15 February 2019

Studying international relations in India

Shivshankar Menon

This transcript of the Keynote Address was delivered by Shivshankar Menon, Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings India at the All-India International and Area Studies Convention 2019 at Jawaharlal Nehru University on January 30, 2019.

Thank you for asking me to the All India International and Area Studies Convention 2019. You have chosen an ambitious topic: “Ascending India: Reflections on Global and Regional Dimensions” and have a packed agenda in the next three days.

I must confess to being a bit surprised at being asked to speak to this convention, and to be given the honour of a keynote address. The last time I was asked to the convention in 2013, I spoke in some detail about what I thought was wrong with IR studies in India. I spoke about the disconnect between theory and practice, about the apparent irrelevance and over-reliance on methodology and theory to the exclusion of fine work that could be done in the archives, and about what I saw as the absence of quality in Indian IR studies. I will not repeat what I said then as it lives forever on the web and you can google it if you are interested. But you can see why I am surprised to be asked back.

Engaging Trump’s America


As 2018 drew to a close, the United States and China seemed to have paused the escalation of the trade war between the two largest economies. Whether this is a mere reprieve or a substantial recalibration of their economic relationship remains to be seen. Yet the underlying sources of tension continue to bubble up. The detention in Canada of the Chief Financial Officer of the Chinese mobile giant Huawei on charges of violating US sanctions on Iran was a reminder of the growing intensity of the rivalry in the US-China relationship. 

Srinath Raghavan is a senior fellow at Carnegie India. His primary research focus is on the contemporary and historical aspects of India’s foreign and security policies.

India has so far been relatively insulated from US President Donald Trump’s mercurial trade and foreign policies. But it would be unwise for New Delhi to assume that against the backdrop of a mounting US-China rivalry, Washington will continue to regard India as an important partner worthy of special treatment. Even if the Trump administration cuts some slack to India, the larger problems posed by his approach to global politics will inevitably impinge on ties with India. Take the fallout of Trump’s decision to tear up the nuclear agreement with Iran and reimpose sanctions on that country.

Land Reform a Game-Changer that Narendra Modi Government has Overlooked


In the run-up the big 2019 elections, the last few months of the Narendra Modi-led government seem to have been defined by a prevailing agrarian crisis. While the Centre, the opposition and the state governments jostle to provide fiscal support and farm loan waivers, fundamental reform for land use is being overlooked. It has a cascading effect on productivity, growth, and access to credit.

Anirudh Burman is a senior research analyst at Carnegie India. He works on key issues relating to public institutions, public administration, the administrative and regulatory state, and state capacity.

Land reform should be a core priority for any government aiming to meaningfully improve the agricultural situation. Yet, an examination of the present government’s track record highlights its failure to develop a holistic vision for reforming the land market.

Uniqueness Of India In The 5KR Age – Analysis

By Umberto Sulpasso

India is a country with unique opportunity of economic growth in what I call the 5KR (Fifth Knowledge Revolution) of modern times. But to assert this peculiar and historically most congruent role for one of most populated countries in the world, that is a country that always had a driving vision of the role of knowledge (let’s not forget Veda means knowledge), we need to set up a new specific statistical instrument that I have called GDKP – Gross Domestic Knowledge Product. In the age of 5KR that we are living in, GDKP-INDIA is not only a most modern notion of wealth of nation, based on the most precious man-made raw material, namely, Knowledge, but also the key tool to assure a higher growth of physical wealth of nation captured by GDP.

But in order to achieve those goals through new metrics there is a peculiarity connected to such a man-made raw material that we have first to properly appreciate: Knowledge in Cyber Space. This is the most revolutionary modification of knowledge in human history ever since the invention of writing. Writing changed forever human history, 5KR will do the same in a few decades. 5KR is such a revolutionary change in knowledge, that as it happened with the invention of writing, will produce radical changes in politics, security and economy and as consequence of 5KR human life will not be the same.

Afghans upset at being left out of peace talks


The recent round of talks between the US government and Taliban leaders in Qatar has renewed hopes for peace in Afghanistan, a country plagued by nearly four decades of war.

However, peace talks with the militant group also raised concerns among Afghan citizens with regard to the political and social achievements of the last 18 years, made after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

In talks held last week the US’ special envoy for peace, Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban leaders reportedly agreed to an initial framework of the eventual peace negotiations — these meetings are being referred to as “talks of talks” within Afghan political circles.

Afghan Women Are ‘Not Willing to Give Up Their Rights’


Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the United States, Rahmani took up her post in December, just as President Donald Trump was announcing his intention to withdraw U.S. troops from her country.

Since then, American diplomats have been racing to seal a peace deal with the Taliban that would end the longest war in U.S. history—and decades of civil strife in Afghanistan.

This week, Rahmani sat down with Foreign Policy to discuss what a deal with the Taliban would mean for Afghans’ civil rights, whether it is possible to trust the militant group, and the staggering battlefield losses being absorbed by Afghan security forces.

Foreign Policy: The United States and the Taliban are touting the current round of negotiations as the most serious peace effort in almost a decade, but, so far, the Afghan government has been excluded. Is it possible that some deal can be negotiated through the Americans?

Can Pakistan Ride the New Tech Wave?


Technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are the key ingredients for economic success in the twenty-first century, as the US and China are demonstrating. If Pakistan can also realize its huge untapped potential in these fields, the result could be a more dynamic country that is better placed to solve many of its other problems.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – In the old days, it was the discovery of natural resources, such as gold or hydrocarbons, that drove the world’s most dynamic economies. Today, it’s technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. As we all know by now, a one- or two-person tech start-up with no physical assets can become a multi-billion-dollar company and transform entire industries, almost in the blink of an eye.

The Middle Kingdom Is Dead; Long Live A Global China


It’s one of the fundamental questions about China and its future place in the world: does the great civilization still view the world through the traditional lens of the Middle Kingdom or does the world face a new China, unbound by many of the structures under which it has operated for most of the last 2,000 years. The answer offered here is by Dickson Yeo, a Singaporean scholar steeped in Chinese history, culture and politics. Dickson is a Ph.D candidate at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.Read on! The Editor.

Even as as China marches towards economic dominance in Eurasia, the realities of global competition have created a briar patch for China’s central planners. 

Historically, China’s Confucian planners have preferred to view the world through a Middle Kingdom paradigm, favoring self-sufficiency and a coordinated economy which sought to expand domestic production. But the stuggle for natural resources and global chains of supply have forever shattered this stucture, forcing Beijing to rethink its model.

China's Problems Hit It All at Once

Mark Gongloff

Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.

The most-read story on the Bloomberg Terminal today is about how two big Chinese companies apparently failed to make key debt payments this month, as bond defaults and corporate failures surge across the country. This is happening while trade negotiators are in Beijing trying to hammer out a deal to avert big U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods starting next month. J. Kyle Bass and Daniel Babich of Hayman Capital Management – the hedge fund that made big, correct bets on subprime mortgages ahead of the crisis – write this is a golden opportunity for President Donald Trump to wring concessions from China.

Do Huawei and Chinese High-Tech companies pose a threat?

Chinese telecom firm Huawei has repeatedly been in the headlines, and not just because of the pending extradition case of its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou from Canada to the USA. In fact, numerous countries are expressing fears over national security threats that Chinese firms, such as Huawei, pose.

As an example, the Australian Parliament reported an effort to hack into its computer network. A statement on February 8 said, "Following a security incident in the parliamentary computing network, a number of measures have been implemented to protect the network and its users. All users have been required to change their passwords."

No culprit has been named, but the media was quick to report that a foreign government might have been behind the Australian attack. Nevertheless, the event illustrates the danger that the computer networks are facing theats from hostile state actors.

China’s Aging Population Is a Major Threat to Its Future


A passing typhoon has just tickled southern China’s Hainan Island, churning the sea into angry peaks. One glance is enough for Li An Xiao and Zhao Zhi Ping to cancel their customary 7 a.m. swim, the kind of unspoken agreement that comes with half a century of happy marriage.

Instead, they join dozens of other retirees performing calisthenics at the adjacent exercise park, where one silver-haired gent nonchalantly hangs upside down from the monkey bars.

Li was once a hydro-engineer in China’s arid northwestern province of Gansu. Today, the 85-year-old is enjoying a leisurely retirement with Zhao, 75, on the volcanic island that is Asia’s closest equivalent to Florida. Lunch at noon, a 3 p.m. dip in their apartment complex’s hot tub, perhaps a nap and, typhoon permitting, back to the beach for a sunset swim. “We love it here,” he says. “Just look at all the trees and flowers! The sea air means we’ve never felt healthier.”

“We must be prepared for clearer Chinese presence in our neighborhood”

By Thomas Nilsen

Presented in Oslo on Monday, the annual military intelligence report assesses threats and security analyses seen with Norwegian eyes. Chief Director of the intelligence service spent much of his time on the rapid changing security situation in the Arctic.

“The focus on military-power development and the conflict with the West, makes Russia to a larger extent turns towards China for support to development of infrastructure,” Morten Haga Lunde said and pointed to Yamal LNG and shipping along the Northern Sea Route.

He underlined the growing military cooperation between Russia and China.

“In the long term, we must be prepared for a clearer Chinese presence also in our neighboring areas,” Haga Lunde said in his presentation.

A U.S.-China Trade Deal Is Coming, but How Big Will It Be?

Kimberly Ann Elliott

Washington and Beijing are a little over two weeks away from their self-imposed March 1st deadline to reach a sweeping trade agreement that addresses China’s alleged unfair trade practices. If they fail, and the current truce in their trade war ends with no deal, the costs will be substantial for both sides. The United States imports more goods from China than any country in the world—roughly $500 billion in 2017—and a breakdown in the talks could lead to even higher tariffs on at least half of that. Right now, under the tariffs steadily imposed by President Donald Trump, the U.S. Customs Service is collecting additional duties of 10 percent on $200 billion in imports from China and 25 percent on another $50 billion. If no deal is reached by March, the 10 percent tariffs will also rise to 25 percent. 

China does not import enough goods from the U.S.—$130 billion total in 2017—to match Trump dollar for dollar. But Beijing retaliated with an equivalent 25 percent tariff on $50 billion in American exports in the first round of this fight, and tariffs of 5 percent to 10 percent on another $60 billion in the second round. The Chinese authorities also have many other ways to make life miserable for companies operating in China or trying to export there. Since the trade war began, some American firms have reported shipments being held up in Chinese ports and having to undergo far more extensive inspections than before. 

The Salafi-Jihadist Movement Is Winning

By Katherine Zimmerman

U.S. President Donald Trump crowed victory over the so-called Islamic State in his State of the Union Address. Like so many before it, his claim was premature. The United States and its partners have indeed reduced the Islamic State’s control of territory to about 20 square miles in Syria, down from the more than 35,000 square miles the group controlled at the peak of its expansion. The Islamic State’s black flag no longer flies over land it governs. Meanwhile here in America, homegrown terrorist attacks seem to be tapering off, and neither al Qaeda nor the Islamic State has pulled off another 9/11-style attack. Many observers, including the president, look at these outcomes and deem the terrorist threat finished -- but our enemies take a different view. They think they’re winning, and they are right.

Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and many similar groups define success as being accepted or at least tolerated by Sunni populations. These groups are part of the global Salafi-jihadist movement andbelieve they must impose a form of Islam, Salafism, upon the Muslim world, and eventually the entire world, through jihad. The number of Sunni under their governance has always been their principal metric of success.

Russians Lower Their Standards


Year after year, Russians keep getting poorer. According to new data from Russia’s state statistics agency—an organization that is often accused of fudging data in the Kremlin’s favor—2018 marked the fifth straight year in which Russians’ inflation-adjusted disposable incomes fell. Since Russia annexed Crimea in early 2014, in other words, Russians have gotten steadily worse off.

There are several causes, not all of which are in Russia’s control. The country depends heavily on oil and gas exports, so when prices for those fall—as they did in 2014 and 2015—the country’s economy slows. But as oil prices climbed in 2016, Russia’s economy started growing again. Last year, oil prices were relatively high, hovering around $70 per barrel. Thanks largely to that hike, total exports increased 27 percent. That didn’t mean much for ordinary Russians: Oil firms might have done better, but average Russians did worse.

Op-Ed: Russia to unplug from the internet — Good move, perhaps


The disconnection is to be temporary, and “similar to China” according to a haze of not-overly-informative expert analysts. All communications will pass through Russian government-owned facilities. The rationale for this move includes everything from preparation for the likely risks of a war to a move to stricter controls and monitoring of domestic communications.

The administrative logic couldn’t be simpler – If the servers are in Russian territory, they’re under direct regulatory control of the Russian government. You may not be able to plug all the holes, but if you can plug most of them, you’ve got less operational stress on your security.

Of course, there’s a lot more to this approach. Disconnecting doesn’t mean there aren’t external connections and operators who can continue their adorable hobbies outside Russia. Disguised operators using virtual private networks (VPNs) are also not necessarily affected at all. (That said, Russia could use the new national network to crack down on VPNs as China has been doing recently, too.)

Merkel Salvages Nord Stream, But Is Putin Losing Russia's Gas Monopoly?

Paul Gregory

The European Union took a first step with its February 8 vote towards turning Russia’s gas monopoly, Gazprom, from an instrument of Russian power politics into a regulated utility, deprived of its monopoly power. In an odd twist, Germany, the self-proclaimed guardian of European unity, found itself politically isolated from the rest of Europe, which sided with U.S. President Donald Trump. A bitter pill for Germany to swallow.

Meanwhile, Putin and Germany complained that U.S. intervention was exclusively for its own plans to sell its expensive LNG to Europe.

As the European Union (EU) permanent representatives gathered in Brussels on Friday, February 8, to vote on the EU’s Gas Initiative of the Third Energy Package, Russia’s Nord Stream 2 (NS2) undersea pipeline project was in jeopardy. Even Germany’s reliable ally France had declared its intent to vote against the German-Russian project. Without France, Germany could not block an anti-NS2 vote, and an alarmed Angela Merkel swung into diplomatic overdrive. In hasty negotiations, Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron reached a compromise agreement that allows all parties to fight again another day.

Even in US, fight against Huawei faces backlash

In the ongoing US-led fight to clip telecom giant Huawei’s wings, the main line of attack centers on the presumed national-security risk posed by the Chinese firm.

But as Washington urges governments around the globe to shun Huawei, the same question is repeated: Where is the evidence that Huawei poses a risk?

It turns out that even in the US, companies that rely on Huawei’s products are asking that question. And amid reports that the Donald Trump administration is prepared to ban all Huawei gear, people are concerned about the consequences, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

“We’ve obviously been in touch with the administration to make sure they understand whatever they do in that [order] doesn’t have the unintended consequence of hurting rural America,” Carri Bennet, general counsel of the Rural Wireless Association, was quoted as saying. “What nobody in the administration or government or Congress seems to have looked at is how pervasive is all this gear in our networks.”

For Decades, the United States and Russia Stepped Back From the Brink. Until Now.

Before the fear of being blown up on a plane, or a train, or a sidewalk gave millions of people sleepless nights, before the threat of global climate disaster stirred dread, nuclear annihilation was the stuff of nightmares.

By the mid-1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union had amassed 63,000 nuclear weapons, with the promise of mutually assured destruction if even one were ever used, even accidentally.

Then, after years of global protests and skyrocketing budgets, American and Soviet leaders stepped back from the brink and began a process of arms control diplomacy, accelerated by the fall of the Soviet Union, that shrank those arsenals by nearly 90 percent. For decades, that process and that diplomacy continued … until now.

U.S. Shale Oil And Natural Gas, Underestimated Its Whole Life

Jude Clemente

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 1, 2017, file photo, Exxon Mobil Corporation Chairman & CEO Darren Woods, third from left, joins the applause during opening bell ceremonies at the New York Stock Exchange. Woods succeeded Rex Tillerson, following Tillerson's nomination by President Donald Trump to be the next United States Secretary of State. Woods is a veteran of the more cautious refining side of the oil business who is likely to focus relentlessly on controlling costs. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)ASSOCIATED PRESS

I want to write on a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal, "Fracking’s Secret Problem—Oil Wells Aren’t Producing as Much as Forecast," that speaks of an 'illusory picture’ of prospects for the U.S. shale oil and gas industry. The article is based on the same rhetoric that we have been hearing since the industry's takeoff back in 2008: well decline rates are too fast and recoverable reserves are overstated, so a conveyor belt of drilling must be installed to simply maintain production. If not, output inevitably plummets.

The WSJ story could just as easily been written a number of years ago.

Why Nationalism Works And Why It Isn’t Going Away

By Andreas Wimmer

Nationalism has a bad reputation today. It is, in the minds of many educated Westerners, a dangerous ideology. Some acknowledge the virtues of patriotism, understood as the benign affection for one’s homeland; at the same time, they see nationalism as narrow-minded and immoral, promoting blind loyalty to a country over deeper commitments to justice and humanity. In a January 2019 speech to his country’s diplomatic corps, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier put this view in stark terms: “Nationalism,” he said, “is an ideological poison.”

In recent years, populists across the West have sought to invert this moral hierarchy. They have proudly claimed the mantle of nationalism, promising to defend the interests of the majority against immigrant minorities and out-of-touch elites. Their critics, meanwhile, cling to the established distinction between malign nationalism and worthy patriotism. In a thinly veiled shot at U.S. President Donald Trump, a self-described nationalist, French President Emmanuel Macron declared last November that “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.”

Don’t click that link! How criminals access your digital devices and what happens when they do


Every day, often multiple times a day, you are invited to click on links sent to you by brands, politicians, friends and strangers. You download apps on your devices. Maybe you use QR codes.

Most of these activities are secure because they come from sources that can be trusted. But sometimes criminals impersonate trustworthy sources to get you to click on a link (or download an app) that contains malware.

At its core, a link is just a mechanism for data to be delivered to your device. Code can be built into a website which redirects you to another site and downloads malware to your device en route to your actual destination.

Competitive advantage with a human dimension: From lifelong learning to lifelong employability

By Beth Davies, Connor Diemand-Yauman, and Nick van Dam

As AI-enabled automation advances, organizations should embrace “lifelong employability,” which stretches traditional notions of learning and development and can inspire workers to adapt, more routinely, to the evolving economy.

As robots and algorithms continue to become more central to the workplace, workers and employers face the enormous task of figuring out how to cope. No longer is automation a thing of the future: the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimates that half of today’s work activities coordinated by humans could be automated with present-day technology.

If recent experience is any indicator, few organizations or individuals are prepared for such a transition. Already, there’s a significant gap, brought on by digitization and advanced data analytics, between the skills people have and the skills companies need. And existing skill mismatches are nowhere near as significant as the ones automation and artificial intelligence will bring. Demographic changes will also contribute to the challenge. Life expectancy is rising in many countries, along with the retirement age. According to one estimate, half the people born after 1997 in developed countries could live to 100, meaning they will likely spend many more years working—and learning new skills.

Israel Cyber Chief: IDF Repelled Attempted Iranian Missile-Alert Hack

A group of soldiers in the rigorous Cyber Shield defense course. (Photo: IDF)

Iran tried to hack Israel’s missile-alert system more than a year ago, said Israel Defense Forces’ Cyber Defense Division Commander Noam Sha’ar.

In an interview with Israel Hayom’s weekend magazine, Sha’ar said the cyber attack was successfully repelled by his unit, avoiding potentially catastrophic results.

The Homefront Command’s missile-alert system is one of the most sensitive parts of Israel’s civilian and military infrastructure.

Anyone who gains control over the system can set off sirens at will and even disable the highly important features that provide early warning on incoming rockets and missiles.

A Moment of Truth for Cyber Insurance

By Ariel E. Levite, Wyatt Hoffman

For many businesses, cyber risk was once either an amorphous threat or an occasional nuisance. But with reliance on all things digital skyrocketing, cyber threats now pose grave, even existential, dangers to corporations as well as the entire digital economy. In response, companies have begun to develop a cyber insurance market, offering corporations a mechanism to manage their exposure to these risks. Yet the prospects for this market now seem uncertain in light of a major court battle. Mondelez International is reportedly suing Zurich Insurance in Illinois state court for refusing to pay its $100 million claim for damages caused by the 2017 NotPetya attack.

Mondelez’s claim represents just a fraction of the billions of dollars in collateral damage caused by NotPetya, a destructive, indiscriminate cyberattack of unprecedented scale, widely suspected to have been launched by Russia with the aim of hurting Ukraine and its business partners. A compromised piece of Ukrainian accounting software allowed NotPetya to spread rapidly around the world, disrupting business operations and causing permanent damage to property of Mondelez and many others. According to reports, Zurich apparently rejected Mondelez’s claim on the grounds that NotPetya was an act of war and, therefore, excluded from coverage under its policy agreement. If the question of whether and how war risk exemptions apply is left to the courts to decide on a case-by-case basis, this creates a profound source of uncertainty for policyholders about the coverage they obtain.

The Military Says Pashtuns Are Traitors. We Just Want Our Rights.

By Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen

I lost my home in 2009 when a major operation by the Pakistan military forced us to leave our village in South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Around 37 million Pashtuns live in this region that includes the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas — which have now been merged with the province — and parts of southwestern Baluchistan province. Our impoverished region has been desolated by the long war on terrorism.

When I was in high school, we moved to Dera Ismail Khan, a city around 100 miles away. Ours was yet another family among six million people who have been displaced from the region since Pakistan joined the war on terror in 2001. Tens of thousands of Pashtuns have been killed in terror attacks and military operations since.

America's National Defense Strategy and the Paradox of Technology

by Chad C. Serena and Colin P. Clarke

The current national defense strategy emphasizes the role technology will likely play in the United States' ability to compete effectively in future conflicts, especially those against near-peer and peer adversaries. Developing more defensible and robust equipment, information networks and cyber capabilities will likely be critical to most, if not all, future warfighting tasks. This could include using artificial intelligence for target acquisition or network defense and attack, robots and autonomous vehicles for logistics missions, or constellations of satellites for positioning and navigation. A strategy emphasizing these capabilities not only makes sense but is requisite if the United States is to maintain its military prominence. However, if it is devoid of compensatory improvements in the training of basic and time-tested nontechnical or analog skills and tasks, such a strategy could worsen the U.S. military's overreliance on technology.

Why the new Air Force’s cyber and information strategy is a return to the past

By: Jason Healey  

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein with Vice President Mike Pence have overseen a plan to reorient the service's cyber and intelligence program. But some argue it is just a return to the past. 

As a fifth domain, so much of cyberspace can only be understood indirectly or as analogous to things we’re more familiar with. As technological innovation increases, what seems “normal” from one perspective can turn out to be a grave mistake from a different perspective

For the military, trying to determine how to come to terms with cyber and information has been a continuous challenge, as noted by the recent change in the U.S. Air Force cyber missions.

The U.S. Army's New Up-Gunned Stryker Armored Vehicles Have Been Hacked


It’s been more than a year since the first up-gunned Stryker Dragoonarmored vehicles arrived in Europe, giving elements of the U.S. Army’s forward-deployed 2nd Cavalry Regiment a much-needed boost in firepower against potential threats. Since then, unfortunately, unspecified “adversaries” – a term the U.S. military has used in the past to describe the Russians, but that could also mean surrogate opponents during an exercise – have also been able to disrupt certain systems on the vehicles with a cyber attack on at least one occasion.

The Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Test and Evaluation, or DOT&E, revealed the existence of the Stryker Dragoon’s cyber vulnerabilities in its most recent annual report on the status of the vehicle’s ongoing development during the 2018 Fiscal Year. The initial batch of these vehicles, also known as the XM1296 or the Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon (ICV-D), touched down in Germany in December 2017. The Army had begun developing the new variant, which features a new turret with a 30mm automatic cannon, directly in response to a request from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in 2015.

How a Forever War Ends


Trump might well wrap up the war in Afghanistan, but only by giving up on America’s original goals.

President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union address that “great nations do not fight endless wars.” It was a clear signal that his administration has scaled back its objectives for Afghanistan and is headed for the exit. The only question now is whether the Taliban and their Pakistani sponsors will settle for a partial victory by participating in an Afghan government they do not wholly control, or whether they will bide their time until the occupation ends, then turn on those Afghans who have been fighting alongside U.S. forces and triumphantly return to power, governing as they did before the war.

The smart money is on the latter.

Trump is not the first American president to try to bring a “forever war” to an end. President Barack Obama promised to end the war in Iraq, and he did. But America’s adversaries there took the opportunity to reconstitute a threat significant enough that Obama had to reengage.