18 August 2020

Indian-American groups laud historic selection of Kamala Harris as Biden’s vice presidential candidate

Leading Indian-American groups and individuals, including former Pepsico chief Indra Nooyi, have hailed the nomination of Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris as Democratic vice presidential candidate, saying it was a “great choice” and a “moment of pride” for the entire community in the US.

However, there were also some community members who questioned Harris’ contribution towards the Indo-US ties and said they would not be swayed by identity politics. Presumptive Democratic party presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday named 55-year-old Harris as his vice presidential running mate, making history by selecting the first black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket.

Harris, whose father is an African from Jamaica and mother an Indian, is currently the US Senator from California.

“This is a great choice for our country,” tweeted Nooyi, who is seen as a role model by millions of women across the world.

Pakistan’s COVID-19 Crisis

What’s new? Hoping to mitigate COVID-19’s economic toll, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government lifted a countrywide lockdown in May, leading to a spike in cases. August could see another surge since the public, misled by the clergy and mixed messaging from the government itself, may disregard precautions during religious festivities and ceremonies.

Why does it matter? Climbing infection rates could overwhelm ill-equipped health systems and hinder economic recovery. If citizens are denied health care or adequate aid as the economy contracts, public anger is likely to mount, potentially threatening social order. Militants could take advantage, as they have in the past.

What should be done? The federal government should guide provinces on pandemic policy and help reinforce their health systems but also permit them to devise their own local strategies guided by medical experts. It should work with the parliamentary opposition on its response, particularly on providing a safety net to vulnerable parts of society.


What does China’s growing engagement in Afghanistan mean for the US?

Vinay Kaura
On July 27, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a video conference with his counterparts from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal to suggest expanding their pandemic cooperation. Stressing the need to set up a logistics “green corridor” to expedite customs clearance between their countries, Wang also proposed the development of a multimodal trans-Himalayan corridor by extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) into Afghanistan, and he took the opportunity to call on Nepal and Afghanistan to follow the example of Sino-Pakistan cooperation.

This meeting should make policymakers in Washington and New Delhi sit up and take notice of potential regional realignments. Although the details about what this quadrilateral framework would entail and how it would work are unclear, any movement toward its institutionalization would be a serious challenge for the United States. In the aftermath of a U.S. departure from Afghanistan, any Chinese attempt to integrate landlocked Afghanistan and Nepal into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s international infrastructure development program, would directly undermine both America and India’s geopolitical interests.

Biden’s China Policy Can’t Help but Be Incoherent

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It’s clash-of-civilizations stuff that rivals even the scaremongering of the early Cold War. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has given multiple speeches in recent months that actively promote a narrative not just of competition with China, but of a totalizing ideological threat that must be stopped at any cost. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. And yet, U.S. policy toward China has already been a train wreck of pathos, lies, and contradictions for several years running.

In word and deed, the United States’ response to China has been at best ham-fisted. The tariff war is an avoidable self-inflicted wound. The ongoing process of economic decoupling is happening without any real debate about its strategic merits. President Trump tried to parlay his perceived personal chemistry with President Xi Jinping into China colluding with him to get reelected, until Beijing turned him down and he decided instead to go all out with a series of unprecedented sanctions in the span of only a few weeks. And lest we forget, Trump gave Xi a green light both to crack down on Hong Kong’s political autonomy and continue with internment camps for Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang—two issues that catalyzed the recent sanctions and that the administration routinely advertises as proof of China’s villainy.

US-China Trade War: The Deal the US Asked For

By Cesar Muir

On July 22, the United States’ (US) State Department announced that it had ordered the Chinese government to close its consulate in Houston, in what the Chinese government has deemed an “unprecedented escalation.” A State Department spokesperson cited the protection of American intellectual property and private information as the reason for this move. It has reportedly given the Chinese Consulate until July 24 to move out its employees. Local media has reported that Chinese Consulate employees have been burning documents in the building’s courtyard. The Chinese government has responded by announcing it had ordered the US consulate in Chengdu to be closed with one foreign ministry spokesperson suggesting that the outpost was being used for espionage purposes.

The move marks the latest manifestation of deteriorating relations between both countries. Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration’s accusation that China is to blame for the coronavirus pandemic, and its sanctions of Chinese figures for human rights violations in Xinjiang and meddling in Hong Kong, have fraught the bilateral relationship. Still, the State Department’s accusation of China’s ongoing intellectual property theft may come as a surprise given that, earlier in the year, both countries had signed a trade deal that supposedly addressed this topic in an attempt to lessen the devastating effects of the trade war.

Background: The US-China Trade War

U.S. Competition with China and Russia: The Crisis-Driven Need to Change U.S. Strategy

By Anthony H. Cordesman 

For much of the last year, the Burke Chair at CSIS has been developing a comprehensive analysis of U.S. strategic competition with China and Russia. Previous versions have been working papers, which focused on developing an overview of military, economic, and civil competition. The analysis is accompanied by two separate chronologies, which have been issued to describe Chinese and Russian activities in detail.

The Burke Chair is now issuing a comprehensive revision of this analysis that reflects a wide range of outside comments, and that addresses each major area of competition in depth – providing some 30 different graphs, tables, and maps that illustrate or compare U.S., Russian, and Chinese actions.

It addresses the following major aspects of strategic competition between the U.S., Russia, and China – highlighting their impact on other nations and America’s strategic partners in the process:

China’s PAFMM Grey Zone Maritime Challenge To The Philippines – Analysis

By Christian Vicedo
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China’s People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) is key to understanding Beijing’s grey-zone operations in the South China Sea (SCS). The PAFMM is organised and linked to the People’s Liberation Army chain of command through the People’s Armed Forces Districts. PAFMM members are trained in maritime claims enforcement, logistics support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and sabotage. Operating about 84 large vessels with reinforced hulls and water cannons, the PAFMM serves as China’s third force in the SCS.

The Philippines currently occupies nine features in the SCS. But through its PAFMM, China can prevent the Philippines from exercising sovereignty within and surrounding these features. Given precedents such as the seizure of the Paracels in 1974 and the occupation of Mischief Reef in 1995, the PAFMM may be employed to seize any of the Philippine-occupied features and to construct artificial islands and facilities on them.

To the Brink With China

by Richard N. Haass

Observers of US-China relations increasingly talk of a new cold war. On top of a long-running trade war, the two countries now find themselves in a destructive cycle of mutual sanctions, consulate closings, and increasingly bellicose official speeches. Efforts to decouple the US economy from China’s are underway as tensions mount in both the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

A cold war between the United States and China would leave both countries and the world worse off. It would be dangerous and costly – not least because it would preclude needed cooperation on a host of regional and global issues.

The good news is that such an outcome is not inevitable. The bad news is the chances of a second cold war are far higher today than they were just months ago. Even worse, the chances of an actual war, resulting from an incident involving the countries’ militaries, are also greater.

The World This Week

Countering China’s Counter-Intervention Strategy

Matthew Jamison

China has developed a robust counter-intervention capability centered on missiles, aircraft, and ships. While there is room for scholarly debate as to whether counter-intervention is an official Chinese military strategy, it is clear China can prevent U.S. intervention in any Western Pacific crisis. To counter this capability, the Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson, plans to increase investment in integrated air and missile defense systems. This shift in priorities is at the heart of Admiral Davidson’s new Regain the Advantage concept, billed in Congress as the Pacific Deterrence Initiative.[1] 

The focus of this article is a crosswalk from China’s counter-intervention strategy to the U.S. response. This article begins with a look at what counter-intervention consists of and why it is important to China. A deep dive into U.S. response follows, emphasizing increased investment in integrated air and missile defense systems. The article concludes with a look at three other important considerations—allied support, budget, and the risk of escalation—along with a set of common-sense recommendations. To appreciate the importance of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, and the essential role of integrated air and missile defense systems as a part of it, the reader must first understand China’s military strategy.


As Relations With U.S. Sink, China Tones Down ‘Hotheaded’ Nationalism

By Javier C. Hernández
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For weeks, China fanned nationalist sentiment in its escalating war of words with the Trump administration. Now, it is toning down its message and calling for a truce, as President Trump increasingly makes Beijing a target in his bid for re-election in November.

One after another, top Chinese diplomats have called for “peaceful coexistence” with the United States, forgoing their previous assertions that Beijing’s authoritarian system is superior. Hawkish scholars are now emphasizing prospects for defusing tensions, instead of urging China to challenge American military might. Journalists at state-run news outlets are limiting their direct attacks on President Trump, under instructions to take a more conciliatory approach.

“There’s a reflection that we should not let nationalism or hotheadedness somehow kidnap our foreign policy,” Xu Qinduo, a commentator for China Radio International, a state-run broadcaster, said in an interview. “Tough rhetoric should not replace rational diplomacy.”

In toning down the rhetoric, the ruling Communist Party hopes to reduce the risk that excessive nationalism will hurt Beijing’s global image or cause tensions between the superpowers to accelerate uncontrollably. China’s ties with the United States are at a perilous juncture now that Mr. Trump has made assailing Beijing a focal point of his election campaign, with his administration taking a series of actions against China in rapid succession.

What Comes Next in the Standoff Between the U.S. and Iran?

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the latest developments in the standoff between the U.S. and Iran, following the U.S. assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iran’s retaliatory ballistic missile strike against two military bases in Iraq where U.S. troops are stationed. Did the U.S. reestablish deterrence, as the Trump administration claims? Or will Iran take further covert action to avenge Soleimani’s death? And what impact will the U.S. political calendar have on how both sides manage tensions moving forward? Judah and Freddy discuss those topics and more on this week’s show.

Why Belarus Is Not Ukraine

Scenes in Belarus of protesters erecting crude barricades while fending off the attacks of heavily armored riot police have evoked memories of another uprising in the borderlands between Russia and the European Union: the 2014 Ukrainian revolution that erupted in Kyiv’s Maidan square, an uprising that drove out the country’s kleptocrat president and ushered in a new, if complicated, era in Ukraine. 

The similarities certainly have not escaped Belarus’s authoritarian leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, who claimed a sixth presidential term Sunday in an election nearly universally condemned as a farce. “As I have warned, there will be no Maidan, no matter how much anyone wants one,” he said on Monday, just as the protests began picking up steam.

But despite the similar, gruesome optics, the differences between the two uprisings far outweigh their similarities, though the two countries may both be neighbors and former Soviet Republics. Those differences make it harder to look to Ukraine as a potential road map for how the events in Belarus may unfold. 

For starters, Belarus is a lot more authoritarian than Ukraine was or is.

Tulsi Gabbard's Time In Congress Is Almost Up: What's Next?

by Rachel Bucchino 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) announced in October 2019 that she’ll call it a quits on Capitol Hill to focus on her presidential candidacy, but clearly, that’s out-of-the-picture. Even though Gabbard won’t serve for Congress come November, she vows to look after Americans post-retirement.

Gabbard, 39, has represented Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013 and ran to top the Democratic ticket for the 2020 presidential race. During her campaign — which was launched January 2019 — Gabbard noted she was “fully committed to my offer to serve” the nation’s capital and terminated her candidacy for reelection to Congress. 

If she had been elected as president, Gabbard would have become the first and youngest female Hindu president in US History. However, Gabbard failed to meet the thresholds to hit the debate stage against her primary competitors a number of times and after dwindling poll numbers and insipid support, Gabbard dropped out of the presidential race in March 2019 and later endorsed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

It Is Time to Abandon Dollar Hegemony

By Simon Tilford and Hans Kundnani

In the 1960s, French Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing complained that the dominance of the U.S. dollar gave the United States an “exorbitant privilege” to borrow cheaply from the rest of the world and live beyond its means. U.S. allies and adversaries alike have often echoed the gripe since. But the exorbitant privilege also entails exorbitant burdens that weigh on U.S. trade competitiveness and employment and that are likely to grow heavier and more destabilizing as the United States’ share of the global economy shrinks. The benefits of dollar primacy accrue mainly to financial institutions and big businesses, but the costs are generally borne by workers. For this reason, continued dollar hegemony threatens to deepen inequality as well as political polarization in the United States.

Dollar hegemony isn’t foreordained. For years, analysts have warned that China and other powers might decide to abandon the dollar and diversify their currency reserves for economic or strategic reasons. To date, there is little reason to think that global demand for dollars is drying up. But there is another way the United States could lose its status as issuer of the world’s dominant reserve currency: it could voluntarily abandon dollar hegemony because the domestic economic and political costs have grown too high.

Weaker Dollar Means More Dollar Reserves

by Brad W. Setser
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Large increases in dollar reserves tend to come during periods of dollar weakness, not periods of dollar strength. That is for a simple reason: many export-heavy countries still intervene heavily in the foreign currency market to try to keep their own currencies from appreciating against the dollar. Until Asia is as willing to float up as it is to float down, the dollar isn't going anywhere as a reserve currency.

The fall in the dollar this July (from a very high level after the dollar’s appreciation during the financial turmoil in March is no exception). 

And to be honest, President Trump has done his share to raise concerns about the dollar’s position in the global financial system. Once unthinkable options sometimes apparently get considered.* 

Just as the United States is thinking again about its supply chain vulnerability, China is thinking again about its financial vulnerability—as it still uses the dollar to denominate a decent amount of its trade and even the external lending of its state banks (the policy banks as well as the state commercial banks though China never has been willing to clearly specify the line dividing the two). And many Europeans—building on a long intellectual tradition in France—have been looking again to increase the euro’s global role. The long reach of U.S. sanctions on Iran no doubt has been a catalyst here too.

The Geopolitics of the Belarusian Election

By George Friedman

Belarus, whose recent elections are making waves throughout the media, has been a pending flashpoint in Europe for some time. The reasons for this are history and geography.

Since the 18th century, Russia’s national security has depended on buffer zones to the west and south. During that time, it has faced four major invasions: by Sweden, allied with Poland and Turkey, to the south; by France, through the North European Plain; and by Germany, twice, through Poland and Ukraine.

Three things saved Russia in all four invasions. One was the distance that each invader had to pass to reach the Russian heartland, a distance created by Russia’s vital buffer zone. The second was the long, hard winters, which made supply, movement and survival difficult. The third was the massive if poorly trained forces Russia could mount as it retreated eastward.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the fall of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical disaster in history. It is certainly true of Russian history, for it deprived the Russian Federation of its buffers. The Baltics were integrated into NATO, and in Ukraine, a political rising Moscow said was organized by the United States established a pro-Western government. To give these changes a sense of measurability, during the Cold War, the closest NATO member was nearly 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Now, the closest is just 100 miles from the city.

A Geopolitical Earthquake Just Hit the Mideast

By Thomas L. Friedman

For once, I am going to agree with President Trump in his use of his favorite adjective: “huge.”

The agreement brokered by the Trump administration for the United Arab Emirates to establish full normalization of relations with Israel, in return for the Jewish state forgoing, for now, any annexation of the West Bank, was exactly what Trump said it was in his tweet: a “HUGE breakthrough.”

It is not Anwar el-Sadat going to Jerusalem — nothing could match that first big opening between Arabs and Israelis. It is not Yasir Arafat shaking Yitzhak Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn — nothing could match that first moment of public reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

But it is close. Just go down the scorecard, and you see how this deal affects every major party in the region — with those in the pro-American, pro-moderate Islam, pro-ending-the-conflict-with-Israel-once-and-for-all camp benefiting the most and those in the radical pro-Iran, anti-American, pro-Islamist permanent-struggle-with-Israel camp all becoming more isolated and left behind.

It’s a geopolitical earthquake.



Despite the opacity and secrecy over China’s nuclear weapons, a public debate has broken out in China about the country’s nuclear arsenal. Hu Xijin, the chief editor of Global Times — reportedly China’s highest-circulation newspaper — made repeated calls for China to quickly and massively build up its nuclear forces. Supporters of nuclear expansion believe that a larger Chinese nuclear arsenal is the key to prevent a war with Washington and “nothing else could work.” The overt nature of the debate is unprecedented and shifts public opinion toward greater enthusiasm for a more robust nuclear posture.

Hawkish, nationalistic opinion leaders add fuel to an already intensifying military competition between the United States and China that now risks spilling over into the nuclear domain. With an active arsenal of about 3,800 warheads, America’s nuclear stockpile is still almost 12 times larger than China’s, according to open-source research. But Beijing’s nuclear modernization efforts have raised the stakes. While it once was the smallest nuclear power among the five nuclear-weapon states under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (i.e., China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), it is now the third largest — behind only the United States and Russia. Worried that its arsenal will at least double before 2029, Washington has threatened to spend Beijing “into oblivion” unless it joins arms control talks. Senior U.S. officials even considered resuming nuclear testing to force China to the negotiation table.

Is Spain’s Royal Family Finished?

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On Aug. 3, 82-year-old Juan Carlos I, the king of Spain from 1975 to 2014, announced his decision to leave the country because of “public repercussions that certain past events in my life are causing.” In a letter published on the Spanish royal household’s website, he claimed his departure would also allow his son, King Felipe VI, to continue to perform his royal duties in “tranquility.”

The letter was the final step in a downward spiral that began eight years ago—but the former monarch’s ignominious departure is not, or at least not solely, about shielding the reputation of a once adored Spanish institution; it’s also about self-protection. And it’s not the first time that a member of the House of Bourbon has resorted to such tactics in moments of crisis.

Things started to go wrong in 2012, when the king took an ill-advised hunting trip to Botswana rumored to have cost around 40,000 euros

Things started to go wrong in 2012, when the king took an ill-advised hunting trip to Botswana rumored to have cost around 40,000 euros (about $60,000), which was paid for by Mohamed Eyad Kayali—an advisor to the Saudi royal family who would later be named as an offshore account holder in the 2016 Panama Papers. As the rest of Spain endured a recession and soaring unemployment, details of such a costly holiday couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Spanish royals.

Young Army officers must be 'more unconventional' in warfare and master the 'new domains of cyber and space'


Young Army officers have been told they will be expected to be 'more unconventional' in warfare and master the 'new domains of cyber and space'.

The Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sandhurst graduates that the highly anticipated Integrated Defence and Security review, spearheaded by Dominic Cummings, would soon be published and would bring with it new expectations of officers.

Speaking at the Sovereign's Parade at the Royal Military Academy, Mr Wallace said the review would deliver 'a force to meet tomorrow's battles'.

'As young officers, be prepared to be more active, more deployed and more unconventional,' he said.

Get Ready For Deepfakes To Be Used In Financial Scams

Jon Bateman

Last month, scammers hijacked the Twitter accounts of former President Barack Obama and dozens of other public figures to trick victims into sending money. Thankfully, this brazen act of digital impersonation only fooled a few hundred people. But artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling new, more sophisticated forms of digital impersonation. The next big financial crime might involve deepfakes—video or audio clips that use AI to create false depictions of real people.

Deepfakes have inspired dread since the term was first coined three years ago. The most widely discussed scenario is a deepfake smear of a candidate on the eve of an election. But while this fear remains hypothetical, another threat is currently emerging with little public notice. Criminals have begun to use deepfakes for fraud, blackmail, and other illicit financial schemes.

This should come as no surprise. Deception has always existed in the financial world, and bad actors are adept at employing technology, from ransomware to robo-calls. So how big will this new threat become? Will deepfakes erode truth and trust across the financial system, requiring a major response by the financial industry and government? Or are they just an exotic distraction from more mundane criminal techniques, which are far more prevalent and costly?

Infographic Of The Day: Where Will The Next Billion Internet Users Come From?

Today's infographic highlights which regions have the greatest number of people disconnected from the web. It also dives into why some regions have low numbers and take a look at which countries have seen the most growth in the last year.

Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Norms

The Sharp Power and Democratic Resilience series aims to contextualize the nature of sharp power, inventory key authoritarian efforts and domains, and illuminate ideas for non-governmental action that are essential to strengthening democratic resilience.

Dr. Nicholas D. Wright is an affiliated scholar at Georgetown University, an honorary senior research fellow at University College London, a consultant at Intelligent Biology, and fellow at New America. His work combines neuroscientific, behavioral, and technological insights to understand decision making in politics and international confrontations in ways practically applicable to policy.

This report discusses how to establish democratically accountable rules and norms that harness the benefits of artificial intelligence-related technologies, without infringing on fundamental rights and creating technological affordances that could facilitate authoritarian concentration of power. Absent these purposeful efforts, societies risk spiraling into new authoritarian forms of surveillance-based governance. Civil society around the world has a crucial role to play in helping democracies resist authoritarian pressure on the global surveillance environment. Organizations focused on diverse issues including privacy, human rights, free expression, technological standards, public health, and consumer protection can help identify, explain, and collaboratively address the complex challenges that arise from AI-related technologies.

Here’s the Theme Driving the US Army’s New Communications Tech

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A common theme emerges from the U.S. Army's efforts to field several new communications technologies: for the foreseeable future, the service's comms programs are about pushing more data to and from the front lines in the face of increasingly aggressive electronic-warfare activities.

Two Army pilot programs aim to bring cloud storage closer to the front lines by fiscal 2023, say Maj. Gen. Peter A. Gallagher, the director of the Network Cross-Functional Team and Brig. Gen. Robert M. Collins, program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical. But the two pilots approach the problem in different ways, they said Tuesday at a virtual event hosted by the Potomac Officers Club. 

The goal of the first pilot, which operators have just finished testing, was to move training software from a fixed location into a cloud for use anywhere. That will come in handy as the Army deploys its new Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS: augmented-reality goggles that will allow soldiers to review and retrain on different operations they’ve experienced. 

The second pilot looks at virtual and container clouds — basically, smaller cloud environments within larger clouds. Gallagher said the objective is to sideline data that operators use only rarely, and prioritize access to more valuable data in environments where there is a lot of jamming and hacking.

Army Electronic Warfare: Big Tests In ’21


Each of the Army’s future jammers plugs into a larger electronic warfare network.

WASHINGTON: After decades of US neglect of electronic warfare – while Russia and China pulled ahead – Army soldiers are just months away from getting their hands on two new and long-awaited long-range jammers.

Two contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing DRT, are now converting 8×8 Stryker armored vehicles into prototypes of the Terrestrial Layer System (TLS). Both company’s prototypes will be given to troops for field tests next year, starting with Operational Demonstration 1 in January. Meanwhile, Lockheed is putting together the first Engineering & Manufacturing Demonstration (EMD) prototype of an EW pod for the Grey Eagle drone, called Multi-Function Electronic Warfare – Air – Large (MFEW), which will be assessed by soldiers in April-June next year.

Both the ground-based TLS and the aerial MFEW are supposed to enter service in fall 2022. But that’s just the start. Each system will evolve into a whole family of smaller and larger variants, all built to common hardware and software standards, all sharing data wirelessly with one another, Army commanders, and artillery units. The objective is a diverse digital arsenal that can detect the enemy’s transmissions, crack their codes, locate their units for precision strikes, and disrupt their networks with jamming and hacking, ideally in ways too subtle for the enemy to even detect the deception.