Monday, December 16, 2019

Are End Use Controls Fit For Use?
(You can see here a classic case of End Use Controls)

You would not know it from public reporting, but Export Control is in a bit of a crisis, and that crisis has a name, and that name is "End Use Controls". This is important because when I started really looking at Export Controls, post the "Intrusion Software Debacle", Export Controls were a sleepy little town at the edge of the wilderness, and now they are the center of everything, with Huawei as the most obvious example.

But deep down, the US has less and less ways to project strategic power, and export control is taking over the role of many other parts of diplomatic basket, parts it is not especially suited for. You can sum up the selling point of export control's historical role by saying "Preventing bad things from getting into the hands of bad people" and to a certain extent, that still exists. 

But let's take a look at a new article from Ely Ratner, Elizabeth Rosenburg, and Paul Scharre in Foreign Affairs on Countering China.

Let's sum up their recommendations so you don't have to do all the reading:
  • Boost R&D Spending
  • Attract talent by expanding high skilled Visa Program
  • Enable domestic production of 5G by using Tax incentives and government buying power
  • Enhanced Visa Screening to counter espionage and coordination with Academia on a blacklist
  • Adding PLA organizations to the Entity List
  • Blacklisting all PLA-associates from Visas (this conflicts with their other recommendation, obviously)
  • Expanding Export controls based on End-Use
  • Finding new sources of Rare Earth minerals (I assume by asteroid mining? lol)
  • Forcing Chinese companies to comply with US Financial Transparency Rules
  • Promoting BLOCKCHAIN (lol)
  • New Multilateral agreements "Just like TPP but somehow different in that we actually sign them this time"

Wait, WTF? Is this for real?

I don't know how articles like this from CNAS are not supposed to be meant as the duct-taped-banana of "Countering China" thought-pieces. The bit on export control is the most likely-to-happen bit! Equally as insane as all the other ideas though.

By definition, an end use control does not prevent technology from getting in the hands of bad people. It prevents companies from MARKETING technology as for a specific thing, but the technology itself is going to invariably become ubiquitous. If at any point in your creation of an export control you're saying things like "Well, this technology is so dual use that the only difference between Military and Non-Military use is the going to be the description on the task order" then what you're doing is creating a nice way to talk to people informally about the wiseness of their business model and customer-set, more than an actual "Export Control".

These issues are hugely relevant when it comes to understanding strategic contention around cyber tooling, but also around machine learning technology, 3d-printing, biologics,  and the next generation of consumer products. Ask yourself, is there a GUIDELINE anywhere for how to create a GOOD end use control for your subject matter? What's the difference between an export control that WORKS and one that DOESN'T? If you don't have such a guideline, then you know the answer is that there is probably no good way to do it.

But if export controls aren't the answer, what is?

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