14 February 2019

The Coming Climate Crisis

BY AMITAV GHOSH

Over the last couple of decades, as the impact of global warming has intensified, the discussion of climate change has spilled out of the scientific and technocratic circles within which it was long confined. Today, the subject has also become an important concern in the humanities and arts.

Discussions of climate tend to focus on the future. Yet even scientific projections depend crucially on the study of the past: Proxy data, such as tree rings, pollen deposits, and ice cores, have proved indispensable for the modeling of the future impact of climate change. Based on evidence of this kind, scientists can tell us a great deal about how trees, glaciers, and sea levels will respond to rising temperatures.

But what about the political and social impact of global warming? What effects might a major shift in climate have on governments, public institutions, warfare, and belief systems? For answers to these questions, we have to turn to history (keeping in mind that historical inferences are necessarily impressionistic).

The End of Economics?

BY FAREED ZAKARIA

In 1998, as the Asian financial crisis was ravaging what had been some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the New Yorker ran an article describing the international rescue efforts. It profiled the super-diplomat of the day, a big-idea man the Economist had recently likened to Henry Kissinger. The New Yorker went further, noting that when he arrived in Japan in June, this American official was treated “as if he were General [Douglas] MacArthur.” In retrospect, such reverence seems surprising, given that the man in question, Larry Summers, was a disheveled, somewhat awkward nerd then serving as the U.S. deputy treasury secretary. His extraordinary status owed, in part, to the fact that the United States was then (and still is) the world’s sole superpower and the fact that Summers was (and still is) extremely intelligent. But the biggest reason for Summers’s welcome was the widespread perception that he possessed a special knowledge that would save Asia from collapse. Summers was an economist.

Cyber-warfare could be entering a new and alarming phase, ex-CIA analyst tells MPs

Murray Brewster

Online attacks on Canada's financial system could become far more destructive as more militaries around the globe get involved in cyber operations, a security expert and former CIA analyst told a House of Commons committee Wednesday.

Christopher Porter, the chief intelligence strategist for the cyber security company Fireeye, Inc., testified that as NATO countries share their expertise on how to defend against and defeat online threats, "major cyber powers outside the alliance" will likely do the same.

The consequences, he said, could be dire.

The West's imposition of sanctions on "some countries" has in the past been met with denial-of-service attacks on financial services websites, he said — attacks that have only been disruptive.

Trump To Feds: Prioritize Artificial Intelligence Work

BY PATRICK TUCKER

Federal agencies will be instructed to “prioritize AIinvestments” under an executive order to be signed by President Trump on Monday, a senior administration official told reporters Sunday. The order will launch the “American Artificial Intelligence Initiative,” which will push government agencies to spend more on AI research and development; direct the creation of related guidelines, standards, and potential regulations; and fund training in what the White House is describing as “AI-relevant” work areas.

The goal is to “prioritize federal AI spending cutting-edge ideas that can directly benefit the American people,” the official said.

The official said the initiative directs federal agencies to: Make more data, models, and computation available to AI researchers “while protecting privacy and civil liberties;” prioritize AI research and development as they allocate supercomputer time and cloud- computing resources; and prioritize training programs and fellowships that have an AI angle and that promote the development of “AI-relevant skills” such as data science and statistics.

Information Warfare – What Is It And How Does It Affect Peace?

by Sam Raleigh

In proving its destructive capability during the 2016 Presidential election campaign, Information Warfare (IW), or the act of deliberately spreading false or misleading information so as to subvert an adversary’s trust in its sources, is emerging as an effective tool for promoting targeted political influence. Whilst classed as such, it is not always treated with the same respect other forms of warfare are given, primarily because it does not directly risk lives and produces effects that fall somewhere between regular diplomatic business and a conventional war. Information Warfare is a rather broad term, reaching across the realms of cyber, television, radio and other communications systems that can have the data they produce corrupted and manipulated to a desired effect. Perhaps the most alarming component to information warfare is that anyone can be considered a combatant, as Heather Conley from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) pointed out in stating “the battlespace is public opinion.” With this in mind, the potential dangers of weaponised information need to be continually promoted and made aware of widely, and people with access to an internet connection regardless of any socio-economic or age factors need to be mindful of their own power and ability to identify and navigate the vast information landscape.

Thinking About Risks From AI: Accidents, Misuse and Structure

By Remco Zwetsloot, Allan Dafoe 

World leaders have woken up to the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) over the past year. Billions of dollars in governmental funding have been announced, dozens of hearings have been held, and nearly 20 national plans have been adopted. In the past couple of months alone, Canada and France launched the International Panel on AI (IPAI), modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to examine the global impacts of AI; the U.S. Congress created a National Security Commission on the subject; and the Pentagon tasked one of its top advisory bodies with devising ethical principles for its use of AI.

“AI” broadly refers to the science and technology of machines capable of sophisticated information processing. Current applications include face recognition, image analysis, language translation and processing, autonomous vehicles, robotics, game-playing, and recommendation engines. Many more applications are likely to emerge in the coming years and decades. These advances in AI could have profound benefits. To take just a few examples, they could save lives through advances in early disease diagnosis and medicine discovery, or help protect the environment by enhancing monitoring of ecosystems and optimizing the design and use of energy systems.

13 February 2019

Arresting India's Drift on Afghanistan

By Harsh V. Pant

As U.S. efforts to depart Afghanistan gather momentum, Indian foreign policy is coming to terms with a new reality, one which will be shaped by others and to which New Delhi has no choice but to respond robustly. The discussions between U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives have reached a critical juncture with the two sides signalling that at least for now they are ready to end the fighting, thereby bringing the curtains down on a 17-year-old war. The Trump administration is serious about its intent to reach a modus vivendi with the Taliban leadership and has also been able to put some pressure on Pakistan, which has acted as a spoiler in the past.

A framework agreement that talks of a phased withdrawal of foreign troops in exchange for a Taliban commitment that it would sever its ties to global terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda seems to have put enough on the table to satisfy both sides at least for the time being, thereby allowing the process to move forward more than such attempts have allowed in the past.

India's Big Naval Nightmare: Aircraft Carriers as Floating Paper Tigers?

by Robert Beckhusen

Under the circumstances, India’s investment in carriers makes more sense symbolically, and primarily as a way of keeping shipyards busy and shipyard workers employed.

The Indian Navy has put out a proposal for its third aircraft carrier, tentatively titled the Vishal due to enter service in the latter 2020s. The 65,000-ton Vishal will be significantly larger than India’s sole current carrier, the Vikramaditya known formerly as the ex-Soviet Admiral Gorshkov, and the incoming second one, the domestically-built Vikrantwhich is expected to enter service later in 2018.

(This first appeared in last January.)

Stay the Course to Win the Peace in Afghanistan

By M. Ashraf Haidari

As the United States mulls withdrawal from Afghanistan, recent media coverage has been punctuated with defeatism. It’s a stark contrast with the overwhelming optimism of the Afghan people for a future of peace with liberty and dignity, which is achievable with continued international support.

As an Afghan citizen — who from 1979 to 2001 experienced first-hand the atrocities of the Taliban, factional infighting, and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan — I can warn that the United States would regret abandoning Afghanistan prematurely and irresponsibly again.

Let’s review history: like U.S. President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton put domestic priorities over peacebuilding missions overseas, famously stating, “It’s the economy stupid.” This underpinned Clinton’s decision to halt spending on the post-Cold War stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan, after the Soviet occupation forces withdrew from the country and the communist regime, which they had been backing, collapsed in 1992.

FROM THE WALL TO THE WATER: TALKING CHINESE POLITICS AND DODGING IS IN AFGHANISTAN

BY WILLIAM HAN

In the summer of 2015, I left the United States. After growing up in Taiwan and New Zealand, I went to America to study before working in New York City. But in the end, I was unable to secure my permanent residency through a Green Card.

As the prospect of my exile drew nearer, I correspondingly grew fascinated with a story I heard even as a child: in AD97, during the Eastern Han dynasty, China sent an explorer and envoy westward along the Silk Road to locate and to make contact with the Roman Empire.

His name was Gan Ying. He had been a veteran of China’s wars against the Huns under the famous General Ban Chao. And he almost – not quite – succeeded in meeting the Romans.

He was an Asian man who almost reached the heart of the ancient Western world, Rome. I am an Asian man who almost got to stay in the heart of the modern Western world, New York City.

Does Beijing grasp the portent of embracing Afghanistan and the Taliban?

Raffaello Pantucci 

During that time, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his colleague, Ambassador Deng Xijun, have racked up the air miles doing shuttle diplomacy between Kabul, Islamabad and hosting people in Beijing.

The result of all this manoeuvring was a successful trilateral meeting in Kabul between the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China – a parley which appears to have helped accelerate the latest round of peace negotiations in Afghanistan’s seemingly endless conflict.

Yet amid the positive mood, it is still not clear what China’s expectations and plans are for Afghanistan. Nor is it clear that Beijing has fully appreciated the central role into which it is increasingly stepping.

The first question to ask is: What has spurred this new surge of Chinese diplomacy?

Seven steps to lasting peace in Afghanistan – if the US, Afghans and Taliban can walk them


Afghans wait to be served at a restaurant in the capital Kabul, on January 30. As the US draws closer to a deal with the Taliban, many Afghan women are defiant at the thought of losing any of the hard-won progress they have made in the deeply patriarchal country since the Islamists were toppled in 2001. 

Notwithstanding the importance of the agreement, there are many hurdles that must be overcome before a final and permanent accord is struck. Moreover, given the distrust between the two sides and the heavy toll the war exacted over 17 years, reaching a sustainable deal would require at least seven steps.

First, it will be extremely important to establish a sequential order of specific actions on either side, beginning by requiring the Taliban to declare a ceasefire, against which 10-15 per cent of American troops would be withdrawn, followed by an interest-based negotiation for a lasting political solution, against which another segment of American forces would be pulled out.

WITHER U.S.-PAK RELATIONS? IMPACT OF AMERICAN WITHDRAWAL FROM AFGHANISTAN

by Umair Jamal

The Afghan Taliban and the United States are reportedly close to finalizing a deal to end America’s longest war. After weeks-long negotiations, Washington and the Afghan Taliban have reported progress, indicating a serious effort by both sides to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. While a number of issues are still to be worked out, including the nature of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country and the Taliban’s refusal to talk to the Afghan government, Washington’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is imminent.

Under these circumstances, Washington’s existing engagements with other countries in the region, including Pakistan, are also expected to undergo significant changes. The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which may very well conclude before the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, is likely to have long-lasting implications for the Pakistan-United States bilateral relationship.

Is Australia wise to pick sides in US-China trade war?

Mike Callaghan

The US-China trade war is viewed by many as a dark cloud over the global economy. So why is Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, seemingly urging Trump to go harder, and not settlefor a “pyrrhic victory” that fails to resolve long-term differences between the US and China?

In October, the International Monetary Fund warned that the trade war risked making the world a “poorer and more dangerous place”. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that an all-out trade war would have “devastating effects”. This view was reflected in share markets, with analysts expressing fears that it raised the risk of a financial market “flash crash”.

US-China trade war could slash almost 1 million jobs from the US economy, new study says

Finbarr Bermingham

Almost 1 million American jobs are at risk due to the effects of the current trade war with China and further disputes between the United States and other countries, according to a new study.

Research from the Washington-based consultancy Trade Partnership Worldwide, paid for by the pro-free trade lobbying group Tariffs Hurt the Heartlands, ominously predicts that more than 2 million American jobs could be on the line should US President Donald Trump push ahead with his threat of a 25 per cent tariff on all Chinese exports.

Currently, US$250 billion of Chinese exports to the United States are subject to tariffs of either 10 per cent or 25 per cent, but the number of goods on the higher tariff range will increase on March 2 if US and Chinese negotiators do not reach a deal.

While the tariffs are partly aimed at reviving US manufacturing, the study finds that retaliatory tariffs levies on US exports by the likes of China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico are causing US exports to weaken.

Charges Against Chinese Hackers Are Now Common. Why Don't They Deter Cyberattacks?

RYAN LUCAS

In May 2014, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced charges against five members of the Chinese military.

They'd allegedly hacked the computer networks of American companies and stolen everything from intellectual property and trade secrets to the firms' litigation strategies.

The indictment was the first brought by the United States publicly against state-sponsored hackers for cybercrimes targeting U.S. firms. In the nearly five years since then, the Justice Department has unveiled one China-related hacking indictment after another, including cases against at least a dozen individuals and companies last year alone.

China Plans To Add Four New Nuclear Aircraft Carriers To Its Navy By 2035

By Charleston Lim

China has announced a new push to modernize its naval army with new ships that would sail the seas by 2035. Military officials revealed that the new drive will see the building of at least six aircraft battle groups that will be available for different missions around the world. The fleet will include four new state-of-the-art nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and a number of carrier-borne fighters jet planes.

Military experts familiar with the program revealed that the new aircraft carriers will be coming with the latest naval equipment. This will include new electromagnetic catapults that are similar in design and function to the United States EMALS systems on their own aircraft carriers. The new electromagnetic aircraft launch systems will allow fighter planes to take off much faster than a conventional steam piston and diesel-powered systems.

Can this ancient Chinese philosophy save us from global chaos?

By Zhao Tingyang

BEIJING — Today’s world is full of conflict, hostility and continuing clashes among civilizations. All indications suggest we are headed beyond failed states to a failed world order. In this Hobbesian context of growing chaos and anarchy, U.S. President Donald Trump has emerged as an old-fashioned hero from early modern times, with his misperception of the world as a battlefield instead of a shared community. However, as globalization has connected economies and shared information around the world, such a course will surely end in failure.

Thus, I suggest another path, one rooted in the ancient Chinese concept of tianxia, which roughly translates to “all under heaven” coexisting harmoniously. This concept of world order was embraced for hundreds of years from around 1046 to 256 B.C. during the Zhou dynasty, China’s longest-lasting.

The rationality of tianxia

China Opens Border Connections to Nepal

Nicola P. Contessi

NEW YORK: Nepal’s geopolitical position has new impetus, thanks to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The landlocked nation has an opportunity to play China and India to improve its bargaining position.

In September, delegations from Nepal and China gathered in Kathmandu to finalize the text of a Trade and Transit Protocol, destined to actualize the Trade and Transit Agreement the two sides had concluded in March 2016. This was a sudden turn of events from a mere two months earlier, when Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli paid an official visit to Beijing and agreement still appeared to be up in the air. The freshly minted protocol, due for signature presumably during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit to Nepal in April, grants use of four Chinese seaports– Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang, Zhanjiang as well as the dry ports Lhanzin, Lhasa, Xigatsê – to Nepal for third-party trade. All six border crossings between the two countries are included in the protocol. Nepali vehicles can enter Chinese territory to ferry goods, without designating specific routes, and the protocol may include additional ports at a later stage.

Why China and Russia are Vying for Influence Over the Balkans

by Scott B. MacDonald

It was Otto von Bismarck, architect for Germany’s unification and rise to world power, who is alleged to have referred to the Balkans as the powder keg of Europe, a region whose internal problems often had a tendency to pull in outside powers. Indeed, it would only be sixteen years after the great statesman’s death that the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand would ignite the bloodbath of World War I. Since then the Balkans have remained a challenging geopolitical region, roiled by World War II, the Cold War and finally Yugoslavia’s savage unwinding in the early 1990s. The last gave birth to a number of countries, the tremors of which are still being felt today. This was made evident again in late January 2019, when the Greek parliament voted to give official diplomatic recognition to the Republic of North Macedonia. For a region where the interests of the European Union (EU), Turkey, Russia, China and the United States overlap, the political and economic development of even a small state like North Macedonia matters.

Marking 70 Years of War in Myanmar

By Jittrapon Kaicome

On January 31, thousands of Karen people gathered in eastern Myanmar, adjacent to the Thai border, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Karen Revolution Day. That’s the day the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) first launched their armed campaign for self-determination against the Burma government in 1949.

For more than 70 years, the Karen people have combined an armed struggle for autonomy with negotiation attempts to push forward the peace process in the region. Violent conflict frequently recurs, earning the conflict the title of the world’s longest-running civil war. Over time, the fighting has driven tens of thousands of refugees into Thailand.

Is China Undermining Its Own Success in Africa?


By Brendon J. Cannon

Chinese influence, money, and people blanket Africa. Mega-infrastructure projects such as Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the light railway in Ethiopia’s capital, and Tanzania’s ports, are all pointed to as evidence that Africa has become China’s backyard. Countries like Japan, France, or even the United States simply cannot compete against China for trade and influence in Africa. This is the story that one reads in Japan, the United States, Europe, and Africa itself. But it is important to understand that this is only part of the story.

First, Africans and their leaders are the decision makers when it comes to projects related to their countries’ development and future. Some projects are popular and useful, while others are frankly a waste of time, money, and resources and may destroy livelihoods. For example, the Bui dam in Ghana, built by the Chinese company Sinohydro, was planned and constructed without the consultation of locals, ignoring key issues such as health, livelihood security, and adequate compensation for those affected by rising waters. However, the dam proved expedient politically and financially to power brokers in the capital, Accra, so the wishes and concerns of the locals were ignored. On the contrary, projects such as roads construction in Nairobi, Kenya, with various roads being built separately by Chinese and Japanese companies, have proved popular as well as partially alleviating the city’s notorious traffic gridlock.

China’s Narrative Warfare in East Asia

By Kevin Truitte

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has embarked on an expansion of its regional power in East Asia. The PRC—under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—has modernized and expanded its military footprint and aggressively confronted its regional neighbors at sea and on land. China has built artificial islands to dominate the South China Sea while the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), coast guard, and maritime militia have encroached on contested islands and sea space in the East China Sea. Beyond its physical actions, the Chinese government has deployed narratives invoking historic claims to legitimize the country’s actions over these maritime territories. As its political, economic, and military might increases, China has sought to rewrite history and frame its expansionist activities in the South and East China Seas as reclaiming its rightful territory from weaker regional nations, many of whom are allies of the United States. China’s employment of this “narrative warfare” aims both to muddle rival claims and to domestically and internationally reinforce its long-term strategy for regional hegemony in east Asia.

What Really Happened in Iran

By Ray Takeyh

Back in 2009, during his heavily promoted Cairo speech on American relations with the Muslim world, U.S. President Barack Obama noted, in passing, that “in the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.” Obama was referring to the 1953 coup that toppled Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq and consolidated the rule of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Obama would go on to remind his audience that Iran had also committed its share of misdeeds against Americans. But he clearly intended his allusion to Washington’s role in the coup as a concession -- a public acknowledgment that the United States shared some of the blame for its long-simmering conflict with the Islamic Republic.

Yet there was a supreme irony to Obama’s concession. The history of the U.S. role in Iran’s 1953 coup may be “well known,” as the president declared in his speech, but it is not well founded. On the contrary, it rests heavily on two related myths: that machinations by the CIA were the most important factor in Mosaddeq’s downfall and that Iran’s brief democratic interlude was spoiled primarily by American and British meddling. For decades, historians, journalists, and pundits have promoted these myths, injecting them not just into the political discourse but also into popular culture: most recently, Argo, a Hollywood thriller that won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Picture, suggested that Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution was a belated response to an injustice perpetrated by the United States a quarter century earlier. That version of events has also been promoted by Iran’s theocratic leaders, who have exploited it to stoke anti-Americanism and to obscure the fact that the clergy itself played a major role in toppling Mosaddeq.

Russia monopolizes headlines, but China's threat to the U.S. goes way beyond the trade war

David A. Andelman 

Top-level Chinese and American negotiators sat down for two days of important meetings last week seeking to resolve the two country’s lingering trade dispute. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that China’s threat extends far beyond economics. The country's efforts to penetrate American society and gain influence are insidious — and growing.

At a joint appearance before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee and in a report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the heads of the major U.S. intelligence agencies lumped Russia and China together as a joint threat. Indeed, with the termination of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty — or INF Treaty — between the U.S. and Russia, there are fewer and fewer constraints left to prevent an arms race between the world's largest nuclear powers.

China’s efforts to penetrate American society and gain influence are insidious — and growing.

David Ignatius: U.S. Cyber Command strikes back in the cyberwar with Russia

By David Ignatius

WASHINGTON — With little public fanfare, U.S. Cyber Command, the military’s new center for combating electronic attacks against the United States, has launched operations to deter and disrupt Russians who have been meddling with the U.S. political system.

Like other U.S. cyberwar activities, this effort against Russia is cloaked in secrecy. But it appears to involve, in part, a warning to suspected Russian hackers that echoes a menacing phrase that’s a staple of many fictional crime and spy thrillers: “We know where you live.”

Beginning last fall, before the midterm elections, Cyber Command began directly contacting Russians who were linked to operations, such as those with the Internet Research Agency, which allegedly helped coordinate Moscow’s campaign to subvert the 2016 presidential election. The apparent aim was to put people on notice that their covers had been blown, and that their ability to work and travel freely might be affected.

U.S. officials believe that the disruption effort has frazzled some of the Russian targets and may have deterred some interference during the midterms. The operation was first reported by the New York Times Oct. 23, and additional details have emerged from public and private sources.

Globalization in transition: The future of trade and value chains

By Susan Lund, James Manyika, Jonathan Woetzel, Jacques Bughin, Mekala Krishnan, Jeongmin Seong, and Mac Muir

Global value chains are being reshaped by rising demand and new industry capabilities in the developing world as well as a wave of new technologies.

Even with trade tensions and tariffs dominating the headlines, important structural changes in the nature of globalization have gone largely unnoticed. In Globalization in transition: The future of trade and value chains (PDF–3.7MB), the McKinsey Global Institute analyzes the dynamics of global value chains and finds structural shifts that have been hiding in plain sight.

Although output and trade continue to increase in absolute terms, trade intensity (that is, the share of output that is traded) is declining within almost every goods-producing value chain. Flows of services and data now play a much bigger role in tying the global economy together. Not only is trade in services growing faster than trade in goods, but services are creating value far beyond what national accounts measure. Using alternative measures, we find that services already constitute more value in global trade than goods. In addition, all global value chains are becoming more knowledge-intensive. Low-skill labor is becoming less important as factor of production. Contrary to popular perception, only about 18 percent of global goods trade is now driven by labor-cost arbitrage.

Beginning the Endgame in Venezuela


As the crisis in Venezuela has deepened over the past week, a mysterious transformation has occurred. What started out as U.S. diplomatic support for the new, constitutionally legitimate government of Juan Guaidó has come to be treated in the international media as a possible U.S. military intervention.

The unfolding drama playing out in the media includes adventure-movie-style details such as the arrival of Russian mercenaries to protect the dictator Nicholas Maduro and U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton’s ledger, which was photographed in the White House Situation Room with the ominous words “5,000 troops to Colombia.”

While the United States could merely lament over the damage caused to the country and its people by the criminal regime of Nicholas Maduro, which refuses to relinquish power, it has instead embarked on a “high payoff, high risk” strategy. In joining the international community to back Guaidó’s strong constitutional claim, the United States has put its strategic position in the region at risk and given themselves little margin for error. Adversaries such as China and Russia stand ready to exploit the worst historically-rooted perceptions of the United States to advance their own interests in the hemisphere.

The United States and World Order

By Colin S. Gray

Introduction

I suspect that most Americans do not really understand just how powerful the United States is in the world. With very few exceptions the United States plays a dominant leadership role just about everywhere. This condition warrants the description hegemonic (from the Greek) so considerable is the country’s lead internationally in most of the true foundations of power. With few exceptions, this American dominance has been a source of enormous net benefit to the world at large. In common with many other powers, even the United States has a few notable weaknesses, some of them, when regarded ironically, being largely a consequence of its relative greatness.

GAO report highlights challenges for US Army equipment modernisation

By Talal Husseini

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a new report highlighting the progress and challenges to US Army readiness up to 2022.

Overall, the GAO found that the US Army is on track to reach its readiness objectives for 2022. However, there are some challenges that may hinder US Army readiness, in terms of equipment repair and modernisation in the coming years.

The report is split into three overarching fields: equipment repair and modernisation, personnel and force structure, and training for potential large-scale conflict.

Why we need to rethink education in the artificial intelligence age

John R. Allen

This report is part of "A Blueprint for the Future of AI," a series from the Brookings Institution that analyzes the new challenges and potential policy solutions introduced by artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies (ET) are poised to transform modern society in profound ways. As with electricity in the last century, AI is an enabling technology that will animate everyday products and communications, endowing everything from cars to cameras with the ability to interact with the world around them, and with each other. These developments are just the beginning, and as AI/ET matures, it will have sweeping impacts on our work, security, politics, and very lives.[1]

These technologies are already impacting the world around us, as Darrell West and I wrote in our April 2018 piece “How artificial intelligence is transforming the world,” and I highly recommend that anyone just discovering the topic of AI policy read it thoroughly. There, Darrell and I describe several important implications related to AI/ET, but chief among them is that these technology developments are on the cusp of ushering in a true revolution in human affairs at an increasingly fast pace.

Defense of the cyberrealm: How organizations can thwart cyberattacks


Governments and companies have much work to do to protect people, institutions, and even entire cities and countries from potentially devastating large-scale cyberattacks.

In this episode of the McKinsey Podcast, Simon London speaks with McKinsey senior partner David Chinn and cybersecurity expert Robert Hannigan, formerly the head of GCHQ,1 about how to address the major gaps and vulnerabilities in the global cybersecurity landscape.

Podcast transcript

Simon London: Hello, and welcome to this edition of the McKinsey Podcast, with me, Simon London. 2018 was a year of good news and bad news in cybersecurity. The year passed without a major international incident, certainly nothing on the scale of the WannaCry ransomware attack, in 2017. And yet every few weeks brought news of another big data breach at another big company. So where do we stand going into 2019? Are we winning, in any sense? When and where will the next so-called tier-one attack occur? And, importantly, what is the role of government in helping to ensure national cybersecurity. To find out more, I sat down in London with David Chinn, a McKinsey senior partner who works with public- and private-sector organizations on these issues, and also with Robert Hannigan, who is the former head of GCHQ, the UK government’s electronic-surveillance agency. Robert also led the creation of the UK National Cyber Security Centre, or NCSC. Today he’s a McKinsey senior adviser. Robert and David, welcome to the podcast.

Google, Fake News, and the Crisis of Truth

BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY

PARIS – Invited by Google Europe to attend a brainstorming session in Paris on the decline of truth, the rise of fake news, and ways to counter both, I began my presentation by placing the problem in historical context.

I cited George Orwell’s Looking back on the Spanish War, in which the author explains that, for him, “history stopped in 1936,” because it was there, in Spain, that he discovered for the first time “newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts.” It was there that he sensed that “the very concept of objective truth,” ruined by fascism in its red and brown forms, was “fading out of the world.” And it was there, in effect, that men like Joseph Goebbels (“I’m the one who decides who is Jewish and who isn’t”) and later Donald Trump (and his “alternative facts”) became possible.

But, as I went on to point out, several intellectual shake-ups occurred before and after the rise of totalitarianism.

Demography has become the biggest story on the planet

Lionel Shriver

One of my vanities is that all my novels are different. Yet one astute journalist identified a universal thread: ‘Too many people,’ she said. From among the many other piquant factoids in Paul Morland’s The Human Tide, I was unnerved to learn that ‘Hitler was obsessed with demography’ too.

Whether you also suffer from this unhealthy preoccupation or are simply shopping for a new way of looking at the world, this is a readable, trenchant, up-to-date overview of the biggest story on the planet — one in which we’re all actors. The author has a moderate bent, and doesn’t claim that population — its surging, contraction and migration — explains all of human history. But it comes awfully close.

After all, the long view is astonishing. It took 1,800 years for humans to increase from 250 million to one billion at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837. As of 2018, we’d reached more than 7.6 billion, the vast majority of that growth post war. And ‘the human tide’ (an expression this text repeats enough times to become annoying) continues to rise.

Gwadar: Trade Hub Or Military Asset? – Analysis

By Amit Bhandari and Aashna Agarwal*

China plans to spend more than $1 billion to turn the port in Gwadar on Pakistan’s western edge into a hub of its proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). But the investment appears economically unviable – and that raises the possibility its real purpose could be to advance China’s military interests.

Pakistan says the port will provide maritime connectivity to western China, to landlocked Afghanistan and other central Asian republics. Gwadar will provide alternative shipping routes for the Chinese. Pakistan also touts Gwadar as a way to allow Chinese trade with West Asia to bypass the Malacca straits chokepoint.

These arguments are debatable for several reasons.

Military Technology: The Realities of Imitation

By Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli

According to a growing consensus, globalization and advances in communication are promoting the diffusion of defense-industrial capabilities, thus eroding the established position of Western countries. However, Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli contend that the empirical evidence suggests that even with newly available opportunities, including cyber espionage, the most advanced weapon systems remain very difficult to copy and replicate.

Over the past 20 years, several observers, policy-makers, and scholars have warned of an impending transformation in world politics driven by globalization and the information and communication technologies (ICT) revolution. As a result of this transformation, it is alleged, countries lagging behind in military technology will be able to close the gap in military technology that separates them from the most advanced countries much more easily and quickly than they could in the past.

12 February 2019

India Does Have a Real Employment Crisis – And it’s Worsening

Santosh Mehrotra

Economists have been writing for some months that, contrary to the claims of the government, there is plenty of data available that shows unmistakably that unemployment is high and rising.

Educated unemployment has worsened just as young people are getting better educated, and expect to work outside agriculture in industry and services.

We have done this on the strength of analysis of household surveys – Annual Survey, Labour Bureau (LB) 2015-16 – with a sample size the same or larger than the five-yearly employment-unemployment surveys of the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO).

India’s Pakistan policy adrift

Brahma Chellaney

Consider two developments in recent days that speak volumes about India’s Pakistan policy: Just as the United States moved to unilaterally withdraw from a major arms-control pact (the Intermediate-Range Forces, or INF, Treaty), “incredible India” — as it calls itself in international tourism-promotion ads — welcomed an inspection team from a terrorist state to scrutinize Indian hydropower projects that are being built under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).

And, as if to mock the Indian foreign secretary’s formal protest over his call to separatist Umar Farooq four days earlier, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mohammad Qureshi on Saturday telephoned another secessionist leader in Kashmir Valley, Ali Shah Geelani. Qureshi and Pakistan’s all-powerful military generals think they can get away by provoking India.