Small Wars Journal

06/03/2021 News & Commentary – National Security

Thu, 06/03/2021 - 12:50pm

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs

1. America’s largest beer company will buy the country a round if it hits Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal

2. Why Everyone Hates Think Tanks

3. The Case Against Restraint

4. Stop Me If You’ve Heard This one Before: Why are U.S. spies, generals and national security officials surprised so often?

5. Budapest names streets at planned Chinese university after Uyghurs, Hong Kong

6. Austin Asks Top General For ‘Options’ to Evacuate Afghans

7. Afghan pilot once denied refuge arrives in America after months in hiding

8. PRC Researcher on President Biden’s China Experts 中国通

9. America Still Needs Counterinsurgency

10. SECDEF nearing decision about taking sexual assault cases out of chain of command

11. Ransomware Scourge Continues as Essential Services Are Hit

12.  Russian Cybercriminal Group Was Behind Meat Plant Attack, F.B.I. Says

13. The Political Economy of Ransomware

14. Exclusive: How amateur sleuths broke the Wuhan Lab story and embarrassed the media

15. Analysis | Xi’s call for a ‘lovable’ China may not tame the wolf warriors

16. Covid reorders the world's strategic landscape - but not as China expected

17. How Biden came around to the Wuhan lab-leak theory

18. China Has No Place in RIMPAC

19. Wait, How Did a Russian Spy Ship Tip Off a U.S. Missile Test?

20. The U.S. Must Honor Our Promises and Protect Afghan Partners

21. Draft Us Too, America

22. China Is Stealing Our Technology and Intellectual Property. Congress Must Stop It


1. America’s largest beer company will buy the country a round if it hits Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal

The Washington Post · by Paulina Firozi · June 2, 2021

Kinda, sorta a national security issue. But seriously, imagine the logistics of this? I bet there will be a run on counterfeiting vaccination cards. While we might reach the 70% goal there will be a 100% claim on the beer! I will present my vaccination card at the Class VI store, the ABC store, the 7-11, my favorite bar, and the local Giant/Safeway/Kroger, etc.


2. Why Everyone Hates Think Tanks

Foreign Policy · by Matthew Rojansky, Jeremy Shapiro · May 28, 2021

It is an honor to belong to a think tank that takes no foreign funding and one that is nonpartisan whose only mission is to support US national security and foreign policy.

Excerpts: “In short, our families love us, but they hate our jobs. The worst part is that we see their point. After all, if think tank experts have such great insight into policy, why are the outcomes so terrible so much of the time? Even if it has escaped notice in Washington, most everyone around the family dinner table knows intuitively that the think tank industrial complex is failing to deliver for the country. A recent poll by the U.K.-based firm Cast From Clay concluded that only 20 percent of Americans trust think tanks, and our families, we can attest, are not among them.


Do any of these ideas have a chance of being embraced by think tanks or policymakers? Perhaps. Some at least will favor reforms like these because they will see opportunity in a rating and regulatory system that reinforces the controls they already have in place through board oversight and regular audits. A rating system will help these virtuous think tanks prove their bona fides to funders, the government, and the broader public. Others will balk at the notion and might either survive by migrating to the gray space in between for-profit lobbying and tax-exempt research or run afoul of the new rules and suffer reputational consequences, even potentially going bust. Market forces and individual preferences will decide.

Regardless, our relatives will understand better what think tanks are about, and we might start to get a little more respect when the dinner conversation turns to policy. Our families might never learn to love our jobs, but at least they won’t be the conversation killers they are now.


3. The Case Against Restraint

World Politics Review

At the link is an interesting podcast, described below. 

Note also the guest, Thomas Wright, co-authored a forthcoming book with Colin Kahl, the USD(P), that will be published in August.

Wright asked the key question about restrainers: "What is the problem they are trying to solve?"

The USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Groups sail together in formation, in the South China Sea, July 6, 2020 (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Tarleton for U.S. Navy via AP Images).


4. Stop Me If You’ve Heard This one Before: Why are U.S. spies, generals and national security officials surprised so often? · by Jeff Stein

An interesting thought piece from a provocative title.

Excerpts: “But there’s a global, big-power guerrilla war of sorts going on as well with China. Its challenge is of an entirely different order, not one we can so easily sweep away. In so many of the battlegrounds of Asia and Africa, America’s promise has been tattered by decades of acquiescence, if not outright support, for brutal, corrupt strongmen. (Read: Al-Sisi, and so many more.) “The American brand is still strong,” an idealistic young U.S. foreign service officer told me a few years ago, slightly amazed, when Trump was blocking Muslim immigrants and bashing the “shit holes” of the world. What’s the brand? Security and freedom. A chance to strike it rich. Big Macs and big cars. Sex.

China’s long game is to show nations in play that applying the brand at home is forever beyond their reach, that the U.S. can’t or won’t protect them, and that Beijing’s armies of engineers can do a better job of delivering prosperity to them now than the capitalists will ever deliver the future.

That’s where the real fight is, not in the South China Sea. Aircraft carriers are just targets now. The hardcore struggle for military domination is in cyberspace.

As our troops straggle out of Kabul, it feels already like an inter-war period—like Vietnam in the early days, before the illusions cracked from their own weight. Like Iraq, before our astounding miscalculations turned the country into a slaughterhouse. Like Afghanistan, where we rid the country of the repressive mullahs only to put new bad guys on their backs.


5. Budapest names streets at planned Chinese university after Uyghurs, Hong Kong


Good job Budapest!


6. Austin Asks Top General For ‘Options’ to Evacuate Afghans · by Tara Copp and Jacqueline Feldscher · June 2, 2021

Excerpts:If a similar request is made of the Pentagon by the White House, the military will be ready, Kirby said.

“We are a planning organization, we plan for all manner of contingencies, some of those contingencies are non-combatant evacuations around the world, that would include Afghanistan. So we certainly have, we have put some planning resources to this, no question.”


7. Afghan pilot once denied refuge arrives in America after months in hiding

Stars and Stripes · by J.P. Lawrence · June 2, 2021


8. PRC Researcher on President Biden’s China Experts 中国通 · by David Cowhig · May 30, 2021

Fascinating analysis from China of our "young" China experts in the Biden administration. I feel pretty old when compared with the ages of these young whipper snappers!


9. America Still Needs Counterinsurgency

Foreign Affairs · by Max Boot · June 2, 2021

We need to sustain (joint and interagency) expertise in COIN to be able to advise and assist our friends, partners, and allies in the their internal defense and development programs so they can defend themselves against lawless, subversion, insurgency, terrorism, and civil war. We have to get out of the business of conducting COIN for others.


10. SECDEF nearing decision about taking sexual assault cases out of chain of command · by Meghann Myers · June 2, 2021

This will be huge.


11. Ransomware Scourge Continues as Essential Services Are Hit

WSJ · by Robert McMillan, Joseph De Avila and Jacob Bunge

Excerpts: “Emboldened by recent successes, hackers have shifted their focus away from data-rich companies such as retailers, financial institutions and insurance companies to providers of key public needs such as hospitals, transportation and food. The trend is part of a global criminal pivot from stealing data to hobbling operations via ransomware, where companies are hit with demands for million-dollar payments to regain control of their operating systems.


12. Russian Cybercriminal Group Was Behind Meat Plant Attack, F.B.I. Says

The New York Times · by Julie Creswell, Nicole Perlroth, and Noam Scheiber· June 2, 2021

I am reminded of Frank Hoffman's description of hybrid threats, conflict, and war:

“A hybrid threat transcends a blend of regular and irregular tactics. More than a decade ago, it was defined as an adversary that “simultaneously and adaptively employs a fused mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, catastrophic terrorism, and criminal behavior in the battlespace to obtain desired political objectives.”54 The criminal, or more broadly “socially disruptive behavior,” and mass terrorism aspects should not be overlooked, but the fusion of advanced military capabilities with irregular forces and tactics is key, and has appeared repeatedly during the past decade from Hezbollah to the Russian campaigns in Georgia and Ukraine.55 Hezbollah’s method of fighting Israel as is described by its leader Hassan Nasrallah, is an organic response to its security dilemma and “not a conventional army and not a guerrilla force, it is something in between.”56 As lethal as Hezbollah has been in the past decade, we should be concerned about the lessons it is learning in Syria from the Russians.57

Hybrid threats can also be created by a state actor using a proxy force. A proxy force sponsored by a major power can generate hybrid threats readily using advanced military capabilities provided by the sponsor. Proxy wars, appealing to some as “warfare on the cheap” are historically ubiquitous but chronically understudied.58

The hybrid threat concept captures the ongoing implications of globalization, the diffusion of military-related technologies, and the information revolution. Hybrid threats are qualitatively different from less complex irregular or militia forces. They, by and large, cannot be defeated simply by Western counterterrorism tactics or protracted counterinsurgency techniques. Hybrid threats are more lethal than irregular forces conducting simple ambushes using crude improvised explosive devices, but they are not unfamiliar to Western forces and can be defeated with sufficient combat power.59


13. The Political Economy of Ransomware · by Jenny Jun · June 2, 2021

Excerpts: “In short, it’s hard to find fundamental differences between state and nonstate actors in ways that undermine the strategic logic of encryption.

In order to avoid strategic surprise, U.S. policymakers ought to reexamine the claim that adversaries will primarily use cyber means for espionage and covert action, but not for coercion. States have proven time and time again to be creative in how they leverage cyberspace, identifying overlooked areas and exploiting it for strategic gain. States like North Korea are already operating at the intersection of criminal and strategic activity in cyberspace, including the deployment of ransomware. It is only a matter of time before they connect the rest of the dots.

The question is not whether encryption will ever be used for geopolitical gain instead of bitcoins, but when and how. In the short term, the newly formed Ransomware Task Force — a partnership between the U.S. government and private-sector players — should continue to coordinate policy solutions to ransomware. For example, more cyber insurance providers should stop covering ransom payments and should instead actively incentivize victims to choose not to pay by covering the cost of system recovery without decryption. Where possible, real-time or offline backups should be subsidized or incorporated in insurance underwriting. In the longer term, policymakers should foster research collaboration between practitioners and academics to identify scenarios in which adversaries could use encryption coercively, which systems would be most vulnerable to such an attempt, and how such scenarios would impact America’s strategic position.


14. Exclusive: How amateur sleuths broke the Wuhan Lab story and embarrassed the media

Newsweek · by Pedro L. Gonzalez · June 2, 2021

We met with a risk analysis expert from Taiwan in January 2020 just as the pandemic was emerging. He did/does extensive work in China. He described the Wuhan lab and its proximity to the wet market and the rumors that were already being spread about the possibility of a link to the lab.


15. Analysis | Xi’s call for a ‘lovable’ China may not tame the wolf warriors

The Washington Post · by Adam Taylor · June 3, 2021

Excerpts:The wolf warriors didn’t stop their attacks during the pandemic. Zhao spread baseless theories that the U.S. military could have been behind the coronavirus pandemic that first emerged in Wuhan, China — a notion so bold that some other Chinese diplomats seemed to distance themselves from it.

But increasing international pressure for an investigation into the coronavirus′s origins in China, following Biden’s call for a new assessment of intelligence into the once-discounted lab-leak theory, shows one downside to hyperdefensive diplomacy: It makes it look like you have something to hide.

Moreover, China is entangled in a variety of ugly disputes with countries it once got along with politely. Relations with the European Union broke down amid disputes over Xinjiang, effectively ending plans for a trade and investment treaty. Relations with Australia and India have broken down, with the latter in a small-scale but very real border conflict with China last year.

Taiwan, meanwhile, with its softer diplomatic style of “cat diplomacy,” seemed to be gaining where China was failing.


16. Covid reorders the world's strategic landscape - but not as China expected

The Telegraph · by Ben Woods

Excerpts: “One result of Xi’s overreach was a Pew Survey of fourteen countries last October showing that negative views of China had surged to record levels, even in Korea. Another result is the strengthening of the Quad alliance of India, Japan, Australia, and the US, with Europe crabbing sideways into the same camp.

President Xi has told his diplomats to mind their language and strive to make China “loveable” but there is no going back once the mask has slipped.

The risk for China is that the investigation of the Wuhan lab theory by the US intelligence agencies validates what has until now been deemed a conspiracy theory. If the Chinese state created this virus, covered up the leak, and then allowed airline passengers to seed it around the world, the consequences will be catastrophic. The year that China claimed ascendancy may prove to be its annus horribilis.


17. How Biden came around to the Wuhan lab-leak theory

Financial Times · by Demetri Sevastopulo · May 31, 2021

Excerpts:One person familiar with the situation said the National Intelligence Council, which collates information from the entire intelligence community, produced two reports last year assessing US intelligence on the origins of Covid. The director for national intelligence declined to comment.

Those efforts, coupled with a third “scrub” of the intelligence this year, led to Biden saying last week that two of the 18 branches of the intelligence community leaned towards the natural origin scenario, while a third was more inclined towards the lab-leak theory.

Biden said the three had only “low or moderate confidence” in their conclusions while the other branches did not have enough evidence. That has sparked concern that 90 days is not sufficient for intelligence officials to reach any solid determination.

“The community as a whole is far away from reaching anything that we could call even a halfway firm conclusion,” said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA official. “The fact that many of the agencies involved have not reached a consensus even for a ‘low confidence’ judgment tells you they’re a long way away from anything conclusive.”


18. China Has No Place in RIMPAC · by Scott Franklin

Excerpt: “There was a time when the free world stood in defiance of totalitarian regimes that engaged in genocide, human rights abuses, and reckless aggression. Sadly, much of the international community continues to allow China's behavior to go on unabated due to financial interest, a lack of willpower, or fear of reprisal. The U.S. has historically played an important role by taking a principled stance against aggressive totalitarian regimes. Millions of Americans across our country still see America as the defender of freedom and liberty. Millions of people across the world are also watching to see if America will take a stand and demonstrate leadership against the PRC's revolting practices. The U.S. must find ways to push back against Chinese aggression at every given opportunity. Including a requirement to end PRC human rights abuses as an additional condition of participating in RIMPAC will send an important message to the PRC that its attempts to remake the world order in its totalitarian image are unacceptable.


19. Wait, How Did a Russian Spy Ship Tip Off a U.S. Missile Test?

Popular Mechanics · by Kyle Mizokami · June 2, 2021

Wait, How Did a Russian Spy Ship Tip Off a U.S. Missile Test?


20. The U.S. Must Honor Our Promises and Protect Afghan Partners · by Jason Crow, Mike Waltz, Brad Wenstrup & Seth Moulton

Excerpt: “As members of Congress from both parties, we are coming together to ensure that America honors its promise to those who have stood by us for the last 20 years.

We will debate the merits of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for decades to come. But what isn't up for debate is our obligation to stand by those who stood by us. It's too late for Mohammad and many others like him. But it's not too late for the thousands of others waiting in line that we can help. There is honor for us in doing the right thing for our friends and partners while we close this chapter on America's longest war.


21. Draft Us Too, America   · by  Sydney Frankenberg and Hallie Lucas· June 2, 2021

Excerpt: “As two young women in a country faced by myriad threats, we constantly consider the service yet to come, what was asked of citizens in World War II, and what may one day be asked of U.S. citizens again. When sacrifice is required, the burden should be shared among all citizens, not just the nation’s sons, brothers, and fathers, but its daughters, sisters, and mothers, too. For both the foundations and protection of our democracy, it is past time women are included in the Selective Service. Draft us too, America.


22. China Is Stealing Our Technology and Intellectual Property. Congress Must Stop It

National Review Online · by Dan Blumenthal and Linda Zhang · June 2, 2021

Conclusion: “The CCP’s commitment to technological progress at U.S. expense is at the center of its grand strategy. Legislation to advance the U.S. research enterprise may be necessary to spur investment in areas of scientific and technological research that will not be covered by private enterprise. But Congress can be sure that the CCP is tracking the legislation closely and will set loose its tech thieves on new U.S. programs. The bill must prohibit funding of researchers, universities, and enterprises that are complicit in technology theft. Researchers tied to Chinese talents programs and military–civil fusion enterprises need particular attention from U.S. counterintelligence and other officials. The USICA must be used to finally address the full extent of the CCP’s massive foreign-technology-acquisition programs, enabling the sanctioning of China’s worst IP thieves, expanding intelligence and law-enforcement tools to punish offenders, and strengthening controls against all CCP organizations and businesses operating in the U.S. to steal technology.




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