30 December 2017

The Future of Conflict for Next Five Years

The Future of Conflict for Next Five Years

-- Maj Gen P K Mallick,VSM (Retd)

John E. McLaughlin was Deputy Director and Acting Director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004, and now teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

He has tried to look ahead five years to estimate the future of conflict. 

His predictions are :

First, we are likely to see what might be called a protracted standoff among the great powers, as rivalries persist and the will and processes for dampening them remain elusive. Ukraine is a good case in point. NATO powers have few tools to force Russia out of Ukraine other than economic sanctions, while Russian president Putin sees keeping Ukraine out of Western institutions and frameworks as a core interest that he can nary sacrifice.

In Asia, the interests of the US and its partners converge only partly with those of China, making it difficult to collaborate on a strategy to avoid the seeming inevitability of a North Korea armed with a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.

A second trend fuelling conflict will be the atomization of terrorism in the aftermath of a likely successful international effort to push ISIS off the Iraqi and Syrian territories that it seized in 2014. With its global strategy, ISIS has established a number of nodes, outside its heartland, in places like Egypt, Libya, East Africa and Southeast Asia, from which it can plot, train, plan and regroup. Attacks such as the ones in Ankara, Paris, Brussels, Nice, Berlin, Manchester, London, Barcelona and Manhattan will become the new normal for the immediate future.

Finally, the Russian hacking of the US election is probably just the front end of a long bout of cyber-duelling among nations, accompanied by the incalculable impact of cyber-skilled non-state actors. Russia’s intervention was novel only in its means. It was fuelled mainly by social media and, as such, was merely the 21st century version of a covert influence tradition rooted in the post-revolutionary Russia of the last century.

With cyber tools certain to grow in sophistication, we are certain to see more such efforts. Nothing is likely to interrupt this trend, short of successful cyber arms control negotiations or a calamitous event, such as a ‘cyber 9/11.’ The latter would involve some country experiencing the loss of its power grid or some other capability essential to its normal functioning and to public health and safety. Such an event might (or might not) have the effect that the 9/11 attacks had in galvanizing international support for the resource and policy commitments needed to combat terrorism.

India to become fifth largest economy in 2018, says report

Currently ranked seventh, India will move up to fifth place in 2018 and vault to third spot by 2032, the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London-based consultancy, said.

India is set to overtake the United Kingdom and France to become the world’s fifth largest economy next year, a report said on Tuesday.

Currently ranked seventh, India will move up to fifth place in 2018 and vault to third spot by 2032, the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London-based consultancy, said in its annual rankings.

The Paradox of Indian Military Innovation

Anirudh Kanisetti

What explains the Great Divergence between Indian and foreign military powers?

Inthe 10th and 11th centuries, Europe was very much the backwater of the civilised world. In the Middle East, the Islamic Golden Age of scientific innovation was reaching a crescendo with advances in everything from algebra to the properties of light. In China under the Song dynasty, paper money was being experimented with, and more importantly, gunpowder weaponry was being incorporated into the military.

New Extremist Religious Groups Are Wrecking Pakistan

Abdul Basit

Religious politics in Pakistan has moved away from pan-Islamism to narrow sectarianism with the entry of new religious-political groups.

With the rise of Barelvi, a sub-sect of Sunni Hanafi Islam, extremist groups in Pakistan, the country’s drift into extremism comes full circle. Apparently, considered to be more tolerant and accommodative of other faiths and sects, the Barelvi groups in Pakistan have been asserting themselves politically since the 2016 hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, who was the self-righteous assassin of former Punjab governor Salman Taseeer.

South Asia is not the most dangerous place on Earth

Ramamurti Rajaraman

Nuclear weapons are arguably among the most dangerous inventions of man. The scale and rapidity of the destruction they can cause is unparalleled, as evidenced by the two occasions that they were used on civilian populations and by the numerous tests conducted on testing ranges. It follows that any country choosing to possess nuclear weapons is creating an existential threat, not only for its adversaries but also for itself and for its general neighborhood. Such places are all very dangerous to be in.

In Tangled Afghan War, a Thin Line of Defense Against ISIS

Mujib Mashal
New York Times 

KHOGYANI, Afghanistan — When the American military dropped the largest bomb in its arsenal on an Islamic State cave complex here in eastern Afghanistan in April, the generals justified it as part of a robust campaign to destroy the group’s local affiliate by year’s end.

Its force had been reduced to 700 fighters from 3,000, they said, and its area of operation diminished to three districts from 11.

Diverging Trajectories in Bangladesh: Islamic State vs al-Qaeda

By: Nathaniel Barr

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have adopted divergent strategies in their competition for dominance in Bangladesh. Al-Qaeda has sought to build popular support by exploiting the grievances of the country’s political Islamists, and by employing targeted violence against secularists, atheists and those who are perceived to be advancing Western values, an approach that analysts have noted mirrors the Maoist insurgency model. [1] The group has also pursued a deliberate and cautious growth strategy, refraining from behavior that would expose its clandestine activities. IS, on the other hand, has adopted a more aggressive and confrontational approach, carrying out high-profile attacks against religious minorities, Westerners and security forces in an effort to sow sectarian tensions and destabilize the Bangladeshi state.

Staying Power Mao and the Maoists.

By Pankaj Mishra

“Arevolution is not a dinner party,” Mao Zedong declared. Rather, as he helpfully clarified in 1927, it is “an insurrection, an act of violence.” He might have warned that nation building is no picnic, either. Mao rose to supremacy within the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.), through several bloody purges of “revisionists” and “rightists.” After long years as a marginal peasant leader, he finally brought his revolution to all of China, forcing his great rival Chiang Kai-shek to flee to Taiwan (then called Formosa). Founding the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Mao exulted, “The Chinese people, comprising one quarter of humanity, have stood up.” He soon knocked them down, overwhelming the gradual processes of China’s modernization with the frenzy of permanent revolution.

At an Air Show in China, Drones, Not Jets, Are the Stars

By Lam Yik Fei 

WUHAN, China — Need more evidence that China is a global force in technology? Just listen for the low whine of tiny propellers.

And look up.

At the World Fly-In Expo, an air show held in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last month, jets, hot air balloons, autogiros and ultralight planes were upstaged by Chinese-made drones.


By Tuan N. Pham

At the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), President Xi Jinping opened the assembly by delivering a seminal report to its members. The three hour-long speechemphatically reaffirmed a strategic roadmap for national rejuvenation and officially heralded a new era in Chinese national development. Beijing now seems, more than ever, determined to move forward from Mao Zedong’s revolutionary legacy and Deng Xiaoping’s iconic dictum (“observe calmly, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly, hide our capacities and bide our time, be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership”). Beijing also appears poised to expand its global power and influence through the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, expansive build-up and modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), assertive foreign policy, and forceful public diplomacy. Underpinning these strategic activities are various ancillary strategies – maritime, space, and cyberspace – all interlinked with the grand strategy of the Chinese Dream.

The Perils of a Post-ISIS Middle East


To defeat the Islamic State, Washington has cultivated ties with groups at odds with each other. What happens when their common foe is gone?

As 2017 draws to a close, the mood among leading pundits on the U.S.-led campaign to dislodge the Islamic State from Iraq and Syria might seem justifiably upbeat, even jubilant. After all, the accomplishments in the campaign’s first three years are many: eliminating key ISIS leaders, clearing the group from its so-called “dual capitals” of Mosul and Raqqa, and reducing the territorial safe havens from which it can plot attacks. It’s with some justification that, on December 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Iraq.

Is Saudi Arabia’s Post-Oil Future Realistic?

By Irina Slav

In case anyone had any doubts that Saudi Arabia has very ambitious economic growth plans, the 2018 budget, announced earlier this week by King Salam, must have dispelled them. The kingdom plans to spend $261 billion in 2018, its largest-ever budget. And that’s not all.

Riyadh also eyes reducing the share of oil revenues in the total to less than 50 percent. That would be a huge reduction given that oil accounted for more than 90 percent of revenues just three years ago. To date, oil revenues are about two-thirds of the total. So, basically, there are now two questions that pique the curiosity of observers: Where will the money for the record budget come from, and how will Riyadh accomplish the huge cut in oil revenues as a part of the total?

Electronic Jihad in Nigeria: How Boko Haram Is Using Social Media

By: Jacob Zenn

While many jihadist groups have shown themselves adept at using social media to further their propaganda efforts, Boko Haram arrived late to the game. In 2010, the year then Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau declared jihad, one Boko Haram member even posted on the Ansar al-Mujahideen jihadist web forum that “we lack vibrant media experts in video production … we are seriously lacking expertise, which is presently harming our efficiency” (Ansar al-Mujahideen, November 4, 2010).

The Return of Global Russia: An Analytical Framework

Paul Stronski

Since 2012, Russia has been conducting a sophisticated, well-resourced, and, thus far, successful campaign to expand its global influence at the expense of the United States and other Western countries. Moscow has pursued a host of objectives, such as tarnishing democracy and undermining the U.S.-led liberal international order, especially in places of traditional U.S. influence; dividing Western political and security institutions; demonstrating Russia’s return as a global superpower; bolstering Vladimir Putin’s domestic legitimacy; and promoting Russian commercial, military, and energy interests.

The Economist reveals its country of the year

EVERY Christmas since 2013 The Economist has picked a “country of the year”. Rogue nations are not eligible, no matter how much they frighten people. (Sorry, North Korea.) Nor do we plump for the places that exert the most influence through sheer size or economic muscle—otherwise China and America would be hard to beat. Rather, we look for a country, of any size, that has changed notably for the better in the past 12 months, or made the world brighter.

Russia’s Financial Tactics in the Middle East

By: Theodore Karasik


Russia’s strategy to build a greater presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and specifically the Persian Gulf, by using finance to influence geopolitics has become an integral part of Putin’s foreign policy.

Since 2007, Russia has increasingly focused on financial tactics to achieve its strategic policy goals in the Middle East.This “soft power” links Russia to the Middle East in new and creative ways, a trend that has continued without letup since Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the region twice 10 years ago. These financial ties are both formal and informal: public transactions but also gray zones of monetary interaction between Russia and Arab states that are illustrative of a far more robust set of monetary connections than recognized by policymakers and analysts.

Russia in the Middle East: A New Front in the Information War?

By: Donald N. Jensen


Russia uses its information warfare capability as a tactic, especially its RT Arabic and Sputnik news services, to advance its foreign policy goals in the Middle East: become a great power in the region; reduce the role of the United States; prop up allies such as Bashir al- Assad in Syria, and fight terrorism. Evidence suggests that while Russian media narratives are disseminated broadly in the region by traditional means and online, outside of Syria its impact has been limited. The ability of regional authoritarian governments to control the information their societies receive, cross cutting political pressures, the lack of longstanding ethnic and cultural ties with Russia, and widespread doubts about Russian intentions will make it difficult for Moscow to use information operations as an effective tool should it decide to maintain an enhanced permanent presence in the region.

Europe in 2017 and Beyond


Europeans have a knack of extrapolating one event and making it a trend.

So it was with the election last May of Emmanuel Macron. As France’s new president, Macron based his campaign on Europe and on domestic reform. In doing so, he roundly defeated his rival and leader of the far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen. Most European leaders were gushing in their praise for Macron. For them, his victory meant that populism was on the run. Europe was “back on track.”

The 2017 National Security Strategy: A Scorecard

By Peter Dombrowski ; Simon Reich

The U.S. Congress mandates that each presidential administration produce a “national security strategy,” although it does not specify when or how often. The periodic reports usually arrive with little public fanfare – beyond the intense scrutiny of a coterie of policymakers, military officials, commentators and academics (like the two of us) who together comprise the national security establishment.

Strength in Numbers: A Safety Net to Prevent Crises in the Global Economy

If you are lucky, when the going gets tough, you have a group of people you can rely on to help you through a crisis. Countries are no different—a safety net to help them in bad economic and financial times can make the difference in peoples’ lives. 

Insurance against crises

The global financial safety net should help countries in three ways: provide insurance to help prevent crises; supply financing to countries if crises materialize; and provide incentives for countries to adopt the right policies.

The Year in Review: The Death of the UN GGE Process?

An effort at the United Nations to clarify norms of state behavior in cyberspace suffered a setback this year, perhaps causing the United States to alter its cyber norm promotion efforts. 

Alex Grigsby is the assistant director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Checkmate For Humanity?: In 4 Hours, Robot Teaches Itself Chess, Then Beats Grandmaster With Moves Never Devised In The Game’s 1,500-Year History — A True Watershed Event

John Naish, posted an article on the Daily Mail’s website, December 21, 2017, opening with this provocative question: “Will robots one day destroy us? It’s a question that increasingly preoccupies many of our most brilliant scientists and tech entrepreneurs,” he wrote.

Artificial intelligence (AI) used to be an area of research that belonged to a relatively small sector of the scientific and academic/research communities. Not any more. If there was one area that experienced a surge in advancement, practical applications, as well as showed signs of breath-taking potential in 2017, AI would be near the top of the heap, along with Bitcoin.

How to civilize the Dark Web economy

International Security

Digital payment systems and financial services have become an essential part of modern technological infrastructure, growing exponentially over the past three decades and continuously innovating to meet the demands of the international financial system.

2018 will be the year of cyberwar

Justin Ling 

In 2017, the word “cyber” was doing a lot of work. 

We learned the details of Russia’s cyber campaign to hack, among others, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic Party. We saw the United Kingdom’s National Health Service be taken offline for hours as ransomware rendered their systems useless. Credit-monitoring company Equifax had to eat crow after its systems were infiltrated, potentially exposing the sensitive financial information of hundreds of millions of Americans and Canadians. 

The Fentanyl Crisis is a Reverse Opium War

Greg R. Lawson

If America sees its vigor sapped over time through addiction and domestic fractiousness, then it will be a much weaker challenge on the international stage.

“History does not repeat itself. But it does rhyme,” is a famous quote that is often attributed to Mark Twain. Today, not only is history rhyming, but it is taking a deeply ironic turn while doing so.

One hundred and fifty years ago a two-millennia-old civilization in the East was hooked on opium and watched as its once perceived centrality in world affairs was eradicated by an upstart empire from the West upon which it was claimed that “Sun Never Sets.” Today, the inheritor of that empire’s tradition is being flooded by a synthetic opiate even as the old Eastern empire shakes off it’s century-plus torpor and seeks to unite the Eurasian landmass in a way that would have stunned that great geopolitical thinker, Sir Halford Mackinder.

Infographic Of The Day: The Race For Clean Energy

Last year, on a global basis, more net power generating capacity was added through renewable sources than via all other power sources combined.

Which countries are leading this charge, and what power sources are being adopted the fastest?

Today’s infographic breaks down various metrics around energy investment. The graphic looks at absolute and per capita power consumption by countries, as well as dollars being invested into each particular type of green energy.

Country Comparisons

The two countries that lead the pack in absolute terms are China and the United States. In 2016, China consumed the equivalent of 349.2 million tonnes of oil in renewable energy, while the U.S. was at 143 million tonnes.

However, these numbers are very skewed by the large populations of these countries. In percentage terms, China only gets 11.4% of its primary energy from renewables, while the U.S. gets 6.3% of its mix from sources like solar and wind.

On a per capita basis, major economies leading the world include countries like Norway, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, and Austria – all of these countries get about 30% or more of their primary energy from renewables. That said, it is also worth noting that hydropower makes up a large degree of the energy mixes for many of these places.