28 August 2020

Army OKs Push-Ups, PT as Punishment for Minor Infractions

By Matthew Cox

The Army recently published an update to its command policy that encourages sergeants to drop soldiers for push-ups or order extra physical training to correct minor screw-ups as an alternative to stiffer non-judicial punishments.

Last updated in 2014, the 213-page Army Regulation 600-20 is designed to offer command guidance for commanders across the Army includes updates to corrective training, sexual harassment reporting and extremist activity on social media, according to an Army release.

Leaders at all levels across the Army "have an obligation to know, enforce and take appropriate action in accordance with Army Command Policy," Sgt. Major of the Army Michael Grinston said in the release.

The regulation includes "specified authority" for noncommissioned officers to correct minor soldier infractions with "brief forms of exercise."

"The changes empower NCOs to lean on non-punitive measures as a form of corrective training to address minor deficiencies," Sgt. Maj. Jasmine Johnson, the command policy sergeant major, said in the release.

Islamic State in India: The Jihadist Reboot


'The undiminished threat has the potency of sustaining itself in multiple ways in the near and medium term.' 'State agencies need to utilise innovative methods in countering radicalisation and violent extremism to address this growing threat,' Dr Shanthie Mariet D'Souza and Dr Bibhu Prasad Routray point out.

Arrests of two persons associated with the Islamic State, within a week, has brought back attention on the undiminished threat of the global jihadist organisation to India's national security.

While 28-year-old Abdul Rahman, working as an ophthalmologist at a Bengaluru medical college, was arrested on August 18, Mohammed Mushtaqeem Khan, aged 36, was arrested in New Delhi with IEDs and explosives following a brief exchange of fire with the Delhi police on August 22.

Rahman had reportedly visited an IS camp in Syria to treat injured fighters.

Khan had never left Indian shores and had reportedly taken up the role of being a lone wolf fighter on the advice of an IS recruiter.

India is a Powerhouse in Vaccine Manufacturing

by Rory Horner

The great COVID-19 vaccine race is on. Pharmaceutical companies around the world are going head to head, while governments scramble to get priority access to the most promising candidates.

But a richest-takes-all approach in the fight against the deadliest pandemic in living memory is bound to be counter productive, especially for the recovery of low and middle income countries. If governments cannot come together to agree a global strategy, then the global south may need to pin its hopes on the manufacturing might of India.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, has warned that a nationalist approach “will not help” and will slow down the world’s recovery. Yet vaccine nationalism looms large over the search for vaccines, with the US, the UK and the European Commission all signing various advance purchase agreements with manufacturers to secure privileged access to doses of the most promising candidates. The US alone has paid over US$10 billion (£7.6 billion) for such access.

Has the USA lost the Afghan war to Pakistan?

Roland Jacquard (*)
Afghanistan suffered two deadly suicide attacks on May 12. The first one hit the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Kabul that killed at least 14, including 2 new born babies and the other was at a funeral of a local police commander in Khewa district of Nangarhar, killing 24. Both attacks were aimed at innocent civilians majority of who were women and children.

While no group has yet claimed responsibility, the Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib in a statement held the Taliban and its ‘sponsors’ responsible for the attacks. He was most likely referring to the Pakistan-backed terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), that is known to be operating with the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 2019, a report submitted by the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team to the 1988 Sanctions Committee, which oversees sanctions on the Taliban, said LeT “continues to act as a key facilitator in recruitment and financial support activities in Afghanistan”. The report quoted Afghan officials as saying that some 500 LeT fighters are active in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces alone.

These two incidents, coupled with the attack on Afghan soldiers in Helmand province on May 4, has laid bare the frivolity of the much publicized conditional peace agreement between the US and the Taliban in Doha on February 29 this year, that called for the withdrawal of foreign troops in 14 months if the Taliban upheld the terms of the agreement.

China, Southeast Asian Leaders Meet to Discuss the Mekong’s Plight

By Shannon Tiezzi

Leaders from China and Southeast Asia’s mainland countries gathered on Monday for a virtual summit, the third leader’s meeting for the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation platform.

The meeting came at a time when the Mekong River’s health is in dire straits. For the second year in a row, the Mekong River is suffering from record low water levels. “Water levels are down by two-thirds and rainfall for the three months of the current wet season is also down by about 70 percent,” as Luke Hunt noted in his recent photo essay on the impact.

Environmental activists have long pointed the finger for the Mekong’s woes at a deadly combination of climate change, which is changing rainfall patterns, and dam-building along the river. In particular, China, has constructed 11 dams across the upper stretch of the river (known as the Lancang in China), which critics allege prevent much-needed water from reaching the Mekong countries in Southeast Asia. A 2020 report from the U.S.-based Stimson Center put data behind this oft-made claim, noting that “for six months in 2019, while China received above average precipitation, its dams held back more water than ever — even as downstream countries suffered through an unprecedented drought.”

Southeast Asian governments necessarily take a less confrontational stance on the accusation of water hoarding by their powerful neighbor. The Mekong River Commission – made up of the Southeast Asian riparian states, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, — issued its own report refuting the claim that China was responsible for the 2019 drought. It also noted that Southeast Asian states have done their share of dam-building.

Nuclear deterrence needed to prevent cyberattacks from paralyzing China's nuclear response

By Qin An 

The US' maximum pressure campaign against China now has extended to cyberspace. After the Trump administration's ban of TikTok and the Clean Network program that aims at Chinese companies, news on Sunday said that TikTok plans to sue the Trump administration over its executive order banning the app. As the game goes viral, there are concerns about whether the US will launch a cyberattack against China. Will China and the US actually cut off the network connection between them?

Such concerns do not come from nowhere. In 2019 alone, there were three major cyberattacks related to the US. In March 2019, Venezuela's national power grid collapsed. The country's president denounced the attack as a well planned cyberattack by the US. This indicates that cyberwarfare has become a new mode of undeclared warfare - an invisible invasion of sorts. 

In June 2019, Trump announced retaliation against Iran with a cyberattack too. This showed that cyberwarfare has moved from the backstage to the front lines, from covert warfare to a declaration of war, and from auxiliary fighting to mainstream combat.

The Many Risks of Trump’s Hawkish Turn on China

Kimberly Ann Elliott 

Not long ago, The New York Times labeled President Donald Trump the “biggest obstacle” to his own administration’s China policy. Trump’s trade war with China, which he launched as part of his campaign promise to get tough on its unfair trade practices, has always had unclear and shifting goals, while producing minimal results. Even as his administration has taken a relatively tough line against China’s high-tech industrial policies, Trump’s odd affinity for authoritarian leaders, including his “good friend” in China, Xi Jinping, kept getting in the way of a coherent policy, especially when it came to protecting human rights.

Any ambivalent feelings about China and its government seem to have vanished with Trump’s need for a scapegoat to blame for his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. Until this summer, the White House mostly ignored Beijing’s efforts to squelch dissent in Hong Kong and took relatively minor measures in response to egregious human rights violations against the mostly Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang. In his memoir about his time in the White House, former national security adviser John Bolton asserts that, after large protests broke out in Hong Kong last year, Trump said he didn’t want to get involved. “We have human rights problems, too,” Bolton heard him say. Worse, while China was putting Uighurs in so-called “reeducation” centers that are really forced labor camps, Bolton claims that Trump told Xi to keep building the internment camps because he believed that was “exactly the right thing to do.”

China’s dangerous Taiwan temptation

Robert Kagan

When the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931, and the United States and the League of Nations began peppering them with public notes and statements calling on them to desist, humorist Will Rogers observed that, “every time they get another note they take another town.” “We had better quit writing notes,” he suggested, or soon they “will have all China.” Six years later, the Japanese did try to take all of China, and more. A major reason was that Japanese leaders believed, and the Manchurian crisis offered the first clear evidence, that the United States was ultimately not prepared to back up its denunciations with force.

Today, we hurl condemnations and warnings at China for extinguishing freedom in Hong Kong, brutally oppressing the Uighur Muslim minority and making aggressive military moves along the Indian border, in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. We ban Chinese companies, engage in tariff wars and excoriate the Chinese for their role in spreading the novel coronavirus. Our political parties compete to outdo each other in anti-Chinese rhetoric and policy proposals. And so far, our words and sanctions have been cost-free. But if this confrontation were to move to the next level, would we be ready, materially and psychologically?

The End of Western Opportunism


BERLIN – The confrontation between China and the West is escalating almost daily. The conflict is about technology, trade, global market share, and supply chains, but also about fundamental values. Underpinning this economic and ideological competition is the goal of global predominance in the twenty-first century.

But why is the current escalation happening now? It is not as though the West suddenly had some epiphany about the implications of China’s rise. The fact that China is a Leninist one-party dictatorship is not news, and it did not stop Western countries – led by the United States – from steadily deepening their trade and economic ties with China since the 1970s.

Likewise, China’s leaders have long dismissed outside criticism of their human-rights record and oppression of minorities. Rampant industrial espionage and theft of Western technology and intellectual property are other well-known problems that the West has more or less tolerated for decades in exchange for access to China’s vast market and low-cost labor. Western governments and investors remained sanguine even after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. No sooner had the dust settled than Western businesses poured into the country like never before.

Whispers of 076, China’s Drone Carrying Assault Carrier

By Rick Joe

One of the most recent and fast-moving credible rumors to come from the online communities watching the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is a new landing helicopter dock (LHD) type vessel dubbed the 076. This 076 class LHD was first brought to the attention of the community in mid-2020, and in a rather unprecedented fashion a number of official request for proposal documents were found, and some credible insiders with established track records began to speak about the details of 076. It then reached a number of overseas and English language news outlets.

The 076 is described as an LHD – following on from, or perhaps complementing, the 075 class LHD – however, it is believed to be capable of conducting fixed wing flight operations via electromagnetic catapult (EMCAT) and arresting gear. Indeed, the greatest difference between the 076 compared to the 075 LHD, or other LHDs such as the U.S. Navy’s Wasp or America classes, is that the 076 is described as providing a similar capability as the F-35B gave to U.S. Navy LHDs, but without using a vertical short take off and landing (VSTOL) aircraft.

Trouble on China’s Periphery: The Stability-Instability Paradox

By David Skidmore

The transformation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from revolutionary party under Mao Zedong into a Chinese nationalist party beginning in the early ‘90s has proven a double-edged sword for the CCP and for China. While cementing popular support for the CCP among ordinary Chinese, growing nationalism has also generated resistance along China’s periphery. This stability-instability paradox has driven Beijing to adopt a set of costly and dangerous policies that have sullied China’s international reputation abroad and pushed the dream of a unified China further out of reach.

Chinese Nationalism

The concept of nationalism was introduced to China by the West. Traditionally, China recognized no sovereign equals — the Chinese divided the world into civilized peoples, who observed Chinese culture and tradition under the leadership of the Emperor, and barbarians who could achieve civilization only through assimilation.

If China's Plan Succeeds, The USS Nimitz Aircraft Carrier Will Be On The Sea Floor

by Kyle Mizokami

Here's What You Need To Remember: The Third Taiwan Crisis was a brutal lesson for a China that had long prepared to fight wars inside of its own borders. Still, the PLA Navy deserves credit for learning from the incident and now, twenty-two years later, it is quite possible that China could seriously damage or even sink an American carrier.

More than twenty years ago, a military confrontation in East Asia pushed the United States and China uncomfortably close to conflict. Largely unknown in America, the event made a lasting impression on China, especially Chinese military planners. The Third Taiwan Crisis, as historians call it, was China’s introduction to the power and flexibility of the aircraft carrier, something it obsesses about to this day.

The crisis began in 1995. Taiwan’s first-ever democratic elections for president were set for 1996, a major event that Beijing naturally opposed. The sitting president, Lee Teng-hui of the Kuomintang party, was invited to the United States to speak at his alma mater, Cornell University. Lee was already disliked by Beijing for his emphasis on “Taiwanization,” which favored home rule and established a separate Taiwanese identity away from mainland China. Now he was being asked to speak at Cornell on Taiwan’s democratization, and Beijing was furious.

Time To Wake Up And Start Decoupling From China

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In recent months, articles in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and other leading journals have warned against decoupling from China and stumbling into a new cold war.

Some argue that China is merely a regional power seeking to reduce U.S. influence in its backyard and maintain its own territorial integrity and internal stability. That, while China’s indifference to World Trade Organization commitments and bullying of its South China Sea neighbors is frustrating, Beijing seeks no new global order or cold war. Moreover, they argue, trading with China has mostly been a win-win proposition, and Beijing’s stake in global economic stability is a guarantee against any serious conflict.

Others admit that China has lately been a “bad actor” but say any stiff response by Washington will only make matters worse. Calling for patience, they emphasize that China is not trying to export its ideology.

Still others claim that the U.S. would be the loser in a cold war, and measures like limiting semiconductor sales to Chinese tech champions will only result in lost U.S. income and R&D funds.

The myth of China’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’

It is hard to remember now, but just five years ago David Cameron’s No. 10 was declaring a ‘golden era’ of Sino-British ties. Now the US sees China as a ‘strategic rival’ and Britain has joined a growing coalition of Western nations attempting to limit Beijing’s power. There are certainly good reasons to be wary of China’s regime. But there’s also a clear risk that growing Sinophobia distorts the reality of Chinese behaviour, which is often far less strategic than is widely supposed.

This is particularly clear with respect to China’s ‘belt and road initiative’, an attempt to build a rail and maritime trade network across the globe. Launched in 2013, the belt and road is Xi Jinping's signature foreign policy. Hawkish pundits generally depict the project as a grand strategy aimed at reshaping the world in China’s image. In truth, it is a rather loose, inchoate framework, primarily seeking to maintain China’s economic growth through promoting infrastructure connectivity with Eurasia and east Africa.

Anti-China hawks from New Delhi to Washington claim that the belt and road is all about ‘debt-trap diplomacy’. Beijing supposedly offers developing countries debt-fuelled infrastructure projects, knowing they will fall into debt distress and enabling China eventually to seize the asset thereby extending its strategic reach.

The problem is – as shown in my new report for Chatham House, co-authored with Shahar Hameiri – this narrative simply isn’t true.

The reality is that China’s political system is highly fragmented and decentralised

How China Lost Nigeria

By Adagbo Onoja

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping reach for shaking hands during the signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Tuesday, April 12, 2016Credit: Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Pool Photo via AP

China is currently being hit in Nigeria by a burst of discontent whose outcome is still uncertain. Triggered in late July 2020 by what has become known as the “sovereignty clause” controversy in loan agreements between Nigeria and China, the discontent has, however, a longer history. The current backlash draws mainly on anger over the timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China dateline; questions about Huawei’s participation in 5G networks; claims of uniquely Chinese racial practices against Nigerians; and the image of “China in Africa” more broadly.

The intensity and magnitude of the discontent means that this cannot be dismissed. Finger-pointing letters to the editor in Nigerian newspapers talking about “Nigeria’s Abusive Marriage With China and Slave Agreements” and opinions asserting that “it is unacceptable that our forefathers fought the White Man to liberate our continent only for our generation to hand over our hard-won liberties to barbarian hordes from Asia” are important signals. But, if it is not typical and cannot be dismissed, then the question of where it might be coming from arises.

Mahan, Corbett, and China’s Maritime Grand Strategy

By Andrew Latham

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.

Scoop: UAE cancels Israel meeting after Netanyahu opposes F-35 arms deal

Barak Ravid

The United Arab Emirates canceled a planned trilateral meeting with the U.S. and Israel last Friday to send a message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his opposition to a pending arms deal between the U.S. and UAE, three sources with knowledge of the matter tell me.

Why it matters: Just days after Israel and the UAE announced a landmark normalization deal, there has already been a spike in tensions.

The backstory: Israeli media reported that, as a condition of the deal, Netanyahu signed off on pending sales of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE. He denied those reports and publicly came out against the potential arms deal.
Israel's status as the only Middle Eastern country to possess the most advanced fighter aircraft in America's arsenal currently gives it a clear technological advantage over other militaries in the region.

But the F-35 deal is a top priority for the UAE, which saw it as linked to the normalization accord with Israel.

From Civil To Proxy War: How Syria Became Iran And Israel's Battlefield

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need To Remember: Now that Assad’s hold on power is secure, it’s becoming clear that growing infrastructure of Iranian bases in Syria is likely there to stay—and that Iran intends to use them to funnel drones, artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to Hezbollah to challenge Israeli military dominance. This has elicited an intensifying Israeli bombardment campaign to knock out the buildup, both through preemptive strikes and reactive counterattacks.

At midnight on the Syrian-Israeli border on May 8–9, 2018 a multiple-rocket launcher system operated by the Quds force—an expeditionary special forces unit of the Iranian Revolution Guard Corps—fired a salvo of twenty unguided 333mm Fajr-5 rockets towards Israel. (You can see the apparent rocket launch here.) Four of the rockets were shot down by Israeli Iron Dome air defense system and the rest missed and landed in Syrian territory.

A few hours later, around ten Israeli surface-to-surface missile launchers and twenty-eight F-15I and F-16I jets unleashed seventy cruise missiles and precision-guided glide bombs that struck Iranian logistical bases and outposts throughout Syria. The Iranian rocket launcher was destroyed, and when Syrian air defenses attempted to engage the Israeli fighters, five batteries were knocked out.

Battle looms in Mozambique over extremists’ control of port


This image distributed online by the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) and provided by SITE Intelligence Group shows ISCAP fighters and weapons following clashes with Mozambican government troops on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, near Mocimboa da Praia, in northern Mozambique. The stinging success of Mozambique's Islamic extremist rebels in seizing and holding the northern port city signals to the government, neighboring countries and the world that Africa has yet another insurgency hotspot. Writing in Arabic reads "Blessings of God are on the soldiers of the caliphate after their attack on the Mozambican army near the city of Mocimboa da Praia". (SITE Intelligence Group via AP)

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) — The stinging success of Mozambique’s Islamic extremist rebels in seizing and holding a northern port city signals to the government, neighboring countries and the world that Africa has yet another insurgency hotspot.

A battle looms as the government is expected to launch its forces to regain control of Mocimboa da Praia, a strategic port in northeastern Mozambique that was captured by the extremists earlier this month.

The Islamic State Central African Province showed new levels of organization, strategy, manpower and weaponry in the days-long battle to win control of the port earlier this month.

The Poisoning of Navalny

By George Friedman

Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highest-profile political opponent, remains alive in a German hospital after being poisoned in the Russian town of Tomsk. The incident immediately cast suspicion on Putin himself.

Cynically, there are countless ways to kill a political rival. Poison is a curious one for a couple of reasons. First, lethal poisons require a degree of expertise to create, and some kind of facility to create them in. That means that at least two people are involved in the killing: the chemist and the actual assassin, two kinds of people who don’t normally hang around together. Second, it requires credible assurance that the conspirators won’t be arrested and tried for their crimes. In other words, it’s a method of murder that requires a compilation of expertise, ruthlessness and protection from the state. It’s far easier to shoot someone or hit him with a car.

But then, when you think of the technical skill, cunning and amnesty the act demands, your attention is naturally drawn to governments. They have the needed time, money, skill and sometimes motivation to kill someone in such a way that can be crafted into permanent mysteries. The question with Navalny, therefore, is not whether someone tried to kill him, nor whether it was the government, but who would try it and why.

British Army tanks ‘could be scrapped to make way for cyber-warfare’

Brodie Owen

Military chiefs are considering decommissioning Britain’s fleet of tanks to prioritise cyber-warfare. The Government is considering the controversial idea as the cost of replacing the ageing fleet of 227 Challenger 2 tanks, and the 388 armoured vehicles, have reportedly soared.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has previously called for a renewed focus on cyber-warfare amid the changing nature of war. The idea to scrap the tanks was brought up as part of the Government’s defence review due in November.

A Government source told The Times: ‘We know that a number of bold decisions need to be taken in order to properly protect British security and rebalance defence interests to meet the new threats we face.’

The 227 Challenger 2 tanks, which have been in service since 1998, were last year considered ‘obsolete’.

Defence officials, who are keenly looking at how future funds will be spent because of a tight budget brought on by the pandemic, are understood to be sounding out Nato partners about focusing on cyber-warfare and aviation instead of heavy armour.

Why Russia Is Getting Ready to Invade Belarus

by John Herbst
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Belarus continues to amaze.  After twenty-six years of seemingly stable leadership, Alexander Lukashenko’s regime may be on the rocks. Public demonstrations have rattled the country  ever since Lukashenko tried to steal Belarus’s presidential elections on August 9. A major crackdown—the arrest of thousands, the widespread use of torture—has thus far failed. It is not clear that Lukashenko’s security forces are able or willing to do what is necessary to restore order to the country.  This has prompted Lukashenko to appeal to Vladimir Putin.

According to the Belarusian strongman, he reached an agreement with Putin that will allow Russia to  intervene in Belarus to end the unrest. Moscow has confirmed that the agreement exists. Lukashenko is hoping that this threat will improve the morale of his security forces and persuade protesters to stand down. He is renewing his efforts to steel his forces and end the protests.  But it is unclear how this will turn out.

Paradigm Shift In Making? Challenges, Opportunities And Realizations: Way Forward – Analysis

By Iqtidar Shah and Shubhayu Mookerjee*

Our world is now in the throes of an unprecedented challenge. Since time immemorial, the human race has encountered the vicissitudes of fortune and needless to say, we have weathered all storms with remarkable fortitude.

But this time it is totally different. The novel coronavirus pandemic has caught us by surprise as we have never encountered such an adversary before. Heath crises have occurred before and they will occur in the future too, but never have we faced an onslaught on such a global scale. The adverse impacts of Covid-19 have led to a fundamental quest for survival.

Currently, the world is combating health, social, financial, and economic crises at one time. We do not have accurate estimates of exactly how long the world will be ensconced in the grip of this pandemic. However, there is a consensus among economists that there will be severe negative impacts on the global economy. In such a situation, individuals, countries and societies are adopting new strategies for survival. In the last few months alone, many new concepts, methods, approaches and ways of ensuring our existence have emerged.

New opportunities and realizations have surfaced in the world and we have been compelled to shed many conventional techniques of social and economic interaction. New interpretations of rather mundane concepts, such as ‘quarantine’, ‘human isolation’, “social distancing” and ‘lockdown / shutdown’ have surfaced and their true consequences are slowly beginning to sink in.

Are We All Keynesians Again?


LONDON – Among the pieties repeated at every online COVID-19 conference, one is universally acknowledged: the pandemic has ushered in an era of larger, more robust state intervention in the economy. But what does this mean for the future? In what areas of economic life should and can the state do more?

Many believe that governments should address inequities and redistribute more income, or that they should fight climate change more aggressively. Those are two urgent priorities. But, given that COVID-19 is a shock that caught almost every country unprepared, the natural starting point is to prod governments to provide more and better social insurance against shocks. 

Walter Bagehot, one of the earliest editors of The Economist, called on governments and central banks to be lenders of last resort. The current crisis has confirmed that when confronted with a shock this large, governments are also to be insurers of last resort. No private entity could simultaneously provide and finance the indispensable public-health response, pay furloughed workers’ wages, save jobs by lending to cash-strapped firms, and make emergency transfers to vulnerable families. Only states can do that.

Statisticians and economists distinguish between idiosyncratic shocks (affecting some people some of the time) and aggregate shocks (affecting everyone simultaneously). This helps fix priorities for what government should do in the future.

The Pandemic and Political Order

By Francis Fukuyam

Major crises have major consequences, usually unforeseen. The Great Depression spurred isolationism, nationalism, fascism, and World War II—but also led to the New Deal, the rise of the United States as a global superpower, and eventually decolonization. The 9/11 attacks produced two failed American interventions, the rise of Iran, and new forms of Islamic radicalism. The 2008 financial crisis generated a surge in antiestablishment populism that replaced leaders across the globe. Future historians will trace comparably large effects to the current coronavirus pandemic; the challenge is figuring them out ahead of time.

It is already clear why some countries have done better than others in dealing with the crisis so far, and there is every reason to think those trends will continue. It is not a matter of regime type. Some democracies have performed well, but others have not, and the same is true for autocracies. The factors responsible for successful pandemic responses have been state capacity, social trust, and leadership. Countries with all three—a competent state apparatus, a government that citizens trust and listen to, and effective leaders—have performed impressively, limiting the damage they have suffered. Countries with dysfunctional states, polarized societies, or poor leadership have done badly, leaving their citizens and economies exposed and vulnerable. 

AI Slays Top F-16 Pilot In DARPA Dogfight Simulation


WASHINGTON: In a 5 to 0 sweep, an AI ‘pilot’ developed by Heron Systems beat one of the Air Force’s top F-16 fighter pilots in DARPA’s simulated aerial dogfight contest today.

“It’s a giant leap,” said DARPA’s Justin (call sign “Glock”) Mock, who served as a commentator on the trials.

AI still has a long way to go before the Air Force pilots would be ready to hand over the stick to an artificial intelligence during combat, DARPA officials said during today’s live broadcast of the AlphaDogfight trials. But the three-day trials show that AI systems can credibly maneuver an aircraft in a simple, one-on-one combat scenario and shoot its forward guns in a classic, WWII-style dogfight. On the other hand, they said, it was an impressive showing by an AI agent after only a year of development. (As I reported earlier this week, the program began back in September last year with eight teams developing their respective AIs.)

Heron, a small, female- and minority-owned company with offices in Maryland and Virginia, builds artificial intelligence agents, and is also a player in DARPA’s Gamebreaker effort to explore tactics for disrupting enemy strategies using real-world games as platforms. The company beat eight other teams, including one led by defense giant Lockheed Martin — which came in second in the AlphaDogfight “semi-finals” that pitted the AI pilots against each other this morning.