14 December 2020

Indian Foreign Minister Speaks at Event on Rebalancing at Home and Aboard

By Abhijnan Rej

In a wide-ranging virtual conversation with the Sydney think tank Lowy Institute’s Michael Fullilove on December 9, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar once again outlined the Modi government’s core foreign policy beliefs – and in the process, brought uncomfortable questions to the fore yet once more. Jaishankar published a book earlier this year in which he laid out his vision for “global strategy,” a way of thinking about the international system and India’s place in it by looking at linkages between disparate trends and their net effect.

His conversation with Fullilove drew some of its premises from the book, beginning with the assertion that the world is amid “rebalancing” and moving toward a multipolar system where increasing weights of newer powers (such as China, but also in Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conception, India) is bringing about a fundamental structural shift with far-reaching geopolitical effect. As Jaishankar told Fullilove, this will lead to “new regimes, new norms, new behavior.” Effectively, Jaishankar’s reassertion was tantamount to endorsing an uncomfortable fact: India is an “emerging, evolutionary, revisionist power,” as scholar Jagannath Panda put it in a recent essay. But India’s revisionism takes aim at extant regimes as it seeks to muscle its way into them, often by teaming up with China, while China’s are explicitly territorial as well as normative.

There Is Only One Way Out of Afghanistan

By Barnett R. Rubin

For more than a decade, every debate about U.S. policy in Afghanistan has focused narrowly on the number of troops to send or withdraw. U.S. policymakers freely admit there can be no military solution to Afghanistan’s problems. Yet they continue to debate the same false choice between disengagement and troop commitment for counterterrorism. 

The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden has a chance to move beyond this blinkered approach. U.S. interests in Afghanistan extend beyond counterterrorism. China, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia—four nuclear powers, Asia’s two mega-economies, and a wily U.S. adversary—all have a stake in Afghanistan’s future. How the United States deals with these countries in the context of the Afghan peace process has profound implications for its relations with each of them and for its standing in Asia.

I Commanded NATO Forces in Afghanistan. Here’s How We Could End This 'Forever War'


From 2009 to 2013, as Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, I was the strategic commander for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. We had over 50 nations in the coalition, including the 28 NATO members, and over 150,000 troops at the mission’s peak. We were spending billions of dollars a week, and over my four years I had superb generals working for me in tactical command in country: Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus, John Allen, and Joe Dunford. With all that money, those brave troops, and the best leaders in the U.S. military, we still struggled. The war has now dragged on through two decades, with hundreds of thousands of casualties on all sides.

How can we end this?

Let me begin by pointing out what has improved. Over the past twenty years since the departure from power of the Taliban regime in 2001, no terrorist attack on the U.S. has been launched from Afghanistan; the entire population and especially woman have vastly better human rights; hundreds of thousands more children (both girls and boys) now attend school; literacy and life expectancy have both increased dramatically; and the country has conducted a series of elections and has a rudimentary democracy.

Most importantly, the vast majority of the fighting (and the casualties) are now being born by the Afghan National Security Forces. As a result, we now have fewer than 10,000 coalition troops in country, a 95% drop from peak, most of whom were withdrawn under the Obama Administration. Coalition casualties are few and far between, and the Afghan government controls all the major population centers. Above all, a peace process—after many starts and stops —is taking hold, with the government and the Taliban sitting together and ironing out a process to move forward.

China’s ‘wild era’ of internet may be ending as new personal data protection law seeks to curb Big Tech’s control over user data

Celia Chen 

China’s new data privacy laws could see the beginning of the end of the country’s “wild era” of internet development where platforms have been free to collect and use citizens’ personal information.

Legal experts welcomed the draft of the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), despite its shortcomings, saying the move is timely and will help push back against big tech’s control over personal data.

Wang Zhicheng, associate professor of finance at the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, said the past two decades have been a “wild era” for China’s internet, with the big tech platforms operating with few rules to regulate their collection and usage of personal data.

The draft version of the PIPL, which closed for public comments last week, significantly increases penalties for companies responsible for data breaches, proposing fines of up to 50 million yuan (US$7.6 million) or 5 per cent of annual revenue. However, it is short on details of what companies must do to be compliant, putting the onus on them to be extra cautious when handling user data.

“It is imperative that companies formulate or update their data compliance and risk management strategies for the China market,” said Barbara Li, the head of corporate technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) and data practice at professional services firm PwC.

NATO Sets Its Sights on China

By Sale Lilly

For an alliance that has 'North Atlantic' in its name, you'd think a strategy paper that fingers China about as often as it does a trouble-making Russia was confused about geography. NATO 2030: United for a New Era is the alliance's latest strategy paper. Written by advisors to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the forward-looking paper's focus includes the alliance's normal political and military rival Russia but also has a surprisingly strong focus on China. By my count, and on the frequency of mentions alone, Russia barely wins the gold, with 96 mentions to China's 91. Terrorism - a tactic and the amorphous enemy of the past two decades - receives about half that attention. Afghanistan, where NATO still has troops in combat roles, receives scant mention. NATO's best guess on where its future focus should be is decidedly east of Brussels.

A few years back, a Chinese People's Liberation Army officer attending an academic conference on the changing character of warfare in Europe told me they were concerned about NATO becoming a part of an anti-China alliance. I dismissed the concern at the time, but NATO 2030 makes almost that same argument, urging NATO security collaboration with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (India, U.S., Australia, Japan) and also advocating to pursue a NATO-India partnership since India is '…a country that shares fundamental interests and values with the Alliance.' For China, a nation that has spent the past three years getting into high-altitude, low-tech, and sometimes fatal brawls with their Indian neighbors over Doklam Plateau and parts of Ladakh, it seems like the PLA officer's concerns were well-founded if not prescient.

The U.S. Can’t Check China Alone

By Odd Arne Westad

In mid-November, the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff released a 74-page report arguing that China aims to fundamentally revise the world order in the service of its authoritarian goals and hegemonic ambitions. Seeking to elucidate “the intellectual sources of China’s conduct,” the document is clearly meant to evoke “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” the seminal article that the first director of policy planning, George Kennan, wrote in Foreign Affairs under the byline “X” in 1947. The new report, intended as a blueprint for China policy in the second Trump term that was not to be, raises problems that remain relevant for the incoming Biden administration. But it has far less to say when it comes to solutions.

The Trump administration’s report correctly sees China as the greatest challenge to the United States since the end of the Cold War, showing how Beijing has grown more authoritarian at home and more aggressive abroad. It also rightly recognizes how China has tried to gain an advantage by applying economic pressure and conducting espionage—as well as by exploiting the naiveté that causes many foreigners to miss the oppressive nature of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Yet the report is limited by ideological and political constraints; given that it is a Trump administration document, it must echo President Donald Trump’s distaste for international organizations, even though they are key to dealing with China.

The Evolution of China’s ‘Preventive Counterterrorism’ in Xinjiang

by Michael Clarke and Stefanie Kam Li Yee

Servicemen of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army march at a ceremony to close the Peace Mission 2018 joint counterterrorism exercises conducted by the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) member states on the Cherbakul Training Ground. (Photo by Donat Sorokin\TASS via Getty Images)

China’s northwestern Xinjiang region is now the site of the largest mass repression of an ethnic and/or religious minority in the world. Since 2016, over 1 million people, mostly ethnic Uyghurs, have been detained without trial in a system of “re-education” camps while the broader population is subjected to a dense network of hi-tech surveillance systems, checkpoints, and interpersonal monitoring that severely limit personal freedom.

Beijing defends these policies by claiming they together constitute a “preventive counterterrorism” strategy that enables the state to detect early signs of radicalization among the Uyghur population and to educate at-risk individuals before they commit attacks. It is easy to dismiss this as post facto justification for a system of draconian social control and cultural cleansing, but the discourse and practice of China’s counterterrorism doctrine reveals the full scope of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) ambition.

Through an analysis primarily of Chinese government documents, Chinese state media reports, and Chinese academic sources, we demonstrate how preventive counterterrorism in Xinjiang combines key practices (e.g. greater reliance on new surveillance technologies) and discourses of the “global war on terrorism” with the CCP’s evolving Leninist governance methodology of “social management.”

Australia’s China Problem


MELBOURNE – Australia’s China problem – official contacts frozen and many of our exports under siege – is now gaining attention far beyond our shores. Much of the world, given stark evidence of the economic havoc that China’s displeasure can wreak, and of the ugly depths to which its “wolf warrior diplomacy” can descend, is trying to understand both how we fell into this hole, and whether we can climb out of it with our dignity intact.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been laboring under enormous pressure to prevent a veto of the European Union's 2021-27 budget and COVID-19 recovery fund. But the compromise she reached with Hungary and Poland is the worst of all possible worlds. 

How have Australia’s relations with China deteriorated so spectacularly? The short answer is that, although the most recent escalations have come from the Chinese side, for several years Australia has not properly managed the need both to get along with China and to stand up to it. As Geoff Raby, a former Australian ambassador to China, has argued, we have failed to devise a middle way between sycophancy and hostility. Or, to cite the immortal wisdom of the 1930s Scottish labor leader Jimmy Maxton: “If you can’t ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the bloody circus.”

Australia’s huge economic dependence on China – the market for more than one-third of our exports, far more than the United States or any European country – gives us no choice but to get along with our larger regional neighbor. It is fanciful to think we can find alternative markets on that scale any time soon, or perhaps ever.

China’s COVID-19 Vaccines Move Forward

By Shannon Tiezzi

On December 9, the United Kingdom became the first country to being administering a fully-tested, fully-approved vaccine for COVID-19. The vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, showed 95 percent efficacy in trials. The vaccine is expected to be approved by the United States on December 10. Another vaccine, from Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has reported 94.5 percent efficacy and is pushing toward approval as well.

Where do China’s vaccines stand?

China currently has four vaccines in advanced stages of development. The final stage of clinical trials, phase three, involves thousands of volunteers, both to monitor for side effects and to test the efficacy of the vaccine in a larger population. Chinese vaccine companies have partnered with foreign countries to conduct their trials, as the spread of COVID-19 is largely contained in China.

On December 9, the UAE reported that trials of the vaccine candidate from Sinopharm showed 86 percent efficacy. The UAE Ministry of Health also said that there were “no serious safety concerns” linked to the vaccine.

Taiwan, Chips, and Geopolitics: Part 1

By John Lee and Jan-Peter Kleinhans

As tensions have risen across the Taiwan Strait, the prospect of a Chinese attack on Taiwan has loomed larger. The need for countries worldwide to consider their position in the event of a cross-strait crisis has risen accordingly. One aspect of these calculations is Taiwan’s outsize role in the global semiconductor industry, and especially that of the computing chip manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).

Semiconductors are the backbone of modern society, and the foundation of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, and quantum computing. The U.S. export control measures targeting Huawei illustrate how the transnational semiconductor value chain can be “weaponized.” Vulnerabilities stemming from this value chain’s highly concentrated nature mostly work in favor of the United States and its allies, save in one respect: China’s ability to threaten Taiwan militarily.

In this context, TSMC’s dominance in global semiconductor production makes for a volatile mix with the geopolitics around Taiwan. It is gaining attention in government, the media, and online discussion as a factor in decision-making for capitals worldwide about the right stance toward Taiwan’s de facto independence and potential military measures that Beijing might take to reduce it. As debate unfolds over whether the United States should end its policy of “strategic ambiguity” on this issue, calls are being made for an express defense commitment to Taiwan that is justified by TSMC’s international importance.

The Pratas Islands: A New Flashpoint in the South China Sea

By Yoshiyuki Ogasawara

As China’s military intimidation of Taiwan intensifies, experts are increasingly warning of a possible Chinese attack and the potential danger in the Taiwan Strait. Considering the language Chinese media use regarding measures to “punish Taiwan,” there is now an urgent need to consider China’s possible engagement in some sort of military action against Taiwan.

At present, it is improbable that the PLA would attempt to actually land troops and occupy the island of Taiwan, because the probability of a successful military operation with minimum casualties for China is low. However, China has other options, one of which would be to apply pressure on or capture the Pratas Islands.

The Pratas Islands are located in the northern part of the South China Sea under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China (Taiwan), closer to China’s mainland coast than to the island of Taiwan. Historically, the Pratas Islands have attracted little attention, but as the importance of the South China Sea has increased, so too has the strategic relevance of the Pratas Islands. If China controlled the Pratas Islands, the islands could function as a gatekeeper to monitor U.S. and other countries’ ships and aircraft entering the South China Sea from the Pacific Ocean.

Pratas Island (the other “islands” in the group are essentially rocks) has an airport, but no permanent inhabitants, only a number of civil officials of the Taiwanese Coast Guard and researchers. It is believed that around 500 soldiers of the ROC Marine Corps are also now stationed there. However, because the island is so small and flat, it is almost impossible to defend.

5 Predictions for Beijing’s Assault on Internet Freedom in 2021

By Sarah Cook

China has long been home to the world’s most sophisticated system of internet controls. Indeed, in Freedom House’s “Freedom on the Net 2020” report, published in October, it was ranked the lowest among the 65 countries assessed for the sixth year in a row.

But even by China’s own standards, censorship and surveillance were pushed to unprecedented extremes this year as the government tightened its grip on the activities of hundreds of millions of internet users. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also extended its repression and disinformation into Hong Kong and around the world in ways that dramatically increase the stakes for foreign governments, technology firms, and ordinary citizens.

This raises the question: What is 2021 likely to bring in the country that is defining the contours of 21st century digital authoritarianism?

In light of both the Freedom on the Net findings and more recent events, these are five trends to watch for in the coming year:

1. Spiking Censorship and Surveillance Surrounding COVID-19 Vaccines and Outbreaks

Iran Is Moving Key Facility at Nuclear Site Underground, Satellite Images Show

Christoph Koettl

The mysterious July explosion that destroyed a centrifuge assembly hall at Iran’s main nuclear fuel enrichment facility in Natanz was deemed by the Iranian authorities to be enemy sabotage, and provoked a defiant response: The wrecked building would be rebuilt in “the heart of the mountains,” the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said.

Progress on that pledge, which could shield the facility from an aerial assault or other threats, has been unclear to outside observers. But new satellite imagery is now shedding light on the Iranian plans.

The Visual Investigations team of The New York Times has tracked construction at the site using the new imagery. For the first time, new tunnel entrances for underground construction are visible under a ridge in the mountain foothills south of the Natanz facility, about 140 miles south of Tehran.

The Times worked with Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California, to interpret the new image.

“The new facility is likely to be a far more secure location for centrifuge assembly — it is located far from a road and the ridge offers significant overburden that would protect the facility from air attack,” Mr. Lewis stated in written comments.

Turkey’s year of belligerence


A joint approach to reining in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s dangerous adventurism in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Caucasus should be high on the European Union’s priority list for collaboration with the incoming Biden administration in the United States. 

EU leaders are considering at this week’s summit whether to increase their own so-far largely symbolic sanctions against Ankara over its militarized drilling for gas in Greek and Cypriot waters. But only coordinated transatlantic action, setting clear red lines and offering incentives for more cooperative behavior stands a chance of changing the Turkish president’s calculus — if anything will. 

At the start of 2020, this column asked “How rogue can Turkey go?” If this were an end-of-year corporate performance review, the rating would have to be “exceeded expectations.” 

In the last 11 months, Erdoğan has: 

– Intervened militarily in Libya’s civil war with arms supplies, drones and Syrian mercenaries to tilt the balance of power in favor of the Tripoli government. 

– Prevented U.N.-mandated French and German ships on an EU mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya from inspecting Turkish cargo ships in the Central Mediterranean. 

– Aided and abetted Azerbaijan in recapturing territory around the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave from Armenia. 

To Get Iran Right, Joe Biden Must Consult U.S. Middle East Allies

by Mohammed Al-Sulami

One reminder of the urgency and magnitude of these crises came in Friday’s announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran’s regime plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant, a flagrant breach of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

While President-elect Biden is understandably most concerned with tackling domestic issues, action on the multiple crises concerning Iran, not only over its nuclear program but in relation to its various severely destabilizing regional activities, can’t be delayed until later. Without urgent action, these threaten to further destabilize the already troubled region and the world. Saudi Arabia, which is coordinating closely with our brotherly Gulf counterparts to help ensure long-denied stability and peace in the region, is keen to work with the new U.S. administration and to play a key role in preventing further regional tensions.

While the ongoing efforts by Saudi Arabia to resolve tensions in the Gulf region will help these nations adopt a unified stance towards the very real and worsening threat which Iran currently poses to the Middle East, without the United States adopting a strong stance to deter Tehran from continuing with its nuclear weapons program and other damaging regional activities, their effect will be limited.

Keeping the Bodies Buried


Human rights campaigners around the world celebrated when security agencies in Cairo released three leading members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) on December 3. Although they were not formally charged during the fortnight they spent in detention, they were accused of spreading fake news, inciting protest, and belonging to a terrorist organization for their work in monitoring unauthorized detentions, prison conditions, and death sentences in the country. An Egyptian terrorism court froze their assets immediately after their release, underlining that the EIPR case clearly remains very much open.

This contrasts with the announcement by Egyptian prosecutors on December 1 that they were “temporarily” closing their investigation into the horrific torture and murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo nearly five years ago. After facing a series of false trails laid by Egyptian security agencies intended “to throw off the investigation,” as Italian prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco stated last year, five Egyptian security officers who have been identified as the probable perpetrators may still be put on trial in absentia in Italy.

Evasion, disinformation, and other delaying tactics are the stock-in-trade of the Egyptian authorities whenever they are faced with external pressures to undertake meaningful economic, legislative, administrative, and human rights reforms, and are standard behavior for the security agencies. But what has been especially striking about the Regeni case all along is the reluctance of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to do more to distance his administration from the crime and reduce reputational damage abroad.

South Korea and Indo-Pacific Security: Building New Networks Beyond the “Quad”

On November 13, 2020, the EAI and Brookings institution jointly held the 2nd online seminar of the series titled "Prospects for U.S.-South Korea Cooperation in an Era of U.S.-China Strategic Competition". In session 1: politics and security, Lindsey W. Ford addressed that while extensive cooperation has been pursued in the Indo-Pacific region, led by QUAD countries, South Korea has not actively participated in security cooperation at the regional level for a long time, only focusing on Korean Peninsula issues. It is natural for South Korea to prioritize its domestic security tasks including the North Korean nuclear threat, but considering South Korea’s status at the regional and global levels, as well as its expanding economic cooperation, its contribution to regional security cooperation is still insignificant. South Korea can more actively present a vision on regional peace and security based on Moon Jae-in government’s New Southern Policy; and may contribute more tosecurity cooperation within the Indo-Pacific region. Rather than focusing on South Korea’s official participation in QUAD, the focus should be on enhancing practical defense cooperation between South Korea and the members of QUAD. South Korea can contribute to the expansion of the regional security cooperation network by promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation with QUAD members. As an influential middle power, South Korea has many areas to contribute to regional security cooperation. In particular, it has proposed to strengthen future cooperation with Australia and India in areas such as maritime, space, and defense security at the bilateral level.

Quotes from the Paper


Revenge is a dish best served nuclear. US deterrence depends on it.

By Peter K. Hatemi, Rose McDermott 

US nuclear strategy relies on a deceptively simple concept: deterrence in the form of mutual assured destruction. Adversaries will not attack the United States, the thinking goes, because they know the United States would retaliate with overwhelming force, potentially involving nuclear weapons.

The concept of deterrence assumes that both sides are rational actors who ultimately desire survival above all else. The problem is that this concept is not valid. In the age of suicide attacks and apocalyptic leaders, it is clear that this first assumption is demonstrably false. Even if one was to cast aside recent phenomena, throughout human history, revenge, not rationality, has been the primary motive for retaliation, irrespective of self-preservation. If a nuclear attack is going to come against the United States, it is not likely to be a response to a nuclear attack US leaders launch, or even the threat of one, but rather instigated in retaliation for the harms, degradation, injustice, and humiliation that opponents believe the United States has already inflicted on them.

As a result, unless US leaders start thinking about the prevention of nuclear war from a more coherent perspective that includes human motivations for revenge, they are likely to end up with exactly what they are trying to prevent: assured destruction. To avoid a nuclear attack in the future, it is critical to understand the underlying human psychological drive for retaliation depends not on a rational calculus of the likelihood of victory, but the unquestioned desire to elicit payback in the face of injury. Yet because decision makers continue to believe that global stability has derived from rational leaders and deterrence, such false beliefs now lead to a more dangerous world where complacency places humanity at greater risk in the face of increasing nuclear proliferation. The stakes are too high for such ignorance to continue.

Nuclear risks are growing, and there’s only one real solution

By Victor Gilinsky 

No country has made military use of a nuclear bomb since the United States dropped the second one, on Nagasaki. “One of humanity’s remarkable achievements,” the conservative columnist George Will called it. But do we imagine that this pause will go on forever? There are signs that restraints on nuclear weapon use are weakening. If they fail, and a nuclear weapon is used, the universal realization will take hold that nuclear war is a fact of life. It will likely change the way the world works in ways that we will deeply regret. We need to develop an exit ramp from this predicament—to find a way to eliminate nuclear weapons. Yet to take this seriously is regarded by the political establishment and its hangers-on in academia and think tanks as a sign of extremism, or at least muddle-headedness. The subject hardly came up in the 2020 presidential election campaigns.

It’s easy to put nuclear weapons out of mind, to let sleeping dogs lie. The weapons play essentially no role in day-to-day life. Even Hollywood has given up making apocalyptic nuclear war movies.

But the nuclear weapons aren’t asleep. They are ready to go.

An officer carrying the “football”—a briefcase containing the nuclear codes—stays close to the US president at all times so he can launch nuclear weapons wherever he is. It has its ludicrous moments. A 2017 photo, for example, shows Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping and their wives entering a grand dinner in Beijing and, an awkward step behind them, the man with the football. But the seriousness is always there, as is the risk for millions, whether they know it or not. An incoming British prime minister, on the first day in office, writes handwritten letters of instructions to the captains of Britain’s four nuclear missile submarines on launch protocols if they lose touch with the government in a war. Do they launch their missiles, or just head for Canada? We don’t know. The letters are burned at the end of the prime minister’s term.

To Stop a Pandemic

By Jennifer Nuzzo

The COVID-19 pandemic, in the words of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), “is a once-in-a-century health crisis.” Indeed, the last public health emergency to wreak such havoc was the great influenza pandemic that began in 1918, which sickened about a third of the world’s population and killed at least 50 million people. But because global conditions are becoming increasingly hospitable to viral spread, the current pandemic is unlikely to be the last one the world faces this century. It may not even be the worst.

The novel coronavirus hit a world that was singularly unprepared for it. Lacking the capacity to stop the spread of the virus through targeted measures—namely, testing and tracing—countries were left with few options but to shut down their economies and order people to stay at home. Those policies worked well enough to slow the growth of cases by late spring. But over the summer and into the fall, governments faced pressure to relax those restrictions, and cases rose. On November 4, more than 685,000 new cases worldwide were reported in a single day—then an all-time high. By that point, more than 48 million people had been infected with COVID-19, and more than 1.2 million had died.

The economic and societal effects of the pandemic will linger for decades. Worldwide productivity is expected to have contracted by five percent in 2020. The United States alone has suffered an estimated $16 trillion cost from lost productivity, premature deaths, and sickness. More than one billion children around the world have had their schooling interrupted. The World Bank has warned that some 150 million additional people will enter the ranks of extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic.

America’s military needs an innovation overhaul

Mariordo Camila Ferreira & Mario Duran

Earlier this year U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown issued a dire warning for the service to “accelerate change” or “risk losing a high-end fight.” The same could be said to the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Space Force: America’s military is at risk of losing its technological edge and its position as the dominant fighting force around the world. Once unmatched in its ability to research, develop, and field world-class weaponry, the United States military has over the past decade found itself in a race with competitor states for mastery of new technologies.

Defense innovation is vital to the security of the United States and its allies, but the technological prowess of the U.S. military also provides enormous benefits to society and the economy more broadly. The Pentagon built the network that would become the internet and helped fund the semiconductor industry that gave us Silicon Valley. It developed the underlying technology of Siri and continues to push the boundaries in medicine. If the U.S. military fails to accelerate change, the country could miss out on any number of world-changing breakthroughs.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Lloyd Austin, a retired Army four-star general, to head the Department of Defense. But the responsibility for getting the armed forces back in the innovation race extends well beyond the secretary of defense and the Pentagon. Policymakers, businesses, and citizens must commit to fundamentally altering the ecosystem of national defense: This starts with a stronger, more integrated commitment to innovation and a more open defense industry. For these reforms to have real bite, though, the U.S. military must not only embrace them but also work to cultivate a culture of constant evolution. Fortunately, its leaders need not reinvent the culture of the armed services: they can look to history, such as the Navy’s adoption of aircraft carriers before World War II, to the adaptability of men and women in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the lessons of industry to build a stronger, more nimble military.

The Trump National Space Policy: What’s New in Principles and Goals

By Abhijnan Rej

The Trump administration issued a new U.S. National Space Policy (NSP) document on December 9, which supersedes one that was released by the Obama administration in June 2010. Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration document highlights the importance of the U.S. Space Force, which will celebrate its first anniversary on December 20, as the primary means through which the U.S. would organize its space military activities. A U.S. Department of Defense statement about the new NSP quotes Chief of Space Operations General John W. Raymond as saying: “The National Space Policy guides the efforts of the United States Space Force as we continue to deliver capabilities and forces in defense of our nation’s interests in space.”

The accent on the military aspects of U.S. space policy was further heightened with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement on the new NSP on December 10, which noted: “While the United States would prefer that the space domain remain free of conflict, we will be prepared to meet and overcome any challenges that arise, while promoting burden sharing and marshaling cooperative responses to threats.” Per Pompeo’s statement, the first role of the U.S. State Department in furthering the new NSP will be demonstration of “U.S. leadership in international fora to strengthen deterrence and contribute to international security and stability.”

Beyond the accent on military space activities, the document also codifies U.S. space policy changes over the last couple of years, including an executive order signed by Trump in April this year that would allow the United States to mine the moon and otherwise extract resources in space. As one of the principles guiding U.S. space policy, the Trump NSP notes: “The United States will pursue the extraction and utilization of space resources in compliance with applicable law, recognizing those resources as critical for sustainable exploration, scientific discovery, and commercial operations.”

The Real Story of the Destruction of Force Z

By Robert Farley

Seventy-nine years ago today, Japanese aircraft found and destroyed Force Z, consisting of the battleship Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Repulse. The battle confirmed Japan’s naval dominance over the South China Sea but became famous as a marker of the shift of naval power from the battleship to the aircraft carrier. The real story, as is often the case, is considerably more complicated.

The British government ordered HMS Prince of Wales (a modern fast battleship) and HMS Repulse (an aging but fast battlecruiser) to the Far East in late 1941 in order to deter Japanese aggression. The ships evidently failed to do this, although Prince of Wales was the most powerful single surface unit in the theater when war broke out. Shortly after December 7, as it became evident that Japan was launching a wide-ranging offensive against targets across Southeast Asia, the two battleships, accompanied by four destroyers, were ordered to hunt down and intercept Japanese invasion convoys. Unfortunately, they lacked substantial fighter support.

The Japanese had been aware of the presence of the ships since before the war, and received submarine and aerial reports of their sortie. They allocated a large surface force, including two battlecruisers and numerous cruisers and destroyers, to protect the vulnerable invasion convoys on their way to Malaya. The contending surface forces passed as near as five miles from one another during the morning of December 10, but did not sight each other or engage.



It was December 2009 and the still-new president was in his hotel room in Oslo getting dressed in the tuxedo he would wear for the ceremony to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. An aide knocked on the door and urged him to look out the window. Pulling back the shades, Barack Obama saw several thousand people in the narrow street below holding lit candles over their heads to celebrate him. “[O]n some level,” he notes in his excellent new 700-page memoir, “the crowds below were cheering an illusion … The idea that I, or any one person, could bring order to [this chaotic world] seemed laughable.” (p. 446)

Obama famously had questioned how he deserved this prize so early in his presidency. One answer was the “Prague speech” he had given that April, stating “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Now, 11 years later, Obama devotes more words in his memoir to describing the scene on the streets through which his motorcade lumbered en route to the speech site than he does to the content of the speech. (p. 348)

The reticence clearly is not an accident. Throughout the book he barely mentions and never explores in depth what had been hailed earlier as the Prague Agenda.

For example, in an insightful 12-page discussion of Russian politics and U.S. efforts to “reset” relations with Moscow, Obama writes merely that his initial meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev produced “an agreed-upon framework for the new strategic arms treaty, which would reduce each side’s allowable nuclear warheads and delivery systems by up to one-third.” (p. 462)

DoD officials: Small changes in thinking about electronic warfare tools could give U.S. upper hand

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — Simple shifts in how the Pentagon approaches its electromagnetic spectrum tools could offer the U.S. superiority needed to best adversaries that have figured out over the last decade how achieve their own advantages, leaders have said.

This notion for how to achieve an affordable competitive advantage with non-kinetic capabilities looks beyond platforms, such as planes or ships, and rather at the pieces and specific capabilities within those platforms, Col. William Young, the incoming commander of the Air Force’s forthcoming 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing, said during a virtual event Dec. 9 hosted by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

The new wing, expected to be activated in March, will fall under the purview of the Air Force Warfare Center instead of the new information warfare command, 16th Air Force, which has operational control of electronic warfare. The Air Force Warfare Center performs operational test and evaluation, tactics development, and advanced training.

As an example of this different approach, Young described breaking apart a fourth-, fifth- and sixth-generation fighter and a satellite to connect the various capabilities within them, so forces at the edge can solve problems.

This is all done by taking advantage of the software nature of modern systems within the spectrum today and designing systems with open architectures.

Report Details Controversial Purchases of Myanmar’s Military

By Sebastian Strangio

Myanmar’s military continues to attempt to acquire European-made equipment in apparent violation of European Union sanctions and embargoes, according to a new report.

An investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), published on December 8, reveals that the Tatmadaw, as the country’s military is known, has recently sought to procure equipment made by European companies, as well as Airbus planes from Jordan’s air force.

The report by Jared Ferrie and Timothy McLaughlin, based on leaked military budget documents obtained by Justice For Myanmar, a local activist group, notes that many of these attempted purchases have come since the military’s began to escalate its attacks on the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2016. The following August, the army launched a massive “clearance operation” in which it torched villages, shot civilians, and drove more than 700,000 people over the border into Bangladesh.

These violent attacks led the European Union to extend a long-standing arms embargo against Myanmar in 2018. The embargo also prohibits the sale of “dual use” products, which have both civilian and military applications, and restricts the export of any equipment for “monitoring communications.”