7 October 2018

India Is Still Losing To China In The Border Infrastructure War – Analysis

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Unless India accelerates the pace of the physical border infrastructure build-up, New Delhi will face serious difficulties in any future confrontation with China.

It has been a year since India and China ended the 73-day border crisis in Doklam. And for all the focus on the crisis itself and its implications for Sino-Indian relations, it is worth recalling that along their border, Doklam is arguably an exception where the Indian military may be perceived to have a slight advantage over the Chinese military because of its slightly better infrastructure there.

Relatively speaking, however, the infrastructure on the rest of the border is quite appalling. Indeed, unless India accelerates the pace of the physical border infrastructure build-up, New Delhi will face serious difficulties in any future confrontation with China.

Strategy and Reality in Afghanistan

By Nathan Jennings

It is time to admit what is self-evident: the strategic foundation of NATO’s campaign in Afghanistan is so fundamentally flawed that it cannot be won. America’s longest war, which endures as a deeply troubled nation-building venture, continues to apply a fatally flawed theory of military victory to a maelstrom of Afghan political, social, and economic problems that Western intervention cannot solve. While war advocates speak of endless “fragile progress,” the truth is that the costly effort is not worth the thousands of lives lost or trillions of dollars spent in pursuit of a failed strategy.

Afghanistan’s Minerals: A Looted Economic Hope for Stability

By Gul Maqsood Sabit

The insurgency in Afghanistan has gained strength and the government’s influence has shrunk despite significant international efforts since 2001 when the world intervened in Afghanistan. Various political, diplomatic, and military approaches have been tried and ample aid has been provided to stabilize the country. However, these efforts have produced few results while entangling the world in an open-ended conflict. To stabilize the country and weaken the insurgency, development partners must address the growing poverty and the government’s inability to financially sustain itself by assisting Afghanistan in managing its vast natural resources. Afghanistan’s resources have been poorly managed and left open for smugglers to loot the country’s wealth while poverty fuels the insurgency. If properly managed, Afghan mineral resources can not only be a stabilizing force but can provide the world with additional resources.

China, Japan and Trump’s America

Joseph S. Nye

The key strategic issue in East Asia is the rise of Chinese power. Some analysts believe that China will seek a form of hegemony in East Asia that will lead to conflict. Unlike Europe, East Asia never fully came to terms with the 1930s, and Cold War divisions subsequently limited reconciliation.

Now US President Donald Trump has launched a trade war with China and negotiations with Japan that take aim at Japan’s trade surplus with the United States. While the recent announcement of bilateral talks postpones Trump’s threat of auto tariffs against Japan, critics worry that Trump may push Japan closer to China, whose president, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to hold a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this month.

China, Japan, and Trump’s America


CAMBRIDGE – The key strategic issue in East Asia is the rise of Chinese power. Some analysts believe that China will seek a form of hegemony in East Asia that will lead to conflict. Unlike Europe, East Asia never fully came to terms with the 1930s, and Cold War divisions subsequently limited reconciliation.

Now US President Donald Trump has launched a trade war with China and negotiations with Japan that take aim at Japan’s trade surplus with the United States. While the recent announcement of bilateral talks postpones Trump’s threat of auto tariffs against Japan, critics worry that Trump may push Japan closer to China, whose president, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to hold a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this month.

Private Businesses Built Modern China. Now the Government Is Pushing Back

HONG KONG — The comments were couched in careful language, but the warning about China’s direction was clear.

China grew to prosperity in part by embracing market forces, said Wu Jinglian, the 88-year-old dean of pro-market Chinese economists, at a forum last month. Then he turned to the top politician in the room, Liu He, China’s economic czar, and said “unharmonious voices” were now condemning private enterprise.

“The phenomenon,” Mr. Wu said, “is worth noting.”

Mr. Wu gave rare official voice to a growing worry among Chinese entrepreneurs, economists and even some government officials: China may be stepping back from the free-market, pro-business policies that transformed it into the world’s No. 2 economy. For 40 years, China has swung between authoritarian Communist control and a freewheeling capitalism where almost anything could happen — and some see the pendulum swinging back toward the government.

The Uyghurs and the Han: 1 World, 2 Universes

By Ruth Ingram

Imagine a world where two separate peoples live side-by-side, but in parallel universes. One sets its clock to Beijing time and the other to Central Asian, two hours behind. The majority population is largely oblivious of and disinterested in the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the other. The cultural and social backgrounds of the two groups are governed by principles so diverse that it has become impossible to live together in peace and thus the government has decided that the only way to achieve its objectives is to clamp down and imprison anyone it deems a threat to the status quo.

This is Xinjiang, a Muslim, so-called autonomous region in the far west of China. The Turkic, largely Islamic people of Xinjiang – most notably the Uyghur minority group — have more in common with their Islamic neighbors in the five Central Asian countries to the west than with atheistic and quasi-Confucian Beijing, which has stepped up an across-the-board sinicization drive under President Xi Jinping. A vocal and sometimes militant Uyghur independence movement has also complicated relations with Beijing and estranged the majority Han, who see Xinjiang as an inalienable part of China.

China’s Armed Drones Are Increasingly Doing Battle Across The Middle East


Middle Eastern countries prohibited from purchasing armed drones from the United States are flocking to another increasingly influential seller in the Chinese government, according to a new report from the Associated Press, sales that “are helping expand Chinese influence across a region vital to American security interests.” 

Chinese drones are increasingly doing battle in the skies above Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Nigeria, Yemen, Iraq, and the UAE thanks to increasing sales, with more than 30 CH-4 unmanned aerial systems worth $700 million being sold to countries since 2014. 

Chinese arms exports increased by 38% from 2008 to 2012 and from 2013 to 2017, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute data cited by the Associated Press. 

China’s Strategic Force Gears Up for Space and Cyber War

BY: Bill Gertz

China's new Strategic Support Force highlights Beijing's growing military might and plans to expand both power and influence using space, cyber, and information warfare in both peacetime and a future high-tech war, according to a Pentagon-sponsored study.

The new force, set up in late 2015, is not part of army, navy, air force, or missile force and is directly under the Communist Party's Central Military Commission, according to a report published this week by the National Defense University.

The force has combined several People's Liberation Army (PLA) advanced warfare and intelligence capabilities into a single unit for the first time, although much of the unit remains shrouded under Chinese military secrecy.

China’s Imperial Project Runs into Resistance

By Brahma Chellaney

Grand on ambition but short on transparency, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s marquee project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), seeks to refashion the global economic and political order by luring nations desperate for infrastructure investments into China’s strategic orbit. The BRI is essentially an imperial project aiming to make real the mythical Middle Kingdom.

The BRI, rolled out in 2013, attracted many countries, as China offered to finance and build major infrastructure projects, including ports, highways, energy plants and railroads. But after a smooth sailing, the BRI is now encountering strong headwinds, as partner-countries worry about China ensnaring them in sovereignty-eroding debt traps.

Chinese Armed Drones Now Flying Across Mideast Battlefields

By Jon Gambrell & Gerry Shih

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — High above Yemen's rebel-held city of Hodeida, a drone controlled by Emirati forces hovered as an SUV carrying a top Shiite Houthi rebel official turned onto a small street and stopped, waiting for another vehicle in its convoy to catch up.

Seconds later, the SUV exploded in flames, killing Saleh al-Samad, a top political figure.

The drone that fired that missile in April was not one of the many American aircraft that have been buzzing across the skies of Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. It was Chinese.

Across the Middle East, countries locked out of purchasing U.S.-made drones due to rules over excessive civilian casualties are being wooed by Chinese arms dealers, who are world's main distributor of armed drones.

Is the U.S.-China Trade War About to Become a Currency War?

By Keith Johnson

Long before he became U.S. president, Donald Trump railed against what he called China’s manipulation of its currency for economic advantage, even when that wasn’t quite true. Now, thanks to Trump’s escalating trade war, China is increasingly tempted to let its currency further slide in value—precisely what the president and the rest of his administration have warned Beijing not to do.

China so far has responded to the Trump administration’s trade war, especially tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, with tariffs of its own on U.S. goods, especially agricultural products. But China is running out of tit for tat responses, as it imports much less from the United States than it exports, leaving Beijing looking at other ways to get back at Washington such as throwing up fresh barriers to U.S. businesses and undermining U.S. foreign-policy goals.

Iraq Has A New Government. Now What?

by Seth Frantzman

The country has faced uncertainty and protests since elections in May. In September, a Sunni Arab Speaker of Parliament was finally chosen. On Tuesday, Barham Salih, a Kurdish member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party, was selected to become the new president. Now Adel Abdul Mahdi will likely become the next prime minister as he seeks to shore up a coalition. 

Abdul Mahdi has a difficult task ahead of him. In Iraq, the prime minister holds the most important and powerful post. The presidency, held by Kurdish leaders since the creation of a new constitution after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, is largely ceremonial.

Erdoğan Visit Highlights Germany's Turkey/Russia Problem

by Burak Bekdil

Turkey's President does it all the time. In 2009, then-prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused China of genocide for the deaths of hundreds of Uighur Turks. Less than a decade later, with his newfound "Eurasianism," Erdoğan's Turkey and President Xi Jinping's China are discussing more trade -- and in their local currencies, rebuffing the dollar.

In 2015, the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Air Force fighter jet along Turkey's troubled border with Syria. Russia responded strongly in 2016 by imposing punishing sanctions on Turkey. At the time, Erdoğan was courting Washington. In fear of further -- and even military -- punishments from Moscow, Erdoğan described Turkey's relations with Washington as a "strategic partnership." 

How Europe Can Reform Its Migration Policy

By Alexander Betts and Paul Collier

Three years since the start of the European refugee crisis, the continent’s politics are still convulsed by disagreements over migration. This is despite the sharp decline in the number of people crossing the Mediterranean into Europe—60,000 between January and August 2018, compared with over one million in 2015 and 350,000 in 2016. The crisis, in short, is not one of numbers but one of trust: European publics believe that migration is out of control and that their leaders have no real plan for handling it.

A New Cold Front in Russia’s Information War

By Reid Standish

KIRKENES, Norway—Early in the day on Dec. 5, 2017, Frode Berg, a 62-year-old pensioner and former border guard from Norway, posted a photo of a snow-covered Red Square on his Facebook page with the caption “Christmas time in Moscow!”

Berg had left his home in Kirkenes, a Norwegian town of about 3,500 people near the country’s 121-mile Arctic border with Russia, a day earlier for a weekend trip to the Russian capital. He said he was visiting friends and doing some Christmas shopping. But he never returned.

Berg was arrested by agents from Russia’s FSB security service, the successor agency to the KGB, who said they found an envelope on him holding 3,000 euros in cash. They accused him of involvement in an elaborate spying operation, dating back to 2015, to obtain information about Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet in the far north.

The Trump administration just ‘reset’ the U.S.-China relationship

By Josh Rogin

The Trump administration has now publicly unveiled its plan to fundamentally shift U.S. strategy toward China. It’s an important acknowledgment that U.S.-China competition is heating up, an overdue admission that the past approach has failed and a national call to action.

Vice President Pence’s landmark speech on U.S.-China relations on Thursday was notable for two reasons. First, it called out the Chinese government for perpetrating a multi-faceted, well-resourced and shady campaign of foreign influence operations on U.S. soil. Second, it placed that campaign in the context of a global competition between the United States and China that is being waged on every continent and in every realm.

Set aside Pence’s claim that the Chinese government is targeting President Trump’s political interests (which is true). The speech’s real significance was its promise that the United States will newly confront Beijing’s worldwide economic and strategic aggression, oppose its internal repression and compel the Chinese government to change its behavior on both fronts.

A New Take on General MacArthur’s Warning to JFK to Avoid a Land War in Asia

By Francis P. Sempa

“Anyone wanting to commit ground troops to Asia should have his head examined,” Kennedy wrote of MacArthur’s advice. 

In April 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy held a private meeting with retired General Douglas MacArthur at MacArthur’s suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. MacArthur, 81, advised the young president, who sought his advice on the conflict in Indochina, to avoid a land war in Asia.

Almost all historians and biographers of MacArthur have interpreted that advice to Kennedy as stemming from his wartime experiences during the Korean War, where U.S. forces achieved only stalemate instead of victory and where MacArthur’s illustrious but controversial military career came to an ignominious end.

Confronting the Reality of Climate Change

In 2014, President Barack Obama famously said, “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.” Four years later, as Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) convened its 11th annual conference, the growing sense of urgency was palpable. The title of the conference said it all: “The End of the World as We Know It: The Consequences of Extreme Climate Disruption for Business and Democracy.” Speakers reviewed the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change, catalogued the dire consequences of insufficient action and examined the ways in which the business community, the military and government at all levels are responding, or failing to respond, to the challenge.

This special report looks at key themes to emerge from the conference, along with additional information, in order to present an overarching view of where the confrontation with climate change stands today. Download the PDF


New Issue: The US Army War College Quarterly – Parameters – U.S. Army War College – Strategic Studies Institute

Special Commentary

by Jacqueline E. Whitt and Elizabeth A. Perazzo

Teaching Strategy

by Andrew A. Hill and Stephen J. Gerras

by Jean-Loup Samaan

What We Learned from Peace Mission 2018

Daniel Urchick

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)’s “Peace Mission” anti-terror exercises are an important tool for understanding how its members, which include China, Russia, India and most of Central Asia, view the regional threat environment and trends. While not as heavily analyzed as the massive Russian Zapad 2017 or Vostok 2018 exercises, analysts should not ignore Peace Mission 2018. For example, Peace Mission exercises provide the Chinese military numerous benefits such as practicing joint and integrated warfare with the closest thing China has to strategic partners. As China continues to expand its expeditionary capabilities, the experience gained from PLA units traveling outside the country helps develop its rising military leadership and logistics planners.

Chinese surveillance chips found in servers used by US technology giants: Report

by Waqas

This can be one of one of the largest corporate spying and hardware hacking campaigns ever launched by a nation-state.

Bloomberg has revealed in its recently published report that a nation-state has launched a significant supply chain attack. It is believed to be one of the largest corporate spying and hardware hacking campaigns ever launched by a nation-state. The espionage campaign is launched through a very small surveillance chip, which is only the size of a grain of rice. This chip is hidden in the servers currently in use by about 30 US firms including the bigwigs Apple, Amazon, and Elemental.

According to Bloomberg, these chips weren’t part of the server motherboard originally. These have been designed by Super Micro, a US-based firm. Reportedly, the malicious chips were inserted when the server motherboards were undergoing manufacturing process, which was carried out in China by their subcontractors.

The Necessary Authority to Counter Drone Threats

By Nicholas Weaver 

On Aug. 4, as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gave a speech in front of the ranks of the Venezuelan National Guard, two DJI Matrice M600 drones took to the sky. Each drone was armed with a little less than a kilogram of explosives, their operators seemingly intent on assassinating Maduro.

The effort was unsuccessful. One drone crashed into a building while the other appeared to explode in mid air; Maduro was unharmed. But amazingly, should someone try a similar attack in the United States, federal officers do not have sufficient legal authority to stop the drone in progress. The current version of the bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contains language that would enable federal authorities to directly counter these threats.


By Jason Koebler

The controversial cybersecurity bill known as the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives last week, will almost certainly be shelved by the Senate, according to a representative of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The bill would have allowed the federal government to share classified “cyber threat” information with companies, but it also provided provisions that would have allowed companies to share information about specific users with the government. Privacy advocates also worried that the National Security Administration would have gotten involved.

GPS Alternatives: Another Conundrum for Army

By Stew Magnuson

The Army in 2017 listed “the network” as one of its six modernization priorities. Included as a subset of that category was “precision navigation and timing.”

As adversaries improve their ability to wage war in space and jam GPS signals, the service is contemplating how it will function if this crucial capability is degraded or eliminated.

Seth Spoenlein, deputy director of the space and terrestrial communications directorate at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, said the difficulty is that it’s a different problem set for each of the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality.


The Defense Department has become fascinated with Artificial Intelligence (AI), and rightly so, as this technology will be as transformative as electricity was a century ago. This paper proposes that the convergence of AI and information operations (IO) represents a greater strategic liability than computationally similar applications—physical adaptations, like drone swarms, and informational applications, such as intelligence process optimization—that have drawn so much budgetary attention. Using a hypothetical “Influence Machine,” the article explores evolving techniques that achieved near-human acuity on many influence tasks. With all the necessary data essentially pre-structured, machine learning can perform these tasks at a massive scale. Using the historical parallel of the impact of the printing press during the Reformation, the author unpacks the exponential potential of emerging influence systems. He also examines how, applied during a time of crisis, such tools may provide a strategic defeat mechanism. In conclusion, he provides two broad recommendations and three specific techniques as examples of the kind of innovation needed to out-disseminate opponents—at scale. Regardless of what course U.S. competitors pursue, Influence Machines will progress and proliferate because the attention trade is highly lucrative. Future IO systems, built by competitors and corporations alike, will be able to simultaneously monitor and affect tens of thousands of people at once, but the Pentagon’s current efforts to integrate AI lack sufficient IO functionality. The pieces are already there, waiting for an adversary to assemble its own Influence Machine, for which disinformation is simply a user setting.

What Taylor Swift Teaches Us About Online War


Taylor Swift’s Instagram comments fell with the power of precision air strikes.

“You have the prettiest, wildest, most child like eyes,” the superstar wrote to a young fan dealing with boy troubles. “Feel good about being the kind of person who loves selflessly. I think someday you’ll find someone who loves you in that exact way.”

And to another, a 16-year-old fan who’d just gotten her driver’s license: “YES! You passed!!!!!!!! So stoked for you. ‘Don’t text and drive’ is an obvious piece of advice but people usually forget to tell you 1) don’t eat and drive 2) don’t apply mascara and drive 3) never let a small animal such as a cat roam free in your car. I’m not saying any of this from personal experience. I repeat. None of that happened to me.”

The Tale of the Tail that Wagged the Dog: #Reviewing Integrating the U.S. Military

By Geoffrey W. Jensen

Throughout American military history, the armed forces established bulwarks of exclusion designed to prevent, limit, or prohibit outright the service of select minority groups. The military establishment did this for a host of reasons—racial, sexual, and gender based bigotry, for example—but they also believed the inclusion of minority groups would weaken the military efficiency of a squad, platoon, unit, army, or the entirety of the armed forces. Additionally, the leadership of the armed forces maintained concerns over interjecting the military into larger social issues and often sought to avoid becoming a sociological laboratory in any shape, form, or fashion. Lastly, they fostered an earnest desire not to bite the conservative hands—in this case, conservative members of Congress who occupied seats on some of the most prevalent military committees—that controlled its pursue strings. This does not mean there were not those within the ranks who recognized the talents, say, of African American soldiers. More often than not, however, they were in the minority. Their opinions on the matter only reached the vanguard when the necessity of the moment demanded it. As with all change, it did not happen all at once. Nor did it happen rapidly or as progressively as desired. But, change did happen.

When Will the Next War Erupt in the Middle East?

By Mohammed Ayoob

The signs are ominous—especially in Israel and its neighbours, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Violence, both actual and rhetorical, has been escalating on all three fronts. Gaza could become the immediate flash point as the Palestinians’ ‘March of Return’, which began on 30 March, intensifies and Israeli retaliation becomes increasingly lethal.

On 28 September, 20,000 Palestinians marched to the Gaza–Israel border and seven of them were killed by Israeli bullets. Such confrontations are now becoming an almost daily occurrence. The march began as a civil-society movement born of the mounting economic and political frustrations over the Israeli blockade of the territory that has made life in Gaza ‘poor, nasty, brutish and short’.

A staggering number of troops are fat and tired, report says

By: J.D. Simkins

The study, featuring roughly 18,000 randomly selected participants across each of the service branches, showed that almost 66 percent of service members are considered to be either overweight or obese, based on the military’s use of body mass index as a measuring standard.

While the number of overweight service members is a cause for concern, it correlates with the obesity epidemic plaguing the United States, where, as of 2015, one in three young adults are considered too fat to enlist, creating a difficult environment for recruiters to find suitable candidates for military service.

Broken down by service, the 2018 report lists the Army as the branch accounting for the highest percentage of overweight troops, with 69.4 percent of soldiers falling under this category.