1 January 2018

Revolutionary Change in Strategic Leadership

Revolutionary Change in Strategic Leadership
--  Maj gen P K Mallick,VSM (Retd)

"War is more than a mere chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to the given case. As a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a paradoxical trinity – composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity… ; of the play of chance and probability… ; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason alone." – Carl von Clausewitz in On War 

According to the Prussian Clausewitz, war’s nature does not change—only its character. War’s nature is violent, interactive, and fundamentally political. War’s conduct is undoubtedly influenced by technology, law, ethics, culture, methods of social, political, and military organization, and other factors that change across time and place.Technology has a significant influence on warfare, but other influences like doctrine and military organization are also important. Changes in the character of warfare may occur slowly over generations or quite rapidly. These changes clearly affect the tactical art of employing units and weapons and, to a lesser extent, the operational art of linking military objectives to achieve strategic ones. Both continuities in the nature of war and the changes in the character of warfare influence strategy. The greater influence on strategy, as Clausewitz observes, comes from the nature and character of war because the "most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish…the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature."

Clausewitz's observation also applies to strategic leadership: it too has an enduring nature and a changing character.

The enduring nature manifests itself as characteristics that define a skilled strategic leader across history including: the ability to discern and distill vital information and ideas from complexity and background noise; effective and timely adaptability and creativity; steadiness under pressure; clarity in communication; and a solid ethical foundation. From the warrior kings of the earliest civilizations through the masters of 20th-century industrial war, to the armed conflict of the future, these characteristics are important.

At the same time, trends in the global security environment and the domestic political, social and economic system are changing the character of strategic leadership. The broad and historic decline of authority and authority structures IS BEING OBSERVED ACROSS THE GLOBE. In the United States, the military has retained its standing among the public, but many other institutions of authority have seen a significant erosion of respect and influence. In other parts of the world, the erosion of authority structures weakens governments. The Arab Spring may be the starkest example of this, but the phenomenon has spread to most regions of the world with young democracies particularly vulnerable. The result is a revival of authoritarianism.

The profusion of information drives this erosion of authority by making the institutions of authority transparent to a greater degree than ever before. In all likelihood, politicians are no more corrupt and the media no more error prone than in the past, but now their transgressions or failures are visible. At the same time, the profusion of information makes it easier for people to find alternative explanations to the ones offered by authority institutions. No longer does public depend on elected officials, television networks, and a few national newspapers and magazines to understand political events. Instead, the public has access to literally thousands of alternative sources of information—many of which often cannot assess the validity of the information or its sources.

Today most people consume information that reflects their preexisting beliefs rather than the authority of the source and its methods of obtaining, selecting, and vetting information. Most people only consume the information that reflects their ideological predilections without having to consider or grapple with different perspectives, living in what is often labeled an information bubble. Pundits and people who might be called “infotainers” define and shape the political agenda more than elected officials. The result is an unwillingness to compromise or cooperate across partisan boundaries.

For strategic leaders, this means that long-range planning and programming will be extraordinarily difficult since there will be no predictability in defense spending. It also means that protracted operations that cross multiple Governments will be nearly impossible. Every time a different party takes control , it may feel compelled to reverse the policies of its predecessor. This might force strategic leaders to avoid operations likely to cross multiple administrations, instead recommending suboptimal options that can be undertaken in one term of the government..

The widespread erosion of authority is not unprecedented. It has happened many times in history, most recently in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. However, this particular wave is the most dramatic and powerful ever. As the character of strategic leadership changes, so too must civil-military relations.

Information technology is undercutting traditional notions of operational security and force protection as well. Strategic leaders—and commanders at all levels—now must assume that their operations will be broadcast to a global audience in real time. This alters strategy and operational planning. Strategic leaders also have to grapple with the fact that their troops have online personas, which can create vulnerabilities. It is not hard to imagine a future enemy targeting the families of deployed troops. Strategic leaders would then have to decide whether it is reasonable for deployed troops to expect that the families they left behind will be better protected than the rest of the public.

The profusion of information and the decline of authority will also make narrative shaping by strategic leaders both more important and more difficult. Narratives will be fluid with public opinion swarming on particular themes or ideas and then moving on to something else. Russia’s intervention in the 2016 U.S. election is only the first volley in this. At the same time, new technology will make it very hard for the public in the United States and in other countries to distinguish reality from fabrication. This will destroy the traditional notion of strategic communications, which is based on the belief that there is a ground truth and it ultimately will win out over lies or fabrications. Like past strategic leaders, future ones must be effective communicators, but what this means may be dramatically different.

Finally, technology, particularly autonomous systems, and artificial intelligence, will change the character of strategic leadership. Future military units may deploy with few or even no humans. Deployed forces will consist mostly or entirely of autonomous or semi-autonomous systems controlled—to the extent they are controlled by humans in real time rather than by algorithms written in advance—from afar. For strategic leaders as well as tactical commanders, this means that the management of human fear and the preservation of force discipline will be less important than in the past. This will pose new ethical challenges. Will a military member controlling a machine thousands of miles away be more or less likely to use deadly force than one who can see the enemy? What will this mean for military strategy? Should strategic leaders offer different military advice to political leaders when they know that units can be deployed abroad without Americans dying?

These are only a few of the megatrends in the political climate and global security environment that are likely to change the character of strategic leadership. The challenge for today’s leaders is to grapple with this and decide what it means for the way the nation finds, develops and rewards strategic leaders, and for the nature of the professional ethic that will guide them in the future. 

Recently The Indian Army has changed its promotion policy allowing Generals to serve longer tenures and officers to get promoted at a younger age to the ranks of Major General and Lieutenant General. [ http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/army-generals-to-get-longer-tenures/520121.html ]

One wonders whether adequate attention is being paid to educate and groom future strategic leaders in view of the changing character of warfare specially driven by technology.


The Kalpas of India’s Past - Mathematical Insights on the cyclical flow of history

Anirudh Kanisetti

The concept of cyclical time, of eras, of patterns repeating themselves, is an integral part of many Indian religious traditions, from Buddhism to Hinduism. But this observation is not unique to the Indian subcontinent. Grand cycles of anarchy, consolidation, apex, and decline have been observed by scholars ranging from Polybius to Ibn Khaldun.

India and the future of life sciences innovation

Kurt Stoeckli

India is known for many wonderful things. On the international stage, it is recognized as the fastest-growing economy in the world, and is well-known for its culture, exquisite cuisine and sense of community and family, among many other qualities. One thing it is less known for is the discovery and development of new medicines.

I think this will soon change.

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.

ISIS numbers growing fast near China’s New Silk Road, says Russia

Top Russian diplomat Zamir Kabulov said over the weekend that Moscow is ready to sit down with Washington to discuss cooperation on Afghanistan.

The development comes despite speculation that the US is enabling the destabilization of the region. In its report on the Russian diplomat’s statements on Saturday, Turkish news outlet Yeni Safak recalled former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s October interviewwith Russia’s RT, during which Karzai pointed the finger at the US for the ISIS buildup in the country.

Benazir Bhutto assassination: How Pakistan covered up killing

Benazir Bhutto assassination: How Pakistan covered up killing 
BBC News

Benazir Bhutto was the first woman to lead a Muslim country. The decade since an assassin killed her has revealed more about how Pakistan works than it has about who actually ordered her death.

Bhutto was murdered on 27 December 2007 by a 15-year-old suicide bomber called Bilal. She had just finished an election rally in Rawalpindi when he approached her convoy, shot at her and blew himself up. Bilal had been asked to carry out the attack by the Pakistani Taliban.

Threat Lens 2018 Annual Forecast: An Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from the Threat Lens 2018 Annual Forecast. This forecast does not focus on every global security trend expected in 2018. Instead, it concentrates on Threat Lens' core interest areas and examines the trends we expect to see shaping that space next year. The full version is available to Threat Lenssubscribers.

One of Threat Lens' standing assessments is that cyberthreats will increasingly encroach on physical world. The proliferation of ransomware has been one of the most visible manifestations of this trend in cybersecurity. This trend is also true in reverse: Security lapses in the physical world have been one of the biggest vectors for cyberattacks. We have no reason to believe that this will change in 2018 and, in fact, as technical security features proliferate, human error will increasingly play a role in high-profile instances of suspicious network activity.

China’s crackdown on Uighurs spreads to even mild critics

BEIJING (AP) – Zhang Haitao was a rare voice in China, a member of the ethnic Han majority who for years had criticized the government on social media for its treatment of the minority Muslim Uighurs.

Zhang’s wife had long feared some sort of backlash despite her husband’s relative obscurity. He was a working-class electronics salesman, unknown even to most Uighur activists. So she worried that authorities might block his social media accounts, or maybe detain him. Instead he was arrested and prosecuted for subversion and espionage. His punishment: 19 years in prison.

A U.S. Attack on North Korea: Could China Retaliate Against Taiwan?

J. Michael Cole

A U.S. Attack on North Korea: Could China Retaliate Against Taiwan?

As it has in much of 2017, the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile program is likely to haunt Northeast Asia for a good part of 2018. Beyond the immediate issue of Pyongyang’s weapons development is the interlocking nature of the conflict, which under certain circumstances—such as a decision by the United States to use force against North Korea—could spark other contingencies in the Asia Pacific.

China Sets Plan for High-Quality Development at Central Economic Work Conference: What Does It Mean?

By Jason Zukus
Source Link

“Three tough battles” against major risks, poverty, and pollution planned to be won by 2020.

Last week, the Chinese Communist Party convened its Central Economic Work Conference, the annual meeting of its Central Committee, to set specific plans and targets for China’s economy. While the exact proceedings are kept secret, brief summaries of the meeting’s themes are published by Xinhua, the official state news agency.

Introducing the DF-17: China's Newly Tested Ballistic Missile Armed With a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle

Source Link
By Ankit Panda

The DF-17 is the first hypersonic glide vehicle-equipped missile intended for operational deployment ever tested.

China carried out the first flight-tests of a new kind of ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) in November, The Diplomat has learned.

According to a U.S. government source who described recent intelligence assessments on the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) on the condition of anonymity, China recently conducted two tests of a new missile known as the DF-17.

Guest Article: The View from Olympus: The North Korean Threat to China

By William S. Lind

America’s fixation on the threat from North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons evinces the usual American dive into the weeds. If we instead stand back a bit and look at the strategic picture, we quickly see that the North Korean threat to China is far greater than its threat to us.

North Korea is unlikely to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. However, if North Korea retains its nuclear weapons, it is likely to lead South Korea, Japan, and possibly Taiwan, Australia and Vietnam to go nuclear themselves. From the Chinese perspective, that would be a strategic catastrophe. 



A detente between China and South Korea may be good news for the Korean economy and a necessary step towards resolving the North Korea issue, but at the same time it threatens to degrade regional security for years to come.

When South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinpingagreed on November 11 to “normalise exchanges”, they ended a conflict that began more than a year ago with Seoul and Washington’s decision to deploy an anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea.

A flammable peace: Why gas deals won’t end conflict in the Middle East

By Tareq Baconi 

Discoveries of gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean raised the prospect of stronger economic integration between states in the region, which would see enhanced relations and pave the way for greater stability there. 

The notion of “economic peace” – that shared economic benefits could mitigate conflict – has long informed diplomacy in the region. However, so far such benefits do not offer sufficient incentives to overcome entrenched political grievances. Download PDF



Lebanese Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah and Palestinian Sunni Muslim group Hamas, two influential political and paramilitary organizations opposed to Israel, have apparently joined forces in response to President Donald Trump's recent decision to recognize the contested, holy city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.



Minsk is shorthand for a diplomatic process established in 2014 and early 2015. The formal deadline for completing Minsk was December 2015, a deadline that long since passed without its first phase — a ceasefire — going into effect. The next two phases — decentralization and a political process for the Donbas — have never progressed beyond the hypothetical. As of this winter, the line of contact between the Ukrainian and the Russian-backed forces remains bloody and volatile. At this stage, declaring Minsk dead might be an acceptance of a self-evident reality. Consigning Minsk to history might allow everyone to move forward along a different track.

Solving the North Korea Problem the Chinese Way

By David Lai
Source Link

Following the Chinese prescription on North Korea may be in the United States’ best interests.

President Donald J. Trump made his first official visit to the Asia-Pacific in early November 2017. Top on his agenda were the North Korea problem and U.S. trade with the region; for both issues, the president’s most important meetings would be with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping.

Africa in 2018: China Flexes Muscles & Leaders Shuffle Decks

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look ahead at key national security issues. CIA veteran and Africa hand Frank Archibald offers some thoughts on where the continent is headed.

Changes in 2017:

It really is a year of big men moving on. In Angola, President José Eduardo Dos Santos ended his 37 years in power, and President Yahya Jammeh left power in the Gambia after 22 years.

Forget globalization. Internetization sums up our global economy better

The word globalization has lost its relevance and lustre with the emergence of the new global economy of the 21st century. In fact, it’s become an anachronism.

Its deficiency is that it’s not a new concept which creates nuances of confusion.

Globalization describes the international outreach of countries for the purpose of economic, social, political and cultural liaisons. Global linkages between countries through military conquest, colonization, multilateral free trade agreements and cultural exchange existed in an uninterrupted continuum in the evolving history of humankind.

Social Media and War: How Facebook and Twitter Are Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century

By Rebecca Greig

A Russian online troll farm is exposed by a disgruntled former employee: “You may think of yourself as a hero but in reality you’re just a little son of a bitch;”

A Ukrainian “Facebook warrior” sources everything from fuel to fruit through social networks: “It’s all about networks…People always know other people who can provide what we need;”

Islamic State militants in Raqqa recruit a French convert to their cause over WhatsApp and Viber: “Don’t believe the newspapers—here all Muslims live in peace, here we truly serve something.”

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

George Monbiot

Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative? 

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

How DARPA sparked dreams of self-healing networks

By: Adam Stone 

Competitors in DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge applied artificial intelligence as a means to both attack and defend cyber resources. DARPA is looking to AI as a means to tackle the ongoing cyber threat. 

On an August day in 2016, computer security gurus traveled to Las Vegas to prove that artificial intelligence, or AI, could find and fix flaws in software at machine speeds.

The dark side of the internet of things


Although it remains a powerful tool for good and a boundless universe of information, the web has become a tool for surveillance, a means to control and falsify information, and a domain for disseminating various forms of extremism. 

The World Wide Web remains an unprecedented tool of democratization, a platform for freedom of expression and an empowering instrument to access information. But there is a growing dark side to it.

The ominous character of the web is increasingly coming to light as evidence of cyberwar and the incessant hacking and theft of information mounts. Web-based intrusions on democratic electoral processes and institutions may be one of the most serious breaches of web trust and security.

Last Year’s Top 5 Worst Nuclear Nightmares (That Aren’t Going Away)


The top five nuclear nightmares we faced in 2017 will continue to haunt us in 2018. In fact, each has gotten worse this year. 

It is not that the past year has been devoid of good news, but the bad outweighed the good.

The overall number of nuclear weapons in the world continues to shrink, thanks to arms control treaties negotiated over the past few decades. The steady defeat of ISIS has reduced the risk of nuclear terrorism. Tensions seem to have eased between India and Pakistan, reducing the risk of war in South Asia.

What Really Mattered In 2017 (Our Top 10 List)


This is a list of the most important stories and opinion pieces we ran at Breaking Defense in 2017. It’s a bit like our coverage: freewheeling, often unexpected and, hopefully, poking at the spots where policymakers in the US, NATO, Australia, Japan, South Korea and our other treaty allies and partners need to look. We encourage you, Dear Reader, to provide alternative lists and tear our choices to pieces! Happy New Year! The Editor.

When Stalin Faced Hitler Who Fooled Whom?

By Stephen Kotkin

Through the first four decades of his life, Joseph Stalin achieved little. He was born in 1878 to a poor family in Gori, Georgia, then part of the Russian empire. His father was a cobbler; his mother, a cleaning lady and seamstress. Stalin’s childhood, illnesses and mishaps included, was largely normal for the time. He received good marks in school and, as a teenager, got his poems published in well-regarded Georgian periodicals. (“To this day his beautiful, sonorous lyrics echo in my ears,” one reader would later recall.) But he did not sit for his final-year exams at the Tiflis Seminary and failed to graduate. Instead of becoming a priest, he became an underground revolutionary fighting tsarist oppression, spending the next 20 years hiding, organizing, and serving time in prison and internal exile in Siberia.