2 July 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

  Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

… With its growing assertiveness in the international arena, China uses new technologies to achieve its foreign policy goals and project an image of responsible global power … spending billions on influence operations across the world ... fits in with China’s larger aim of expanding its soft power alongside its growing economic and military power … reach of Beijing’s overseas media is impressive and should not be underestimated. But the results are mixed ...

India’s Industrial Raw Material and Food Exports: Emergence of China as Important and Distinct Market

Amitendu Palit

China became India’s second largest export market in financial year 2021. Absorbing large amounts of industrial raw material and food exports, it is distinct from India’s other major export markets in the West and Middle East.

A year’s export performance, and that too in a most unusual year characterised by disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, is insufficient to draw conclusions on long-term trends. Nevertheless, China’s striking importance as an export market for India in a year marked by unprecedented deterioration in bilateral ties is noteworthy.

India’s overall exports declined by 7.1 per cent in Financial Year (FY) 2021. Among its top 20 export markets, exports declined for all, except four. These are China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Brazil. Annual export data provided by the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry shows that Indian exports to these four countries have increased by 27.5 per cent, 10.8 per cent, 21.7 per cent and 7 per cent respectively in FY2021.

It’s imminent: After nearly 20 years US to leave Bagram

Kathy Gannon

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — For nearly 20 years, Bagram Airfield
was the heart of American military power in Afghanistan, a sprawling mini-city behind fences and blast walls just an hour’s drive north of Kabul. Initially, it was a symbol of the U.S. drive to avenge the 9/11 attacks, then of its struggle for a way through the ensuing war with the Taliban.

In just a matter of days, the last U.S. troops will depart Bagram. They are leaving what probably everyone connected to the base, whether American or Afghan, considers a mixed legacy.

“Bagram grew into such a massive military installation that, as with few other bases in Afghanistan and even Iraq, it came to symbolize and epitomize the phrase ‘mission creep’,” said Andrew Watkins, Afghanistan senior analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

Biden’s lose-lose game in Afghanistan

Ishaan Tharoor

President Biden hosted his Afghan counterpart, President Ashraf Ghani, at the White House at the end of last week. The visit came on the heels of Biden’s April announcement of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after a two-decade-long war. Biden’s assurances of continuing support, and the atmosphere of comity surrounding Ghani’s meetings in Washington, could do little to hide the fears of many leading officials about what may follow.

Just before the arrival of Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, his governing partner in Kabul, news broke of a U.S. intelligence assessment that suggested the Afghan government could fall within six months of a U.S. military withdrawal. The assessment “highlights an increasingly stark picture as the U.S. military sends home troops and equipment: The Taliban continues to take control of districts across the country, and Afghan military units are either laying down their arms or are being routed in bloody clashes,” my colleagues reported.

Citing these concerns, Republican lawmakers have urged Biden to delay the departure. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the administration has “chosen to abandon the fight” against the Taliban “and invite even greater terrorist threats” — no matter that Biden is carrying out exactly what President Donald Trump also promised.

Will the Taliban Leadership Abandon Its Bases in Pakistan?

Umair Jamal

With territory under its control in Afghanistan expanding rapidly, will the Afghan Taliban leadership, allegedly based in Pakistan, leave the country and return to Afghanistan? There are several reasons why it may not decide to do so in the foreseeable future.

For one, Pakistan offers the Taliban strategic depth and a fallback option, which it would like to preserve. For decades, sanctuary in Pakistan offered the Taliban an insurance, which it has tapped into when in trouble in Afghanistan, or when under attack from the international community. This has worked to the benefit of the Taliban leadership in the past, and some segments of the group will continue to find it useful in the coming years.

Pakistan will continue to remain a major supporter of the Taliban should the latter draw the ire of the international community and be ostracized again in the future.

The argument that the Taliban needed Pakistan only after 2001, following the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan when the group needed safe havens outside the country, doesn’t hold much weight. Prior to the U.S. invasion too, the Taliban were getting deep support in Pakistan, ranging from financial support to using the country as a recruiting ground.

Missile developments in Southern Asia: a perspective from India

Manpreet Sethi

In the last decade the three nuclear-armed states in Southern Asia − China, India and Pakistan − have been engaged in developing missiles that they consider necessary to support their respective deterrent needs. In this paper, Dr Manpreet Sethi captures capability trends depending on their approach to nuclear deterrence and assesses the impact of missile developments on strategic stability.

Credible nuclear deterrence presupposes the availability and integration of certain essential components that collectively constitute a nuclear arsenal. Delivery systems, deployable across a variety of platforms and of requisite range and reliability, are one such critical element. Accordingly, in the last decade the three nuclear-armed states in Southern Asia − China, India and Pakistan − have been engaged in developing missiles that they consider necessary to support their respective deterrent needs.

This paper identifies recent trends in missile development in the region, focusing on the above-mentioned states. It captures capability trends, considers the differing capability emphasis among the three countries depending on their approach to nuclear deterrence and assesses the impact of missile developments on strategic stability.

Nepal’s Supreme Court Flexes Its Muscles

Sambridh Ghimire

Yet another crisis has erupted in Himalayan nation of Nepal. Last week, the Supreme Court nullified the appointment of 20 ministers inducted by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. According to its interim order, the Supreme Court has directed respondents, including the office of the president, not to allow the 20 ministers to administer their office. This comes against the backdrop of a challenge in the Supreme Court to the recent dissolution of the country’s Parliament.

The Supreme Court opined that following the dissolution, according to Article 77(1)(c), the prime minister is ipso facto no longer a member of the House of Representatives. In that case, Article 77(3)(1) applies, which states: “the same Council of Ministers shall continue to act until another Council of Ministers is constituted.” Furthermore, the Supreme court said that the incumbent cabinet would continue with no further expansions in these exceptional circumstances. It also categorically stated that the prime minister had no prima facie authority to expand the cabinet in this situation.

When Japan Waged a Currency War Against China

Robert Farley

As we contemplate the global impact of changes in China’s currency regime, it’s worth looking back on how currency warfare, or competition in the domain of finance, has characterized East Asian politics over the past century. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Tokyo waged parallel wars designed simultaneously to capture Chinese territory and destroy the integrity of China’s financial system. In his book “Currency and Coercion,” political scientist Jonathan Kirshner details the means that the Japanese and Nationalist governments (the latter supported by Washington and London) undertook in order to control China’s financial system.

The Chinese currency represented one of the key achievements of the Nationalist government during a period in which it could maintain only nominal authority over much of the country. As such, defending the currency from foreign attack was nearly as important as defending Nationalist territory against enemies foreign and domestic. Unfortunately, China had a limited ability to control its circumstances, especially as the Depression overtook the Western world. The American decision to purchase silver in great quantity in 1934 badly disrupted China’s monetary system, which had to that point been based on silver. In the face of a massive outflux of silver, the Nationalist government shifted to a free-floating paper currency, undergirded primarily by reserves of the U.S. dollar earned through silver sales.

The Quad Is a Delusion

Rajan Menon

U.S. politics may be hyperpolarized, but on China policy, there’s considerable cross-party consensus. Republican and Democratic leaders increasingly see the country as the main threat to Pax Americana.

GOP hawk Sen. Tom Cotton warned China’s export controls on rare earth metals and military buildup reflect this ambition, a jeremiad echoed by the likes of Republican politicians Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, Mitt Romney, and Marco Rubio. And although the right may paint Democrats as soft on China, the evidence suggests otherwise. U.S. President Joe Biden started rallying the United States’ Asian allies—Australia, Japan, and South Korea—to counter Beijing in the Indo-Pacific even before his inauguration, and he hasn’t let up. The president’s punitive economic measures, including bans on U.S. investments of 59 Chinese companies, mimic his predecessor’s. In May, Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, declared “the period that was broadly defined as engagement has come to an end.” In all this, Biden is in step with his party. Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Beijing seeks “global dominance,” and a House Intelligence Committee report chided the intelligence community for not taking China’s challenge seriously enough. Meanwhile, the $250 billion United States Innovation and Competition Act introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer amounts to a multifaceted plan for containing China.

The World Doesn’t Want Beijing’s Fighter Jets

Richard Aboulafia

Fighter jet exports represent a unique combination of hard and soft power. If a country can sell fighter jets abroad, that means it can attract customers for sophisticated weapons that can sell for upwards of $100 million, which in turn proves that the country has appeal as a strategic partner. It’s no surprise, then, that Beijing has hankered to become a major fighter exporter for some time.

As China’s global stature has grown, many expected that its weapons exports would reflect its place on the world stage. Yet after decades of trying, that simply hasn’t happened. Last month’s confrontation with the Philippines, where Chinese naval vessels entered Philippine waters without authorization, may indicate the crux of the problem—and this failure may well illustrate a key weakness for China. Essentially, few want to partner up with Beijing.

For decades, China’s growth as a combat aircraft export power has seemed inevitable. In April 1997, Interavia, a once-influential trade journal, predicted, “China Poised to Overtake Russia” and Beijing would “well outstrip Russia in a decade or so as the combat aircraft provider to the developing world.” Nine years later, Aviation Week & Space Technology opined that “China may emerge as the bargain-basement provider of combat aircraft packages for the export market.”

China Is Radically Expanding Its Nuclear Missile Silos

Jeffrey Lewis

I’ve had a strange week.

For the past couple of months, a rumor has been going around Washington that China might be dramatically expanding its arsenal of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that can strike the United States. I had heard that rumor and so had many of my colleagues.

According to a report released by the U.S. Defense Department last September, China had about 100 of those missiles but was expected to double that number in the coming years.

Hearing that rumor, I decided that it would be worth taking a look. Last year, I hired a talented young scholar, Decker Eveleth, as a summer nonproliferation fellow and asked him to map out the order of battle for the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which controls China’s land-based nuclear-armed missiles.

I contacted Decker and suggested he take a look. China has previously built a number of different missile silos at a training area near Jilantai in Inner Mongolia. Decker decided to look for similar structures in remote areas of China. I arranged for him to access satellite images taken by Planet. And off he went.

China's Digital Yuan, Launching in 2022, Poses Threat to Global Dominance of U.S. Dollar


When the first caravans carrying Chinese silks arrived in ancient Rome, it set off a female fashion craze. The wives of senators and generals had never felt or seen anything so lustrous. Like the Chinese elite, they adopted the material as a symbol of wealth and status, embroidered silk robes with gold and wore them to the grave.

China announced a Digital Silk Road (DSR) in 2015 with a white paper that described a range of technology and communications projects. But it wasn't obvious what, if anything, would play the role of silk. Now it's clear that just as threads spun from the pupae of silkworms drove the growth of a global trade network, China's digital yuan may weave an international system of finance. The first inroads have already been dug: Developing economies have adopted the yuan as their own, and wealthier economies in Asia and beyond are exploring their own fiat digital currency, whether they like it or not, to stay competitive with China.

Winning Without War: Chinese Supremacy in Global Supply Chains

Evan Hanson


Since the end of World War II, technological superiority has been the cornerstone of American military strategy. Over the past 80 years, the U.S. restrained the all-out world war conflict of the twentieth century with sufficient numbers, highly capable weaponry, and logistical agility to timely deliver force en masse. The success of this strategy has also shaped how China is challenging the existing U.S.-led world order. Violent confrontation while the U.S. maintains this technological advantage with a network of alliances would mean ruin. Instead, China seeks to win on a battlefield more discrete but as consequential to American interests: supply chains.

Framing this global supply chain competition in militaristic terms is important, given the potential impact to U.S. military readiness and power projection capabilities globally. While generations of U.S. scholars and government officials previously held up China as a model for countries seeking to integrate with the global economy through cooperation and peace, it is becoming increasingly clear that leaders in the Chinese Communist Party seek outcomes that run counter to American interests.[1] The systematic suppression of dissent in Hong Kong, the consistent threats from the People’s Liberation Army to conquer Taiwan, and the persecution of Uighur Muslims are all examples of how China will likely use its influence, particularly as the country expands an already dominant role in global supply chains.[2]

How Pakistan Is Helping China Crack Down on Uyghur Muslims

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

On May 7, in the hours after Friday prayers, textile and carpet merchant Abdul Wali was preparing to lock up his shop in Islamabad in preparation for the COVID-19 lockdown that had been imposed in the Pakistani capital. The deputy commissioner had announced that public transport would be suspended after 6 p.m., so Wali faced a race against time if he wanted to catch one of the last few buses heading north to spend Eid-ul-Fitr with his family like every year.

During the rush to wrap things up, Wali received a call informing him that his eldest brother had been abducted.

“My brother’s wife hadn’t heard from him for quite a few days. She was informed by a few close friends of my brother that he had been kidnapped by local authorities,” Wali told The Diplomat.

The Communist party at 100: is Xi Jinping’s China on the right track?

Sun Yu,  and Tom Mitchell

Last month a senior official from China’s education ministry addressed more than 100 government colleagues and scholars at a closed-door event to discuss the centenary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist party, which will be officially marked with great fanfare in Beijing on Thursday.

Wang Binglin lectured his audience on controversial subjects, such as the party’s iron grip on history ever since Mao Zedong seized power 72 years ago. In particular, he warned the scholars in attendance to be careful when speaking and writing about the party’s violent land redistribution campaign in the early 1950s that claimed the lives of as many as 2m people.

“Playing up [the attack on landlords] is historical nihilism,” Wang said, referring to the term used by President Xi Jinping to criticise anyone who deviates from the party’s official historical narrative. He also noted that certain information in China’s national archives was likely to be marked as classified and off-limits forever: “Making such information public is of little help for you historians and will also be bad for the party.”

Turkey Breaches Russia’s Sphere of Influence

Aslan Doukaev

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, signed an agreement on June 15, 2021, that may have historic significance not only for the two signatory countries, but also for neighboring states (see EDM, June 23).

“The Shusha Declaration,” named after the Karabakh town where it was signed, inter alia aims to raise the long-standing military cooperation between the two countries to a new level while emphasizing Turkey’s commitment to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Ankara and Baku agreed to work jointly on defense industry projects and pledged to assist each other in the event of a threat or attack by a third country (TRT World, Anadolu Agency, June 15). Other areas of cooperation include, according to the Azerbaijani president, “economic and trade relations, culture, education, sports, youth policy […] and the Southern Gas Corridor for Turkey, Azerbaijan and Europe” (President.az, June 15). “A new era starts today,” Aliyev proclaimed after the signing of the document, adding that the declaration elevates bilateral relations to the highest level (Dailysabah.com, June 15). Turkey’s already close ties with Azerbaijan will, thus, become even stronger; but the implications extend beyond this pair.

Antony Blinken Warns Russia 'We Will Respond' If Cyber Attacks Continue


Secretary of State Antony Blinken has vowed a U.S. response would follow if Moscow targeted the U.S. with a cyber attack, as he reiterated his administration's concern about hacker threats as a major issue of national security.

Blinken told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that cyber hacking had been discussed during this month's summit between the U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The interview was published Tuesday after he visited Rome for talks about the global Islamist threat. In it, the Secretary of State referred to the attack on the Colonial Pipeline on the U.S. East Coast, which the FBI has linked to DarkSide, a ransomware gang believed to be based in Russia, although not thought to be state-sponsored.

"We expect Russia to take action to prevent these cyber attacks from happening again," Blinken told the paper, according to a translation.

Emerging Disruptive Technologies: The Achilles’ Heel for EU Strategic Autonomy?

Ester Sabatino and Alessandro Marrone*

Emerging disruptive technologies (EDT) – ranging from artificial intelligence (AI), big data, autonomous systems, hypersonic weapons and robotics to name a few prominent examples – have become central in contemporary debates on how to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy in the security and defence field.

Nonetheless, the level of member states investment in this sector remains low, particularly in comparison to other international actors such as the US and China. This implies a risk that EU countries will not be able to bridge a widening capabilities gap in such a domain. Increased focus and action on this issue is therefore understood to be of paramount importance for the future.

Indeed, the pervasiveness of new technologies in defence systems and dual-use items requires the Union’s members not only to spend more and better on innovation and research & development, but also to reduce their dependencies on non-EU suppliers and technologies.

European Security Seminar EU – NATO Cooperation: Seminar Report

Sebastian von Münchow and Matthew Rhodes

From January 11-15,2021, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies conducted for the first time a European Security Seminar (ESS) on EU-NATO cooperation. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the seminar took place virtually. Fifty-eight participants from twenty-seven countries attended the event via online seminars. The participants represented EU and NATO member states, countries that are solely NATO or EU members, non-aligned states, as well as befriended countries, and countries along Europe’s southeast and eastern flanks. A little more than two-thirds of the attendees were civilian officials; approximately one-third of the participants were female.

The major goals of the ESS were to understand the new impetus and substance of EU-NATO strategic partnership, to explore selected areas where cooperation between EU and NATO organizations should be enhanced, and to identify how NATO, the EU, Germany, and U.S. can strengthen the capacity and capability of its neighbors, potential EU and NATO partners, while being mindful of constant hostile interferences by revisionist powers and the multi-faceted challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents to societies. To this end, the Marshall Center organized seven units of panels and lectures with experts and senior officials from the Brussels-based institutions as well as national governments, followed by outcome-oriented seminars for smaller groups. The Chatham House Rule (i.e. non-attribution of any statements made) was respected throughout the course.

Report estimates major cyberattack could cost more than recovering from natural disasters


The cost of a major cyberattack on a critical major U.S. utility or service provider could equate to that of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, a report released Monday found.

The report, put together by experts from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and insurance group Intangic, used a risk-rating system developed by Intangic to estimate the impact of two types of disruptive cyberattacks.

The findings estimated that a three-day cyber disruption of a managed service provider giving IT services to hundreds of customers across a variety of critical fields could lead to an economic loss of almost $80 billion, more than the $65 billion cost of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The losses would be even higher with an attack on a critical utility, such as regional electric utility, with Intangic estimating that a breach causing disruption to power for five days would cost an estimated $193.5 billion, more than the cost of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and the 2018 California wildfires.

The End of Globalization as We Know It


PARIS – For most people, globalization has for decades been another name for across-the-board liberalization. Starting mainly in the 1980s, governments allowed goods, services, capital, and data to move across borders, with few controls. Market capitalism triumphed, and its economic rules applied worldwide. As the title of Branko Milanovic’s latest book correctly states, capitalism was finally alone.

True, there were other aspects of globalization that bore little relation to market capitalism. The globalization of science and information broadened access to knowledge in unprecedented ways. Through increasingly international civic action, climate campaigners and human-rights defenders coordinated their initiatives as never before. Meanwhile, governance advocates argued early on that only the globalization of policies could balance the forward march of markets.

But these other sides of globalization never measured up to the economic dimension. The globalization of policies was especially disappointing, with the 2008 financial crisis epitomizing how governance had failed.

A Little Geopolitics Is a Dangerous Thing


PRINCETON – Any hope that Donald Trump’s messy departure from the White House would at least restore a modicum of calm to the world must now be discounted. Already, there is a dangerous new international threat: the return of “geopolitics” in shaping international security.

Consider the events of the past six months. Within weeks of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, got into an extraordinary spat with his Chinese counterpart at a bilateral meeting in Alaska. The United States has also tussled with the European Union over Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that will deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany, bypassing (and thus weakening) Ukraine. And, for its part, the EU imposed tougher sanctions on China, citing its policies in Xinjiang, to which China responded with sanctions of its own.

Then, in June, a naval contretemps between Russia and Britain in the Black Sea evoked parallels to the 1850s Crimean War. And a meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin did little to reduce US-Russian tensions. When it comes, Biden’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is unlikely to be any warmer. The G7 is rebranding itself as a club of rich democracies that will set “basic rules of the road” for the rest of the world. Never mind that other powerful countries have no interest in rules set by someone else.

Talk Must Turn Into Action To Combat China’s Growing Tech Influence

James Stavridis & Frances Townsend

President Biden's first foreign trip rightly focused on the areas in which the United States and Europe can cooperate and address the challenges facing democratic nations. It also rightly focused on the growing threat China poses to our global economy and security, particularly as it relates to technology and the internet.

On the heels of these productive sessions at the G7 and Brussels Forum, the importance of technology will continue to be at the center of the global agenda between the transatlantic allies as talks to create the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have been revived as the proposed Trade and Technology Council (TTC).

The creation of a TTC, which would create real global digital standards that are built upon the values of privacy, human rights, and promoting democratic values, is a timely and welcome development. Moreover, it can serve as a united democratic bulwark against the growing threat of authoritarian governments like China gaining influence in the tech sector.

The question now is, will it result in much-needed action?

Sailing Into Troubled Waters. Russia Counters Britain in the Black Sea

Dmitri Trenin

Fresh attempts to expose Russian “red line” deterrence as hollow—whether on the ground, in the air, or at sea—would push Moscow to defend what it cannot give up without losing its self-respect. This would almost inevitably lead to clashes and casualties, which would carry the risk of further escalation.

The UK-Russia incident off the Crimea coast highlights Britain’s new role in the international system. It features the newly baptized “Global Britain” as a proactive member of the U.S.-led coalition that seeks to reassert the West’s global leadership against the challenge of China and the actions of Russia. In doing so, London is willing to go to the edge and take non-negligible risks.

Before, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United Kingdom was the first responder to U.S. calls for joint action. Now, Britain has demonstrated that in some cases it can lead the way. Until this week, Russia’s sovereignty in Crimea had been directly challenged only in 2018 by Ukrainian navy boats sent by then president Petro Poroshenko from Odessa to the Sea of Azov. Now, the message of non-recognition of Russia’s incorporation of Crimea was delivered by HMS Defender, which sailed into the 12-mile territorial waters not far from Sevastopol. This potentially presages a new, riskier level of confrontation.

Critical Theory

George Friedman

I entered graduate school in 1970, determined to study two things. One was political philosophy, the consideration of the nature of justice, particularly as presented by German philosophers. The second was called comparative communism, the study of communist states and movements, particularly contemporary ones. The choice of subjects wasn’t random, if perhaps presumptive. I wanted to understand Germany, the place that had defined my origins. And I wanted to understand communism, which had defined and would define much of my life. I was hostile to Marxism but deeply believed in understanding your enemy.

The more I studied, the more confused I became. Marxism seemed to have little to do with Marx, and communist regimes were rarely Marxist. Marxist movements around the world rarely consisted of workers, but rather of intellectuals and soldiers, and sometimes criminals. Similarly, Hegel and Nietzsche could be considered proto-Nazis only if you closed your eyes. The intellectual life I sought was far more coherent than the political realities around me. Since I crave order in all things, and since Marxism was more pressing at that moment than Nazism, I dove into the history of Marxism and of Marxist terrorism and MiG-21s.

How to Get Windows 11’s Best New Features Right Now

MICROSOFT JUST ANNOUNCED the first new full version of Windows in years, introducing a new Start menu, translucent windows, and Android apps, among many other changes. It’s not due out until this holiday season (when it will roll out as a free update to Windows 10 owners), but if you just can’t wait, there are ways to get some of the best new features right now.

All the things we discuss here are optional, third-party programs or features that you can download, almost all of them for free. That means it’s possible that they’ll keep working even after Windows 11 rolls out. Some may be updated because the new OS duplicates their features, or they may be replaced entirely, so keep that in mind as you try these out. But if you’re an adventurous type who likes to experiment with your PC, read on.
Replace Your Start Menu With Something a Little Less Useless

The Windows 10 Start menu is … fine. It’s fine. But it still has the last vestiges of Windows 8 cruft sticking to it. Live Tiles were never that useful (which is why Microsoft is discontinuing them), and without them, app icons don’t need to be giant squares. Combine that super inefficient design choice with a giant alphabetical list of apps and it’s clear that the Start menu could use some improvement.

National Security Implications of Leadership in Autonomous Vehicles

James Andrew Lewis

Digital technologies have created a transitional moment for societies. High-speed connectivity, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI) are ubiquitous (even if not always visible) and are reshaping economies by creating new opportunities. This follows a pattern set centuries ago. Automation of basic tasks began in the eighteenth century and accelerated rapidly at the end of the nineteenth century, with a new wave of automation now well underway. Autonomous systems already create value across global markets by lowering costs and improving services. The ability to combine better sensors, more powerful computer processing, and faster connectivity expands the productivity of human labor, creates new services, and automates existing ones.

One of the most important parts of the next wave of automation is transportation, specifically the appearance of self-driving, or “autonomous,” vehicles (AVs). Self-driving cars offer immense gains in productivity and safety. The technologies developed for self-driving cars have broad commercial (and potentially military) implications. A self-driving car is a vehicle capable of navigating without a driver actively operating or monitoring it. Self-driving cars are a kind of specialized robot—not the humanoid robot common to popular culture, but self-operating devices that provide a commercially valuable service and automate routine tasks.

Regulating Facial Recognition Technology

James Andrew Lewis

The debate over facial recognition has been caught up in and shaped by the larger public debate over policing and race. This created powerful emotional concerns over the potential use of the new technology. However, some of the criticisms of facial recognition were based on a misunderstanding over the difference between facial recognition technology, which says that one picture looks like another, and facial characterization, which assigns attributes to individuals (such as gender or race) based on an image. The confusion helped build a narrative that exaggerates the risk of using facial recognition technology.

Two other misunderstandings need to be considered. The first is the need to consider the rate of improvement in digital technology. Like other digital technologies, facial recognition technology is improving rapidly. A 2021 report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found that accuracy had improved dramatically and that more accurate systems were less likely to make errors based on race or gender. Some critiques from even a few years ago are already outdated, as accuracy has improved. This kind of improvement is the norm for any new technology, where development is an iterative process, and each generation gets better than its predecessor. The rate of improvement in facial recognition should allay concerns about the probability of misidentification.

Army tests network security, cyber tools in war games

Lauren C. Williams

The Army's tactical network continues to be a significant challenge as the service moves quickly to enhance its data-sharing abilities to support Joint All Domain Command and Control. But the latest Joint Warfighting Assessment exercise highlighted disparities when fighting against simulated and live cyber intrusions.

"There were aspects of cyber that we did play live/real, in this and those were easier to replicate and assess. And then [there were] aspects of cyber and space that we replicated notionally and those were the ones that were a little bit more difficult," said Col. Tobin Magsig, Commander, Joint Modernization Command, which was the exercise control for this year's JWA experiment that ran from June 16 through June 24.

Officials wouldn't give specifics, but the exercise used fictional scenarios in Hawaii, Colorado and Washington with multinational partners across all domains. JWA included testing of future vertical lift aircraft, long-range fire capability, cyber tools and network security. They also tested sensors, extending distances and altitude from the forward line of troops, and their effect on the operational picture.