6 October 2019

The Unwanted Wars: Why the Middle East Is More Combustible Than Ever

by Robert Mally

The war that now looms largest is a war nobody apparently wants. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump railed against the United States’ entanglement in Middle Eastern wars, and since assuming office, he has not changed his tune. Iran has no interest in a wide-ranging conflict that it knows it could not win. Israel is satisfied with calibrated operations in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza but fears a larger confrontation that could expose it to thousands of rockets. Saudi Arabia is determined to push back against Iran, but without confronting it militarily. Yet the conditions for an all-out war in the Middle East are riper than at any time in recent memory. 

A conflict could break out in any one of a number of places for any one of a number of reasons. Consider the September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities: it could theoretically have been perpetrated by the Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group, as part of their war with the kingdom; by Iran, as a response to debilitating U.S. sanctions; or by an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq. If Washington decided to take military action against Tehran, this could in turn prompt Iranian retaliation against the United States’ Gulf allies, an attack by Hezbollah on Israel, or a Shiite militia operation against U.S. personnel in Iraq. Likewise, Israeli operations against Iranian allies anywhere in the Middle East could trigger a regionwide chain reaction. Because any development anywhere in the region can have ripple effects everywhere, narrowly containing a crisis is fast becoming an exercise in futility…

America’s Answer to Huawei

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The U.S. military is used to being ahead of the curve. In the 1980s, the Pentagon’s investment in breakthrough technologies like stealth and the internet helped win the Cold War with the Soviet Union and cemented the United States’ status as the world’s sole superpower.

Today, the United States is at a similar inflection point in its competition with China. But this time the U.S. government—which has grown clunky and risk averse in its dealing with innovation in the commercial sector—is ill equipped to lead in a number of key technology areas that are going to define the future of warfare.

One of those key areas is fifth-generation wireless networks and technology, known as 5G. 5G will offer exponentially faster data speeds and volume than today’s mobile networks, enabling a host of new technologies that promise to revolutionize the entire global economy, in such fields as self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. 

October 1944: Remembering One of the Largest Battles in Naval History

By Robert Farley

For four days in late October 1944, the United States and Japan fought one of the largest battles in naval history. The United States brought over 300 ships to the invasion of the island of Leyte in the Philippines, which the Japanese attempted to prevent with nearly 70 warships of its own. The battle resulted in the decisive defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy, and the beginning of the U.S. reconquest of the Philippines. This is the first in a series of posts examining how the battle is remembered by the nations it affected, primarily the United States, Japan, and the Philippines.

The people of the Philippines are often consigned a minor role in treatments of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Japanese armed forces conquered the Philippines in the months following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The campaign began on December 8, 1941 and ended with the surrender of U.S. troops on Corregidor in May 1942. Filipinos mounted a bitter insurgency in response to the Japanese invasion, encouraged both by Japanese depredations and the promise of independence from the United States.

The Tyrannical Mr. Trump

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No use kidding ourselves any longer. Donald Trump’s response to the impeachment probe into his documented attempt to use U.S. foreign policy to advance his political fortunes reveals, more than anything else he’s done so far, that this president has little use for the Constitution or the traditions of American democracy. He sides with the autocrats of the world because he himself is one—or, at the very least, aspires to be.

And that extends to the constitutional provisions for his removal: Based on what he has said in recent days, even if Trump is impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, he may well reject such a verdict as illegitimate. Trump has already warned that a “civil war” might ensue. On Tuesday night he tweeted: “I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP.” 

The U.S. constitutional crisis is, in other words, only in its beginning stages.


Lauren R. Rublin has a feature article in this weekend’s (September 30, 2019) Barron’s, “The Future Of Biotech,” which is quite lengthy/several pages long — so, I will do my best to highlight the key points/takeaways. I refer you to this weekend’s Barron’s for the full article.

Ms. Rublin begins, “recent advances in biotechnology, from data-driven diagnostics, to game-changing gene therapies, suggest we’re on the cusp of a golden age in which many feared diseases will become treatable, or even cured.” Ms. Rublin interviewed five members of Barron’s first biotech roundtable of analysts and investors to discuss “what excites them about the coming disruption in health care — and, how to invest in and profit from them, too.”

How Can Nonspecialists Identify The Industry’s Disruptive Innovators? 

Ziad Barki, [fund] manager of the $12.5B T. Rowe Price Health Sciences Fund (ticker: PRHSX), told Barron’s/Ms. Rublin that “It’s difficult to differentiate among early stage opportunities. We look for therapies that have achieved some level of proof of concept, whether in terms of survival benefit, or other clinical benefit. If they are without competitors, that is the holy grail. Recently, there has been so much innovation that multiple companies are coming to the market to treat the same conditions. When that happens, you see new competition. The migraine space is a good example,” he said.

What Would Happen If Facebook Was Turned Off?

There has never been such an agglomeration of humanity as Facebook. Some 2.3bn people, 30% of the world’s population, engage with the network each month. Economists reckon it may yield trillions of dollars’ worth of value for its users. But Facebook is also blamed for all sorts of social horrors: from addiction and bullying to the erosion of fact-based political discourse and the enabling of genocide. New research — and there is more all the time — suggests such accusations are not entirely without merit. It may be time to consider what life without Facebook would be like.

To begin to imagine such a world, suppose that researchers could kick a sample of people off Facebook and observe the results. In fact, several teams of scholars have done just that. In January Hunt Allcott, of New York University, and Luca Braghieri, Sarah Eichmeyer and Matthew Gentzkow, of Stanford University, published results of the largest such experiment yet. They recruited several thousand Facebookers and sorted them into control and treatment groups. Members of the treatment group were asked to deactivate their Facebook profiles for four weeks in late 2018. The researchers checked up on their volunteers to make sure they stayed off the social network, and then studied what happened to people cast into the digital wilderness.

Cyber Risk Scenarios, the Financial System, and Systemic Risk Assessment


Cyber risk has become a key issue for stakeholders in the financial system. But its properties are still not precisely characterized and well understood. To help develop a better understanding, we discuss the properties of cyber risk and categorize various cyber risk scenarios. Furthermore, we present a conceptual framework for assessing systemic cyber risk to individual countries. This involves analyzing cyber risk exposures, assessing cybersecurity and preparedness capabilities, and identifying buffers available to absorb cyber risk–induced shocks.


Internet usage is globally expanding at a rapid pace. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 1.5 billion new users accessed the internet between 2010 and 2016.1 Although internet access fosters digital, social, and financial inclusion, the ever-expanding digitalization of life increasingly provides opportunities for adversaries. These opportunities range from criminals conducting financial fraud and information theft to sophisticated hackers conducting disruptive and even destructive cyber attacks.

Regional Power Struggles Explain the Rationale Behind Cyber Operations

Alexandra Paulus is a PhD candidate at Chemnitz University of Technology and Dr. Sven Herpig is Head of International Cyber Security Policy at Stiftung Neue Verantwortung.

While traditionally most discussion on cyber operations has focused on great powers, the reality is more nuanced. Aspiring regional powers and their competitors also increasingly employ cyber capabilities. Recent events have made us painfully aware of this reality as Iranian cyber forces allegedly infiltrated multiple targets in Bahrain, a close ally of Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia. It is timely to take a closer look at how regional power hierarchies motivate smaller states to conduct cyber operations and how these cyber operations could trigger conflict.

The Middle East has a long history of geopolitical cyber conflict. Aspiring regional powers conduct cyber operations for at least four reasons: 1) to punch above their geopolitical weight, 2) to signal claims to regional leadership, 3) to advance their regional interests below the threshold of armed conflict, and 4) to gather intelligence on rivals. In all four cases, the contenders for regional powers develop and use cyber capabilities to change regional affairs in their favor.

Is a Middle East Cyberwar Looming?

The recent attack against Saudi Aramco, which both the Saudi and US governments has claimed was the work of Iran, has generated many headlines. It has also brought renewed focus on the long-simmering cyberwar between the two countries.

The attack, in fact, can be seen as a real-world spillover of a cyberwar that has been going on for decades. The recent US cyberattack on Iran, and Trump’s accusations of “treason” against the NYT over releasing details of US attacks on Russia, are just two examples of the kind of attacks that will become more common in the next decade.

In this context, some are fearful that the Middle East could become a new theater in a worldwide cyberwar that will draw in many of the world powers.
The Long War

It’s important to realize that the recent attacks, both physical and cyber, are just the most recent examples of a silent war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The conflict arguably started back in the mid-2000s, when the Stuxnet virus infected systems that Iran was using to enrich uranium. 

NSA activates Cybersecurity Directorate to protect weapons, industrial base

Oct. 1 (UPI) — The National Security Agency on Tuesday launched a Cybersecurity Directorate to bring the agency’s foreign intelligence and cyberdefense missions together.

The new directorate will focus initially on the defense industrial base and the weapon’s security improvement, the agency said, calling it an effort to “unify as a nation against our threats.”

“The Cybersecurity Directorate will reinvigorate NSA’s white hat mission by sharing critical threat information and collaborating with partners and customers to better equip them to defend against malicious cyber activity,” the agency said in a statement.

NSA Director General Paul Nakasone tapped Anne Neuberger, who has been leading the NSA’s “Russia Small Group,” a joint NSA-Cyber Command task force to combat Russian election interference, in July to head the new cybersecurity arm.

“Integrating all of our cyber mission so there’s one focus,” is the goal, Neuberger said regarding the new directorate. “Sharing all our unclassified information as early as possible, as quickly as possible, so we can target that sharing to the right entity and then partner with DHS [Department of Homeland Security] on critical infrastructure … to build the security of that sector.”

5 October 2019

How America’s Af-Pak policy has imposed enduring security costs on India

Brahma Chellaney
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When US President Donald Trump joins Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 50,000-strong public rally in Houston, it will showcase the strength of the US-India relationship. But the powerful symbolism of the event should not blind us to the divergent US and Indian interests in India’s neighbourhood, especially the Afghanistan-Pakistan (Af-Pak) region. Indeed, before the rally, Trump will likely get the India trade deal that he has sought.

The spectacular collapse of the deal the chief US negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, concluded with the Afghan Taliban is unlikely to compel the United States to adopt a long-term approach to the Af-Pak region so that it ceases to be the global hotbed of terrorism. Even if Trump had signed off on the deal, it would not have brought peace to war-ravaged Afghanistan. Indeed, it would have only triggered a new war between Afghan nationalists and Pakistan’s proxies.

Successive US presidents’ short-range approach to the Af-Pak region has fostered Afghanistan’s destabilization and cemented the Pakistan military’s grip on decisive power within the country. It has also meant enduring security costs for India.

Indian Foundations of Modern Science

Subhash Kak

Scholars see India and Greece as the two principal birthplaces of science. School textbooks tell us about Pythagoras, Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes, and Ptolemy, geometry of the Vedic altars, the invention of zero in India, Yoga psychology, and Indian technology of steel-making that went into the manufacture of the best swords. But if you take the trouble of reading scholarly books, articles and encyclopedias, you will find that in many ways the early Indian contributions are the more impressive for they include a deep theory of mind, Pāṇini’s astonishing Sanskrit grammar, binary numbers of Piṅgala, music theory, combinatorics, algebra, earliest astronomy, and the physics of Kaṇāda with its laws of motion.

Of these, Kaṇāda is the least known. He may not have presented his ideas as mathematical equations, but he attempted something that no physicist to date has dared to do: he advanced a system that includes space, time, matter, as well as observers. He also postulated four types of atoms, two with mass (that turn out to be like proton and electron) and two with little mass (like the modern neutrino and photon), and the idea of invariance. A thousand or more years after Kaṇāda, Āryabhaṭa postulated that earth rotated and advanced the basic idea of relativity of motion.

Nepal: Dahal and the Peace Process:

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

On 26th September, in an usual note of contrition in a programme organized by the Human Rights Commission P.K. Dahal Co-Chairman of the Ruling Neal Communist Party declared to the people that he “takes responsibility for all the positive and negative implications of the insurgency.” Will that mean that he takes full responsibility for the inordinate delay in the transitional justice also?

Just a few days earlier – on 15th September to be precise, Dahal declared to the Press that “some domestic and international forces were attempting to derail the peace process and use the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a tool to achieve that goal. As is common with the politicians when they are in difficulties or trapped they try to blame domestic and international conspiracies in order to extricate themselves from such embarrassing situation! The truth of the matter is that it is only Dahal and his cohorts who have been persistently and deliberately using delaying tactics to prolong the mechanisms that were put in place for transitional justice long ago as part of the peace process.

A decade long civil war that caused by one estimate over 17,000 deaths, was not a little due to Dahal and his comrades in the Maoist Communist Party. Therefore the blame for whatever that had happened should be rightly taken by Dahal as the Chairman of the party who sponsored the insurgency.

The People's Republic of China at Age 70

Seventy years ago today (October 1, 1949), the People's Republic of China (or PRC) was born. Today, China is celebrating the anniversary in style (China Celebrates 70th Anniversary With Massive Military Parade).

Given China's dramatic comeback over the past four decades, there is no better time than now to objectively assess the PRC not only for China, but also for the world.

The life of the PRC can be simply divided into three periods:
1949 - 1976: Mao's era.
1978 - 2011: Deng's era.
2012 - present: Xi's era.

Let me elaborate on each ...

1. Mao's era

New Drones, Weapons Get Spotlight in China’s Military Parade


China’s newest weapons were on display Tuesday at the massive military parade staged in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of Communist rule. China watchers noticed a new emphasis on airborne and naval drones and the public unveiling of a new hypersonic missile and a new ICBM. 

The parade offered the first clear look at the supersonic DR-8 spy drone, which “would be expected to play a key role should there be a conflict with US aircraft carrier strike groups in the South China Sea or Western Pacific,” wrote the South China Morning Post.

The biggest surprise so far, hypersonic UAV.

China and the United States: Cooperation, Competition, and/or Conflict

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Overview of China and the U.S.: Cooperation, Competition and/or Conflict

This report is an experimental net assessment that addresses China's emergence as a global superpower, and its competition with the United States. The report is entitled China and the U.S.: Cooperation, Competition and/or Conflict.

The report has been extensively updated and expanded since its original publication. Besides incorporating various new reports on Chinese economic and military developments, the report also includes key quotes from the recently released Chinese White Paper commemorating the CCP’s 70 th anniversary. These quotes are now the best example of China’s indirect criticism of recent U.S. policy towards China, and strategy and actions towards other states, as well as its economic progress and plans to take lead on global development.

The entire report, and the report is available on the CSIS web site in several forms:

• Key sections are available on the CSIS web site in PDF form by clicking on each section title. The size of some of these PowerPoints may present problems for some IT systems, but quick comparisons of different Chinese and U.S. policy statements and assessments, and of the graphics and data that summarize the trends and issues involved are only possible if PowerPoint is used. The PDF versions are smaller but make it far more difficult to quickly compare a broad range of different trends.

China’s Massive Military Parade Shows Beijing is a Missile Superpower

by Andrew S. Erickson
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Paramount leader Xi Jinping just presided over the largest, most impressive military parade in the history of the world. The occasion: to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which just exceeded the Soviet Union’s lifespan by one year. The parade indeed showcased numerous military technological accomplishments far exceeding previous Soviet efforts. Showing ironclad resolve, Xi emphasized that China “continue to strive forward [with] the complete unification of our country.”

The bottom line: Missiles, missiles, and more missiles. For coercion, coercion, and coercion. Paraded, ironically, down Beijing’s “Avenue of Eternal Peace” (长安大街). Tradition holds that all systems displayed are already deployed for service in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). For specialists, this just underscores a long-running PRC effort at missile-centric deterrence. For other observers, the sheer scope and scale of hardware displayed—much of it conveniently labeled with large English letters—may well offer a revelation concerning Beijing’s military might and assertiveness.

Robust Rocket Rollouts:

Smart Money on Chinese Advances in AI

Few countries have embraced the vision of an AI-powered future as fervently as China. Unlike the United States, the Chinese government is dedicating significant resources and attention to AI development and creating a supportive policy environment to facilitate innovation and experimentation and proactively manage risk. However, numerous misconceptions and competing narratives around China’s innovation economy have made it difficult for U.S. policymakers to understand the AI ecosystem in China and its links to AI innovation in the United States. This report seeks to improve this understanding by examining China’s progress toward achieving its four strategic goals. We find that while China’s progress towards AI leadership remains uneven, its commitment to building domestic innovation capacity could allow the country to become a world-leading AI power in the coming decades. China’s progress in AI can complement and accelerate U.S. AI development, and policymakers should avoid responding to China’s advances with counterproductive policies that undermine the U.S. innovative capacity to little or no gain. Instead, the United States should focus on developing a positive agenda for driving its own AI development.

This report is part of the CSIS China Innovation Policy Series (CIPS) made possible by general support from Japan External Trade Organization, Semiconductor Industry Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft, General Electric Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.

China Inflates Shale Gas Forecast As Risks Mount – Analysis

By Michael Lelyveld
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China’s government appears to be counting on inflated forecasts of domestic natural gas production as concerns about the country’s import dependence grow.

Gas demand has been climbing since the winter of 2017-2018, when the government prematurely ordered northern cities to switch from heating with coal as part of its campaign against smog.

The government’s push set off a scramble to complete unfinished pipeline networks, build storage facilities and open new port terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) from abroad.

China’s national oil companies (NOCs) also struggled to increase domestic gas production to keep up with demand after sudden price spikes and shortages left homes, schools and factories without the cleaner-burning fuel.

More US Troops, Patriots & Radar Head To Saudi; But How Useful Are They?


THE PENTAGON: The Trump administration is shipping more air defense weapons to Saudi Arabia in response to the devastating Sept. 14 drone and cruise missile attack on a major oil facility there. But it’s not clear if the new hardware — a battery of Patriot missile launchers, 200 more troops, and four 360-degree Sentinel radars — will be the best defense against the next attack if it follows a similar pattern. The problem is that existing US systems are not designed to stop that kind of low-flying, relatively inexpensive threat.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said the deployment “will augment the kingdom’s air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure.” The Pentagon has tried to enlist allies to send more assets to the region, though no firm commitments have been made yet. “Other countries have called out Iranian misadventures in the region,” Hoffman noted, “and we look for them to contribute assets in an international effort to reinforce Saudi Arabia’s defense.”

The US will also put two more Patriot batteries along with a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) on standby for rapid deployment.

Congress: Respect Jamal Khashoggi’s legacy by ending support for the Saudi war in Yemen

Bruce Riedel

The specter of Jamal Khashoggi hangs over the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The murdered journalist and commentator has not been forgotten, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hoped. The kingdom’s 75-year old security relationship with the U.S. has been damaged by the crown prince’s decision to kill Jamal; that relationship may not survive intact.

Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey by the Saudi foreign ministry to get documents for his planned marriage. Waiting inside was a hand-picked team of assassins dispatched to Istanbul for the explicit purpose of killing him. The United Nations special rapporteur who investigated the murder concluded that it was an official state act and that there was reason to investigate the role that the crown prince might have played individually.

Just months before the murder, Mohammed bin Salman had a very positive visit in the United States. He was touted as the agent of change in the Middle East, and a young reformer. Those hailing him seemed oblivious to the humanitarian catastrophe he had created in Yemen. He is the driving force behind the disastrous Saudi intervention in Yemen’s civil war, which has produced mass malnutrition in the Arab world’s poorest country.

The OAS Ramps Up Regional Pressure on Venezuela Through the Rio Treaty

Jesse L. Anderson 

The Organization of American States took a new step late last month that it hopes could lead to an end to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela—but that others fear may spark an armed conflict between Venezuela and its neighbor, Colombia. On Sept. 23, the OAS voted to take punitive actions against as-yet-unspecified members of President Nicolas Maduro’s government through a somewhat obscure mechanism: the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, also known as the Rio Treaty, or the TIAR by its Spanish acronym.

The TIAR is a mutual defense treaty among 19 states in the Western Hemisphere. Signed in 1947, it has a driving principle similar to NATO: an attack on one member country is an attack on all of them. The possibility of using the treaty against Maduro—so its members could cooperate on sanctions as well as on law enforcement against drug trafficking and other criminal activity tied to Caracas—had percolated throughout the summer. The first meaningful step toward the treaty’s activation came on Sept. 11, when 12 of its members voted in favor of invoking it. They decided to delay further discussion on the matter, however, until they came together in New York last week for the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

Saudi Arabia Under Siege: Is the Kingdom Quietly Crumbling?

By Matthew Petti

Saudi authorities have been silent about the Houthi claims of a cross-border raid, but worrying reports are leaking out of the country.

Something is rotten in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Prince Mohammad bin Salman, also known as MbS, was once the promising young face of the Arab monarchy. Now he’s racking up foreign-policy defeats abroad—and facing disturbing murmurs at home.

Over the weekend, Houthi rebels took down a Saudi-mechanized column along the border with Yemen, capturing hundreds of soldiers. Then, the mysterious murder of a royal bodyguard set off alarm bells inside the kingdom.

With his problems closing in, the crown prince may try one last gambit: a pivot from Washington to Tehran. But it’s risky, and he doesn’t have much room to maneuver.

“Various Saudis I've spoken to raise the possibility that what is happening could be at the hands of elements inside the Saudi government that want to embarrass MbS because they see him as putting Saudi Arabia in a corner,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute. “If you were a Saudi, and you were concerned about the future of your country, I don’t think it’s difficult to draw the conclusion that MbS is your first obstacle.”

Iran tells US: ‘You won’t be able to finish any war you start with us’ after they claim US cyber attack


Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the United States has initiated a “cyber war” against Iran and warned that the U.S. won’t be able to finish any conflict it initiates with Iran.

In a Sunday interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Zarif warned U.S. President Donald Trump not to take military action against Iran and its allies in the Middle East. Zarif also disclosed Iran responses to U.S. cyber attacks on the country.

Zarif said the U.S. initiated the cyber attack, by hacking its nuclear facilities in a “very dangerous, irresponsible way that could’ve killed millions of people.”

“There is a cyber war and Iran is engaged in that cyber war,” Zarif said, announcing the Iranian retaliation. “Any war that the United States starts it won’t be able to finish.”

Zarif’s comments reflect ongoing tensions with the U.S. and its allies since Trump’s decision in May of 2018 to have the U.S. withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran was supposed to limit its nuclear development in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions, but Trump said the deal as “one-sided” and did little to diminish Iranian nuclear efforts anyway.

Out of the Loop: What the Saudi Attacks Tell Us About the Future of Conflict

By Eliot Pence

The Abqaiq attacks this month raised many questions. Who did it? How did they do it? What did they do it with? One question was notably absent: Why couldn't Saudi Arabia stop it? The answer is not straightforward, nor is it necessarily clear that anything could have stopped it. After all, the Kingdom spends as much as any country on defense.

The uncomfortable reality is that no one knows how to deal with this threat. It is not just the Saudis. American military bases in the Middle East were likely equally exposed. Inexpensive, asymmetric, ubiquitous threats traveling at high speeds is a hard problem. They resemble something similar to an emergent property, in which simple entities (drones and cruise missiles, for example) operate in an ecosystem, forming more complex behaviors as a collective. Stopping one drone may have not been a challenge. Stopping 17 drones and eight cruise missiles launched together confusing radars, communications infrastructure, and human operators all at once are. Whether we like it or not, when it comes to this new era of defense, humans can be just as much the problem as they are the solution.

How should Africans respond to the investment, technology, security, and trade wars?

Peter Draper

The tectonic plates of the global political economy are shifting, and with an accelerating pace: “Trade wars”; “Brexit”; “fake news” and election manipulation; “populism”; the appointment of a “geopolitical commission” in Brussels; unprecedented protests in Hong Kong; South China sea military confrontations; an increasingly assertive Chinese Communist Party—the list goes on. Facing these dramatic changes, smaller, relatively fragile, states, particularly those in Africa, need to build new reference points to anchor their future development or risk being swallowed in the emerging crevasses.

Rather than focus on current events Africans need to discern their underlying drivers and how they frame opportunities, as well as responses.

The modern world economy is now characterized by a rapidly shifting technological frontier within which several previously distinct realms are now converging. Sub-Saharan Africa could benefit from the increasingly interconnected global economy. At the same time, the United States’ tough response to China’s growing economic heft, as well as increased worldwide backlash to globalization, is incentivizing some economies to look inward. Trade policy and strategy is back in focus with a vengeance, and increasingly contested.

Innovation and National Security: Keeping Our Edge

James Manyika and William H. McRaven

The United States leads the world in innovation, research, and technology development. Since World War II, the new markets, industries, companies, and military capabilities that emerged from the country’s science and technology commitment have combined to make the United States the most secure and economically prosperous nation on earth. This seventy-year strength arose from the expansion of economic opportunities at home through substantial investments in education and infrastructure, unmatched innovation and talent ecosystems, and the opportunities and competition created by the opening of new markets and the global expansion of trade. It was also forged in the fire of threat: It was formed and tested in military conflicts from the Cold War to the war in Afghanistan, in technological leadership lost and regained during competition with Japan in the 1980s, and in the internal cultural conflicts over the role of scientists in aiding the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Confronted with a threat to national security or economic competitiveness, the United States responded. So must it once again.

This time there is no Sputnik satellite circling the earth to catalyze a response, but the United States faces a convergence of forces that equally threaten its economic and national security. First, the pace of innovation globally has accelerated, and it is more disruptive and transformative to industries, economies, and societies. Second, many advanced technologies necessary for national security are developed in the private sector by firms that design and build them via complex supply chains that span the globe; these technologies are then deployed in global markets. The capacities and vulnerabilities of the manufacturing base are far more complex than in previous eras, and the ability of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to control manufacturing-base activity using traditional policy means has been greatly reduced. Third, China, now the world’s second-largest economy, is both a U.S. economic partner and a strategic competitor, and it constitutes a different type of challenger.1 Tightly interconnected with the United States, China is launching government-led investments, increasing its numbers of science and engineering graduates, and mobilizing large pools of data and global technology companies in pursuit of ambitious economic and strategic goals.

Resilience in TMT: Winning in downturnsOctober 2019 | Article

By Varanjot Kaur, Eric Kutcher, Dev Patel, and Sid Tandon

Economic downturns hold substantial opportunities for companies in the technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) sector. By starting now to build an action plan and execute no-regret moves, companies can put themselves on a path to emerge resilient through the next slowdown.

The technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) sector has enjoyed unprecedented growth over the past decade. Seven of the ten largest companies by market value are TMT companies. Incumbents such as Apple, Disney, and Verizon have been joined by a quickly scaling group of disruptive players such as Alibaba Group, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, and Salesforce, all of which have been buoyed by consumers’ and businesses’ growing appetite for technology products and services.

Yet the current growth outlook is uncertain. Business investment in the United States contracted in the second quarter of 2019, as did the GDPs of Germany and the United Kingdom, two of the largest economies in the world. Although we cannot predict when a downturn will occur—and there is no way to know how damaging it will be—most people agree we are closer to the next one than we are to the previous one.1

Infographic Of The Day: These Giant Companies Make Millions Every Day

Worldwide corporate profits are certainly one measure for understanding the size of a company, with many companies clearing hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Can Cyberwarfare Be Regulated?


CAMBRIDGE – Whether or not a conflict spirals out of control depends on the ability to understand and communicate about the scale of hostility. Unfortunately, when it comes to cyber conflict, there is no agreement on scale or how it relates to traditional military measures. What some regard as an agreed game or battle may not look the same to the other side.

America’s Democrats have made a serious mistake by launching impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. They are replaying the Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998, a futile exercise that damaged Republicans, enhanced Clinton’s power, and caused institutional damage as well.38Add to Bookmarks

A decade ago, the United States used cyber sabotage instead of bombs to destroy Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities. Iran responded with cyber attacks that destroyed 30,000 Saudi Aramco computers and disrupted American banks. This summer, following the imposition of crippling sanctions by US President Donald Trump’s administration, Iran shot down an unmanned American surveillance drone. There were no casualties. Trump initially planned a missile strike in response, but canceled it at the last moment in favor of a cyber attack that destroyed a key database used by the Iranian military to target oil tankers. Again, there were costs but not casualties. Iran then carried out, directly or indirectly, a sophisticated drone and cruise missile strike against two major Saudi oil facilities. While it appears there were no or only light casualties, the attack represented a significant increase in costs and risks.

The View From Olympus: The Houthis Teach a 4GW Lesson

The recent Houthi attacks on Saudi oil facilities at Khurais and Abqaiq, which are more than 500 miles from Yemen, offer a number of Fourth Generation war lessons. Although the U.S. is saying the Houthis, a non-state entity, don’t have the ability to undertake such a sophisticated operation and that Iran must therefore be responsible, I think the Houthis and some other 4GW entities are fully capable of this and similar actions. Why is no one considering that the Houthis might have launched their drones from the sea? It does not require a warship to launch drones; a dhow would serve quite nicely and be a “stealth” platform because it looks like all other dhows. The Quds 1 drone, which the Houthis have used previously, is large and capable enough for the mission. The dhow could have been positioned north or northwest of the targets. Iran probably supplied the drones and expertise, but we have been doing the same for the Saudis in their air campaign against the Houthis. Turn about is fair play.

The first lesson here is that states tend to underestimate the capabilities of non-state, 4GW players. We did so with al Qaeda and paid for it on 9/11. The Israelis did it with Hezbollah and paid by being fought to a draw last time they invaded Lebanon. Now the U.S. is doing it again with the Houthis, as did the Saudis when they launched what they thought would be an easy war against them in 2015. This chronic underestimation will probably continue until a 4GW player sets off a nuke somewhere inconvenient.

Richard Feynman’s Integral Trick

Richard Feynman 

“I had learned to do integrals by various methods shown in a book that my high school physics teacher Mr. Bader had given me. [It] showed how to differentiate parameters under the integral sign — it’s a certain operation. It turns out that’s not taught very much in the universities; they don’t emphasize it. But I caught on how to use that method, and I used that one damn tool again and again. [If] guys at MIT or Princeton had trouble doing a certain integral, [then] I come along and try differentiating under the integral sign, and often it worked. So I got a great reputation for doing integrals, only because my box of tools was different from everybody else’s, and they had tried all their tools on it before giving the problem to me.” (Surely you’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!)

Today’s article is going to discuss an obscure but powerful integration technique most commonly known as differentiation under the integral sign, but occasionally referred to as “Feynman’s technique” due to his popularization of this technique in his book, and properly known as the Leibniz Integral Rule.

Experts struggle to set red lines for cyber warfare

Nations hope for global framework to control attacks on digital technology © Getty Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan OCTOBER 1 2019Print this page3 Since the 19th century, countries have tried to shape warfare through regulations and sanctions. The advent of the internet changed that. “Cyber warfare is much more convenient for states than kinetic warfare,” says Mariarosaria Taddeo, research fellow and deputy director of the Digital Ethics Lab at the Oxford Internet Institute. Compared with conventional weapons, digital means are cheaper and offer greater plausible deniability, she says. There have been a string of attacks over the past decade alone, as Ewan Lawson, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, points out. 

These include the 2010 Stuxnet virus, which damaged a nuclear plant in Iran, disruption of Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016 and an attack in 2017on Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Saudi Aramco. Cyber warfare poses a clear threat to national security and citizens’ lives. Yet to date, no binding global framework has emerged to control it. Ms Taddeo, who is also a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute, says that situation partially stems from the novelty and complexities of digital technology. Differences from conventional conflict also play a role. Applying conventions such as proportionality can be difficult when cyber targets are often non-physical, and they are usually disrupted, rather than destroyed. Is it legitimate to target a nuclear plant? 


By Katherine Kjellström Elgin and Peter Gilbert 

A new kind of threat requires significant changes in the way that soldiers make decisions – doubling down on the importance of environmental training.

In a recent Foreign Policy piece, Elbridge Colby, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development (2017-2018), argued that the United States military needs to prepare to fight a limited great-power war, one in which the U.S. can counter a fait accompli targeting one of its partners. The Army in particular, he writes, “should practice fighting Russians and spend less time on counterinsurgency operations.”

Colby is not wrong – and the U.S. military recognizes this. As strategic adversaries such as China and Russia embrace new technologies such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnologies, hypersonics, and machine learning, the American way of war must quickly evolve and adapt. To address the ‘return of great power competition,’ Former Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper recently initiated a modernization strategy, the scope of which the Department of Defense has not seen since before the Vietnam War. This aggressive strategy balances modernization, readiness, and force structure to secure and maintain unquestionable overmatch against any adversary, anywhere, under any circumstances. This strategy seeks to promote a culture of innovation, discipline, and accountability while increasing force readiness.

Fog Of Information War: Army Asks Civilians, Allies For Aid


WASHINGTON: From fake-news trolls subverting US elections to deniable drones blowing up Saudi oil facilities, America’s adversaries have found new ways to strike without giving the Pentagon a clear target to strike back at. That’s why the increasingly anxious armed forces are wrestling with so-called grey zone operations and information warfare. But a successful response requires far more than the military, the Army’s three-star senior futurist says. It will take a unified effort with civilian agencies and foreign allies.

US law and culture make that extremely difficult to do, Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley acknowledged. But it’s a challenge the Army can’t simply set aside, he said. Letting adversaries muddy the debate can dramatically affect whether and how the military will be employed.

After drones and missiles temporarily slashed Saudi oil production in half, which Secretary of State Pompeo immediately blamed on Iran, it took President Trump three days to publicly state “it’s looking that way” but the evidence was still “being checked.” It took nine days for Britain, France, and Germany, all vital US allies, to officially and publicly blame Tehran.