13 December 2020

India’s Congress Party Needs to Ditch the Nehru-Gandhi Family


India is a country of dynasties, and the most famous is the Nehru-Gandhi family. The first family member to serve as president of the Indian National Congress was Motilal Nehru, father of Jawaharlal Nehru, who led the group from 1919-20 and again from 1928-29. After the second term, he was succeeded by his son Jawaharlal, who served the first of many terms at the top job— as president of the Congress in 1929-30, 1936-37, 1946, and 1951-54—as well as being India’s first prime minister from 1947-64.

By the time his daughter, Indira Gandhi, who acquired her convenient (but unrelated to Mohandas Gandhi) name by marriage, became president of the Congress in 1978, it was already a well-established family business. However, she turned it up a notch. In Nehru’s time, there were still heads of the party who weren’t from the family, but since 1978 (except for a short gap between 1991-98) the Indian National Congress has been led by a member of the Nehru Gandhi family. Since 1998, Sonia Gandhi, the widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, has led the party, save for the years between 2017-19 when her son, Rahul Gandhi, was in charge.

Biological Risks in India: Perspectives and Analysis


Infectious diseases such as COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus; severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS); and the diseases caused by the Ebola, Nipah, and Zika viruses have exposed countries’ susceptibility to naturally occurring biological threats. Even though scientists from multiple countries concluded that the virus responsible for the coronavirus pandemic shifted naturally from an animal source to a human host,1 the international community should not ignore the possibility of pathogens escaping accidentally from research labs and threats of deliberate manipulation to create more dangerous bioweapons.

India is especially vulnerable to such infections because of its geographical position, large population, low healthcare spending, minimal expenditure on research that benefits public health, weak coordination between central and state health authorities, limited involvement of private actors, poor awareness of biosecurity, and the rickety state of public health infrastructure. Most recently, COVID-19 has revealed the deep fault lines in India’s public health infrastructure, including a shortage of healthcare workers, lack of trained epidemiologists, scarcity of medical equipment, poor access to healthcare facilities in rural areas, and inefficient disease reporting and surveillance in most states. The pandemic should therefore be a wake-up call for India to assess gaps in its public health infrastructure and divert its resources toward the healthcare sector to prepare itself for both natural and man-made biological emergencies.

Like any country, India faces three major biological threats: naturally occurring infections in humans or animals, or agricultural infestations; infections arising from accidental release of pathogens into the environment; and possible outbreaks caused by deliberate weaponization of dangerous pathogens that affect humans, animals, or crops. These threats—either alone or together—will force India to strengthen its capacity to detect and respond to them.

The China-India Standoff in Ladakh: A Relook

By Daniel Balazs

June 15, 2020 will go down in history as a day on which two nuclear powers — China and India — were on the brink of a fight over their disputed border. The Galwan clash came as a surprise to some, but historical scrutiny suggests that Sino-Indian confrontations on the border often happen during times of Chinese vulnerability, when Beijing’s aim is to undermine the consolidation of an anti-China coalition. As long as external pressure on China persists, a larger-scale conflict on the Sino-Indian border remains a possibility. The involved actors must tread carefully to avoid triggering a process that could lead to unwanted escalation.

After more than four decades of relative tranquillity on the India-China border, Chinese and Indian troops drew blood in the Galwan Valley, raising alarms about a potential war between the Asian juggernauts. The confrontation led to a flurry of analyses and explanations of China’s motives for the move. Despite all the efforts, China’s considerations remain elusive.

Taking a look at long-term patterns of Sino-Indian border crises could shed more light on the issue. Historically, external pressure played an important role in exacerbating China’s sense of vulnerability, often leading to violent border clashes in China’s neighborhood.

The Biden Transition and Reshaping U.S. Strategy: Long Engagements vs. Long Wars

The ongoing Trump efforts to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other countries where a U.S. presence involves some form of active combat will be one of the earliest major decisions the Biden Administration will have to make. It is also a decision that the Trump Administration is clearly trying to preemptively affect by cutting U.S. force levels to a point where they are too ineffective to meet the needs of a host government. The size of U.S. force levels and force cuts, the missions such forces are actually performing, the facilities and basing access the U.S. still has, and the actual levels of spending involved are all unclear that it is almost impossible to judge what the Trump Administration is actually doing.

The tendency of much of the current policy and media debate to label current U.S. military activities as “long wars,” without looking at the changes in force levels, the kind of forces involved, and the current cost of U.S. action also does far more to confuse the situation than to explain it. It leads to the use of grossly exaggerated costs based on the cost of past periods of actual war fighting, and it also results in the implication that U.S. land forces still heavily dominate the fighting.

Most media reporting and some academic reporting also further complicates the situation by focusing on the immediate impact of rough estimates of civilian air casualties without addressing the cost of land fighting, the casualty effect of creating refugees and displaced persons, and the impact of extremist and authoritarian rule and actions on the civil life of the populations in the areas they threaten or control.

Committing to Long Engagements Rather than Long Wars

‘You can never be China’s friend’: Spengler


He was a phantom among journalists, using the mysterious nom de plume, “Spengler.” Like his German philosopher namesake, the cultural critic returned again and again to his despairing theories of the decline of the West.

The work of “Spengler” drew from a deep and rich intellectual pool. And since the herald has revealed his true identity, we learn why. David P Goldman – philosopher, economist, mathematician and musicologist – is a Renaissance man. A former investment banker for the Bank of America and Credit Suisse, the American is known for his widely read column for Forbes magazine and Asia Times.

Dutch writer Leon de Winter crowns Goldman’s work as “among the most interesting in the world.”

We meet at the noble Princeton Club in Midtown Manhattan where Goldman is a member. He is intensively involved with China. Informed by close experience in the country and with its people, Goldman counsels caution toward the aggressive Asian empire. But before training a critical eye on the East, the keen observer sharply examines his own culture and the president for whom he voted in 2016.

As we speak, the country is in turmoil. For the fourth time in US history, a president might be impeached. Your thoughts?

Trump’s real liability isn’t impeachment. It’s China and the economy. What the Trump administration has been doing so far, vis-à-vis China, is an own goal — ein Eigentor [“an owner”].

Why is it an eigentor?

Analysis: Xi floats 2027 as new milestone year


Katsuji Nakazawa is a Tokyo-based senior staff writer and editorial writer at Nikkei. He has spent seven years in China as a correspondent and later as China bureau chief. He is the 2014 recipient of the Vaughn-Ueda International Journalist prize for international reporting.

TOKYO -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has begun talking about a new 100-year anniversary: the year 2027, which marks the centennial of the founding of the People's Liberation Army.

At a recent key meeting of the Chinese Communist Party, the milestone abruptly appeared, marked as a year toward which military development should be targeted. Many in China believe the political meaning is significant.

China has long had two centennial goals.

The party came into being in 1921, and in 1949 a Communist-led country, the People's Republic of China, was established. To mark the 100th anniversaries of these two dates, the party has set goals to be met by 2021 and 2049.

Democracies Need a United Strategy Against China


The U.S.-led countries of the trans-Atlantic alliance and their democratic East Asian allies lack a strategy for dealing with their most formidable competitor: China. But the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a strategy for dealing with these opponents. Its goal affects everyone’s futures: The CCP wants an international order where it is the rule-maker, not a rule-taker. Given the way Xi Jinping’s regime treats its own people, we should not assume that it will be more benevolent toward outsiders.

The CCP implements this strategy with decisive leadership, as well as a clear-eyed appreciation of and means of exploiting foreign diplomatic, economic, political, and social weaknesses. These “sharp power” tactics include censorship and manipulation of the information system, cyberoperations, leverage of trade and investment, propaganda, and military bluff and intimidation.

The United States and its allies, by contrast, lack leadership and goals. Their approach has for years been based on the flawed assumption that globalization, prosperity, and technology make China more liberal. They underestimated their own vulnerabilities. They refrained from exploiting China’s weaknesses. They prioritized short-term economic benefits over political and strategic considerations. They underestimated the risks of other countries’ engagement with the Chinese party-state. They did not help victims of CCP aggression. They let the CCP set the terms in which China is discussed, depicting criticism as unfounded, malevolent, or racist, and projecting a sense of inevitability. China—so the message goes—will likely be the richest and most powerful country in the world by 2049. Get used to it.

U.S. missed an opportunity to ‘put a lot of pressure’ on China, says former senator

Yen Nee Lee

The U.S. flag flies at a welcoming ceremony between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017.

SINGAPORE — The Trans-Pacific Partnership was a “missed opportunity” for the U.S. to “put a lot of pressure” on China, said former Senator Bob Corker.

The TPP was a massive trade deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama and 11 other countries — which excludes China. The deal in its original form would have been the world’s largest trade agreement, covering nearly 40% of the global economy.

But the agreement was widely criticized in the U.S. and never passed Congress. Shortly after taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the trade agreement.

... it was a missed opportunity for our country to really put a lot of pressure against some of the things that China was doing and to have an alliance that would have made a significant difference.

“Obviously politics got a hold of the issue in 2016 and it was a missed opportunity for our country to really put a lot of pressure against some of the things that China was doing, and to have an alliance that would have made a significant difference,” Corker, Republican senator for Tennessee from 2007 to 2019, said Tuesday at the Milken Institute Asia Summit.

The Killing Of Iran's Nuclear Scientists

by Niall McCarthy

New details are emerging about an attack that killed Iran's most senior nuclear scientist last Friday. Initially, it was thought that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was attacked by undentified gunmen armed with automatic weapons and explosives. However, a Fars news agency report on Sunday evening states that Fakhrizadeh was actually killed by a remote-controlled weapon mounted in a vehicle that subsequently exploded.

Iran has blamed Israel and an opposition group in exile called Mujahedeen-e-Khalq for the attack. A senior Iranian security official has described it as "highly complex", adding that it was carried out with "electronic devices".

While Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is the most senior nuclear scientist to be killed in mysterious circumstances in Iran, he is by no means the first with Tehran holding Israel accountable for at least five assassinations. The first high-profile killing happened in early 2010 when Masoud Ali Mohammadi died after a bomb was detonated on a motorcycle when he left his home. The pattern of targeting nuclear scientists during their commute repeated itself in subsequent incidents and Majid Shahriari died when a motorcyclist attached a bomb to his car in November 2010. It remains unclear whether Darioush Rezaeinejad was connected to the nuclear program but he was shot dead regardless by two gunmen on a motorcycle in July 2011. Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was killed a year later when assailants on a motorcycle attached magnetic bombs to his car while he was on his way to work.

US Military Starts Vaccinating Troops, Behind Russia and China


The Pentagon expects to distribute 44,000 doses of covid-19 vaccine among military personnel and retirees against COVID as early as next week at 16 sites in what officials called a “controlled pilot.” 

Initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine will go to what officials described as a “limited, limited'' number of senior military officials and officers, including the Defense Secretary and Deputy Defense Secretary, the Chairmen and Vice Chairman of the Joints Chief and some others. But the bulk of the initial doses will go to the military healthcare workforce. 

The doses will cover only a small fraction of what's needed to vaccinate everyone in DoD care, including the one million active duty personnel and more than nine million benefits-receiving veterans. 

AI Is Reshaping the US Approach to Gray-Zone Ops


About 15 years ago, the U.S. military’s elite counterinsurgency operators realized that the key to scaling up their operations was the ability to make sense of huge volumes of disparate data. From 2004 to 2009, Task Force 714 developed groundbreaking ways to sort and analyze information gathered on raids, which allowed them to exponentially increase the number of raids from about 20 a month to 300, SOCOM Commander Gen. Richard Clarke said Monday on a Hudson Institute broadcast. 

The lessons from Task Force 714, which Clarke discusses further in this August essay, are now shaping how special operations forces uses AI in difficult settings, leading to such things as the Project Maven program. 

Military leaders are fond of talking about how AI will accelerate things like predictive maintenance, soldier health, and increase the pace of battlefield operations. “We’re now seeing AI make some inroads into the command-and-control processes and it’s because of the same problem SOCOM had…an urgent need to make faster more effective decisions,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow and director of Hudson’s Center for Defense Concepts and Technology. “They’re finding in their wargaming that that’s the only way U.S. forces can win.”

And while service leaders have made a big show recently of how AI will accelerate operations in a high-end, World War III-style conflict, AI is more likely to see use sooner in far less intense situations, Clark said. AI might be particularly effective when the conflict falls short of war, when the combatants aren’t wearing identifiable uniforms. Such tools could use personal data — the kind collected by websites and used by to sell ads targeted to ever-more specific consumer groups — to tell commanders more about their human adversary and his or her intentions. 

In Venezuela, Maduro Is More Entrenched Than Ever. What Can Biden Do?

Frida Ghitis 

Venezuelan opposition leaders and the governments that back them just saw their strategy for dislodging the increasingly tyrannical regime of President Nicolas Maduro culminate in failure. Last Sunday, in farcical elections for a new legislature, Maduro’s supporters took control of the last remaining bastion of the opposition, the National Assembly. The legislature had served as the tip of the spear for a coordinated international campaign to remove Maduro, which was promoted by the Trump administration and supported by European and Latin American democracies.

That plan, which launched two years ago, had tried to capitalize on the opposition’s control of the National Assembly. Opposition politicians had won an overwhelming majority during the last legislative elections, in 2015, which turned out to be Venezuela’s last credible polls. Although the regime later stripped the National Assembly of all its powers, the opposition still enjoyed the legitimacy of a duly elected government institution, even one with seemingly no practical authority, and found a way to leverage it.

After Maduro proclaimed himself the winner of a fraudulent presidential election in 2018, the National Assembly declared the presidency vacant and, following constitutional guidelines, named the head of the legislature, Juan Guaido, as the country’s rightful interim president until fair elections could be held. Guaido was soon recognized by some 50 countries as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state. The United States led a new “maximum pressure” campaign against the regime, including tightening sanctions, but an expected military uprising to oust Maduro failed to materialize.

The Ethics of Offensive Cyber: Reflections on the role of the National Cyber Force

Dr Joe Devanny

Turn off the lights in Moscow? This is just one of the possible uses of offensive cyber operations (OCOs) briefed to the press by senior British defence sources. Put simply, OCOs ‘project power to achieve military objectives in, or through, cyberspace.’ In everyday language, we are talking about ‘cyber attacks’ – from knocking websites offline to disabling computers on a network, shutting down a power grid, manipulating centrifuges in uranium enrichment facilities, or undermining an adversary’s air defences.

Over the last decade, the UK government has talked more openly about its cyber capabilities. The latest step was the prime minister’s recent avowal of the National Cyber Force (NCF), which has been operational since April. Uncertainty remains, however, about the role of OCOs in wider UK strategy and how our political leaders are navigating the complex choices involved in deciding when to use cyber operations to secure national objectives and project British values overseas. For example, should OCOs only target an adversary’s defence and security infrastructure, or should the UK follow the contemporary trend in targeting civilian infrastructure, as implied in the Moscow scenario briefed to the press?

There is a burgeoning academic literature on covert action as an instrument of state policy. There is also an extensive and growing literature on the legal and strategic issues raised by state and non-state cyber operations. Cyber operations during an armed conflict are covered by the existing law of armed conflict, and should abide by the principles of necessity, distinction, proportionality and unnecessary suffering.

RESOLVED: Japan Is Ready to Become a Formal Member of Five Eyes

In an August 2020 interview, former Defense Minister Kono Taro stated Japan’s interest in joining “Five Eyes,” an intelligence-sharing relationship between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Though Japan enjoys high levels of cooperation with Five Eyes countries, the argument for Japan to formally become the “sixth eye” has strengthened in the face of China’s growing military and cyber capabilities. 

In the nineteenth issue of the Debating Japan newsletter series, the CSIS Japan Chair invited Dr. Jagannath Panda, Research Fellow and Centre Coordinator for East Asia at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, and Mr. Ankit Panda, Stanton Senior Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to share their perspectives on whether Japan is truly ready to become a formal member of Five Eyes.

Prime Minister Suga assumed leadership during a period of extraordinary international vulnerability and geopolitical tensions. Heralded as a "continuity" leader, Suga’s focus on defense posturing—one of former prime minister Shinzo Abe's defining legacies—has only increased. Under Suga, Japan’s addition as the “Sixth Eye” in “Five Eyes”—an intelligence-sharing alliance including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—has gained further traction. With intelligence sharing being centrally dependent upon mutual trust and strategic understanding, Tokyo’s inclusion in the Five Eyes boils down to six main considerations.

A world with three internets

Today’s internet is neither global nor open. More than 40% of the world’s population now lives in countries where internet access is controlled by the authorities. The Chinese government, for example, restricts access to Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, CNN, Wikipedia, TikTok, Netflix and The New York Times, among others. There are, of course, Chinese versions of those digital products. In India, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and many other countries, the government blocks websites and censors their content.

The internet is no longer decentralized either. While it is true that the internet has empowered many individuals and groups by giving them a better chance of being heard and influencing others – including their governments – it has also evolved in a way that gives other governments and the Tech Giants – Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook – ever-greater control over the internet. As a result, in many countries, the technology of political liberation has become a tool of repression.

Europe is the epicenter of an alternative internet approach that addresses the flaws of the American model and the abuses of the Chinese one

The internet is not free. Google searches, Facebook meetings, Twitter messages and WhatsApp chats may appear to be free, but they’re not. We pay for them by letting those who provide these services know virtually everything about us. That information enables them to dominate the lucrative market for global advertising.

White House Unveils New Space Policy, But Does It Matter?


WASHINGTON: Outgoing President Donald Trump has issued a new National Space Policy that, in essence, seeks to put an official stamp on the administration’s previous decisions, from asserting that space is a warfighting domain to pledging a permanent US presence on the Moon to supporting industry efforts to mine celestial bodies.

The big question is: does it matter?

“I just think it’s a little too late for trying to put a stamp on something. It is just trying to say that they did something,” said veteran space policy wonk Erin Neal, founder of Velocity Government Relations and staffer to former Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.

Space isn’t expected to have a high profile in the administration of incoming President Joe Biden, given the pandemic, the flailing economy, the climate crisis and a number of foreign policy challenges — many, such as the prickly relations between the US and its NATO allies, of the Trump administration’s own making. That said, Biden — like every other president before him — likely will eventually want to put his own stamp on space policy.

For example, the new Trump policy seeks to enshrine the role of the National Space Council, led by Vice President Mike Pence and used, in large part, as a bully pulpit for advocacy of administration decisions. But, word on the street is that while the Biden administration is unlikely to get rid of the council, given VP Kamala Harris’s lack of interest in the subject and the time sink it’s proven to be for agency heads the White House may simply let it languish.

DoD Needs Tighter Reins On EW Acquisition


WASHINGTON: Putting DoD’s new electromagnetic spectrum strategy into action will require overhauling how electronic warfare systems are developed and bought, senior DoD and service officials say. This includes ensuring that EW systems are compatible with radios, radars and other spectrum-reliant devices being used on the battlefield.

“I have some experience in in the challenges of that, because I come from an EW community where we’ve had spectrum conflicts with comms users and radar users and other spectrum-using systems,” DoD Director of Electronic Warfare David Tremper told a Mitchell Institute webinar today.

“Historically, we have not taken a holistic approach to how we manage spectrum-using systems tactically,” he explained. “We end up in these ‘cylinders of excellence’ where the EW community is trying to accommodate the radio community or vice versa. Or there’s finger pointing about who’s responsible for different spectrum issues. But there has never been historically a holistic view of that — how to deconflict that on the fly.”

Trust, not escalation, should be the United States' cyberspace policy


The recent commemoration of the end of World War I, marked in capitals around the world, should give us pause to reflect on conflicts to come. The 21st century will see new arenas for conflict, and with them new rules of engagement and acceptable behavior in time of war. The internet will almost certainly be one of these new battlefields — but the challenge for many national leaders is not so much unrestricted digital warfare as the daily avalanche of cyberattacks that fall short of war. These cyberattacks threaten energy grids, hospitals, vaccine researchers, company secrets and all the digital underpinnings of modern life. How these threats can be managed is a significant problem when digital attackers can be nearly anonymous, even if they are states or state-backed actors.

In an early recognition of this problematic reality, French President Emmanuel Macron launched the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace on Nov. 12, 2018. The call sets out simple principles for states that want a more stable and secure online world, including that they work with the companies and organizations that built and now operate the internet.

It is a first-of-a-kind multi-stakeholder, multi-lateral attempt to ensure peace and security in cyberspace.

The Cybersecurity Tech Accord has been a vocal supporter of the Paris Call ever since its launch. We believe that it creates the best kind of multi-stakeholder coalition: one that can realistically respond to the challenges of escalating conflict in cyberspace by bringing together governments, tech companies and civil society.

STARCOM: Training Troops To Fight Space Wars, Boldly


WASHINGTON: Space Force’s new training and readiness unit, called STARCOM, is working from the ground up to figure out what doctrine, skills and tech space professionals will need for orbital warfare.

“What we are really bringing to the fight is focus. Focus on space,” Col. Peter Flores, commander of the Space Training and Readiness (STAR) Delta Provisional at Space Operations Command, said in an interview today. (STAR Delta is the predecessor to a brand new training and readiness field command, that will be called STARCOM. It will be led by a two-star and is expected to be up and running sometime next year.)

“We’ve decided that the topic is important enough and unique enough that we need a group of people who understand it down to its most fundamental levels,” Flores added.

Currently, Flores is overseeing 900 personnel, shifted over from a mishmash of former Air Force units. Those units include:

Between Peace and War: Gray Zone, Bright Line, or Dialectic?

By Patrick Brady

A "gray zone" of conflict that is "neither fully war nor fully peace" has become ubiquitous in American strategic thinking. Believers place this zone somewhere between war and peace, but their failure to define war leaves a zone with no boundaries and no definition. Their gray zone starts to look like Ambrose Bierce's definition of hash: "There is no definition for this word—nobody knows what hash is."

Skeptics of the gray zone, in contrast, define war, thereby separating peace from war and leaving no space between the two. War shows many degrees on one side of the dividing line, and peace shows many on the other, gradations that allow for what is sometimes called a dialectic.

Gray Zone Defenders and Doubters

After the fall of the Soviet Union, contends Michael Mazarr in Mastering the Gray Zone (2015), that zone became "the strategy of the weak" for Russia, China, Iran, and others who resort to a kaleidoscopic assortment of actions: "economic coercion, fifth column activities, clandestine disruption and sabotage, and information operations or propaganda." Mazarr shies away from a definition of war: "Exactly what constitutes being 'at war' becomes something in the eye of the beholder." But with no defined borders, the gray zone becomes "incoherent," just a new label for "sneaky activities," in the view of skeptic Adam Elkus. And partial skeptic Theodore Jensen in 2019 calls the gray zone just "a placeholder for something…not yet…defined…or…not fully understood"; if understood, it would no longer be called a gray zone.

These Three Companies Will Build Drones To Carry The Air Force's "Skyborg" AI Computer Brain


The Air Force says it has hired Boeing, General Atomics, and Kratos to build prototype "loyal wingman" type drones to carry systems developed under the Skyborg program. Through Skyborg, which you can read more about in The War Zone's previous reporting on this topic, the service is seeking to acquire a suite of artificial intelligence-driven capabilities that will able to control loyal wingmen, as well as fully-autonomous unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) announced it had awarded the trio of contracts on Dec. 7, 2020. The deals for Boeing, General Atomics, and Kratos are valued at $25,748,180, $14,317,933, and $37,771,577, respectively. Each one covers a 24-month-long period of performance. All three companies were among the more than a dozen firms that have already received contracts to develop other components for Skyborg.

“This award is a major step forward for our game-changing Skyborg capability – this award supporting our operational experimentation is truly where concepts become realities," Air Force Brigadier General Dale White, the service's Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, said in a statement. "We will experiment to prove out this technology and to do that we will aggressively test and fly to get this capability into the hands of our warfighters."

Thailand’s Military Is Getting Ready for Another Crackdown


The leaders of Thailand’s military-royalty complex are growing restless. The attempt to satisfy popular demands for a return to democracy by offering a military-controlled facsimile has failed. Thailand’s students and other young people have risen up, calling for genuine democratic reform, including popular control over the heretofore untouchable monarchy.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the clownish yet arrogant general who seized power six years ago, has dropped his pretense of accommodation with the protestors. After refusing demands to resign and using the appointive senate to defeat proposals for constitutional reform, he blamed pro-democracy activists for his own moves, claiming that “the government has been straightforward and earnest in trying to find a solution.” On the ground, with demonstrators harassed, beaten, and arrested, the government doesn’t look very earnest.

Facing surprisingly resolute protestors, he threatened: “It will be necessary for the government and the concerned security agencies to enhance our measures by enforcing all the pertaining laws against protesters who violate the law or infringe on the rights and freedoms of other citizens.” Left unsaid was the fact that these laws were passed to enforce military rule. His latest step was charging a dozen protest leaders with lèse-majesté.

This is the first time in two years that the government has invoked the draconian punishment for criticism of the monarchy. Often deployed for political purposes by the junta, the prosecution is intended to defeat efforts to challenge King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the long-time crown prince who succeeded his father in 2016, was formally crowned last year and now spends much of his time in Germany with a sizable harem. The German government is evidently annoyed but says no laws apparently have been violated.

Why I Chose Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense


In late August of 2010, I traveled to Iraq for the fifth time as vice president. While there, I participated in the change-of-command ceremony for United States Forces–Iraq. President Barack Obama had charged me with overseeing the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and we were committed to ensuring the orderly withdrawal of our forces and equipment from Iraq. Standing in the garish al-Faw palace, once home to Saddam Hussein but by then part of Camp Victory, I watched as General Lloyd Austin assumed leadership of a national-security priority on behalf of the president of the United States of America.

Just over a year later, in December 2011, I returned to al-Faw palace, joining Austin in a ceremony honoring American and Iraqi service members as our forces left the country. 

General Austin got the job done. He played a crucial role in bringing 150,000 American troops home from the theater of war. Pulling that off took more than just the skill and strategy of a seasoned soldier. It required Austin to practice diplomacy, building relationships with our Iraqi counterparts and with our partners in the region. He served as a statesman, representing our country with honor and dignity and always, above all, looking out for his people. 

Today, I ask Lloyd Austin to once more take on a mission for the United States of America—this time as the secretary-designate of the Department of Defense. I know he will do an outstanding job. 


By War Room 

Managing homeland security challenges requires practitioners to engage in a discursive space that regularly increases in complexity and scope.

For this Whiteboard we reached out to several skilled practitioners in collaboration with the Homeland Security Experts Group (HSEG) with the following prompt:
What do you envision as the greatest challenges facing homeland security and domestic intelligence for the next decade?

With a mission to elevate and invigorate the conversations around homeland security risks and bring ground truth to the discussion, the HSEG is an independent, nonpartisan group of homeland security policy and counter-terrorism experts who convene periodically to discuss issues in depth, share information and ideas with the Secretary of Homeland Security and other policymakers, increase awareness of the evolving risks facing our nation, and help make our country safer. The Homeland Security Experts Group is co-chaired by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and former Congresswoman Jane Harman. HSEG, while independent in its operations and pursuits, is supported by The MITRE Corporation. All of this was made possible through the coordination efforts of the U.S. Army War College De Serio Chair of Strategic Intelligence, Dr. Genevieve Lester.

Readers are invited to make their own contributions in the comments section.

1. Patricia F.S. Cogswell, Strategic Advisor, National Security Sector

Over the last 30 years, we have seen an increase in the number and types of threats and challenges affecting our country, our allies, and those who share our interests. At the same time, we have seen a series of activities that have diminished our public institutions and hindered the abilities of public servants to prevent, protect, and respond to these threats.