Musings on ‘Halifax’ 2021

Every November the Halifax International Security Forum (HISF) assembles 300 people from various fields (politics, military, intelligence, business, media, academia/thinktanks, activism etc) for a week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, to discuss topical security issues facing democracy and democracies around the world.

Fun Fact: Halifax is home to more military assets than any other Canadian city. That I guess makes it our own Kaduna. (It’s a major Atlantic port city, though, unlike Kaduna)

The 2021 edition was a “fully vaccinated + fully masked” event that held between the 19th and the 21st of November.

HISF is a great platform for coming to a better, fuller, more robust understanding of contemporary global geo-politics, the threats and challenges confronting it, and the opportunities for better cooperation and collaboration to overcome these threats and challenges.

This year’s key themes included Covid-19, China, 20 years since 9/11, Afghanistan, Climate Change & COP26, Post-Merkel Europe, and others. (https://halifaxtheforum.org/halifax-international-security-forum-releases-2021-agenda/)

I did observe that Disinformation and Misinformation kept popping up as matters of concern in various (unrelated) sessions.

One of the things which stayed the most with me was a quote from Thucydides, Athenian military general and historian, from “History of the Peloponnesian War”, verbalizing an Athenian military worldview: “The powerful do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.”

OTHER HEARD AND OVERHEARD THINGS (by no means an exhaustive list):

“Militaries are not designed for the promotion of democracy. It’s not fair to ask them to do that. Democracy promotion should primarily be a civilian responsibility.”

“We didn’t go into Afghanistan to do nation-building; we went in there to capture Osama bin Laden.”

“The next 9/11 will be an inside job.”

“Africa adds the population of France every two years.”

“US Special Forces are in over 70 countries around the world.”

“Public procurement can be a very vital contributor to economic growth.”

“The most likely threats are often not the most dangerous while the most dangerous are often not the most likely.”

“85% of the world has never set foot in an airplane.”

“Politicians love protectionism.”

“Each new plane is about 25% more efficient than the one it replace[s].”

“Imperial Powers regard deference as their due.”

“France is an Indo-Pacific power. 2 million French people live in the Indo-Pacific region.”

“You have to understand China as a Party State; and that its thinking is Civilizational.”

[On cybertheft] “The Chinese are not amazing jewel thieves, they’re smash and grabbers.”

“NATO countries have an 870 billion dollar trade deficit with China.”

“There’s like 12 major technologies in the iPhone and all of them came from / have their origins in US government innovation. What Apple did was bring them together and make them look good.”

“The fix for Windows XP is de-install.”

“There’s a law that all the data that passes through Chinese companies can be used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”

ALSO LEARNT:

— About Green Hydrogen and Green Ammonia, and that Australia and Canada are the two countries best positioned to lead on producing green hydrogen. Green hydrogen is one of the products of splitting water into its component parts (Hydrogen and Oxygen) using the process of electrolysis. That is, Renewable electricity + electrolysed water = green hydrogen. (The electricity for the electrolysis has to of course come from renewable sources, for the hydrogen to be “green”).

Addendum: You can also produce hydrogen by a process known as “Steam Reforming”, which involves the application of steam to natural gas or to coal, producing hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen is known as “Grey hydrogen” when the CO2 is released into the atmosphere and “Blue hydrogen” when the waste CO2 is “captured” and stored (“Carbon Capture and Storage”).

— That “Green Steel” is a thing, and Sweden is like the world leader here (Australia too big on this). Green Steel is steel manufactured by a process that tries to replace as much coking Coal (a traditional input required in the processing of iron ore into Steel) as it can with “clean” Hydrogen. Apparently the Steel component of cars manufactured in Europe amounts to only like €500, and Green Steel adds only 40% more to that cost, translating to an extra €200 in cost. Which means that there’s really no cost barrier to the replacement of conventional steel with green steel in the automotive industry.

— That the world’s center of gravity has shifted from the Atlantic-Pacific to the Indo-Pacific. (That the Indo-Pacific is home to 7 of the world’s largest armies, 5 of the world’s biggest nuclear countries, and contributes 60% of world GDP).

— That Singapore has quadrupled its GDP since 2001; while Indonesia has reduced poverty by 50% in the last twenty years

— That the UK accounts for 1.01 of global emissions while China single-handedly produces 26.9%.

— That Aviation contributes between 2% and 3% of global emissions; Maritime = 8%

— That electric planes are a not-too-distant possibility (the electricity that will power them will be produced by Green Hydrogen or Green Ammonia)

— About Hypersonic Weapons (that China is leading the world in this regard, with Hyperglide vehicles, etc)

— About the 3S of Cyber systems: Scale | Speed | Security

— About the 5 Domains of 21st century warfare: Land, Air, Sea, Cyber and Space

— That the emissions profile of natural gas may be “massively underestimated”, on account of what is known as “fugitive emissions” — leakages from natural gas pipelines.

— Interesting concepts that came up in discussions and I’ve subsequently had to research in greater detail: Fully Homomorphic Encryption; Fractional Orbital Bombardment Systems (FOBS); the US Cloud Act (“Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data”); China’s Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) strategy; Green Hydrogen; Green Ammonia (which can be used to run ships).

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