6 December 2017

*** The New American Way of War

By W.J. Hennigan

The convoy of weather-beaten trucks and Toyota Land Cruisers kicked up dirt as it streaked across the wooded West African terrain toward the hazy horizon. A joint team of 12 U.S. Army Special Forces and 30 Nigerien troops were making the trek back to base after a two-day reconnaissance mission to a remote area along Niger’s border with Mali. The weary commandos had just spoken to elders near the village of Tongo Tongo after sifting through a deserted campsite, seeking intelligence on an elusive terrorist operative. But it was a dry hole; whoever was there had since moved along. As the mid-morning sun bore down, the commandos settled in for the 110-mile drive.

Despite Beijing’s Denials, Proof Emerges Of China Planning Diversion Of Brahmaputra Waters

by Jaideep Mazumdar

The economic, military and demographic benefits of this project for China far outweigh the costs it will incur and the censure it will earn from India and other countries. Since early October, people living on the banks of the Siang (as the Yarlung Tsangpo is called once it enters India in Arunachal Pradesh’s Upper Siang district) have found the usually crystal clear waters of the river turning turbid and slushy. The Siang, teeming with fish, turned unsuitable to even bathe in. And soon, the water level of the river also started falling appreciably.


By David Scott

Chinese maritime strategy for the Indian Ocean reflects a couple of simple inter-related planks; espousal of a “two ocean” navy and espousal of the Maritime Silk Road. 2017 has witnessed important consolidation of each maritime plank. Each plank can be looked at in turn.

“Two Ocean” Navy

Will Pakistan's Support for Terrorists Destroy Its Relationship with America?

Michael Kugelman
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On December 3, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will visit Islamabad. It’s expected to be a short sojourn; he likely won’t be there for more than a few hours. This isn’t particularly surprising. Neither side has been in the mood for long and warm conversations lately, and especially since August, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced a new South Asia strategy that demanded—in no uncertain terms—that Pakistan go after militants on its soil, such as the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network that target Americans in Afghanistan, and that called on rival India to step up its role in Afghanistan. Predictably, Islamabad was not pleased.

Pakistan’s Emboldened Islamists

Mubaraz Ahmed

Hardline Islamists brought the Pakistani capital to a standstill for several weeks in November in protest against amendments to the country’s electoral oath. The government pointed out that the change, which was subsequently reversed, was due to nothing more than a clerical error. Those leading the charge, however, felt the move was part of a calculated, coordinated conspiracy to undermine Pakistan’s fundamental Islamic values.

Will Pakistan's Support for Terrorists Destroy Its Relationship with America?

Michael Kugelman

On December 3, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will visit Islamabad. It’s expected to be a short sojourn; he likely won’t be there for more than a few hours. This isn’t particularly surprising. Neither side has been in the mood for long and warm conversations lately, and especially since August, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced a new South Asia strategy that demanded—in no uncertain terms—that Pakistan go after militants on its soil, such as the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network that target Americans in Afghanistan, and that called on rival India to step up its role in Afghanistan. Predictably, Islamabad was not pleased.

Interreligious Tension in South and Southeast Asia

By Sabina Stein for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

Interreligious tensions between Buddhist majorities and Muslim minorities in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand remain high. So how should domestic and international actors respond to further peace? In this still topical piece, Sabina Stein suggests that efforts that just focus on strengthening the rule of law and security in the region will not be enough. Indeed, she suggests a more fruitful approach might lie in greater engagement with Buddhist nationalism to understand its concerns and address its fears.

China has a plan to rule the world

By David Ignatius 

The friendly words exchanged between Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping this month softened the edge of a Chinese economic and military buildup that a recent study commissioned by the Pentagon described as “perhaps the most ambitious grand strategy undertaken by a single nation-state in modern times.” At the Beijing summit on Nov. 9, Xi repeated his usual congenial injunction for “win-win cooperation,” and Trump responded in kind, calling Xi “a very special man.” Trump also complained about the Chinese trade surplus, but the visit was mostly a serenade to Sino-American cooperation.

How ISIL changed the oil map of Iraq

by Omar Al-Nidawi
The last three years dramatically reshaped the oil map in Iraq, OPEC's second-largest producer. The dust from the military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) will take weeks if not months to settle, and the Iraqi government's grip on disputed and oil-rich Kirkuk, which the Iraqi Kurds recently vacated, remains infirm.

But when it comes to oil, it is clear that the conflict has left some stakeholders better off than others.

Robotics and the Future of the Russian Military

Samuel Bendett 

Analyst Samuel Bendett, an expert on Russian military systems, fills us in on the latest leg of Russia's decade-old drive to modernize its military.

Russia's aggressive resurgence on the world stage over the last decade has been accompanied by a well-publicized drive to modernize the Russian military. While there is often a fairly wide gap between hope and reality when it comes to the new military systems put into service, progress has been notable.

A key element of the militaries of the future will be unmanned systems, and in this area, Russia lags anywhere from three to 10 years behind. But analyst Samuel Bendett, an expert on Russian military systems with the Center for Naval Analyses, says that Russia is catching up fast. Bendett, a RealClearWorld contributor, catches us up on the latest leg of Russia's decade-old military modernization drive.

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North Korea missile test shows limits of U.S. leverage

North Korea's launch of a missile that appears capable of striking anywhere in the U.S. is an early test of the Trump administration's relationship with China, and the goodwill reinforced during President Trump's November meetings with General Secretary Xi Jinping in Beijing. But even if Xi wants to help, there are no good options. Reality check: China doesn't actually have that much leverage with North Korea, and until the regime is interested in negotiations, even more help from China isn't going to help the U.S. solve the crisis.

What is the future of work?

A new podcast series from the McKinsey Global Institute explores how technologies like automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence are shaping how we work, where we work, and the skills we need to work. The future of work is one of the hottest topics in 2017, with conflicting information from various experts leaving plenty of room for debate around what impact automation technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will have on jobs, skills, and wages. In the first episode of the New World of Workpodcast from the McKinsey Global Institute—which is being featured in the McKinsey Podcast series—MGI chairman and director James Manyika speaks with senior editor Peter Gumbel about what these technologies are, how they will change work, and what new research says we can expect.

What is the future of work?

The Folly of Deploying US Tactical Nuclear Weapons to South Korea


The mudslinging between US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the near-daily handicapping of whether the US and North Korea are bound for war have overshadowed an important debate in South Korea over whether the US should redeploy tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) on ROK territory. Proposals that US government officials and defense experts have floated to ease South Korean worries about the credibility of the US extended deterrent have primarily focused on bolstering US/ROK conventional defensesagainst North Korean aggression. These measures, while necessary in the short-term, may not be sufficient to contain South Korean pressure for either US TNW deployments or development of an indigenous nuclear weapons program over the long-run, especially if the conservative party returns to power. If Washington wants to keep the South Korean nuclear genie in its bottle, the administration may need to draw the ROK more closely into US nuclear planning for the peninsula and elevate the visibility of its own nuclear footprint in and around the country. But this path should only be taken if the US is ready to simultaneously take diplomatic initiatives with North Korea to prevent misperceptions and potential escalation. (Photo: Uriminzokkiri)

George Soros: Oppression in Hungary worse than under Soviets

Oppression of the opposition by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government is greater than when Hungary was under Soviet domination, Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros said Friday. Soros said in video messages that he had an “unbridgeable conflict of principles” with Orban and if the Budapest-based, Soros-founded Central European University were to be expelled, it would continue operating “in exile” and return after Orban’s departure. Soros, 87, said Orban has created “an anti-democratic system … a mafia regime where they use their leading positions to keep themselves in power and personally enrich themselves.”

“He exploits and oppresses those who are in opposition. In my judgment, the regime now oppresses people more that during the Soviet occupation.”

A Fractured 2017

A century has passed since President Woodrow Wilson, in his 14 Points speech of January 1918, set out an American plan for the world. He called for the removal of economic barriers to trade, an adjustment of colonial claims that respected “the interests of the populations concerned,” and the creation of a League of Nations to guarantee “political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states.” It was a program that announced America’s ordering intentions, and it was supposed to put an end to war. Wilson failed; Europe’s peace at the end of World War I would last but a generation. Still, having gotten into the global blueprint business, the United States, more powerful than ever by 1945, would not relinquish it — until 2017.

Energy, Economic Growth, and US National Security: The Case for an Open Trade and Investment Regime

By David Gordon, Divya Reddy, Elizabeth Rosenberg, Neil Bhatiya, Edoardo Saravalle for Center for a New American Security (CNAS)

David Gordon et al contend that a rising populist backlash in the US against the international system has found its expression in a desire for trade protectionism and a distrust of multilateralism. As a result, our authors here explain why in the context of expanding American energy production and exports, open markets are actually good for the US. Further, they provide recommendations on what traps the Trump administration must avoid so that its plans for American “energy dominance” do not veer the country down a path of damaging energy protectionism.

OPEC: Oil Production Deal Still Has Gas in the Tank, For Now

Major oil producers have seen enough success to stick with their current strategy. Where previous meetings of OPEC and non-OPEC nations were surrounded by uncertainty, all signs suggested that the recent meeting in Vienna would lead to an extension of the current deal cutting oil production. That extension would leave two major questions: How long would the extension run and would an exit strategy be put in place. On Nov. 30, OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreed to extend the deal until the end of 2018, with a review of the duration scheduled for June. The deal will continue, but the strategy for how and when it will end remains murky.

Russian-Indian Defence Co-operation Reaches A Deadlock

Author:Pavel Luzin

What went wrong in the military and technical co-operation between Russia and India?

In the 2000s, Russia began to perceive India as a strategic partner for joint technical military projects. The reason behind Russia’s thinking is clear: India had become the main buyer of Russian arms. The first experience of a project in this area was the joint development of a supersonic cruise missile called BrahMos. Then Moscow decided to ask India to collaborate on developing a new fighter jet and a new military transport aircraft. It also sold a cruiser-carrier to Delhi and leased out a new nuclear submarine. The two countries have even considered ideas of joint space projects but without any tangible results so far.

The U.S.-Japan Alliance and Deterring Gray Zone Coercion in the Maritime, Cyber, and Space Domains

by Scott W. Harold, Yoshiaki Nakagawa, Junichi Fukuda, John A. Davis, Keiko Kono, Dean Cheng, Kazuto Suzuki

How can Washington and Tokyo counteract a determined adversary, such as China, when it is seeking to undermine Japanese control over the Senkakus, intrude into computer networks for the purposes of industrial espionage and national security, and potentially cripple allied space assets in a time of crisis? 
How can the allies deter China's gray zone coercion in situations where tit-for-tat strategies are either unavailable or unappealing due to the medium (such as a counterstrike in space)? 

Bitcoin To Tesla, False Promises For Saving The Planet

Marc Alves

Bitcoin’s blistering price rise has broken a new milestone, passing the $10,000 threshold for the first time. It’s a considerable achievement given that the most famous of cryptocurrencies was worth under $1,000 at the beginning of this year, and first reached $2,000 just a few months ago. But it’s also a frightening feat. The fears go beyond the rumblings of a new speculative bubble around the revolutionary (and still largely untested) virtual financial mechanism. Bitcoin’s surge is also a cause for concern for a less obvious reason: the environment.


Over the past 16 years, Special Operations have become the new American way of war. Once mainly used to supplement the work of conventional troops, the elite units are now the go-to option for policymakers looking to manage a complicated world. More than just hunter-killers, the U.S.’s best-trained commandos are increasingly military trainers, nation builders and diplomats. With typical dark humor, members of the Special Operations community joke that they’ve become an “easy button” for successive Administrations to push–an alternative to sending thousands of conventional military forces to hot spots and risking the political blowback that comes with it.