16 August 2021

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

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 ...

Implications of the Evolving Situation in Afghanistan

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

The situation in Afghanistan is turning from bad to worse rapidly. The Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has unleashed the Taliban, now in full swing. With much of the U.S. withdrawal completed, the Taliban have made steady progress, gaining control of cities and towns one after the other in past week. While there are questions such as who will fill the military vacuum left by the U.S., the more pertinent question is if Kabul can hold on in the immediate timeframe.

There is speculation over whether the Taliban are even interested in continuing with the peace talks in Qatar given that the group has been on a winning spree. The peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, in progress since September 2020, were meant to bring about a relative stable and inclusive government in Kabul. But with the increase in violence and civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the peace talks have been in disarray.

Nevertheless, India took part in peace talks held in Doha on Thursday, along with other regional powers including the United States, Russia, and China. According to Indian media reports, Indian Ambassador in Qatar Deepak Mittal and the joint secretary in charge of Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) are meant to be participating at the talks.

The Afghan Military Was Built Over 20 Years. How Did It Collapse So Quickly?

Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Fahim Abed and Sharif Hassan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The surrenders seem to be happening as fast as the Taliban can travel.

In the past several days, the Afghan security forces have collapsed in more than 15 cities under the pressure of a Taliban advance that began in May. On Friday, officials confirmed that those included two of the country’s most important provincial capitals: Kandahar and Herat.

The swift offensive has resulted in mass surrenders, captured helicopters and millions of dollars of American-supplied equipment paraded by the Taliban on grainy cellphone videos. In some cities, heavy fighting had been underway for weeks on their outskirts, but the Taliban ultimately overtook their defensive lines and then walked in with little or no resistance.

This implosion comes despite the United States having poured more than $83 billion in weapons, equipment and training into the country’s security forces over two decades.

A Rescue Plan for Afghanistan

What an awful, tragic irony. President Biden in April chose Sept. 11 as the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan. Now it’s possible that, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban that once protected Osama bin Laden and that the U.S. ousted from power could again rule in Kabul.

Mr. Biden would like to absolve himself of responsibility for this looming defeat, but he cannot. He could have withdrawn U.S. forces in a careful way based on conditions and a plan to shore up Afghan forces or midwife an alliance between regional tribal warlords and the government in Kabul. The President did none of that.

Instead his mid-April decision to withdraw, on the eve of the summer fighting season, triggered the May 1 start of the Taliban offensive. The rapid withdrawal timetable meant U.S. forces would be preoccupied with that task rather than assisting Afghan forces. His decision to abandon multiple military bases, and withdraw all air power, has denied the Afghan army crucial support it relied on.

Afghanistan is disintegrating as the Taliban gain momentum

KANDAHAR AND HERAT, Afghanistan’s second- and third-largest cities, had been under assault for days. On August 12th both fell into the hands of the Taliban. So did a string of other cities, in what amounted to a rout of Afghan forces. Among them were Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province in the south, and Ghazni, near Kabul, the capital. Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s president, has now lost around half the country’s provincial towns and cities in just a week. That includes territory in the north and west, traditional strongholds of resistance to the Taliban. The Taliban claimed to have taken Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar province, just 70km south of the capital. “The Taliban can now focus on the east and the road to Kabul,” says Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, a website which tracks the war. “This is close to [the] endgame.”

Afghanistan pullout: Biden's biggest call yet - will it be his most calamitous?

Jon Sopel

If you like neat lines, tidiness and admire symmetry, what's not to like about the decision of Joe Biden to pull American combat troops out of Afghanistan by 11 September 2021 - exactly 20 years on from 9/11?

In modern day America it often feels that all roads lead back to 9/11; the single most defining - and scarring - event since Pearl Harbor: the surprise attack by the Japanese on America's Pacific fleet, which would ultimately bring America into World War Two.

And so it was that 9/11 led to this country's longest military encounter. The attack on the Twin Towers, the plane that flew into the Pentagon, and the one that crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, were initially the spur for a surge of US nationalism. Young people - in fact people of all ages - were going along to armed forces recruitment offices wanting to sign up. America had come under attack; these patriots wanted to fight to defend the country the "land of the free", and seek revenge on those who would do the US harm.

Will Arming ‘Public Uprising Forces’ Stop the Taliban’s Advance?

Hollie McKay

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan—It’s something of a grim domino effect. Afghanistan is rapidly falling back to Taliban control, as the bulwark insurgency advances into cities across the embattled nation, killing hundreds and displacing hundreds of thousands more.

While much of the U.S.-led, almost two-decade war has focused on Afghanistan’s southeast border with Pakistan, the Taliban this time around has been able to storm through the once iron-clad, anti-Taliban pockets of the northern resistance—dishing up a massive morale blow.

However, all is not lost.

It was the conglomerate of northern warlords dubbed the “Northern Alliance” that the United States relied upon to enter Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, and to then quickly usurp the Taliban government from power.

Afghanistan Is in Freefall. America Must Punish Pakistan For Its Role.

Michael Rubin

Afghanistan is in freefall. The Taliban conquer city after city with impunity. The State Department pleads with the Taliban to spare its embassy. A repeat of Saigon 1975 looms.

It need not have been this way. President Joe Biden decided to withdraw forces to honor a peace agreement his and President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad hashed out with the Taliban, never mind that the Taliban never abided by the terms of the agreement. As Afghanistan collapses, Biden now blames the Afghan government for its corruption and the Afghan military for its failure to counter the Taliban advance. Corruption is a major problem, though Afghanistan has tackled some of the worst abuses and so improved in Transparency International’s ratings. If corruption alone was the problem, however, then its similarly-ranked peers—Burundi, Guinea Bissau, and Turkmenistan—would suffer a similar fate. As for the Afghan military’s failure to fight, Afghans are correct to point out that the fight would have been far easier if the United States had not forced the Afghan government to release imprisoned Taliban fighters.

No good options for Central Asia after US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Nishank Motwani

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan presents a special challenge to Russia and several Central Asian states. The withdrawal could see Afghanistan grow into a source of instability for the region, and the Central Asian states bordering the country have each taken a somewhat different approach to its dealings with the Taliban. None appears to have a clear strategy on how to handle the rapidly changing situation.

Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Afghanistan’s northern neighbours, have benefitted from a government in Kabul that has been friendly and restrained violent groups from crossing into their territories. Now they have front row seats to the Afghan government’s fight for survival. The growing threat of a Taliban return is forcing them to rethink their approach to Afghanistan. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia have opened communication channels with the Taliban leadership and hosted representatives in their capitals. This undercuts the Afghan government’s legitimacy, encouraging Taliban militancy.

Japan’s Military Role in the Indo-Pacific

Mercy A. Kuo

The Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Robert Ward, Japan chair and director of Geo-economics and Strategy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is the 282nd in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Identify any significant shifts in Japan’s defense policy based on its 2021 annual white paper.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense (JMOD)’s 2021 annual white paper was notable for four main reasons. First was the mention of the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait and the link with Japan’s own security. This was the first such mention in a JMOD white paper. Second was the focus on U.S.-China relations, a clear marker by JMOD that U.S.-China strategic competition is now a key framer for Japanese defense policy.

‘Close to the danger zone’: Security experts warn about increasing possibility of war over Taiwan


TOKYO — A panel of security experts, including a former Japanese government official, expressed concern this week about the increasing potential for war between China and the United States, but made clear they believe conflict can be avoided.

During a news conference Wednesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, three experts discussed the rising tensions over Taiwan between the U.S., Japan and China, as well as what could be done to avoid outright combat.

Kyoji Yanagisawa, a former assistant chief cabinet secretary for Japan who led the country’s national security and crisis management between 2004 and 2009, expressed serious concerns about stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Personally, I believe that this situation is already reaching close to the danger zone of war,” he said. “And there is a serious risk that China and the U.S. may go to war or enter into a conflict over Taiwan.”

Unnerved by Taliban Gains, Central Asia Boosts Ties With Russia and China

Paul Stronski

The ongoing withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is transforming diplomatic and security dynamics in Central Asia, creating opportunities for Russia and China to enhance their engagement with increasingly anxious governments in the region. The resurgence of the Taliban that began in the spring—and their takeover of large swaths of Afghanistan’s territory, including at least eight regional capitals so far—is unnerving senior officials in Central Asia.

Russia, meanwhile, is eager to take advantage of the U.S. withdrawal by shoring up its influence in Central Asia, enhancing its security footprint and preventing Washington from resuming military operations in any Central Asian state. China, too, is stepping up its diplomacy with Central Asia, increasing its bilateral security assistance with Kyrgyzstan and moving to enhance its influence and presence in Tajikistan, which shares a border with the sensitive Xinjiang region in northwestern China. The prospect of a Taliban victory or a civil war in Afghanistan, and its spillover into Central Asia, appears to be pushing Moscow, Beijing and Central Asian governments toward closer cooperation. ...

As Taliban Seizes Power, China Poised To Make ‘Big Gains’ In Afghanistan

Prakash Nanda

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is gathering pace, with more and more provincial capitals of the country falling under its control in quick succession.

And as the ascendancy of the Taliban in Afghanistan becomes more and more obvious each passing day, it becomes also increasingly clear that of all the major global powers players it is China that is going to gain the most geopolitically in this vital strategic region connecting to central Asia, Middle East and the Indian subcontinent (South Asia).

In fact, many analysts are now saying that geoeconomics, rather than geopolitics, is going to be the key to future stability (or lack of it) in Afghanistan.

The new great game in Afghanistan will be as much for fulfilling the strategic ambitions of major global players as for facilitating their respective corporates (whether state-owned or private) to be vital stakeholders in the Afghan economy, they say.

The Story Behind China’s Long-Stalled Mine in Afghanistan

Mohsin Amin

One-third of the Afghan population lives below the poverty line (earning less than $2 a day) and a further 50 percent are barely above this line. With a per capita GDP of only $595, Afghans hoped to see $1 billion in annual revenue and at least 8,500 direct jobs and more than 30,000 indirect jobs from the mining sector by 2017. The $1 billion in annual revenue was expected to come from the Mes Aynak copper mine ($350 million) and from the Hajigak iron ore ($550 million), with another $150 million from hydrocarbons and gemstones. This goal was set in the first and second National Priority Programs (NPP) of the infrastructure development cluster, namely the “National and Regional Resource Corridors Program” and the “National Extractive Industries Excellence Program.” The two NPPs were part of the 22 NPP packages that were designed and approved under the Kabul Process in 2010 and reconfirmed at the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in 2012. However, the $1 billion revenue target now looks unrealistic in 2017 and perhaps not even attainable by 2020. The problems in the Mes Aynak mine provide an illustrative case study of the difficulties.


Stavros Atlamazoglou

The US faces myriad conventional and unconventional threats: Russia, North Korea, Iran, terrorist organizations, climate change, and pandemics are just some of them. Yet, China unquestionably rises to the top as the primary danger to U.S. national security.

Earlier in 2021, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines stated in Congress that Beijing has become an unparalleled priority for the U.S. Intelligence Community. Indeed, China has become a near-peer competitor that is increasingly challenging the U.S. in multiple domains, all the while trying to revise international norms and adjust them to the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian capitalistic system.

According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the Bureau opens a new counterintelligence investigation related to China every 10 hours, with more than 2,000 current active cases. The majority of these cases relate to economic espionage, which has seen a 1,300% increase in the last few years.

China masking bleak demographic reality

Yi Fuxian

Rarely has a census report received as much attention as the one China released in May. Given Beijing’s long history of fiddling with demographic data, the one-month delay in releasing last year’s census results was suspicious, to say the least, but it was what happened soon thereafter that effectively confirmed China’s bleak demographic reality.

Officially, China’s demographic situation is nothing to be alarmed about: The census showed that the population reached the expected level of 1.41 billion people last year, and continues to grow.

However, less than a month after the census was released, Chinese authorities announced the loosening of family-planning rules, so that households can have three children, rather than two. They have also put forward a more comprehensive plan for boosting the fertility rate.

These policy moves suggest that China’s demographic structure is actually much worse than the authorities would have us believe. Indeed, an analysis of the nation’s age structure suggests that it has far fewer citizens than the census reported and that its population is already declining.

The “new normal” in US-China relations: Hardening competition and deep interdependence

Ryan Hass

The intensification of U.S.-China competition has captured significant attention in recent years. American attitudes toward China have become more negative during this period, as anger has built over disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing’s trampling of Hong Kong’s autonomy, human rights violations in Xinjiang, and job losses to China.

Amidst this focus on great power competition, two broader trends in the U.S.-China relationship have commanded relatively less attention. The first has been the widening gap in America’s and China’s overall national power relative to every other country in the world. The second has been the continuing thick interdependence between the United States and China, even amidst their growing rivalry. Even on economic issues, where rhetoric and actions around decoupling command the most attention, trade and investment data continue to point stubbornly in the direction of deep interdependence. These trends will impact how competition is conducted between the U.S. and China in the coming years.

What Comes Next in the Standoff Between the U.S. and Iran?

President Joe Biden entered office promising to return the U.S. to the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. But doing so is already proving tricky for Biden’s administration, in part because of the complex politics surrounding the deal in both Washington and Tehran, but also because of the tense relations between the two countries, which soured significantly under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.

In May 2018, when Trump followed through on a campaign promise to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 multilateral deal limiting Iran’s uranium enrichment program, Tehran initially reacted by adopting a posture of strategic patience. But after European attempts to keep the deal afloat failed to deliver any respite from the U.S. campaign of “maximum pressure,” and amid increasingly bellicose rhetoric out of Washington, Iran shifted gears.

Beginning in early 2019, Iran gradually announced a series of what it called reversible breaches of its obligations under the nuclear deal, exceeding limits on its stockpile of enriched uranium and the level to which it is enriched. More recently, Iran suspended its Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency, a side-agreement that provided the nuclear watchdog’s inspectors with even more robust mechanisms to monitor every stage of Iran’s nuclear program than the agency’s standard oversight agreement.

Biden Wants To Reengage With The World, But His Ambassadors Are Mostly Absent


President Biden promised to put U.S. diplomacy back in the "hands of genuine professionals," but more than six months into his administration only one of his ambassadors to another country has been confirmed.

That's raising concerns about how effectively the administration is conducting foreign policy — and the message such a diplomatic vacuum sends to the global community.

"There's no other country in the world, I think, probably that has ever had 80 vacant ambassadorships at one time," said Ambassador Eric Rubin, president of the American Foreign Service Association, the union for the diplomatic corps. "And while I'm quite sure it's not intended to be a signal of disrespect or lack of commitment to engagement with other countries, it can come across that way after a point."

America Still Needs to Rebalance to Asia

Zack Cooper and Adam P. Liff

This fall marks ten years since the Obama administration rolled out its famous “rebalance to Asia.” Standing before the Australian Parliament in 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that the United States was “turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region.”

Even at the time, American officials were clearly mindful of the widespread concerns about U.S. commitment to the region and skepticism that they would fulfill their sweeping promises. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton penned a widely read article in which she made the case that in the coming decade, the United States needed to pivot away from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and instead bolster its investment in the Asia-Pacific region. “In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make—and keep—credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action,” she wrote. “The answer is: We can, and we will.”

Ten years and two administrations later, it is clear that the United States has fallen short. In speeches and statements, the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations have all appropriately

Taking on Russia and China means US Special Operations Command is rethinking how it fights the propaganda war


Before any shots are fired in a major conflict, a war of words and ideas is already underway.

The modern era's unprecedented level of interconnectivity and the proliferation of communication methods, such as social media, has made that information battle fiercer than ever, and it will be crucial for the US as it competes with near-peer rivals China and Russia.

However, the US military has fallen behind in the information realm.

At a recent congressional hearing, Pentagon and Intelligence Community officials said the US has let its Information Operations (IO) atrophy compared to those of its competitors. Russia now poses the more serious IO threat, but China follows close behind.

America Failed Its Way to Counterterrorism Success

Hal Brands and Michael O’Hanlon

“War,” the late French prime minister Georges Clemenceau famously remarked, “is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.” That is a good way to think about the United States’ odyssey in the “war on terror.” For 20 years, Washington has struggled and mostly failed to reduce the overall level of global terrorism and to create a healthier political climate in the Muslim world. It has also endured slow, grinding quagmires and sharp, humiliating setbacks. Yet on the most fundamental level, the United States has achieved its strategic objective: it has prevented catastrophic attacks against the U.S. homeland, mainly by becoming extremely proficient at destroying terrorists’ sanctuaries and pulverizing their networks.

The United States has paid too high a price for this success. Yet that price has fallen dramatically over time as Washington has developed what is, on balance, a better counterterrorism approach. After conducting unsustainably expensive military commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States underreached by pulling back from the broader Middle East too fast and allowing old threats to reemerge. But since around 2014, Washington has settled on a medium-footprint model based on modest investments, particularly in special operations forces and airpower, to support local forces that do most of the fighting and dying. When combined with nonmilitary tools such as intelligence cooperation, law enforcement efforts, and economic aid, this approach provides reasonably good protection at a reasonable price.

Bin Laden’s Catastrophic Success

Nelly Lahoud

On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda carried out the deadliest foreign terrorist attack the United States had ever experienced. To Osama bin Laden and the other men who planned it, however, the assault was no mere act of terrorism. To them, it represented something far grander: the opening salvo of a campaign of revolutionary violence that would usher in a new historical era. Although bin Laden was inspired by religion, his aims were geopolitical. Al Qaeda’s mission was to undermine the contemporary world order of nation-states and re-create the historical umma, the worldwide community of Muslims that was once held together by a common political authority. Bin Laden believed that he could achieve that goal by delivering what he described as a “decisive blow” that would force the United States to withdraw its military forces from Muslim-majority states, thus allowing jihadis to fight autocratic regimes in those places on a level playing field.

Oil Markets, Fracking, And The Global Economy

Gideon Bornstein, Per Krusell, and Sergio Rebelo

Oil markets have long been central to discussions of the global economy, and fluctuations in oil prices frequently gain widespread attention. This column explores the impact of the rising use of fracking on how oil markets are best conceived within modern macroeconomic theory. The author's model predicts that as fracking accounts for an increasingly sizeable fraction of the world oil supply, it may herald a new era of lower, more stable oil prices.

How important is the oil market for the global economy? Although oil shocks are often viewed as responsible for the poor performance of many countries in the 1970s, these shocks have played a relatively minor role in leading macroeconomic models. Because oil represents a relatively small share of overall production costs, conventional models imply that oil shocks have a limited impact on aggregate output.

This conclusion has recently been challenged by Gabaix (2011), Acemoglu et al. (2012), and Baqaee and Farhi (2019). These authors argue that shocks to sectors with a small factor share that are highly complementary to other inputs can have a large impact on aggregate output. Baqaee and Farhi (2019) emphasise the perils of using linearisation methods to analyse macroeconomic models with strong complementarities and use the impact of oil shocks in the 1970s as a leading example of these perils.

The Role of Clean Hydrogen for a Sustainable Mobility

Nicola De Blasio

Hydrogen and energy have a long-shared history. Although there have been false starts in the past, this time around, hydrogen is capturing unprecedented political and business momentum as a versatile and sustainable energy carrier that could be the missing piece in the carbon-free energy puzzle. Clean hydrogen produced from zero-carbon energy sources, such as renewable (green hydrogen) and nuclear power (pink hydrogen),1 appears ever more likely to play a prominent role in the global transition to a low-carbon economy.2

As governments and corporations become increasingly committed to addressing climate change and reducing emissions, they are placing greater emphasis on the deep decarbonization of energy-intensive “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as iron and steel production, high-temperature industrial heat, aviation, shipping, railway, and long-distance road transportation. These are areas where shifting to electricity as the preferred energy vector while decarbonizing its production may not be immediately feasible. At the same time, adoption of clean hydrogen at scale will depend on more than just its environmental benefits; economic, policy, technological, and safety factors must also be addressed.

Whose Streets? Our Streets! (Tech Edition)

Rebecca Williams

Why Public Spaces Are Important for Democracy

The extent to which “smart city” technology is altering our sense of freedom in public spaces deserves more attention if we want a democratic future. Democracy–the rule of the people–constitutes our collective self-determination and protects us against domination and abuse. Democracy requires safe spaces, or commons, for people to organically and spontaneously convene regardless of their background or position to campaign for their causes, discuss politics, and protest. In these commons, where anyone can take a stand and be noticed is where a notion of collective good can be developed and communicated. Public spaces, like our streets, parks, and squares, have historically played a significant role in the development of democracy. We should fight to preserve the freedoms intrinsic to our public spaces because they make democracy possible.

China Owes The World $35 Trillion If Coronavirus Lab Leak Is True

Christian Whiton

Did China cause the coronavirus pandemic?

On August 24, a report President Joe Biden ordered 90 days earlier from the intelligence bureaucracy about the origin of COVID-19 will be due. There is an odd lack of leaked information about where the report stands now. Despite their supposedly secretive nature, these agencies often seem to employ even more aggressive publicists than SEAL Team Six and leak what passes for intelligence to force the hand of a president they are supposed to serve. When he ordered the review, Biden forecast that the agencies might not agree on a source of COVID, or might issue a posterior-covering report that stresses they present their conclusions with “moderate” confidence—shorthand for “guessing.”

But what if they clearly report that COVID came from China’s Wuhan Institute for Virology, or if most Americans arrive at that conclusion regardless of what our feckless spies determine? The latter is already occurring: a poll in July put showed those who suspected a lab leak totaled 52 percent compared to 28 who thought it was natural.

The Limits of Cyberoffense

Eric Rosenbach, Juliette Kayyem, and Lara Mitra

The recent wave of high-profile cyberattacks by Russian organized crime groups has forced U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to confront a difficult question: How should the United States respond to hacks not by hostile foreign governments but by criminal nonstate actors? Last October, Russian hackers targeted several U.S. hospital systems with ransomware, disrupting access to electronic medical records and leaving some providers to piece together medical protocols from memory in the midst of a global pandemic. Seven months later, in May 2021, hackers shut down one of the largest fuel pipelines in the United States, leading to shortages across the East Coast and forcing the operator to pay a ransom of $4.4 million to restore service.

These attacks and others like them are a sobering reminder that U.S. critical infrastructure is rife with vulnerabilities—and that criminals around the world are more than capable of exploiting them. The attacks have also prompted a growing chorus of calls for the Biden administration to not only shore up U.S. cyberdefenses but also to go on the cyberoffensive—to “hit Putin with a serious cyberattack,” as Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, put it. But as the administration weighs its

Toward a Collaborative Cyber Defense and Enhanced Threat Intelligence Structure

Lauren Zabierek, Felipe Bueno, Andrew Sady-Kennedy, Ngasuma Kanyeka, Graham Kennis 

Executive Summary
National security structures envisioned in the 20th century are inadequate for the cyber threats that America faces in the 21st century. These structures, created to address strategic, external threats on one end, and homeland security emergencies on the other, cannot protect us from ambient cyber conflict, because they were designed for different times and threats. Our nation—comprising the federal government, private sector companies, critical infrastructure operators, state and local governments, nonprofits and universities, and even private citizens—are constantly under attack by a myriad of cyber actors with ever-increasing capabilities.

The SolarWinds breach was but one glaring example of the type of cyber operation perpetrated by a nation state against our government and private sector systems, designed to evade our defenses, and using our laws and national security structures against us. The adversary operated in domestic infrastructure, where the military and Intelligence Community cannot. We do not yet know the extent of the actors’ access or intent, but in the cyber domain, the line between information-gathering and more damaging or destructive activities is thin—perhaps a few lines of code. The operation proved that a fundamental redesign of our domestic cyber defensive posture is both necessary and urgent to protect against future cyber operations. As such, we believe the time is now to develop an integrated, networked approach to collaborative defense and intelligence analysis and sharing between the federal government, state and local governments, and the private sector. This report seeks to create a roadmap toward this vision, answering how a 21st century threat can be tackled by the tools available in its own time.

Samsung Has Its Own AI-Designed Chip. Soon, Others Will Too

SAMSUNG IS USING artificial intelligence to automate the insanely complex and subtle process of designing cutting-edge computer chips.

The South Korean giant is one of the first chipmakers to use AI to create its chips. Samsung is using AI features in new software from Synopsys, a leading chip design software firm used by many companies. “What you're seeing here is the first of a real commercial processor design with AI,” says Aart de Geus, the chairman and co-CEO of Synopsys.

Others, including Google and Nvidia, have talked about designing chips with AI. But Synopsys’ tool, called DSO.ai, may prove the most far-reaching because Synopsys works with dozens of companies. The tool has the potential to accelerate semiconductor development and unlock novel chip designs, according to industry watchers.

Synopsys has another valuable asset for crafting AI-designed chips: years of cutting-edge semiconductor designs that can be used to train an AI algorithm.

STRATCOM Chief Warns Of Chinese ‘Strategic Breakout’


WASHINGTON: The head of Strategic Command today described China’s investments in its nuclear arsenal as a “strategic breakout” that will shortly allow Beijing to execute “any plausible nuclear” strategy it wishes to pursue.

“You’re not gonna find the definition of ‘strategic breakout’ in a doctrine or a manual — and I think it’s one of about four words in the Department of Defense that doesn’t have a definition buried in some joint pub somewhere — but it is significant and I don’t use the term lightly,” Adm. Charles Richard told an audience at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium. “Business as usual will not work.”

Richard based this warning on the fact China is boosting all areas of its missile force, including both quantity and quality of its strategic delivery systems — the “explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking. Frankly, that word, breathtaking, may not be enough.”

The Hidden Dangers of a Carbon-Neutral Military

Alan Howard, Dr. Brenda Shaffer

Washington has encouraged the electrification of wide swathes of the U.S. economy as a way to encourage greater use of renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. The U.S. Defense Department, the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. federal government, is now considering pursuing its own wide-scale electrification. Such a step would have profound strategic effects that should cause policymakers to proceed far more cautiously.

In recent months, the Pentagon has launched studies to examine increased use of electricity by the military, including in battle for vehicles, tanks, ships, and planes. The Pentagon has even studied the deployment of small nuclear reactors in the battle space to provide power. NATO is also promoting increased electrification of its allied militaries. According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, “it makes little sense to have more and more electric vehicles on our streets while our armed forces still rely only on fossil fuels.”

What Stoltenberg said sounds intuitive but may not be true. Each time a military makes a major change to its energy system, it inevitably has immense geopolitical implications. When former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the decision to transfer the main source of fuel for the British Royal Navy from coal to oil, he understood the decision had significant strategic implications. Fueled by oil, the British Royal Navy could cover larger distances without refueling and at quicker speed. Yet, through this decision, London would be dependent largely on foreign-produced oil versus homegrown coal.

“Psychological” isn’t a dirty word

As a society (especially in the West), we have elevated anything having to do with the human brain to an almost sacred position. It is often said that it is easier to put a “warhead on a forehead” than it is to put an idea between someone’s ears.

My sense is that this aversion comes from a fear that attempting to influence using any kind of “technique” is somehow morally or ethically repugnant or dishonorable.

This, of course, is silly. We use these “techniques” every day. If we can use non-lethal methods to gain advantage in competition, change the tide in battle, or ultimately lessen suffering in war, shouldn’t we?

I also think there is an underlying fear born of conspiracy theory and pseudoscience that any form of influence is an attempt at ‘mind-control’ or ‘brain-washing’ – terms that have no basis in reality.

Tracking Missile Threats

Ian Williams
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One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand the profound way that rockets, missiles, and other strategic weapons have shaped international security. Yet, the influence of these weapon systems on deterrence, assurance, and stability continues to evolve and grow more complex. For international security professionals, journalists, and the interested public, tracking this changing landscape can be a challenge. To help navigate the wide world of missilery, the CSIS Missile Defense Project recently released a newly upgraded website to track and explain both missile threats and missile defenses alike.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, much of the world’s attention fixated on ballistic missile threats of states like North Korea. In recent years the proliferation of more advanced missiles has accelerated. In both tests and hostile acts, Iran has demonstrated capabilities to strike military targets at range accurately. North Korea has unveiled at least a dozen new missile types, from antiship missiles to intercontinental ballistic missiles. China has fielded advanced weaponry such as hypersonic glide vehicles and rocket-powered drones. Russia is rapidly modernizing its nuclear forces, experimenting with exotic weapons like nuclear-powered cruise missiles and autonomous undersea nuclear delivery vehicles. Each development adds yet another layer of complexity to the military threats facing the United States and its allies.