28 September 2020

What Are India’s Plans for Directed Energy Weapons?

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced earlier this month that it plans to develop directed energy weapons (DEWs) using high-energy lasers and microwaves. DEWs are emerging military technologies that are yet to be deployed by any military force but are seen as critical in future warfare. According to media reports, India has developed a national plan with short, medium and long term goals to develop a series of DEW variants with up to 100 kilowatts of power. This is being planned in a collaborative mode, to eventually partner with and benefit from the domestic private sector. While India is still in the early stages of developing this technology and nowhere near possessing an operational capability, advances in such technologies will have implications for both national and regional security.

Development of DEWs is seen as particularly important in the context of India’s worsening security environment, especially its ties with China. The continuing military confrontation in eastern Ladakh is a reminder of the challenges that China poses to India. Beijing’s growing military power, including in space, cyber and electronic warfare domains, can inflict significant damage on its adversaries, including India. China is also developing DEW technologies. Indeed, India is probably developing its own DEWs as a response. 

Delivering the 12th annual Air Chief Marshal L.M. Katre memorial lecture in August 2019, Dr. G. Satheesh Reddy, the head of the DRDO said, “DEWs are extremely important today. The world is moving towards them. In the country too, we are doing a lot of experiments. We have been working in this area for the past three to four years to develop 10-kW and 20-kW [weapons].” In August 2017, the DRDO is reported to have tested a 1-kilowatt laser weapon at Chitradurga in the South Indian state of Karnataka, on a target 250 meters away. Then Defense Minister Arun Jaitley is believed to have been present for the test. This is far from being a usable weapon, of course: in addition to the limited distance of the target, the laser also reportedly took 36 seconds to create a hole on the target metal sheet. The Centre for High Energy Systems and Sciences and Laser Science & Technology Centre, two DRDO laboratories, are working on the project. 

The India-China Ladakh Crisis: Why So Silent, World?

By Abhijnan Rej

Toward the end of last week, a Western analyst who specializes in East Asian strategic affairs messaged me to discuss the latest turn in the ongoing India-China military standoff in Ladakh, as we have periodically done over the last few months. But this time around, he noted something that has been on the minds of many since the crisis started early May: Despite the gravity of the situation, the world seems to be relatively blasé about it.

True, as the crisis has deepened — with clashes and deaths, and reports of firing on the Line of the Actual Control (which serves as the de facto though undefined border between the two countries) for the first time in more than 40 years – the international press has covered the standoff with increasing regularity. But the impression that the current crisis deserves far more attention than what it has received so far is unmistakable.

Consider this: You have India and China — Asia’s second and fourth most powerful militaries – in a standoff that will enter its fifth month in less than two weeks. Add to this the possibility that in event of a shooting war between the two, Pakistan, another top-10 regional military power, may also join in to open a new front against India — and all three countries are nuclear-armed. Top it off with the (much-repeated) facts that China and India together make up a third of the planet’s population and they are the second and fifth largest economies in the world, and you’d perhaps also wonder why the India-China crisis is not jumping off the screen for you.

I can think of four different reasons, each troubling in its own right.

The Taliban Deal & U.S.-Jihadist Negotiations

by Kamran Bokhari

The Trump Administration’s agreement with the Afghan Taliban represents the first-ever substantive peace negotiation effort between the United States and a jihadist movement. The intra-Afghan dialogue component of this process will prove to be extremely difficult because the country is about to undergo another regime change. Assuming the negotiations succeed – which is not a certainty – and given that the Taliban want to alter the current Afghan state into a theocracy while the other side wants to preserve as much of the current democratic setup as possible, the likely compromise will be a Sunni Afghan version of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Washington needs to ensure that the negotiating process does not break down as well as that the Taliban are counterbalanced by its opponents. More importantly, this experiment with the Afghan Taliban could serve as a template for future negotiations with nationalist jihadists in other theaters as a way to counter transnational jihadist forces such as ISIS and al Qaeda. 

Regime Change in Afghanistan

Consider the following three statements delivered on the opening day of the intra-Afghan dialogue on Sept. 12 in Doha: 

“My delegation are in Doha representing a political system that is supported by millions of men and women from a diversity of cultural, social, and ethnic backgrounds in our homeland.”–Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation

“[Afghanistan should] have an Islamic system in which all tribes and ethnicities of the country find themselves without any discrimination and live their lives in love and brotherhood.” —Chief Taliban Negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar 

Southeast Asia Caught Between the US and China

By Ankit Panda

The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast host Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) speaks to Sebastian Strangio, The Diplomat’s Southeast Asia editor, about U.S.-China competition and Southeast Asia’s orientation toward the great powers.

Click the play button to the right to listen. If you’re an iOS or Mac user, you can also subscribe to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast on iTunes here; if you use Windows or Android, you can subscribe on Google Play here, or on Spotify here.

China is paying a big price for its Himalayan blunder

Brahma Chellaney
Source Link

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, recently declared that aggression and expansionism have never been in the Chinese nation’s “genes." It is almost astonishing that he managed to say it with a straight face.

Aggression and expansionism obviously are not genetic traits, but they have defined President Xi Jinping’s tenure. Xi is attempting to implement a modern version of the tributary system that Chinese emperors used to establish authority over vassal states: submit to the emperor, and reap the benefits of peace and trade with the empire.

For Xi, the covid pandemic—which has preoccupied the world’s governments for months—seemed like an ideal opportunity to make quick progress on his agenda. So, in April and May, he directed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to launch furtive incursions into the icy borderlands of India’s Ladakh region, where it proceeded to establish heavily fortified encampments.

It wasn’t nearly as clever a plan as Xi probably thought. Far from entrenching China’s regional preeminence, it has intensified the pushback by Indo-Pacific powers, which have deepened their security cooperation. This includes China’s most powerful competitor, the United States, thereby escalating a bilateral strategic confrontation that has technological, economic, diplomatic and military dimensions. The spectre of international isolation and supply disruptions now looms over China.

Xi vs. Trump at the United Nations

Thomas Joscelyn

President Trump and China’s Xi Jinping clashed at the United Nations this week, each using rhetoric that reflected their opposing worldviews in recorded speeches. Trump delivered a direct indictment of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Throughout his speech, which was framed around the “China virus” and the CCP’s mishandling of the outbreak, the president assailed China’s “rampant pollution,” overfishing, and “trade abuses.” He demanded that the United Nations hold China “accountable” for its false declarations concerning the virus’s transmissibility and its pattern of obfuscation.

Xi was more circumspect, but his intended target was no less obvious. Though he did not mention the United States by name, Xi portrayed America as a unilateral power that is uninterested in cooperating with other nations. While there is little doubt that Xi intended to rebuke President Trump’s “America First” agenda, his arguments were entirely deceptive. Let us examine Xi’s rhetoric.

It is striking how much Xi, the leader of an authoritarian party, has co-opted the language of Western liberalism. The second to last line in his speech was this: “Let us join hands to uphold the values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy, and freedom shared by all of us and build a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.” Of course, Xi does not believe in “justice, democracy, and freedom,” at least not in any form that most Americans would recognize. Why, then, does he employ these words? He knows what sounds good on the international stage.

Indeed, Xi’s speech was peppered with phrases that sound like a progressive American was speaking. Consider his use of the phrase “interconnected global village.” Those words were uttered in the context of combating COVID-19. Xi wants to turn the pandemic narrative around, portraying his China as a responsible global leader in combating the virus. But there is additional context for his wording.

Dire Straits

By Bonnie S. Glaser; Michael J. Mazarr; Michael J. Glennon; 


Bonnie S. Glaser

In their recent article (“American Support for Taiwan Must Be Unambiguous,” September 2), Richard Haass and David Sacks correctly note that China’s coercive tactics and military buildup are eroding deterrence in the Taiwan Strait. But their proposed solution—a U.S. security guarantee for Taipei—would not solve that problem and might even provoke a Chinese attack. To reduce the chances of war, the United States needs to signal credibly that Beijing would pay a high price for invading Taiwan. Washington cannot, however, make its willingness to defend Taiwan unconditional. Rather, the United States should reserve the latitude to judge whether Taipei’s policies are consistent with U.S. interests—and with the region’s peace and security.

If the United States extends an unqualified security commitment to Taiwan today, without the ability to make its threats credible, China could respond by mounting an attack. Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken a tough approach to sovereignty disputes throughout his tenure: in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the disputed border with India, he has doubled down in defiance of foreign criticism. The United States might try to head off this reaction by assuring China that it still adheres to its “one China” policy and does not support Taiwan’s independence. But such blandishments would fall on deaf ears, especially if they come from U.S. President Donald Trump, who has little credibility in Beijing. Rather, Xi would likely calculate that failing to take decisive action would open him to domestic criticism and jeopardize his bid to be China’s leader for life. The authors advise U.S. leaders against signing a treaty with Taipei on the grounds that doing so would “force Xi’s hand,” but they don’t explain why an ironclad security guarantee wouldn’t have the same consequence.

That consequence hardly seems worth risking when there is little evidence that China is poised to invade Taiwan. Xi has said that “reunification” of the island with mainland China is “inevitable,” but he has given no indication that he is willing to jeopardize other Chinese interests in order to urgently achieve this goal. Haass and Sacks cite “speculation” that Beijing will force reunification with Taiwan as soon as 2021—but the United States should base a major shift in policy on hard facts, not rumors.

Nor should the United States be shortsighted about the potential intentions of future Taiwanese leaders. Haass and Sacks are confident that the island’s authorities have judged that pursuing independence is contrary to their interests. Current President Tsai Ing-wen has indeed taken a cautious stance toward Beijing and coordinated her approach closely with Washington. But her successors may not do the same. A clear statement of U.S. resolve to defend Taiwan regardless of the circumstances could embolden pro-independence constituencies in Taiwan to promote their cause. The United States should not give Taipei a green light to bend to these forces or to advance policies contrary to U.S. objectives.

China’s Draft Data Security Law: A Practical Review

By Marcel Green

In a summer that saw China enact a national security law for Hong Kong, and mount a response to several secondary outbreaks of COVID-19, it is understandable that China watchers largely overlooked the otherwise uneventful decision last July by the National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee to table the Draft Data Security Law for review and commentary. Generally, once a draft law is opened for review, it is only a matter of time before it is passed into law. Indeed, the general expectation is that a data security law will be enacted by the Congress and come into force by the end of the year. It should first be noted that this is a draft law; the final version may be different from the current form. Nevertheless, the likelihood is that there will not be much difference between the final law and the draft law.

While discussions of the data security law might lack the media attention of the summer’s other issues, it nevertheless is a topic of fundamental importance to a modern information society. The Standing Committee’s decision is likely to eventually prove itself every bit as important and fundamental to China, and the world, as the national security law. With the ever-growing importance of information nowadays, few if any activities can be conducted effectively without data. Consequently, as the value of data increases, it has become fundamental for any business using data to ensure it is secure.

In the past, the duty of protecting one’s data was left to the two parties directly involved. On the one hand, data processors — including those companies that collect and/or analyze information — were considered capable of implementing data security protection. On the other hand, the public was also deemed capable enough to understand the importance of data security, and individually take the necessary steps to stop or mitigate negative effects. The problem, however, is that both data processors and users have proven unable or unwilling to voluntarily protect their customers or themselves. The Draft Data Security Law overcomes the gap in data protection by instituting a top-down, government promulgated mandate on data processors to protect their client’s data.

China Announces Aggressive Climate Targets at United Nations

By Steven Stashwick

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly this week, delivered remotely by video link, Chinese President Xi Jinping focused on the impacts of COVID-19 and the importance of a sustainable economic recovery, setting goals to peak China’s CO2 emissions before 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2060.

“Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of Nature and go down the beaten path of extracting resources without investing in conservation, pursuing development at the expense of protection, and exploiting resources without restoration,” he said.

As extraordinary as this pace of emissions reduction seems, according to United Nations climate reports it is necessary – at least 45 percent reduction globally by 2030 – for any possibility of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

But China’s meteoric economic rise was, and continues to be, fueled by extraordinary resource extraction and exploitation. China now uses more concrete in a few years than the United States did in the entire century leading up to it, and China now emits nearly twice the amount of CO2 as the United States each year, though it emits far less per capita.

When China’s economy appears strong, it has been happy to project itself as a climate leader, even while funding projects like coal plants through its Belt and Road Initiative.

Peacekeeping With Chinese Characteristics

By Jayshree Borah

On September 18, China’s State Council Information Office published a white paper on China’s peacekeeping forces at the United Nations titled, “China’s Armed Forces: 30 Years of U.N. Peacekeeping Operations.” It was the first of its kind. In previous years, peacekeeping forces would get a section on China’s occasionally published defense white papers, the most recent of which was published in July 2019.

So why did China move to publish a separate white paper on U.N. Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKOs)?

Since the start of the decade, Beijing has incubated its intention to become a global security provider, but according to its own definition. China has refused to adopt sections of Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter and the pillar of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which prescribes external interventions as a measure of last resort to prevent mass atrocity crimes. The failure of military interventions such as the NATO intervention in Libya, conducted under the banner of R2P, to bring peace to target countries has given China a working hypothesis about how to proceed as a global security provider. Distancing itself from military intervention abroad, China limits the concept of R2P to the use of consent-based U.N. peacekeeping deployments.

Associating itself with U.N. peacekeeping missions gives China self-assurance as a global security provider. Today, China is the largest provider of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, with 40, 000 peacekeepers contributed to more than 30 missions. The China-U.N. Peace and Development Fund has provided $67.7 million for 80 projects related to peacekeeping operations since President Xi Jinping announced the fund in 2015.

China Expands Its Railway Presence in Caspian Region

By: Paul Goble

Since early September, media in Caspian littoral countries have been filled with stories about the expansion of Chinese rail operations there, a development that represents a double challenge to Moscow (Kaspiyskiy Vestnik, September 17). First, this expanded Chinese presence undermines Russia’s influence over these countries by making it easier for them to pursue more independent foreign policies. And second, local analysts note, Beijing is promoting container shipping carrying finished goods rather than bulk cargo, raising the regional countries’ economic dependence on China while further tipping the balance away from Russia, which relies far more on the export and transit of raw resources rather than products higher up the value chain. Many of these Chinese railroad projects have been in the works for several years. But now they are becoming operational, potentially leading to dramatic long-term economic, political and geopolitical consequences (see EDM, June 10, 2019 and April 23, 2020).

The Transportation-Logistics Center of Turkmenistan reported, on September 9, that the longest-ever container train would arrive in that country two days later from China, after a journey of only two weeks. This is a much shorter transit time than on any other route that was available until now. It will bring Chinese goods to Turkmenistan, other Central Asian countries as well as their Caspian littoral neighbors, Iran and Azerbaijan. Turkmenistani officials said that the 8,780-kilometer railroad would permit goods to move in both directions in only 12–15 days, making it the most timely and economically effective path for Chinese trade with Central Asia, the Caspian and even Europe (Turkmenportal, September 9).

China has invested heavily in improving the railroads in this region, although Russian officials stress that its activities only became possible thanks to Moscow’s North-South Transportation Corridor Project, which is intended to boost Russian exports of raw materials to Iran and India on a traversing Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Nonetheless, China’s regional role is different and larger: it is sending consumer goods and other finished products that are more likely to find buyers in these countries than Russian raw materials, like oil and natural gas. Moreover, Beijing offers these countries the possibility of shipping some of their industrial production to the Chinese market, which is far larger and more interested in such purchases than Russia’s. Ashgabat contends that the freight train service with China will soon increase in frequency to twice a week. And as these trans-Eurasian container rail routes expand operation, they will inevitably draw the Caspian littoral countries closer into China’s orbit—and away from Russia’s—more powerfully than almost any other factor simultaneously at play in the region (Xinhua—Russian service, September 10; Info24.ru, September 11).

The Panopticon Is Already Here

by Ross Andersen

Northwest of beijing’s Forbidden City, outside the Third Ring Road, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has spent seven decades building a campus of national laboratories. Near its center is the Institute of Automation, a sleek silvery-blue building surrounded by camera-studded poles. The institute is a basic research facility. Its computer scientists inquire into artificial intelligence’s fundamental mysteries. Their more practical innovations—iris recognition, cloud-based speech synthesis—are spun off to Chinese tech giants, AI start-ups, and, in some cases, the People’s Liberation Army.

I visited the institute on a rainy morning in the summer of 2019. China’s best and brightest were still shuffling in post-commute, dressed casually in basketball shorts or yoga pants, AirPods nestled in their ears. In my pocket, I had a burner phone; in my backpack, a computer wiped free of data—standard precautions for Western journalists in China. To visit China on sensitive business is to risk being barraged with cyberattacks and malware. In 2019, Belgian officials on a trade mission noticed that their mobile data were being intercepted by pop-up antennae outside their Beijing hotel.

After clearing the institute’s security, I was told to wait in a lobby monitored by cameras. On its walls were posters of China’s most consequential postwar leaders. Mao Zedong loomed large in his characteristic four-pocket suit. He looked serene, as though satisfied with having freed China from the Western yoke. Next to him was a fuzzy black-and-white shot of Deng Xiaoping visiting the institute in his later years, after his economic reforms had set China on a course to reclaim its traditional global role as a great power.

The lobby’s most prominent poster depicted Xi Jinping in a crisp black suit. China’s current president and the general secretary of its Communist Party has taken a keen interest in the institute. Its work is part of a grand AI strategy that Xi has laid out in a series of speeches akin to those John F. Kennedy used to train America’s techno-scientific sights on the moon. Xi has said that he wants China, by year’s end, to be competitive with the world’s AI leaders, a benchmark the country has arguably already reached. And he wants China to achieve AI supremacy by 2030.

The Middle East’s New Map

Robert D. Kaplan

The imminent establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and two Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, is part of an on-going process of security cooperation going back many years. While that robs the event of some drama, it also increases its significance. It means that the process of ending the era of Arab-Israeli confrontation will continue, culminating perhaps in a political upheaval in Iran. That is the road that the Middle East may now be on.

Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait are some of the Arab countries reported to be considering peace deals with Israel. One or two of those countries may hold back, and Saudi Arabia, while supporting the process of regional normalization with Israel, may officially withhold formal recognition. It doesn’t matter. Even without official ties, all these countries have in a spiritual sense ended their hostility to the Jewish state.

Now look at the map:

The Israel-UAE alliance enjoys virtually unimpeded naval access around the three sides of the Arabian Peninsula: the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, with only tiny Qatar and the war-torn and chaotic state of Yemen presenting somewhat of a challenge. Meanwhile, the growing military presence of China in Djibouti and potentially in Port Sudan will remain a neutral element regarding this new Arab-Israeli security condominium, which will go far beyond the naval sphere and embrace high-tech security and warfare in all its aspects.

America Must Accept That Iran Has A Place In The Middle East

by Gawdat Bahgat

Since 1980, diplomatic relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been severed. This lack of formal diplomatic channels does not tell the whole story. For four decades, the two nations have seen each other as archenemies and have engaged in hostile economic and diplomatic activities and, occasionally, in direct and indirect military confrontations. Under the Trump administration, this troubled relationship reached its nadir with the withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the implementation of a “maximum pressure” strategy. In the last few weeks before the November election, President Donald Trump has taken several steps to further heighten tension with Tehran. These include the dispatching of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf and the efforts to trigger snapback sanctions and expand the arms embargo against Iran (these efforts have been opposed by China and Russia as well as the E3—Britain, France, and Germany).

Why now?

Four years ago, then, candidate Trump strongly opposed the nuclear deal signed by his predecessor, President Barack Obama. In May 2018, the United States officially withdrew from the agreement and has since imposed strict economic sanctions on Iran. The double downing on the efforts to isolate Iran and undermine its economy is seen as an escalation of the maximum pressure strategy and an attempt to lure Tehran into a military confrontation. There is no doubt that the sanctions have dealt a heavy blow to the Iranian economy. However, the maximum pressure strategy has, so far, failed to bring Tehran back to the negotiation table and force its leaders to capitulate. Rather, Iran has increased its stockpile of enriched uranium and continued advancing its missile program. Furthermore, Iranian leaders have been very guarded in responding to what they perceive as American provocations. Iranian leaders believe that a military confrontation with the United States a few weeks before the election would likely increase President Trump’s chances of being re-elected. Officially, Iranian leaders argue that the November election is a U.S. domestic affair and Tehran does not favor one candidate over the other. Still, Tehran seems to have chosen to lay low ahead of U.S. election.

Economic Warfare China’s Financial Alternative to Military Reunification with Taiwan

1st Lt. Bethany G. Russell

The People’s Republic of China has made no secret of its intention to annex the island of Taiwan by 2049. Numerous military war games and academic papers have repeatedly explored the military aspects of this annexation to use as templates for possible courses of action for China’s campaign. However, while China’s military might presents an obvious threat, Taiwan’s economic vulnerability to China poses a greater risk to its security than its military disadvantages. Although China possesses the military capabilities to defeat Taiwan, China’s own cultural norms, its desire for international stability, and the possibility of its failure may hinder its primary course for reunification through military conflict. Instead, China will rely on economic disruption tactics to pressure Taiwan into acquiescing to its policy stances and reunifying with the mainland.

Using Economic Pressure

Rather than attempt a military campaign in Taiwan, China will attempt to first compel Taiwan capitulation by using economic strategies. China already possesses significant economic leverage over Taiwan; it could easily employ sanctions or market disruption, and the international community and Taiwan do not have the capabilities to defend the island against these actions.

Historically, Taiwan attempted to limit economic relations between the two countries in an effort to avoid economic overdependence on China. However, the opposite outcome occurred. In the span of a single generation, Taiwan’s economy transformed from having almost no ties to mainland China to becoming incredibly dependent on Chinese trade and investment.1 The desire to capitalize on China’s economic rise and create similar economic improvements in Taiwan caused the economic relationship between China and Taiwan to become a matter of “asymmetric interdependence,” which means that Taiwan depends more on China for a higher percentage and broader range of its economic activities than China depends on Taiwan.2 As economic ties between the two countries continue to deepen, Beijing’s sheer economic size might result in “overwhelming and irresistible leverage” over the island.3

U.S. Military, Spies and Allies Fight Fake News on Social Media With Wit and Humor


The U.S. military may be the country's warfighting machine, but its many personnel operate in a wide range of fields, including across social media, where U.S. officers are working alongside spies and allies not only to battle disinformation from foreign forces and trolls, but also engaging with users in sometimes comedic ways that are redefining their industries.

"I know there is some risk to my style of humor, but who wants Army leaders who are risk averse?" Lieutenant General Theodore D. Martin, deputy commander of the Army Training and Doctrine and Command, told Newsweek.

Martin has made somewhat of a name for himself for his Twitter antics, which are intended to reinforce official policy and boost morale. Recently, the three-star general broadcast himself jokingly bribing military police with donuts, whipping up grilled cheese sandwiches with a blowtorch and parking his old "hooptie" in the coveted spot reserved for the flag officer's vehicle.

He sees his high-profile presence as an asset for his position and the service as a whole.

"I think it's a huge advantage to be on social media as a leader, and I highly encourage other leaders to get in the fight if they are not doing so already," Martin said. "Don't be afraid—fear is a bad trait for a leader."

He explained how his work humanizes his message, and makes him more accessible to soldiers, non-commissioned officers and all ranks down to the squad level, where unlike many in the top brass, most have grown up with social media. If they're using it, so should he, Martin told Newsweek.

Virus crisis accelerates debates over China, digital divide, panel says

By Guy Taylor 

The COVID-19 era “reality shift” has accelerated the race among the world’s most powerful nations for global influence and America will have to get smarter about harnessing and spreading access to digital technology if it seeks to retain its position as the world’s top economic and geopolitical force.

That was a central takeaway of an ideas webinar hosted by The Washington Times on Thursday, featuring discussion among a diverse mix of thought leaders who generally agreed that China and the U.S. are now solidly positioned against each other on an increasingly wide slate of fronts — from trade to international aid.

“This is great power competition,” Ambassador Mark Green, a former head of the U.S. Agency for International Development said at the start of the event co-sponsored by Philip Morris International and CollaborateUp, a consulting firm that facilitates coordination between private and government forces.

“It is a battle of ideas, it’s a battle of opportunities,” said Mr. Green, now executive director of the McCain Institute at Arizona State University. “It’s whose rules are going to set the world? And it’s for all the marbles because China’s policies have profound negative ramifications for the countries involved — and quite frankly for us.”

Services to consider removing all identifying information from promotion board packets

Meghann Myers

Soon, there will be no photos on packets sent to promotion boards, but that may just be the first step. The feeling now, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is that all identifying information should be stripped from documents when boards consider troops for promotion.

Such “sterilization” of promotion packets removes unconscious and conscious bias, Army Gen. Mark Milley said Thursday during a live-streamed senior leader town hall.

“All the service secretaries think this is the way to go,” he said. “They made recommendations to the secretary of defense. And those actions are being implemented as well speak. And I fully support them. I think it’s the way to go.”

Earlier this summer, in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality against Black people, which bred a larger discussion about the state of racism in the U.S., the Defense Department launched its own internal look at diversity and inclusion in the military.

One of the first suggestions, and the first implemented, was to remove promotion packet photos. Critics argued that bias, whether unconscious or conscious, could steer board members toward or away from a promotion candidate based on their race or ethnicity, perceived or otherwise.

America wants a bigger navy of smaller ships to compete with China’s fleet

THE SEA HUNTER is a sleek grey trimaran that cuts through the water at 27 knots, capable of sailing from San Diego to Tokyo, and back again, on a single tank of diesel—all by itself. The ship is an “autonomous unmanned surface vehicle”—a fancy name for a sailing drone—operated by America’s navy. The air conditioning on board is for the benefit of computers, rather than humans. The design pays little heed to habitability. “I'm on a ship that looks like a Klingon bird of prey,” remarked Robert Work, America’s then deputy secretary of defence, when visiting the ship in 2016. Earlier this month Sea Hunter spent time with the USS Russell, a more traditional destroyer, practising “manned-unmanned teaming”. The idea is that such double acts are the future of naval warfare.

COVID-19: Implications for business

COVID-19 and the great reset: Briefing note #24, September 23, 2020

A potential end to the pandemic, a bright outlook for electric vehicles, and more.

In our latest public-health research, we assess the prospects for an end to the pandemic. Two standards must be met. In the United States and most other developed economies, herd immunity is most likely to be achieved in the third or fourth quarter of 2021. Key variables are the arrival, efficacy, and coverage of vaccines; we anticipate four scenarios (Exhibit 1). A return to normalcy might come sooner, possibly in the first or second quarter of 2021. Every day matters, for lives and livelihoods.

On the economic front, the COVID-19 crisis presents the greatest challenge in a decade for the auto sector. Global sales of light vehicles in 2020 might decline 20 to 25 percent from prepandemic forecasts. In the hardest-hit countries, sales could fall by 45 percent. Electric vehicles (EVs) have not been spared. But our new research finds that EV sales may come back quickly in the next couple of years, especially in Asia and Europe, for a few reasons (Exhibit 2).

The Pentagon Reportedly Wants to Build Its Own 5G Network

by Stephen Silver

5G networks are beginning to roll out, with smartphones that operate using that technology having arrived throughout the year. Apple’s new lineup of iPhones, which is expected to arrive next month, is expected to drive 5G adoption to newer heights.

But now, there’s a report that the Department of Defense is looking at a 5G network of its own.

Per FCW, the Pentagon has filed a request for information (RFI) to possibly “implement dynamic spectrum sharing that would support 5G development and deployment for military and commercial users within the same frequency bands.” 

The report also says that DoD currently controls much of the “mid-band spectrum used for high-power radar operations ideal for 5G.” It’s referred to as Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS).

“DoD seeks information on innovative solutions and alternative approaches to enable DSS within the Department’s currently allocated spectrum with the goal of accelerating spectrum sharing decisions and 5G deployment,” the document says. “The intent is to ensure the greatest effective and efficient use of the Department of Defense’s spectrum for training, readiness, and lethality. This RFI is seeking information regarding all methods and approaches, and feasibility, to best develop and deploy DSS across a broad range of capabilities and for future understanding of how spectrum may be utilized in both 5G and innovative technologies.”

Is Donald Trump Really Ready to Go to War Against Facebook and Twitter?

by Stephen Silver

Back in May, President Trump issued a highly controversial executive order, aimed at limiting the legal protections available to social media companies, under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The action followed Twitter’s decision to, for the first time, fact check a pair of the president’s tweets.

“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly,” Trump said, per an NPR report from May. “A small handful of powerful social media monopolies control the vast portion of all private and public communications in the United States.”

Legal observers questioned whether the president had the power to limit Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies in this way. Twitter, in a statement at the time, called Trump’s order “a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law. #Section230 protects American innovation and freedom of expression, and it’s underpinned by democratic values. Attempts to unilaterally erode it threaten the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.”

Under Section 230—which states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”—tech platforms cannot be held liable for things users say or do on their platforms. So if someone uses Twitter to make a death threat or do something else illegal, the person posting can be held liable, but Twitter itself cannot.

The Digital Divide: Is Equal Access to the Internet Worth Striving For?

by Bronwyn Howell

My AEI colleague Shane Tews recently wrote an excellent article addressing important questions about providing broadband to the more than 17 million American households without reliable, affordable high-speed internet access — more than 80 percent of whom live in rural areas. From a supply-side perspective, the cost of deploying networks in rural areas certainly favors the adoption of a technology-agnostic subsidy policy that delivers the most cost-effective capacity and meets the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) minimum standard for high-speed internet.

Policies supporting such initiatives are frequently promoted as ways to close “digital divides” or to promote “digital inclusion.” To the extent that these policies make connectivity accessible (and/or affordable) to previously unserved populations, then gains have been made at an absolute level. The US is fortunate to have an enlightened policy that specifies rural availability in absolute terms (currently 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download). When an investment is made, it is clear that the objective has been met. The divide has been narrowed for the time being.

But can digital divides ever be completely closed? Such motivation certainly attends most policies promulgating subsidies for networks in rural areas or connection fees for low-income people in urban areas.

Inside the Army’s Fearless, Messy, Networked Warfare Experiment


YUMA PROVING GROUND, Arizona—In the 105-degree heat of the southern Arizona desert, the Army has linked together experimental drones, super guns, ground robots and satellites in a massive test of its future warfare plans. 

On Wednesday, the service mounted the first demonstration of Project Convergence, bringing in some 34 fresh-out-of-the-lab technologies. The goal: to show that these weapons and tools—linked and led by artificial intelligence—can allow humans to find a target, designate it as such, and strike it — from the air, from kilometers away, using any available weapon and in a fraction of the time it takes to execute that kill today. It was an ambitious test that revealed how far Army leaders have come in their goal of networked warfare across the domains of air, land, space and cyberspace. It also provided a vivid picture of how much further the Army has to go.

The scenarios involved different phases of a land invasion. In the first phase, dubbed “Penetrate,” satellites in low Earth orbit detected enemy anti-air missile ground launchers. That info was passed to a ground processing station called the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node, or TITAN, more than a thousand miles away at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. The TITAN operator sent a target-data message to Yuma where a fire command was processed and sent to the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, the Army’s new 70-km super gun. Next, a scout helicopter — actually a surrogate for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA — located the command-and control-node of the enemy air defenses, a wheeled amphibious armored personnel carrier, using an object-detection AI dubbed Dead Center onboard the drone. An Air Launched Effects drone, or ALE, launched from the helicopter, provided a floating mesh network beyond 50 km. An autonomously flying Grey Eagle drone swooped in at 300 feet — far below its normal operating floor of 10,000 feet or so — and hit the target with a Hellfire missile.