12 October 2018

How India saved the Empire in the First World War

Andrew Lycett

Indian participation in the First World War has had a poor press. Less than two decades ago, John Keegan, doyen of military historians, voiced a generally held professional opinion when he dismissed the Indian army as "scarcely suitable" for the Western front. George Morton-Jack's fluent and colourful account of the Indians' role across the globe tells a different story. It shows how crucial they were to Allied success, especially early in the conflict. Lord Curzon, the former Viceroy, said that they "arrived in the nick of time", while the pugnacious Conservative politician F E Smith stated unequivocally that they "saved the Empire".

We Can't Win—and Don't Have To—in Afghanistan

By Charles V. Peña

This month marks the anniversary of America's longest war: 17 years in Afghanistan. On this anniversary we must ask, why are we still engaged in what amounts to a forever war? Even before he was a candidate for president, celebrity citizen Donald Trump tweeted in 2013: "We should leave Afghanistan immediately" and "Let's get out of Afghanistan." But he's done a complete reversal as president. In August 2017, President Trump acknowledged that his “original instinct was to pull out" but that "our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives." Indeed, the president declared, "We will fight to win,” but what President Trump needs to understand is that we can't win and, more importantly, we don't have to win.

When America forgets about those who are dying in Afghanistan


While most of America has been fixated on the Kavanaugh accusations and the Senate’s embarrassing attempt to handle those, the eighth U.S. service member of 2018 was killed in America’s longest war on Thursday. You likely didn’t hear about it in the news unless you saw a defense reporter tweet about it or you know a veteran who mentioned it. A single U.S. death in Afghanistan no longer draws media attention because Americans have become apathetic to the never-ending conflict, which has allowed our elected representatives to become indifferent to any sort of sustainable solution or realistic withdrawal.

Nepal: Getting federalism right

by Madhukar SJB Rana

So far, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision for "cooperative federalism" was a commitment shown in public that has not been realised through action and outcome. Under his leadership, his party, the BJP, is forced to pursue a polity without an inclusive outlook. Precisely, all that was said was not done. Of late, Niti Aayog is holding the baton to seek a bottom up development through its "Aspirational Districts Programme"The programme aims to quickly and effectively transform the selected districts. The broad contours of the programme are convergence (of Central & State Schemes), collaboration (of Central, State level 'Prabhari' Officers & District Collectors), and competition among districts driven by a mass movement. With States as the main drivers, this program will focus on the strength of each district, identify low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts.

China's economic warfare can be just as damaging to U.S.

By L. Todd Wood

As the trade wars with Beijing slog on, we’re learning that China may have infected thousands of American computers in business and in government with tiny microchips in a massive exercise in espionage. As with past episodes of total war, we are in the beginning stages of an all-encompassing conflict with China, waged with economic weapons that can be just as powerful as bullets and bombs when deployed properly. Chinaunderstands how to wage economic warfare very well and has had lots of practice — largely uncontested by the U.S. government — over the last few decades. America is starting to wake up, but it may be too late.

China’s Human Rights Abuses Against Uighurs in Xinjiang

By Hilary Hurd

During a 2013 trip to Kazakhstan, Xi Jinping announced the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI)—China’s ambitious plan to enhance its “friendship” with the rest of the world through expanded investments in infrastructure and trade. Xinjiang, a resource-rich autonomous region in Northwest China lying at the border of Kazakhstan and seven other central Asian countries, was to be a crucial economic artery for this new world-embracing plan. Five years later, Xinjiang looks nothing like Xi’s vision of an internationally cooperative, friendly China. Under the guise of “fighting terrorism,” China has created a large-scale program for the mass surveillance, incarceration and re-education of Xinjiang’s Turkic-speaking Muslims, the Uighurs, as well as other minority groups. These actions clearly contravene China’s international commitments as well as its own domestic law—but it’s unclear what actions the international community will take in response.

China's Just Been Caught Spying. Or Has It?

By Matthew Bey

The accuracy of a report that China inserted specialized chips in electronic hardware used by the U.S. government and major companies still needs to be verified. Nevertheless, the United States will use the claim as evidence in its wider campaign against China, both domestically and abroad, while working to secure critical aspects of its supply chain. Though Washington may wish to untangle the interwoven supply chains between the United States and China, companies will not do so by themselves, meaning the government will have to enact new regulations if it wishes to enforce change.

U.S. Puts Money Where Its Mouth Is on China


The Trump administration is touting as momentous its shift in military focus away from counterterrorism to competition with peer adversaries such as China—and its boost in military spending to confront Beijing’s economic and military heft. But caps on defense spending and possible setbacks for Republicans in the U.S. midterm elections in November could put the new strategy in jeopardy. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan outlined the new national defense strategy to a small group of reporters at the Pentagon last week, describing it as “historic.” “It is the beginning of the retooling of the Department of Defense for great-power competition,” he said.

Trump’s US ‘deal’ with the EU puts pressure on China in trade war


The distance between Washington and Beijing is more than 11,000 kilometers or nearly 7,000 miles. But it could be light years when it comes to the deteriorating trade dispute between the United States and China. During the past 24 hours, the chasm has deepened after President Donald Trump appeared to take relations between the US and the European Union out of the deep freeze following crucial White House talks. As discussions were about to start with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to resolve the EU trade spat, China’s President Xi Jinping was making his keynote speech at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg with the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa in attendance.

Will Israel and Iran Go To War in Syria?

By Daniel Byman

Israel was dealt a bad hand when it comes to regional security, and Syria is the latest—and trickiest—card in the deck. On the one hand, the weakness of the Bashar al-Assad regime diminishes a leader whose country has never reconciled its past conflicts and territorial disputes with Israel and often proved a remorseless foe. On the other hand, Iran and Hezbollah are exploiting Syria’s instability, and Israelis fear the country will become a new launching pad for Iranian influence and attacks—essentially, another Lebanon. Ehud Yaari, a respected Israeli analyst, describes the risk of war between Iran and Israel in Syria as “almost inevitable.”

Predicting the Next ISIS

by Colin P. Clarke

With the Islamic State’s caliphate in ruins, one of its affiliates could grow to become even more deadly and operationally capable than the core organization was during its peak in 2015. With ISIS franchise groups and affiliates across the globe, there is no shortage of contenders to supplant ISIS as the world’s most dangerous terrorist group. Many factors could fuel the rise of a new Islamic State (ISIS) offshoot, including the relative weakness of the security forces in the area where the terrorists are operating, so it difficult to discern which affiliate could become the next major threat. Additionally, measuring the threat will require an intimate understanding of an affiliates’ capabilities, the degree to which safe haven and sanctuary are available, and the relative ease with which the group can replenish its resources.

Does Japan Need an Aircraft Carrier?


In 1983, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone promised U.S. President Ronald Reagan that he would make Japan into an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” The irony was, and remains, that Japan has not possessed an actual aircraft carrier in more than 70 years. But that may soon change. The Japanese government is debating retrofitting a class of destroyers to turn them into aircraft carriers. Beyond answering the expected questions of whether such ships would violate its constitution, Japan will need to decide whether the operational need offsets what is expected to be a significant resource strain.

Austria Ignores Threat of Iranian Islamism

by Potkin Azamehr

In June 2018, the Austrian government announced it would shut down seven mosques and expel sixty imams, because of their putative links to Salafi-jihadists or Turkish regime networks. The government’s decision was made in the wake of a 2015 law that banned foreign funding of religious institutions and required Muslim organizations to express a “positive approach towards the society and the state” of Austria. Austria’s determination to clamp down on Sunni Islamist extremism and the Turkish regime network was applauded by some, including prominent think tanks, but condemned by a number of American media outlets. Few have noted, however, that while Sunni extremists are under the spotlight, Shiite Islamists continue to operate with impunity.

The Agreements That Ended the Cold War Are Disintegrating

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) was probably the Alliance’s most important and secretive institution during the Cold War. Notably, it worked out NATO members’ joint strategy and tactics for using non-strategic nuclear weapons in a possible all-European war with the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. Such a confrontation seemed all too possible—and sometimes almost inevitable—during acute crisis situations that brought the Cold War opponents to the brink in 1949, 1956, 1962, 1973 and 1983. In the last of the aforementioned crises, tensions spiked as the United States deployed nuclear-tipped land-based cruise missiles as well as medium-range Pershing II ballistic missiles on the territory of several European NATO allies to counter the threat of the deployment of hundreds of Soviet SS-20 nuclear intermediary missiles known in Russia as Pioneer. The Soviets produced over 800 Pioneer missiles, and each carried a heavier payload than the Pershing IIs; but their US counterparts were stealthier and much more accurate.

Will New Technologies Help or Harm Developing Countries?


Trade and technology present an opportunity when they are able to leverage existing capabilities, and thereby provide a more direct and reliable path to development. When they demand complementary and costly investments, they are no longer a shortcut around traditional manufacturing-led development. CAMBRIDGE – New technologies reduce the prices of goods and services to which they are applied. They also lead to the creation of new products. Consumers benefit from these improvements, regardless of whether they live in rich or poor countries.

Who Wins in Trump’s Trade War?


US President Donald Trump has set the scene for an escalating trade confrontation with China, with all of its weighty and unforeseeable geo-strategic implications. But, for the rest of the world – and especially the European Union – the best outcome might be a long Sino-American conflict. The contours of US President Donald Trump’s trade strategy are becoming clearer by the day. America’s trading partners face dramatic threats. But, as the revamp of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the “reform” and renaming of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) demonstrate, most countries need to offer only minor concessions to appease Trump. The only country Trump really cares about – his “public enemy number one” – is China.

Takeaways from the Trump administration’s new counterterrorism strategy

Daniel L. Byman

Like many of its predecessors, the strategy document is often short on specifics, so it’s hard to make too many judgments. However, it correctly warns about the continued danger of the Islamic State even as the group has suffered major losses in Syria and Iraq, the more limited threat posed by al-Qaida affiliates, and the risks that state sponsors of terror like Iran pose to U.S. interests. In addition to standard post-9/11 policies like trying to deny terrorist havens, it also calls for fighting the “hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism,” working with the technology sector and religious leaders, and otherwise taking a broad approach to the problem and to potential solutions.

Geopolitics Keeps Pushing Turkey and Israel Back Together

Turkey and Israel's strategic alliance in the Middle East, fostered by their shared aim to limit Iran and prevent Arab states from aligning against them, will preserve their relationship through most external shocks. Intensifying U.S. efforts to find regional allies it can rely on to contain Iran helps keep the two countries together. Turkey's defense of Palestinian statehood will always be a caustic wedge between the two: While it provides Turkey with important credibility in the Muslim world, it conflicts with Israel’s defense strategy. 

U.S. Auto Tariffs Would Deliver a Particularly Painful Sting to South Korea

Although South Korea renegotiated its free trade agreement with the United States this year, it failed to secure protection from threatened U.S. tariffs on automobiles.  While South Korean auto manufacturing on U.S. shores provides the sector with some insulation, with its reliance on the U.S. market, tariffs would have sweeping effects. However, South Korea's smaller market for imports means that it cannot hope to eliminate the trade deficit. South Korea is likely to offer some sort of side agreement capping auto exports, while also dangling the prospect of stepping up its purchases of U.S. goods and its investment in the country.

Russia is Winning the Information War in Iraq and Syria: UK General


Moscow is “better than us” in using social media to shape the strategic landscape, says a former deputy commander of the West’s anti-ISIS coalition. A senior general in the international fight against ISIS has a pointed warning for Western governments with troops in Iraq and Syria: You’re being played by the Russians. The Russian and Syrian regimes are mounting “extremely aggressive” information operations, spreading disinformation and distorted narratives on social media in a bid to shape the strategic landscape as the ISIS fight comes to a close, said UK Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, who just finished a year as deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Takeaways from the Trump administration’s new counterterrorism strategy

Daniel L. Byman

Like many of its predecessors, the strategy document is often short on specifics, so it’s hard to make too many judgments. However, it correctly warns about the continued danger of the Islamic State even as the group has suffered major losses in Syria and Iraq, the more limited threat posed by al-Qaida affiliates, and the risks that state sponsors of terror like Iran pose to U.S. interests. In addition to standard post-9/11 policies like trying to deny terrorist havens, it also calls for fighting the “hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism,” working with the technology sector and religious leaders, and otherwise taking a broad approach to the problem and to potential solutions.

How Russian hybrid warfare changed the Pentagon’s perspective

By: Justin Lynch  

In 2014 Russia-backed separatists used a blend of digital and traditional fighting during their takeover of Crimea, and the Pentagon took note. As the Russians blitzed the contested eastern region of Ukraine with cyberattacks, electromagnetic jamming and unmanned aerial systems, the U.S. military closely monitored the battle tactics, according to officials speaking Oct. 8 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meetingWhat Pentagon officials observed sparked change. The events in Ukraine helped the U.S. military become more “threat informed in how we develop our future capabilities,” Maj. Gen. Garrett Yee told reporters while speaking about electronic and cyber warfare. How the Russians embraced hybrid warfare showed just how effective overlapping these tactics could be.

New Report Says Pentagon Cyber Security Is A Huge Dumpster Fire


It only took an hour for Defense Department hackers to gain access to a weapons system, and just a day to gain full control over it, according to a new Government Accountability Office report warning the Pentagon that it’s “just beginning to grapple with the scale of vulnerabilities” in its arsenal. As DoD systems become increasingly more high-tech and interconnected, the problem of adversaries being able to defeat the military’s weapons systems without firing a shot has only gotten worse over the years. The unclassified report didn’t mention vulnerabilities in specific weapons systems, for obvious reasons, but it did make clear that DoD isn’t doing enough to address the problem. Indeed, the GAO included a table showing a number of warnings it has offered on the issue going back to the 1990s.

The View From Olympus: What’s an Army For?

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Both the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps are failing to meet their recruiting and end-strength goals. One obvious reason is the hot economy which offers plenty of jobs. A less obvious cause, mentioned to me by a friend in the National Guard, is the effect on recruiting of the endless television ads about “wounded warriors”. These ads bring home to young men the unpleasant reality that joining the military can lead to life-changing injuries. A third cause is the endless, pointless wars we continue to pursue in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Whatever the initial rationale for these conflicts was, most people have since forgotten it, including both the decision-makers in Washington and the young men in the recruiting pool. Who wants to sign up to fight halfway around the world for a cause no one can remember?

This new approach to powering the soldier could transform capabilities

By: Todd South 

And with each new device or capability comes not only more weight and space on the kit, but another item that needs a processor and powerThat translates to a host of burdens on not just the soldier, but also on the long logistical tail that supplies the dismounted troop on the front edge of battle. Traditionally, the focus was to reduce battery weight, extend battery life, and shave ounces on everything to save pounds overall. That work continues, but one budding initiative is taking a different approach. A new program at Program Executive Office Soldier seeks to look at the soldier’s kit much like a smartphone, and the individual items as the apps that are downloaded to give the system new capabilities.