15 January 2021

Bengaluru Is the New Shenzhen as Apps Displace Devices


High tech has always meant cool stuff. Pathbreaking devices have repeatedly expanded the frontiers of consumer electronics, from the early game consoles of the 1970s to the rise of the smartphone in the 2010s. But now that it’s literally possible to shoot a feature film on a mass-market phone, future device development is likely to see diminishing returns. Instead, the 2020s will probably herald a shift from devices to apps. The smartphone isn’t going to disappear, but it is becoming more valuable for the apps that run on it than for the electronics that run in it.

The shift from devices to apps means much more than just a new business model for the likes of Apple and Samsung. It also has serious economic and even geopolitical implications. Unlike devices, which are tied to physical production networks, apps can be developed anywhere. As a result, the Indian economy, long hobbled by its relative isolation from tight-knit East Asian subcontracting networks, may finally be freed from the tyranny of geography.

India’s landlocked southern city of Bengaluru has emerged as the country’s technology capital. It consistently garners nearly half of India’s technology startup funding and is home to a plethora of technology incubators and accelerators. Its big names include Flipkart (India’s leading online marketplace), Swiggy (food delivery), Udaan (B2B marketplace), and BigBasket (online groceries). India’s dominant ride-hailing firm, Ola, moved its headquarters from Mumbai to Bengaluru as it grew and needed to access a larger pool of developer talent.
Potentially much more important for India’s efforts to climb up the value chain is Bengaluru’s emerging role as a global app development center.

Statism in Pakistan

Umair Javed

MOST journalistic and drawing room analysis of Pakistan’s political parties focuses on two aspects — the self-interest of top political leaders, and the local, often transactional, mechanisms required to win electoral constituencies. For the first, political elites can be motivated by a range of things, including the desire for personal enrichment, higher status, protection of their family legacies, and (perhaps rarely) some moral ideal. This motivation plays into the actions they take in government or as members of the opposition.

Similarly, as much as some individuals and institutions would want, there is no politics possible without voters under the existing rules. This necessarily mandates some focus on how voters are compelled to vote for particular parties and candidates — be it because of patronage ties, ethnic, kinship and tribal affinity, or charisma-induced obligation.

Increasingly, however, there are indications that other factors need to be paid attention to as well. Since the resumption of some form of democracy since 2007, the opening up of the private media sphere, and the partial disruption to cultural production and consumption caused by social media, factors beyond elite machinations and constituency-based wrangling may have entered the mix. Broadly put, these factors can be classified as ‘cultural’ or ‘ideological’ issues and how they help voters relate to particular mainstream political parties.

In 2018, Rahul Verma and Pradeep Chhibber wrote Ideology and Identity: The Changing Party Systems of India, in a bid to evaluate (and rectify) long-standing notions of how Indian politics remained immune to ‘ideology’ and was largely determined by localised vote-banks and often patronage-based coalitions. Their primary argument against these notions was that instead of applying the left-right socioeconomic model of ideology found in Western states, political contexts like India are instead shaped by ideological debates on the role of the state in shaping people’s lives and the politics of minorities and the extent to which their rights should be protected.

The next wave of globalization: Asia in the cockpit


Four years ago, the Trump administration came into office promising to bring back industrial jobs from Asia and revitalize America's manufacturing foundation. He pledged to slash the country's trade deficit with China by forcing it to buy more oil, food and industrial goods from the U.S.

But things haven't worked out as planned. November 2020 was the busiest month in the history of the port of Los Angeles, with up to 20 container vessels being unloaded every day -- mostly from China, which sent a record $52 billion of goods across the Pacific Ocean that month.

Trump trumpeted his anti-globalization credentials from the beginning of his administration to the end, promising to protect American industries from Chinese competition and defeat the "ideology of globalism." But ultimately -- and not surprisingly -- it got the better of him.

Orwell's world?

Today's world is beset by contradictory megatrends of the type just illustrated. High-stakes tensions between the U.S. and China over trade, technology, and Taiwan, but also massive investments in new connective infrastructure from freight railways to internet cables. Protectionism and industrial policy to nearshore manufacturing and boost self-sufficiency, but also intense competition to export digital technologies and lure investment into capital markets. Nationalism and xenophobia restricting migration, but also a war for talent to capture students, nurses, and tech workers.

Xi Jinping says ‘time and momentum on China’s side’ as he sets out Communist Party vision

Kinling Lo and Kristin Huang

“The world is in a turbulent time that is unprecedented in the past century,” Xi said in the speech, according to party mouthpiece People’s Daily. “But time and momentum are on our side. This is where we show our conviction and resilience, as well as our determination and confidence.”

He was addressing leading cadres at a meeting on the fifth plenum –  an important closed-door gathering in October on China’s medium- and long-term plans for social and economic development to 2025.

“At the same time, we must see clearly that, for now and until this upcoming period of time, while our country is at an important period of strategic opportunity for development, there will always be changes to our opportunities and challenges,” Xi was quoted as saying.

“The extensiveness of these opportunities and challenges is unprecedented but, all in all, the opportunities we face outweigh our challenges,” he added, calling for unity, diligence and flexibility to achieve the party’s goals.

All members of Beijing’s highest decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and Vice-President Wang Qishan, known as Xi’s right-hand man, were also at the meeting.

What happened at the Chinese Communist Party’s major policy meeting, the fifth plenum?

Why the West Isn’t Confronting China Over Coronavirus

by Andrew A. Michta

We are a year into the worst crisis to hit the globe since the Great Depression. Borrowing has skyrocketed, sending budget deficits and national debts to unheard-of levels, while repeated lockdowns and mounting public health concerns have fueled social unrest, strained political institutions, and left a trail of failed businesses in their wake. The “2020 Great Suppression” of the global economy is unprecedented. We simply have no idea at this point of the extent of the damage to our economic and social fabric that will likely continue to manifest itself long after this pandemic has run its course. And yet, quite remarkably, one rarely hears government officials, think-tankers and the media mention the name of the state that brought this devastation to us all.

In part, Western restraint in criticizing Beijing can be explained by our unprecedented and continued economic dependence on China for key manufactured goods and supplies that the offshoring of manufacturing has wrought onto the most advanced Western economies. The pandemic has exposed the extent to which the radical centralization of key supply chains owing to Chinese mercantilism (and Western greed) has made China the sole provider of key medicines, Personal Protective Equipment and other equipment needed to manage the global health emergency. The Western reticence to criticize China is also due in part to the extent to which the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been able to influence and shape the direction of our internal policy debate, not just in the United States but also in Europe and elsewhere, with Beijing leveraging its access to every layer of Western societies. The PRC has been able to exploit the fissures in our domestic politics, benefitting from the hardening ideological divisions that have fractured the national consensus across the West such that we are incapable of facing up squarely to the existential threat that China poses to the United States and democracies worldwide. Lastly, the sheer scale of Western investment in China by an ever-larger number of U.S. and European transnational companies has made the task of confronting Beijing over the pandemic that much more difficult, for the near-term economic pain of decoupling from Chinese supply chains would be sharp and felt in short order.

Who is Jack Ma? Where the Alibaba co-founder came from and disappeared to

By Dana Kennedy

For years, nobody flew higher in China than Jack Ma, the pixie-faced founder of the $500 billion powerhouse e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba, the Amazon of Asia.

Now he’s vanished and no one knows where he is.

Ma, a member of the Communist Party who famously started out as an English teacher, symbolized the high-tech “China Dream” until he ran afoul of the political leaders who once lionized him. He hasn’t been seen in public for two months.

“China used Jack Ma and Alibaba as well as some of the other big fintech companies to show the world what great leaders they were,” Craig Singleton, a China expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told The Post.

“But these private sector companies were operating without government controls and Jack got a little too far out ahead of his skis. You only have to step out of line once and they’ll get you. He’s probably been smacked pretty hard.”

Insiders told The Post it’s highly unlikely that Ma, 56, has been permanently disappeared to one of China’s feared “black sites” reserved for the country’s dissidents. Nor is he in Singapore, per some rumors.

Instead he’s probably cooling his heels either at home or in a “very cushy location” where one expert said he may be reviewing “Marxist lessons” with party officials, a process called “embracing supervision.”

China's rise as a global security actor: implications for NATO

NATO's relationship with China is changing. This IISS–MERICS report assesses the various strategic challenges a rising China poses to the NATO Alliance, and offers recommendations on how NATO could most effectively address them.

In December 2019, for the first time, NATO leaders recognised China as a new strategic point of focus for the Alliance. This reflects growing concern among NATO members surrounding China’s geopolitical rise and its growing power-projection capabilities, as well as the impact that these may have on the global balance of power. Today, China is not only taking a central role in Indo-Pacific security affairs but is also becoming an increasingly visible security actor in Europe’s periphery. As such, the question of how to deal with an increasingly global China has been an important part of Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s NATO 2030 reflection process. 

China poses a wide range of challenges to NATO. Beijing sees the Alliance as a United States-centric outfit that may be used by Washington to contain China, and has therefore tried to influence individual NATO members’ decisions in order to weaken the Alliance’s unity. Close ties between China and Russia, especially in the security and military spheres, have also been a source of concern for NATO allies. Besides the Chinese and Russian navies’ joint exercises in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, there is also the potential for the two sides to further coordinate – or at least align their behaviour – on issues of relevance to the Alliance, including hybrid warfare and cyber espionage, arms-control issues, and their approach to Arctic governance, among others. 

China threatens ‘counterstrike’ over US contact with Taiwan

China has threatened a 'resolute counterstrike' after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lifted restrictions on official contacts with Taiwan© AFP/File Brendan Smialowski

China on Monday threatened a "counterstrike" against a move by the United States to lift restrictions on official contacts with Taiwan as military tensions grow between Beijing and the self-ruled island.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday Washington would lift “complex internal restrictions” on contacts with Taipei by diplomats, after a year of mounting US-Chinese friction on topics including human rights, trade and the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Beijing says Taiwan is an inviolable part of China to be reclaimed, by force if necessary, and opposes any diplomatic recognition of the democratic island.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing “strongly condemns” the move and accused the United States of violating the terms of Washington’s diplomatic relations with Beijing.

“Any action that harms China’s core interests will receive a resolute counterstrike from China,” Zhao warned, urging Pompeo to retract the decision or face “severe punishment”.

It was not clear what the change means in practice, with Pompeo saying executive branch communications with Taiwan will be handled by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which is owned by the US government and serves as the de facto embassy.

From the Arab Spring to the American Winter: Cyberspace and Democracy After the Insurrection

by David P. Fidler

It only took one decade. Ten years ago this month, democratic movements, facilitated by social media, began to surge across the Arab world. These movements challenged authoritarian rule, buoyed democratic nations, and appeared to forge a bond between democracy and cyberspace that promised to shape the world’s political fortunes for years to come. On January 6, 2021, a mob—incited by the president of the United States and addicted to lies and conspiracy theories spread through social media—attempted to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in the world’s oldest democracy from taking place.

This obscene moment in American history is forcing a reckoning in our country about many things, including how the democratic project at home and abroad copes with the antidemocratic weaponization of digital technologies. January 6th is a day that will live in cyber infamy. On this day, an American social media company, Twitter, bans the president of the United States from using its platform to continue to incite his beloved and very special red guards from further desecrating the Capitol and violently intervening against the democratic process. The nation watches this rabble pervasively use mobile devices to record and share online their insurrection. Then—even after the lawlessness, violence, and bloodshed—the world watches over 100 lawmakers oppose certification of Electoral College votes and the legitimacy of the 2020 election by repeating falsehoods about the election that the president, his apparatchiks, and his cultists have spread online. Cyberspace, it appears, is the place American exceptionalism went to die.

Armenia’s 44-Day War: A Self-Inflicted Trauma (Part Two)

By: Vladimir Socor

The Armenian government has yet to unveil the number of military casualties sustained during the Second Karabakh War (September 27–November 9, 2020). Almost two months after the ceasefire, the search for bodies is still ongoing across the theater; while in parallel, Azerbaijan is repatriating prisoners of war and the remains of fallen soldiers to Armenia. Nikol Pashinian’s government in Yerevan seems reluctant for political reasons to disclose the real numbers of soldiers killed and handicapped in this war.

Nor has any systematic or credible opinion polling been attempted in the two months since the ceasefire. Impressionistic estimates in circulation suggest that Pashinian’s current popularity rating is down to about half of the erstwhile 70 percent level. Mitigating the fallout on the government, however, is public skepticism about the opposition parties.

A wide array of opposition groups from both the current and the former political establishment are calling for the resignation of Pashinian’s government and for new parliamentary elections. President Armen Sarkisian, both parliamentary opposition parties, an alliance of extra-parliamentary parties, as well as former presidents Levon Ter-Petrosian, Robert Kocharian and Serge Sarkisian, and both Catholicoses (of Etchmiadzin and of Cilicia) have all urged Pashinian to make way for an interim government of experts and pre-term parliamentary elections to be held within some months (NewsAm, Arminfo, Armenpress, November–December 2020, passim).

Parliamentary opposition leaders Gagik Tsarukian (“oligarchic” Prosperous Armenia party, associated with the old establishment) and Edmond Marukian (Enlightened Armenia party, opposing both Pashinian and the old establishment) advocate for those changes to be implemented in an orderly manner through parliamentary processes. Marukian, hitherto a pro-Western liberal, has switched to strident pro-Russia positions, as a political lesson of the lost war.

Israel and the Emirates Are the Middle East’s New Best Friends


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani pose before they participate in the signing of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognize Israel, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Sept. 15, 2020. 

The scenes since September 2020 have been scarcely believable. Tens of thousands of Israelis have been thronging the malls and beaches of Abu Dhabi and Dubai; Emiratis have posed for selfies in Jerusalem; Israeli DJs are mixing music for crowds of revelers at Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. In the Middle East, banal tourism of this sort has geopolitical weight. It is just one expression of the deep diplomatic impact of the normalization deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel signed this past September.

The Abraham Accords were a high-level diplomatic agreement—but they were far more than that. They marked a shift in national allegiances. Israelis and Emiratis are not just wary partners; they are increasingly close allies. Israel has previously found ways to coexist with Arab regimes. This time, it may have found a genuine friend.

The Abraham Accords mark the most holistic agreement Israel has ever inked with an Islamic country. The long-standing deals with Jordan and Egypt, signed in the 1970s and 1990s, were motivated by the need to keep peace on two of the world’s most contentious borders—and to secure a pecuniary relationship with the United States. “That was a very cold peace,” said Sami Nader, a Middle East analyst. “This deal, however, is transformative.” It includes agreements to cooperate on tourism and research and development to combat the pandemic—and it implies deeper cooperation still on other issues.

A Major Contraction in Jobs

By George Friedman

Some 140,000 Americans lost their jobs last month, the largest decline in employment since last April. Yet, the unemployment rate stayed at roughly 6.7 percent. The job losses were attributed to restaurants, travel, entertainment, governments and schools, according to the Wall Street Journal. That explains who cut the jobs but not why the unemployment rate remained unchanged. One answer is the jobs cut were already factored in, say, if employees were let go in previous months. Another is that workers found new jobs, difficult as that may be. The third possibility is that those who lost their jobs dropped out of the workforce, accepting the unlikelihood of finding something new.

Can New ‘Magnetic Shield’ Stop Drone Attacks?

David Hambling

Cusp Technologies, a tech startup based in Dubai, is advertising a “magnetic shield” to defend against drone attacks and promises to display it at the IDEX 2021 defense trade show in Abu Dhabi in February. The new technology is advertised with an image of drones blowing up as they run into an invisible wall; it appears to be based on a new technique that projects magnetic fields. Is this the counter-drone solution that everyone is looking for?

By now, nobody should be underestimating the scale of the problem. The Pentagon released a new Counter Unmanned Systems Strategy last week, noting that readily available drones are creating “hazards to DoD operations in the air, land, and maritime domains” and may be operated by state, non-state and criminal actors. In recent years we have seen numbers of small, low-cost, low-tech drones strike a major oil facility in Abqaiq, as well as Russia’s main air base in Syria, Iraqi troops trying to re-take Mosul and many others. The success of Azerbaijan’s drone fleet against Armenia is further boosting export sales, and existing defenses have been of limited use.

In a series of acquisition programs that at times looked like panic buying, the U.S. has acquired what the report euphemistically calls “many non-integrated, redundant solutions” to the drone problem – a wild variety of mismatched counter-drone systems. If you want an anti-aircraft system there are only a handful of suppliers, but when it comes to counter-drone the choice is bewildering – over 575 systems were on the market according to a 2019 study by Bard College. The number has since grown considerably.

CCP ran COVID-19 propaganda, censorship campaign online, report says

A new study reinforces claims that the Chinese government not only lacked transparency at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but also misled other nations by downplaying the virus’s severity with a coordinated online propaganda operation launched in early January 2020 by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The December 2020 report by The New York Times newspaper and ProPublica, an independent news organization, supports allegations that the CCP’s misinformation activities hindered other nations’ preparations for the virus’s spread within their borders and increased the human and other costs.

By the end of December 2020, COVID-19 had infected nearly 83 million people around the world and killed more than 1.8 million, including more than 342,000 in the United States, Johns Hopkins University reported.

As early as the first week of January 2020, the CCP’s central internet censorship agency, the Cyberspace Administration of China, worked to control the coronavirus narrative domestically and worldwide, according to the report. For example, the agency ordered Chinese news websites to “use only government-published material and not to draw any parallels with the deadly SARS outbreak in China and elsewhere that began in 2002, even as the World Health Organization was noting the similarities.”

296. The Erosion of National Will – Implications for the Future Strategist

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist welcomes back returning guest blogger Dr. Nick Marsella, former Devil’s Advocate/Red Team for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. In today’s post, Dr. Marsella explores the importance of national will — “the people’s acceptance of loss of treasure (money, focus on other priorities, and people) to accomplish some national objective.” This fickle and oftentimes ephemeral variable plays a paramount role in our democracy’s national security calculus. Read on to learn how this critical, yet fragile component of national power is increasingly threatened by hyperpolarization fueled by errors in perception, biases, and deliberate deception.]

The Theory

Even if the United States has a superior military force equipped with the most futuristic, sophisticated and technologically advanced weapons – without the national will to persevere on a course of action – the United States will fail to achieve its objectives or worse – lose a future conflict. As many classic strategists and military theoreticians have noted, war is a human endeavor requiring some degree of consensus on the political and military goals being advocated and a corresponding degree of “national will” to expend treasure to achieve them. Clear and attainable objectives with popular and international support are key ingredients necessary for success.1 This is especially true for a democratic society.

The Problem

The assault on the Capitol and American democracy

The assault on the US Capitol building by a violent mob earlier this week represented a shocking attack on American democracy. Having previously warned that Donald Trump’s refusal to concede his defeat in the election could be a matter of deep consequence, Dana Allin explores the implications of these recent events and the questions being raised about whether it is safe to leave Trump in office for the remainder of his presidency.

On 23 February 1981, Spanish military officers led an armed assault into the parliament building in Madrid, taking ministers and some 350 members of parliament hostage for 18 hours. Post-Franco democracy was still fragile, and there was no reason to assume that the coup would fail. At 1.14am the next morning, however, the young Spanish monarch Juan Carlos, in uniform as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, went before television cameras to demand an end to the siege. ‘The crown,’ he declared, ‘the symbol of the permanence and unity of the nation, cannot tolerate, in any form, actions or attitudes of people attempting by force to interrupt the democratic process.’ The plotters gave up.

The officers who stormed the parliament did not know that a Spanish TV crew just happened to be filming that day from a hidden perch above the hall. The drama was broadcast to Spain and the world, and I remember watching in astonishment at the age of 23. In my memory, the film is black and white, but Google informs me that this memory is false.

And I now realise that I have carried another bit of false consciousness in my head through forty ensuing years of adulthood. It was a state of consciousness in which I never even wondered – except perhaps in the most academic parlour-gaming – whether anything similar could happen in my native country of the United States. On Wednesday, 6 January, it did.
An attempted coup?

British Army heavy division comes up light

An ongoing House of Commons Defence Committee inquiry into British armoured-vehicle programmes has made the British Army’s shortfall in modern armour evident. The army’s war-fighting division, which it previously aimed to field by 2025, will be smaller, less ‘heavy’ and have less armour than set out in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

The British Army will be capable of fielding a war-fighting division by 2025. However, it will be smaller, less ‘heavy’ and have less modern armour than originally planned. The shortfall in armour is the result of procurement problems compounded by inadequate funding: the outcome is that the army will deliver considerably less near-term capability than was the goal.

Just how short the British Army will fall of the divisional target established by the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) has been made apparent during an ongoing House of Commons Defence Committee inquiry into British armoured-vehicle programmes. During hearings, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) acknowledged it would not meet the aim of the 2015 SDSR. Rather than being able to field a division with three brigades – two armoured infantry brigades and a strike brigade – the division would only consist of two: a single armoured infantry brigade and an ‘interim manoeuvre support brigade’, the latter with some new Ajax vehicles and infantry travelling in Boxer and Foxhound armoured personnel carriers (APCs).

Missing the goal

Trump and the politics of paranoia

The violent storming of the United States Capitol on 6 January 2021 by Trump supporters, seeking to thwart what they considered was a stolen election, was a powerful demonstration of the strength of their delusions. However irrational and Manichean such beliefs might seem, they can have real and profound consequences, argues Benjamin Rhode.

Yesterday’s violent assault on the US Capitol, launched by supporters of President Donald Trump in the hope of overturning the recent election that they insisted was the product of a gigantic conspiracy, represented a shocking attack on American democracy itself. Yet to those familiar with the paranoid and conspiratorial discourse animating a significant portion of Trump’s ‘base’, or the history of other paranoid movements, these events were shocking but not surprising.

In his classic 1964 essay ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’, Richard Hofstadter identified the ‘central preoccupation’ of the ‘paranoid style’, which had manifested itself throughout American (and international) history: ‘the existence of a vast, insidious, preternaturally effective international conspiratorial network designed to perpetrate acts of the most fiendish character.’ Paranoid movements, which are not exclusive to any one political tradition, feature a Manichean, total war against ‘absolute evil’, an enemy who ‘is a perfect model of malice’ and whose personal schemes, rather than any impersonal forces, dictate history’s course. There is often a special emphasis placed on defectors from ‘the enemy cause’ since, ‘in the spiritual wrestling match between good and evil which is the paranoid’s archetypal model of the world struggle’, this figure ‘brings with him the promise of redemption and victory’. Lurid condemnations of the supposed sexual and sadistic perversions of the enemy allow ‘exponents of the paranoid style an opportunity to project and freely express unacceptable aspects of their own minds.’

Avoid ‘Great-Power Competition’ in Future Security Strategies

by Kevin Bilms

The 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) were transformative because they rebalanced the primary security focus away from countering extremist groups, and towards the challenges presented by near-peer competitors and revisionist regimes. Both documents depicted an international landscape that was increasingly complex and competitive. This was a major departure from previous strategies, which referred to competitiveness in passing, and predominately in an economic context.

Although both strategies were right about the competitive environment, allowing “great-power competition” with Russia and China to dominate the discourse was too narrowly focused and shortsighted, focusing excessively on high-end capabilities while denying the United States the framework for competing with and leading through its influence and other tools short of armed conflict. Even more problematic, the lack of a clear definition for “competition” has complicated efforts to sustain unified action across the U.S. Government, and with allies and partners, to compete against shared challenges.

There is no need to formally define “great-power competition” at this stage. “Competition” is important to finally define, but it is even more critical to ensure that the U.S. Government becomes more strategic in its approach. Something that properly articulates the state of the international condition, and the United States’ approach to it, is essential.

So let’s ditch “great-power competition,” call the framing idea “strategic competition”—as it is referred to by the NDS—and unpack the implications of the term.

Britain’s immediate economic prospects are grim

FOR THE four-and-a-half years since Britain′s referendum on membership of the European Union, firms have been worrying about the impact of Brexit. But Britain's transition out of the EU, completed on December 31st, did not end with a bang. The queues of lorries at Dover that had been widely predicted failed to materialise. Supermarket shoppers were not starved of green vegetables. And business has had other troubles on its mind.

World shouldn’t laugh at U.S. too soon


In much of the world, the sight of a mob storming the United States Capitol to keep their leader in office was met not just with horror but with, let’s face it, schadenfreude. Finally! The U.S., which has for decades lectured other democracies about their imperfections and failures, had an anti-democratic moment of its own.

Some here in India responded in keeping with the honored traditions of this country — i.e., WhatsApp jokes (“Owing to COVID-19 travel restrictions, this year’s U.S.-backed coup will take place at home”). The Times of India’s banner headline was “Coup Klux Klan.”

Others’ humor was a little drier. The Russian foreign ministry, which has perfected the art of straddling provocation, irony and fact, noted mournfully that “the electoral system in the United States is archaic; it does not meet modern democratic standards,” which is particularly infuriating because of its exact truth. The Turkish press release sounded like officials had gleefully cut-and-pasted past advisories from the U.S. State Department, down to the advice that “Turkish citizens in the U.S. avoid crowded areas.”

Now, a lot of this is entertaining and some of it is understandable. Certainly, nobody who lives in an emerging nation likes to hear shocked liberal Americans declaring their country’s turmoil similar to events “in the Third World.” In India, for example, we manage to conduct much larger elections than the U.S. endures with far fewer complications.

U.S. Military Forces in FY 2021: Space, SOF, Civilians, and Contractors

Part of U.S. Military Forces in FY 2021. Beyond the traditional military services, military forces include the new Space Force as well as Special Operations Forces (SOF, which functions as a quasi-service), Department of Defense (DOD) civilians (which perform many functions that military personnel perform in other countries), and contractors (which form a permanent element of the national security establishment, not only in the United States proper but also on overseas battlefields).

Major elements such as a headquarters, appropriations accounts, and capstone doctrine have been established.

Major elements of structure are in place, but decisions are still pending about transfer of most personnel.

Its small size will require heavy reliance on other services, particularly the Air Force, for support functions and a different approach to personnel management.

Special Operations Forces (SOF)

SOF continues its gradual expansion and heavy dependence on Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.

A broad set of actions to counter recent instances of ethical misconduct by its personnel seems to be having an effect.

DOD Civilians

The Biden Transition and Reshaping U.S. Strategy: Replacing “Burden Sharing” with Meaningful Force Planning

The Burke Chair at CSIS has released a new assessment of the current U.S. focus on burden sharing in shaping its strategic partnerships and alliances. It provides a detailed analysis on the problems in only using defense spending, percentages of GDP, and percentages of procurement spending to set goals for NATO spending and procurement.

It shows that NATO Europe alone sharply outspends Russia on military forces and that efforts to pressure NATO countries to spend 2% of GDP, and 20% of that military spending on procurement, all fail to set meaningful goals for using NATO resources. The end result is that the U.S. has pressured its allies to spend in ways which actually waste defense spending and fail to improve the military capabilities of the alliance.

The report also shows that same problems arise from U.S. burden sharing efforts that fail to take account of the existing levels of defense spending by its Arab strategic partners and its key strategic partners in Asia. The end result has again focused on total spending and arms sales without regard to actual force development and modernization needs.

It makes it clear that Biden transition needs to replace the current U.S. political emphasis on burden sharing with a net assessment of comparative defense spending and joint force planning in order to create the mixtures of deterrence and war fighting capabilities that both the U.S. and its strategic partners really need.

Why The Latest Cyberattack Was Different


All during 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic swept around the world, another novel virus with devastating long-term effects spread unnoticed worldwide. Sometime in late 2019 or early 2020, at least one group of advanced hackers inserted malware into network software supplied by SolarWinds, a maker of information technology infrastructure software based in Austin, Texas. The decision to target SolarWinds looks strategic given the company’s vast U.S. and global clientele in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Publicly exposed in December 2020, the infectious malware—dubbed Sunburst by the cybersecurity firm FireEye and Solorigate by Microsoft—may turn out to be the most audacious cyberespionage campaign in history. For months, attackers stealthily infiltrated governments and businesses via a Trojan horse-style update to SolarWinds’ Orion cybersecurity management software. Like the coronavirus, Sunburst and another recently discovered piece of malware reveal the downside of global connectivity and the failure of global cooperation to deal with contagion.

What sets the SolarWinds attack apart from previous incidents is its sheer scale. The company has over 300,000 customers worldwide, according to filings made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Throughout 2020, SolarWinds sent out software updates to roughly 18,000 of them. To date, at least 250 networks have reportedly been affected by the booby-trapped file. Shortly after being downloaded, the virus executes commands that create a backdoor in the network to transfer files, disable services, and reboot machines. Targeted institutions include the U.S. departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State, Energy, and the Treasury; all five branches of the U.S. military; the National Nuclear Security Administration, and 425 of the Fortune 500 companies, including Cisco, Equifax, MasterCard, and Microsoft. There have been other major cyberattacks in the past, but none has achieved this kind of penetration. By compromising powerful governments and businesses, including some of the most successful technology companies, the SolarWinds exploit shatters the illusion of information security. The hack has also spooked the financial services sector.


By Steve Ferenzi

Synopsis: A sponsor may disrupt or coerce an adversary with only a small investment in a proxy force without crossing the threshold to traditional armed conflict. Proxy employment represented a significant component of U.S. policy during the Cold War. As the United States once again relies on this tool to compete with peer state adversaries, it is beneficial to examine past engagements that may inform better ways to outsource national security objectives to proxy forces. Central Intelligence Agency support to anti-Chinese resistance forces in Tibet, the “Roof of the World,” from 1956 to 1974 accomplished the limited objective of disrupting Chinese regional ambitions as part of the global effort to contain Communist expansion. However, success came at the expense of Tibetan casualties and failure to achieve the resistance’s objective of an independent Tibet. This case study offers lessons for future proxy engagements in establishing mechanisms that facilitate proper proxy selection, mitigate deviation from sponsor goals, and optimize proxy capabilities.Download the Report