20 September 2018

A Journey to Kashmir’s Gurez Valley

By Michael Benanav

In 1895, the British author Sir Walter Lawrence called the Gurez Valley “one of the most beautiful scenes in all of Kashmir,” where the tourmaline waters of the Kishenganga River are framed by “mountain scarps of indescribable grandeur.” In the book he wrote after traveling throughout the princely state, Lawrence predicted that Gurez would soon become one of Kashmir’s most popular Himalayan tourist destinations. For reasons he never could have foreseen, 120 years later, Gurez is still waiting.

Minding the Gaps in India’s Act East Policy

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

India’s approach to Southeast Asia has been lately shifting from one dominated by trade and development to one in which strategic considerations play an important complementary role. This has taken a new form, and is now called the “Act East” Policy, marking also an expansion to include other Indo-Pacific countries. But there are some doubts about whether the ASEAN countries are entirely comfortable with the idea of the “Indo-Pacific.” Several ASEAN states have been lukewarm to the idea, worried about having to take sides between the United States and China. This raises questions about the viability of India’s new “ASEAN-centric” approach to the Indo-Pacific.

Pakistan’s Elections: Mainstreaming Terrorists, Radicalizing Society

By: Sudha Ramachandran

Pakistan’s recent national and provincial assemblies’ elections saw a significant number of candidates from religious extremist and terrorist outfits campaign. None of them won seats to Pakistan’s National Assembly and only two managed to win seats to the Sindh provincial assembly. On the surface, the elections were a setback for Pakistan’s extremists and terrorists. A closer look at the election campaign and voting trends, however, indicate that there is reason for concern as extremists may have emerged stronger from the July 25 elections.

Extremists in the Electoral Arena

Pakistani nuclear forces, 2018

Hans M. Kristensen,Robert S. Norris, Julia Diamond

The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists, and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. This issue’s column examines Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which includes 140 to 150 warheads. The authors estimate that the country’s stockpile could realistically grow to 220 to 250 warheads by 2025, if the current trend continues.

China expands its control in South China Sea


As China consolidates its hold in South China Sea and wields its military, economic and diplomatic leverage, smaller countries see no credible option but to work with Beijing, even if that means furthering Chinese objectives. Manila, for example, seems willing to accede to Beijing’s demand for joint development of hydrocarbon resources in the Philippines’ own exclusive economic zone. The plain fact is that U.S. inaction under successive administrations has allowed China to gain effective control over a strategic sea that is more than twice the size of the Gulf of Mexico and 50 percent bigger than the Mediterranean Sea. Australia’s Kevin Rudd, who is still fending off accusations that he was “a slavish pro-China prime minister,” has acknowledged that “Chinese policy has not yet been challenged in the South China Sea by the United States to any significant extent.”

Can China Rise Peacefully?

by John J. Mearsheimer

(Editor’s Note : The following is the new concluding chapter of Dr. John J. Mearsheimer’s book The Tragedy of the Great Power Politics. A new, updated edition was released on April 7 and is available via Amazon.) With the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union two years later, the United States emerged as the most powerful state on the planet. Many commentators said we are living in a unipolar world for the first time in history, which is another way of saying America is the only great power in the international system. If that statement is true, it makes little sense to talk about great-power politics, since there is just one great power.

Reframing the Trade Debate

There is no question that the president has reframed the debate on trade in the United States. As I have said many times, after 30 years below the fold in the business section (for you, millennials, that’s a reference to old-fashioned newspapers), trade is now on the front page every day. As it turns out, that has had both good and bad consequences. On the good side, trade policy is now a common topic of conversation, which means, in turn, people are learning about it, whether they want to or not. What is a trade deficit? How long have we had one? Is it good or bad? What is currency manipulation? Why do exchange rates matter? What are subsidies? Dumping? Tariffs? Who, or what is the WTO? What are supply chains, and how do they make things different? People are now asking those questions and getting answers from experts. The answers are not always the same, but that’s fine—people are learning about trade and globalization, and that’s a good thing. Regardless of where they end up, they will be in a better, more informed position to make judgments on our trade policy. 

Chinese Growth Spurt

by John Mauldin
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So it is with China. We hear a lot about that vast country’s problems and challenges. They are very real and could have major consequences... which we will explore soon… but there’s good news, too. We reviewed some of it last week in China’s Command Innovation. Today, we’ll add a few more positive data points. This article will be a little different than most. Below you’ll read several short vignettes about positive events in China. They aren’t necessarily related and won’t build to any particular conclusion. My goal is simply to demonstrate that China has good news, and even some fabulously great news, much of it quite compelling. Whether it is enough to overcome the challenges is a different question we will address next time. And frankly, the manner in which they are growing clearly makes Western countries uncomfortable, as it is not our usual playground.

How China’s Middle Class Views the Trade War

By Cheng Li

The trade war between Washington and Beijing has been analyzed largely through the lens of state-to-state relations. But any attempt to fully assess how the dispute will affect China’s domestic development and foreign engagement must take into account the country’s dynamic middle class, which has suffered the brunt of the ill effects from the trade war. The Chinese middle class’ political clout and fickle views are among the most intriguing—and consequential—factors affecting U.S.-Chinese relations. Without a solid grasp of the complicated relationship between the Chinese leadership and the country’s middle class, American policymakers and analysts may have difficulty accurately gauging the efficacy of U.S. trade policy toward China.

Maritime Security Cooperation in the South China Sea: Sailing In Different Directions

By Mark J. Valencia

At China’s eighth Xiangshan Forum in October, a major topic of discussion will be visions and the reality of multilateral maritime security cooperation. The Xiangshan Forum is China’s answer to the British International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Shangri-la Dialogue (SLD), held each summer in Singapore. Beijing views the SLD and its organizers as preferentially providing platforms for outside countries’ perspectives and criticism of China’s policies. Presumably, many of the speakers at the Forum will provide an Asian and Chinese perspective on regional maritime security cooperation and the obstacles to achieving it. Hopefully they will directly or indirectly address critical questions like: whose security; security of or from what; and realistically how to proceed?

China may be copying Facebook to build an intelligence weapon


China’s social networking extends far beyond what the public sees. It’s what you don’t see that is a significant national security issue for the United States. While Chinese state-sponsored network intrusions have been going on for years, 2015 is a key time frame in the development of an intelligence-based version of Facebook. Some of the more notable reported data breaches in 2015 include the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM), Anthem Inc., Premera Blue Cross, United Airlines, Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood Hotels and some lesser known names. The following year added recognizable names, like Yahoo (3 billion and 500 million records in separate events), LinkedIn and MySpace. In 2017 Equifax topped the list in notoriety.

Yemen’s Civil War

Yemen’s civil war has made its way back in to the headlines when two missiles were launched at U.S. warships in the Red Sea followed by U.S. retaliation that involved destroying three radar sites in Houthi and Saleh-loyalist areas in Yemen. Yemen doesn’t get nearly as much media coverage as Syria, largely due to the fact that the country is of no real strategic importance to anyone except for Saudi Arabia. That will quickly change if militants can reliably get their hands on anti-ship missiles and make crossing the maritime chokepoint at the Bab el-Mandeb difficult.

Madeleine Albright on fascism, democracy, and diplomacy

Maggie Tennis
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What can the history of fascism teach us about democracy today? In her latest book, “Fascism: A Warning” (HarperCollins, 2018), former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright writes that a fascist “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.” She argues that fascism now presents a more virulent threat to peace and justice than at any time since the end of World War II.

How to prevent a massacre and the creation of ISIS 2.0 in Syria’s Idlib province

Michael E. O’Hanlon and Steven Heydemann

No viable strategy towards Syria can require a huge new investment in U.S. troops, lives, or treasure, write Michael O'Hanlon and Steven Heydemann; the American public will not tolerate it. But with the right modification of previous policy, updated to reflect current circumstances, it might not be too late to partially salvage what is left of Syria. This piece originally appeared in USA TodayAs Syrian forces and Russian warplanes take early steps for a long-awaited offensive against the northwest Syrian province of Idlib, where more than 2 million civilians live amongst several tens of thousands of opposition fighters, catastrophe looms. 

A 10-degree shift in Syria strategy

Ranj Alaaldin, Jason Fritz, Steven Heydemann, Bruce Jones, and Michael E. O’Hanlon

With an all-out fight for Syria’s northwest province of Idlib looming, if not already beginning, the potential is growing for yet another round of immense human tragedy within the country. The consequences for regional stability, and for the possible future emergence or re-emergence of various extremist groups and associated sanctuaries, could be severe. Future events may soon require an updating of our analysis and ideas, but nonetheless, we offer the following as a realistic “10-degree shift” to U.S. policy in Syria at this crucial inflection point in the war.

2018 Fourth-Quarter Forecast

The White House's Enduring Gamble Over Trade Policy. As the White House finalizes a deal to preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trump administration will increase trade risks elsewhere. China will have to weather an even bigger squall of tariffs this quarter as trade negotiations stall out. European efforts to neutralize the U.S. auto tariff threat will drag beyond the quarter, but ultimately fail. The Mounting Cost of U.S. Unilateralism. The United States needs all the allies it can get in an era of great power competition. A blunt U.S. policy on tariffs and sanctions will, however, drive strategic middle powers — like Turkey and Pakistan — to seek non-Western alternatives and compel great powers — like Europe — to rebuild their economic and security sovereignty with transatlantic ties under great strain.

Iran's Latest Missile Strikes Showcase Tehran's Strategy

by Seth J. Frantzman Zach Huff

The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired seven surface-to-surface missiles at bases of Kurdish opposition groups in Iraq on September 8. The attack, filmed by an IRGC drone, shows that Iran can carry out precision strikes and is a clear signal to Kurdish opposition groups, and also Baghdad’s supporters in Washington, that Iran will continue to carry out operations in Iraq as part of its policy to exercise influence in the region. It also showcases the precision of Iran's ballistic missile program.

The Right Way to Achieve Security in Space

By Stewart Patrick and Kyle L. Evanoff

Last month, the Pentagon outlined plans for Space Force, U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed sixth branch of the U.S. armed services, charged with protecting American interests in outer space. Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, heralded the report, describing space as a critical war-fighting domain. The United States increasingly relies on space capabilities that face emerging threats, Pence noted, and he repeated what Trump had declared in June: “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space.”

Does It Matter That Trump Is a Liar?


According to the Washington Post, as of Aug. 1, U.S. President Donald Trump had made more than 4,000 false or misleading claims since becoming president, an average of roughly 7.6 per day. What’s even more remarkable about Trump is that his lies aren’t even very creative, plausible, or hard to expose: He lies even when the lie is patently absurd and easy to expose. Just consider his latest big whopper: the bizarre claim that nearly 3,000 people didn’t really die as a result of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. According to our self-absorbed and truth-challenged president, the death toll was a fabrication made up by Democrats solely to make him look bad. Poor baby.

Food Fight

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Humans have always depended on the sea. For as long as there have been fishermen, there have been conflicts over fish. And though it may seem anachronistic, the odds that a squabble over fishing rights could turn into a major armed conflict are rising. The return of great-power competition has actually increased the likelihood of a war over fish. The past 17 years of the fight against terrorism, and Washington’s renewed focus on developing high-end capabilities to prepare for great-power conflict, have led to a lack of preparation for a low-end, seemingly mundane but increasingly likely source of conflict in the world: food.

Strategic Superiority for the Modern Era

By Krisjand Rothweiler

It seems a common idea in current thinking that the challenges we must deal with in today’s security environment, particularly those related to information and cyber warfare, are somehow new and different from challenges in the past.[1] A single actor can have an outsized impact through digital technology, and state-sponsored information warfare appears nearly unstoppable. However, while the tools and impacts are perhaps novel, the theme of these challenges appear to have a familiar ring. In reading the thoughts and words of General Thomas S. Power, third commander of Strategic Air Command and successor of General Curtis LeMay, on deterrence, nuclear warfare, and strategic planning, I began to realize the adversaries of today are still human, and the threats of today may not be so conceptually different from those of the Cold War. By looking back at how a previous generation of strategists considered and communicated their strategic challenges in context, we may be able to gain insights into how to address these modern threats. 21st Century Power: Strategic Superiority for the Modern Era, a contribution to the 21st Century Foundations series from the U.S. Naval Institute Press edited by Brent D. Ziarnick, is a useful resource toward that end.

Can Blockchain Technology Bring Smooth Seas to Global Shipping?

Distributed ledger technology has the potential to substantially increase the efficiency of the global shipping industry by lowering costs and shortening transit times. First movers will compete to set standards and promote the widespread adoption of the technology needed to realize its full potential to change the industry. Because of the size and overwhelming importance of the Chinese market to global trade, Beijing and Chinese companies developing blockchain platforms for the shipping industry will hold the upper hand over many of their Western counterparts.

The Sports World Is Keeping an Eye on Drones

By Thomas M. Hunt

After I recently asked my twin sons for ideas for fun activities they might want to do with me independent of one another, one suggested he'd love to build a model airplane or to perhaps try flying a drone aircraft. His suggestion made me recall my own childhood fascination with aviation, and we agreed to visit a hobby store soon. Our conversation also sparked thoughts about how the incredible growth of the drone industry might fit into the wider world of sports.

2018 is the End of Social Media as we Know It

Michael K. Spencer

Teens are now hyper aware of their mobile addiction and app consumption patterns. They are trying to cut the habit. This is resulting in a great exodus from older apps such as Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram in favor of niche apps that are peer- or video-centric. YouTube and Snapchat will be big winners here.

The Death of Trust in Social Media

The era of trusting to get our news on social media is pretty much over, thanks to a number of controversies. This even as startups are seeking to leave Silicon Valley. The region’s prohibitive cost of living is sending startups and workers packing. According to The Economist, 46% of Bay Area residents say they plan to leave the area in the next few years, up from 34% in 2016.

Smartphones in the classroom: say yes!

I did it again.

I promised myself that I would make a return to social media after a 2-year hiatus if I could manage to steer clear of any drama. “It will be fine,” I told myself. “Just engage in twitter chats with like-minded educators and your feed will be wholesome and pure.” Well. It only took about a month before I accidentally got involved in a debate about cell phones in the classroom. I was told that I have “the brain of a child” and that’s why I can’t understand that phones are bad. Hmm.

'The Perfect Weapon'

By Stephen Loosley

The new cold war is being fought in cyberspace on a continuing basis and with ever more sophisticated technologies. The Western powers, principally the United States and its allies, confront growing intrusions from adversaries ranging from Russia and China to Iran and North Korea. The West doesn’t necessarily have clean hands either. In particular, the NSA (National Security Agency) ranges far and wide in the cyber domains not only of adversaries but often of allies. In short, everyone is spying on everybody else; the difference is that some powers are unrestrained and therefore far more hostile in their endeavours than others. This prevailing situation in cyberspace is captured brilliantly by David E. Sanger in his new book, The perfect weapon: war, sabotage, and fear in the cyber age (Crown, New York, 2018). Sanger is a respected journalist with the New York Times who teaches policy on national security at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He also contributes to CNN.

Assessment of the Role of Cyber Power in Interstate Conflict

By Eric Altamura

Eric Altamura is a graduate student in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He previously served for four years on active duty as an armor officer in the United States Army. He regularly writes for Georgetown Security Studies Review and can be found on Twitter @eric_senlu. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. Summary: The targeting of computer networks and digitized information during war can prevent escalation by providing an alternative means for states to create the strategic effects necessary to accomplish limited objectives, thereby bolstering the political viability of the use of force as a lever of state power.

The View From Olympus: Are the Generals Risking their Legitimacy?

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The September 3 New York Times reported that General John Nicholson, our supreme commander in Afghanistan for the last 31 months, in his departing speech as he turned over his command called for an end to the war. Nearly 17 years to the day (since 9/11), now a four-star general departing as the commander of the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, (General Nicholson) stood under the shade of pine trees in Kabul on Sunday, and delivered an emotional farewell. The general. . . said he wanted to speak from the heart. “It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end,” General Nicholson said.

New Age of Autonomous Jet Fighters on Horizon

By Stew Magnuson

The scenario military thinkers propose would double the number of jet fighters in a typical battle formation from four to eight. But instead of the additional aircraft being identical to an F-35 joint strike fighter, or F-15E Strike Eagle, they are low-cost, unmanned jets. One might carry extra air-to-air missiles. Another may only have a sensor suite to boost situational awareness for the pilots in the traditional aircraft. Whatever their payload, the enemy has to contend with double the number of targets on their radars. They have multiple “dilemmas” in front of them, giving U.S. forces an asymmetric advantage.

WORDS OF WAR Decrypting nine new military programs that will change the face of battle.


The U.S. military needs low-cost, operationally flexible killer drones. The answer? Gremlins—unmanned drones just a few yards in length that essentially act in swarms. In combat scenarios, existing aircraft such as C-130 transport planes would deploy an army of gremlins to fight on their behalf and then position themselves at a safe distance. Once the shooting stopped, the transport planes would retrieve the minidrones; each gremlin has an expected lifetime of 20 uses. The gremlins project was launched in 2015, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (better known as DARPA) is currently
testing prototypes.