24 December 2020

COVID, cyber attacks, data fraud top threats for Indian corporates: Study

The public health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as the top threat for Indian corporates, while cyber attacks and data frauds loom equally large, according to a study. The report, titled 'Excellence in Risk Management India 2020, Spotlight on Resilience: Risk Management During COVID-19', has been published by global insurance broker Marsh and risk management society RIMS.

While there is great optimism about the ability of organisations to rebound and address future pandemic-related challenges, cyber attacks and data fraud continue to be paramount concerns for risk professionals in India, as per the survey.

Around 63 per cent of the 231 survey respondents -- which included C-suite executives and senior risk professionals -- identified the continued fallout of COVID-19 among the top three risks facing their organisations.

Learn technical architecture and industry applications of 5G technology with business case models especially in terms of Smart Cities, Digital Economy, High-Speed Digital Services, Robotics, Precision Medicine, Autonomous Cars

Certificates of participation will be awarded post successful completion of the workshop.Cyber attacks (56 per cent), data fraud or theft (36 per cent), failure of critical infrastructure (33 per cent), fiscal crises (31 per cent) and extreme weather events (25 per cent) were highlighted among the other top risks for Indian businesses.

US Sanctions against Iran and Their Implications for the Indo-Pacific

Gabriel Honrada and Daniyal Ranjbar

India’s relationship with the United States within the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) framework is complicated as India has a strong strategic partnership with Iran, which is an US adversary. US sanctions against Iran pose a dilemma for India. In 2019, India was the third largest buyer of Iranian oil, with 258,000 barrels per day, and in the same year, Iran was India’s third largest supplier of oil, after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Allowing Iran to sell its oil unhindered to India would give the former additional resources to continue its activities inimical to US interests, such as missile development, funding proxy militias, and its nuclear programme. However, US sanctions on Iran have significant effects on India and its ability to be a reliable member of the Quad, with further security implications for the Indo-Pacific region.

Overview of US Sanctions on Iran

Sanctions have long been a part of the contemporary history of Iran, especially after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The history of these sanctions against Iran can be divided into two stages. The first stage is that of US unilateral sanctions from 1979 to 2005, and the second stage is that of multilateral sanctions from 2006 to present. Sanctions against Iran cover five distinct areas, which are:

Technology, investment and military equipment: These sanctions aim to limit Iran’s military capability and oil and gas production.

Restriction of financial transfers: These sanctions were imposed in 2010 and aim to prevent the entry of foreign exchange earnings into Iran’s business cycle and to reduce the country’s trade capacity.

Central Bank sanctions: These sanctions were imposed in 2011 and 2012 with the participation of the EU and US; they aim to prevent Iran’s Central Bank from accessing foreign exchange earnings, devalue Iran’s currency and restrict trade as much as possible.

Oil and gas sales sanctions: These sanctions were imposed in parallel with the Central Bank sanctions and aim to reduce Iran’s revenue from oil and gas sales and disrupt key variables of the Iranian economy, such as the value of its currency, its government budget and foreign trade.

Prohibition of trade in precious metals and freezing of funds: These sanctions were imposed by the EU in late 2012 and the US in early 2013; they aim to limit Iran’s accumulated foreign exchange earnings in other countries.

How India Aims to Make the Best of Bangladesh’s Independence Anniversary

By Abhijnan Rej

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina jointly virtually inaugurate Petrapole Integrated Check Post, 2016.

Bangladesh and India held a virtual leaders’ summit on December 17 as Bangladesh gears up to celebrate its 50th anniversary as an independent state December 16 next year. Speaking at the summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi front-and-centered the symbolic significance of the upcoming anniversary, noting “It is a matter of pride for us to celebrate the historic victory of Bangladesh over Anti-liberation forces as the Victory Day with you.”

“Today, when Bangladesh is celebrating forty nine years of independence, I pay homage to the martyrs of both the countries who sacrificed their lives,” Modi added.

On December 16, 1971, Indian forces defeated Pakistan in war — the most intense of the four the two countries have fought so far — leading to the creation of an independent state in place of Pakistan’s eastern wing. India’s military intervention followed a humanitarian crisis in the country’s east which – in turn – arose out of genocide committed by the Pakistan Army in erstwhile East Pakistan. (For those interested the history – and the United States’ decision to ignore the actions of the Pakistan Army — historian Gary Bass’ book remains a must-read.)

In his opening remarks at the December 17 summit, Modi announced that India would be celebrating a “Golden Victory Year” in the run-up to Bangladesh’s 50th Victory Day “during which many events will be organized across India.”

Opinion – Pakistan’s New Approach to Gilgit-Baltistan

Tridib Bhattacharya

On November 1, officially celebrated as ‘Independence Day’ in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seemingly gave the people an additional cause for cheer. Since its liberation from Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling Dogra dynasty in 1947 and subsequent accession to Pakistan, the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan has had indeterminate status under Pakistan’s constitution. Khan’s announcement upgrading the region to “provisional provincial status” appears to fulfil Gilgit-Baltistan’s long-standing demand for constitutional recognition while also securing Pakistan’s wider political, economic and geostrategic interests. Gilgit-Baltistan’s treatment as essentially a colonial possession for seventy-three years now is grounded in the belief that its formal integration with the rest of the country would weaken Pakistan’s case for a UN plebiscite in Kashmir, which Islamabad officially considers to be disputed territory. The nominally autonomous, underdeveloped region is unpresented in the national legislature and lacks access to federal courts; political activities are strictly controlled to project the notion of Kashmir’s eventual accession to Pakistan (Interestingly, Gilgit-Baltistan has traditionally been distinct from the rest of Kashmir: its diverse population comprises various non-Kashmiri ethnicities and does not speak the Kashmiri language).

Although not yet level with Pakistan’s four full provinces, provisional provincial status should considerably increase Gilgit-Baltistan’s constitutional rights and enhance its legislative assembly’s administrative powers. So why has Khan decided to break years of status quo? The obvious answer (and subject of much media coverage): China, Pakistan’s “all-weather friend”.

Pillar or pawn


As U.S.-China relationships further deteriorated this spring, Chinese company ByteDance, the owner of platform TikTok, appeared to respond by opening up hundreds of new jobs in its Singapore office. The move was an acceleration of a long-term trend for the $100 billion company, which has been moving to localize its products for Southeast Asian consumers, and to forge new relationships with governments and utilities, expanding its soft power — and China’s.

Indeed, well before the U.S.-China trade war thrust Singapore and the rest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a catchall term for an area encompassing ten countries and 700 million people, into the spotlight, it had been experiencing an economic renaissance. As supply chains for technology shift, as Chinese and American companies compete for the huge opportunities in the region, and as governments and militaries jostle for strategic position, the region seems to be at the nexus of a great power rivalry in 2021 — and likely beyond.

But even as geopolitical rivalries beset Asia, supply chains and technology continue to flow like water, seeping across borders. Thus, the U.S.-China competition to carve up Southeast Asia into discrete spheres of influence is a scenario spoken about far more outside the region than within it. That alone is a vital reminder of the gap between perception and reality, between would-be masters of the universe and happenings on the ground. But Southeast Asia is not virgin territory: geopolitics, trade, investment, and technology are already deeply entangled across the region. The region is ground zero not for a new Cold War but rather a more sophisticated and layered diplomacy — a “multi-alignment” of sorts — in which the protagonists do not choose sides but play all sides to their own benefit.

Global Strategy 2021: An Allied Strategy for China

By Atlantic Council

Working together, likeminded allies and partners can once again advance their interests and values, and the broader rules-based system, and fend off the twenty-first-century challenge posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

This strategy was produced in collaboration with experts from ten leading democracies.

Following World War II, the United States and its allies and partners established a rules-based international system. While never perfect, it contributed to decades without great-power war, extraordinary economic growth, and a reduction of world poverty. But this system today faces trials ranging from a global pandemic and climate change to economic disruptions and a revival of great-power competition.

As Henry Kissinger has pointed out, world order depends on the balance of power and principles of legitimacy. The rise of Chinese power is straining both aspects of the existing rules-based system. China benefited from the system and does not seek to kick over the table as Hitler did with the 1930s international order, but China wants to use its power to change the rules and tilt the table to enhance its winnings. Beijing is directing its growing economic, diplomatic, and military heft toward revisionist geopolitical aims. While we once hoped that China would become what we considered a “responsible stakeholder” in a rules-based system, President Xi Jinping has led his country in a more confrontational direction.

Can Joe Biden Really Engage with China and North Korea?

by Michael Auslin

PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden will face no greater challenge than China and the broader Indo-Pacific. The decision facing a potential Biden administration is whether to adopt Donald Trump’s policies towards China and North Korea, or to attempt a “reset” aimed at returning to traditional engagement and negotiation. On China, such a step backward risks emboldening Beijing, while few good options on North Korea make a resumption of talks a low-risk, yet likely unfruitful path.

The principal foreign policy achievement of the Trump administration was to overturn four decades of bipartisan engagement with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and instead adopt a harder-edged policy of reciprocity. While unevenly executed, as with all policies, the Trump approach nonetheless dramatically reoriented U.S. policy towards Beijing, especially after the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan, China, and Beijing’s attempts to both cover up the pandemic and blame Washington. The administration reclassified the country as a strategic competitor aiming at displacing America from its position of global dominance and released a raft of policy documents and strategies designed to blunt its growing global influence and aggressive behavior. Before the pandemic, though largely forgotten now, was a more than two-year trade war with the goal of correcting structural imbalances in the bilateral economic relationship.

After initially dismissing the China threat, Biden attempted to play catch-up by stating that a tougher line towards Beijing was indeed necessary. The question for Biden is where to hold the line, where to compromise, and where to get tougher. On all counts, it will be easier to compromise, to attempt to show “good faith,” “lower the temperature,” and return to “normalcy.” Doing so, however, would risk convincing Beijing that it had withstood the worst that Washington could throw at it, and double down on the predatory and aggressive behavior that caused both presidential candidates in 2016 to contemplate changing U.S. policy in the first place.

China Urges U.S. To Stop Bullying With Blacklist, Vows To Take Action

Robert Olsen

China is threatening to impose countermeasures against the U.S. after the Trump administration blacklisted another 59 Chinese companies.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Saturday that the U.S. had abused export control measures to suppress Chinese companies. China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, the ministry’s spokesperson said.

“We once again urge the U.S. to stop unilateralism and bullying, give fair treatment to companies from all countries, including Chinese companies,” the spokesperson added.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce added the 59 Chinese companies to its trade blacklist due to their alleged ties to the country’s military, human rights abuses and theft of U.S. trade secrets.

China’s largest chipmaker SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) and related entities were included on the list based on evidence of activities between the companies and the Chinese military industrial complex, the Commerce Department said.

“We will not allow advanced U.S. technology to help build the military of an increasingly belligerent adversary,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Between SMIC’s relationships of concern with the military industrial complex, China’s aggressive application of military civil fusion mandates and state-directed subsidies, SMIC perfectly illustrates the risks of China’s leverage of U.S. technology to support its military modernization.”

Uncovering the Cultural Revolution’s Awful Truths


In china, history long occupied a quasi-religious status. During imperial times, dating back thousands of years and enduring until the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911, historians’ dedication to recording the truth was viewed as a check against wrongdoing by the emperor. Rulers, though forbidden from interfering, of course tried.

So have their successors. Among the most intent on harnessing history for political gain are the current leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. They routinely scrub Chinese-language scholarly books, journals, and textbooks of anything that might undermine their own legitimacy—including anything that tarnishes Mao Zedong, the founding father of the party. The effort, no small task, has not gone unchallenged. A web of amateur historians has been collecting documents and eyewitness testimony from the seven decades that have elapsed since the establishment of modern China in 1949. Guo Jian, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater who has translated some of their findings, describes the tenacious researchers as “the inheritors of China’s great legacy,” dedicated to “preserving memory against repression and amnesia.’’

The best-known of the new self-styled historians is Yang Jisheng, whose detailed account of Mao’s Great Leap Forward—the world’s worst man-made disaster, an ill-conceived attempt to jump-start China’s economy that led to the deaths of some 36 million people by famine—was published in Hong Kong in 2008. Though this book, Tombstone, was banned on the mainland, it circulated there in samizdat versions available online and from itinerant booksellers, who hid copies on their pushcarts. Four years later, edited and translated into English by Guo and Stacy Mosher, it was published internationally to great acclaim, and in 2016, Yang received an award for “conscience and integrity in journalism” from Harvard. He was forbidden to leave the country to attend the awards ceremony, and has told friends that he fears he is under constant surveillance.

Rather than being chastened, Yang has done it again. His latest book, The World Turned Upside Down, was published four years ago in Hong Kong and is now in English, thanks to the same translators. It is an unsparing account of the Cultural Revolution, another of Mao’s misadventures, which began in 1966 and ended only with his death in 1976.

China eyes new goal of military parity with U.S. in Asia by 2027

BEIJING – The Chinese People’s Liberation Army may have set a new goal of ensuring military power equivalent to that of U.S. forces in Asia’s western Pacific region by 2027, sources close to the matter have said.

Beijing’s recent expansion of military activities in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait may be part of its efforts to achieve the goal for the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the country’s armed forces in 2027, the Chinese sources said Friday.

A communique adopted at the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party in late October unveiled that a military goal was set for the anniversary, but the details were unknown.

Claiming sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, Beijing has rapidly built artificial islands with military infrastructure in the maritime area — a strategic waterway through which more than one-third of global trade passes.

What Do Chinese People Think of Developed Countries?

By Adam Y. Liu, Xiaojun Li, and Songying Fang

In October 2020, a Pew Research Center survey found that a median of 61 percent of citizens in 14 major economies hold unfavorable views of China. In countries such as the United States and Canada, negative views have reached historic highs. Major news outlets around the world picked up the story, with headlines such as “Distrust of China Jumps to New Highs in Democratic Nations,” “China Shocked to Discover the Developed World Views It in a Negative Light,” “China Has a Global Image Problem,” and “World Turns Sour on China.” The survey has generated much attention because China’s image abroad affects the extent to which China can play a leadership role in world affairs as it continues to rise. Some went as far as saying that “even if China could lead the world one day, it would never be loved.”

We investigated the other half of the story: How do ordinary Chinese view the rest of the world? Is a similar plunge in public opinion occurring in China toward the United States and its traditional allies? The Chinese public’s views of these countries matter to their perception of other countries’ intentions toward China, and their willingness to support engagement with these countries bilaterally and multilaterally.

With these questions in mind, we conducted a survey of 1,064 Chinese adults right before the U.S. presidential election. We asked them about their feelings toward the same 14 countries covered by the Pew study, using exactly the same wording: “What’s your view of the following countries?”

Israel Is Stuck Between the Superpowers

By Gedaliah Afterman

In the global superpower competition between the United States and China, Israel is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, Beijing is interested in increasing its cooperation with Israel, especially in the infrastructure and technology sectors; on the other, Israel is under increasing pressure from Washington to limit its engagement with China.

The arrival of a new U.S. president next month is an important opportunity for Israel to establish a transparent and effective foreign investment review mechanism that will allow it to manage its relations with the two superpowers while safeguarding its interests.

Strategically, Israel will do well to demonstrate that its criteria for reviewing foreign direct investments are clear and professional (non-political). Moreover, it should create a mechanism that serves its economic and strategic needs.

Growing Concerns Over Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

While several countries began to re-examine their foreign investment filtering mechanisms as early as 2016, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated these processes and led to new reforms. The race to acquire and control innovative technology, coupled with fears that foreign entities or state-owned enterprises (SOEs) will take over vital local industries weakened by the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, led to tightening of foreign investment screening mechanisms and regulations.

Brexit and the Brussels Effect


LONDON – In its negotiations with the European Union over post-Brexit trade relations, the British government has become entrenched in its demands for full sovereignty. In the future, it wants to determine all of the rules about safety, the environment, health, workers’ rights, and subsidies to British companies without any interference from the European Commission.

That is fine. Insisting on the right to diverge from the EU’s internal-market rules is fully in keeping with the meaning of sovereignty. The problem is that the British government is also trying to maintain the United Kingdom’s access to that internal market under its own rules. For example, it wants the right both to apply its own sanitation rules to the production of chicken (allowing for the use of chlorine) and then to sell those chickens in the EU, where different rules apply. Never mind that the EU also is a sovereign entity with the right to decide and enforce its own standards, and to impose tariffs on imports that violate its rules.

How can a trade deal be made to work when both parties claim full sovereignty? This claim has two overarching implications for negotiations like the one between the UK and the EU. First, it means that each party decides independently which laws will apply in its jurisdiction. Thus, all firms (including EU-based firms) selling in the UK must comply with UK laws, and all firms (including UK-based firms) selling in the EU must comply with EU law.

The second implication is that each party decides independently how it will control compliance within its own borders. Firms that do not comply are sanctioned, and each party is free to decide on the nature of those sanctions (barring sales, imposing tariffs, and so forth). Thus, UK firms selling goods in the EU that do not comply with EU law will face whatever sanctions the EU has decided, and the same holds for EU firms selling in the UK.

Sanctions against Turkey over Russian arms: Has the United States found a sweet spot?

by Daniel Fried

President Donald J. Trump’s administration is not known for finesse. But in its December 14 sanctions against Turkey’s main defense-procurement entity (the “Presidency of Defense Industries” or SSB) for its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system, it seems to have found a sweet spot: sanctions strong enough to capture Turkish attention but not so sweeping as to shut down bilateral security and arms relations with a NATO ally. The United States seems to be trying to manage a difficult problem, largely of Turkey’s making, while preserving overall relations.

In 2017, justifiably worried that the Trump administration might unilaterally remove US sanctions imposed after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 attack on Ukraine, the US Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The act blocked unilateral administration rescission of sanctions on Russia and imposed additional sanctions, including (in CAATSA Section 231) secondary sanctions on third-country arms purchases from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s arms-export company. The legislation and the Trump administration’s executive order for that particular provision laid out a range of potential sanctions, ranging from relatively modest to full blocking sanctions. At least five of twelve options listed in the legislation had to be imposed.

In the case of Turkey and the S-400 system, the Trump administration chose from the more modest options available. The most significant steps the administration took included a prohibition on export licenses for any good or technology to the SSB and full blocking sanctions and visa bans on SSB Head Ismail Demir and three additional senior SSB officials. (The other three sanctions included prohibitions on loans or credits from US financial institutions and a requirement that the United States oppose international financial institutions’ loans to the SSB, restrictions that probably would not block other sources of funding.)

Is Russia’s S-500 Air Defense System: A Hypersonic Missile-Killer?

by Peter Suciu

Hypersonic missiles have been seen as a serious threat to the security of the United States. Traveling at five times of speed of sound and with the ability to maneuver with computerized precision the missiles could be quite difficult to counter. Additionally, the speed and force could be so significant that hypersonic missiles can inflict serious damage from the sheer “kinetic” impact without even the need for explosives.

Even as several nations are seeking to develop such weapons, efforts are also underway to stop them.

Russia is reportedly working on such technology, and last week Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin told reporters that that the S-500 surface-to-air missile/anti-ballistic missile system could be a possible “antidote” against an enemy’s hypersonic missiles.

The Russian leader added that Russia is actually a step ahead of the rest of the world, as it is developing the platforms to stop hypersonic missiles even before any of its potential adversaries have such weapons available.

It certainly makes for a unique type of “arms race” where the counter weapon is developed concurrently with and essentially even before the latest system is actually perfected and employed.

“We are working, among other things, on the ‘antidote’ against future hypersonic weapons in other countries, in the world’s other leading armies,” Putin told reporters, according to Tass. “I am confident that we will do that and we are on the right way.”

Explainer-U.S. government hack: espionage or act of war?

By Jan Wolfe, Brendan Pierson

But cybersecurity and legal experts said the hack would not be considered an act of war under international law and will likely go down in history as an act of espionage.


The hack, first reported by Reuters, hijacked software made by Texas-based SolarWinds Corp. By inserting malicious code into updates pushed to SolarWinds customers, the hackers were for months able to explore the computer networks of private companies, think tanks, and government agencies.

Sources familiar with the U.S. investigation said the hack was likely carried out by Russia’s foreign intelligence service. Moscow has denied involvement.

The magnitude of the hack is still unclear, but hackers are known to have monitored email or other data within several U.S. government agencies.

The breached federal agencies include the Commerce Department, Treasury Department, and Department of Energy.

An Energy Department spokeswoman said malware had been “isolated to business networks only” and had not impacted U.S. national security.


It is too early to say for sure, but probably not, according to cybersecurity experts.

Growing Demand for Semiconductors May Hinder Volkswagen Production

A Volkswagen assembly line in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen said it would have to adjust production at several factories because of a shortage of semiconductors.Credit...Pool photo by Swen Pfoertner

Volkswagen warned Friday of production delays at factories in China and other locations after an unexpectedly strong rebound in car sales during the pandemic created a worldwide shortage of semiconductors used in automobiles.

Modern automobiles are heavily computerized, and they require semiconductors for engine controls, automatic braking systems and many other applications.

Semiconductors are at the heart of the high-performance computer chips that power electronic devices like computers and mobile phones, gadgets whose demand has grown as pandemic-induced lockdowns keep people inside their homes.

After the pandemic gutted auto sales earlier this year, many semiconductor makers shifted production to consumer products, Volkswagen said.

But then car sales bounced back faster than expected, especially in China, the world’s largest car market. Semiconductor makers have not been able to meet demand and will take several months to realign production.

As a result, Volkswagen said, it would have to adjust production at factories in China, Europe and North America. Volkswagen has factories in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Puebla, Mexico.

The shortage of parts will mostly affect smaller and midsize cars sold by Volkswagen and the company’s SEAT and Skoda units. Some Audi cars will also be affected, Volkswagen said.

Rolling Back the Imperial Presidency? Joe Biden and the Future of U.S. War Powers

Lukas D. Herr

In April 2019, Congress cast a historic vote. For the first time, both chambers made use of the War Powers Resolution (WPR, Public Law 93-148), a resolution passed in the waning days of the Vietnam War to restore congressional authority in deciding when the nation goes to war, and directed President Trump to stop U.S. participation in the war in Yemen. Although Congress ultimately failed to override Trumps presidential veto, only one year later, Congress acted upon the WPR again. This time, Congress sought to restrict President Trump’s ability to use force against Iran and decided to ‘direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress’ (U.S. Congress 2020). Again, President Trump vetoed the resolution, stating that the resolution’s understanding of limited presidential power ‘is incorrect’, because ‘the Constitution recognizes that the president must be able to anticipate our adversaries’ next moves and take swift and decisive action in response’ (Trump 2020). Then Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden urged Congress to override President Trump’s veto, however, and to assert itself against presidential war-making. In his statement, Biden condemned President Trump’s veto and ‘his contempt for the U.S. Congress as a co-equal branch of government’ and added that, as president, he ‘will work closely with Congress on decisions to use force, not dismiss congressional legislation’ (Biden 2020).

At this point, it is worth remembering President Barack Obama, who, as presidential candidate, promised quite a similar approach to the politics of military interventions and the role of Congress. In an interview with the Boston Globe in December 2007, Obama stated that the president ‘does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation’ (Obama 2007). Nevertheless, he acted otherwise. During the military intervention in Libya 2011, Obama followed the legal interpretation of Harold H. Koh, Legal Adviser to the State Department, according to which the military intervention in Libya was consistent with the WPR and did not require congressional authorization, ‘because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision’ (U.S. Department of State 2011: 25). Following this interpretation, which the New York Times called ‘legal acrobatics’, the president could unilaterally wage war against a country as long as the United States was only engaged in air strikes and expected no or few casualties, therefore strengthening the conviction that presidents possess inherent war powers independently from Congress (Pious 2007; Yoo 2005)

Tomgram: Rajan Menon, On the Frontlines of Covid-19 Suffering

Rajan Menon 

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I sent out my sole 2020 letter to TomDispatch subscribers the other day pleading for end-of-the-year donations. As I wrote, "Unfortunately, the situation is all too simple. To keep doing the work TomDispatch does, I need money. I need to pay a splendid staff. (My good fortune is that the wonderful Lannan Foundation has always supported me -- and, at 76, I still edit books as well.) I need to pay authors for articles. That's approximately 120 pieces a year that aren't my own at $300 a pop. (You do the math.) I've needed to pay striking sums of money for the updated TD website due to be launched early next year. It all adds up, unfortunately. And what it adds up to, since TD doesn't take advertising, is you. You or I'll have to stop. It's that simple. You -- your contributions, your support -- really do make all the difference between TomDispatch continuing and (no exaggeration here) not." You can read the rest of the letter here, if you wish, or if the mood strikes you, you can just go directly to the TD donation page and think about giving something to support the site for 2021 with my eternal thanks. Tom] 

In the midst of the worst pandemic since 1918, one only growing ever more severe as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rise precipitously, if you haven't lost your job or had your hours and wages cut back severely, if you can cover your rent or make your mortgage payments, you may not have noticed but -- as Congress does nothing and state legislatures are largely hemmed in by a lack of funds -- "more than 14 million American households are currently at risk of eviction and have an estimated $25 billion in rental debt, according to a report by Stout, a global investment bank and advisory firm. And 4.9 million of them are likely to receive eviction notices in January after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium expires on December 31."

I wrote that as a single monumental sentence (plus an extra one inside the quote), because it's a monumental fact of American life: millions more Americans potentially left homeless in a raging pandemic. That, in turn, only guarantees yet more Covid-19 victims from among evictees living in nightmarish, crowded quarters of one sort or another or simply finding themselves out on the streets of American cities. It's hard even to take in if it's not happening to you (and maybe even if it is). In fact, behind all the pandemic (and vaccine) stories now filling the media, as TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon suggests today, lie any number of nightmarish tales that were already common in a country of raging inequality before the coronavirus landed on our shores but that are now intensifying in ways that should be (but aren't) headlines everywhere. Tom

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.

Biden Defense Team Needs To Speed Consolidation Of Pentagon’s Vulnerable Cloud Architecture

Loren Thompson

As Washington struggles to cope with the latest “unprecedented” penetration of sensitive networks, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the federal government’s cyber problems are at least partly self-inflicted.

Despite pouring billions of dollars into cybersecurity and talking incessantly about the challenge, the government’s adoption of secure, resilient information systems is quite uneven.

The Pentagon is a case in point, because it outspends every other federal department on computer and data systems, and yet operates an information architecture with more seams than the First Lady’s wedding dress.

Seams in this instance means gaps that can be exploited by foreign operatives to unravel system security or functionality.

This may not look like a war zone, but the Pentagon's cloud strategy argues that today "the ... [+] WIKIPEDIA

In 2018 the defense department published a strategy calling for migration of the current, balkanized infrastructure to a cloud system in which data could be handled more flexibly and securely.

How We’re Building a 21st-Century Space Force


Early in 2020, Russia positioned one of its satellites dangerously close to an American satellite and then instructed it to execute a series of provocative and unsafe maneuvers. This summer, that satellite backed away, released a target, and then conducted a weapons test, firing a projectile at that target. This raw display of space combat power was carefully designed as an act of intimidation, right out of the 1950s Soviet playbook.

Over the past five years, space has become a contested commercial and military realm. During that time, the number of active satellites in orbit has grown from 1,250 to 3,400. By 2023, there will be about 5,000 active satellites orbiting the Earth. The Satellite Industry Association estimated the 2019 global space economy at $366 billion, and Morgan Stanley projects that revenues could top $1 trillion by 2040. During this period of explosive growth, Russia and China have made obvious their intention to challenge American preeminence in commercial and military space and to prevent the U.S. from using its space capabilities in crisis and conflict, raising the prospect of war beginning in, or extending into, space. We are still dealing with the fallout from China’s 2007 anti-satellite test, which left a cloud of space debris that even today must be carefully tracked to avoid collision with a wide array of spacecraft, including the International Space Station. The consequences of a full-blown war in space would be far worse.

Virtual Invasion: ‘Just War’ and Orientalism in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Felix Hulse

This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master's program. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books.

Before I was 18-years-old, I had cut short – virtually – thousands of lives. Feared throughout a pixelated world of war, ‘terrorists’ quaked at my seeming invincibility and impossible kill count. What would the United Kingdom and United States militaries do without me? In the virtual realm of war-based videogames, this is an experience shared among millions. As the most popular genre of videogame throughout the ‘Western’ world, military themed first-person shooters (FPS) are set in worlds of pixelated warfare, viewed through the eyes of an avatar that necessarily brandishes a weapon (Gough, 2019). Beloved in this category of computer-generated violence is the Call of Duty series.

Described by one Iraq war veteran as offering the “ultimate first-person shooter experiences” due to their “violent”, “chaotic” yet “beautiful” portrayal of real life combat (Witchalls, 2017), Call of Duty titles have been consistently praised for their immersive gameplay, but criticised for their controversial political content (Stuart, 2019). Grounded in a distorted post-Cold War setting, the constructed political environment in Call of Duty is somewhat familiar. Nevertheless, wildly exaggerated violence, a binary of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, a reliance on racial stereotypes and a gross Euro-American bias to depictions of international relations, has condemned the series to a caricature of ‘Western’ propaganda in critical reviews. Even the limited academic scholarship on the implications of commercial war-based FPSs to international politics has highlighted Call of Duty as a series too implausible to be considered relevant to analysis (Gagnon, 2010). Attempting to shed this reputation, Call of Duty has adopted a more subtle approach in its latest release, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Swapping slaughter for stealth and relinquishing the bipartite portrayal of war for a slightly more nuanced narrative, Modern Warfare has been promoted as a truthful depiction of contemporary counter-insurgency. However, by relying on Orientalist caricatures, tendentious perceptions of violence and an overarching narrative of ‘Western’ righteousness, Modern Warfare is an insidious extension of previous Call of Duty titles.

Assessing the Role of Armed Forces in Activities Below the Threshold of War

By Damimola Olawuyi

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Dr Paul Jemitola is a lecturer at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He can be reached on LinkedIn at Paul Jemitola. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.

Title: Assessing the Role of Armed Forces in Activities Below the Threshold of War

Authors and / or Article Point of View: The return to Great Power competition and the utilization by various rising powers of the current world order of hybrid warfare and destabilizing activities short of war has increased the calls for governments to refocus their priorities to other levers of power. Even as the authors support increased investment in other areas of government to enhance their contributions to national security, it is important to articulate the role that armed forces could play in interactions that would fall short of armed conflict.

Summary: As the world returns to Great Power competition, militaries will continue to play a role even in activities below the threshold of war. As the Global War on Terror winds down from a period of intensity, policymakers can identify those roles the military must play without needless overlap with the jurisdiction of other government agencies and shape their policy decisions accordingly.

Why Retired Generals Rarely Lead The Pentagon

by Dwight Stirling

By all accounts, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the U.S. Defense Department, is eminently qualified to be secretary of defense. A man who achieved the rank of four-star general and succeeded at every turn during his 40-year career, Austin displayed valor and courage while serving the country for nearly half a century.

Ironically, though, Austin’s lengthy military career has created a sticking point in his confirmation process. The law requires a service member to be out of uniform for at least seven years before assuming the civilian role of secretary of defense.

Austin left the Army just over four years ago, making him technically ineligible for the post. Congress would have to waive the waiting period in order to confirm him, something it has only done twice since 1947, most recently in 2017.