23 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.

Post-American Afghanistan and India’s Geopolitics

C. Raja Mohan

The withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan is likely to accelerate current trends in India’s relations with the United States, China, and Russia: greater cooperation with Washington, deeper conflicts with Beijing, and wider fissures in the traditional strategic partnership with Moscow. Reinforcing these structural shifts—and their mirror image—are Pakistan’s changing relations with the United States, China, and Russia.

For long, India’s foreign-policy elite grumbled about the dangers of the United States leaving Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban, so assiduously nurtured over the decades by the Pakistan Army. The fear in New Delhi was twofold. First, that the favorable conditions for India’s political and economic engagement with Afghanistan since the U.S. intervention in 2001 would come to an end. Second, that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan would once again become Pakistan’s partner in promoting jihadi terrorism against India.

But New Delhi had no choice but to come to terms with the diminishing domestic political support in Washington for the so-called forever war and the inevitability of a post-U.S. Afghanistan. On the upside, New Delhi senses that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could significantly weaken the current strategic partnership between Washington and Islamabad.

Bangladesh Remains Main Source of Infiltrations Into India

Rajeev Bhattacharya

Bangladesh continues to be the main source of infiltrators into India, according to official Indian data.

India’s Minister of State for Defense Ajay Bhatt told parliament recently that there were 441 infiltration attempts made along the India-Bangladesh border in the first six months of 2021. He said that 740 infiltrators from Bangladesh were apprehended and one was killed by the security forces.

Infiltration attempts from other neighboring countries into India were far lower. While there was no infiltration attempt along the disputed India-China border, there were 33 instances along the border with Pakistan, which led to 11 persons being killed and 20 infiltrators being taken into custody, according to the report of the Security Forces and Ministry of Home Affairs.

Two Talibans Are Competing for Afghanistan

Anchal Vohra

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Head of the Taliban delegation Abdul Salam Hanafi, accompanied by Taliban officials Amir Khan Muttaqi, Shahabuddin Delawar and Abdul Latin Mansour, walks down a hotel lobby during the talks in Qatar's capital Doha on Aug. 12. KARIM JAAFAR/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
AUGUST 18, 2021, 11:55 AM

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, reports have spread of looting and executions across the country. Afghans based in Kabul have been sending messages to their friends abroad about Taliban ground troops hunting female journalists and doctors in house-to-house searches.

The leadership of the Taliban has been at pains to spread a very different message. They have scrambled to order their ground forces to operate with restraint and to persuade all Afghans of their good intentions. Taliban leaders have declared a general amnesty for anyone who worked for the previous regime; asked government officials and journalists, including women, to return to work; and even reached out to minority groups to assuage their concerns.

A refugee crisis looms after the Taliban take power in Afghanistan

WHEN THE evacuation of Saigon began in March 1975, fixed-wing flights were quickly abandoned. Keeping runways open under artillery fire was too difficult. Instead, the American army used helicopters to bring people from all over the South Vietnamese capital to aircraft-carriers in the South China Sea. In landlocked Kabul, the American government does not have that option as it tries to evacuate its own citizens and Afghans who have worked for the United States. And so the scenes beamed all over the world from the city’s airport on August 15th and 16th were not of choppers carrying people to safety, but of an Apache attack helicopter hovering low over the runway to chase off a crowd of desperate Afghans so that planes could take off. The image that people will remember will be that of an air force transport plane taking off with desperate Afghans clinging to its undercarriage, from which they fell to their deaths.

The chaos was predictable. For weeks, flights out of Kabul had been packed with foreigners and those Afghans lucky enough to have passports, visas and money. When the city fell to the Taliban, less than 24 hours after President Ashraf Ghani visited the edge of the capital to inspect its defences, it was inevitable that people would try to flee. The airport is now the only part of Kabul not held by the militants. Instead, it is defended by several thousand American and other foreign troops, many flown in specifically for the evacuation. The Americans have taken over air-traffic control, and their Boeing C-17 transport planes have been leaving packed tightly with refugees. One was reported by Defence One, a website, to have landed in Qatar with 640 passengers, a near record. In one case, the dead body of an Afghan was found in the landing gear of a C-17. A picture showed families crammed into every available space of the cargo bay.

Trying—and Failing—to Save the Family of the Afghan Who Saved Me

David Rohde

In the middle of March, I texted my friend Tahir Luddin, an Afghan journalist who lives in the Washington area, after I saw a video he had posted on Facebook of his teen-age son running on a treadmill. My text was banal, a quick check-in to see how he and his loved ones were faring amid the isolation of the past year. “How is your family? How are you?” I wrote. “See the pictures of your children on FB. Your son is very tall!!!” Tahir did not reply. At the time, I didn’t worry and assumed that he would get back to me. Our communications were sporadic, but our bond was unusual.

Twelve years ago, Tahir, an Afghan driver named Asad Mangal, and I were kidnapped by the Taliban after one of their commanders invited me to an interview outside Kabul. Our captors moved us from house to house and eventually brought us into the remote tribal areas of Pakistan, where the Taliban enjoyed a safe haven. Our guards told Tahir how eager they were to execute him and the many ways that they would mutilate his body. They treated me far better and demanded that the Times, my employer at the time, pay millions of dollars in ransom and secure the release of prisoners from Guantánamo. We were held all together, in the same room, and Tahir and I spent hours talking, regretting the anguish that we were causing our families.

Afghanistan: There Never Was a Plan B

David Brown

While we're assigning blame for the debacle in Afghanistan, let's not fault Joe Biden's failure to listen to the folks in the Pentagon who insisted that for a mere pittance in American aid compared to former years, the Afghan Army could hold off Taliban forces forever.

Let's resist the temptation to heap more than his fair share of scorn on ex-President Ghani and the other Afghan warlords who blew a 20-year opportunity to build a modern, secular nation.

Let's give the Afghan National Army a pass for not disintegrating until its soldiers realized they no longer had air support or operational intelligence nor could they count on resupply of food, fuel, and ammunition.

We shouldn't blame Saddam Hussein for bragging about a fictional nuclear weapons program, the bluff that arguably diverted the Pentagon's attention away from 'winning' in Afghanistan.

Where Afghan Refugees Are Located

Katharina Buchholz

According to the UNHCR, there were around 2.6 million Afghan refugees abroad at the end of 2020 that hadn't entered or completed asylum processes. A rundown of their locations gives an overview of where Afghans typically seek refuge. 85 percent of Afghan refugees can be found in Afghanistan's neighboring countries Iran and Pakistan, while Germany comes third with 148,000 - or around 5.5 percent - of Afghan refugees counted in late 2020.

Austria, France and Sweden are other major destinations for Afghan refugees in Europe. According to the latest report by the European Union, around 7,000 Afghans were granted permanent or temporary legal status in the EU in Q1 of 2021. At least 2,200 of them were located in Greece, 1,800 in France, 1,000 in Germany and around 700 in Italy, leaving smaller contingents for other EU states. Overall, Afghan refugees had a 62 percent chance of gaining recognition in the EU, even though many are only granted the temporary right to remain. Conversely, France and Germany are also the countries rejecting the most Afghan asylum-seekers, but European countries have now suspended deportations in the light of the developments in the country.

More Seats Than Passengers: Paperwork, Taliban Slow Afghanistan Evacuation


Evacuation operations at Hamid Karzai International Airport are starting to normalize—but with the stark reality that U.S. movements, including any troop extension past Aug. 31, now must be negotiated with the Taliban, the Pentagon acknowledged Thursday.

“I think it is just a fundamental fact of the reality of where we are, that communications, and a certain measure of agreement with the Taliban, on what we're trying to accomplish has to continue to occur,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

About 7,000 people—a mix of Americans, Afghans and other foreign nationals—have left Kabul on U.S. military aircraft since non-combatant evacuation operations began last week, said Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The U.S. military has flown 12,000 people out of Afghanistan since July, Taylor said.

At Kabul Airport, 2,000 Marines Provide Security and Process Evacuees


More than 2,000 Marines are on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport as of Thursday, helping to process and evacuate Americans and Afghans while the Taliban’s grip on Kabul tightens around them.

“Their role now is a combination. They have elements that are part of the outer perimeter security, but also they have elements that are focused on the evacuation control centers, which requires not only the processing [of] individuals out of the country, but also the interior security for that,” Brig. Gen. Peter Huntley, the Marine Corps’ director of operations, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday.

The Marine contingent brought the total U.S. force at the airport on Thursday to some 5,200 troops, mostly Army.

America Has Never Listened to the People of Afghanistan


In the months before the Taliban took control of Kabul the first time, one phone call signaled the dark times ahead for our family.

It was 1996, and my mother was shouting on the phone as if to make her voice physically carry across the space separating California and Afghanistan.

On the other end was my cousin Fereshta, whose name is the Persian word for angel. Fereshta told my mother how the Taliban were beating women in the streets, how they were hanging people in public, and how she didn’t know what to do next. My mother was visibly shaken. The memory of their voices on the phone has never left me. It’s hard to forget the sound of an angel screaming.

That memory was later replaced by a brighter one. In 2013, I was working in Afghanistan, and on Eid that year, I was able to travel to Mazar-e-Sharif to see Fereshta. I met her and her soft-spoken, intelligent daughter, who was learning to drive and then dreaming of becoming a pilot. The north was safe, and in the family’s little SUV, my cousin’s daughter drove us across the green hills of Mazar that turn red with poppies every spring.

The Unwinnable War

Christine Fair

The indelible images of the fall of Saigon featured American helicopters departing from the roof of the US Embassy overflowing with Vietnamese seeking an escape from an uncertain and terrifying future. In 1975, some 125,000 Vietnamese refugees found refuge in the United States as a result of a US-sponsored evacuation program in the wake of the war. The images of the fall of Kabul are darker: Americans occupying the airport in Kabul, focusing upon evacuating their own while terrified Afghans cling to the departing C-17 aircraft. To disperse the crowds of Afghans on the runway, the US army flew attack helicopters lower over their heads. As of August 13, the United States evacuated 1,200 Afghans although that number is likely to rise to 3,500 in coming weeks.

Virtually every American news channel has been focusing upon the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who risked their lives every day to support the US military and civilian mission. This addition to countless more who worked with NATO and other wester embassies and multi-lateral organizations such as the United Nations. Everyone knows that the Taliban has a list of the so-called collaborators, and they are being hunted down and killed along with their families. However, many Americans are in a conundrum.

Afghanistan Is a Lesson in Humility

Howard W. French

In October 1983, during a visit to New York City from West Africa, where I had recently begun a career as a foreign correspondent, I stood in my uncle’s kitchen and took in the evening news over a drink before dinner.

The main story that night was the visit by then-President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, to Pakistan. Weinberger traveled to that country’s border with Afghanistan and there, at the Khyber Pass, vowed that U.S. support for Afghan insurgents would bring down the Soviet-backed government in power in Kabul at the time. ...

Afghanistan Has Been Invaded But Never Truly Conquered

Peter Suciu

This week, the Central Asian "graveyard of empires" added the United States of America to the list of powers that attempted to occupy and control Afghanistan. Throughout history there have been nations have that disappeared from the map – some temporarily like Poland, which was subjugated for more than a century before finally re-obtaining its independence; while other lands, like the Byzantine Empire, were wiped off the map forever.

In the case of Afghanistan, it was never truly conquered. It may have been invaded, but even suggesting that it was "occupied" would be a stretch as the remoteness of the land made it hard for an outsider to control. Located on the mainland route between what is today Iran, Central Asia, and India, it has been invaded countless times and then settled by a plethora of tribes and peoples who are mutually hostile to one and another as well as outsiders.

Because of the frequent invasions, as well as lawlessness, every town and village has been known to resemble a fortress. Add to that its rugged frontier, and it has become a place few armies would want to invade.

A Taiwan Contingency and Japan's Counterstrike Debate

Scott W. Harold and Satoru Mori

Over the last dozen years, China has grown ever more assertive: committing genocide in Xinjiang, engaging in wolf warrior and hostage diplomacy, breaking its treaty commitments (PDF) to the United Kingdom and its word to the people of Hong Kong, blocking efforts to uncover the origins of COVID-19, and threatening many of its neighbors.

No country is more directly exposed to these threats than Taiwan. As then–U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Commander Adm. Phil Davidson testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March, the threat to Taiwan could come “in the next six years (PDF);” two weeks later, his successor, Adm. John Aquilino, testified that “this problem is much closer to us than most think (PDF).”

Japan's Vice Minister of Defense Nakayama Yasuhide has warned the world to “wake up” to the threat China poses to Taiwan, while Minister of Defense Kishi Nobuo has stated unambiguously that “the peace and stability of Taiwan are directly connected to Japan.”

Tailoring Deterrence for China in Space

Krista Langeland, Derek Grossman

The space-based capabilities of the United States have become integral to economic prosperity, to the defense of both the United States and its allies across all domains, and to facilitating cross-domain joint military operations. The U.S. government thus views the protection of these capabilities and the deterrence of any activity that could degrade them as vital to national security. Concurrently, China regards space capabilities as both a key enabler in terrestrial conflict and a means of bolstering its overall strength, and views United States activity in space as an obstacle to these goals. Accordingly, China may be motivated to exploit any evident U.S. vulnerabilities in the space domain to further its own objectives. Deterring China in space is therefore a priority for the United States Department of Defense and its allies and partners.

The authors of this report consider deterrence concepts and examine how a deterrence strategy could be tailored to recognize the unique characteristics of the space domain and the particular objectives of China in space. To accomplish this, they review literature on classical deterrence theory and identify some key features that are particularly relevant to deterrence in the space domain. They then build a foundation for tailoring deterrence for China in space by examining Beijing's goals and approach to space deterrence as stated in openly available Chinese primary-source materials and identifying the implications of these findings for the United States and its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.

China Is Protecting Its Thin Corridor to the Afghan Heartland

Sam Dunning

As American forces withdraw from Afghanistan after two decades of war, the country’s neighbors are rethinking their own relationship with the country. The Taliban’s recent visit to Beijing has prompted plenty of speculation about China’s ambitions. But a forgotten strip of land may hold the key to the future relationship—and to the problems caused for both Beijing and Kabul of ethnicities and faiths that cross borders.

The Wakhan Corridor is a panhandle 217 miles long but less than 9 miles wide, ending in Afghanistan’s short border with China that measures just 47 miles across. It was created by Russo-British negotiations in 1895, resulting in a commission that designated the valley as a buffer zone between the two empire’s territories—nominally administered by the emir in Kabul.

To the Corridor’s north lies the Tajikistani region of Gorno-Badakhshan, the site of a small but fierce civil war in the 1990s. To its south lies greater Kashmir, fiercely disputed between India, Pakistan, and China. At the far eastern end of the Corridor, meanwhile, across the snowy Wakhjir pass, is Xinjiang.

How Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan puts China in $282 billion creditor trap


The hurried withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan — the 1975 fall of Saigon déjà vu — has been heralded as a win for China and an opportunity for Beijing to extend its influence across the region. It’s even been raised as a lesson for Taiwan not to rely on American protection, in the eyes of the Global Times, a state-run tabloid.

However, the ironic truth for China is that the only thing worse than U.S. soldiers near its borders is not having them there at all. Afghanistan is now a big headache for Beijing, which fears chaos there will spill over not just to its restive region of Xinjiang but to Pakistan. The People’s Republic has invested huge infrastructure projects as well as extended huge loans to Islamabad as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, one of President Xi Jinping’s signature policies.

Since the BRI’s inception in 2013, the country has splashed billions of dollars abroad: building roads, dams and power plants. Its two main policy banks — the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China — lent an estimated $282 billion to countries throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. So much so that in 2020, China’s capital account recorded a deficit for the first time. Pakistan, which neighbors China and Afghanistan, is the biggest beneficiary of Beijing’s overseas infrastructure drive. The so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor alone is reportedly worth $62 billion. The country is potentially a key link between China’s interests in Central Asia and the shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean.

The Taliban’s Triumph In Afghanistan: A Win For Russia, China and Iran?

Maya Carlin

Bad actors are lining up to fill the vacuum in Afghanistan created by the U.S. withdrawal. Iran, Qatar, Russia, and China are eager to secure talks and partnerships with the Islamist militant regime that violently overtook the country in a matter of weeks. In the days leading up to the U.S. military withdrawal, officials from Tehran, Beijing, and Moscow participated in meetings or planned future discussions with key figures in the Taliban and the Afghan government. Despite their ideological differences, Iran and Qatar share radical Islamist views and have supported extremist movements in the past. Moscow and Beijing may have different long-term objectives for Afghanistan; however, both are keen on undermining U.S. power projection and propping up their respective economies.

Experienced in using soft power to export its interests and ideology, Tehran’s ability to manipulate the fall of Afghanistan is imminent. Historically, Iran’s modus operandi centers on using proxy warfare to establish Shia safe havens in destabilized countries. Tehran’s leadership could be eyeing Afghanistan as the perfect arena to train and employ the thousands of able-bodied men desperately seeking an income as a way to form organized and loyal militias, similar to their tactics in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Another outcome of Iran’s engagement in Afghanistan is for Tehran to gain stronger alliances with other regional players, including China and Russia. In March, China signed an agreement with Iran worth $400 billion in investments in exchange for oil over a twenty-five-year time frame. Chinese-Iranian cooperation is likely to expand as both countries wish to gain a foothold, in some capacity, in Afghanistan.

Why Iran Will Welcome the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan

Shelly Kittleson

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan—“He travels with Iranian bodyguards,” a tribal elder and local police chief alleged about a Taliban commander from his home district of Shah Wali Kot.

“He has traveled back and forth from Iran for decades. He was previously a commander near Herat” during the Taliban rule over Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, the police chief—who requested anonymity for security purposes—told me in an Aug. 2 interview held in a secluded location for on the outskirts of the city of Kandahar.

After the former Taliban capital fell once again to the Taliban on Aug. 12, the man I interviewed was reportedly hanged.

When the Taliban took Afghanistan’s key Islam Qala border crossing with Iran on July 9, locals reported that Iranian officials on the other side welcomed them. When on Aug. 6 it seemed the capital of Nimroz province in western Afghanistan was about to fall and many of those afraid of the Taliban rushed toward the border to escape, Iranian officials instead reportedly refused entry to most of those fleeing.

China and the Middle East: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict on the Agenda

Galia Lavi

In July 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Syria, Egypt, and Algeria, and met with senior officials of the Arab League. This was Wang’s second visit to the Middle East this year, following his March visit to six countries: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Iran, and Turkey. In addition to trade matters, the visits dealt with three main topics: promoting the distribution of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines; Chinese investments in the framework of the Belt & Road Initiative; and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After selling and donating Chinese vaccines and medical equipment to countries in the region, China wants to encourage the establishment of local manufacturing facilities. During the visit to the UAE, he launched a factory to manufacture 200 million doses a year of the Sinopharm vaccine. In Egypt, the Minister officially inaugurated a factory producing Sinovac vaccines, which began operations a month earlier and is expected to manufacture some 40 million doses a year. The establishment of a third facility, also for Sinovac, was announced during the visit to Algeria. The distribution of the vaccines is important to China, which seeks to restore its image, damaged by the pandemic, derive economic benefit, and leverage the move as a means of political influence.

After the Debacle: Six Concrete Steps to Restore U.S. Credibility

Robert C. O’Brien

The indelible images from Kabul this week have done serious damage to U.S. credibility abroad. The Chinese Communist Party media mouthpiece, the Global Times, has already used the chaos in Afghanistan to warn Taiwan that the United States cannot be counted on to come to its aid when China eventually attacks the island.

There will be ample time to assess how things went so wrong so quickly for the Biden administration in this still-unfolding crisis. We fully support our diplomats and troops as they execute their mission to evacuate U.S. citizens, allied diplomats, and the United States’ Afghan friends over the coming days and weeks.

Rather than get drawn into a political blame game over the harrowing scenes the world is watching on TV, we believe it is far more important for the United States to immediately take steps to shore up its alliances and diplomatic standing, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. Fortunately, there are efforts that can be undertaken without delay to reassert U.S. leadership.

CIA’s Former Counterterrorism Chief for the Region: Afghanistan, Not An Intelligence Failure — Something Much Worse

Douglas London

While it’s certainly convenient to depict the shock and miscalculation U.S. officials claim over Afghanistan’s tragic, rapid fall to the Taliban as an intelligence failure, the reality is far worse. It’s a convenient deflection of responsibility for decisions taken owing to political and ideological considerations and provides a scapegoat for a policy decision that’s otherwise unable to offer a persuasive defense.

As CIA’s Counterterrorism Chief for South and Southwest Asia before my 2019 retirement, I was responsible for assessments concerning Afghanistan prepared for former President Donald Trump. And as a volunteer with candidate Joe Biden’s counterterrorism working group, I consulted on these same issues. The decision Trump made, and Biden ratified, to rapidly withdraw U.S. forces came despite warnings projecting the outcome we’re now witnessing. And it was a path to which Trump and Biden allowed themselves to be held captive owing to the “ending Forever Wars” slogan they both embraced.

The U.S. Intelligence Community assessed Afghanistan’s fortunes according to various scenarios and conditions and depending on the multiple policy alternatives from which the president could choose. So, was it 30 days from withdrawal to collapse? 60? 18 months? Actually, it was all of the above, the projections aligning with the various “what ifs.” Ultimately, it was assessed, Afghan forces might capitulate within days under the circumstances we witnessed, in projections highlighted to Trump officials and future Biden officials alike.

Combating Foreign Disinformation on Social Media

Raphael S. Cohen, Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga, Joe Cheravitch

How are state adversaries using disinformation on social media to advance their interests? What does the Joint Force—and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in particular—need to be prepared to do in response? Drawing on a host of different primary and secondary sources and more than 150 original interviews from across the U.S. government, the joint force, industry, civil society, and subject-matter experts from nine countries around the world, researchers examined how China, Russia, and North Korea have used disinformation on social media and what the United States and its allies and partners are doing in response. The authors found that disinformation campaigns on social media may be more nuanced than they are commonly portrayed. Still, much of the response to disinformation remains ad hoc and uncoordinated. Disinformation campaigns on social media will likely increase over the coming decade, but it remains unclear who has the competitive edge in this race; disinformation techniques and countermeasures are evolving at the same time. This overview of a multi-volume series presents recommendations to better prepare for this new age of communications warfare.

How the $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Would Impact the Economy

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill
that the U.S. Senate passed on August 10 is touted as the largest federal investment in infrastructure projects in more than decade. But higher government debt and its effect of crowding out private capital will undermine the impact of public investment. Consequently, GDP growth would be unchanged by the end of the 10-year budget window in 2031 or in the long run up to 2050,
according to an analysis by the Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM), a nonpartisan initiative that analyzes the economic impact of public policy proposals.

The bill is a compromise over a $2.7 trillion package the Biden administration had proposed in March and a diluted version in June. It comprises $550 billion in new infrastructure investments on top of $450 billion in funding for existing programs. Its biggest allocations are for transportation, including roads ($121 billion), rail service ($66 billion), public transit ($39 billion), and airports ($25 billion). Other notable allocations are for power infrastructure ($73 billion), water infrastructure ($50 billion), and high-speed internet ($65 billion).

Despite Advances in Women’s Rights, Gender Equality Lags Around the World

Despite progress in codifying women’s rights into law, advances in gender equality around the world have been halting, at best. This, despite the additional attention that the #MeToo movement brought to incidents of sexual assault and harassment in parts of the Global North—and increasingly in the Global South.

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa made news in mid-2019 when he appointed a Cabinet that included as many women as men. Later the same year, the European Commission also achieved the European Union’s self-imposed goal of gender parity. The thinking behind gender parity in government is that with greater levels of representation, women policymakers and legislators will pay more attention to issues that are often ignored by men, like gender-based violence or inheritance laws that discriminate against women.

Quotas are not a panacea, though. Even with increased representation, policymakers must figure out how to turn good intentions into change on the ground, so that removing restrictions on education, to take one example, actually leads to improved school attendance rates for girls and young women. Rwanda, for instance, also has gender quotas for political representation, but the increase in political gains has not necessarily translated to social advances for women, as efforts to promote gender equality have not fostered an understanding of its importance, particularly among men.

A Cyber Future that is Not Only Secure but Survivable


Cyber is an increasingly risky space. With more and more companies and institutions relying heavily on online operations, the need for enhanced cybersecurity has never been greater. The more people who connect their organization’s phones and laptops to home networks, the bigger the risk it is for the organization’s networked systems. Such vulnerabilities allow opportunity for cyber threat actors to operate undetected inside a network for long periods of time. The recent SolarWinds cyber-attack is a prime example that most organizations are not prepared for such a large-scale cyber intrusion.

Traditional cybersecurity is focused on countering cyber threats to enterprise IT networks, like hacking into email servers. Over the past few years, efforts to secure critical Operational Technology (OT) systems have become more prominent. Built on the baseline idea of cybersecurity — the ability to preserve a network’s confidentiality, integrity and availability in the face of cyber risks — two additional lines of cyber defense have emerged: Cyber Resilience and Cyber Survivability.

This is especially important when it comes to military defense.

Aircraft Carriers or Submarines? The Navy Has a Tough Decision to Make

James Holmes

Here's What You Need to Know: It's conceivable, nonetheless, that some combination of technological wizardry -- shipboard lasers, electromagnetic railguns, unmanned combat aircraft -- and inventive tactics could restore mobility and superior striking range to fleets. If so, the surface navy could regain its accustomed nautical mastery.

Here's a thought experiment: would America build the U.S. Navy currently plying the seven seas if it were starting from scratch? Color me skeptical. If not, what kind of navy would it build, and how can we approximate that ideal in light of budgetary constraints, a slew of legacy platforms that can't simply be scrapped and replaced, and an organizational culture and history that frown on revolutionary change?

Yikes: America Has No Good Answer to Chinese ‘Gray Zone’ Warfare

James Holmes, Toshi Yoshihara

Here's What You Need to Know: To balk China’s gray-zone stratagems, Washington and its allies must take a page from Beijing and adopt a holistic, grand-strategic posture that applies patient, vigilant countervailing pressure on many fronts simultaneously. In short, the defenders of the status quo must think in shades of gray and must accustom themselves to acting in the twilight between peace and war. To do any less would concede to China the initiative—and the future shape of the regional order.

Deterring aggression in the “gray zone” is hard. The keeper of an existing order—an order such as freedom of the sea—finds itself conflicted. That’s because gray-zone aggressors deliberately refuse to breach the threshold between uneasy peace and armed conflict, justifying a martial response. Instead they demolish the status quo little by little and replace it with something new.