30 March 2021

Defining China’s Intelligentized Warfare and Role of Artificial Intelligence

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd), Consultant, VIF

China feels that U.S. is its main adversary ... China is trying to match U.S. technological capabilities with its own strength in AI as a leap frog technology and a new concept of war ... But there will be lot of problems in implementing this concept of Intelligentization Warfare to reality. However, President Xi Jinping has thrown the gauntlet, and it is up to the U.S. the other adversaries and the rest of the world to follow this concept keenly.

Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh: Geopolitical Implications

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd), Consultant, VIF

The geostrategic sensitive region of region of Nagorno-Karabakh lies at an intersection of political, ethnic and religious borders of Iran, Turkey, Russia and Georgia. On September 27, 2020 the war broke out with Azerbaijan launching an offensive retake Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding previously Azerbaijani-populated regions. The war was won by Azerbaijan.

Russia brokered a peace deal with Armenia and Azerbaijan agreeing to a Russian-mediated settlement to end the six-week war. The cease-fire is seen as a victory in Azerbaijan and as a capitulation in Armenia. Russia’s leading role in stopping the fighting also shows that Moscow continues to be the most influential player in the southern Caucasus.

This monograph provides the background of the conflict, its geopolitical dimensions, details of the cease fire deal and the role of different stakeholders in this conflict.

India Joins the Afghan Peace Negotiations


This month, the Biden administration presented its plan for the future of Afghanistan. The strategy includes both the possibility of a power-sharing government between Kabul’s elected representatives and the Taliban and a recognition of the important role that regional countries should play after a withdrawal of U.S. foreign forces. In a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
proposed several steps, including a United Nations-level meeting with the foreign ministers of China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States to develop a “unified approach” to peace.

This formal inclusion of India in the peace deliberations, which until now had seen New Delhi participating only along the margins despite its strong interests in Afghanistan and its growing partnership with the country, may alter the calculus of other regional players as well as the Taliban and the Afghan government.

According to some reports, Russian interlocutors had been wary of including India, likely because of its warming ties with Beijing and Islamabad. Pakistan has, of course, been consistent in pushing back against any Indian involvement in Afghanistan due to fears of encirclement by a strong India. China’s relationship with India, meanwhile, has seen a dramatic downturn.

Latest U.S. proposal for ending Afghan conflict runs counter to Taliban beliefs


The United States recently drafted and proposed a plan to end the conflict in Afghanistan, but it featured several proposals that are diametrically opposed to the Taliban’s ideology, opening the door for it to be dismissed out of hand.

The so-called “peace plan” called for the current Afghan constitution to serve as the framework for a future constitution, elections, and power sharing – all of which have been flatly rejected by the Taliban in the past.

The plan, which was published by TOLONews, was reportedly sent on Feb. 28 to the Afghan government and the Taliban by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation.

The proposal included three parts: the “Guiding Principles for Afghanistan’s Future,” a “Transitional Peace Government and Political Roadmap,” and a “Permanent and Comprehensive Ceasefire.”

In the first part, the plan called for using the current Afghan constitution as a “template” for the future constitution and elections. In the second part, the plan calls for a transitional “Peace Government” where the two sides of the conflict will share power. The Taliban has also previously rejected any attempt at a cease fire, which comprised the third part. All three are antithetical to the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam.

[Items in bold below are directly from the text of proposed agreement.]

For Biden, an Anguishing Choice on Withdrawal from Afghanistan

By Robin Wright

There’s a prophetic scene at the end of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the film that chronicles a flamboyant Texas congressman (played by Tom Hanks) and a rogue C.I.A. agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman) mobilizing what was then the largest U.S. covert intelligence operation in history. Operation Cyclone facilitated the training, arming, and empowering of the Afghan mujahideen—holy warriors—to fight the Soviet Union in the nineteen-eighties. America’s proxies prevailed, in the sense that the Soviets realized that their decade-long presence had become too costly—financially, politically, and militarily—and that they couldn’t achieve their goals. “What, are we going to sit there forever?” the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly told the Politburo in 1986. “Or should we be ending this war? Otherwise, we’ll disgrace ourselves in every respect.” In 1989, after losing more than fourteen thousand troops and spending at least fifty billion dollars, the Soviets withdrew. They just wanted out of an unpopular war. Afghanistan soon collapsed into a civil war that pitted rival warlords against one another, until the Taliban seized power, in 1996, imposed strict Islamic law, and welcomed other jihadis such as Al Qaeda. After Al Qaeda’s attacks in 2001, U.S. forces helped their Afghan allies to topple the Taliban. A new U.S.-backed government was ensconced in Kabul.

‘We Will Leave' Afghanistan Likely This Year, Biden Declar


Updated: This breaking news article has been expanded to include additional background information.

The United States will remove all of its troops from Afghanistan likely this year, President Joe Biden declared unequivocally on Thursday, but not by the May 1 deadline outlined in the peace agreement with the Taliban signed under the previous administration.

“We will leave. The question is when we leave,” Biden said at the White House, on Thursday.

When asked if the United States will have troops in Afghanistan, Biden said, “I can’t picture that being the case.”

The president said it would be hard to move U.S. troops by May 1, “just in terms of tactical reasons,” and any decision would be made in consultation with U.S. allies.

Biden first appeared to indicate the U.S. may stay in Afghanistan, saying, “If we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way.” But he quickly stated with emphasis his declaration that the U.S. will leave.

The Quad Can End the Crisis in Myanmar


There’s currently no end in sight to the growing civil unrest that has gripped Myanmar since its military coup on Feb. 1. As protests grow by the day, Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, has turned to lethal violence to quell demonstrations. So far, the response from the international community has been limited to issuing sanctions and harsh statements condemning the military’s sudden takeover—without altering the situation on the ground. But the coup has taken place at a time when the pandemic has left many civilians in economic despair, and sanctions risk exacerbating a humanitarian crisis. Restoring the civilian government and getting the Tatmadaw to back down will require a much more imaginative response from abroad.

One overlooked solution to Myanmar’s crisis may be the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the “Quad”—the newly reinvigorated forum among Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to share and promote liberal and democratic values in the Indo-Pacific. Although the Quad is often viewed as an anti-China club, the recently concluded meeting hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden revealed it has an inclusive agenda: Quad members decided to launch an ambitious vaccine supply program and formed working groups to explore areas of cooperation on emerging technologies and climate change. Importantly, Quad leaders made it clear that finding an early and peaceful solution to the Myanmar crisis is a top priority.

At first glance, the Quad seems somewhat divided on Myanmar: While Australia and the United States have condemned the coup, India and Japan issued milder statements, perhaps because they were cautious of alienating Myanmar and pushing it toward China. Yet New Delhi and Tokyo could in fact be instrumental in finding a way to end the impasse in Naypyidaw. India and Japan were recently named by Burma Campaign U.K. as two of the top countries still training and cooperating with the Tatmadaw—a fact that also means they have strong leverage over the army.

Is China About to Deploy Private Military Companies in Central Asia?

By: Paul Goble

Over the past decade, Moscow has made regular use of private military and security companies to project power in areas where it wants to maintain at least limited deniability while taking advantage of the weaknesses of local governments (see EDM, March 16, 2017, March 22, 2017, March 27, 2018). It has employed such independent formations—or at least their simulacra—in Ukraine, Syria and especially in African states with relatively vulnerable or ineffective central governments (see EDM, January 21, 2020, April 29, 2020, January 20, 2021).

Other countries, including the United States, have themselves relied on private military companies, although they mostly acknowledge them as support elements for a formal military presence. China has done so as well in some African countries but only in a restricted way. Now, however, there appears to be a growing risk that Beijing may feel it can utilize such structures to defend its existing interests or project new power into at least one republic in Central Asia: politically unstable Kyrgyzstan (see EDM, March 3). Beijing already has significant investments there and has had serious problems with the government and local population in the past (see EDM, June 24, 2016 and March 3, 2021; see China Brief, August 12, 2020).

Chinese “private military companies” have not yet appeared in Kyrgyzstan, but some Russian experts are worried that they may show up soon and create problems for Moscow, for two reasons. First, there is Russia’s own security involvement in Kyrgyzstan—it has one military base in that country and has been talking about the possibility of establishing a second (see EDM, May 24, 2018 and February 22, 2019). Additionally, any such Chinese involvement might not only further destabilize that Central Asian republic but lead to clashes between the Russian Federation and China, something Moscow wants to avoid, especially at a time of growing tensions with the West. Stanislav Pritchin, a senior researcher at the Moscow Center for Post-Soviet Research in the Russian Academy of Sciences, has noted that the Russian government hopes China will not send private military companies into Kyrgyzstan, but it increasingly fears that anti-Chinese rhetoric by Kyrgyzstani politicians could unintentionally lead to that possibility in the future. At a minimum, he said, this is already “a risk” no one can afford to ignore (IA-Centr, March 15).

What can Japan do in a Taiwan-China clash?


In the “two-plus-two” meeting that took place last week, the Japanese and U.S. governments unequivocally called out China, highlighting the country’s unilateral and unlawful attempts to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific. Since then, there has been much debate on what this means for the region, especially in the context of Taiwan.

Hypothetically, imagine an incident occurs between China and Taiwan that kicks off an escalation cycle, and China decides to exploit the opportunity to realize its long-standing desire to take over the island nation. How does Japan respond in that situation?

The specific issue of what Japan will do is a policy question to which there is no definitive answer. After all, policies change and it is difficult enough to predict what will happen in the politics of the day, let alone of the future. However, there is the question of what Japan can do. In other words, what is allowable under international law and Japan’s domestic legislation?

The answer to the international law question is quite simple, as it is codified in the U.N. Charter and clarified under substantial legal precedent from International Court of Justice rulings. In short, under international law, Japan would be able to use military force in the exercise of collective self defense, provided the Taiwan government requested it.

Things get a little murkier when one starts looking at Japan’s domestic laws. Many are aware of Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution, which prohibits the use of military force as a means to settle international disputes. Under a black-and-white interpretation, this may suggest that Japan could not exercise collective self-defense and therefore would not be able to do much in support of Taiwan.

USA's Failed China Policy: New Administration, Old Policy

Source Link

In contrast to the hopes of moderate bipartisan voices, Blinken's China vision builds on the Trump-Pompeo unipolarity, at the expense of US business and American people. The semiconductor debacle is a prelude to future.

Recently, Anne O. Krueger, World Bank’s former chief economist, noted that, following four years of a modus operandi to bully China, Trump’s trade war is “a failure that harmed both China and the US."

Like Krueger, many progressive Democrats and global-minded Republicans hoped a reset of US-China relations. That’s why US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s foreign policy speech was seen as a huge disappointment.

At the minimum, the old-new-Pompeo-Trump-Biden China vision is a pretext for managed trade. At worst, it seeks to replace business success with geopolitics.

Trump’s trade war is “a failure that harmed both China and the US."

Battling American technology leaders

In early February, Blinken applauded President Trump for having been "right to take a tougher approach to China." The tacit assumption is that the trade war was a success and in the interest of American people and business.

Europe’s Tightrope Diplomacy on China


The European Union’s Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China—announced on December 30, 2020, at the end of Germany’s six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union—was the result of long discussions among EU officials and member states. After nearly seven years and thirty-five rounds of EU-China talks, the European Commission decided it had achieved as much as it could. Negotiations had gone at a snail’s pace until recently, but commitments finally came from Beijing in the last weeks of December on two major areas: first, international labor standards, and second, sustainable development and climate change. At last, China—with the personal involvement of President Xi Jinping, who last year declared relations with Europe a top foreign policy priority—was ready to sign and make some concessions. And, above all, this round of negotiations was the last chance for German Chancellor Angela Merkel—who has visited China twelve times since taking office in 2005—to strike a deal with the country before she retires after Germany’s general elections in September.

The timing of the CAI announcement—three weeks before the inauguration of President Joe Biden, who had committed to a new approach of bringing together the United States’ democratic allies for engaging with China—raised eyebrows in Washington, especially as national security adviser–designate Jake Sullivan had tweeted on December 21 that the new administration would “welcome early consultations with our European partners on our common concerns about China’s economic practices.” Although it was not able to interact officially with the EU or European governments before taking office, the Biden team clearly seemed keen to engage with them on unfair Chinese practices such as state subsidies, forced technology transfers, and market access discrepancies.

Russia’s Karabakh Protectorate Taking Clearer Shape (Part Three)

By: Vladimir Socor

Relations between the authorities in Stepanakert, the capital of the self-declared “republic” of Karabakh, and the government of Nikol Pashinian in Yerevan are complicated and, for the most part, uneasy.

Armenia’s 2018 “velvet revolution” under Pashinian did not extend to the Karabakh “republic”; the latter remained a political stronghold of Armenia’s old authorities. Pashinian sought to gain influence in Karabakh by endorsing the slogan for outright unification (“miatsun”) of Karabakh with Armenia and introducing insurmountable conditions for further negotiations with Azerbaijan. Calculated, in part, for political effect in Karabakh, these opportunistic moves by Pashinian paved the way to war (see EDM, November 25, 2020).

Karabakh’s “president,” Haraik Harutiunian, elected in April 2020 with Pashinian’s blessing, has a good working relationship with Yerevan. From the November 10, 2020, armistice to date, Harutiunian has officially participated in several meetings of Armenia’s Security Council chaired by Pashinian in Yerevan. In Stepanakert, however, the lost war increased the influence of Pashinian’s and Harutiunian’s opponents. Harutiunian appointed Major General Vitaly Balasanian as head of “Artsakh’s Security Council” (Artsakh is the Armenian name for the Karabakh “republic”) and yielded the “president’s” decision-making authority on defense and security affairs to Balasanian’s council. Balasanian is a declared adversary of Pashinian and an aspiring strongman in Karabakh (see EDM, January 14, 2021).

Will Turkey Destroy Its Own Economy?

by Desmond Lachman

It is said that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. This certainly seems to be true of Turkish president Recep Erdogan, at least as far as his economic thinking is concerned.

He is now choosing the worst of times to subject his country again to his eccentric view about interest rate policy. That view has economic failure written all over it and is bound to cost Erdogan dearly at the polls.

In a surprise move over the weekend, Erdogan chose to fire Naci Argal, his economically orthodox and highly respected central bank governor. Never mind that Argal, who was appointed to his job last November in the midst of a currency crisis, succeeded in stabilizing the Turkish lira and taming inflation. He did so by aggressively raising interest rates from 10 percent to 19 percent and by rebuilding market confidence in the re-establishment of Turkish central bank independence.

As a result of his sound stewardship, over the past few months, the Turkish currency appreciated by 18 percent making it amongst the world’s best-performing currencies. At the same time, inflation showed signs of coming back under control.

Unimpressed by Argal’s success in defusing a currency crisis and taming inflation, Erdogan has chosen to replace him with the relatively unknown Sahap Kavcioglu. The apparent reason for his so doing is that Kavcioglu subscribes to Erdogan’s highly eccentric view that higher interest rates are the cause rather than the cure for inflation. With a political lightweight like Kavcioglu at the central bank’s helm, Erdogan believes that he will be able to get the central bank to do his bidding and to cut interest rates ahead of the next Turkish election.

Kremlin’s ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’ in Action: Tools, Strengths, Intermediary Results

By: Sergey Sukhankin

Russian media contends that the domestically manufactured Sputnik V—a COVID-19 vaccine developed last year by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology—is the world’s second-most highly approved inoculation against the novel coronavirus (Vzglyad, March 5). In truth, official data on the effectiveness of the Russian-manufactured vaccine is inconclusive, save for a single article published in the medical journal The Lancet, on February 2, suggesting the efficacy of Sputnik V is 91.6 percent after the first dose. Nonetheless, a growing number of countries are eager to acquire the vaccine. As of March 22, Sputnik V was approved in 52 countries, whose total population reaches 1.4 billion people (RIA Novosti, March 22). From an ideological point of view, for Moscow, winning the “vaccine race” has acquired meaning comparable to other famous Soviet-era endeavors, such as the “Space Race” or the pursuit of a nuclear weapon. In promoting its agenda today, Russia is using a broad spectrum of tools, combining elements of fair and unfair competition as well as exploiting the lack of cohesion inside the Western camp.

On March 1, European Union High Representative Josep Borrell stated that, in promoting its own COVID-19 immunizations, “Russia is seeking to discredit other vaccines produced by Western companies […] spreading and amplifying fraudulent information for the purpose of damaging trust and downgrading our [Western] norms and values, as well as weakening our international alliances” (UNIAN, March 1). A representative of the US Department of State, Ned Price, claimed that the United States has found and identified Russia-related outlets spreading disinformation against the (US-produced) Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (Interfax, March 9). Similar statements came from the Estonian Ministry of Defense (Svd.se, March 16). That said, while Russia-generated information operations (including disinformation efforts) must not be downplayed, it is the position and deeds of the European actors that de facto make such disinformation campaigns against Western vaccines seem much more effective. Namely, the COVID-19 crisis not only brought to light multiple problems faced by the EU in the realm of public health, but it also exposed a lack of cohesion and solidarity at both national and regional (sub-state) levels in the West.

Senators Offer to Let NSA Hunt Cyber Actors Inside the US


A bipartisan group of senators offered to help expand the National Security Agency’s authorities allowing the spy agency to hunt domestically for signals intelligence against foreign adversaries that U.S. officials have said are behind a string of recent attacks, like the recent SolarWinds hack.

Several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday voiced their support for expanded authorities for the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command to conduct more intelligence gathering domestically, something that the Biden administration already is exploring, according to Gen. Paul Nakasone, who leads both agencies.

Committee members heaped praise on Nakasone for his efforts to secure the 2020 elections from foreign interference. The NSA and Cyber Command conducted some two dozen operations to protect U.S. infrastructure and target adversaries in the runup to November, Nakasone said. Eleven of those were “hunt forward” operations, taking place in networks in foreign countries, at those countries’ invitation.

But while foreign adversaries didn’t succeed in attacking voter polls, Russia and China have, of late, achieved some dramatic wins. The massive SolarWinds hack, believed to be Russian in origin, has affected a broad swath of the government including the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense. (The Pentagon maintains that they did not lose any classified data.) The Microsoft Exchange Server attack, believed to be Chinese in origin, has also potentially compromised thousands of customers.

It is time to negotiate global treaties on artificial intelligence

John R. Allen and Darrell M. West

The U.S. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence recently made the news when its members warned that America faces a national security crisis due to insufficient investment in artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. Commission Vice Chair Robert Work argued “we don’t feel this is the time for incremental budgets … This will be expensive and requires significant change in the mindset at the national, and agency, and Cabinet levels.” Commission Chair Eric Schmidt extended those worries by saying “China is catching the US” and “competition with China will increase.”

This is not the first time the country has worried about the economic and national security ramifications of new technologies. In the aftermath of World War II, the United States, Soviet Union, China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and others were concerned about the risk of war and the ethical aspects of nuclear weapons, chemical agents, and biological warfare. Despite vastly different worldviews, national interests, and systems of government, their leaders reached a number of agreements and treaties to constrain certain behaviors, and define the rules of war. There were treaties regarding nuclear arms control, conventional weapons, biological and chemical weapons, outer space, landmines, civilian protection, and the humane treatment of POWs.

The goal through these agreements was to provide greater stability and predictability in international affairs, introduce widely-held humanitarian and ethical norms into the conduct of war, and reduce the risks of misunderstandings that might spark unintended conflict or uncontrollable escalation. By talking with adversaries and negotiating agreements, the hope was that the world could avoid the tragedies of large-scale conflagrations, now with unimaginably destructive weapons, that might cost millions of lives and disrupt the entire globe.

Europe’s Tightrope Diplomacy on China


The European Union’s Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China—announced on December 30, 2020, at the end of Germany’s six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union—was the result of long discussions among EU officials and member states. After nearly seven years and thirty-five rounds of EU-China talks, the European Commission decided it had achieved as much as it could. Negotiations had gone at a snail’s pace until recently, but commitments finally came from Beijing in the last weeks of December on two major areas: first, international labor standards, and second, sustainable development and climate change. At last, China—with the personal involvement of President Xi Jinping, who last year declared relations with Europe a top foreign policy priority—was ready to sign and make some concessions. And, above all, this round of negotiations was the last chance for German Chancellor Angela Merkel—who has visited China twelve times since taking office in 2005—to strike a deal with the country before she retires after Germany’s general elections in September.

The timing of the CAI announcement—three weeks before the inauguration of President Joe Biden, who had committed to a new approach of bringing together the United States’ democratic allies for engaging with China—raised eyebrows in Washington, especially as national security adviser–designate Jake Sullivan had tweeted on December 21 that the new administration would “welcome early consultations with our European partners on our common concerns about China’s economic practices.” Although it was not able to interact officially with the EU or European governments before taking office, the Biden team clearly seemed keen to engage with them on unfair Chinese practices such as state subsidies, forced technology transfers, and market access discrepancies.

What Is a Water War?

By Robert Farley

Water wars are not simply battles on water; if they were, then almost every war in recorded human history could be categorized as a “water war,” rendering the term virtually meaningless. Rather, the term “water wars,” in order to be analytically useful, refers to conflicts over rights of economic exploitation of water, whether through the support of fishing fleets or the pursuit of undersea resources or access to freshwater for drinking, industrial, and agricultural purposes.

Formulated thus, the concept of “water wars” sits uneasily upon the body of maritime strategic thinking. Historically, naval strategic theory has concentrated on the relevance of water as a means of transit. Theorists such as Alfred Thayer Mahan and Julian Corbett concentrated on the ways that nations could exploit control of the sea (and by extension control of navigable rivers) in order to expand trade, destroy the trade of rivals, and rapidly maneuver ground forces.

Mahan only writes of fishing insofar as the development of a fishing industry tends to enhance maritime interests and maritime cultural virtues, but not as a particularly relevant military or economic phenomenon. Mahan does discuss the economic impact of defeat at sea in terms of the consequences of the loss of fisheries, but the importance of fish relative to trade is not as notable; the book includes just over a dozen mentions of fish, compared with several hundred mentions of “commerce.” For his part, Corbett is explicit about the relationship between fisheries and naval power, suggesting that the former has no impact on the latter. Thus, the question “what do the giants of naval strategic thinking have to say about the exploitation of the sea and about ‘water wars’?” can be answered with a frustrating “not much.”

Sea levels are rising fastest in big cities – here’s why

Sally Brown, Robert James Nicholls

Land is sinking - or subsiding - in coastal areas even faster than the sea is rising.

Subsiding cities contain more than 150 million people in the coastal zone, roughly 20% of people in the world who live by the sea.

To safeguard their future, subsiding cities need solutions, write two experts.

It is well known that climate-induced sea level rise is a major threat. What is less well know is the threat of sinking land. And in many of the most populated coastal areas, the land is sinking even faster than the sea is rising.

Parts of Tokyo for instance sank by 4 metres during the 20th century, with 2 metres or more of sinking reported in Shanghai, Bangkok, and New Orleans. This process is known as subsidence. Slow subsidence happens naturally in river deltas, and it can be accelerated by the extraction of groundwater, oil or gas which causes the soil to consolidate and the surface to lose elevation.

Subsidence leads to relative sea level rise (sea level rise plus land sinking). It turns croplands salty, damages buildings, causes widespread flooding and can even mean the loss of entire coastal areas.

The future of water should not start with water

Alex Mung

This week started with World Water Day, which showed us how the debate should not be about prioritizing water, but rather about connecting it to other priorities.

More and more active substances are finding their way into our aquatic environments without adequate wastewater treatment - leading to problems such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Closing the gap for populations without access to water and upgrading wastewater treatment capacity will safeguard our health and the economic cost from future pandemics.

Water as an enabler, not a competitor

Driven by escalating competing demands, deteriorating quality (due to pollution), chronic under-investment, and exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, the world’s water resources constitute a system already pushed to the edge. COVID-19 only magnified its vulnerability, inequity, and insufficiency.

As the world strives to bounce back from the social and economic toll of the pandemic, both the public and private sector will be forced to make tough decisions in prioritizing and allocating resources across competing economic, social, and environmental commitments.

Where in the growing line-up of priorities does water now stand? Before or after revitalizing jobs, protecting the health of our citizens, promoting social justice, enhancing nature-positive economies, and achieving the Paris Climate Agreement in the “Race to Zero”?

An avalanche of money


Economists agree that the devastating economic aftermath of the pandemic calls for a substantial increase in government spending. An injection of public spending will help individuals, families, businesses and other organizations that suddenly lost their incomes. Even the most conservative economic institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and other central banks, as well as top economists, not only recommend increasing public spending, but doing it in a big way. “Act big” was US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s message to her fellow ministers from the world’s biggest economies. Furthermore, leading experts such as Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate in economics, say they are not concerned about the enormous fiscal deficit, the booming debt, the heightened risks of financial instability, or the inflation that could result from an excess in public spending and the printing of money. This is in stark contrast to the financial crisis of 2008, when experts called for spending cuts, “deleveraging” and restraint. Austerity was their mantra. Now, it’s to go big, spend what you have and what you don’t have too – deficits and debt don’t matter.

This year, the size of the public debt of the United States exceeds the size of the entire economy

While there is agreement that the dire economic situation requires massive government intervention, there are also profound differences with respect to the appropriate size of such intervention and its inflationary consequences. Larry Summers, another influential economist who is close to the Democratic Party, believes the Biden administration has gone too far. Summers stressed that the stimulus package “will set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation.” He also emphasized that the Biden package leaves many important questions unanswered, such as “how will political and economic space be found for the public investments that should be the nation’s highest priority?” Olivier Blanchard, one of the world’s most cited economists and former IMF chief economist, also thinks that the size of the approved stimulus is excessive and that it will likely “overheat” the US economy, thus causing an outbreak of inflation.


Jacob N. Shapiro and Patrick Howell 

On May 18, 2016, the satirical Duffel Blog reported with tongue firmly in cheek that “the Pentagon’s top spokesperson said he was ‘pretty sure’ the military could ditch the manual used for counterinsurgency, since it plans to fight all future wars against conventional armies that wear uniforms and use known tactics.” Several months later, the Army Times published a more serious article that the Army would be reducing training for counterinsurgency (COIN) to focus on preparing for large-scale combat operations (LSCO) against near-peer competitors. The Army Times article, and others like it, reflected the view that the return to great power competition presages a return to fighting major battles, or at least preparing to do so.

Funny as it might be to see satire (dumping COIN knowledge) matched with reality (shifting training and acquisition dollars to focus on big wars), it is also tragic when it is déjà vu all over again. The United States has done this before, with fatal consequences for American soldiers and their allies. After developing considerable knowledge on how to train for and fight COIN during the Vietnam War, the Army as an organization purged its institutional knowledge in the early 1970s, perhaps motivated in part by the stunning successes of the USSR-equipped Arab forces that came close to overrunning American-equipped Israeli forces in the first forty-eight hours of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Any remaining COIN expertise was relegated to special operations forces, particularly the US Army Special Forces (which was not even a permanent branch at that time). The US military refocused on equipping, planning, and preparing to fight the Soviet Union in major combat operations and failed to institutionalize the irregular warfare (IW) competencies bought at such tragic expense in Vietnam and other battlefields.

Intel And Samsung Lead Global Semiconductor Production

by Katharina Buchholz

Intel's recently appointed CEO Pat Gelsinger has outlined his vision for the company going forward. As part of the company's "IDM 2.0" strategy, he announced a $20 billion investment in two new factories in Arizona as well as Intel Foundry Services, a new business that will see the company manufacture semiconductors for third parties. According to Gelsinger, the foundry market could be worth $100 billion by 2025 as global demand for semiconductors continues to soar.

Global semiconductor production is currently split between the U.S. and Asia and continues to be a source of tensions in foreign policy powerplay.

Intel holds the biggest semiconductor market share, accounting for 15.6 percent of global revenue. According to data from Gartner, Samsung is Intel’s largest competitor within the industry, holding a market share of around 12.5 percent. Another company from South Korea, SK Hynix, wins third place with the somewhat smaller share of 5.6 percent.

If the planned merger of the Californian companies Qualcomm and Broadcom had taken place in 2018, the joint venture would now be the strongest rival of Samsung and Intel with around seven to eight percent. Back then, President Trump had vetoed the deal citing a threat to national security. At that time, Broadcom's headquarters were still in Singapore, but the company is now based in San José.

6 data policy issues experts are tracking right now

Evîn Cheikosman

Responsible data practices must minimize negative impacts.

Key data policy issues will influence how all sectors of society will interact with data in the fast-evolving future of technology.

Given this changing landscape, experts weigh in on the data policy topics top of mind for them right now.

There is untapped potential in data that, if harnessed in a rights-respecting manner, could have positive implications for helping to solve societies’ biggest problems or creating new economic value.

Currently, though, much of the data needed to tackle these pressing challenges remains siloed within both public and private sources. At the same time, many jurisdictions, both in the real and digital world, lack comprehensive data protection and data security regulations to protect people’s rights and create sustainable mechanisms for data usage.

Further, institutions tend to struggle with building actionable models, leading to systems that focus more on collecting massive datasets than on unlocking the value from data that is spread throughout the institution. And, finally, there is the vexed issue of data accuracy and the need to minimize inherent biases contained in most datasets.

Google Director Of Engineering: This is how fast the world will change in ten years

Michael Simmons

Futurists from the 20th century predicted that labor saving devices would make leisure abundant. According to the great economist John Maynard Keynes, the big challenge would be that…

“For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

— John Maynard Keynes (1930)

Fast forward almost a century later.

Things didn’t quite go as expected. This quote from a modern researcher captures the current ethos:

“Rather than being bored to death, our actual challenge is to avoid anxiety attacks, psychotic breakdowns, heart attacks, and strokes resulting from being accelerated to death.”

— Geoffrey West

Social Media Disinformation Discussions Are Going in Circles. Here’s How to Change That.


This article is part of the Free Speech Project, a collaboration between Future Tense and the Tech, Law, & Security Program at American University Washington College of Law that examines the ways technology is influencing how we think about speech.

On Thursday, the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter will testify before Congress about online disinformation. Even before the gavel bangs, we can predict what will happen. Some members of Congress will demand that social media platforms do more to stop viral falsehoods from damaging democracy and triggering violence. Others will warn of needlessly restricting speech and say it could even inflame fringe elements and drive them to less-governed spaces.

This same argument repeats itself after every crisis, from Christchurch to QAnon to COVID-19. Why can’t we break the impasse? Because the debate about countering disinformation can itself be a fact-free zone: long on theories, short on evidence. We need better expertise, and that means empowering experts.

Scholars have spent decades studying propaganda and other dark arts of persuasion, but online disinformation is a new twist on this old problem. After Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, the field received a huge influx of money, talent, and interest. There are now more than 460 think tanks, task forces, and other initiatives focused on the problem. Since 2016, this global community has exposed dozens of influence operations and published more than 80 reports on how society can better combat them.

Get the U.S. Military Out of the Counterterrorism and Nation-Building Business

Charli Carpenter 

Have know-nothing civilian bureaucrats, lily-livered humanitarian do-gooders and misguided academics tied the military’s hands with increasingly restrictive norms that don’t correspond to the laws of war, let alone the rigors of battle and requirements of victory? That’s the premise of a
new article in Military Review by Army Lt. Gen. Charles Pede and Col. Peter Hayden. Pede and Hayden write derisively of the three-decades-old shift in U.S. military doctrine toward enhanced civilian protection, exemplified by the population-centric counterinsurgency approach to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a danger, they argue, since troops trained in restraint and respect for civilian life would be tactically, bureaucratically and morally hobbled if faced with a massed formation of Russian, Chinese or Iranian tanks.

For all this argument’s numerous flaws, it contains one underappreciated insight. The U.S. military has been asked to take on tasks to which it is ill-suited, affecting mission readiness for its primary role: winning wars. The solution, however, is not to water down the laws of war as they pertain to counterterrorism operations or to diminish the role of civilian agencies in peace building. Instead, the U.S. military should get out of the counterterrorism and nation-building business and stick to the battlefield where it belongs