5 March 2023

India’s Key to Keeping the Status Quo on Its Border With China

Siddharth Sridhar

On January 20 of this year, in a report submitted to the All-India Conference of Director Generals, Ladakh police officers divulged that India had lost access to 26 out of 65 of its Patrolling Points along the country’s disputed border with China. Furthermore, since May 2020, Indian intelligence reports have found that China has occupied nearly 1,000 square kilometers of what was previously de facto Indian territory through militarization and fortified infrastructure projects.

Unable credibly to threaten a victory against China in war, India, in partnership with the United States and other Quad members (Australia and Japan), needs to question its current strategies and adopt a new strategy of “deterrence by detection” to escape from China’s fait accompli trap.

Established in April 2020 by Thomas Mahnken, Travis Sharp, and Grace Kim from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the concept of deterrence by detection is presented as a strategy to tackle the twin issue of sub-conventional gray zone aggression and fait accompli gambles. It is the idea that one’s “adversaries are less likely to commit opportunistic acts of aggression if they know they are being watched constantly and that their actions can be publicized widely.” The authors argue the deterrence by detection will “generate and maintain real-time situational awareness that can contribute to solving the fait accompli challenge.”

Afghanistan: The Avoidable 20-Year Disaster

Daniel Davis

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report on Monday that laid bare many of the reasons for the spectacular collapse in August 2021 of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan. The 148-page report provides exhaustive evidence of the many and compounding reasons for our failure, but the one cause that was not mentioned may have been the most critical: a whole-of-government arrogance in Washington.

It is crucial to understand that the debacle of August 2021, when the Afghan government and military dissolved before the Taliban’s advance — and our two-decade war of frustration crashed into inglorious failure — was not merely the result of U.S. President Joe Biden bungling the withdrawal. Our disaster started within months of the war’s onset and persisted all the way to the final exit.

The new SIGAR report, signed by Inspector General John Sopko, continues the exceptional analysis and reporting of ground truth in Afghanistan that SIGAR began with their first report in October 2008. In that report, SIGAR’s first Inspector General, Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, ominously warned that “the task of reconstruction in Afghanistan is an exceedingly difficult and complex issue.” That message, which if anything was an understatement, appears to have been vastly misjudged by every administration from George W. Bush through to Biden.

Opinion China’s collapsing birth and marriage rates reflect a people’s deep pessimism

Nicholas Eberstadt

China is in the midst of a quiet but stunning nationwide collapse of birthrates. This is the deeper, still largely overlooked, significance of the country’s 2022 population decline, announced by Chinese authorities last month.

As recently as 2019, demographers at the U.S. Census Bureau and the United Nations were not expecting China’s population to start dropping until the early 2030s. But they did not anticipate today’s wholesale plunge in childbearing.

Considerable attention has been devoted to likely consequences of China’s coming depopulation: economic, political, strategic. But the causes of last year’s population drop deserve much closer examination.

China’s nosedive in childbearing is a silent alarm. It signals deep disaffection with the bleak future the regime is engineering for its subjects. In this land without democracy, the birth collapse can be read as a landslide vote of no confidence in President Xi Jinping’s rule.

Official Chinese government statistics are far from perfect (Premier Li Keqiang once called China’s economic numbers “man-made”), but they offer a serviceable approximation of recent birth trends.

According to the data, births in China have fallen steeply and steadily since 2016, year after year. In 2022, China had only about half as many births as just six years earlier (9.6 million vs. 17.9 million). That sea change in childbearing predated the coronavirus pandemic, and it appears to be part of broader shock, for marriage in China is also in free fall.

Popping China’s Balloon


CAMBRIDGE – When US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, met in Bali last November, they agreed to hold high-level meetings to establish “guardrails” for the Sino-American strategic competition. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to visit Beijing to inaugurate that effort last month. But when China sent a surveillance balloon (visible to the naked eye) over American territory, Blinken’s visit was shot down even faster than the balloon.

Though this certainly was not the first time that China deployed a balloon in such a fashion, the poor timing was remarkable. Still, it might have been better if Blinken had followed through with his visit.

Yes, China claimed, dubiously, that the device was a weather balloon that had gone astray; but intelligence cover-ups are hardly unique to China. Last month’s incident had echoes of 1960, when US President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev were scheduled to meet to establish Cold War guardrails. But then the Soviets shot down an American spy plane that Eisenhower initially tried to dismiss as an errant weather flight. The summit was canceled, and real guardrails were not discussed until after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

How Xi Jinping is fortifying China's economic security


More players in the global economy are now prioritizing national security as well as economic efficiency, with economic security increasingly drawing attention.

As the Group of Seven leaders said in their joint statement in December that they will work collaboratively to strengthen their collective economic security, the topic is now becoming the key that could contribute to maintaining the balance of power in the international community.

But while China has been drawing interest as the major actor, what will constitute China’s economic security has not been sufficiently discussed.

Past discussions have concentrated on the policies of the United States, which had already been revealed, with comparatively less analysis made of China’s countermeasures.

However, Chinese authorities are coming up with a strategy of obtaining economic predominance by using the superiority of its gigantic market and its high supply capabilities — particularly its price competitiveness — made possible by combining high productive power with government assistance, and making other countries depend on them.

Rethinking Assumptions About China

Robert Peters

If the war in Ukraine is teaching the United States anything, it is that great powers can unexpectedly suffer battlefield defeat because expectations and assumptions about their military prowess are outdated. The United States and China may be reaching a similar point where an innovative China outperforms an historically superior United States on a future battlefield, shattering a host of assumptions in the process.

Some widely held American assumptions include a belief that the Chinese leadership is conflict adverse and fears a war with the United States. Given recent military exercises and statements by Xi Jinping at last October’s 20th National Congress, such assumptions are no longer valid—if they ever were.

A second assumption suggests the United States and its regional allies enjoy overwhelming conventional superiority in the Western Pacific. This is unlikely to be true, given China’s expansion of its naval forces, it’s fourth and fifth generation fighters, and the world’s largest and most diverse missile force. While the United States might well assemble a formidable coalition to confront Chinese aggression, China’s rapid military expansion means that it would be touch and go for either side in a conflict.

China still may formally maintain a nuclear “no first use” policy—since the time of Mao—however, the expansion of its arsenal, to include a potential nuclear first strike capability, raises the question of whether this long held policy remains credible. Many believe it is not.

China leading US in technology race in all but a few fields, thinktank finds

Daniel Hurst

The United States and other western countries are losing the race with China to develop advanced technologies and retain talent, with Beijing potentially establishing a monopoly in some areas, a new report has said.

China leads in 37 of 44 technologies tracked in a year-long project by thinktank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The fields include electric batteries, hypersonics and advanced radio-frequency communications such as 5G and 6G.

The report, published on Thursday, said the US was the leader in just the remaining seven technologies such as vaccines, quantum computing and space launch systems.

It said the findings were based on “high impact” research in critical and emerging technology fields, focusing on papers that were published in top-tier journals and were highly cited by subsequent research.

“Our research reveals that China has built the foundations to position itself as the world’s leading science and technology superpower, by establishing a sometimes stunning lead in high-impact research across the majority of critical and emerging technology domains,” the report said.

From Balloons to Nukes, We Must Stop Inflating the China Threat


Washington has an uncanny ability to make mountains out of molehills, exaggerate threats, and weaponize any situation into a crisis. It’s as if the Washington political scene thinks there are not enough problems in the world, so it needs to create some new ones. And the number one target for crisis creation right now, both on spy balloons and nuclear weapons, is China.

Take the recent spy balloon imbroglio. Yes, China launched a spy balloon that wound up crossing the United States, and no, we should not believe Beijing’s cover story that this was an innocent weather balloon. But that does not necessarily mean, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., implied, that this was a Chinese plan to embarrass the United States: “It’s not just the balloon,” Rubio said. “It’s the message to try to send the world that America, ‘We can do whatever we want, and America can’t stop us.’”

Well, maybe China can’t do whatever it wants. According to weather analysis from the Washington Post, it appears that Beijing never intended the balloon to cross the United States at all. Weather models indicate that an unexpected cold front may have pushed the balloon north, away from its planned path, suggesting “that the ensuing international crisis that has ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Beijing may have been at least partly the result of a mistake,” the Post writes. CIA Director William Burns said that as to “when and what the Chinese leadership knew about the trajectory of this balloon, I honestly can’t say.”

Iran-Azerbaijan Rift: Historical and Geopolitical Factors

Ali Noureddine

An armed assault on an Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran by an Iranian national identified as Yasin Hosseinzadeh in January 2022 resulted in the death of one person and the injury of two embassy security personnel.

The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs vehemently denied any political or terrorist motives for the attack, claiming that the assailant’s actions were exclusively motivated by personal and familial matters.

According to this account, the primary cause of the assault may have been preexisting issues between the attacker and his Azerbaijani wife.
Bilateral relations deteriorate in the wake of the incident

The official Iranian account is not shared by the Azerbaijani government or media. The attack, according to the Azerbaijani Parliament, was motivated by Iran’s anti-Azerbaijan media campaigns. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs further asserted that Iran has disregarded earlier demands to safeguard the security of the mission.

Hostile attitudes of Iranian politicians toward Azerbaijan were framed in the days following the attack by the Azerbaijani media as intentional provocation. The Iranian government was accused of deceiving and misleading the public by attributing the attack to familial or personal reasons, according to the Azerbaijan News Agency, which also claimed that the attacker was associated with specific Iranian Revolutionary Guard groups. Additionally, a number of prominent Azerbaijani officials concluded that the assault had been planned by Iranian officials.

Intelligence Agencies Seek Better Ways to Buy IT and Emerging Tech


The focus on strategic competition with foreign adversaries has forced the IC to consider new ways to procure and implement emerging technologies and tools required to maintain an edge against competitors, according to John Beieler, director of science and technology for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That could mean a significant expansion in public-private cooperation across the community in the years to come, as well as an increased focus on cloud computing capabilities and other modernization initiatives.

“There isn’t anyone in the Intelligence Community that doesn’t believe that we need to be better about the acquisition and onboarding of new tech solutions,” Beieler told FCW.

What’s driving the procurement pressures on the intelligence community is a combination of the increasing near-peer competition and the fast-evolving dynamics of digital transformation. Where the domains of the Cold War were relatively fixed, the speed at which technology is evolving has broadened the attack surface to include new targets, such as critical infrastructure.

Those targets, and the speed of technological capability, mean the IC’s acquisition practices have to evolve quickly as well.

Congress presses Pentagon on Biden’s reluctance to give Ukraine F-16s

Dan Lamothe

Ukrainian forces would need at least 18 months to learn how to fly and maintain F-16 fighter jets in combat, a senior Pentagon official told Congress on Tuesday as the Biden administration continued to fend off questions about why a frequent request from Kyiv and, increasingly, some U.S. politicians remains unfulfilled.

The issue has dogged the administration for months, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continues to make regular public pleas for the planes and U.S. lawmakers question why Ukrainian pilots are not in training to learn how they operate.

“I do think this conversation will continue,” Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, explained to members of the House Armed Services Committee. In a best-case scenario, he said, older F-16s could be transferred within about 18 months. To purchase and deliver new ones, he noted, could take up to six years, adding that U.S. Air Force personnel have assessed that for Ukraine to upgrade its fleet of fighter aircraft, it probably will need about 80 jets.

“It’s just hard for me to tell any member of Congress, of the American public, that the best use of that dollar spent right now is on F-16s,” Kahl said.

President Biden said last week that Ukraine “doesn’t need F-16s now,” underscoring his senior military advisers’ expectation that when the war’s next phase begins to accelerate with the springtime thaw, it will look a lot like the grueling, bloody ground campaign that has left tens of thousands dead and wounded on both sides.

Why Putin Cannot End His War Against Ukraine

Ksenia Kirillova

Among the many terrible consequences of Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine launched by Vladimir Putin a year ago, one should be singled out—that is, the Russian president’s inability to end the conflict as currently constituted. Several primary factors underline this fact.

First, the war has caused an unusually high level of support among the Russian public for the Russian authorities and Putin personally; in recent years, before the invasion, this rating had been steadily declining (Radio Svoboda, May 25, 2019). Even independent sociologists, for example, the scientific director of the Levada Center (labeled as a “foreign agent” in Russia), Lev Gudkov, admit that public support is “not very clearly expressed, but quite tangible for the authorities and the war itself in society.”

According to Gudkov, approval for the war among Russians remains around 70 percent. Yet, at the same time, 50 percent of respondents want the fighting to end. He notes that this duality is partly due to the fact that many Russians are deeply aware of the war’s criminal nature but prefer to isolate themselves from the unpleasant truth and avoid receiving objective information (Eurasia Review, February 17). Another factor that ensures passive support for the war from the majority of the population is the constant stream of propaganda that paints a harrowing future in the case of Russia’s defeat (Readovka, October 6).

On Point: Ukraine's Combined Arms Warfare Edge

Austin Bay

March 2022's Ukraine war videos of exploding Russian tanks showed the world that Ukrainian soldiers armed with modern anti-tank weapons knew how to ambush and destroy Russia's mightiest armored fighting vehicles.

Wire service photos of Russian vehicle graveyards confirmed Ukrainian military units knew how to defeat and destroy entire Russian military units -- entire formations, not just individual tanks.

Burnt-out tanks, smashed armored infantry carriers, abandoned self-propelled anti-aircraft and artillery vehicles, scores of shrapnel-riddled trucks -- the photos showed the metal bones of a Russian armored BTG (Battalion Task Group).

In February 2022 Russia fielded an estimated 170 BTGs. With these allegedly modern combined arms units Vladimir Putin believed Ukraine would quickly submit to a Russian blitzkrieg.

For many reasons, with Ukrainian will to win and tactical training in the top five, Putin's invasion stalled then collapsed. By midsummer Ukrainian local combined arms attacks had forced Russian retreats.

Combined arms. Alexander the Great used the concept, coordinating Macedonian cavalry, heavy infantry and quick light infantry maneuver and attacks. Napoleon combined infantry, cavalry and artillery. German WWII panzer divisions combined tanks, armored infantry (panzer grenadiers), mobile artillery and air attacks (close air support of ground forces).

How Many People Does Elon Musk Need to Run Twitter? Silicon Valley Wants to Know

Alexa Corse

Elon Musk is trying to run Twitter Inc. with an ever-shrinking fraction of the staff the company had when he took over. Silicon Valley is watching to see if he will succeed.

Across the tech industry and many businesses broadly, companies are trying to do more with less—using layoffs to unwind recent hiring sprees and cutting back on some long-shot projects.

Mr. Musk’s cuts are of a different magnitude. He said in December that Twitter’s staff was down to roughly 2,000 from close to 8,000 before he acquired the company in October and that he was “cutting costs like crazy.”

He conducted more layoffs over the weekend, employees said. Twitter declined to disclose the number of cuts.

Mr. Musk’s moves raise the question: How much can companies cut without going too far?

“This might give inspiration to many other companies to look inside the organization, and say, ‘How much more efficient can we get?’” said Thuan Pham, formerly the chief technology officer for Uber Technologies Inc. and who now advises companies.

Can geothermal energy finally take a bite out of climate change?

Dave Levitan

In 2009, geothermal energy was having a moment.

Reports proliferated on tapping the massive potential of all that emissions-free energy deep within the Earth, which when brought to the surface can heat buildings or spin a turbine to generate electricity. President Obama listed geothermal right alongside solar and wind power in speeches; the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act sent $368 million in geothermal’s direction. Google started throwing millions of dollars at research and startup companies, going so far as to call new types of geothermal power “the ‘killer app’ of the energy world.” The search giant guessed that geothermal power could provide 15 percent of the country’s electricity by 2030.

And then … crickets.

“In terms of what is being built in the world, geothermal is completely insignificant, completely irrelevant right now,” said Jamie Beard, the founder and executive director of a nonprofit called Project Innerspace that is trying to reverse that irrelevance.

The energy source has a lot to recommend it, after all. It’s clean and emissions-free, and unlike wind and solar power it is considered “baseload” power, meaning it is always on. A geothermal power plant doesn’t take up the space that other renewables do either, making it more palatable to environmentalists worried about land-use changes.

Here are the countries that have bans on TikTok


HONG KONG (AP) — The U.S. and Canada issued orders this week banning the use of TikTok on government-issued mobile devices as privacy and cybersecurity concerns about the video-sharing app grow.

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, has long maintained that it does not share data with the Chinese government and that its data is not held in China. It also disputes accusations that it collects more user data than other social media companies, and insists that it is run independently by its own management.

But many countries remain cautious about the platform and its ties to China. Here are the countries and regions that have implemented partial or total bans on TikTok:

India imposed a ban on TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps, including the messaging app WeChat, in 2020 over privacy and security concerns. The ban came shortly after a clash between Indian and Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border killed 20 Indian soldiers and injured dozens.

The companies were given a chance to respond to questions on privacy and security requirements but the ban was made permanent in January 2021.

The World Economic Forum's 'AI Enslavement' is Coming for YOU!

J.B. Shurk

[F]or every peaceful religious community seeking separation from modern civilization, there is a power-hungry tyrant seeking to impose his will upon everyone else.

Although the World Economic Forum (WEF) has spent the last 50 years organizing conferences, publishing policy proposals, and connecting global leaders in industry, banking, information technology, intelligence gathering, military strategy and politics, its mission objective is remarkably simple: the smartest, best people in the world should rule everyone else.

The WEF is nothing new. Its foundations have been around at least since the time of Plato, when two and a half millennia ago the Greek philosopher proposed that the ideal city-state would be ruled by "philosopher kings." Just as Plato surveyed the world and predictably concluded that people from his own vocation should logically govern everyone else, the World Economic Forum's global "elites" have come to a strikingly similar determination.... to no-one's surprise, those same "philosopher kings" have nominated themselves to do the ruling. How convenient.

Should [Klaus Schwab] and the WEF clan pull it off, they will do so by using technology to enfeeble, rather than empower, the human race. Already, people have become familiar with the new terms of their future enslavement. Central bank digital currencies will allow governments not only to track every citizen's income and purchase history in real time but also to limit what a person may spend depending upon government-determined social credit scores, perceived infractions of the "common good," or perhaps unfair possession of "systemic privilege."

US Cyber Command developing own intelligence hub

Colin Demarest

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — U.S. Cyber Command, tasked with defending Department of Defense IT networks and coordinating cyberspace operations, is developing its own intelligence hub, after years of relying on other information-gathering sources.

The endeavor, still in its infancy, is meant to buttress data collection and augment CYBERCOM’s understanding of foreign capabilities in the ever-expanding cyber realm.

“We know everything about a T-72 tank, all the way to every nut and bolt in there, for the Army,” Col. Candice Frost, the leader of the Joint Intelligence Operations Center at CYBERCOM, said at a Feb. 28 event hosted by Billington Cybersecurity in Virginia. “But we don’t have that for networks, with respect to an all-source capability.”

“Congress asked us: Do we need a center that is focused on all-source intelligence to support Cyber Command, in the cyber domain?” Frost said. “And the answer was a resounding yes.”

The prospective Cyber Intelligence Center was previously teased by CYBERCOM’s director of intelligence, Brig. Gen. Matteo Martemucci. He told the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association International’s Signal magazine in November that an in-depth review of assets highlighted a need for a hub dedicated to analyzing cyber expertise and exploits abroad.

‘Havana syndrome’ not caused by energy weapon or foreign adversary, intelligence review finds

Shane Harris and John Hudson

The mysterious ailment known as “Havana syndrome” did not result from the actions of a foreign adversary, according to an intelligence report that shatters a long-disputed theory that hundreds of U.S. personnel were targeted and sickened by a clandestine enemy wielding energy waves as a weapon.

The new intelligence assessment caps a years-long effort by the CIA and several other U.S. intelligence agencies to explain why career diplomats, intelligence officers and others serving in U.S. missions around the world experienced what they described as strange and painful acoustic sensations. The effects of this mysterious trauma shortened careers, racked up large medical bills and in some cases caused severe physical and emotional suffering.

Many of the afflicted personnel say they were the victims of a deliberate attack — possibly at the hands of Russia or another adversarial government — a claim that the report contradicts in nearly every respect, according to two intelligence officials who are familiar with the assessment and described it to The Washington Post.

Seven intelligence agencies participated in the review of approximately 1,000 cases of “anomalous health incidents,” the term the government uses to describe a constellation of physical symptoms including ringing in the ears followed by pressure in the head and nausea, headaches and acute discomfort.

Five of those agencies determined it was “very unlikely” that a foreign adversary was responsible for the symptoms, either as the result of purposeful actions — such as a directed energy weapon — or as the byproduct of some other activity, including electronic surveillance that unintentionally could have made people sick, the officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the findings of the assessment, which had not yet been made public.

Artificial Intelligence Is Dumb

ChatGPT, the hot new artificial intelligence text generator, is fun. Part of a larger profusion of MadLib-sy A.I. technologies—on par with “recordings” of Joe Biden and Donald Trump fighting about video games or “paintings” of scenes from Star Trek: The Next Generation by Van Gogh—it’s a diverting way to spend a few minutes. I am particularly fond of making it write poems about professional athletes in the style of the great nineteenth-century Romantics. (“Thou art like a sprite on the court / J.R. Smith, with your moves so deft and bold,” starts one such poem, meant to be in the style of “Ode to a Nightingale.” Does it sound like Keats? Not particularly. But J.R. Smith was a bit like a sprite on the court. ChatGPT gets partial credit.)

There are lots of ways to waste time on the internet and, thus far, ChatGPT and its A.I. brethren fill that niche nicely, if fleetingly—ChatGPT has replaced DALL-E and the other weird painting program that made profile pictures where you looked hot (but also may have stolen your face) as this moment’s hot new robot overlord. Even if the work it produces is often shoddy and stylistically flat, it is very fast. Consider the fact that this piece took me about a day to research and complete—but when I asked ChatGPT about how it will change humanity, it answered in about 15 seconds. (It told me, basically, that it would make stuff like customer service and data entry more efficient. “Overall, my impact on humanity will depend on how people choose to use me and the technology that supports my existence,” it concluded. “I am here to assist and provide information, but it is ultimately up to humans to decide how they will use that information to shape the world.” Thanks, ChatGPT!)

The Future of the China-US Chip War

Zhuoran Li

Last year, the United States stepped up its competition with China in the semiconductor industry. In August, the Biden administration signed the CHIPS and Science Act, an $52.7 billion industrial policy that aims to bolster research, enhance supply chain resiliency, and revitalize semiconductor production in the United States.

In October, the administration rolled out the most extensive restrictions to date on China’s chip manufacturing industry. This new set of restrictions curbs the sale of advanced chips to China, depriving China of the computing power it needs to train artificial intelligence at scale. It also extends restrictions on chip-making tools even further to industries that support the semiconductor supply chain, cutting off both U.S. talent and the components used in the tools that make the chips.

The Biden administration has not offered Beijing a viable “exit strategy” to end the technology war; the White House neither demanded Beijing to improve its trade behaviors nor provided a roadmap for the lifting of sanctions. Thus, in the eyes of the Chinese leadership, the new semiconductor sanctions illustrate that the U.S. government is actively weaponizing its control over core technologies in order to contain China. As a result, China’s government elevated supply chain security to its highest priority.

The 20th Party Congress report, which was released days after the announcement of the United States’ latest semiconductor export controls, identified the current trade conflict with the U.S. as the “economic main battlefield” and vowed to “realize high-level technology self-strength and self-independence.” To achieve this goal, the state will mobilize and concentrate all forces to “attack technological bottlenecks” and “win the war of conquering core technologies.” Thus, the Chinese Communist Party will buttress its leadership role in science and technology affairs, construct a new “national system” (举国体制) for scientific research, and strengthen the “national strategic technological force.”

Could the Pentagon Use a Little ChatGPT?


Can an AI-fueled chatbot help navigate the Defense bureaucracy? Or improve how the Pentagon shares information? The Air Force’s outgoing chief information officer thinks it just might.

The Pentagon’s legacy of bureaucracy and spotty Wi-Fi are well documented. But what if an AI-fueled chatbot could help make things easier?

Lauren Barrett Knausenberger said that she’s been playing around with ChatGPT, the latest incarnation of the chatbot released by OpenAI.

“I think that there is a lot of benefit to the DOD of being able to find information, of being able to find who's in charge, of being able to rapidly pull together information in general because we do waste a lot of time like with taskers, for instance,” Knausenberger said on Tuesday during a Billington Cybersecurity event in Falls Church, Va.

“There's no reason why ChatGPT can't respond to taskers and take away some of the very heavy knowledge-management work of finding, okay, ‘Who are the three action officers across the department that have these different pieces' and pulling it together? So there's a lot of power there that we can harness here in the near future.”

Knausenberger recently announced she would soon step down as the Air Force’s deputy CIO, a job that followed her stints as the service’s chief transformation officer and cyberspace innovation director.

What Can A.I. Art Teach Us About the Real Thing?

“An Avedon portrait of a Havanese,” I type into my laptop. An actual, if elderly and ailing, Havanese is looking up at me as I work, and an Avedon portrait book is open on my desk. What could be more beguiling than combining the two? Then my laptop stutters and pauses, and there it is, eerily similar to what Richard Avedon would have done if confronted with a Havanese.

The stark expression, the white background, the implicit anxiety, the intellectual air, the implacable confrontational exchange with the viewer—one could quibble over details, but it is close enough to count.

My Havedon is, of course, an image produced by an artificial-intelligence image generator—dall-e 2, in this case—and the capacity of such systems to make astonishing images in short order is, by now, part of the fabric of our time, or at least our pastimes. An image-soaked former art critic—one whose Ph.D. thesis on modernism is now wildly overdue—is bound to find it compelling, and, indeed, addictive, and so he spends hour after hour on serial afternoons producing composite pictures, as the real-life Havanese stands guard below his desk. The range and ease of pictorial invention offered by A.I. image generation is startling; the question, though, is whether its arrival is merely recreational or actually revolutionary. Is it like the invention of the electric light bulb or like the coming of the lava lamp? Herewith, some thoughts.

The intersection of new machines with new kinds of images has a long history. I once owned a French drawing device—a kind of camera lucida, with reflecting mirrors and refracting prisms—that called itself a Machine to Draw the World. It took for granted that the task of image-making was to incise and adjust a drawing to a pattern of light—in itself, a fiendishly difficult action that preoccupied artists for centuries. (Whether actual machines like it played a significant role in the art of Vermeer or Rembrandt is an unsettled question.)

You Are Not a Parrot And a chatbot is not a human. And a linguist named Emily M. Bender is very worried what will happen when we forget this.

Elizabeth Weil

Nobody likes an I-told-you-so. But before Microsoft’s Bing started cranking out creepy love letters; before Meta’s Galactica spewed racist rants; before ChatGPT began writing such perfectly decent college essays that some professors said, “Screw it, I’ll just stop grading”; and before tech reporters sprinted to claw back claims that AI was the future of search, maybe the future of everything else, too, Emily M. Bender co-wrote the octopus paper.

Bender is a computational linguist at the University of Washington. She published the paper in 2020 with fellow computational linguist Alexander Koller. The goal was to illustrate what large language models, or LLMs — the technology behind chatbots like ChatGPT — can and cannot do. The setup is this:

Say that A and B, both fluent speakers of English, are independently stranded on two uninhabited islands. They soon discover that previous visitors to these islands have left behind telegraphs and that they can communicate with each other via an underwater cable. A and B start happily typing messages to each other.

Meanwhile, O, a hyperintelligent deep-sea octopus who is unable to visit or observe the two islands, discovers a way to tap into the underwater cable and listen in on A and B’s conversations. O knows nothing about English initially but is very good at detecting statistical patterns. Over time, O learns to predict with great accuracy how B will respond to each of A’s utterances.

How Elon Musk's Starlink is Still Helping Ukraine's Defenders


NEAR BAKHMUT, Ukraine—In a crowded basement just a staircase away from their sleeping quarters, the men and women of Ukraine’s 93rd Brigade “Seneca” drone unit waited for video feed of targets to appear on a bank of wall-mounted screens near this eastern Ukrainian city half-encircled by Russian forces.

The scene would hardly look out of place at any U.S. military operations center. The imagery streams, though, weren’t coming from state-of-the-art drones over communications networks costing tens of thousands of dollars. They streamed in from commercial drones via what soldiers describe as a key node to their work: Starlink satellite internet devices.

A Starlink set-up, consisting of a plain white 19-by-11-inch dish, is visually unremarkable. In the right hands, though, it’s the linchpin to a kill-chain that links Ukrainian artillerymen to their Russian targets.

The Starlink and the technologies it enables are a “black swan” that have helped Ukraine wreak unexpected havoc on invading forces, said a 38-year-old soldier with the callsign of “Blockchain.” Russian forces have taken enormous casualties in their attempts to capture Bakhmut, Ukrainian leaders say. Soldiers from Seneca saying they’ve seen evidence of Russia appearing to force their soldiers to fight by machine-gunning those who retreated.

It’s not what the spy balloon gathered — it’s what it exposed


While the United States seems intent on referring to China as our “pacing challenge” and a “strategic competitor,” the People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping is very comfortable referring to the United States as his country’s most dangerous adversary. As the most recent violation of our national sovereignty by their spy balloon demonstrates, China is prepared to back up that view with brazen action. Make no mistake, the United States should not seek confrontation with China. On the contrary, we should be taking actions that demonstrate our resolve across all levers of national power in order to avoid conflict, while posturing ourselves to defeat any acts of aggression. Unfortunately, our current rhetoric and approach to China seem to ignore the overtly aggressive positions they are taking in regard to the United States and will only lead to more confrontation.

In 1983, during the height of the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan labeled the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” and made the case that the struggle between our two nations was one of “good vs. evil” because it was a choice between totalitarianism and freedom. His political opponents immediately condemned Reagan’s rhetoric, suggesting it was reckless and could provoke the Soviet Union to war. But the “great communicator” — as Reagan was known — understood something those opponents did not: When communicating a position or vision, whether about domestic politics or international affairs, it is far better to paint a picture that uses “no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people.”

Why mortars are increasingly important on the modern battlefield


The U.S. military would certainly need plenty of howitzers, multiple-launch rocket systems, and anti-ship missiles to fight China or Russia, but infantry units will increasingly need next-generation mobile mortar systems going forward to provide quick and reliable indirect fire during the next big war.

Mortars “are more important today than ever for the men and women in the close fight,” said retired Army. Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe. “As the ranges of our artillery systems increase and the battlefield becomes deeper, the tank infantry team in that last mile of combat and in the final hundred yards will be more dependent, not less, on mortars for their indirect fire support.”

Currently, the U.S. military operates the M1064, a self-propelled mortar system, but it consists of a mortar tube inside the open chassis of an M113 armored personnel carrier, leaving the crew vulnerable to enemy fire, said Donahoe, former commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia. The mortar vehicle must also stop to allow the crew to fire.

Going forward, U.S. troops need self-propelled breech-loading mortars that can be accurately fired while on the move, Donahoe told Task & Purpose.


Hope Seck

A newly updated program solicitation from DARPA is offering a window into a future in which smart and agile drone “swarms-of-swarms” may be controlled by a single “brain” and be used to overwhelm enemy defenses from the air, land, and water.

DARPA, the Pentagon’s advanced research and development agency, is calling the program AMASS, for “Autonomous Multi-domain Adaptive Swarms-of-Swarms.” In a presolicitation originally published in November and updated in late January, the agency is calling for companies to signal interest in developing an experimental program to develop a command-and-control (C2) system for these envisioned autonomous drone swarms-of-swarms.

The C2 system should have a common language for counter-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities, according to the document, and be designed to focus on specific regions and scenarios based on expected future conflicts and challenge areas.

In an Epic Battle of Tanks, Russia Was Routed, Repeating Earlier Mistakes

Andrew E. Kramer

KURAKHOVE, Ukraine — Before driving into battle in their mud-spattered war machine, a T-64 tank, the three-man Ukrainian crew performs a ritual.

The commander, Pvt. Dmytro Hrebenok, recites the Lord’s Prayer. Then, the men walk around the tank, patting its chunky green armor.

“We say, ‘Please, don’t let us down in battle,’” said Sgt. Artyom Knignitsky, the mechanic. “‘Bring us in and bring us out.’”

Their respect for their tank is understandable. Perhaps no weapon symbolizes the ferocious violence of war more than the main battle tank. Tanks have loomed over the conflict in Ukraine in recent months — militarily and diplomatically — as both sides prepared for offensives. Russia pulled reserves of tanks from Cold War-era storage, and Ukraine prodded Western governments to supply American Abrams and German Leopard 2 tanks.

The sophisticated Western tanks are expected on the battlefield in the next several months. The new Russian armor turned up earlier — and in its first wide-scale deployment was decimated.

Our military leaders need a national security ‘fast lane’ to compete with China


The Chinese spy balloon incident highlights both the brashness of China’s military ambitions and the U.S. military’s struggle to counter China’s bold moves with new capabilities such as modern air surveillance tools. The most pressing weapons threat the People’s Liberation Army poses to the United States is not balloons, however, but a vast missile program designed to hold the U.S. military at arm’s length, now outnumbering the U.S. in launch capacity and possessing technical advantage in the form of hypersonic missiles designed to outmaneuver defenses.

More systemically, the balloon incident lays bare the audacity of China’s increasingly aggressive military strategy and its focus on rapidly developing and fielding new capabilities. In response, the United States must focus on rapidly developing and fielding new tools to counter China’s bold actions.

The fundamental job of any leader is to identify priorities — challenges and opportunities — communicate them, and then make the hard choices necessary to make progress against these priorities. Too often, our defense enterprise fails to meet this bar. But the U.S. does have a few people in leadership positions who correctly identify a rising China as not only a top rhetorical priority but one that merits difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has defined seven initiatives to counter China, and Gen. David Berger, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, has launched a sweeping redesign of his force toward this same end.