17 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.

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.

India’s Semiconductor Ecosystem: A SWOT Analysis

Samparna Tripathy, Anup Rajput, Amol Sarin, and Pranay Kotasthane

Executive Summary
Technological, geoeconomic, and geopolitical imperatives underlie recent attempts by nation-states to revisit their semiconductor industry policies. India too is in the midst of rolling out several incentives to safeguard its economic and strategic interests.

This document takes a step back and zooms in on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of India’s semiconductor ecosystem.

We find that India’s primary strength lies in its vibrant integrated circuit (IC) design ecosystem with a highly experienced talent pool. However, weak research & development (R&D) focus, prohibitive costs of acquiring intellectual property (IP), and limited start-up capital have inhibited the potential of local design houses.

In semiconductor manufacturing, misplaced policies prioritising capital intensive leading-edge nodes have led to several false starts. The real opportunity for India lies in trailing edge node fabs and speciality fabs.

Whatever happens next in Afghanistan, a humanitarian disaster is already in train

Hameed Hakimi

In recent days, a ferocious wave of fighting has enveloped Afghanistan as the Taliban take more and more territory from the Afghan government. The developing situation makes it extremely difficult to predict how the coming weeks and months will unfold in the country. One thing we do know, however, is that while most media commentary focuses on who has the upper hand militarily, the country inevitably faces a humanitarian catastrophe. Ordinary Afghans are confronted with a triple calamity: dire security, health and economic prospects. These cruel conditions predate the Trump administration’s Doha agreement with the Taliban in February 2020, which began the process of US military withdrawal; they also predate President Biden’s confirmation that full withdrawal will occur by 11 September this year.

Afghanistan entered 2021 already in dire straits, with more than 18 million Afghans – nearly half the population – in humanitarian need. Dwindling international aid, a violent conflict, weak governance and environmental challenges such as droughts have all contributed. The impact of the pandemic last year meant that in January 2021 Afghanistan had the world’s second-highest number of people facing emergency food insecurity.

NO EXIT: As the Taliban Seize Cities, Desperate Afghans Are Trapped in an American-Made Fiasco

Andrew Quilty

AFGHAN FRIENDS AND colleagues began asking for help leaving the country in June. The requests were nothing new, but in the past they’d mostly been in jest. Now they were serious and urgent. The people who made them weren’t just seeking a better life but refuge.

The man who manages the house where I live in Kabul was among the first to ask. He had worked at three iterations of the house for more than a decade, doing maintenance and looking after the property and guests when my housemate and I were traveling. He’d started in the job long before I arrived and had become a familiar fixture in one of a shrinking handful of Kabul houses where visiting journalists, filmmakers, and researchers could rent a room. We’d been forced to move twice: When our first house was destroyed by fire in 2018 and a year later, when a second place was found to be on a supposed Islamic State target list. Both times the house manager, who I’ll call Wali to protect his identity, moved with us, along with a cleaner, an occasional gardener, half a dozen ducks, and the two dogs Wali had brought in from the street as puppies early on.


Nick Turse

LAST MONTH, President Joe Biden announced that America’s “military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31st.” In the time since the July 8 statement, a Taliban offensive has overrun city after city across the country. On Sunday, the militant group entered the Afghan capital of Kabul, and several countries, including the United States, began to evacuate their embassies. As reports emerged that the Taliban had seized the presidential palace, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

“We, of course, are saddened indeed by the events. … But these events, tragic as they are, portend neither the end of the world nor of America’s leadership in the world,” said the U.S. president.

But that president wasn’t Biden. It was Gerald Ford on April 23, 1975, as North Vietnamese forces rolled toward Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam.

How America Failed in Afghanistan

Isaac Chotiner

On Sunday, as the Taliban entered Kabul—the last remaining major Afghan city not under the group’s control—the President of the country, Ashraf Ghani, fled to Tajikistan, making clear that the U.S.-backed Afghan government had collapsed. Five months ago, in April, President Joe Biden announced that all U.S. and nato troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Critics have accused the Administration of conducting a
rushed, poorly planned, and chaotic withdrawal since then. On Thursday, the U.S. government announced that it would be sending in marines and soldiers to help evacuate embassy personnel. But the speed of the Taliban advance has stunned American officials and left desperate Afghans trying to flee the country. Responding to criticism about his plan, Biden has sought to shift blame to the Afghan government and its people, saying, “They have got to fight for themselves.”

I spoke by phone with my colleague, the New Yorker staff writer Steve Coll, about the situation in Afghanistan. The dean of Columbia Journalism School, Coll is the author of “Ghost Wars” and “Directorate S,” which together chronicle much of the history of the past several decades in Afghanistan and Pakistan. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed why it has been so hard for the United States to train the Afghan army, the different humanitarian crises facing the country, and the Biden Administration’s “outrageous” callousness toward a situation America played a role in creating.

Taliban Take Presidential Palace as Kabul Falls With Americans, Afghans Still Trapped


The Taliban completed their shocking takeover of Afghanistan on Sunday, as President Ashraf Ghani fled, the U.S. ambassador took down the American flag and retreated to the airport, and insurgents whom the United States fought for two decades took the seat of power.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military rushed a second battalion from the 82nd Airborne Division to Kabul to protect the last bastion of safe ground for Westerners and those who worked with them in the long war there.

Late on Sunday, Taliban fighters were seen inside the presidential palace standing over Ghani’s former desk in what Al Jazeera television described as a “handover.”

At Hamid Karzai International Airport, scenes of chaos unfolded as civilians crowded aboard aircraft, according to unverified video feeds posted to Twitter and reported on by CNN.

The Return of the Taliban

Jon Lee Anderson

Watching Afghanistan’s cities fall to the Taliban in rapid succession, as the United States completes a hasty withdrawal from the country, is a surreal experience, laced with a sense of déjà vu. Twenty years ago, I reported from Afghanistan as the Taliban’s enemies took these same cities from them, in the short but decisive U.S.-backed military offensive that followed the 9/11 attacks. The war on terror had just been declared, and the unfolding American military action was cloaked in purposeful determinism in the name of freedom and against tyranny. For a brief moment, the war was blessed by that rare thing: public support, both at home and abroad.

In the wake of the horror of Al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States, most Americans polled believed that the country was doing the “right thing” in going to war in Afghanistan. That level of support didn’t last long, but the war on terror did, and so did the military expedition to Afghanistan, which stretched on inconclusively for two decades and now ends in ignominy. Donald Trump set this fiasco in motion, by announcing his intention to pull out the remaining American troops in Afghanistan and begin negotiations with the Taliban. In February, 2020, an agreement was signed that promised to withdraw all U.S. military forces in return for, among other things, peace talks with the U.S.-backed Afghan government. The American troops were duly drawn down, but, instead of engaging in real discussions, the Taliban stepped up their attacks. In April, President Joe Biden announced his intention to carry on with the withdrawal, and pull out forces by September 11th. However much he says that he does “not regret” his decision, his Presidency will be held responsible for whatever happens in Afghanistan now, and the key words that will forever be associated with the long American sojourn there will include hubris, ignorance, inevitability, betrayal, and failure.

Chinese Media’s Conflicting Narratives on the Myanmar Coup

Diya Jiang and Kristina Kironska

The coup d’état that occurred in Myanmar in February 2021, when the military seized power from the democratically elected government, has attracted an enormous amount of international attention. While most major powers expressed concern and condemnation of both the coup and the following violence against protesters and urged the restoration of democracy, China has been reserved, not expressing any negative comments regarding the event.

The reluctance to report the February 1 event as a military coup in major Chinese state media such as Xinhua and the People’s Daily reflects China’s geopolitical interest in cooperation with its neighbor. The contrasting relative lack of restrictions in domestic reporting on the coup – and even articles positively portraying the Myanmar protesters – shows the Chinese government’s interest in enhancing its legitimacy domestically.

Chinese State Media Refrain From Using The Word “Coup”

Will China-US Great Power Competition Lead to War? A Thomistic Perspective

Andrew Latham

This article is structured in the manner of Thomas Aquinas’ “exemplary method of philosophy,” the ‘quaestio format’ used in his magnum opus, the Summa Theologica. This format – itself a reflection of a core pedagogical technique of the universities of his time, quaestiones disputatae (literally, questions debated) – provided a means of thinking through a question that engages with contrary arguments but ultimately demonstrates the superiority of one answer over another. In Aquinas’ Summa, each “article” reflects this basic approach, with each section of the article having the same basic structure and opening with its own distinctive opening phrase that reveals its specific purpose within the text. of sense, for he is concerned not merely with informing his readers, but also with teaching them the proper method for thinking through an issue – one that forces them to give serious consideration to alternative perspectives before arriving at a reasoned conclusion.

China is Fast Outpacing U.S. STEM PhD Growth

Remco Zwetsloot, Jack Corrigan, Emily Weinstein, Dahlia Peterson, Diana Gehlhaus

Executive Summary
This paper compares the STEM PhD pipelines of the United States and China. We find that China has consistently produced more STEM doctorates than the United States since the mid-2000s, and that the gap between the two countries will likely grow wider in the next five years. Based on current enrollment patterns, we project that by 2025 Chinese universities will produce more than 77,000 STEM PhD graduates per year compared to approximately 40,000 in the United States. If international students are excluded from the U.S. count, Chinese STEM PhD graduates would outnumber their U.S. counterparts more than three-to-one.

Our findings also suggest the quality of doctoral education in China has risen in recent years, and that much of China’s current PhD growth comes from high-quality universities. Approximately 45 percent of Chinese PhDs graduate from Double First Class (A) universities—the country’s most elite educational institutions (see Appendix D)—and about 80 percent of graduates come from universities administered by the central government. While it is possible that the growing supply of STEM PhDs in China exceeds current labor market demand, the quality and quantity of a country’s doctoral graduates is an important indicator of its future competitiveness, and China’s capacity to produce skilled PhD-level STEM experts appears to be growing rapidly.

China’s Robotics Patent Landscape

Sara Abdulla

This data brief explores trends in Chinese robotics patenting as a measure of robotics advancement. Patents are a key indicator of innovation—and in the case of robotics, of development and technological growth. China has garnered global attention for its domestic push in science and technology fields via government investment and planning. Robotics, as a critical area of S&T, illustrates the potential impact of those policies, programs and funding.

China has seen prodigious growth in its robotics patents over the past decade. This growth corresponds with increases in Chinese robotics scholarly literature, the number of Chinese robotics companies, and the number of robots and robotics installations currently deployed in China. China’s significant growth is relevant from a policy perspective: the development of China’s robotics industry could give Chinese companies an advantage and produce significant market distortions. The rise of China’s robotics industry also potentially challenges the United States’ role as a technological leader and positions China to develop novel robotics technologies and buttress its military capacity.

Will China ever become a fully developed economy?

David Dollar

The Chinese government has set a long-term goal to turn China into a fully developed and prosperous country by 2049, 100 years after the founding of the People’s Republic.

In a newly published book called China 2049, the Economic Challenges of a Rising Global Power, Brookings scholar David Dollar and Yiping Huang and Yang Yao of Peking University examine the likelihood of this happening. BRINK spoke to David Dollar.

DOLLAR: I think it’s very likely that by 2049 the world would consider China a fully developed nation. It’s one of these terms that’s not that clearly defined. There are members of the OECD with rather modest per capita income, and China will almost certainly catch up with many members of the OECD.

What is less clear is how close China is going to get to the United States.

Right now, they’re at about $10,000 per capita income and the USA is at $60,000. They’ll certainly make up some of that ground, but probably, the U.S. will still be quite a bit more advanced on a per capita basis in 2049.

Water With Your Chips? Semiconductors and Water Scarcity in China

Elizabeth Wishnick

Everyone knows it’s a bad idea to spill water on a cell phone, but did you know that it takes more than 3,000 gallons of water to produce one? Water is needed for mining the metal, making the glue and plastic for assembly and packaging, and then diluting the wastewater used throughout the process. This amount is 10 times the average per capita daily water consumption in China.

Semiconductors, the tiny circuits known as chips that power all of our electronic devices — including your phone — are particularly thirsty. Each 30 cm integrated circuit board that holds the chips in your phone requires at least 2,000 gallons of H2O to produce. This is because each chip needs to be rinsed with ultrapure water (UPW) — water so pure that is considered an industrial solvent — to remove debris (ions, particles, silica, etc.) from the manufacturing process and prevent the chips from becoming contaminated. It takes 1,400-1,600 gallons of tap water to make 1,000 gallons of UPW.

EXCLUSIVE: China building third missile field for hundreds of new ICBMs

Bill Gertz

China is building a third missile field that will hold more than 100 new DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, The Washington Times has learned.

Construction of a silo array for DF-41s was identified from satellite imagery by U.S. intelligence agencies in the past several weeks and appears equal in size to two other new Chinese missile fields recently identified, according to Pentagon officials familiar with intelligence reports on the strategic development.

Adm. Charles Richard, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said Thursday that the first two missile fields being built are part of China‘s “explosive” expansion of nuclear forces.

“We are witnessing a strategic breakout by China,” Adm. Richard told a missile defense conference in Alabama. “The explosive growth in their nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I described as breathtaking,” he said, adding that “frankly, that word ‘breathtaking’ may not be enough.”

After the withdrawal: China’s interests in Afghanistan

Janka Oertel, Andrew Small

The security situation in Afghanistan has been worsening since the United States and its European allies decided to withdraw from the decades-long mission in the country. Following conversations between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Taliban leaders, many observers see an opportunity for China to enhance its influence in the region. ECFR’s Janka Oertel and Andrew Small discuss whether this assessment is correct, what China wants, and what all this means for Europe.

Janka Oertel: Just briefly, to bring everyone on the same page, what is the current development that we are seeing in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal?

Andrew Small: The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating at worrying speed. The Taliban already controlled significant tracts of rural territory, but they have moved to take control of a number of border crossings, and stepped up their attacks on major cities. The United States is conducting airstrikes to halt the Taliban’s advances, but it is unclear how far even this will continue after the withdrawal is completed at the end of August. There appears to be little serious Taliban engagement with peace talks anymore, given that they see the opportunity to position themselves at least to wield the lion’s share of power in any political settlement or even to achieve an outright victory on the battlefield. Civilian deaths are rising, and the inevitable outflow of refugees has begun.

Decision Time on JCPOA


OPINION – The Biden administration faces an important decision point in its negotiations with Iran over rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Decisions made now and the signals they send to Tehran will determine whether the two sides can reach an agreement. They also will determine whether any such agreement, if concluded, can outlast Mr. Biden’s administration.

After months, the negotiations have now come to a standstill, presumably to give the newly elected president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, and his cabinet time to review progress and potential new directions. Considerable progress had reportedly been made before the Iranian team called off talks in June.

However, subsequent events also have altered the circumstances surrounding the negotiations for the US side. Interpreting those events, as in many things Iranian, is problematic. Three in particular, stand out.

Iran’s Drones Are Transforming The Middle East: Book Excerpt


In the drone wars, propaganda can be as important as actual advances. Everyone building drones seems to copy one another. For instance, Iran’s Saegeh was a copy of the Sentinel. Iran’s Shahed S-171 jet-powered Simorgh is also a copy of the US Sentinel drone, first deployed by Tehran in 2014. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the aerospace force of the IRGC, pushed to arm the Saegeh with up to four missiles.

The battle for the skies in the wake of Iran’s downing of the Sentinel in 2011 moved from a world that had one drone superpower to multiple drone makers. This fundamentally changed the equation and the threats that drones could pose. Iran’s goal was to create an independent drone army, much as Israel had done in the 1980s, providing Tehran with the impunity Washington had previously enjoyed. Under Hajizadeh’s guidance, Iran would bring down not only the stealth Sentinel but also the US Global Hawk in 2019, and Iran would send drones to Yemen. The world was entering a drone war revolution of rapid change in just several years.

America once won its wars. Now it just leaves them


As headlines proclaim the “end” of “America’s longest war,” President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of the remaining US military personnel from Afghanistan is being covered by some in the news media as though it means the end of the conflict – or even means peace – in Afghanistan. It most certainly does not.

For one thing, the war is not actually ending, even if the US participation in it is dwindling. Afghan government forces, armed and equipped with US supplies – at least for the moment – will continue to fight the Taliban.

Disengagement from an armed conflict is common US practice in recent decades – since the 1970s, the country’s military has simply left Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan. But for much of the country’s history, Americans won their wars decisively, with the complete surrender of enemy forces and the home front’s perception of total victory.

Interview – Jessica Dorsey

Jessica Dorsey, JD, LLM, is an assistant professor of international and European law at Utrecht University, an associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, and a member of the executive board of Airwars. She is an expert in many academic and policy networks focused on the use of armed drones, with a specific focus on the use of force, and the interplay of humanitarian law and human rights with efforts to counter terrorism. In 2017 the European Parliament contracted Jessica to publish a study outlining policy guidance for the use of armed drones for EU member states. She also collaborated with the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism on a 2014 report on the civilian impact of armed drones. Her most recent report (with Nilza Amaral) for Chatham House, specifically on military drones in Europe, can be found here.

Where do you see the most exciting research/debates happening in your field?

The World's Fastest Growing Cities

The majority of the world's fastest-growing cities are located in Africa - in fact, 17 of the 20 are located on the continent, with four of the 20 cities being located in Nigeria specifically.

The Right Way to Split China and Russia

Charles A. Kupchan

As Washington searches for an effective strategy to manage China’s rise, U.S. President Joe Biden is right to lean heavily on one of the United States’ clearest advantages: its global network of alliances. But even as Biden builds a coalition to tame Beijing, he also needs to work the other side of the equation by weakening China’s own international partnerships. He can’t stop China’s rise, but he can limit its influence by trying to lure away from China its main collaborator: Russia.

The Chinese-Russian partnership significantly augments the challenge that China’s rise poses to the United States. Teamwork between Beijing and Moscow amplifies China’s ambition and reach in many regions of the world, in the battle for control of global institutions, and in the worldwide contest between democracy and illiberal alternatives. Piggybacking on China’s growing power allows Russia to punch above its weight on the global stage and energizes Moscow’s campaign to subvert democratic governance in Europe and the United States.

Human Rights Are Under Attack. Who Will Protect Them?

Globally, human rights remain under attack, whether by populist movements desperate to gain power or authoritarian governments eager to maintain it. Technology has opened up new frontiers for curbing people’s ability to express and share dissenting ideas. And broad assaults are underway on institutions like the International Criminal Court, which was established not only to offer recourse for the victims of rights violations, but to establish an international human rights benchmark. Instead, respect for human rights is being replaced by a dangerous intolerance.

Around the world, populist authoritarians have built their movements by demonizing minorities. In Brazil, for instance, President Jair Bolsonaro has reveled in his provocations, calling into question women’s rights as well as those of the LGBT and indigenous communities. In Poland, incumbent President Andrzej Duda ran for reelection—and won—on an explicitly anti-LGBT platform.

The Climate Crisis Is Rooted in the Human Condition

Judah Grunstein

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest, highly anticipated report on the state of Earth’s climate. The report, which updates the previous effort from eight years ago, represents the collective assessment by several hundred scientists from around the world of efforts to keep global temperatures from rising to levels that would trigger catastrophic changes in Earth’s environment and weather conditions. Spoiler alert: It’s bad.

The report rules out any possibility of preventing the 1.5-degrees-Celsius rise in global temperatures that was the most ambitious target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. That threshold will be reached by 2040, no matter what mitigation efforts are adopted now. Some of the changes in climate and weather patterns currently on display will be irreversible. And while it will certainly make no difference to climate change deniers, the report states that the “unequivocal” cause of the rise in global temperatures is human activity, compared to the 2013 report’s “near certainty” of human causality.

But while the report makes for grim reading, it also offers some hope, however bare. In a best-case scenario, the rise in temperatures will level off at 1.5 degrees C, avoiding the most extreme effects of global warming. That would require a successful planetary effort that reaches “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, while also removing significant amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Space as a Warfighting Domain: Reshaping Defense Space Policy

Dr. Steven Lambakis

Over the past decade, there has been a shift in opinion in the nation’s governing and defense-planning circles about inter-state relations in space and the duties incumbent on those in positions of leadership to adapt and respond to the reality that space is a warfighting domain. Despite arguments put forth over the past several decades by sanctuary-policy proponents that space should remain free of Earth’s conflicts, reality has dictated otherwise as other powerful nations have acquired the capabilities to execute offensive and defensive operations within the space domain. There is today, in other words, an overriding assumption that the country no longer has the luxury of believing it can operate in a benign space domain. Not all countries have the same respect for the space domain as countries that rely heavily on space systems for their economy and security do. Lesser powers, such as North Korea, do not leverage space to the same extent and hence can afford not to respect it. The United States has responded with recognition of the changed dynamic in its security policies and strategies by promoting greater awareness of the threat and reorganizing the Joint Force and command structure to protect U.S. space assets and mature U.S. spacepower.

The Drug War at Sea Is Getting Bigger and Bigger

James Stavridis

At a Florida port, the U.S. Coast Guard drops off $1.4 billion worth of cocaine and marijuana seized in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. The haul, the fruit of nearly 30 incidents and boarding operations by the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands, contains nearly 60,000 pounds of cocaine alone.

No, it’s not a reboot of “Miami Vice” — it happened last week.

Huge shipments of drugs are being captured at sea on their way to the U.S. and Europe. In 2019, U.S. authorities boarded the Gayane, a 1,000-foot container ship registered in Liberia, as it was entering a Philadelphia marine terminal at the end of a 9,300-mile voyage from Chile. The raid netted 40,000 pounds of cocaine worth $1.3 billion.

These are eye-popping numbers, even to those who have been involved in interdiction operations for decades. What is driving the trend toward huge shipments of narcotics, and how will U.S. authorities cope with it?

Is the Intelligence Community Staying Ahead of the Digital Curve?

Elizabeth Leyne, Yvette Nonte

Executive Summary
Is the Intelligence Community (IC) staying ahead of the digital curve? Over eight months, the authors conducted in-depth interviews to probe this question with over 45 current and former high-ranking national security professionals, including the leaders of five U.S. intelligence agencies, Cabinet-level officials, two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Congressional leaders. This study finds that while the IC is overwhelmingly critical to U.S. leaders in the Digital Age, it has fallen behind the digital curve. There was unanimity in the imperative for the IC to radically transform many aspects of its business to accelerate through the digital curve and continue to remain relevant.

“How does the IC sustain relevance in an open, transparent world? We struggle with that because we are prisoners of our past successes. Tsunamis of information are assaulting decisionmakers, and the challenge to be relevant is different from our predecessors. I worry that the IC is being complacent about our future relevancy. It isn’t that the sky is falling, but it’s darkening.”
—Former Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), Mr. Robert Cardillo1

Army General with 6 minute run time loses war

General officers in the Army have long been chosen for their ability to fill out paperwork, say yes, run fast, and not win wars. And the incredible system for selecting military leaders to fight and lose the nation's wars has once again proven successful in Afghanistan.

"The Special Operations folks were winning in Afghanistan," said Gen. George W. Casey Jr. "But we decided to put a guy with a great run time in charge and bring in conventional forces. Then we repeated it for nearly 20 years."

"The silver lining to all of this is that now most of us have some pretty sweet jobs teaching the same academics we didn't listen to, making fat stacks selling weapons to our friends, talking about how awesome we were, and spreading misinformation," Casey added. "So there really weren't any repercussions if you really think about it."

The Department of Defense tried a variety of systems to figure out how to manage talent in the military, according to defense officials. Yet despite differences in promotion systems, most generals along with their seconds-in-command and staff are now promoted based on run times and officer evaluation reports highlighting their brilliant war mismanagement.

‘Effective, Deployable, Accountable: Pick Two’: Regulating Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems

John Williams

Almost every keen cyclist knows pioneering US engineer Keith Bontrager’s famous observation about bicycles: ‘strong, light, cheap: pick two. If they don’t know it, they’ve experienced its effects at their local bike shop’s checkout when they upgrade any components. The current state of regulatory debate about Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) looks to be increasingly locked into a similar two-fold choice from three desirable criteria: ‘effective, deployable, accountable: pick two’. However, unlike Bontrager’s bicycles, where the conundrum reflects engineering and material facts, the regulatory debate entrenches social-structural ‘facts’ that make this two-from-three appear inescapable. This article explains how the structure of the LAWS regulatory debate is creating a two-from-three choice, and why the one that holds the most potential for containing the dangers LAWS may create – accountability – looks least likely to prevail. Effective and deployable, just like strong and light amongst cycling enthusiasts, are likely to win out. It won’t just be bank balances that ‘take the hit’ in this case, but, potentially, the bodies of our fellow human beings.