4 June 2021

Water Security as Part of Non-Traditional Security: Threat - Implications for India

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Like oil or data, water is an integral part of the world’s economy. Although about 71 per cent of the earth’s surface is water-covered, the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water which is salt water. Freshwater, most of it is frozen in glaciers, accounts for the rest. That leaves less than 1 per cent of the world’s water available to support human and ecological processes. We withdraw 4.3 trillion cubic meters of freshwater every year from the earth’s water basins. We use it in agriculture, which accounts for 70 per cent of the withdrawals. Industry and households consume 19 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively. However, these percentages fluctuate widely across the globe. In the United States, industrial and agricultural usage is almost the same around 40 per cent. In India, agriculture uses 90 per cent of water withdrawals, while only 2 per cent is consumed by industry. Over the past century, rate of withdrawal of available freshwater resources have risen almost six times, outpacing global population growth.

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..... 

Issue Paper: Economic Implications of WhatsApp’s Lawsuit against the Government of India


Executive Summary
India’s new Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules (IT rules, 2021) enforced a requirement on platforms that provide messaging services to trace the “first originator” of unlawful content. This presents fundamental difficulties for encrypted platforms. Challenging this requirement, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the Government of India in Delhi High Court on 26th May 2021.

In this document, we attempt to assess the likely implications of the lawsuit on the instant messaging market in India. In our assessment:

1. If the court rules in favour of WhatsApp, the status quo is likely to be maintained, with a possibility of WhatsApp further consolidating the market.

2. If the court rules against WhatsApp, WhatsApp can either choose to comply and remain in India or leave. If it complies, it is likely to remain the dominant player. Platforms that are end-to-end encrypted, meanwhile, might be blocked if they are unwilling to comply.

3. If WhatsApp leaves, at first, there would be a void in the market. Until there is a standardised platform of communication, there could be a fall in consumer surplus.

4. The traceability requirement might not serve the intended public interest benefit.

A Month Into the US Withdrawal From Afghanistan

By Ezzatullah Mehrdad

May 2021 gave an early taste of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The United States remained concerned over emerging threats from the country, the Taliban encroached on many provincial centers, and peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban increasingly become an aspirational objective rather than a reality.

After 10 years of waging war against the Taliban, and another 10 years of vows to withdraw from Afghanistan, the United States under President Joe Biden finally set September 11, 2021 as a deadline for a full troop exit from the country. U.S. military generals are rushing to not only meet the deadline, but complete the withdrawal as early as mid-July.

U.S. troops have, in large, left the southern provinces of Afghanistan — the Taliban’s heartland. Troops remain at Bagram air base, from which they’ll will pack their final bags. On their way out, U.S. forces are smashing a portion of their equipment, putting some equipment in boxes to ship out, and handing another portion over to Afghan forces.

The Quad in the Indo-Pacific: What to Know

By Sheila A. Smith

The Quad, composed of the United States, Australia, India, and Japan, is not a formal alliance. Still, the group has intensified its security and economic ties as tensions with China rise.

What does the Quad do?

The Quad, officially the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is a group of four countries: the United States, Australia, India, and Japan. Maritime cooperation among them began after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. But today the countries—all democracies and vibrant economies—work on a far broader agenda, which includes tackling security, economic, and health issues.

Over the years, the Quad’s diplomacy has waxed and waned. It is a loose grouping rather than a formal alliance. Japan initially emphasized the democratic identity of the four nations, whereas India seemed more comfortable emphasizing functional cooperation. Australian leaders have been reluctant about creating the impression that the group is a formal alliance.

Wolf Warriors Killed China’s Grand Strategy

By Sulmaan Wasif Khan

Sometime in 2020, China came unmoored from its grand strategy. Until then, Beijing’s diplomatic, military, and economic efforts were all directed toward national security. Learned observers could quibble about whether Beijing saw security as inseparable from hegemony; they could debate how productive China’s policies were. But the consistency of purpose underpinning China’s behavior was hard to miss.

Of late, however, China has lost that purposefulness—one of the hallmarks of grand strategy. The predominant feature of Chinese conduct today is not grand strategy but a belligerent, defensive nationalism that lashes out without heed of consequences. Just why that breakdown has occurred is uncertain, but it is clear that the change has put both China and the world in jeopardy. China risks undoing all it has gained—at considerable cost—since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power. And the rest of the world, particularly the United States, finds itself confronted not with the hard task of managing a rising, reasonably predictable power but the infinitely harder job of managing a flailing one.

Identity Politics With Chinese Characteristics

By Odd Arne Westad

What is China? The answer is less obvious than it seems. Is the vast territory primarily a country, a civilization, or a political construct? Is it an empire or a nation-state? Is it a region with different languages and cultures or a (mostly) homogeneous people in which the great majority are closely connected by common traditions and ancestors?

For most of the past two millennia, the area known today as China was the center of empires. Some of those empires were large, extending into Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, and the northern Pacific. Others were smaller, containing only parts of present-day China. At times, the area was made up of a number of small states competing for influence, in patterns not unlike what existed in Europe after the fall of Rome. But, in general, empire has been the rule rather than the exception.

That today’s China descends from empires makes it harder to define what is “inside” and what is “outside” the country, as the Chinese like to put it. Much of the territory of today’s People’s Republic of China was acquired through conquest over a long period of time by one or another of these empires, from the Han dynasty’s expansion into what is today southern China around 2,000 years ago to the Great Qing dynasty’s conquest of Tibet and Xinjiang little more than 200 years ago. Just as in other states that persist over a long period of time, incorporation and integration lead to coherence and identification. Most people in the southern province of Guangdong now regard themselves as Chinese; those with roots in Tibet and Xinjiang are less likely to do so. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), however, defines them all as its citizens.

China’s Inconvenient Truth

Elizabeth Economy

Xi Jinping is in a race against time. The glow of China’s early economic rebound and containment of COVID-19 is fading. The international media have moved on to celebrate vaccine efficacy and vaccination rates elsewhere, and other economies have started posting solid growth rates. Yet President Xi continues to advance a narrative of Chinese exceptionalism and superiority. “The East is rising and the West is declining,” he trumpeted in a speech last year. Senior Chinese officials and analysts have adopted and amplified Xi’s message, pointing out the relative decline in Europe’s and Japan’s shares of the global economy and stressing the United States’ racial and political polarization. Former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei has asserted starkly that the United States will “find that its strength increasingly falls short of its ambitions, both domestically and internationally. . . . This is the grand trend of history. . . . The global balance of power and world order will continue to tilt in favor of China, and China’s development will become unstoppable.”

But behind such triumphalist rhetoric lurks an inconvenient truth: China’s own society is fracturing in complex and challenging ways. Discrimination based on gender and ethnicity is rampant, reinforced by increasingly nationalistic and hate-filled online rhetoric. The creative class is at loggerheads with petty bureaucrats. And severe rural-urban inequality persists. These divides prevent the full participation of important sectors of society in China’s intellectual and political life and, if left unaddressed, have the potential to sap the country’s economic vitality. As Xi seeks to bolster indigenous innovation and domestic consumption, his success depends on the intellectual and economic support of the very constituencies his policies are disenfranchising. And as he promotes the “China model” as worthy of emulation, these same divides dim China’s appeal and undermine China’s influence. Unless Xi moves quickly to heal the rifts, his Chinese dream of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” will remain just that.


China: Still the world’s growth engine after COVID-19

By Felix Poh and Daniel Zipser

Consumers, one of the key drivers powering China’s economic rebound, have regained confidence and are spending at levels seen before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early January, our main concern was choosing where to go with our families to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Then, just a few days before the holiday began, the announcement of a lockdown in Wuhan threw all our plans into disarray. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it literally overnight. Measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus drastically altered the way consumers behaved and how companies ran their operations. Everyone from frontline staff to executives were impacted by a temporary ban on travel, the move to remote working, and the impossibility of entertainment or excursions outside home. Even though China’s recovery is now gaining momentum, all of us are grappling with a new environment in which digital tools and innovation have proved indispensable.

At McKinsey, we redoubled our efforts to help clients and colleagues in China to maneuver through the crisis. We also worked hard to share crucial lessons with other parts of the world, connecting the dots on best practice on reopening businesses while keeping workers and consumers safe. Meanwhile, we conducted extensive research over the course of the past few months to help China-focused consumer and retail companies to emerge from the pandemic in a position of strength. Drawing on proprietary insights, we investigated how consumer behavior shifted and will continue to shift during and post-COVID-19, how consumer and retail companies are responding, and how China is faring versus other markets. We collaborated with Oxford Economics to project macro-economic recovery curves; conducted monthly polls of executive opinion on likely recovery scenarios; tapped into research by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) on long-term trends; took our weekly “pulse” surveys, which were conducted multiple times to assess consumer sentiment in China and 44 other countries worldwide; and executed an in-depth analysis of over 100 million points-of-sale data on purchase behavior before, during, and after the COVID-19 crisis.

China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Capability in the South China Sea

In August 2020, China fired what were reported to be anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) into the South China Sea. The missile firings were the second time that China launched such missiles into the disputed waters. The first occurred in June 2019, when China fired six ASBMs into the area. Whether the two missile firings were launched against mobile targets or predetermined ones at sea is unclear, but it is likely that the ASBMs involved were DF-21D medium-range or DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles. And since China normally conducts its missile tests in the Bohai Sea and the fact that U.S. naval forces operated in South China Sea during the weeks prior to the missile firings, China probably conducted them to not only test its ASBM capabilities, but also to deter what it considers American meddling in its waters.

Nonetheless, missile launches alone, however successful, do not mean that China can reliably hit ships at sea with ASBMs. That is because missiles and the warheads atop them are only part of a larger kill chain. Just as a rifle and bullet need a reliable human eye to hit the intended target, China’s ASBMs and their warheads need reliable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to hit intended targets at sea. Creating such an ISR capability is not easy. But China has been steadily assembling the components needed to develop it in the South China Sea.

The Targeting Problem

How China Seized the Initiative on Blockchain and Digital Currency

Global information networks are undergoing unprecedented innovation, driven in large part by the emergence of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and 5G. Unfortunately for the United States, two other critical, but underappreciated, components of tomorrow’s internet—blockchain and digital currency—are at risk of being controlled largely outside of the West’s influence. Over the past year, the People’s Republic of China has positioned itself to become the global leader in these closely intertwined, linchpin technologies that will be fundamental to tomorrow’s financial and information infrastructures.

Since late 2019, Beijing’s senior leadership has promoted the advancement of blockchain and digital currency in China, and the government has been moving aggressively to make its vision a reality. In October 2019, a call by General Secretary Xi Jinping for intensified blockchain research triggered a 30% surge in the price of bitcoin, which is based on blockchain technology’s original concept.

Several months later, the Chinese government launched two major initiatives: the Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) and the digital yuan. The BSN will, in part, support the global adoption and distribution of the digital yuan, and together, they could centralize financial network infrastructures within China’s technological ecosystem. U.S. soft power has long benefitted from its dominance of the world’s financial and technological infrastructure, and a successful BSN could threaten U.S. dominance in these areas.
China’s Blockchain Internet

The BSN is an effort to create a “global infrastructure network” of blockchains—essentially a blockchain internet available to anyone in the world, thereby catalyzing the innovation and development of the technology using Chinese infrastructure. The BSN’s stated goal “is to lower the cost barrier of blockchain technologies to anyone” enabling “blockchains with millions of dapps, all deployed, managed, and interoperable on the BSN.” (“Dapps” are decentralized apps that run on blockchain.)

Israel fears Hamas, Hezbollah coordinating attacks

Ben Caspit

The IDF worries about the simultaneous speeches this week of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas Gaza commander Yahya Sinwar, as both groups could launch simultaneous and coordinated attacks against Israel

Israeli media described the two-hour address delivered May 25 by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as the “coughing speech.” Right after the televised speech, Israel’s Military Intelligence issued an assessment that Nasrallah, who had not been seen in public for weeks, appears to have contracted the coronavirus but refuses to take a test. Nasrallah, who appeared thin and pale, obviously had trouble breathing as he coughed his way through the speech, and his medical condition overshadowed its more interesting contents.

In fact, two speeches delivered at almost the same time — one in Beirut and one in the Gaza Strip, one by the head of a Sunni terrorist organization (Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar) and the other by a Shiite one (Hezbollah’s Nasrallah) — conveyed the same message to Israel. Both warned that Israel risks war if it tries to change the status quo in Jerusalem, if it takes any unilateral steps at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Nasrallah even described this future conflagration as a “regional war.”

“Everyone is focusing on his cough,” a former senior Israeli intelligence source told Al-Monitor this week on condition of anonymity. “They are missing the point. Even if he has the coronavirus, he will most likely recover. Maybe spending 15 years in airless bunkers has also affected his breathing. Either way, in my estimation he will live to cough for many years.” According to the source, the main takeaway from the speech is Nasrallah’s message and the fact that it appeared almost coordinated with Sinwar’s appearances in Gaza this week.

The “Other Side’s” Unmanned Systems: After Operation Guardian of the Walls

In the course of the recent campaign in Gaza, a number of UAVs were launched toward Israel, as was an unmanned underwater vessel. The IDF met the threat of the unmanned systems successfully, but it must now prepare for the next stage: the day when swarms of unmanned aircraft will be launched at Israel, including systems far more advanced than those now operated by Hamas. What are the lessons of the recent campaign and of related developments in the Middle East, and how should Israel prepare for this future threat?

Along with the heavy rocket barrages launched against Israel during Operation Guardian of the Walls, there were a number of attempts by Hamas to attack Israel with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), mostly loaded with explosives. According to Hamas, their purpose is to attack IDF forces, Israeli towns and villages, and the gas installations at sea. These attempts were foiled by the IDF or suffered technical failures. In addition, Hamas attempted to operate unmanned submarines against marine targets. These efforts were also foiled by the IDF with attacks on launchers and ground operatives, attempting to launch unmanned aircraft. Given the growing use of unmanned weapons by the “other side,” it is important to study these efforts and understand how they were defeated, while also monitoring trends in this realm in order to assist future preparations.

Israel Moves Toward Coalition Deal That Could Sideline Netanyahu

By Patrick Kingsley

JERUSALEM — The longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, Benjamin Netanyahu, faced the most potent threat yet to his grip on power Sunday after an ultranationalist power-broker, Naftali Bennett, said his party would work with opposition leaders to build an alternative government to force Mr. Netanyahu from office.

If the maneuvering leads to a formal coalition agreement, it would be an uneasy alliance between eight relatively small parties with a diffuse range of ideologies. The prime minister’s post would rotate between two unlikely partners: Mr. Bennett, a former settler leader who rejects the concept of a sovereign Palestinian state and champions the religious right — and Yair Lapid, a former television host who is considered a voice of secular centrists.

“I will work with all my power to form a national unity government together with my friend Yair Lapid,” Mr. Bennett said in a speech Sunday night.

He added, “If we succeed, we will be doing something huge for the state of Israel.”

Mr. Bennett’s announcement came shortly after an armed conflict with Palestinians in Gaza that many thought had improved Mr. Netanyahu’s chances of hanging on to his post.

Turkey Undermines NATO, Yet Again

By Aykan Erdemir

Turkey has once again signaled who it considers to be among its true friends. The country has reportedly used its veto power as a member of NATO to water down an official condemnation of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

The condemnation sprang from Lukashenko’s forcing down of a passenger plane, in order to arrest Roman Protasevich, a dissident journalist on board.

Alas, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s move to protect Russia’s Belarusian ally is only the latest case of collusion between Ankara and Moscow to undermine NATO.
EU response

Lukashenko’s ploy to arrest Protasevich has drawn vocal criticism worldwide. The European Union has decided to introduce sanctions in response.

On the day of the incident, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted that the development was a “serious, dangerous incident which requires international investigation.” He called on Belarus to ensure the safe return of the crew and all passengers.

Jordan and Israel: Missing Opportunities to Build a Better Environment

Oded Eran

Jordan’s perennial water plight is one of the central reasons for the kingdom’s economic weakness and its dependence on external suppliers. It is perhaps symbolic that the water issue appears in the peace treaty with Israel (Article 6) before the question of Jordan’s status in East Jerusalem (Article 9). Since the treaty was signed in 1994, Jordan’s situation in this critical area has only worsened, due to an influx of two waves of refugees, from Iraq (over 300,000) following the US invasion in 2003, and due to the Arab Spring in the previous decade, which brought over a million Syrian refugees into its territory. It is very doubtful whether these two migrant populations will ever return to their countries of origin.

The demographic changes that were imposed on Jordan and a number of arid years have underscored the need to formulate a strategic solution to its water problem, exceeding in scope the arrangements defined in Annex II of the peace treaty, which focus on the regular supply of water from Israel to Jordan and sharing the Yarmouk River, which flows along the northern part of the border between the countries. These arrangements refer to several dozens of millions of cubic meters per annum, while Jordan’s water deficit amounts to half a billion cubic meters annually.

Space Force To Develop Tech For New Types Of Launch


WASHINGTON: The Space Force plans to award contracts this year for early development of tech to underpin potential next-generation launch capabilities — for example, to put DoD payloads into cislunar orbit near the Moon or routinely launch reusable spacecraft to fix broken satellites.

The Space Force’s 2022 budget request doesn’t include direct funds for a follow-on Phase 3 to the current National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. However, according to service budget justification documents, there is $221 million in research, development, test and evaluation funding for NSSL “Next Generation Launch System Investment.”

That money would “provide enabling technologies for launch service procurement planned to begin in FY 2025; help sustain the U.S. industrial base; address emergent needs for launch related space access and lower procurement costs by promoting competition.”

In particular, $36.7 million is specifically budgeted to support commercial launch providers via public/private partnerships to work on capabilities to launch new types of military space missions to “increase U.S. space dominance through the end of the decade and beyond.” Examples, the justification document say, include, “orbital transfer, on-orbit servicing, digital engineering, and novel on-orbit propulsion technologies.”

We Know What Space Wars Will Look Like

Walter Pincus

OPINION — “The United States must now be prepared for conflict to extend to, or even to originate in or from, space.”

That was a statement from Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John D. Hill last Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.

As with the cyber domain, space has become a contested arena and one in which the U.S. has grown heavily dependent.

“Space-based capabilities contribute to our modern economy, our democratic society, our military power and our way of life,” Hill said, “and space security is about the growing ability of others to deny those benefits as well as to leverage the power of their own space-based capabilities to their own competitive advantage. Most people have very little appreciation for how much of their daily life is intertwined with space, and how much of our national security power is based on an assumption of assured access to, and use of, space.”

And like cyber, “these space-based capabilities underpin the power of the Joint Force across all domains, they are integral to our deterrent capacity, and they have become a military center of gravity,” Hill said.

Four Setbacks to Western Credibility in Ukraine (Part One)

By: Vladimir Socor

Within the last three weeks, a series of decisions by leading Western powers seem to indicate a downgrading of Ukraine on the scale of Western policy priorities. Taken partly in deference to Russia, these decisions risk demotivating Ukrainian reform efforts (hesitant though these are) and eroding Western credibility in Ukraine.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has scrapped the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia commissions that had been envisaged to be held during the Alliance’s upcoming summit in Brussels. United States President Joseph Biden’s administration has decided to exempt the Russian-owned Nord Stream Two subsea pipeline from US sanctions, thus effectively greenlighting that project as a favor to Russia and Germany and at the expense of other countries‘ interests, first and foremost Ukraine’s. The German and French governments have given Kyiv reason to conclude that their position is weakening in the “Normandy” negotiations with Russia on the war in Ukraine’s east. And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave Ukraine’s concerns the short shrift when meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Reykjavik, preparatory to a Biden-Putin summit.

Some of those decisions seem to be in line with preexisting Western policies, but mostly they seem related to the launch of a new “reset” of sorts in US-Russia relations—the second such reset in Biden’s career. This initiative also tends to redefine the transatlantic consensus on a low common denominator that would accommodate Germany first and foremost, along with German-Russian special relations.

Armenia, Ukraine Lessons Shape New US Cyber/EW Unit


WASHINGTON: The Army’s year-old Cyber Warfare Support Battalion has “fully fielded” the first of 12 Expeditionary Cyber Teams, the head of Army Cyber Command said today.

“We’re going to get the first ECT out this summer [to] run it through its paces,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty told the Association of Old Crows CEMA conference. “We’re going to try out a series of ideas that we had” in the field.

“Much of it is has been influenced by the lessons-learned” from recent conflicts, he said, especially the Azerbaijan-Armenia war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

But Fogarty disagrees with the widespread wisdom that Azerbaijan defeated Armenia primarily through the power of drones. After all, before Azerbaijan’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) could attack Armenian targets, they first needed to find them. They needed to electronically blind or disable their defenses. And above all, they needed commanders to pull together a wide range of information and quickly make the decision to strike – before the target moved on and was lost.

New Armenian-Azerbaijani border crisis unfolds

Laurence Broers

Despite the elapse of six months since the ceasefire which brought the second Karabakh war to a close, there has been little respite in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Relations have remained sharply polarized by issues such as the continued imprisonment of up to 200 Armenians with reports of torture and death in custody, post-war casualties among Azerbaijanis due to mines in areas transferred to Azerbaijani control in 2020, and the destruction or alteration of Armenian cultural heritage in those areas.

Now a new crisis is unfolding with reports of a number of territorial encroachments by Azerbaijani troops across the international Armenia-Azerbaijani border.

Hundreds of Azerbaijani troops are reportedly deployed in pockets of territory in Armenia’s Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces. Some estimate the total area of Azerbaijan’s advance to be around 40 square kilometres. Azerbaijan claims that according to maps in its possession, its troops have crossed no border, and are merely enacting a demarcation long delayed by the conflict.

Speculation about the ceding of both Armenia’s territories and viability as a state play into the hands of Armenia’s opposition and figures associated with the former ruling party

COVID-19 is a developing country pandemic

Indermit Gill and Philip Schellekens

“Has global health been subverted?” This question was asked exactly a year ago in The Lancet. At the time, the pandemic had already spread across the globe, but mortality remained concentrated in richer economies. Richard Cash and Vikram Patel declared that “for the first time in the post-war history of epidemics, there is a reversal of which countries are most heavily affected by a disease pandemic.”

What a difference a year makes. We know now that this is actually a developing-country pandemic—and has been that for a long time. In this blog, we review the officially published data and contrast them with brand new estimates on excess mortality (kindly provided by the folks at the Economist). We will argue that global health has not been subverted. In fact, compared to rich countries, the developing world appears to be facing very similar—if not higher—mortality rates. Its demographic advantage of a younger population may have been entirely offset by higher infection prevalence and age-specific infection fatality.


Addressing Big Tech’s power over speech

Bill Baer and Caitlin Chin

At many points during the 2020 U.S. presidential election, social media platforms demonstrated their power over speech. Twitter decided to ban political advertisements permanently in October 2019, sparking a vigorous debate over free speech and so-called “paid disinformation.” One year later, Facebook and Google imposed temporary restrictions on political ads shortly after the polls closed. In May 2020, Twitter assigned fact-check labels to two misleading tweets from then-President Donald J. Trump about mail-in ballots; Facebook initially refused to follow, but later adopted its own fact-checking policy for politicians.

In June 2020, Twitter, for the first time, “hid” one of President Trump’s tweets that appeared to call for violence against Black Lives Matter protesters. Facebook chose to leave the post up. Ultimately, after the U.S. Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, all three platforms suspended Trump’s account. In the days that followed President Trump’s suspension, online misinformation about election fraud dropped almost 75 percent across multiple platforms.

These events demonstrate the ability of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and others to amplify—or limit—the dissemination of information to their hundreds of millions of users. Although we applaud the steps these companies eventually took to counter political misinformation and extremism during the election cycle, their actions are also a sobering reminder of their power over our access to information. Raw power comes with the possibility of abuse—absent guardrails, there is no guarantee that dominant platforms will always use it to advance public discourse in the future.

How to Negotiate with Ransomware Hackers

By Rachel Monroe

Afew days after Thanksgiving last year, Kurtis Minder got a message from a man whose small construction-engineering firm in upstate New York had been hacked. Minder and his security company, GroupSense, got calls and e-mails like this all the time now, many of them tinged with panic. An employee at a brewery, or a printshop, or a Web-design company would show up for work one morning and find all the computer files locked and a ransom note demanding a cryptocurrency payment to release them.

Some of the notes were aggressive (“Don’t take us for fools, we know more about you than you know about yourself”), others insouciant (“Oops, your important files are encrypted”) or faux apologetic (“we are regret but all your files was encrypted”). Some messages couched their extortion as a legitimate business transaction, as if the hackers had performed a helpful security audit: “Gentlemen! Your business is at serious risk. There is a significant hole in the security system of your company.”

The notes typically included a link to a site on the dark Web, the part of the Internet that requires special software for access, where people go to do clandestine things. When victims went to the site, a clock popped up, marking the handful of days they had to fulfill the ransom demand. The clock began to tick down ominously, like a timer connected to a bomb in an action movie. A chat box enabled a conversation with the hackers.

Pentagon Pushes Testing For Electronic Warfare Vulnerabilities


WASHINGTON: Top Pentagon officials, eager to improve threat analysis and operational testing, have ordered the creation of a database of jammers that can be used for testing and training. The goal: make it easier for development programs and operational units alike to evaluate how vulnerable their systems actually are to jamming — an area where the military suffers a glaring lack of knowledge today.

Since 2018, the Defense Department’s JCIDS process has mandated that weapons programs address what’s called Electronic Protection (EP): the ability for radios and radars to keep functioning in the face of deliberate jamming or inadvertent electromagnetic interference. But “it’s still in its infancy,” because of a dearth of testing and less enforcement, cautioned David Tremper, the director for electronic warfare in office of the undersecretary for acquisition.

Just this past Monday, Tremper spoke about this subject to the Electronic Warfare Executive Committee, a high-powered body including three undersecretaries, the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation, and the vice-chiefs and acquisition chiefs of the services. “One of the messages I delivered to the EXCOM was that we need to be better about testing EP, we need to be better about exercising EP,” he told the AOC CEMA conference this morning – but “we don’t have oversight.”

Resilience and Success in Warfare

by James L. Regens and John S. Beddows



Because the nature of war remains constant across millennia, resiliency is one of the central attributes of successful commanders, individual service members, and units when confronted by surprise on the battlefield or shifts in the character of war. Individual and organizational resiliency are irreplaceable elements in accomplishing tactical tasks, sustaining military operations, and accomplishing mission outcomes during overt hostilities. In fact, resiliency is a recurrent theme with history offering multiple examples reaching back from antiquity to the modern era where initial setbacks during a battle or even a campaign did not result in ultimate defeat, just as victory is not guaranteed by early success. This article examines why creating and sustaining resiliency matters to increase the odds of success in warfare.

The JLTV and the 21st Century American Way of Land Warfare

By Dan Gouré

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps are looking to change how they will fight near-peer adversaries in the future. Both Services are focused on becoming more lethal, distributed, mobile and survivable. When it comes to fielding new capabilities, this requires achieving a balance between these different attributes. One system that achieves this balance while enhancing the flexibility and effectiveness of Army and Marine Corps units is the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). Built by the Oshkosh Corporation, it is now being fielded.

The JLTV is a vehicle for the 21st century battlefield. Its advanced features will allow it to operate across the spectrum of conflict, providing Army and Marine Corps units with enhanced mobility, survivability, sustainability, and combat power. At the same time, the JLTV incorporates advanced diagnostics, power generation, and maintenance that will make it easier to operate and sustain than the vehicles it will be replacing. The JLTV fits well with how the U.S. military reshapes itself to take on high-end adversaries in both the Indo-Pacific and Europe.

The JLTV is an Army-led joint program designed to replace most of the venerable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, or Humvees. Over the years, responding to evolving threats in Southwest Asia, the Humvee has been repeatedly modified, primarily with additional armor to enhance its survivability. Consequently, it became underpowered relative to its weight, and its payload capacity was reduced. The Humvee lacked sufficient power generation for military forces increasingly dependent on sensors, sophisticated communications systems, and computers. Additionally, the automotive industry had developed a range of diagnostics tools and control systems to enhance vehicle performance and maintainability.


The technology of today, while impressive, is developing the tactics and techniques of future terrorist attacks. The most prescient current technology that will enable future terrorist attacks is the drone. Drones have the ability of providing standoff, which can enable terrorists to conduct multiple attacks nearly simultaneously, rapidly magnifying their overall effect. A terrorist attack is meant to create an atmosphere of fear to influence a target audience—a civilian population or government—to force or impose political change. The massive increase in the number of form factors, capabilities, ease of access and ease of operation of drones at low cost will make them the weapon of choice for future terrorists.

The majority of past terrorist attacks have relied on weapons and materials that were readily available. In the United States, the perpetrators of the most significant attacks in the past 30 years, the Oklahoma City bombing1 and the 9/11 attacks,2 purchased the majority of their required materials legally. In addition to acquiring materials, terrorist groups need individuals to carry out their attacks. Many groups typically conduct attacks with the expectation that their members will sacrifice themselves during the attack, either by being caught or killed. The use of drones, however, can allow an individual or a small group to conduct multiple attacks without self-sacrifice.

After years of flat cybersecurity budgets, DoD asks for more money and cyber mission force personnel

Mark Pomerleau and Andrew Eversden

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Friday proposed a $10.4 billion cybersecurity budget for the Department of Defense next year and plans to add significantly to the cyber mission force responsible for cyberspace national security.

The request is 6 percent more than the $9.8 billion sought for DoD cybersecurity in the previous administration’s last budget plan, breaking a streak of flat cyber requests and showing the anxiety among policymakers about growing cyberattacks, especially ones with the potential to disrupt critical infrastructure or weapon systems.

The DoD will add 14 teams to U.S. Cyber Command’s cyber mission force over the next three years, an official familiar with the plan told C4ISRNET, speaking anonymously because the full details have not been released publicly.

The force that Cyber Command calls its “action arm” has not grown since it was designed in 2012, numbering 133 teams and roughly 6,200 service members. The cyber threat landscape has changed significantly since that time, leading members of Congress as well as a congressional commission to request more personnel.