18 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 ...

China-India Foreign Ministers Meet in Dushanbe

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar joined other foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for a meeting in Dushanbe this week. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said ahead of the meeting that it would focus on assessing the “achievements” of the SCO as it marks its 20th anniversary in 2021. But the more important meeting for India was obviously going to be the one on the sidelines between Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi. The press release and statements from the respective foreign ministries after the bilateral indicates that India and China are no closer to resolving their troubles along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between the two countries.

The MEA said in its press release after the meeting that the two ministers exchanged views on the current situation on the LAC in Eastern Ladakh and also broader issues in India-China relations. There was clearly very little that the two ministers agreed on, and the press release was not shy about indicating this. The only point of agreement, outlined in the last paragraph of the Indian statement, was an agreement that the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC), the convoluted title of the negotiating mechanism that has been dealing with the recent border disagreements, will meet again and that, in the meantime, neither side would take any unilateral measures.

Mapping Taliban Contested and Controlled Districts in Afghanistan

Bill Roggio

Description: For nearly two decades, the government of Afghanistan – with the help of U.S. and coalition forces – battled for control of the country against the ever-present Afghan Taliban. FDD’s Long War Journal has tracked the Taliban’s attempts to gain control of territory since NATO ended its military mission in Afghanistan and switched to an “advise and assist” role in June 2014. Districts have been taken and retaken (by both sides), only to be lost shortly thereafter, decreasing the security situation. Since the U.S. drawdown of peak forces in 2011, the Taliban has unquestionably been resurgent.

Methodology: The primary data and research behind this assessment are based on open-source information, such as press reports and information provided by government agencies and the Taliban. This is a living and breathing map that LWJ frequently updates as verifiable research is conducted to support control changes. Note: the above map contains 398 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts; this is the only shape file of an Afghanistan district-level map available for use at this time. Nine districts are not displayed on the map.

After Afghanistan Withdrawal: A Return to ‘Warlordism?’

Barmak Pazhwak; Asma Ebadi; Belquis Ahmadi

“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” – Mark Twain
As the United States withdraws from Afghanistan, Washington is considering options to ensure its intelligence-gathering and counterterrorism capabilities are maintained. Recent reporting suggests that United States is looking to use bases in Pakistan and in the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia — although without success so far. Washington is also mulling over engaging with Afghan warlords as part of this effort, a strategy it relied on in the 1980s and 90s and to a lesser extent over the last two decades. If history is any guide, this strategy will pose significant risks that could have deadly and destabilizing consequences for Afghanistan and the region.

Most former jihadi commanders have ethnically based militias. Supporting one group or another exacerbates political divisions and undermines the central government’s credibility and authority. After the withdrawal of U.S. and international forces, support for these warlords and political factions could help foster a multi-front civil war. This scenario played out once already in the 1990s and was one of the factors that led to the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

Biden’s Afghan Withdrawal Will Spark the Next Refugee Crisis

Elisabeth Braw

Between the end of 2019 and 2020, 416,630 asylum-seekers arrived in the European Union. A large number, to be sure, but hardly sensational compared to 2015, when 1.2 million asylum-seekers arrived. That period, of course, was the so-called refugee crisis. Now, Europe is facing a new refugee crisis as a result of President Joe Biden’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Washington’s international allies have no choice but to pull out too.

“In together, out together” has been the mantra because the war was built around U.S. manpower and equipment. Although Biden claims to have ended the Afghanistan War, nobody—especially not Afghans—is fooled, and Washington’s best friends are being left to pick up the pieces. That task will affect ordinary Europeans, who will face the political fallout of an inevitable new refugee crisis, and it could force European governments to send their troops back.

“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country,” Biden said on July 8, announcing the U.S. military is on track to meet its target of completing the withdrawal by Aug. 31. The United States’ allies didn’t go to Afghanistan to nation-build either. Indeed, it was unclear to many citizens of EU and NATO member states and partners why, precisely, their troops were being sent there.

US Focuses on Myanmar, South China Sea at Special ASEAN Meeting

Sebastian Strangio

Myanmar, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the South China Sea disputes have topped the agenda in discussions held yesterday between the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his 10 Southeast Asian counterparts.

The Special ASEAN-U.S. Foreign Ministerial Meeting, held by video link yesterday, was the first high-level meeting that the U.S. has held with the Southeast Asian bloc since President Joe Biden took office. A similar planned hook-up in May was postponed after Blinken experienced connection issues while on board a flight to the Middle East.

As per the State Department readout, Blinken staked out strong positions on China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea. Coming two days after he reaffirmed a Trump-era rejection of China’s claims over the vital seaway, he “underscored the United States’ rejection of the PRC’s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea and reiterated that the United States stands with Southeast Asian claimants in the face of PRC coercion.”

Nepal’s Democracy Enters Another Challenging Phase

Arun Budhathoki

On July 12, the Supreme Court of Nepal overturned Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s May 21 decision to dissolve the House of Representatives, and issued a judicial writ to appoint Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba as the country’s prime minister as per Article 76(5) of Nepal’s constitution.

This is the second time in five months that the apex court is reinstating the House. It had done so on February 23 as well, after Oli dissolved it on December 20, 2020.

The court’s latest order ends Oli’s three-and-a-half-year stint as Nepal’s prime minister.

Back in May, Deuba and other leaders of the opposition alliance had submitted the signatures of 149 lawmakers, including those of 26 legislators of the Jhala NathKhanal-Madhav Nepal faction of the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) to President Bidya Devi Bhandari.

Chinese-U.S. Split Is Forcing Singapore to Choose Sides

William Choong

In Singapore, the word kiasu is ubiquitous. In the Hokkien dialect, the traditional lingua franca of many ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia, it means “afraid to lose” and describes the fear of missing opportunities. In the realm of foreign policy, Singapore is the paragon of kiasu-ness: As a highly networked trading hub connecting East and West, the island strives to keep opportunities open in all directions. To that end, it seeks to balance its relations and avoid having to take sides between China and the United States.

In recent years, however, China has been subjecting Singapore to greater pressure. It is pushing the island to make a choice between the two great powers and is working hard to influence Singaporeans to take a more accommodating position toward Beijing.

The basis for such Chinese pressure is evident in a June Pew Research Center report detailing global views of China and the United States. The survey of 17 advanced economies found that a median of only 27 percent of respondents has a favorable view of China. Singaporeans, however, bucked the trend: About 64 percent had a favorable view of China, the highest among all countries surveyed. That compares to only 10 percent of Japanese, 21 percent of Australians, and 22 percent of South Koreans.

China-US contest will come down to education


In the wake of the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th birthday party, some Western commentators once again are writing about the eventual collapse of President Xi Jinping’s autocracy and the victory of democracy – as if that outcome were inevitable.

They argue that democracy is flexible and legitimate, while Chinese autocracy is illegitimate and brittle; that Xi’s crackdown on Alibaba and other private enterprises will stifle the Chinese economic miracle; that democracy is essential for technological progress.

An American fund manager writes on LinkedIn, “Little by little China is putting a noose around the neck of the private sector.”

The Economist asks, “How long can the world’s most successful autocracy last?” But after ruminating for a page the writer can only conclude that “No party lasts forever.… At some point even this Chinese dynasty will end.”

At the Nexus of Military-Civil Fusion and Technological Innovation in China

Audrey Fritz

Internationally, universities and commercial enterprises serve as primary vehicles for innovation. China’s innovation strategy adheres to a similar concept, employing universities and companies to serve as the foundation for the country’s innovation. When placed in the context of China’s military-civil fusion strategy, however, Beijing’s drive to innovate using its civilian universities and enterprises is in lockstep with its drive to accelerate innovation for its defense sector.

Although focused domestically, the innovation strategy’s interdependence with China’s military-civil fusion system enables it to leverage the global research and development network of the country’s own companies and universities. The intersection of military-civil fusion and China’s innovation strategy puts international commercial and academic research partnerships focused on dual-use technologies at risk of contributing to China’s defense capabilities.

Some Chinese Shun Grueling Careers for ‘Low-Desire Life’

Joe McDonald and Fu Ting

Fed up with work stress, Guo Jianlong quit a newspaper job in Beijing and moved to China’s mountain southwest to “lie flat.”

Guo joined a small but visible handful of Chinese urban professionals who are rattling the ruling Communist Party by rejecting grueling careers for a “low-desire life.” That is clashing with the party’s message of success and consumerism as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding.

Guo, 44, became a freelance writer in Dali, a town in Yunnan province known for its traditional architecture and picturesque scenery. He married a woman he met there.

“Work was OK, but I didn’t like it much,” Guo said. “What is wrong with doing your own thing, not just looking at the money?”

One by One, My Friends Were Sent to the Camps

Tahir Hamut Izgil

If you took an Uber in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago, there was a chance your driver was one of the greatest living Uyghur poets. Tahir Hamut Izgil arrived with his family in the United States in 2017, fleeing the Chinese government’s merciless persecution of his people. Tahir’s escape not only spared him near-certain internment in the camps that have swallowed more than 1 million Uyghurs; it also allowed him to share with the world his experience of the calamity engulfing his homeland. The following articles are Tahir’s firsthand account of one of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crises, and of one family’s survival.

Before I met Tahir, I knew his poems. I encountered them soon after I began working as a translator in Xinjiang, the Uyghur region in western China. A close friend there kept telling me that if I really wanted to understand Uyghur culture, I had to read the poetry. Like many Americans, I rarely felt drawn to poetry, but one day, another friend put a sheaf of Tahir’s verses in my hand. Poetry had never affected me so deeply.

Obstacle or Opportunity For U.S.-Chinese Nuclear Arms Control?

Doreen Horschig

China has become more assertive in the expansion and modernization of its nuclear forces. On June 30, Dr. Jeffrey Lewis and Decker Eveleth revealed in the Washington Post the discovery of satellite images that showed 120 Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos under construction – an increase of 87 percent from the previously 16 known silos for latest-generation ICBMs. Both joined Ploughshares Fund’s Press the Button podcast to discuss what this means for Chinese nuclear forces and U.S. foreign policy.

Eveleth, an undergraduate student at Reed College, discovered the silos in Yumen in the western desert using commercial satellite images from Planet Labs, a private Earth-imaging company that provides open data access. “[China has] all of these big inflatable domes that are spaced perfectly from three kilometers apart,” Eveleth explained, “there’s not really any other civilian projects that would require this amount of infrastructure in this space.”

Palestinians Find New Unity After War With Israel

Stefanie Glinski

JERUSALEM—Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians remain high after a fourth war with Hamas ended in a shaky cease-fire in May, and home demolitions and evictions of Palestinians, supported by the Israeli government, continue in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But Palestinians—and even Israelis—say that the Palestinian cause has been galvanized like never before, and disparate groups of Palestinians are discovering a new sense of unity in the rubble of the 11-day war.

Since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, Palestinians have lived physically divided. In the Gaza Strip, a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007 means that most of its people have never left the small enclave and have had vanishingly few contacts with fellow Palestinians in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. That isolation was further deepened by decades of illegal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“We have seen that all these colonial borders—whether cement blocks and walls or barriers in our minds that have caused divisions—are starting to come down. We are reclaiming our unified identity,” said Mohammed El-Kurd, a 23-year-old student who grew up in occupied East Jerusalem and studied in New York. “Millions of people around the world are, for the first time, waking up to the reality of apartheid and ethnic cleansing Palestinians are facing on a daily basis.”

The Real Tragedy of Israel's Wars in Gaza

Raphael S. Cohen

Operation Guardian of the Walls—the fourth war between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other groups in Gaza—may be over, but the controversy over the war is only just beginning. Multiple news outlets already allege that the Israeli forces committed war crimes during the conflict. Several American lawmakers criticized Israel's “attack on Palestinian families.” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) even introduced a failed resolution disapproving of a $735 million American arms sale to Israel. A variety of states—including China and Russia—condemned the civilian death toll, despite their own dubious human rights records. Celebrities too have entered the fray. Stepping back for a moment, it is worth asking: Did Israel have another viable operational option vis-à-vis Gaza and could another advanced military have done any better under the same circumstances? The answer is probably not.

To start, some pundits suggested that Israel simply could have hunkered down, let its Iron Dome air defense system intercept incoming Hamas' missiles, and wait for international pressure to stop Hamas' bombardment. Such passivity, though, was likely a nonstarter. Hamas and its allies have an arsenal of upwards of 30,000 rockets and mortars and Iron Dome is at best only 90 percent effective—meaning that hundreds of Hamas' rockets still struck their targets. Moreover, given that Iron Dome's interceptors cost an estimated $40,000 or more each, Israel does not have an unlimited supply either. Above all, the international community may not have the will or leverage to stop Hamas and its fellow Palestinian groups, absent Israeli military pressure.

Competing with Russia Militarily

Clint Reach, Edward Geist, Abby Doll, Joe Cheravitch

The U.S. Department of Defense now recognizes Russia as one of its "principal priorities" in the context of renewed great power competition. In this Perspective, the authors examine the implications of a conventional military confrontation between NATO and Russia in Europe and the associated risk of nuclear escalation.

This Perspective primarily draws on published RAND Corporation reports to identify strengths, weaknesses, and risks for both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia in a large-scale war. The authors found that although Russia does possess a number of key advantages in the early stages of a war that would pose serious challenges to a NATO response, its current ground force structure and posture do not ensure an obvious path to defeating NATO in a protracted conflict and avoiding nuclear escalation. The authors also find that by addressing existing challenges posed by Russia in the Baltic theater, there are opportunities for NATO to strengthen deterrence and shape Russian perceptions of NATO's ability to respond militarily in advance of a possible crisis scenario.

Biden's Withdrawal from Afghanistan Demonstrates True Leadership

Paul R. Pillar

National interests often do not correlate with headlines. Some things that produce bad news may still be for the greater good, just as surgery produces pain and scars even if it improves the health of the body. Conversely, trying to avoid discouraging headlines is often not the best way of serving the nation’s larger interests.

The distinction involved is partly one between the short term and the long term. Daily or weekly news cycles are on a different time scale from a proper assessment of whether the nation’s interests are being advanced or set back. It also is a matter of what is highly visible—especially highly visible bad news—being different from less visible and less tangible but nonetheless important aspects of the well-being of the nation.

Regarding foreign policy, another relevant distinction is between all that is ugly in the world and whatever subset of the ugliness is in the power and the interests of the United States to improve. There is no shortage of happenings abroad that understandably make caring Americans cringe, but only a few of those happenings are sufficiently damaging to U.S. interests to warrant the costs and risks involved in overcoming them—if the United States is able to overcome them at all.

Cyber Dialogues with Russia: Lessons from France

Pierre Morcos

The first test of the cyber redlines set by President Biden in his summit with President Putin arrived on July 2, when a Russia-based hacking group known as REvil employed a ransomware attack—the largest ever—against Miami-based software company Kaseya, affecting the operations of up to 2,000 companies globally. At their June summit in Geneva, President Biden pressured President Putin to rein in Russian criminal hacking groups following a spate of similar attacks against Colonial Pipeline and meat processor JBS (REvil also claimed responsibility for the JBS attack). The two leaders agreed to resume bilateral talks on cyber issues, and according to the White House, U.S. officials have already started expert-level talks with Russian counterparts.

The Biden administration has faced criticism for engaging the Kremlin in a cyber dialogue even as Russia fails to implement cyber agreements it has already signed on to under the auspices of the UN Group of Governmental Experts. However, lessons from a recent Franco-Russian dialogue on cyber issues suggest that bilateral engagement can help the United States fulfill useful goals, short of halting Russia-based cyberattacks.

Ending Modern Slavery Must Be Part of ‘Build Back Better’

Stewart M. Patrick

Of the many injustices in the contemporary world, modern slavery is among the most shocking. The trade in humans is a worldwide phenomenon. It spans the poorest and wealthiest countries and is deeply embedded in global supply chains. This is not only an ethical outrage but a threat to international security, prosperity, good governance and development. As the world seeks to “build back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic, it must tackle the scourge of human bondage.

Slavery is one of the oldest human institutions, and it remains stubbornly persistent. The global abolitionist movement, which originated in the late 18th century, eventually succeeded in outlawing formal chattel slavery by the mid-20th century—one of the signal moral advances in human history. The global prohibition against slavery is embedded in numerous international legal instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948.

The Undeniable Pessimism of Angela Merkel

Thorsten Benner

Ten years ago, in June 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama rolled out the red carpet for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At a White House state dinner, he anointed Merkel as the European standard-bearer for freedom, presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and praising her as an “eloquent voice for human rights and dignity around the world.” A moved chancellor committed herself to standing up for freedom, intonating that “living in freedom and defending freedom are two sides of one and the same coin, for the precious gift of freedom doesn’t come naturally but has to be fought for, nurtured, and defended time and time again.”

This Thursday, Merkel comes to Washington in a very different role: as nemesis of President Joe Biden’s China policy. That the free world is in a decisive struggle against an authoritarian China is one of the few things Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Merkel has chosen not to abide by this bipartisan consensus. During the last year of her term, Merkel has invested all her energy into deepening Germany’s and Europe’s economic ties with China, pushing through an investment agreement with China late last year. This was the chancellor’s welcome present for the Biden administration, signaling her opposition to a united trans-Atlantic front against Beijing. Even more tellingly, Merkel chose to remain silent in March when Beijing, in an unprecedented move, slapped sanctions on German and European parliamentarians and researchers.

Will the United States and Europe Break Up Over China?

Michael Hirsh

The 75-year-old relationship between the United States and post-war Europe is a bit like a traditional arranged marriage between two great families: It is ever fraught with tension, threats of estrangement, occasional outside dalliances (with China and Russia) and, once in a while, spousal abuse (former U.S. President Donald Trump). But surprises are few and divorce unthinkable.

Yet when two stalwarts of this geopolitical union, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden, meet at the White House on Thursday, there will be something new and unsettling in the air: a sense the relationship is changing, perhaps permanently. Americans are increasingly frustrated at European reluctance to get on board with Washington’s strategic shift away from Moscow and toward confronting Beijing. Europeans remain skeptical about the United States’ durability as a democracy and partner, a concern Biden has only partially assuaged.

True, Biden has worked hard to heal the transatlantic wounds inflicted during the Trump presidency, saying and doing almost all the right things during last month’s trip—his first overseas—at the G-7 and NATO summits. In a stern rebuke to Trump, who questioned NATO’s utility, Biden described the alliance as a “sacred commitment,” and he resolved the long-nagging Airbus-Boeing dispute. But the Germans and other Europeans are more than a little irritated at Biden’s impatience to push them toward a new consensus, especially against China. And they know why he’s in such a hurry: The specter of Trump and Trumpism still looms across the Atlantic Ocean.

Military and Defense-Related Supply Chains

Bradley Martin

The National Security Supply Chain Institute seeks a broader definition of national security than is often employed. But, even within the narrow confines of military operational logistics, there may be some very good reasons to be concerned.

The supply chain for joint operations serves a joint force. However, military services, geographic combatant commanders, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and other combat support agencies make independent decisions about the purchase and positioning of spares and ordnance. All these organizations have different responsibilities and incentives. These incentives drive behavior that makes individual sense for the organizations, but might not result in overall effectiveness in supporting the needs of operating forces.

Due largely to the unprecedented level of dominance and freedom of action the United States possessed after the Cold War, logistics planners moved away from a focus on effectiveness to a focus on efficiency, in the sense that little is left idle for significant periods and that commodities are delivered at minimum cost. This is not to say that efficiency is not a worthy goal, just that it relies very heavily on measurements of current activity. This has meant that such factors as planning for attrition or dispersion or consideration of resupply points became matters of cost, with a bias toward “just in time” delivery that is simply not executable in the world as it has evolved.

Fuzzynomics and 12 Other Attempts to Name Our New Era

In hindsight, our new economic era probably began in 2008, when a handful of bankers—and the policymakers who write the rules—broke the system. Not only did they set off a terrifying financial meltdown, but the resulting deep recession also exposed a crisis in economic policymaking. The emergency measures that kept the developed economies going, such as near-zero interest rates and massive asset buying by the central banks, are still with us today and have produced, at best, mediocre results. Governments, it seems, are fumbling in the dark.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, these policies have only ballooned. Rich countries have spent previously unimaginable sums to order vaccines, support workers, and shower corporations with cash as the lockdowns froze the economy. Even as the pandemic (hopefully) winds down, there are few signs that the urge to spend and stimulate is going away. Many cheer this as the return of the robust state. Others fret about fiscal irresponsibility.

Decades of economic orthodoxy are being thrown out as the world sorts itself out anew. Governments used to care about debt and central banks about their balance sheets—no longer. The consensus was that endless money printing would unleash galloping inflation—whether that happens remains to be seen. During the depths of last year’s economic deepfreeze, stocks were soaring to new all-time highs. By some measures, U.S. asset valuations are now more extreme than they were before the crash in 1929. So are we in the Roaring ’20s—or on the cusp of another meltdown?

Why Putin is Upping the Ante on Ukraine

Jacob Heilbrunn

This past April, Russian president Vladimir Putin massed over 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, escalating tensions between the two countries and prompting widespread speculation about his intentions before he ultimately withdrew some of his forces. Then, in June, Russia, after an apparent confrontation with a British destroyer sailing into the 12-nautical mile territorial zone around Crimea, threatened to bomb such vessels in the future. Now, in an expansive essay that was published on a Russian website on Monday, and with a State Duma election looming in September, Putin has elaborated upon his views of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia. Consistent with Putin’s previous essays, it delves deeply into the anfractuosities of Russian history, delivering what can only be described as an uncompromising description of Russian and Ukrainian ties. Put bluntly, an emboldened Putin appears to be inaugurating a new phase in the East-West competition.

Cuba Doesn’t Know How to Handle the New Protests

James Bloodworth

For seasoned Cuba watchers, it has been a remarkable couple of days. For the first time since the mid-1990s, mass protests have rocked the communist-run island. Now, like then, the main sources of discontent are food shortages, government repression, and a stagnant economy.

But 1994, the last time Cuba witnessed anything like this, Cuba was at the height of the so-called “special period.” The country was ravaged by shortages following the collapse of its benefactor, the Soviet Union. When the USSR fell, around a third of Cuba’s GDP disappeared almost overnight. Rolling blackouts became the norm, and food was hard to find. Protests back then were much smaller, however, and consisted of several hundred demonstrators in Havana.

This time around, the economic crisis isn’t quite as catastrophic, but the protests are both bigger and more threatening to the communist government. In part, that’s because of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s death in 2016. In the aftermath of the 1994 riots, Castro, along with his entourage, traveled down to the Malecon, Havana’s iconic seawall. Castro declared that anyone who wanted to leave Cuba could do so. “We are not opposed to anything, to letting those who want to leave, leave,” he declared. Over the ensuing months, the wily Cuban leader opened Cuba’s maritime ports, allowing thousands of balseros (“rafters”) to depart for the United States, a regular safety valve the former Cuban leader deployed to get rid of malcontents.

The myth of ethical AI in war


US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wants the Defense Department to do artificial intelligence (AI) “the right way,” even if our main competitor, China, does not.

Speaking to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Austin said: “… our use of AI must reinforce our democratic values, protect our rights, ensure our safety and defend our privacy.”

This is close to the formula assigned to the fictional “Officer Murphy” in the 1987 movie Robocop. Murphy, a murdered police officer, was turned into Robocop, a cyborg with his human memory (mostly) erased.

He was given four directives, the first three being to serve the public trust, protect the innocent and uphold the law. He was also given a classified order, Directive 4, which blocked Robocop from causing harm to employees of Omni Consumer Products (OCP), the company that built him.

Army Commanders in Europe and Pacific Want Robots

Kris Osborn

Combat Commanders in Europe and the Pacific want ground robots to support their training, force deployments, war preparations and deterrence operations in response to increasing Russian and Chinese threats.

The reasons are likely multifaceted to include the pursuit of dispersed, multi-domain networking operations, manned-unmanned teaming and forward offensive attack operations. The Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle effort, which has been going through extensive development and testing, is making rapid progress toward being ready to send new robots to war. For example, robots in Eastern Europe would test Russian defenses along border regions and network with aerial drones to pass along key details of force maneuvers to command and control. Due to the combat performance promise and tactical advantages associated with manned-unmanned teaming.

Has Israel’s army become too small?

Ben Caspit

The outgoing deputy head of the Israel Defense Forces, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, is not big on interviews and rarely speaks in public. At a handover ceremony for his successor Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi this week, Zamir dropped a bomb. Zamir, who was tasked with the IDF’s force buildup, essentially said that the IDF is not big enough and could find itself lacking the critical mass it needs to defeat Israel’s enemies.

“We could be facing a long, heavy, multi-theater campaign, combined with domestic challenges,” Zamir warned. To overcome these threats on its borders and to its heartland, Israel needs “decision-making ability, breathing space and a strong reserve,” he added. “In my opinion, the IDF is on the verge of the minimum size needed to face more complex threats than those we have experienced in recent years. Along with advanced technological capabilities, Israel also needs a critical mass of people to improve the IDF’s overall quality and quantity,” Zamir said.

Interpreting Sun Tzu: The Art of Failure?

John F. Sullivan

If you now wish to inquire into the Way of [the ancient sages], may I suggest that one can hardly be certain of it? To be certain of it without evidence is foolishness, to appeal to it though unable to be certain of it is fraud.
—Hanfeizi (3rd century BCE)[1]

“Translation,” an American poet and translator of Dante’s Inferno opined, “is the art of failure.”[2] In Don Quixote, the eponymous character notes that distortion is often a natural byproduct of the effort: “translation from one language into another…is like looking at Flemish tapestries on the wrong side; for though the figures are visible, they are full of threads that make them indistinct, and they do not show with the smoothness and brightness of the right side.”[3] The reverse tapestry is an apt metaphor for reading any ancient Chinese text, particularly The Art of War. While the use of logographs to express complex thoughts has been a constant feature throughout China’s recorded history, the written language of thousands of years ago differs significantly from its modern variant. While the original Art of War consists of approximately 6,ooo characters, a modern Chinese version requires more than double that number to convey the same approximate meaning.[4] Even most native Chinese speakers, therefore, read a translation of the original.