31 January 2021

Cyber Weapons And Fragile Peace Between India And Pakistan – OpEd

By Fatima Ahmed and Tajjalla Munir*

The South Asian sub-continent had remained turbulent since two nation-states Pakistan and India had been carved out by the British in 1947. Since partition, the relations of Pakistan and India had been contentious mainly because of the disputed region of Kashmir. Both archrivals have fought three wars over Kashmir and their relations have been mired with hostility and distrust ever since. The relations between the two states grew more sensitive when both acquired nuclear weapons. With nuclear weapons, nuclear deterrence was achieved and it led to strategic stability in South Asia. This strategic stability doesn’t rule out the occurrence of conflicts between the two archrivals. The small clashes can easily get out of hand and can disturb strategic stability. The recent example of the Pulwama attack in February 2019, illustrates this point of view. The world saw that due to the attack on Pulwama, the blame game started by India, and in few days tensions escalated and Pakistan and India were standing at the brink of nuclear war. 

Nuclear deterrence is the only factor that provides strategic stability in the region but the presence of nuclear deterrence is not always helpful in ensuring peace. It somehow retains space for small conflicts and the threat of escalation of these conflicts is always present. The best example of this was a crisis between both states that happened in the second month of 2019. 

Will Joe Biden Fail the 'Pakistan Test'?

by Michael Rubin

On the first day of his administration, President Joe Biden signed executive orders to return the United States to the Paris Climate Accord and to rejoin the World Health Organization. Whereas President Donald Trump believed the key to achieving his “Make America Great Again” goals was to set America in opposition to international organizations, Biden seeks to embrace them. The reality, however, is that both Trump and Biden had points. Many international organizations are corrupt. The UN Human Rights Commission, for example, has become a parody of its mission as countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and China deign to pass judgment on democracies about human rights, even as they fill their prisons with political dissidents, starve their population, or commit genocide against a Muslim minority. The International Criminal Court’s refusal to investigate China’s atrocities against their Uighur minority undercuts that body’s moral authority. Nor can the World Health Organization ever regain its moral standing if it does not address the implications of its failures in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. 

For Biden, those issues might be past embarrassments that occurred on Donald Trump’s watch rather than his own. Within weeks, however, he will have to face a test of faith in multilateral organizations and structures when the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meets to address Pakistan’s continued terror problem.

Founded in 1989, the FATF is the international community’s chief multilateral apparatus to combat money laundering and terror finance. It meets regularly to assess each country’s culpability and efforts to address outstanding problems. 

Biden Must Make Hard Choices Quickly on Afghanistan

Andrew Watkins 

Afghanistan may not rank in the top tier of U.S. President Joe Biden’s policy priorities, given the host of pressing crises in the United States. But Afghanistan’s fate hinges in large part on how the Biden team decides to approach the country’s conflict and its tenuous, still-nascent peace process. Biden will be compelled to make critical decisions on Afghanistan during his first months in office that will affect the country’s conflict—and relationship with the U.S.—for years to come.

Over the past year, the outgoing U.S. administration attempted to set a peace process in motion by signing a political agreement with the Taliban in February 2020, exchanging a commitment to withdraw international military forces for assurances the insurgent group would address transnational terrorism concerns, enter peace talks with the Afghan government, and work toward a cease-fire and political roadmap to end the war, among other things. That agreement triggered a range of initial responses ranging from early expressions of hope among Afghans to revulsion among many who read its terms as overly concessionary to the insurgents. That skepticism soon became a growing chorus of pessimism, as the Taliban re-intensified violence across the country and the Afghan government resisted meeting obligations the U.S. had unilaterally committed it to.

What to do – and what not to do – in the Middle East

Tamara Cofman Wittes

For over a decade, the United States has sought to wind down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, reduce its military footprint in the Middle East, and redirect scarce resources to Asia. Global and regional trends reinforced this American desire to reduce the priority of the Middle East in its global strategy, and the military “pivot” is well underway. The challenge for American policy is how to protect its remaining and still important interests in that region in an era of austerity and fierce power competition, both in the region and globally. The incoming Biden administration should not waste the window for a reset.

Gulf Arab partners, facing fiscal constraints from lower energy prices and the COVID-19-induced global recession, are more open to conflict resolution in the proxy wars they hagve been fighting across the region. But their relative penury will also impede their ability to invest in stabilizing weaker neighbors, including key states like Jordan and Egypt. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran is sanctioned to the hilt, and used to wielding regional influence on the cheap. Thus the balance of power in the region may even favor the Iranians as the pandemic begins to recede. The Biden team must set aside the Trump administration’s fruitless “maximum pressure” in favor of the mix of intelligence cooperation, diplomacy, financial and military tools that can effectively deter or disrupt subversive Iranian activity while incentivizing Tehran’s return to the nuclear negotiating table. And the Pentagon must undertake a zero-based review of its force presence in the Persian Gulf region to ensure it is both efficient and effective in fulfilling its core missions there.

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.
Trump-era China policy often featured two separate tracks: policies Trump personally led, and policies spearheaded by officials with China expertise.
In some cases, Trump's own actions worked against the stated objectives of his China-focused national security staff — most notably Trump's disparaging attitude toward allies and his prioritizing of trade negotiations over sanctions.

Here's a timeline of the evolution of U.S. policy toward China under Trump:

Late 2016: A surprising election result leaves many guessing what turn U.S.-China relations might take. Initially, there are concerns that, despite his tough campaign rhetoric regarding China's trade practices, President Trump might cozy up to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But an early December 2016 phone call between the president-elect and Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen — the first such direct contact between the top U.S. and Taiwanese leaders since at least 1979 — swiftly reformulates expectations and foreshadows the Trump administration's diplomatic iconoclasm.

China economy grows in 2020 as rebound from virus gains


BEIJING (AP) — China eked out 2.3% economic growth in 2020, likely becoming the only major economy to expand as shops and factories reopened relatively early from a shutdown to fight the coronavirus while the United States, Japan and Europe struggled with rising infections.

Growth in the three months ending in December rose to 6.5% over a year earlier as consumers returned to shopping malls, restaurants and cinemas, official data showed Monday. That was up from the previous quarter’s 4.9% and stronger than many forecasters expected.

In early 2020, activity contracted by 6.8% in the first quarter as the ruling Communist Party took the then-unprecedented step of shutting down most of its economy to fight the virus. The following quarter, China became the first major country to grow again with a 3.2% expansion after the party declared victory over the virus in March and allowed factories, shops and offices to reopen.

Restaurants are filling up while cinemas and retailers struggle to lure customers back. Crowds are thin at shopping malls, where guards check visitors for signs of the disease’s tell-tale fever.

No More Mr. Nice China

By Larry Diamond 

Beijing’s “peaceful rise” no longer serves thecountry’s rulers. Insteadthey have adopted “sharppower.”

he deteriorating relationship between the world’s two super-powers—the United Statesand China—is now enteringa period of grave danger. An emboldenedChinese Communist Party (CCP) is now onthe move in Asia and globally. Increasingly,its behavior constitutes a threat to peaceand security in Asia and the core nationalinterests of the United States. Whetherthe United States and its allies exhibit thestrategy and resolve to meet this threat will be the single most important determinantof world order in the coming decade.

Key points

China’s behavior threatenspeace and security in Asiaand the core interests of theUnited States. »Beijing’s repressive strategytoward Hong Kong is how itseeks to secure dominanceover all of Asia. »Taiwan is at risk. Beijingnow senses there may be noway to lure Taiwan into thecommunist fold. »History stresses the folly oftrying to appease an authori-tarian aggressor.

Retooling America’s alliances to manage the China challenge

Lindsey W. Ford and James Goldgeier

America’s alliance network has been one of the most enduring and successful elements of U.S. foreign policy since World War II. U.S. alliances have continually adapted and evolved in the post-Cold War era, but they now face a new, more formidable challenge: collectively responding to China’s growing economic, military, and technological influence. This task is the central geostrategic challenge facing the United States and its allies, but U.S. alliances are not currently postured, either strategically or operationally, to manage it. U.S. allies in both Europe and the Indo-Pacific have begun to more seriously consider the challenges posed by Beijing, but China is leveraging its economic prowess to exploit both domestic and international fissures within the alliance network. Looking ahead, the United States and its allies must begin to confront the task of deterring Chinese coercion — both military and economic — as a multilateral task. This paper argues the United States should focus on: establishing new multilateral forums and linkages between European and Indo-Pacific allies; refocusing U.S. allies on domestic resilience and collective defense of their own regions; establishing deeper interoperability not only in the military domain, but also in non-kinetic arenas; and pooling allied innovation advantages to counter China’s growing technological influence.

The U.S. alliance network has been one of the most successful and enduring aspects of American foreign policy over the past 70 years. These alliances, originally designed to contain possible Soviet expansion, have adapted and evolved in the post-Cold War era. Together, the United States and its democratic allies possess an overwhelming economic and military advantage over any possible competitors. The top ten largest economies measured by nominal GDP include the United States (1), Japan (3), Germany (4), the United Kingdom (6), France (7), Italy (8), and Canada (10). While China’s estimated military spending increased by 85% over the past decade, U.S. allies (NATO plus Australia, Japan, and South Korea) still comprise approximately 60% of global military spending.

Exclusive: As Chinese survey ships map Indian Ocean, experts raise defence alarm

 Expansive mapping of the Indian Ocean Region by Chinese vessels in the name of research close to the Indian waters could be used by naval planners, an analysis by Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) experts tracking the movement of these ships over the last two years shows.

Extensive monitoring of marine traffic movements in the Indian Ocean Region by OSINT experts like H.I. Sutton (@CovertShores), @detresfa_ and @AuroraIntel shows how the data being gathered in the name of research for civilian purposes could also be crucial for military use.

Some of these survey ships were also spotted close to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Naval expert Sutton and Naval News have shared exclusive details of movements of these research vessels in the Indian Ocean Region with India Today.

Chinese ship that went ‘dark’

A Chinese survey ship, the Xiang Yang Hong 03, previously operating in the Indian Ocean is now in the South China Sea. The ship is allegedly carrying out a host of operations which include the mapping of the seabed and recording of various other parameters and metrics involving the region.

This ship sparked a controversy last week for its suspicious activities when it was accused of ‘running dark’, without broadcasting its position in Indonesian territorial waters.

Biden Has a Model for Dealing With Regional Fears of Iranian Missiles and Proxies


As the Biden administration formulates its Iran policy, there is an intense debate—in Washington and global capitals—over whether a straightforward return to the Iran nuclear deal will be sufficient to mitigate the perceived threats emanating from the Islamic Republic. Many commentators insist that President Joe Biden must also address Iran’s regional policies and missiles in addition to the original deal.

The Biden team need not start from scratch to launch such a parallel effort. Thirty years ago, the United States led the first comprehensive attempt to address regional security by creating the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) working group in the wake of the 1991 Madrid peace conference. The talks foundered amid the breakdown of the Israeli-Arab peace process, but they offer important lessons.

To be sure, the region is messier today than it was 30 years ago, with heightened Iranian influence in the region, increasingly complex intra-Arab divides, a complicated role for Turkey, and a bigger Russian presence. Nevertheless, ongoing normalization between Israel and Arab states could enhance the chances for a comprehensive regional security process. Three lessons stand out for the Biden administration as it reflects on what worked—and what didn’t—through ACRS.

First, key parties must buy into the end objective of a regional security process. Israel’s nuclear weapons program—long an open secret—was a major bone of contention during the ACRS process for Arab delegations, chiefly Egypt. While Israel argued that it would only discuss nuclear disarmament after securing peace with its neighbors and saw ACRS as a path toward that destination, the Arab countries believed that Israel would never seriously agree to disarm, causing a loss of faith in the process and reluctance to reward Israel with normalization steps.

Italy’s Mediterranean Belt and Road


Rome is rising over the Mediterranean, this time as an economic power. Whereas 2020 focused international attention on Italy’s plight as the epicenter of Europe’s initial COVID-19 outbreak, in 2021, Rome has emerged as Europe’s fastest-rising economic power in the wider Mediterranean region, from North Africa to the Balkans and beyond. Two-decades in the making, Italy’s focus on trans-Mediterranean commercial connectivity has achieved something akin to a Mediterranean version of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with Italy at the center.

Termed il Mediterraneo allargato (“the enlarged Mediterranean”), the map of Italy’s rising 21st-century commercial prowess looks a lot like the first-century map of the Roman Empire. And just as other powers had to bow to that empire, because the post-Brexit European Union’s economic engine now consists of Germany, France, and Italy, the extent to which Paris and Berlin accommodate Rome’s wider Mediterranean agenda will determine the EU’s ability to function coherently, with repercussions for the NATO alliance as well.

Italy traditionally maintains three foreign-policy pillars: Europeanism, Atlanticism, and Mediterraneanism. But Rome has recently been putting more and more of its strategic eggs in the Mediterranean basket. That decision was made explicit in January 2018, when then-Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti reassigned Italy’s troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to missions in Libya and Niger, famously explaining Italian strategic priorities: “the heart of our interventions is il Mediterraneo allargato, from the Balkans to the Sahel, to the Horn of Africa.”

Saudis Expanding US Military Access to Airfields, Port, to Counter Iran


YANBU, SAUDI ARABIA — The U.S. military is expanding its ability to operate from Saudi Arabia in the event of a war with Iran, striking a preliminary arrangement with Riyadh to use various air bases and seaports in the country’s western regions. 

The U.S. military has long kept a host of military assets and thousands of troops in Gulf kingdoms on the eastern flank of Saudi Arabia, including at permanent bases in Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, and elsewhere. But Iran’s ballistic missiles have improved, those bases have become increasingly vulnerable, analysts say. 

In a conflict with Iran, the United States would be able to transport troops in and out of the region from the west, posture fighters and other aircraft further from Iran’s missile launchers, and “lily-pad” eastward into the fight, Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters traveling with him to the region to inspect three of the new locations. 

“The Arabian Gulf would be contested waters under any scenario of armed conflict with Iran, so you look at the places where you would move your forces as they enter the theater from being in a contested area,” McKenzie said. “Certainly the Red Sea, the western [part] of the Arabian peninsula presents those opportunities.”

Global Migration Is Not Abating. Neither Is the Backlash Against It

Around the world, far-right populist parties continue to stoke the popular backlash against global migration, driving some centrist governments to adopt a tougher line on immigration. But with short-term strategies dominating the debate, many of the persistent drivers of migration go unaddressed, even as efforts to craft a global consensus on migration are hobbled by demands for quick solutions.

The Migrant Crisis of 2015 has abated, but European nativist and populist parties continue to attempt to stoke the popular backlash against immigrants to fuel their rise. Italy’s Matteo Salvini, the golden boy of Europe’s anti-immigrant populists, even rode the issue into government in 2018, before marginalizing himself with a bid to force early elections in 2019 and, more recently, misplaying the politics of the COVID-19 crisis. Nevertheless, Europe’s other far-right populists, like France’s Marine Le Pen, continue to hammer on anti-immigrant sentiment, hoping it will remain a potent issue in upcoming elections. In the midst of a global pandemic, it is not clear it will have the same electoral impact as it did in 2015, when a wave of refugees and immigrants arrived in Europe from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa. Still, the threat is enough to keep centrist governments toeing a tough line on immigration at home, even as they work with countries of origin and transit to restrict migration, thereby driving asylum applications back to pre-2015 levels.

With Russia Protesting Navalny’s Arrest, Calls Mount to Target Putin’s Inner Circle


Tens of thousands of people braved Arctic temperatures and the threat of arrest across Russia over the weekend to protest the latest arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as his anti-corruption crusade has fueled growing calls for Western countries to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle.

Just after returning to Russia last week after a near-fatal poisoning at the hands of Russian agents, Navalny released his biggest expose yet: an extensive investigation of what he claims is Putin’s “palace” on the Black Sea. The sprawling complex is estimated by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation to be worth $1.4 billion. 

While pledging loyalty to a regime increasingly hostile to the West, Russian oligarchs and political elites have long enjoyed the lifestyle and financial security of stashing their cash in Europe and the United States. An analysis by Columbia University professor James S. Henry for the Tax Justice network estimates that some $800 billion to $1.3 trillion in Russian wealth is parked outside of the country, much of it believed to be illicit. 

And Putin is continuing his efforts to whitewash the regime’s face in the West. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Monday that the Russian president will speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday. The announcement came the same day as European foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss their response to Navalny’s arrest and the police crackdown on protesters.

After the Capitol Riot, Biden’s Summit for Democracy Is More Needed Than Ever

Stewart M. Patrick 

The sacking of the U.S. Capitol by an
insurrectionist mob incited by President Donald Trump
has exposed the fragility of American democracy and strained the nation’s already diminished credibility to promote freedom and democracy worldwide. That is a problem for Joe Biden. The president-elect, who will be inaugurated Wednesday, has promised to quickly convene an international Summit for Democracy “to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World.”

In the aftermath of Jan. 6, there have been calls for Biden to abandon this idea, insisting that America must get its own house in order before trying to revive democracy globally. That is a false choice, however. Now more than ever, democracy’s champions need to hang together. Rather than jettison his summit, Biden should frame it as a sober gathering where democratic nations can reconfirm their commitment to rule by the consent of the governed, humbly acknowledge that their own democracies remain works in progress, and pledge individually and collectively to stand up for their shared principles at home and abroad.

Biden’s aspirations are noble. He is determined to fumigate the stench of Trump’s cynical foreign policy and rededicate the United States to the defense of democracy. In his four years in office, Trump coddled and aligned himself with a rogue’s gallery of dictators and thugs, among them Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, while bashing the leaders of major democracies—all of them U.S. allies—as “weak.” These actions have helped prolong a global “democratic recession” now well into its 14th year, according to Freedom House.

Implementing Restraint

by Miranda Priebe

The United States is facing several national security challenges at the same time that the federal budget is under pressure because of public health and infrastructure crises. In response to these challenges, there has been growing public interest in rethinking the U.S. role in the world. Under one option, a realist grand strategy of restraint, the United States would adopt a more cooperative approach toward other powers, reduce the size of its military and forward military presence, and end or renegotiate some of its security commitments. To help U.S. policymakers and the public understand this option, the authors of this report explain how U.S. security policies toward key regions would change under a grand strategy of restraint, identify key unanswered questions, and propose next steps for developing the policy implications of this option.

The authors find that regional policy under a grand strategy of restraint varies depending on the level of U.S. interests and the risk that a single powerful state could dominate the region. Because of China's significant military capabilities, advocates of restraint call for a greater U.S. military role in East Asia than in other regions. The authors recommend that advocates of a grand strategy of restraint should continue to develop their policy recommendations. In particular, they should identify what changes in great-power capabilities and behavior would imperil U.S. vital interests, maritime areas where the United States should retain superiority, priorities for peacetime military activities, and war scenarios that should guide U.S. Department of Defense planning.

Key Findings

Russia's great wall


China built a wall to protect against foreign invaders, but Russia is erecting a barrier that could weaken its position. On its western border from Finland in the north to Georgia in the south, Russia has pressured neighbors and caused NATO to deploy more military force close to Russia. The Kremlin probably did not intend to hand NATO this opportunity. 

Russia uses hard power – intimidation, coercion, disinformation – so often that the Kremlin may underrate the capacity or will of neighbors to resist. Seemingly aware of these risks, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned of “NATO’s unprecedented plans to move toward our borders and involve neutral countries – like Sweden and Finland – in its military exercises.”

Moscow’s pressure on neighbors has spurred NATO to bolster its presence in Russia’s immediate vicinity through such means as land power in Poland, air and naval power in Romania, and warship patrols in the Baltic and Black Seas.

A wary Finland is enhancing cooperation with NATO by making forces interoperable. Sweden, a target of Russian air and naval harassment, is implementing its biggest military budget increase in 70 years and expanding its armed forces by half.

Op-Ed: The Checkmating Of America

By Cherie Zaslawsky

We’ve been under attack by enemies foreign and domestic for quite some time, as the Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations were primarily about enriching high level office holders—e.g. Hillary, Biden, Obama—the kleptocrats in Congress, fueling wars overseas, and selling out our jobs and our country to China. Photo credit ShutterStock.com, licensed.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – We’re now learning why our Founders placed freedom of the press and freedom of speech—among other key rights—in the First Amendment in our Bill of Rights. For it is the chicanery, sabotage and subversive propaganda of the American media that has landed us where we are today.

To prove this point, let me illustrate what our mainstream press—say the New York Times—should have been trumpeting as soon as the theft of our election became evident:

Defense nominee favors proactive cyber posture

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — President-elect Biden’s defense secretary nominee showed support Tuesday for the ideas behind the Pentagon’s more proactive approach to cybersecurity dubbed “defend forward.”

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin favors the DoD’s proactive actions against threats from China and Russia, which are conducting “malicious cyber campaigns to erode U.S. military advantages, threaten our infrastructure, and reduce our economic prosperity,” he wrote in responses to lawmakers’ policy questions ahead of his confirmation hearing.

The DoD’s 2018 cybersecurity strategy charges U.S. Cyber Command to defend forward in cyberspace by getting as close to adversaries as possible to see what they’re planning, so the department can take action or inform others to prepare.

The approach is a response to continued adversary activity in cyberspace under the threshold of armed conflict that undermined national security.

Three ways the department can defend forward include generating insights about adversary’s cyber operations and capabilities; enabling interagency, industry and international partners to create better defenses; and acting, when necessary, to disrupt adversary cyber actors and halt malicious activities, Austin wrote.

SolarWinds Hack Reveals America’s Cyber Helplessness

by Claude Barfield

Almost a month after the most recent — and most devastating — Russian cyberattack, we know a bit more about what we know, but still alarmingly little about what we do not know. Having observed and analyzed both hacking intrusions and destructive espionage attacks for the past decade — Sony Pictures, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), National Security Agency intrusions, and now the SolarWinds attack as notable examples — it is not flippant to say that the most recent incident and US response thus far causes a sense of déjà vu. Across several administrations, the fumbles and ultimately failed deterrent responses have established a jagged pattern — one that may well be repeated in the current circumstance.

Thus far, we know that Russia-linked hackers breached thousands of networks using compromised SolarWinds software. Beginning at least a year ago, Russian intelligence gained access to the unclassified (but still revealing) digital traffic of a number of federal government departments and agencies (Commerce, State, Energy, Treasury, Justice, and parts of the Pentagon, among others). Estimates keep growing, but the attackers gained access to at least 18,000 networks, including 250 private companies. (These numbers will undoubtedly change as investigations progress.) Microsoft has said the hackers viewed some of its source code as well. And US intelligence officials are still uncertain if the hackers have “back doors” into strategic networks, estimating that it may take years to root out intrusions or malware left behind.

Social Media Finally Broke the Public Sphere


After the storming of the U.S. Capitol by an insurgent lynch mob driven by far-right social media conspiracy theories and stirred on by then President Donald Trump, at least 10 market-dominating tech companies took action through content moderation and account suspension. Chief among those removed was Trump himself, banned from Twitter, and Parler, an alternative social media platform that markets itself to far-right extremists, which was ejected from its host, Amazon Web Services.

The ban had an immediate effect on internet discourse: Within a week, researchers tracked a 73 percent reduction in disinformation about election fraud on Twitter and other platforms. Amazon’s filing against Parler documents months of futile work to convince the platform to suppress users’ explicit calls for violence in accordance with their terms of service. While some argue that tech companies should take similar action against other world leaders who use populism to stir up mass violence, critics of the decision are alarmed at the supposed restriction on free speech by tech companies.

This debate is overwrought, but also raises bigger questions. In 2021, losing a Twitter account meaningfully limits the president’s influence, as it would any other figure. That shouldn’t be confused with his freedom of speech, which remains unshackled by the government. But it does point to the way in which big tech has come to dominate and shatter the public sphere. Yet, thanks to the failure of politicians to meaningfully act through legislation, tech firms are policing themselves through inconsistently enforced terms of service.

Are We Ready for the Internet of Bodies?

The “Internet of Things” gave us driverless cars, video doorbells, and smart refrigerators—everyday items made new with sensors and network connections. Up next: the “Internet of Bodies.” You're about to find out just how personal your personal technology can get.

Think smart pills transmitting information from inside your body; smart beds that can track your heart rate and breathing; even smart clothes that can sense your body temperature—and adjust your smart thermostat accordingly. One team of doctors recently announced the development of “hardware and software for the long-term analysis of a user's excreta”—a smart toilet.

There are dangers here, of course, as RAND researchers found when they explored the Internet of Bodies. Any device can be hacked, including one inside the human body; and we need to really think through the privacy and security implications of devices that live with us. But the researchers also highlighted the life-changing, life-saving potential of technologies that know us inside and out.

“There's been a lot of work on how we need to regulate this new Internet of Bodies,” said Mary Lee, a mathematician at RAND who led the study. “We wanted to outline some of the benefits, too, that not too many people may have thought about. These technologies are just going to keep growing in popularity, so we need to get ahead of the policy issues and make sure we get that balance right.”
Defining the “Internet of Bodies”

Tamara Banbury has a faint blue bump on the back of her right hand, just above her thumb, like a grain of rice under her skin. It's where her microchip is.

Infographic Of The Day: Countries By Share Of Earths Surface

Today's infographic uses data primarily from the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) to rank the world's countries by their share of Earth's surface.

Gartner: The future of AI is not as rosy as some might think

by Brandon Vigliarolo

A Gartner report predicts that the second-order consequences of widespread AI will have massive societal impacts, to the point of making us unsure if and when we can trust our own eyes.

Gartner has released a series of Predicts 2021 research reports, including one that outlines the serious, wide-reaching ethical and social problems it predicts artificial intelligence (AI) to cause in the next several years. In Predicts 2021: Artificial Intelligence and Its Impact on People and Society, five Gartner analysts report on different predictions it believes will come to fruition by 2025. The report calls particular attention to what it calls second-order consequences of artificial intelligence that arise as unintended results of new technologies.

Generative AI, for example, is now able to create amazingly realistic photographs of people and objects that don't actually exist; Gartner predicts that by 2023, 20% of account takeovers will use deepfakes generated by this type of AI. "AI capabilities that can create and generate hyper-realistic content will have a transformational effect on the extent to which people can trust their own eyes," the report said.

The report tackles five different predictions for the AI market, and gives recommendations for how businesses can address those challenges and adapt to the future: 

2021 Is the Year the Small Drone Arms Race Heats Up


As drones become smarter, cheaper, more nimble, easier for rogue adversaries to acquire and more advanced adversaries to evolve, they pose a unique threat for the U.S. military that grows in importance as the objects themselves diminish in size. This year, trends in autonomy will reshape drone capabilities and concepts, making them more offensively useful and even harder to defend against.

“Drones and most likely drone swarms are something you’re going to see on a future battlefield...I think we’re already seeing some of it,” said Army Gen. John Murray, who leads Army Futures Command. “Counter drone, we’re working the same path everybody else is working in terms of soft skills and hard kills via a variety of different weapons systems. It just becomes very hard when you start talking about swarms of small drones. Not impossible but harder.”

The U.S. military plans to spend $83 million this year to buy lasers, electromagnetic devices, and other means to take down small drones. By year’s end, the destroyer Preble will get a 60-kilowatt laser and an optical dazzler, while the Air Force will deploy a Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder, or THOR. But the Pentagon will spend $404 million — almost four times as much — to develop new anti-drone defenses, the Congressional Research Service reported Jan. 11.

30 January 2021

Satellite catches Chinese survey ship mapping seabed in eastern Indian Ocean


New Delhi: A Chinese government survey ship, the Xiang Yang Hong 03, is currently operating in the Indian Ocean and carrying out a search pattern west of Sumatra, the latest satellite and open source intelligence (OSINT) has revealed.

This same vessel was last week accused of ‘running dark’, i.e., operating without broadcasting its position, in Indonesian territorial waters.

China’s Xiang Yang Hong survey ships are suspected of operating underwater gliders in the Indian Ocean to map the sea bed.

The Forgotten People Fighting the Forever War


Both the Trump and Obama administrations relied heavily on highly trained Special Forces units to keep Afghanistan from collapse. The strategy has kept recent episodes of the 21-year Afghan War out of the public eye, but it is failing to stabilize the country and is straining the United States military’s elite troops, who serve back-to-back combat tours without an end in sight and disproportionately give their lives in service of a war the public knows almost nothing about.

When Kunduz, a major city in northern Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban in 2015, U.S. Special Forces were dispatched on a secret mission to help Afghan commandos recapture it. Under-resourced and unprepared, the soldiers found themselves in the midst of a pitched battle with conflicting orders. The story of how it led to one of the U.S. military’s worst disasters in Afghanistan shows the perils of relying on Special Operations alone to fight the nation’s wars. 

Major Michael Hutchinson, a Green Beret with the 3rd Special Forces Group, was in charge of the secret operation to help Afghan commandos recapture Kunduz. It was his fifth combat deployment, counting three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, yet he had never experienced such intense fighting.

The Case for an Imperfect Solution in Afghanistan


Among the more ambitious foreign policy objectives of the Trump administration was its pursuit of a decisive resolution to the war in Afghanistan. Despite the persistence of insurgent attacks since the signing of the preliminary peace deal on February 29, 2020, optimism for a negotiated peace settlement with the Taliban has prevailed among a significant number of Afghan and international political and military leaders, Afghanistan analysts and scholars, and the Afghan population. This optimism has been bolstered by the December 2 signing of a procedures and modalities agreement in Qatar.

This optimism is driven by a narrative in which the Taliban are characterized as war-weary, coming to grips with the dim prospects of achieving a military victory, and in which this plummeting morale is credited with softening the Taliban’s stance, bringing them around to a reduction in violence in favor of a negotiated political solution. Much has been made of the Taliban’s willingness to come to the table, or “come under the tent” (to invoke a turn of phrase suggested to me in conversation with a former vice-president of Afghanistan). This development has been highlighted as a sign of progress, and heralded as a breakthrough credited to the Trump administration, carrying with it the implication that the United States has brought a diminished and demoralized negotiating partner to the table by means of an effective military campaign, and is in a position of strength. In line with this narrative, the ongoing Taliban terror attacks targeting Afghan civilians and military personnel across Afghanistan are chalked up to efforts by the Taliban to gain leverage at the negotiating table, and the continued presence of Operation Resolute Support (the successor coalition to ISAF) forces is justified by citing the need to maintain leverage with a military presence.

Though a receptive audience has embraced and buoyed this narrative, it nonetheless presents inconsistencies and non sequiturs.

Asia’s Rise In The War For Talent with Dr. Parag Khanna

Michael Michelini

Excited to share with you this week’s show – we are talking about the future of Asia with our guest who has a lot of resources and amazing insights. Dr. Parag Khanna is based in Singapore and I have read his articles. I learned a few things and got re-inspired. Let’s tune in.
Topics Covered in this Episode

[00:00:00] Episode 342 of Global from Asia and the URL globalfromasia.com/asia-future. Let’s do this talking about the future of Asia. Is it a place to be, or not? Welcome to the Global from Asia podcast, where the daunting process of running an international business is broken down, into straight up actionable advice.

[00:00:26] And now your host, Michael Michelini. All right, everybody. Thank you so much for choosing to download and listen and watch or whatever you do. You know, maybe reading the transcript of globalfromasia.com/asia-future. 342 shows every other week. I kind of feel a little bit reinspired, you know. This whole lockdown is driving me crazy.

[00:00:51] We can’t even get things delivered here from other cities within China. Like my wife loves buying on these Taobao sites and everything, but delivery, People don’t even come here. So it’s, it’s really not. So like we have to find local delivery now they. At least I’m not doing a COVID tests.

[00:01:13] At least let’s keep hoping and you know, just excited to share with you this week’s show. We have a great guest. I, I read his articles. He’s got books, he’s got lots of resources. He is based in Singapore. Parag Khanna and he had some really amazing insights. It gets me reinspired too about being in Asia, being based, doing business cross border trade, you know, is this the right place to be in this conversation?

[00:01:40] So, so was obviously a little bit biased, but we talk about, he talks about reasons why the war for talent, you know, the up to rising of, of developing countries in Asia and things like that. It’s pretty cool. I learned a few things and it got me reinspired so definitely check out the show. We will go through this.

Artificial Intelligence Collaboration in Asia’s Security Landscape

By Prashanth Parameswaran

On January 18, during his keynote address at the Fullerton Forum, which helps set the stage for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum, Singapore Senior Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad highlighted artificial intelligence (AI) as an area where Asia’s defense establishments could help contribute to the promotion of wider interstate collaboration. Though far from surprising, Mohamad’s inclusion of AI as an area of focus reinforces both the opportunities and challenges in forging potential pathways for collaboration in AI within regional and global frameworks, given ongoing trends.

Though the field of AI – a catchall term for a set of technologies that enable machines to perform tasks that require human-like capabilities – has been around for decades, interest in it has surged over the past few years, including across the Asia-Pacific, with individual countries beginning to develop their own national approaches and multilateral groupings such as the OECD formulating guidance such as principles on AI. In the security realm more specifically, AI is emerging as a key topic for defense policymakers and communities alike in a range of areas, from assessments of its impact on geopolitical competition to areas of potential collaboration between some Indo-Pacific partners and their expert communities. It has also been a topic of discussion among scholars and policymakers in annual Asian security fora such as the Shangri-La Dialogue and the Xiangshan Forum.

Looking Past China’s Rise for the Trends Shaping Asia

Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has begun to more aggressively challenge America’s role as the key economic and political power in Asia. Increasingly repressive at home, Xi has not shied away from asserting China’s regional influence, positioning Beijing as the powerbroker on everything from trade routes to the ongoing efforts to denuclearize North Korea. And with its Belt and Road Initiative, China’s influence is spreading well beyond Asia, into much of Africa and even Europe. China’s ascendance is also evident in how much attention other global powers are paying to Beijing and its policies.

But while China’s rise often makes headlines, it is not the only trend shaping events in Asia. Nationalism has become a force in democracies like India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode the wave of Hindu nationalism to a massive victory in the country’s 2019 parliamentary elections, and the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte’s electoral gains in midterm elections in 2019 left even fewer checks on his increasingly autocratic behavior. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s government continues its persecutions of Rohingya Muslims.

Hong Kong’s Present Echoes Tibet’s Past

By Simon Shen

Tibetan monks walk past a police car on the streets of Kangding, Ganzi prefecture of southwestern China’s Sichuan province on Monday, March 9, 2009.Credit: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

The current socio-political re-engineering in Hong Kong — called the “Second Handover” by some — is following a script reminiscent of the happenings in Tibet in 1959. Per Beijing’s official accounts, both the “1959 Tibet Rebellion” and the “2019 Hong Kong riots” were flashpoints triggering the end of these region’s distinct ways of life under their respective autonomous frameworks. However, if we compare the histories of the two territories under Chinese rule, a pattern emerges illustrating Beijing’s consistent strategy of handling frontier regions since the 1950s.

The “One Country, Two Systems” Era

Following capture of the Tibetan border town Chamdo by the People’s Liberation Army in 1951, China and Tibet signed the Seventeen Point Agreement. It affirmed Chinese sovereignty over Tibet but granted the region autonomy. For a while, the Kashag (the Tibetan local government) remained in place and protected Tibetan’s religious and socioeconomic systems. This autonomy – an early version of “one country, two systems” – was instituted out of necessity, as it would take time to dissolve the existing network of local interest groups. The same consideration underlay the Hong Kong handover – “one country, two systems” as promised by the Joint Sino-British Declaration was a means to buy time to get rid of the complex, interdependent interest groups in British Hong Kong, which would hinder a complete “reunification with the motherland.”

The Global Reach of China’s Venture Capital

By Sophie Zinser

In this July 20, 2018, file photo, a deliveryman stands near a mural displaying Chinese yuan and other world currency symbols on the outside of a bank in Beijing.Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Over the past few months, the Chinese government has made critical efforts to quash its $12.9 trillion shadow banking system and slowly break up its most influential business conglomerates. Last Wednesday, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission made public a notice ensuring that companies would become regulated on a trial ranking system. This regulation comes on the back of the last-minute block of Ant Group’s planned November IPO – set to be the largest IPO in world history – and Alibaba co-founder and tech giant Jack Ma’s subsequent unexplained disappearance from public life. The Chinese government is clearly encouraging the consolidation of smaller companies while breaking up bigger ones.

This push will impact how China’s corporate tech giants leverage their massive global influence abroad. Some of the first companies likely to see any changes work first are those who are receiving massive Chinese venture capital (VC) funding across South and Southeast Asia.

2021: The Year China and Taiwan Clash?

by J. Michael Cole

Less than week after the inauguration of a new administration in Washington, China is already flexing its muscles in the Taiwan Strait with a sizable show of force over the weekend. This escalation suggests that even as Beijing seeks a “reset” with Washington, D.C., under the Joe Biden administration, its coercive strategy against the democratic island-nation of Taiwan that it claims as its own will continue apace.

On Saturday, thirteen Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and PLA Navy (PLAN) aircraft penetrated Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The incident involved a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, eight Xian H-6K bombers and four Shenyang J-16 fighter jets. The next day, fifteen aircraft—two Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, two Su-30, four J-16 and six J-10 fighter jets, as well as one Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft—flew into the southwest part of the ADIZ. Then on Monday, fifteen aircraft intruded into Taiwan's ADIZ: two Chinese Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, two Su-30, four J-16 and six J-10 fighter jets, as well as one Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft. According to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, those were the highest number of Chinese aircraft to penetrate Taiwan’s ADIZ in 2021, and the highest since September 2020. Eighteen aircraft penetrated the ADIZ on September 18 (two H-6 bombers, eight J-16s, four J-11s and four J-10s) and nineteen—in “pincer formation”—on September 19 (twelve J-16, two J-10s, two J-11s, two H-6s and one Y-8). Later that month, PLA aircraft also intruded across the median line in the Taiwan Strait, and Chinese officials announced that the tacit agreement that had underpinned the median line no longer (or had never) applied. 

Chinese Navy Faces Overseas Basing Weakness, Report Says

By: John Grady

A major weakness “the largest navy in the world” has yet to solve is where Beijing will find skilled shipyard workers and modern facilities to maintain its fleet’s combat readiness far from its shores, the co-author of a major study examining Chinese vulnerabilities said Thursday.

Speaking in a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis online forum, Toshi Yoshihara said, “Chinese analysts can only dream about this access” to the host nation’s workforce and facilities at places such as Yokosuka in Japan and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean that the United States enjoys.

China “has a long way to go” in finding nations in “far seas” that are willing to become more actively involved with the People’s Liberation Army Navy and expose themselves to risk if war breaks out. In addition, Beijing would have to work very hard and at substantial cost to overcome “this tremendous lead” the United States has established in basing, maintenance and alliances since the end of World War II.

Yoshihara said, “we can’t contest China everywhere,” which is why Washington and its allies and partners need to have options “to complicate Chinese plans.” An example of that would be “to demonstrate the ability to defend … in the Indian Ocean.” The targeting of potential Chinese weakness could come in demonstrating “fleet air defense of Diego Garcia,” an action “very pointed and very specific.” The report adds that showing leap-ahead technologies in action is another way to alter Chinese thinking.

China's Foreign Policy Weapons: Technology, Coercion, Corruption

Hal Brands

China’s drive for dominance combines timeless ambitions with 21st-century methods. Look no further than Beijing’s growing quest for spheres of influence. Like countless great powers before it, China aims to shape and control its surroundings. It aspires to create geopolitical domains in which its interests are protected and its prerogatives heeded.

Yet Beijing is doing so, in part, through a digital-age approach to strategic rivalry, one that is forcing its rivals to rethink what spheres of influence are and how best to contest them.

Nine hurdles to reviving the Iran nuclear deal

By Seyed Hossein Mousavian

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on January 8 that Tehran was in no rush for the United States to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but, he also said, sanctions on Iran must be lifted immediately. “If the sanctions are lifted, the return of the Americans makes sense,” he insisted. President-elect Joe Biden has announced his plan to return to the deal soon after he is sworn into office. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal,” he wrote in an op-ed for CNN, “the United States would rejoin.” His Iranian counterpart, President Hassan Rouhani, has also expressed willingness to return to the deal, stating that, “Iran could come into compliance with the agreement within an hour of the United States doing so.”

Five years ago, after years of intensive negotiations, six world powers managed to sign the world’s most comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran. While the agreement was a political one, it was also ratified by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2231. And, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the organization tasked with verifying the agreement’s technical aspects, Iran was fully complying with the deal for about three years, until President Trump withdrew from it in May 2018. In response to the US violations of the nuclear agreement, Iran too reduced some of its commitments. Most recently, on January 4, Iran announced that it had increased its uranium enrichment levels to 20 percent.

Although reviving the agreement is certainly still possible, it won’t be easy. The two sides will need to overcome nine hurdles to make it happen.