15 September 2019

Russia Tries to Balance India and China

by Dimitri Alexander Simes

During Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vladivostok for the annual Eastern Economic Forum earlier this week, Moscow and New Delhi signed fifteen agreements on areas ranging from defense to energy. The Indian leader also pledged $1 billion in credit to the Russian Far East, a region in which the Kremlin has long sought to spur economic growth.

Although Modi was the forum’s chief guest this year, China was on the minds of many Western journalists observing the event. Unsurprisingly so. Chinese president Xi Jinping was the star of last year’s event and the convergence between Moscow and Beijing is one of the biggest geopolitical stories of this decade. With Russia moving ever closer to China, can Moscow manage to maintain its historically friendly ties with one of Beijing’s prospective regional rivals?

With Modi in attendance, the Eastern Economic Forum celebrated its fourth anniversary. The event was inaugurated near the start of Russia’s economic pivot eastward, when the Kremlin turned to Asia, especially China, for trade and investment after finding itself increasingly shunned by the West over its actions in Ukraine. Acquiring the funds to promote economic activity in Russia’s long underdeveloped Far Eastern regions was among Moscow’s top priorities.

After Trump’s failed Afghanistan gambit, violence and uncertainty remains

By Ishaan Tharoor

A disagreement over President Trump’s Afghanistan strategy doomed the tenure of John Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser. Bolton exited the White House this week after falling out with Trump and other senior administration officials over the president’s desire to host militant leaders of the Taliban at Camp David. Trump ultimately decided against the set piece and later declared the talks with the Taliban “dead,” but Bolton’s opposition to the process and differences with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — whose envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was leading the negotiations — proved to be the last straw.

Trump has spent the days since announcing Bolton’s departure via tweet complaining about his former aide’s missteps. A growing list of candidates for the top foreign policy post in the White House include a nuclear envoy, a hostage negotiator and an outspoken ambassador. But while Washington fixates on its palace dramas, Afghanistan is on a knife-edge.

In fact, my views on Venezuela, and especially Cuba, were far stronger than those of John Bolton. He was holding me back! 

Getting to ‘Yes’ Has Just Gotten a Lot Harder in Afghanistan

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On Sept. 10, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton became the latest victim of the Trump administration’s nonstop revolving door—one that has produced dizzying levels of personnel turnover at the highest levels.

Bolton’s last major act as national security advisor was to urge Trump to back away from an emerging deal between U.S. negotiators and the Taliban. Bolton won that final policy battle; Trump called off Taliban talks, including an alleged secret summit with the insurgents at Camp David, in a series of tweets on Sept. 7—although he publicly attributed the decision to Taliban attacks, not Bolton’s advice. Three days later, Bolton was sacked.

Trump’s ouster of one of the most vocal administration opponents of Washington’s negotiations with the Taliban suggests that the president may be willing to give talks another try. In fact, there are several reasons to believe that U.S. officials will try to pick up the pieces of a shattered U.S.-Taliban deal. But make no mistake: Now that Trump has scuttled talks, it will be a much tougher road. And the broader implications for Afghanistan of an increasingly elusive agreement are stark.

The Taliban hardly deserve Camp David talks with a president. What was Trump thinking?

Aaron David Miller
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Greeting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David in July 2000, where he had just arrived on the presidential helicopter for a summit with President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, I asked him how he was doing. Smiling broadly, his kafiyyah flapping in the summer breeze, he replied: "I’m at Camp David."

And that’s how amazed and bewildered the Taliban would have been, too, if their meeting with President Donald Trump had come off as planned: legitimized and validated by a president obsessed with being on center stage, who appears to have seriously considered offering up a historic summit without thinking through the consequences. 

It’s not that talking to your enemies is a bad thing, and under certain circumstances, it is necessary. Indeed, it was encouraging if stunning that Trump revealed a three-way meeting that would have included representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government, which don’t recognize one another, That is vitally important for negotiating the best deal Trump is likely to get.

The Breakdown of U.S.–Taliban Talks Buys Time to Reset the Afghanistan Strategy

By Michael Shoebridge

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that he had called off talks with the Taliban at Camp David. The meeting had probably been arranged to finalise a deal for the start of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The deal apparently had four main pillars: a Taliban guarantee not to allow foreign fighters to use Afghanistan to launch attacks outside the country; the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces; an intra-Afghan dialogue; and a permanent ceasefire.

The question marks over that plan are the credibility of any Taliban commitments, the exclusion of the Afghan government from the peace talks, and what happens next.

These problems are well known to any observer of Afghanistan and certainly to the U.S. lead negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad. He may well have reached the best deal he could with the Taliban, but that doesn’t mean it was one worth taking. Fortunately, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump seem to have a perspective that’s different from the negotiating team’s.

9/11/2001: 18 Years Later ...

by Frank Li

On September 11, 2001, America was attacked, with the twin towers in New York City being brought down. Today, exactly 18 years later, do you know the real reasons behind this attack and the fact that our response was actually much worse than that?

Most likely not!

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1. Overview

In September 2016, I posted on the subject with an eye-catching title: 9/11: Remembered in America, But Not Understood!

I just reviewed that post - not a single word needs to be changed!

In other words, three years after the publication of that post, this whole thing remains “not understood” by most Americans.

Taking Aim: Islamic State Khorasan’s Leadership Losses


Abstract: Since its official formation in Afghanistan and Pakistan in early 2015, the Islamic State Khorasan (ISK) has emerged as one of the Islamic State’s deadliest affiliates. While extensive counterterrorism operations have resulted in leadership decapitation, ISK retains its ability to orchestrate lethal attacks and continuously replenish key leadership positions. A closer examination of ISK’s leadership losses between 2015 and 2018 by leadership tier, year, and geography highlights the group’s tenacious presence in Nangarhar (Afghanistan) and Baluchistan (Pakistan), despite declines in overall number of attacks. An important factor contributing to ISK’s resiliency appears to be rooted in its steady recruitment of experienced Pakistani militants that sustain its leadership ranks.

The clandestine nature of terrorist organizations often means that it is difficult to assess the composition of their resource bases or the configuration and size of their leadership structures. While past studies have assessed Islamic State Khorasan’s—the group’s wilaya (province) in Afghanistan and Pakistan—organizational capacity by examining its network of operational alliances with local groups, and patterns of its tactics and target choices,1 to the authors’ knowledge, no systematic study has analyzed wide-ranging counterterrorism (CT) efforts against the group to gain insights about one of its most important elements—the group’s leadership.

Eighteen Years On: The War on Terror Comes of Age

Abstract: The United States has scored impressive successes against al-Qa`ida, the Islamic State, and other jihadi groups, decimating their leadership and limiting attacks on the U.S. homeland. At the same time, the jihadi cause has far more local and regional influence than it did in the years before 9/11; it is better able to inspire individuals in the West to act on its behalf; and groups have proven resilient despite the fierce U.S.-led onslaught against them. The movement as a whole is likely to persist, but the strongest groups will be limited operationally due to U.S. and allied counterterrorism efforts and probably will be caught up with the pressing demands of the civil wars in their countries and regions. The United States, Europe, and other stable regions will face continued but low-level attacks from inspired jihadis or those with some coordination from abroad, but the greatest dangers, and impact, will be felt on U.S. interests in the Muslim world.

Later this year, a U.S. service member is likely to be deployed to Afghanistan who was not yet born on September 11, 2001, when al-Qa`ida terrorists launched the most devastating terrorist attack in history and killed almost 3,000 people, mostly Americans. The years in between have seen wars in Iraq and Syria justified in the name of counterterrorism as well as more limited U.S. interventions against jihadi groups in Libya, Somalia, and other countries. Hundreds of thousands have died in these conflicts—some from terrorism, but most from combat and the associated ravages of war. Yet even as this body count soared, neither al-Qa`ida nor other jihadi groups have proven able to conduct a repeat of 9/11 or even anything close to it.a

In the Demise of the Taliban Peace Talks, Russia Is the Winner

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Over the weekend, the prospects of a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban seemed to fall apart. That is a major setback, since it will likely delay a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and could lead to an escalated Taliban offensive on Afghan government-held territories. But one player—Russia—might benefit.

In an otherwise dark period for U.S.-Russian relations, Afghanistan seemed to have recently emerged as a rare bright spot for bilateral cooperation. After a visit to Moscow in May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described achieving a “reduction in violence” in Afghanistan as a shared interest of the United States and Russia. Dialogue between U.S. and Russian officials on Afghanistan, which was largely frozen after the collapse of the Northern Distribution Network—a rail network passing through Russia that supplied U.S. forces—in 2015 is now commonplace. Russia had even offered to act as a guarantor for any future U.S.-Taliban peace agreement. Although such a deal now seems to be off the table, Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, stated that he believes U.S.-Taliban peace talks are “suspended” but not “dead,” and he announced Moscow’s plans to consult with the United States on the future of the negotiations.

Student Feature – Theory in Action: Constructivism and Bhutan’s National Interests


Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom located in the Himalayas. The material structural conditions are reflected in its population of approximately 745,000, a territory that amounts to 38,394 square kilometres, a weak economy and a very small military. On top of this, Bhutan shares a national border with the two major powers in Asia: China in the north and India in the south. Bhutan’s location is geographically sensitive as the country serves as a buffer state between these major powers, which perceive each other as rivals rather than friends. In addition to this, the Chinese leadership claimed, after it annexed Tibet in the 1950s, that Bhutan’s territory was also part of its mainland. To date there remains an ongoing border dispute between Bhutan and China and there have been reports that the Chinese army has made several incursions into Bhutan. Likewise, India has had a hand in Bhutan’s foreign policy. Article 2 of the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty (1949) notes that ‘Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of India in regard to its external relations.’ Although this Article was revised in 2007, commentators have reported that India still holds a degree of influence over Bhutan.

An overview of border disputes between India, China and Bhutan

China’s Rise Is Not the Only Trend Shaping Events in Asia

Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has begun to challenge America’s role as the key economic and political actor in Asia. Increasingly repressive at home, Xi has not shied away from asserting China’s regional authority, positioning Beijing as the power broker on everything from trade routes to the ongoing efforts to denuclearize North Korea. China’s ascendance is also evident in how much attention other global powers are paying to Beijing and its policies. U.S. President Donald Trump launched a trade war with China and frets publicly about its influence. And with its Belt and Road Initiative, China’s influence is spreading well beyond Asia, into much of Africa and even Europe.

But while China’s rise often makes headlines, it is not the only trend shaping events in Asia. Nationalism has become a force in democracies like India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode the wave of Hindu nationalism to a massive victory in the country’s recent parliamentary elections, and the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte’s electoral gains in recent midterm elections have left even fewer checks on his increasingly autocratic behavior. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s government continues its persecutions of Rohingya Muslims.

Taiwan Is Getting Sixty F-16s but They Won't Really Matter Against China

by David Axe 

Nearly a decade after first requesting them, the Taiwanese air force finally could get 66 new F-16 fighters to begin replacing some of its older fighter aircraft.

But the $8-billion fighter-acquisition, which the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump approved over strong objections from China, likely will do little to alter the overall balance of power across the Taiwan Strait.

(This first appeared in August 2019.)

China possesses hundreds of more modern fighters than Taiwan does. Sixty-six F-16s won’t change that. And Taipei already has begun to revamp its defensive strategy to de-emphasize the importance of conventional major weapons systems such as F-16s.

U.S. President William McKinley dies after an assassination attempt on September 6, and is succeeded by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt.

The British Empire adopts the Gregorian calendar, skipping eleven days (the previous day was September 2).

Report: The Defense Intelligence Agency Has Found China Is Even More Ready to Invade Taiwan

by Michael Peck

China has improved its capabilities to invade Taiwan, according to U.S. intelligence.

And while Taiwan is also boosting its military capacity, it’s not enough to compensate for growing Chinese strength, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) 2019 report to Congress on Chinese military power.

“The PLA continues to prepare for contingencies in the Taiwan Strait to deter, and if necessary, compel Taiwan to abandon moves toward independence,” DIA warned. “The PLA also is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the mainland by force, while simultaneously deterring, delaying, or denying any third-party intervention on Taiwan’s behalf.”

The Chinese army is reorganizing into more powerful and flexible combined arms brigades, as well as creating air assault brigades and expanded helicopter forces. The Chinese air force’s airborne troops have practiced long-range assaults and raids.

Microsoft releases Windows ME (Millenium Edition) as a graphical operating system.

The Gloves Are Off: The U.S.-China Trade War Is Coming for Big Business

by Scott B. MacDonald
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In August 2019, the changing nature of the global business landscape was brought home when President Donald Trump “ordered” U.S. companies to leave China, a declaration that came close to implying war footing. Certainly U.S., European and Canadian actions against Chinese tech giant Huawei reflected some of the risks for companies from that country venturing into the West. Global companies now have to give greater consideration to external variables which are likely to scale down profitability expectations, force changes in supply chains, and impact how companies spend and hire. Trade wars are resulting in a world with greater risk, more volatility and slower economic growth.

The core change in the global economy is the rise of China, probably the most significant development since the end of the Cold War. It represents a challenge to the “old order” defined by U.S./Western dominance in global trade, financial markets and ability to influence other countries, much of this embodied in the Bretton Woods system. Formulated in the aftermath of World War II, Bretton Woods initiated a new international economic order based on fiscal discipline, exchange rate stability, free markets and growth in international trade. Key institutions to this were the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The core idea was to create an inclusive economic system that made all countries stakeholders in peace and commerce. With a stake in making certain that the rules of the game were followed, all parties could benefit—at least in theory.

How China Disrupts the Middle East

by Daniel Pipes

As Vladimir Putin's declining Russia flaunts its power in the Middle East, Xi Jinping's ascending China eludes the attention it deserves. But the Communist Party of China has begun investing money and gaining influence in ways that have vast – and worrisome – implications.

"After years of relative passivity [Beijing] is now making a concerted effort to expand its strategic presence and economic clout" in the Middle East, writes Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, in the current issue of the Middle East Quarterly. (I rely extensively on his fine analysis in what follows.) Berman rightly calls this "one of the most consequential ... trends of recent years."

Two motives – energy and ideology – explain China's regional ambitions.

China’s 2019 Defence White Paper: the long road to transparency in defence spending

Lucie Béraud-Sudreau

As China lags behind many countries with regards to transparency in defence spending, Lucie Béraud-Sudreau explains that the next step towards greater transparency from Beijing could be to use the UN’s recommended template for reporting military expenditures.

Taken at face value the spending figure in China’s latest Defence White Paper, published in July 2019, ought to provide a modicum of reassurance to the international community. After all, it shows just over 1% of national income spent on the armed forces. The problem is that, while there is a welcome increased transparency in the document, it does not go very far. IISS figures, and others, place Beijing’s sustained defence spending closer to 2% of gross domestic product.

It remains a widely held view that the official Chinese defence budget is an underestimate of the country’s actual military expenditure. The IISS and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute have developed their own estimates of total military spending in China to try to overcome Beijing’s opacity in this field.
Actual defence spending over a third larger than officially claimed

China Lost the United States First

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Ifirst traveled to mainland China as a high school student in 2008. Like many observers at the time, I was enthralled by the apparent success of China’s development model, manifested in the urban landscapes of Beijing and Shanghai. I was influenced by the then-prominent idea of Chinese exceptionalism, which one could encounter in both government propaganda and discussions with local street vendors. My perception of China in the early years reflected that of the foreign-policy community in the United States, as well as that of major U.S. businesses in China. But today, that perception has changed.

The current climate in U.S.-China relations is far colder. But the shift has been driven by the Chinese government long before U.S. President Donald Trump began his trade war. Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, China has been a far less welcoming place for foreigners, especially foreign businesses, than it claims to be. Meanwhile, amid countless examples of unacceptable behavior by Chinese authorities inside the country’s borders, the Chinese government’s propaganda apparatus is operating at full steam in claiming that Chinese citizens and companies are being treated unfairly abroad. The new milieu in bilateral relations also stems, in part, from the United States’ long overdue reaction to the inequitable ways in which China treats U.S. persons and companies at home and overseas.

My own personal views on China shifted permanently after being stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as a graduate school intern. While there, I developed an appreciation for the challenges that our diplomatic corps—and, by extension, U.S. citizens and companies—experience on a daily basis.

The End of the Wilsonian Century?

by Colin Dueck

One hundred years ago this fall, the U.S. Senate debated whether to enter into a new League of Nations championed by then-president Woodrow Wilson. In Wilson’s mind, the League was meant to be the capstone for American leadership of a liberal world order.

Today, the Trump administration’s critics worry that the United States has become the leading opponent of that same liberal world order. But the administration’s most fervent critics misunderstand its foreign-policy approach, along with multiple U.S. diplomatic traditions.

The Trump phenomenon does indeed represent a resurgence of American nationalism. American nationalism, however, is not incompatible with certain forms of U.S. engagement overseas. The real question is, and always has been, the exact form of that engagement.

Fundamentally, a close attention to U.S. freedom of action and material American interests is no scandal. The true starting point of U.S. foreign policy is not to promote rules-based liberal world order through multilateral institutions, as such. Rather, the true starting point for US foreign policy is to promote the interests, security, prosperity, principles, and self-government of U.S. citizens. Other worthwhile American commitments—including those in favor of pluralistic regional systems abroad, along with specific U.S. alliances—follow from that starting point.

The Development of Tunisia’s Domestic Counter-Terrorism Finance Capability


Abstract: Tunisia’s National Counterterrorism Commission has established an anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regime to supplement its law enforcement and military action against its local jihadi movement. The move comes amid Tunisia’s efforts to graduate from ongoing monitoring by the Financial Action Task Force, which is expected in October. Tunisia’s efforts go beyond what is technically required under international standards, highlighting the seriousness with which it seeks to operationalize this tool. Tunisia has created a sanctions list of 107 terrorist individuals, organizations, and associations as of mid-August 2019. This capacity, still under development, may help alleviate pressure on Tunisia’s judiciary and provide more transparency to civil society, as well as deter financial support to local fighters and foreign fighters abroad.

Following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, the rise of jihadi groups put a major strain on the country. First, there was Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia’s (AST) dawa campaign, which marshalled auxiliary charities and associations to deliver social services, alongside other activities. Then Katibat ‘Uqbah Bin Nafi (KUBN) and the Islamic State launched insurgencies in mountainous areas along the Algerian border, with the latter group carrying out a terror campaign planned from across the border in Libya. In the aftermath of the Islamic State’s large-scale attacks at the Bardo Museum in March 2015, Sousse Beach in June 2015, and attempted takeover of Ben Gardane in March 2016, Tunisia’s government and security sector began a more concerted effort to combat jihadism in the country, a task given extra urgency in the past five years by the return of Tunisian jihadis from foreign conflicts.1

Relatives, Redemption, and Rice: Motivations for Joining the Maute Group


Abstract: Two years after the Marawi siege in the Philippines, there are now new opportunities to interview some of the men and women who joined the Maute Group. The profiles that emerge are quite varied. Some attended university while others had no schooling whatsoever. Some were farmers and businessmen while others were students and imams. There were even addicts among the recruits. For the 25 respondents this author interviewed in February and July 2019, the two most important factors that drove their joining the group were having a pre-existing friend or relative already in the network and financial exigency. Redemption, revenge, and a desire to learn about Islam and participate in a jihad were secondary.

In 2013, “Abu Hamdan” returned to Butig, in the province of Lanao del Sur on the Philippines’ island of Mindanao, from Manila, following his divorce from his wife. He contends he had been a hitman for a drug gang, a drug dealer, a gun runner, and a carjacker, and he abused both alcohol and drugs. He returned home to Butig with one of his sons. The remaining five children stayed in Manila with their mother. He moved back into his mother’s house to sober up and figure out the next steps in his life.1

A View from the CT Foxhole: Joseph Maguire, Acting Director of National Intelligence


Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted while Joseph Maguire was still serving as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and shortly before he transitioned to his new role as Acting Director of National Intelligence.

Joseph Maguire was sworn in as the sixth director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on December 27, 2018. In August 2019, he became the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Maguire previously served as NCTC’s Deputy Director for Strategic Operational Planning from 2007 to 2010, and represented the Center as a part of the National Security Council’s Counterterrorism Security Group.

Prior to his confirmation as the director of NCTC, Maguire served as president and CEO of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides college scholarships and educational counseling to the surviving children of fallen special operations personnel, and immediate financial grants to severely combat-wounded and hospitalized special operations personnel and their families. Prior to leading the foundation, he was a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton. Maguire retired from the United States Navy in 2010 as a vice admiral, culminating a 36-year career as a naval special warfare officer. He commanded at every level, including the Naval Special Warfare Command.

Student Feature – Theory in Action: Poststructuralism and Media Representations of Terrorists

This is adapted from International Relations Theory (2017). Get your free copy of the textbook here.

The media is a prime example of a site where discourses within regimes of truth are (re)produced and can be identified. How we receive information and the way that news events are presented to a society shapes how we conceptualise and react to political events. As such, if we want to observe how people have come to conceive and frame both terrorism and terrorists, the poststructuralist can analyse media accounts in order to analyse the discursive construction of these political actors and associated terrorist events. As the defining global terrorist attack of the twenty-first century, the attacks of 11 September 2001 on the United States can be used to convey how dominant discourses, instigated by governmental elites, were perpetuated and reinforced by the media. In newspaper reports – specifically, in the week after the attacks – the terrorists were presented as evil and irrational, their stated political motivations were effaced and instead terrorists were repeatedly spoken of as crazed and apolitical. The terrorists were plagued by ‘inexplicable neurosis’ and driven by ‘ethnic, superstitious and tribal madnesses’ (Toynbee 2001). Additionally, these terrorists were set apart as different from more traditional forms of terrorism that the world had previously witnessed through the highlighting of the lethality and deadliness of mass murdering transnational terrorism – a move which heightened the emotions of fear and anxiety further.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue: Towards an Indo-Pacific Order

David Envall writes that the revised “Quad”—the 2017 update of the informal quadrilateral security dialogue originally formed by the US, Japan, India and Australia in 2007—represents a renewed attempt to shore up a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. However, Envall also contends the Quad’s viability faces major challenges. These include the potential for the geopolitical situation to overwhelm cooperation opportunities, as happened with the original Quad. Further, as the Quad again aims to support the “Indo-Pacific” order, it is constrained by the vagueness of the Indo-Pacific concept and Indonesia’s absence.

Will John Bolton Go to War Against Donald Trump?

by Curt Mills
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Ambassador John Bolton’s career reached its apotheosis this week as he was unceremoniously sacked—or forced to resign—by the president he served for a year-and-a-half. Trump all but called him a bonehead in his tweet dismissing him. Now the two may become enmeshed in a public feud. 

It was a long time coming.

The National Interest first reported that Bolton was closing in on the job in early 2018—to the surprise of then-National Security Advisor (NSA) H.R. McMaster and his aides. Trump finally made the move in April 2018, the zenith of an uneven political career for Bolton, who failed to hold onto his job as U.N. ambassador under George W. Bush and was always a controversial figure, even in Republican circles. A protege of former Secretary of State James Baker, he became legendary for his sharp bureaucratic elbows and also played a key role in ensuring that George W. Bush was elected in 2000 during the protracted battle over the Florida election returns.

Russia and Turkey: An Ambiguous Energy Partnership


Notwithstanding the ambiguity the relationship between Russian and Turkey, it is quintessentially based on a solid economic foundation. Over the last couple of years these two European powers have had a lot of political crises due to their conflicting geopolitical ambitions. Despite their conflicting ambitions, the economic rationale always prevailed. Also Erdogan and Putin have one more thing in common: both are critical of the Western policies of inactivity over serious issues.

These two leaders are ambitious and opportunistic, swinging from making pledges for political partnerships to quarrels that could direct them to a high-risk conflicts. To better understand Russian-Turkish relations one must see them through the prism of recent developments.

Re-examining Political Silence: New Openings for Research and Practice

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Political silences are powerful. This much we learned from critical IR theorists, including Cynthia Enloe (2004) who articulated the silences of marginalised women in international relations, Steve Smith (1995) who argued that silences are disciplines’ most important voices, and Ken Booth (2007: 160) who posited that ‘all silences “are against some body and against some thing”’. These key works represent the first generation of inquiry into political silence, particularly as an object of study in International Relations. They established the intellectual foundation for raising questions about the ethics of research, and they disrupted overly descriptive and normative accounts of political silence. Alas, these works are ontologically limited to specific types and registers of political silence(s) themselves. Our concern with them is that they are (inadvertently) foreclosing critical (re)examination of precisely what is meant by ‘political silence’.

Even the most precursory appraisal of global news signals to us as analysts that political silence is far more ambiguous, variegated, and differentiated than IR scholarship implies. With an instant, we observe powerful politicians such as the President of the United States attempting to silence his critics and the proliferation of a myriad of silent protests across the globe. Political silence is not merely a manifestation of violence or domination. Beyond the compulsion to uniformly conceptualise silence-as-domination, there resides an opportunity to (re)conceptualise the concept altogether.

Artificial intelligence is changing every aspect of war

A new type of arms race could be on the cards

DARPA’s Mosaic Warfare — Multi Domain Ops, But Faster


Timothy Grayson, director of DARPA’s Strategic Technologies Office

WASHINGTON: Just when you thought you understood Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), along comes the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s “Mosaic Warfare.” It’s sort of MDO on steroids: an all-encompassing ‘force design’ — that includes everything from military organization to operational concepts to weapon systems to tactics — to underpin a new US way of war targeted at blocking China’s strategy of hitting critical US information nodes. Oh, and the technologies required to accomplish that force design.

“Kill webs,” not kill chains. Instead of exquisite platforms like the F-35 fighter, exquisite functional technology nodes (such as an advanced infrared sensor) that can be mixed and matched via AI-enhanced networks. A battle plan that doesn’t exist until a field commander builds it, based on whichever capabilities are available in real time — like a kid building a LEGO spaceship not from a kit and a blueprint, but from a drawer of jumbled pieces that nonetheless all fit together.

Guiding the Unknown: Ethical Oversight of Artificial Intelligence for Autonomous Weapon Capabilities

By Gretchen Nutz

It is not news that autonomous weapons capabilities powered by artificial intelligence are evolving fast. Many scholars and strategists foresee this new technology changing the character of war and challenging existing frameworks for thinking about just or ethical war in ways the U.S. national security community is not yet prepared to handle. Until U.S. policy makers know enough to draw realistic ethical boundaries, prudent U.S. policy makers are likely to focus on measures that balance competing obligations and pressures during this ambiguous development phase.

On the one hand, leaders have an ethical responsibility to prepare for potential threats from near-peer competitors such as China. But leaders also face a competing obligation to ensure increasingly autonomous systems do not spark or escalate an unnecessary conflict that would violate Americans’ understanding of the appropriate use of force. The following hypothetical scenarios illustrate some of the competing obligations and pressures U.S. technology experts suggest national security leaders must balance and address now.[1] 

Scenario 1: China Attacks With Weaponized Robots

Exchanging Hats to Fix the Military Part 2: Artillery Army

Michael Gladius

Artillery Army: The Future of Conventional Warfare

Artillery is the King of Battle,[i] and this is especially true in conventional warfare. Unlike in counterinsurgency, which is comprised primarily of soft targets, conventional warfare features armored targets which can take damage as well as inflict it, and in far greater numbers than a guerrilla force could ever hope to muster. For an army that plans to fight outnumbered against a conventional enemy with technological parity, artillery will play a central role in our doctrine. Most of the risk to America’s forces from peer opponents today comes in the form of massed barrages (which have become even deadlier than their Cold-War counterparts due to cluster munitions, Electronic and Cyber Warfare, and improvements in anti-weaponry platforms. We seek a qualitative advantage in our own weaponry, but must not forget that quality is only useful in conventional warfare if it can be scaled up (as has happened with programs like the F-35. The Artillery Army is built around these premises).

Artillery’s greatest strengths lie in its range, ability to destroy both hard and soft targets, ability to destroy ships, aircraft, and fortifications, and ability to destroy large swaths of enemies. Artillery can’t be spoofed by Electronic Warfare like drones can and can limit an enemy’s ability to maneuver as long as its fire can be sustained (which is far longer than most aircraft loiter times). Its traditional lack of mobility can be overcome through self-propelled variants, and complete mechanization of all artillery would make them the perfect indirect-fire complement to the direct-fire guns of tanks and APCs. Artillery has fewer anti-weapon counters compared to other platforms, and in fact most anti-weapon platforms are forms of artillery themselves. Using artillery as the basis of organizing America’s Army (ideally combined with assigning the Marines to counterinsurgency) will solidify our traditional advantages and strengthen our secondary advantages. It is the natural end-state of Multi-Domain Operations.