18 December 2017


                      -- Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

A succession of technologies—the Internet, the cloud, big data, robotics, machine learning, and now artificial intelligence—together powerful enough that economists agree we are in the midst of a digital economic revolution. There is less agreement on how exactly the new technologies are changing the economy and whether the changes are deep. The economy has arrived at a point where it produces enough in principle for everyone, but where the means of access to these services and products, jobs, is steadily tightening. So this new period we are entering is not so much about production anymore—how much is produced; it is about distribution—how people get a share in what is produced.

in the 1970s and ’80s, arrived integrated circuits(IC). tiny processors and memory on microchips that miniaturized and greatly speeded calculation. Engineers could use computer aided design programs, managers could track inventories in real time, and geologists could discern strata and calculate the chance of oil. The economy for the first time had serious computational assistance. Modern fast personal computation had arrived.

In the 1990s and 2000s, came the connection of digital processes. Computers got linked together into local and global networks via telephonic or fiber-optic or satellite transmission. The Internet became a commercial entity, web services emerged, and the cloud provided shared computing resources. Everything suddenly was in conversation with everything else. It’s here that the virtual economy of interconnected machines, software and processes emerges, where physical actions now could be executed digitally. And it’s also here that the age-old importance of geographical locality fades. Modern globalization had arrived and it was very much the result of connecting computers.

2010s brought us sensors. We have radar and lidar sensors, gyroscopic sensors, magnetic sensors, blood-chemistry sensors, pressure, temperature, flow, and moisture sensors, by the dozens and hundreds all meshed together into wireless networks to inform us of the presence of objects or chemicals, or of a system’s current status or position, or changes in its external conditions. It lead to the development of methods, intelligent algorithms, for recognizing things and doing something with the result. And we got computer vision, the ability for machines to recognize objects. We got natural-language processing, the ability to talk to a computer as we would to another human being. We got digital language translation, face recognition, voice recognition, inductive inference, and digital assistants. Computers could suddenly do what we thought only humans could do—association.

External Intelligence. It means the ability to make appropriate associations, or in an action domain to sense a situation and act appropriately. When intelligent algorithms help a fighter jet avoid a midair collision, they are sensing the situation, computing possible responses, selecting one, and taking appropriate avoidance action. Intelligence is no longer housed internally in the brains of human workers but has moved outward into the virtual economy, into the conversation among intelligent algorithms. It has become external. The virtual economy is not just an Internet of Things, it is a source of intelligent action—intelligence external to human workers.

This shift from internal to external intelligence is important. When the printing revolution arrived in the 15th and 16th centuries it took information housed internally in manuscripts in monasteries and made it available publicly. These greatly accelerated the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the coming of science. Printingcreated our modern world.

Now we have a second shift from internal to external, that of intelligence, and because intelligence is not just information but something more powerful—the useof information. We don’t yet know its consequences, but there is no upper limit to intelligence and thus to the new structures it will bring in the future.

How this changes business

The new intelligence capabilities like face recognition or voice verification to automate current products, services, and value chains can be used by new companies. Businesses can reach into and use a “library” or toolbox of already-created virtual structures to build new organizational models. One such structure is the blockchain, a digital system for executing and recording financial transactions; another is Bitcoin, a shared digital international currency for trading. These are not software or automated functions or smart machinery. Think of them as externally available building blocks constructed from the basic elements of intelligent algorithms and data.

The result, whether in retail banking, transport, healthcare, or the military, is that industries aren’t just becoming automated with machines replacing humans. They are using the new intelligent building blocks to re-architect the way they do things. In doing so, they will cease to exist in their current form. Some large tech companies can directly create externally intelligent systems such as autonomous air-traffic control or advanced medical diagnostics. Others can build proprietary databases and extract intelligent behavior from them. But the advantages of being large or early in the market are limited. The components of external intelligence can’t easily be owned, they tend to slide into the public domain. And data can’t easily be owned either, it can be garnered from nonproprietary sources. We will see both large tech companies and shared, free, autonomous resources in the future. And if past technology revolutions are indicative, we will see entirely new industries spring up we hadn’t even thought of.

Where does it Lead

The autonomous economy is steadily digesting the physical economy and the jobs it provides. It’s now a commonplace that we no longer have travel agents or typists in anything like the numbers before; even high-end skilled jobs such as radiologists are being replaced by algorithms that can often do the job better. Mr Watson!

Economists don’t disagree about jobs vanishing, they argue over whether these will be replaced by new jobs. Economic history tells us they will. The automobile may have wiped out blacksmiths, but it created new jobs in car manufacturing and highway construction. Freed labor resourcesalways find a replacement outlet and the digital economy will not be different.

Is It?

When automotive transport arrived, a whole group of workers—horses—were displaced, never to be employed again. They lost their jobs and vanished from the economy. Offshoring in the last few decades has eaten up physical jobs in rich countries, jobs that were not replaced. The current transfer of jobs from the physical to the virtual economy is a different sort of offshoring, not to a foreign country but to a virtual one. If we follow recent history we can’t assume these jobs will be replaced either. Technological unemployment has many forms.

John Maynard Keynes’ in his 1930 lecture, “Economic possibilities for our grandchildren predicted that in the future, around 2030, the production problem would be solved and there would be enough for everyone, but machines (robots, he thought) would cause “technological unemployment.” There would be plenty to go around, but the means of getting a share in it, jobs, might be scarce. We have reached a point where technological unemployment is becoming a reality.

The problem in this new phase is not quite jobs, it is access to what’s produced. Jobs have been the main means of access for only 200 or 300 years. We have entered a different phase for the economy, a new era where production matters less and what matters more is access to that production: distribution, in other words—who gets what and how they get it. We have entered the distributive era.

A New Distributive Era

The criteria for assessing policies will change. In the distributive economy, where jobs or access to goods are the overwhelming criteria, economic growth looks desirable as long as it creates jobs. The criteria for measuring the economy will also change. GDP and productivity apply best to the physical economy and do not count virtual advances properly.

Free-market philosophy will be more difficult to support in the new atmosphere. It is based on the popular notion that unregulated market behavior leads to economic growth. The winners need to compensate the losers. That’s distribution, and overall everyone is better off. In the United States and Britain, those who lose have rarely been compensated. In earlier times they could find different jobs. In the distributive era free-market efficiency will no longer be justifiable if it creates whole classes of people who lose.

The new era will not be an economic one but a political one. Iin the United States and Europe, workers who have steadily lost access to the economy as digital processes replace them, have a sense of things falling apart, and a quiet anger about immigration, inequality and arrogant elites.. Production, the pursuit of more goods, is an economic and engineering problem; distribution, ensuring that people have access to what’s produced, is a political problem. So until we’ve resolved access we’re in for a lengthy period of experimentation, with revamped political ideas and populist parties promising better access to the economy.

This doesn’t mean that old-fashioned socialism will come back. New political parties that offer some version of a Scandinavian solution: capitalist-guided production and government-guided attention to who gets what may emerge. Whether we manage a reasonable path forward in this new distributive era depends on how access to the economy’s output will be provided. One advantage is that virtual services are essentially free. Email costs next to nothing. What we will need is access to the remaining physical goods and personal services that aren’t digitized.

For this we will still have jobs, especially those like kindergarten teaching or social work that require human empathy. But jobs will be fewer, and work weeks shorter, and many jobs will be shared. We will almost certainly have a basic income. And we will see a great increase in paid voluntary activities like looking after the elderly or mentoring young people.

We will also need to settle a number of social questions: How will we find meaning in a society where jobs, a huge source of meaning, are scarce? How will we deal with privacy in a society where authorities and corporations can mine into our lives and finances, recognize our faces wherever we go, or track our political beliefs? And do we really want external intelligence “helping” us at every turn: learning how we think, adjusting to our actions, chauffeuring our cars, correcting us, and maybe even “nurturing” us? 


All these challenges will require adjustments. But we can take consolation that we have been in such a place before. In 1850s Britain, the industrial revolution brought massive increases in production, but these were accompanied by unspeakable social conditions, rightly called Dickensian. Children were working 12-hour shifts, people were huddled into tenements, tuberculosis was rife, and labor laws were scarce. In due time safety laws were passed, children and workers were protected, proper housing was put up, sanitation became available, and a middle class emerged. We did adjust, though it took 30 to 50 years—or a century or more. The changes didn’t issue directly from the governments of the time, they came from people, from the ideas of social reformers, doctors and nurses, lawyers and suffragists, and indignant politicians. Our new era won’t be different in this. The needed adjustments will be large and will take decades. But we will make them, we always do.

Rate of Change

However, there are skeptics who question the rate of change. 

Toffler wrote in his 1970 book, Future Shock, that the pace of change had exceeded society’s ability to adapt. “It is the disease of change.” The symptoms are everywhere. Our phones have become mini-Richter scales, registering change with every e-mail, tweet, and push notification. Emerging technologies, from bitcoin to artificial intelligence, threaten to upend the marketplace and the workplace.

The world is changing, of course. Life is change. But in many respects—economically, technologically, and politically—our age is not exactly rocketing along. Change is generally exaggerated, often by people selling stuff. Many of America’s greatest ailments stem from a lack of change. Americans are moving homes at the lowest rate since World War II. Since the early 1970s, the average worker’s wages have barely risen . Productivity has barely budged over the past decade. Technological change has become more incremental. Since 1970, progress has been markedly slower and more narrowly confined to entertainment, communication, and information technology. The difference between your car and your grandfather’s car is evolutionary. The difference between the horse and early autos is revolutionary.

Ultimately, we need better frameworks for thinking about changes, especially their significance and speed. Not all changes are important. Not all important changes are fast. Avoiding vague statements about rapid global change in favor of greater specificity would help. So would acknowledging the difficulty of constructive change, 

Where is India

When we look inwards in our country it is scary. Our education system is in bad shape, even Bill Gates says that. Our educated youth are not employable in today’s world, forget about the era of fourth industrial revolution. The sheer number of people, job seekers are humongous. Dr Arvind Gupta, erstwhile Dy NSA in his Valedictory Address in CyFy 2016 organised by ORF brought out the problems of TECHNOLOGY AND JOBS succinctly. Excerpts :

An important question to ponder over is whether new technologies will create jobs or destroy them? That is a question many are asking. In most counties, particularly the developing countries, the youth is getting restive. Not everyone is educated, not everyone is equipped for high tech jobs. The job opportunities for the young are not growing as fast as they should. This is at the root of many of the security problems like terrorism, organised crime, and migrations. Large scale displacement of populations has put in jeopardy the future of millions of children. We have to ask how ICTs can help alleviate the problem.

No doubt ICTs help create jobs. But most of these jobs require high skills. The need to create capacities and skills is becoming pressing by the day. We need to do a dispassionate and objective analysis of the relationship between technology and jobs. Technologies which increase efficiency but in the process destroy jobs do not suit the developing countries where labour is surplus. These countries need technologies which help open up new sectors of growth. In a country like India, initiatives like Digital India, aimed at enhancing the delivery of services are most suitable and will create jobs. So careful selection of technologies for economic growth and governance is important.

Technology-jobs dilemma is being faced by many countries. Even the developed countries are grappling with this conundrum. According to a study at the MIT’s Sloan School of Management, advances in computer technology including robotics and automated translation services have been the cause for sluggish employment growth in the US since 2000. The increased productivity leading to more jobs, a trend established since the end of Second World War, was reversed in 2000. It has also been observed that median incomes are falling in the United States despite the record levels of growth in productivity and innovation.

The impact of the technological revolution was also the focus at the World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos in January 2016. The Forum found that as many as 7.1 million jobs in the world’s most advanced countries could be lost by 2020 through redundancy and automation. Though these losses would be partially offset by the creation of 2 million jobs in related sectors such a media, technology and professional services, the Chairman of the Forum highlighted the need to transform future workforces to avoid talent shortages, unemployment and growing inequality.

Today’s education is not geared for the next generation jobs. According to the World Economic Forum report, around 65% of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist. Therefore, investment in suitable education and adult training programmes will be key to future employment.

I solicit your comments. Let the debate begin.


McKinsey Quarterly, October 2017

How to Survive Global Change, CSIS Analysis, December 14, 2017.

India Launches Second Ballistic Missile Sub

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The second Arihant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), the future INS Arighant(originally assumed to be named Aridhaman), was quietly launched at the Ship Building Center in Visakhapatnam in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh on November 19, India’s Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman revealed this week, according to local media reports. The launch of the Indian Navy’s second indigenously designed and built SSBN comes a little over a year after the commissioning of the lead boat of the class, the INS Arihant. The Arihant-class’ design is based on the Russian Project 971 Akula I-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN). Both the Arighant and Arihant were built with extensive Russian design and technical support.

Why India needs to protect its technology companies

Vivek Wadhwa 
India has an advantage over China: its engineers are building Silicon Valley’s most advanced technologies and leading many of its companies. And with the protectionist sentiments of the Trump administration and constant anti-immigrant rants, foreign-born people are getting a clear message: Go home; we don’t want you. This is a gift to India and China, because the immigrant exodus is boosting their innovation capabilities.

America, EU, Japan: Time to Reunite Afghanistan with Central Asia

S. Frederick Starr

Neither the five formerly Soviet states of Central Asia nor Afghanistan is happy with the current setup, and with good reason.

With respect to Afghanistan, the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea and the major international financial institutions are all caught in a time warp. Dating back a century and a half, this distortion today impedes Afghanistan’s development as a normal country. No less, it helps isolate the other countries of Central Asia from a nearby major market, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and pushes the other countries of Central Asia into a one-sided relationship with their former imperial overlord, Russia. It’s time to correct this long-standing mistake.

CPEC could develop into Pakistan’s debt trap

By Syed Hasan Javed

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani economy is going through a ‘Creative Destruction’ of sorts. Firms without value addition, global market connectivity and innovation are dying a ‘peaceful death’ or re-locating. Unemployment level remains high. The official data are not credible. There is a lack of implementation machinery for facilitating Chinese private sector’s MoUs, deals, contracts and agreements.Only big ticket projects by state-owned enterprises are being monitored by officials. The Board of Investment (BoI) mandarins lack corporate capacity, knowledge of global best practices, legal and marketing professionalism and have only English-speaking and may be some drafting skills.

Two Years Likely Too Fast to “Win” in Afghanistan


America’s plan of attack in Afghanistan has evolved significantly, since President Donald Trump announced his new strategyfor confronting the Taliban-led insurgency and the Islamic State’s inroads in Afghanistan – but the poor state of the Afghan troops, and the inability of the Afghan government to care for all its people are just two of the red flags warning of a long fight to come.

One Belt, One Road, and One Big Competition

By Jacob Mardell

It’s not just China; the race to build Eurasian infrastructure has many players. 

The 21st century version of “the Great Game” is being played out across Eurasia. This time, it is about building bridges rather than occupying territory.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is the headline act, but building infrastructure in Eurasia is not a purely Chinese-led endeavor. The connection of the supercontinent is an international effort, carried out by a variety of actors, big and small. Along with China, Japan also has an infrastructure initiative; so do Russia, India, and Turkey. Even smaller international players like Kazakhstan have their own characteristic infrastructure plans. Building railroads is clearly in vogue, and infrastructure projects are fast becoming like beer brands and national airlines – every self respecting country needs at least one.

The Human Factor in the 'Unmanned' Systems of the People's Liberation Army

By Elsa B. Kania

This essay is part of the #WarBots series, which asked a group of academics and national security professionals to provide their thoughts on the confluence of automation and unmanned technologies and their impact in the conduct of war. We hope this launches a debate that may one day shape policy. Even as the character of conflict is transformed by the advent of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) on the battlefield, the human factor is no less important in this machine age of warfare. However, the typical terminological characterization of military drones as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) reflects a tendency to neglect those responsible for the operation of these uninhabited systems.[1] Ironically, the use of highly automated weapons and most larger UAVs, such as the Predator, often require the involvement of more humans than the typical manned aircraft. 

China Pivots Westward by Rekindling the Silk Road Linkage

Lars Erslev Andersen, Anoush Ehteshami, Mamtimyn Sunuodula Yang Jiang
Report from the DIIS-Durham University Conference ‘One Belt, One Road and China’s Westward Pivot’ links China’s contemporary geopolitical and economic ambitions of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative with the country’s historical, cultural and lingual heritages of the ancient Silk Road. By bringing together a distinguished group of international experts, the conference examines the OBOR and the Silk Road from an interdisciplinary perspective and multiple viewpoints, including international relations, political economy, China’s development politics, archaeological and historical evidence, and transcultural flows. In particular, the conference aims to address the following key questions: What are China’s objectives in launching OBOR and how is OBOR seen from Central and Western Asian perspectives? To what extent the historical memory and cultural identities define the success or failure of OBOR and China’s other initiatives in Central and Western Asia? How does the current discourse about the historic Silk Road link with ‘One Belt One Road’? How does the Chinese model of development and modernisation sit with its vision for projection of power and alleged ‘exporting’ of the Chinese model to Eurasia? In what ways, economic interdependence and trade links promote or hinder peace and security in China and Eurasia region? 

Will A Political Settlement In Syria Go Through Moscow? – Analysis

By Vincent Lofaso

A surprise visit by President Vladimir Putin to Russian operated Khmeimim Airbase in Latakia marked the completion of the two-year military campaign to defeat DAESH in Syria. The Russian President addressed that Moscow and Damascus have accomplished their mission to defeat DAESH, and conditions for a political settlement under the direction of the United Nations are now favorable. The delegation representing the Syrian government rejoined UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva on Sunday, and the delegation walked out a week ago due to the opposition rejecting any future role for President Bashar Al Assad in Syria. Negotiations are now focused on a resolution unanimously approved by the UN Security Council calling for a transitional government and elections.

Gulf Security: Looking Beyond the Gulf Cooperation Council

By Anthony Cordesman

The 38th summit meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was held in Kuwait on December 5, 2017. The meeting's impact can politely be described as the "sound of one hand clapping." More realistically, it can be described as the sound of several clenched fists. It had to be cut from a two-day session to a one-day session because of the feuding between Qatar and a hostile mix of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

The Return of Global Russia: An Analytical Framework


Summary: Russia has employed a range of policy tools in recent years to undermine elements of the U.S.-led international order and expand Moscow’s influence on the global stage.

Since 2012, Russia has been conducting a sophisticated, well-resourced, and, thus far, successful campaign to expand its global influence at the expense of the United States and other Western countries. Moscow has pursued a host of objectives, such as tarnishing democracy and undermining the U.S.-led liberal international order, especially in places of traditional U.S. influence; dividing Western political and security institutions; demonstrating Russia’s return as a global superpower; bolstering Vladimir Putin’s domestic legitimacy; and promoting Russian commercial, military, and energy interests.

Putin: The one-man show the West doesn’t understand

Fiona Hill

The West is at an inflection point in its relations with Russia; the stakes for having an accurate understanding of its president, Vladimir Putin, have never been higher. A misreading of this man – now one of the most consequential international political figures and challengers to the US-led world order since the end of the Cold War – could have catastrophic consequences. Russia’s 8,000 nuclear weapons (and the vehicles to deliver them to any point on the globe) underscore the huge risks of not understanding who Putin is, what he wants, how he thinks, and why. Where do his ideas and conceptions come from? How does Putin look at the outside world? Why did he annex Crimea in 2014 and intervene in Syria in 2015? What does he know about the West? What does he think about the United States? These are all critical questions. 

What on Earth Is Going on in Ukraine?


On December 7, Ukraine’s parliament is likely to dismiss the head of Ukraine’s only independent anticorruption body, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU). Established in 2015 to target high-level crimes committed by the country’s corrupt political class, NABU has demonstrated a high level of independence led by its director Artem Sytnyk. It has not hesitated to target senior officials, judges, and state enterprise managers who previously possessed de-facto immunity from prosecution.

Grand Strategy Is Overrated


In the next few days, the Trump administration is likely to release its first National Security Strategy (NSS) document. Even before the document is published, however, some grand strategy scholars have warned that the NSS will most likely fail to provide a long-term grand strategic design that the current president would be willing and able to follow. For example, Rebecca Lissner and Micah Zenko deplore what they perceive as the “short-term focus” of the administration as opposed to “long-term strategic foresight,” and trenchantly warn that “In resisting the careful patience required to develop and execute a purposive course of action over time, the administration’s method of policymaking is explicitly anti-strategic.” But should we really judge the NSS by whether it articulates a coherent and farsighted grand strategy, and the Trump administration by how closely it will implement such a plan?

Could Russia and Japan Finally Settle Their Island Dispute?

Dave Majumdar

Russia and Japan are moving towards a rapprochement after a long period of mutual antipathy. In recent days, Moscow and Tokyo have started to discuss increased cooperation in the naval arena. And, in time, there could be a settlement between the two powers over the Kuril Islands, which came under Soviet jurisdiction after the end of the Second World War, but which Japan wants returned. “The countries are ready to enhance cooperation between defense departments on the basis of high-level agreements reached over the last year,” Russia’s chief of the general staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov said during his visit to Tokyo to meet his Japanese counterpart Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano.

Global Conflicts to Watch in 2018


As conflicts ignite and burn and flicker out around the world, U.S. officials assess the dangers they represent back home. Not all of these conflicts directly threaten American interests, which is why the Council on Foreign Relations conducts an annual survey to help U.S. leaders prioritize threats in the year ahead. For the past decade, this survey has focused on the risks posed to America by foreign actors. Now it’s reckoning with the risks America poses to the world—and to itself.



“Habibi! Aluminium!”

The call echoes through the courtyard of a trash-strewn home in Tal Afar, a remote outpost in northern Iraq. It is late September and still hot, the kind of heat that seems to come from all sides, even radiate up from the ground, and the city is empty except for feral dogs and young men with guns. “Habibi!” Damien Spleeters shouts again, using the casual Arabic term of endearment to call out for Haider al-Hakim, his Iraqi translator and partner on the ground.

Congress Weighs Threat of Moscow Wielding the Energy Weapon

The Donald Trump administration has taken a soft line on Russia in many areas of contention, except when it comes to Moscow’s use of energy exports as a geopolitical cudgel. Top administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, are sounding the alarm about the threat posed by Russia’s use of the energy weapon, especially a controversial $11 billion gas pipeline project led by largely state-owned Gazprom that they fear will tear Europe apart and leave Ukraine in the cold.

Is the US behind in cyber-enabled info operations?

By: Mark Pomerleau 

Within the broader realm of cyberwarfare, the prospect of data and information war is becoming much more prevalent.

Cyber and information warfare are growing closer in relationship given the ease in which cyberspace enables traditional information campaigns. Campaigns such as the hack of the Democratic National Committee attributed to the Russians is a perfect example of a cyber-enabled information operation given the information was stolen through cyber means.

The growing role of artificial intelligence in business

Prashant Mehta

AI is expected to drive worldwide revenues from nearly $8 billion in 2016 to more than $47 billion in 2020, across a broad range of industries

From Apple’s assistant Siri to self-driving cars, evolution of AI has been transformational, to the extent that it seems to replicate human characteristics, intellect and behaviour. 

To meet growing consumer expectations in a digitally-driven world, companies have to deal with huge amounts of real-time data and create personalized consumer experiences to stay relevant. As such, they are increasingly employing newer technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing and robotics, among others.

Bitcoin And Financial Governance

Derryl Hermanutz

The whole world already uses a globally-integrated digital money system: bank deposits. We pay each other bank deposits by check, wire transfer (direct deposit), online banking, debit card, etc; within the central/commercial bank-operated payments system of debiting payments out of payers' bank deposit account balances and crediting the payments into payees' bank deposit account balances.

The users - payers, payees, and banks - already have a secure record of all transactions. We can see our transactions by looking at our bank account statement online, and we can make a paper printout.

Looking Back to the Future: The Beginnings of Drones and Manned Aerial Warfare

By Ulrike Franke

This essay is part of the #WarBots series, which asked a group of academics and national security professionals to provide their thoughts on the confluence of automation and unmanned technologies and their impact in the conduct of war. We hope this launches a debate that may one day shape policy. On 8 December 1909, British Army Major Baden Fletcher Smyth Baden-Powell was invited to give a talk at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). Baden-Powell had been among the first soldiers to see the use of military aviation. He experimented with flying kites and built an aircraft with his sister Agnes, and he had just stepped down as President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the oldest aeronautical society in the world. On that Wednesday afternoon in December 1909, he spoke about “How Airships are Likely to Affect War.”

What Is Bitcoin?

By George Friedman

Bitcoin has transformed from an idea that some treated with great enthusiasm to an asset of strikingly growing value. It is digital currency, of which there are many others, and its price has soared in recent weeks. I will admit to not understanding what bitcoins are in principle, to the extent that I have not even been able to define my own questions. But now that I have developed some basic level of understanding, my core question is this: Is bitcoin a currency designed to facilitate commerce, or is it a commodity that has intrinsic value, which rises and falls according to supply and demand?

Core Values & Competencies Are Fundamental

At the U. S. Naval Institute’s Defense Forum Washington (DFW) on 4 December, we found ourselves sobered not so much by the myriad embarrassing failures by the U.S. Navy over the past few years, but by the lack of clarity in how the presenters—who included Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, a panel of three retired surface warfare officer captains moderated by Naval Institute CEO retired Vice Admiral Pete Daly, and Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Bill Moran—would solve the challenges presented.

Army’s first directly-commissioned cyber officers could be on duty by next May

By Jared Serbu 

Sometime during the next week, the Army expects to convene a selection board to pick its first-ever cadre of newly-minted service members to move directly from the civilian cyber workforce to its officer corps. The fast track to a military commission means a theoretical full stack engineer working in Silicon Valley as of this moment could be a uniformed military officer within Army Cyber Command by next Memorial Day. But the Army — acting under an explicit authorization from Congress, which has expressed a keen interest in boosting military accessions of cyber experts — is dipping its toe into the program very, very slowly. It will only accept five new officers per year via the new direct commissioning route, despite the fact that it has deep and longstanding experience in doing precisely the same thing for other specialized professions: doctors, lawyers and chaplains, on a routine basis.

17 December 2017

In One Corner of Afghanistan, America Is Beating Islamic State

Michael M. Phillips

The Afghanistan war is at a stalemate, but in Achin, on the Pakistan border, the U.S. and its Afghan allies have driven militants from farms and villages 

ACHIN, Afghanistan—The Special Forces captain gestured to the Takhto Valley, a brown-hued no man’s land of fallow fields and abandoned mud-brick compounds within easy reach of Islamic State gunners.

“Everything over there is bad,” he said.
Then the captain turned toward the Pekha Valley, an expanse of emerald-green fields of corn and wheat....

All That Could Go Wrong When Jihadists Return Home — to China

Once separatists, now jihadists, some Uighurs returning from the ISIS battlefield could threaten — and test — Beijing.

Most of the foreign fighters that flooded into in Syria during the past few years came from the West, but some jihadists also arrived from the Far East, including as many as 300 of Western China’s Uighurs, the Sunni Muslim indigenous ethnic minority. Now that the Islamic State’s caliphate is collapsing, it seems inevitable that some will return to China, bringing with them more of the jihadist ideology and influence that has leaders in Beijing worried.

Satellite imagery offers clues to China’s intentions in Djibouti

By: Mike Yeo 

MELBOURNE, Australia — Chinese President Xi Jinping has told People’s Liberation Army troops stationed at an overseas base in Djibouti to “promote international and regional peace and stability,” according to China’s Ministry of National Defense. However, satellite imagery reveals information that could further detail China’s intentions.

Speaking via video feed during a visit to a joint battle command center in Beijing, Xi encouraged the overseas force to promote a good image of China’s military.

The 36-hectare base is located to the southwest of the Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port under construction by China State Construction Engineering Corporation, and it is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, currently the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.

Where is China targeting its development finance?

China has emerged as one of the world’s largest providers of development finance. Between 2000 and 2014, China extended a total of $354 billion in loans, grants, and other resources to countries across the globe. As China continues to establish itself as a major source of development finance, it is important to consider how this spending intersects with Beijing’s growing political and economic interests.

“The Rise of a Not-So-New World Order”

Summary: The world’s nations are forming new alliances. Last month we looked at the Saudi-Israel alliance. Here Stratfor looks at major nations allying against America (other powers always organize against a hegemon), starting with Russia and China. How this plays out will shape the 21st century.

For decades the United States has sat atop a unipolar world, unrivaled in its influence over the rest of the globe. But now that may be changing as a new, informal alliance takes shape between China and Russia. The two great powers have a mutual interest in overturning an international order that has long advantaged the West at their own expense. And as the Earth’s sole superpower turns inward, they will seek to carve out bigger backyards for themselves. Will their marriage of convenience once more give rise to the bipolarity that characterized the Cold War, or will it unravel in the face of a natural rivalry rooted in geopolitics?

Sri Lanka, Struggling With Debt, Hands a Major Port to China


NEW DELHI — Struggling to pay its debt to Chinese firms, the nation of Sri Lanka formally handed over the strategic port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease last week, in a deal that government critics have said threatens the country’s sovereignty.

In recent years, China has shored up its presence in the Indian Ocean, investing billions of dollars to build port facilities and plan maritime trade routes as part of its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to help increase its market reach.

Chasing The Ghosts: Investigating The Attribution Of Transnational Cyber Attacks


Cyber attacks fall under a misty and gray area which could be best depicted as ‘below the threshold of armed conflicts’, a hard-to-recognize hole within the margins of international law. Thus, cyber tools extraordinarily fit well with hybrid warfare and espionage purposes. Although the bulk of contemporary hostile cyber activities are related with state actors, these intrusions mostly take place in the form of proxy war which enables the states to keep being concealed in complex secrecy. In fact, high–end computer, network and telecommunications technologies help states to sustain the abovementioned ambiguity in their cyber operations.
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China's Americanized Military

By Don Tse

The PLA is set to become the largest “American” military force to pose a threat to the U.S. 

Two Chinese armored brigades clashed in a week-long training exercise at the Zhurihe Training Base in Inner Mongolia in 2015. Both brigades were equipped with identical armored vehicles and weapons. The Blue opposing forces brigade (OPFOR), however, was organized and fought in the fashion of a United States brigade combat team. The Red friendly force was crushed. “Within an hour we were hit with airstrikes, enemy satellite reconnaissance, and cyberattacks … Frankly, I never imagined it would be this hard,” said Wang Ziqiang, the armored brigade commander of the Red force. Wang’s political commissar Liu Haitao was caught on camera sobbing after the defeat. In a documentary aired on state television days before the 19th Party Congress in October, Liu said that his unit was initially very confident of victory over the Blue team, which was formerly a sister unit. “But over the course of seven days, we were beaten … we lost because we didn’t meet realistic combat standards when training our troops,” he said.

Struggle Over Scripture: Charting the Rift Between Islamist Extremism and Mainstream Islam

Download the full report, Struggle Over Scripture.

Concerns about Islamist extremism are growing both in the West and in Muslim-majority countries as it continues to kill tens of thousands each year around the globe. Yet there is a deficiency in evidence-based research into how the supremacist ideology that drives this violence warps mainstream religious principles.

There must be greater consensus among policymakers and thought leaders that the battle against the extremism of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda is not against Islam, but rather against a perversion of the religion. This report aims to clarify the nature of that perversion, to enable a religiously grounded response to Islamist extremism, in both its violent and its nonviolent forms.

The Four Faces of China in Central and Eastern Europe

By Michał Romanowski

An American, a German, and a Chinese gentleman walk into a bar in Prague. The first two order a beer, and the bartender then turns to the Chinese man to ask, “What can I get you?” He simply replies, “The accounts please, I own the place.”

The joke is not entirely removed from reality. The Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI – an economic agenda billed as the Silk Road reincarnated – is putting meat on the bones of Chinese interaction with Central and Eastern Europe. BRI investments play a role in the increased priority attached to the “16+1” – a political format that brings China and the region together. The sixth meeting of heads of states of the Central and Eastern Europe countries and China in Hungary has revealed four faces of Chinese activity in the region: connector, shaper, investor and challenger.

Behind the Rapid Development of Russian Unmanned Military Systems

By Samuel Bendett

Over the last five years, the Russian Federation has made great strides in designing, testing, evaluating, and fielding a variety of unmanned military systems, including land, air, and sea-based models. Russian media is full of announcements and analyses of the use and specification of what I call red robots, while Russia’s foray into Eastern Ukraine and Syria afforded Moscow a rare opportunity to field and operate such machines in combat. The Western response to Russia’s entrance into the club of nations capable of building and using unmanned systems has varied from surprise to alarm to stoic objectivity. Much of this reaction stems from the realization that the United States and its allies are no longer unchallenged in the ways and means of using unmanned systems on the battlefield. With Russia rapidly gaining expertise in building and using unmanned air and land vehicles, many in the American policy, defense, and manufacturing establishment are concerned with the impending fight for elbow room with competitors who, only recently, were far behind the West in battlefield robotics. This essay will look at the major trends in Russia’s unmanned military systems to shed light on how they may influence Moscow’s military conduct and impact its potential adversaries in the next several decades.

Beyond the 2017 North Korea Crisis: Deterrence and Containment

1. Introduction

It may seem presumptuous to begin considering medium term strategic stability in the Korean peninsula when the 2017 crisis has not yet fully deescalated. Nevertheless, there is distinct difference between the urgency of crisis management – which is an appropriate characterization of the dramatic events surrounding North Korea’s sixth nuclear weapon test and incessant missile launches – and learning to live with the altered reality that these advances in its military prowess are ushering in.

Does Russia Bear Responsibility for War in Ukraine?

Vladimir Dzhabarov

“Actually, there is a civil war in Ukraine between the DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic], the LNR [Luhansk People’s Republic], and the rest of Ukraine. It is completely unclear why Russia should bear any responsibility for this.” On December 2, RT’s Russian-language Web site published a report on statements made by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman during his interview with the Russian St. Petersburg TV channel.

What Will ‘Actually Solve’ Terrorism Problem?


At the height of its powers several years ago, ISIS was attracting an estimated one thousand new foreign fighters each month. While U.S. officials always believed that the U.S.-led coalition would take back ISIS-held territory, they worried that as the caliphate collapsed, the tens of thousands of foreign fighters would spread across the world to wreak havoc on a mass scale.

Hard Lessons from America’s Longest Wars


This is one of two pieces by our contributor James Kitfield, who’s won more Gerald Ford Defense Reporting awards than anyone else (3), on the challenges and mistakes America has made in grappling with the complex threat of global terrorism. As James puts it in his summary sentence: U.S. counterterrorism forces continue to learn and adapt after fifteen plus years of fighting a global jihadist insurgency, as have our determined and adaptive enemies. Read on! The Editor.

Nuclear Deterrence In a New Age

By Keith B. Payne

Carl von Clausewitz writes that the nature of war has enduring continuities, but its characteristics change with different circumstances.[1] Similarly, the fundamental nature of deterrence has endured for millennia: a threatened response to an adversary’s prospective provocation causes that adversary to decide against the provocation i.e., the adversary is deterred from attack because it decides that the prospective costs outweigh the gains. The character of deterrence, however, must adapt to different circumstances. In one case, the necessary deterrent threat may be to punish the adversary; in another, to deny the adversary its objectives; in yet another, a combination of punishment and denial threats may be necessary to deter. Such specific characteristics of deterrence—its goals, means and application—change, but the fundamental threat-based mechanism of deterrence endures.

The Human Face of Trade and Food Security

Katrin Kuhlmann

The system of rules and regulations governing agricultural trade and market activity, or the enabling environment, directly affect global food security. In the summer of 2017, a team from the CSIS Global Food Security Project and the New Markets Lab traveled to Kenya and India to explore how policies shape agricultural trade and affect the lives of smallholder farmers, traders, and consumers. The team met with farmers, donors, and government and private-sector leaders to better understand connections in the market from production through export, focusing specifically on beans in Kenya, rice in India, and horticulture (fruits and vegetables) in both countries. The resulting study explores the different dimensions of trade and how the regulatory environment shapes the market. It provides targeted recommendations for U.S. policymakers to consider to strengthen support for food security, market-based regulation, mutually beneficial trade, and economic development worldwide. 

Will Robots Take Our Children’s Jobs?


Like a lot of children, my sons, Toby, 7, and Anton, 4, are obsessed with robots. In the children’s books they devour at bedtime, happy, helpful robots pop up more often than even dragons or dinosaurs. The other day I asked Toby why children like robots so much.

“Because they work for you,” he said.

What I didn’t have the heart to tell him is, someday he might work for them — or, I fear, might not work at all, because of them.

It is not just Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking who are freaking out about the rise of invincible machines. Yes, robots have the potential to outsmart us and destroy the human race. But first, artificial intelligence could make countless professions obsolete by the time my sons reach their 20s.

Here’s how to shut down the internet: Snip undersea fiber-optic cables

WASHINGTON - Hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable lay on the ocean floors, a crucial part of the global internet’s backbone, and only rarely do ship anchors, undersea landslides or saboteurs disrupt them.

Still, a few voices now call for stronger global mechanisms and even military action to protect the cables against future malicious activity by states, saboteurs or extremists.

“The infrastructure that underpins the internet – these undersea cables – are clearly vulnerable,” said Rishi Sunak, a British member of Parliament and champion of more vigorous action to protect submarine networks. “They underpin pretty much everything that we do.”

Next-Gen Drones: Making War Easier for Dictators & Terrorists


The introduction of armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) permanently altered the modern battlefield. New technological advances in drone technology could do it again: from advanced materials that allow drones to fly, roll, run or swim in less forgiving environments, to thinking software than makes them more independent, to stealth technology that renders them even less visible. On the positive side, the intelligence that drones provide helps focus lethality on the intended target and limit the risk of civilian casualties and friendly fire incidents. But drone advances also will get cheaper to copy, so non-state actors will be able to employ them as well, giving insurgents or terrorists an outsized advantage. 

Army Reorganizes, Accelerates EW: Synergy Or Hostile Takeover?


ARLINGTON: Outgunned in the airwaves by Russian jammers, the US Army has a new plan for electronic warfare. The Army hopes to rebuild the long-neglected EW branch more quickly — in part, paradoxically, by partially submerging it in other branches, namely military intelligence and cyber. The ground-based portion of the Multi-Function Electronic Warfare (MFEW) program will be folded into the intelligence branch’s Terrestrial Layer Intelligence System (TLIS). The argument is both branches need to sense and understand the radio spectrum before signals intelligence (SIGINT) can eavesdrop on transmissions or EW can jam them. TLIS will have both sensing and electronic attack (jamming) capabilities, cyber branch chief Maj. Gen. John Morrison told reporters, saying the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) recently approved an Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) for this approach. 



Western military alliance NATO's recent decision to integrate cyber warfare into its command could be its biggest policy shift in decades and represents a stark 21st-century warning to foes, especially Russia, according to one of the leading officials to help draft the new strategy. Capitalizing on the multinational coalition's recognition of cyberspace as a theater of operations at last year's Warsaw Summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced last month the creation of Cyber Operations Center as part of an overall effort to update and adopt a more expansive and efficient command structure. Last week, retired Air Force Colonel Rizwan Ali revealed how the decision, which he helped write and implement, could affect the way NATO conducts operations and counters threats from abroad.

The power play in peacekeeping

Manmohan Bahadur

Media coverage of peacekeeping operations is an area with many gaps. Consider for example, an incident last week, where at least 15 peacekeepers and five soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were killed and numerous peacekeepers wounded by armed militants in one of the worst attacks on United Nations personnel. A local Islamist extremist group overran the remote base. Most of the dead and wounded are from Tanzania. Was there any media coverage in India? It would have been a different story had they been troops from the West. In the midst of this, one must focus on China as its grip on UN affairs tightens and it starts deciding policy, to the detriment of India.

How drone swarms could change urban warfare

By: Maj. John Spencer  

DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program envisions future small-unit infantry forces using small unmanned aircraft systems and/or small unmanned ground systems in swarms of 250 robots or more to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. By leveraging and combining emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming, the program seeks to enable rapid development and deployment of breakthrough capabilities to the field. (DARPA) 

For the first time since the Korean War, the U.S. military has to worry about enemy bombs dropping on them in combat.



In the future, the American defense establishment’s engagement with the private sector will vary with the mission. The arms-length procurement requirements of a dedicated industrial base for big-ticket weapon systems are different from the requirements of frenetically paced software development through co-investment. In turn, sovereign “joint venturing” abroad through private enterprise can help solve thorny security issues or facilitate diplomatic openings. However, such relationships nevertheless morph because private and public-sector interests differ, especially when it comes to allocating risks and rewards.