6 August 2020

The Chinese Town That Became the Self-Immolation Capital of the World

By Barbara Demick
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Tibetans encountered Chinese Communists for the first time during the Long March of the mid-1930s, when Mao’s Red Army evaded the Nationalist forces by heading west and north through the Tibetan plateau. The famished Chinese soldiers picked the fields bare. They stole yaks, sheep and grain (though some of them, reluctant to jettison the Communist principle of helping the rural poor, left i.o.u.s). They swept through monasteries, melting down copper urns for shrapnel, ripping up floorboards for firewood, sitting on sacred scroll paintings and eating boiled yak hide torn from temple drums. They were delighted to discover that tormas — votive offerings made of barley flour and butter — were also edible. Some tormas are sculpted in human form, and the soldiers, assuming they were committing a sacrilege but too hungry to care, believed they were eating statues of the Buddha.

Hence the title of “Eat the Buddha,” a brilliantly reported and eye-opening work of narrative nonfiction by Barbara Demick, the former Beijing bureau chief of The Los Angeles Times, on the history of Tibetan resistance to Chinese domination. Demick centers the book in and around the town of Ngaba, on the eastern plateau. I was initially disappointed to learn that Ngaba isn’t in the Tibet Autonomous Region — the territory, governed by China, whose capital is Lhasa and which most of us think of as Tibet — but rather in Sichuan, one of the four Chinese provinces in which the majority of Tibetans live. I assumed that Demick hadn’t focused on the TAR because of access problems: Visiting journalists must obtain permission from the Chinese government, which is rarely granted, and are usually required to travel with supervised tours. But it soon became apparent that Ngaba — which has access challenges of its own, though more surmountable ones — was exactly the right place to write about. Nowhere else, inside or outside the TAR, has been a more intense hotbed of Tibetan political unrest.

What Do US-Iran Talks Mean for Afghanistan?

By Rupert Stone

After a tumultuous period marked by rising violence and delayed implementation of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal signed in Doha this year, finally the clouds seem to be breaking in Afghanistan. 

The Taliban and Afghan government look set to complete their long-overdue prisoner exchange and proceed to intra-Afghan talks, as outlined by the Doha agreement. The Taliban also announced a three-day ceasefire during the Muslim festival of Eid ul Adha.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s tortured relationship with Pakistan is continuing to improve. Chief Afghan peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah is soon to visit Islamabad as part of his reconciliation efforts.

There is also good news regarding Afghanistan’s western neighbor, Iran. The United States and Iran have held rare talks on Afghan reconciliation. The meetings attracted little attention, but they could be crucial to ending the war.

Iran has strong ties to Afghanistan and the capacity to exert considerable influence there. It has long been argued that the U.S. will struggle to implement an effective peace deal without Iran’s cooperation.

Pakistan’s Bloodthirsty Blasphemy Law Needs to Be Repealed

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
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On Wednesday, Tahir Ahmad Naseem became the latest to be extrajudicially killed for blasphemy in Pakistan. The victim, who had formerly been an Ahmadi before leaving the community, had been under arrest inside Peshawar Central Jail since 2018 for claiming to be a prophet. He was facing trial for blasphemy, and was shot dead in the courtroom inside the Peshawar Judicial Complex.

There is gory symbolism in Pakistan’s latest blasphemy killing being committed inside a courtroom. It explains why, unlike Saudi Arabia or Iran – also among the 13 states that establish death as the penalty for sacrilege against Islam – vigilante justice is the norm in Pakistan. The country’s encouragement of mob violence is rooted in its paradoxical aspiration to be both a democratic republic and an Islamic state.

Where Saudi Arabia and Iran and continue to top the charts for executions, many of which are for “crimes against Islam,” the total number of judicial killings in Pakistan is zero. In fact, for seven years, 2008-2015, Pakistan simultaneously had a moratorium on the death penalty while upholding its codified capital punishment for blasphemy against Islam. It was during this period that Pakistan saw the most high-profile victim of its blasphemy law of the past two decades, when former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by his security guard in January 2011.

Countering China’s Influence Activities: Lessons from Australia

This report is the Australia case study of an ambitious year-long CSIS initiative to analyze China’s influence activities in Australia and Japan and Russian influence activities in the United Kingdom and Germany. 

The Chinese Communist party-state under Xi Jinping has stepped up efforts to gain influence in Australian politics and society and interfere with Australia’s democratic institutions and outcomes, often through covert and manipulative means. Revelations in recent years of Beijing’s attempts to buy political access and influence, manipulate elite opinion, and coopt universities and the Chinese diaspora community-led Australia to push back against China’s interference efforts, even in the face of Beijing’s economic threats and retaliation. Dr. Amy Searight examines the evolution of Beijing’s playbook of interference efforts in Australia, the democratic traits that made Australia vulnerable to these malign influence activities, as well as the democratic strengths that led to Australia’s robust and wide-ranging policy response. 

This publication was made possible by the Global Engagement Center at the U.S. Department of State, through the Information Access Fund (IAF) administered by the DT Institute. The opinions, conclusions, or recommendations contained herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of the U.S. government or the IAF.

Take Me to the Cleaners: Negotiating with China

There are periods in international relations when meaningful negotiation is not possible. The 1930s with Germany and the 1950s with the Soviet Union are examples. Authoritarian regimes who believe they are in the ascendant and their opponents are weak are not predisposed to agree to self-constrain, which is the essence of agreement. We are in such a period now.

China’s Communist Party shares the authoritarian heritage of the Germans and the Soviets. Anyone who has not negotiated in an official capacity with China may have an overly rosy view of the possibilities of reaching agreement with them. They are shrewd, tough, sensitive to perceived slights, and when pushed sufficiently, they can be chauvinistic and in some instances ideological. From a negotiator's perspective, these are compliments.

China has some of the best diplomats in the world. Putting aside the current generation of wolf-warrior diplomats, many senior Chinese negotiators are experienced and skilled. They are sometimes known in the West as "foreign devil handlers" given that one key function is to deflect Western criticism or demands. Party officials and military officers can be less urbane and more dogmatic, and in some negotiations, there is a palpable fear of displeasing the Party and suffering the consequences hanging over the Chinese side (especially those who are more junior). This can introduce a degree of rigidity in Chinese negotiating styles that can also make reaching agreement difficult.

Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Toward a Shared Agenda

The forced labor of ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), as part of a broader pattern of severe human rights abuses, is a significant and growing concern that demands the attention of governments and private-sector actors across the world. Products entering the United States, Europe, and other democracies are at risk of being affected by these forced labor practices, which often occur several steps away from global brands in supply chains. Companies cannot currently easily ensure that their products are not affected by XUAR-linked forced labor because brands often cannot trace their products to origin, and the XUAR’s important role in a number of sectors may require significant changes in sourcing practices. Moreover, global brands seeking to exert leverage on their Chinese suppliers with regard to XUAR sourcing are reportedly seen to intervene with internal political affairs. This brief explores what the XUAR produces, the sectors that are implicated, the resulting sourcing challenges, and the opportunities for collective action to be explored in further research.

This brief is the first in a series that CSIS’s Human Rights Initiative (HRI) will produce to identify how businesses, governments, multilateral organizations, NGOs, and other actors can work together to address XUAR-linked forced labor. This brief enhances understanding of relevant supply chains and includes a deeper dive into forced labor risk in cotton production and supply chains in the XUAR. HRI’s work has focused less on labor transfers from the XUAR into the rest of China to avoid replicating the ongoing work of others. The brief does not provide recommendations but rather a starting point for a common understanding of relevant supply chains and labor risks, helping to ground further research and policy solutions.

China and Iran are about to Become Allies—Here’s What We Should Do about It

by Barry Pavel
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“Two ancient Asian cultures, two partners in the sectors of trade, economy, politics, culture and security with a similar outlook and many mutual bilateral and multilateral interests will consider one another strategic partners.” So begins a new secret bilateral agreement reportedly in its final stages between Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s China and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Iran. On the assumption that this agreement is implemented, it should cause U.S., European, and Asian strategic planners great alarm. Ultimately, it will require the United States to develop a vision for how to organize its allies and partners to work together on a global strategy for dealing with China. 

What are the first-order implications of this new agreement, in many ways an alliance between two of the world’s leading authoritarian systems that share and promote values that are entirely antithetical to the democratic world?

Why America Is Afraid of TikTok


Zhang Yiming embodies what the United States wanted China to be. He is the founder and chief executive of a company, ByteDance, that owns a wildly popular social-media platform, TikTok. He is a serial entrepreneur, having built multiple apps and search engines. Zhang’s story is one not of a copycat or a cost-cutter—the tired stereotypes of the Chinese business owner—but of an innovator.

For most of the past half century, one of Washington’s primary foreign-policy goals was to create more Zhangs. The United States believed that it could transform Communist China into a society more like its own—wealthy, free, inventive, and open, a place where a nobody like Zhang, with little more than smarts and the tools of capitalism, could build the businesses and think of the ideas that would change the world.

To a degree, Zhang is proof that the U.S. succeeded. TikTok may be Chinese, but it has been embraced by Americans as their own. While Facebook is for sharing baby pictures, Twitter is for political ranting, and Instagram is for showing off how popular you are, TikTok has a certain silly simplicity—a forum where you can dance in your living room, lip-synch bad jokes, capture animal antics, and share other slivers of your personal life.

Beyond Borders: PLA Command and Control of Overseas Operations

By Phillip C. Saunders 

Expanded Chinese economic interests and the higher priority given to maritime interests are driving People’s Liberation Army (PLA) efforts to develop power projection capabilities.

The reorganization of the Chinese military in late 2015 explicitly sought to give the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the theater commands responsibility for conducting operations and to relegate the services to force-building. However, the services are trying to maintain operational responsibilities, including for overseas operations.

The precise division of responsibilities and coordination mechanisms between the CMC, which controls nuclear weapons and likely other strategic capabilities, and the theater commands, which control ground, naval, air, and conventional missile forces, remains unclear, especially for large, high-intensity combat operations.

Existing command and control mechanisms are workable for now, but are likely to prove inadequate if PLA overseas operations become larger, require joint forces, last for extended periods of time, or occur in nonpermissive environments where deployed forces face significant threats from hostile state or nonstate actors.

Was Nixon Wrong About China?

Thomas Joscelyn

Speaking at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, on July 23, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, Pompeo repudiated more than four decades of American policy toward China. Pompeo argued that the days of the U.S. holding out hope for political liberalization was over. And he called on free nations around the world to lock arms against the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) various schemes and threats.

On the other hand, Pompeo said he did not want to “seem too eager to tear down President Nixon’s legacy.” While Nixon’s presidency ended in disgrace, he is still widely considered something of a foreign policy success—the man who initiated America’s great opening to China. Pompeo didn’t want to directly undermine Nixon’s supposed accomplishment. “I want to be clear that he did what he believed was best for the American people at the time, and he may well have been right,” Pompeo said of Nixon’s diplomacy with the Chinese.

Pompeo’s use of the word “may” was telling. Maybe Nixon was right—or maybe he wasn’t. Given the substance of his speech, it is quite possible that Pompeo thinks Nixon was wrong.

More than any other Trump administration official, Pompeo has confronted the new, unintentional reality bequeathed by the opening of America’s relations with China: an aggressive, totalitarian Chinese regime that has benefited greatly from American naivete. And he outlined the various ways in which he and others in the administration have tackled the CCP’s menacing agenda. The U.S. government has countered Chinese aggression everywhere from the South China Sea to Texas. “Just this week, we announced the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston because it was a hub of spying and intellectual property theft,” Pompeo said to applause from the audience.

Can China’s Military Win the Tech War?

By Anja Manuel and Kathleen Hicks
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As the Chinese government has set out to harness the growing strength of the Chinese technology sector to bolster its military, policymakers in the United States have reacted with mounting alarm. U.S. officials have described Beijing’s civil-military fusion effort as a “malign agenda” that represents a “global security threat.” And as China’s defense capabilities have grown, some Western policymakers have started to wonder whether the United States needs to adopt its own version of civil-military fusion, embracing a top-down approach to developing cutting-edge technologies with military applications.

Chinese President Xi Jinping formalized the concept of civil-military fusion as part of the extensive military reforms laid out in his 2016 five-year plan. He established a new Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development, with himself as its head. The commission’s goal is to promote the development of dual-use technology and integrate existing civilian technologies into the arsenal of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The United States and its allies should take seriously Beijing’s efforts to militarize China’s technological base. Yet they should also recognize the strategy’s limitations, to avoid overreacting in ways that would prove counterproductive. China’s bureaucratic and authoritarian approach to civil-military fusion is likely to waste considerable time and money. By trying to control innovation, Beijing is more likely to delay and even stifle it.

China's Grand Strategy

by Andrew Scobell

How successful might China be at implementing its grand strategy goals by 2050? These goals are based on national-level strategies in the areas of diplomacy, economics, science and technology, and military affairs.

What will U.S.-China relations look like by 2050?

To explore what extended competition between the United States and China might entail out to 2050, the authors identified and characterized China's grand strategy, analyzed its component national strategies (diplomacy, economics, science and technology, and military affairs), and assessed how successful China might be at implementing these over the next three decades. China's central goals are to produce a China that is well governed, socially stable, economically prosperous, technologically advanced, and militarily powerful by 2050.

China has delineated specific objectives regarding economic growth, regional and global leadership in evolving economic and security architectures, and control over claimed territory. In several cases, these objectives bring China into competition, crisis, and even potential conflict with the United States and its allies. China's leaders clearly recognize this and have delineated and prioritized specific actors and actions as threats to the achievement of these objectives. With the United States, China seeks to manage the relationship, gain competitive advantage, and resolve threats emanating from that competition without derailing other strategic objectives (particularly those in the economic realm).

Pompeo’s surreal speech on China

Thomas Wright

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. will organize the free world, while alienating and undermining the free world; he extols democracy, while aiding and abetting its destruction at home; and he praises the Chinese people, while generalizing about the ill intent of Chinese students who want to come to America, argues Thomas Wright. This piece originally appeared in The Atlantic.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave one of the most surreal speeches of the Donald Trump presidency at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, on Thursday. In his speech, titled “Communist China and the Free World’s Future,” he declared the failure of 50 years of engagement with China and called for free societies to stand up to Beijing.

I am sympathetic to the argument. I wrote a book in 2017 about how Western hopes that China would converge with the liberal international order have failed. I have argued for almost two years that when Trump leaves office, the United States should put the free world at the center of its foreign policy.

The Mosque, the Dam, and Erdogan’s Widening Culture War

By Nick Danforth

In recent weeks, the Turkish government has courted international condemnation for its handling of the country’s unique cultural heritage. In early July, rising waters from a new dam flooded the archaeological site of Hasankeyf, leading The New York Times to declare that the ancient valley had been “lost to ‘progress.’” Then, soon after, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia—the ancient church turned mosque turned museum—would be changed back into a mosque. Critics have fretted about what this will mean for the building’s ornate Byzantine mosaics, highlighting the growing material toll of Erdogan’s religious and authoritarian policies.

In truth, Erdogan welcomes international condemnation. He draws strength from his constant sparring with domestic and foreign foes, and the battles over Hasankeyf and Hagia Sophia fuel his posture of indignation and grievance. Erdogan presented the reconversion of Hagia Sophia not simply as an act of piety or the rectification of a historic injustice but as a defense of Turkey’s sovereignty. In the case of Hasankeyf, Erdogan has suggested that critics oppose dam building not out of concern for cultural heritage or the environment but because they do not want Turkey to prosper.

The Tactics and Targets of Domestic Terrorists

With a rise in domestic terrorism, it is increasingly important to analyze trends in terrorist tactics and targets. According to CSIS data, firearms were the most common weapon used in fatal attacks over the past five years by far-right, far-left, and Salafi-jihadist terrorists. In addition, the most common targets were individuals based on their ethnicity, race, or religion (such as African Americans, Latinos, Jews, and Muslims) for right-wing extremists; and government, military, and police targets for left-wing extremists and Salafi-jihadists.

On May 29, Air Force Staff Sergeant Steven Carrillo, a supporter of the “boogaloo boys” who wanted to ignite a civil war, used a firearm to kill protective security officer Patrick Underwood and critically wound a second officer in Oakland, California.1 On May 24, FBI agents arrested Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azhari in Tampa, Florida, for purchasing multiple firearms to conduct mass-casualty attacks in the Tampa area, including at beaches. He was inspired by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and he remarked to a confidential human source from the FBI, “I want to die, you know, in a shootout with the kuffar [disbelievers] . . . I want to take at least 50 [lives].”2 On April 15, FBI agents arrested John Michael Rathbun in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, after he allegedly placed an improvised explosive device outside the entrance of Ruth’s House, a predominantly Jewish assisted-living residence.3 In July 2019, Willem Van Spronsen, a self-proclaimed anarchist, attacked a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and attempted to ignite a 500-gallon propane tank.4

Leaders Seek a Grand Strategy for Cybersecurity

By Shaun Waterman

When the first Solarium Commission convened in 1953, it had the task of helping Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his cabinet colleagues assess the threat from the Soviet Union after the death of Joseph Stalin and agree on a strategic U.S. response. Three teams of policy experts put together three competing policy models: containment, confrontation and roll-back. Former President Eisenhower famously chose containment, a strategy based on the deterrence of Soviet military power and a norms-based alliance with Western Europe.

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission that Congress chartered in 2018 says in its March 2020 report that it also looked at three policy approaches. The first is denial and defense at home to strengthen the United States against online attacks. The second advises using networks of alliances to promote global norms and to define illegitimate behavior online. And the third proposes imposing costs on U.S. adversaries who violate those norms through defending forward and persistent engagement.

Unlike its predecessor, however, the 2018 Cyberspace Solarium Commission chose an all-of-the-above approach. It opted for a strategy it calls layered deterrence that weaves together all three methods to dissuade adversaries from trying to use cyber attacks against the United States.

The US is a ‘cheap date’ in cyberspace. A commission has ideas to change that.

By: Mark Pomerleau   
WASHINGTON — The U.S. needs to coordinate with the international community in identifying and punishing those behind cyberattacks to deter future hacks, according to a co-chair of the Cyber Solarium Commission.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, called for a two-pronged approach to deter cyber-based espionage operations, attempts to disrupt U.S. banks, and widespread online influence campaigns. His recommendation included increased international cooperation to call out and punish such activities, and for the U.S. to create a stronger declaratory policy.

The Cyber Solarium Commission, a bipartisan organization created in 2019 to develop a multipronged U.S. cyber strategy, delivered a report in March advocating for multiple cyber deterrence efforts.

King said the U.S. hasn’t done a good job imposing costs against adversaries who conduct these cyber operations.

“We’ve become a cheap date in cyber,” he said, echoing similar comments made by Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, during his 2018 confirmation hearing for the post.

The American Way of Irregular War

by Charles T. Cleveland, Daniel Egel
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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.

Op-Ed: The U.S. faces new kinds of threats around the globe, but we have failed to adapt

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It has now been more than five months since a U.S. intelligence assessment included in President Trump’s Daily Brief suggested that Russia was paying bounties to Taliban fighters for attacking U.S. and other foreign forces in Afghanistan. And it has been more than a month since news of the intelligence reports became public.

Yet the president and his administration still have not adequately denounced Russian activity or outlined a strategy to counter this type of hybrid warfare.

It’s possible, of course, that countermeasures unknown to the public are underway, but silence from Washington on the matter is a bad idea. It emboldens U.S. adversaries, who are increasingly using irregular means to undermine U.S. interests.

U.S. national security remains bound by static orthodoxies that don’t fully recognize the blend of unlikely bedfellows and state and non-state actors that have become the norm on today’s national security stage.

The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy took important steps in recognizing the direct and broad challenges from China and Russia. But at the same time, the U.S. government’s response has swung like a pendulum — from an intense focus on counterterrorism to more conventional state-based confrontation. U.S. defense planning scenarios, war games, weapons programs, and budget priorities remain largely devoted to preparing for conventional war.

The Tragedy of Vaccine Nationalism

By Thomas J. Bollyky and Chad P. Bown

Trump administration officials have compared the global allocation of vaccines against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to oxygen masks dropping inside a depressurizing airplane. “You put on your own first, and then we want to help others as quickly as possible,” Peter Marks, a senior official at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration who oversaw the initial phases of vaccine development for the U.S. government, said during a panel discussion in June. The major difference, of course, is that airplane oxygen masks do not drop only in first class—which is the equivalent of what will happen when vaccines eventually become available if governments delay providing access to them to people in other countries.

By early July, there were 160 candidate vaccines against the new coronavirus in development, with 21 in clinical trials. Although it will be months, at least, before one or more of those candidates has been proved to be safe and effective and is ready to be delivered, countries that manufacture vaccines (and wealthy ones that do not) are already competing to lock in early access. And to judge from the way governments have acted during the current pandemic and past outbreaks, it seems highly likely that such behavior will persist. Absent an international, enforceable commitment to distribute vaccines globally in an equitable and rational way, leaders will instead prioritize taking care of their own populations over slowing the spread of COVID-19 elsewhere or helping protect essential health-care workers and highly vulnerable populations in other countries.

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.

Tech Titans at Bay?


CAMBRIDGE – Big Tech is back in the spotlight – and not in a good way. On July 29, the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook spent more than five hours fielding tough questions about their overwhelming market power from a bipartisan antitrust panel in the US House of Representatives. Is the end of an era approaching?

From Latin America’s lost decade in the 1980s to the more recent Greek crisis, there are plenty of painful reminders of what happens when countries cannot service their debts. A global debt crisis today would likely push millions of people into unemployment and fuel instability and violence around the world.5Add to Bookmarks

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a boon for tech companies. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg all noted in their opening statements at the antitrust hearing, people appreciate the services their companies provide. Recent research indicates that the COVID-19 crisis has deepened this appreciation.

This is not surprising. Digital technologies have enabled workers to do their jobs from home, students to continue their classes while schools are closed, and people to stay in touch with loved ones and entertain themselves while sheltering in place.1


Michael Gladius
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The Case Against Maneuver Warfare

Ever since the 1970s/1980s, maneuver warfare has been regarded as the ideal form of warfare. It’s associated primarily with the German Army of WWII and the Mongol Empire, and everybody wants to emulate their successes. However, Maneuver Warfare has several real weaknesses that do not translate well into the American way of war. In this essay, we will look at 2 ways in which maneuver warfare can be defined, their weaknesses, and then how America can incorporate their benefits into its own doctrine.

Definition #1: OODA Loops

The first definition of Maneuver warfare brought up by reformers is the ideal of always getting inside an opponent’s OODA Loop. This is the time-honored art of beating one’s opponent to the punch and doing it over and over again. While this is desirable, it is not a complete doctrine in and of itself; it is one variable among many. Being able to hit an opponent faster than he can react only works if one’s own decision/action can have an effect; actions that effect no change are wasted and slow the tempo. Since the American mind desires to impose our own will upon the situation, and change it to our liking, we require a certain set of tools in our toolbox. Some of these must necessarily slow the tempo in order to impose change, and we have designed our military to withstand any blows that may land while we take aim.

Don’t Fear a U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Germany

Candace Rondeaux 

According to Washington’s punditocracy, there are only two ways to interpret the Pentagon’s announcement Wednesday that it plans to move ahead with withdrawing nearly 12,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Germany. One view is that President Donald Trump is capitulating yet again to pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin and handing Putin a gift in the form of a weakened NATO. The other take is that the White House decision to pull troops out of Germany, as Trump has long wanted, is a foolish escalation in his standoff with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Both interpretations are correct. There are, nonetheless, additional and wider implications not only for the future of NATO, but for the coming battle in Congress over a likely reduction in discretionary spending on American defense and how all of these factors might fit with notions of a new era of American “restraint.” For decades, the United States has spent more on defense than China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil—combined, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. About 15 percent of all federal spending goes to defense. With Trump’s abject mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic driving the American economy ever closer to the brink of a full-blown depression, there will likely be a significant decrease in defense spending starting next year. .

Hackers Broke Into Real News Sites to Plant Fake Stories

OVER THE PAST few years, online disinformation has taken evolutionary leaps forward, with the Internet Research Agency pumping out artificial outrage on social media and hackers leaking documents—both real and fabricated—to suit their narrative. More recently, Eastern Europe has faced a broad campaign that takes fake news ops to yet another level: hacking legitimate news sites to plant fake stories, then hurriedly amplifying them on social media before they’re taken down.

On Wednesday, security firm FireEye released a report on a disinformation-focused group it’s calling Ghostwriter. The propagandists have created and disseminated disinformation since at least March 2017, with a focus on undermining NATO and the US troops in Poland and the Baltics; they’ve posted fake content on everything from social media to pro-Russian news websites. In some cases, FireEye says, Ghostwriter has deployed a bolder tactic: hacking the content management systems of news websites to post their own stories. They then disseminate their literal fake news with spoofed emails, social media, and even op-eds the propagandists write on other sites that accept user-generated content.