4 September 2020

Deputy Secretary Biegun Remarks at the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum


AMBASSADOR VERMA: Thank you, Mahesh, and for all the great work that GE has done over the years in India. And Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us, thank you for your leadership, your service on North Korea, and now as Deputy Secretary. As Mahesh mentioned, you were a key member of the National Security Council staff for President Bush 43, and were – and a key fixture in the House and Senate as well, where we got to work closely together when you worked for Senator Frist nearly 18 years ago, and of course your time in private industry.

So no one is better suited to be the Deputy Secretary at this time. I also know how much you value the U.S.-India partnership, and we’ve talked about that over the years. And I’m really proud that in these highly polarized times, you and I have remained exceptionally good friends and colleagues, as well. Grateful for your service and I’m grateful for your friendship.

Mr. Secretary, I know you have some opening remarks; I’ll turn the floor over to you. And then we’ll engage in a Q&A. So over to you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BIEGUN: Well, thank you very much, Rich, and thank you, Mahesh, for that kind introduction. First, I just want to make a mention: This morning, I was greeted by the news regarding a loss to the people of India, and I want to convey on behalf of the United States our deepest condolences to the people of India on the passing of former President Pranab Mukherjee. He’ll go down in history among India’s most distinguished statesmen and scholars, and his many visits to Washington, everything he did for the relationship, played an instrumental role in expanding this U.S.-India relationship, both in defense and external affairs when he was the minister. A strong U.S.-India partnership will be one of his many lasting legacies, and it’s one that we can honor by our work in fora like this today.

Tibet in Sino-India Relations: A Six Decades of Miscalculation and the Heavy Cost

Tenzin Lhadon

He who holds Tibet dominates the Himalayan piedmont; he who dominates the Himalayan piedmont threatens the Indian subcontinent, and he who threatens the Indian subcontinent may well have all of South Asia within his reach, and with that, all of Asia – George Ginsburg and Michael Mathos*

Mao employed a strategic ingenuity in terms of looking at Tibet as the backdoor for China’s expansion and dominance in Asia. On the other hand, some India’s elite still consider it as a buffer zone between India and China. This difference in approach to the Tibet issue has become the crux of the Sino-India rivalry. Both India and China are increasingly aware of the geostrategic importance of Tibet and the intimate connection their strategic interests has with Tibet. If Tibet is a designated “core issue” in Beijing’s national interest, it is equally vital to Indian national security. Tibet thus presents itself, even today, as the central to the Sino-Indian conflict. However, given the asymmetric nature of India-China relations, the Tibet issue in Sino-India relations has been consciously pushed towards the shadows of the diplomatic corridors between the two nations.

China’s expansionist agenda takes shape on the Indian border


Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist and the author of nine books, including Water: Asia’s New Battleground.

As the past weekend’s latest skirmishes between rival troops underscore, relations between the demographic titans, China and India, have hit a low not seen since their 1962 war. The two countries have forward-deployed tens of thousands of troops and are now locked in a tense military standoff along one of the world’s most inhospitable and treacherous borders, which is as long as the distance between Toronto and Los Angeles.

The clash of the titans, triggered by a series of furtive Chinese encroachments on key vantage points in India’s northernmost borderlands, has received limited international attention. However, the spectre of further troop clashes or a 1962-style Himalayan war continues to loom, despite continuing bilateral efforts to disengage rival forces.

The confrontation highlights Chinese President Xi Jinping’s muscular revisionism, which has led him to open multiple fronts simultaneously – from the South and East China seas and the Himalayas to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Mr. Xi’s expansionism hasn’t spared the tiny country of Bhutan.

While India was wrestling with the outbreak of the Wuhan-originating coronavirus by enforcing the world’s strictest lockdown, China carried out swift and well co-ordinated incursions into the borderlands of India’s high-altitude Ladakh region from late April. Deception and surprise are integral to the Chinese strategy, even in peacetime. The aggression in Ladakh came just six months after Mr. Xi declared on Indian soil that “China-India relations have entered a new phase of sound and stable development.”

Is China Behind a Recent Insurgent Attack in India’s Northeast?

By Avinash Paliwal

This is the first of a two-part series on insurgencies in India’s northeastern frontier and the varying role China has played in supporting them.

Under the shadow of an ongoing crisis in Ladakh and worsening India-China relations, the ghost of Beijing’s support for India’s northeastern rebels seems to have been reawakened. According to media reports, New Delhi recently complained to Beijing for supporting Paresh Baruah, chief of the militant group United Liberation Front of Asom–Independent (ULFA-I). For decades, Baruah — who seeks Assam’s separation from India — has been operating from China’s Yunnan province with interim stays in and travels to Myanmar’s Sagaing Division.

Often viewed as China’s counter to India’s support for the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Dalai Lama, Beijing’s support for ULFA-I and other India-centric rebels has, at best, been an irritant in the bilateral relationship in recent years. Unlike Beijing’s interventionism in 1960s and 1970s under the rubric of the Cultural Revolution, China has done little to empower Northeast insurgents in recent years or to truly complicate India’s counter-insurgency strategy in the region.

What the Israel-UAE Agreement Means for Asian Powers

By Guy Burton

On August 13 Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they planned to normalize relations. The declaration received an enthusiastic welcome from Washington, which saw it as a ”huge win” for President Donald Trump. Since then, there has been a lot of attention given to the regional repercussions of the agreement, including the implications for the Palestinians as well as other Arab Gulf states.

Further afield, other Asian powers weighed up the announcement from their own perspective. Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishanker has said that it presents “opportunities” while the Chinese response has been more vague. Of the two, the more cautious China response seems grounded on whether the so-called Abraham Accord is externally focused and offensive, particularly in relation to the common rival for Israel, the UAE, and the United States: Iran.

Indeed, if Iran becomes a target for both Israel and the UAE, that could be awkward for both India and China, regardless of the positive words coming out of New Delhi. But if it does not, then there may be scope for different types of exchange, including sharing across the security, surveillance, and intelligence sectors.

Global Lessons for the Indian Economy to Achieve Technology Leadership

Jaijit Bhattacharya

The general view of the relationship between governments and industry is that the government formulates the operating framework for industries to operate on an arms- length distance from the government, except where government intervention is required for operational issues such as the issuance of a license, issuance of permits, taxation, etc. The government plays a limited role in formulating the vision for the industry or creating new industries, hence sticking to the principles of laissez-faire capitalism.

However, that is not how the world’s advanced economies have been operating, irrespective of whether they are capitalists or otherwise. Governments are deeply intertwined with the industries, and the industries’ growth has a direct impact on the government and its ability to gather taxes and spend on public goods such as infrastructure. These governments have evolved precedents and processes that are able to react to both immediate issues concerning the industries and long-term strategic issues impacting the industries and hence the economy. A key governance structural differentiator between advanced economies and the growing economies is how closely the government coordinates with the industries in the advanced economies to orchestrate growth within the economy and leadership globally.

As an example, in the Mecca of laissez-faire, the USA, PCAST (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology), which is a govern- ment committee, came out with a report in 2017 that urged the government to take urgent steps for ensuring that the US industries regain their global leadership in semiconductors. Hence whatever needs to be done from a technology development perspective, global trade regime perspective, or a geopolitical perspective would be initiated by the US government.1 The PCAST report concluded by saying: “we strongly recommend a coordinated Federal effort to influence and respond to Chinese industrial policy, strengthen the US business environment for semiconductor investment, and lead partnerships with industry and academia to advance the boundaries of semiconductor innovation. Doing this is essential to sustaining US leadership, advancing the US and global economies, and keeping the Nation secure”. The matter of leadership in semiconductors is not being left to laissez-faire, contrary to popular beliefs of how the US government operates.

Afghanistan: No Real Peace Process and No Progress Towards Defining a Real Peace

It should not come as a shock to anyone that we have made it through two U.S. political conventions with virtually no meaningful reference to the Afghan War and to the prospects for any real peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan conflict has become a war that most Americans have every reason to forget.

When Americans are forced to remember the Afghan War – because of a news report on some new act of violence or the latest failure to move forward towards a real peace process – they can still dismiss it on the grounds that there is some form of peace process in place and that the problem of Afghanistan is supposed to be solved in the future. Equally important, almost no American lives are being lost, and the costs of the war have dropped to the point where they no longer seem important.

The fact remains, however, that simply having debates over the release of prisoners – and over actually holding even one meaningful meeting between the two sides that have to make and implement an actual peace – does not begin a real peace process. It does not begin to address all of the complex power sharing, political, legal, constitutional, security, foreign presence, transitional arrangement, and monitoring/verification issues raised in serious outside studies of what it will take to form a real peace, such as the RAND study by Laurel Miller and Jonathan Blake.1

Furthermore, some six months have now elapsed out of what was supposed to be a 14-month process, and no one from any side has suggested what form such peace might actually take. 

Small Openings in Central Asia’s Pandemic-Closed Borders

By Catherine Putz

In mid-March, as the three Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan began confirming their first cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that originated in China in late 2019, border closures were among the region’s first actions. Now, as the pandemic drags on, some states in region are testing the waters for re-opening borders.

As of September 1, RFE/RL reports, Uzbek citizens will be allowed to enter Kyrgyzstan via the Dostuk checkpoint. Dostuk, along the shared border through the Fergana Valley, is the largest crossing between the two states. It was closed in mid-March; the re-opening may be welcomed in the region — if it works out.

For now, the border is in theory open only one way. Kyrgyzstan added Uzbekistan to its list of countries whose citizens are allowed to enter Kyrgyzstan, but Uzbekistan’s border is still effectively closed to Kyrgyz citizens. 

Kyrgyzstan’s list currently has 32 countries, including Uzbekistan, and Bishkek says it will update the list twice a month. The 31 other countries are: Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, China, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates. 

China Is Ahead in Ship, Missile & Air Defense Tech: DoD Report


WASHINGTON: The Chinese military has already pushed ahead of the US in areas like shipbuilding, missile defense, ballistic and cruise missile construction, the Pentagon warned today in a blunt new assessment. 

One of the consistent themes of the annual China Military Power report is that much of the Chinese modernization effort remains a work in progress. The People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, is an “increasingly modern and flexible force” that relies on China’s civilian industrial might and its robust tech sector to drive improvements to build a force aimed at rivaling the US military by mid-century.

As part of that push, the PLA is moving forward on its own nuclear triad, recently revealing the new H-6N as its first nuclear-capable air-to-air refuelable bomber, giving Beijing land, sea and air-deliverable nuclear weapons for the first time. 

China’s dangerous Taiwan temptation

Robert Kagan

That Chinese President Xi Jinping has now decided to end the Hong Kong charade once and for all has ominous implications for Taiwan, writes Robert Kagan. Is the United States prepared to go beyond statements and sanctions? This piece was originally published in the Washington Post.

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?

Inside China’s Belt and Road Tangle

By Sebastian Strangio

In January 2017, three days after the inauguration of President Donald Trump in the United States, the Indian writer Brahma Chellaney published an article describing China’s gargantuan Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a form of “debt-trap diplomacy.” The aim of the multibillion-dollar infrastructure initiative, Chellaney argued, was to saddle small nations with debt that could not hope to repay, “leaving them even more firmly under China’s thumb.”

The “debt-trap” label quickly stuck, and has morphed since into something approaching conventional wisdom, especially in Washington. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would later that year describe Chinese loans to finance infrastructure projects as a form of “predatory economics.” In late 2018, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton claimed Beijing’s “predatory actions” aimed at “advancing Chinese global dominance.”

However, a new report from the London-based think-tank Chatham House offers a robust challenge to the “debt-trap diplomacy” thesis. As noted last week by my colleague Abhijnan Rej, the report’s authors, Lee Jones and Shahar Hameiri, portray a reality that is much more messy and ambiguous. To begin with, they argue that the BRI has been driven less by global strategic considerations than by domestic economic factors — particularly, the need to find overseas outlets for Chinese industrial overcapacity.

Sean R. Roberts on China’s War on the Uyghurs

By Catherine Putz

If one asks Beijing why more than a million Uyghurs have been forced into “re-education” camps in Xinjiang, the answer would likely call attention to the alleged “terrorist” threat posed by Uyghurs and the need to purge the community of extremism. As Sean R. Roberts, an associate professor of the practice of international affairs and director of the International Development Studies Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, explores in his new book, China’s leaders have seized upon the language of the Global War on Terror to frame their policies in Xinjiang.

But “The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority” goes deeper, examining the history of settler colonialism in Xinjiang, the shaping of a “terrorism” narrative around the Uyghurs, and the devastating consequences, which amount to nothing short of cultural genocide. In an interview with The Diplomat’s Catherine Putz, Roberts explains the “war” on Uyghurs, how China has packaged and implement its policies, and what it would take for the global community to change China’s calculus on its Xinjiang policy.

Your book is titled “The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority.” When did this “war” start, who are the opposing sides, and what’s its root cause?

China and the EU: A Tale of Two Summits

By Theresa Fallon

Initially planned for March 2020, the 22nd annual EU-China Summit was held by video-link on June 22 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the second EU-China summit after the March 2019 publication of the European Commission’s paper “EU-China – A strategic outlook,” which labeled China as a “systemic rival.” The paper recognized that “the balance of challenges and opportunities presented by China has shifted” and pointed out that China promoted “alternative models of governance” to those of the EU. The paper also listed a number of other concerns including, inter alia, trade issues and cybersecurity.

Shortly after the publication of the paper, in April 2019, the EU’s foreign direct investment (FDI) screening mechanism (proposed in 2017) entered into force to investigate foreign takeovers of strategic assets including key infrastructure and high technology. Although applicable to investment from all foreign countries, the mechanism is mainly directed at China. This is even more relevant in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, when many EU member states are in need of cash and tempted to sell off strategic assets. Decisions on FDI under the mechanism are ultimately left to member states, but the mechanism nevertheless represents a clear step forward in this area.

When the EU and China held their annual summit in July 2019, they managed after much negotiation to agree on a joint statement including Chinese commitments on investment rules and market reciprocity, which China did not deliver upon as the EU had expected. Since the 2019 joint statement was agreed to there has also been backsliding on human rights in China, including the arbitrary detention of foreigners and deeply concerning reports on the treatment of ethnic minorities.

China Adopts Biotechnology Regulation, Amid Authoritarianism Concerns

By Sevan Araz

China is gearing up to become a biotechnology powerhouse. Within the past five years the Chinese government is estimated to have invested over $100 billion in life sciences research and development. Further signaling its determination, Beijing is lavishing the sector with a host of fiscal incentives while state-backed entities dish out largesse to promising startups.

As biotechnologies rapidly proliferate, China—and other states—are rushing to develop regulatory and ethical frameworks. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the urgency of such efforts. To set parameters for the evolving sector, Beijing has rolled out various initiatives.

In 2017, the Ministry of Science and Technology issued a series of regulatory measures to streamline the management of biotechnology research and development (R&D). Among the provisions was the establishment of the National Biotechnology Research and Development Safety Management Expert Committee. The advisory board draws from a broad swath of professionals: lawyers, economists, physicians, and biologists. The purview of the committee includes developing inspection practices, safety protocols and incident response guidelines.

Tibet Was China’s First Laboratory of Repression


In the early 2000s, the Free Tibet movement galvanized the world. From celebrity endorsements to Simpsons cameos, the media launched the plight of Tibet into the Western imagination; the suffering of Tibetans under a foreign regime became well known. But today, with atrocities in Xinjiang and Hong Kong dominating the narrative and Tibet now more sealed off than ever, news about the Himalayan region has been reduced to stray sentences in coverage on Chinese aggression.

Yet oppression in Tibet has only gotten worse. On Aug. 29, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to “strengthen unity and socialism” in Tibet by building an “impregnable fortress” to ward off splittism. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) views Tibetan disobedience, violent or nonviolent, as separatism, which, in Beijing’s eyes, threatens national security and expansionism. So when the 2008 Tibet protests erupted, fomented by discontent with decades-long repression, the CCP ruthlessly responded by killing and arbitrarily arresting protesters. But these immediate measures were not enough. The CCP began to plan a long-term policy of forced assimilation.

60528's Last Flight

They died honorably while engaged in the Silent War - AIRBORNE RECONNAISSANCE. Now we are creating a memorial honoring them. While on a routine mission along the Turkish-Armenian border on September 2, 1958, a U.S. Air Force C-130 crew inadvertently entered denied airspace over Armenia. Four Soviet MiG-17 pilots intercepted the C-130 - tail number 60528 - and shot it down, killing the seventeen Americans aboard. The crew consisted of six flight crew members and eleven United States Air Force Security Service reconnaissance crew members. 

Our efforts to honor those seventeen lost airmen have paid off with authorization to create a memorial at the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, MD. The memorial will consist of a C-130 aircraft, bearing tail #60528, on display in an air park setting and a memorial display in the co-located National Cryptologic Museum. The C-130's exterior is being refinished in 60528's original C-130A-II fit and form so that it will look identical to 60528 on the date that it was shot down. The display in the Museum will contain related artifacts. So, what do we know about the shoot down? Of all Cold War air incidents involving the Soviets, the shoot down of 60528 is the most controversial. 

Four Soviet MiG pilots took turns firing on the unarmed transport. Unlike other incidents where American aircraft were lost over water, 60528 crashed on Soviet soil. Not willing to admit that 60528 was on a spy mission, the U.S. Government did not confront the Soviets until September 6, when the Soviets denied all knowledge of the incident. They stated on September 12 that they had found a destroyed airplane, and based on discovered remains, "it may be assumed that six crewmen perished." In response to a U.S. demand for information about eleven missing crew members, the Soviets stated on 19 September that "no other information on crew members is at the disposal of the Soviet side." A status quo ensued and the Soviets provided no additional info on the eleven missing airmen. Finally in 1991, Russian President Yeltsin began releasing 'available' information on the shoot down.

Bill Gates on Covid: Most US Tests Are ‘Completely Garbage’

FOR 20 YEARS, Bill Gates has been easing out of the roles that made him rich and famous—CEO, chief software architect, and chair of Microsoft—and devoting his brainpower and passion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, abandoning earnings calls and antitrust hearings for the metrics of disease eradication and carbon reduction. This year, after he left the Microsoft board, one would have thought he would have relished shedding the spotlight directed at the four CEOs of big tech companies called before Congress.

But as with many of us, 2020 had different plans for Gates. An early Cassandra who warned of our lack of preparedness for a global pandemic, he became one of the most credible figures as his foundation made huge investments in vaccines, treatments, and testing. He also became a target of the plague of misinformation afoot in the land, as logorrheic critics accused him of planning to inject microchips in vaccine recipients. (Fact check: false. In case you were wondering.)

The Godfather Wars


In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S.-led Western hemisphere decided that economic interdependence between Western democracies would underpin political harmony. The trauma of two world wars prompted the Europeans to establish the Coal and Steel Community in 1951, the progenitor of the European Union. This trend was cemented by the end of the Cold War, with the triumph of capitalism over communism, to the point that the free world became defined by open markets and democracy. Despite being underwritten by the U.S. security guarantee, the Western order distinguished between political security and economic prosperity, to the point..

Shinzo Abe’s Decision to Step Down

Michael J. Green

Today Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan announced his intention to resign due to a recurring illness. He recently became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and will step down about a year before his current term was set to expire. Abe’s successor will be determined in September after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) selects a new party leader and schedules a vote in a special session of the Diet (parliament), which the LDP controls. Today’s announcement expedited the transition to a new era in Japanese politics centered on the prospects for stability and policy continuity that were hallmarks of Abe’s tenure.

Q1: Why did Abe decide to resign?

A1: Abe suffers from a disease known as ulcerative colitis and cut short a previous term as prime minister in 2007 citing health concerns. He was able to manage the symptoms with treatment and has presided over a remarkable period of political stability since returning to power in December 2012, just recently having become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. But Abe announced that after a medical check-up back in June and follow-up tests in the last few weeks revealed a relapse, he concluded that his condition, though likely manageable, should not lead to poor political decisions and decided to step down. Abe said he will remain in office until his successor is determined and will remain a member of the Diet (parliament). His announcement coincides with sagging public approval ratings due to frustration with the government’s response to Covid-19, which has precipitated an economic downturn.

Q2: What happens next?

Russians and Belarusians are tired of backwards-looking autocrats

Nothing is as inspiring as seeing people take to the streets to demand their freedoms—and nothing is as terrifying for the dictators they are defying. In Belarus, among scenes that recall the revolts of 1989, people are turning out in their hundreds of thousands after a blatantly rigged election, heedless of the threat of state violence. In the Russian city of Khabarovsk tens of thousands march week after week to protest against the arrest of the local governor and the imposition of Moscow’s rules. Vladimir Putin is rattled. Why else is Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader and Mr Putin’s greatest popular rival for the Russian presidency, lying poisoned in a Berlin hospital bed?

Regimes that rule by fear, live in fear. They fear that one day the people will no longer tolerate their lies, thieving and brutality. They try to hang on with propaganda, persecution and patronage. But it looks increasingly as if Mr Putin is running out of tricks, and as if Alexander Lukashenko, his troublesome ally in Minsk, is running out of road (see article). That is why, despite the Kremlin’s denials, they are falling back on the truncheon and the syringe. And it is why, as the protests roll on, they must be wondering whether state violence can secure their regimes.

The World Is Becoming More Equal

By Branko Milanovic
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Opponents of economic globalization often point to the ways it has widened inequality within nations in recent decades. In the United States, for instance, wages have remained fairly stagnant since 1980 while the wealthiest Americans have taken home an ever greater share of income. But globalization has had another important effect: it has reduced overall global inequality. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in recent decades. The world became more equal between the end of the Cold War and the 2008 global financial crisis—a period often referred to as “high globalization.”

The economist Christoph Lakner and I distilled this trend in a diagram released in 2013. The diagram showed per capita income growth rates between 1988 and 2008 across the global distribution of income. (The horizontal axis has the poorest people on the left and the richest on the right.) The graph attracted a lot of attention because it summarized the basic features of recent decades of globalization, and it earned the moniker “the elephant graph” because its shape looked like that of an elephant with a raised trunk.

Marines Explore Robots & 5G Networks For Future Wars


WASHINGTON: The Marines have a bold vision for fast-paced future operations – but the current supply system can’t keep up. That’s why Marines at Miramar, Calif. are working with Gaithersburg, Md.-based Robotic Research, which also works with the Army, on unmanned resupply.

US Humvee in Iraq

“There are missions that are essentially unsupportable…with our current construct,” Lt. Col. Brandon Newell told me. In a war zone, it’s too dangerous to send a single driver out by himself, so even routine supply runs in Afghanistan use either helicopters, a scarce resource, or heavily armed ground convoys, which require a lot of preparation only worth doing for big deliveries. If a unit needed one critical thing right now – ammunition, water, batteries for vital electronics – the supply system was often slow to respond.

That’s not good enough for the new combat concept called “distributed operations,” with small, dispersed teams moving quickly on their own so they don’t create big, static targets for enemy precision missiles. So the Marines have spent years experimenting with robotic resupply vehicles, ranging from the K-MAX unmanned helicopter in Afghanistan to mini-drones carrying individual clips of ammo, canteens, and packs of batteries. If the unmanned vehicle is lost, no human lives are lost with it, so you can quickly send out single, unescorted robots to meet those small-but-urgent needs for resupply.

The Coming Revolution in Intelligence Affairs

By Anthony Vinci
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For all of human history, people have spied on one another. To find out what others are doing or planning to do, people have surveilled, monitored, and eavesdropped—using tools that constantly improved but never displaced their human masters. Artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous systems are changing all of that. In the future, machines will spy on machines in order to know what other machines are doing or are planning to do. Intelligence work will still consist of stealing and protecting secrets, but how those secrets are collected, analyzed, and disseminated will be fundamentally different. 

Military futurists have recognized a similar sea change, and some have dubbed the rise of AI and autonomous weapons systems a “revolution in military affairs.” Its analog in intelligence can be understood as a “revolution in intelligence affairs.” Through the coming RIA, machines will become more than just tools for information collection and analysis. They will become intelligence consumers, decision-makers, and even targets of other machine intelligence operations. The ultimate concern of these machines will still be the political, social, economic, and military relations of human beings—but machine-driven intelligence will operate at such speed, scale, and complexity that human-driven intelligence will no longer be able to keep up. There is no stopping the RIA. The forces of technological innovation and competition have already unleashed it on the world. Instead, the U.S. intelligence community must embrace the RIA and prepare for a future dominated by AI—or else risk losing its competitive edge. 


Bad Cyber Actors Don’t Fear the Law. We Can Change That.


Recently, a number of researchers have argued that malicious cyber actors, whether nation states or common criminals, aren’t much deterred by law enforcement actions. And statistics show that laws are much less likely to be enforced in cyber crime cases than in those dealing with traditional, offline crime. Yet individual success stories of international collaboration on cyber crime, such as Operation Shrouded Horizon or the Avalanche Network takedown, serve as proof of concept for law enforcement’s potential in establishing meaningful deterrence. 

The problem of deterrence in cyberspace has long bedeviled defenders. In 2018, Congress created the Cyberspace Solarium Commission to develop a strategy and recommendations to prevent cyber attacks against the United States. After close study, the Commission concluded that deterrence as a concept can be successful in this new domain — under a new approach dubbed layered cyber deterrence.

This new approach would combine all instruments of power and U.S. partnerships at home and abroad to: shape behavior in cyberspace through strengthened norms, deny the benefits of malign behavior by improving national resilience, and impose costs for rule-breaking. Its success would require a whole-of-nation approach, connecting federal and local governments, the private sector, academia, civil society, and all of American society. And it would need plans tailored to specific threats; actions that would deter China might not work for Russia or a criminal group. 

Are Special Forces still special?

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Special Forces have been the poster boys of the Wars of 9/11. From the relentless night raids conducted throughout Iraq and Afghanistan to the audacious operation to kill Osama bin Laden, they captured the public imagination and entered the iconography of the age. The ambiguous, episodic and insidious nature of counter insurgency played to all their strengths, and, while slow and clumsy conventional forces were limited to holding the military ring, agile and aggressive Special Forces took the fight to the enemy.

But that was then — now we face the return to possible inter-state conflict and the big battalion strategies that support that, where the unit of manoeuvre is not an eight man Special Forces patrol but a tank army or an aircraft carrier task group. The nature of warfare is changing too, with the detached technical sophistication of cyber, space and autonomous engagement replacing the intense and proximate physical violence of the Special Forces fight. Also, has iconic status come at a moral price? What would David Stirling, the founder of the SAS, think of Celebrity Who Dares Wins? Might he conclude that, somewhere along the way, hubris had compromised the soul of his creation?