21 September 2020

What Role Does the State Play in Pakistan’s Anti-Shia Hysteria?

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Rallies targeting the Shia Muslims of Pakistan were orchestrated on successive days in Karachi over the past weekend. Demonstrators numbering in the tens of thousands — at least 30,000 according to security officials — descended on the city’s major highways, MA Jinnah Road and Saeed Manzil Road, chanting anti-Shia slogans, declaring the community “heretics.”

Among those leading the demonstrations was Muneeb-ur-Rehman, the chairman of the government affiliated Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, which decrees the moon sighting for the Islamic calendar. While Rehman claimed that the rallies only “upheld the sanctity” of the Sahaba (Prophet Muhammad’s companions) and “didn’t target any sect,” the unabated echoes of “Shia kafir” (Shia infidels) among the demonstrators suggested otherwise. The Ruet-e-Hilal Committee chairman’s own position was further clarified by his demand that sects be declared in the next census and his threats that the participants could “turn to negative activities” if their religious sentiments were hurt.

Abid Mubara, the Karachi chief of the Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was more brazen in his threats when he said that Sunnis could “behead people” who blasphemed against their revered personalities. After successfully partaking in weaponizing “love for Prophet Muhammad,” the TLP is now expanding its ambit to target others.

In Afghanistan, Social Media Is the Only Way to Talk Back to the Taliban


KABUL, Afghanistan—In July, after an Iranian social media campaign—#Don’t_Execute, calling for the regime to overturn the death sentences of three political prisoners—received support in neighboring Afghanistan, an Afghan Twitter user suggested replicating the hashtag in the Afghan political context. He said that Afghans should use #DoNotRedeemtheTaliban in Dari, referring to the government’s potential peace talks with the militant group.

Within hours, #Don’t_Execute became a global trend on Twitter after Aziz Hakimi tweeted, “Can we also tell the government and the international community to not redeem the Taliban?” The tweet—from an account that has since been deactivated—went viral, and more than 100,000 tweets with the hashtag were posted over the following week.

Some Afghans tweeted graphic images of Taliban attacks—mainly car bombs in the capital Kabul. People demanded that the government not compromise in the upcoming negotiations with the Taliban, in particular demanding protections of freedom of speech, gender equality, and democracy. “When we talk of the Taliban, there is no need for expertise, analysis, and reasoning,” one person tweeted. “Our memories, pains, sobs, angers, and tears that have never been wiped off can explain, instead of dozens of books and articles, that they are murderers, criminals, and enemies and should never be returned to power.”

After nearly two decades of war, a new generation of Afghans has grown up with a strong sense of social and political responsibility. But as peaceful public protest remains dangerous, they increasingly use social media to participate in political activities. In July 2016, two suicide bombers attacked a protest in Kabul, killing 83 civilians and wounding more than 230 others. In June 2017, another protest in the capital ended in when Afghan security forces allegedly shot and killed seven demonstrators. A triple bombing during the funeral for the protesters killed 20 civilians.

Head of US Nuclear Forces Warns of Growing, Modernizing Chinese Nuclear Threat

By Steven Stashwick

Earlier this week the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, responsible for the United States’ nuclear arsenal, warned that modernizing its own arsenal was next on China’s “to-do list.”

Admiral Charles Richard highlighted his concerns that there was no margin of error for the United States to modernize its massive nuclear arsenal to respond to China’s moves.

The Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military released in August provided some of the most specific information on China’s nuclear arsenal ever released by the U.S. government. The most respected open-source estimates of China’s arsenal in recent years from the Federation of American Scientists assess that China has a little over 300 nuclear warheads. The Pentagon’s new report puts the number of warheads closer to 200 and expected it to double over the next decade.

By comparison, the United States has close to 4,000 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, with 1,600 deployed strategic weapons atop intercontinental ballistic missiles in silos and ballistic missile submarines, or ready to be dropped by air force bombers.

Despite the United States’ massive advantage in the size and capability of its nuclear arsenal, Richard is worried about China’s new and anticipated capabilities.

Domestic concerns shape China’s policy strategies

Ryan Manuel

In the US–China relationship, ideology now trumps interests. In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech on China at the Nixon Library repeatedly referred to Chinese leader Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (‘the Party’) rather than as the president of China. Referring only to Xi’s power over the Party in this way is part of a US government drive to appear anti-Party rather than anti-China.

It is a fundamental mistake to treat relations with China as an ideological mission. Viewing China as an ideological threat — rather than just a big power competitor — focusses too much on Xi Jinping and overlooks how his power is constrained by the Party apparatus and China’s sheer size. It also inaccurately interprets Xi’s personal leadership style as Chinese ideology.

Power within the CCP comes from being able to make others in the Party do what one wants behind closed doors, rather than from one’s job title. Xi Jinping is rather good at this. Though formally he cannot fire anyone, in practice, by appointing a handpicked lieutenant with strict orders, he can get rid of anyone he wants. The same can be said for his power over appointments: while other people may formally hold those positions, Xi’s power of persuasion and the fear of investigation still grants him the ability to rule.

Given there are over 90 million party members across more than 30 provinces, nearly 900 municipalities and nearly 3000 counties, there exists a vast bureaucracy that is fundamental to the prosecution of the leader’s interests. Xi deals with subnational leaders by fusing the previously separated systems of party and government. Party inspectors and party incentives now override the conduct of national governance. Performance is measured against top-down party indicators, rather than on indicators of competence relative to other officials of the same level and paygrade.

The Dragon Rises


One might think that a devastating war with China or a world in which the United States is subject to the will of the Chinese Communist Party is unimaginable. But history shows that everything is unimaginable until it happens. Norman Angell published his best-seller, The Great Illusion, in 1909, arguing that another great war would never happen because of the new international financial system—and we all know how that turned out. To prevent either terrible outcome, Americans need to engage the China question seriously and beyond rhetoric and tough talk.

In their bid to return to regional hegemony and recover national pride diminished during the “century of humiliation” between 1839 and 1949, the Chinese are assisted by their domestic economic system. Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in the 1980s allowed for double-digit growth rates. Additionally, the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 removed a superpower to China’s north, hence removing a check on Chinese military power. These two factors enabled the Chinese Communist Party to rebuild its military. This rise had not gone unnoticed. In his seminal 1993 essay, Aaron Friedberg warned that East Asia’s fate in a post-Soviet world remained to be determined. The Weekly Standard dedicated an entire issue to China in 1997. George W. Bush campaigned against the Clinton administration’s softness on China in 2000. But the attacks of September 11th in 2001 refocused American attention on the Muslim world. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with Deng as its policy’s architect, took advantage of this distraction, rising quietly and fast. In 2002, China declared the next two decades as a “period of strategic opportunity.”

Trump Is Wrong About TikTok. China’s Plans Are Much More Sinister.

By Yi-Zheng Lian

The Trump administration says it wants to ban the popular short-video app TikTok in the United States, because TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is Chinese. Washington is worried that the personal data of the many millions of Americans using the app could be siphoned off to China and misused.

To some, that concern may seem excessive or its timing politically opportunistic, but the danger posed by TikTok is real: In fact, it is only a stand-in for far greater risks.

The problem isn’t just TikTok. The tech giant Huawei — which the U.S. government blacklisted last year, calling it a threat to America’s national security — is another company with close connections to China. So is Zoom, the U.S.-based teleconferencing service provider established by a billionaire Chinese immigrant, which uses software partially developed in China.

China’s system of oppression in Xinjiang: How it developed and how to curb it

James Millward and Dahlia Peterson


Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policies towards Xinjiang have increased colonial development, further eroded Uyghur autonomy through force and ethnic assimilationism, and co-opted the “Global War on Terror” framing to portray all Uyghur resistance as “terrorism.” Since 2016, an intensified regime of technologically-driven mass surveillance, internment, indoctrination, family separation, birth suppression, and forced labor has implicated the provinces and municipalities of eastern China that fund the Xinjiang gulag through the Pairing Assistance Program, as well as potentially thousands of Chinese and international corporations that directly and indirectly supply and benefit from the system.

Today, more than 1,400 Chinese companies are providing facial, voice, and gait recognition capabilities as well as additional tracking tools to the Xinjiang public security and surveillance industry. While a handful of these companies have been placed on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) Entity List, limiting their access to imported components, this sanctioning has not yet significantly arrested these companies’ development. While it is infeasible to sanction every company operating in or associated with Xinjiang, it is still of great concern that many companies have evaded scrutiny and continue to perpetuate oppression today. Furthermore, Western companies continue to sell Chinese firms core hardware such as chips and storage solutions, for which China currently lacks viable homegrown alternatives.

U.S., China's Cold War Is Raging in Cyberspace, Where Intellectual Property Is A Costly Front


The competition between the world's preeminent powers, the United States and China, is playing out on an unprecedented scale, involving what U.S. officials say is a grand theft that both the government and the private sector are struggling to combat.

Despite Chinese officials vehemently denying the mass systematic stealing of intellectual property, the most senior U.S. counterintelligence official said the ongoing heist sets the country back some half a trillion dollars a year as Washington and Beijing compete for technical and military supremacy in the 21st century.

"The theft of intellectual property by the People's Republic of China costs America as much as $500 billion a year," William Evanina, Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, told Newsweek. "That's like taking $4,000 to $6,000 annually from every family of four in America."

This stark assessment comes as relations between Washington and Beijing continue to deteriorate ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The incumbent, President Donald Trump, set out to toughen the U.S. position toward China, which has become the target of daily accusations by senior U.S. officials on topics ranging from economics and trade to territorial disputes and human rights.

Mapping U.S.–China Technology Decoupling

Over the past two decades, U.S. and Chinese technological trajectories have been closely linked. Internet protocols, hardware design and manufacturing, software development and deployment, and services and standards have to varying degrees been crossborder phenomena, with China and the United States two of the world’s most consequential and integrated countries. The last few years, however, have seen a rise in mutual suspicion and moves—both direct and indirect—to unwind this extraordinary level of technological interdependence. The overall effect is an increasing degree of separation between the two ecosystems, a process widely known as decoupling.

(The Other) Red Storm Rising: INDO-PACOM China Military Projection

by Hans M. Kristensen

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command recently gave a briefing about the challenges the command sees in the region. The briefing says China is the “Greatest Threat to Global Order and Stability” and presents a set of maps that portray a massive Chinese military buildup and very little U.S. capability (and no Allied capability at all) to counter it. With its weapons icons and a red haze spreading across much of the Pacific, the maps resemble a new version of the Cold War classic Red Storm Rising.

Unfortunately, the maps are highly misleading. They show all of China’s forces but only a fraction of U.S. forces operating or assigned missions in the Pacific.

There is no denying China is in the middle of a very significant military modernization that is increasing its forces and their capabilities. This is and will continue to challenge the military and political climate in the region. For decades, the United States enjoyed an almost unopposed – certainly unmatched – military superiority in the region and was able to project that capability against China as it saw fit. The Chinese leadership appears to have concluded that that is no longer acceptable and that the country needs to be able to defend itself.

In describing this development, however, the INDO-PACOM briefing slides make the usual mistake of overselling the threat and under-characterizing the defenses. Moreover, some of the Chinese missile forces listed in the briefing differ significantly from those listed in the recent DOD report on Chinese military developments. As military competition and defense posturing intensify, expect to see more of these maps in the future.

Apples, Oranges, and Cherry-Picking

The Abraham Accords: Who Benefits?


Israel and two Arab Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have formally and publicly established diplomatic relations. The White House is calling the agreements “The Abraham Accords,” and President Donald Trump, in typically understated fashion, announced that “there’s going to be peace in the Middle East.” (Spoiler alert: no.) The U.A.E. and Bahrain are the third and fourth Arab countries to open diplomatic relations with Israel; Egypt and Jordan were the first two. Here is a brief, tentative analysis of the winners and losers in this new arrangement. (I say “tentative” because this is the Middle East, and no one actually knows for sure what any of this could mean.)


The White House aides who named this agreement “The Abraham Accords”

A genius marketing move, though I would have preferred the “Isaac and Ishmael Summit,” or “The Treaty of Ghent,” for that matter. “The Abraham Accords” is grandiose for any number of reasons, including the fact that what was signed yesterday does not even constitute a peace treaty. Peace treaties are made between warring parties, and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have never been at war with Israel. My personal preference would have been to deploy the big gun himself, Abraham, the father of monotheism, for a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians, which would be the thing that actually ended that Middle East conflict.

Is Lebanon a Failed State? Here’s What the Numbers Say.

By Kali Robinson

The August explosions in Beirut were the latest in a series of man-made disasters that have led some experts to say Lebanon is becoming a failed state.

Beirut suffered devastating explosions in August that many have attributed to government negligence. The blasts—on top of Lebanon’s failing economy, rampant corruption, insufficient infrastructure, and increasing poverty—have fueled conversations about whether Lebanon is so dysfunctional that it should be considered a failed state.

The government’s inefficacy is tied to the sectarian political order enshrined in a 1943 agreement. To reflect the major religious groups among the population of nearly seven million, a Sunni Muslim serves as prime minister, a Maronite Christian as president, and a Shiite Muslim as the speaker of parliament. But by concentrating power among certain families and former warlords­—including the leaders of Hezbollah, the Future Movement, and the Free Patriotic Movement, which are primarily affiliated with Shiites, Sunnis, and Christians, respectively—the system promotes cronyism and parochial interests over vital reforms. As part of a protest movement spurred by a proposed tax on the use of the popular messaging service WhatsApp in October 2019, Lebanese have demanded the ruling elite cede power to a technocratic government.

Catalysts for the public’s anger include the failing economy and lack of public services. The Lebanese pound is pegged to the U.S. dollar, but when the central bank tried to maintain an exchange rate of 1,500 pounds to the dollar amid increased demand for the U.S. currency last year, the ensuing dollar shortage left many people unable to access their savings. More recently, the Beirut blasts sparked fears of food insecurity because the damaged port housed silos containing 85 percent of Lebanon’s cereals, leaving the country with less than a month’s worth of grain reserves. The port also received most of Lebanon’s fuel imports, a vital resource for a country that hasn’t had a complete electrical grid since its 1975–1990 civil war. The country’s waste management systems also suffer from poor infrastructure.

Israel-Gulf Normalization Sends Palestinians Back to the Drawing Board

Frida Ghitis

When officials from Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain joined President Donald Trump at the White House to sign landmark diplomatic agreements Tuesday, the event was loaded with domestic political ramifications for each country. But beyond that—and beyond the timing of the ceremony—the deals normalizing the UAE and Bahrain’s ties with Israel carry major regional implications. And, perhaps surprisingly, the presence of tiny Bahrain is a crucial element of their momentum.

It’s no coincidence that the only top leaders at the White House ceremony for the so-called Abraham Accords were Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump, facing a tough election in seven weeks, wants to wring as much political benefit out of the normalization agreements as he can. Then there’s Netanyahu, who faces such steep political troubles at home that the deals, significant as they are, may not be enough to save him. ...

Japan’s Geopolitical Balancing Act Just Got Harder

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unexpected resignation last month for health reasons has raised many questions about the legacy of the country’s longest-serving premier. One of them is whether his successor, Yoshihide Suga, will be able to continue Abe’s geopolitical balancing act as tensions between China and the United States are continuing to escalate dangerously.

The US and China are critical to Japan’s peace and prosperity. America is Japan’s security guarantor and second-largest trading partner, while China is its largest trading partner and a next-door neighbor. After Abe returned as prime minister in December 2012, he adroitly managed Japan’s relationships with both.

Abe went out of his way to befriend US President Donald Trump, even as Trump claimed that US-Japanese trade was “not fair and open,” and demanded that Japan quadruple its contribution to the cost of keeping American troops in the country. He further pleased the Trump administration by quietly banning the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from participating in building Japan’s 5G network.

At the same time, Abe also cultivated ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and made a diplomatic ice-breaking trip to Beijing in October 2018 for the first Sino-Japanese summit in seven years. With US-China relations in free fall, Xi seized Abe’s olive branch and planned a state visit to Japan in April 2020, which would have been the first by a Chinese leader since 2008. (The visit has been postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Trump, Ike and the myth of the military-industrial complex

It is hard to think of any U.S. president that Donald Trump resembles less than Dwight D. Eisenhower. Yet Trump managed to evoke the comparison this week, when he charged that senior American military officials are more interested in serving the interests of arms manufacturers than in serving the interests of the U.S. The military, he said, advocates war “so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”

For some observers, the allegation brought to mind Eisenhower’s farewell address in January 1961, in which he cautioned that a mighty “military-industrial complex” could “endanger our liberties” and strangle the American economy. Since then, Eisenhower’s speech has been cited by critics who warn that an expansive foreign policy will ruin the nation’s prosperity and freedom alike.

Yet just as Trump was wrong in arguing that Pentagon officials are motivated by greed rather than patriotism, Eisenhower — a far wiser leader — was more wrong than right about the military industrial-complex.

It helps to understand the context in which Ike delivered his warning. The Cold War was in its most intense and dangerous phase. U.S. defense spending had skyrocketed to nearly 14 percent of gross domestic product during the Korean War. During the 1950s, Ike had brought the total down to around 9 percent, mostly by relying on nuclear weapons for deterrence and defense. But the fears of the period, including the Sputnik shock of 1957, set off calls from Congress and the Pentagon for far higher outlays.

Four Scenarios for Geopolitical Order in 2025-2030: What Will Great Power Competition Look Like?

CSIS’s Risk and Foresight Group created four plausible, differentiated scenarios to explore the changing geopolitical landscape of 2025-2030, including the potential lasting first- and second-order effects of Covid-19. The scenarios center on the relative power and influence of the United States and China and the interaction between them, along with detailed consideration of other major U.S. allies and adversaries within each of four worlds.

Each scenario narrative was informed by deep trends analysis and subject-matter-expert interviews. CSIS’s Dracopoulos iDeas Lab brought to life the scenarios in four engaging videos designed to test policymakers’ preconceived notions about the defense and security challenges facing the United States and its allies in the second half of this decade. This research was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Strategic Trends Division.

Figure 1: Scenario Axes

Key Trends in the Global Economy through 2030

The CSIS Trade Commission on Affirming American Leadership was created in the summer of 2019 to develop a series of recommendations to cement U.S. global leadership in light of a multitude of twenty-first-century challenges, both at home and abroad. In a series of reports, the Commission lays out recommendations for the U.S. workforce, U.S. innovation policy, and U.S. engagement in the international trading system. This report, which is the first of four reports to be released from the Commission, sets the backdrop for those recommendations. For the U.S. to successfully lead in the next decade, we must first acknowledge the changes that are happening in the global economy and use that information to plan for U.S. leadership in a changing economic environment. This report outlines key trends in the global economy from now until 2030, including the rising importance of services and digital commerce, increased use of automation and AI in the workforce, a shift towards regional supply chains, and an aging workforce.

Assessing China and Russia’s Moves in the Middle East

By Ali Wyne, Colin P. Clarke

Recent news that China and Iran are close to finalizing an economic and security partnership, initially proposed by Beijing in January 2016, has renewed anxieties among some U.S. observers that Washington is gradually ceding the Middle East to its principal strategic competitor. Commenters raised similar concerns after the January 2020 assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Targeting Soleimani undermined relations not only with Iran, but also with Iraq, since the drone strike that killed him took place at Baghdad International Airport and also killed an Iraqi Shiite militia commander.

While the United States is concerned primarily about a resurgent China’s inroads in the Middle East, it is also nervous about the gambits of a revanchist Russia, which is perhaps now the most influential external actor in both Syria and Libya. The White House’s 2017 national security strategy and the Pentagon’s 2018 national defense strategy are concerned principally about the revival of great-power competition with Beijing and Moscow. While many discussions center on the Asia-Pacific and the Baltic regions, the Middle East is starting to figure more prominently. This June, the commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., described the region as a “Wild West” arena of competition in which China is principally using its economic heft to establish a long-term strategic “beachhead,” and Russia is using limited but “pretty high-intensity” deployments of military assets “to throw sand in [America’s] gears” and “appear to be a player on the global stage when it comes to Middle Eastern issues.”

Climate math: What a 1.5-degree pathway would take

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is rightly focused on protecting lives and livelihoods. Can we simultaneously strive to avoid the next crisis? The answer is yes—if we make greater environmental resilience core to our planning for the recovery ahead, by focusing on the economic and employment opportunities associated with investing in both climate-resilient infrastructure and the transition to a lower-carbon future.

Adapting to climate change is critical because, as a recent McKinsey Global Institute report shows, with further warming unavoidable over the next decade, the risk of physical hazards and nonlinear, socioeconomic jolts is rising. Mitigating climate change through decarbonization represents the other half of the challenge. Scientists estimate that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would reduce the odds of initiating the most dangerous and irreversible effects of climate change.

While a number of analytic perspectives explain how greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions would need to evolve to achieve a 1.5-degree pathway, few paint a clear and comprehensive picture of the actions global business could take to get there. And little wonder: the range of variables and their complex interaction make any modeling difficult. As part of an ongoing research effort, we sought to cut through the complexity by examining, analytically, the degree of change that would be required in each sector of the global economy to reach a 1.5-degree pathway. What technically feasible carbon-mitigation opportunities—in what combinations and to what degree—could potentially get us there?

We also assessed, with the help of McKinsey experts in multiple industrial sectors, critical stress points—such as the pace of vehicle electrification and the speed with which the global power mix shifts to cleaner sources. We then built a set of scenarios intended to show the trade-offs: If one transition (such as the rise of renewables) lags, what compensating shifts (such as increased reforestation) would be necessary to get to a 1.5-degree pathway?

Who is Secretly Building the USAF’s New Fighter?


Among the big questions surrounding the secret U.S. Air Force fighter-jet demonstrator revealed this week is: who built it?

Will Roper, the head of Air Force acquisition, declined to say much about the new plane, other than it has actually flown, that some of the plane’s systems have been flight-tested, and that it was designed and built using digital engineering. 

So let’s look at some clues, starting with a likely predecessor to the Next Generation Air Dominance project that produced the new demonstrator. 

In January 2015, Frank Kendall, then defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the House Armed Services Committee about a DARPA-led project that was developing new planes and engine technology for the Air Force and Navy.

“The intent is to develop prototypes for the next generation of air-dominance platforms — X-plane programs, if you will," Kendall said.

Dubbed the Aerospace Innovation Initiative, the project aimed to “develop the technologies and address the risks associated with the air dominance platforms that will follow the F-35, as well as other advanced aeronautical challenges.”

The Genetic Engineering Genie Is Out of the Bottle


Usually good for a conspiracy theory or two, U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested that the virus causing COVID-19 was either intentionally engineered or resulted from a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Its release could conceivably have involved an accident, but the pathogen isn’t the mishmash of known viruses that one would expect from something designed in a lab, as a research report in Nature Medicine conclusively lays out. “If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness,” the researchers said.

But if genetic engineering wasn’t behind this pandemic, it could very well unleash the next one. With COVID-19 bringing Western economies to their knees, all the world’s dictators now know that pathogens can be as destructive as nuclear missiles. What’s even more worrying is that it no longer takes a sprawling government lab to engineer a virus. Thanks to a technological revolution in genetic engineering, all the tools needed to create a virus have become so cheap, simple, and readily available that any rogue scientist or college-age biohacker can use them, creating an even greater threat. Experiments that could once only have been carried out behind the protected walls of government and corporate labs can now practically be done on the kitchen table with equipment found on Amazon. Genetic engineering—with all its potential for good and bad—has become democratized.

One technology in particular makes it almost as easy to engineer life forms as it is to edit Microsoft Word documents.

Suga Promises Continuity. But on Economics, He Can’t Possibly Deliver.


Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, reacts after he was elected as the new head of the Liberal Democratic Party in Tokyo on Sept. 14. STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

When Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, announced recently that he would resign, it seemed like the end of an era. Abe had dominated Japanese politics for nearly a decade, skillfully managing the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s different factions and fending off pressure from opposition parties. He survived unscathed an array of corruption and influence-peddling scandals. Most impressively of all, Abe adroitly managed relations with U.S. President Donald Trump, no easy task given that Trump had spent much of his early career bashing Japan for supposedly taking advantage of the United States.

Abe’s successor as prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has big shoes to fill, in other words. Like Abe, Suga spent his entire career in politics, serving for the last eight years as Abe’s chief cabinet secretary. Unlike the outgoing prime minister, however, he comes not from a political dynasty (Abe’s father was foreign minister) but from a humble farming background.

The fact that Abe and Suga have already spent years working together provides plenty of reason to expect policy continuity between the two leaders, not least because Suga played a role in devising the policies of the Abe years. And Japanese media have reported that many key ministers, including the finance minister and foreign minister, are likely to keep their jobs even after Suga takes charge.

Policy Roundtable: Cyber Conflict as an Intelligence Contest

1. Introduction: Is Cyber Conflict an Intelligence Contest?

Robert Chesney and Max Smeets

Cyber war is out. But what is in?

Scholars now generally recognize the limits of cyber war as a useful concept and/or framework for interpreting the strategic activity taking place in and through cyberspace. But what is an accurate way to describe the activity we have been observing over the past few decades, carried out by a broad array of actors? Should we bucket this activity in lots of different categories? Or is there a coherent logic at play which can be captured using an alternative framework?1

This roundtable fits within a more recent trend of scholarship — a new wave, one could say — that seeks to grasp the nature of strategic cyber activity. The purpose of this literature is not merely to explain the limits of the cyber war narrative and related concepts, such as deterrence.2 Instead, it aims to discern the value of alternative logics and frameworks to explain cyber behavior.3 We formulated the following question to guide the discussion: Is cyber conflict an intelligence contest?

We have five papers from six authors: Joshua Rovner, associate professor at American University; Michael Warner, former CIA historian and current NSA and U.S. Cyber Command historian; Jon Lindsay, assistant professor at the University of Toronto; Michael Fischerkeller, researcher at the Institute for Defense Analyses, writing together with Richard Harknett, professor at the University of Cincinnati; and Nina Kollars, associate professor at the Naval War College.

Cyber Attack Most Likely Space Threat: Maj. Gen. Whiting


WASHINGTON: Cyber defense is a top mission priority for the Space Force, says Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting, deputy commander of the new service.

“We know that cyber attack is where we are most likely to face the enemy in space,” Whiting said, if for no other reason than the barriers to entry for cyber attack capabilities are lower than for other forms of satellite attack.

Therefore, he told the annual AMOS space conference in Hawaii today, cyber defense “will be a principal focus area of the United States Space Force as we move forward.”

Further, Whiting explained, Space Force has decided the centrality of the mission means that it needs its own cadre of cyber warriors. “So, we believe we have to have our own indigenous cyber experts; they initially will be focused almost exclusively on cyber defense.”

The Space Force’s new Spacepower Capstone Doctrine calls “Cyber Operations” one of the “spacepower disciplines” required for the new service to undertake is missions. The others are: “Orbital Warfare, Space Electromagnetic Warfare, Space Battle Management, Space Access and Sustainment, Military Intelligence, and Engineering/Acquisitions.”

Hype or Hypersonic?

By Jacob Parakilas

Last week I wrote about a specific application of machine learning – a way to make weapons smarter, to simplify somewhat. But adding intelligence is not the only way in which we are likely to see the tools of warfare evolve. There is a parallel arms race to make weapons much faster, but the extent to which one trend drives the other is complicated by their very different developmental challenges.

Last week also saw the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announce its first test of a new hypersonic vehicle. India joins a rowing race to build and deploy the fastest rockets and missiles; the US, China, Russia and Europe are already investing heavily.

It’s important to note that “hypersonic” weapons (weapons with speed greater than five times that of sound) include two separate categories and exclude another. The excluded category are standard ballistic missiles, which vastly exceed “hypersonic” speeds as they plunge through the atmosphere towards their targets – but which follow a predictable and basically immutable trajectory as they do. There are hypersonic cruise missiles, which would fly through the atmosphere powered by scramjets, and there are hypersonic glide bodies, which are boosted up to immense speed on conventional rockets but instead of arcing through space ride on their own shockwave through the upper atmosphere. In both cases, the advantage is that a weapon could follow a lower trajectory (reducing its visibility to long-range radar) and potentially maneuver to obscure its target and avoid countermeasures.

Kill Chain In The Sky With Data: Army’s Project Convergence


WASHINGTON: In the 100-degree heat of the Yuma desert, Army troops are getting glimpses of how artificial intelligence can help their future fight. Aerial reconnaissance data automatically fills handheld digital maps with threats and targets, while smartphone apps allow them to take temporary control of passing drones to look through their sensors and fire missiles – that is, when the networks work and the tires don’t blow.

“We’ve had Grey Eagle tires exploding on the ramp because it’s so darn hot,” Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen told me. “Some guys [are] working 20 hours a day” to get different Army systems to exchange data they were never designed to share.

But the whole point of the Army’s Project Convergence exercises at Yuma Proving Ground this fall is to take the service’s big ideas for future warfare and test them in the real world. The Army wants to figure out what works and what needs fixing – and figure that out as early on as possible, when it’s much cheaper to make changes. That’s what the service failed to do in its last attempt to link drones and ground troops this ambitiously, the Future Combat Systems program, cancelled in 2009.