The Morning Dispatch: Boris Goes With Huawei

Plus, the White House releases its plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—with no buy-in from the Palestinians.

Happy Wednesday! “I think you did a good job on her” is both the feedback on the Morning Dispatch we hope to hear from our editors when we wake up, and how President Trump praised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday for berating NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly after she asked him a question about the State Department and Ukraine.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Department of Justice arrested and charged the chair of Harvard University’s chemistry department with making a fraudulent statement about his ties to China.

  • The deficit is projected to surpass $1 trillion in 2020, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. 

  • President Trump’s impeachment defense team wrapped up its case on Tuesday. There will now be eight hours of questioning from senators both today and tomorrow, followed by a Friday vote on whether or not to call additional witnesses.

  • Mitch McConnell reportedly told Republican senators in a private meeting Tuesday that he did not currently have the 51 votes necessary to block impeachment witnesses, but the situation remains fluid and could very well change before Friday.

  • Eddie Gallagher, the Navy SEAL whose war crimes trial President Trump intervened on behalf of, posted a video on social media attacking his former Navy SEAL peers. Gallagher “highlighted names, photos and—for those still on active duty—their duty status and current units, something former SEALs say places those men—and the Navy’s mission—in jeopardy,” per the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Tory U.K. Folds on China’s Huawei

In last Wednesday’s Morning Dispatch, we took a look at a hugely consequential national security decision facing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Tory coalition: Whether or not to freeze Chinese telecom giant Huawei out as the country begins to upgrade its cell networks to 5G technology. On Tuesday, Johnson announced their decision: to the chagrin of the White House, many in Congress, and anyone with concerns about Chinese spying, the U.K. will allow Huawei to play a role building and maintaining its 5G network.

The concession to China comes with a few caveats designed to mollify critics. Huawei equipment will be kept out of “core” areas and those areas processing sensitive information—data storage facilities, military bases, etc.—and the company will not be permitted to purchase a controlling market share in the network. On Tuesday, British officials hastened to downplay the significance of the decision to America’s ongoing campaign to limit Huawei’s reach, with Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan calling it “a U.K.-specific solution for U.K.-specific reasons” in a statement.

But all that is unlikely to placate China hawks in Congress and the Trump administration, who argue that companies like Huawei don’t operate independently from China’s authoritarian regime.

“This is national security 101: You don’t want sensitive information crossing compromised networks,” Sen. Ben Sasse told us, adding that the decision would hurt America’s efforts to convince the world that “the distinction between so-called ‘private-sector’ companies like Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party is pure fiction.”

One major sticking point for the U.S. is that relegating Huawei to non-critical infrastructure, while sounding nice in theory, is likely to be much harder to put into practice in a 5G network. There are a couple related reasons for this. One has to do with how centralized a cell network’s data is. Speaking simplistically, older generations of mobile technology relied on a central flow of information, which individual devices tapped into to access.

But 5G technology does away with much of that centralization, relying much more heavily on direct device-to-device communication and data transfers over whole constellations of interconnected networks and devices. This means the matter of keeping devices from accessing content they shouldn’t will be more than ever a question not of hardware but of softwareleading experts to worry that malicious actors involved in building the network could easily insert backdoors to snoop on data transfers across the network undetected. 

“They are saying that Huawei will not be allowed into the core, they will only be allowed into the periphery,” said Dean Cheng, an expert on China policy for the Heritage Foundation. “But an awful lot of the technical writings seem to suggest that you won’t have that distinction … The extent to which Huawei is going to have access to this data, no matter where it is, so long as it is part of the system, is not something that seems easily managed by saying, well, they’ll only have a minority stake and they won’t be allowed to do X, Y, and Z.”

These questions—of whether and to what extent the U.K. is opening itself up to Chinese spying by relying on Huawei—will be critically important in the years ahead, as the British actually build out their 5G network. But in the short term, the greatest impact of the decision is likely to be its effect on U.S.-British relations, for both intelligence purposes and trade.

As things stand now, the U.S. shares an enormous amount of intelligence information with the U.K., which, along with Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, make up the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. But if the British go forward with a plan that Washington believes will jeopardize their ability to safeguard that information, America might find it necessary to cut the U.K. out of that network. In fact, there are already bills before both houses of Congress proposing exactly that—cutting intelligence ties with any countries relying on Huawei to operate their 5G networks.

“My concern is that, if this keeps going this direction and we aren’t able to reverse the decision, [those bills] will pick up steam,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer, told The Dispatch. “And then, at a broader level, I think it’s going to complicate, it might completely eliminate the possibility of getting a gold standard post-Brexit trade agreement with the UK, which would be a huge missed opportunity for both our countries. So both of those things I think just tell you how high the stakes are with this decision.”

All that is bad enough. But as Gallagher pointed out, it may get worse if other countries see the U.K.’s decision as a tacit green light to pencil Huawei into their own 5G plans—such that, far from freezing the company out of Western markets, the U.S. suddenly finds itself pursuing its Huawei blockade alone.

“Think about the legitimacy this will convey on Huawei,” Gallagher said. “They can point to the U.K. and say, look, the U.S.’s closest partner went with Huawei. There’s no concern here, you don’t need to be worried, the U.K. says everything is cool. That’s going to dramatically enhance Huawei’s business case as they try and get the Germans to follow suit, every country in Africa, which may not be as security-minded and just want cheap internet. I think the implications of this are going to be not only huge domestically, but huge internationally.”                                                                                                                            

It Takes Three Wheels to Make a Tricycle

Flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, President Trump announced his administration’s long-discussed “Peace to Prosperity” plan to bring calm to the “seemingly interminable conflict” between Israelis and Palestinians. No Palestinian leaders attended the ceremony.

In what he referred to as “the most detailed proposal ever put forward by far,” Trump unveiled a two-state solution that he called “a ‘win-win’ opportunity for both sides.” The proposed blueprint—which ultimately needs to be negotiated between Israeli and Palestinian officials—would formally recognize both a State of Israel and a State of Palestine. (Elsewhere at The Dispatch, Danielle Pletka offers a detailed analysis of the plan’s specifics.)

In a call with reporters, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman called the plan a “huge advancement,” saying that, for the first time in 52 years, “the state of Israel has delineated the terms under which it is prepared to make territorial compensations for the creation of a Palestinian state.”

Because Palestinian territory under the proposal would be detached and non-continuous, the plan “provides for a high speed rail connection between Gaza and the West bank,” according to Friedman.

Jerusalem would remain Israel’s “undivided capital,” Trump said, before adding that because he has “done a lot for Israel,” it is “only reasonable that I have to do a lot for the Palestinians, or it just wouldn’t be fair.”

The plan, Trump contended, would “more than double the Palestinian territory and provide a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem where America will proudly open an embassy.”

As part of the proposal, Israel agreed to freeze development on the land it would cede to a Palestinian state for four years, giving the two sides time to further negotiate. 

“We confront an important issue here, which is the asymmetry between Israel and the Palestinians,” Friedman told reporters. “On one hand, you have a modern, first-world, strong, democratic nation trying to make peace with a highly divided and challenged people and series of different governments.”

“We bridge this asymmetry,” he continued, “by providing certain benefits to Israel up front, in exchange for Israel keeping the option open to the Palestinians for a very lengthy period of time.”

Both Netanyahu—who was formally indicted yesterday on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust—and Benny Gantz—the leader of Netanyahu’s more-centrist opposition party who is running to replace him—support Trump’s blueprint. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, unsurprisingly, does not.

“We say a thousand times, no, no, no to the deal of the century,” Abbas announced following Trump and Netanyahu’s joint appearance. “We will not kneel down,” he added, clearly disagreeing with Trump’s characterization of the deal. “Annexation of 30% of our territory is nonsense.”

“This plan was negotiated with no one but the Israelis, and thus it’s not a peace plan at all,” Democratic senator Chris Murphy argued. “Peace can only be achieved through agreement between Israel and the Palestinian people.”

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, 39-year-old presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, one of the plan’s main architects, promised American respect if the Palestinians come to the negotiating table.* And if they don’t? “If they screw up this opportunity—which again, they have a perfect track record of missing opportunities—if they screw this up, I think that they will have a very hard time looking the international community in the face, saying they’re victims, saying they have rights.”

Worth Your Time

  • Federal paid family leave is an idea that’s been gaining steam on both sides of the aisle. This harrowing piece from The Guardian’s Miranda Bryant tells the stories of a few of the women for whom such a policy would have been a godsend—women without a financial safety net with no choice but to drag their battered bodies back onto the job days after giving birth just to keep the lights on. 

  • Elizabeth Warren talks a big game about getting America out of its foreign wars. But would she actually operate any differently from the last three presidents, all of whom did the same on the campaign trail—before each got the U.S. tangled in still more conflicts abroad? National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty takes a look at the proud U.S. presidential tradition of candidates who run like doves and govern like hawks. 

  • Writing in the Atlantic, Lydia Denworth has a fascinating deep-dive piece about the middle-school brain—why seventh-graders form the social groups they do, do the crazy things they do, frustrate and frighten their parents, have social anxiety at lunch, and so on. There’s lots of engagingly written stuff on neuroscience and lots of kids-do-the-darndest-things anecdotes, and it’s all great. Give it a read!

Presented Without Comment

Something Fun

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you know what that means—naming cockroaches after your ex!

The El Paso Zoo will afford those seeking closure the opportunity to feed the namesake of a past lover—in the form of an arthropod—to primates and/or meerkats. Just don’t try this with your current significant other.

Toeing the Company Line

  • If you’re sick and tired of the impeachment back and forth, David’s Tuesday French Press is for you. Before turning to the plight of pro-life Democrats, he looks at two viral cable news clips to explain how “our media environment constantly provides each side with actual fuel for the raging fire of mistrust and mutual loathing.”

  • Jonah bade farewell to longtime podcast sidekick (and AEI research assistant) Jack Butler on the latest episode of The Remnant. Best of luck at National Review, Jack!

  • On the web today, Jonah explains all the reasons (and there are many) that an offense doesn’t have to rise to the level of criminal violation to be impeachable. Paul D. Miller, who devoted 10 years to the war in Afghanistan between the Army, the CIA, and the National Security Council, takes issue with the Washington Post series detailing all the mistakes the U.S. made. And we have the aforementioned piece by Danielle Pletka on the Middle East peace deal.

Let Us Know

Negotiations between three parties magically become much simpler if you only need to appease two of them. Which of these pacts would make the most sense ignoring one of the participants?

  • The Yalta and Potsdam Conferences: Exclude Joseph Stalin and that whole Cold War thing might’ve been a whole lot easier to win.

  • The Anthony Davis Trade: If the Pelicans and Wizards just didn’t give the Lakers the superstar they wanted in this three-team deal, New Orleans could have added Lonzo, Ingram, Hart, and draft picks without having to part with AD.

  • Tomorrow’s Morning Dispatch: Divide the responsibility of the different segments evenly, and then give them all to Steve. Declan and Andrew are ecstatic!

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Correction, Jan 28, 2020: The item on the Middle East piece deal incorrectly described Jared Kushner as 36 years old. He is 39.