9 July 2020

The Crisis India Needed

DEVESH KAPUR

WASHINGTON, DC – The ongoing standoff between Chinese and Indian forces along the two countries’ disputed Himalayan border recently resulted in the first troop casualties there in decades, with some Indian soldiers killed in particularly brutal fashion. Moreover, the intensity of China’s multiple cross-border incursions suggests approval from the highest levels of the Chinese government.

Satellite pictures confirm that Chinese forces have occupied at least 60 square kilometers (23.2 square miles) of territory that India claims as its own. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has downplayed this uncomfortable reality, perhaps out of concern that publicly acknowledging the truth would inflame domestic public opinion and fuel a highly undesirable escalation of tensions. A less benign interpretation, however, is that the government is embarrassed, because its claim to be more muscular than its predecessor in confronting external aggression has been proven hollow.

But China’s recent saber-rattling may paradoxically benefit India by jolting it out of one of its periodic stupors. After its disastrous 1962 war with China, for example, India undertook a sweeping modernization of its military and subsequently won a decisive victory in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.

Critics of US-Taliban Deal Say Militants Can’t Be Trusted

By Deb Reichmann

Intelligence that Afghan militants might have accepted Russian bounties for killing American troops did not scuttle the U.S.-Taliban agreement or President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw thousands more troops from the war. 

It did give critics of the deal another reason to say the Taliban shouldn’t be trusted.

The bounty information was included in Trump’s president’s daily intelligence brief on February 27, according to intelligence officials, and two days later, the United States and Taliban signed an agreement in Qatar. The agreement clears the way for America to end 19 years in Afghanistan and gives Trump a way to make good on his promise to end U.S. involvement in what he calls “endless wars.” 

On March 3, three days after the agreement was signed, the president had a 35-minute phone call with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and head of their political office in Qatar. After reports of the bounties broke in late June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a video conference with Baradar to make it clear that the U.S. expects the Taliban to live up to their commitments, 

Russian Bounties on U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Fit Right Into Putin’s Playbook

Frida Ghitis 

From the moment The New York Times broke the news that U.S. forces had found massive amounts of cash during raids in Afghanistan, and ultimately concluded that Russia has been offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American and coalition troops, the focus has centered on President Donald Trump and his failure to take action in response.

Observers have paid much less attention to whether this is the kind of operation Russia would run—and why Moscow might undertake activities so brazen that if discovered, they might qualify as a casus belli, risking armed confrontation or at least a sharp deterioration in already frayed ties with the United States and the West. .

Covid-19 Is Accelerating Human Transformation—Let’s Not Waste It


BACK WHEN WE started WIRED magazine, it was all digital, all the time. In Silicon Valley, bodies were treated like the somewhat inconvenient and sometimes embarrassing things that needed to be fueled and occasionally rested so that they could support big heads that housed big ideas about the future. Human biology wasn’t exactly on our radar, except in science fiction, where pandemics always seemed du jour.

Jane Metcalfe is the founder, with Louis Rossetto, of WIRED. After a stint as the president of TCHO Chocolate, she created NEO.LIFE to track the ways we are changing as we bring an engineering mindset to our own biology. For more on this topic, read Neo.Life: 25 Visions for the Future of Our Species. To share your thoughts, please send email to visions@neo.life.

Then, in 1995, we published Scenarios, our first special issue, which imagined the future in 25 years, i.e. 2020. One article from that issue, “The Plague Years,” almost reads like a report from the current pandemic.

In it, a virus from China, of course named Mao flu, afflicts the elderly and the immunocompromised. A bio conference becomes a significant vector for infection. Singapore is initially able to contain the virus using draconian measures. The whole world goes into lockdown and cities empty as those who can afford it escape to the countryside. There’s an extensive loss of lives among medical personnel. Mao flu research becomes the only medical research taking place. The transgenic source of the virus is eventually traced back to a lab in China. There is even a cruise ship involved in our version. Ultimately, the cure is open sourced.

Beijing’s Secret Police Rule Hong Kong Now

BY DOUG BANDOW
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The city was once proud of its distinct British-derived legal system, which guaranteed the rights of residents—and provided a solid foundation for its commercial glory. That is being swept away. Despite predictions that Beijing would not be ready to enforce its new national security law in Hong Kong until the fall, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government rushed the legislation, announced just six weeks ago, through the National People’s Congress. The measure took effect at 11 p.m. local time on June 30, sight unseen by those now subject to its dictates.

Hong Kong’s old legal rules no longer apply. Legislative interpretation will be up to China. A new enforcement office, a national security commission, will be established under “the supervision of the central government.” Chinese security agents will operate openly and officially in Hong Kong. Personnel will employ surveillance, including wiretaps, against suspects, who can be held without bail. Trials can be conducted in secret. Cases can be decided by judges rather than juries. Special jurists will be appointed by the territory’s chief executive, who in turn is effectively chosen by China. And offenders will in most cases be extradited to the mainland, where they will be tried and (inevitably) convicted and imprisoned.

US Navy Conducts Dual Aircraft Carrier Exercises in South China Sea

By Ankit Panda
The USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz carrier strike groups carried out operations and exercises in the South China Sea on Saturday, according to the U.S. Navy. The operations were meant to “support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the U.S. Navy said. It did not specify the location of the exercises.

“The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,“ said Admiral George M. Wikoff, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the exercises.

Part of the exercises this weekend involved the simulation of multiple carrier air wing sorties against enemy bases, according to the Wall Street Journal’s report. The exercises mark the first time the U.S. Navy has conducted such exercises in the South China Sea with two aircraft carriers.

U.S. Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carriers like USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz are capable of operating more than 75 fixed wing aircraft, depending on the configuration of the flight deck.

Where the US-China Trade War Should Go From Here

By Mayaz Alam

With the fallout from the coronavirus further straining U.S.-China relations, the brief détente the two superpowers enjoyed after signing a Phase One trade agreement in January has all but disappeared. When the agreement was signed, it was evident that China’s commitment to purchase an additional $200 billion in U.S. goods and services over the next two years was unrealistic. Amid a potential global depression in the wake of the pandemic, the deal is dead on arrival, but both governments claim they are committed to implementing it. 

When the global economy begins its long and arduous recovery, the United States needs to shift its strategy in the trade war to address the core concerns that prompted the economic conflict, such as Chinese industrial espionage, noncompetitive practices of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and China’s expansive system of industrial subsidies. It will be tempting for the Trump administration to turn to tariffs once again to increase pressure against China, but this cannot be the policy moving forward. 

China's Next Military Move: A Base in the Persian Gulf?

by Michael Rubin
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For a generation, China has expanded its economic outreach to the Middle East but has largely remained diplomatically neutral and militarily absent. Beijing, for example, maintains cordial diplomatic relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. It often abstained on contentious UN Security Council resolution. And while Chinese Navy ships do make occasional port calls in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, but China’s non-combatant evacuation operation from Libya at the beginning of that country’s civil war was far less coordinated and effective than Chinese authorities claimed.

President Xi Jingping’s assertiveness may not be limited to China’ periphery, in Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and Ladakh. China, for example, not only established a military base in Djibouti within miles of the U.S. presence, but also has begun to interfere with U.S. pilots in the region.

Now, according to the Iranian press, it appears that China may be seeking a more permanent base in the Persian Gulf. Majid Reza Hariri, speaker of Iran-China Joint Chamber of Commerce, traced increased Chinese involvement both to Ahmadinejad-era agreements and to Xi’s 2015 visit to Iran, in which the Chinese president both met with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, and signed agreements involving both the security and military sectors.

The State of China’s Soft Power in 2020

Daniele Carminati

China’s soft power, the power of attraction, is as often debated as it is misunderstood. The US boasts Hollywood, globally-recognized brands and companies, and its quest for democratic ‘evangelization’; the European Union has a romantic and touristic appeal, a (struggling) sense of supranational unity, and its far-reaching foreign policy of assistance; Japan and South Korea are both formidable pop-culture exporters. But what about China’s soft power resources and strategies? When read through Joseph Nye’s triad – culture, values, and policies – it may be hard to identify the sources of attraction. China’s culture still has limited appeal, its values mostly fail to reflect the country’s image and reputation abroad, and its foreign policy is seen with skepticism at best – and as hegemonic at worst. Thus, it is legitimate to ask whether China’s ‘charm offensive’ is losing momentum.

Following its phenomenal economic growth over the past few decades, most of China’s appeal resides in this successful story, especially in the eyes of developing countries. However, the process is still in the making. Although tens of millions of citizens have been lifted from poverty, fears of falling into the middle-income trap are present, along with domestic problems such as an aging population and concerns about a sustainable innovation pace. More broadly, it is fair to say that China’s soft power heavily relies on its economic clout.

Did a Cyber-Weapon Blow Up an Iranian Missile Factory—And Is This Cyber-War?

by Matthew Petti 
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An Iranian general would not rule out that a massive explosion east of Tehran last week was caused by “hacking,” amidst speculation that the incident was an act of sabotage.

Iranian authorities had attempted to downplay the blast—which tore through a missile factory east of Tehran—as a gas tank explosion at a different industrial park. But one official refused to rule out an act of cyber-sabotage.

“On the explosion of the Parchin gas facilities, it has been mentioned that the incident was caused by hacking the center's computer systems,” said Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, head of the Passive Defense Institution, at a conference on anti-chemical weapons defense. “But until we come to a conclusion on the dimensions of this incident and the claim, we cannot comment.”

The explosion damaged the Khojir missile production complex, according to satellite imagery, but Iranian authorities have insisted that it actually took place at the Parchin industrial park forty kilometer away.

The apparent coverup—along with international tensions around Iran’s missile program—have raised suspicions of foul play.

A new direction in Israel's war-between-wars campaign?

By ANNA AHRONHEIM
A series of mysterious “accidents” targeting Iran’s missile and nuclear program is a significant rise in tensions between Israel and the Islamic Republic, leading many to wonder if the IDF’s war-between-wars campaign has expanded to target key nuclear sites.

It started last Thursday when an explosion rocket a facility close to Iran’s Prachin military complex. While Tehran said the explosion was caused by a gas leak, satellite photos later showed that the blast took place at a nearby missile production facility.

It was followed by an explosion at a hospital in Tehran that killed 19 people. And on Friday, a large fire caused extensive damage to a building at the nuclear complex at Natanz, Iran’s largest uranium-enrichment facility. A previously unknown dissident group, saying that it was opposed to Iran’s security apparatus and calling itself the Homeland Cheetahs, claimed responsibility.

France Was Officially Colorblind—Until Now

BY KARINA PISER
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Last month, France’s human rights watchdog released a biting assessment of discrimination in the country and urged the government to take quick measures to address deep inequalities along racial lines. In France, where tension over national identity has defined public debate since the 1980s, talk of discrimination is hardly new. But the report, issued by human rights ombudsman Jacques Toubon, stressed a crucial element that has long been minimized in mainstream conversations—that the discrimination faced by French citizens of foreign origin is “systemic.”

The report isn’t the first time the notion of systemic discrimination has entered the public debate. Anti-racism activists, especially among the younger generation, have been insisting on its consequences for years. But Toubon’s intervention does mark a rare instance of that term coming from a public official—and has particular weight at a moment when racism, and France’s understanding of it, are more challenged than ever.

After the Liberal International Order

JOSEPH S. NYE, JR.

CAMBRIDGE – Many analysts argue that the liberal international order ended with the rise of China and the election of US President Donald Trump. But if Joe Biden defeats Trump in November’s election, should he try to revive it? Probably not, but he must replace it.

Critics correctly point out that the American order after 1945 was neither global nor always very liberal. It left out more than half the world (the Soviet bloc and China) and included many authoritarian states. American hegemony was always exaggerated. Nonetheless, the most powerful country must lead in creating global public goods, or they will not be provided – and Americans will suffer.

The current pandemic is a case in point. A realistic goal for a Biden administration should be to establish rules-based international institutions with different membership for different issues.

Would China and Russia agree to participate? During the 1990s and 2000s, neither could balance American power, and the United States overrode sovereignty in pursuit of liberal values. The US bombed Serbia and invaded Iraq without approval by the United Nations Security Council. It also supported a UN General Assembly resolution in 2005 that established a “Responsibility to Protect” citizens brutalized by their own governments – a doctrine it then used in 2011 to justify bombing Libya to protect the citizens of Benghazi.

How the U.N. Can Mitigate the Coronavirus Pandemic’s Impact on Peacekeeping

Louise Riis Andersen, Richard Gowan 

Since it began to spread rapidly earlier this year, the coronavirus pandemic has had a visible impact on United Nations peacekeeping operations. Peacekeepers have practiced social distancing, minimized interactions with local populations and tried to help fragile states handle the disease. Yet the long-term economic and political consequences for peacekeeping look like they will be more severe.

How Masks Went From Don’t-Wear to Must-Have


Public health messaging and science have to work hard to stay in sync during a crisis. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they haven’t always succeeded.

Covid-19 has been in the United States for half a year, and in that time face coverings went from being discouraged by the world’s top public health officials to being encouraged by them—and from being opposed by US political leaders affiliated with the president to being accepted, if not demanded.

DONALD TRUMPtold Fox News on Wednesday that he, the president, looked pretty good in a mask. Trump, it turns out, was never necessarily against wearing masks to slow the spread of the pandemic disease Covid-19, despite multiple statements to that effect. No, no. “People have seen me wear one,” Trump said. “It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked OK. Looked like the Lone Ranger.” (The Lone Ranger’s mask covered his eyes; masks to prevent the spread of a virus should cover the nose and mouth.)

Here's all the WIRED coverage in one place, from how to keep your children entertained to how this outbreak is affecting the economy. 

Are We Entering an “Asian Century?”: The Possibility of a New International Order

Keita Kawakita
This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master's program. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books.

Asia has been increasing its influence in the world, largely, because of China’s exceptional economic growth. A creative study of the global economy’s center of gravity, which indicates the average location of economic activity across geographies, showcases that though, in 1980, that center of gravity was the mid-Atlantic, by 2008, it had moved to the east of Helsinki, and, by 2050, it is predicted to be located between India and China (Quah, 2011). This favorable economic prediction, combined with the arguable decline of the West, is propelling quite a few international relations scholars into advancing the argument that we are entering an “Asian Century”. Some of them go so far as to contend that China will rule the world. However, a strong economy is just one of the requisites for the “Century.” Luce (1941), who coined the term “American Century,” laid out the important factors needed to realize the American Century: the American economy, American ideals, and responsibility for leading the entire world. In addition to those three factors, most importantly, structural advantages within the US-led liberal international order enabled the American Century. Even if China had a preponderance of the total economic size over the US in the future, China could not create a China-led international order in which China and other states enjoy economic, political, and social prosperity due to China’s intrinsic political issues and external factors.

The Maidan Revolution in Ukraine

David R. Marples

The Maidan uprising dates from the failure of the Vilnius Summit, at which Ukraine was to sign a Union Agreement with the European Union but it did not happen immediately. Protests in the central Maidan of Kyiv, which had started in November 2013 peaked in February 2014, with armed clashes in the square between demonstrators and Berkut police, resulting ultimately in the deaths of around 100 people – most from snipers firing from the rooftops of nearby buildings – and the removal of the president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Russian forces invaded Crimea at the end of March and annexed the peninsula after a rapidly held and far from democratic referendum. Fighting broke out in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, while in the western regions, local governments were replaced by nationalist forces. The Russian government claimed that neo-Nazi forces had taken power in Kyiv and it was necessary to respond. It also maintained that the United States government was behind the uprising, a claim bolstered by the presence in the square of officials such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland, and an intercepted phone conversation between the latter and another US official, evidently outlining their preferences for the next Ukrainian government.

Russian Criminal Group Finds New Target: Americans Working at Home

By David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth
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A hacking group calling itself Evil Corp., indicted in December, has shown up in corporate networks with sophisticated ransomware. American officials worry election infrastructure could be next.

A Russian ransomware group whose leaders were indicted by the Justice Department in December is retaliating against the U.S. government, many of America’s largest companies and a major news organization, identifying employees working from home during the pandemic and attempting to get inside their networks with malware intended to cripple their operations.

Sophisticated new attacks by the hacking group — which the Treasury Department claims has at times worked for Russian intelligence — were identified in recent days by Symantec Corporation, a division of Broadcom, one of the many firms that monitors corporate and government networks.

In an urgent warning issued Thursday night, the company reported that Russian hackers had exploited the sudden change in American work habits to inject code into corporate networks with a speed and breadth not previously witnessed.

Ransomware allows the hackers to demand that companies pay millions to have access to their own data restored.

This Is What the Future of Globalization Will Look Like

BY HENRY FARRELL, ABRAHAM NEWMAN
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A pair of sentences, published on April 17, show us how strange globalization has become: “Two semi-trailer trucks, cleverly marked as food-service vehicles, met us at the warehouse. When fully loaded, the trucks would take two distinct routes back to Massachusetts to minimize the chances that their contents would be detained or redirected.”

This passage didn’t appear in one of Richard Stark’s crime novels or in the script of an East Coast reshoot of Breaking Bad. It was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, describing a hospital’s desperate efforts to secure a shipment of personal protective equipment.

This is not simply a story about the United States. It reflects a much bigger change from a world of predictable trade and exchange to one of government blockades and daring heists—a change triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. The United States intercepted medical masks being shipped from Thailand to Germany and redirected them for its own purposes, in a move German officials described as piracy. Germany itself blocked the export of masks and other medical equipment at a time when its fellow European Union member Italy was begging for help. India restricted the export of key pharmaceuticals and drug precursors. Newspaper reports describe a chaotic global marketplace where governments and health care officials consort with dubious middlemen for medical supplies, acting on rumors and personal connections, fighting to outbid and undercut each other. And this behavior has spread to other sectors like auto manufacturing; experts worry that the next battles may be over food.

The crisis that globalization faces has roots that go far deeper than the current pandemic.

Welcome to the Post-Leader World

BY OONA HATHAWAY, SCOTT J. SHAPIRO

On April 14, as the enormity of the coronavirus crisis was finally becoming clear, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was halting funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), delivering a major blow to an organization that depends on the United States for nearly 10 percent of its budget. Washington followed that decision with a declaration 10 days later that it would not take part in a global initiative to speed up the development, production, and distribution of drugs and vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. In early May, the United States sat out a global vaccine summit led by the European Commission, and later that month, Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from WHO altogether. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council has been silent, paralyzed by the rising tensions between China and the United States.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare how much global institutions have come to rely on a United States that has now abdicated its role as the world’s indispensable nation. The Trump administration hasn’t just responded to the emerging health crisis by imposing travel bans, carrying out draconian restrictions on immigration and asylum, and pressing intelligence agencies to distort assessments on the source of the outbreak. The United States has also turned on the global institutions it was instrumental in creating after World War II to address just such global threats.

5G Was Going to Unite the World—Instead It’s Tearing Us Apart


THE WORLD CAME together to build 5G. Now the next-generation wireless technology is pulling the world apart.

The latest version of the 5G technical specifications, expected Friday, adds features for connecting autonomous cars, intelligent factories, and internet-of-things devices to crazy fast 5G networks. The blueprints reflect a global effort to develop the technology, with contributions from more than a dozen companies from Europe, the US, and Asia.

And yet, 5G is also pulling nations apart—with the US and China anchoring the tug-of-war. Tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade, human rights, the handling of Covid-19, and Chinese misinformation are escalating global divisions around the deployment of 5G. A growing number of countries are aligning with either a Western or a Chinese version of the tech.

“National security and commercial interests are all entangled, and it's very hard to separate them,” says Scott Wallsten, president of the Technology Policy Institute, a think tank.

The way 5G was created, and the way it is now being deployed, capture an ongoing conundrum for Western countries—how to balance healthy competition and collaboration with national interests and the rise of China.

What is a cyber attack, what are the targets and who is behind them? Inside the hacking attacks bombarding Australia

By Catherine Taylor

Each represents a cyber attack underway on one of 12 strategically placed "honeypots'", but not the kind Winnie The Pooh would seek out. These attackers are being lured by online sensors that are rigged to appear like computers loaded with the kind of information a cyber-criminal might go for.

As I watch, one or two red dots becomes 10, then 20, 30, until I lose count. At the bottom of the screen a list of attempted "new attacks" grows longer: Ireland to Australia, China to Australia, Russia to Australia.

Behind every one of these throbbing red dots sits a cyber criminal — maybe someone hidden in plain sight, perhaps stationed at his or her own kitchen table just down the road from me.

Or, the dot could represent a team of cyber criminals concealed in a high-security office building anywhere in the world, launching attacks on another country's information systems on behalf of a nation state.

But who are these people? Who is directing them? What are they after? And most important of all — how can they be stopped?

FORGETTING COUNTERINSURGENCY, AGAIN: LESSONS FROM RECONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM

Alexandre Caillot 
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The Pentagon is engaged in a strategic transformation that may imperil the future of American national security. According to a 2018 independent bipartisan commission appointed by Congress, the United States’ preoccupation with counterinsurgency (COIN) and counterterrorism has enabled near peers and rogue states to shrink the capability gap between their militaries and that of the world’s only superpower. Policymakers and the defense community must recognize that great-power competition is not only a test of conventional military strength; it also demands mastery of actions below the major-war threshold that include counterinsurgency, irregular warfare, hybrid threats, stability operations, and the “gray zone.” A COIN capability is critical to American competition and conflict with other states, and war with nonstate actors. The US Army should be careful lest it commit too many resources to high-intensity war. This article surveys the service’s changed approach to readiness and the threat landscape. It then compares the transition from official hostilities to stability operations early in post–Civil War Reconstruction (1865–1866) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003–2004) to demonstrate that counterinsurgency requires a heavy commitment to manpower and training.

The Army has not completely abandoned COIN. It retains the capability through doctrine, education, and assistance it provides to other armed forces. The 2018 Army Strategy and 2019 Army Doctrine Publication 3-0, Unified Land Operations affirm that irregular warfare is important—a view echoed by Pentagon officials and an officer self-study webpage. A 2019 article in War Room, the online journal of the Army War College, actually criticizes the counterinsurgency emphasis of the training.

The Tip of the American Military Spear Is Being Blunted

BY TANNER GREER

In 1952, the Marine Corps almost lost its way. Since its formal establishment in 1798, it had served as America’s premier amphibious assault force, garrisoned coastal forts, led naval raids, provided shipboard security, conducted so-called small wars campaigns, and engaged in extended land campaigns far from any coastline. But just what role it should play in the postwar order was unclear. Many in the Pentagon believed that the Marine Corps had no need to be an independent force, and they sought to cut its numbers to irrelevance.

Yet in an overwhelming vote, both houses of Congress agreed to put a tight ceiling on the number of men the Pentagon could cut from the ranks of the Corps. Rep. Carl Vinson explained on the floor of the House why this was necessary: “The Marine Corps can be and is called upon first to go into combat to establish our defenses until the Army, Navy, or Air Force can be called to the scene. It stands to reason that a full-strength army, navy, or air force cannot be called into combat at the drop of a hat. … [There is] the need for a ready force.” Since then, that has been the Marine Corps clear mission: If the U.S. president requires American troops to deploy to some far-flung corner of the globe today, the U.S. Marines are ready to go. Sometimes, as in Korea or Iraq, this meant being the “tip of the spear” of a much larger host. At other times, as in Panama or Nicaragua, it has meant being the main combined-arms force in a campaign that was important enough to justify boots on the ground yet small enough to avoid full national mobilization for war. In all these cases, the Corps has sought to fulfill the injunction of the 82nd Congress to be “a force most ready when the Nation is least ready.”

America's Military Dominance Is Not Guaranteed

by Vicky Hartzler

Less than three years ago, the Trump administration announced to the world the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition. The administration asserted that the return to an era of great power competition is the central challenge to the future of American prosperity and security.

As a nation, we have allowed our competitive advantage to erode. We must reframe our perspective of national security.

China and Russia continue to challenge the United States and are exploiting what they perceive as American vulnerabilities. In the past, America has been able to project power and advance our interests globally, and we have been able to do so largely unchecked.

Today, that is an ability we can no longer take for granted.

In order to maintain our competitive advantage in the era of great power competition, we must modernize our forces. The need to recapitalize and modernize exists across all the services and in all military domains.

8 July 2020

Making Sense of the Recent China-India Clashes

 Harsh V. Pant and Kriti M. Shah
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The original article charted changes in South Asia’s geopolitical landscape since the end of the Cold War, and particularly how other major powers, including the United States, Russia, and China, have adapted to the rise of India and how this has impacted the relationship between India and Pakistan. In June 2020, the deadliest clashes between India and China on parts of their disputed borders since a brief conflict in 1962 erupted. Orbis editor Nikolas Gvosdev turned to Professor Harsh V. Pant, director of studies at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi and Professor of International Relations at King’s College London, for his thoughts on recent developments and how these events fit into the overall geopolitical analysis he and his co-author, Kriti M. Shah, presented last year.

Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of the recent clashes between India and China?

Since the start of May, Indian and Chinese forces have been squaring off in the tough terrain of the Line of Actual Control, the un-demarcated border known as LAC—more than 3,000 kilometers for India and 2,000 for China. Reflecting heightened nationalism from both Asian powers, the conflict took a dramatic turn on June 16 when clashes in Ladakh led to the deaths of at least 20 Indian troops and an unconfirmed number of Chinese troops. The confrontation emerges as the biggest and most serious border crisis since the 73-day Doklam standoff in 2017 when Indian soldiers detected construction activity on what is considered disputed territory on the Doklam Plateau and had to cross into Bhutan to restore status quo ante.

A Failed Afghan Peace Deal

Seth G. Jones
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Introduction

On February 29, 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement intended to be a first step toward an intra-Afghan peace deal. Important provisions of the deal included a U.S. commitment to eventually withdraw all U.S. and foreign troops from Afghanistan, a Taliban pledge to prevent al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups from using Afghan territory to threaten the United States and its partners, and a promise by both sides to support intra-Afghan peace negotiations. As part of the agreement, the United States promised to decrease the number of U.S. forces from approximately 14,000 to 8,600 soldiers, proportionately reduce the number of other international forces in Afghanistan, and work with both sides to release prisoners. There were notable problems with the agreement, such as its failure to include the Afghan government in the negotiations. It was an attempt to make the best of a bad situation.

Despite such problems, a peace agreement that prevents Afghanistan from once again becoming a haven for international terrorism would allow the United States to withdraw its forces and reduce its security and development assistance, which exceeded $800 billion between 2001 and 2019. An agreement is particularly desirable as the United States focuses on competition with China and Russia, and as the United States deals with the budgetary pressures caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says

By Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz
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WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

Afghan Deaths Pile Up in Uncertainty Over U.S. Deal With Taliban

By Mujib Mashal
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KABUL, Afghanistan — Two employees of Afghanistan’s human rights commission were killed in Kabul on Saturday as a bomb attached to their vehicle exploded, the latest in a rising number of targeted killings in the Afghan capital.

From assassinations of religious scholars and assaults against cultural figures to widespread Taliban attacks across the country, the rise in violence is sapping the brief optimism from an American agreement with the Taliban. Under that deal, the United States would withdraw its troops, paving the way for direct negotiations between the Afghan sides to end the war in a hoped-for political settlement.

The peace deal has hit a wall over a prisoner exchange that was supposed to enable direct talks. Instead, the violence has intensified.

In a statement, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights commission said one of its vehicles was struck by a magnetic bomb on Saturday morning, killing two employees who were on their way to work.

The victims were identified as Fatima Natasha Khalil, 24, a donor coordinator for the commission who had recently completed a degree from the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, and Jawid Folad, a longtime driver at the commission.

This Time, Russia Is in Afghanistan to Win

BY SAJJAN M. GOHEL, ALLISON BAILEY
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The recent revelations in the New York Times and other media that U.S. intelligence officials believed a Russian military intelligence unit had offered secret bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan renew deep concerns about the nefarious agenda Vladimir Putin’s Russia has not only in Afghanistan but also to destabilize the West.

The timing of the revelations—the findings were briefed to U.S. President Donald Trump in late February—is significant as it coincided with the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal in Doha, Qatar, at the end of February. It is likely that the Taliban’s murky dealings with Russia were taking place while they were negotiating with the United States throughout 2019 and 2020, calling into question the insurgent group’s commitment to any peace deal.

The agreement provided for a phased withdrawal of NATO forces, with the United States pulling out 5,000 of its 13,000 troops over the next few months. In return, the Taliban claim they would not enable Afghan soil to be used for terrorism. But the obstacles to peace are so profound and numerous that the chances of the deal being honored are slim. A United Nations report stated that the Taliban retained close links to al Qaeda and sought its counsel during the negotiations with U.S. officials. And the Haqqani network, the biggest faction of the Taliban, has been accused by the Afghan government of collaborating with an ISIS affiliate—Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP)—to carry out numerous attacks in Afghanistan in 2020. (The most horrific examples were the suicide and gun attack on a Sikh gurdwara and the storming of the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital’s maternity ward in Kabul, killing nurses, women in labor, and newly born babies.)