Military & Security

The Air Force Turned an F-16 Fighter Into a Drone

Popular Mechanics: “The U.S. Air Force turned an F-16 fighter into an autonomous combat drone capable of flying combat missions on its own and then returning to fly alongside a manned aircraft. The program, known as ‘Have Raider II,’ could lead to older U.S. fighters acting as semi-disposable wingmen for more modern planes, conducting missions too dangerous for manned aircraft to carry out.”

“The program is broadly part of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, which plans to use existing equipment in new ways to maintain a technological and numerical edge over countries such as China and Russia. The U.S. Air Force will shed more than a thousand F-16s as the F-35A enters service. While older, the F-16s have the advantage of being cheaper to fly and semi-disposable.”

Why Our Nuclear Weapons Can Be Hacked

Bruce Blair: “Imagine the panic if we had suddenly learned during the Cold War that a bulwark of America’s nuclear deterrence could not even get off the ground because of an exploitable deficiency in its control network.”

“We had such an Achilles’ heel not so long ago. Minuteman missiles were vulnerable to a disabling cyberattack, and no one realized it for many years. If not for a curious and persistent President Barack Obama, it might never have been discovered and rectified.”

“We need to conduct a comprehensive examination of the threat and develop a remediation plan. We need to better understand the unintended consequences of cyberwarfare — such as possibly weakening another nation’s safeguards against unauthorized launching. We need to improve control over our nuclear supply chain. And it is time to reach an agreement with our rivals on the red lines. The reddest line should put nuclear networks off limits to cyberintrusion. Despite its allure, cyberwarfare risks causing nuclear pandemonium.”

What the CIA WikiLeaks Dump Tells Us: Encryption Works

“If the tech industry is drawing one lesson from the latest WikiLeaks disclosures, it’s that data-scrambling encryption works, and the industry should use more of it,” Anick Jesdanun and Michael Liedtke report for AP.

“Documents purportedly outlining a massive CIA surveillance program suggest that CIA agents must go to great lengths to circumvent encryption they can’t break. In many cases, physical presence is required to carry off these targeted attacks.”

How the CIA Forgot the Art of Spying

Alex Finley: “Over the past 15 years, this ‘global war on terror’ mindset has become the default at the CIA. After accusations that it was stuck in the Cold War, the agency began to trade concealment devices and human sources for military hardware. Under a directive from President George W. Bush, it expanded its ranks to fight terror. It bulked up its abilities to track and target a dispersed enemy fighting an asymmetrical war. Gone were the days, it seemed, of risky brush passes in a heart-pounding, adrenaline-filled four-second period when an officer was “black”—meaning free, just for a moment, from hostile surveillance and able to pass a message to an asset. The Cold War was over; we had a new enemy to defeat.”

“The CIA finds itself in a tough spot. Having remade itself for the 21st century, it still has the 20th century tugging at its sleeve. Will the agency be able to keep tabs on Russia’s plans? Will it be able to persuade people to provide information that would put their lives at risk? Will it be able to entice those sources without anyone—particularly Russia—knowing? Although the agency has been slow to adjust to new realities in the past, its officers certainly recognize how high the stakes are now. The pivot back toward traditional espionage will be a shock to the system, but a necessary one if the United States wants to gauge Russia’s true intentions. Putin brought his empire roaring back. I hope the CIA will prove it can do even better.”

Fearing U.S. Withdrawal, Europe Considers Its Own Nuclear Deterrent

Max Fisher: “An idea, once unthinkable, is gaining attention in European policy circles: a European Union nuclear weapons program.”

“Under such a plan, France’s arsenal would be repurposed to protect the rest of Europe and would be put under a common European command, funding plan, defense doctrine, or some combination of the three. It would be enacted only if the Continent could no longer count on American protection.”

“In practical terms, the plan would change the flag on Europe’s nuclear deterrent from that of the United States to that of France. But this would risk making an American exit from Europe more permanent.”

Killing Free Trade Will Rob the World of a Highly Effective Deterrent to War

“History shows that trade agreements are rarely about economics alone. They are a tool of diplomacy—a way to shore up old alliances and forge new ones. And now, perhaps, a way to avoid World War III,” Dan Kopf writes for Quartz.

“Like GATT, the EU, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the now-derailed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) were all efforts at economic diplomacy. At the heart of the EU project was the idea that Europe would become a ‘common market‘ that was so economically dependent it would be immune to war between members. NAFTA’s allure for the US was that it might stabilize Mexico as a friendly, capitalist democracy. The TPP was supported by then-president Barack Obama largely as a way to check the rising power of China.”

“There is strong evidence that free trade keeps the peace. Stanford economists Matthew O. Jackson and Stephen Nei examined why international conflict fell precipitously from the period 1820-1949 to 1950-2000, and concluded that international trade was likely a major contributor.”

Is the ‘Deep State’ Out to Get Trump? We’re Not There Yet

Doyle McManus: “In a country controlled by the deep state, members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies can overthrow presidents they don’t like; that’s what happened in Egypt in 2013. They hold veto power over major decisions. They often run large parts of the economy, or at least enough government contracts to make their families rich. And they’re rarely held accountable for their actions. They act with impunity.”

“U.S. intelligence agencies, on the other hand, are restrained by law. Sometimes they overstep, but eventually they are reined in. The officials who leaked the details of Flynn’s conversations knew that Trump would order the FBI to track them down. They put themselves at risk.”

“Trump’s problem isn’t the deep state; it’s the broad state. He’s facing pushback not only from intelligence agencies, but from civilian bureaucracies, too.”

The Need for a Digital Geneva Convention

“Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace.  And just as the Fourth Geneva Convention recognized that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyberattacks requires the active assistance of technology companies.  The tech sector plays a unique role as the internet’s first responders, and we therefore should commit ourselves to collective action that will make the internet a safer place, affirming a role as a neutral Digital Switzerland that assists customers everywhere and retains the world’s trust,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith writes.

“While there is no perfect analogy, the world needs an organization that can address cyber threats in a manner like the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the field of nuclear non-proliferation.  This organization should consist of technical experts from across governments, the private sector, academia and civil society with the capability to examine specific attacks and share the evidence showing that a given attack was by a specific nation-state.  Only then will nation-states know that if they violate the rules, the world will learn about it.”

Trump’s Travel Ban Is Not Recruiting More Terrorists

“The argument goes like this: Jihadists believe there is a Manichaean struggle between Islam and the West. An alleged ‘Muslim ban’ plays directly into this worldview, telling Muslims that they are not safe in the un-Islamic world. No wonder they are calling the executive order a ‘blessed ban’ on Islamic State web forums… If only jihadi recruitment were so easily disrupted. Sadly it’s much more complicated,” Eli Lake writes for Bloomberg.

“A far better argument against Trump’s executive order is that it undermines our own recruitment efforts to counter the jihadists. At first the travel ban applied to translators who helped the U.S. military in Iraq, not to mention leading advocates for the Islamic State’s victims like the Yazidi-Iraqi legislator Vian Dakhil. Fortunately the Trump administration has reversed these elements of the travel ban in the last week. But the perception that America would close its doors to the people who helped us makes it harder to recruit allies against the Islamic State going forward.”

Handling North Korea Is a Team Sport and We Need China

Admiral James Stavridis: “We have to recognize that all roads lead to Pyongyang through Beijing. Despite the Trump Administration’s desire to get tough with China, we will need political capital with President Xi Jinping to enlist his help. Without China, further sanctions are meaningless. An open dialogue and the outline of a plan are critical. We may have to moderate our approach on Taiwan (falling back to the ‘one China’ policy, which Trump has questioned) and ease our opposition to China in the South China Sea. Geopolitics, like life, is full of choices.”

“North Korea is a team sport. Our allies and friends — South Korea, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia and others — all agree on the challenges. We should leverage their participation in diplomatic and economic initiatives to deal with the North. And we’ll need to conduct frequent allied exercises to leverage joint operational capability in things like missile defense.”

Can Trump Harness the Private Sector to Stop Violent Extremism?

Eric Rosand and Alistair Millar: “Donald Trump campaigned on the promise that he would use his legendary business experience to solve the most pressing problems facing the United States and its interests abroad; stocking his cabinet with CEOs from corporate America has only raised expectations that he can deliver on this promise. As commander-in-chief, how will President Trump use his commercial know-how to tackle the problem of violent extremism? Will he—complemented by the wealthiest, most pro-business cabinet in U.S. history—do what his predecessors have failed to do and get the private sector to really step up?”

We Are Still Living With Eisenhower’s Biggest Mistake

Michael Totten: “Historians are tasked with delivering us from George Santayana’s curse, where those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, but historians can only save those who take the time to study the historical record, and even then it only works if the historical record is accurate.”

“Thank goodness, then, for Hudson Institute senior fellow Michael Doran’s valiant attempt to save us from ignorance and bad history in his bracing new book, Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East. He expertly walks us through the Suez Crisis of 1956 and its ghastly aftermath when Republican President Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower learned the hard way that Israel, not Egypt or any other Arab state, should be the foundation of America’s security architecture in the Middle East.”

“Why does any of this matter today? Because two of Eisenhower’s wrongheaded ideas are as hard to kill as the Terminator—that the Arab world is a homogenous monolith and the related notion that an American alliance with Israel harms our relationships with Arabs everywhere. Neither of these things are true, and they never have been. America’s natural allies in the Middle East either tolerate our friendship with Israel or secretly hate Israel less than they let on in public, and Israel’s most vicious enemies will never side with the United States anyway.”