20 January 2020

The Flaring Sino-Indian Security Dilemma: Is Conventional Deterrence Eroding?

ERIK HEREJK RIBEIRO

After more than a decade of standoffs at the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), questions have been raised about the Sino-Indian military balance and the possibility of a repetition of the events that led to war in 1962. Especially after the Doklam plateau incident in 2017, where the countries’ forces faced each other for several weeks, analysts have focused on the territorial balance of power as a crucial element of Sino-Indian competition and deterrence dynamics. The resounding question in the heads of policy-makers and experts is: Over the next decade, are China and India more or less likely to go to war than before? This article analyzes the effects of infrastructure building and military modernization for Chinese and Indian strategies at the disputed border. Using the offense-defense balance framework, our findings point towards an erosion of conventional deterrence at the Himalayas, where both sides have more capabilities and incentives to choose preemption and offensive action than any moment in the last five decades. These changes have also led to new military doctrines and strategies by China and India, which are now preparing for scenarios ranging from low-intensity conflict to a large-scale – although limited – conventional war.

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The Sino-Indian security dilemma and the changing offense-defense balance

The US Wants to Intimidate China with Hypersonics, Once It Solves the Physics

BY PATRICK TUCKER
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The U.S. is pressing ahead with new missiles, but questions remain about engineering, tactics, and even geopolitics.

A set of small, uninhabited Pacific islands, very close to China, may be the destination of some of America’s most sophisticated and controversial future weapons: hypersonic missiles that remain nimble even at five times the speed of sound. On Friday, U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said the still-in-development weapons would likely change the future of war.

The Army — along with the Air Force, Navy, and Missile Defense Agency — has been advancing work on a variety of hypersonic capabilities. The Army expects to begin testing aspects of its Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon this year, with full flight testing expected in 2023.

Speaking at a Brookings Institution event, McCarthy said hypersonics would be key to a new kind of multi-domain task force that he was rolling out. These highly mobile units will be deployed to attack enemies at long ranges with electronic warfare, cyber attacks, and long-range munitions such as hypersonic missiles. He said the new units could be deployed to the Senkaku or Ryukyu island chains.

China Is Developing an Airborne Laser Weapon

by Michael Peck
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For the U.S. military, airborne lasers are more than a potentially useful weapon to fry enemy aircraft, or protect American planes from anti-aircraft missiles. They could also be a key component of ballistic missile defense: manned aircraft or drones, armed with high-powered lasers and flying North Korea and other nations, could disable ballistic missiles during the initial boost phase of their flight.

The Chinese military’s procurement Web site recently posted a notice about a laser attack pod, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper. The details of the project were listed as confidential, something the U.S. military does when it publishes notices for sensitive projects on the FedBizOps procurement site.

“If equipped on aircraft, the laser could potentially protect against incoming missile attacks and dominate in close-range combat,” Global Times said.

Chinese media noted that the laser attack pod indicated that the device was probably an airborne tactical laser: if it had been a laser designator to guide smart bombs, it would have been called a laser guidance pod.

Export Controls Threaten the Future of AI Outposts in China


For some time, American companies including Microsoft, Google, and IBM have established research labs in China to tap into local AI talent and to keep track of technological trends. Now, as tensions and restrictions continue to ramp up, some observers wonder if the days of those outposts may be numbered.

The US Commerce Department imposed new export controls on artificial intelligence software last week, a measure apparently designed to prevent US companies from shipping AI technology that could train Chinese military drones or teach intelligence systems to interpret aerial imagery. But it remains to be seen how broadly the rules are interpreted, and they are unlikely to be the last to land on American AI algorithms, datasets, and chips. The Commerce Department is, in fact, still weighing further AI software controls, and the Trump administration is increasingly scrutinizing how Silicon Valley interacts with China.

What can we expect in China in 2020?December 2019 | Commentary


2019 in China brought together long running challenges, such as uncertainty over US–China tariff levels and ever more intrusive regulation of business in China, with a few unexpected ones as well: the crisis in Hong Kong and the flare up triggered by tweets from an NBA coach, to mention just two. Yet for many businesses, opportunities flourished throughout the year as China’s economy grew roughly 6 percent. And in multiple key industries, the government’s commitment to global leadership started to pay dividends.

2020 will offer a similar mix of evolving, often worsening, challenges. Growing separation between the US and China in technology sectors seems inevitable. While some companies will evolve to remain relevant in both markets, others will choose to focus on one. In 2020 this separation may become broader, impacting financial markets much more directly. China’s economic momentum will continue in 2020 with domestic consumption leading the way, selectively creating opportunities. If China’s priority sectors match those of your business, 2020 will be a good year to step up as the taps of government funding remain open for now.

US–China relations

Xi’s Upcoming Visit to Myanmar Could Reshape the Indian Ocean Region

By Amara Thiha

A decade after Xi Jinping’s first visit to Myanmar in 2009, Naypyidaw is planning a banquet for another Xi visit, expected to be on January 17, 2020. As part of the preparation, shuttle diplomacy is already underway, with China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meeting with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on December 9, 2019. The agenda is loud and clear: to speed up the construction of the projects within the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) and realization of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In particular, speeding up the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ), Beijing’s strategic window to the India Ocean, is on the short list.

Originating as one of 16 MoUs signed during then-Vice President Xi’s 2009 visit, the Kyaukphyu SEZ is the capstone of all China’s investments in Myanmar and was Beijing’s strategic offset in the Indian Ocean prior to the launch of the BRI. However, Chinese projects in Myanmar stalled after the suspension of controversial Myitsone Dam, which created uneasy relations with Beijing for the first time in 20 years and caused BRI capital injections to fall short of the hype. Kyaukphyu was not an exception. The project was significantly trimmed down with the fear of a debt trap.

War with Iran is still less likely than you think

Michael C. Horowitz and Elizabeth N. Saunders

Michael C. Horowitz and Elizabeth Saunders write that despite Iranian attacks in retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani, neither the United States nor Iran wants to go to war. Iranian retaliation could be costly, but it is not the same as all-out war. This piece originally appeared in the Washington Post.


In the wake of the U.S. attack that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force, many are concerned yet again about the potential for escalation between the United States and Iran to a general war.

In June, after tensions spiked following attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the United States blamed on Iran, we laid out the case for why the two countries were unlikely to fight a general war. We drew on similar arguments in 2018, when we explained why war between the United States and North Korea was unlikely despite the fears of many analysts at the time.

THE KILLING OF SOLEIMANI WAS DIFFERENT

The U.S. killing of Soleimani, an attack on a high-ranking government official, is different from previous moments of international tension during the Trump administration. Soleimani was an important military officer in a sovereign state, rather than the leader of a stateless terrorist organization, like Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In last summer’s oil tanker and drone-downing episodes, the stakes were lower, and there were elements of deniability or ambiguity that were not feasible in the case of killing Soleimani.

The direct strike on one of Iran’s top military leaders has led many to conclude that Iran will strike back, possibly against U.S. targets in the Middle East. Such retaliation would be potentially costly, even if it does not lead to a general war.

But as other analysts have noted, fears of World War III are overblown. Even after this escalatory move, many factors that made war between the United States and Iran unlikely in June remain unchanged. There will no doubt be consequences — but general war remains unlikely.

BUT COULD THE UNITED STATES AND IRAN STUMBLE INTO WAR?

How the Iran-Iraq war shaped the trajectories of figures like Qassem Soleimani

Bruce Riedel

The death of General Qassem Soleimani has underscored the crucial importance of the Iran-Iraq war in shaping the politics of today’s Iran and its future. Soleimani and his successor Ismail Qaani began their careers as soldiers in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard fighting the Iraqis in the 1980s, their legitimacy as Iran’s defenders flows from the war. The defining moment in their lives, the war shaped their views of the region and especially of the United States.

The Iran-Iraq war was one of the largest and longest conventional interstate wars since the Korean War ended in 1953. At least a half million lives were lost and over another million injured. The economic cost was over a trillion dollars. After eight years of warfare, much of it like the trenches of World War I, the armies ended in virtually the same positions they had started in September 1980. It was also the only war in modern times in which chemical weapons were used on a massive scale along with ballistic missiles to attack cities. It was the most extensive use of weapons of mass destruction since Japan in 1945.

Iran-US conflict may stretch definitions of ‘war’


Amid an escalation of strike and counterstrike, conflict between the U.S. and Iran may never reach a stage similar to a traditional war. But the risks from both physical and cyber attacks are very real.

In this aerial photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, mourners attend a funeral ceremony in Tehran on Jan. 6, 2020, for Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and his comrades, who were killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone strike.

Refined Kitten – also known as APT33, Elfin, and Magnallium – is a shadowy hacker group that cybersecurity firms believe works in the interests of Iran. When tensions between Washington and Tehran spiked last June, Refined Kitten launched a broad phishing attack against a range of U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Energy and national labs.

Soon, Refined Kitten and other members of Iran’s capable cyber corps may be on the offensive again. Iran has vowed revenge in the wake of the U.S. killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike on Friday, and digital disruption could well be one of its weapons.

Why Hitting the Pause Button Is the Best the U.S. and Iran Can Hope For

Judah Grunstein 

Reactions in the United States to the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani have tended to fall into three broad categories. Those who support the strike argue that it eliminated a uniquely irreplaceable figure advancing Iran’s regional influence, while also reestablishing deterrence against Tehran. Those who oppose it fall into two groups. Some warn that by killing Soleimani, the U.S. took a step up the escalation ladder that will inevitably lead to open conflict with Iran. Others say that even short of causing all-out war, the strike was ill-advised because its strategic costs outweigh its benefits.

The first argument is almost certainly false. The second is probably exaggerated. And the third is almost certainly true. But whether killing Soleimani forestalls immediate conflict or fuels further escalation, it has locked the U.S. and Iran into a costly confrontation for the foreseeable future. ...

Sultan Qaboos, 79, Is Dead; Built Oman Into Prosperous Oasis of Peacemaking

By Ben Hubbard

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, who over nearly five decades in power transformed his Persian Gulf kingdom from an isolated enclave into a developed nation known for brokering quiet talks between global foes, has died, the Omani government announced on Saturday. He was 79.

His death was announced by the official Oman News Agency. The announcement did not mention the cause, but Qaboos had been receiving treatment in Europe for cancer since at least 2014.

Qaboos’s decades as an absolute monarch who used oil wealth to pull his country from poverty made him a towering figure at home, with roads, a port, a university, a sports stadium and other facilities bearing his name. Internationally, as the longest-serving leader in the Arab world, he used Oman’s place in a turbulent region, next to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, to become a discreet but essential diplomatic player.

In a region rife with sectarianism, political divides and foreign interference, the soft-spoken, diminutive Qaboos championed a foreign policy of independence and nonalignment. He became a rare leader who maintained ties with a wide range of powers that hated one another, including Iran, Israel, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Iran’s Smart Strategy

Tom Nichols
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The immediate crisis with Iran is over. The United States acted against an Iranian general, Iran responded, and both sides have stepped back from further open hostilities. Now the argument is under way about who won this round in a 40-year conflict.

The Americans hit the Iranians hard, but Iran’s response on the night of January 7 was calibrated and smart, which suggests that Tehran is better at the game of deterrence than Donald Trump or his advisers (or many other Americans) might want to admit. In fact, while Trump has claimed that the Iranians stood down, it is not clear at this point who was more deterred by whom.

To recap, a violent protest in front of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which was sure to trigger American memories of the 1979 hostage taking in Tehran, led to the American strike on Qassem Soleimani, which led, in turn, to the Iranian missile strikes on American bases in Iraq.

Donald Trump’s Iran Problem

By Robin Wright

On September 19, 1983, during Lebanon’s long civil war, the Reagan Administration ordered Marine peacekeepers in Beirut to open fire on Muslim militias in the mountains overlooking the city. The marines had been deployed for more than a year, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, to help hold together one of the world’s most fractured states. Colonel Tim Geraghty, their commander, warned that an attack would cost the United States its neutrality and its mission; nevertheless, U.S. ships fired more than three hundred rounds of seventy-pound shells. Geraghty later wrote, “As the sun set at the end of a tumultuous day, I remarked to members of my staff that my gut instinct tells me the Corps is going to pay in blood for this decision.”

On October 23rd, a suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with twelve thousand pounds of explosives into the peacekeepers’ barracks. Two hundred and forty-one Americans died. The largest loss for the corps in a single incident since Iwo Jima was carried out by a Lebanese group that became Hezbollah—but it was orchestrated by Iran. Washington ordered U.S. warplanes to destroy an Iranian military post in Lebanon, but called off the strike. The marines moved to underground containers; a few months later, they sailed home, their mission abandoned. “The Iranians’ goal was to remove the marines and Western influence,” Geraghty recalled last week. “And they did.”

The Middle Eastern Problem Soleimani Figured Out

By HASSAN HASSAN
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Militias have made much of the region ungovernable, and one general managed to exploit the chaos in Iran’s interests. Now the U.S. has an opportunity—maybe.

Hassan Hassan is the director of the nonstate actors program at the Center for Global Policy in Washington DC, and the co-author of Isis: Inside the Army of Terror. On Twitter @hxhassan.

The Iranian general Qassem Suleimani is dead, and tensions with Iran appear to be simmering down. But the landscape he helped build is still very much a problem for the United States.

Since his killing in a U.S. drone strike last week, experts have been rushing to explain just why Soleimani mattered so much to Iran’s ambitions—and what consequences his death really holds for the region. One simple way to think about it: He was the one man who had mastered the new landscape of the Middle East.

Eastern Promises: Our German Problem


It’s comforting to believe that frequently rocky US-German relations over the last three years have been due largely to President Trump’s personal approach — and will therefore be solved the moment he exits the White House. That belief is mistaken. America’s broader “German problem” is very much grounded in German choices and German conditions predating the current US administration, and will likely outlast it. 

The Berlin republic’s overall foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has centered on an admirably skillful promotion of specifically German economic interests, cocooned within a smothering verbal commitment to multilateral conflict resolution. There’s no doubt this verbal commitment is heartfelt. Still, for Berlin’s Western allies, that’s exactly the challenge. A pressing problem for NATO today isn’t German militarism; it’s German anti-militarism. This is particularly true among Social Democrats, on whose coalitional support Chancellor Angela Merkel depends. 

To Berlin’s credit, there have been some encouraging signs. Bundeswehr troops have been deployed on important missions with Western allies in Lithuania, Afghanistan, and the Sahel. While the process is slow, and combat-readiness outside of elite forces is often substandard, Berlin’s defense spending has increased. Public opinion polls reveal – perhaps surprisingly – that German citizens are roughly divided between those who favor increased military spending and those who favor existing levels. Very few support defense cuts. The underlying politics of the issue may be more fluid and open to serious leadership than in recent memory. And on that exact point, German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer — also known as “AKK” — has been refreshingly honest and straightforward. In an underappreciated November address before the Munich Bundeswehr University, AKK agreed that the United States has contributed “more than its fair share” to European defense “for the longest time,” noting that “we Germans are often better at declaring our good, even morally motivated intentions, placing high demands on ourselves and others, than at actually proposing measures and implementing them.” She called on her fellow citizens to significantly increase defense spending in the coming years, thus meeting obligations dating back to 2014. Still, given Germany’s complex coalitional politics these days, it’s unclear whether AKK will succeed Angela Merkel as originally planned. 

Sound the Clarion! Hybrid Warfare Has Arrived in the Asia-Pacific

Ian Li

Ever since Russia’s rapid annexation of Crimea in 2014 during the height of the Ukraine Crisis thrust the term “hybrid warfare” into mainstream consciousness, predictions of its imminent spread westward have been fervently propagated. The perceived threat of hybrid warfare has however since evolved into something more universal and far-reaching, and in recent years it would seem as if the tendrils of this virulent threat have finally traversed the vast expanse of the globe to arrive in the Asia-Pacific. Already, the clarion call has been sounded across the region. In Singapore for example, its military has as early as 2015 taken measures to modernise its defence systems and bolster its arsenal in preparation for the possibility of dealing with this particular type of conflict, and almost half a decade on, the concerns over the perceived threat of hybrid warfare remain unabated. The same fears over a looming hybrid war have been echoed in Thailand while some would argue that an intensely contested hybrid war is already underway over the South China Sea.

It would seem therefore that hybrid warfare is the one singular threat that the region should be most concerned with moving forward. A closer inspection of the context behind each of the cases highlighted above however reveals a far more heterogeneous threat dynamic at play. Behind the umbrella term of hybrid warfare comes a whole range of security threats such as cyber-attacks, irregular adversaries, local insurgencies, and grey zone operations. Indeed, these other terms have often been used interchangeably with hybrid warfare, lending to the overall definitional confusion. In turn, this ambiguity in detail surrounding how the term is defined does little to help with its analysis. Certainly, enough commonalities apply across most definitions such that the term can be broadly understood in common parlance. However, more often than not, hybrid warfare is used as a catch-all, a convenient explanation for most of the world’s current (or potential) conflicts. Because it can mean many things, it becomes associated with everything. The result is an irrational paranoia that can lead to a hunt for the proverbial monsters lurking under every bed, a modern McCarthyism of sorts. 

The Evolution of Disinformation: How Public Opinion Became Proxy

By Michael P. Ferguson

“The freedom of press makes its influence felt not only upon political opinions but also on all men’s opinions. It modifies customs as well as laws.”
—Alexis de Tocqueville

In October 2019, select U.S. officials offered closed-door congressional testimony regarding their knowledge of events surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Dr. Fiona Hill, a former adviser on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, testified it was very likely Russian disinformation influenced the documents used to acquire a surveillance warrant on members of then-candidate Trump’s campaign. A January 2018 Wall Street Journal editorial by the Central Intelligence Agency’s former Moscow station chief, Daniel Hoffman, appears to support her assessment.

If even partially true, this is a significant development. It would force the national security enterprise to amend its understanding of disinformation’s potential to shape the national consciousness—a conversation that until recently has been defined by references to social media bots and Internet trolls.

The World Spends $3 Trillion a Year on Arms

by Michael Peck
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The United States accounted for 79 percent of the global arms trade, or an average of $143 billion per year, followed by the European Union at 10 percent, Russia at 5 percent and China at less than 2 percent.

“From 2007 through 2017, in constant 2017 U.S. dollar terms, the annual value of world military expenditures appears to have risen about 11 percent to 33 percent, from about $1.51 trillion to $2.15 trillion in 2007 to about $1.77 trillion to $2.88 trillion in 2017, and to have averaged between $1.72 trillion and $2.61 trillion for the 11-year period,” according to the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, which compiled the report.

The huge gap between the high and low range of each number is because converting foreign military spending into U.S. dollars is a difficult process. The study used five different methods to make the conversion. Nonetheless, overall global military spending appears to have risen sharply since 2007.

FORUM 2: National defense is government's top priority

By Giselle Donnelly

ONE OF President Trump’s longest-standing political promises has been to rebuild U.S. military strength. The White House boasts of “historic strides” in this effort, and Trump’s tweet celebrating the passage of this year’s defense appropriations bill boasted of “new planes, ships, missiles, rockets and equipment of every kind, and all made right here in the USA.”

Alas, the president’s claim is more hat than cattle. While the Pentagon’s annual “topline” has crept past the $700 billion mark, it remains the case that about 10 percent of that amount is in the “Overseas Contingency Operations” account that mostly goes to pay for the continued costs of military deployments in the Middle East and elsewhere.

This is not merely a haphazard approach to managing the budget that forestalls longer-term planning, it reflects the fact that the hoped-for “Trump Build-up” is, as the saying goes, fake news.

Indeed, the truer measures of national purpose—calculating defense spending as a slice of gross domestic product or a percentage of federal spending—reveal that national security continues to diminish as an American priority.

Brexit’s Finish Line Is Only the "End of the Beginning" for Britain and the European Union

by Stewart M. Patrick

In my weekly column for World Politics Review, I examine several major uncertainties that remain unresolved as the United Kingdom prepares to exit the European Union.

Britain’s impending departure from the European Union on Jan. 31 is merely, as Winston Churchill might have said, the end of the beginning. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will herald Brexit as the moment the nation recovers its sovereignty. The truth, however, is far messier. The ultimate terms and costs of the divorce are yet to be determined. The nature of Britain’s future relationship with the continent, whether the United Kingdom will stay united in Brexit’s wake, and what global role Britain will play after regaining its “splendid isolation” all remain to be seen.

Trump Broke It. Now He Owns It.

David Frum

There’s a big question the Trump administration does not want to talk about: Why has the United States escalated its conflict with Iran?

Donald Trump and his supporters would prefer to focus on the smaller and more convenient question of direct culpability for the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.

By now, it seems near-certain that the Iranian authorities shot down the Ukrainian airliner and 176 people because they mistook the civilian airliner for a U.S. warplane. The Iranians were in a jumpy state because of a cycle of retaliation over the past 10 days. They themselves had started the most recent cycle when their proxies attacked U.S. bases in northern Iraq, killing an American contractor and wounding four U.S. service members. They had fired the most recent round of retaliation too, a barrage of missiles from Iranian territory against bases in Iraq. That barrage took no lives, but the Iranians might not have immediately appreciated that fact. They had cause to fear that the U.S. might well hit them back hard.

Economic Conditions Snapshot, December 2019: McKinsey Global Survey results


The views of respondents to McKinsey’s latest survey on economic conditions end the year on a somewhat more upbeat note, moving away from earlier pessimism.1 While executives still tend to report negative sentiments, a growing share of respondents see current and future global conditions as stable or improving.

Views on conditions at home are also more tempered overall in this latest survey, as a larger share of respondents say their economies are unchanged from—as opposed to worse than—six months ago.2 In Latin America and in India, where executives are likeliest to report that present conditions have declined, respondents most clearly predict improvement in the months ahead.

Among perceived risks to global and domestic growth, trade conflicts and trade-policy changes remain at the fore, but social and political risks have risen on the list of commonly cited threats. Respondents identify social unrest as a global risk more often than they have all year, and they are more likely now than in the previous survey to say domestic political conflicts and transitions of political leadership are a top threat to their countries’ economies.
Though still cautious, views on the world economy grow more favorable

Foresight Africa: Top priorities for the continent 2020-2030


The new year 2020 marks the beginning of a promising decade for Africa. Through at least the first half of the decade, economic growth across Africa will continue to outperform that of other regions, with the continent continuing to be home to seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies. Collective action among African and global policymakers to improve the livelihoods of all under the blueprint of the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 is representative of the shared energy and excitement around Africa’s potential. With business environments improving, regional integration centered around the African Continental Free Trade Agreement progressing, and the transformational technologies of Fourth Industrial Revolution spreading, never before has the region been better primed for trade, investment, and mutually beneficial partnerships. The recent, unprecedented interest of an increasingly diversified group of external partners for engagement with Africa highlights this potential. Despite the continent’s promise, though, obstacles to success linger, as job creation still has not caught up with the growing youth labor force, gaps in good and inclusive governance remain, and climate change as well as state fragility threaten to reverse the hard-fought-for gains of recent decades.

This special edition of Foresight Africa highlights the triumphs of past years as well as strategies from our experts to tackle forthcoming, but surmountable, obstacles to a prosperous continent by 2030.

Brexit’s Finish Line Is Only the ‘End of the Beginning’ for Britain and the EU

Stewart M. Patrick 
Source Link

Britain’s impending departure from the European Union on Jan. 31 is merely, as Winston Churchill might have said, the end of the beginning. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will herald Brexit as the moment the nation recovers its sovereignty. The truth, however, is far messier. The ultimate terms and costs of the divorce are yet to be determined. The nature of Britain’s future relationship with the continent, whether the United Kingdom will stay united in Brexit’s wake, and what global role Britain will play after regaining its “splendid isolation” all remain to be seen.

The U.K. was always an awkward partner in the EU, given its historic ambivalence toward the continent, sense of exceptionalism and global aspirations. Britain was “with Europe, but not of it,” Churchill wrote in 1930. After World War II, it championed European integration but refrained from joining the European Economic Community until 1973. Ever after that, British leaders remained jealous of national prerogatives and vigilant about overreach from Brussels, culminating in the Brexit referendum of June 2016, when a narrow majority of Britons voted to leave the EU altogether.

Eastern Promises: Our German Problem


It’s comforting to believe that frequently rocky US-German relations over the last three years have been due largely to President Trump’s personal approach — and will therefore be solved the moment he exits the White House. That belief is mistaken. America’s broader “German problem” is very much grounded in German choices and German conditions predating the current US administration, and will likely outlast it. 

The Berlin republic’s overall foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has centered on an admirably skillful promotion of specifically German economic interests, cocooned within a smothering verbal commitment to multilateral conflict resolution. There’s no doubt this verbal commitment is heartfelt. Still, for Berlin’s Western allies, that’s exactly the challenge. A pressing problem for NATO today isn’t German militarism; it’s German anti-militarism. This is particularly true among Social Democrats, on whose coalitional support Chancellor Angela Merkel depends. 

To Berlin’s credit, there have been some encouraging signs. Bundeswehr troops have been deployed on important missions with Western allies in Lithuania, Afghanistan, and the Sahel. While the process is slow, and combat-readiness outside of elite forces is often substandard, Berlin’s defense spending has increased. Public opinion polls reveal – perhaps surprisingly – that German citizens are roughly divided between those who favor increased military spending and those who favor existing levels. Very few support defense cuts. The underlying politics of the issue may be more fluid and open to serious leadership than in recent memory. And on that exact point, German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer — also known as “AKK” — has been refreshingly honest and straightforward. In an underappreciated November address before the Munich Bundeswehr University, AKK agreed that the United States has contributed “more than its fair share” to European defense “for the longest time,” noting that “we Germans are often better at declaring our good, even morally motivated intentions, placing high demands on ourselves and others, than at actually proposing measures and implementing them.” She called on her fellow citizens to significantly increase defense spending in the coming years, thus meeting obligations dating back to 2014. Still, given Germany’s complex coalitional politics these days, it’s unclear whether AKK will succeed Angela Merkel as originally planned. 

Facebook Says Encrypting Messenger by Default Will Take Years


Mark Zuckerberg promised default end-to-end encryption throughout Facebook's platforms. Nearly a year later, Messenger's not even close.

In March of last year, Mark Zuckerberg made a dramatic pledge: Facebook would apply end-to-end encryption to user communications across all of its platforms by default. The move would grant strong new protections to well over a billion users. It's also not happening anytime soon.

What Zuckerberg didn't spell out at the time is just how difficult that transition would be to pull off, and not just in terms of political hurdles from encryption-averse law enforcement or a shift in Facebook's business model. Encrypting Facebook Messenger alone represents a Herculean technical challenge. According to one of the Facebook engineers leading the effort, a version of Messenger that's fully end-to-end encrypted by default remains years away.

"I’ll be honest right now and say we’re still in a place of having more questions than answers," said Jon Millican, Facebook's software engineer for Messenger privacy, in a talk today at the Real World Crypto conference in New York. "While we have made progress in the planning, it turns out that adding end-to-end encryption to an existing system is incredibly challenging and involves fundamentally rethinking almost everything."

How patents can tell us what jobs AI is poised to disrupt

Mark Muro, Jacob Whiton, and Robert Maxim

Artificial intelligence (AI) remains a riddle for those of us wondering about its potential impacts on workers.

Big—and often vague—claims have been made about AI’s potential to do things like improve perception (for example, in medical diagnosis from scans), automate judgment (e.g., hate speech detection), and predict social outcomes (for policing or job screenings). Yet for all that, the technology remains a fluid and emergent topic, with no single definition and relatively little real-world examples of adoption to learn from. Most notably, it’s very hard to parse what work AI may take over from humans when there’s no agreement on what, exactly, it can do.

Fortunately, a pathbreaking paper by our Stanford University colleague Michael Webb cuts through many of the subjective claims and assessments. Webb’s method finds the overlap between common job descriptions and new AI-based patents to detail in precise, objective terms what AI can or may soon be capable of in the workplace.

From a pool of 16,400 patents, Webb compiled 8,000 verb-object word pairs using a natural-language processing algorithm. The below table, which appears in Brookings Metro’s report on AI’s potential impacts on people and places, displays the top eight by frequency.

Pentagon gets ‘big win’ on cyber forces

Mark Pomerleau
From 2013 to mid-2018, U.S. Cyber Command built its cyber mission force — the 133-team, roughly 6,200-person cadre of personnel that conduct cyber operations. Following the build out of those teams, Cyber Command asserted that the focus would shift to readiness, or maintaining the teams and ensuring they remained fully capable of performing missions.

Now the Department of Defense has taken a critical step with its cyber teams by establishing metrics that define work roles and readiness, a top official said Jan. 9.

Vice Chairman Looks to Ensure DOD Remains Competitive

BY JIM GARAMONE

Air Force Gen. John Hyten has the perfect background to advance the National Defense Strategy and change Defense Department processes so it remains in the lead in a world dominated by great power competition.

In his first interview as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hyten talked about competition with China and Russia and the need for the department to be more responsive. 

[If] you're in a race and someone is running faster, it doesn't matter how far ahead you are, eventually that somebody is going to catch and pass you. We can't ever allow that to happen."Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

"We have to look at China and Russia and the speed at which they’re moving," he said. "China in particular, is moving unbelievably fast. So we have to make sure that we move as fast or faster than the potential adversary that we have in China and Russia."

The United States military is currently in the lead in most capabilities. But, "if you're in a race and someone is running faster, it doesn't matter how far ahead you are, eventually that somebody is going to catch and pass you. We can't ever allow that to happen," Hyten said. 

Today's Army Is More Than Tanks, Bradleys, Army Secretary Says

BY TERRI MOON CRONK

The United States must maintain overmatch — be stronger, better armed, or more skillful than its adversaries, the Army secretary said at the Brooking Institution in Washington.

Ryan D. McCarthy addressed Indo-Pacific region Army strategy at the nonprofit public policy organization today. 

"Our modernization focus — how we fight, what we fight with and who we are — is in part driven by new challenges and potential adversaries," he said.

The secretary said the Army remains ironclad in its priorities of readiness, modernization and reform, and the Army budget and investments are aligned with its priorities. 

"In this era of great-power competition, China will emerge as America's strategic threat," McCarthy said. "Over 60% of the world's [gross domestic product] flows through the Strait of Malacca, and China is militarizing the global commons."

19 January 2020

The Retreat of the Data Localization Brigade: India, Indonesia and Vietnam

By Arindrajit Basu
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2019 saw a major global tussle come into view over the regulation of cross-border data transfers, with a number of emerging economies taking measures to exercise greater sovereign control over their data. Contention on this issue is a product of a desire among emerging economies to push back against exploitative economic systems adopted by U.S.-based technology companies and mend a cumbersome process for law enforcement agencies seeking to access data stored in the United States. A key strategy adopted by these countries has been data localization mandates — a range of measures providing for mandatory storage or processing of data within the territory of a given country.

A major stakeholder in the political ecosystem surrounding data localization debates has been the Western lobby representing the interests of technology companies based in the United States. Through concerted efforts made in conjunction with both industry-led lobbying groups and state-backed diplomatic efforts they have managed to push emerging economies into diluting the scope of their data localization mandates and easing the restrictions on the free flow of data.

How US-Iran Tensions Could Upset American Interests in Northeast Asia

By Francesco Sassi

Rising tensions in the Middle East after the killing of General Qassem Soleimani by a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad and Iranian retaliation against two Iraqi bases housing American troops early Wednesday sparked fears over the unpredictable actions by Washington and Tehran or their proxy allies in the region.

In particular, military escalation has affected commodity markets, with oil prices running up as much as 4 percent in the immediate aftermath of the ballistic missiles attack and Brent crude busting through the $70 threshold. As soon as President Donald Trump declared the United States’ readiness “to embrace peace,” U.S. crude futures erased the recent gain and ended below their January 2 value, logging their biggest percentage drop since late November in just one day.

Energy is central in Trump’s Middle East strategy, and this has was confirmed by his Wednesday speech. As Trump affirmed, the United States achieved “energy independence” and is now “the number-one producer of oil and natural gas,” thus allowing Washington to change its strategic priorities in the region and daringly challenge Iran in its near-abroad.

Trump’s Gift to China

MINXIN PEI
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CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – US President Donald Trump’s decision to order the assassination of Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander, has raised the specter, albeit still distant, of all-out war between the United States and the Islamic Republic. There is only one winner in this situation: China.

With Trump’s latest blunder, history may not be repeating itself, but it is certainly rhyming. When George W. Bush began his presidency in January 2001, his neoconservative advisers identified China as the biggest long-term threat to the US. So his administration labeled China a “strategic competitor” and set to work on containing America’s Asian rival.

In April 2001 – the same month a US Navy spy plane accidentally collided with a Chinese fighter jet while on a routine surveillance mission over the South China Sea – the US announced the sale of a weapons package to Taiwan over Chinese protests. Bilateral relations plunged to their lowest point since the normalization of diplomatic ties in 1979.

Everything changed on September 11, 2001, when the US was struck by the single deadliest terrorist attack in history. The Bush administration became so preoccupied with retaliating against al-Qaeda – an objective that led to the catastrophic decision to invade Iraq two years later – that it all but forgot the distant specter of an Asian superpower.