12 April 2017

*** Three game changers for energy

By Nikhil Patel, Thomas Seitz, and Kassia Yanosek

Change is afoot in the energy system. Soaring demand in emerging markets, new energy sources, and the likely growth of electric vehicles (EVs) are just some of the elements disrupting the status quo. It is hard to discern how the aftershocks will affect the extraordinarily complex network of sectors and stakeholders. New research by McKinsey and the World Economic Forum has identified the game changers for companies and policy makers, as well as their implications. 

A proliferation of new energy sources 

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An array of energy technologies seems poised for a breakthrough. Within two decades, as many as 20 new energy sources could be powering the global economy, including fuel cells; small, modular nuclear-fission reactors; and even nuclear fusion. Fossil fuels will still be part of the mix, but renewables’ share is likely to grow owing to environmental concerns, further cost reductions that make renewable energy more competitive, and demand for electricity. Electricity demand is expected nearly to double by the middle of the century, propelled primarily by economic development in China and India (Exhibit 1). By 2050, electric power, which can be generated by low-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar, could account for a quarter of global energy demand. 

** 9 questions to ask after a terrorist attack

Daniel L. Byman

The confusion following a terrorist attack often exacerbates the fear, and sorting fact from fiction is difficult as the media races to uncover details and social media explodes with speculation. In the hope of mitigating some of this confusion in the future, Dan Byman offers nine questions to ask after a terrorist attack. This piece originally appeared on Lawfare.

With perhaps ten or more dead in St. Petersburg in what looks like a terrorist attack on a metro station there, the questions are starting to mount. Is it really terrorism, or was there some other reason for the violence? If it is terrorism, who did the attack, and why this target? Is this an isolated event, or the beginning of a large campaign? These and other questions make the list long, but the queries after each attack are also familiar: Americans asked similar questions after attacks in Orlando and San Bernadino, and Europeans after violence in Paris, Berlin, and London.

Horror and confusion mark the hours and days after a terrorist attack. At such a time, little can, or frankly should, be done to minimize the horror and associated outrage. The resulting confusion, however, often exacerbates the fear, and sorting fact from fiction is difficult as the media race to uncover details following an attack and social media explodes with speculation. When a sniper killed five police officers at a peaceful rally protesting police violence, authorities initially feared there were multiple attackers. Some jihadist plots initially labeled “Lone Wolf” attacks in fact involved links to an array of Islamic State figures, while in others the Islamic State role was at first exaggerated. Initial media reports form a lasting impression that is hard to shake and has a long-term impact on public attitudes and public policy. Years after the 9/11 attacks, people would still ask me about reports of al-Qaida financing itself by selling blood diamonds from Africa or the wave of follow-on attacks it planned—even though the 9/11 Commission and other investigations gave definitive accounts that discredited these initial reports.

** Can Pakistan Remain Neutral in the Saudi-Iran Rivalry?

Raheel Sharif's role in a multinational coalition has tilted Pakistan toward Iran’s sphere of influence.

Islamabad has given clearance to recently retired chief of army staff Gen. Raheel Sharif to command what is being described as a “Muslim NATO” based in Saudi Arabia. Sharif’s new position is expected to be announced later this month in Riyadh. Though the mission and activities of the coalition (known as the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism or IMAFT) are unclear, Sharif’s involvement in the Saudi-led initiative could disrupt Pakistan’s delicate balancing act vis-à-vis- Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two major powerhouses in the Muslim world locked in an ugly cold war. Still, while there are risks associated with the move, they are outweighed by its potential benefits.

Sharif’s acceptance of the Saudi offer was first reported in early January, but he was only given clearance, also known as a “No Objection Certificate,” in late March, after Pakistani civilian and military officials informed their Iranian counterparts of the move. The former army chief reportedly told Saudi leaders that he would accept the position on the condition that the coalition would not be anti-Iran and even requested to play a diplomatic role in easing tensions between Riyadh and Tehran. Nonetheless, this week the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan indicated that his government was not in favor of the move.

In all likelihood, the Saudi-led IMAFT will exclude Iran, but will not be anti-Iran, focusing instead on counterterrorism. Those close to Sharif have said on Pakistani television that the coalition will promote intelligence sharing between Muslim-majority countries, which is critical as foreign fighters from the so-called Islamic State return to their home countries. Neither Sharif nor the coalition itself is likely to engage Iran in proxy wars, such as the disastrous Yemen war.

** Time to Engage in Social Media

Maj. Brenton Pomeroy, U.S. Air Force

Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie R. Kelley, U.S. Army Central senior enlisted adviser, reviews questions submitted to him on the U.S. Army Central Facebook page prior to participating in the unit’s inaugural Facebook Town Hall held 7 March 2014. (Photo by Sgt. Ryan Hallock, U.S. Army)

The Department of Defense (DOD) embraced social media and web 2.0 almost six years ago, yet many military units still do not utilize this form of communication.1 The DOD banned its use in 2007, but changed its stance after a 2010 Pentagon review of its risks and benefits, citing that its benefits outweighed the security concerns.2 I propose that many of the lower-level units across all branches of the military also need to reconsider the risk and value of adopting this modern form of communication. Units would benefit from mirroring the DOD shift in policy regarding social media.

The use of social media at the tactical level can benefit a unit in many ways, including in the areas of leadership communication, recruiting, family support, professional relationships, medical issues, training, discipline, and unit performance. Conversely, common risks identified include unprofessional content or behavior, network security risks, and operations security (OPSEC). Leadership in lower-level military units should easily be able to understand and value the benefits gained with social media while mitigating the potential risks to an acceptable level.

Naxalbari: India’s greatest war with itself

Sudeep Chakravarti

Several thousand have followed in India’s greatest war with itself: innocents, rebels, and those tasked to combat them. They die every other day, statistics over solutions

Some fire: it still burns 50 years later, even as India seeks to sit on the high table of global affairs, as an overwhelming vote at home for inclusive progress turns out to have been interpreted by the victors as a mandate for exclusive persuasion.

It began as a farmers’ protest from a cluster of three villages near Naxalbari in the Dooars region of northern Bengal, west of the regional airport at Bagdogra. In one district, Darjeeling, of one state, West Bengal.

After five decades of undeniable socio-economic development, avatars of the rebellion—or “Naxalite” movement—that spread after leftwing radicals co-opted that farmers’ protest, continues to mark the failures of India as a nation. Last year, the ministry of home affairs (which tellingly has a Left Wing Extremism Division) recorded leftwing rebellion of various degrees of intensity in 106 districts across nine states. Seven years earlier, that count was nearly a third of India’s 600-plus districts, across 14 states.

The fount remains Naxalbari.

“Do you remember what happened that day?” I asked Punjab Rao when I visited him some years ago.

Rao knew what I meant, this former Indian Army soldier from the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra who settled down in these parts after being decommissioned, and became a farmer-revolutionary.

A Strategic Guide to Afghanistan Options

by Keith Nightingale

Afghanistan has become an intractable problem absent any clear acceptable strategic solutions. It is our national tar baby. Most simply, it is a mess. We are there. We would like to get out. What are our options? A small brief for our strategic planners.

First, visualize a large pond-sized blender. Insert six frogs. Hit pulse several times.

Desire the frogs to emerge and make the pond a better place.

Currently, our sticky strategic plan for Afghanistan is the pond, frog, and pulse arrangement. So what are our reasonable options for a resolution to the Afghanistan tar baby in a briar patch? Gen. H.R. McMaster has limited options and none result in sunlight and smiles. And in the reality of all crisis situations at the national level, no decision is, in fact, a decision. So what are our options?

Hold the finger.

Course of Action A

Fully withdraw. Combatus Interruptus. A decisive step that allows the bad guys free reign to re-instate all the bad stuff we went in to eradicate a generation ago. While it does get us out and reduces a great number of casualties and expenses, the future political blowback will probably be too great to accept. Why did we go there in the first place? Why did all those people get killed? Add a year and we will probably clamor to return to eliminate the AQ/ISIS/Talib reincarnated bed of bad guys and to re-instate education for adolescent females. An unlikely approach to either birth or battle control.

Pakistan, Russia, China Attacking U.S. Interests In Afghanistan

By Polina Tikhonova 

Pakistan, Russia and China are one step closer to formalizing their alliance, with other nations – like Turkey and Iran – aimed at joining the superpower triangle.

Pakistan and Russia are set to become part of an alliance with China despite Islamabad and Moscow’s decades-long rivalry after the Cold War. The Pakistanis and Russians seem eager to make a fresh start in bilateral relations while actively engaging with China to form a superpower triangle that would transform the volatile region.

Islamabad and Moscow are no longer moving in opposite directions like they used to when partnering with the U.S. and India, respectively. Realizing the need to achieve stability and peace in Afghanistan after the U.S. has shown lack of interest in bringing regional stability, Pakistan, Russia and China are getting closer while seeking a solution to the Afghan crisis.

After holding a series of bilateral and trilateral meetings, Islamabad, Moscow and Beijing are hammering out a peaceful solution to the Afghan war to prevent terrorism and radicalism from spilling into their borders. If a string of violent terrorist attacks across Pakistan in February and the latest metro bombing in Russia are any indications, terrorism is knocking on the doors of Islamabad and Moscow.

While China is no stranger to being a victim of terrorism in its northwestern province of Xinjiang, the Chinese are more than willing to prevent the spread of terrorism in Pakistan to secure efficient implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which connects Pakistan’s port city Gwadar to Xinjiang, China.

Emergence of Russia-China-Pakistan bloc may involve Iran and Turkey

Fears that the U.S. may be interested in dragging out the Afghan war for its own strategic interests in the region have drawn Islamabad, Moscow and Beijing closer together. Some experts believe that the three nations may be planning to stage a Syria-style intervention in Afghanistan, and the possibility of a formal alliance between Pakistan, Russia and China could transform all of Asia.

20 Years Later: Reevaluating the Taiwan Policy Review

By: Annabel Virella

In 1994, the Clinton Administration completed a comprehensive interagency review of U.S. policy toward Taiwan (the Republic of China, ROC), the first of its kind launched by an administration since the U.S. shifted official diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. This review resulted in important policy adjustments more in line with U.S. national security interests. The Taiwan Policy Review (TPR) was the most significant development in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship and the first review of policy since the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which governs nearly every aspect of U.S. foreign policy toward Taiwan. The TPR sought to clarify ambiguities in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship by simplifying U.S.-Taiwan interactions. Moreover, it sought to strengthen unofficial relations with Taiwan without disrupting official relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC). However, both China and Taiwan remained tepid about the TPR's reception because of its prolonged implementation process that dragged on for over a year. With the backdrop of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, and China's provocative weapons sales to Iran and Pakistan, the TPR received immense congressional pressure and became a high-profile issue. 

The TPR resulted in several principal changes to the dynamics of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship. For one, Taiwan's top leaders obtained permission to transit the U.S. under approved conditions, and U.S. officials could meet with Taiwan's president, vice president, and foreign ministers in their offices. In addition, the TPR authorized cabinet-level exchanges on economic and technical issues, as well as U.S. advocacy of ROC membership into international organizations, provided statehood was not a precondition for membership. Taiwan has since become increasingly active in multilateral organizations such as the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank (WB), as a member or observer nation. 

Well past its 20th anniversary, the TPR, in hindsight, has significantly improved U.S.-Taiwan relations and the overall dynamics of trilateral relations in cross-Strait affairs. However, balancing the U.S. position in cross-Strait relations is a delicate task; the potential for rapid diplomatic deterioration remains, as current relations among the trilateral parties continue to be fraught with hazards, misunderstandings, and distrust. Therefore, in response to the changes in the security, political, and economic environment across the Strait, a new Taiwan Policy Review should be considered and conducted by the Trump administration. 

China Cyber Warfare Operations Directed at US

By Cathy Burke

China's cyber warfare sights are reportedly set on disrupting the U.S. military.

Defense One reported that in December 2015, China announced it had set up a Strategic Support Force – a version of the U.S. Cyber Command.

But the new force's key focus is building capabilities to disrupt U.S. military operations, Martin Libicki, who leads cybersecurity studies at the U.S. Naval Academy, wrote in the The Cipher Brief.

"China is pursuing the ability to corrupt U.S. information systems – notably, those for military logistics – and disrupt the information links associated with command and control," Libicki wrote. "The latter is also tailor-made for electronic war – hence the overall moniker for its effort, 'Integrated Network-Electronic Warfare.'"

Though in November 2015 China and all other "Group of 20" nations agreed to aid and support each other against the hacking of intellectual property and other commercial entities, International Business Times reported, the Chinese have focused on the United States for fear of an "intervention into Asia," according to Libicki – specifically against the military.

3 Graphics That Explain US-China Relations


US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are meeting now at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Most meetings between world leaders are relatively unimportant.

This meeting is an exception, not because of whatever agreements or statements will emerge, but because of what it reveals about the current needs of the political administration of the world’s two largest economies.

The issue of unfair Chinese trade practices was a recurrent theme in Trump’s campaign, and Trump needs to show his base that he can deliver on some of his promises.

Xi wants to avoid straining US-China relations because he needs stability at home ahead of the Communist Party’s National Congress at the end of the year.

While the US and China do not see eye to eye on many issues, they share a need for stability in the broad relationship right now.

The three graphics below represent some of the fundamentals of this relationship.

China Relies on Exports to the US

The story for China is simple. China achieved 30 years of rapid economic growth primarily by relying on exports. The US is the largest market for China’s exports.

A Practical Guide for Avoiding Fallacies on Syria

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations.Ford Williams / U.S. Navy / Reuters

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It’s remarkable just how little the basic contours of the Syria debate have changed, despite more than five years of brutal civil war. The same perceptions and misperceptions about intervention dominate today. In some ways, they are even worse now because of the distorting figure of President Donald Trump. Is it possible to separate one’s feelings about the man from the recognition that he is, whether we like it or not, our commander-in-chief? 


The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. With this dilemma in mind, here’s a practical guide for navigating the key sticking points in this latest iteration of the Syria debate, from the perspective of someone who has called for direct intervention against Bashar al-Assad since early on the conflict.

Military action does not equal regime change. The two, understandably, have become conflated because of the Iraq war. But military action can help, rather than undermine, diplomatic efforts. It is abundantly clear that the Assad regime will not negotiate in good faith or make any significant concessions on its own. We’ve hoped for that since the earliest Arab League efforts in 2011. The credible threat of force (or its use) is the only thing that is likely to change Assad’s calculus. If his survival isn’t at stake, he has little reason to negotiate much of anything.Not everything is Iraq. There is the danger of seeing airstrikes as a low-risk catch-all solution, a kind of military pixie-dust. At the same time, though, not everything is an Iraq-style invasion. America has any number of choices in between these two models of engagement. In Bosnia, air power forced the Serbs to the negotiating table, eventually leading to the Dayton Accords (a key example of military action in the service of diplomacy). Similarly, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime showed an openness to talks only after the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, with Qaddafi envoys engaging in cease-fire talks within weeks.

Why More Regime Change?


The three most recent cases—Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya—are far from models of success. Afghanistan is now America’s longest-running war with no end in sight. Iraq is a close second and yet another example of the folly of trying to impose Western-style democracy in a tribal society with a Sunni-Shia divide. Moreover, deposing Saddam Hussein created a vacuum that first gave rise to al Qaeda in Iraq and then ISIS. Libya has turned out to be a smaller-scale version of Iraq. Another dictator deposed, but even President Obama had to admit regime change “didn’t work.”

Which brings us to Syria, an ongoing military mission that is still a work in progress. Clearly, the Obama administration—via a combination of arming anti-Assad rebel factions and air strikes—was unable to topple the regime in Damascus. One view amongst the foreign-policy elite is that we must work with local partners in Syria but “we must choose the right partners.” Exactly who those right partners are is not entirely clear and our track record picking the right partners in Afghanistan and Iraq gives rational thinkers cause for pause. Indeed, there may not be any right partners and it is incredulous to think that it’s possible to create them, as some have suggested.

The problem with regime change is not whether we can use military force to topple a regime. We certainly did that in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya—in different ways and at varying costs. But regime change is not about just getting rid of a regime. It’s about replacing it with a new government crafted in our image.

Strategic Insights: Getting Comfortable with Conflicting Ideas

Dealing with other states, whom the United States has a hard time categorizing as a threat, rival, competitor, or partner requires a new way of approaching national security decision-making. China is a partner in trade, but a rival regarding territorial rights in the South China Sea. Russian support may stabilize the Syrian crisis, but interference in domestic national elections and its intervention through the coercive use of force in Crimea and the Ukraine are threats. Creating actionable solutions to these challenges requires public involvement in decision-making in order to transcend hyper-partisan political positions and rigid adherence to ideologies that dominate the current decision environment.

Interactive human endeavors are full of passion and all-or-nothing views. All decisions, especially national security decisions, involve a moral choice. The virtue and vice of the various political, academic, and military elite belief systems provide the rational context within which choices are often made. However, rigid adherence to these belief systems results in national gridlock and inaction. To realize the best the United States has to offer at home and abroad, citizens must work together to forge commonsense solutions to the nation’s most pressing challenges.

Compromise, open debate, and decisions made within the procedural checks and balances of the democratic process are the best way to reconcile competing perspectives with pragmatic solutions. The goal of compromise is to find consensus positions that incorporate the best elements of the negotiating stakeholders’ arguments while balancing the moral imperatives of competing views. Contemporary negotiation literature is replete with methods of negotiating win-win compromises. Traditional transactional negotiation methods encourage finding common ground outcomes that are better than each party’s calculation of its best alternative to a negotiated settlement.1 Contemporary win-win and traditional transactional negotiation solutions are dependent upon justifying behavior within (but not necessarily across) each party's competing worldviews. Compromise may require empathy for another’s perspective; but it is the agreement on action and outcomes, not the reconciliation of divergent philosophies, interests, and motivations that facilitate compromise solutions.

Alternatively, when action is required, but consensus through compromise is elusive, national leaders must forge security policy from the tapestry of perspectives, theories, and perceived realities that collectively constitute the American conscience. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, this approach must accommodate two opposing ideas at the same time, while retaining the ability to function. Inflexible positions, born of rigid adherence to ideological perspectives, are the enemy of actionable solutions.

Actionable solutions born of fuzzy collective norms can transcend the limited logic models that dominate divisive debates among elites. Embracing the melting pot or mixed salad metaphors, which used to characterize these norming phenomena, requires an informed public that appreciates the moral goodness of the collective conscience. Moral choice requires blending diverse opinions and perspectives into actionable decisions.

Informed and engaged citizens arrive at solutions in a different way than political, academic, or military elites who rely on limited explanatory theories and dogmatic models to inform their choices. Behavior derived from the collective conscience appears contradictory and relativistic to purists in any tradition. Only time and a retrospective view of outcomes can validate or invalidate decisions derived from a tapestry of competing perspectives.

Through an inductive approach, collective decision-making can produce a more effective and moral outcome than the reductionist approaches of experts in a particular field.2 As James Surowiecki observed: “With most things, the average is mediocrity. With decision making, it’s often excellence.”3 Over time, favorable outcomes associated with collective solutions reinforce the country’s faith in its conscience. Unfavorable outcomes instigate change.

Solutions grounded in the collective wisdom have several advantages over the limited rationality of specific ideologies embraced by experts in a given field. However, several conditions are necessary to catalyze group choice wisely, avoiding groupthink. Wise populist decision-making requires a diversity of thoughts and opinions, independently formulated options, and democratic processes to merge those ideas into actions. Crowd decisions consider a wider array of potential options and tolerate fuzzier outcome potentials than those from experts tied to narrower fields of thinking. The collective experience of the American public provides insight and a rich understanding of specific problems and the relevance of specific remedies to those problems.4

As with any opinion piece as sweeping as this, there are several caveats that accompany its intended application. As James Surowiecki points out, populist problem solving requires a “fuzzier and less definitive” approach than traditional expert-informed choice.5 Collective solutions “are not imposed from above, but emerge from the crowd.”6 A precursor to populist solutions is transparent debate regarding the nature of problems and public interest. This knowledge requires a medium to convey expert insights and opinion to an engaged population and their leaders.7 Collective solutions work best on problems associated with achieving compromise and cooperation; however, knowledge about the problem and feasibility of solution options, requires subject matter expert input.

This is where the media and authors within the elite disciplines can be of service to the nation. Journalists must temper their investigative journalism and policy criticism passions with clear, precise, and respectful representations of the various voices engaging in the national debate. When journalistic criticism and news reporting cross the line into critical theory advocacy, it is not journalism (at least, it is not helpful journalism). Likewise, policy, academic, and military experts must explain their arguments and the limitations of the theories and models they draw from in language understood by the public. Neglecting to highlight generally accepted limits to methods, when engaging those unfamiliar with the specialized literature, language, and assumptions associated with a specific discipline is professional malpractice.

Finally, this argument relies on the diverse views of an informed community of citizens to facilitate and empower choices that lead to national action. It is an exclusionary and elitist notion. Some people have neither the desire nor the capacity to accept this responsibility, but the overwhelming majority of us do. The disengaged public self-selects out of their civic responsibility to participate in a collective decision. Broad-based positions resulting from an inclusive populist approach mitigate the influence of uninformed and extreme advocacy outlier voices.

The United States represents an experiment in a constitutionally based, representative democracy that was founded on the prioritization of individual liberties over majority rule. Citizens must accept the burden of informing themselves of the pressing issues facing the nation and committing themselves to the civic responsibility of engaging in the governance and defense of the nation.

The attainment of civil discourse leading to national action is not magic, nor inevitable. Natural law does not dictate civility, and the arch of history does not suggest the inevitability of civically responsible behavior within societies or between countries. To have and maintain civil behavior within and between countries takes work. The human experience is complex, and human interactions are complicated. An informed and engaged American public, and the leaders that represent them must learn to be tolerant of ambiguity and get comfortable with conflicting ideas in their quest for moral and pragmatic solutions to the nation’s challenges. This may be especially important as the Unites States adds an entrepreneurial business perspective—with its own language, methodological approaches, decision frameworks, and risk assessment considerations to the national dialogue.

To be successful, the nation must rediscover its traditional strength, developing actionable solutions to complex problems through consensus when possible, and by loosely sewing together a tapestry of collective conscience when necessary. Inaction and gridlock result from ideological hubris. They represent the abdication of civic and international leadership responsibilities. National inaction and gridlock are unacceptable to a nation founded as a representative democracy; and if one believes in the redeeming value inherent in the American character, it is unacceptable to the preservation of a world order led by the Unites States.


1. Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving in, 2nd Ed., New York: Penguin Books, 1991, offers an overview of negotiation theory and strategies, which numerous scholars associated with the Harvard Negotiation Project have expanded over the years.

2. John Lewis Gaddis’s defense of historic method inspired this second point. John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

3. James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds, New York: Random House: Anchor Books, 2004, p. 11.

4. Ibid., pp. xi-271.

5. Ibid., p. 270.

6. Ibid., p. 271.

7. Ibid., p. 271.

How Russia Will Respond to America's Missile Strike in Syria

Dave Majumdar

Russia is furious about American cruise missile strikes against Syria, which came as a response to the Assad regime’s widely reported use of chemical weapons against civilians during that nation’s long civil war.

Thus far, the Kremlin’s reaction has been angry rhetoric and suspension of an October 2015 channel that was established to deconflict U.S. and Russian military operations over Syria. Russia has also promised to bolster Syrian air defense capabilities as a result of the American strike. But Moscow is likely to take further retaliatory measures in Syria over the next few weeks.

“The President of Russia regards the U.S. airstrikes on Syria as an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext,” the Kremlin said in an April 7 statement. “This move by Washington [the US airstrike on an air base in Syria] has dealt a serious blow to Russian-U.S. relations, which are already in a poor state.”

The Russians are almost certainly going to respond to the attack on Syria—but not directly against the United States. Rather, the Kremlin will channel its wrath against American-backed Syrian rebel groups. “My understanding of the likely response is: cut contacts and cooperation on Syria with the U.S.,” Russian defense and foreign policy expert Vasily Kashin, a professor at Moscow's Higher School of Economics (HSE) told The National Interest. “Specifically target and destroy pro-U.S. groups; bring additional forces there; maybe start some large scale exercise in Europe.”

By further weakening what remains of the pro-Western Syrian rebels, Russia would ensure Assad’s regime remains in power—protecting Moscow’s interests in the region. “That will likely eliminate U.S. influence on Syria and will probably cause losses among the intelligence personnel,” Kashin said. “Basically, the response would be the same as after the incident with Turkey. No attack on Turkey itself, but pro-Turkish groups, Turkish special operations and intelligence assets were specifically targeted and their losses were huge.”

*** Brexit's Potential to Fracture the U.K.

The independence movement in Scotland stands to gain momentum from the Brexit. (JEFF J. MITCHELL/Getty Images)

Splitting from the European Union will inevitably strain the United Kingdom's territorial integrity. Those pushing for Scotland and Northern Ireland to secede from the United Kingdom are using Brexit to justify their agendas. Brexit will also open a debate between the central government in London and the country's devolved governments about who will control the powers that will be repatriated from Brussels. With authority over policy areas such as agriculture, fisheries, industry and the environment returning to the United Kingdom after Brexit, the administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will push London to transfer many of those attributions to them.

The United Kingdom has a devolution system, according to which different policy powers from the United Kingdom's Parliament have been transferred to assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast, and to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. The system was created to acknowledge the United Kingdom's distinctive cultures and identities. So in addition to the negotiations it faces to determine its status after it departs the European Union, the central government must also prepare for the issues that will arise among the United Kingdom's constituent countries.

One missile strike is not a strategy

By Fareed Zakaria 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this column was published Thursday before news of President Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian air base. This version has been updated. 

There is much to applaud in President Trump’s decision to attack the Bashar al-Assad regime this week. It punished a regime that has engaged in war crimes against its own people. It upheld an international norm against chemical weapons. It ended Trump’s strange flirtation with Vladimir Putin on the Middle East. And, most significantly, it seems to reflect a belated recognition from Trump that he cannot simply put America first — that the president of the United States must act on behalf of broader interests and ideals. Trump, as candidate and as president, had avoided the language of global norms and international order. Yet in explaining his actions Thursday night, he invoked both and ended his remarks with a prayer that President Barack Obama would never have dared to make: “God bless America — and the entire world.” 

But as former defense secretary William Cohen pointed out Friday, “One strike doesn’t make a strategy.” U.S. policy on Syria remains unclear. The Trump administration had repeatedly announced that it had shifted away from the Obama administration’s calls for regime change in Syria. In fact, Trump had indicated that he was happy to leave the country to Assad as long as this would help defeat the Islamic State. Last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson basically affirmed that approach. On Tuesday, the day of the chemical attack on Idlib, White House press secretary Sean Spicer reiterated it. The missile strike appears to have reversed that policy. 

Stability Operations in Syria The Need for a Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs

Anthony H. Cordesman

An army engineer from the Russian International Mine Action Center disarms a booby trap 3 February 2017 in a residence in Aleppo, Syria. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

In an ideal world, the U.S. military would only have a military role. But, in practice, no one gets to fight the wars they want, and this is especially true today. The United States is deeply involved in wars that can only be won at the civil-military level, and where coming to grips with the deep internal divisions and tensions of the host country, and the pressures from outside states, are critical. Unless the United States adapts to this reality, it can easily lose the war at the civil level even when it wins at the military level. This is especially true in the case of the “failed states” where the United States is now fighting. The United States either has to hope for a near-miraculous improvement in the governance and capability of host-country partners, or focus on successful civil-military operations as being as important for success as combat.

So far, the United States has failed to recognize the sheer scale of the civil problems it faces in conducting military operations. It has failed to understand that it needs to carry out a revolution in civil-military affairs if it is to be successful in fighting failed-state wars that involve major counterinsurgency campaigns and reliance on host-country forces. The U.S. military role in Syria is a key case in point, and it illustrates all too clearly that any military effort to avoid dealing with the full consequences of the civil side of war can be a recipe for failure.

A Lack of Meaningful Directives and Doctrine

Part of the problem is that this is an area for which there is neither meaningful guidance nor doctrine. Department of Defense (DOD) Instruction Number 3000.05, Stability Operations, is so vague as to be meaningless.1 It defines stability operations as “an overarching term encompassing various military missions, tasks, and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination with other instruments of national power to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief.”2

US Army Considers Adopting an Interim Battle Rifle in 7.62 NATO

According to multiple sources, what started out as a directed requirement for a 7.62 NATO Designated Marksmanship Rifle for issue to Infantry Rifle Squads has grown in scope to increase the Basis of Issue to all personnel in Brigade Combat Teams and perhaps beyond. The genesis of this requirement is overmatch. The troops feel like they’re in a street fight with a guy with longer arms. The 7.62x54R cartridge gives the enemy those longer arms.

Consequently, the Army wants to enable the rifleman to accurately engage targets at a further range than the current 5.56mm. Although at this point, I’ll keep that exact exact distance close to the vest. The goal here is to foster a dialogue about the 7.62 requirement in general, and not offer operational specifics.

It’s important to establish right up front that 7.62mm is not the Army’s end goal. The “Interim” component of this capability’s name relies on a plan to eventually adopt one of the 6.5mm family of intermediate calibers. Currently, elements of the Army are evaluating .260, .264 USA and .277 USA. The .260 is commercially available while .264 USA and .277 USA are developments of the Army Marksmanship Unit. Unfortunately, the US Army doesn’t plan to conduct an intermediate caliber study until the early 2020s. That’s why they want to adopt 7.62mm now. The idea is to adopt the Battle Rifle to deal with a newly identified threat with what’s available now, and transition the fleet to an intermediate caliber cartridge, once its selected. Additionally, the transition to this proposed intermediate caliber cartridge is possible from a 7.62 platform. Such a transition is all-but-impossible with the current 5.56 receiver sets.

Beyond the Operational Environment: Reflections on Information Warfare

Evan Salbego

We belong to the most over-consumptive generation in history, seldom drawing the line at commercial goods. Feelings, ideas, beliefs, and perceptions are all fair game in the Information Age and, although we tend to gloss over the potential costs of these invisible acquisitions, others do not.

Information Warfare aims to socially engineer an audience, rendering a group or community utterly incapable of recognizing the truth, even when it should be evident. The effects can cause the dissolution of social constructs such as law, order, leadership, and civility if intended. Due to the advent of the internet and its many permutations, our culture continually consumes so much information that it’s become deconditioned to the fidelity of the digested content, a symptom indicative of susceptibility to the full effects of Information Warfare.

As participants in a world that seldom unplugs from an otherwise overly saturated Information Environment, we must assume that our adversaries remain fully aware of the power of information, its ability to affect perception, change human behavior, and dissolve cultural identity over time. In short, information affects perception which affects behavior which affects culture, a downward spiral of synergetic effects perpetuated by virtue of repetitive information designed to manipulate its audience.

In the Information Age, the principles of warfare remain basically the same. Our engagement area still resides within the minds of our opponents. Victory still hinges on persuading them that we are right and they are wrong. Survival still requires relentless deterrence from those intending to impose unwanted change.

We must recognize that technology and warfare have always evolved together. Once comfortable with obliterating whole civilizations for the sake of achieving victory, superpowers are now successfully employing emergent techniques capable of influencing, disrupting, corrupting, and usurping entire populations with minimal casualties. This “take it whole” approach, echoes of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good.”*

Perhaps just the realization that we simply don’t know if we’ve been affected by adversarial narratives accomplishes the goal of Information Warfare after all. Fixating on this dilemma can render us prone over-scrutinizing long held beliefs and perceptions. By living unsure of whether or not our own thoughts and feelings have been compromised by information designed to unwittingly manipulate us over time, we render ourselves incapable of recognizing the truth, even when it should be obvious. It is a double-edged sword sharpened by extreme skepticism along one edge and absolute obliviousness on the other, a conundrum of incredible potential and magnitude.


Taking meaningful action against a challenging problem requires first and foremost an understanding of the cause-and-effect relationships that characterize the challenge. While that statement might be so obvious as to border on platitude, inaccurately assessing those relationships has proven to derail more than a few US efforts to come to grips with strategic security challenges. Perhaps nowhere is this clearer today than in the struggles that US policymakers have had in crafting a coherent strategy to defeat ISIS. Like the comically overweight character in the Austin Powers film who declared, “I eat because I’m unhappy, I’m unhappy because I eat,” defense planners have wrestled with the question of whether ISIS’s strength causes a requirement for more US troops, or the prospect of more troops will cause ISIS to grow in strength.

Examining this causality puzzle requires an understanding of ISIS’s grand strategy. As a report by the Institute for the Study of War concludes, ISIS has adopted a three-tiered geographic worldview to advance, protect, and prosecute its global strategic objectives. The first tier involves protecting the borders of its declared caliphate and physical domains in Iraq and Syria. ISIS views this territory as its heartland and prioritizes protecting and preserving its territorial gains for the sake of the group’s credibility and to maintain access to the natural resources that fund its operations and governance. Outside this heartland lies the second tier—the Middle East and North Africa, what the group conceives of as its “Near Abroad.” Here, ISIS aims to destabilize apostate (“Western-friendly”) governments in order to create conditions favorable for recruitment and an eventual replacement with ISIS-aligned governments. Finally, the third tier consists of the rest of the world—the “Far Abroad.” In this space, ISIS aims to export its terrorist activities to foment fear and induce an over-reaching international response. Ultimately, ISIS has a very real “doomsday” end-state in which the Western world is drawn into a military conflict in Syria that ends with Islam’s triumph over Western armies on the fields of Dabiq, a region in Syria where the proposed “Armageddon” battle will take place.

Strategic Insights: Getting Comfortable with Conflicting Ideas

Dealing with other states, whom the United States has a hard time categorizing as a threat, rival, competitor, or partner requires a new way of approaching national security decision-making. China is a partner in trade, but a rival regarding territorial rights in the South China Sea. Russian support may stabilize the Syrian crisis, but interference in domestic national elections and its intervention through the coercive use of force in Crimea and the Ukraine are threats. Creating actionable solutions to these challenges requires public involvement in decision-making in order to transcend hyper-partisan political positions and rigid adherence to ideologies that dominate the current decision environment.

Interactive human endeavors are full of passion and all-or-nothing views. All decisions, especially national security decisions, involve a moral choice. The virtue and vice of the various political, academic, and military elite belief systems provide the rational context within which choices are often made. However, rigid adherence to these belief systems results in national gridlock and inaction. To realize the best the United States has to offer at home and abroad, citizens must work together to forge commonsense solutions to the nation’s most pressing challenges.

Compromise, open debate, and decisions made within the procedural checks and balances of the democratic process are the best way to reconcile competing perspectives with pragmatic solutions. The goal of compromise is to find consensus positions that incorporate the best elements of the negotiating stakeholders’ arguments while balancing the moral imperatives of competing views. Contemporary negotiation literature is replete with methods of negotiating win-win compromises. Traditional transactional negotiation methods encourage finding common ground outcomes that are better than each party’s calculation of its best alternative to a negotiated settlement.1 Contemporary win-win and traditional transactional negotiation solutions are dependent upon justifying behavior within (but not necessarily across) each party's competing worldviews. Compromise may require empathy for another’s perspective; but it is the agreement on action and outcomes, not the reconciliation of divergent philosophies, interests, and motivations that facilitate compromise solutions.

The 74 Trillion Dollar Global Economy In One Chart

The latest GDP numbers from the World Bank were released earlier this month, and today's visualization net breaks them down to show the relative share of the global economy for each country.

The full circle, known as a Voronoi Diagram, represents the entirety of the $74 trillion global economy in nominal terms. Meanwhile, each country’s segment is sized accordingly to their percentage of global GDP output. Continents are also grouped together and sorted by color. [click here to enlarge infographic]

Nation states becoming bolder in cyberspace, says US cyber commander

By Mark Pomerleau

Nation states are employing more coordinated campaigns in cyberspace as opposed to unorganized, haphazard intrusions, according to a U.S. Cyber Command official.

“My sense of what nations are doing in this space is its more coordinate[d], more interoperable from their perspective, and more structured and more integrated,” said Vice Adm. Tim White, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force at CYBERCOM. “They’re building what I would call campaigns, and they are being very thoughtful about it and purposeful in their approach.

“One of the ways that we’ve shifted a little bit over the last couple of years is we’ve organized our forces to focus on the four of the four plus one — that’s commonly understood that the things the [Department of Defense] is organizing itself against — in my case that would always be the ability of the state actor to generate cyber power as an instrument” to counter U.S interests, he said during an April 4 panel discussion at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition.

As such, his focus is squarely on Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. He noted that the U.S. is figuring out how to get at these groups and their coordinated efforts.

Current and former officials recently told The Washington Post that adversaries will sometimes probe U.S. systems to see how the government might respond as a means of gaining insight to certain capabilities, tactics, techniques and procedures.

Complicating matters is the increased proliferation of commercial technologies; not only available to the U.S. and its partners but peer threats. “They have as much access to the commercial sector and advanced technology as we do,” White said. It’s a consumer- and commercial-driven market, he added.

AI that can kill? Military takes a pass

By: Mark Pomerleau, 

What is the future of autonomy and artificial intelligence? Many have postulated futuristic capabilities and scenarios involving intelligent and killer robots on the battlefield that have been delegated the authority to take human lives without the intervention of human operators.

In fact, a group of esteemed scientists and influencers — including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk — signed an open letter endorsing a “ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”

But for all intents and purposes, the military is not interested in what the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff calls general AI. Narrow AI is teaching a machine to perform a specific task, while general AI is the T-1000, Gen. Paul Selva said April 3 at an event hosted by Georgetown University, referencing the shape-shifting robot assassin from the "Terminator 2" movie.

“General AI is this sort of self-aware machine that thinks it knows what’s right and what’s wrong,” he said. “The issue is whether or not a person or a country or an adversary would take narrow AI and build it into a system that allows the weapon to take a given life without the intervention of a human.”

This could take the form of someone building a set of algorithms, saying, for instance, to make every gray-haired guy with a flat top a target, Selva said, using himself as an example. 

Free Wi-Fi & Security: Why It Matters

By James Torrence

The internet is an essential part of both personal and professional life. People use the internet to complete tasks ranging from banking to buying groceries. Organizations use the internet to afford their employees access to networks/information whether in the office, working from home, or working on-the-move. In order to accommodate the growing need for internet access, there has been a 4,414 percent increase in the number of Wi-Fi hotspots in the United States since 2013 (Covington, 2016). There are roughly “54 million Wi-Fi hotspots” (Covington, 2016) in 2016, with the number growing daily. The increase in internet availability creates more opportunities to be connected if one is outside the home or office, has limits on cell phone data, or is out of cellphone coverage. Though there are more opportunities to be connected, there are also more risks; public Wi-Fi is inherently insecure. David Maimon, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at University of Maryland, sums it up as follows:

The major hazard with public Wi-Fi is the fact that all the information you’re transferring between your computer and the computer that you’re accessing is available to everybody on the network (Hill, 2015).

The risks of Wi-Fi hotspots are compounded when users do not understand how Wi-Fi networks work, and thus do not comprehend the risks associated with connecting to a free hotspot. In a 2016 study, it was determined that “the level of ignorance” (Schlesinger, 2016), with regard to the understanding of free Wi-Fi networks, is “somewhat alarming” (Schlesinger, 2016), and that “more than 60% of consumers think their information is safe when using public internet…” (Schlesinger, 2016). This is an important topic not just because of ramifications of personal information that could be exposed, but also for organizations whose employees access organizational information on networks that are not secure. It is evident that a new method of educating and informing employees about the dangers of free Wi-Fi is necessary to help protect both personal and organizational information. The author will put forth a framework that can be integrated into existing employee ecosystems, augment existing policy, and better protect organizational and personal information. Before introducing the framework, it is first necessary to understand why public Wi-Fi is insecure, why the problem will continue to persist, and how organizations can successfully implement a new framework.