8 February 2021

Why India Feels Confident That China’s J-20 Fighter is No Threat

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need To Remember: As long as the PLAAF has only a few dozen J-20s in service, it may make sense to reserve them for hit-and-run tactics and special deep strikes. But as the article in the Diplomat points out, there’s ample evidence the J-20 may be intended to grow into a capable all-rounder that can hold its own in a dogfight.

In January 2011, the maiden flight of a large, dagger-like grey jet announced that China had developed its first stealth aircraft—the Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon.” Six years later, after several substantial revisions, J-20s entered operational service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force.

As radar-guided missiles from fighters and ground-based launchers threaten aircraft from dozens, or even hundreds of miles away, stealth capabilities are increasingly perceived as necessary for keeping fighter pilots alive on the modern battlefield.

But just how good is the J-20? And what is its intended role? After all, America’s first stealth fighter, the F-117 Nighthawk, was not even really a fighter and lacked any air-to-air capability whatsoever.

Will Indian Scientific Temper Survive 2021?


2020 was a disaster year for almost everyone – but it was a unique opportunity for Indian science. An oft-neglected enterprise, it received unprecedented attention as scientists tried to innovate in the diagnostics, treatment and vaccine spaces. Taken together, this was an opportunity to demonstrate India’s capabilities and expertise – not just for a domestic audience but the international one as well.

The obstacles 2020 brought were a ladder for Indian science to rise up to a leadership position and become a driver of the Indian economy.

But opacity, ambiguity and distrust have squandered this opportunity. Only two weeks into 2021 and India has claimed a major casualty – scientific temper – and the suspects are not the usual zealots or the so-called “lay people” but the very custodians of the ‘temple’ of science.

Article 51A of the Indian Constitution recommends scientific temper as a constitutional duty of India’s citizens. This clause by itself is confounding, as it seems to contravene another of the Constitution’s tenets. The Constitution bestows the liberty of faith and belief to Indian citizens, and asking people to shed this liberty is incorrect.

Yet we often like to see India’s citizens question their beliefs, and scientists and science enthusiasts have rallied to demand more scientific temper in the country. Irrespective of Constitutional entitlements, one expects scientists to be the custodians of the scientific temper and to practice what they preach. It is their responsibility to demonstrate the practice of scientific temper and scientific method for the people at large to imbibe.

Three incidents in the short span of 2021 have broken up this idea: approval for the Covaxin and Covishield vaccine candidates; the cow science examination; and the (draft) Science Technology and Innovation Policy 2020. Instead of using these opportunities to reaffirm faith in Indian science, the government and scientists have tried to impose their own will – without accountability – on the people. Doing so is a great disservice and, in my opinion, criminal — not just to the people but to science as well.

What the Myanmar Coup Means for China

By Shannon Tiezzi

On February 1, a coup in Myanmar saw the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) ousted and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, among other leaders, detained, whereabouts unknown. With that, Myanmar returned to military rule after 10 years of gradual, albeit limited, political opening.

The change in Myanmar will be closely watched in Beijing. And despite a long history of cozy relations with the Tatmadaw during Mynamar’s previous stint of military rule starting in the late 1980s, China will not be celebrating.

“A coup in no way is in Beijing’s interests. Beijing was working very well with the NLD,” said Yun Sun, a co-director of the East Asia Program and director of the China Program at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C.

“If Beijing has a choice, I think they would prefer the NLD over the military. But they don’t have a choice… so they have to deal with whatever comes along.”

The first official reaction, from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, was decidedly bare-bones: “We have noted what happened in Myanmar, and we are learning more information on the situation.”

China’s Type 15 Light Tank Matters for Asia’s Future Wars

by Kris Osborn

China is arming its land forces with greater numbers of a new Type 15 lightweight mobile tank platform intended to operate in the high-altitude plateau areas of Western China. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Xinjiang Military Command has commissioned its first Type 15 tanks.

“Compared with the PLA’s Type 96 and Type 99 tanks, the Type 15 is of lighter weight, boasts better mobility in high altitude regions with low oxygen levels, and is more suitable for plateau combat, CCTV said,” a story in the Chinese government backed Global Times reports.

The Type 15, first revealed publicly by China during a military parade in 2019, has been in development for many years. The roughly thirty-five-ton armored vehicle is, at a cursory glance, comparable in many respects to the U.S. Army’s now-in-development Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) vehicle.

The Chinese report adds that the Type 15 produces oxygen, uses new armor materials, has advanced weapons and fire control and is somewhat stealthy.

In China, How People Are Pushing Back On Surveillance State

Frédéric Schaeffer

BEIJING — On Xingfu Street, in central Beijing, a dozen people dressed in reflective vests compose a single file line — but they are not merely standing. Hunched to the ground or cautiously walking sideways, they advance as if they were simulating a hostage evacuation or avoiding a sniper. Watched by bewildered passersby, these citizens are participating in a performance by the artist Deng Yufeng, aiming to depict exactly how difficult it is to escape the video surveillance cameras infesting the Chinese capital.

Occasionally zigzagging and walking backwards to hide their faces from the eyes of Big Brother, these volunteers, recruited online, took more than two hours to traverse the 1 kilometer section on Xingfu (or "Happiness") Street. "I found there was something ironic and tragic in the idea of disappearing on Happiness Street," explains the artist from his studio in a Beijing suburb.

It took Deng Yufeng, 34, two months to locate the cameras, discreetly noting their positions and taking measurements in the street. Back at his studio, he studied the different camera angles on the internet then created a route accordingly. "There were 89 cameras when I started creating the route, but on the day of the performance I noticed new ones! Luckily, we were able to add a few adjustments on the spot." Due to a police investigation, Deng gave up his plans of repeating the performance and putting the itinerary online.

The U.S. Military Alone is Not Enough to Save Taiwan

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need To Remember: The United States remains legally committed to the defense of Taiwan, even though it no longer recognizes it as the government of China. Despite a recent spike in tensions, China-Taiwan relations are still massively improved, exchanging university students and business investments rather than artillery shells and aerial bombs. However, the capabilities of the PLA have drastically increased in the interval as well.

In 1955, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army embarked on a bloody amphibious landing to capture a fortified Nationalist island, only about twice the size of a typical golf course. Not only did the battle exhibit China’s growing naval capabilities, it was a pivotal moment in a chain of events that led Eisenhower to threaten a nuclear attack on China—and led Congress to pledge itself to the defense of Taiwan.

In 1949, Mao’s People’s Liberation Army succeeded in sweeping the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) government out of mainland China. However, the Nationalist navy allowed the KMT to maintain its hold on large islands such as Hainan and Formosa, as well as smaller islands only miles away from major mainland cities such as Kinmen and Matsu. These soon were heavily fortified with Nationalist troops and guns, and engaged in protracted artillery duels with PLA guns on the mainland.

Opinion: China is a rising digital superpower. Europe and the U.S. must catch up — together.

Carl Bildt

Once upon a time, there was something called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Proposed with fanfare in 2013, it was meant to usher in a new era of economic integration in the Atlantic region, much like the ambitions for the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Pacific area.

Of course, there was already the security alliance across the Atlantic with NATO, but the TTIP was supposed to be its counterpart in a world where the competition with a rising China already started to loom large. With TTIP in place, the Atlantic region was expected to be able to set the rules and standards for global trade in the years ahead.

But the TTIP is now history. Regulatory alignment in different areas, despite the potential it would have unleashed, turned out to be a tricky business. And there was a fair deal of suspicion in parts of Europe against aligning with U.S. standards that were sometimes seen as too weak.

Then, of course, came the Trump administration. It didn’t kill off the TTIP talks, as it did with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. They just faded away and were never mentioned again. And in Europe, it was quickly recognized that talking trade with President Donald Trump was inviting trouble.

Taiwan’s Chips Remain Core of Technopolitics

By Abby Lemert, Eleanor Runde

Jiang Jinquan, a top Chinese policy official, wrote in a state media outlet on Jan. 25 that China’s choice to seek technological independence from the United States was “inevitable.” Jiang’s article is the latest Chinese publication to emphasize the role of semiconductors, which have taken center stage in the technological competition between the United States and China. Semiconductors are a key element in China’s plan for technological independence.

The field of cutting-edge chip manufacturing is narrowing, now occupied by just a handful of companies: U.S.-based Intel; Samsung of South Korea; Taiwan’s TSMC and China’s SMIC. SMIC lags TSMC in production, and Intel is falling behind too; on Jan. 21, Intel announced that it would outsource some chip production to Samsung and TSMC. While the industry of chip design is exploding and diversifying, chip production has been concentrated into the hands of just two companies.

Commentators note that chip production implicates long-term geopolitics. Even if TSMC moves some fabrication plants overseas (such as its recent pledge to build a factory in Arizona), those plants will lag behind the cutting-edge capacities of Taiwan factories for years to come.

Why Is China Cracking Down on Alibaba?


HONG KONG – Since the Chinese authorities suddenly halted fintech conglomerate Ant Group’s planned initial public offering in autumn 2020, its parent company, e-commerce king Alibaba, has been facing harsh regulatory scrutiny. On Christmas Eve, China’s antitrust authority announced that it was investigating the firm’s exclusive business practices. And Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, recently eased concerns regarding his fate by appearing in public for the first time since last October, when he delivered a speech criticizing financial regulation in China.

We should not be afraid of a post-pandemic world that will not be the same as the status quo ante. We should embrace it and use all appropriate fora and available opportunities to make it a better world by advancing the cause of international cooperation.13Add to Bookmarks

The mere announcement of the investigation into Alibaba wiped more than $100 billion off the firm’s market value overnight. Given the Chinese government’s huge regulatory power, investors are rightly anxious about Alibaba’s prospects. But the government’s sudden and aggressive move against the firm also reveals much about the regulatory regime’s weaknesses.

Degrees of Separation: A Targeted Approach to U.S.-China Decoupling – Interim Report

The CSIS Economics Program launched Degrees of Separation to establish clearer objectives for U.S. engagement with China and to assess whether disengagement from specific economic activities can help in meeting such objectives.

This interim report reviews the evolution of the U.S.-China relationship since President Nixon’s visit to China in February 1972. It takes stock of the current bilateral economic relationship, with particular focus on trade, investment, and innovation linkages. The report identifies six distinct areas that motivated U.S.-China engagement from 1972 through the end of the Trump administration: (1) geostrategy; (2) economics; (3) human rights and civil society; (4) global rules and norms; (5) global public goods; and (6) technology and innovation. While specific objectives in each area continue to evolve, these six areas remain relevant to guiding bilateral engagement today.DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

A subsequent report, delivered later this year, will present a framework for assessing specific economic activities as candidates for targeted decoupling, along with case studies designed to test the framework.

This report is made possible through the generous support of the Smith Richardson Foundation.

Biden can pass his China test

Javier Solana and Eugenio Bregolat

When the time comes to evaluate US President Joe Biden’s international legacy, one variable will be enormously significant: the relationship that his administration forges with China. Sino-American competition has become the main global geostrategic issue, but its terms are far from being irrevocably defined. Despite their obvious rivalry, the United States and China must try to understand each other, and Biden will certainly act with greater skill, responsibility, and broad-mindedness than his predecessor. This is just as well, because global peace and prosperity in the twenty-first century will depend on the quality of the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

US-China cooperation is indispensable in resolving major global challenges, from the latent risk of a nuclear holocaust to climate change, international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and pandemics. At the same time, competition is unavoidable – and even welcome – in trade, technology, space, sports, and many other fields.

For such a complex relationship to work well, both powers must agree on a common set of rules, instead of trying to impose their own unilaterally. Identifying multilateral channels that could revive the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization is particularly urgent. Another priority is to establish cyberspace norms that would prevent massive electronic-piracy operations like the recently discovered SolarWinds hack in the US, which appears to be the work of Russia.

One Big Challenge for Biden? China’s Push for Tech Supremacy

AS AMERICA STAGGERED through the final stretch of a bitter and divisive US presidential election last month, China was putting the finishing touches on carefully drawn plans for economic recovery, an enhanced military, and crucially, increased technological self-reliance.

The proposals, outlined in the Chinese Communist Party’s latest Five Year Plan, highlight a key challenge for president-elect Joe Biden at the outset of his four-year term.

President Trump’s efforts to kneecap Chinese technology have only partially succeeded. Ironically, they may ultimately accelerate China’s development in key cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, chipmaking, 5G, and biotechnology.

Foreign policy experts say the US needs to confront China on issues such as market access, forced technology transfers, and human rights. But many say America’s approach to China badly needs a reboot. To out-compete Beijing, and its aspirations as a global tech power, they say the president needs to do more than just hold China back.

US-Turkey relations will remain crisis-ridden for a long time to come

Galip Dalay

The U.S.-Turkey relationship has a long history of complexities, with no golden era to point to. However, even by these standards, recent years have been exceptionally bad. An accumulated series of crises, a dysfunctional framework for the relationship, and diverging threat perceptions have plagued ties.

In particular, five crises that have tested U.S.-Turkey relations in recent years are likely to be on the Biden administration’s agenda: Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems and the ensuing U.S. sanctions on Turkey, the Syrian Kurds, the Eastern Mediterranean crisis, the court case against Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank related to U.S. sanctions on Iran, and Biden’s views on Turkey’s democratic regression.

Despite this long list of disputes, former President Trump shielded Turkey from many possible punitive actions. In this regard, his departure bodes ill for Ankara. In his confirmation hearing on January 19, Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to Turkey as our “so-called strategic partner” in response to a question on Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems; this is indicative of the new administration’s mood toward Turkey. In the same vein, in almost all public opinion polls in Turkey, the United States tops the list of countries that people perceive to threaten Turkey’s national security.

The Gulf War’s Afterlife: Dilemmas, Missed Opportunities, and the Post-Cold War Order Undone

The Gulf War is often remembered as a “good war,” a high-tech conflict that quickly and cleanly achieved its objectives. Yet, new archival evidence sheds light on the extended fallout from the war and challenges this neat narrative. The Gulf War left policymakers with a dilemma that plagued successive U.S. administrations. The war helped create an acute humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and the United States struggled to find a way to contain a still recalcitrant Saddam Hussein while alleviating the suffering of innocent Iraqis. The failure of American leaders to resolve this dilemma, despite several chances to do so, allowed Saddam’s regime to drive a wedge into the heart of the American-led, post-Cold War order. While in the short term the war seemed like a triumph, over the years its afterlife caused irreparable harm to American interests.

In June 1991, nearly 5 million onlookers enthusiastically welcomed American troops returning home from the Gulf War as they marched in a ticker-tape parade through New York City’s “Canyon of Heroes.”1 This image of the Gulf War as a triumph has proved enduring. As two historians of the war wrote a decade later, the Gulf War was “one of the most successful campaigns in American military history.”2 For many Americans, the war exorcised the demons of Vietnam.3 Others have contrasted the success of the 1991 Gulf War with the failure of the 2003 Iraq War.4 Such praise has transcended domestic American politics. Both the Clinton and Obama administrations admired the way President George H. W. Bush handled the conflict.5 Despite some handwringing about Saddam Hussein remaining in power and the fact that there was no World War II-style surrender, the conflict is still remembered as a “good war” or, as one Marine Corps general described it, a “beautiful thing.”6 Unsurprisingly, it has had an outsize impact on the way Americans think war should be conducted.7


OVERVIEWAt the start of 2021, the United States is the most powerful, politically divided, and economically unequal of the world's industrial democracies. China is America's strongest competitor, a state capitalist, authoritarian, and techno-surveillance regime that is increasingly mistrusted by most G20 countries. Germany and Japan are much more stable, but the most powerful leaders both have had in decades are out (former prime minister Abe Shinzo) or on their way out (Chancellor Angela Merkel). Russia is in decline and blames the US and the West for its woes. And the world is in the teeth of the worst crisis it has experienced in generations.

You'd hope a global pandemic would prove an opportunity for the world's leaders to work together. That was at least mostly true after 9/11 and the 2008 global financial crisis. Both were smaller in scale but set against a broadly aligned geopolitical order … and politically functional United States. Not so today.

That matters because just as 2020 was overwhelmingly about healthcare responses to Covid-19 (and how much many governments got wrong), 2021 will overwhelmingly be about economic responses to Covid-19's lingering symptoms and scar tissue (debt burdens and misaligned politics), even as vaccines roll out and the healthcare emergency fades. As economic issues come to the fore, there is no global leadership on political models, trade standards, and international architecture to follow.DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT

NATO, We Want to Go to War With You


In recent years, NATO has begun to incorporate some innovative new cyberwarfare games and exercises into its annual wargames. But there is something missing. If NATO wants to see what nation-state hacking is like in the chaotic multiactor online world, it needs to practice fending off some actual hackers.

If NATO wants to see what nation-state hacking is like in the chaotic multiactor online world, it needs to practice fending off some actual hackers.

In mid-November 2020, NATO conducted its 13th annual cybergames in Estonia, with about 1,000 participants and observers from 33 states. Through the five-day exercise, NATO simulated an attack against the fictional nation of Andvaria as well as defending against a cyberattack on a NATO member state’s critical infrastructure. NATO specifically allowed and requested participating nations to practice working together in cyberspace and, for the first time, ran the entire simulation virtually due to the pandemic.

This was a wonderful opportunity that NATO mostly seized. Moving the games online meant that every connection, every network, every target machine could be tested and at realistic and differing levels of vulnerability. But in some key ways, the scenario played through by the various countries’ militaries did not reflect the actual state of the world during the pandemic. The most recent U.S. Treasury and Commerce Department hacks and the still developing U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration hack show how in the cyber-realm, everything, including civilians and weapons of mass destruction, is a target.

Tensions Run High in Europe Over the Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine

by Rob Reddick

It’s been a rollercoaster week for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been authorised for use in the EU while simultaneously being at the heart two high-profile European disputes.

The EU and AstraZeneca have publicly fallen out over delays to the EU’s order of COVID vaccines, which the manufacturer expects to be 60% lower than expected this spring. As Aditya Goenka, Professor of Economics at the University of Birmingham, explains, this has been compounded by other supply woes, leaving the bloc short on doses and unable to speed up its already slow rollout.

Specifically, it’s problems at a vaccine-production site in Belgium that have left Europe with this shortfall, say supply-chain experts Liz Breen and Sarah Schiffling, who then go on to explore the various issues that can hamper COVID vaccine production and what can be done to get around them.

One way of preventing these sorts of issues making a big dent in global supplies is to run a number of production site simultaneously. This is exactly what AstraZeneca is doing, and really is the crux of the issue. EU leaders think Europe’s supplies should be topped up from factories elsewhere – namely, the UK. British ministers have declared that the UK’s supplies shouldn’t be disrupted.

U.S. Missile Defense is No True Missile Shield

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need to Remember: It is important for national leaders to recognize that ballistic-missile defenses can only mitigate the risk of a limited nuclear missile strike, not grant a perfectly reliable shield against one. After all, long-range ballistic-missile defenses have never been tested in combat conditions—a state of affairs that even the testers at the Pentagon surely hope will not change any time soon.

On the morning of January 31, 2018, an Aegis Ashore missile battery based in Kauai, Hawaii cued onto an approaching intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The installation launched an SM-3 Block IIA missile to intercept the IRBM at speeds over fifteen times the speed of sound.

The Standard Missile 3 Block IIA was devised to allow U.S. Navy destroyers and cruisers to shoot down short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 1,350 miles while they are soaring above the Earth’s atmosphere in their midcourse phase. According to the Missile Defense Agency, this marked the first occasion in which the missile was launched from a land-based Aegis Ashore battery, and the first time it used both space- and land-based sensors to cue the intercept.

However, the MDA was also obliged to report that the SM-3 failed to hit the oncoming target—the second failure in a row out of three Block IIA tests conducted since February 2017.

Fortunately, of course, this was a test, and not a real attack by a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. It posed no more threat than the false missile alert in Hawaii on January 13 triggered by a confused employee.

An MDA statement explained that despite being “disappointed” by the result, the test had still provided useful data for improving the effectiveness of the system and “demonstrated an increase in the effective range of the overall Ballistic Missile Defense System.”

Can Biden Turn His Diverse Set of Priorities into a Grand Strategy?

The essence of grand strategy is to reconcile seemingly contradictory national objectives. The more objectives, the more complicated the formulation of strategy. President Joe Biden comes to office with the most sweeping and diverse array of national objectives of any president in decades. He must mobilize a national bipartisan campaign to attack the Covid-19 pandemic and invest in economic renewal. He must heal deep ideological and cultural divisions while rooting out the growing threat of homegrown white nationalist terrorism and simultaneously addressing systemic racism. He has called climate change an existential crisis and vowed to mobilize the international community to curb carbon dioxide emissions. He has pledged a summit of democracies to restore American leadership in advancing universal values. And he has committed to reinvigorating alliances to compete with China.

These priorities are all valid and important. They reflect rising transnational, regional, and domestic threats and the consequences of U.S. retreat and diminishment over the past four years. The new administration has signaled its multiple commitments by elevating key officials in the National Security Council and establishing new cabinet positions to handle climate change, China, domestic rebuilding, the pandemic, and democracy. Veterans of government are warning that this proliferation of special coordinators and cabinet officials will distort the policymaking process. Allies, particularly in Asia, worry that they see attributes from early Democratic administrations where the globalist agenda crowded out alliance and diplomatic cooperation on immediate security and economic challenges in their regions.

Ukraine embraces openness with new report on Russian hybrid warfare challenges

by Brian Mefford

Ukraine’s security and intelligence services have struggled with reputational issues ever since independence. During the early post-Soviet period, the Security Services and Foreign Intelligence Service operated with much the same mentality as the KGB during the Cold War, with the West seen as the main adversary. However, this has long since ceased to be the case.

In the years following the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, an overdue Ukrainianization process has taken place within the country’s intelligence services. This transformation was on display recently when the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine unveiled the 74-page “White Book 2021” analyzing current international threats to Ukrainian security.

This new publication is a significant moment in the history of Ukraine’s security community. It is the first time the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service has gone public in this manner with details of the dangers facing Ukraine.

In the past, Ukraine’s intelligence services cultivated an image of mystery and preferred to remain in the shadows. The current shift towards greater openness is a welcome one, not least because it demonstrates that today’s Foreign Intelligence Service (FIS) is busy addressing external enemies and not preoccupied with spying on Western tourists.

The Nuclear Deal’s Fate Lies in Politics—in the U.S. and Iran

Naysan Rafati 

In the four decades since Iran’s Islamic Revolution, relations between Tehran and Washington have seen deep enmity offset by brief periods of rapprochement and tactical cooperation. As a new U.S. administration settles into office and asserts its intent to, in President Joe Biden’s words, “offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy,” one of those periods may be on the horizon again.

The Obama administration pursued diplomatic engagement with the Islamic Republic, holding direct as well as multilateral talks that culminated in the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Under the Trump administration, the strategic pendulum swung toward an adversarial approach, largely defined by a “maximum pressure” policy of applying sweeping unilateral U.S. sanctions ostensibly aimed at delivering an improved and expanded agreement. This new arrangement would address not just nonproliferation concerns, the Trump administration claimed, but also seek to limit Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional power projection. Though the reimposed and expanded sanctions created significant economic duress in Iran, they did not result in any concessions to U.S. demands, a list of 12 wide-ranging points laid out by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in May 2018. Instead, Tehran expanded its nuclear activity in contravention of its commitments under the JCPOA, while continuing its ballistic missile development and assuming a more aggressive regional posture.

How to Make Sure Peace Endures Once the Fighting Ends

The need for peacebuilding in post-conflict societies grew out of the realization that signing agreements to bring fighting to an end is a necessary but insufficient step toward true and enduring peace. Peacebuilding is now conceived of as a multistage process to strengthen the peace accord and begin unifying communities through approaches ranging from governmental capacity-building and economic development to reforms of the legal and security sectors. Each initiative is intended to be a step toward improving human security, and the process often includes a transitional justice mechanism to foster societal healing and reconciliation.

Peacebuilding is often a laborious and expensive process—and one that can easily be undone. Witness Brexit’s triggering of the long-dormant fault lines between unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland. Moreover, as peacebuilding has evolved, there is still no consensus on who should lead these efforts. In the wake of Sept. 11, the United Nations introduced a Peacebuilding Commission, intended to push for the adoption of post-conflict interventions and then aid and track their implementation. But it lacks enforcement capacity, and key member states can block its activities. Regional bodies, including the European Union and especially the African Union, have shown an interest in prioritizing post-conflict peacebuilding, but their track records are mixed.

EXCLUSIVE: Pentagon’s Hypersonics Director Rebuts The Critics


Launch of Army-Navy Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) in Hawaii on March 19, 2020.

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon’s director for hypersonics R&D and a range of defense experts are pushing back against a skeptical study of hypersonic weapons by arms control advocates at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The UCS gets something wrong at every step of their analysis, they say.

The study, released days before President Biden’s inauguration and touted in The New York Times, argues that the investment for hypersonics is out of all proportion to the strategic benefits.

The Union of Concerned Scientists argues that hypersonics aren’t the unstoppably fast superweapons that they are often described as, not only in news stories but even in serious academic articles. So, at about $3.2 billion in R&D for 2021 alone, “the current number is pretty excessive, based on what we know about the performance, what these can do relative to what the weapons we already have,” Cameron Tracy, the lead author of the UCS study, told me. “We’re not really arguing against research on hypersonic flight, [but for] a significant reduction in funding for development of these weapons.”

But that conclusion is built upon a fatally flawed analytical foundation, argue our sources in the Pentagon and defense thinktanks.

Google Adds ‘About This Source’ to Google Search Results

by Stephen Silver

Have you ever come across a search results page on Google, and found that you don’t know anything about the web pages listed, or whether you should trust them?

Now, Google is introducing a new function, which will allow users to learn something about the listed sites, even without clicking on them.

“Starting today, next to most results on Google, you’ll begin to see a menu icon that you can tap to learn more about the result or feature and where the information is coming from,” the company said on its search blog. “With this additional context, you can make a more informed decision about the sites you may want to visit and what results will be most useful for you.”

The descriptions come from a partnership between Google and Wikipedia.

“When available, you’ll see a description of the website from Wikipedia, which provides free, reliable information about tens of millions of sites on the web,” Google said. “Based on Wikipedia’s open editing model, which relies on thousands of global volunteers to add content, these descriptions will provide the most up-to-date verified and sourced information available on Wikipedia about the site. If it’s a site you haven’t heard of before, that additional information can give you context or peace of mind, especially if you’re looking for something important, like health or financial information.”

A Vast Web of Vengeance

By Kashmir Hill

Guy Babcock vividly remembers the chilly Saturday evening when he discovered the stain on his family. It was September 2018. He, his wife and their young son had just returned to their home in Beckley, an English village outside of Oxford. Mr. Babcock still had his coat on when he got a frantic call from his father.

“I don’t want to upset you, but there is some bad stuff on the internet,” Mr. Babcock recalled his father saying. Someone, somewhere, had written terrible things online about Guy Babcock and his brother, and members of their 86-year-old father’s social club had alerted him.

Mr. Babcock, a software engineer, got off the phone and Googled himself. The results were full of posts on strange sites accusing him of being a thief, a fraudster and a pedophile. The posts listed Mr. Babcock’s contact details and employer.

The images were the worst: photos taken from his LinkedIn and Facebook pages that had “pedophile” written across them in red type. Someone had posted the doctored images on Pinterest, and Google’s algorithms apparently liked things from Pinterest, and so the pictures were positioned at the very top of the Google results for “Guy Babcock.”

Mr. Babcock, 59, was not a thief, a fraudster or a pedophile. “I remember being in complete shock,” he said. “Why would someone do this? Who could it possibly be? Who would be so angry?”

Cyber espionage is not cyber attack

By: James Van de Velde 

There is something about the cyber domain that makes people lose perspective. The latest cyberspace incident is a perfect example.

According to the news, a foreign actor, most likely Russia, infected a much-used software program with malware that allowed it to access the accounts of those U.S. agencies that used the program. The goal seems to have been to collect (i.e., spy) on these organizations.

This cyberspace incident is a classic case of espionage through a system breach executed via a software supply-chain compromise by Russian actors. Many U.S. agencies were penetrated, without their knowledge, and the access to these systems reportedly was maintained for many months and may be ongoing today. If the Russians have this sort of cyber espionage tradecraft, you can be sure the Chinese have, or soon will have, it too.

However, the event was not, as widely characterized, a “cyberspace attack.” To call it such is to minimize the consequences of a real cyberspace attack, an event where actual functional denial occurs in cyberspace or one of the physical domains. It was not, if the news accounts are correct, an “armed attack” or even likely an example of “armed conflict.” No “arms” were used, unless Russia left behind code that would allow disruption or destruction of infected computers upon subsequent command. If the malware left behind can be used to allow malicious code to be delivered sometime in the future that destroys or degrades these U.S. computers, then this attack-preparation malware left behind might permit a future-armed attack. Ransomware events are examples of actual cyberspace attack, since they deny functionality.

A Short Discussion of the Internet’s Effect on Politics

The internet and the digital technologies that create cyberspace are transforming society, business, and politics as people respond to new opportunities online and change their behavior accordingly. These effects are reshaping politics and are the result of the nature of the online environment itself, where the combination of technology, information, and instinctive mental processes can unconsciously reshape how people think.
Let 100 Flowers Bloom

A precedent for this shift may come from Johannes Gutenberg and moveable type. Cheap printing changed how people thought about governance, as they could acquire knowledge at lower cost and from a much broader array of sources, giving them new (and often competing) concepts and narratives about society and religion. These new ideas eroded certainty in existing institutions and authority.

This first “knowledge revolution” contributed to centuries of political turmoil. Internet technologies are producing a similar result, but at a faster pace and with broader effect. They erode the legitimacy of existing authority by changing citizens’ expectations and creating competing narratives. The political forces the internet creates mean that representative parliamentary democracy—the nineteenth-century solution to Gutenbergian disruption—is no longer adequate.

Every Soldier a Drone Fighter: Plan Would Make Counter-UAS Training an Army Requirement

By Matthew Cox

The head of the Pentagon's counter-drone effort wants every soldier -- from cooks to riflemen -- trained to fight off swarms of enemy unmanned aerial systems, or UAS, capable of inflicting casualties on combat units.

The Army-led Joint Counter Small UAS Office, or JCO, completed its strategy in early January to combat the growing threat of small UAS being deployed against U.S. forces.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, JCO Director Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey outlined a plan to demonstrate new counter-UAS weapon systems under development by the defense industry beginning in April. The effort involves creating a joint counter-UAS training program designed to teach soldiers and other service members how to operate the systems once they are fielded.

"There is a prevalent threat out there," Gainey said. "The threat continues to use UAS as [reconnaissance] platforms and are using them more as a capacity that can inflict casualties and damage.

"We are seeing a lot of hazards where UAS are flying near installations [in the U.S.] and could be conceived as a threat because you don't really know the intent of some of these UASs and you don't want to wait until something actually happens," he added.

General James Mattis and the Changing Nature of War


Walter Pincus is a contributing senior national security columnist for The Cipher Brief. He spent forty years at The Washington Post, writing on topics from nuclear weapons to politics. In 2002, he and a team of Post reporters won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

OPINION — “Terrorism is an ambient threat, it’s out there just like the air we breathe. It’s going to be something we’re going to have to deal with throughout our lifetime and probably through the lifetime of our children’s generation. It’s a reality in the globalized world.”

That’s just one thought laid out by former Defense Secretary James Mattis during a wide-ranging, webcast conversation with former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, which took place last Thursday under the auspices of the OSS Society.

The entire 45-minute discussion is worth hearing as Mattis, encouraged by Vickers, provided a stimulating, tour d’horizon of national security issues facing us all, including both foreign and domestic terrorism.

Internal problems have “as much gravity as external problems, perhaps more so,” Mattis said.

Claiming at one point that domestic U.S. threats are “not in my bailiwick,” Mattis nonetheless pointed to “the lack of unity on the consensual underpinnings of our democracy, and what we saw on January 6, fomented by a sitting president” as one of several troublesome internal signs endangering American democracy.

He quickly added, “The national debt and the skyrocketing of the national debt, these are internal problems that I would classify with every bit as much gravity as the external problems and perhaps more so. As you go back in our history and look at what it does to other nations and ours when we went through periods like this.”

Rethinking Military Roles and Missions in a New Administration

Whether it wants to or not, the Biden administration will be forced to grapple with questions over how roles and missions are allocated among the military services. Rather than ignoring the issue or handling roles and missions disputes in a piecemeal manner that reacts to problems as they arise, the Department of Defense (DoD) should begin a narrowly scoped strategic review of roles and missions as part of the upcoming national defense strategy review. This roles and missions review should focus on eliminating gaps, redundancies, and areas of ambiguity among the services created specifically by the establishment of the United States Space Force, advancements in technologies such as artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons, and the emergence of new and expanded military missions. In particular, DoD should consider transferring the land-based leg of the nuclear triad to the Army and designating a lead service for the development of an overall architecture and interface standards for Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2).

Q1: What are military roles and missions, and why are they important?

A1: Military “roles” are generally defined as the “broad and enduring purposes of each service” and are loosely defined in law. The term “missions” generally means the specific tasks and functions each service undertakes to carry out its roles. Historically, roles and missions have also been called military functions, which is perhaps a more succinct description of what the phrase is intended to encompass.

The clear assignment of roles and missions among the military services is necessary for effective strategy development and the efficient fielding of forces. Without clear allocation of roles and missions, the U.S. military risks allowing gaps in capabilities to emerge where no service claims responsibility, or it could find itself wasting precious resources on unintended redundancies among the services.