14 February 2021

How Do Indian Americans View India? Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey


Since coming to power in 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made outreach to the far-flung Indian diaspora a signature element of his government’s foreign policy. Modi’s courtship of the diaspora has been especially notable in the United States, where the Indian American population has swelled to more than 4 million and has become the second-largest immigrant group in the United States.1

In two separate, large rallies on U.S. soil—in 2014 and 2019—Modi sought to highlight the achievements of the diaspora, outlining the many ways in which they can support India’s interests from afar while underscoring their increasingly substantial economic, political, and social influence in the United States.

These high-octane gatherings, however, naturally lead to a series of questions: How do Indians in America regard India, and how do they remain connected to developments there? What are their attitudes toward Indian politics and changes underway in their ancestral homeland? And what role, if any, do they envision for the United States in engaging with India?

Despite the growing media attention showered on the Indian diaspora and the Indian government’s enhanced outreach, many of these questions remain unanswered. This study seeks to remedy this gap. The analysis is based on a nationally representative online survey of 1,200 Indian American adult residents—the Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS)—conducted between September 1 and September 20, 2020, in partnership with the research and analytics firm YouGov. The survey has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.

Options for the U.S. Towards Pakistan

Divergent Options

Jason Criss Howk has spent his career as a soldier-diplomat, educator, and advisor focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He writes a column for Clearance Jobs News and is an interfaith leader and Islamic studies professor. Find him on twitter @Jason_c_howk. Sabir Ibrahimi is a Non-resident Fellow at NYU’s Center on International Cooperation and hosts the Afghan Affairs Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @saberibrahimi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation: With the U.S. Global War on Terrorism and mission in Afghanistan winding down, the U.S. requires new foreign policy towards Pakistan.

Author and / or Article Point of View: This article is written from the point of view the of the U.S. towards Pakistan.

Background: Since the Cold War, Pakistan-U.S. relations have been oft-based on militant support. Pakistan assisted the U.S. in removing the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan by aiding so-called mujahedeen Islamist militants fighting the Red Army and Afghan government. Post-Soviet-withdrawal, the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Pakistan supported another round of militancy creating the Afghan Taliban to remove the “mujahedeen” government from Kabul. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the U.S. called upon Pakistan to help remove al Qaeda from the region. Pakistan joined the U.S. in the so-called war on terror but prevented another abandonment by the U.S. through a third round of militancy support[1], this time by rebuilding and supplying the Afghan Taliban remnants to weaken the newly formed Afghan government[2]. Pakistan does not trust America or Afghanistan to be helpful to Pakistan’s policies and the U.S. does not trust Pakistan[3].

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Debt Crisis Could Get Critical in 2021

By Umesh Moramudali

Sri Lanka’s foreign debt troubles are not new and have often been juxtaposed with concerns over defaulting debt and Chinese debt trap controversies. Leading up to 2021, several rating agencies downgraded Sri Lanka’s sovereign credit ratings: Standard and Poor’s downgraded Sri Lanka’s sovereign credit ratings to CCC+/C from B-/B, Moody’s downgraded Sri Lanka’s “long-term foreign-currency issuer and senior unsecured ratings” to Caa1 from B2, while Fitch Ratings downgraded Sri Lanka’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to CCC from B. All these moves indicate concerns about Sri Lanka’s ability to fulfil foreign debt repayments. Sri Lankan government, as usual, dismissed the concerned and claimed that analysis by the rating agencies is premature and based on ill-informed models.

Sri Lanka’s foreign debt problem, which often leads to serious balance of payment (BOP) issues, is more than its massive borrowing from various foreign sources. The root causes of the ongoing crisis are found in structural weaknesses such as the contraction of trade, low tax revenue, and the lack of foreign direct investment (FDI). Failures to provide comprehensive and consistent, long-term solutions to address such weaknesses have resulted in the country running into serious BOP crises in every few years.

How U.S.-Vietnam Ties Might Go Off the Rails

by Derek Grossman

Now that the United States and Vietnam have chosen their new leaders, the two countries must consider next steps in bilateral relations. For the past four years, the Trump administration capitalized on momentum set forth by previous administrations to deepen Washington's “comprehensive partnership” with Hanoi, including in the always sensitive security domain. Growing Chinese assertiveness in recent years in the South China Sea, where Vietnam has overlapping sovereignty disputes with China, has only bolstered the U.S.-Vietnam partnership, making it one of the brightest spots in the Trump administration's foreign policy.

If the Biden administration were to simply stay the course, then bilateral momentum is virtually assured. Early signs are promising. For example, the Biden team has consistently underscored the need to strengthen U.S. alliances and partnerships, and that would include Vietnam. The administration has further taken a hard line on China, referring to it as a “strategic competitor” and criticizing its military pressure against Taiwan.

IntelBrief: The State of Global Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Diminished by law enforcement and military operations and the COVID-19 pandemic, ISIS and Al-Qaeda now act through affiliates in local conflicts.

The rise of white supremacy and anti-government violent extremism will require greater attention from counterterrorism actors.

The impact of COVID-19 introduces uncertainty about future attacks; there could be an uptick once restrictions ease and targets are accessible.

Communities are reeling from the pandemic, with conflict and insecurity proving hospitable motivators for terrorist recruiters and propagandists.

Both the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda are increasingly acting through regional affiliates embedded in local dynamics and conflicts, rather than their centralized operational ‘core.’ Al-Qaeda has “endured a period of high leadership attrition,” notes a recent United Nations report by the team tasked with monitoring the threat posed by these groups. Noting that no country has yet confirmed the death of Aiman Al-Zawahiri, the report confirms the death of Abu Mohamed al-Masri, his deputy, and the arrest of Khalid Batarfi in Yemen – where Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was once considered the most dangerous affiliate, and one of the only ones posing a global threat. The strategic direction of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the report continues, “has not changed significantly” under the leadership of Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla.

Drones are biggest tactical concern since the rise of IEDs in Iraq, CENTCOM boss says

Kyle Rempfer

Aerial technologies once viewed as hobbyist toys have triggered alarms at U.S. Central Command.

The proliferation of small, cheap drones is the “most concerning tactical development” since the rise of the improvised explosive device in Iraq, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who helms CENTCOM, said in prepared remarks at the Middle East Institute on Monday.

The concerns are amplified by the lack of a dependable countermeasure against those drones, according to McKenzie.

“I’m not just talking about large unmanned platforms, which are the size of a conventional fighter jet that we can see and deal with by normal air defense means. I’m talking about ones you can go out and buy at Costco right now for $1,000,” McKenzie said.

Commercial drones are relatively inexpensive and easy for militant groups and criminal organizations to modify to fit their needs.

Videos from battlefields in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine have shown the potential havoc that small drones can bring to unsuspecting ground forces, including scouting for call-for-fire missions and dropping bomblets on exposed positions. Syrian fighters even found crude ISIS drone factories in areas liberated from the extremist group.

“Right now we’re on the wrong side of the cost imposition curve because this technology favors the attacker, not the defender,” McKenzie said. “But we’re working very hard to fix this and flatten the curve. We have a variety of systems in the field already.”

What’s Next for Jeff Bezos and Amazon?

Bezos announced last week that he will transition to the role of executive chairman, and Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy will become CEO. As executive chair, Bezos will lead the board of directors, closely advise Jassy and maintain significant influence over the business empire he built from scratch.

“Executive chairs are often very involved, and he sounds like he will be very involved really as a partner with Andy. And that’s a good thing. It’s a busy place, lots going on,” Wharton management professor Michael Useem said during an interview with the Wharton Business Daily show on SiriusXM. (Listen to the podcast above.) Useem is director of Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management.

The change takes effect in the third quarter, which begins in July. Bezos said he wants to focus on new products, innovation, and other initiatives, including his environmental and social funds, and The Washington Post, which he purchased in 2013.

As executive chairman, Bezos can keep a guiding hand on the wheel, “but also not be the person who’s ultimately accountable for the strategic successes or failures of the company going forward,” Wharton management professor Mary-Hunter McDonnell said in an interview with Marketplace.

“I think we’re not going to see a whole lot of wobbling of Amazon in the next couple of quarters.”–Mike Useem

New Pentagon Strategy To Share Data Like Ammunition


Transforming data from abstract, machine specific outputs to useful, shareable, information across machines is a goal of the new Defense Department Data Strategy.

ALBUQUERQUE: The new Department of Defense Data Strategy is designed to flatten the obstacles — technical and cultural — that prevent easy data sharing across the military services to enable the Pentagon’s push towards Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). Getting the right data, into the right hands, in a timely and useful manner, without any questions about the data’s integrity, is essential.

“The responsibility of all DoD leaders is to treat data as a weapon system and manage, secure, and use data for operational effect,” writes Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist in the strategy’s foreword.

The military, with its enormous intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance apparatus, is already adept at accumulating information, and so the strategy focuses instead on how to convert that already-acquired information into shareable and useful facts.

It means, in particular, giving units access to data without the person holding the data checking first to see if the recipient is entitled to use it.

“I think some of the JADC2 demos have shown us very tangible results here,” said a defense official, noting the March 2020 event at Andrews Air Force Base, “where we saw an Army howitzer, through an Air Force Data Fabric, knock down a cruise missile that was templated to be flying into North America.”

All Domain Requires New Requirements Process; DoD, Congress Must Compromise: Lt. Gen. Hinote


Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote

WASHINGTON: DoD and Congress must find new ways to work together on acquisition of capabilities for future All-Domain Operations, says Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote, the Air Force’s requirements guru.

“We have got to come up with a compromise with the people’s representatives when it comes to defining requirements in the future,” he told the West Coast Aerospace Forum in a panel discussion released online today. The annual West Coast forum, sponsored by RAND, the Mitchell Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Aerospace Corporation, and MITRE, is usually held in Los Angeles, but went virtual this year due to the pandemic.

Hinote — whose official title is Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements — said that in many ways it’s understandable that Congress is skeptical about the lack of specific requirements for Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS). This is because the iterative process necessary for developing Internet-like capabilities for managing All-Domain Operations is simply not compatible with the much slower cycle of the annual budgeting and oversight processes.

Because of the way the Pentagon crafts its annual five-year budget submission to Congress, he said, “you’re really talking about plus or minus eight years, and there would be almost no technology company that would feel good about what happens in five years.”

The COVID-19 Pandemic Puts the Spotlight on Global Health Governance

The novel coronavirus caught many world leaders unprepared, despite consistent warnings that a global pandemic was inevitable. And it has revealed the flaws in a global health architecture headed by the World Health Organization, which had already been faulted for its response to the 2014 Ebola pandemic in West Africa. Will there be an overhaul of the WHO when the pandemic is over?

After the novel coronavirus first emerged late last year in Wuhan, China, its combination of transmissibility and lethality brought the world to a virtual standstill. Governments restricted movement, closed borders and froze economic activity in a desperate attempt to curb the spread of the virus. At best, they partially succeeded at slowing down the first wave, with the second wave experts warned about now upon us. According to official records so far, more than 103 million people worldwide have been infected, and more than 2.2 million have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The actual toll of the virus is far worse and will continue to climb.

Governments will now have to balance the need to resume economic activity with measures that limit the virus’s spread until a vaccine is discovered and distributed—an outcome that is still months away, at best, despite promising test results from rapidly developed vaccine candidates. How they attempt to resolve that tension could have implications for how long they remain in power.


Bryce Johnston 

US soldiers are under constant attack in the digital world. For example, the US military is not immune from the disinformation campaigns that have helped to fuel extremism in the United States by using digital media platforms to aggravate existing grievances in the country—something leaders have acknowledged. Of course, information operations are not a new development, but the rapid adoption of digital technologies have supercharged their effects—so much so that Vladimir Putin claimed that their future capabilities would have the equivalent impact of the nuclear bomb. While much of the discussion surrounding the subject has focused on the strategic impacts of disinformation, the tactical impacts often get overlooked. This must change. In an evolving world, junior leaders will need to understand disinformation as a recurring threat to their units, even when they are in a training environment.

To begin to do so, junior leaders first need to move past the current discourse surrounding digital media. In the last year, the video app TikTok was one of the dominant topics of discussion, even after the armed services issued guidance banning the use of the app on government systems. At the center of much of this controversy was TikTok Boots, an Instagram account which reposts—and roasts—content created by military personnel on TikTok. The account has been taken down so many times in the last year that its backup account now has a backup account. While this points to the durability of digital content, it is also indicative of the military community possibly missing the forest for the trees, spending too much effort trying to de-platform a small player in the increasingly hostile information environment. For junior leaders to navigate this environment effectively, rather than similarly focusing on the individual conduct of soldiers online, they should step back and look at the overall threat that these platforms pose to their formations.

Ban TikTok (Again)

The Trump administration never really made a compelling case as to why TikTok, the music video app, was a national security risk. TikTok had moved U.S. users’ personal information out of China to the United States and Singapore, closing one avenue of risk. TikTok could be compelled by the Chinese government to use its update process to gain access to users’ devices and networks (we have all learned the "infected updater" trick after the SolarWinds hack), but that would have been a cumbersome process. Banning TikTok made no sense.

That has changed with the announcement that TikTok plans to use its network to provide e-commerce services to U.S. consumers. There are two objections to this update. First, why should TikTok be able to operate in the United States when U.S. e-commerce providers and social networks lack the same privileges in China? The habit of making unilateral concessions to China (which it demanded as a condition for market access) in the past is one reason that we find ourselves in a messy trade dispute with it. The disparity in the treatment of Chinese and U.S. companies is part of a larger Chinese strategy to gain technological and commercial advantage—as when Chinese companies could do business in the United States, but U.S. companies were forced to take a Chinese partner or provide access to technology. This is beginning to slowly change with agreements like the European Union’s Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China, although it is too early to tell if Beijing will fully live up to these commitments. Reciprocal treatment should be the cornerstone of policy.

Second, e-commerce provides a much greater stream of useful data than amateur music videos. This commercial data can be analyzed and correlated with other data that China has acquired (often illicitly) in ways that could put U.S. consumers at risk. China has made improvements to its privacy laws, but they take second place to its national security laws that require cooperation from Chinese companies when the central government makes a request without any right of appeal or without any transparency. There is no expectation of privacy in China. Intelligence agencies are as hungry for big data as are private companies. Data analytics and artificial intelligence have transformed intelligence collection. Access to data by a Chinese company should not be taken lightly, since it could also lead to access to data by the Chinese government.

Geoeconomics without Fossil Fuels

On January 27, President Biden signed an executive order to put the United States on a path to end “international financing of carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based energy.” This new strategy, whose details are being worked out, will affect domestic institutions like the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) and the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC); and through the “voice and vote of the United States,” it will also affect international financial institutions like the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.

In tone and substance, this marks a clean break from the Trump administration. The impact on energy markets, especially gas, will be major, although the administration will need to decide where to draw the line and whether to balance climate with other development, foreign policy, and national security goals. Equally important will be to ensure a deeper pipeline of renewable energy projects that could be financed, and to build a domestic manufacturing base from which to export renewable energy products—after all, walking away from fossil fuels is not the same as powering the energy transition.

In dealing with foreign or multilateral financial institutions, the new strategy will sometimes bring the United States in line with what other institutions are already doing, especially those with more developed views on climate finance. But other times, the United States will be in conflict with allies that still plan to finance fossil fuel projects—and if history is any guide, these will be difficult conversations to have.
Geoeconomics under Trump

The Strategic Offensive Against the CCP

OPINION — ‘The War God’s face has become indistinct’. That line is from a 1999 China defense paper that delineates the Chinese Communist Party (CPP)’s understanding of today’s global battlefield. For China, a war with the world would encompass the fundamentals of strategic competition: economic warfare combined with information warfare. The battlefield the CCP envisions includes foreign economies and information environments as legitimate targets.

Worsening Strategic Asymmetry

In the ongoing conflict between China and the United States, the economic and information domains have become decisive. The United States is on the defensive but has the wherewithal to move to the offensive. We are not arguing for any kind of traditional military options Quite the opposite. The CCP sees traditional war as a strategic blunder. Accordingly, the CCP has chosen other means to achieve its end. That end derives from the CCP’s basic operating principle, and its model of Leninist thought with Chinese characteristics which provides state supported capitalism with no political representation. In order to provide material choice in lieu of personal choice, Beijing is already at war with the U.S. As a result, great power competition, as noted in the current national security strategy, is taking place within a strategic asymmetry where the CCP gains faster in the economic and information domains than the U.S. An inconvenient truth is that the long-term prospect of strategic competition between the CCP and the US is stacked in favor of the former if the latter relies purely on defense. We layout potential options for the U.S. to regain the initiative.

On Defense

Is the Pentagon prepared for its “extremism” stand-down? Six ideas that might help


Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Lloyd Austin is understandably concerned about, as he characterized them, “actions associated with extremist or dissident ideologies” within the armed forces. Consequently, he’s ordered ”commanding officers and supervisors at all levels…to conduct a one-day ‘stand-down’” to have, as Pentagon press Secretary John Kirby put it, “discussions with the men and women of the force.”

Certainly, it’s important to identify and examine any dissident or extremist ideologies or actions that could adversely affect the military’s effectiveness. However, before doing so the Pentagon has some serious work to do. Otherwise this well-meaning effort by the Department of Defense (DoD) will not be as effective as it should be, or, even worse, could be counter-productive.

Indeed, Kirby appears to recognize that DoD is not yet ready to have what will likely be difficult “discussions” with DoD’s 2.3 million active and reserve troops. At a January Feb 3rd press conference, he conceded:

We owe these leaders some — some training materials, some deeper, more-specific guidance about how to conduct, or what the expectations are about, not how to conduct but what the expectations are for the stand-down, and — and some thoughts about how feedback can be provided.

US scrambles to counter deadly ‘flying IEDs’


Tactical drones are looming larger on the battlefield, but there is a distinct price difference between weaponized insurgent drones and the technology to stop them. Credit: US Marine photo.

They say, good things come in small packages. I suppose that goes for bad things too, especially when it comes to suicide drones.

We all know how dangerous IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are. Now consider a swarm of flying IEDs?

According to Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., a four-star general and the head of the US Central Command, anyone can “go out and buy at Costco right now” and buy a cheap drone, and turn it into an IED, Gina Harkins of Military.com reported.

“These systems are inexpensive, easy to modify and weaponize, and easy to proliferate,” McKenzie said during a virtual event hosted by the Middle East Institute.

National Security Memorandum 2—What’s New in Biden’s NSC Structure?

By John Bellinger 

On Feb. 4, President Biden signed National Security Memorandum 2 (NSM-2), which specifies the organization and membership for his national security decision-making system. The overall structure of the Biden National Security Council (NSC) system is similar to that of his Democratic and Republican predecessors in that it provides for a National Security Council, a Principals Committee, a Deputies Committee and interagency policy coordination committees. But Biden’s plans make some new and notable changes that reflect the Biden administration’s focus on science, global engagement, cybersecurity and rule of law. Here’s what’s new or different:

1. An “N,” not a “P” Order. Every president since Truman has issued a series of executive orders or memoranda on national security issues, some classified and some unclassified. In recent years, Republican presidents have historically titled their national security orders with descriptors beginning with “N” (NSPMs, NSPDs, NSDDs, NSDs), while Democratic presidential orders have generally started with a “P” (PPDs, PDDs, PDs). Is Biden sending a signal by breaking with Democratic tradition? Is he signaling bipartisanship in national security decision-making, or simply that the decisions are “national security” decisions, not merely “presidential” decisions?

How the United States Lost to Hackers

By Nicole Perlroth

If ever there was a sign the United States was losing control of information warfare, of its own warriors, it was the moment one of its own, a young American contractor, saw first lady Michelle Obama’s emails pop up on his screen.

For months, David Evenden, a former National Security Agency analyst, questioned what he was doing in Abu Dhabi. He, like two dozen other N.S.A. analysts and contractors, had been lured to the United Arab Emirates by a boutique Beltway contractor with offers to double, even quadruple, their salaries and promises of a tax-free lifestyle in the Gulf’s luxury playground. The work would be the same as it had been at the agency, they were told, just on behalf of a close ally. It was all a natural extension of America’s War on Terror.

Mr. Evenden started tracking terror cells in the Gulf. This was 2014, ISIS had just laid siege to Mosul and Tikrit and Mr. Evenden tracked its members as they switched out burner phones and messaging apps. The images they traded back and forth could be brutal, but this was his calling, Mr. Evenden told himself. A theology major, he’d set out to be a chaplain. He was a long way from that, but what better way to prove your faith, he thought, than hunting those who sought to murder good Christians. Soon, though, he was assigned to a new project: proving the Emiratis’ neighbor, Qatar, was funding the Muslim Brotherhood. The only way to do that, Mr. Evenden told his bosses, would be to hack Qatar.

The Dangers of Nuclear Virtue Signaling


The Biden administration is reportedly weighing an unprecedented policy of nuclear “no first use,” a self-imposed restriction that the United States would never be the first to use a nuclear weapon in a conflict, no matter how great the national interest at stake. All previous administrations, Republican and Democratic, have rejected NFU polices because they recognized that the current policy of “calculated ambiguity” – as to when and in what circumstances the United States would employ nuclear weapons – is a useful uncertainty for adversaries to ponder, increasing the chance of deterrence.

President Obama reportedly considered these issues twice: once at the beginning and once at the end of his time in office. The decision was the same each time – retain a high threshold for nuclear use, but do not make adversary planning easier, or encourage large scale attacks by ruling out nuclear use in a number of plausible extreme scenarios. This rejection of NFU stung the nuclear arms reduction community, so then-Vice President Biden gave a speech assuring them that both he and President Obama thought the United States should adopt a NFU policy, even though they did not do so officially.

Now some Biden officials are looking to complete the task. They believe that if the United States adopts an NFU policy, then North Korea and other nuclear states would be less tempted to use their nuclear weapons first in a conflict, safe in the assurance that for all of America’s conventional power, at least they would not be struck by a nuclear preemptive strike.

‘Dangerous Stuff’: Hackers Tried to Poison Water Supply of Florida Town

By Frances Robles and Nicole Perlroth

Hackers remotely accessed the water treatment plant of a small Florida city last week and briefly changed the levels of lye in the drinking water, in the kind of critical infrastructure intrusion that cybersecurity experts have long warned about.

The attack in Oldsmar, a city of 15,000 people in the Tampa Bay area, was caught before it could inflict harm, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County said at a news conference on Monday. He said the level of sodium hydroxide — the main ingredient in drain cleaner — was changed from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million, dangerous levels that could have badly sickened residents if it had reached their homes.

“This is dangerous stuff,” Mr. Gualtieri said, urging managers of critical infrastructure systems, particularly in the Tampa area, to review and tighten their computer systems. “It’s a bad act. It’s a bad actor. It’s not just a little chlorine, or a little fluoride — you’re basically talking about lye.”

In a tweet, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said the attempt to poison the water supply should be treated as a “matter of national security.”

How a Dangerous New Coronavirus Variant Thwarted Some Countries’ Vaccine Hopes

By Benjamin Mueller

The infectious disease doctor in Johannesburg thought that he and his country would only have to hold on a little longer.

A million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine had arrived from India. The first injections were set for Wednesday. After weeks of rich countries vaccinating doctors and nurses against the coronavirus, a respite from the anxiety and the trauma seemed to be nearing in South Africa, too.

Then, all of a sudden, the plans were shelved. The country’s leaders on Sunday ordered the rollout of the vaccine halted, after a clinical trial failed to show that it could prevent people from getting mild or moderate cases of Covid-19 caused by the coronavirus variant that has overrun the country.

“It was a real body blow,” the infectious disease doctor, Jeremy Nel, said. “The promise of a vaccine, albeit quite delayed compared to many other countries, was a light at the end of the tunnel.”

The new findings from South Africa were far from conclusive: They came from a small clinical trial that enrolled fewer than 2,000 people. And they did not preclude what some scientists say is the likelihood that the vaccine protects against severe disease from the variant — a key indicator of whether the virus will overwhelm hospitals and kill people.

Implementing Restraint Changes in U.S. Regional Security Policies to Operationalize a Realist Grand Strategy of Restraint

by Miranda Priebe

What broad and specific changes to U.S. security policies toward key regions have advocates of restraint already recommended?

Where do key policy prescriptions still need to be developed?

What type of analysis would help fill these gaps?

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.

Russia's Great Wall

by William Courtney

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.

America Is Back. Europe, Are You There?


For four long years, I received countless emails and text messages from European diplomat friends distressed by the Trump administration’s reckless, ham-handed foreign policy. Last month, gratefully, those messages turned into expressions of relief and hope for the Biden administration. After having suffered a president who treated America’s oldest allies with contempt while embracing autocrats and adversaries, Europeans are looking forward to a more cooperative Washington under a Biden administration.

Now it’s time for the United States to send a message to its friends in Europe: The window of opportunity for reinvesting in the trans-Atlantic relationship is not indefinite. It is time, dear allies, to get your act together.

At the beginning of December, the European Union published an agenda for cooperation with the United States. It was a remarkably thoughtful and wide-ranging document, clearly not something that had been thrown together as these papers sometimes are, but rather the product of forward-looking policy-makers thinking about opportunities that a new U.S. administration might bring for joint action from climate change to technology policy to relations with China.

Then, just a few weeks later, news came out that the EU—led by Germany—was rushing to complete an investment agreement with China before U.S. President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The news precipitated an unusual tweet from incoming U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, the subtext of which was: “Could you please wait so that we can discuss a joint approach in just a few weeks?” Europe—oblivious or on purpose—pressed forward anyway.

The New Never-Ending Wa


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 — The worldwide cyber war was on full display last Tuesday during the Senate Armed Services Committee’s confirmation hearing for Kathleen H. Hicks to be Deputy Secretary of Defense.

In the set of pre-hearing written questions to Hicks by Senate Armed Services members and staff, one focus was on the so-called SolarWinds cyber hack. One committee question stated that a U.S. adversary, apparently Russia, used “covertly acquired infrastructure in the United States to communicate with the malware implanted in the targeted U.S. networks. This adversary-controlled infrastructure could communicate with infected machines [inside the U.S.] without arousing suspicion because the domain names and Internet Protocol addresses appeared to be benign.”

Hicks was asked, “Does it concern you that adversary nation states’ military and intelligence agencies control extensive computer network resources inside the United States and use them to evade detection while conducting hostile actions against our government, economy, and social fabric?”

Hicks, in her written response, said, “Yes, it concerns me. Our adversaries are increasingly targeting the seams of our institutions and exploiting gaps in authorities in order to evade detection and increase the effectiveness of their malicious cyber campaigns. This is an urgent and challenging issue, and, if confirmed, I will work with our DoD [Defense Department] components, interagency partners, and Congress to develop further options for eliminating the seams and gaps in our national defenses that our adversaries exploit.”

What climate change will mean for US security and geopolitics

John R. Allen and Bruce Jones

On January 27, newly-installed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin — having already made history as the first Black American appointed to the role — broke new ground for the Department of Defense. He declared that under his leadership, the department would treat climate change as a national security priority. “There is little about what the Department does to defend the American people that is not affected by climate change,” Austin argued. “It is a national security issue, and we must treat it as such.” It’s a very welcome step.

In a piece soon to be published in the American Defense Policy journal, we lay out a number of direct effects that a rapidly changing climate can have on security and conflict, as well as on the wider dynamics of American leadership of the international order.


The most immediate effect of climate change will be on internal conflict. Careful modeling suggests that changing climate patterns could drive an up to 50% increase in conflict in sub-Saharan Africa alone. This would result in several hundred thousand additional battle deaths, and the displacement of millions. And the patterns of war tell us that the effects of this will not be limited to the individual countries affected, but will spread both within Africa and beyond by the vectors of transnational terrorism and by mass migration.

OSD, Joint Staff Double Down On DoD-Wide Data Standards


JADC2, Lockheed Martin image

WASHINGTON: The Joint Staff and DoD’s Chief Data Office David Spirk have agreed to lead a new process to set data standards for all future military sensors and weapons to connect at machine speed — the foundation for success in All Domain Operations, leaders of the J6 say.

“I believe all of us have come to understand for JADC2 to truly function as a joint warfighting capability, we’ve got to have the data foundation. And so, this is a critical first step,” said Army Brig. Gen. Rob Parker, JG deputy director and head of the JADC2 Joint Cross-Functional Team (CFT). The J6 leads the Joint Staff’s work on Command, Control, Communications, & Computers/Cyber.

Once fleshed out, the new standards will inform capability requirements for Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), J6 Director Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall explained during an hour-long interview with the J6 team.

The new process involves experts and chief data officers from all military services, Combatant Commands, DoD offices and the Intelligence Community, Parker said. “We even had representation at our [first] data summit from NATO. Also, as part of our CFT, we have regular engagements with some of the mission partner network/C3-type executive committees, NATO and others.”

Operation Overwatch

Megan Gemar

In the wake of the Independent Review of recent incidents at Fort Hood, the U.S. Army has realized the lack of trust in senior leaders and the organization that occurs under suboptimal command climates. In the Army today, average female soldier retention across all ranks is five percent lower than their male colleagues. Systemic organizational diversity gaps like this threaten our national security by widening the civil-military divide and limiting contributions to national defense. A US Army-created and -fostered program of supplemental training and mentorship for female soldiers would be an internal investment to reap leadership rewards and increase retention at a low cost.

The Army is not the only large organization to experience gender-specific talent leakage. The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) sector suffers from a similar gap. Deficiencies include women in leadership positions, women-to-women mentorship, widespread societal support for women entering the career field, early educational development in the field of interest, and instructional materials created from a female perspective. Fortune 500 companies have realized the need to address these concerns and are repositioning to support independent organizations that increase female involvement in STEM, such as Girls Who Code, WiSE, and Women Who Code. These three nonprofits effectively support women in STEM from childhood through their professional lives. The Army is in a position to apply lessons from these programs to support women retention in its ranks from their first day to their last. This article proposes a program designed from these best practices.DOWNLOAD THE ARTICLE

Army Creates Quantum Sensor That Detects Entire Radio-Frequency Spectrum


A new sensor that can detect the entire radio spectrum could play a big role in the future of electromagnetic warfare and communications.

In January, David Meyer, Paul Kunz, and Kevin Cox with the Army Research Lab published a new paper describing how they used atoms in a quantum state called a Rydberg state to detect electromagnetic emissions up to 20 GHz. That includes the frequencies that carry Bluetooth, WiFi, and other communication methods.

In their experiments, a laser excites rubidium atoms in a vacuum chamber, forcing them into a Rydberg state.

“Rydberg states are highly sensitive to fluctuating electric fields that make up the radio waves. So when radio waves are present, the quantum states themselves fluctuate,” Cox told Defense One in an email. “The device collects input radio waves into a microwave circuit board, and uses a special technique to hone in and boost the sensitivity to targeted regions of the [radio-frequency] spectrum.”

A super-sensitive radio sensor could better help protect communications equipment from jamming or other forms of electromagnetic interference or possibly help operators find devices using the radio spectrum to communicate. But the Army Research Lab sensor is still too big and power-hungry to be deployed, says Cox, so more work is needed to shrink it and improve performance.