6 September 2022

Spirals of Delusion How AI Distorts Decision-Making and Makes Dictators More Dangerous

Henry Farrell, Abraham Newman, and Jeremy Wallace

In policy circles, discussions about artificial intelligence invariably pit China against the United States in a race for technological supremacy. If the key resource is data, then China, with its billion-plus citizens and lax protections against state surveillance, seems destined to win. Kai-Fu Lee, a famous computer scientist, has claimed that data is the new oil, and China the new OPEC. If superior technology provides the edge, however, the United States, with its world class university system and talented workforce, still has a chance to come out ahead. For either country, pundits assume that superiority in AI will lead naturally to broader economic and military superiority.

But thinking about AI in terms of a race for dominance misses the more fundamental ways in which AI is transforming global politics. AI will not transform the rivalry between powers so much as it will transform the rivals themselves. The United States is a democracy, whereas China is an authoritarian regime, and machine learning challenges each political system in its own way. The challenges to democracies such as the United States are all too visible. Machine learning may increase polarization—reengineering the online world to promote political division. It will certainly increase disinformation in the future, generating convincing fake speech at scale. The challenges to autocracies are more subtle but possibly more corrosive. Just as machine learning reflects and reinforces the divisions of democracy, it may confound autocracies, creating a false appearance of consensus and concealing underlying societal fissures until it is too late.

How Russia Can Pay for its Use of the Wagner Group in Ukraine

David Mason

Of all the things the Russian Government has done with the Wagner Group, this latest report must be the most unambiguous acknowledgement that there is no real legal separation between the two. According to the report, Russian convicts are being offered freedom and financial rewards if they agree to fight in Ukraine with the Wagner Group. Apparently, Wagner Group’s representatives have travelled to Russian prisons and urged inmates to ‘defend the motherland.’[1]

In effect, this means Wagner Group representatives are recruiting into their organisation with the explicit knowledge of the Russian authorities. How else could they gain access to Russian prisons and then arrange to have inmates transferred to Ukraine front line? And what do they do once they get to the front line? According to just one report, Wagner Group members have been committing war crimes, including murder and torture of civilians.[2]

When recruited, Wagner Group members appear to be issued Russian military uniforms and AK-15s, the Spetsnaz’s newly issued assault rifle.[3] In so doing, they seem to be distinguishing themselves as members of an armed group, or even as members of the Russian military participating in the international armed conflict in Ukraine.[4]

What the U.S. Gets Wrong About Iran

Karim Sadjadpour

Ibn Khaldun, the 14th-century North African scholar, wrote that empires tended not to last beyond three generations. The founders of the first-generation are rough men united by hardship, grit and group solidarity, a concept he called asabiyyah. The next generation preserves the achievements of their forebears. By the third or fourth generation, however, the comforts of wealth and status erode ambition and unity, leaving them vulnerable to a new generation of power seekers with fire in their bellies.

In the 1979 Iranian revolution, religious fundamentalists with fire in their bellies transformed the country into an anti-American Islamist theocracy. Today Iran is still led by one of its first-generation revolutionaries — 83-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled since 1989. Among the reasons for Mr. Khamenei’s longevity is that he rules Iran with the hyper-vigilance and brutality of a man who believes that much of his own society, and the world’s greatest superpower, aspire to unseat him.

The Taliban’s Dangerous Collision Course With the West

Matthieu Aikins

Afghanistan’s ministry of education sits on a chaotic thoroughfare in downtown Kabul, not far from the presidential palace. When I visited this May, I was able to walk straight into the main building without having to state my business or undergo more than a light frisk. The country’s four-​decade civil war is at its lowest ebb in years, and many of the capital’s draconian security measures have been scaled back by the new Taliban government. The crowds of petitioners inside the ministries have changed, as well: Women are seldom seen, and the traditional garb of robe and trousers has become nearly ubiquitous among men.

It was my first trip back since I covered the republic's collapse last summer. Regular flights had resumed from Dubai and Islamabad. At the Kabul airport, site of last year’s chaotic and bloody evacuation, there was a new sign on the side of the terminal, near the white flag of the Taliban: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seeks peaceful and positive relations with the world.”

It had been 20 years since the United States and its allies overthrew the first Taliban government, which refused to allow Afghan girls to be educated, one of many repressive measures against women that cemented the regime’s pariah status. During the 1990s, only Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Pakistan ever recognized the group as the nation’s legitimate government. Soon after the United States began airstrikes on Afghanistan in 2001, Laura Bush, the first lady, took over her husband’s weekly radio address to tell Americans that “only the terrorists and the Taliban forbid education to women.” Since then, the liberation of Afghan schoolgirls was held up as a justification for the thousands of lives and trillions of dollars expended by the United States and its allies here, and as a symbol of the moral superiority of the republic that came crashing down last August, after the Taliban seized power and re-established the Islamic emirate.

Is China Using Cyberattacks To Maintain Its Rare Earth Dominance?

For the longest time, the world relied solely on China for its supply of rare earths. Now, it seems that most countries have woken up to the “rare earths reality.” That is, we are starting to understand how important these elements are for vital sectors like defense as well as for products we use every day, like cars. Moreover, we’re realising that we can’t let one nation control the entire supply chain.

This changing attitude has encouraged many countries, including the US, to start tapering their reliance on China for critical metals and minerals. However, it’s possible this shift has not gone over well with the Chinese government. This is particularly evident given the growing number of recent cyber attacks on rare earth producers.

The most recent example targeted Australia’s Lynas Rare Earths Ltd. According to reports, the company fell victim to a series of cyber attacks from social media accounts potentially linked to the Chinese Communist Party. A few months prior, US cybersecurity firm Mandiant alleged that Chinese government-funded programs were spreading disinformation. This time, the target of their ire was Canadian rare earths miner Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp.

China-Taiwan military tension fuels an active cyberwar

Vilius Petkauskas

After tensions between China and Taiwan did not materialize into a larger military conflict in August, the world had a sigh of relief. Yet while guns are silent, keyboards are not.

Cyber activity between China and Taiwan is marked by multi-vector attacks, similar to what experts witnessed happening between Russia and Ukraine, researchers at threat intelligence firm Cyberint say.

A recent report shows that tensions in the cyber realm are high, and the number of national-level cyberattacks affecting China and Taiwan has recently increased significantly.

According to Cyberint Research Team, the increasing number of cyberattacks will attract more competing hacking groups, increasing the risk of the heated conflict spiraling out of control in the cyber realm.

In the new offensive in the Ukraine War, can new recruits, high morale and heavy weapons tip the balance?

Joshua Keating

The war in Ukraine appears to be at another turning point. The early weeks of the conflict were defined by Russian forces’ failed attempt to take the capital, Kyiv, and overthrow the Ukrainian government. Then the fighting shifted to the eastern Donbas region, where Russia made slow, bloody but significant progress in taking Ukrainian territory and cities thanks to its overwhelming advantage in artillery and equipment. Now, with the arrival of more and more advanced weaponry from the U.S. and Europe, most notably High Mobility Advanced Rocket Systems (HIMARS), the Ukrainians are going on the attack, striking Russian logistics targets well behind the front lines and, this week, formally announcing the start of a long-anticipated counteroffensive in the south of the country. Early Western military assessments suggest this offensive is making progress, though it’s early to say anything definitive.

Still, Ukraine’s offensive against heavily fortified Russian positions carries significant risks, and looming behind it is the question of whether the West’s support for the Ukrainian resistance will outlast Russian President Vladimir Putin’s determination for victory. And this week’s visit by U.N. inspectors to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is a reminder that despite the enormous losses already suffered in Ukraine, there may still be major calamities to come.

Pakistani people wade through floodwater in Tando Muhammad Khan, Pakistan, on Sunday.

Nikhil Kumar

The scenes emerging from Pakistan in recent days have been terrifying: fierce floods sweeping away entire buildings, submerging entire towns and displacing millions of people. Pakistan’s annual monsoon rainfall regularly produces flooding, but the U.N. says this year has brought a climate change-induced monsoon season “on steroids,” made worse by rapidly melting glaciers in the northern part of the country. The impact has drowned parts of a nation already battling a series of political and economic crises in “epochal levels of rain and flooding.”

More than a thousand people have died as floodwaters spread across one-third of the country. More than 1 million homes have been damaged or destroyed, leaving millions of people in need of emergency shelter. On Tuesday, the U.N. issued a “flash” appeal for $160 million in urgent relief funding; authorities estimate that the cost of rebuilding could eventually fall north of $10 billion.

“It’s all one big ocean, there’s no dry land to pump the water out,” Sherry Rehman, the country’s climate change minster, told the Agence France-Presse news agency, saying her nation was facing a “crisis of unimaginable proportions.” Pakistan’s catastrophe was a sign, she warned, that the climate challenge had “crossed what is clearly a threshold.”

Are the Putin-backed dictators in Belarus and Kazakhstan in his corner for the Ukraine war? It’s complicated.

Joshua Keating

Last month, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a particularly expansive version of his now familiar argument that all of the former Soviet Union is, in fact, “historical Russia.”

Putin is not arguing for a literal recreation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the Russian Tsarist Empire; rather, his view appears to be that the 14 sovereign nations that were part of the Soviet Union — places which, after all, have historical and cultural links to Russia and often sizable Russian-speaking populations — should take a subordinate role, coordinating their foreign policies and economic interests with the priorities set by Moscow.

It was this vision, and Ukraine’s increasing defiance of it, that motivated this year’s invasion. Ukraine’s size, economic resources and historical links to Russia make it the linchpin in Putin’s “Russian world.”

Should There Be a New Grouping for the “Non-Nuclear Five” of South Asia?

Rudabeh Shahid and Nazmus Sakib

The former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, pointed out that as late as November 2017, China did not take the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) seriously. He quoted how the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi took the security pact nonchalantly and described its formation as “…the sea foam in the Pacific or Indian Ocean: they get some attention but will soon dissipate.” Yet, just four years later, in 2021, Rudd notes how Chinese officials began to view the QUAD with growing concerns when the alliance held its first leader-level summit.

Rudd believes QUAD’s goal of creating a global resistance coalition in the Indo-Pacific is troublesome for China’s approach. Rudd’s analysis is classically realist, focusing on “larger nation-states” without considering “smaller countries.” This indifference, among other things, has allowed the condition to remain throughout South Asia, especially in the “non-nuclear five”—Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka—where China has made notable inroads. So how did this happen and why should Western countries rethink their South Asia policy to realise their aim of curbing the rise of China?

The QUAD is an initiative created by four “democracies”—US, India, Japan and Australia—back in 2004 to provide humanitarian support for countries hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami. It appears that in recent years it has been rejuvenated to counter the growing Chinese sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Does the U.S. Economy Benefit from U.S. Alliances and Forward Military Presence?

Bryan Rooney, Grant Johnson, Tobias Sytsma

Scholars of grand strategy debate the merits of U.S. forward military presence and alliances. The authors of this report explore one element of this debate: the potential economic benefits of these security policies. The authors draw on the existing literature to identify possible pathways through which U.S. forward military presence and alliances could lead to economic benefits.

In theory, these pathways include preventing conflicts that disrupt U.S. trade and investment, reducing fears of war that could inhibit peacetime exchange, and increasing U.S. bargaining leverage over security partners in economic negotiations. In practice, the United States has higher levels of bilateral trade with and investment in allied countries. Importantly, however, the existing literature has not evaluated whether this increase in bilateral trade and investment benefits the U.S. economy as a whole. The authors develop a new model that provides evidence that U.S. alliances increase bilateral trade in manufactured goods and that this has a modest but positive effect on U.S. economic welfare.

Decisions about U.S. alliances and forward military presence should be based on a range of factors beyond these possible economic benefits. This report does not examine other pathways through which economic benefits may accrue or costs may arise — or effects on allies' and adversaries' behaviors — and therefore does not make recommendations as to whether or how the United States should change its security policies. Instead, the report describes potential economic benefits associated with U.S. military engagement, which should inform a broader assessment of the U.S. approach to the world.

Emerging Technology Beyond 2035

Bryan Boling, Benjamin Boudreaux, Alexis A. Blanc

The future is highly uncertain — however, it is important for the Army to try to anticipate future global developments and technological changes. This forecasting work aims to assist the U.S. Army in preparing for shifting operational environments, including environments it might not have faced extensively in the past, such as in extreme weather conditions driven by climate change. In these and other operating conditions, emerging technologies might help the Army succeed in key missions and promote U.S. interests. Forecasting could also help the Army better understand and anticipate the types of conflicts it might face, along with the characteristics of key adversaries, and the operational-level challenges that could be in play. Preparing and planning for future contingencies are especially important in the context of scarce resources in an austere budget environment where the Army already today needs to make difficult decisions about how it dedicates its resources. This report presents the development and implementation of a technology road-mapping process to help the Army understand the implications of key emerging technologies that could be crucial to Army missions in the years 2035 to 2050. This work aims to assist the Army for shifting operational environments, such as operations in extreme weather conditions. Emerging technologies might help the Army succeed in key missions and promote U.S. interests.

Characterizing the Risks of North Korean Chemical and Biological Weapons, Electromagnetic Pulse, and Cyber Threats

Bruce W. Bennett, Kang Choi, Gregory S. Jones

To secure the survival of its regime, dominate the Republic of Korea (ROK), and impose unification of the Korean Peninsula, North Korea has amassed a variety of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — nuclear, chemical, and biological — to include nuclear and likely conventional capabilities that produce highly destructive or even lethal electromagnetic pulse. It also has diverse offensive cyber capabilities that it uses for covert and illegal purposes. The authors of this report focus on how the North could use, and does use, these weapons and capabilities to affect peacetime relations on the peninsula and to prepare for a major war with the ROK, as well as the possible effects of their employment on the military, on civilians, and on critical infrastructure.

The authors present a theory of deterrence and suggest how the ROK-U.S. alliance could rein in North Korean efforts to augment or enhance its WMD and cyber capabilities and deter the North from attacking the ROK and beyond. Throughout, the authors acknowledge the uncertainties involved and argue that any effective action on the part of the ROK-U.S. alliance will require recognizing and managing those uncertainties.

China, Russia and Iran Are Slowly Ganging Up on the US

Hal Brands

Everywhere the US looks, its geopolitical rivals are making common cause. Russia and China proclaimed a strategic partnership “without limits” just before the former’s invasion of Ukraine. Iran is helping Russian President Vladimir Putin fight that war by providing him with military assistance. Beijing and Tehran have their own strategic relationship, one that’s been several decades in the making.

Washington doesn’t yet face a full-fledged alliance of hostile powers. But that’s the wrong way to think about the convergence between three countries that are increasingly united in their hostility to the US.

For Americans, formal military alliances are the gold standard of international cooperation. That’s not surprising, given that Washington has dozens of treaty allies around the globe. Those relationships play a vital role in US strategy, and they have given many Americans a particular view of what an alliance entails.

US alliances mostly involve mutual defense commitments enshrined in treaties. They are often rooted in deep bonds of solidarity created by shared interests and democratic values. These alliances promote cooperation across an array of security challenges, from counterterrorism to holding back Russian and Chinese power; US and partner allies plan, train and operate together closely. American alliances are also presumed to be enduring, rather than temporary: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and America’s key security pacts in the Western Pacific have been around for generations.

Nation to put large telescope in orbit next year

Li Yan

China plans to launch a large space telescope next year to fly alongside the Tiangong space station, according to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

The academy said a Long March 5B heavy-lift carrier rocket will deploy the Xuntian space telescope in a low-Earth orbit similar to the track of the Tiangong station as they both circle Earth. The telescope will carry out deep-space observation and research in the frontier fields of science, it said.

The academy is the designer and builder of the Long March 5B, the most powerful Chinese rocket when it comes to carrying capacity for low-Earth orbit. The rocket is central to China's space station program because it is now the only Chinese launch vehicle capable of carrying large space station parts into orbit.

The China Space Station Telescope, or Xuntian, is now being developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

US Army approves purchase from Microsoft – media

The US Army has received clearance to start taking deliveries of new combat goggles made by software giant Microsoft, pushing forward with a deal that had been placed on hold because of concerns that the devices might not work correctly.

The purchase will be the first under a contract that could be worth nearly $22 billion over 10 years if the goggles perform as intended and all of the Army’s options are exercised. The Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, Douglas Bush, approved acceptance of the first batch of goggles under a March 2021 order for 5,000 sets valued at $373 million, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.

The initial deliveries had been delayed on concern that more rigorous testing was needed to ensure that the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) goggles performed as expected. Based on initial testing, the devices won't immediately be deployed on battlefields.


Sophie Beach

While a recent crackdown on wrongdoing by officials has encouraged those who want to see an end to official corruption in China, hopes are diminishing over the prospects for more substantive political reform under incoming president Xi Jinping. A speech Xi gave in December has recently been distributed inside the Party and appears to indicate that Xi will not encourage any systematic reforms that will threaten the leadership of the Party. Seeing Red in China has translated an essay by veteran journalist Gao Yu, who spent time in prison after the 1989 protest movement, in which she analyzes Xi’s speech:

As if to clear up the political smog, Xi Jinping’s “new southern tour speech,” made in early December, began its circulation last week in the party. To my surprise, Xi’s speech reads like a perfect confirmation to MacFarquhar’s prediction. The new leadership’s “honeymoon” is hardly over, but it has already become clear that the Party and the people don’t share the same “China Dream,” as the Southern Weekend incident has abundantly indicated.

The most striking part of Xi Jinping’s “new southern tour speech” is his revisiting the topic of the Soviet Union’s collapse. He said, “Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and beliefs had been shaken. In the end, ‘the ruler’s flag over the city tower’ changed overnight. It’s a profound lesson for us! To dismiss the history of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party, to dismiss Lenin and Stalin, and to dismiss everything else is to engage in historic nihilism, and it confuses our thoughts and undermines the Party’s organizations on all levels.”

Learning From Russian Losses, US Army Wants ‘Low & Fast’ Attack Helicopters To Fight Enemy Inside The ‘Kill Chain’

Parth Satam

Major General Walter Rugen, Director of the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team in the US Army Futures Command, made the observations at a talk held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Rugen also discussed the need for missiles with greater standoff ranges, dual-use sensors, and the ability to ‘converge’ information from multiple assets onto a single interface to allow commanders to make faster battlefield decisions.

Rugen’s statement comes in the backdrop of the Army’s two vital procurement programs – the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAAC) and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA). Both are part of the larger Future Vertical Lift (FVL) project.The Boeing-Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant X & the Bell V-280 were tested for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLAARC) program

While the FLAARC is meant to replace the Sikorsky S-80 Black Hawk, the FARA is meant as a replacement for the AH-64 Apache; both are targeted to happen by the 2030s.

Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K)

Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) is the Islamic State’s Central Asian province and remains active three years after its inception. The Islamic State announced its expansion to the Khorasan region in 2015, which historically encompasses parts of modern day Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.1 Despite initial skepticism about the group’s existence from analysts and government officials alike, IS-K has been responsible for nearly 100 attacks against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as roughly 250 clashes with the U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani security forces since January 2017.2 Though IS-K has yet to conduct attacks against the U.S. homeland, the group represents an enduring threat to U.S. and allied interests in South and Central Asia. This backgrounder is an overview of the history, leadership, and current strategic goals of IS-K.

Formation and Relationship with ISIS Core

In 2014, Pakistani national Hafiz Saeed Khan was chosen to spearhead IS-K province as its first emir.3 Khan, a veteran Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander, brought along other prominent TTP members—including the group’s spokesman Sheikh Maqbool and many district chiefs—when he initially pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi in October 2014. Many of these individuals were included in the first Khorasan Shura or leadership council.4

Solomon Islands lurch toward despotism as China debt deepens


TOKYO -- For those anxious about China's growing influence in the Pacific, it is difficult to pick the most alarming development in the Solomon Islands over the past month.

The government has told the U.S. it will bar all American navy vessels from entering its ports, the U.S. embassy in Canberra said on Tuesday.

And there is the push to borrow nearly $100 million from China to finance Huawei-supplied mobile towers, there is the order that stories produced by public broadcaster SIBC must be approved by the government before publication, and then there is Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare's attempt to delay the country's 2023 election.

These rapid developments, on top of a recently signed security deal with Beijing, raise fears that the country is lurching toward authoritarianism.

While a warm embrace between Sogavare and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during July's Pacific Islands Forum boded well for a more stable Pacific, the Solomon leader's embrace of China and more controlling approach to media have worried opposition leaders and regional bodies.

Trust, But Verify: Building Aviator Relationships with AI

Lieutenant Mark Jbeily, U.S. Navy, and Christian Heller

In June 2021, the Navy publicly announced a successful aerial refueling test between an autonomous MQ-25A Stingray and a manned F/A-18F Super Hornet. The test marked another milestone in the Stingray program and a significant step toward the broader integration of autonomous and unmanned platforms into carrier air wings. In an October 2020 forcewide memorandum, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday directed the accelerated development of unmanned platforms to exploit and integrate an “any-sensor/any-shooter” kill-chain concept of operations.

The effective proliferation of unmanned systems supporting the kill chain will require a high degree of autonomy in the execution of combat and other aerial missions. While technical feasibility can be measured and reported in instances such as the Stingray refueling, a significant challenge remains: How to develop trust between the manned aircrew and the autonomous systems they will employ.

Unmanned Future Threatens Pilot Identity

Ensign Sarah Clark, U.S. Navy

Picture a battlefield where a drone swarm swirls around enemy ground forces, deploying weapons and countermeasures as needed. Behind that swarm is another providing cover fire and backup. Patrolling thousands of feet above is a single uncrewed reconnaissance aircraft, collecting video footage of the action below. That footage is sent back to a command-and-control center for analysis. Simultaneously, the footage (including coordinates and targeting information) is sent to two crewed strike-fighters loitering nearby with an uncrewed refueling aircraft. Once assigned to targets, the strike-fighters proceed to the battlefield and destroy the enemy. Above, the reconnaissance aircraft still circles, constantly recording and relaying data.

What is missing from this scene? Pilots. No longer science fiction, this scene illustrates the U.S. military’s trajectory toward relying on uncrewed assets to conduct warfare. As in current publicly released naval planning documents, this description focuses on equipment capabilities instead of the humans involved.1 By removing humans from the battlefield—specifically, pilots from cockpits—naval aviation is ignoring the growing pilot identity crisis. The shift from crewed aircraft to a hybrid environment presents an opportunity for naval aviation to learn from past technological transitions and leverage the full potential of both technology and humans.

The US–China ‘Standard-Off’ Over Technology – Analysis

Heejin Lee

The US–China technology rivalry became overt when a dispute erupted over 5G and Huawei after Washington designated Huawei as an embargoed company on its ‘Entity List’ in May 2019. Standards underpinning the fifth generation of mobile network technology are at the centre of the dispute. China is overtaking the United States — the traditional mastermind of international standards in information and communications technology — in setting the standards for 5G.

Chinese companies hold one third of the world’s 5G-related ‘standard-essential’ patents — patents that claim an invention must be used to comply with an industry standard. Holding 5G patents is important because 5G extends beyond conventional mobile communication in emerging technological sectors. Autonomous cars, artificial intelligence (AI), smart factories and smart cities are all connected through 5G networks.

As 5G standards are adopted, essential-patent owners will earn more profits and exert growing power over the path of standardisation and innovation in related technologies. This is why the United States takes China’s increasing influence over international standardisation so seriously. The word ‘standards’ appears 10 times in the Trump administration’s 2020 report on the ‘United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China’.

China Defiant Over Uyghurs UN Report

Jonah McKeown

A highly anticipated report from the United Nations chronicles China’s mistreatment of the Uyghur ethnic group, a Muslim minority in the far western region of Xinjiang that according to the United States is suffering genocide.

The report includes testimony from 40 people who say they were subjected to arbitrary detention as well as various forms of torture and humiliation, including sexual mistreatment.

“Serious human rights violations have been committed in XUAR in the context of the Government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-’extremism’ strategies,” outgoing U.N. Human Rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet wrote.

“The implementation of these strategies, and associated policies in XUAR has led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights. These patterns of restrictions are characterized by a discriminatory component, as the underlying acts often directly or indirectly affect Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities.”

Is it Too Late to Prevent a Nuclear Doomsday?

Ivan Sascha Sheehan

The Doomsday Clock was created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 1947 to demonstrate in stark terms just how close humanity was to collective nuclear suicide. During the Cold War, it wobbled between two minutes and fourteen minutes to midnight. The clock came to be a respected bellwether measuring nuclear tensions and helped to generate interest and drive action to advance nuclear non-proliferation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, the “end of history” registered at seventeen minutes to midnight.

Today, thirty years later, it is just 100 seconds to midnight—its closest point ever.

But if the current generation is concerned, it has a peculiar way of showing it. Today, we seem unfazed by the prospect of nuclear annihilation. Such anxieties just aren’t part of our zeitgeist.

In a recent Red Cross survey asking participants to rank twelve global threats, nuclear attacks ranked at the bottom. Unlike during the Cold War, which was dominated by two clear ideological adversaries, our current multipolar system lacks the rigidity that affixed nuclear war to the public consciousness. Instead, the fluid nature of the contemporary international order is plagued by a range of transnational challenges—from terrorism to climate change—that vie for the public’s attention.