25 August 2020

Could Russia side with the US and India against China?

Maria Siow

China and Russia have often described their relationship as “special” and “unprecedented” and have recently promised to maintain what they call a “comprehensive strategic partnership”.

In fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the “specialness” of this relationship has been clear for all to see. In February, Moscow sent medical supplies to Wuhan, then the epicentre of the outbreak, and when the virus peaked in Russia, China repaid the favour by delivering to its neighbour millions of masks and other protective equipment.

What’s more, the leaders of the two countries seem close, having met more than 30 times since 2013. Last month, in what appeared to be a veiled dig at the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for China and Russia to jointly “oppose hegemony and unilateralism”, while Russian President Vladimir Putin said the two countries’ ties had reached an “unprecedented” level.

India-Japan Defense Ties to Get a Boost With Modi-Abe Virtual Summit

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will meet for a virtual summit in September. This will be Modi’s second virtual summit this year, after one with the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in June. According to Indian media reports, citing India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the two sides are expected to sign an important military logistics agreement, the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA). While this remains an important milestone moment for New Delhi and Tokyo, it also remains key for both countries to take stock of what has been accomplished so far. 

India and Japan missed their planned 2019 summit because of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Guwahati, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, where the meeting was supposed to be held. Although the Modi government was reportedly keen to shift the meeting venue to Delhi, the Japanese side insisted that the focus of the 2019 summit was on Japanese investment in India’s Northeast infrastructure development and therefore, as a Japanese diplomat said, “The venue is the message.” Since then, India and Japan have been trying to reschedule the summit, but the COVID-19 pandemic further delayed their plans. 

India’s Frontier Paradox

By Abhijnan Rej

The ongoing India and China crisis, which led to a bloody clash on June 15, is the manifestation of a Sophoclean paradox that followed from the Narendra Modi government trying to resolve a strategic dilemma. For more than two decades – since India emerged on the global stage as a potential great power – New Delhi has struggled to reconcile its immediate geostrategic imperatives with aspirations for its future role. The ongoing military standoff with China suggests that in the process of doing so in apparently decisive terms, India may have in fact made such a reconciliation impossible.

“India’s geographical dilemma,” as Robert Kaplan described it in a 2012 book, follows from a straightforward reading of the country’s geography and history. Long disputed borders and territories with Pakistan as well as China – festering legacies of the colonial era – meant that New Delhi’s military power has remained focused on land.

At the same time, smaller states on India’s periphery – like Nepal – continue to exercise their new-found political agency in ways New Delhi is increasingly finding difficult to accept. They challenge India’s historical aspiration of soft hegemony in the eponymous subcontinent, and tax its limited diplomatic energy.

India’s Tripura Has a New Transport Link to the Mainland – Through Bangladesh

By Rajeev Bhattacharyya

India’s Northeast has secured an outlet through the rivers of Bangladesh in a development that will have far-reaching implications for the economy of the landlocked region.

Last month, the chief minister of Tripura, Biplab Kumar Deb, received the first trial cargo container ship sailing from Kolkata and through the neighboring country to the state. Tripura, in India’s Northeast, shares an 856 kilometer-long border with Bangladesh.

A temporary jetty was constructed at Sonamura for the new waterway through the Gomati River flowing between Tripura and Bangladesh.

Speaking to reporters, Deb explained that the new arrangement reduced the distance between Kolkata and Tripura’s capital, Agartala, from 1600 to 600 kilometers. Its use would therefore help decrease prices of essential commodities, he noted.

Tripura was linked with the rivers of Bangladesh following five new protocol routes that were finalized between the two neighbors. The Sonamura-Daudkandi route on Tripura’s Gomti River and Rajshahi-Dhulian-Rajshahi route were added to the list of Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes.

Imran Khan Isn’t Going Anywhere

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This past April, a Pakistani columnist named Suhail Warraich boldly predicted that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government could fall in June—less than two years after it took office—if it didn’t make major improvements.

But Warraich is just one of many observers speculating in recent months that Khan’s days as premier could be numbered as his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party confronts internal turmoil, damaging political scandals, and overwhelming public policy challenges it has struggled to fix.

Some believe “a political storm … will eventually sweep away” the government. Others claim it already finds itself “on the edge of collapse.” Still others speak of the possibility of a parliamentary initiative that ousts the government and replaces it with an interim administration.

It’s understandable that observers are questioning Khan’s survivability.

It’s understandable that observers are questioning Khan’s survivability. No prime minister in Pakistan’s history has served out his or her full term—thanks mostly to a powerful military that, even when it isn’t ruling the country directly, is prone to meddling in politics.

Xi Jinping is reinventing state capitalism. Don’t underestimate it

America’s confrontation with China is escalating dangerously. In the past week the White House has announced what may amount to an imminent ban on TikTok and WeChat (two Chinese apps), imposed sanctions on Hong Kong’s leaders and sent a cabinet member to Taiwan. This ratcheting up of pressure partly reflects electioneering: being tough on China is a key strut of President Donald Trump’s campaign. It is partly ideological, underscoring the urgency the administration’s hawks attach to pushing back on all fronts against an increasingly assertive China. But it also reflects an assumption that has underpinned the Trump administration’s attitude to China from the beginning of the trade war: that this approach will yield results, because China’s steroidal state capitalism is weaker than it looks.

The logic is alluringly simple. Yes, China has delivered growth, but only by relying on an unsustainable formula of debt, subsidies, cronyism and intellectual-property theft. Press hard enough and its economy could buckle, forcing its leaders to make concessions and, eventually, to liberalise their state-led system. As the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, puts it, “Freedom-loving nations of the world must induce China to change.”

Simple, but wrong. China’s economy was less harmed by the tariff war than expected. It has been far more resilient to the covid-19 pandemic—the imf forecasts growth of 1% in 2020 compared with an 8% drop in America. Shenzhen is the world’s best-performing big stockmarket this year, not New York. And, as our briefing explains, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is reinventing state capitalism for the 2020s. Forget belching steel plants and quotas. Mr Xi’s new economic agenda is to make markets and innovation work better within tightly defined boundaries and subject to all-seeing Communist Party surveillance. It isn’t Milton Friedman, but this ruthless mix of autocracy, technology and dynamism could propel growth for years.

The Coming Russian-Chinese Clash

by John Herbst
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The emerging Sino-Russian entente has rightly received a great deal of attention, but observers have missed the limitations to this entente and the first signs of problems to come. The entente is rooted in the aggressive foreign policy turn both countries took in the late 2000s. Watching the global financial crisis in 2008, Beijing decided that American decline had begun and it could abandon its mantra of “peaceful rise” and pursue its imperial designs in the South and East China Seas. China began to claim those waters by building artificial islands impinging on the rights of its neighbors and ignoring international law—a policy bound to challenge Washington. Perhaps a few years earlier, certainly by the time of the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Moscow set out on an explicitly revisionist policy course designed to assert its “right” to a sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space despite its written commitment to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors in documents such as the Helsinki Act, the Paris Charter, the Belovezha Accords, and bilateral treaties with Ukraine. The consequences of this turn include Kremlin wars against Georgia and Ukraine. For Russian president Vladimir Putin, one attraction of this policy was the challenge to U.S. policy. This is the basis for the increasing cooperation between Russia and China.

South Korea Seeks to Boost China Ties, With an Eye Toward North Korea

By Gabriela Bernal

Seoul may be rethinking its relations with Beijing, according to recent developments. This is significant given the lack of diplomatic engagement between both nations for quite some time.

South Korea’s recently inaugurated unification minister, Lee In-young, directly reached out to China this week, asking the Chinese to play a “constructive” role in the resumption of inter-Korean talks. Lee made the remarks during a meeting with China’s ambassador to South Korea, Xing Haiming.

Lee took the opportunity to praise China for its efforts regarding issues on the Korean Peninsula and expressed his hope for continued bilateral cooperation on such issues in the future. He also called on China to support his plans to “develop inter-Korean relations into a peaceful, economic and biotic community” through various South Korean-led economic and social projects.

The Chinese ambassador welcomed Lee’s remarks and also expressed his country’s intent and continued commitment to denuclearization, peace, and the eventual reunification of both Koreas.

The Next National Security Strategy: A Way Forward to Counter a Resurgent China

By Alexander Boroff and Brigid Calhoun

Despite the multitude of domestic issues facing the United States as it approaches a presidential election, policymakers must also not lose sight of enduring foreign threats to the nation. Members of both political parties generally agree China constitutes the preeminent national security concern. How should the United States, in a post-COVID world, check Chinese global influence to best protect American national interests?

The National Security Strategy is the government’s foundational document that answers this and similar questions on how the administration will confront threats to the nation with a whole-of-government approach. Historically produced at the beginning of each presidential term, a new National Security Strategy will likely be published in the next 18-24 months regardless of the outcome of the pending election. The current National Security Strategy, published in 2017, described the current multi-polar world order as one of Great Power Competition, in which the United States must compete globally rather than dominate from a unipolar position it has held since the Cold War’s end. While the current National Security Strategy contains proven tools to compete with China globally, the international environment has significantly changed since 2017.

This article seeks to enter the ongoing foreign policy debate by examining the history of American government strategy towards China and proposing two new strategic alternatives using diplomatic, information, military, and economic tools of national power. These four categories are not all-inclusive, given that any whole-of-government approach allows the president to leverage a plethora of instruments of national power. However, they form a baseline with which to discuss national strategy. An Indo-Pacific strategy composed of strong regional alliances, free trade agreements, and enhanced military air- and sea-power projection capability will best position the American government to maintain its competitive advantages over China and protect its national interests.

INTERVIEW/ John Mearsheimer: U.S.-China rift runs real risk of escalating into a nuclear war


Is an escalation of the intensified conflict between the United States and China inevitable?

Renowned U.S. political scientist John Mearsheimer, one of the leading theorists of “offensive realism,” thinks so.

Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, first predicted the current conflict between the two superpowers more than two decades ago.

In a recent videophone interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Mearsheimer offered his analysis of the rationale behind the conflict and the next likely move by the United States.

Born in 1947, Mearsheimer graduated from West Point and then served five years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Question: Confrontation between the United States and China has intensified, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic flared. Chinese state-run media has proclaimed that the pandemic signals the end of the American century. Meanwhile, a new U.S. government report noted that Beijing clearly sees itself as engaging in ideological competition with the West. Do you think the two countries have already begun a real Cold War? If so, why?

The Israel-UAE Deal Won’t Bring Peace, but It Will Prolong the War in Libya

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For decades, the Arab-Israeli conflict was the Middle East’s primary geopolitical fault line. But in recent years that has ceased to be the case as Gulf states fearful of Iran’s growing regional power quietly aligned with Israel, without fully normalizing ties. The recent deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates merely made that shift official. And although the deal might not have much impact on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which it largely sidesteps, it will have profound impacts elsewhere, hardening the contemporary cold war that has gripped the region since the Arab Spring.

It is these regional tensions that make solving proxy wars so difficult, especially in Libya, where on Aug. 21, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) announced a unilateral ceasefire. Despite the announcement, in the absence of a true détente between the Middle East’s two rival blocs, there is no hope of eliminating the genuine drivers of the region’s many proxy conflicts. The GNA is simply trying to regain the upper hand when it comes to media optics by casting themselves as victorious and magnanimous peacemakers.

‘All of Us Are Unified Now.’ What the UAE-Israel Deal Means for Palestinians

Barnaby Papadopulos 

The surprise deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, in which they agreed to normalize diplomatic relations in exchange for Israel suspending its plans to annex parts of the West Bank, has not been well-received by Palestinians. The so-called “Abraham Accord” makes the UAE only the third country in the Arab world, after Egypt and Jordan, to recognize the state of Israel, and more could soon follow.

Many Palestinians see it as a betrayal. “It is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people,” Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s central committee, told WPR. He called the agreement a “violation of the Arab Peace Initiative,” an Arab League declaration, first endorsed in 2002, that conditions full ties with Israel on Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory. .

Joe Biden must address how he'd handle Saudi nuclear proliferation

by Tom Rogan

I ask that question, because there's a very real prospect that renewed U.S. support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will spark a Saudi rush to nuclear weapons competency. Indeed, Riyadh has already started on that course. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 4, China is now helping the Saudis develop a civilian nuclear program. It's not clear why Saudi Arabia, which has the second-largest oil reserves of any nation on Earth, needs a nuclear program. Except, that is, if one considers the objective of such a program is not to produce energy but rather to produce highly enriched materials — the ingredient materials for a nuclear warhead. While Saudi Arabia is not yet pursuing this enrichment, its Chinese engagement proves that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has nuclear concerns high up on his priority list. The Trump administration is rightly concerned.

That brings us back to Biden.

While the crown prince presently seems content to lay the groundwork for a nuclear program without actually activating it, that would very likely change were Biden to return the United States to the JCPOA. After all, that return would immediately restore tens of billions of dollars in annual sanctions relief to Tehran while doing nothing to obstruct its nuclear weapons research. We should note, here, that French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appear far more serious about fixing the JCPOA's structural weaknesses than does Biden. The central concerns are the deal's totally inadequate inspection safeguards and its failure to restrict Iranian ballistic missile development. Those flaws mean that Saudi Arabia would credibly see an American return to the agreement as a foundation only for Iran to fund escalated nuclear weapons-related research. Do we seriously expect that the Saudi crown prince would sit idle in such a situation?

How Did the Eastern Mediterranean Become the Eye of a Geopolitical Storm?

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In mid-August, a Turkish and a Greek warship collided in the Eastern Mediterranean, raising tensions in the most combustible naval stand-off the region has witnessed in 20 years. The crisis had started two days before, when Turkey deployed an energy exploration ship along with its naval escort to search for oil and natural gas in waters near the Greek island of Kastellorizo—waters Athens claims as its own maritime territory.

More than ever before, the latest cycle of escalation risks spiraling into a multinational conflict. Making a show of staunch support for Greece against Turkey, France dispatched warships to the contested waters and promised more. Egypt and Israel, which hold regular joint military exercises with Greece, have also expressed their solidarity with Athens. With France and Egypt already in open conflict with Turkey in Libya, observers around the world fear that any further escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean could set off a Euro-Middle Eastern maelstrom.

How did the Eastern Mediterranean become the eye of a geopolitical storm?

For decades, Eastern Mediterranean maritime boundary disputes were a local affair, confined to sovereignty claims and counterclaims among Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey. But over the past five years, the region’s offshore natural gas resources have turned the Eastern Mediterranean into a key strategic arena through which larger geopolitical fault-lines involving the EU and the MENA region converge. Italy and France have played integral roles in driving that change, which has placed the EU and Turkey’s already complicated relationship onto more adversarial terms.

New Amendments Passed to Japan’s Data Privacy Law

By Scott Warren and Maika Kawaguchi

In the midst of revising the Japan Civil Code and the foreign attorney laws, Japan has recently passed amendments to its data privacy law, the Act on the Protection of Personal Information (“APPI”). Some of these changes put Japan’s law closer in line with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation “GDPR” as to which both have recognized the adequacy of each other’s data privacy regimes. As a result, transfers of personal information from Japan to all third countries will be subject to stricter controls when the amendments become fully enforceable, which is expected to occur in 2022.

The main changes to the APPI relate to the following:

Expanding Individual Rights: There are provisions expanding an individual’s rights to require the deletion or disclosure of personal information (‘PI’) where there is a possibility of violating the data subject’s rights or legitimate interests; in the event of a breach of the APPI via transfer to a 3rd party; to include short-term data which is kept for 6 months or less; and
allowing the data subject to request the format of the disclosure of their data, including in a digital format.

Analysis | Analysis Based on factual reporting but incorporating the expertise of the author, offering interpretations and conclusions. (Eg. Clash of Civilisations in South China Sea: will China or the US prevail?) Thailand protests: the students are revolting – and Prayuth’s army-backed government isn’t sure what to do

Based on factual reporting but incorporating the expertise of the author, offering interpretations and conclusions. (Eg. Clash of Civilisations in South China Sea: will China or the US prevail?) Thailand protests: the students are revolting – and Prayuth’s army-backed government isn’t sure what to do

The youth-led pro-democracy movement is swelling, gaining support from older demographics and as far afield as Hong Kong and TaiwanCalls to reform the monarchy present the government with a dilemma: do nothing and watch the movement grow, or suppress it and add fuel to the fire It’s 8am and as the national anthem pours through loudspeakers across 

Thailand to start the new school day, pupils should be obediently standing to attention to sing the patriotic verses.

Instead, they are throwing the three-fingered freedom salute borrowed from the Hunger Games film, as the pro-democracy movement driven by Thailand’s youth continues to swell, confounding the army-aligned government with their demands for a political overhaul and voicing the once unthinkable: reform of the monarchy.

A Washington police officer has been charged with murder after fatally shooting a man outside a grocery store in a 67-second encounter


Prosecutors in Washington state have made their first-ever charges against a police officer under a new law intended to hold law enforcement accountable for using deadly force.King County Prosecutor's Office

A police officer in Washington state has been charged with murder and assault after fatally shooting a man outside a grocery store in the torso and head within seconds of trying to arrest him.

The officer fatally shot 26-year-old Jesse Sarey on May 31, 2019, and prosecutors said they analyzed surveillance video and consulted law-enforcement experts to determine that the shooting was unjustified.

The entire encounter lasted just 67 seconds, and the officer pulled the trigger just 29 seconds after trying to arrest Sarey.

Video shows the officer, Jeffrey Nelson, approaching Sarey and attempting to arrest him for disorderly conduct, but the situation immediately devolved into a violent scuffle.

Prosecutors said Nelson failed to follow his training by not using de-escalation techniques, not waiting for backup, and not using the Taser he was carrying instead.

A lawyer representing Nelson did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment, but a statement from Nelson alleged that Sarey had repeatedly tried to grab his gun.

Some Germans Will Be Happy to See U.S. Troops Leave

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STUTTGART, Germany—President Donald Trump’s decision last month to cut the U.S. deployment in Germany by nearly 12,000 troops angered many Germans, who viewed it as petty score-settling by Washington that could harm local businesses operating near U.S. bases.

In left-wing circles, some political figures and activists say the U.S. bases on German soil, including U.S. Africa Command—known by its acronym Africom—in Stuttgart, have made Germany complicit in the U.S. drone wars in Africa and elsewhere that have killed not just militants but many civilians.

“It’s good that Africom is leaving,” said one of those politicians, Tobias Pflüger, a parliament member from the left-wing Die Linke party.

“Germany should not be involved with such crimes. Considering what is happening in Somalia, it’s more than cynical how some are worried about the withdrawal’s economic impacts,” he told Foreign Policy.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced in late July that the United States would relocate some units to Belgium and Italy, reducing the American troop presence in Germany from 36,000 to 24,000. The redeployment is expected to take months to implement, with 6,400 troops returning to the United States and the rest remaining in Europe.

Don’t Discount the Dollar Yet

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If some stories are easier to tell than others, the decline of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency is one of them. It’s not hard to see why. The cast of characters that avail themselves for the script includes international trade, financial architecture, great-power competition, cycles of history, and even parables from ancient Greece.

And on cue, the headlines are again churning out new versions of the familiar fable. New plot lines include the economic fallout of a global pandemic as well as a “capital war” between the United States and China, in which Washington usurps Beijing’s traditionally lonely role as the imposer of the restrictions on how capital can move between their two countries, frightening global investors, who then forsake the fallen dollar. Taken at face value, the headlines suggest that the dollar’s long-awaited dethroning may be here at last.

The Chinese Communist Party is the latest in a motley crew of conspirators serving, unwittingly, to prevent the dollar’s status.

But the economic forces that thwarted any demise of the dollar in the past persist. They continue to render any end to the dollar’s reserve status today unlikely. In fact, there is a new player keeping it on its throne: the Chinese Communist Party. It’s the latest arrival to the motley crew of conspirators serving, unwittingly, to prevent the currency from leaving its seat.

Coup Plotters in Mali Were Trained by U.S. Military

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The United States has halted all security assistance training and support for Malian military forces that carried out a coup in the West African country after new details emerged that the coup was orchestrated in part by military officers who received training from the U.S. military. 

Col. Assimi Goita, a Malian military officer who declared himself provisional leader of the country, participated in U.S.-led military exercises and training aimed to counter extremist groups operating in the Sahel region.

“It’s clear that several participants in the mutiny … have received U.S. training or assistance,” said J. Peter Pham, the State Department’s special envoy for the Sahel region of West Africa, on Friday. He stressed that the United States condemned the actions by the military officials to topple the government.

“Until our review of both the situation on the ground and of individuals is complete, let me say categorically there is no further training or support of the Malian Armed Forces, full stop. We have halted everything until such time as we can clarify the situation.”

The Challenges Facing Transitional Justice—and the Dangers of Ignoring It

There are many templates for achieving transitional justice, the broader purpose of which is to help a society reckon with a legacy of human rights abuses in the aftermath of dictatorship or conflict. These efforts might take the form of a criminal trial, a truth commission or a reparations program, in an effort to document horrific violations—and reckon with them.

The specific goals of transitional justice have evolved over time. Early initiatives emphasized criminal justice, with the most well-known example being the post-World War II trials of German and Japanese war criminals. More recently, however, the purpose of transitional justice began to expand to focus on reconciliation, healing and societal reformation. In the post-apartheid era, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission prized information and resolution over justice, for instance.

The threat of a transitional justice mechanism can also present a stumbling block to peace negotiations, though, particularly when people who might be held accountable by such processes are asked to help establish them. In South Sudan’s civil war, all sides have shied away from the creation of a hybrid court that would potentially be tasked with delivering justice to the victims of abuses committed by the government and rebel militias. Their reluctance to participate may ultimately lead them to sink that country’s peace process, which has recently made halting but fragile progress.

Hiroshima and the Myths of Military Targets and Unconditional Surrender

By Katie McKinney, Scott D. Sagan, Allen S. Weiner 

Every year, in early August, new articles appear that debate whether the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945 was justified. Earlier this month, the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks, was no exception. 

The New York Times published Anne Harrington’s moving story about Maj. Claude Eatherly, the pilot of the reconnaissance plane for the Enola Gay, who spent the rest of his life haunted by his role in what he considered an immoral attack. The Wall Street Journal, in contrast, published an op-ed by former Los Alamos laboratory official John C. Hopkins, who claimed that the bombing saved an estimated 5-10 million Japanese civilians and 400,000-800,000 American soldiers who could have died in an invasion and was therefore “the lesser of two evils.” 

The Hopkins claim was the most recent inflation of estimates building on what Rufus Miles called the “myth of half a million American lives saved.” Secretary of War Henry Stimson originally claimed in his famous 1947 Harper’s article that an invasion was expected to produce “over a million American casualties [wounded and killed] to American forces alone” (emphasis added). Winston Churchill, in his memoirs, claimed instead that the invasion would have produced one million American fatalities and an additional 500,000 thousand allied fatalities. But the serious historians studying this issue come to a different conclusion, finding that the range of estimates of U.S. deaths in the 1945 military records was significantly lower than the mythical half a million figure.

An AI Just Beat a Human F-16 Pilot In a Dogfight — Again


The never-ending saga of machines outperforming humans has a new chapter. An AI algorithm has again beaten a human fighter pilot in a virtual dogfight. The contest was the finale of the U.S. military’s AlphaDogfight challenge, an effort to “demonstrate the feasibility of developing effective, intelligent autonomous agents capable of defeating adversary aircraft in a dogfight. “

Last August, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, selected eight teams ranging from large, traditional defense contractors like Lockheed Martin to small groups like Heron Systems to compete in a series of trials in November and January. In the final, on Thursday, Heron Systems emerged as the victor against the seven other teams after two days of old school dogfights, going after each other using nose-aimed guns only. Heron then faced off against a human fighter pilot sitting in a simulator and wearing a virtual reality helmet, and won five rounds to zero. 

The other winner in Thursday’s event was deep reinforcement learning, wherein artificial intelligence algorithms get to try out a task in a virtual environment over and over again, sometimes very quickly, until they develop something like understanding. Deep reinforcement played a key role in Heron System’s agent, as well as Lockheed Martin’s, the second runner up.

What Could International Lawyers Do With High-Tech Tools?

By Ashley Deeks

It is a given that China is deeply committed to becoming the world leader in artificial intelligence (AI). News reports highlight a range of ways that China is deploying AI for purposes of domestic social control, including in ways that liberal democracies should find disturbing. As I—and a number of other Lawfare contributors—have discussed (here, here, here and here), this includes the use of AI-powered facial recognition software in omnipresent video cameras on city streets, in apartment entrances and in malls. China is also committed to developing AI technologies for use by its military. 

But not all of China’s focus on AI is centered on developing tools that overtly advance its national or domestic security goals. Like some U.S. companies and law firms, China is also seeking to build what’s called “law tech” or “legal tech.” Law tech generally refers to technologies such as AI and machine learning that legal actors—mostly big law firms, but also courts and judges—deploy in a way that either facilitates or supplants traditional human-based legal work. I discussed these issues and how they implicate U.S. interests in my recently published paper, “High-Tech International Law.”

The Intelligence Community’s Role in Countering Malign Foreign Influence on Social Media

By Gavin Wilde

In November 2017, Twitter leveraged a mixture of algorithm and analysis to scrub its vast user base to identify fraudulent accounts run by an infamous Russian troll farm. Under increasing scrutiny in the aftermath of Russian online manipulation in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the social media behemoth reported its findings to Congress.

Over subsequent months, however, researchers from Clemson University placed a large asterisk next to Twitter’s findings: Several of the accounts it had identified as inauthentic appeared to belong to genuine, unsuspecting U.S. citizens. The episode clearly illustrated a missed opportunity for collaboration—one that might have saved face for all involved and might have spared several Americans from being wrongfully sullied as agents of foreign influence. But even moreso, it illustrated the stakes that all policymakers and researchers—including those within the intelligence community—must consider when combating online manipulation.

The social media platforms themselves are relatively new on the scene, but the types of intelligence challenges they raise have appeared time and again. Much has changed since December 1981, when President Reagan signed Executive Order 12333, the authority upon which the collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence largely hinge. The universe of intelligence has since evolved, and updates to the executive order have refined the makeup of the intelligence community and bounded its role relative to domestic communications and U.S. persons. But perhaps the most vastly expanded universe since 1981 is the realm of publicly available information (PAI). At the time the executive order was released, few could have predicted the explosion in PAI over the ensuing decades or its emergence as a key battlefront in great power competition.