13 March 2021

India Formulates New Strategy to Counter China’s Cyber Threat

By Archana Chaudhary

India is mulling a new national strategy to strengthen the country’s cybersecurity amid allegations that Chinese intrusions may have affected operations at a key stock exchange and supply of electricity in the country’s commercial capital.

The plan will coordinate responses across ministries including Home Affairs, Information Technology, Defense and the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre in case of an attack and set audit procedures, former Lieutenant General Rajesh Pant, India’s National Cyber Security Coordinator, said in an interview. It will be approved by the cabinet committee on security headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Authorities are investigating a series of recent suspected cyber intrusions which could have led to a power outage in Mumbai, crippled systems at banks and caused a glitch at the country’s premier National Stock Exchange, he said. A report is expected in a few weeks.

“We also want to know what happened,” said Pant, who served in the Indian army and now coordinates India’s cyber intelligence and reports to the Prime Minister’s Office. He said the breaches were likely malware and couldn’t be classified as attacks without a proper investigation.

As India’s Physical Borders Quiet Down, Its Virtual Ones Are Under Siege


India has recently made news by agreeing to cease-fires at two of its disputed borders: one with China and one with Pakistan. But that doesn’t mean that tensions in the region have faded.

Late last month, the U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future reported that it had alerted India’s Computer Emergency Response Team, the government body responsible for protecting the country’s critical digital infrastructure, that a Chinese state-sponsored organization had been trying to infiltrate vital computer networks in India.

It wasn’t the first time. Last October, the city of Mumbai, India’s financial capital, then in the throes of the pandemic and home to a population of some 20 million, abruptly went dark. Hospitals and other facilities fell back on generators to ensure the continuation of essential services. It now appears, according to the best possible intelligence and inference, that the blackout could possibly be traced back to malware placed in India’s electric grid by state-supported organizations in China. Coming after months of tensions at the India-China border, the power outage, if indeed the work of Chinese hackers, may well have been one more attempt to apply pressure on India and test its vulnerabilities.

The Pakistani Taliban is Back

By Daud Khattak

Six years after their defeat, the once-dreaded Pakistani Taliban have staged a gradual comeback in their former territories in Waziristan, the rugged tribal region bordering Afghanistan, by carrying out targeted killings, attacking Pakistani security forces, kidnapping government officials, and collecting protection money from local businessmen and government contractors.

The visible uptick in Taliban attacks over the past year in north and south Waziristan is believed to be the result of the re-unification and merger of several Taliban factions and splinters in the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a loose alliance of militant groups founded by the then-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in 2007.

Baitullah Mehsud, a veteran of the Afghan “jihad,” was killed in a drone strike in August 2009 and was replaced by Hakimullah Mehsud, another ruthless commander from the Mehsud clan, as the group’s new leader. However, Hakimullah Mehsud’s killing, also in a drone strike, in November 2013 opened cracks in the TTP alliance.

Several factions parted ways with the TTP following the appointment of Mullah Fazlullah, a non-Mehsud and non-tribal, as head of the banned militant group. Already weakened by its internal rifts and the separation of various factions and splinters, the TTP received what was perceived as a final blow when Pakistan launched a massive military operation, Zarb-e-Azb, in June 2014.

US presents warring Afghan sides with draft peace agreement


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Frustrated by a stalled peace process and escalating violence, the U.S. has presented an eight-page draft peace agreement to Afghanistan’s warring sides for review.

The U.S. told the parties to come to Turkey in the coming weeks ready to move on it, according to Afghans on both sides of the table.

The draft was obtained by The Associated Press on Monday. The document outlines the terms of a cease-fire and its enforcement, calls for the protection of the rights of women, children and minorities and envisions a truth and reconciliation commission aimed at healing 42 years of conflict.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price would not confirm the draft, saying “It’s often important for our diplomatic efforts that we’re able to conduct them in private.”

The Taliban received the draft and were reviewing it, said spokesman Mohammad Naeem.

There was no immediate comment from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the draft proposal or a sternly worded letter from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In the letter, Blinken said Washington wanted to see progress on peace talks and mentioned the draft peace agreement, which calls for a new, inclusive government — which Ghani has resisted. In recent speeches, Ghani has said no interim government would be formed “as long as I am alive.”

US proposes Afghanistan government enter interim power-sharing agreement with Taliban

By Kylie Atwood, Jennifer Hansler and Nicole Gaouette

Washington (CNN)The Biden administration has proposed to the Afghan government that they enter an interim power-sharing agreement with the Taliban in a letter from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to President Ashraf Ghani.

Blinken also proposed that Afghanistan's neighbors, including Iran, take on a greater role and warned that the Biden administration continues to review whether to withdraw US troops by a May 1 deadline set under the Trump administration.
The letter, sent via US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, offers the first real look at the Biden administration's thinking about Afghanistan, and appeared to reflect frustration as Blinken wrote that he wanted Ghani "to understand the urgency of my tone."

Despite ongoing talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban after a 2020 agreement between the US and the militant group, violence in the country has steadily increased.

In Race Against Time, Biden Officials Launch New Afghan Peace Drive


With a May deadline looming for the United States to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the Biden administration is turning up the pressure on President Ashraf Ghani to reach a peace deal with the Taliban.

In a blunt letter to Ghani, obtained by Foreign Policy, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for his “urgent leadership” in the coming weeks. Blinken outlined a number of steps the United States planned to take to “move matters more fundamentally and quickly” toward a political settlement with the Taliban and a cease-fire, giving the first concrete glimpse into President Joe Biden’s strategy to extricate the United States from its longest war in history.

Blinken told Ghani that he would also be sharing the plans with Abdullah Abdullah—the chair of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, which is overseeing peace talks with the Taliban.

Biden’s national security team is working against the clock: Former President Donald Trump during his final year in office made a deal with the Taliban to withdraw all remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from the country by May 1, 2021. Blinken said that possibility was still on the table, among other options.

Blinken said the United States intends to ask Turkey to host peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban “in the coming weeks.” He also said the administration expects the United Nations to convene talks with a half-dozen countries—including Washington’s top geopolitical rivals Iran, China, and Russia—to coordinate a “unified” approach to peace in Afghanistan.

Japan’s Myanmar Missteps Are Damaging Its Image

By Keiho Sasamori

In the aftermath of the coup d’etat at the beginning of February, Japan’s unique relationship with the Tatmadaw led to high expectations from people inside and outside Myanmar. Japan was viewed as an important negotiator that might be able to break the situation and turn the military around. However, more than a month later, there have been no notable results. Instead, Japan has become a source of great anger among the people of Myanmar.

When Japanese people talk about Myanmar, the term “pro-Japanese” is often used. This is due partly to the legacy of the late General Aung San and his daughter, National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi, both of whom spent time in Japan. This perception also reflects the recent strength of economic ties, and the personal experience of many Japanese that the sentiment of the people of Myanmar is generally more favorable to Japan than China, which is a strong rival for investment in Myanmar.

The Japanese government also refers to its “historically friendly relations” with Myanmar. Japan’s most recent Diplomatic Bluebook holds that “the stability of Myanmar, which has a historical friendship with Japan, has huge potential for economic development, and geopolitical importance is directly related to stability and prosperity throughout the entire region.”

In the past, the Japanese government has taken a more favorable stance toward the Myanmar government and military than Western countries. Even before the 2000s, when the United States and other countries imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar, Japan did not follow suit. While Western countries have been withdrawing capital and intensifying criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi due to the Rohingya issue in recent years, Japan has taken a pragmatic stance in seeking an early solution to the problem through large-scale grant aid.

The U.S. Shouldn’t Be Afraid of China


Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden had their first phone conversation on Feb. 10, a frosty talk that likely presages an equally cool relationship. The administration is reviewing policy toward China, which may hew surprisingly close to former U.S. President Donald Trump’s hard line. That’s a mistake.

Former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous statement that U.S. citizens had nothing to fear but fear itself was powerfully effective. Despite China’s increasingly fearsome reputation, the United States’ greatest fear of the country should be fearing China too much.

Although a rethink of U.S. policy is warranted, given China’s dramatic advances and growing assertiveness, Washington should develop its response from a position of confidence. This certainly is not “the most dangerous time arguably in our lifetime,” as Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe said. The Soviet Union might not have manufactured Apple products, but it was a bristling, paranoid nuclear state—as was, at points, the United States. That fear brought the world close to nuclear war on several occasions, including as late as 1983 with NATO’s exercise Able Archer 83 that almost frightened the Soviets into war.

And contradicting today’s conventional wisdom, engagement with China was a stunning success—if you remember where Beijing started from. The country visited by U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1972 was a madhouse convulsed by the Cultural Revolution, a mélange of a mass party purge, crackpot collectivist utopia, multisided civil war, and monomaniacal personality cult. Beijing’s uncertain future destabilized a region already beset by the Cold War-turned-hot on the Korean Peninsula and inVietnam.

Chinese Hackers Blamed for Massive Microsoft Server Hack

By Frank Bajak, Eric Tucker, and Matt O’Brien

Victims of a massive global hack of Microsoft email server software — estimated in the tens of thousands by cybersecurity responders — hustled Monday to shore up infected systems and try to diminish chances that intruders might steal data or hobble their networks.

The White House has called the hack an “active threat” and said senior national security officials were addressing it.

The breach was discovered in early January and attributed to Chinese cyber spies targeting U.S. policy think tanks. Then in late February, five days before Microsoft issued a patch on March 2, there was an explosion of infiltrations by other intruders, piggybacking on the initial breach. Victims run the spectrum of organizations that run email servers, from mom-and-pop retailers to law firms, municipal governments, healthcare providers, and manufacturers.

While the hack doesn’t pose the kind of national security threat as the more sophisticated SolarWinds campaign, which the Biden administration blames on Russian intelligence officers, it can be an existential threat for victims who didn’t install the patch in time and now have hackers lingering in their systems. The hack poses a new challenge for the White House, which even as it prepares to respond to the SolarWinds breach, must now grapple with a formidable and very different threat from China.

Israel, Iran, and China: US-Middle East Relations

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Mordechai Chaziz – senior lecturer in political science at Ashkelon Academic College, specializing in Chinese foreign and strategic relations, and author of “China’s Middle East Diplomacy: The Belt and Road Strategic Partnership” (2020) – is the 262nd in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Analyze the geopolitical implications of the Abraham Accords on Israel, Iran, and China vis-à-vis U.S. leadership in the Middle East and Gulf region.

The Abraham Accords strengthen the covert partnership that has been built in recent years between Israel and the Gulf states, with encouragement from the U.S. administration, against the Iranian nuclear program. The Abraham Accords allow for an alliance between Israel and the Gulf states to become visible. The agreements also allow the Gulf states (for example, the United Arab Emirates) to purchase advanced American weapons that they could not purchase in the past, and also allow Israel to sell weapons to the Gulf states. For Iran, this is a worrying development as the distance between it and Israel has shrunk, and Israeli forces can operate in front of it or near its border freely.

The Stories China Tells

By Jessica Chen Weiss

On September 3, 2015, a procession of Chinese missile launchers and more than 12,000 soldiers paraded through Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Some 850,000 civilians were deployed to patrol Beijing; in parts of the city, business, traffic, and all wireless communications were shut down. But lest anyone get the wrong impression, President Xi Jinping delivered an address meant to assuage those alarmed by all the firepower and manpower on display. “No matter how much stronger it may become, China will never seek hegemony or expansion,” he assured his audience, which included a few dozen world leaders.

In fact, Xi argued, China had played an important part in defeating fascism in the twentieth century, and China was now helping maintain the international order in the twenty-first. Employing the terms that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses to describe World War II, Xi hailed China’s commitment to “uphold the outcomes of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Antifascist War” and called on all countries to respect “the international order and system underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, build a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, and advance the noble cause of global peace and development.”

Under Xi, the CCP has tried to project an image of seeking peace through strength, neither picking fights nor shying away from confrontation. In recent years, however, China’s increasingly assertive and often abrasive conduct has undercut its attempt to claim international leadership. Xi’s appeals to the past represent one way to offset this inherent tension.

China in the Middle East: Stepping up to the plate

James M. Dorsey

By defining Chinese characteristics as “seeking common ground while reserving differences,” a formula that implies conflict management rather than conflict resolution, Messrs. Sun and Wu were suggesting that China was seeking to prepare the ground for greater Chinese engagement in efforts to stabilize the Middle East, a volatile region that repeatedly threatens to spin out of control.

The scholars defined China’s goal as building an inclusive and shared regional collective security mechanism based on fairness, justice, multilateralism, comprehensive governance, and the containment of differences.

By implication, Messrs. Sun and Wu’s vision reflected a growing realization in China that it no longer can protect its mushrooming interests exclusively through economic cooperation, trade, and investment.

It also signalled an understanding that stability in the Middle East can only be achieved through an inclusive, comprehensive, and multilateral reconstructed security architecture of which China would have to be part.

Why Erdogan Has Abandoned the Uyghurs


It’s been eight years since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Xinjiang, the ostensibly autonomous territory inhabited by Uyghur Muslims living under Chinese control. And in 2009, Erdogan
called Chinese repression of Uyghurs a “genocide,” drawing the wrath of Beijing and cementing his reputation as a defiant Muslim leader willing to speak truth to totalitarian power.

Eight years seems like a lifetime given how much the Chinese Communist Party has encroached on Uyghur rights in just about every aspect of life. By now, much of the world has heard of the millions of Uyghurs being rounded up into concentration camps in Xinjiang (though no one seems to be doing much about it).

Beijing says the interned are being cleansed of extremism and taught how to be good citizens. And that they’re free to leave whenever they like. As someone whose father was interned, tortured, and released from a Chinese concentration camp two years later with a broken leg, I can assure you these camps are nothing but prisons that enable ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide.

Why are the Houthis Stepping Up Attacks Against Saudi Arabia?

by Marco Túlio Lara

Since the Houthi takeover of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and the Saudi-led intervention to fight the rebels in early 2015, Houthi drone and missile attacks against Saudi Arabia have become a common occurrence. While over the years there have been upticks in such attacks, the current intensification that has seen almost daily attacks since early February can likely be explained by one factor: the recent change in the White House and the new administration’s policy change vis-à-vis the Saudi intervention in Yemen.

Under former President Donald Trump, the U.S. government engaged in a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran that included a hard stance against the Houthis. Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) enjoyed Trump’s support and plenty of freedom to maneuver from Washington, meaning that the Saudi air campaign in Yemen—and accusations of Saudi human rights violations—went on with little to no scrutiny from the U.S. government. But with the election of Joe Biden, things changed. The Democrat had made it clear before winning the presidential race that the United States would no longer support the Saudi intervention in Yemen. Indeed, with less than two months in office, Biden has already reversed a Houthi terrorist designation, ended U.S. military support for the Saudi-led offensive—although it maintains intelligence sharing with Riyadh to defend the kingdom against Houthi strikes—and reportedly had U.S. officials hold a direct meeting with the Houthis in the Omani capital Muscat.

The Failure of U.S. “Maximum Pressure” against Iran

The Trump administration ended U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018, and proceeded to launch a “maximum pressure” campaign defined by the sweeping use of unilateral sanctions against Iran. The strategy was ostensibly intended to persuade Tehran to agree to a “better deal” that would include additional restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and an expansion of the accord’s scope to cover Iran’s ballistic missiles and regional power projection.

But the Trump administration’s approach erred in two crucial assumptions. The first was that Iran would not respond to U.S. sanctions by expanding its nuclear activity. In fact, Tehran began to methodically break its JCPOA obligations in mid-2019 once it realised that because of “maximum pressure” it would receive none of the economic dividends it had expected from the agreement and was in fact being penalised even more than before it signed the JCPOA. The second mistaken assumption was that mounting economic costs would lead to Iranian concessions, or at least blunt the country’s ability to project power in the region. Instead, Iran raised its regional military profile, increasing tensions with Washington and its partners and bringing the two sides repeatedly to the brink of open conflict.

Iran’s JCPOA breaches have accelerated following the November 2020 assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top nuclear scientist, putting the deal’s two signal achievements – substantial restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s submission to multi-tiered inspections and monitoring authorities – increasingly into jeopardy. Nevertheless, there is still an opportunity to save the deal if Washington and Tehran work with urgency toward a resumption of compliance by both sides that would reverse Iran’s breaches and put the JCPOA back on stable footing.

Israel Is the Arab World’s New Soft Power


Shmuel Bar, a former Israeli intelligence officer, was pleasantly surprised when he received a WhatsApp call from Saudi Arabia. It was completely out of the blue, he said, and also an affirmation of the incremental progress Israel was making building ties with historically hostile Gulf countries.

Bar had served in Israeli intelligence for 30 years and later founded IntuView, a company that sifts through social media content for terrorism threats. Intelligence agencies and law enforcement bodies in Europe, the United States, and India were among his clients. Now, the Saudis were interested in hiring the Israeli data expert to help with its counterterrorism policies and more.

Officially, the Saudi government denies it conducts any business with Israel. It maintains that normalization is dependent on Israel agreeing to the Arab peace initiative, which calls for a separate Palestinian state. But behind closed doors, cooperation between the Israelis and several Gulf nations is thriving.

Relations witnessed a sea change after then-President Barack Obama signed the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 and lifted sanctions on Tehran in 2016. Iran suddenly had more money, and it increased the funding of its militias in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, where it was expanding its regional influence. This represented a clear threat to Israel and to Iran’s regional Sunni rivals, particularly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, which is majority Shiite but ruled by a Sunni king. A year later, Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election and proved to be a godsend for the United States’ traditional allies. With his encouragement, Israel succeeded in signing the Abraham Accords, a normalization deal with the UAE and Bahrain. And even though the Saudis have not yet signed a treaty, they are firmly on board the anti-Iran wagon.

Will Stagnation Follow the Biden Boom?

By Paul Krugman

It’s morning in America! People are getting vaccinated at the rate of two million a day and rising, suggesting that the pandemic may be largely behind us in a few months (unless premature reopening or variants mostly immune to the current vaccines set off another wave). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already declared that vaccinated adults can safely mingle with one another, their children and their grandchildren.

On the economic front, the Senate has passed a relief bill that should help Americans get through the remaining difficult months, leaving them ready to work and spend again, and the bill will almost surely become law in a few days.

Economists have noticed the good news. Forecasters surveyed by Bloomberg predict 5.5 percent growth this year, the highest rate since the 1990s. I think they’re being conservative; so does Goldman Sachs, which expects 7.7 percent growth, something we haven’t seen since 1984.

But then what? I’m very optimistic about economic prospects for the next year or two. Beyond that, however, we’re going to need another big policy initiative to keep the good times rolling.

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is what the name implies. It’s a short-term relief measure meant to address an economic emergency. There are some elements Democrats hope will become permanent — child tax credits, enhanced subsidies for health insurance — but the great bulk of the spending will fade out within a year.

And once the big spending is behind us, we’re all too likely to find ourselves back in a condition of “secular stagnation,” an old concept recently revived by Larry Summers. I know it’s an obscure piece of jargon. But what it means is a condition in which the economy has persistent trouble maintaining full employment, even with ultralow interest rates. An economy subject to secular stagnation will still have occasional good times, but policymakers will find it difficult to offset bad news, like the bursting of a financial bubble.

How Are Thailand’s Youth Protests Impacting Foreign Investment?

By Maxwell Abbott

The anti-government protest movement which shook Thailand to its core throughout 2020 shows no signs of slowing down. Weeks before rioters stormed the capital in Washington, D.C., on January 6, tensions in Bangkok reached a similar crescendo in November 2020 when protestors surrounded the national parliament, leading police to use water cannons to disperse the demonstrators and allow time for MPs to flee in boats down the Chao Phraya River. Leaders of the largely decentralized student-led movement then declared a “pause” in December 2020, vowing to resume demonstrations in 2021 with “more intensity,” according to Arnon Nampa, a rights lawyer and leading figure in the protest movement. The protestors made good on this promise, breaking COVID-19 social distancing orders to stage flash mobs and face off with the police in January and February of this year.

Thailand’s current movement centers around three demands: the dissolution of parliament, an end to the harassment of dissidents, and the drafting of a new, genuinely democratic constitution. Demonstrators have also called for unprecedented reforms to the monarchy, something not seen before in the modern history of a country prone to political upheaval. As of today, none of these demands has been met by the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Instead, authorities have launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent, featuring a raft of prosecutions under Article 112, Thailand’s notorious lese majeste law.

When the conflict first erupted last year, the scale of the unrest and the scope of protestors’ demands appeared set to have a profound negative impact on Thailand’s status as a foreign direct investment destination. But as the standoff drags on, the initial shock seems to have worn off and there are signs of returning investor confidence. That said, the current youth-led movement exposes Thailand’s systemic political instability, something which could be a deterrent to foreign investors in the years and decades to come.

Space Force planning for a future of smaller, cheaper satellites

by Sandra Erwin 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force procurement arm, the Space and Missile Systems Center, for more than a year has been helping the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency accelerate the procurement of small satellites.

The close collaboration between SMC and SDA may come as a surprise to those who have followed the politics of the Defense Department’s space organizations.

When the Space Force was established in December 2019, the Defense Department kept the SDA as a stand-alone organization. DoD’s space agency, created in March 2019, positioned itself as a disruptor that would challenge the traditional procurement culture centered around large satellites that was embodied by SMC. Air Force leaders at the time pushed back and even sought to shut down the SDA arguing that it was not needed as the Space Force already had SMC as its procurement agency.

Fast forward to the present day and SDA, a small agency with a lean staff, needs SMC’s expertise to advance its programs. The Space Force meanwhile has embraced the SDA vision of smaller and cheaper satellites.

Although SMC will continue to build large customized geostationary spacecraft, its focus is shifting to low Earth orbit as this is the direction in which the commercial space industry is headed.

How the United States Can Win in the Arctic

by Robert C. O’Brien Ryan Tully

The era of “Great Power Competition” has arrived and it is playing out between the United States, Russia, and China in the Arctic. This vital region is not just about strategic sea lanes that are opening due to changes in the region’s climate, it is the home to massive reserves of energy resources, precious metals, and rare earth deposits.

While the competition is fierce and defense spending among all three nations is on the rise, the dynamic is different than other areas of friction such as in the Baltic, South China Sea and the East China Sea. Geography and multilateral governance structures, create opportunities for America and its allies but seizing those opportunities will take dedicated diplomacy and persistent presence in the region.

The Trump administration made improving the United States’ ability to compete in the Arctic a top priority. In 2019, the Department of Defense published an Arctic Strategy that focused on the challenges presented by Russia and China in the region. By year’s end, the Navy had reestablished its 2nd Fleet for North Atlantic and Arctic operations. The Navy’s move paved the way for increased monitoring of Russian subsurface operations and generally increased our Arctic situational awareness. Missile defense upgrades to track new generations of missiles coming over the poles is also critical to the defense of the homeland. Accordingly, the Trump administration regularly sought additional funds for this purpose and published a missile defense review that found an urgent need to bolster America’s investment in this area.

Securing the Subsea Network: A Primer for Policymakers

The United States’ position as the world’s leading hub in subsea networks can no longer be taken for granted. More of the world is coming online, and China is emerging rapidly as a leading subsea cable provider and owner. This guide for policymakers describes subsea cables' essential functions, planning processes, and common threats; explains the U.S. economic and strategic interests at stake; and offers recommendations for protecting U.S. centrality in subsea networks.

This report was made possible by the generous support of Ciena Communications Inc., Corning Incorporated, Google LLC, the Microsoft Corporation, and the NEC Corporation of America.DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

The U.S. Navy’s Future: Killer Laser Weapons

Caleb Larson

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 31, 2017) An E/A-18G Growler assigned to the Vikings of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 is inspected prior to launch aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson is underway conducting carrier qualifications off the coast of Southern California. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zackary Alan Landers/Released)170731-N-GD109-068

A fascinating publication by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan public policy research institute, outlined what progress is being made on the U.S. Navy’s new weapon projects such as rail guns, lasers, and hypersonic projectiles. More specifically, the report outlined what the challenges are from an engineering standpoint, and practically speaking what role these new weapons would play exactly once deployed to active duty naval ships.
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Let’s focus on perhaps the most promising of the three from a defensive standpoint, laser weapons.

The push for arming Navy ships with laser weapons has been prompted in large part by China’s increasingly capable missile force. Concern about massed anti-ship missile attacks have forced a rethinking of surface fleet structure, leading to suggestions that U.S. Navy ships may have to stay farther out to sea and out of range of increasingly capable Chinese anti-ship weapons, or that a more decentralized and distributed force structure made up of more, smaller ships would be necessary to mitigate the anti-missile threat.

Despite Advances in Women’s Rights, Gender Equality Lags Around the World

Despite progress in codifying women’s rights into law, advances in gender equality around the world have been halting, at best. This, despite the additional attention that the #MeToo movement brought to incidents of sexual assault and harassment in parts of the Global North—and increasingly in the Global South.

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa made news in mid-2019 when he appointed a Cabinet that included as many women as men. Later the same year, the European Commission also achieved the European Union’s self-imposed goal of gender parity. The thinking behind gender parity in government is that with greater levels of representation, women policymakers and legislators will pay more attention to issues that are often ignored by men, like gender-based violence or inheritance laws that discriminate against women.

Quotas are not a panacea, though. Even with increased representation, policymakers must figure out how to turn good intentions into change on the ground, so that removing restrictions on education, to take one example, actually leads to improved school attendance rates for girls and young women. Rwanda, for instance, also has gender quotas for political representation, but the increase in political gains has not necessarily translated to social advances for women, as efforts to promote gender equality have not fostered an understanding of its importance, particularly among men.

Splitting NSA, CyberCom Now Could Reduce Military Access to Intelligence, Milley Says


Despite years of waiting and a last-minute push by Trump administration officials in December to separate NSA from Cyber Command, the criteria for separating the two has not yet been met, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says.

“For us in the military, the signals intelligence we get from the NSA is...unbelievably good,” Gen. Mark Milley told reporters last Wednesday aboard a Defense Department aircraft. “It’s among the most valuable pieces of intelligence we get on a daily basis. The last thing we want to do is anything that would cause harm to...the production and dissemination of that information. So we want to make sure we do it right, slow, step by step. You can’t miss a beat with this thing.”

Said Milley: “We established some organizational criteria that had to happen in order for it to split. Those criteria aren’t met yet.”

Under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the approval of the Joint Chiefs chairman, along with that of the defense secretary, is necessary to separate the two agencies. The 2020 authorization act specified that such approval should only come when Cyber Command’s Cyber Mission Force has demonstrated that it can execute “national-level missions through cyberspace, including deterrence and disruption of adversary cyber activity, Defense of the Department of Defense Information Network; and support for other combatant commands, including targeting of adversary military assets.”

Frontline Geek Squads: SOCOM’s Secret Weapon


WASHINGTON: “Why are all these nerds taking up bunk space downrange?” one special ops sergeant major grumbled. But, boasted SOCOM chief technology officer Snehal Antani, “about three months later that same sergeant major came back and said, ‘I have found religion. We’re solving problems in days that should have taken us months or years’.”

Just a year ago, SOCOM — widely considered one of the most forward-leaning commands on AI and data — still solved some intelligence-sharing problems by burning DVDs in the US and flying them to operators overseas, said Antani, the command’s first CTO. Now that the increasingly tech-savvy Special Operations Command is deploying data scientists to the front, he said, there are cases where “they could solve problems in minutes or hours” that normally took “weeks, months, or years.”

So, Antani told the Yale Special Operations Forces conference (SOFCON) Friday, it was vital to have data scientists and other technical experts working side-by-side with the warfighters they’re trying to provide data for. That’s true, he said, even — perhaps especially — if that means deploying them into forward bases in active combat zones. After all, being in enemy crosshairs together creates a shared sense of urgency that doesn’t exist when one party is comfortably sipping coffee at a desk thousands of miles away.

The Inside Story: What a Solider Feels and Thinks in Combat

Paul Szoldra

These are just a few of the physical and emotional responses soldiers reported upon their first combat experience.

Sure, there are hundreds of books, movies, and other multimedia that can give a sense of what it’s like to be shot at, bombed, or rocketed. Then there are the stories a soldier or Marine may be told by a senior leader on “what it’s really like.”

But there’s also some hard data, thanks to a recent study carried out by Aaron Bazin at West Point’s Modern War Institute. Bazin polled 304 military veterans, spanning from Vietnam to present day, on their experience in a “combat situation,” which he defined as “any event where the person’s life was put at risk in direct contact with an enemy force (e.g., shooting, bombing, indirect fire, etc.).”

Not surprisingly, the most-reported physical response was an increase in heart rate. Also reported were rapid breathing, muscle tension, and tunnel vision. These changes in the body are well documented as part of the so-called “fight or flight response.”

I found the questions regarding emotional response much more enlightening. While anticipation was the one emotion most experienced by soldiers before combat, upwards of 30% reported fear before and during combat, blowing apart a macho myth that you’re not supposed to ever be scared during battle.