Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Episode 255 of the Cyberlaw Podcast: Russia and China revamp their military technologies

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

In our interview, Elsa Kania and Sam Bendett explain what China and Russia have learned from the American way of warfighting – and from Russia's success in Syria. The short answer: everything. But instead of leaving us smug, I argue it ought to leave us worried about complacency followed by unpleasant military surprises. Elsa and Sam both try to predict where the surprises might come from. Yogi Berra makes an appearance.

In the News Roundup, David Kris explains the Fourth Circuit's decision to turn a hostile spouse-swap dispute into an invitation to screw up the law of stored electronic communications for a generation.

And in other litigation, a Trump-appointed judge dismisses a lawsuit charging Silicon Valley with unlawfully censoring the right. Nate Jones and I agree that, while the decision is broadly consistent with law, it may spell trouble for Silicon Valley in the long run. That's because it depends on an idiosyncratic DC Court of Appeals interpretation of the District's public accommodation law. I speculate that Alabama or Texas or Mississippi could easily draft a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of viewpoint in public accommodations like,say, Internet platforms.

Nick Weaver and I note the UN report that North Korea has stolen $571 million, much of it in cryptocurrency. I ask whether the US Treasury could seize those ill-gotten bits. Maybe, says Nick, but it would really bollix up the world of cryptocurrency (not that he minds).

I explain that DHS will be rolling out facial scanning technology to a boatload of US airports – and why there's no hidden privacy scandal in the initiative.

And this story kind of makes you wonder about their banks and their chocolate: Nick gloats as Switzerland's proposed Internet voting system follows his predicted path from questionable undertaking to deep, smoking crater.

Elsa Kania and I offer praise for the Navy Secretary's willingness to accept scathing criticism of the Navy's cybersecurity.

And Nick and I close with an effort to draw lessons from the disastrous software and human factor interactions at the heart of the Boeing 737 MAX crashes.

Download the 255th Episode (mp3).

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8 responses to “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

  1. We should identify two spheres of warfighting technologies. The one in which the USA has arguably not done badly the last several decades is in fighting insurgents who have employed old Soviet weaponry and I.E.D.’s We have used some high tech and some better conventional tech (plus a tremendous pile of money) to soldier on a lot longer in Afghanistan and Iraq than anyone ever dreamed we would.

    The sphere that we really don’t know where we are at will be in fighting a completely high tech war against a well-equipped high tech enemy that may involve limited use of tactical nuclear weapons and extensive use of drones and sabotage from space down of command and control networks, perhaps starting with embedded Trojan horses and well-exploited flaws even in our most advanced systems.

    In short, the USA might have a very big, extremely expensive bunch of flashy gadgetry, ships, and airplanes, that may be at severe risk because our potential foes have an espionage advantage they can use to negate and erode our strengths.

    This is all conjecture, of course. We won’t know until the Seventh fleet goes up against a major Chinese offensive against Taiwan and the Philippines, likely in conjunction with major attack on South Korea, and Okinawa getting blitzed with missiles, maybe tactical nukes. If at the end of three days there is no Seventh Fleet left except maybe a couple submarines, we will know that China planned and executed with great foresight and precision.

    1. China does appear to have major advantages in the area of espionage, witness the OPM “hack”, which wasn’t a hack at all, but a triumph of internal subversion.

      Perhaps the most disturbing thing about that is that we’ve never heard that they identified and punished the people responsible. Which suggests the subversion might have been high enough up, and extensive enough, that it wasn’t possible to do anything about it, in which case large parts of our government are likely still compromised.

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  2. Don’t worry too much about Putin ever employing his enhanced nuclear super weapons against the USA. He brandishes them against us to get attention, but the reality is that Russia is an increasingly puny nation economically with small, imaginatively equipped specialized military units. The real natural enemy of Russia is China, which has always coveted the vast resources of Siberia.

    The only way Moscow can hold the coming Chinese Empire off is with the threat of Crazy Ivan going all out with some really crazy advanced 200 Megaton nuclear weapons and all manner of advanced stealth delivery systems, even underwater ones. Plus Russia is not vulnerable to Chinese cyber espionage and sabotage like the USA.

    Notice Russia also cozies up well to real-politik Moslems like Syria and Iran, something China can’t manage. Russia builds fancy mosques for their own Islamic people. China brutally suppresses them (and the Christians.)

  3. Contrary to what is suggested in the title of this article, imitation, without the proper degree of reverence, can actually be a crime, particularly when it takes the form of inappropriate “parody.” See the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case ? itself inspiring in its similarity with numerous reported cases in Russia and China ? at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  4. At any rate, all good cosmopolitan globalists know that the only real threat to humankind is manmade climate change. All this conjecture about spies and super weapons and skating on the brink of Armageddon is just piffle to serious intellects who insist upon being taken seriously.

  5. Imitation is the sincerest form of mockery.

  6. The logic of mutual assured destruction has never worked in favor of western democracies. No one believes that Trump or any other American president would really respond to a small tactical nuke used against Okinawa or an American naval carrier task force intruding into the South China Sea with a full nuclear exchange. At most there would be a single token retaliation against a hardened military target and then a hasty negotiation, full of the spirit of compromise.

    China can’t assume that about Crazy Ivan, whether it’s Putin or anyone else in the Kremlin. They can’t even assume it about Iran, if that country decides that the Moslems of Indonesia will be the boundaries of the coming Greater China.

    China does have its vulnerabilities. Imagine what a mere 50 kiloton nuke in the base of the Three Gorges Dam would do.

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