24 March 2021

What Benedict Anderson Doesn’t Understand about the Imagination

Erik Ringmar

Benedict Anderson’s book on nationalism is a modern classic (Anderson 2006). Even forty years after its initial publication, it is widely referenced, and a standard feature on reading lists everywhere. Google Scholar counts some 112,589 citations, a number which should be enough to give you tenure at a major university at least ten times over. While the book is a brilliant exposition of the nature of nationalism, and well worth its fame, it is more than anything the title of the book that has been turned into a meme. Nations are “imagined communities,” we are told. That is, they are not natural, organic, or just plain given, but instead the result of an act of creation. Unlike small communities in which everyone knows everyone else, nations have too many members, and the vast majority of whom will never, and can never, meet. Nations, for this reason, only exist since we imagine them to exist. They exist in our minds. No one has ever seen a nation except “in their mind’s eye.”

If we ask how nations are imagined, Anderson provides two quite separate explanations. According to the first, most commonly invoked account, nations were first imagined by means of the printing press. The Gutenberg revolution of the fifteenth-century gave rise to communities of readers who read the same books at the same time, printed in vernaculars rather than Latin. This is where the nation first appeared. The nation was a part of the taken-for-granted background of the characters in the first novels, but it was also a character in its own right. The nation did things, it acted and interacted with other nations much as a character in a play. And just as a character in a play, the readers could rest assured that even if the nation did not feature in the plot for a while, it would sooner or later reappear. But it was thanks to newspapers that the nation which book printing first had allowed us to imagine was turned into a mass phenomenon. In the nineteenth-century, the invention of the rotary press allowed newspapers to be produced for a mass market, and one of the characters the papers constantly wrote about was the nation. There it was going to wars, concluding treatises, celebrating its anniversaries, remembering its past. Anderson quotes Hegel’s description of the newly invented daily ritual of reading newspaper at the breakfast table. Reading the same papers, in the same language, at the same time, the nation simultaneously appeared before the minds’ eye of the readers.

India Romances the West


In affirming that the “Quad has come of age” at the first-ever summit of the Quadrilateral Dialogue with the United States, Japan, and Australia last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent an unmistakable signal that India is no longer reluctant to work with the West in the global arena, including in the security domain. The country’s new readiness to participate in Western forums marks a decisive turn in independent India’s world view. That view was long defined by the idea of nonalignment and its later avatar, strategic autonomy—both of which were about standing apart from, if not against, post-World-War-II Western alliances. But today—driven by shifting balance of power in Asia, India’s clear-eyed view of its national interest, and the successful efforts of consecutive U.S. presidents—India is taking increasingly significant steps toward the West.

The Quad is not the only Western institution with which India might soon be associated. New Delhi is set to engage with a wider range of Western forums in the days ahead, including the G-7 and the Five Eyes. Britain has invited India to participate in the G-7 meeting in London this summer, along with other non-members Australia and South Korea. Although India has been invited to G-7 outreach meetings—a level or two below the summits—for a number of years, the London meeting is widely expected to be a testing ground for the creation of a “Democracy Group of Ten,” or D-10.

Why Is It So Tough to Leave Afghanistan?

By Mark Hannah

As his two predecessors did, President Biden has pledged to end the war in Afghanistan. But also as his two predecessors did, he could end up tragically perpetuating it. Outnumbered by a national security establishment fixated on continuing this misadventure, the Biden team will need courage and clarity if it is to finally disentangle America from what has become a futile struggle.

It is fortunate to have an opportunity to do so. Last year, after a decade of negotiation, the United States and the Taliban reached an agreement calling for a complete withdrawal of American troops by May 1. The administration is now attempting to broker peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. That effort should not come at the expense of this commitment. But the administration is reportedly considering a six-month extension of the deployment of American troops. If the United States gets the Taliban to agree to such an extension, those troops become mere leverage in a complicated diplomatic drama. If it doesn’t and delays withdrawal anyway, the agreement that has prevented any U.S. combat casualties for the past year dissolves. Regardless, it will be “tough” to get American troops home by the deadline, as Mr. Biden told ABC News this week.

As vice president, Mr. Biden opposed the surge of troops in Afghanistan in 2010. Last year, he wisely recognized “it is past time to end the forever wars.” His secretary of state, Antony Blinken, asserted two years ago that it was “time to cut the cord” in Afghanistan. This month, Mr. Blinken insisted military action would be taken “only when the objectives and mission are clear and achievable” and “with the informed consent of the American people.” According to polling my colleagues and I have conducted, the American people support the details of the U.S.-Taliban agreement by six to one.

Why, then, is leaving Afghanistan so “tough”?

Americans are not unanimously war-weary on Afghanistan

Madiha Afzal and Israa Saber

In debates on the future of the war in Afghanistan, policymakers and analysts have come to invoke it as a given that Americans want the troops to come home quickly. But does this conventional wisdom hold true? Not necessarily, based on our analysis of a number of polls on Americans’ views on Afghanistan conducted in the last few years.

Ordinary Americans display a significant degree of ambivalence on the question of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Veterans are also divided on this question but are more likely to show strong opinions on both sides of the spectrum. The data suggest that vocal, concerted grassroots campaigns currently conducted by veterans groups represent just one subset of veterans. More specifically, veterans who served after the 9/11 attacks are more likely to feel strongly about ending our involvement in Afghanistan.

A look at the data reveals that a significant number of Americans surveyed don’t respond to questions about withdrawing troops, possibly reflecting a lack of strong opinions. In a recent poll conducted in the fall of 2020 by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) for researchers Peter Feaver and Jim Golby, only 59% of survey respondents answered the question about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. In previous polls, one conducted by the University of Maryland in October 2019 and the other by YouGov in 2018, approximately one-fifth of respondents opted not to answer questions about troop levels in Afghanistan. Underlying this is the fact that American voters do not rank foreign policy highly in their list of priorities — a survey of registered voters in 2020 found that they ranked it sixth out of a list of 12 priorities — and Afghanistan is but one of several pressing foreign policy issues facing the United States.

U.S., other aid cuts could imperil Afghan government -U.S. watchdog

By Jonathan Landay, Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Further cuts in aid to Afghanistan by the United States and other donors could cause the government to collapse and return the country to chaos similar to the 1990s, a U.S. government watchdog said on Monday.

The warning by John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, came as the United States, Russia and other countries strive to kickstart stalled Afghan peace talks and President Joe Biden faces a May 1 deadline for withdrawing all remaining U.S. troops.

“Eighty percent of Afghanistan’s budget is funded by the U.S. and the (other international) donors,” Sopko said in a Reuters interview. “If, for whatever reason, the donors keep drawing down funding ... that could bring the sudden demise of the Afghan government as we know it.”

He warned of “history repeating itself,” referring to the anarchy that convulsed Afghanistan after the Soviet Union ended its 1979-89 occupation and cut its assistance to the Kabul government.

The chaos paved the way for the Taliban’s takeover. The group provided Osama bin Laden with the sanctuary in which al Qaeda planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan ended Taliban rule.

The Taliban in Afghanistan

Lindsay Maizland

The Islamic fundamentalist group ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Since then, it has waged an insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Experts say the Taliban is stronger now than at any point since 2001. With up to eighty-five thousand full-time fighters, it controls one-fifth of the country and continues to launch attacks.

The Taliban started its first direct peace negotiations with the Afghan government in 2020 after signing an agreement with the United States. Little progress has been made.


The Taliban is a predominantly Pashtun, Islamic fundamentalist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when a U.S.-led invasion toppled the regime for providing refuge to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The Taliban regrouped across the border in Pakistan and has led an insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul for more than nineteen years.

In 2020, the Taliban signed a peace agreement with the United States and entered into power-sharing negotiations with the Afghan government. However, the Taliban continues to launch attacks against government and civilian targets and controls dozens of Afghan districts. The intra-Afghan talks have mostly stalled, raising questions about whether U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan. Analysts warn that violence could escalate dramatically in 2021 and that the peace process could collapse, increasing the likelihood of an expanded civil war, casualties, and activities by terrorist groups.

Does the Taliban pose a threat?

Opinion – Southeast Asia: Global Rock Star in Waiting

Peter A. Coclanis

In the early 1990s I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to spend a research year in Singapore. When I told one of my colleagues that I would soon be off to Singapore, she wished me well and, just to be certain, asked me where in China Singapore was located. On one level her question could be read as ironic, maybe even sardonic – yet it also indicates a general lack of awareness of the area across American society and academia. Only 1.4 percent of the 10,980 members of the American Historical Association—the largest and most prestigious general historical organization in the US—list Southeast Asia as a primary interest, and data provided by the multi-disciplinary Association for Asian Studies tell us that only about 15 percent of the group’s 6000 plus members are Southeast Asianists. Thankfully, things are changing. Whether because of American Michael Fay’s 1994 caning, the island-nation’s often lampooned policy regarding the sale of chewing gum or, most likely, John Chu’s 2018 film “Crazy Rich Asians,” more people in the US have heard of Singapore and know more or less where it is. Hipper elements of the population may even have read (or at least heard of) cyberpunk author William Gibson’s snappy 1993 article on Singapore, entitled “Disneyland with the Death Penalty” that appeared in Wired.

Despite the modest rise in recent decades of Americans’ awareness of Singapore, it remains fair to say that both the island-nation and Southeast Asia, the broader region of which it is part, are, with one notable exception, still obscure, even uncharted areas in our geographic imaginations. That exception, Vietnam, because of the American phase of the protracted “Thirty Years’ War” there. The foreignness of Southeast Asia to most Americans can be seen in other ways as well. According to a 2018 piece in the New York Times, only one of the top twenty-five international travel destinations for Americans is located in Southeast Asia—the Philippines (#14) –and its rank is largely due to visits “home” by Filipino Americans. To be sure, Asia is far away, but seven other Asian countries/destinations made the Times’ top twenty-five: Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, India, and China. Even Thailand’s famous allures couldn’t push the country any higher than #26 on the list.

How the Cold War Shaped Bangladesh’s Liberation War

By Shah Tazrian Ashrafi

Crowds cheer the acting Bangladesh president and the acting government during a mass meeting in Jessore, East Pakistan on Dec. 11, 1971.Credit: AP Photo

In his seminal book of nonfiction, “The Blood Telegram,” Gary J. Bass scathingly remarks that the United States displayed “moral blindness” in its foreign policy by “actively and knowingly” backing Islamabad’s control over Bangladesh – then East Pakistan. His book is based on a series of telegrams sent by Archer K. Blood, the U.S. consul general to Dhaka at the time of the war in 1971. As seen from his memoir, “The Cruel Birth of Bangladesh,” the telegrams strongly portrayed the U.S. consul’s condemnation against West Pakistani atrocities and Washington’s silence. Sending out those telegrams staunchly criticizing American foreign policy cost Blood his coveted desire to rise to the ranks of an ambassador someday. Owing to his sacrifice, he is revered in Bangladesh to this day.

One factor that begs the attention of many is the United States’ role during Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. Why did the United States choose to look away while its ally was involved in systematic massacres? Blood’s memoir and Bass’s investigative reporting seek to answer that question and, in so doing, highlight how the Cold War’s great powers had a lot at stake in Bangladesh’s Liberation War.

The animosity between India and Pakistan dates back to the 1947 Partition, which cleaved the Indian subcontinent into two separate countries: On the surface, India was designated for Hindus and Pakistan – then constituted of West and East Pakistan – for Muslims. In the period before the British Empire’s departure from India, the Indian National Congress advocated for a united subcontinent while the Muslim League wanted a separate country for the Muslims due to the presence of heavy communal tensions. This opposition only solidified after the Partition, as territorial disputes regarding Kashmir came to the fore. By 1971, India and Pakistan had already fought two wars, in 1947 and 1965.

The U.S. Should Add a Little Humility to its China Policy | Opinion


There was a time, in what today seems like a strange era in a totally different galaxy, when the United States and China were thought to be destined for great things.

Preparing to become the first U.S. president in a decade to visit China, Bill Clinton defended his policy of "constructive engagement," in which Washington and Beijing speak frankly about their differences while developing their economic relationship.

"Seeking to isolate China is clearly unworkable," Clinton told reporters in June 1998. "Over time, I believe China's leaders must accept freedom's progress, because China can only reach its full potential if its people are free to reach theirs."

Clinton's successor, President George W. Bush, continued this policy for much of his tenure. During his own trip to Beijing in 2002, Bush praised the People's Republic of China for its rapid-paced modernization and productivity while marveling at the improvement of the U.S.-China relationship overall. In Bush's words, "China is on a rising path, and America welcomes the emergence of a strong and peaceful and prosperous China."

Looking back at those remarks, today's crop of U.S. policymakers cringe at the naiveté. U.S.-China relations in 2021 are in the toilet. The starry-eyed hope and optimism of the 1990s and early 2000s is now replaced with a near universal concern in Washington, D.C., about potential Chinese hegemony in Asia. U.S. warships and carriers frequently traverse the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait to disabuse Beijing of the notion it can turn the waters of the Pacific into its own personal lake.

Rumors of War in the Taiwan Strait

By Denny Roy

Fears that China will soon launch a military attack against Taiwan have spiked.

Three factors are feeding this anxiety. The first is the assessment by many outside experts that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which includes China’s navy, air force, and strategic rocket arsenal, has reached or is very close to reaching such a level of strength that attempting to forcibly compel Taiwan to politically unify with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a feasible policy option. Among these assessments, none carried more weight than that of Admiral Philip Davidson, chief of the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command. Davidson opined before a U.S. Senate Committee in February that China might try to seize Taiwan by military means “in the next six years.”

Lonnie Henley, a former senior U.S. intelligence official and now a George Washington University professor, said he thinks the Chinese government set a goal of being able by 2020 to successfully invade Taiwan, and probably now believes it has succeeded. Oriana Skylar Mastro of Stanford University and the American Enterprise Institute reported in early 2021 that “Chinese military leaders have told me that they will be ready within a year.”

The second factor feeding fears of a cross-strait war is the recent intensification of PLA military pressure on Taiwan. Chinese warplanes flew near Taiwan almost daily in 2020. Up to 37 PLA aircraft at a time flew across the midline of the Taiwan Strait, breaking what was previously a taboo that both sides generally respected. This intimidation has continued into 2021. On one occasion in January, 13 Chinese military aircraft flew through Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Chinese media said a PLA military exercise near the Taiwan Strait in September 2020 was “not a warning, but a rehearsal for a Taiwan takeover.” Chinese military activity prompted speculation that Beijing was preparing to capture the Pratas Islands, which the Republic of China (ROC) controls but which lie some 250 miles from the main island of Taiwan.

China's Next Geopolitical Goal: Dominate Antarctica

by Alexander B. Gray

China’s ambitions in the Arctic are well-documented, starting with Beijing’s own 2018 Arctic Strategy, which proclaimed the country a “near-Arctic” power and outlined a “Polar Silk Road.” Since then, though almost two thousand miles from the Arctic Circle, China has been aggressively promoting this agenda in international forums, through investments in actual Arctic states, and by aggressive construction of a fleet of polar icebreakers.

Western governments have taken notice. As former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted, “China’s pattern of aggressive behavior elsewhere will inform how it treats the Arctic.” Yet while China’s designs over the Arctic have drawn growing alarm from the international community, its machinations in another global region—Antarctica—remain comparatively little-known. That is a mistake because China’s Antarctic ambitions are every bit as dangerous as its pretensions at the North Pole. Moreover, they are exacerbated by the fact that the United States and its closest allies near Antarctica, New Zealand and Australia, still have little idea what Beijing is doing on the ground.

Under the terms of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, Antarctica is considered a global commons to be preserved “for peaceful purposes only.” As a result, “any measures of a military nature” are prohibited, and all territorial claims to the continent are put on hold indefinitely. Both the United States and China are signatories to the treaty and its most important addendum, the 1991 Madrid Protocol, which permanently prohibits extractive mining, protects the unique flora and fauna of the continent, and otherwise seeks to preserve Antarctica for scientific research benefiting all countries.

What Do We Know About China’s Newest Missiles?


As “great power competition” becomes the lingua franca of American strategy, U.S. policymakers and analysts must build a greater familiarity with the Chinese strategic systems that increasingly worry combatant commanders and which would play an essential role in any Indo-Pacific crisis.

The situation is analogous to the Cold War, when knowledge of Soviet ICBMs was not limited to Sovietologists. Yet unlike in the last century, an extensive amount of information about these systems lies in the open to be analyzed. Instead of awaiting Moscow May Day parades, we can glean a great deal about the systems and their deployments through everything from official announcements to social-media tracking to unit commanders’ bios.

Since 2017, the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, the service responsible for China’s conventional and nuclear missiles, has added 10 brigades — more than a one-third increase — and deployed an array of formidable new weapons. These new systems include the intermediate-range DF-26 ballistic missile, DF-31AG and DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, CJ-100 cruise missile, and DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle. A new nuclear-armed DF-21 variant, speculatively referred to as the DF-21E, may have also been deployed but has not yet been officially unveiled.

Tesla cars banned from China's military complexes on security concerns -sources

The move is the latest sign of China’s growing scrutiny of the U.S. electric carmaker amid tensions with Washington. Analysts said it resembled Washington’s measures against Chinese telecoms firm Huawei citing national security.

Chinese military restrictions on Tesla surfaced as senior Chinese and U.S. officials held a contentious meeting in Alaska, the first such interaction since U.S. President Joe Biden took office.

“I presume the timing of the announcement surely linked to the fireworks planned for Anchorage,” said Ian Bremmer, president at Eurasia Group consulting firm.

Tesla shares ended up 0.3% after falling as much as 4.4% during trade.

The U.S. electric car maker won strong backing from Shanghai when it built its first overseas factory there in 2019. Tesla’s sleek Model 3 sedans were the best-selling electric vehicle in the country before being overtaken by a much cheaper micro EV.

The directive advises owners to park Teslas outside military property, and residents were notified this week, the two sources said, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates, said the latest restrictions on Tesla were a close parallel to the U.S. government’s hostility toward Huawei on concerns Beijing could have access to U.S. telecoms infrastructure.

How to Craft a Durable China Strategy

By Evan Medeiros

As President Joe Biden takes office, the United States’ China policy and U.S.-Chinese relations are both undergoing a revolution. Neither will be the same again. Over the past four years, the Trump administration questioned and rejected a number of long-standing U.S. policies, often adopting disruptive alternatives with mixed results. These changes produced bilateral volatility and a rapid negative shift in both elite and public opinion—and across the political spectrum—on China. Not since President Richard Nixon’s visit in 1972 has such a fundamental shift taken place in American perceptions, strategies, and policies toward Beijing.

Now, the United States must forge a relationship with China defined by an uncomfortable and undeniable paradox: deep and complex interdependence on the one hand and rapidly diverging interests—regarding security, economics, technology, ideology, and more—on the other. Policymakers are questioning many of the fundamental ideas that once guided American policy, including the convergence of economic and political goals, the value of engagement, and the idea that cooperation can ameliorate competition and produce stability.

After the tumult, creativity, bombast, and activism of President Donald Trump’s approach to China, officials on the Biden team are faced with crafting a coherent strategy from the rubble and detritus of the last administration’s actions. They face a series of fundamental questions: What will a coherent and sustainable China policy look like as bilateral competition intensifies and diversifies? How will U.S. policymakers reconcile multiple and competing interests with China? Can the United States craft a strategy that achieves two contradictory goals—competition and cooperation—at the same time?

U.S.-Chinese Rivalry Is a Battle Over Values

By Hal Brands and Zack Cooper

On the campaign trail, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to put values at the heart of his administration’s China policy. Since entering office, he has called on the world’s democracies to gird for a new era of strategic competition with China in which they “work together to secure the peace and defend our shared values and advance our prosperity across the Pacific.” Biden’s interim National Security Strategic Guidance labels democracy “our most fundamental advantage” and insists “our model isn’t a relic of history; it’s the single best way to realize the promise of our future.” As the administration prepares for its first high-level meeting with Chinese officials this week, it has clearly embraced the view that the Washington-Beijing rivalry is driven by competing ideals and systems of government as much as by competing interests.

Some self-described foreign policy “realists” contend that ideology and geopolitics are a dangerous combination. Mixing the two, they believe, led the United States to adopt a Manichaean and counterproductive strategy during the Cold War. Better, these analysts argue, to approach the rivalry in realpolitik terms—as a cold-eyed contest over power—and leave values to the side.

Water: A human and business priority

By Thomas Hundertmark, Kun Lueck, and Brent Packer

Water is the lifeblood of humanity. With it, communities thrive. But, when the supply and demand of fresh water are misaligned, the delicate environmental, social, and financial ecosystems on which we all rely are at risk. Climate change, demographic shifts, and explosive economic growth all exacerbate existing water issues.

However, hope is not lost. Businesses can play a leading role in mitigating the water issue to limit not just their own risk but also the risk of all stakeholders relying on these systems. This can be accomplished by directing action through three spheres of influence: direct operations, supply chain, and wider basin health.
Water today

Water is as important to the world’s economy as oil or data. Though most of the planet is covered in water, more than 97 percent of it is salt water. Fresh water accounts for the rest, although most of it is frozen in glaciers, leaving less than 1 percent of the world’s water available to support human and ecological processes. Every year, we withdraw 4.3 trillion cubic meters of fresh water from the planet’s water basins. We use it in agriculture (which accounts for 70 percent of the withdrawals), industry (19 percent), and households (11 percent).

The executive’s guide to better listening

By Bernard T. Ferrari

Asenior executive of a large consumer goods company had spotted a bold partnership opportunity in an important developing market and wanted to pull the trigger quickly to stay ahead of competitors. In meetings on the topic with the leadership team, the CEO noted that this trusted colleague was animated, adamant, and very persuasive about the move’s game-changing potential for the company. The facts behind the deal were solid.

The CEO also observed something troubling, however: his colleague wasn’t listening. During conversations about the pros and cons of the deal and its strategic rationale, for example, the senior executive wasn’t open to avenues of conversation that challenged the move or entertained other possibilities. What’s more, the tenor of these conversations appeared to make some colleagues uncomfortable. The senior executive’s poor listening skills were short-circuiting what should have been a healthy strategic debate.

Eventually, the CEO was able to use a combination of diplomacy, tactful private conversation, and the bureaucratic rigor of the company’s strategic-planning processes to convince the executive of the need to listen more closely to his peers and engage with them more productively about the proposal. The resulting conversations determined that the original deal was sound but that a much better one was available—a partnership in the same country. The new partnership presented slightly less risk to the company than the original deal but had an upside potential exceeding it by a factor of ten.

Boris Johnson Delivered Brexit, but Britain’s Future Remains Just as Uncertain

In July 2019, three years after British voters narrowly voted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, Boris Johnson assumed the office of prime minister amid a political environment characterized by anger, turmoil and confusion. But despite initial stumbles that led some observers to predict he would suffer the same dismal fate as his predecessor, Theresa May, Johnson managed to deliver on his promise to renegotiate the U.K.’s transitional withdrawal agreement with the European Union. His subsequent decisive victory in December 2019 parliamentary elections, built in part on successfully wooing traditional Labour party voters, gave Johnson the ample majority he needed to see his deal through.

Before Johnson’s triumph, Brexit had been a disaster for both of the country’s two main political parties. The referendum outcome immediately brought down the Conservative government of former Prime Minister David Cameron, who had called for the vote in the first place. His successor, May, was felled by her inability to get the transitional withdrawal agreement she negotiated with Brussels through Parliament, mainly due to opposition by extremist Brexiteers within her own Tory ranks. For his part, Johnson achieved what May couldn’t, arriving at a transitional Brexit deal that a majority of Parliament could agree on—and then building on that majority in December 2019.

As Challenges Mount, Can Europe Correct Its Course?

The liberal European order that emerged after World War II and spread after the collapse of the Soviet Union has been under attack from both within and without in recent years. The European Union—the ultimate expression of the European project—became a convenient punching bag for opportunistic politicians in many of its member countries, as anti-EU sentiment was integrated into the broader populist platform of protectionism and opposition to immigration.

The EU still managed to withstand its latest challenge in July, when it agreed to a historic deal that included a collective debt mechanism to help finance pandemic relief funds. Nevertheless, there is no way of knowing whether the populist wave that once seemed like an existential threat to the union has crested. Illiberal governments hold power in Hungary and Poland, and far-right parties were briefly part of coalition governments in Austria and Italy. Centrist leaders seem unable to come up with a response to immigration that doesn’t alienate more voters than it unites. And the coronavirus pandemic further highlighted the EU’s difficulties in providing effective collective responses to a crisis that, at least initially, saw each member state looking out for itself.

Even as leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel try to fend off challenges from right-wing opposition parties at home, they are also seeking to position Europe as an independent pole in an increasingly multipolar world. To achieve that goal, the EU will have to overcome its internal divisions and bat down external threats to articulate a coherent collective foreign and security policy backed by a credible military deterrent.

Why an escalating cyber-battle could risk nuclear war


Carl Sagan perfectly encapsulated the nuclear arms race when he likened it to two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.

In other words, nobody can be the first to use nuclear weapons as it would lead to mutually assured destruction (MAD). However, one could argue that the concept of MAD prevented World War III.

Several decades after the Cold War, we find ourselves with new technologies emerging at ever greater speeds.

We know that other countries seek to develop a range of technologies that, whilst not nuclear, could be used as weapons of mass destruction.
The current fleet of four Vanguard-Class nuclear-powered submarines are due to be replaced by a similar number of Dreadnought-Class boats in the 2030’s CREDIT: PA Wire

A technological arms race

Our reliance on electronic devices makes us more vulnerable to attacks and makes it probable that technology may emerge that could send another country back to the Stone Age. People would die, property would be damaged and the impact could last for years.

As the first duty of a government is to protect the people it serves, how should a government prepare to defend against such an eventuality? Do you enter another arms race, matching each new form of weapon with your own?

Around the halls: Experts react to high-level meetings between American and Asian officials

David Dollar, Michael E. O’Hanlon, and Mireya Solís

This week, foreign policy officials from the Biden administration made their first trip overseas. On March 15, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with officials in Japan; on March 17, they met with officials in South Korea. On March 18, Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan traveled to Alaska to meet with Chinese officials. What were the key takeaways from the meetings, and what might come next? Below, Brookings experts weigh in.

David Dollar (@davidrdollar), Senior Fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center: The U.S.-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska got off to a rocky start, as each side chose domestic politics over diplomacy. Expectations for the talks were low, because officials from both countries made sharp criticisms of the other in advance. This may play well politically on both sides of the Pacific, but it is not effective diplomacy.

There are a lot of areas where the U.S. and China are not going to agree, and we should not paper over the differences. But it is in the U.S. interest to prevent the differences from escalating to conflict. To that end, it would help to dial down the public rhetoric and to follow the dictum of “speak softly, and carry a big stick.” The U.S. has imposed many technology and trade sanctions on China in recent years. Some of these are important and effective (a big stick). But many are symbolic and ineffective, hurting U.S. interests more than Chinese ones. Hence, it is smart to review these sanctions and to be willing to negotiate away the ones that are largely symbolic.

Drones Vs. Drones: Lockheed MORFIUS Uses Microwaves To Kill Swarms


ALBUQUERQUE: To fight the growing danger of hostile drones, Lockheed Martin is offering MORFIUS, a drone armed with a High-Powered Microwave (HPM) to zap UAV swarms out of the sky. MORFIUS is a reusable drone that can fit inside a six-inch diameter launch tube and weighs less than 30 pounds, light and versatile enough to attach to ground stations, ground vehicles, or aircraft.

Presenting as part of the AUSA’s Global Force Next conference, the company outlined why, exactly, it sees microwave weapons as a nearly future-proof answer to a rapidly evolving threat.

“We’re focused on how we address the counter-UAS swarm threat,” said Brain Dunn, of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. Lockheed Martin really believes, he continued, “that an airborne delivered HPM effect really has an opportunity to make a big difference against the counter-UAS swarm flight that we’re going to be facing in the future.”

Working as part of a layered approach to counter-drone defense, MORFIUS units will be launched at hostile drones, or drone swarms, and then disable them in close proximity, with potentially a gigawatt of microwave power — or, as Lockheed put it, a million times the power of a standard 1,000-watt microwave oven.

Asked about the feasibility of a small flying machine carrying enough battery for such a burst, Lockheed refused to get into specifics, instead simply saying that the power comparison was favorable to ground systems. This is possible because MORFIUS can fly close to its targets and blast them with microwaves at close range – unlike ground-based systems, whose microwave emissions lose energy as they cross longer distances.

An existential discussion: What is the probability of nuclear war?

By Martin E. Hellman, Vinton G. Cerf 

Long before Vinton Cerf and Martin Hellman changed the world with their inventions, they were young assistant professors at Stanford University who became fast friends. Chances are that you relied on their innovations today. Cerf is considered one of the “fathers of the internet” for having invented, along with Robert Kahn, the internet’s protocols and architecture, known as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). Hellman is seen as a “father of public key cryptography” for having invented, along with Whitfield Diffie and Ralph Merkle, the technology that protects monetary transactions on the internet every day. More than 50 years and two technological revolutions later, the friendship between Vint and Marty—as they know each other—endures. This is despite, or perhaps because of, their sometimes different views. You see, while they do not always agree, they both enjoy a good intellectual debate, especially when the humans they sought to bring together with their inventions face existential threats.

Not long after giving the world public key cryptography, Hellman switched his focus from encryption to efforts that might avoid nuclear war. “What’s the point of developing new algorithms if there’s not likely to be anybody around in 50-100 years?” Hellman recalls thinking at the time. He did not then envision that cybersecurity would also become an existential threat or what it is today—an escalatory step toward nuclear threats that could lead to nuclear use.

How the West Lost COVID

By David Wallace-Wells

I’m bashing my head as well,” says Devi Sridhar.

It is January 2021, and the Florida-born, Edinburgh-based professor of global public health is looking back on the pandemic year, marveling and despairing at opportunities lost. From early last winter, Sridhar has been among the most vocal critics of the shambolic U.K. response — urging categorically more pandemic vigilance, which she believed might have yielded a total triumph over the disease, a cause that has picked up the shorthand “Zero COVID.” “This is where I started,” Sridhar says. “An elimination approach to the virus. My mind never went, ‘Oh, we should treat this like flu.’ It started off with, like, ‘We treat it like SARS until I see evidence otherwise.’”

In 2003, SARS had been eliminated after only 8,000 infections; its biggest foothold outside Asia was in Canada, which reported just a few hundred suspected cases. With COVID, Sridhar says, “I was following the response in China. They went into lockdown. You saw New Zealand pivoting that way and then Australia after.” But not the U.K., where an erratic series of scientific advisories pushed the government first to embrace a target of herd immunity, then to backpedal, but not enough. Sridhar describes those advisories with retrospective horror, an inexplicable preemptive surrender by the public-health apparatus.

“Basically, going back to January, they’d be like, ‘China’s not going to control it; 80 percent of the population is going to get it; all efforts to contain it are going to fail; we have to learn to live with this virus; contact tracing and testing make no sense; this is going to be everywhere; right now we need to build up hospitals’ — which they didn’t even do. But they really didn’t think it was stoppable,” she says. “And then all of a sudden you started to see, in February, South Korea stopping it, Taiwan stopping it, and China stopping it. Then, in March, New Zealand. And then Australia. And then there’s this realization of, ‘Oh, wow. Actually, it is controllable.’”

At the beginning of March, South Korea was averaging more than 550 new daily confirmed cases, compared with just 53 in the U.K. At the end of the month, South Korea had 125; the U.K. was at 4,500 and climbing. “In the UK we have had nine weeks to listen, learn and prepare,” Sridhar wrote angrily in the Guardian, berating the British regime for failing to establish basic systems for supplies, testing, and contact tracing. “Countries such as Senegal were doing this in January,” she wrote. “We had a choice early on in the UK’s trajectory to go down the South Korean path,” but instead the country was at risk of sleepwalking from small failures into giant ones. “We must race to make up for the time lost during two months of passivity,” Sridhar concluded. Of course, the country didn’t, and now its death toll measures in the six figures. Sound familiar?

Infographic Of The Day: The Evolution Of Windows OS

Today's infographic reviews the Evolution of Windows Operating systems over the years, the different iterations and versions it has launched in the past, and which versions performed well technically and commercially.