17 January 2021

The Three Faces of the Indian State

Madhav Khosla  and Milan Vaishnav

For more than seven decades, India’s Constitution has provided a framework for liberal democracy to flourish in one of the world’s most diverse societies. Legal changes and shifts in bureaucratic practices, however, have undermined central tenets of the prevailing order. In today’s India, the assent of the people is both necessary and sufficient to justify all forms of state action. This article outlines three manifestations of India’s new constitutionalism—the “ethnic state,” the “absolute state,” and the “opaque state.” These distinct, yet overlapping faces of the Indian state have undermined the rule of law, equal citizenship, checks and balances, and democratic accountability.

For more than seven decades, India’s Constitution has provided a framework for liberal democracy to flourish in one of the world’s most plural societies. Recent institutional changes and bureaucratic practices, however, have undermined central tenets of the prevailing constitutional order. India’s new constitutionalism has three distinct, yet overlapping, manifestations: the ethnic state, the absolute state, and the opaque state. This new order—whose legitimacy rests entirely on popular authorization without reference to how power is used—has weakened not only the rule of law, but also equal citizenship, the system of checks and balances, and the mechanisms for ensuring accountability.

Against the Memory Police: War and Remembrance in Sri Lanka

By Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan

In a troubling development on the island nation of Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan authorities destroyed a monument at the University of Jaffna on January 8. The monument had been established by university students to pay tribute to thousands of Tamils killed by the Sri Lankan military in Mullivaikkal in 2009. The vice-chancellor of the university, S Srisatkunarajah, stated: “There was already a war memorial at the campus. But this new one was erected recently during the 10th anniversary of ending the Sri Lankan war… (it was) installed without permission from authorities.” Moreover, he stated that the memorial is remembering a war, not peace. This argument, however, is wrong: the Sri Lankan government has built countless memorials celebrating the war victory rather than post-war amity. The demolished construction, moreover, makes no reference to igniting or glorifying war, as it monument depicted outstretched hands rising from the earth.

Why was this memorial erected? What was the Mullivaikkal massacre? These would be two dominating questions for anyone unfamiliar with the recent incident in Sri Lanka. During the last stages of the war, Tamils who were on the territory of the Tamil Tigers fled to Mullivaikkal, which had been declared a no-fire zone, to seek shelter from the aerial bombardments of the Sri Lankan military. Yet, this no-fire zone was also bombarded. Until this date, the Sri Lankan government insists that this area was not targeted as it served to spare civilian lives. It repeatedly denies that it has fired on safety zones or targeted hospitals. However, the United Nations, through its Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, had verified and ascertained that in fact this no-fire zone was targeted by the Sri Lankan government, leading to large-scale civilian death.

Buying Silence: The Price of Internet Censorship in China

By: Ryan Fedasiuk


On Monday, November 12, 2018, the recently-appointed director of China’s Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission (CAC) Zhuang Rongwen (庄荣文) summoned senior executives from WeChat and Sina Weibo for a “discussion” (Central CAC, November 16, 2018). While there is no transcript of the meeting available to the public, one thing is certain: It did not go well. For months, Zhuang had been telegraphing his discontent with the state of censorship in China—and specifically, the role that social media giants had played in undermining it (New America, September 24, 2018). His official statement about the meeting, which was uploaded to the CAC’s website a few days later, accused China’s largest internet companies of “breeding chaos in the media” and “endangering social stability and the interests of the masses.” Under his watch, he vowed that the Central CAC would “strictly investigate and deal with the enterprises that lack responsibility and have serious problems” (Central CAC, November 20, 2018). Rarely do Party officials offer such scathing public admonitions.

The November 12 dressing-down heralded a fundamental change in the mechanisms of censorship in China’s New Era. Over the next two years, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) committees at lower echelons of government would stand up their own CACs to absorb the day-to-day censorship responsibilities previously headed up by Propaganda Departments. Recent studies have laid bare the bureaucratic and technical methods by which the Chinese government and Communist Party surveil and censor social media platforms, and the cost such censorship exacts on Chinese netizens.[1] What has been less clear is the literal cost—in yuan and fen—of systematically collecting, analyzing, and deleting web posts from the country’s 900 million internet users.

Year-End CCP Politburo Meetings Stress Political Loyalty—and Hint at Potential Shake-Ups in the Party Bureaucracy

By: John Dotson


The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo held two official meetings in December 2020, both of which were publicized after the fact by official summaries presented in government outlets. The first of these was a “collective study” session held in the first half of the month, focused on the theme of correctly handling the various aspects of “national security work.” The second, held in the last week of December, was an annual “democratic life meeting” traditionally convened by the Politburo at the end of each year. In a pattern that has now become a standard component of the cult of personality surrounding CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, official summaries of these meetings invariably describe Xi as the center of attention and the font of knowledge for his fellow Politburo-level officials: these accounts typically state that Xi “chaired the meeting and gave an important speech” (主持会议并发表重要讲话, zhuchi huiyi bing fabiao zhongyao jianghua) to explain the concepts under discussion to more junior Politburo members.

Accounts of the meetings in December adhered to this pattern, reinforcing ideological formulae and slogans advanced by the CCP propaganda apparatus throughout 2020. Particularly prominent themes from the December meetings focused on the importance of “political security,” as well as the need for party members to adhere to “political consciousness” and the correct “political orientation” in performing their duties. These propaganda themes provide further evidence of the Xi leadership circle’s continuing preoccupation with the potential dangers posed by a loss of ideological faith among party members, as well as the ongoing drive to centralize authority ever-more firmly around Xi and the central party leadership (China Brief, December 31, 2019). The year-end meeting also produced oblique language that hinted at a further effort by the central leadership to reinforce control over personnel appointments in the party apparatus from the provincial level on down (see discussion below).

China-EU Investment Deal Sparks Backlash Over Rights Concerns

By Shannon Tiezzi

On December 30, 2020, leaders from China and the EU announced they had agreed in principle on the text of a long-awaited Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), after seven long years of negotiation. Meeting the end-of-2020 goal was no mean feat; as late as September 2020, after a China-EU virtual meeting, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen cautioned that “a lot – a lot – still remains to be done” on the CAI, adding, “China has to convince us that it’s worth having an investment agreement.”

But it’s too early for negotiators to celebrate even now. The text of the CAI still needs to be finalized and undergo a legal review. Then it will have to be approved by the European Council, the heads of government of the EU’s member states. Finally, the investment deal will face what may be its steepest hurdle: approval by the European Parliament. In addition to geopolitical concerns about the implications for transatlantic ties, the investment pact is also coming under heavy fire from those concerned about China’s human rights abuses.

The EU and China are “two parties with opposing ideologies,” according to Valbona Zeneli, the chair of the Strategic Initiatives Department at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. “To belong to the EU, countries must pursue a values ideology that agrees to values supporting human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy, equality, and rule of law. China, or more appropriately the CCP, is a one party totalitarian government.”

What Does a New White Paper Tell Us About China’s International Aid?

By Zhang Chao and Tang Yuxuan

China’s new white paper on international development cooperation has spurred a renewed debate around the Chinese government’s aid. It’s the third such white paper that China has published on its development efforts, and the first since 2014. At around 26,000 Chinese characters, it is even longer than the previous two papers combined.

The white paper reflects some new developments in China’s aid program. For example, it echoes the new initiatives Chinese leaders proposed in the past years, including “a global community of shared future” and the Belt and Road Initiative. Beyond that, three points deserve special attention.

First, China’s aid spending remains modest and its pattern has been evolving. The paper reveals that China invested 270.2 billion renminbi (RMB) in aid programs from 2013 to 2018. Although no detailed spending data is provided, a simple calculation suggests that China’s aid averaged around $7 billion per year (6.5 RMB roughly equals 1 U.S. dollar) during that period. That number would make China the seventh-largest sovereign donor after the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, France, and Turkey – but it equates to only around one-fifth of U.S. aid, which totaled $346 billion in 2019.

China Won’t Rush to Join CPTPP. Neither Should the US.

By Alex Yu-Ting Lin and Saori N. Katada

The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in November 2020 has renewed concerns about U.S. absence in Asia. China’s expressed interest in joining the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), just days after RCEP’s conclusion, only exacerbated these concerns. In response, there are many vocal calls urging the incoming Biden administration to act swiftly and decisively by rejoining the CPTPP. This response is natural, but premature, as it assumes that China’s interest in the CPTPP is largely to undermine U.S. influence in Asia.

Yet China’s expressed interest in the CPTPP is neither new nor necessarily driven by geopolitical competition imperatives. Instead, it reflects a longstanding strategy since the early 2010s wherein Chinese leaders praise the CPTPP (and its predecessor) and announce their interest in joining to facilitate domestic economic reforms.

If the United States prematurely announces its intention to rejoin the CPTPP, but later becomes hampered by domestic anti-globalization sentiments, that will be even more harmful to U.S. credibility in Asia. A more patient strategy in which the U.S. first addresses its own domestic challenges and allows China to work theirs out will be beneficial for both countries.

Continuity in China’s Policy Stance on (CP)TPP

What Has Not Changed in U.S.-China Relations

by John Cookson

In the last few years, it has become gospel in Washington that the status quo of U.S. policy toward China cannot continue—that China’s rise has reached a tipping point where the mix of containment and trade that characterized U.S. policy for decades is doomed. As a result, advocates of this view argue, a radical change toward a more aggressive stance is needed to protect U.S. interests in Asia.

Recognizing the shift in U.S. views of China is necessary. No serious policy proposal can ignore the sea change in attitudes that is already evident among U.S. policymakers, scholars, and even the general public. But recalling what has not changed—what is unlikely to change—between the two superpowers is even more important when crafting a responsible U.S. policy in East Asia.

First, neither China nor the U.S. wants to invade the other. Nuclear weapons make regime change an assured catastrophe. Nor are there any real gains to be had from invasion and occupation were it possible without nuclear annihilation. The era of extractive colonialism and overt imperialism is thankfully over.

Mutual deterrence against invasion is easy to take for granted, but it is precisely this feature that separates the current competition from earlier great-power conflicts resulting in open war. While today the U.S. and China may disagree, neither’s very existence is threatened. That fact should frame all disagreements in a less confrontational light.

How Close is Iran to a Nuclear Bomb?

Amos Yadlin, Ephraim Asculai

On January 4, 2021, Iran announced that it had begun enriching uranium to a level of 20 percent at a well-protected facility in Fordow. This level of enrichment departs completely from Iran's commitment stipulated in the agreement reached with the world powers in 2015 (JCPOA). There are two main possible reasons for this Iranian announcement. One, it is intended as a provocation, designed to exert pressure on the world powers to lift the sanctions imposed on Iran, which were renewed by the United States. Two, Iran intends to accumulate uranium enriched at a level and quantity that will reduce the breakout time that Iran needs from the moment it decides to produce a nuclear explosive device. For 12 years Iran has been at a breakout range of between several months to two years, and has not yet taken the decision to break out to the bomb. This article analyzes the processes that Iran must go through from a breakout decision until it attains a nuclear weapon, and highlights the need to examine assumptions for calculating breakout times.The agreement between Iran and the P5 +1 (United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany) from July 2015 stipulates, inter alia, that Iran is allowed to hold up to 300 kg of its self-enriched uranium at a level of 3.67 percent. The agreement also stipulates the number of centrifuges that perform the enrichment, their type, and location. At the time, President Barack Obama stated that in light of the agreement, the breakout schedule (as he defined it, for the production of enriched uranium sufficient for a first bomb) was one year, instead of a much shorter time before the agreement.

ISIS, Reborn: The Islamic State’s African Revival is a Lethal Blind Spot

by Jordan Cope

Before 9/11, many forget that Osama Bin Laden largely made a name for himself in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Sudan, he conceived his Islamic Army Shura, laying “the groundwork for a true global terrorist network” known as Al Qaeda.

There, Bin Laden largely began to call for jihad against Western forces and gained the prowess to export terrorism against American targets, hence Al Qaeda's attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, just two years after his expulsion.

History might just be repeating itself as the West forgets its lessons and again neglects Sub-Sahara’s intensifying terrorism.

The consequences could be grave. Just cue 2019, when a Kenyan Al Qaeda affiliate plotted to hijack a plane and execute a 9/11-style attack.

While the attack was foiled, its scare overshadows a troubled decade, in which Sub-Saharan Africa witnessed an unprecedented resurgence in Islamist groups, with Islamic State (ISIS) affiliates displacing millions while seeking to establish bases in six African countries, and at times, hosting territory the size of Belgium.

Report: FBI Office Warned Of ‘War’ At U.S. Capitol Despite Claim Attack Was Unknown

Jemima McEvoy

An FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit warning that extremists were planning to travel to Washington, D.C., to commit violence and “war” the day before the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to an internal report obtained by The Washington Post, directly contradicting the bureau’s previous claim that it had no intelligence to predict last Wednesday’s siege. 

FBI Norfolk reportedly warned that extremists were sharing maps of the Capitol complex’s tunnel system and arranging meet-up points for those traveling from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence,” reads a section of the report, according to the Post, which goes on to describe detailed plans for the attack: “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled.” 

American Carnage: The Familiar Fantasies Fueling Trump’s Mob Insurrection

Judah Grunstein

In the week since a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, our picture of the day’s events has come into sharper focus. With every video and eye-witness account that appears, it becomes clearer that the attempt to subvert American democracy was far more violent than it initially seemed.

But huge gaps remain in our understanding of how that violent mob managed to penetrate what should have been a heavily guarded and secure site, especially given the threats that had been circulating online about plans to do exactly that. What we learn about the security lapses from last week, and whether or not they were the product of negligence, oversight or premeditation, will go a long way to determining whether what we witnessed was a coup, as Fiona Hill argues, or an insurrection, as Naunihal Singh maintains.

I initially leaned toward Singh’s framing, but it might make more sense now to speak of a slow-motion, “hiding in plain sight” coup attempt leading up to Wednesday, in which Trump tried to enlist institutional support to hold onto power. Upon realizing that this attempted coup would fail early Wednesday, he turned as a last resort to the mob and insurrection. If that insurrection enjoyed help from any security agencies, in the form of intentional lapses at the president’s urging, that assessment would obviously change.

Biden’s Path to Winning Back Blue-Collar Workers

By Steven Greenhouse

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump promised to be the best friend American workers ever had. In his four years as President, Trump has been the opposite. He has done nothing to raise the $7.25 federal minimum wage. His Administration adopted no regulations to protect workers from the coronavirus. He rolled back an Obama-era regulation extending overtime pay to millions of American workers. He championed a $1.5 trillion tax cut that favored the rich and corporations. He broke his promise to enact a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan that would create hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs. His appointees took repeated steps to weaken labor unions. Frustrated worker advocates have compiled a list of fifty anti-worker actions the Trump Administration has taken.

Throughout the 2020 campaign, Joe Biden told Americans that he, not Trump, was the true friend of labor. Biden called the race “a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue” and promised to “be the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” He endorsed a fifteen-dollar minimum wage, twelve weeks’ paid family leave, and a robust “buy America” program, and pledged to make public universities tuition-free. But, according to exit polls, Trump beat Biden among voters without a college degree (a frequent definition of blue collar) by fifty per cent to forty-eight per cent. Among white voters without a college degree, Trump trounced Biden, winning sixty-seven per cent to thirty-two per cent. Yet, next Wednesday, Biden will take the oath of office.

It's Harder to Boot Right-Wing Extremists from Social Media Than ISIS


Experts who watched the right-wing mob attack the U.S. Capitol last week recognized a familiar pattern in the use of social media to recruit and organize; they'd seen the same thing from ISIS and other terrorist groups. They say that the kind of online measures that worked against the latter will work against the former — but at greater cost.

Studies on the effectiveness of tactics like purging and deplatforming to defeat Islamic extremism show that pushing adherents from major social-media networks limits the reach and effectiveness of propaganda and can even change the nature of the group. But right-wing content is much more technically and logistically difficult to defeat.

Extremists of all stripes tend to share certain characteristics. A 2018 report from the Jena Institute for Democracy and Civil Society found that Muslim extremism and anti-Muslim extremism in Germany mirrored each other in various ways, including recruitment, mobilization, and coordination strategies — and even ideology. Both types of extremist groups nursed perceptions of victimhood, painted the other as antagonists, and blamed cultural pluralism for the rise of their adversaries. “This becomes particularly evident in their internet propaganda on social media,” the report said.

US Declassifies Strategy, Revealing Yawning Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality

By Steven Stashwick

Ships from the Indian Navy, Royal Australian Navy, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force make their approach toward the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain while conducting replenishment-at-sea approaches as part of Malabar 2020.Credit: Flickr/U.S. Pacific Fleet

Just eight days before Joe Biden is inaugurated as president of the United States, the Trump administration declassified the strategy it purports to have followed in its policies towards Asia.

Called the “U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific,” the President’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said that the “the document is being released to communicate to the American people and to our allies and partners, the enduring commitment of the United States to keeping the Indo-Pacific region free and open long into the future.”

The timing of the release seems more likely to be intended to pressure the in-coming Biden administration to perpetuate some of the Trump White House’s policies, or to burnish the professional reputations of national security officials tainted by Trump’s behavior and scandal.

The US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific: 3 Curiosities

By Abhijnan Rej

Ships from the Royal Australian Navy, Indian Navy, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, and U.S. Navy sail in formation during Malabar 2020.

The Trump administration continues to drop diplomatic munitions on its way out. After a January 9 announcement that the United States will be lifting all “self-imposed restrictions” on engagements with Taiwan, the White House has released an important national security document it declassified on January 5 – a document that bears an original “Declassify On” date of December 31, 2042. While the act itself is extremely unusual, it fits an emerging pattern in the last days of the Trump administration in which it goes out of the way to make a point when it comes to China and Iran as key threats to the United States.

The “U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific” (SFIP), a National Security Council product, was approved in February 2018 and “provided overarching strategic guidance for implementing the 2017 National Security Strategy within the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region,” according to a statement by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien accompanying the SFIP’s public release. So, it is only natural that we compare it with the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report (IPSR) released by the Department of Defense in June 2019 to see the extent to which the two are in sync. (An expanded O’Brien statement noted that the SFIP was approved for “implementation across Executive Branch departments and agencies,” presumably including the DoD.)

The US Role in South Korea-Japan Relations: From Johnson to Biden

By Erik French, Jiyoon Kim, and Jihoon Yu

The incoming Biden administration faces the unenviable challenge of reconciling two of the United States’ critical allies in the Indo-Pacific: South Korea and Japan. As many analysts have pointed out, stronger trilateral cooperation between the U.S., South Korea, and Japan would better secure all three states’ interest in a secure, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Nevertheless, historical, territorial, political, and economic disputes continue to undermine this relationship.

Despite these challenges, history suggests that the United States can encourage stronger South Korea-Japan relations through patient diplomacy. Repeatedly, the U.S. has been able to employ its strategic weight as both states’ paramount military ally to nudge these partners toward closer alignment. Policies that reinforced the United States’ value and credibility as a partner often undergirded U.S. entreaties, inviting reciprocal South Korean and Japanese steps toward deeper trilateral cooperation.

The Johnson administration’s efforts to secure the 1965 normalization treaty between South Korea and Japan provides a case in point. In the early 1960s, the regional security environment in East Asia had deteriorated due to China’s acquisition of nuclear weaponry and the escalation of the war in Vietnam. In the face of these threats, the Johnson administration sought to forge a closer relationship between its regional allies, including Japan and South Korea, to contain communist aggression. As the South Korean and Japanese governments navigated the contentious negotiations surrounding normalization, the United States continually emphasized to both allies its interest in strengthened South Korea-Japan ties.

How Artificial Intelligence Will Change Tank Warfare

by Kris Osborn

What happens if Russia or China builds a new secret tank or heavy armored vehicle that even the most advanced U.S. databases are not able to recognize? What if a weapon attacks U.S. forces that is simply not in any known threat library? Does the U.S. military have any recourse with which to make a fast, informed, combat-sensitive decision? What kind of munition should be used to counterattack? What kind of ammunition does the new threat fire? What is its range and scope? Are there AI-enabled computer programs now equipped to confront some of these challenges likely to present problems for U.S. commanders operating long-range sensors?

The answer is: maybe. If not now, not too far away, according to Army drone and robotics requirements writers now tracking threats and technical trends in autonomy and Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

“Using AI, a small unit UAS (drone) identifies an enemy tank, asks other sensors to confirm and then reports back to a platoon leader, giving him various courses of action with which he can make a decision,” Col. Sam Edwards, Director of Robotics Requirements, Capability Development Integration Directorate, Ft. Benning, Ga., told The National Interest in an interview. 

America must bolster cybersecurity

Source Link

Cybersecurity experts are still assessing the Solar Winds hack and recent penetrations into government and corporate information systems around the world. Already, seven lessons for leaders stand out.

First, this issue is mostly about Russia. While the United States has played up the China espionage threat in recent years, the sobering reality is that Russia has conducted the gravest cyberattacks against the United States. These have included espionage, criminal actions, and political subversion, in addition to signaling capacity to infiltrate and inflict harm for deterrent purposes. China certainly raises serious concerns, but Russia is far more aggressive in what it dares do against the United States.

Second, American cybersecurity vulnerability is permanent, as no matter how much the United States has tried, the level of its digital dependence, pace of technology innovation, number of networked players, and human frailties, combined with a business culture that rewards greater efficiency, virtually ensures that it will never haec total robustness. Natural disasters, human errors, technical failures, criminal actions, and hostile operations will continue to buffet the American digital infrastructure.

Security Think Tank: Time for security teams to learn from Covid

By Elliot Rose and Cate Pye

In the future, organisations will need to become more adaptive and not just survive but thrive in the increasingly fast-paced digital world. They will need to build a culture of experimentation and empower the workforce to be innovative and agile in their thinking.

This needs to be underpinned by a balanced-trust approach to cyber security that means you can build good cyber security into your culture and trust your citizens who take pride in the fact that their organisation looks after information, supported by processes that encourage compliance so that it is easier to do the right thing, and backed up by monitoring those things that are genuinely important and impact the “crown jewels”, using artificial intelligence (AI) to track anomalies and data to “nudge” behaviours in the right direction. 

Good cyber hygiene needs to become second nature and the healthy scepticism of a zero-trust approach must be embedded in the mindset of the whole workforce.

Covid-19 has taught us several things: that the world can change in weeks; that we can survive that change; and that adaptive organisations can thrive through that change by using innovative technology underpinned by good cyber security and digital trust. There are a number of key success criteria to achieving this new way of working.

The Death of Critical Thinking in the Military? Here’s How to Fix It.

By Steve Ferenzi

Traditional American military culture diametrically opposes divergent thought. Despite assertions that the United States must compete in the “most complex and volatile” security environment in recent memory, the military largely handicaps its own mental approach to victory. Being able to actually compete and win requires the military to elevate critical thinking as a core competency of its profession – from top to bottom. This is especially important if we want to avoid the costs of war and instead, lead through influence and tools short of armed conflict.

The Army’s imminent closure of its University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) – the home of “Red Teaming University,” represents the ultimate irony in the Army’s efforts to maximize return on investment in a resource-constrained environment. The decision to repurpose the $2.5 million UFMCS budget – the price of about one M1 Abrams tank or a dozen AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, shows why the military ultimately requires a tectonic cultural shift to harness the power of divergent thought. Indeed, this is just one of many examples of a troubling trend that biases hardware over human capital.

The military is an institution predisposed towards reductionist, ethnocentric frames, coupled with leaders that often prefer “yes men.” It needs a balancing element to challenge biases, counter groupthink, and explore alternatives in support of U.S. interests. “Red teaming” served as a stopgap measure, offering the potential to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency by integrating such capabilities. However, the military must go beyond an additional skill identifier, especially now that red teaming is terminated.
Complexity and Critical Thinking 

Militaries Are Planning for an Autonomous Revolution. What if the Tech Isn’t Up to It?

By Jacob Parakilas

It’s a constant theme of defense technology coverage, including this column: autonomy will fundamentally change the dynamics of warfare. Smaller, faster computers, and the ability to split sensing and processing between different nodes, open all kinds of novel possibilities for weapons and warfare. And parallel technologies like more efficient batteries and smaller, more effective sensors make it possible to endow ever smaller and cheaper systems with the ability to navigate the world and act within it.

And yet, true autonomy remains an extremely hard problem. Machines are much better than humans at certain subsets of tasks: storing large amounts of information, for instance, or accessing specific parts of those memories on command and pattern-matching. But the nimbleness of human minds and their facility with problem-solving have yet to be duplicated in artificial form. And that doesn’t account for the security elements; an autonomous system is inherently no safer from infiltration or sabotage than our notably insecure existing computer systems.

Self-driving cars offer a taste of the difficulties involved. For the past two decades, they have been hailed as the next big thing in urban design, personal mobility, automotive safety, and even the fight against climate change. Major tech and automotive companies have raised and spent billions of dollars on developing, testing, and refining them. And yet, in the real world, autonomous vehicles have suffered one setback after another to the point where companies which have staked their strategies – and huge amounts of financial capital – on their near-term viability are beginning to reconsider.

Army Mules: The Beast of Burden in War

by Warfare History Network

In the words of a veteran of the China-Burma-India Theater, retired Technical Sergeant Edward Rock Jr., [they] “served without a word of complaint or lack of courage. They transported artillery, ammunition, food, and medicine, and under enemy fire transported the wounded. Many of the CBI veterans are here today because a mule stopped a bullet or a piece of shrapnel meant for the GI. Mules fell in battle, mortally wounded, and we shed tears for them.”

Pack mules indeed performed yeoman service in Asia and other theaters during World War II, hauling weapons and equipment as well as saving lives by carrying wounded off the front lines. They took the same risks as their human masters and too often they paid the ultimate price. A report on April 4, 1944, from one of the units of Merrill’s Marauders described their sacrifice in detail: Japanese artillery fire had killed or wounded most of the unit’s mules. The stench of the dead animals was so intense that the troops would not put the wounded ones out of their misery for fear of increasing it. The remaining animals also blocked enemy fire with their very bodies, one mule having 26 holes from a Japanese machine gun.

Great Power Conflict Won’t Resemble World War II-Style Warfare

by Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need to Remember: Army leaders currently developing next-generation tanks, infantry carriers and other armored vehicles explain that counterinsurgency remains a key part of their developmental emphasis, due in part to the reality the future war is expected to be non-linear, multi-domain and by no means clearly definable. 

As the threat of major, mechanized, great-power warfare continues to take center stage among Pentagon war planners and those tracking global threats, U.S. military leaders are making a point to explain that the threat of “irregular warfare” remains as serious as ever. 

A new Pentagon Irregular Warfare Annex report explains that great power threats not only pose major force-on-force threat possibilities but also have a history of engaging in unconventional war tactics

“China, Russia, and Iran are willing practitioners of campaigns of disinformation, deception, sabotage, and economic coercion, as well as proxy, guerrilla, and covert operations. This increasingly complex security environment suggests the need for a revised understanding of [information warfare] to account for its role as a component of great power competition,” an unclassified summary of the report states. 

Fire! Drones are Front and Center to Future Army War Plans

by Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need to Remember: The ability for a ground robot vehicle to share surveillance, targeting and force-position data with an aerial drone brings new tactical dimensions to ground warfare. Of course it increases stand-off range for human soldiers operating in a command and control capacity, but also expands the scope of the battlefield, something the Army expects will greatly impact the future of warfare.

The Army’s use of manned-unmanned teaming, wherein human operators control air and ground robotic vehicles to conduct reconnaissance, carry supplies or even launch attacks has long been underway. This developmental trajectory is demonstrated by the Army’s most recent successes with unmanned-unmanned teaming. 

Progress with drone to drone connectivity, from ground to ground and ground to air is fast gaining momentum following successful recent experiments where the Army passed key targeting data from larger drones to smaller mini-drones in the air. This happened in September at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., during the Army’s Project Convergence experiment, wherein the ability to massively shorten sensor-to-shooter time and network time-sensitive combat information was demonstrated between drones. 

16 January 2021

After the foundational agreements: An agenda for US-India defense and security cooperation

Joshua T. White

The U.S.-India defense and security relationship has continued to deepen, aided by robust political commitments in both countries and converging concern about growing Chinese assertiveness across the Indo-Pacific. The United States and India have expanded their defense activities and consultations, and recently concluded two additional so-called “foundational defense agreements,” capping off a nearly two-decade effort by U.S. policymakers to formalize the legal sinews of operational defense cooperation. This positive trajectory is, however, by no means guaranteed to continue apace. There are rising concerns in the United States about India’s fiscal limitations, its ties with Russia, its ponderous response to a pattern of Chinese provocations on its border, and its drift toward illiberal majoritarian politics. In addition, the Biden administration will likely seek, for good reason, to rebalance the bilateral relationship away from a disproportionate focus on security issues in order to address a wider array of topics including global health, energy and climate change, and technology cooperation.

In light of these dynamics, this paper presents a practical agenda for the next phase of the U.S.-India defense and security relationship — one that builds incrementally on the progress that has been made, responds to the changing regional security environment, and accounts for both governments’ political and capacity constraints. It begins by arguing that the United States can do more to articulate its key priorities in engaging India on security issues: first, supporting India’s rise as a constructive global leader and counterweight to Chinese influence; second, limiting China’s ability to coerce India and other states in South Asia; and third, mitigating the risks, and enabling de-escalation, of inevitable India-Pakistan and India-China crises. It also makes a case for charting reasonably ambitious defense and security goals and avoiding crude conditionalities that would likely prove counterproductive.

Pakistan Continues to Sacrifice Shia Hazaras to Safeguard Jihadist ‘Assets’

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on January 10 claimed that India is backing the Islamic State (IS) and facilitating attacks in the country. Khan’s statement came a week after 11 Shia Hazara coal miners were brutally massacred by IS affiliated militants. In the interim, the Pakistani premier labeled the mourning families as “blackmailers” for refusing to bury their dead until Khan visits them to hear their demands for justice and security.

Protesting with unburied coffins has become a means of expressing outrage against the state for the Shia Hazaras, thousands of whom have been targeted and killed since the turn of the century. The Hazaras, rooted in Uzbek-Turkic ancestry with a vast majority adhering to the Twelver Shia sect of Islam, have been victims of ethnic cleansing and pogroms in the region for almost two centuries, since they were recruited in the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842).

From being shunned by Mughals to being expelled at the turn of the 20th century by Afghan Emir Shah Abdur Rehman Khan from Hazarajat and the former Kafiristan, many Hazaras found refuge in the Balochistan province along the western front of what eventually became the state of Pakistan.

Afghan Shiite Leader in Pakistan After Killings of Miners

By Kathy Gannon

An influential Afghan Shiite leader is visiting Pakistan where members of the minority sect are still reeling from the brutal killing of 11 Shiite coal miners, nine of whom were Afghan immigrants, earlier this month.

The miners, who were abducted and killed by militants from the Islamic State group in southwestern Balochistan province, were members of the minority Hazara group. They were buried on Saturday, following a week of protests in Pakistan that sought to highlight the community’s plight.

The visiting Afghan leader, Karim Khalili, is also an ethnic Hazara. Members of the mostly Shiite community live in both Pakistan and Afghanistan and have suffered persecution from the majority Sunni Muslims in both countries.

The Sunni militant Islamic State group, which is headquartered in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan, as well as Pakistani Sunni militant groups have repeatedly targeted Shiites. 

How Asia can boost growth through technological leapfrogging

By Oliver Tonby, Jonathan Woetzel, Noshir Kaka, Wonsik Choi, Anand Swaminathan

Asia’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was partly enabled by technological foundations developed long before the crisis. Over the past decade, the region has developed and deepened its technological capabilities and infrastructure rapidly, accounting for a large share of global growth in technology company revenue start-up funding, spending on R&D, and patents filed.

There is more to come, given the potential to leapfrog in the region’s technological development based on the scale of markets and investment and the speed of adoption and intellectual property (IP) creation. However, tariff and data flow barriers, standards, export controls, and research barriers pose new risks. Moreover, Asia still needs to overcome gaps in core capabilities.

This paper is part of a series focused on the Future of Asia. This research focuses on Asian economies, describing growth in major technological indicators, exploring characteristics of growth in technological capabilities, and homing in on four major sector opportunities—with challenges in each—where Asia has significant scope for technological leapfrogging.

Winter Energy Woes Bedevil Central Asia

By Catherine Putz

As the new year was just beginning, the lights went dark in Kabul. Afghan media reported last week that in one 24 hour period late in the week, the Afghan capital had just 20 minutes of electricity after a technical problem stopped incoming supplies from Uzbekistan.

Afghanistan’s government-owned electric utility company Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) reportedly pays $100 million annually to Uzbekistan for electricity. Early last fall, the two countries signed a new 10-year electricity supply contract.

Per TOLO News’ reporting on January 6, “Afghanistan presently imports 450 megawatts of power from Uzbekistan. With the cut from Uzbekistan, now the government has only the capacity to provide 160 megawatt from domestic sources.”

Supplies from Uzbekistan were partially restored to 300 MW by January 10 and 400 MW by January 12 but criticism lingers that the country, which spends an estimated $300 million annually for imported electricity, has neglected to invest in building its own domestic capacities.

Reskilling China: Transforming the world’s largest workforce into lifelong learners

By Jonathan Woetzel, Jeongmin Seong, Nick Leung, Joe Ngai, Li-Kai Chen, Vera Tang

After decades of reform, China today has an education system that serves the industrial economy well although gaps in access, quality, and relevance in education still need to be plugged. However, there is now an even larger challenge to meet: delivering the skills needed for a modern, digital, postindustrial economy, while instilling a new national ethos of lifelong learning, and ensuring that the system is equitable. Nothing less than a transformation of China’s education and skills-development system appears necessary. China has undertaken transformative reform before; it now needs to do so again.

Around the world, work is changing as digitization and automation spread, and many millions of people will need to raise and refresh their skills, and some to change occupations. Because of China’s sheer scale, an estimated up to one-third of the global occupational transitions needed for the future of work may be in China. If China gets this right, best practices and models could offer a helpful reference point to other economies.

In this report, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) assesses China’s education and training system today with an economic lens and a particular focus on the development of skills. Based on an extensive survey of best practice in China and around the world, the research finds that various pilot programs that use four levers could kick-start a systemic transformation.

What Does a New White Paper Tell Us About China’s International Aid?

By Zhang Chao and Tang Yuxuan

China’s new white paper on international development cooperation has spurred a renewed debate around the Chinese government’s aid. It’s the third such white paper that China has published on its development efforts, and the first since 2014. At around 26,000 Chinese characters, it is even longer than the previous two papers combined.

The white paper reflects some new developments in China’s aid program. For example, it echoes the new initiatives Chinese leaders proposed in the past years, including “a global community of shared future” and the Belt and Road Initiative. Beyond that, three points deserve special attention.

First, China’s aid spending remains modest and its pattern has been evolving. The paper reveals that China invested 270.2 billion renminbi (RMB) in aid programs from 2013 to 2018. Although no detailed spending data is provided, a simple calculation suggests that China’s aid averaged around $7 billion per year (6.5 RMB roughly equals 1 U.S. dollar) during that period. That number would make China the seventh-largest sovereign donor after the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, France, and Turkey – but it equates to only around one-fifth of U.S. aid, which totaled $346 billion in 2019.

Does China Need More Gas From Russia and Central Asia?

By Sergei Kapitonov and Temur Umarov

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced to the UN General Assembly in September 2020 that in 40 years, China would achieve carbon neutrality. According to the road map prepared by China’s climate scientists, by 2060 the country will reduce oil consumption by 65% and natural gas consumption by 75%. Such plans jeopardize the future of large-scale gas pipeline projects to bring natural gas from Russia (Power of Siberia 2) and Central Asia (Line D) to China. Is there any sense in building pipelines if China will reduce gas consumption in 40 years?

The Chinese government is seeking to limit consumption of coal — the most polluting energy source — in line with the plan to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030. Natural gas will become a key transitional energy source in China for the next two decades, since it is considered the most ecologically friendly fossil fuel.

China is currently the world’s biggest importer of natural gas. In 2019, 68% of natural gas was delivered to China in the form of LNG, while the rest was supplied by pipelines from Central Asia, Myanmar, and Russia. Forecasts for a rise in demand for natural gas in China give Russia, Central Asian nations, and other suppliers a chance to win a larger slice of the Chinese gas pie in the medium term. Russia and Central Asia have long had their own large-scale projects in mind for this: Power of Siberia and the fourth link (Line D) of the Central Asia-China gas pipeline.

Satellite imagery shows China creating new military logistics hub in Tibet

By Rezaul H Laskar

China is working on what appears to be a major military logistics hub at Xigatse in Tibet, according to new satellite imagery. Experts believe the move is in line with Beijing’s efforts to ramp up connectivity and infrastructure for operations all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The imagery, shared on Monday by the open-source intelligence analyst who uses the name @detresfa on Twitter, shows infrastructure upgrades south of Xigatse airport that link the facility to a rail terminal. The imagery suggests the infrastructure will be part of a logistics hub for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Among the under-construction structures captured by the imagery are a surface-to-air missile site, a suspected military support building, a new railway terminal and new railway line, and a possible fuel dump. The imagery also shows what appears to be a newly developed underground facility.

Earlier, the imagery of this same suspected underground facility had captured what appeared to be two tunnel entrances.

China and India’s Stakes in the Qatar Conflict

By Guy Burton

Both India and China welcomed the outcome of last week’s Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit, where Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain promised to end their diplomatic and economic blockade of Qatar and Qatar agreed to drop pending lawsuits against them.

The reopening of borders in the Gulf may result in a resurgence in intra-regional trade, investment, and connectivity. Indian and Chinese business may similarly benefit from that development and prompt political leaders to congratulate themselves for not having taken sides in public when the conflict first erupted back in June 2017.

China’s government may also see the dispute’s resolution as vindication for its approach toward conflict management, in particular that of “peace through development.” For the Chinese this entails political mediation that is linked to economic development and connectivity through infrastructure projects associated with its Belt and Road Initiative.

What Does the EU-China Investment Deal Mean for US-EU Relations?

By Mercy A. Kuo

Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Alexander Vuving – professor at the College of Security Studies at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies and editor of “Hindsight, Insight and Foresight: Thinking about Security in the Indo-Pacific “(APCSS 2020) – is the 254th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Explain the key outcomes of the EU-China investment deal.

On the penultimate day of 2020, to fulfill a pledge they made in 2019, the top leaders of China and the European Union struck the deal, which is officially called the “Comprehensive Agreement on Investment” (CAI). It was seven years in the making with 35 rounds of negotiations, and will replace the 25 bilateral investment treaties that individual EU members signed with China before 2009. These 25 pacts secured some market access and reduced some legal uncertainty for European investors in China, but they largely accommodated China’s restrictive and highly discriminatory investment regime. Now the CAI makes a step further to broaden the access and tighten the legal framework for European investors in the Chinese market, but it falls far short of achieving a “genuine level playing field” for European businesses and workers and ensuring reciprocity in market access, a major objective set out by the European Parliament in its 2018 resolution. The CAI goes beyond market access and investment protection to include provisions on environment and labor rights protection, but with regard to forced labor and labor rights, what it has secured is just China’s promises.