26 May 2021

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

  Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd) 

The digital era has transformed the way we communicate. Using social media like Facebook and Instagram, and social applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram, one can be in contact with friends and family, share pictures, videos, messages, posts and share our experiences. Social media has become an effective way of influencing human society and behavior, and shaping public opinion. By sharing a post, tweeting an idea, contributing a discussion in a forum and sharing a sentimental picture, we can influence others and sometimes convince into with our opinion.

Use of cyber tools and methods to manipulate public opinion is called ‘Cyber Influence Operation’. In the present day, many countries use cyberspace, especially the social media, to accomplish Cyber Influence Operations as a part of Information Warfare. Most of these operations are done covertly. It is difficult to differentiate between legitimate or malicious influence operations. Continue Reading..... 

Defining China’s Intelligentized Warfare and Role of Artificial Intelligence

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

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. Continue Reading.... 

Taliban control in Afghanistan expands significantly since 2018

Bill Roggio
Source Link

The number of Afghan districts controlled and contested by the Taliban has nearly doubled since early 2018, according to an ongoing study of the security situation by FDD’s Long War Journal. The expansion of Taliban power in the past three years, even as U.S. and NATO forces were present in the country, is an ominous sign for the future of Afghanistan.

In January 2018, when Resolute Support tried to shut down reporting on the status of districts, LWJ assessed that the Taliban controlled 45 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, or 11 percent, and contested 117, or 29 percent. Today, LWJ assess that the Taliban controls 87 districts, or 21 percent, and contested 214, or 53 percent.

The Taliban achieved this level of control even as U.S. and NATO forces remained in the country. U.S. airstrikes have been instrumental in halting major Taliban offensives designed to seize provincial capitals. The U.S. Air Force blunted Taliban efforts to overrun Lashkar Gah and Kandahar City in the fall/winter of 2021 and the spring of 2021. However, even with the U.S. backing Afghan forces, the Taliban was able to overrun Kunduz City twice, and Farah and Ghazni cities, and hold them for short periods of time over the past several years.

U.S. air power has been largely ineffective in halting the Taliban from expanding its influence into the rural areas. Nearly all the districts controlled by the Taliban are rural. In the past, U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have downplayed the Taliban’s control of rural areas. But the Taliban has been following a classic guerrilla insurgency strategy of gaining control of the rural areas to project influence onto the urban ones.

How a Rising China Has Remade Global Politics

As much as any other single development, China’s rise over the past two decades has remade the landscape of global politics. Beginning with its entry into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, China rapidly transformed its economy from a low-cost “factory to the world” to a global leader in advanced technologies. Along the way, it has transformed global supply chains, but also international diplomacy, leveraging its success to become the primary trading and development partner for emerging economies across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

But Beijing’s emergence as a global power has also created tensions. Early expectations that China’s integration into the global economy would lead to liberalization at home and moderation abroad have proven overly optimistic, especially since President Xi Jinping rose to power in 2012. Instead, Xi has overseen a domestic crackdown on dissent, in order to shore up and expand the Chinese Communist Party’s control over every aspect of Chinese society. Needed economic reforms have been put on the backburner, while unfair trade practices, such as forced technology transfers and other restrictions for foreign corporations operating in China, have resulted in a trade war with the U.S. and increasing criticism from Europe.

The Wuhan Lab and the Virus: The Dr. Fauci, Rand Paul Debate Fact-Checked and Explained


Senator Rand Paul went on the attack in the Senate chambers earlier this week over the origins of the coronavirus that caused the current pandemic. In his questioning of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the senator raised the issue of whether the coronavirus jumped from animals to humans naturally (as coronaviruses tend to do) or was the result of experiments in which scientists took natural viruses, made them more deadly or infectious or both (which scientists all over the world do), and then somehow allowed it to escape from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Senator Paul didn't directly accuse Dr. Fauci of engineering the pandemic, but that seemed at times to be his implication; it's a line of questioning that appeared to play to conspiracy theories that circulate on the internet. Although Dr. Fauci has had plenty of practice fending off Senator Paul's attacks in past encounters, this exchange seemed to unnerve him.

One potential reason for Dr. Fauci's discomfort is that the prospect of a virus accidently being released from a lab and starting a pandemic is entirely plausible—so plausible, in fact, that scientists have warned about it for years.

Scientists in laboratories all over the world have for the past decade been collecting dangerous viruses and making them even more dangerous by performing "gain-of-function" experiments on them—manipulating the viruses to make them more infectious or deadly or both. The work is undertaken for the best of intentions—to understand and anticipate future pandemic viruses that could arise in nature—and much of this work has been done in the U.S. and abroad with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Dr. Fauci leads.

The Iran Threat Network (ITN)

by Ariane M. Tabatabai, Jeffrey Martini, Becca Wasser

The Iran Threat Network (ITN) is a formidable force made up of tens of thousands of fighters. It spreads across the Middle East and South Asia and has ties to and influence in Africa and Latin America. The ITN affords Iran the ability to have a presence and project power throughout the region, and to deter and harass its adversaries. The network consists of diverse and disparate groups, which is reflected in the nature and amount of support provided and the level of command and control exerted by Tehran over each group. These differences allow Iran to employ the ITN to achieve four buckets of political and military objectives.

The authors focus on the ITN, which sits at the intersection of two threats—Iran and nonstate actors—highlighted in the 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy and the 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy as a priority for the U.S. government to counter. In this report, the authors assess several indicators of Iran-ITN relations to offer an overview of the nature, depth, and breadth of Iran's relationship with these key nonstate partners classified by Iranian objectives.

Iran's further expansion of the ITN would increase its ability to use the network to undermine stability in the region, antagonize U.S. allies and partners, undercut U.S. influence, and pose a risk to U.S. military personnel. In light of this expansion, this study explores Iran's relationships with its nonstate network to better enable the U.S. government to counter Iranian subversion in the region via the ITN.

How partisan polarization drives the spread of fake news

Mathias Osmundsen, Michael Bang Petersen, and Alexander Bor

If platforms and policymakers are to devise effective solutions to the proliferation of fabricated news stories online, they must first establish an understanding of why such material spreads in the first place. From misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic to disinformation about the “Brexit” vote in Great Britain in 2016, fabricated or highly misleading news colloquially known as “fake news” has emerged as a major societal concern. But a good understanding of why such material spreads has so far remained somewhat elusive. Elite actors often create and spread fabricated news for financial or political gain and rely on bot networks for initial promotion. But mounting evidence (e.g., here, here and here) suggests that lay people are instrumental in spreading this material.

These findings give rise to a question we examine in a recent study: Why do some ordinary people spread fake news while others do not? The answer to this question has important practical implications, as solutions to the spread of fake news rest on assumptions about the root cause of the problem. The use of fact-checking efforts to reduce the proliferation of fake news, for example, rests on the assumption that citizens want to believe and share true information but need help to weed out falsehoods. If citizens are sharing news on social media for other reasons, there is good reason to believe counter-measures such as this will be less effective.

Hamas tries to seize the day

Daniel L. Byman

The latest round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting began in Jerusalem, but it has spread throughout Israel and to Gaza. The bloodshed could become more intense, leading to another Israeli ground operation in Gaza and far more casualties than we’ve already seen. Even if Israel batters the Hamas leaders in Gaza into submission, the violence threatens to further weaken peaceful Palestinian voices, help Hamas overcome its many weaknesses, and create new rifts within the state of Israel.

The latest conflict grew out of threatened evictions of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem and was magnified after provocative Jewish settler marches through Arab areas of the city, with some marchers chanting “death to Arabs.” Violence spread to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, one of the holiest sites in Islam, and an Israeli police raid on the venerated mosque — including the use of stun grenades on worshipers demonstrating there — set off more demonstrations. At the same time, Israeli officials tried to deescalate, postponing the evictions and rerouting a potentially provocative parade by religious Jewish nationalists.

Things took a dramatic turn on Monday, when Hamas and another Islamist group, Palestine Islamic Jihad, sent massive salvos of rockets into Israel, firing them toward Jerusalem, with claims of defending the holy mosque and Palestinians there against Israeli aggression — the first rocket attacks on Jerusalem since 2014. Israel then responded with airstrikes on Gaza, which Palestinian health officials claim have killed 53 people, including 13 children, as of Wednesday afternoon. Hamas launched more rockets at Tel Aviv, as well as targets closer to Gaza, such as Ashkelon. Residents of cities targeted by the rockets are forced to hide in shelters and rocket attacks have killed seven Israelis, increasing pressure on the Israeli government to act. Arab citizens rioted in several Israeli cities and towns. In mixed Jewish-Arab cities, including Jaffa but especially Lod (Lydda) and Acre, communal violence not seen in decades included mobs attacking civilian homes, synagogues, and property, with vigilante violence and reprisals.

Israel is winning battles, Hamas is winning the war - analysis


As Israel battles its way through one of the most intense conflicts the country has experienced in recent years, the IDF is pushing how strongly it is striking Gaza and how far it’s setting Hamas back in Operation “Guardians of the Walls.” But while the IDF is standing strong against Hamas, the country is being torn apart by a war from within.

Despite terrorizing residents of southern Israel, as well as those in the center of the country, Hamas has always been perceived as the underdog. As much as it can disrupt daily life in the Jewish state, Israel has always been able to force Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad into a ceasefire, buying a few months or a few years of relative quiet.

But in this round, no matter how many terrorists or facilities are hit in Gaza, Hamas appeared for the first six days to have the upper hand, sparking chaos on all fronts. It managed to shift the battlefield from the areas within its rocket range to the entire country, with riots shaking all corners of Israel.

This round of fighting seems to have its base in unrest in Jerusalem, with Hamas stressing that it fired a barrage of rockets towards Jerusalem due to planned evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem and Israeli measures surrounding al-Aqsa.

Israel Faces Rockets from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria as Conflict Threatens to Spread


Amid an ongoing barrage of rockets from Gaza, where the Israel Defense Forces are engaged in an escalating military campaign against Palestinian factions, Israel has also faced rocket fire from Lebanon and most recently Syria, as a raging Middle East conflict threatens to spread across the region.

"A short while ago, three rockets were fired from Syria into Israeli territory, one of which failed and fell in Syrian territory," the IDF said Friday in a statement sent to Newsweek. "As a result, an alert was activated in open areas only."

The attacking force has yet to be identified, though some self-styled resistance groups, including at least one hailing from Iraq, have claimed responsibility via social media.

The development comes just a day after the IDF reported three rockets fired from Lebanese territory into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Galilee. A Lebanese official told Newsweek at the time that those rockets likely originated from a Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidieh, where the Lebanese Armed Forces later discovered three rockets.

Shortly after that incident, Newsweek reached out to Syria's permanent mission to the United Nations on Thursday asking if a rocket strike may be expected from Syria as well, but has not yet received a response.

Bringing Assistance to Israel in Line With Rights and U.S. Laws


After many years of increasing U.S. military aid to Israel, members of Congress are beginning to debate the wisdom and morality of writing a blank check for weapons—some of which are used against Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in violation of U.S. laws.

A recent exchange between legislators shows the evolving debate. Congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced a bill on April 15—currently co-sponsored by seventeen representatives—to ensure that U.S. funding is not used for Israel’s ill-treatment of Palestinian children in its military judicial system, forced displacement of Palestinians through home demolitions and evictions, and illegal annexations of Palestinian land. In response, Congressman Ted Deutch produced a letter on April 22, signed by more than 300 representatives, arguing against “reducing funding or adding conditions on security assistance”—which essentially means disregarding Israel’s egregious policies and violations of existing U.S. laws aimed at protecting human rights. The fact that a bill restricting aid to Israel drew seventeen sponsors to date and a letter defending that aid was signed by three-quarters of members—as opposed to all of them—shows that the debate is slowly shifting.

Meanwhile, the emerging policies of President Joe Biden’s administration reflect an uncomfortable paradox. The interim national security strategy calls for the United States to defend and protect human rights in its foreign policy and to lead in restoring multilateralism and rules in the international system. The word “values” appears twenty-five times in the twenty-three-page document. However, the strategy also pledges to maintain an ironclad commitment to Israel’s military aid—despite the apparent contradiction with declared U.S. policy objectives, such as a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and the continuing de facto annexation of the West Bank, home demolitions, evictions, and destruction of entire Palestinian neighborhoods and communities.

Battle between Israel and Hamas is an unwelcome surprise for Biden

by Aaron David Miller and Daniel Kurtzer

Aaron David Miller is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of "The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President." Miller was a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations. Daniel Kurtzer, former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel, is a professor at Princeton University and co-author of "The Peace Puzzle: America's Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, 1989-2011." The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own; view more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN)Faced with the greatest challenge of national recovery since former President Franklin Roosevelt, President Joe Biden has made his top priority fixing America's broken home. He has subsequently chosen his foreign policy priorities carefully -- Iran, China and climate.

It is doubtful whether the current crisis in Jerusalem -- which has now grown into a larger battle between Israel and Hamas -- will impel the Biden administration to launch a full-throated effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, at a minimum, it should compel the administration to do everything it can to defuse this dimension of the crisis.

Why Japan’s plan for Fukushima wastewater lacks public trust

By Tatsujiro Suzuki 

Fukushima Sea Water Sampling-3. The damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station as seen during a sea-water sampling boat journey, 7 November 2013. IAEA marine monitoring experts were sent to Japan to observe sea water sampling and data analysis. Photo accessed by Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

On April 13, the Japanese government announced it would release treated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the open sea. This decision has generated severe criticism and questions both inside and outside of Japan. What is treated water? Is it safe? Is there a bigger problem—beyond plans for the treated water? How should the government and the public proceed from here? The main problem is a lack of trust among stakeholders. Restoring public trust is vital.

What is treated water, and is it safe to release into the sea? At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site, where a nuclear accident took place 10 years ago, melted fuel debris is still being cooled by circulating water. Even today, this process generates about 140 tons of contaminated water every day as underground water and rain flow into the reactor buildings. This contaminated water contains large amounts of radioactive material, including cesium, strontium, iodine, and other substances, which are removed by a purification process known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System. The Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) say that this system removes most of the radioactive materials to below regulatory standards but that it cannot remove tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen. The government plan is to dilute the water so that the concentration of tritium will be far below—only 2.5 percent of—the regulatory standard for tritium wastewater. (The concentration of tritium in the diluted water will not exceed 1,500 Becquerel per liter, whereas the regulatory standard is 60,000.) After treating the water, they plan to release it to the sea.

In Wake Of Pipeline Hack, Biden Signs Executive Order On Cybersecurity


President Biden alluded to the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack in his new executive order. Here, storage tanks at a Colonial Pipeline facility are seen Wednesday in Avenel, N.J.Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday boosting America's cyberdefenses following a ransomware attack on a company that operates a pipeline that provides nearly half of the gasoline and jet fuel for the country's East Coast.

The broad order, which the administration had been working on for months, aims to strengthen cybersecurity for federal networks and outline new security standards for commercial software used by both business and the public.

"Recent cybersecurity incidents such as SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange, and the Colonial Pipeline incident are a sobering reminder that U.S. public and private sector entities increasingly face sophisticated malicious cyber activity from both nation-state actors and cyber criminals," the White House fact sheet says.

Why the SolarWinds Hack Is a Wake-Up Call

Robert K. Knake

The SolarWinds hacking campaign—one of the most extensive to date—exposed fundamental cybersecurity vulnerabilities within U.S. government agencies and the private sector. The campaign, which investigators suspect Russia is behind, is far from over. Here is a rundown of what has happened, what could be coming, and how to improve defenses against this type of cyber threat in the future.

The U.S. cybersecurity firm FireEye announced last December that an unidentified, highly sophisticated adversary—known as an advanced persistent threat (APT) actor—had compromised its network and stolen advanced tools to test the security of clients’ networks. In the cybersecurity community, APT is shorthand for the most capable actors, typically government agencies or criminal groups that are under the control of governments. FireEye said the actor gained access to its systems by hiding malicious software, or malware, in an update to network management software made by SolarWinds, a Texas-based company.

The hacking campaign is believed to have started in February 2020, though some analysis has traced it back to as early as October 2019.

How many organizations have been affected?

The COVID-19 vaccines are here: What comes next?

Now the focus is likely to shift to how quickly and successfully vaccines can be distributed, an effort that will be the largest simultaneous global public-health initiative ever undertaken. The scale of the challenge is immense: from the sheer volume of doses needed to planning for uncertainties around the vaccines’ safety, efficacy, and durability—and from logistical and storage challenges to the service-delivery model. Governments will likely be expected to mount communication and education campaigns to address the concerns that consumers have about vaccine safety. In particular, without proactive planning, underserved populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19—including ethnic, minority, and socioeconomically deprived groups, as well as rural populations—may face disparities in vaccine adoption.

Citizens will look to national and regional governments for a delivery plan. As vaccine availability nears, communities and consumers will want answers to many questions, including:

Is the vaccine effective and safe?
Who will get vaccinated first?
Which vaccine will we receive, especially if multiple vaccines are available?
Where and when can we get vaccinated?
Will we have to pay?
Above all, what do we need to worry about?

Pipeline Attack Yields Urgent Lessons About U.S. Cybersecurity

By David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth

For years, government officials and industry executives have run elaborate simulations of a targeted cyberattack on the power grid or gas pipelines in the United States, imagining how the country would respond.

But when the real, this-is-not-a-drill moment arrived, it didn’t look anything like the war games.

The attacker was not a terror group or a hostile state like Russia, China or Iran, as had been assumed in the simulations. It was a criminal extortion ring. The goal was not to disrupt the economy by taking a pipeline offline but to hold corporate data for ransom.

The most visible effects — long lines of nervous motorists at gas stations — stemmed not from a government response but from a decision by the victim, Colonial Pipeline, which controls nearly half the gasoline, jet fuel and diesel flowing along the East Coast, to turn off the spigot. It did so out of concern that the malware that had infected its back-office functions could make it difficult to bill for fuel delivered along the pipeline or even spread into the pipeline’s operating system.

What happened next was a vivid example of the difference between tabletop simulations and the cascade of consequences that can follow even a relatively unsophisticated attack. The aftereffects of the episode are still playing out, but some of the lessons are already clear, and demonstrate how far the government and private industry have to go in preventing and dealing with cyberattacks and in creating rapid backup systems for when critical infrastructure goes down.

Reckoning With the Pandemic’s Second-Order Impacts

Jeremy Youde 

Can the international community pay attention to multiple health crises at the same time? The coronavirus pandemic is putting this question to the test, and the experience of the past year suggests that the answer is a qualified no. If that is indeed the case, it means that the world will likely be living with the after-effects of COVID-19 for years to come. At the same time, the pandemic has spurred some changes in the world of public health that may create additional chances for improving access to health care in the long term.

COVID-19 itself has already had devastating consequences for the global community. In a little more than a year, this previously unknown disease has infected more than 140 million people in every country in the world. (The North Korean government claims that it has had no cases of the disease, but few give that assertion any credence.) It has killed more than 3 million people, caused widespread economic devastation and stressed health care systems to their limits around the world. ...

These are the lessons of the US Colonial oil pipeline cyber attack

The US energy business should have learnt to be wary of the power of the DarkSide. After numerous warnings, it suffered its most disruptive cyber attack two Fridays ago when the Colonial oil pipeline was shut down after a ransomware attack, suspected to be from this gang. Cyber security needs to be improved but that alone is not enough: the energy industry needs broader resilience to such threats.

The pipeline brings refined oil products – petrol, diesel, heating oil and jet fuel – from the Texas refining complex to meet 45 per cent of consumption on the US East Coast, ultimately supplying New Jersey, New York and other states.

Hackers exfiltrated 100 gigabytes of data and then demanded payment to unencrypt the company’s files. Colonial’s operational systems were not affected but it shut down pipeline flows – either to prevent further dissemination or, as it now appears, because it could not bill customers. A $5 million ransom was paid to the hackers, according to Bloomberg.

The best defense? An alternative to all-out war or nothing


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is advocating an approach to national security that he calls integrated deterrence. It is designed to employ the full range of American capabilities, used either punitively or preventively, to persuade potential aggressors not to attack the United States or its core overseas interests.

Having argued for a similar concept — which I call indirect or asymmetric defense in a new book, “The Art of War in an Age of Peace: U.S. Grand Strategy and Resolute Restraint” (with equal emphasis on resoluteness and restraint) — I agree with Secretary Austin. The framework he advocates merits greater discussion and elucidation — and, most of all, action, especially in the non-military realms of national security policy.

Part of why the concept of integrated deterrence — including economic instruments of multiple types, as well as cyber, informational and diplomatic capabilities — is so important is this: A classic military invasion or large-scale attack by Russia or China seems far less likely than smaller, more limited and possibly "gray-area" aggression. We need credible responses where the punishment fits the crime, rather than imagining that the world’s greatest military would come quickly to the rescue by, for example, sinking China’s 350-ship navy in the opening days of battle over islands in the western Pacific, as some have implied we might do. And we need to worry about actions that might fall short of direct assaults on American treaty allies, such as a Chinese attack on Taiwan or an expanded Russian attack on Ukraine, that nonetheless would be unconscionable and impossible to ignore.

Africa Is a Continent of Contradictions

It makes sense that a continent that is home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people would also house a mass of contradictory developments. Africa features several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a burgeoning middle class. But much of the continent remains mired in debt, wracked by conflict, disease or terrorism, and plagued by elites clinging to power. Now, although the human cost of the coronavirus pandemic has so far been less catastrophic than many feared, its economic impact could undo much of the continent’s growth over the past two decades.

Even during the years when economies across Africa expanded, many people were driven to migrate—either within Africa or to Europe and even South America—because of humanitarian catastrophes or because economic opportunities were not coming fast enough for everyone. Those who remained behind at times succeeded in disrupting the status quo. Civilian-led reform movements toppled regimes in Algeria and Sudan in 2019, and recent examples of independent courts overturning fraudulent elections—as well as other signs of democratic institutions taking hold in previously corrupt or authoritarian states—offered hope for the health of democracy in Africa. Yet, a rash of recent elections marred by fraud and violence, including several involving incumbents seeking constitutionally dubious third terms, confirms that the phenomenon of long-ruling authoritarian leaders—known as “presidents for life”—remains a problem.

Why the U.S. Needs a Space Czar


When the idea of a Space Czar was mooted in 1960, NASA’s first administrator T. Keith Glennan retorted to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics that the White House was perfectly capable of coordinating the only two relevant federal agencies: NASA and the Department of Defense. But today, far more U.S. bureaucratic actors have interests and responsibilities in space policy. The challenges of our era — the accelerating privatization, commercialization, and militarization of space — require better coordination not only across the U.S. government, but between America and the world.

Retaining the White House’s National Space Council is an important step, but we can increase its Executive Secretary’s bureaucratic and diplomatic clout to make it more effective. A small change and a smart appointment can help. It’s time for a Space Czar.

We’re not the only ones who think so. Aerospace Corporation President and CEO Steve Isakowitz recently argued that the U.S. needs to implement the “whole of government” approach outlined in the National Space Strategy and establish “a national approach to space safety with clear lanes of authority,” because “responsibility remains fuzzy on emerging regulatory issues.” Other recent reports on U.S. space strategy similarly argue for a national “North Star vision” for space.

Striking a deal to strengthen broadband access for all

Tom Wheeler

President Biden told the joint session of Congress he was asking Vice President Harris to take the lead on the broadband component of his infrastructure plan, “because I know it will get done.” The headlines emphasized the statement, “I am asking the vice president to lead this effort.” They called attention to how placing a high-profile figure such as the vice president in charge of closing the digital divide signals the issue’s high priority.

To the readers of political tea leaves, however, there are other signals in this announcement. Why, for instance, does the $100 billion broadband proposal require special effort when other large expenditures such as $174 billion for electric vehicles, or the $213 billion for affordable housing, or the $100 billion for clean energy do not need such a Sherpa? The answer is in the statement’s rationale: “I know it will get done.” Thus deputized, the vice president has an open door to make whatever changes might be necessary to the original proposal to produce results instead of rhetoric.

President Biden has made it explicit that he is “prepared to compromise” when it comes to the specifics of his infrastructure proposal, aka the American Jobs Plan. A group of Republican senators have proposed an alternative $65 billion plan to connect unserved areas rather than the Biden $80 billion proposal for rural deployment and $20 billion for other support programs, including the Emergency Broadband Benefit for low-income Americans. A deal is within reach. The vice president—who as a senator proposed her own broadband program—can bring it about.

Three Myths About the Laws of War and the Israel-Hamas Conflict

Charli Carpenter

After 11 days of rocket fire and air strikes, a tenuous cease-fire has brought to a close, at least for now, the latest outbreak of violence between the Israeli government and the armed group Hamas in Gaza. As in previous rounds of fighting between them, narratives about which side was to blame and whether either or both were committing war crimes were rampant in media coverage, social media debates and commentary on the conflict.

These narratives included a number of misconceptions about or mischaracterizations of the nature of the conflict as well as of belligerents’ obligations under international law more generally. Three in particular warrant closer examination because of how common and widely shared they have become.

Unconventional Supply Network Operations: A New Frontier in Global Competition

by Daniel Egel and Jan K. Gleiman

Supply chains have long been recognized as a key component in global competition. In warfare, commanders have always faced the challenge of defending their own supply lines or finding ways to attack the enemy's, illustrated vividly in the fight for natural resources like oil and rubber during World War II. Protecting both economic and military supply chains has also been a critical U.S. objective during peacetime.

President Biden's “Executive Order on America's Supply Chains”—issued on February 24, 2021—highlights the continuing importance of supply chains in competition in the 21st century. In large part, this focus reflects the growing importance of cyber and the resulting “supply chain wars” between the United States and China.

But the potential exploitation of supply chains for offensive U.S. operations has been much less discussed. Indeed, in sharp contrast to the multitude of discussions focused on the potential use of offensive cyber operations by the United States, systematic discussions on how to organize the United States to exploit fissures in modern supply chains in pursuit of U.S. objectives have not occurred.

How the Military Might Expand Its Cyber Skills

by James Ryseff

As software has become an ever more integral part of life, national security experts have come to recognize that the U.S. military will need to improve its software fluency if it wants to remain dominant on the battlefields of the future. Already, one of the first priorities of the Biden administration has been to enhance its efforts to attract cyber, technology, and STEM knowledge into the national security workforce so it is prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. Yet merely attracting additional civilian technical experts may not be enough.

As history has demonstrated, military innovation during peacetime is most successful when senior military officers who have earned the respect of their peers recognize the potential for a major disruption in the way war is fought. In the past, these senior personnel have established new promotion pathways to cultivate younger officers more fluent in these new technologies, enabling them to fill roles critical to the evolution of novel weapon systems and military doctrines that depend upon the fresh advancements. Without this, innovators have struggled to be promoted over other officers who remain tied to the established way of doing things, and they have quickly left military service for alternative careers where their talents were better appreciated. If the U.S. military is to succeed at leveraging the full power of the cyber domain, it could strive to avoid this fate.

Applying a Framework to Assess Deterrence of Gray Zone Aggression

by Michael J. Mazarr, Joe Cheravitch, Jeffrey W. Hornung, Stephanie Pezard

In an era of rising global competition, U.S. challengers and rivals are increasingly looking to achieve competitive advantage through gray zone activities — that is, acts of aggression that remain below the threshold of outright warfare. In this report, RAND researchers identify eight common characteristics of such aggression (e.g., unfolds gradually, is not attributable) and develop a framework for assessing the health of U.S. and partner deterrence in the gray zone. They apply the framework to three cases: China's aggression against the Senkaku Islands, Russia's aggression against the Baltic states, and North Korea's aggression against South Korea. The authors conclude that U.S. and partner deterrence of gray zone activities is in a reasonably strong, though mixed, condition in each of these three contexts. Finally, the authors outline the implications of their findings for the U.S. Army. Among these implications are that maintaining a local presence and posture plays an important role in conveying likely responses to aggression, and clear statements of shared intent to respond to specific actions are critical.

Key Findings

Deterring gray zone aggression is more difficult than deterring interstate aggression is
The authors identified eight core characteristics that determine when an activity qualifies as gray zone aggression. Although not all characteristics will always be true in a given case, gray zone aggression typically falls below the threshold for military response, unfolds gradually, is not attributable, uses legal and political justifications, threatens only secondary national interests, has state sponsorship, uses mostly nonmilitary tools, and exploits weaknesses and vulnerabilities in targeted countries and societies.

Cyberspace Is Neither Just an Intelligence Contest, nor a Domain of Military Conflict; SolarWinds Shows Us Why It’s Both

By Erica D. Borghard 

Operations in cyberspace—at least those perpetrated by nation-state actors and their proxies—reflect the geopolitical calculations of the actors who carry them out. Strategic interactions between rivals in cyberspace have been argued by some, like Joshua Rovner or Jon Lindsay, to reflect an intelligence contest. Others, like Jason Healey and Robert Jervis, have suggested that cyberspace is largely a domain of warfare or conflict. The contours of this debate as applied to the SolarWinds campaign have been outlined recently—Melissa Griffith shows how cyberspace is sometimes an intelligence contest, and other times a domain of conflict, depending on the strategic approaches and priorities of particular actors at a given moment in time.

Therefore, rather than focusing on the binary issue of whether a warfare versus intelligence framework is more applicable to cyberspace, the fact that activity in cyberspace takes on both of these characteristics at different times raises interesting questions about how these dimensions relate to one another at the operational level. How does maneuvering in cyberspace for intelligence purposes impact military cyberspace operations, and vice versa? When are these actions not mutually exclusive? Typically, operational considerations of intelligence and military action are discussed in the context of intelligence gain-loss calculations—that is, the trade-offs between prioritizing intelligence versus military objectives. But this framing plays into the overall dichotomy that pervades the discourse. Certainly, in some contexts there are compromises and zero-sum choices between intelligence and military operations—where, for instance, the decision to conduct an offensive cyber operation might jeopardize valuable access to a network that is used for intelligence purposes. However, less explored is how military operations shape and are shaped by intelligence considerations for mutual opportunities.

The TSA Should Regulate Pipeline Cybersecurity

by Robert K. Knake

Fuel deliveries to the east coast of the United States have been brought to a standstill by cybercriminals that have gained access to Colonial Pipelines’ networks and forced the company to shut down its distribution system. This attack comes on top of a ransomware attack on natural gas infrastructure last year and an explicit warning [PDF] from the Director of National Intelligence in 2019 that China had the ability to disrupt our pipeline infrastructure.

As I have argued before, after two decades of trying to make a voluntary partnership with industry work, this incident demonstrates that neither thoughts, prayers, nor information sharing is sufficient. It is time for the federal government to exercise its existing authority to regulate the cybersecurity of pipelines.

Under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 that created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and a 2007 law that implemented aspects of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations, the TSA already has the authority necessary to regulate [PDF] pipeline cybersecurity. Yet for twenty years the agency has chosen to take a voluntary approach despite ample evidence that market forces alone are insufficient.

We need to leave the firewall in the ’90s

Marc Lueck

The firewall is one of the most well-known pieces of cyber security technology. Even a layperson will have a basic understanding of a firewall, and this is in part due to its prominence in Hollywood films. Whenever a movie hacker needs to breach a mainframe, they’re often confronted with a firewall, which they’ll quickly circumvent with some furious keyboard tapping.

In this case, it seems that life imitates art, and the first mention of a firewall in the cyber security context actually appeared in a film; 1983’s War Games. It took almost a decade for this term to make it into the common lexicon of the cyber security professional. Throughout the ’80s, and into the ’90s, technologists such as Jeff Mogul, Steve Bellovin and Bill Cheswick, Marcus Ranum and Nir Zuk pushed the technology forward. By the mid-’90s, it was normal for companies to connect to the Internet, and the threat landscape was getting worse. The firewall became a hugely popular, and essential technology in enterprise.

The firewall made perfect sense at the time, as the bare-bones ’90s internet, with server numbers in just the hundreds (compared to the tens of millions today), was a simpler place, and the threats were more straightforward. There were hackers, but they were mostly solo artists, unlike the global, nation-state backed groups we face today, and the firewall was the perfect solution to filtering out bad traffic from the good. The network was safe, the internet was not, and the firewall kept those external dangers where they were.