Technology in Political Affairs: Interview with Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas

Technology in Political Affairs: Interview with Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas


In the wake of ISIS’ recent attacks in Paris, terror threats in Belgium, the subsequent online battle between ISIS and the hacker group Anonymous, and stories coming out about ISIS’ unrivaled online recruiting capacity, Jared Cohen’s address at Vanderbilt University last month seems prophetic. In this interview, the Vanderbilt Political Review went in depth with Cohen and discussed a wide range of domestic and foreign subjects highlighting the intersection of technology and policy. Here is a transcript of the interview, somewhat edited for brevity. We’ve also included some helpful links throughout when there are references to recent geopolitical events. VPR Editor in Chief Michael Zoorob and Editor Alexander Slawson contributed to this interview, and we hope you enjoy a look into the world of technology in politics.

Greenberg: Alright, so we’ll get started I guess. I want to talk a little bit about your background and then also just things going on in the world today.

Cohen: Okay

Greenberg: It’s going to be great. First, so you worked at the State Department under Secretaries Rice and Clinton, and so I wanted to ask you: In what ways did your mission change there at the State Department across the two administrations and if you noticed any political differences when it came to crafting policy, and also as time went on.

Cohen: Yeah, it’s interesting, you know I often get asked to compare and contrast my experiences under these two secretaries, and you have to remember, it’s more about contrasting what it’s like being an advisor at the end of an administration that was a two term administration and the beginning of a new administration that would eventually become a two term administration. My portfolio in both administrations was counterterrorism and Middle East. I ended up doing – I ended up basically adding the technology portfolio towards the very end of the Bush administration, and it became a very pronounced part of my portfolio in the Obama administration, and the reason had less to do with the Secretary of State and more the events that were transpiring in the world. So, in 2006, if you mentioned the internet in an official government meeting, you would likely get laughed out of the room. And if you look at all the things that have happened in the world from the, you know, Arab Spring, the sort of almost daily conversations we have about cybersecurity and cyberterrorism and this and that, we take for granted the fact that as recently as – let’s see – as recently as 2009, there were no good examples of geopolitics and technology having a meaningful nexus. The first sort of subtle example that nobody really talked about was a revolution in Moldova in early 2009 – I think it was in February of 2009. Then the Green Revolution in June of 2009, and then there was sort of nothing for a while, and then you had WikiLeaks. But by the time I – you know I spent four years in government – by the time I left and went to Google you still had not had an Arab Spring. You know, all the things that we sort of know now and expect to see in the international system just weren’t around then. And so, one of the things that I did a lot of when I was in government is, because I had spent time in these countries, I was seeing the bubbling up of some seismic change that was coming as a result of technology. So I used to just call CEOs in Silicon Valley and give them examples of what some of the technology they were creating was doing in countries like Iraq and Syria and Russia, and, you know Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. It turned out they were really curious to see for themselves and again, there were no touchpoints between the State Department and Silicon Valley at that time. Now they wouldn’t take your phone calls, there’s like too many touchpoints, and they, like, sit down with the President, but at that time there were no touchpoints, and my observation was they were curious and if you could give them something to go home and brag to their friends about, they were willing to go and see it. So, brag to your friends equals put on a flak jacket and hop on a Blackhawk helicopter and it turns out that’s a very cool thing to do. [laughter] But in terms of my portfolio I would argue that in both cases, I had two secretaries of State who were very sort of open to the idea that technology was having an impact on the world, and in some respects – you know typically we think of the expertise as bottom-up – in this case I think the openness was top-down, and I think in the Bush administration a lot of it is that the themes of technology had a nice nexus with a lot of the rhetoric around the Freedom Agenda and in the Obama administration I think the fact that Secretary Clinton underestimated the value of technology and grassroots organizing had a profound impact on how she thought about these tools for foreign policy so she had this view of “I lost Iowa because I didn’t understand the role technology could play. I’m not gonna lose foreign policy as a result of the same mistake.” And it really had a profound impact on her. It was extraordinary to see.

Greenberg: That’s interesting. And that’s a question I had for you. It’s that, I understand that people are sort of new to the idea of like, social media and the Internet being able to foster change in nations geopolitically, but media has sort of had a trend of doing this for a long time. So like, there’s always the stereotypical example of in a coup taking control of the radio station and that being able to get your message out, so what makes the Internet different? What’s unique?

Cohen: Yeah I mean, so there’s two things that are new. Remember that with all the sort of older forms of media we have going all the way back to the printing press, the fax machine, you know, television, etc., these were never new technologies that, you know, when parents looked at it, they’re like “Oh, that’s just something my kids play with.” You know, and they also require institutions to run them. Right, so what’s new about this type of technology – you know, the Internet as manifested on mobile and things, whatever – it’s the first type of technology that is able to own, develop and disseminate content without an intermediary. It’s not that intermediaries still don’t play a role – okay, I can sort of scream as loudly as I want and publish as much as I want online. If I don’t have anyone to amplify it, I’m not very effective. But there’s nothing to stop me from publishing. And so the sort of removal of an intermediary as a prerequisite to publish is what is in fact new. Um, the second thing that’s new is more of a normative thing which is younger generations have been faster to adopt these things than older generations. That’s even the case with my generation, right? So, a kid who’s a teenager is more likely to adopt, you know, sort of newer types of technology than I am. So, a classic example of this is I don’t understand why a teenager would want to use SnapChat. I mean, I can sort of imagine but I’m not bought into it. [laughter] But, having been part of the first generation that watched older people say that to me, I don’t need to understand why they want to use it. I just need to look at the fact that hundreds of millions of them out in the world are using it and say okay therefore it’s important and I need to understand why. So that’s really what’s new about it. Uh, and the other thing that’s new is the unpredictability of it. Right, so if you think about – you know, one of the things that I find particularly interesting about technology is – that makes it different from mainstream media is – it allows one physical individual to punch way above his or her weight. Right, so, you can literally, you know, produce multiple identities of yourself, multiple versions of yourself, you can sort of digitally procreate for lack of a better way of putting it. What that allows, you know, the individual to do is to push beyond their boundaries, their norms, their laws. So, you know, in the old model, think about a woman in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. Mainstream media didn’t help her start a business when her husband didn’t let her. Mainstream media didn’t give her the ability to engage with people online that she couldn’t engage with offline. Mainstream media didn’t allow her the opportunity to share a horrific story with the world. It didn’t allow acid victims to be given a second chance at life because online their scars are only physical, etc. That’s all changed now. I mean, technology does allow those sorts of digital escapes from the sort of harsh physical reality that a lot of people live in.

Greenberg: I guess it’s also, you could say, well suited to the sort of dynamic, rapid change that we see in geopolitical instances, right? So, that’s something else I wanted to ask. You know, a lot of times in the Arab Spring you saw things changing on the ground very rapidly and so, different factions will seize control of the narrative with media. So how do we, I mean, your job, for example at the State Department, would have been to try to promote a certain narrative, right? So, how do you stifle certain people from seizing control of a situation who might not have the best intentions?

Cohen: Well, it’s hard. You mentioned the Arab Spring and what I’ve said about the Arab Spring is, you know, the lesson we’ve learned there is that now with technology involved with things and the way that it is, revolutions are easier to start and they’re harder to finish, right? So if you look at the Arab Spring, my conclusion about what unfolded there is you san an accelerated pace of movement making that did two things. 1. It allowed large numbers of people to organize around the lowest common denominator which is they didn’t want a particular dictator in power and wanted to unseat that dictator whether it was Saleh in Yemen, Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt or Gaddafi in Libya, etc., etc. The problem is it’s very easy to organize around the lowest common denominator and once the dictator is unseated nobody agrees on anything. So then what happens is technology heightens everyone’s expectations that change will happen as fast as they were all able to get into the streets and complain. It also turns out that complaining is easier than figuring out what to do. [laughter] I also think that the accelerated pace of movement making in some respects had retarded leadership development. You know, if you think about the Mandelas, the Lech Walesas, the Charles de Gaulles of the world it took them decades to develop the proper leadership credentials and training before they became public figures, and now we’ve kind of reversed the order. We create these sort of flash-in-a-pan celebrities who become public figures and over time we see if they become leaders. So the Arab Spring didn’t actually produce a lot of new leaders with new last names. It brought back people from exile or elevated people who were part of the religious establishment

Greenberg: So, Morsi would be an example of that?

Cohen: Right, so what’s interesting is I remember during my time in government there was an interesting debate around was the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt moderate or not. This was in the Bush administration. And, some were arguing they were moderate, some were arguing they were not. Regardless of which camp you’re in, most agreed that if – the argument went something like this: The Muslim Brotherhood has been so effective at organizing at the civil society level despite restrictions on them. If they ever get into power, it’ll be sort of like they’ll be able to govern really well. And it turns out they got into power and they weren’t able to govern as well as we would like. People thought the same thing about Hamas, that because they had been able to do some basic provision of social services when they didn’t have any elected officials that that would carry over into the political sector, and there’s not a lot of evidence that, you know, when a terrorist group gets political power, that it’s able to translate. Hezbollah has done a slightly better job. But the other thing that I think is sort of worth noting is, what we got rid of in the Middle East and North Africa were single-man dictatorships. For the most part they were secular. In each case they didn’t allow civil society to exist for the most part. But at a certain point, even if you’re a secular dictator, it’s not like you can get rid of the mosques. There’s certain religious networks that you can’t get rid of. So by default, the absence of any other civil society meant that by default the only other civil society that existed in the country was the religious networks. Now, historically speaking, when you persecute a group, it intensifies their sentiments, so what we saw when all these secular dictatorships were unseated, the only groups that were really particularly organized and well suited to get their act together were the Islamist parties. Right, so Ennahda in Tunisia, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, not really anybody in Libya, etc. And then they came to power and it turns out that’s not what people wanted. And so they actually went back to the autocratic model, but they moved away from single-man dictatorships toward multiparty dictatorships. So you basically have these sort of multiparty autocracies, so basically autocracies that are secured at the ballot box.

Greenberg: So, I’m curious. People often talk about how technology and social media will polarize people in the sense that they create these sort of networks that they don’t venture beyond in terms of opinions to listen to other people’s opinions. When you have these groups that have been oppressed by secular dictatorships, does the use of technology polarize their views against those of the dictator even more than they otherwise would have?

Cohen: So, the people make this argument that technology reinforces views that you already have, right? And the evidence actually suggests that that’s probably not true. What reinforces views that you already have is when there’s no internet and you’re around the people you know in a country that’s reasonably repressive where people aren’t allowed to have other opinions and other information is not allowed out. You know, what I always say to people is just because – let’s say I espouse a certain ideology and I gravitate towards that online. It’s very difficult to exist on the internet and function on the internet without being exposed to other opinions. Just because I choose not to accept or embrace them and instead gravitate towards the ones that I agree with, it doesn’t make the internet a sort of filtered bubble as people call it. So if I said to you “I only want to watch Fox News.” And, I click through NBC, I click through CNN, I click through some other things, but after watching each for five minutes I’m ultimately only going to watch Fox News. You wouldn’t tell me that the problem with television is that it only reinforces views that people already have. You would basically say “Okay. You have your choices and you chose your option.” Now, the internet is different. You can’t help but to be exposed to things that you disagree with. Whereas in TV I can go straight to Fox News if I want. I can go straight to CNN if I want and I’m not forced to watch all these other things. On the internet you actually are forced to be exposed to certain things, whether it’s counter-opinions through advertising, things in the comments feed, pop-ups, whatever. So I think that the notion of the internet only reinforcing people’s views is not accurate. I think a trend that we should observe though is that if you look at all the challenges of the physical domain – sectarian violence, ethnic violence – they will all increasingly spill over into the digital domain. So every challenge in the future is going to have a physical manifestation and a digital manifestation. That’s why, and I’ll say this in my remarks as well, I think it’s very dangerous when we sort of silo the cyber conversation from the physical conversation. So, again I’ll say this tonight, but to me there’s no such thing as a cyberterrorist. There’s just a terrorist with physical capabilities and cyber capabilities. There’s no such thing as a cyber-dissident. There’s just a dissident, and they have digital activities and physical activities. Their still a person, right? And, you know, and by the way I wouldn’t call someone a dissident who – you know to me the definition of dissent is somebody who puts themselves physically at risk in order to speak up. And, you know everything else to me, you know, if they’re not doing things online that put themselves physically at risk, then they’re a supporter, or a tourist, or you know whatever it might be. So, I think that if we look at sectarian violence, you could imagine a situation where people at some point start to talk about cyber-sectarianism, and there won’t be such thing as that either. Right, so the reality is if the whole world’s online, you should expect that all the nastiness will sort of continue to persist in the physical domain and it will have a digital dimension. Now the good news is I think that one of the negative externalities of course of the internet is that these things spill over. One of the opportunities though is that in a world where everything is written, there may be opportunities for more effective early warning, opportunities for sort of machine learning to sort of deal with online harassment in a way that’s more effective than we could in the physical domain, etc.

Zoorob: But what about machine learning that figures out what kinds of articles you like to read and shows those to you. I mean, so Google’s search obviously knows something about you.

Greenberg: Facebook does the same…

Zoorob: Yeah, and do you think eventually there will be a point where it does just give you what you want to see already?

Cohen: Well I think, you know, I think the aspiration of the tech sector is to – anyone involved in search whether it’s social search or the type of search that Google is involved in – the goal is to get you the information that you’re looking for as fast as possible and as comprehensively as possible. You know, you see experiments with Google Now and so forth. I think, machine learning is getting much more advanced, right, so there’s two things that have changed. 1. We didn’t used to have enough data, and then the advent of social networks sort of gave birth to, you know, what we sort of think of today as “big data.” Then we didn’t have the ability to process that data fast enough and it all and to be processed through a single machine so the fact that we had big data wasn’t that useful if we couldn’t do anything with it. Well, we now have the ability to process all this data through multiple machines. And, this sort of opens up endless possibilities for what can be done with machine learning. Think about natural language learning, really being able to measure tone. Think about reinforcement learning where – instead of a classification model – where, you know, the machine is sort of restricted to the data that it has. You have a situation where you can sort of tell the machine – you give the machine an action and not tell it how to get there, like “get the highest score possible in the videogame.” And the machine sort of experiments, and each experimentation leads to a positive reinforcement or a negative reinforcement, and ultimately the computer is able to get a higher score than a human being could. So, the ability for machine learning to give us more dynamic results, more immediate results, to sort of, you know, to sort of understand our behaviors and give us what we’re looking for is extraordinary. Uh, what you’ll see is there will be varying levels of comfort with this, and what companies will do is give users as many options as possible to opt out or opt in.

Greenberg: Um, I want to go back to something you said a little bit earlier, back to the Arab Spring when you said people were going uh, sort of around the least common denominator. Uh, there’s a little bit of a different media presence when you look at a place like Crimea. So, Russia invaded, and you have them pushing a certain narrative, and you have people on the ground from both sides trying to use media to establish a narrative and you even have this kind of goofy event where a Russian soldier tweeted himself and was geotagged in Ukraine [laughter], so, how do you, or how does the United States or a private policy group sift through that? How do they determine the truth?

Cohen: Yeah. What you’re basically describing is how on top of every physical war will be a marketing war. Right? So, for those who can physically watch the events on the ground there’s a group that’s winning and there’s a group that’s losing. Uh, the rest of us are, you know, basically victims to whoever has better marketing. Um, right? So unless you’re part of that smaller group that has all the intelligence and so forth – and even they’re affected by this – the marketing wars matter a lot. You could imagine a situation where you have a really horrific government doing something really terrible on the ground but they win the marketing war and, you know, the world turns against the wrong actor. Um, or you could imagine a situation where it’s a small skirmish, but the marketing war exaggerates it to be something more extraordinary, and you actually have an intervention that results from it. Um, it doesn’t answer your questions of how you sift through it, um, but that is in fact my observation of what these things look like. So this goes back to my sort of general view of the world, that, you know, every war has a physical front, and it has a digital front. And, when you break down the digital front it’s everything from the security of infrastructure to the marketing to the nefarious – you know, basically the cyber weapons. So, one of the things you saw with Russia and Crimea was distributed denial of service attacks in both directions. I know this because we have a product called Shield, which is a DDoS protection service that we offer to independent media around the world, and we had to protect sites on both sides of the conflict.

Greenberg: That’s interesting.

Slawson: I’ve got a question if you don’t mind. I know you’re more of expert on foreign policy but I wanted to ask you about some of the stuff that was happening domestically, like with Black Lives Matter and stuff like that. Do you see the internet as kind of like, the driving force behind these things or just another tool that these movements are using when they would have happened anyway?

Cohen: Historically, every movement throughout history, good and bad, um – uses the best technology that they have at their disposal. And in that sense there’s nothing new here. Um, uh, what’s, you know, sort of new – and we’ve seen this generationally – is every new type of technology gives the world more visibility into what’s happening. So, for instance I often get asked the question, or people make the comment “the world’s really bad right now” or “Congress is really bad right now, it’s really a disaster” or all these things and I say “Well no, the world’s actually safer, more stable, more forgiving, more open minded than at any other time in history, but our enhanced visibility means that every bad thing in every corner of the globe is something we now see. And I like to remind people, I don’t know that, given what we do know about what happened in the 1600s [laughter], I’m not sure I would want to have – I’m sort of grateful we didn’t have the visibility into everything that happened there, because even the stuff we know about is pretty horrific. So, there’s a challenge. So, on the one hand we see more, and we have more visibility. On the other hand, we’re quicker to react. Right, so again it goes back to the marketing, so I mentioned in physical conflicts there’s marketing wars. Well, in any situation where you have a sort of protagonist or an antagonist, there’s a reality on the ground and then there’s how it plays out in marketing. And you can see this – everything from Ferguson to Baltimore – you see a sort of tension between people trying to understand what’s happening by sort of calibrating the sort of marketing from the events on the ground. And I think, as a society, it’s a very difficult thing to do, because the marketing is more immediate. Understanding what’s physically happening on the ground requires a little bit more investigation and time, and the internet doesn’t really allow for a lot of time. Um, so the other thing I think is sort of interesting about movements is, you know it gets to my point about one physical individual being able to punch way above his or her weight. It’s very difficult to know how big these movements are now. So, you know, is this – you know, name your movement – is this a hundred people that just online looks like a hundred thousand people? Or is this a hundred thousand people? Um, and, you know whether you’re a democracy or an autocracy, one of the values of the internet that’s sort of a net benefit to people is the ability to obfuscate your numbers. Right? And, I think it’s sort of a really interesting trend to see.

Greenberg: I think we probably see that with groups like Anonymous too, right? So they – not only do we not know their exact size but they use things like DDoS attacks. So, what do you think of groups like that? What do you think their actual ability to control policy and politics is?

Cohen: I mean, can you even call them a group? [laughter] I don’t know! I mean, you know I’m always careful not to say any mean things about them. [laughter] But it’s a very interesting question, right? You know is it – is it a brand? Does it have a core structure? You know, the sort of ambiguous nature of it means that really, you know you, if you have – you know you could do something online tomorrow either mischievously or nobly and claim to be Anonymous. Whose gonna, whose gonna hold you accountable for that, right? So, the value of a brand is greatly enhanced in the digital domain, right? So, when the world was entirely physical, there was sort of no question about what was the sort of physical correspondence to a brand. Now, there’s a brand that exists online and we sort of struggle to figure out what in the physical domain does it correspond with. So, it makes attribution really difficult.


Greenberg: Alright, I want to ask you about Edward Snowden if that’s alright. Um, so we saw his revelations of the NSA PRISM program and all that, and so, the question I have written down is: He provided an example of how a single person on the ground could release incredible amounts of personal and government information. So, what are the benefits of that? What are the inherent dangers associated with that? That we have these entire networks of government surveillance that can be accessed by a single person who could get them out. You could say Snowden’s intentions were good or bad, but if somebody had a lot worse intentions they could have done a lot more with that data, so could you comment on that at all?

Cohen: Yeah, so first, let’s be clear on just sort of facts. He broke a very serious law. So, let’s start with that. Um, separate from Edward Snowden, in general it’s very good for societies to have these debates about national security and civil liberty, and so I think, the debate is actually useful. It’s unfortunate that this set of events was what caused this debate, but those are sort of separate points. The third is, you know, we were all sort of hyper-obsessed with Julian Assange when WikiLeaks happened. Now we’re all sort of hyper-obsessed with Edward Snowden and his leaks and what we found out from it. It’s important to ask the question, like, what’s next? Right? So we’re not caught off guard again. And, I think there’s – the way that I look at this, there’s a few things that whether we like it or not are sort of here to stay. So, the ability to leak in bulk, I don’t know how every single government and every single company isn’t to some extent exposed. You can do – no matter how hard you work at this, it is very difficult to fully inoculate yourself from bulk leaking. The second is the ability to leak remotely. Right, so you don’t have to sort of smuggle documents out in your underpants anymore and like, take them to a drop. Um, you know, I think the third is – it’s – you know, what I find interesting about these leaks is it’s really – it’s sort of highlighted a divide between private sector and the public sector that I think has really complicated things. And I think that, um, you know there’s a lot of emphasis placed today on understanding was there a sort of direct correlation between lives lost and Snowden’s leaks, and I think that that’s a debate that’s been had at exhaustion. I can think of many types of instances where certain types of data that, if leaked, could cause significant loss of life, national security damage, and so forth. So, in general, I think leaking is just bad. That being said, I think societies do need to find their sweet spot in terms of how they think about the tension between national security and civil liberty. You know it’s sort of interesting, you look at the CCTV cameras in the UK. Um, they were put in place during a time of IRA bombs in trash cans. Nobody questioned it at the time. You could imagine in a moment of sort of tranquility, you know, nothing going on, how people might react to CCTV cameras everywhere. So one of the things that I’ve argued is, in a moment of crisis or in the aftermath of an attack of some kind, the bias is always towards restriction of civil liberties, in favor of national security. And I think that, um, that sort of whiplash is fundamentally – is sort of fundamental to human nature, so I’m not sure that it’s gonna change that much over time, and I think it’s kind of – I don’t think it’s culture or country specific. I think it’s something we’ll just sort of see pretty common to every country.

Slawson: Do you think it’s kind of, you know they flash into more security and then once people felt safe again, they snapped right back to their original position on it?

Cohen: Well, the challenge with this is, it’s very difficult, when you put certain security measures in place in the aftermath of an attack, it’s actually quite difficult to undo it. Nobody wants to be the one to undo it and then have been wrong. So you see this also with some of our embassies around the world. Right, you have embassies that are like, highly restrictive. You know, take our embassy in Lebanon. It’s not that there’s not real, credible threats there, and of course things, I think, have changed – this is what I would have said pre-ISIS – now I think with the threat of ISIS, I think it’s a different story, but, you know, in July of 2005 – so the year before the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon – it was like, a very stable, peaceful place, but still probably one of our three or four most restrictive embassies around the world. Right? And the reason why, well, you know, Hezbollah kidnappings in the ‘80s, bombing of the marine barracks, bombing of the embassy annex, nobody wanted to change the restrictions, because what if they were wrong?

Greenberg: You’re going to talk about ISIS today in your remarks, right? So I don’t need to ask those.

Cohen: Yeah

Greenberg: Alright, the only, one other thing that I think you might not cover in your remarks is that, um, this Chinese hacking unit. I’m very curious about what your thoughts are on that and sort of whether this is a legitimate threat to the United States, and what the future of warfare looks like in terms of how militaries will use these against each other.

Cohen: Yeah, I mean well, first of all, we’re already in a perpetual state of cyberwarfare on a daily basis.

Greenberg: Are we, are we losing the war then? Is that – ?

Cohen: Well, it’s a slightly complicated question because it depends on which context you’re talking about, so, if I look at China’s nefarious cyber activity, some portion of it is done to repress the population, and I think they feel like they’ve largely got that under control. What people fail to understand about China’s nefarious cyber activity is that a significant portion of it is driven by economic interests and capitalism. So, China basically competes in two capitalist systems. We compete in one. They compete in an asymmetric capitalist system that allows for corporate espionage, intellectual property theft, etc. They then build companies on the foundation of that stolen intellectual property and scale them to compete in the global marketplace. There’s also legitimate innovation in China, and they compete in the same capitalist system that we do. So they basically do both. So, a lot of China’s sort of cyberattacking crosses a like that, if you talk to intelligence officials in the US, what they will say is anything the Chinese do to us, we’re capable of doing to them, except we don’t do the intellectual property stuff and the corporate stuff. So, in that sense, this is the reason – this is why it’s sort of a complicated question, are we winning or are we losing, because we’re not on that battlefield, and we shouldn’t – it’s not true to who we are as a country, but it’s a dilemma. Right, so what do you do about it? You can’t change. It’s very difficult to change the Chinese incentives on this because they have too much of an economic interest. The challenge this nefarious cyber activity in both directions is again the attribution issue. And then the second is, you know, the US and China relationships is really interesting, right? So, the physical domain relationship, frenemies at worst, partners at best. Right? But, by all accounts it’s within the margin of error. The digital relationship between the two countries is more kinetic, warlike, and adversarial than the physical one between the US and North Korea. So that’s a problem because you have a country called China and a country called the US, and they have contradictory policies towards each other in the physical and digital domains, but there’s still one comprehensive policy that they each have. So, at what point does digital activity become so severe that it warrants a physical world response? We haven’t seen that yet.

Greenberg: Alright, I think we have to go. Thank you so much though Jared.

Cohen: Alright

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About author

Jeffrey Greenberg

Jeff is a Senior from Parkland, Florida majoring in Public Policy and minoring in Spanish. His political interests include counter-extremism and modern geopolitics (including Latin American politics), U.S. elections, and civil liberties in the United States.He has interned for Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-26) in Washington, DC as well as on Sen. Lamar Alexander's (TN) 2014 reelection campaign. He has studied abroad in Peru and at the London School of Economics in the UK, and has also worked as an investigative intern for the non-partisan watchdog group Judicial Watch. In addition to writing and editing for the Vanderbilt Political Review, he serves on the Vanderbilt University Speakers Committee, competes on the Vanderbilt Trapshooting Team, writes film reviews for the Vanderbilt Hustler, and is Station Manager of VandyRadio. In his spare time, he likes watching movies, listening to old music, and exploring the outdoors.

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