26 August 2020

Kamala Harris’s Father, a Footnote in Her Speeches, Is a Prominent Economist

By Ellen Barry
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In a warm, encyclopedic tribute to her family Wednesday night, as she formally accepted the vice-presidential nomination, Senator Kamala Harris skimmed past any discussion of her father, Donald J. Harris, a Jamaican-born professor of economics at Stanford University.

The reason is common to many of Ms. Harris’s generation: She is a child of divorce, raised by a single mother who became her most profound influence.

As Ms. Harris has stepped into the national spotlight, Dr. Harris, now 81 and long retired from teaching, has remained mostly silent. His only recent comments about her, published on a Jamaican website run by an acquaintance, express a combination of pride in his daughter and bitterness over their estrangement.

He scolded her in a letter, which has since been removed from the site, for joking in an interview that, growing up in a Jamaican family, it was natural that she had smoked marijuana. “Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this travesty,” he wrote.

This is how China deployed psy-war after Ladakh. And why India isn’t replying


Three months after the Galwan standoff, it’s apparent that China remains in strength at different points along the Line of Actual Control, a situation that is entirely unacceptable to India. Even as talks continued at military and diplomatic levels, the Ministry of Defence quickly removed the first official version recording of Chinese ‘transgressions’, leaving Indians wondering why the Narendra Modi government was so anxious about revealing the extent of Chinese perfidy.

Beijing, however, let loose a barrage of official statements explicitly blaming India for the whole mess. Its media had a near-continuous reportage on the prowess of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in what was clearly strong psychological warfare against India designed to confuse and affect decision making in a boisterous democracy.

As the Chinese continue to remain in strength across the Indian border, it is vital that this targeted psy-war is recognised and countered with effective strategic communication – which means statements and directives from the top – and a tactical playback by our own psy-war departments.

The age of psy-war

The Chinese and U.S. Internets are drifting apart. Why that’s bad for the whole world


China’s recent actions in the geopolitical sphere have included a new national security law that tightens its grip on Hong Kong, a border scuffle with India, saber-rattling with Taiwan, and diplomatic spats with Australia, Canada, and the U.K. Tensions with the U.S., already high from the trade war, have been heightened during the pandemic. This culminated recently in President Trump’s executive order concerning “the threat” posed by TikTok.

The collective effect of these developments has been to accelerate a global trend toward the fracturing of the Internet. This is the phenomenon, sometimes termed “tech decoupling,” of the schism of the Chinese and U.S. digital worlds into two largely separate ecosystems, with different firms operating within each, following different playbooks when it comes to data privacy, regulation of free speech, and state control of information.

China has long sought to control the flow of information within its borders by sometimes shutting out, and otherwise tightly regulating, U.S. tech companies. This helped create a vibrant and flourishing “Chinese Internet,” with its own tech giants such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, and popular apps such as TikTok and WeChat. These companies and apps now have a footprint that extends well beyond China’s borders. Their rise has been good for China and the world.

Mahan, Corbett, and China’s Maritime Grand Strategy

By Andrew Latham

A Great Wall 236 submarine of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong province, Tuesday, April 23, 2019.Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool

China’s naval establishment has long been enamored of the writings of the U.S. naval officer and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan. Indeed, it is not overstating the case to argue that since post-revolutionary China first turned its attention seaward in later decades of the 20th century no single thinker has exercised greater influence of Chinese maritime strategy. But that is now changing. Increasingly, Chinese navalists are paying attention to the writings of British naval theorist Sir Julian Corbett. This shift is both reflective of and conducive to a major shift in Chinese grand strategy – one that has implications both for the United States and the countries of the Indo-Pacific region more broadly.

Mahan’s main arguments, though revolutionary at the time he first made them in the 19th century, are relatively straightforward. Great powers, he argued, even instinctively insular ones like the United States, have crucially important maritime interests, ranging from defense of their coastlines to protection of their vital trade routes. Accordingly, every truly great power must take steps to secure these interests against the potential predations of its rivals and adversaries. For Mahan, this implied that a truly great power had to dominate the world’s oceans. And, he concluded, such domination could only be achieved by sweeping the enemy’s main fleet from the seas in a decisive battle. A corollary of this was that mere commerce raiding and other piecemeal naval operations were distractions that could never prove strategically decisive. Concentration of forces, and what Mahan called “offensive defense,” were the keys to “command of the seas,” which in turn was the only proper object of great power naval strategy.

Biden Joins the Anti-China Chorus

By Amitai Etzioni
If those concerned about the increased tensions between the U.S. and China are expecting that Joe Biden, if elected, will hit a reset button, they are likely to be disappointed. First of all, he will inherit a domestic mess of unprecedented dimensions, sure to command much of his attention. He is likely to recall the strategic mistake former President Barack Obama made by spending his political capital on pushing through a health care reform, when the nation was reeling from a major economic recession. This time, the economic crisis is even more severe, and Americans continue to die in large numbers because there is no national strategy in place to curb the pandemic. Moreover, the political pressures on Biden from the left, highlighted by demonstrations, do not concern foreign policy but social injustice at home.

The views Biden has expressed so far about China suggest that, far from choosing to confront the increasing anti-China sentiments in the U.S., he seems to share the prevailing public view.

He is critical of China’s human rights record:

2012 Scarborough Shoal Crisis: The Blueprint for Joe Biden's China Policy?

by Gordon G. Chang 
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One of Biden’s foreign policy advisers, Ely Ratner, has recently hinted a Biden administration would replay President Obama’s approach to the Chinese party-state. Ratner’s main thrust is that America should focus on strengthening itself rather than confronting Beijing, deriding the notion of a global competition with Chinese communism. His remarks recall what Biden himself said last May when he inexplicably maintained the Chinese were “not competition for us.”

Although the Democratic Party’s platform to its credit includes strong language on China, those robust planks feel at odds with the Vice President’s expressed views.

Perhaps the best indication of what he would do in the future is what happened in the past. A crisis now simmering in the contested South China Sea, the eventual result of poor decisions in the Obama administration, could tell us a lot about Biden’s China policies.

Besieging Wei to Rescue Zhao: Combining the Indirect Approach with the Centre of Gravity

By Ian Li

The “indirect approach” and “centre of gravity” are two concepts central to modern strategic thought. Both have a long tradition. However, there continues to be debate over how these concepts should be interpreted and applied. The indirect approach advocates against attacking the adversary’s strength head-on while the centre of gravity refers to the most critical point of the adversary’s system. Logically extrapolating forward, there is a synergistic outcome when both concepts are considered in conjunction. This article argues that the indirect approach is most potent when directed against a centre of gravity. It does so by first unpacking what each concept means using the Gallipoli operation (1915-1916) as a point of reference. The article then examines the historical example of Besieging Wei to Rescue Zhao (围魏救赵) to illustrate how the indirect approach combines with the centre of gravity to achieve optimal results. Such was the success of the campaign which saved Zhao (354-353 BC) that it has since been immortalised in the form of a famous Chinese proverb, and provides the basis for one of the stratagems recorded in the Chinese military classic known as the Thirty-Six Stratagems (三十六计).[1]

The Indirect Approach

The indirect approach in war is not new. It was, however, more recently popularised by B. H. Liddell Hart in his post-war strategic writings, the most well-known being now titled Strategy.[2] Having witnessed the carnage wrought amidst the stalemate in the trenches during the First World War, Liddell Hart advocated against the futility of direct confrontation. He asserts the commanders of the day had misinterpreted Clausewitzian doctrine and by extension became obsessed with the idea of directly seeking out the adversary's main force and destroying it in decisive battle.[3] While there have been criticisms that Liddell Hart’s conclusion was too sweeping, oversimplifying the theories put forth in Clausewitz’s writings, there is some validity to Liddell Hart’s assertion that using the direct approach against the adversary’s strength was too costly a military stratagem.[4] Unless the adversary’s strength was far inferior, at the military-strategic level destroying an adversary’s main force would require a force of at least equivalent strength but likely more, resulting in costly and potentially long-drawn battles of attrition.[5]

Deciphering China’s ‘World-class’ Naval Ambitions

By Ryan D. Martinson
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The scale and speed of China’s naval construction bear only one conclusion: Beijing is seeking to erode U.S. naval supremacy. This judgment requires no specialized knowledge of China or access to top secret intelligence. One need only look at the platforms the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is building and the pace at which it is building them.

But to fully understand the nature of the China maritime challenge, one must dig deeper—into the ideas guiding China’s naval development. This is far more difficult. The Chinese military is extremely cautious about revealing its true intentions. It produces lots of media content, but most of it is fluff. Analysts who spend their days sifting through Chinese sources failed to anticipate Beijing’s decision to build three enormous military facilities in the heart of the South China Sea. One day, China just began dredging sand and coral. 

Still, many important things cannot be hidden. The service cannot build and shape a fighting force in secret. Major priorities must be communicated and inculcated. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and rocketeers need to know what is asked of them and why it matters. By necessity, much of this happens in the open. The PLA can conceal plans to build bases; it cannot obscure broader aspirations. 

The PLAN’s newest aspiration is to transform itself into a “world-class navy.” The idea of becoming “world class” was not a PLAN invention. Sometime in 2016, China’s head of state Xi Jinping told the PLA to transform itself into a world-class military. This injunction later appeared in Xi’s report at the 19th Party Congress in October 2017, making it the official policy of the Chinese party-state.

Of Belarus, China and Watching a Perfect Game Pitched

By George Friedman
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There are moments in history when disparate global events combine to change the shape of the global system. People like me long for these moments, much like how baseball fans want to witness a perfect game be thrown. Even more, we want to be in a position to claim, with evidence, that we knew that this moment was coming all along. Knowing that something extraordinary will take place and then watching it take place, rather than longing to make vast amounts of money, is a form of neurosis, and a sad one at that. But we are what we are.

We are also frequently wrong. The hunger to see and predict the extraordinary often leads to wishful thinking, hoping to be the first to notice the coming apocalypse. It turns out there are more forecasts of apocalypses than actual ones. The solution is difficult. It is to be an expert on the apocalypse, yet believe deeply in your own ignorance.

This is a long-winded preface to a theory that the international system is undergoing a major shift. It’s not a 1945 or 1991 shift, nor is it attributable to a single event. There are two things happening that have not fully unfolded, are disconnected, and have little to do with COVID-19. One has to do with Belarus and the other with China.

As I have written before, Belarus is a critical buffer for Russia, one that has been fairly neutral. Obviously, Russia wants to keep it that way since the eastern border of Belarus cuts deep into Russia. But the western border cuts into NATO territory, particularly Poland. In a region where the Baltics are part of NATO and Ukraine is tilting toward the West, the Russians can’t tolerate a pro-Western Belarus. Nor can Poland and the Baltics tolerate a pro-Russian Belarus.

Does the U.S. Need to Fear That China Might Invade Taiwan?

Hal Brands

Hal Brands is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, the Henry Kissinger Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Most recently, he is the co-author of "The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and World Order."Read more opinion

No scenario worries American strategists like a possible war with China over Taiwan. Recent months have brought a stream of reports making two things uncomfortably clear: The danger of a Chinese assault on Taiwan is growing. And the U.S., which has an ambiguous security commitment to Taipei, might well lose if it joined such a war on Taiwan’s behalf.

Given this grim forecast, many Americans might fairly ask why the U.S. would even try to defend an island thousands of miles away — a country that wasn’t supposed to have survived this long in the first place. The answer is that the fate of Taiwan may determine the fate of the Western Pacific. But in addressing the possibility, Americans have to understand just how difficult and dangerous it could be to preserve a free Taiwan.

There’s no question that the Chinese military threat to Taiwan is greater than it’s been in decades. From probing Taiwanese air and naval defenses, to posturing forces that could be used in an invasion, to dropping the word “peaceful” from its calls for reunification, Xi Jinping’s government is advertising its determination to bring Taiwan back under its control — perhaps not today or tomorrow, but at some point in the coming years. And whereas China long had more ambition than capability, the military balance has now moved sharply in its favor.

Of Belarus, China and Watching a Perfect Game Pitched

By George Friedman

There are moments in history when disparate global events combine to change the shape of the global system. People like me long for these moments, much like how baseball fans want to witness a perfect game be thrown. Even more, we want to be in a position to claim, with evidence, that we knew that this moment was coming all along. Knowing that something extraordinary will take place and then watching it take place, rather than longing to make vast amounts of money, is a form of neurosis, and a sad one at that. But we are what we are.

We are also frequently wrong. The hunger to see and predict the extraordinary often leads to wishful thinking, hoping to be the first to notice the coming apocalypse. It turns out there are more forecasts of apocalypses than actual ones. The solution is difficult. It is to be an expert on the apocalypse, yet believe deeply in your own ignorance.

This is a long-winded preface to a theory that the international system is undergoing a major shift. It’s not a 1945 or 1991 shift, nor is it attributable to a single event. There are two things happening that have not fully unfolded, are disconnected, and have little to do with COVID-19. One has to do with Belarus and the other with China.

Greece irked by Germany in standoff with Turkey

This time, Greek officials are frustrated that they have not received more support in their military standoff with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean from their fellow EU member and Europe's economic powerhouse.

The tension between Athens and Berlin is not nearly as high as during the last financial crisis, when furious Greeks blamed their biggest creditor for an overdose of painful austerity. But it does have at least faint echoes of that discord.

“We and Germany have a completely different perspective of how we should deal with our neighbor. We cannot continue to caress them — Turkey has abandoned the Western values once and for all; the appeasement period has ended,” a senior Greek diplomat declared. “Germany has a misconception about the intentions of the other side.”

The diplomat insisted that the two sides remain close. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will visit both Athens and Ankara on Tuesday, a visit that Berlin hopes will help to mediate a dialogue between Greece and Turkey that could start as soon as late next week.

Another sign of Greek frustration came after Germany's ambassador to Athens, Ernst Reichel, tweeted about an Ottoman governor who ruled over parts of modern-day Greece.

But such is the depth of disagreement between Greece and Germany up to now that it has spilled over into another pressing issue facing the EU — the crisis in Belarus.

The world's great powers will soon face off in Lebanon

Iran has long been fault line in the politics of great power rivalries, and now it is increasingly so. China and Russia have been investing in the country based on their own calculated desires for the region, but also in the context of their respective rivalries with the US. This, however, does not stop them from being deeply concerned about the costs that could come with their investments in the form of US sanctions targeting Iranian interests.

A new flashpoint of the wider tension, however, is in Lebanon. Russia, which has an expensive alliance with Iran in Syria, has declined to take on the same level of involvement in Lebanon. Iranian allies in Beirut – namely, Hezbollah – have therefore eyed eyeing Chinese funds and expertise to restore the city and its port after this month’s devastating ammonium nitrate explosion demolished them. The speediness and lack of conditionality that comes with Chinese support would provide a shortcut for Hezbollah to pre-empt any other powers stepping in as the city’s saviour and to bring its dominance of Lebanese politics to the level of a monopoly.

The Terrorist Threat Is Not Finished

By Russell E. Travers
With every year that the 9/11 attacks recede into the past, it seems easier for the United States to move on from terrorism. That impulse has become all the more appealing in the wake of COVID-19, a pandemic that is killing more Americans every few days than were lost on September 11, 2001. Since that tragic day, there has been not one successful, externally directed, large-scale terrorist attack on Americans, and attacks by Islamist homegrown terrorists have declined, too. Several years have now passed since the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) perpetrated its horrific attacks in Paris and Brussels. In Iraq and Syria, the group’s so-called caliphate lies in ruins.

But it is important to remember that none of this happened by chance. As I saw in the final two decades of my 42-year career in the U.S. intelligence community, most recently as acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the United States’ post-9/11 counterterrorism effort has been nothing short of extraordinary. That campaign is the closest the country has come since World War II to addressing a transnational threat with a whole-of-government, whole-of-society, and even whole-of-world approach. The U.S. government took the fight overseas, identifying and killing countless terrorist leaders. It used sophisticated screening to keep terrorists from slipping into the United States, and it made the country a difficult place to operate for terrorists who were already inside. It worked with the private sector to make cyberspace and financial networks less hospitable for terrorists. And it shared more information with more partners, domestic and foreign, than ever before.

Struggling With Drought on the Mekong

By Luke Hunt

At dawn on the Mekong River, fishermen start plying the waters, often heading out for two or three hours, two or three times a day. But the lower Mekong Basin is suffering its second year of drought.Credit: Luke Hunt

Fisherman cast their traditional nets into the Mekong River in southern Laos.Credit: Luke Hunt

In full flood the Mekong Delta is bigger than the size of Belgium. But upstream dams in China and Laos, coupled with climate change, have exacerbated the drought.Credit: Luke Hunt

A fish catch is laid out to dry in the sun and then stored. Some 70 million people live hand to mouth and rely on the Mekong for their daily protein.Credit: Luke Hunt

A fisherman prepares his nets by the Mekong River in Kien Svay, Cambodia near the Vietnamese border. At this time of year, water levels normally reach the edge of his balcony.Credit: Luke Hunt

Village fishermen repair their broken nets.Credit: Luke Hunt

Report to Congress on Russian Military Doctrine and Strategy

The following is the Aug. 20, 2020 Congressional Research Service Infocus report, Russian Armed Forces: Military Doctrine and Strategy.

Russia’s official security doctrines are detailed in its 2014 Military Doctrine and 2015 National Security Strategy. Other key strategy documents include the 2016 Foreign Policy Concept, 2017 Naval Strategy, and 2020 Principles of Nuclear Deterrence Strategy. These documents offer insight into how Russian leaders perceive threats and how Russian military and security policymakers envision the future of conflict. In addition, the Military Doctrine and the National Security Strategy identify the importance of information and the danger of internal, as well as external, threats.

The 2014 Military Doctrine divides the perceived nature of threats to Russia into two categories: military risks and military threats. Military risks are a lesser designation, defined as situations that could “lead to a military threat under certain conditions.” A military threat is “characterized by a real possibility of an outbreak of a military conflict.” Once fighting breaks out, Russian military theory and doctrine identify a typology of conflicts relating to the extent and type of conflict, gradually increasing in intensity: armed conflict, local war, regional war, large-scale war, and global (nuclear) war. These levels of conflict are important for understanding how the Russian military envisions the scale, nature, actors, and levels of escalation in war.

They are ubiquitous, diverse and very powerful

The outsiders inside

Humans are lucky to live a hundred years. Oak trees may live a thousand; mayflies, in their adult form, a single day. But they are all alive in the same way. They are made up of cells which embody flows of energy and stores of information. Their metabolisms make use of that energy, be it from sunlight or food, to build new molecules and break down old ones, using mechanisms described in the genes they inherited and may, or may not, pass on.

It is this endlessly repeated, never quite perfect reproduction which explains why oak trees, humans, and every other plant, fungus or single-celled organism you have ever seen or felt the presence of are all alive in the same way. It is the most fundamental of all family resemblances. Go far enough up any creature’s family tree and you will find an ancestor that sits in your family tree, too. Travel further and you will find what scientists call the last universal common ancestor, luca. It was not the first living thing. But it was the one which set the template for the life that exists today.

And then there are viruses. In viruses the link between metabolism and genes that binds together all life to which you are related, from bacteria to blue whales, is broken. Viral genes have no cells, no bodies, no metabolism of their own. The tiny particles, “virions”, in which those genes come packaged—the dot-studded disks of coronaviruses, the sinister, sinuous windings of Ebola, the bacteriophages with their science-fiction landing-legs that prey on microbes—are entirely inanimate. An individual animal, or plant, embodies and maintains the restless metabolism that made it. A virion is just an arrangement of matter.

Russian operation goes ‘offshore’ in Syria

by Anton Mardasov, Kirill Semyonov

Anton Mardasov and Kirill Semenov describe how Moscow is trying to support the armed opposition without weakening al-Assad

Southwest Syria, the ‘cradle of the revolution’, is witnessing contradictory developments: the locals who called for a country without Assad but then ‘reconciled’ with the regime are now rallying again and even engaging in gun battles with pro-government forces. They are no longer opposition members, however, but fighters in the pro-Russian 8th Brigade of the 5th Corps. The brigade’s commander took part in the Arab Spring and was supported by Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates until 2018. He then accepted Russian protection and later more than doubled the size of his squad. His autonomy is causing anger and perplexity in Damascus: Moscow practically saved Assad by weakening his opponents, but now has started helping an alternative centre of power. Does this mean Russia is ready to further violate commitments to fulfil the whims of Israel and the West and prevent the empowerment of Shiite groups in southwest Syria?

Russia has failed to establish its own nationwide political pressure groups in Syria. Nor has it been able to occupy a special position in the Syrian armed forces. The situation is paradoxical because of absence of a lobby. Its absence complicates relations between Moscow and Damascus: Russia is often forced to concede on issues that pose risks to its relations with various actors in the Syrian arena. For instance, every escalation of the conflict in Idlib complicates relations between Moscow and Ankara, reducing Russia’s flexibility, making its actions seem even more toxic in the eyes of Sunni monarchies and the West.

A New Grand Strategy for a New World Order: US Disengagement from Sub-Saharan Africa

Lila Ovington

This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master's program. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books.

The grand strategy of the U.S. during the Cold War sought to defeat the Soviet Union and halt the global spread of communism. During this time, conflicts in the sub-Sahara were used as channels through which the two superpowers waged proxy conflicts.[1] The end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union inevitably called for a revised grand strategy, which would also entail a new attitude towards the sub-Sahara. This essay argues that sub-Saharan Africa experienced a general American disengagement in the 1990s, as conflicts on the sub-continent and U.S. responses to them epitomised the grand strategic means of retrenchment, whilst also exposing the hierarchy amongst the pillars of grand strategy. The essay will begin by outlining American grand strategy in the aftermath of the Cold War, and will subsequently address disengagement with the sub-Sahara on a sub-continental level, as well as its use of proxies to limit resources spent on a sub-regional level. Thereafter, it will be demonstrated how such policies reveal Washington’s willingness to compromise its democratic values, both by analysing its proxies and through a comparison with policy towards North Africa.

Deterrence and Fear: Incorporating Emotions into the Field of Research

Amir Lupovici

For many years deterrence was seen and has been constructed as a rational strategy, relying on the view that policy makers are making cost-benefit calculations when they are considering challenging their opponents. These theories were based on the assumption that rational actors would avoid challenging their opponents (the deterrer actor) if the costs of such attacks are higher than the gain they can achieve. Indeed, as early as the 1970s, important works showed how psychological factors take part in shaping the practices of deterrence (e.g., Jervis et al., 1985). However, these psychological approaches were mainly auxiliary tools to explain actors’ divergence from the rational model. In a nutshell, these approaches provided a more accurate account of how actors respond to threats given various biases they have in acquiring and interpreting information. Nonetheless, these psychological approaches could not provide alternative frameworks to explore deterrence.

Within these theories, emotions, and specifically fear, were left out of the study. Indeed some scholars and practitioners mentioned fear as part of the practices of deterrence. For example, Morgan (2003: 1) argues that deterrence ‘is the use of threats to manipulate behavior so that something unwanted does not occur.’ He sharpens this view by relying on the definition of the Department of Defense Dictionary (1994) according to which deterrence ‘is the prevention from action by fear of the consequences’ (in Morgan, 2003: 1, my emphasis). However, despite the nuanced and detailed discussion of the practices of deterrence Morgan provides in his book, the notion of ‘fear’ is repeated along the manuscript without elaboration on how exactly it shapes deterrence practices, and how it differs from mere cost-benefit calculations (e.g., Morgan, 2003: 21, 147-8, passim). How Morgan treats fear is not an exception and other scholars who study this strategy (or the security dilemma) while acknowledging the influence of fear on actors’ behavior (e.g., Schelling, 1966; Kugler et al., 1980) do not untangle its influence on international security(see also in Crawford, 2000; Bleiker and Hutchison, 2008: 116, 121).

COVID-19 and Online Activism: A Momentum for Radical Change?

Julie Uldam and Tina Askanius

Historically, crises have been seen as opportunities for change. The current crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. For example, the pandemic has brought about calls for rethinking how we organize our everyday lives and society. For climate activists, this has involved calls for using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to envision, articulate and act on solutions to the climate crisis. In doing so, the climate crisis is articulated both as a larger looming crisis, which will eclipse the COVID-19 crisis, and as connected to social inequalities also exposed by the COVID-19 crisis. Theoretically, this short article draws on critical approaches to crisis and the notion of social imaginaries to capture the ways in which the COVID-19 and climate crises are articulated and collectively imagined, with implications for possibilities for action. Empirically, it draws on observations of online events and activities organized by activist groups and NGOs, Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, PUSH and Fridays for Future in Denmark and Sweden. On the basis of preliminary findings of a digital ethnography of the everyday practices of online activism during the first months of the pandemic (March-June 2020), we show how the COVID-19 crisis was articulated as both a window of opportunity for imagining a more sustainable post-corona world and as a challenge for activism. Further, we point to similarities in articulating hope over despair and visions of solutions – including technologies of climate change mitigation, decision-making processes and how we organize society – to dealing with the climate crisis rather than returning to business as usual.

History tells us that crises work as a source of fear, of affirmation, but also of inspiration and opportunity. Koselleck (2006), for example, has argued that a crisis is a moment of rupture where instability advances by challenging the legitimacy of social institutions, the sense of normality and ideas and discourses that are taken for granted. The crisis itself signifies a moment of rupture, where new socio-political configurations can emerge. The concept of a crisis, he argues, is used to fit “the uncertainties of whatever might be favored at a given moment” (p. 399). The current health crisis is intricately tied into political, economic and environmental crises. In this sense, the pandemic is both accelerating and shining a new light on an already existing set of crises related to racial discrimination, economic injustices, environmental destruction, etc. At the same time, the COVID-19 crisis is connected with the emergence of rival narratives, discourses and actions of social agents. The contingent space that a crisis foregrounds until the moment of its resolution allows for different possibilities and scenarios to emerge, for better or worse.

Opinion – Macron’s Pivot Towards Russia

Kareem Salem
Russia has become an important component of Emmanuel Macron’s foreign policy. In his first sorties on the world stage, Macron sought to reconnect with his Russian counterpart at the Château de Versailles in an effort to reset relations. Under François Hollande’s presidency, relations with Moscow were marred by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine, as well as by Franco-Russian disagreements over Syria at the United Nations Security Council. Thus, Macron sought to pivot away from the neoconservative diplomatic approach of his predecessor, by seeking to open a new chapter in relations between Paris and Moscow.

Macron’s vision is rooted in French foreign policy promulgated under President Charles de Gaulle. In the midst of the Cold War, the founder of the Cinquième République had the vision that the Soviet Union should be encompassed in a united Europe stretching from the Atlantic to Urals and, as such, he believed that France had an interest in overcoming its divisions with it. This political effort has now been revived under Macron in response to the structural changes in international relations that have been accelerated under the Trump administration. Indeed, French and European security interests have been undermined by Donald Trump’s disparaging views on multilateral security alliances and disinterest for multilateral arms control treaties.

California Is a Preview of Climate Change’s Devastation for the Entire World

Stewart M. Patrick 

California prides itself on being a national and global trendsetter. Unfortunately, the state is also setting the pace for climate change disasters, with searing heat and intense wildfires now regular features of its endless summer. Last Sunday, Aug. 16, the aptly named Furnace Creek ranger station in Death Valley posted the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth, when the thermometer hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit. That same weekend, lightning strikes north of Lake Tahoe set off the massive Loyalton Fire in desiccated Lassen and Sierra counties, producing a rare “fire tornado” as high winds whipped flames into a violent, all-consuming vortex, sending a pillar of smoke and ash miles into the air. The statewide heatwave resulted in rolling electricity blackouts, a situation Gov. Gavin Newsom called “unacceptable” but was powerless to prevent.

Last week, as smoke from the Loyalton Fire darkened the normally brilliant Sierra Nevada sky and turned Lake Tahoe’s famously blue waters a dull grey, residents and vacationers hunkered down indoors, unable to see across the water, much less enjoy a view that Mark Twain rightly called “the fairest picture the whole earth affords.” They had plenty of company across California, where more than two dozen major fires were raging. Since Jan. 1, the state has experienced 6,754 wildfires, up from about 4,000 this time last year.

Taiwan’s Military Has Flashy American Weapons but No Ammo


As China builds up military forces across the Taiwan strait and vows to take back the island through “any means” necessary, the United States and others hope for a Taiwan that can stand on its own feet against Chinese aggression. But in reality, not only is the Taiwanese military facing a serious shortage of soldiers and an entirely dysfunctional reserve system, as my previous reporting for Foreign Policy revealed, half of its tanks may not be able to run—and even fewer have functional weapons. These failures are costing lives even before China fires a single shot. As Taiwanese politicians showcase flashy U.S. weapons bought with taxpayers’ money, the logistics inside the military remain so abysmal that a young army officer killed himself after being pressured to buy repair parts out of his own pocket.

Huang Zhi-jie was a 30-year-old lieutenant in the Taiwanese army. Initially serving in the airborne troops as an enlisted soldier, Huang was so committed that he requested officer training—normally considered more work for little reward—and was later commissioned as a lieutenant in charge of a maintenance depot of the 269th Mechanized Infantry Brigade. Huang was supposed to be the model soldier of which Taiwan desperately wanted more: a young, college-educated volunteer who chose to serve the country out of his own volition, at a time when the military was still facing difficult transition from conscription to an all-volunteer military.

What’s New In Gartner’s Hype Cycle For Emerging Technologies, 2020

Louis Columbus

Health passports lead all technologies in their potential to make a transformational impact in two years or less, accelerated by early adopters in China (Health Code) and India (Aarogya Setu).

Social distancing technologies enter the Hype Cycle for the first time at the top of the Peak of Inflated Expectations due to the extraordinary amount of media coverage and client inquiries.

Gartner continues to expand its coverage of AI’s potential in this year’s Hype Cycle, with several categories added this year, including Composite AI, Generative AI, Responsible AI, AI-augmented development Embedded AI and AI-augmented design.

These and many other new insights are from Gartner Hype Cycle For Emerging Technologies, 2020 published earlier this year and summarized in the recent Gartner blog post, 5 Trends Drive the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2020. Gartner’s definition of Hype Cycles includes five phases of a technology’s lifecycle and is explained here.