of the tectonic developments.

Instead of the vertical escalation anticipated after 9/11, we have seen a “horizontal escalation”— the proliferation of low-level attacks. Indeed, terrorism has become so widespread, repetitious, and familiar in the 21st century that we are almost inured to its effects.

Latin America’s Anti-Corruption Drive Has Stalled at the Worst Possible Time

Frida Ghitis 

Until recently, it was one of the brightest, most promising trends in Latin America, and one of the strongest arguments for optimism about its future. But tragically, the fight against corruption, which had made determined strides in its drive to uproot graft, influence peddling and venal misuse of resources, has not only stalled—it has shifted into reverse. The backsliding is now converging with the scourge of the coronavirus, adding to the many challenges that Latin Americans face, and raising the barriers to recovery after the pandemic ends.

Latin America is not alone in hitting a wall in its attempts to confront and dismantle corruption. According to the latest report from Transparency International, two-thirds of the world’s countries, including prominent developed nations such as the United States, “are stagnating or showing signs of backsliding in their anti-corruption efforts.”

US Army cyber chief outlines ten-year plan for information warfare

Mark Pomerleau
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s top cyber general has described three phases that will prepare the service for information warfare over the next decade.

Appearing in a special edition of the Cyber Defense Review, a journal produced by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, commander of Army Cyber Command, provided a road map for where his organization is headed.

Army officials have said Army Cyber Command will change its name to better reflect its mission in the information environment, though specifics have not been finalized. The command is in the midst of building new formations and skills to better compete against adversaries in the information environment.

“The stunning social media-powered rise of ISIS [the Islamic State group] in 2015, Russia’s interference in the 2016 US Presidential election, Iran’s increasing digital belligerence, and China’s disinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are upending that perception and igniting a conversation across the defense establishment regarding appropriate roles for the uniformed armed services in this environment of unprecedented information warfare,” wrote Fogarty and co-author Bryan Sparling, an adviser.

Deepfakes: A Grounded Threat Assessment

The rise of deepfakes could enhance the effectiveness of disinformation efforts by states, political parties and adversarial actors. How rapidly is this technology advancing, and who in reality might adopt it for malicious ends? This report offers a comprehensive deepfake threat assessment grounded in the latest machine learning research on generative models.Download Full Report

Executive Summary

Researchers have used machine learning (ML) in recent years to generate highly realistic fake images and videos known as “deepfakes.” Artists, pranksters, and many others have subsequently used these techniques to create a growing collection of audio and video depicting high-profile leaders, such as Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and Vladimir Putin, saying things they never did. This trend has driven fears within the national security community that recent advances in ML will enhance the effectiveness of malicious media manipulation efforts like those Russia launched during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

These concerns have drawn attention to the disinformation risks ML poses, but key questions remain unanswered. How rapidly is the technology for synthetic media advancing, and what are reasonable expectations around the commoditization of these tools? Why would a disinformation campaign choose deepfakes over more crudely made fake content that is sometimes equally as effective? What kinds of actors are likely to adopt these advances for malicious ends? How will they use them? Policymakers and analysts often lack concrete guidance in developing policies to address these risks. 

Cyber, deterrence, and the rules of the game

Amir Rapaport

1. Cyber winter. While all of the attention was focused this week on the strange security-related incident in Har Dov, there are increasing reports that may indicate that the cyber war between Iran and Israel is not slowing down, but rather is intensifying day by day.

And during the last few days there were once again reports in the global media about explosions in Iran. This is a continuation of the mysterious series of events that have been occurring for about two months, with some attributed to cyberattacks by Israel and the US (including the claim of a cyberattack against the important port of Bandar Abbas and against the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, which was attacked more than 10 years ago in the "stuxnet" cyberattack)

As for this week's developments, there was a reported explosion that caused a fire in the industrial area of the city of Dolat. There were recently reports on a new attack – apparently a cyberattack – against two facilities of Israel's Water Authority, one in the north and one in Judea. It is worthwhile to pay attention to recent reports in the global media about the cyber agreements between China and Iran. It seems that the Chinese are training the Iranians in cyber warfare and are even transferring a lot of knowledge to them. The reason is much more connected to the US than to Israel. It could mean a Cold War of the third millennium, with the People's Republic of China playing the role of the former Soviet Union. It should be assumed that this was one of the main topics during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's most recent visit to Israel several weeks ago. The Americans are doing a lot more than just pressuring Israel to chill its technological relations with China. 

Congressional hearing reveals that tech firms will face greater oversight

Darrell M. West

It was an extraordinary gathering this week when Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook testified virtually before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee. They represent four of the most influential individuals on the planet, since their firms have the power to shape how people communicate, shop, search, and socialize. In Bezos’s case, it actually was the first time he ever had testified before Congress. As a sign of the importance of the hearing, tech expert Gigi Sohn of Georgetown University called the gathering “tech’s Big Tobacco moment”, an allusion to the highly-publicized 1994 legislative hearing of the tobacco companies for questions about the health risks of their products.

The hearing on online platforms and market power occurred at a time of major change as a public “techlash” threatens the “permissionless innovation” regime that has governed the sector for many years. States and localities are enacting tough privacy rules, banning facial recognition software, restricting Airbnb rentals, and erecting guardrails for the gig economy workforce. As Brookings President John Allen and I announced in our new AI book entitled Turning Point: Policymaking in the Era of Artificial Intelligence, we sit at a policy inflection point that could push the world in a far different direction than before.

Despite some political distractions, the hearing focused on antitrust issues and competition policy. Legislators expressed concern about market dominance, unfair competition, and predatory practices. With Amazon, there were questions concerning the firm’s relationship with third-party vendors. Apple’s issue was the influence its App Store has over mobile applications and app developers. For Facebook, there were queries about the market ramifications of it acquisitions of Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus. In regard to Google and its parent company Alphabet, there were concerns about its search dominance and whether there is preferential treatment of its products over those of competing firms.

Clean pipes: Should ISPs provide a more secure internet?

Tom Uren


One of the largest online challenges facing Australia is to provide effective cybersecurity to the majority of internet users who don’t have the skills or resources to defend themselves.

This paper explores the concept of ‘Clean Pipes’, which is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) could provide security services to their customers to deliver a level of default security.

The Australian Government looks to be implementing a version of Clean Pipes: on 30 June 2020 the Prime Minister announced a funding commitment to ‘prevent malicious cyber activity from ever reaching millions of Australians across the country by blocking known malicious websites and computer viruses at speed’.1

This paper examines arguments for Clean Pipes and possible implementation roadblocks.


Australia’s 2016 Cyber Security Strategy recognised the opportunities and risks that come with cyberspace and committed to ‘enabling growth, innovation and prosperity for all Australians through strong cyber security’.2

Despite that strategy, however, the online security environment has continued to deteriorate.

Enabling the Army in an Era of Information Warfare

By Lieutenant General Stephen G. Fogarty, Colonel (Ret.) Bryan N. Sparling 

Operations against ISIS, disrupting Russian attempts to interfere in the 2018 US midterm elections and, most recently, countering Iran's attempts to increase instability across the Middle East mark important efforts by the US military to find effective capabilities, doctrinal concepts, and appropriate roles in an era of information warfare. We must fight the battles our adversaries put before us. If our doctrines, systems, and processes do not match that reality, then it is time for new thinking. Through three decades of near-ceaseless global operations, “Information Operations,” or IO has endured as the mainstay approach for how the Armed Services and the Joint Force conceptualize and apply informational power as an integral element of military operations. Despite evolving definitions, ever-changing formulations, and passionate assertions as to both its criticality and utility, IO remains doctrinal and relevant, though often misunderstood, a term of military art. Most often, IO has proved useful at tactical and operational levels of war. At more strategic and political levels, the efficacy of IO remains elusive, and US leaders, both civilian and military, have been less than adept at effectively realizing the potential of “informational power.”

After the Calamity: Unexpected Effects of Epidemics on War

By Lazar Berman and Jennifer Tischler

The COVID-19 pandemic is a novel event. It shut the world down as leading economies lay dormant and citizens stayed home for weeks on end. But pandemics have been shaping history for millennia. Ancient populations also quarantined, had their lives disrupted, and raged against authorities as deadly diseases ravaged their communities.

As the world emerges from the pandemic, states will return to commerce, diplomacy, and war. Pre-existing rivalries will not disappear. However, many countries and non-state actors will emerge fundamentally changed, as will the dynamics between them.

As military and political leaders try to make sense of how the coronavirus has altered relations with hostile actors, they can draw important insights from past epidemics and their effects on persistent conflicts throughout history. This article examines past epidemics, from the Peloponnesian War in 430 BCE through the modern era, to extract lessons on incentives for aggression, power balancing, alliances, and internal legitimacy. By studying the past, contemporary decision-makers will be better equipped to anticipate challenges and avoid recurring dangers in the wake of pandemics. 

Lessons from Past Epidemics

Army Future Ops Depend On Cloud – But Not On JEDI


WASHINGTON: “If you know your enemy and know yourself,” the legendary Chinese general Sun-Tzu wrote in the sixth century B.C., “you need not fear the outcome of one hundred battles.” In 2020, the US Army is finding that a new technology, cloud computing, is essential to both kinds of knowledge.

“A lot of the work that we’re doing right now [with cloud] is really giving us the ability to see ourselves more clearly,” Brig. Gen. Martin Klein, head of Strategic Operations for the Army’s Pentagon headquarters staff, told reporters last week. “When we’re mobilizing our reserve components, as we’ve done over the course of the last couple of months in the COVID-19 crisis, we’re actually able to see units move more clearly through the alert, mobilization, and deploy phases.”

There’s even a virtual “commander’s dashboard,” known as Vantage, to make it easy for senior officers – who are rarely tech geeks – to access the unit-status data now on the cloud, he said.