22 November 2023

Why TikTok is a National Security Threat

Jacob Helberg

As the war rages between Israel and Hamas, TikTok’s proliferation of anti-Israel content has reignited the debate about whether the platform should be legal in the United States. While Congress stopped short of enacting legislation last spring, it’s time lawmakers recognized the existential risk TikTok poses to U.S. security interests and take action accordingly. At no point in U.S. history has a foreign entity owned such an unprecedented platform for the mass dissemination of potent personalized propaganda and the mass collection of private American user data. TikTok has all the hallmarks of the most extensive intelligence operation a foreign power has ever conducted against the United States.

The U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission (USCC) released its annual report to Congress last week. As the 800-page report details, “an increasing number of Americans rely on new media, like TikTok, for their news. TikTok, which is privately owned by a Chinese company but ultimately must be responsive to the demands of the Party-state, provides Beijing with a potential avenue to reach its more than 150 million users in the United States.” As of last year, a Pew Research report found that 33 percent of American TikTok users regularly get their news on the platform. More than 50 percent of “Generation Z” also use TikTok as their search engine of choice.

Elected officials, including House Select China Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher and Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Marco Rubio, denounced TikTok as “misinformation and indoctrination” promoting thinly veiled Chinese Communist Party (CCP) state propaganda. Skeptics allege these concerns are overblown as the information on the platform is entirely user-generated. I spent years working on these issues at Google and believe the skeptics are wrong.

Israel, Al-Shifa Hospital, and Iraqi WMDs

Paul R. Pillar

“What Israel finds—or doesn’t—” at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the New York Times has declared, may shape the course of the Gaza war. Given the attention that this matter already has received, whatever further stories come out of Al-Shifa will probably help shape international sentiment and debate about what Israel is perpetrating in the Gaza Strip. But on questions about this war that really matter—including what will or will not ensure the security of Israeli citizens, and what does or does not justify the humanitarian catastrophe that Israel has imposed on Gaza—what is or is not found at the hospital hardly matters at all.

The Israeli government clearly places importance on its sentiment-influencing public relations campaign. The Israelis are devoting much effort at the site not to combating Hamas but instead to scouring for anything that can be presented to international media and the world as evidence that Hamas was there. The effort is all rigidly controlled. New York Times reporters tell of how, in a rare visit that Israel has allowed the international press to make to the war zone, they were shown a hole in the ground at the hospital but not allowed to talk to hospital staff or see anything else at the site on their own.

Despite the tight controls, the priority Israel is giving to its PR campaign, and the proven Israeli prowess for “hasbara” or propaganda, the campaign has so far not gone smoothly for Israel. A video the Israeli military released had to be edited into a second version because the original version made a readily falsifiable claim that a laptop displayed was supposedly part of seized Hamas documentation of its hostages (the computer was really Israel’s own machine.) The “evidence” that Israel has come up with, besides that hole in the ground, appears to consist chiefly of a few rifles and rifle parts that were reportedly found in a storage closet by the MRI room, along with a bulletproof vest, some Qurans, some dates, and a few other items. Nothing presented so far comes close to having the appearance of a Hamas “command center.”

CNN visited the exposed tunnel shaft in the Al-Shifa hospital compound. Here’s what we saw

Oren Liebermann

Even in the darkness, the utter devastation in northern Gaza is clear as day. The empty shells of buildings, illuminated by the last shreds of light, lurch out of the landscape on the dirt roads across the Gaza Strip. At night, the only signs of life are the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) vehicles that rumble the landscape, tightening the military’s grip on the northern sector.

On Saturday night, we traveled with the IDF into Gaza to see the newly exposed tunnel shaft discovered at the compound of Al-Shifa Hospital, the enclave’s largest medical facility.

After crossing the border fence at around 9:00 in the evening, our convoy of Humvees turned off its lights, relying on night vision goggles to traverse the Gaza Strip. We would spend the next six hours inside Gaza, much of that time spent getting back and forth from the tunnel shaft.

Along our path, virtually every building bore the scars of wartime damage. Many structures were destroyed entirely, while others were hardly recognizable as anything more than twisted metal. If there was life here, it had long since departed. Residents had either moved south or been killed during six weeks of war.

Soon after crossing the border into Gaza, the convoy of Humvees turned off its lights and traveled in darkness.

China calls for ‘urgent’ action on Gaza as Muslim majority nations arrive in Beijing

Simone McCarthy and Wayne Chang

The world must “must act urgently” to stem the conflict in Gaza, China’s top diplomat said Monday during a meeting with officials from Arab and Muslim majority nations, as Beijing steps up its efforts to play a role in establishing ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi welcomed counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian National Authority, and Indonesia, as well as the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for a two-day visit to the Chinese capital, the start of the delegation’s expected tour of several world capitals.

“The international community must act urgently, taking effective measures to prevent this tragedy from spreading. China firmly stands with justice and fairness in this conflict,” Wang told the visiting leaders in opening remarks ahead of talks, where he reiterated China’s call for an immediate ceasefire.

Visiting ministers voiced their own strong calls for an end to the conflict, with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud saying: “The message is clear: the war must stop immediately, we must move to a ceasefire immediately, and relief materials and aid must enter immediately.”

Countries represented in the delegation hoped to cooperate with China and “all countries” that are “responsible and appreciate the seriousness of the situation,” he said.

Israel has launched weeks of bombardment and ground operations in the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza following a deadly attack on its territory by the group on October 7. More than 200 hostages were taken in that attack, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

With the world’s eyes on Gaza, attacks are on the rise in the West Bank, which faces its own war


When Israeli warplanes swooped over the Gaza Strip following Hamas militants’ deadly attack on southern Israel, Palestinians say a different kind of war took hold in the occupied West Bank.

Overnight, the territory was closed off. Towns were raided, curfews imposed, teenagers arrested, detainees beaten, and villages stormed by Jewish vigilantes.

With the world’s attention on Gaza and the humanitarian crisis there, the violence of war has also erupted in the West Bank. Israeli settler attacks have surged at an unprecedented rate, according to the United Nations. The escalation has spread fear, deepened despair, and robbed Palestinians of their livelihoods, their homes and, in some cases, their lives.

“Our lives are hell,” said Sabri Boum, a 52-year-old farmer who fortified his windows with metal grills last week to protect his children from settlers he said threw stun grenades in Qaryout, a northern village. “It’s like I’m in a prison.”

The flashpoint Palestinian town of Hawara, once a bustling hub of commerce along the West Bank's main highway, is seen as deserted after the Israeli military closed shops and banned Palestinian vehicles from the main road in the wake of Palestinian militant attacks and settler violence in the town, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. 

Israeli soldiers on patrol in the flashpoint Palestinian town of Hawara, which has wholly emptied after the Israeli military closed shops and banned Palestinian vehicles from the main road in the wake of Palestinian militant attacks and settler violence in the town, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. 

Israel says soldier executed, foreign hostages held at Gaza's Shifa hospital

Dan Williams

Israel stepped up accusations of Hamas abuses at the Gaza Strip's biggest hospital on Sunday, saying a captive soldier had been executed and two foreign hostages held at a site that has been a focus of its devastating six-week-old offensive.

At one point a shelter for tens of thousands of Palestinian war refugees, Al Shifa Hospital has been evacuating patients and staff since Israeli troops swept in last week on what they called a mission to root out hidden Hamas facilities.

Israel is also searching for some 240 people Hamas kidnapped to Gaza after an Oct. 7 cross-border assault that sparked the war.

One of these was a 19-year-old Israeli army conscript, Noa Marciano, whose body was recovered near Shifa last week. Hamas said she died in an Israeli air strike and issued a video that appeared to show her corpse, unmarked except for a head wound.

The Israeli military said a forensic examination found she had sustained non-life-threatening injuries from such a strike.

"According to intelligence information - solid intelligence information - Noa was taken by Hamas terrorists inside the walls of Shifa hospital. There, she was murdered by a Hamas terrorist," chief spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said.

The Palestinian Authority faces critics for problems in the West Bank amid war with Israel

Benoit Faucon

As Western and Arab leaders look beyond Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip, most agree they want some form of Palestinian government running the enclave, but they can’t agree on who it should include.

One emerging point of consensus is that the Palestinian Authority—as it now operates and oversees the West Bank—isn’t up to the job. But there is no easy alternative.

Discussions in Washington, Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Middle East are focused on reforming the authority or pushing it aside for something better to govern roughly 2.2 million Gazans upended by a devastating war.

Israel has said it doesn’t want to govern the strip once its offensive ends, potentially months from now, but wants to maintain security to ensure Gaza isn’t used to attack Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also has said he opposes the Palestinian Authority in its current form governing there.

The authority’s 88-year-old leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has said he would return to Gaza only as part of broader Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations toward a two-state solution. Yet few envisage a quick peace agreement so soon after the Oct. 7 attacks by militant group Hamas that killed more than 1,200 people in Israel, prompting Israel’s assault on Gaza in response.

Brett McGurk, the White House’s top Middle East official, and Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, visited Brussels and the Middle East in recent days, seeking a coordinated approach to the conflict. The U.S. and its allies are unsure whether they can transform the authority or find another solution before Israel finishes its military operation against Hamas.

“Everyone sees the problems,” said Ghaith al-Omari, a former official in the Palestinian Authority now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “No one seems to have a good idea what to do about it.”

Proxy Wars From Sparta to Ukraine and Gaza

Tunku Varadarajan

Paul Rahe is one of the world’s top scholars of ancient military history. When we meet, he wants to talk about war in the present tense: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Hamas pogrom in Israel and China’s covetous eye on Taiwan.

Mr. Rahe, 74, is a professor of history and Western heritage at Hillsdale College, a private liberal-arts school 100 miles west of Detroit. He likens Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine to Athens’s attempt to conquer Sicily from 415-13 B.C. And he says it makes as much sense for the U.S. to back Ukraine as it did for the Spartans to help Sicily—which is to say, it’s a no-brainer.

For Mr. Rahe, antiquity isn’t merely academic. Embedded within it are maps that can help us sidestep present-day minefields and steer us toward common sense and smart strategy. These are qualities he finds in short supply on America’s “isolationist right,” in whose ranks he includes Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy. (He admits of Mr. Trump that “I held my nose and voted for him in 2020.”)

Mr. Rahe believes that the Athenian and Russian invasions, 2,436 years apart, were both acts of “madness” and “greedy overreach” as well as expressions of “an erotic desire for grandeur.” The aggressors not only scorned the resolve of their targets—the Syracusans of Sicily and the Ukrainians, respectively—but also overestimated their own “capacities and chances of success.” For the Athenian leaders, the allure of Sicily was so great that they ignored “logistical difficulties of waging war on an island 800 nautical miles away.” Mr. Putin “didn’t ever ask himself what could go wrong.”

No High Growth Indian Demographic Dividend Without Investment In Human Capital

Radhicka Kapoor

India has recently become the world’s most populous country, with 68 per cent of its population working age individuals between the ages of 15 and 64. This demographic structure — often referred to as a demographic dividend — has the potential to generate very high economic growth if India can create productive employment opportunities for its large working age population.

But data from labour force surveys indicates that this is a big challenge for the economy at present. Some 45 per cent of the workforce continues to toil on farms in the agricultural sector, while in the non-agricultural sector, 74 per cent of workers are employed in low-paying informal work in microenterprises. Indeed, among young people aged between 15 and 29 years, approximately 28 per cent are engaged as ‘unpaid helpers in household enterprises’. And here too, the agriculture sector remains the principal source of employment, accounting for 36 per cent of employed youth.

India will need a radical reorientation of its growth strategy if it is to address the challenge of productive job creation and harness its demographic dividend, making the growth process more employment-intensive. The Indian experience shows that growth alone cannot be the principal instrument of job creation, as it is the sectoral composition of growth that determines the quantity and nature of employment opportunities created. India’s idiosyncratic structural transformation from agriculture to services — leapfrogging the phase of manufacturing growth — has generated limited opportunities for well-paid employment for those at the lower end of the education and skills ladder.

Bangladesh’s Top Court Upholds Decision Barring Largest Islamist Party From Elections

Julhas Alam

Bangladesh’s highest court on Sunday dismissed an appeal by the country’s largest Islamist party seeking to overturn a 2013 ruling that barred it from participating in elections for violating the constitutional provision of secularism

Bangladesh is set to hold its next national election on January 7.

A five-member bench of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Obaidul Hassan handed out the ruling. Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s main lawyer did not appear before the court due to “personal problems” and his petition, filed previously, seeking to postpone the hearing for six weeks was also rejected.

The High Court’s decision 10 years ago canceled the party’s registration with the Election Commission, thus stopping it from participating in elections or using party symbols. But it did not ban it from political participation.

The ruling, at the time, came amid calls to ban the party for opposing the country’s 1971 independence war against Pakistan. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, after coming to power in 2009, sought to try Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s top leaders for their role in acts of genocide and war crimes during the country’s independence war. Some have been hanged or given life sentences since 2013.

“The verdict of the High Court has been upheld,” Tania Amir, a lawyer who stood against the Jamaat-e-Islami party, said Sunday.

“If they (Jamaat-e-Islami) attempt any meetings, rallies or gatherings or identify their party as legal to any high commission, embassy, foreign agency or state, we are at liberty to bring a new charge of contempt of court against them and an injunction,” she said.

Taliban Leaders Get Medical Treatment Abroad While Afghan Women and Children Lack Basic Care

Natalie Gonnella-Platts and Jessica Ludwig

Imagine you are a mother, with your child so malnourished that their tiny body can barely function, as severe cold, clean water shortages, and sustained hunger ravage their immune system and infections like pneumonia and acute watery diarrhea take hold.

Local clinics don’t function due to corruption and funding shortfalls. Seeking help is complicated because a male chaperone must accompany you down the street, let alone to a larger town or city where services might be available.

Afghan women struggle each day to access basic medical care for themselves and their families, as innocent children and desperate mothers are left to shoulder the horrific and unnecessary burdens of preventable and treatable illnesses. But, at the same time, Taliban leaders responsible for the healthcare system’s decay have no problem accessing care overseas, even though many of them are under international sanctions.

This is inexcusable. Through the sadistic imposition of gender apartheid, these power-hungry men and their peers have been relentless in suffocating the agency, well-being, and rights of Afghan women and girls. The United Nations and its member states must fully enforce the existing international sanctions regime and use it as leverage to induce Taliban leadership to improve conditions for Afghan women.

Over the past three months, the U.N. Security Council has granted temporary travel ban and asset freeze exemptions allowing three internationally sanctioned Taliban leaders to travel to Turkey for medical treatment. These include acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi; Abdul Baqi Bashir Abdul Shah (also known as Abdul Baqi Haqqani), the acting head of Afghanistan’s National Examination Authority; and Hedayatullah Badri, the head of Afghanistan’s central bank and former acting finance minister.

The unpalatable truth is that Ukraine's counter-offensive has reached a dead end - and its casualties are mounting. DAVID PATRIKARAKOS argues the future of the West now rests on us helping them win


Sweat stings my eyes. It pours down my face and gathers in the crook of my shoulder. I have just run into a trench on the frontlines of eastern Ukraine.

As I enter, an odour hits me: a combination of cheap deodorant, unwashed bodies and burning debris that has become so familiar. The smell of men at war.

The 'zero line' near the city of Kreminna is so close to the Russian forces that the two sides sometimes shoot directly at each other. It is the height of the summer counter-offensive earlier this year and I'm surrounded by Ukrainian soldiers.

The sound of shelling is inescapable. Drones zip through the forest around us. One of the officers, Dima, gestures vaguely into no-man's land in front of us: 'just across there,' he says wearily. 'So many Russians. So many mines.'

The Ukrainian counter-offensive was supposed to change the course of the war. The Ukrainians, backed by large deliveries of Western weapons, would punch through the Russian lines and move inexorably toward Crimea — and victory.

It did not happen.

Over the past two months, the hopes of Ukraine and its Western partners have shattered against the hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers and millions of mines that stretch across the line of contact from Kupiansk in the north to Robotyne in the south.

The Russians have laid minefields that stretch for ten to 12 miles from the frontline along almost its entirety.

Will There Be War?

Alex zutt

It is often said, in one way or another, that there might be a war, and soon, between the US and China. Countless news articles take the possibility as their premise; books soar to the top of bestseller lists. It is universally acknowledged that this is the chief foreign policy question of the near future. But how likely is war?

Any answer should be tempered by doubt. Some important variables are by nature unknowable. Others are obfuscated by China, Taiwan, or the US. But there are also simple, structural facts that can be observed without access to state secrets and add their weight to either side of the balance. I want to address three of these variables here, each of which I think is commonly misunderstood, and each of which, if weighed correctly, tilts the balance in favor of war.

The Nuclear Question

Let’s start with the big one: nuclear weapons.

China and US cannot possibly go to war, the argument goes, for the same reason that the US and the USSR never did. They are nuclear superpowers. It would mean the end of the world. They know that.

And yet, neither side in the China-US rivalry seems particularly anxious about the nuclear balance, as the US and the USSR were during the Cold War, especially in the fifties and early sixties. In the US there is plenty of preparation for war—and very little talk of nuclear. There is some awareness of the nuclear possibility in the writings of military strategists or the accounts of war games at Washington think tanks, but the overwhelming focus is on conventional war. It is a remarkable difference from how we talk about, say, North Korea. There we talk of little else than nukes. Here we barely talk about them.

Summing up the Biden–Xi summit

Richard N. Haass

Summits are by definition occasions of high politics and drama, so it comes as little surprise that the 15 November meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping generated immense global interest. It was a useful meeting: Biden and Xi agreed to restart military-to-military communications, curb the deadly opioid fentanyl, fight climate change and discuss risks associated with artificial intelligence. But it was also something less than a reset of a relationship that has been deteriorating for several years and that will remain typified by competition more than anything else for the foreseeable future.

Both leaders came to San Francisco hoping the four-hour meeting (held alongside the APEC forum) would place a floor (to use Biden’s favourite image) under what is the defining bilateral relationship of this era. But it’s worth noting that their motives differed fundamentally. Biden wanted to reduce tensions, since the last thing he needs is another diplomatic or, worse, military crisis at a time when an overstretched United States is contending with Russian aggression against Ukraine in Europe and the after-effects of Hamas’s 7 October terrorist attack in Israel.

Biden, a year away from the 2024 presidential election, also needed to show he could be tough on China, both to parry Republican attacks and to show that he was focused on issues that are touching American lives. In this regard, he successfully pushed China to pledge to do more to rein in its exports of the chemical precursors that cartels in Mexico use to manufacture fentanyl.

Xi, for his part, came to California somewhat weakened, owing to the Chinese economy’s underperformance. Following years of excessive state intervention since Xi came to power a decade ago, youth unemployment is high, exports and foreign direct investment are down, and debt is a major issue. The last thing Xi and China’s economy need are more US export controls, sanctions and tariffs.

China’s rise is reversing

Ruchir Sharma

In a historic turn, China’s rise as an economic superpower is reversing. The biggest global story of the past half century may be over.

After stagnating under Mao Zedong in the 1960s and 70s, China opened to the world in the 1980s — and took off in subsequent decades. Its share of the global economy rose nearly tenfold from below 2 per cent in 1990 to 18.4 per cent in 2021. No nation had ever risen so far, so fast.

Then the reversal began. In 2022, China’s share of the world economy shrank a bit. This year it will shrink more significantly, to 17 per cent. That two-year drop of 1.4 per cent is the largest since the 1960s.

These numbers are in “nominal” dollar terms — unadjusted for inflation — the measure that most accurately captures a nation’s relative economic strength. China aims to reclaim the imperial status it held from the 16th to early 19th centuries, when its share of world economic output peaked at one-third, but that goal may be slipping out of reach.

China’s decline could reorder the world. Since the 1990s, the country’s share of global GDP grew mainly at the expense of Europe and Japan, which have seen their shares hold more or less steady over the past two years. The gap left by China has been filled mainly by the US and by other emerging nations.

Electronic Warfare System Hunting Drones Wanted By SOCOM


Small loitering munitions, also known as kamikaze drones, with new specialized seekers would be a valuable additional tool for finding and taking out enemy land-based electronic warfare systems, according to U.S. Special Operations Command. This underscores the threat posed by electronic warfare capabilities that potential adversaries, especially China and Russia, have already fielded and new systems they are continuing to develop. It also speaks to ongoing discussions about the roles of U.S. special operations in any future high-end conflict after decades of focusing on counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency, and other lower-intensity operations.

A contracting notice posted online discusses the core requirements U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has for what it is currently calling the Counter-Electronic Countermeasure Seeker, or CECMS.

The UVision Hero-120 seen here is one of the loitering munitions SOCOM says could potentially make use of the new Counter-Electronic Countermeasure Seeker. 

The War That Remade the Middle East

Maria Fantappie and Vali Nasr

Before October 7, 2023, it seemed as if the United States’ vision for the Middle East was finally coming to fruition. Washington had arrived at an implicit understanding with Tehran about its nuclear program, in which the Islamic Republic of Iran effectively paused further development in exchange for limited financial relief. The United States was working on a defense pact with Saudi Arabia, which would in turn lead the kingdom to normalize its relations with Israel. And Washington had announced plans for an ambitious trade corridor connecting India to Europe through the Middle East to offset China’s rising influence in the region.

There were obstacles, of course. Tensions between Tehran and Washington, although lower than in the past, remained high. Israel’s avowedly right-wing government was busy expanding settlements in the West Bank, prompting anger from Palestinians. But U.S. officials did not see Iran as a spoiler; it had, after all, recently restored ties with various Arab governments. And Arab states had already normalized relations with Israel, even though Israel was not making meaningful concessions to the Palestinians.

Then Hamas attacked Israel, throwing the region into turmoil and upending the United States’ vision. The militant group’s expansive assault from the Gaza Strip—in which its fighters broke through a high-tech border wall, rampaged across southern Israeli towns, killed roughly 1,200 people, and took more than 240 hostages—made it clear that the Middle East is still a deeply explosive region. The attack prompted a ferocious military response by Israel that created a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, with large numbers of dead and displaced Palestinians, and raised the risk of a wider regional war. The plight of the Palestinians is again front and center, and an Israeli-Saudi deal is infeasible. Given that Iranian support accounts for Hamas’s resilience and military abilities, Iran’s own regional military capabilities now seem quite powerful. Tehran also seems newly assertive. Although not keen on a broader conflict, Iran has still basked in Hamas’s show of force and, since then, upped the ante as Israel exchanged fire with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and as other Iranian-backed groups lobbed rockets at U.S. troops.

How losers write history


This was the week that was. Fully a third of the parliamentary Labour Party rebelled on a vote that will have no real-life consequences whatsoever: political theatre for the impotent. Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, the Government announced it was bringing forward legislation to declare something true that the Supreme Court had just ruled false. “Insanity is contagious,” wrote Joseph Heller in Catch 22. Perhaps we’re all catching it.

So much of our political commentary is spent speculating about how these absurdist battles will play out. Will Keir Starmer’s judgement over Gaza be vindicated come election day? Will Rishi Sunak prove us all wrong? Is the Prime Minister showing courage or weakness in sacking Suella Braverman and bringing back David Cameron? What we all seem to agree is that history will be the judge, that when the general election comes around we will have our answers. Somebody will win and somebody will lose; one will have ridden the tide of history and the other will end up as mere flotsam. But there are currents in politics pulling at events far below the surface, often more powerful than those we obsess about in our day-to-day coverage.

“The success of… movements of protest cannot be measured by their immediate political failure,” wrote Lord Blake, the great biographer of Benjamin Disraeli, who in his earlier career led the rebel alliance of romantic Tory ultras called Young England who worshipped the old aristocratic order. By any metric, Disraeli’s Young England failed politically. And yet, for Blake, these movements cannot be understood solely by their parliamentary success, but must be regarded “as symbols and examples that lend an imaginative glow to the dull course of party politics; showing that there are other ways to fame than conformism, diligence and calculation”. The same is true today.

Does Anyone Remember November 16, 1933? Of Course Not

Victor Rud

In the 1980s, Fred Coleman, Moscow correspondent for Newsweek, walked into the Soviet embassy in Washington to ask if Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin was ready to meet with the new American president. Dobrynin had already served through several Presidencies. Dobrynin’s secretary’s reply: “The Ambassador is looking forward to working with the new president the way a kindergarten teacher looks forward to the first day of school.”

Forget arrogance. The episode illustrates a glaring constant in America’s relations with Moscow: our inability to extrapolate lessons from our own experience. We’re a nation that’s hardwired for instant gratification, with a low frustration threshold that doesn’t even begin to compare with the patience of our enemies.

With a time horizon, both forward and backward, that’s limited to an election cycle, we’re unable to extrapolate necessary lessons from the past and consequently are unable to anticipate and plan for the future.

Simply put, we lack a strategic instinct. Couple that with a pauperized knowledge of history, generally, and scarcely a grip on geography, and we have the wreckage of our global security posture as we’re being slashed from all quarters.

Consider the lessons never learned. After WW I, Ukraine was denied a seat at the Paris Peace Conference but in a letter to its President, Georges Clemenceau, the Ukrainian delegation warned of the existential threat that Moscow would soon represent to the West.

How extreme will Javier Milei be?


A self-described “anarcho-capitalist” will be Argentina’s next president. Javier Milei, a chainsaw-wielding celebrity economist with wild hair and Wolverine mutton chops, won the run-off against the centrist Sergio Massa on Sunday by 56% to 44%. Now it is Argentina’s turn to experiment with a big-talking hard-Right outsider, after similar trysts across the continent and beyond.

Milei will inherit a country struggling with recession, a poverty rate at 40%, hyperinflation, high debt and rising crime. Will he manage to implement his radical shock-therapy measures, as many fear — and many others are desperate enough to try? The indications are against it, though it is hard to know what to expect from a man whose own biographer called him “unstable”.

Milei’s victory came announced. La Libertad Avanza’s sole candidate came first in August’s open primaries, a sort of dry run for the election itself. But when Economy Minister Massa won the first round last month by 9.8 million votes to Milei’s 8 million, some wondered whether Argentines’ appetite for risk may be less than expected.

In the end, Massa was trounced. Figures from the centre-Right anti-Peronist coalition, including defeated presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich and the neoliberal former president Mauricio Macri — both of whom Milei repeatedly insulted — threw their weight behind the libertarian. This probably proved decisive, as did the fact that inflation is running at 140%. Massa, who comes from the moderate wing of the nationalist and populist Peronist coalition, tried to distance himself from the previous, more Left-leaning administration, but that was always going to be a hard sell.

Russia and the Growing Danger of Satellite Cyberattack

Alexis Schlotter

To prove itself a formidable competitor in space, Russia is turning to space warfare. This includes anti-satellite tactics using cyber. Even in terrestrial cyber conflicts, Russia possesses the ability to engage in advanced denial-of-service, ransomware, and other types of malware attacks.

While no single agency oversees Russian cyberattacks, the amount of personnel involved in these operations continues to increase. There is a heavy reliance on criminal and civilian involvement to conduct offensive measures. Combining Russian interest in cyber and outer space has led to the “proliferation of handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) jammers, deployment of road-mobile jammers, and even development and testing of space-based jammers,” as reported on by Sarah Mineiro. She also warns that Russia can hack American ground control systems for the GPS constellation.

Types of Satellite Cyberattacks

Though electronic means of interfering with satellite signals, such as jamming or spoofing, occur at a more frequent rate, attacks using cyber may prove to be more impactful and frequent in the next decade. Cyberattacks “target the data itself and the systems that use, transmit, and control the flow of data,” potentially causing irreparable harm for military commanders and civilians reliant on communications and navigation systems for decision-making.

Like other cyberattacks, those on satellites and their networks require four main components: “access, vulnerability, a malicious payload, and a command-and-control system.” Multiple methods and modes of attack can take out a satellite system or render it inoperable without using kinetic force. Adversaries can target the networks that satellites use, individual satellites, and the supply chains that produce satellite hardware and software. The Center for Strategic and International Studies describes three main types of cyberattacks: data intercept/monitoring, data corruption, and seizure of control.

The Invisible War in Ukraine Being Fought Over Radio Waves

Aaron Krolik

The drones began crashing on Ukraine’s front lines, with little explanation.

For months, the aerial vehicles supplied by Quantum Systems, a German technology firm, had worked smoothly for Ukraine’s military, swooping through the air to spot enemy tanks and troops in the country’s war against Russia. Then late last year, the machines abruptly started falling from the sky as they returned from missions.

“It was this mystery,” said Sven Kruck, a Quantum executive who received a stern letter from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense demanding a fix.

Quantum’s engineers soon homed in on the issue: Russians were jamming the wireless signals that connected the drones to the satellites they relied on for navigation, leading the machines to lose their way and plummet to earth. To adjust, Quantum developed artificial intelligence-powered software to act as a kind of secondary pilot and added a manual option so the drones could be landed with an Xbox controller. The company also built a service center to monitor Russia’s electronic attacks.

“All we could do is get information from the operators, try to find out what wasn’t working, test and try again,” Mr. Kruck said.

A battle is raging in Ukraine in the invisible realm of electromagnetic waves, with radio signals being used to overwhelm communication links to drones and troops, locate targets and trick guided weapons. Known as electronic warfare, the tactics have turned into a cat-and-mouse game between Russia and Ukraine, quietly driving momentum swings in the 21-month old conflict and forcing engineers to adapt.

“Electronic warfare has impacted the fighting in Ukraine as much as weather and terrain,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington, adding that every operation in the conflict now has to take into account enemy moves in the electromagnetic spectrum.

AI, arms control and the new cold war

David Heslop and Joel Keep

So far, the 2020s have been marked by tectonic shifts in both technology and international security. Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, which brought the post–Cold War era to a sudden and violent end, is an obvious inflection point. The recent escalation in the Middle East, which may yet lead to a regional war, is another. So too the Covid-19 pandemic, from which the United States and China emerged bruised, distrustful and nearer to conflict than ever before—not least over the vexing issue of Taiwan, a stronghold in the world of advanced technology.

Another, less dramatic but equally profound moment occurred on 7 October 2022, when US President Joe Biden’s administration quietly unveiled a new policy overseen by an obscure agency. On that day, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) at the US Department of Commerce announced new export controls on advanced computing chips and semiconductor manufacturing items to the People’s Republic of China. Mostly unnoticed by those outside a few speciality areas, the policy was later described by some as ‘a new domain of non-proliferation’ or, less kindly, as an escalation in ‘an economic war against China’.

The BIS announcement came just months before the latest platforms of generative artificial intelligence, including GPT-4, burst onto the world stage. In essence, the White House’s initiative aimed to prevent China from acquiring the physical materials needed to dominate the field of AI: the highly specialised semiconductors and advanced computing chips that remained in mostly Western and Taiwanese hands.

When coupled with an industrial policy that aimed to build domestic US semiconductor manufacturing, and a strategy of ‘friend-shoring’ some of Taiwan’s chip industry to Arizona, this amounted to a serious attempt at seizing the ‘commanding heights’ of AI. In July this year, Beijing responded by restricting exports of germanium and gallium products, minor metals crucial to the semiconductor industry.

Quantum Technology: Exploring Dark Matter

It permeates our universe and poses major challenges to research: Dark matter. As it does not emit any light nor any other kind of electromagnetic radiation, it remains invisible. Although dark matter is evident in many astrophysical and cosmological observations, its particle physics is still unclear.

According to a convincing hypothesis, dark matter consists of very light axions which interact weakly with ordinary matter. They are as-yet-hypothetical elementary particles of low mass. Within a strong electromagnetic field, the hypothesis suggests, axions can convert into electromagnetic waves and vice versa. In theory, there is every indication for axions as dark matter candidates. However, their existence has yet to be proven by experiment.

Quantum-based Haloscopes Search for Axions

The European DarkQuantum project searches for axions and is aiming at proving their existence. Professor Wolfgang Wernsdorfer of KIT`s Physikalisches Institut (PHI) is one of the lead researchers in the project, which is funded by the European Research Council with a Synergy Grant.

“The nature of quantum phenomena is one of the great, unsolved and therefore particularly fascinating issues in research. I am delighted that Wolfgang Wernsdorfer and his colleagues in Germany and abroad have been able to jointly acquire one of the prestigious ERC Synergy Grants,” says Professor Oliver Kraft, Acting President of KIT.

Data Centers ‘Straining Water Resources’ As AI Swells

Abdallah Taha and Alfred Olufemi

For the past 19 years, Felix Adebayo has called Balarabe Musa Crescent in Victoria Island, an affluent area within Nigeria’s bustling Lagos city, his home.

When he secured a gatekeeper position at a company in the neighbourhood in 2004, it came with the added bonus of free accommodation.

However, with this move came an unexpected challenge – access to clean drinking water.

Victoria Island, a high-end district and major business hub in Lagos, is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and the Lagos Lagoon to the north. Yet, despite its affluent status, the area suffers from a severe shortage of clean water.

Speaking to SciDev.Net outside his apartment, 52-year-old Adebayo shared how this had affected his family’s daily life.

“We buy water to drink. We buy water to cook,” said Adebayo.

The shortage, experts say, is due to the shallow water table and intrusion of saltwater into its groundwater.

So, even though some residents resort to boreholes, the water is unsuitable for even basic needs like bathing, let alone drinking.

Adebayo explained: “You can’t dig a borehole and get clean water from it because the water you will get underground is the same.”