18 September 2017

What the Industrial Revolution Really Tells Us About the Future of Work

By Moshe Vardi

As automation and artificial intelligence technologies improve, many people worry about the future of work. If millions of human workers no longer have jobs, the worriers ask, what will people do, how will they provide for themselves and their families, and what changes might occur (or be needed) in order for society to adjust?

Many economists say there is no need to worry. They point to how past major transformations in work tasks and labor markets – specifically the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries – did not lead to major social upheaval or widespread suffering. These economists say that when technology destroys jobs, people find other jobs. As one economist argued:

“Since the dawn of the industrial age, a recurrent fear has been that technological change will spawn mass unemployment. Neoclassical economists predicted that this would not happen, because people would find other jobs, albeit possibly after a long period of painful adjustment. By and large, that prediction has proven to be correct.”

They are definitely right about the long period of painful adjustment! The aftermath of the Industrial Revolution involved two major Communist revolutions, whose death toll approaches 100 million. The stabilizing influence of the modern social welfare state emerged only after World War II, nearly 200 years on from the 18th-century beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

The future of intelligence analysis: computers versus the human brain?


Last month in The Strategist, Mark Gilchrist put down a wager that computers will ‘be unable to provide any greater certainty than a team of well-trained and experienced analysts who understand the true difficulty of creating order from chaos’. While I commend Mark’s bravery in predicting the future with such certainty, I suspect that, in time, he’ll lose his money. I’d also argue that his zero-sum perspective sets an impossible standard for human analysts and algorithms—whether basic or self-learning. Reducing the intelligence problem down to ‘making sense of war’s inherent unpredictability’ doesn’t do this field of endeavour any justice.

Discussing ‘intelligence’ theory and practice is made all the more difficult by the absence of any universally accepted definition. Nevertheless, talking about intelligence processes and outputs without referring to any intelligence theory leads to inherently inaccurate assumptions—a point Rod Lyon and I made last year in separate Strategist posts.

I’m firmly in Mark’s camp when it comes to the importance of qualitative analysis and the analytical ability of intelligence professionals to make assessments with incomplete datasets. But to do that work, intelligence analysts must have a clear understanding of the epistemological construction for their analysis: they must know what it means to know. Good intelligence tradecraft involves employing a range of analytical techniques to ensure that the validity and reliability of different assessments and explanations are tested.

Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2017

Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris

The authors estimate that as of mid-2017, there are nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, located at some 107 sites in 14 countries. Roughly, 9400 of these weapons are in military arsenals; the remaining weapons are retired and awaiting dismantlement. Nearly 4000 are operationally available, and some 1800 are on high alert and ready for use on short notice. This article reviews the locations of nuclear weapons in all nine nuclear-armed states, as well as those of US weapons deployed outside the United States. 

As of mid-2017, we estimate that there are nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons located at some 107 sites in 14 countries. Roughly, 9400 of these weapons are in military arsenals; the remaining weapons are retired and awaiting dismantlement. Approximately 4150 are operationally available, and some 1800 are on high alert and ready for use on short notice.

By far, the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons reside in Russia and the United States, which possess 93 percent of the total global inventory (Kristensen and Norris 2013Kristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2013. “Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 1945-2013.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 69: 75–81. doi:10.1177/0096340213501363.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). In addition to the seven other countries with nuclear weapon stockpiles (Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and

DoD suggests changing promotion boards to keep talent

By Scott Maucione

The Defense Department wants Congress to change the law regarding one of the most controversial parts of the military’s “up or out” system.

A Sept. 11 DoD legislative proposal asks Congress to allow officers to opt-out of promotion board consideration upon request if it is deemed beneficial to the military.

The idea is something brought up in the past by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter as part of the Force of the Future initiative, which expanded maternity leave for service members and lengthened child care hours, among other things.

Some parts of that initiative were slammed by Republicans as solutions in search of a problem; however other pieces seem to have a more ubiquitous appeal as shown by current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ willingness to introduce the ideas to Congress.

“In an effort to import talent development and management within the department, this proposal will ensure that officers, with the approval of the secretary concerned, are given the flexibility to explore educational and other career broadening opportunities, without being penalized for not meeting the promotion eligibility criteria in the usual time allotted,” the proposal stated.

Swiss defense ministry foils cyber attack


ZURICH, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Switzerland’s defence ministry has foiled a cyber attack by malware similar to that used in other global hacking campaigns, the government said in a statement on Friday.

The attack was detected in July by software that operated much like the Turla malware family, it said.

The government declined to give information about the origin of the attack or say if any damage including data theft had occurred. It cited security considerations.

Government specialists took counter measures and an investigation is underway, while criminal charges have been lodged with federal prosecutors against persons unknown to them.

The Turla spyware was detected in 2014 and suspected of infecting hundreds of government computers and military targets across Europe and the Middle East.

Several security researchers and Western intelligence officers say they believe the malware in those attacks was the work of the Russian government.

Cyber Warriors and Cyber Spies Struggle to Strike Balance


NED CARMODY

On May 2, 2011 the agonizing, decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden finally ended. The raid by U.S. Navy seals on the walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was the culmination of years of intelligence gathering.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA stepped up efforts begun years earlier to gather information on al Qaeda’s major players as well as its foot soldiers and couriers. Reports began filtering in about a courier particularly close to bin Laden who operated under the pseudonym of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Sometimes what was not said was as useful as what was. In the “wilderness of mirrors” that is the world of intelligence, when detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed initially denied knowing al-Kuwaiti, it only raised suspicions that al-Kuwaiti was an important figure in the al Qaeda organization.

Slowly but relentlessly, snippets of additional information began to accumulate. In 2005, the CIA finally discovered the courier’s family name but still could not locate him. NSA began intercepting telephone calls and emails from al-Kuwaiti’s family in the Middle East to individuals in Pakistan. In 2009, armed with a general area in which to search, officers of the intelligence arm of the Pakistan military, the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), spotted al-Kuwaiti driving a vehicle in the northern Pakistan city of Peshawar. A year later, al-Kuwaiti unknowingly led the Pakistan officers to a large, secluded and secure compound in Abbottabad.

U.S. ‘incredibly lucky’ to have avoided cyber calamity this long


Several nations around the globe are capable of launching catastrophic cyberattacks but have refrained from doing so because it would be perceived as an act of war, a veteran security expert said Wednesday.

“We’ve been incredibly lucky but I do believe that things may change,” Charles Carmakal, vice president of Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm owned by FireEye of Milpitas, California, said at a forum Wednesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats opened the 8th Annual Billington Cybersecurity Summit with a warning that digital threats to the United States are mounting.

“We have not experienced — yet — a catastrophic attack. But I think everyone in this room is aware of the ever-growing threat to our national security,” Coats said, adding that attacks on electrical grids and other utilities are a rising concern.

“It doesn’t take much effort to imagine the consequences of an attack that knocks out power in Boston in February or power in Phoenix in July,” Coats said.

Coats said he was about to head over to the White House to offer President Donald Trump his daily presidential brief on intelligence matters.

The View From Olympus: A 4GW Opportunity for the National Guard



We are accustomed to thinking of the reserve and National Guard as back-ups for the regular armed forces. In Fourth Generation war, those roles reverse: the regulars are back-ups to the home guard. Why? Because in a contest for legitimacy on a country’s own soil, the home guard is made up of local people, while active duty forces can seem like invaders. More, the home guard’s usual function is to help people in times of disaster, so citizens see the guard through that lens. Who is not going to welcome a couple of guys in uniform who show up at their flooded house to take them to safety?

We have seen this at play out in the flooding in and around Houston. But we have also seen something that is in some ways more interesting, and that also offers the National Guard an opportunity to strengthen its legitimacy. Many of the rescues and resupply missions have been carried out by ordinary citizens. Some, such as the Cajun Navy of shallow draft boats, had organized and planned beforehand to respond to flooding. Many other efforts have self-organized, as individuals with useful abilities have reached out to others, come together, and brought what they can do to Houston.

Because these volunteers get no pay, often incur major costs (including time off at work), and sometimes put their own lives on the line, their legitimacy is off the charts. If the National Guard could tap into that, it would gain legitimacy itself. In 4GW, legitimacy is the bitcoin of the realm.

Hackers Gain Direct Access To The U.S. Power Grid; ‘Resulted In Gaining Hands-On Access To Power Grid Operations – Enough Control That Hackers Could Have Induced Blackouts On American Soil At Will’ — Maybe


Hackers have gained direct access to the power grid in both the United States and Europe, according to numerous media reports on both continents. Andy Greenberg, writing in the September 6, 2017 edition of WIRED.com, warns that this latest breach of U.S. critical infrastructure is particularly worrisome, because “a series of recent hacker attacks not only compromised energy companies in the U.S. and Europe; but, also resulted in intruders gaining hands-on access to power grid operations — enough control that they could have induced blackouts on American soil — at will,” this according to a new report by the cyber security firm, Symantec. 

Symantec this week released the results of their investigation into the hacking of the U.S. and European power grids earlier this summer and found that the hacking effort was not a random, one-off event; but, was a “campaign of attacks by a group calling itself, DragonFly 2.0, which Symantec says targeted dozens of energy companies in the spring and summer of this year,” Mr. Greenberg wrote. “In more than 20 cases, Symantec says the hackers successfully gained access to the target companies’ [critical] networks. And, at a handful of U.S. power firms; and at least one company in Turkey — none of which Symantec will name — their forensic analysis found that the hackers obtained what they call operational access: control of the interfaces engineers use to send actual commands to equipment like circuit breakers, giving them the ability to stop the flow of electricity into U.S. homes and businesses,” Mr. Greenberg wrote.

17 September 2017

*** Who Will Protect the Next Olympics From North Korea?

By Austin Duckworth

In less than six months, the XXIII Olympic Winter Games will begin in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But with an increasingly militant North Korea located less than 161 kilometers (100 miles) away, legitimate concerns have arisen over the event's potential disruption. Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), recently said he was closely monitoring the situation, adding that it would be a topic of discussion at the committee's upcoming meeting in Peru. Even so, it's hard not to wonder who will bear the responsibility of ensuring the safety of athletes and spectators in Pyeongchang. The answer has been constantly evolving for over four decades.

A defining moment for the question of the sporting event's security came in 1972. During the Munich Olympics, the Palestinian terrorist group Black September took 11 Israeli coaches and athletes hostage; all of them died during a botched rescue attempt by German authorities. At the time, the committee's leaders classified the incident as an "internal problem" for the German government. The IOC, they insisted, should not get involved. Even in the aftermath of the massacre, the committee paid little attention to security because of its long-standing conviction that politics and sports don't mix. When it became apparent that the world of international sports needed to take some sort of action, the IOC made sure to place the task in someone else's hands: those of the independently run local organizing committees established for each Olympic Games.

Far From Myanmar Violence, Rohingya in Pakistan Are Seething

By MEHREEN ZAHRA-MALIK

KARACHI, Pakistan — It was happening again, but worse than ever: Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims were fleeing Myanmar while under attack by the security forces, and the deaths kept mounting.

Everybody in the vast Arkanabad slum of Karachi has family members who were affected by the government raids that started last month.

Outside Myanmar, and perhaps now Bangladesh, Pakistan is home to the highest concentration of Rohingya in the world, from a previous exodus of Rohingya in the 1970s and ’80s. A vast majority live in neighborhoods that are distressingly impoverished even by Karachi’s standards.

Now they are angry that Pakistan is not doing more to stop the killing in Myanmar, let alone improve the condition of the estimated 500,000 Rohingya who live in this country.

“The government needs to do more: Send them more aid, send them food, and break ties with Myanmar completely,” said Noor Hussain Arkani, who leads the Pakistan chapter of a charity in the Rohingya community, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization. “We need world pressure behind us to end this violence, this hell. Just issuing statements isn’t enough.”

Nuclear India: Revisiting Issues, Challenges and Threats


The International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP) at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), in collaboration with the Department of International Studies and History, Christ University, organised a workshop titled “Nuclear India: Revisiting issues, challenges and threats” on 24 August 2017. The introductory notes by Air Marshal Vinod Patney and Professor Rajaram Nagappa focused on the importance of understanding the issues and challenges faced by a nuclear India. The first session was led by Air Marshal (Retd) Vinod Patney, currently the Director of Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), New Delhi. This session focused upon the topic “Why did India go nuclear and What is India’s Nuclear Doctrine”. He successfully traced down the history from 1945 till 1998. The dynamics within the political structure and the threats from India’s neighbors were discussed upon. He gave brief explanations on the peaceful nuclear explosion by India in 1974 and 1998. Furthermore, India’s Nuclear Doctrine and its two major principles, Credible Minimum Deterrence and No First Use Policy, were elaborated upon.

The bureaucracy is ailing

Jawhar Sircar

There is no point in denying that the Indian bureaucracy is one of the worst in the world and is widely notorious for its labyrinthine rules and genetic negativity. India is also among the most corrupt nations; surely a large part of the bureaucracy must have either connived in it or abdicated its tasks. On the Corruption Perceptions Index, India's rank is 79th, which is rather shameful, while, where 'the ease of doing business' is concerned, we have moved just a couple of notches but are still below 129 other nations. What amazes us, however, is that even so, several lakhs of young and not-so-young aspirants spend months and years to prepare and appear for the prestigious civil services examinations. They include a large number from the Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management, medical colleges and rank-holders of Indian and foreign universities - for a job where they would earn a pittance. It is certainly not true that they enter the services to be a party to corruption, except for a very small section, and to most 'public service' is better than enriching a merchant. It confers greater responsibility and social prestige. In spite of such 'good boys' heading administration, India's ranking is 168th in the world where literacy rate in concerned; 131st in the Human Development Index while in the Global Hunger Index we are below 96 nations.

Air Forces of Pakistan, China Begin 'Shaheen VI' Exercises

By Ankit Panda

The two countries held the sixth iteration of their major air force exercises, which first began in 2011.

Last week, the Pakistan Air Force and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Air Force (PLAAF) began joint training exercises dubbed “Shaheen VI” in China.

The exercises began on Thursday and will run until September 27.

According to Xinhua, China’s state news agency, a spokesperson for the PLAAF noted that China had sent a wide range of aerial assets and troops, including Shenyang J-11 twin-engine multirole fighters, Xian JH-7 fighter-bombers, KJ-200 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, and surface-to-air missile crews and radar operators.

Xinhua added that Pakistan had sent an undisclosed number of JF-17 Thunder fighters and its own early warning aircraft—likely Pakistan’s Shaanxi ZDK-03 K. Eagle or Saab 200 Erieye—to the exercises.

The JF-17 Thunder (known also as the FC-1 Xiaolong) single-engine, lightweight, multi-role fighter was co-developed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry group. The Pakistan Air Force is the only current operator of the aircraft.

Apple, the iPhone, and the Future of the Chinese Economy

By Salvatore Babones

The iPhone 8, expected to be launched on September 12, is already an online media sensation. And with good reason. The release of each new iPhone is a technological shock that has the capacity to reconfigure a large chunk of the global economy. Other new products offer incremental improvements that over time can have a cumulative effect on economic structure. But a new iPhone isn’t so much a new device as a new ecosystem. Each new iPhone opens up technological niches that are then exploited by thousands of other companies, from giants such as Facebook to small developers of all kinds of gadgets and apps.

Its repeat record of industrial renewal has made Apple the most profitable company in the world. It has also created a new economic system that spans the Pacific region, from California in the east to Sichuan in the west and everywhere in between. This system might be called the i-economy, since it depends so heavily on the iPhone and the technological ecosystem it supports.

The Pacific i-economy is centered on smartphones, but its reach is much broader. It takes in a host of related industries that depend on the smartphone ecosystem for their very survival. The i-economy includes apps, but it also directly sustains Hollywood, popular music, electronic gaming, electronic publishing, Internet search, ride-hailing services, food delivery services, photography, and financial technologies. All of these industries are or are in the process of becoming mobile based.

Can North Korea Drag the U.S. and China Into War?


Amid the exchange of threats between North Korea and the United States, ongoing North Korean nuclear and missile tests, and U.S. talk of “all options,” there is growing concern about the real possibility of war with North Korea. What many have not yet reckoned with is an even darker specter. Could events now cascading on the Korean Peninsula drag the U.S. and China into a great-power war?

The good news is that no one in a position of responsibility in either the U.S. or Chinese government wants a military conflict. Everyone knows that war between the world’s two largest economies would be catastrophic. This leads many observers to conclude that war between the U.S. and China is inconceivable.

But when we say that something is inconceivable, we should remind ourselves that this is a claim about what we can conceive—not about what is possible in the world. To stretch our imaginations, we need look no further than history.

While history never repeats itself, as Mark Twain observed, it does sometimes rhyme. So we should ask: What past events resemble the current predicament posed by North Korea’s nuclear advance, and how can they provide perspective on what we are now seeing—or even clues to what may happen?

China and India: The Roots of Hostility

By Mohan Malik

Up until the “disengagement agreement” of August 28 which led to withdrawal of Indian troops and an end to Chinese road construction in the disputed Doklam (Donglang in Chinese) plateau at the China-Bhutan-India tri-junction, China’s official media and spokespersons had unleashed a daily barrage of vitriol and warnings of an imminent “short and swift war” to teach India a “bitter lesson” and inflict “greater losses” than the Sino-Indian War of 1962.

Contending that Doklam was “Chinese territory,” Beijing’s media, along with its foreign affairs and defense spokespersons, demanded India’s unconditional withdrawal. New Delhi was adamant that road building was in violation of several bilateral agreements (agreements in 1988, 1998, and 2012 specifically) with Bhutan and India. To independent observers, Beijing’s behavior in the Himalayas seemed consistent with its incremental expansion of strategic frontiers by drawing new lines around China’s periphery in the land, air, water, sand, and snow. Troop mobilization along their disputed frontiers saw tempers running high, and for the first time since the 1987 Sumdorong Chu valley face-off, violent clashes occurred in the Ladakh sector. The confrontation was the worst in decades between Asia’s old rivals.

Thanks to a negotiated settlement on the eve of the BRICS Summit in China, the two-month Doklam standoff has ended in such a fashion as to allow the media in both countries to claim “victory.”

Who Benefits From China’s Belt and Road in the Arctic?

By Marc Lanteigne

The Arctic implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative merit serious consideration.

Since becoming a formal observer on the Arctic Council four years ago, China has wasted little time widening and deepening its regional credentials and diplomacy. Just before attaining observer status within the Council, government papers and studies began to habitually refer to China as a ‘near-Arctic state’, (jin beiji guojia 近北极国家), even though that state had no territory in the circumpolar north. The phrase caused some consternation among Arctic governments and other actors out of concern Beijing was seeking to ‘gate-crash’ its way into the region to benefit from the growing economic possibilities in the Arctic in the form of fossil fuels, resources and potential new shipping routes. Cognizant of this, Beijing sought to emphasize scientific diplomacy as the main driver of its polar policies, including cooperation with Arctic states as well as other non-Arctic actors in developing research projects related to local climate change and related areas.

More recently, the Chinese government became more open about expressing its interest in participating in joint economic development in the Arctic as more of the region becomes accessible due to record-breaking levels of ice erosion. With its growing economic and political power, China is in an ideal position to participate in the economic opening of the Far North, and with the ongoing development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) under President Xi Jinping, debate soon appeared to what roles the Arctic might play in the emerging trade routes. However, until the middle of this year, there had been no official connection made between the BRI and China’s Arctic economic interests, with the general view being that the opening of the Arctic to trade would be a separate, and more long-term, endeavor in comparison with the sea routes comprising China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road.’

In Persian Gulf, computer hacking now a cross-border fear

By: Jon Gambrell 

Tony Cole, Vice President of FireEye Inc., a cybersecurity firm headquartered in Milpitas, California, speaks at the FireEye Cyber Defence Live conference, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. State-sponsored hacks have become an increasing worry among countries across the Persian Gulf. They include suspected Iranian cyberattacks on Saudi Arabia to leaked emails causing consternation among nominally allied Arab nations.

From suspected Iranian cyberattacks on Saudi Arabia to leaked emails causing consternation among nominally allied Arab nations, state-sponsored hacks have become an increasing worry among countries across the Persian Gulf.

Defending against such attacks has become a major industry in Dubai, as the city-state home to the world’s tallest building and the long-haul airline Emirates increasingly bills itself as an interconnected “smart city” where robots now deliver wedding certificates.

They fear a massive attack on the scale of what Saudi Arabia suffered through in 2012 with Shamoon, a computer virus that destroyed systems of the kingdom’s state-run oil company.

“It was and still is the worst physical attack we’ve ever seen,” said Tony Cole, a vice president at FireEye Inc., a cybersecurity firm headquartered in Milpitas, California. “Destruction was what the adversary had in mind.”

How Al-Qaeda Benefits From America’s Political Divisions

BY ALI SOUFAN

If the United States wishes to defeat bin Laden's heirs and the toxic potency of their message, it needs to recommit to its most basic values. 

As someone who has dedicated years to fighting terrorism, both before and after 9/11, I find the anniversary of the attacks a moment for reflection. Amid the tragedy, 9/11 prompted heartening displays of unity. At home, left and right joined hands—literally, in the case of the members of Congress who came together to sing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps. Social cohesiveness is one of the best predictors of a society’s resilience to terrorism; and our sense of common purpose and shared values in the weeks after the attacks helped preserve our commitment to free speech and the rule of law in the face of huge pressure.

By contrast, the principal goal of terrorism is to create and capitalize on disunity within the target society. Al-Qaeda has long sought to do this with respect to the United States: In 2010, from his Abbottabad lair, Osama bin Laden studied the American people’s dissatisfaction with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, giving orders to his commanders to seek ways of exploiting the discontent. Around the same time, Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American preacher who made English-language propaganda videos for al-Qaeda, declared with evident relish that “The West will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens!”—a quote that began trending once again in the wake of President Trump’s executive orders restricting travel from Muslim countries. 

IRGC Touts Drone Strikes Against the Islamic State

By Amir Toumaj

Late last month, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) publicized its drone strikes against the Islamic State near the Iraqi border in Syria. The IRGC deployed the drones as part of its revenge campaign against the Sunni jihadists, and also to show off Iran’s growing fleet of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

In early August, the Islamic State raided an IRGC position near Jamouna, about 37 miles northeast of the US base in Tanf, Syria. The self-declared caliphate’s offensive led to the deaths of dozens of Iraqi militiamen fighting for the Seyyed al Shuhada Brigades. Several Iranian operatives embedded in the militia were killed as well.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists captured and beheaded an Iranian officer. Photos of the dead Iranian, portrayed as a “martyr” by IRGC-affiliated sites, subsequently went viral. So the IRGC and allied Shiite jihadists vowed to exact retribution.

But first, in an attempt to cover up its embarrassing loss, the IRGC peddled a conspiracy theory saying the US struck the Iranian-led forces right before the Islamic State’s assault. The conspiracy was entirely self-serving, as the IRGC did not want to admit that Baghdadi’s goons delivered a stinging blow to its forces. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, IRGC-controlled militia accuses US of strike to hide Islamic State raid near Syrian border.]

How North Korea Is Ensuring a Nuclear Arms Race in Asia

Michael Auslin

In firing yet another ballistic missile directly over Japan, the second in as many months, Kim Jong-un is trying to normalize the idea of North Korea’s strategic capability. Normally, it would seem that this latest provocation will result in an even firmer coalition of South Korea, Japan and the United States opposed to his nuclear and missile programs; even more, Kim’s brazen recklessness and increasing threat to regional stability may force China into a more serious attempt to curb him. Yet it is just as likely that Kim’s repeated flouting of international condemnation at little actual cost is serving to prove the idea of North Korea’s essential immunity from outside pressure. In reality, both of these outcomes are happening at the same time.

There is no longer any doubt that Kim is far more brazen than either his father or grandfather before him. What we will never know, however, is whether Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il would have acted the same as their descendant had they possessed the same technical capabilities. This is an important question to ask, since much official analysis of Kim’s character and motives is based on the growing conviction that he is somehow less stable, more erratic, less restrainable and more dangerous than his forbears.

BRIEFS COLUMNS THE DEAD DROP OUR EXPERTS ABOUT US FEEDBACK SPONSORSHIP PODCASTS THREAT CONFERENCE Twitter Linkedin Facebook Instagram Russia’s Looming Military Exercise: A 21st Century Trojan Horse?

CALLIE WANG

Beginning Thursday, as many as 100,000 Russian and Belarusian troops will launch major military exercises along the border of three NATO countries.

Russia’s upcoming Zapad military exercise, which will simulate a response to an attempted overthrow of the Belarusian government by an insurgency unfriendly to Russia, has European countries and the United States on edge at a time when relations between the NATO alliance and Moscow are colder than ever.

Zapad has the potential to be the country’s largest military exercise since the Cold War – despite Russian claims that only roughly 13,000 troops will participate, Western defense officials have put forward estimates closer to 100,000. Many suspect the Russians may hold multiple, smaller, simultaneous exercises as unofficial parts of Zapad, to adhere to the letter, if not the spirit, of the official 13,000 limit.

Why 13,000? According to the Vienna document, an agreement among the nations of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe of which Russia is a member, any exercise involving more than 13,000 people – including both military and support personnel – requires that outside observers be allowed to attend. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that Moscow’s offer to allow three international observers access is not sufficient.

North Korea Hackers Step Up Bitcoin Attacks

Yuji Nakamura and Sam Kim

North Korea appears to be stepping up efforts to secure bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which could be used to avoid trade restrictions including new sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council.

Hackers from Kim Jong Un’s regime are increasing their attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea and related sites, according to a new report from security researcher FireEye Inc. They also breached an English-language bitcoin news website and collected bitcoin ransom payments from global victims of the malware WannaCry, according to the researcher.

Kim’s apparent interest in cryptocurrencies comes amid rising prices and popularity. The same factors that have driven their success – lack of state control and secretiveness – would make them useful fund raising and money laundering tools for a man threatening to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. With tightening sanctions and usage of cryptocurrencies broadening, security experts say North Korea’s embrace of digital cash will only increase.

In the Pacific Theater, A Cold War Sequel


As the spotlight shines on the Asia-Pacific theater, Japan is putting aside one of its longest running disputes to revisit its relationship with Russia. For the last 70 years, the Kuril Islands have been a cornerstone of talks between Tokyo and Moscow, and a stumbling block to reconciliation. Russia's humiliating defeat in its 1904-05 war with Japan cost Moscow half the resource-rich Sakhalin Island, as well as the still-disputed Southern Kuril Islands. The territorial loss corked the Russian Navy in the Sea of Japan, limiting the fleet's access to the greater Pacific Ocean. After World War II, the Soviets took back not only Sakhalin, but also the Northern Kuril Islands. After more than a century of rivalry, the two nations have been repeatedly frustrated in their attempts to reconcile. Even now, the territorial dispute has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from declaring a formal end to their WWII conflict.

Should the World Fear Russia's Robots?

Dave Majumdar

The Russian military has deployed a special mine clearing until to Syria equipped with the Uran-6 unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). While the use of unmanned systems for clearing mines is nothing new for Western forces, it is an illustration of how the Russian military is rapidly catching up as it starts to adopt robotic systems across the board.

“The Russian military is firmly integrating unmanned ground vehicles in their operations,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the Center for Naval Analyses told The National Interest.

“Russian military leadership has been saying for years that the use of unmanned systems is key in saving soldiers lives- now, the use of Uran-6 in Syria is proof they are following through.”

The Uran-6 is the first operational UGV that Moscow has adopted for its own forces, but the Kremlin will increasingly rely on unmanned systems as time goes on.

“The Uran-6 is the first such UGV to be used by the Russians. There are other models they are working on that will assist Russian soldiers in dangerous demining missions,” Bendett said.

Donald Trump and the Art of Foreign-Policy Bluffing

Amitai Etzioni

When it comes to China and North Korea, the administration ought to try carrots before sticks.

Trump firmly believes (it is difficult to complete a sentence that starts with these words) in the value of bluffing. He embarrassed himself after bluffing that he may have tapes about his meeting with then FBI Director James Comey and when he floated firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Neither yielded an inch. The president claimed to be “100 percent willing” to testify under oath with respect to his interactions with Comey and the allegations of obstruction of justice that followed. Nobody believed these words. Indeed, we are still waiting.

As the North Korea nuclear threat is whizzing toward a point of decision, Trump needs China to take the extra step of cutting off oil supplies to Pyongyang, which could change the dynamics of this perilous situation. To spur Beijing, Trump’s most recent gambit is to announce via tweet that the United States might cut off trade with all nations that do business with North Korea, a threat widely understood as aimed at China, North Korea’s only major trading partner. However, given the size of U.S.-China trade (some $650 billion in 2016, with China as Washington’s third largest export market) and the many millions of American jobs potentially affected, it is all too obvious that Trump is not only bluffing, but is doing so incompetently.

Responding to Hurricanes While Assuming No More Wars

by Bing West

The 1938 hurricane season resulted in 700 fatalities. The lack of technology to provide early warning caused that high number. In the current cases of Texas and Florida, casualties are far less because we have early, accurate warning and have learned how to prepare. But since we cannot change nature, we cannot prevent the physical damage and so Congress appropriates vast sums—likely to exceed $150 billion—to repair.

Like hurricanes, we know with certainty that major wars recur. Yet while we are increasing funds for recovery from natural disasters, we are cutting our military budget to respond to man-made catastrophes. Human nature has no arc bending toward perfection. In the 3,000 years of recorded history, the most savage and devastating war occurred only 70 years ago. Like hurricanes, we cannot predict when or where the next war will strike. (Unlike hurricanes, some wars are averted because a potential adversary calculates we are too strong to be attacked. It is, however, impossible to prove that negative.) So, like prudent homeowners, we as a people take out insurance in the form of the Defense budget.

However, the nature of our democracy is to reduce our insurance payments when not engaged in large-scale conflict, and to surge spending only after the war has occurred. Thus, we allocated to the Defense budget 22 percent of our GDP in World War I, 41 percent in World War II, 15 percent in the Korean War and ten percent in the Vietnam War. It then declined from 6.7 percent in 1972 to 5.5 percent in 1975. At that point, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger publicly decried the trend in cuts as “deep, savage and arbitrary.” He was fired. In 1981, President Reagan proposed raising Defense from 5.1 to 5.7 percent and a majority in Congress agreed. What’s the point of all those numbers? When there is not a major war being fought, only the president has the stature and the “bully pulpit” to influence the Defense budget in Congress.

Drone Warfare: A New Way to Look at Killer Robots

By Sandra Erwin

Brewing controversies over “killer drones” are not deterring companies from designing and offering new types of unmanned weapons for which they see a demand in the market. 

The United States’ best-known unmanned weapons are remotely piloted aircraft like the Predator. The military has deployed hundreds of these systems in the U.S. war against jihadists. And the Pentagon intends to continue to invest in even more advanced unmanned aircraft for strike and surveillance missions. 

Drone manufacturers also see a wave of innovation in small, soldier-operated armed drones that would serve as aerial spies and snipers for ground forces.

“It is heartbreaking to see how many soldiers are killed in war zones like Afghanistan because they can’t get fire support quickly enough to fight back,” says Raziel “Razi” Atuar, the CEO of startup Duke Robotics.

Atuar, a veteran of the Israeli military, helped design a gun-carrying drone that he nicknamed “the future soldier.” He argues that remotely operated small drones could help reduce casualties in future conflicts.

All the Secret Weapons the U.S. Military Would Use to Crush Russia or China in a War

David Axe

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — DARPA, the Pentagon’s fringe-science organization — has begun work on a small drone that extend the range of an AIM-120 air-to-air missile.

The “Flying Missile Rail” could help U.S. Air Force and Navy fighters match and even exceed the ever-increasing range of Russian- and Chinese-made missiles. The latest AIM-120 boasts a range of around 100 miles. China has been testing a very-long-range air-combat missile that apparently can fly as far as 200 miles.

Perhaps just as importantly, program manager Jimmy Jones — and Air Force colonel — wants the robotic launcher to be cheap and easy to produce so that the military could quickly churn out hundreds of them just in time for some big shooting war.

DARPA released its request for proposals for the Flying Missile Rail in early September 2017. The agency is proposing to spend $375,000 over the next year or so developing and testing a prototype.

The Flying Missile Rail initiative is a response to the increasing cost and complexity of new warplanes. If the military can’t build a new manned fighter quickly and cheaply, maybe it can outfit existing fighters with robotic rails in order to make the fighters deadlier in combat.

Defence Reforms: Why is it Critical to Bite the Proverbial Bullet?

Vivek Chadha

On August 30, 2017, the then Defence Minister, Arun Jaitley announced a series of defence reforms which will result in the ‘redeployment and restructuring of approximately 57,000 posts of officers/JCOs/ORs and civilians.’ The reforms are aimed at ‘enhancing Combat Capability & Rebalancing Defence Expenditure of the armed forces with an aim to increase the “teeth to tail ratio”.’ Initial approval has been given for 65 of a total of 99 recommendations pertaining to the Indian Army. This will begin with the closure of 39 military farms in a time bound manner. The reforms are expected to be completed by December 31, 2019.1

The political initiative to undertake the reforms, including the initial set of measures that have been announced, is a welcome move. Both enhanced combat capability and efficiency, intended to be achieved through the ongoing reforms, are worthy objectives. This policy brief will attempt to suggest critical policy imperatives that must continue to act as guidelines for the ongoing attempt at defence reforms through the process that has been described as a major change, if it is indeed envisaged as the first such exercise after independence.

Military change is defined in a number of ways. In view of the conventional (state-on-state) and sub-conventional (counterinsurgency and terrorism) challenges faced by India, it may be best defined as “an attempt at developing a significantly more effective approach to existing or future military challenges.”2 India’s past experiences suggest that changes often witnessed in the conventional domain have been strategic, aimed at creating major shifts in the military’s approach to war fighting. These have also manifested in the organisational domain in the form of large-scale structural realignments. An example of change in the approach to war fighting was the attempt at compellence during the mid-eighties after having followed a doctrine of offensive defence in the seventies.3 More recently, the strategy of ‘Cold Start’ or ‘Limited Pre-Emptive Offensive’ also qualifies as such a change. Change in the organizational domain is best illustrated by the structural changes that took place immediately after the failure in the 1962 India-China war. Some of the major steps initiated in this regard included an increase in the size of the army from 5,50,000 to 8,25,000 as well as the raising of six mountain divisions and a new command headquarter.4 The changes based on the 1975 Krishna Rao Committee report, which led to the mechanisation of the army along with strategic reorientation, is another example that comes to mind. In the sub-conventional domain, the raising of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) is an important and relatively recent example of organisational change.

The art of public diplomacy

Ariel Bolstein 

The TLV in LDN festival, a four-day event celebrating Israeli culture in London, was a great success. The events there were designed to remind Britons of the real Israel: the vibrant and creative Israel that we experience every day, not the one conveyed through the media lens and through the biased news headlines.

Israel's public diplomacy efforts, some 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, are as just as challenging today as the diplomatic efforts undertaken by the Zionist Movement at its early stages. In fact, it may be an even more daunting task because the battlefield has changed. Today this battle involves a bizarre combination of anti-Semites, jihadis and, mainly, ignoramuses.

Ignorance has become one of the Israel-bashers' most effective tools in their bid to brainwash millions of ordinary citizens, lacking any basic knowledge of the facts about Israel or the Middle East. When the public has no knowledge or impression of something, it becomes easy to lie to them. It becomes easy to showcase the Zionist enterprise as a colonial endeavor detached from the Holy Land. It becomes easy to market Israel as the root of all evil.

How Silicon Valley is erasing your individuality

By Franklin Foer

Franklin Foer is author of “World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech,” from which this essay is adapted.

Until recently, it was easy to define our most widely known corporations. Any third-grader could describe their essence. Exxon sells gas; McDonald’s makes hamburgers; Walmart is a place to buy stuff. This is no longer so. Today’s ascendant monopolies aspire to encompass all of existence. Google derives from googol, a number (1 followed by 100 zeros) that mathematicians use as shorthand for unimaginably large quantities. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google with the mission of organizing all knowledge, but that proved too narrow. They now aim to build driverless cars, manufacture phones and conquer death. Amazon, which once called itself “the everything store,” now produces television shows, owns Whole Foods and powers the cloud. The architect of this firm, Jeff Bezos, even owns this newspaper.

Along with Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, these companies are in a race to become our “personal assistant.” They want to wake us in the morning, have their artificial intelligence software guide us through our days and never quite leave our sides. They aspire to become the repository for precious and private items, our calendars and contacts, our photos and documents. They intend for us to turn unthinkingly to them for information and entertainment while they catalogue our intentions and aversions. Google Glass and the Apple Watch prefigure the day when these companies implant their artificial intelligence in our bodies. Brin has mused, “Perhaps in the future, we can attach a little version of Google that you just plug into your brain.”

The False Prophecy of Hyperconnection How to Survive the Networked Age

By Niall Ferguson

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the world is connected as never before. Once upon a time, it was believed that there were six degrees of separation between each individual and any other person on the planet (including Kevin Bacon). For Facebook users today, the average degree of separation is 3.57. But perhaps that is not entirely a good thing. As Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, told The New York Times in May 2017, “I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that.”

Speaking at Harvard’s commencement that same month, Facebook’s chair and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, looked back on his undergraduate ambition to “connect the whole world.” “This idea was so clear to us,” he recalled, “that all people want to connect. . . . My hope was never to build a company, but to make an impact.” Zuckerberg has certainly done that, but it is doubtful that it was the impact he dreamed of in his dorm room. In his address, Zuckerberg identified a series of challenges facing his generation, among them: “tens of millions of jobs [being] replaced by automation,” inequality (“there is something wrong with our system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars in ten years while millions of students can’t afford to pay off their loans”), and “the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism, and nationalism,” which oppose “the flow of knowledge, trade, and immigration.” What he omitted to mention was the substantial contributions that his company and its peers in Silicon Valley have made to all three of these problems.

No businesses in the world are working harder to eliminate jobs such as driving a truck than the technology giants of California. No individuals exemplify the spectacular growth of the wealth of the top 0.01 percent of earners better than the masters of Silicon Valley. And no company did more—albeit unintentionally—to...