Military & Security

Report: The Next President Will Face a Cybercrisis Within 100 Days

CNBC: “The next president will face a cybercrisis in the first 100 days of their presidency, research firm Forrester predicts in a new report.”

“The crisis could come as a result of hostile actions from another country or internal conflict over privacy and security legislation, said Forrester analyst Amy DeMartine, lead author of the firm’s top cybersecurity risks for 2017 report, due to be made public Tuesday.”

Bitcoin-Style Security May Soon Guard US Nukes and Satellites

Defense One: “DARPA, the storied research unit of the US Department of Defense, is currently funding efforts to find out if blockchains could help secure highly sensitive data, with potential applications for everything from nuclear weapons to military satellites.”

“The case for using a blockchain boils down to a concept in computer security known as ‘information integrity.’ That’s basically being able to track when a system or piece of data has been viewed or modified. DARPA’s program manager behind the blockchain effort, Timothy Booher, offers this analogy: Instead of trying to make the walls of a castle as tall as possible to prevent an intruder from getting in, it’s more important to know if anyone has been inside the castle, and what they’re doing there.”

“The prospect of the US military using a blockchain to secure critical data could spark a boom in uses of the technology outside finance… In an age of mega-hacks on corporations and political organizations, an indelible record that detects tampering has its attractions.”

Why the Military Should Set Up a “Digital ROTC”

Defense Tech: “The military should consider setting up a ‘Digital ROTC’ to attract cyber experts and also try harder to appear ‘cool’ to a new generation of potential recruits, a defense panel said.”

“Board member Marne Levine, chief operating officer of Instagram, said the Defense Department should consider offering tuition payments for students who commit to joining a ‘Digital ROTC’ to pursue high-tech positions in the military. Students in those programs would focus on cyber operations and cyber defense.”

“The Digital ROTC would be one way for the Defense Department to compete with the private sector for cyber talent, Levine said.”

How America Will Accidentally Join the Syrian War

Micah Zenko: “During Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate, there was a brief exchange between the moderator and candidates that perfectly captured the muddled confusion over potential new U.S.-led military missions in Syria. It showcased the type of slippery and imprecise rhetoric that could easily result in the United States entering a war the public opposes.”

Pence called for the U.S. to “immediately establish safe zones so that vulnerable families with children can move out of those areas, work with our Arab partners real-time, right now to make that happen.”

Kaine’s response: “I said about Aleppo, we do agree [that] the notion is we have to create a humanitarian zone in northern Syria.”

“People running to serve as commander in chief, or even commander in chief in-waiting, should not be allowed by debate moderators or interviewers to toss out distinct military missions offhandedly without being pressed for specifics on how they would be implemented. A humanitarian zone is not a safe zone, which is not a no-fly zone. Each requires different levels of military commitment, different basing and overflight rights, different degrees of logistics and analytical support, and ultimately would affect the behavior of the combatants in the Syrian civil war differently.”

How Artificial Intelligence Is Replacing Human Decision Making on the Battle Field

Defense One: “The Pentagon’s oft-repeated line on artificial intelligence is this: we need much more of it, and quickly, in order to help humans and machines work better alongside one another. But a survey of existing weapons finds that the U.S. military more commonly uses AI not to help but to replace human operators, and, increasingly, human decision making.”

“The report from the Elon Musk-funded Future of Life Institute does not forecast Terminators capable of high-level reasoning. At their smartest, our most advanced artificially intelligent weapons are still operating at the level of insects … armed with very real and dangerous stingers.”

“So where does AI exist most commonly on military weapons? The study, which looked at weapons in military arsenals around the world, found 284 current systems that include some degree of it, primarily standoff weapons that can find their own way to a target from miles away. Another example would be Aegis warships that can automatically fire defensive missiles at incoming threats.”

Preparing for North Korea’s Inevitable Collapse

Eli Lake: “Crimes against humanity generally cost a regime its legitimacy, if not its sovereignty. And yet most national security professionals would regard the collapse of the North Korean slave state as a calamity. The reason for this is simple: all the nuclear weapons and material.”

“Trying to secure all this after a chaotic collapse or overthrow of the Kim regime would be a nightmare.”

“A far better use of American diplomacy is to quietly push China and South Korea to begin planning with the U.S. for the day the North Korean regime falls. It’s a long shot.”

“That said, North Korea is a time bomb for China as well as for the U.S. Beijing is worried about refugees coming over its border, and loose nukes would be as much a danger to China as to America’s East Asian allies.”

GOP Losing Ground as Better Party to Handle Foreign Threats

Gallup: “More Americans say the Republican Party will do a better job than the Democratic Party of protecting the country from foreign threats, but the gap between the parties has narrowed in the last year. The Republicans now lead by seven percentage points, 47% to 40%, down from their 16-point lead a year ago (52% to 36%).”

“Americans, by a narrow 46% to 43% margin, say the Republican Party would do a better job than the Democratic Party of keeping the country prosperous.”

Google Has a Plan to Stop Aspiring ISIS Recruits from Joining the Extremist Group

International Business Times: “According to a report by Wired, Google-owned think tank Jigsaw has been developing a program called Redirect Method, which combines Google’s search advertising algorithms and YouTube’s video feature to identify and target wannabe IS hopefuls and subsequently deter them from joining the terror group’s Armageddon-style proliferation of violence.”

“Redirect Method, which is slated to be launched in a new phase later in September, will involve the placement of advertising in any search results for specific keywords and phrases, which according to Jigsaw’s analysis, have previously been commonly used by people gravitating toward IS. The ads will display links to both Arabic and English YouTube channels.”

“The videos include testimonials from former IS members, imams denouncing the terror group’s violence and corruption of Islam and secretly filmed clips showing the internal dysfunction within IS.”

“Jigsaw’s early pilot program that took place earlier in the year exceeded expectations, with over 30,000 people in the span of two months being drawn to the anti-IS YouTube channels. Jigsaw also observed that people clicked on the program’s ads three to four times more than any other typical ad campaign.”

Entrepreneurship Needs to Be a Bigger Part of U.S. Foreign Aid

Steven Koltai for Harvard Business Review: “Here are two surprising facts. First, the average American estimates that over 25% of the U.S. federal budget goes to foreign aid. That is wildly off. It is actually only 1% of the federal budget, or $35 billion for all nonmilitary assistance. Second fact: just 1% of that 1% goes toward promoting entrepreneurship.”

“Why is that surprising? Because entrepreneurship reliably generates jobs, and joblessness — especially among young people or failing states – is probably one of the most significant root causes of the unrest and extremism vexing American foreign policy and threatening American security today.”

“Scan the research and you’ll find studies indicating that 50% of young adults who join rebel movements do so because they can’t find a job; that the likelihood of civil war jumps dramatically with small declines in economic growth; that ‘Arab revolutions. . . were fueled by poverty, unemployment, and lack of economic opportunity.'”

This Time, Post-War Iraq Needs a Real Plan With Real Money

Defense One: “Military triumphs are unlikely to lead to an enduring peace without an essential component that isn’t as impossible as it sounds: reconciliation.”

“The U.S., the counter-ISIS coalition and international civilian agencies supporting Iraq have an opportunity to bolster that element of the strategy when they meet in Washington, DC, starting Wednesday.”

“While it’s obviously critical to provide electricity and water, and to build health clinics and schools, it also is essential that the conflicts underlying the destruction be understood and addressed.”

“Yet, the reconciliation component of the U.N. stabilization fund has received only $1.55 million from donors. Given the significant U.S. military investment of roughly $11.2 million a day to fight ISIS, it seems only prudent as part of the overall strategy to invest in a low-cost approach that gives military action the greatest chance for a lasting success, so that American forces don’t have to engage in combat again later.”

Trump’s NATO Comments Reaffirm His Popularity in Russia

New York Times: “Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have ‘fulfilled their obligations to us.'”

“The United States created the 28-nation alliance, and Article 5 of the NATO treaty, signed by President Truman, requires any member to come to the aid of another that NATO declares was attacked.”

Though the Kremlin’s Dmitry Peskov publicly denounced Trump’s comments, saying that it is “not the best formulation” to “unnecessarily talk about a hypothetical Russian attack on someone,” Politico reports that “the most passionate dreamers here [in Russia] imagine an almighty Trump ordering an American exit from NATO, just as the United Kingdom voted to exit the EU…”

“For Putin, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.”


Turkey Coup Attempt Leaves America With Stark Choice

Bipartisan Policy Center: “In the aftermath of Turkey’s attempted, and failed, coup, Washington is primarily concerned about the future of the U.S.-Turkish alliance and its central objective these days: the fight against Islamic State (ISIS). In particular, U.S. policymakers are concerned about the fate of U.S. access to the Turkish airbase at Incirlik, from which assets used in the campaign against ISIS currently operate. Even though U.S. operations at Incirlik have resumed after being briefly suspended this weekend, there are good reasons to believe that the bases’ final status still hangs in the balance.”

“Erdoğan has already proven he is happy to manufacture evidence to achieve his political goals… And those political goals are increasingly authoritarian. The coup’s aftermath—with thousands of judges and police officers arrested—is evidence enough of that. Which puts the United States in a difficult position, after having stood up for Turkey’s democratically elected government, should it also stand up for other hallmarks of democracy, like rule of law, freedom of press and expression, checks and balances?”

“The United States did little as Erdoğan consolidated power and silenced critical voices prior to the attempted coup, but it should now have plenty of evidence of the dangers of ignoring Turkey’s declining democracy. Erdoğan’s abuses of power are directly linked to spiraling instability in this critical country, not only in the form of the coup attempt, but also a spate of ISIS attacks that has gone nearly unaddressed while the government wages an ethnic civil conflict against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.”

“The choice facing U.S. policymakers is thus whether to pursue more of the same—access to Incirlik while Erdoğan grows stronger and Turkey weaker—or to risk the one thing the United States has cared most about thus far—Incirlik—in order to take a stand against the destabilizing forces Erdoğan is unleashing.”

The Iran Deal, One Year Out

Brookings Institution experts gave their takes on the performance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed one year ago.

Strobe Talbott: “At the one-year mark, it’s clear that the nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers has substantially restricted Tehran’s ability to produce the fissile material necessary to build a bomb. That’s a net positive—for the United States and the broader region.”

Robert Einhorn: “A real threat to the JCPOA is that Iran will blame the slow recovery of its economy on U.S. failure to conscientiously fulfill its sanctions relief commitments and, using that as a pretext, will curtail or even end its own implementation of the deal.”

Suzanne Maloney: “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has fulfilled neither the worst fears of its detractors nor the most soaring ambitions of its proponents. All of the concerns that have shaped U.S. policy toward Tehran for more than a generation—terrorism, human rights abuses, weapons of mass destruction, regional destabilization—remain as relevant, and as alarming, as they have ever been.”

Bruce Riedel: “As I explain more fully here, one unintended but very important consequence of the Iran nuclear deal has been to aggravate and intensify Saudi Arabia’s concerns about Iran’s regional goals and intentions. This fueling of Saudi fears has in turn fanned sectarian tensions in the region to unprecedented levels, and the results are likely to haunt the region for years to come.”


ISIS Loses Another 12 Percent of Territory

The Hill: “The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) lost 12 percent of its territory in the last six months, according to a new analysis from research firm IHS. Coupled with last year’s 14 percent loss, the terror group’s territory in Iraq and Syria is now roughly the size of Ireland or West Virginia.”

“In addition to losing territory, ISIS has continued to lose revenue, according to IHS. The firm estimates ISIS has likely lost at least 35 percent of its $56 million revenue since March.”

Progress in the ground war could create new dangers.

“As the Islamic State’s caliphate shrinks and it becomes increasingly clear that its governance project is failing, the group is re-prioritizing insurgency. As a result, we unfortunately expect an increase in mass casualty attacks and sabotage of economic infrastructure, across Iraq and Syria, and further afield, including Europe,” Columb Strack, senior analyst at IHS and lead analyst for the IHS Conflict Monitor, said in a statement.