2 December 2023

IDF Faces 'Surprising' Strength and Sophistication of Hamas Tunnels in Gaza

Tom O'Connor

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) engineer officer has expressed to Newsweek surprise at the vast scope of tunnels said to be used by the Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza amid the ongoing war.

Such tunnels have been central to Hamas' military strategy and a leading target of Israeli forces throughout a conflict laden with uncertainties for both sides.

"We knew this is what we expected to see, but I didn't expect these tunnels to be so strong, meaning there's a lot of concrete, stairs, a lot of intersections in these tunnels," the IDF engineer officer told Newsweek. "Of course, we don't usually go in, but we explore them, and we see it, so this is really surprising."

"I thought it would be a little more primitive, but this is really sophisticated," the officer added.

The Gaza Strip has long been known to host sprawling underground networks, even dating to the near four-decade period of Israeli occupation. When Hamas took over the territory in 2007 following the IDF's withdrawal and a bloody rift with the West Bank-based Palestinian National Authority's leading Fatah faction amid elections, this network expanded significantly.

"That's the lifeline," the IDF officer said. "When Israel used to control the Gaza Strip, we had operations against these smuggling tunnels, and it was not just military goods, also civilian goods, but mostly military. And after Israel left, it just became more and more their lifeline."

Now, the IDF officer said, tunnels constitute Hamas' "main assets" and continue to serve as a challenge to Israel's efforts to deliver a decisive defeat to the group in the deadliest war yet to beset the 75-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Gaza Cease-Fire Is a Major Military Victory for Hamas

James Stavridis

We should all rejoice to see Israeli hostages being released following the barbaric attacks by Hamas nearly two months ago. But under the short pause in fighting, the terrorists are exchanging kidnapped Israelis — in agonizingly slow fashion — to purchase time to rearm, refresh and reset their forces. There is not a shred of humanitarian impulse here. Hamas cynically measures the price of human lives and then doles them out 10 at a time for another day of military advantage.

Although the Israeli government has understandably agreed to extend the pause to gain more hostage releases, it needs to be clear-eyed from a military perspective about the costs. What are the ramifications for the Israel Defense Forces?

We’ve seen this type of humanitarian and diplomatic pause in warfare before. I experienced it firsthand as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s military commander during the six-month air campaign over Libya in 2011. Our mission, authorized under a United Nations Security Council resolution, was to use air assets (no boots on the ground) to degrade Moammar Al Qaddafi’s ability to kill his own people.

Our bombing campaign was relentless and highly effective. Yet working closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross, we used a series of tactical pauses to enable the transport of humanitarian supplies. Each time we did so, government forces would refit to continue their fight.

Further back, during the long, painful course of the US war in Vietnam, there were moments when Washington slowed its bombing operations to facilitate diplomatic discussions in Paris. The principal air campaign, Operation Rolling Thunder, was used on and off throughout negotiations in the 1960s. During those pauses, North Vietnam took advantage.

Will U.S. Revelation of Plot to Kill Sikh Activist Strain Ties With India?

Sumit Ganguly

The United States has charged an Indian citizen with attempting to assassinate a prominent Sikh activist and U.S. citizen, according to an indictment unsealed on Wednesday. The man charged, Nikhil Gupta, was arrested in the Czech Republic in June after prosecutors say he paid $100,000 to someone that he believed was a hit man to carry out the killing on U.S. soil. The charges mark yet another revelation that could add strain to the U.S.-India relationship, raising questions about the method and timing of the public disclosure.

Conditional restraint: Why the India-Pakistan Kargil War is not a case of nuclear deterrence

Arzan Tarapore

In the summer of 1999, India and Pakistan went to war, again. Pakistan had secreted a sizeable force in remote outposts in the high mountains near Kargil, in the northern part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. When India discovered the Pakistani forces build-up, it mounted a hurried and initially haphazard response to dislodge the invaders, deploying heavy reinforcements near Kargil and mobilizing its air force for daring air strikes. India’s forces fought tenaciously, for weeks, with soldiers often scaling sheer cliff-faces and fighting hand-to-hand against the enemy, to painstakingly recapture the mountainous territory, peak after peak.

India also did something surprising. Unlike in previous wars against Pakistan, in 1965 and 1971, Indian forces never crossed over into Pakistani territory during the 1999 Kargil War. The cabinet had set a limit: None of India’s ground or air forces were to cross the Line of Control (LoC), a line that separates Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of disputed Kashmir and serves as the de facto boundary between the two countries. Even when Indian operations were failing in initial weeks and the Army prepared for a large counter-offensive elsewhere into Pakistan, the order to expand the war never came. India, it turns out, fought with remarkable restraint.

To many observers, the obvious reason for this restraint was India and Pakistan’s new status as declared nuclear-armed countries. Both nations had first tested nuclear weapons in May 1998, only one year before the Kargil War started. India and Pakistan had possessed deployable nuclear weapons for years beforehand, including during previous crises (Hagerty 1995). But now they were two openly-declared nuclear powers at war. For nuclear deterrence optimists, the Kargil War is a clear-cut case of nuclear-armed countries at war intentionally limiting their military operations to avoid escalation (Ganguly 2008). From this perspective, deterrence almost self-evidently worked.

Is India Repeating Its Maldives Mistake in Bangladesh?

Mushfique Wadud

Bangladesh’s cricket team was not among the two teams that played in the final of this year’s Cricket World Cup. However, cricket fans in Bangladesh turned their enthusiasm instead toward rooting against the Indian cricket team.

On November 19, when the Australian cricket team won the final match against India, it was like a festival in Bangladesh. Thousands gathered at the Dhaka University campus and chanted slogans against the Indian team. On Facebook, many commented that this day was like the Eid for them (Eid is the most significant festival in Muslim-majority Bangladesh). The Indian newspaper India Today reported videos of Bangladeshi people celebrating India’s defeat, which went viral in Bangladesh and India.

The anti-Indian sentiment in Bangladesh is not only limited to the Indian cricket team. People in this Muslim-majority neighbor of India are turning increasingly anti-Indian. This phenomenon of anti-Indian sentiment has been visible in Bangladesh for quite some time. In 2011, then-Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh commented that 25 percent of Bangladeshi are anti-Indian. There is no survey about the current figures. However, anyone who knows Bangladesh would acknowledge that anti-Indian sentiment has increased significantly in recent years.

Several reasons can be cited for that. The anti-Muslim rhetoric of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders must be one of them. But the most crucial reason is India’s backing of the ruling political party, the Awami League, which has been in power for the last 15 years in Bangladesh thanks to two disputed elections.

If you talk to any activist of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), they will tell you that the AL was able to rule for 15 years only because of India’s backing. This was reflected in the statement of a key leader, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi the senior joint secretary general of the BNP, who claimed that India has “taken a stance against the people of Bangladesh” by supporting the “authoritarian government” of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It is apparent that the opposition parties in Bangladesh are not happy with India’s approach to Bangladeshi politics.

Managing Dissent Within: The Taliban Way

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

The chronic failure of governance and unyielding attachment to regressive values notwithstanding, the Taliban’s hold over Afghanistan appears to be consolidated. Initial hopes that the Taliban 2.0 would be a different species have been belied. Even the anticipation that a contestation between the moderates or dissenters and the hardliners within the group would weaken it and possibly force it to revisit its policies has also not materialized.

To an outsider, it appears that the divergent factions within the former insurgent group are choosing cohesion over discord. However, internally, the consolidation is the product of an iron-hand policy of dissent management.

The supreme leader of the Taliban, Haibatullah Akhundzada, has made only three public appearances since the Taliban took power in August 2021. His reclusive existence, disrupted mostly to dispel doubts about his health, has not stopped him from building Kandahar as the real power center of the regime, protected by a 40,000-strong military force comprising of loyalists, which was allegedly created by spending 60 billion Afghanis. In October 2023, Akhundzada appointed Abdul Ahad Talib, the former governor of Helmand and the former commander of the Taliban suicide squad, as his “Special Forces Commander.”

The enormous power enjoyed by Akhundzada has been inversely proportional to the influence of the moderates and dissenters within the Taliban, who have been systematically sidelined. For instance, in September 2022, Akhundzada ousted the acting education minister, Noorullah Munir, who was replaced by the head of Kandahar’s provincial council, Maulvi Habibullah Agha. Munir himself represented the old school and was known for public statements dismissing the importance of higher education. But his apparent support for opening school to girls did not go down well with the top leadership. Kandahar-born Agha, on the other hand, is known to lack formal education himself, although he functioned as a judge in the first Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001. Agha began his tenure by announcing, “Open criticism of the Islamic Emirate officials is forbidden.”

Taiwan and the True Sources of Deterrence

Bonnie S. Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss, and Thomas J. Christensen

The growing might of China’s military and its increasingly aggressive posture toward Taiwan have made deterrence in the Taiwan Strait a tougher challenge than ever before. It is incumbent on the United States to support Taiwan’s efforts to develop a defensive “porcupine strategy.” Washington can help Taiwan’s military stockpile and train with coastal defense and air defense weapons, field a robust civil defense force, and create strategic reserves of critical materials such as food and fuel to deter and, if necessary, defeat an invasion or blockade of the island. The U.S. military should also better prepare to cope with China’s expanding arsenal of missiles that pose a threat to U.S. regional bases and even aircraft carriers by creating a stronger, more agile, and more geographically dispersed military presence in the region.

But deterrence is not just a matter of weapons in arsenals, boots on the ground, planes in the air, ships at sea, or strategies on the planning table. Signaling a credible military threat is only part of a successful strategy of deterrence. It also takes assurances to keep potential adversaries at bay. A threatened state has little incentive to avoid war if it fears the unacceptable consequences of not fighting. As the Nobel Prize–winning economist Thomas Schelling wrote years ago, “‘One more step and I shoot’ can be a deterrent threat only if accompanied by the implicit assurance, ‘And if you stop, I won’t.’”

In truth, the more powerful and credible one’s threat of military action, the more important and the more difficult it is to credibly assure the potential adversary. The three parties involved in the Taiwan Strait are not providing one another with sufficient assurances. For example, to enhance deterrence, Washington must make clear that it opposes any unilateral change to the status quo, not only an attempt by Beijing to compel unification but also a political move by Taipei to pursue independence. And as the United States works with Taiwan to strengthen its security, it must avoid giving the impression that it is moving toward restoring formal diplomatic relations or a defense alliance with the island. Combined with a conditional and credible threat of a military response by the United States and Taiwan to the use of force, such assurances will help prevent a war.

Taiwan and the True Sources of Deterrence

Bonnie S. Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss, and Thomas J. Christensen

The growing might of China’s military and its increasingly aggressive posture toward Taiwan have made deterrence in the Taiwan Strait a tougher challenge than ever before. It is incumbent on the United States to support Taiwan’s efforts to develop a defensive “porcupine strategy.” Washington can help Taiwan’s military stockpile and train with coastal defense and air defense weapons, field a robust civil defense force, and create strategic reserves of critical materials such as food and fuel to deter and, if necessary, defeat an invasion or blockade of the island. The U.S. military should also better prepare to cope with China’s expanding arsenal of missiles that pose a threat to U.S. regional bases and even aircraft carriers by creating a stronger, more agile, and more geographically dispersed military presence in the region.

But deterrence is not just a matter of weapons in arsenals, boots on the ground, planes in the air, ships at sea, or strategies on the planning table. Signaling a credible military threat is only part of a successful strategy of deterrence. It also takes assurances to keep potential adversaries at bay. A threatened state has little incentive to avoid war if it fears the unacceptable consequences of not fighting. As the Nobel Prize–winning economist Thomas Schelling wrote years ago, “‘One more step and I shoot’ can be a deterrent threat only if accompanied by the implicit assurance, ‘And if you stop, I won’t.’”

In truth, the more powerful and credible one’s threat of military action, the more important and the more difficult it is to credibly assure the potential adversary. The three parties involved in the Taiwan Strait are not providing one another with sufficient assurances. For example, to enhance deterrence, Washington must make clear that it opposes any unilateral change to the status quo, not only an attempt by Beijing to compel unification but also a political move by Taipei to pursue independence. And as the United States works with Taiwan to strengthen its security, it must avoid giving the impression that it is moving toward restoring formal diplomatic relations or a defense alliance with the island. Combined with a conditional and credible threat of a military response by the United States and Taiwan to the use of force, such assurances will help prevent a war.

IN DEPTH: Unveiling China's Stranglehold on Burma During Its Escalating Civil War

Bin Zhao, Grace Hsing and Michael Zhuang

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a key participant in China’s “Belt and Road Initiative.” The country has been ruled by a military junta that deposed an elected government in 2021. The civil war between the military junta and numerous resistance and regional militant groups has escalated ever since.

On Nov. 13, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) attacked Rathedaung and Minbya, and took over the towns from the ruling military junta, sending thousands of civilians into neighboring India. The military-backed President of Myanmar has said that the government forces failed to defeat the rebels and therefore, Myanmar is on the verge of breaking up.
Heavy fighting has been raging in northern Myanmar, which is next to China. Since the end of October, the MNDAA has joined forces with the Arakan Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in a coordinated offensive against the Burmese military junta. The alliance has claimed widespread victories, and the military junta has acknowledged that it has lost control over three towns in the northern part of the country.

An insider close to the MNDAA told The Epoch Times that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is behind the MNDAA’s offensive in northern Myanmar and that the CCP's goal is to regain overwhelming influence over Myanmar.
In early October, the CCP sent its engineers into Myanmar to survey the planned railroad line which is a part of the Belt and Road Initiative, seeking to accelerate its construction. The progress of the project has yet to be satisfactory to the CCP, which is now seeking to boost its influence over Myanmar.

Pentagon hopes for 'force multiplier' in race for new tech with China

The Pentagon is planning to field thousands of artificial intelligence-enabled autonomous vehicles by 2026 in a bid to keep pace with the Chinese military.

The plan, which has been called Replicator, will seek to "galvanize progress in the too-slow shift of U.S. military innovation to leverage platforms that are small, smart, cheap and many," Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said, according to a report by The Associated Press.

While the report notes few details, including how the program will be funded and how fast the Pentagon will truly be able to accelerate the development of the new vehicles, the program represents an ongoing shift in how the U.S. views the future of warfare, especially as China continues to forge ahead with AI programs of its own.

Phil Siegel, the founder of the Center for Advanced Preparedness and Threat Response Simulation (CAPTRS), believes the rapid push toward AI weapons is similar to that of a nuclear arms race.


The American and Chinese flags wave at Genting Snow Park ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics. 

"It seems the endpoint here is like nuclear weapons, where the top powers will eventually have sophisticated autonomous lethal weaponry and will have to agree that they won’t be used or, at the very least, when they are able to be used without a clear escalation," Siegel told Fox News Digital.


Gregory Wischer, Morgan Bazilian and Macdonald Amoah

The US military is attempting to quickly replenish diminished weapons stocks in its largest production ramp-up in decades. With an eye on its pacing threats and the risk of major conflictwith China, in particular—it is transitioning to modern platforms, including attack submarines, heavy bombers, and air defense systems, as well as new approaches to electric vehicles. Given its security assistance to Ukraine and recent military support to Israel, and conflict risks with China, it is simultaneously rearming with legacy munitions—155-millimeter artillery, Javelin antitank missiles, and surface-to-air Stinger missiles. Because of the quantity of minerals required to meet these dual demands, for replenishment of munitions and construction of new platforms, both endeavors could be put at risk. Specifically, the mineral supply chains that the US military depends on could face overwhelming demand and possible supply disruption. To ensure a secure, resilient, and sufficient mineral supply for its platforms and munitions, the Department of Defense should refine its approach to mineral stockpiling, its engagement with mineral mining and refining, and its implementation of mineral recycling.

Legacy munitions are mineral-intensive. Generally, 155-millimeter shells have bodies of steel, which is an alloy of iron, carbon, and other elements; mortars have steel or cast-iron bodies; and small-arms munitions have cartridge cases of brass, which is an alloy of copper, zinc, and other elements. Copper is especially prevalent in munitions. It is often used as a driving band in artillery shells, as a liner in shaped-charge antitank munitions, and jackets for small-arms rounds. According to an Institute for Defense Analyses report for the Defense Logistics Agency, the Department of Defense used approximately 106,000 tons of copper in 2008, making it the second most used material by weight in US defense production.

Modern platforms are also mineral-intensive. The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier contains 70,000 tons of steel. The B-2 bomber uses 4-foot by 12-foot panels of titanium in its wing sections. And about 40 percent of the F-35 fighter jet’s airframe is aluminum. Moreover, the Department of Defense intends to purchase up to nine thousand electric vehicles per year over the next ten years, and the US Army seeks a fully electric nontactical vehicle fleet by 2035. These vehicles will be powered by mineral-rich lithium-ion batteries. Lithium and graphite are necessary in these batteries, and depending on their chemistry, batteries also contain other elements, such as nickel, cobalt, and manganese.

China: Progress In Building Nation’s Third Aircraft Carrier

Chinese developers are believed to have started testing electromagnetic catapults on China’s third aircraft carrier, which analysts say is an important milestone in the country’s naval ship construction.

The catapults will be used to launch airplanes from the carrier, which is named Fujian after the Chinese province closest to Taiwan. The Fujian features a so-called Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery, or CATOBAR, system that is much more advanced than systems on the first two carriers.

The first aircraft carriers – Liaoning and Shandong – use a less advanced ski jump-style launch system but the Fujian’s CATOBAR will help launch a bigger variety of aircraft faster and with more ammunition.

A video clip, said to be filmed from an overflying airplane and shared first on China’s Weibo microblogging website, shows what appeared to be a test vehicle being dropped from a catapult position on the Fujian aircraft carrier into the water.

The apparently successful test took place on Sunday.

A satellite image from Nov. 26 provided by the U.S. satellite imaging company Planet Labs shows the Chinese aircraft carrier sitting at its berth at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai. A crane that may be used during the test launch was visible at the front of the ship.

“This is one of the most eagerly awaited milestones besides the first sea trial,” said Andreas Rupprecht, a well-known Chinese military blogger.

“Suffice to say, an important step towards getting the ship operational,” wrote another analyst, Alex Luck, on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Russia, Iran, and China are Weaker Than They Appear

Simon Maass

Matthew Continetti is on the money when he argues that today’s global tide of violence is, in a way, all part of the same broader assault on the Western rules-based order. The attacks on Ukraine and Israel are part of the same “vast international effort.” “The rabid dogs,” he notes, “are Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Holding the leash is Communist China.”

Though thorough, Continetti’s article mentions only a few of the connections between those four states and two wars; many more examples could be cited. As John Hardie explains, Moscow is collaborating with Hezbollah, such as Russia’s Wagner Group likely transferring a Russian-made Pantsir-S1 air defense system to the Islamist organization. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian people has shown a level of sympathy for Israel unmatched in many Western countries.

A global struggle is unfolding between the free world and the Chinese-led counter-Western alliance, including larger nations like Russia and Iran as well as smaller ones like North Korea and Syria. Despite the seeming formidableness of this authoritarian league, this struggle looks very winnable for the free world. All of the hostile powers appear fragile and, if one of them were to collapse, the others would be further weakened..


While the attacks of September 11th, 2001, inflected US foreign-policy thought towards greater emphasis on non-state actors, today we are reverting to regular old state-versus-state conflicts. There must be keener awareness of the continued centrality of states, which are the main pillars of non-state terrorism. “Without Pakistani support,” Michael Rubin avers, “the Taliban would be nothing.” Iran is, if anything, an even more prominent sponsor of terrorism than Pakistan. Iran’s proxies, according to Danielle Pletka, include “Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units, the Assad Regime, and too many others live on Iranian largesse and support.” This complex of problems, notes Pletka, would be greatly alleviated by a fall of the Iranian government.

78-Country Map Rebuffs Claim That US 'Not at War'


That's what U.S. House Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) claimed during a Wednesday hearing about controversial legislation backed by Republicans and right-wing Democrats that would create a so-called fiscal commission for the U.S. debt.

Making some on-the-fly additions to his prepared remarks, Arrington said, "120% debt to GDP—this is the highest level of indebtedness in the history of our country surpassing World War II and we're not at war, we're in relative peace and prosperity."

And yet, a report published Wednesday by the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs shows that since 2021, the U.S. military has conducted counterterrorism operations—including training and assistance, military exercises, combat and detention, and air and drone strikes—in at least 78 countries.

"The war launched by the United States government in response to the 9/11 terror attacks continues," states the report, authored by project co-director Stephanie Savell. "This map is a snapshot of today's global military and civilian operations that evolved from President George W. Bush's 'Global War on Terror,' launched in 2001, and continued through and beyond the U.S. military's official withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. This war on terror continues under President Joe Biden."

In Ukraine, Peace Now Means War Later


BEFORE VLADIMIR PUTIN LAUNCHED his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many analysts, including in the U.S. intelligence community, predicted that the war would be over in a matter of days, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky toppled. Some even argued that there was no point in providing Ukraine with military assistance, since it wouldn’t make a difference. Those misjudgments were wide of the mark, and to the degree they influenced the Biden administration’s willingness to provide Ukraine with the weapons its needed to defend itself, they were also dangerous.

As it turned out, Ukrainians fought heroically and successfully, regaining more than half of their territory under Russian occupation, and dealing Russian forces tremendous setbacks and staggering loss of life. Ukraine, despite having no real navy of its own, has driven Russia’s ships out of the Crimean port of Sevastopol, delivering a major and humiliating defeat to Russia in the Black Sea. According to Ukrainian naval officials, 15 Russian warships have been destroyed and 12 damaged since the start of the full-scale invasion.

The recent arrival of American long-range ATACMS missiles, (the variant with a maximum range of 100 miles, rather than the 190-mile variant), has enabled Ukraine to deliver serious blows to Russian military bases and airfields and placed Russian control of Crimea at risk. Ukraine has been able to break the Russian blockade of its Black Sea ports by restoring passage along the coast, with help from Romania and Bulgaria. And Ukraine’s forces recently gained multiple bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region. Roughly 18 percent of Ukrainian territory remains under Russian control. It should be no surprise that Russian forces have hunkered down and that this territory has become the scene of difficult fighting. The 2023 counteroffensive has not liberated huge swaths of land, like the campaigns in Kherson and Kharkiv in late 2022, as many wished. But just because Ukraine’s territorial gains have been small does not mean they are insignificant.

Time to Radically Downsize the West’s Special Forces

Jan Kallberg

After three decades of increasing focus on special forces as a crucial component of Western national security, the shift to large-scale combat operations in Ukraine has revealed an uncomfortable truth — the unhealthy imbalance between costly and small elite units, and the large forces needed to fight a conventional war.

The conflicts against terrorist and insurgent forces in the developing world have bent the military out of shape. That’s perhaps understandable; more than two decades of fighting in the Middle East and Central Asia emphasized small-force operations in harsh terrain.

Special forces will continue to have a significant role in fighting groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, and will also have a key role in any bigger conflict, but the current threats and geopolitical risks are wide-scale nation-state conflicts and these are very different threats.

Special forces solve specific a problem at a tactical level, which might have a strategic or operational impact, but you can’t dedicate a significant part of the army and its budget to these niche tasks and then be unable to field an army to fight a regular ground war.

The war in Ukraine has a 600-mile-long (1,000 km) front, with at least 200 miles (300 km) seeing active ongoing military operations. The front needs to be covered by units, firepower, and the ability to sustain the war, hopefully driving it to an acceptable conclusion and victory for Ukraine. The government in Kyiv must also prepare to fight along the border of Belarus, now little more than a Kremlin puppet regime.

The West is not alone in this problem. Russia too had significant special forces units when it launched the war of aggression against Ukraine 21 months ago. It was unable to find a niche role for this significant component in the conventional war (other than an embarrassing blooding at Hostomel airport right at the outset.) Commanders then chose to use these highly trained and expensively equipped units as light infantry.

AI could endanger humanity in 5 years: Former Google CEO


Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said he thinks artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities could endanger humanity within five to 10 years and companies aren’t doing enough to prevent harm, Axios reported Tuesday.

In an interview at Axios’s AI+ Summit, Schmidt compared the development of AI to nuclear weapons at the end of World War II. He said after Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it took 18 years to get a treaty over test bans but “we don’t have that kind of time today.”

AI dangers begin when “the computer can start to make its own decision to do things,” like discovering weapons.

The technology is accelerating at a quick pace. Two years ago, experts warned that AI could endanger humanity in 20 years. But now, Schmidt said experts think it could be anywhere from two to four years away.

Schmidt suggested the creation of a global entity, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to “feed accurate information to policymakers” so the urgency of the issue is understood.

Despite his warnings, the former Google CEO thinks AI can still be a tool for humanity.

“I defy you to argue that an AI doctor or an AI tutor is a negative,” he told Axios. “It’s got to be good for the world.”

New Details Emerge on Ballistic Missiles Fired Towards US Ship

Brendan Cole

Missiles that landed in waters in the Gulf of Aden were not intended for a U.S. warship or the Israeli-linked tanker it was helping, which pirates had stormed, the U.S. military has said as it revealed new details about the dramatic incident.

On Monday, the warship USS Mason responded to an emergency call from the tanker Central Park after five armed individuals stormed the 20,000 metric-ton vessel carrying phosphorus, about 54 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

Central Park is operated by Zodiac Maritime, which is run by the Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer, whose vessel had been the subject of threats by Yemen's Houthi rebels, who demanded it divert to the port of Hodeida.

Zodiac Maritime said the Liberian-flagged vessel had come under attack "by pirates," although marine security expert Ambrey Analytics said the incident was "likely linked to state actors," even though their identity has not been confirmed, shipping publication Trade Winds reported.

American destroyer USS Mason is seen close to the port city of Ismailia in Egypt on March 12, 2011. The Pentagon has said it was not the intended target of a missile attack in the Gulf of Aden on November 27, 2023.

The tragedy behind Kissinger’s realpolitik


I was privileged to know Henry Kissinger for over two decades, having dinner at his weekend home in Kent, Connecticut, several times a year since 2000, except for the period of the pandemic, when we spoke on the phone or via Zoom. What brought us together was an Atlantic essay I wrote in June, 1999 about his first book, A World Restored, dealing with the post-Napoleonic peace treaties. We met for the first time several months after that piece was published.

Once we became friends I did not write again about Kissinger, except for one long tribute to his career, meant as an obituary, which The Atlantic decided to publish upon his 90th birthday in May, 2013. Between that piece, and the superior work on Kissinger’s life and thoughts published by Niall Ferguson, Barry Gewen, and Martin Indyk, I have little to add, except for personal reminiscences of dinner discussions, with Kissinger calling on his several guests to offer their opinions of the great issues of the day — and then replying to them.

At Kissinger’s dinner parties, organised by his brilliant and formidable wife Nancy, whose own presence filled the room, the headlines were often ignored. Discussions ranged from the historic dilemmas of China, Germany, Russia, and the United States to the challenges of the universities to the attributes of great leaders. You got a preview of his later books by being in his presence.

But I think it necessary here to reprise some of my interpretations of his philosophy which I find so crucial — enough so that they bear repeating from my previous essays. For it is Kissinger’s philosophy that I find most important about him, and which constitute a rough guide to his statesmanship: because it is a philosophy whose origins lay in his experiences as a young Jew in Hitler’s Germany and as the son of immigrants in challenging circumstances.

In fact, Kissinger had internalised the lessons of the Holocaust, though they were different lessons from those learned by the liberal elite of his era. Kissinger saw Hitler as a revolutionary chieftain who represented the forces of anarchy attempting to overthrow a legitimate international system, as imperfect as it was. For in Kissinger’s mind, his first book about the diplomatic response to another revolutionary chieftain, Napoleon, offered a vehicle for him to deal, albeit obliquely, with the problem of Hitler. Morality and power couldn’t be disentangled, in Kissinger’s mind.

How to Avoid Defeat in Ukraine

Walter Russell Mead

The German tabloid “Bild” said the quiet part out loud. President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the well-sourced newspaper reported, plan to force Ukraine into peace talks next year by denying it the weapons needed to win.

This creates a dilemma for those who know that Ukraine’s fate matters deeply to the U.S., but who can also see that Team Biden is more interested in avoiding confrontation with Russia than in defeating it. To oppose aid to Ukraine is to ensure a Russian victory, but funding Mr. Biden’s approach will do little to prevent one—and will further erode public support for America’s global engagement.

Having failed to deter Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine in the first place, the Biden administration badly overestimated the effect of Western sanctions on Russia. Once it was clear that sanctions wouldn’t force Russia to end the war, and after several failed efforts to tempt Russia with “off ramps,” Team Biden cooked up Plan Stalemate. The West would dribble out enough aid to help Ukraine survive, but not enough to help it win. Ultimately, the Ukrainians would lose hope of victory and offer Mr. Putin a compromise peace. The White House would spin this as a glorious triumph for democracy and the rule of law.

Some will criticize this as a cynical strategy, but the real problem is that it is naive. Mr. Biden seems to be clinging to the idea that Mr. Putin can be appeased—parked, if you prefer—by reasonable concessions. And so, the White House thinks, if Ukraine offers reasonable terms, Russia will gladly accept them.

But what if, when Mr. Putin senses weakness, he doubles down? What if a few thousand square miles of Ukrainian territory matter less to him than inflicting a humiliating defeat on the Biden administration and demonstrating the weakness of the West?

Henry Kissinger, diplomat who helped to reshape the world, dies at 100


Henry Kissinger, a ruthless practitioner of the art of realpolitik who had an outsize impact on global events and who won a premature Nobel Peace Prize for ending a war that kept going, has died.

A cunning, erudite strategist whose transformative diplomatic efforts helped to reshape the world, Kissinger was 100.

His death Wednesday was announced by his consulting firm. No cause was given.

The former secretary of State will be forever connected with President Richard M. Nixon, particularly for their efforts in three areas: getting America out of the Vietnam War, opening diplomatic relations with China and reducing tensions with the Soviet Union. For decades thereafter, Kissinger’s work with Nixon and President Gerald Ford earned him the role of the Republican Party’s elder statesman when it came to foreign policy.

“The Middle American professional politician and the German-born Harvard professor,” wrote George C. Herring in “America’s Longest War” of Nixon and Kissinger, “could hardly have been more different in background, but they shared a love of power and a burning ambition to mold a fluid world in a way that would establish their place in history. Loners and outsiders in their own professions, they were perhaps naturally drawn to each other.”

In 1973, Kissinger shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Le Duc Tho, his North Vietnamese counterpart, for hammering out an agreement to end the Vietnam War. The accord, which was signed Jan. 27, 1973, had “brought a wave of joy and hope for peace over the entire world,” the Nobel committee said.

Populism has become a gimmick


When populist candidates started to win national elections in the 2010s, panicked establishmentarians on both sides of the Atlantic warned that they could consolidate their power and destroy democracy. On both counts, these misgivings were misplaced. From Donald Trump to Boris Johnson, contemporary populists have proved incapable of consolidating power or exercising it effectively. And far from being incompatible with democracy, they owe their success to today’s version of democracy, in which protest votes are becoming ritualised. As opposed to being a harbinger of a new fascism, populism is now just another political style, detached from any substantive politics and incapable of radical reform.

Donald Trump’s embrace of Argentina’s new President, Javier Milei, shows how empty of ideological consistency populism can be. If Trump in his first run for the White House and his presidency stood for anything, it was for the rejection of economic libertarianism in favour of tariffs, immigration restriction and a refusal to cut the middle-class entitlements on which his voters depended. Milei, however, is a free-market radical whose programme is the exact opposite of “Trumpism”. And yet, hours after Milei was elected president of Argentina, Trump posted on social media: “Congratulations… you will turn your country around and truly make Argentina great again!”

This might seem like a contradiction, but only if Right-wing populism is considered a coherent public policy programme. And that is far from the case. Today, populism is little more than a shared campaign style — like the weird hair Trump shares with Milei, Johnson, and Geert Wilders.

Further evidence that populism has become a gimmick, rather than a serious programme, comes from the record of populists in office. Silvio Berlusconi, the original Right-wing populist, a plutocrat and media celebrity before Trump, was prime minister in four Italian governments. Despite all the commotion, it is hard to see what, if anything, changed as a result. Under Georgia Meloni, Italy’s hard-Right has reconciled itself to the EU and softened its tone. In the UK, Johnson came and went, securing Brexit but otherwise leaving no trace on public policy. And like a bad-tempered, orange-haired Cheshire Cat, Trump in his first term left nothing but a scowl.

AI & the future of WARFARE

Paul Lushenko

Experts agree that future warfare will be characterized by the use of technologies enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI), especially fully-autonomous weapons systems. These capabilities—such as the US Air Force’s “Loyal Wingman” unmanned aerial vehicle or drone—are able to identify, track, and prosecute targets without human oversight. The recent use of these lethal autonomous weapons systems in conflicts—including in Gaza, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Ukraine—poses important legal, ethical, and moral questions.

Despite their use, it is still unclear how AI-enhanced military technologies may shift the nature and dynamics of warfare. Those most concerned by the use of AI for military purposes foresee a dystopian future or “AI apocalypse,” in which machines will mature enough to dominate the world. One policy analyst even predicts that lethal autonomous weapons systems “will lead to a seismic change in the world order far greater than that which occurred with the introduction of nuclear weapons.” Other observers question the extent to which AI systems could realistically take over humans, given the complexity of modelling biological intelligence through algorithms. Assuming such extension of AI is possible, militaries that rely on it are incumbered by data and judgment costs that arguably “make the human element in war even more important, not less.”

While useful in discussing the potential effects of AI on global politics, these perspectives do not explain how AI may actually alter the conduct of war, and what soldiers think about this issue. To tackle this problem, I recently investigated how AI-enhanced military technologies—integrated at various decision-making levels and types of oversight—shape the trust of US military officers for these systems, which informs their understanding of the trajectory of war. In the field of AI, trust is defined as the belief that an autonomous technology will reliably perform as expected in pursuit of shared goals.

The Chip That Makes Calculations With Light

Optical wireless may no longer have any obstacles. A study by Politecnico di Milano, conducted together with Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, the University of Glasgow and Stanford University, and published in the prestigious journal Nature Photonics, has made it possible to create photonic chips that mathematically calculate the optimal shape of light to best pass through any environment, even one that is unknown or changing over time.

The problem is well known: light is sensitive to any form of obstacle, even very small ones. Think, for example, of how we see objects when looking through a frosted window or simply when our glasses get foggy. The effect is quite similar on a beam of light carrying data streams in optical wireless systems: the information, while still present, is completely distorted and extremely difficult to retrieve.

The devices developed in this research are small silicon chips that serve as smart transceivers: working in pairs, they can automatically and indipendently ‘calculate’ what shape a beam of light needs to be in order to pass through a generic environment with maximum efficiency. And that’s not all: they can also generate multiple overlapping beams, each with its own shape, and direct them without them interfering with each other; in this way, the transmission capacity is greatly increased, just as required by next-generation wireless systems.

“Our chips are mathematical processors that make calculations with light very quickly and efficiently, almost with no energy consumption. The optical beams are generated through simple algebraic operations, essentially sums and multiplications, performed directly on the light signals and transmitted by micro-antennas directly integrated on the chips. This technology offers many advantages: extremely easy processing, high energy efficiency and an enormous bandwidth exceeding 5000 GHz”, Francesco Morichetti Head of the Photonic Devices Lab of Politecnico di Milano, explains.

The 10 Best Books of 2023

Timo Lenzen

Every year, starting in the spring, we spend months debating the most exceptional books that pass across our desks: the families we grow to love, the narrative nonfiction that carries us away, the fictional universes we can’t forget. It’s all toward one goal — deciding the best books of the year.

Things can get heated. We spar, we persuade and (above all) we agonize until the very end, when we vote and arrive at 10 books — five fiction and five nonfiction.

We dive more into the list in a special edition of our podcast. And in case you’d like even more variety, don’t miss our list of 100 Notable Books of 2023, or take a spin through this handy list, which features all the books we’ve christened the best throughout the years.

Here they are, the 10 Best Books of 2023.


The Bee Sting, by Paul Murray

Murray makes his triumphant return with “The Bee Sting,” a tragicomic tale about an Irish family grappling with crises. The Barneses — Dickie, Imelda, Cass and PJ — are a wealthy Irish clan whose fortunes begin to plummet after the 2008 financial crash. But in addition to this shared hardship, all four are dealing with demons of their own: the re-emergence of a long-kept secret, blackmail, the death of a past love, a vexing frenemy, a worrisome internet pen pal and more. The novel threads together the stories of the increasingly isolated Barneses, but the overall tapestry Murray weaves is not one of desolation but of hope. This is a book that showcases one family’s incredible love and resilience even as their world crumbles around them. 

1 December 2023

Sixteen more hostages freed from Gaza as part of Israeli-Hamas truce

Nidal Al-Mughrabi, Mohammed Salem and Emily Rose

Sixteen people who were being held hostage in Gaza were handed over to Israeli officials on Wednesday, the second and last day of an extended truce in the Gaza war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the Red Cross and other authorities said.

In a repeat of scenes over the past six days during a humanitarian pause in hostilities, the civilians were released to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and driven in vehicles to Israel.

Under the terms of the Qatari-mediated deal, 30 Palestinians -- 16 minors and 14 women -- will be released on Wednesday in exchange, Majed Al-Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Two Russian citizens and four Thai citizens were released outside the framework of the agreement while the 10 Israeli citizens freed included five dual citizens, Ansari said. They were a Dutch dual citizen, who is also a minor, three German dual citizens and one U.S. dual citizen, he said.

The hostages freed were among some 240 people seized by Hamas gunmen during a rampage into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed. Israel's bombardment of Gaza in retaliation has killed more than 15,000 Gazans, according to health authorities in the Palestinian enclave.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier identified two Russian-Israeli women freed on Wednesday night as Yelena Trupanov, 50, and Irena Tati, 73. Video from Hamas' armed wing showed the women being handed over to the ICRC and driven out of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’s Political Leaders Aren’t in Charg

Anchal Vohra

From the comfort of Doha, Hamas’s political leaders have been negotiating the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Others who live in Beirut under the patronage of Hezbollah sporadically brief the press. And yet according to at least four Israeli and Arab officials the key players are Hamas’s military leaders inside the Gaza Strip itself.

Every time there is a communication blackout in Gaza, negotiations for hostage release are set back, a Qatari official aware of the negotiations told Foreign Policy. While the political leadership in exile has a say in the ongoing hostage negotiations, two of the group’s more extremist leaders based in Gaza seem to have an upper hand.

Mohammed Deif, the chief commander of the al-Qassam Brigades, or the military wing of Hamas, and Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader of the Gaza Strip and the man who helped form the brigade in 1991, are the architects of Oct. 7 attack, and the top authorities laying down conditions for hostage release. For instance, the demand during negotiations that Israel stop flying its intelligence gathering drones was insisted upon by Hamas so the position of the men holding the hostages wasn’t exposed.

“They show us a united front,’’ an Arab source briefed on the matter said “but like in any war, anywhere, the military wing has more sway.’’ Hugh Lovatt, a senior policy fellow with the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), said that, while Hamas still works through consensus, the military leadership is the dominant voice. “The al-Qassam brigade physically holds hostages so they are the ultimate power brokers,’’ he told FP, “but not the only ones.’’

Sinwar, 61, and Deif, 58, were both born in Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza, the current headquarters of Hamas according to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. “They are probably hiding in Khan Younis and that’s likely where the bulk of hostages are held,’’ Eran Lerman, Israel’s deputy national security advisor between 2006 and 2015, told FP over the phone.

India’s dilemma: Are Hamas fighters terrorists?

Bharat Karnad

The Indian government has been hoisted on to the horns of a dilemma. The rightwing coalition government in Israel of Benjamin Netanyahu, not unreasonably, seeks universal branding of the Hamas (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya — Islamic Resistance Movement) as a terrorist organisation in order to justify its all-out military campaign launched in the Gaza Strip. It was in response to the surprise combined arms attack October 7 on the nearby Israeli kibbutz (farming cooperative) and small towns across the “iron wall” the Israelis built along the border with Gaza to keep themselves safe. Had this Iron Wall worked as advertised, there would have been no Israel-Hamas war.

The so-called “Iron Wall” is a high advanced-tech steel wire fence interspersed with towers mounting machine guns slaved to banks of surveillance sensors, including aerostats (large ground-tethered balloons with radars and thermal sensors, cameras, and other devices that maintain a 24/7 vigil). The machine guns automatically fire in “kill zones” that cover the length of the wall on the Israel-Gaza border the instant sensors at any time detect breaches of the wall.

It is a solution, incidentally, the Indian government considered buying into to prevent infiltration across the Line of Control in J&K by Pakistan-based jihadi groups. But it was deterred by the high price. Just as well, because while it cost Israel a billion dollars to install this protective border complex, it took the lead Hamas elements only a few seconds to “blind” the thermal and imagery sensors, and a few precision drone bomblets dropped on the towers, to render the wall useless, and allow the Hamas fighters to flow unimpeded into Israel. The Israeli “iron dome” air defence system, was likewise defeated by a too large barrage of rockets fired from within Gaza.

Why Israel Won’t Change

Dahlia Scheindlin

Almost from the moment Hamas broke through Israel’s security barrier with the Gaza Strip on October 7 and began its rampage, it felt as if Israel would never be the same. Within hours, Israelis were forced to confront the reality that many of the assumptions that had long guided Israeli policy toward the Palestinians had crumbled. The state’s 16-year-old policy of blockading Gaza had failed to make them safe. The government’s calculation that it could lure Hamas into pragmatism—whether by allowing Qatari funding for Hamas or by giving work permits for Gaza laborers—had instead lured Israel into complacency. And the belief that most threats from Hamas could be neutralized by high-tech surveillance, deep underground barriers, and the Iron Dome missile defense system had proved dead wrong.

On a broader level, the attacks showed the terrible failure of the idea that the Palestinian political question could be sidelined indefinitely without any cost to Israel, a belief so axiomatic among Israel’s leadership that commentators found names for it: conflict management, or “shrinking the conflict.” Thus, there had been no Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a final status peace deal for years, even as Israel pursued normalization with a growing number of Arab states. Over the course of more than two decades, the right-wing parties dominating the Israeli political scene had promised voters that the country was more secure than it would be under any other policy, and the majority of voters agreed. But on October 7, Hamas’s attack brought the status quo crashing down.

Yet in one major way Israel remains unchanged. Although Israelis blame the country’s leadership for the catastrophic security failures surrounding the attacks, their basic political orientation seems unlikely to budge. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may well be forced to step down when the war is over—if not before, since the war has no clear endpoint. But as Israeli history has repeatedly shown, especially in recent decades, episodes of war or extreme violence like the current one have only reinforced a rightward tilt in Israeli politics. If that pattern holds now, Israelis might elect a new government, but they might also endorse the same flawed assumptions that have defined that tilt and which have helped shape the current crisis.