14 November 2019

Is India Ready to the Play the Role in Asian Geopolitics That the US Has Long Sought?

By Robert Farley

In what ways will India’s capabilities benefit the strategic interests of the United States and its allies and partners?

A new report from the Center for New American Security (CNAS) details shifts in the balance of military power between India and China, and calls into question whether India is prepared to play the role that U.S. strategists seem wont to assign it. Daniel Kliman, Iskander Rehman, Kristine Lee, and Joshua Fitt have prepared an exhaustive account of India’s military readiness and how that readiness has changed relative to China over the past two decades. As the authors note, “in 2000, India’s military outlays were 66 percent of China’s; by 2017, despite significant absolute growth in India’s defense budget, this figure had declined to 26 percent.”

As the report points out, the United States has decided (over the course of three presidential administrations) to bet heavily on the promise that India could counterbalance the growth of Chinese military power. This has included technology transfers, arms sales, and joint exercises intended to improve readiness and increase interoperability. Unfortunately for Delhi and Washington, Indian military capabilities have grown only slowly, in stark contrast to the massive modernization and expansion of the armed forces of China. The situation has developed to the point that Indian advantages in two key theaters of operations have come under risk. The authors argue that India should strive to maintain a favorable balance of forces in the Himalayas, and maintain advantages along Chinese supply lines in the Indian Ocean.

The Russo-Indian AK-203 Venture: A Case Study in Defense Pragmatism?

By Krzysztof Iwanek

What does India’s decision to enter into a massive rifle production joint venture with Russia say about its priorities?

In March 2019, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled an Indo-Russian joint venture formed with an objective to manufacture an assault rifle. Code-named AK-203, the gun has been designed by the Kalashnikov Concern and is thus one of the new generations of the AK family, the descendants of the famed AK-47. Press reports declare that as many as 750,000 rifles are to be produced this way, a vast majority of which are to be provided to the Indian Armed Forces. If these numbers are correct, the AK-203 is poised to become one of the main weapons of the Indian Army.

Its introduction will allow New Delhi to phase out its own rifle, the INSAS. The troubles with this indigenous gun are indicative of the larger woes of the Indian defense industry. INSAS was found to be an unreliable firearm, and in 2017 it was decided that it needs to be withdrawn. As if admitting that it is unable to produce the next-generation assault rifle on its own just yet, India decided instead to manufacture it jointly with the Russians.

The corridor is a trap that Pakistan has set for India | Opinion

Sushant Sareen

Seventy years of betrayal, dissembling, and, of course, terrorism and wars imposed on India should have been enough to convince every Indian to not expect anything good from Pakistan. If anything, India by now should have internalised the maxim: If it is from Pakistan, look every gift horse in the mouth. And yet, India has willingly, nay eagerly, accepted the “offer” from Pakistan to open a “corridor” providing pilgrims easy access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

In effect, India seems to have walked into a trap laid by Pakistan with eyes wide open. Instead of doing a “well left” to the “googly” bowled by the Pakistan army through its “selected” Prime Minister (PM), Imran Khan, the Narendra Modi government has attempted to play the ball. What were the powers-that-be thinking when they announced their acceptance of the corridor proposal?

One possible explanation is that the Modi government actually believes that the corridor was the South Asian equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down, and “would act as a bridge between the people of the two countries.” But how could the government subscribe to this theory, commonly spread by those who are naive or ignorant about what Pakistan is and what Pakistan does?

World War III Questions: Would Nuclear Weapons Be Used in a China-India War?

by Kyle Mizokami

A hypothetical war between India and China would be one of the largest and most destructive conflicts in Asia. A war between the two powers would rock the Indo-Pacific region, cause thousands of casualties on both sides and take a significant toll on the global economy. Geography and demographics would play a unique role, limiting the war’s scope and ultimately the conditions of victory.

India and China border one another in two locations, northern India/western China and eastern India/southern China, with territorial disputes in both areas. China attacked both theaters in October 1962, starting a monthlong war that resulted in minor Chinese gains on the ground.

Both countries’ “No First Use” policies regarding nuclear weapons make the outbreak of nuclear war very unlikely. Both countries have such large populations, each over 1.3 billion, that they are essentially unconquerable. Like all modern wars, a war between India and China would be fought over land, sea, and air; geography would limit the scope of the land conflict, while it would be the air conflict, fought with both aircraft and missiles, that would do the most damage to both countries. The trump card, however, may be India’s unique position to dominate a sea conflict, with dire consequences for the Chinese economy.

‘That mission is not yet complete’: Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman on 18 years in Afghanistan

by Madison Dibble

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said the 18-year mission in Afghanistan is not over.

American troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001 following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 more than 18 years ago. Some of the soldiers carrying out U.S. military operations in Afghanistan today were not born yet when the twin towers fell.

During a Sunday interview on ABC’s This Week, Milley was asked how he justifies fighting in Afghanistan for so long. He pointed to the start of the war as to why Americans must stay and fight.

“I think we have to go back to the original reason why we are in Afghanistan to begin with, which is 9/11. So, we went there in order to make sure that Afghanistan never again would be a haven, a safe haven, to terrorists that would attack the United States. That mission is not yet complete,” he explained.

He added, “In order for that mission to be successful, the government of Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces are going to have to be able to sustain their own internal security to prevent terrorists from using their territory to attack other countries, especially the United States. That effort's ongoing.”

China, US in battle for space supremacy


Is it all just a game of Go? In the China Sea and outer space? One top US general thinks so.

America’s top man for assessing military capabilities of foreign powers believes China is playing a game in space in its efforts to become the premier power in space, Nathan Strout of C4ISRNET online reports.

Go is a board game invented in China thousands of years ago where players strategically place stones on a board to capture the most territory.

“The object of Go is to block and deny territory to your opponent. Unlike chess, you’re not going after a king or a queen and there’s not a final move where you’re declared victor. You add up points on the board based on the amount of territory or space that you control. Think of that in the context of aerial denial and aerial defense,” said Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley at the CyberSat19 conference.

Looking to the South China Sea, where China has built artificial islands to further its claims to the area, Ashley said he saw a direct connection between the ancient board game and China’s modern military strategy, the report said.

China: The Great Rebalancing

The rise of the Shanghai Import Expo reflects China’s huge transformation from world producer and cheap prices to world consumer and innovator.

Speaking at the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged China will stimulate increased imports, continue to broaden market access, foster a world-class business environment, explore new horizons of opening-up and promote international cooperation at multilateral and bilateral levels.
China is now promoting the Shanghai CIIE as the world’s first international import expo.

In order to safeguard and promote economic globalization, Xi said two years ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that

China's Type 99 Tank Is Here (And It Can Wage War Against Anyone)

by Kyle Mizokami

China has a lot of tanks. Like, eight to nine thousand of them.

Who else would bother to maintain such a ridiculous number?

The United States. And Russia. (Note that such counts include vehicles in storage and reserve. The numbers for tanks in operational units are lower in every case).

However, the majority of Beijing’s tanks are old designs, particularly Type 59 and 69 tanks more or less directly copied from the 50s-era Soviet T-54 tank. Such is their profligacy that I once had the pleasure of bumping into one in a children’s playground in Tianjin serving the needs of the (young) people.

However, China’s top of the line tank, the Type 99, has commanded healthy respect from international observers, even though it has never been exported, nor used in combat. The reason is simple: the reported performance parameters are equal to many top Western designs, and the Type 99 also packs a few unique tricks of its own.

Today we’ll look at how the Type 99 stacks up to two important contemporaries, the American M1A2 Abrams and the Russian T-90A tank.

This Is Why A Conflict Between China and America Could Quickly Spiral Out Of Control

by Michael Peck

It’s easier to start a war than to end a war, as many a nation has learned to its cost. That’s particularly true with China. In 1937, Japan tried to conquer China: eight years later, when Japan surrendered, it was still trying. By late 1951, the Korean War had degenerated into a stalemate, and still China battled UN troops while the negotiations at Panmunjon dragged on.

So if a U.S.-China war happened today, how would it end? Once China goes to war, it may not be in a hurry for the conflict to end, according to one China expert.

“In general, China’s approach to diplomacy, escalation, and mediation created obstacles to conflict resolution,” writes Oriana Skylar Mastro, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University, in a post on the Lawfare blog.

Mastro argues that wars are more likely to end when three conditions are present: the foes are willing to talk, they are willing to de-escalate the violence to induce negotiations, and are open to third-party mediation.

US–China Strategic Competition: The Quest for Global Technological Leadership

The current dispute between the US and China goes far beyond trade tariffs and tit-for-tat reprisals: the underlying driver is a race for global technological supremacy. This paper examines the risks of greater strategic competition as well as potential solutions for mitigating the impacts of the US–China economic confrontation.


The underlying driver of the ongoing US–China trade war is a race for global technological dominance. President Trump has raised a number of issues regarding trade with China – including the US’s trade deficit with China and the naming of China as a currency manipulator. But at the heart of the ongoing tariff escalation are China’s policies and practices regarding forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft and non-market distortions.

As China’s international influence has expanded it has always been unlikely that Beijing would continue to accept existing global standards and institutions established and widely practised by developed countries based on ‘the Washington Consensus’.

China’s desire to be an alternative champion of technology standard-setting remains unfulfilled. Its ample innovation talent is a solid foundation in its quest for global technology supremacy but tightening controls over personal freedoms could undermine it and deter potential global partners.

Migration Governance: Between Skills Needs and Social Constraints


As communication and travel have become easier and faster, international migration has increased to meet the demand and supply of migrant labour. Consequently, while the global population doubled in the last 50 years, international migration tripled over the same period (UN, 2015). More specifically, as of 2015, the global migration stock, or people living in a country not of their birth, was approximately 247 million, which represents a 200 percent increase in the past 50 years (UN, 2015). This development makes the debate over a migration governance framework a key challenge for public policy, especially for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, and the UAE in particular.

The key challenge for the migration governance debate is how to strike a balance between the benefits and costs of migration. Against this background, the search for and implementation of migration governance frameworks has become a defining aspect of the policies aimed at achieving a sustainable migration path in the UAE. Alongside this debate, there is now a growing consensus that measures of an effective migration governance system should go beyond the creation of a migrant-friendly environment, to consider the socio-economic and demographic needs of the receiving states, such as the UAE (IOM, 2016). This argument is informed by growing youth unemployment amongst Emiratis, and an increasing skills and demographic imbalance in the UAE (Low, 2012).

A Month After U.S. Withdrawal, What is the State of Play in Syria?

Mona Yacoubian

In the month since President Trump’s October 6 phone call with Turkish President Erdogan and the announced U.S. withdrawal from northeast Syria, the picture on the ground has changed immensely. Moscow has emerged as the key power broker in Syria. The Kurds, looking for protection from Turkish forces, are in Russian-brokered talks with the Assad government. These discussions could pave the way for an expanded Syrian government presence in the northeast for the first time in years. Successive agreements with Turkey negotiated first by the United States (October 17) and then by Russia (October 22) to halt Ankara’s fighting with the Kurds have been marred by violations.

In Geneva, a constitutional committee comprised of government, opposition and civil society representatives has convened to draft a new constitution, an important step toward reaching a “Syrian-owned and Syrian-led” agreement to end the war. Meanwhile, the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has overshadowed the real dangers of the terrorist group’s resurgence. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian examines this complicated picture. 
What is going on in northeast Syria a month after the U.S. decision to withdraw and how are the Kurds faring?

Putin Moves Closer To China As New ‘Technological War’ With U.S. Intensifies

Zak Doffman

In the world of authoritarian regimes, an alarming game of “keeping up with the Joneses,” or more accurately the Xis, is playing out as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin looks on with envy at China’s technological lockdown. Putin has described the standoff between China, Russia and the U.S. as a technological war—one that has inspired additional domestic controls as the tech world polarises. Changes have been made to the online infrastructure, and now we’re seeing proposals to restrict the content and applications running across the top. If there is a template Putin wants to follow for Russia’s digital future, it isn't difficult to figure out where it is coming from.

November started with Russia’s Sovereign Internet Law mandating state surveillance hardware to be installed inside the country’s internet access points. Within a week, Putin had proposed replacing Wikipedia with a “more reliable” Russian version. At the same time, his parliament shaped a bill to force computers and smart devices to preinstall Russian tech. Both proposals were criticised for further restricting the online freedoms of Russia’s 150 million citizens. Wikipedia is already banned in China—as are services and applications from Western tech giants. You can join the dots.

America’s war on Chinese technology

US leaders are creating a panic over Chinese technology companies by raising, and exaggerating, tiny risks. As with the Iraq War, the US could end up creating a geopolitical disaster for no reason.

The worst foreign-policy decision by the US of the last generation – and perhaps longer – was the “war of choice” that it launched in Iraq in 2003 for the stated purpose of eliminating weapons of mass destruction that did not, in fact, exist. Understanding the illogic behind that disastrous decision has never been more relevant because it is being used to justify a similarly misguided US policy today.

The decision to invade Iraq followed the illogic of then-US vice-president Richard Cheney, who declared that even if the risk of WMDs falling into terrorist hands was tiny – say, 1% – the US should act as if that scenario would certainly occur.

Such reasoning is guaranteed to lead to wrong decisions more often than not. Yet the US and some of its allies are now using the Cheney Doctrine to attack Chinese technology. The US government argues that because we can’t know with certainty that Chinese technologies are safe, we should act as if they are certainly dangerous and bar them.

The Secret Battle Of Wits Between The U.S. Army And Russia

by Sebastien Roblin

The U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group was formed in 2006 to identify gaps in U.S. military doctrine, equipment and field tactics, and to study how potential adversaries are developing tactics to exploit them. In 2017 the group released the 61-page Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook, based on observation of Russian tactics in Ukraine and to a lesser extent Syria, as well as published doctrine and public statements.

The handbook paints an intimidating picture of a military ready to combine old strengths in artillery and anti-aircraft systems with new technologies and tactics, leveraging drones, electronic warfare, information warfare and massed sniper fire.

To be clear, the document doesn’t set out to paint the Russian military as an indomitable juggernaut.

In fact, its so-called “New-Generation” or “Fourth-Generation” warfare is founded on a recognition that old Soviet-era “Deep Battle” tactics emphasizing huge armored formations deploying to battle in echelon were no longer viable given Russia’s more limited resources compared to the Soviet Red Army, as well as its persistent qualitative inferiority.

‘The international system is somewhat dangerous and chaotic,’ Condoleezza Rice warns

Holly Ellyatt

Condoleezza Rice, the former United States Secretary of State, said on Monday the ‘global order’ was in a “somewhat dangerous and chaotic” state.

The global or world order refers to a rule-based system of international relations created by the U.S. and its allies after World War Two.

Headlining a CNBC-moderated panel on “Political Risk in the 21st Century” at the Adipec oil and gas conference in Abu Dhabi, Rice told the audience that “the global order is suffering a period of dislocation.”

Condoleezza Rice, the former United States Secretary of State, said on Monday the ‘global order’, or rule-based system of international relations created by the U.S. and its allies after World War Two, was in a “somewhat dangerous and chaotic” state.

Headlining a CNBC-moderated panel on “Political Risk in the 21st Century” at the Adipec oil and gas conference in Abu Dhabi, Rice told the audience that “the global order is suffering a period of dislocation, I think we all feel that the international system is somewhat dangerous and chaotic.”

A Tale of Two Paris Treaties

Stewart M. Patrick

Almost a century after the U.S. Senate rejected the Covenant of the League of Nations, President Donald Trump last week formally announced that the United States would begin quitting the Paris climate agreement, the most important multilateral convention of the 21st century. Future historians may well look back on these twin abdications as bookends to the “American century,” underscoring enduring U.S. ambivalence toward globalism and defensiveness regarding national sovereignty. The tale of these two Paris treaties reveals both how much the global agenda has changed and how little the U.S. has learned since 1919.

From its founding until World War I, the U.S. generally hewed to the advice of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to eschew permanent international commitments. Having established a constitutional republic based on popular sovereignty, Americans were wary of any attachments that might permit foreign powers to subvert their self-government and liberties at home or to restrict their freedom of action abroad. The nation’s sense of exceptionalism reinforced the notion that it should be free to pursue its own providential course in world affairs. Finally, the separation of powers, as well as the powers reserved to individual U.S. states within the nation’s federal system, complicated the assumption of international obligations, particularly treaties. ...

Imbalance of Power

By Daniel KlimanIskander RehmanKristine Lee and Joshua Fitt

The United States has made a strategic bet: that India will decisively shape the military balance in Asia.1 In an era of avowed great power competition with China,2 at a time when the U.S. military’s edge over the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues to erode,3 this wager will have an outsized impact on the future trajectory of the region. If India can maintain an advantage over China along its Himalayan frontier and sustain its dominance in the Indian Ocean, U.S. efforts to deny Beijing a regional sphere of influence are far more likely to succeed—as is the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific shared by Washington and Delhi. If India fails to realize its military potential, the United States, caught in between its many global commitments, will struggle to uphold a favorable balance of power.

Today, America’s wager has yet to fully pay off. The trend lines in the India-China military equation are broadly negative. Despite very real improvements in Delhi’s defense capabilities and a significant advantage conveyed by India’s maritime geography, its longstanding superiority over China in the Indian Ocean is at risk of slipping away. Beijing has enhanced the capability and capacity of the naval forces it can project into the Indian Ocean and pursued overseas military facilities to support a more regular People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) presence there. Moreover, China’s long-range precision strike complex, though constructed primarily with the United States as the intended adversary, extends into the Indian Ocean—presenting a threat to Delhi’s maritime operations. The state of play along India’s Himalayan frontier is more mixed. Delhi possesses a clear advantage in localized military strength, but China has made significant infrastructure improvements in Tibet to enhance PLA mobility to surge troops forward, while folding the entire border with India under a single unified theater command—a major organizational restructuring that could yield an operational edge.

The Real Immigration Crisis

By Charles Kenny

Opponents of immigration are ascendant. From Poland to the United States, politicians are shutting borders and turning away refugees. “Our Country is FULL!” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted in April. But misplaced fears over security, slow assimilation, and stolen jobs have distracted from the real demographic crisis looming over Europe and North America: not one of too many immigrants but one of too few.

The next several decades will see populations in Europe and North America age and shrink as people have fewer and fewer children. That trend will hurt economic growth and dynamism and leave too few workers for every retiree. Robots and artificial intelligence will not save rich countries from the economic consequences of a shrinking population. Nor, without a dramatic reversal of current policies toward immigrants, will a flow of workers from elsewhere. To avoid sclerosis and decline, the rich world will have to compete to attract immigrants, not turn them away.

The World’s Worst Game of Risk Is Playing Out in Syria

Kathy Gilsinan 

Russian, Syrian and Manbij military council flags flutter near Manbij, Syria.Omar Sanadiki / ReutersThe U.S. pulled back. Turkey moved in. Kurdish forces retreated. The Syrian government gloated. Russia struck a deal and sent in more troops. More than 100 people died and more than 100,000 fled.

All this happened over a few weeks in October across a long but narrow strip of Syrian land running 300 miles along the Turkish border. It looked like a 21st-century great-power scramble to redraw the map. In reality, not much territory changed hands. So after almost a month of chaos, the U.S. is caught in a new maelstrom of competing proxies, its weak leverage further damaged, and the future of its anti-Islamic State fight thrown into doubt.

The supposed winners—Turkey, Russia, and the Syrian regime—have gained some slapdash spheres of influence and a severe hit to American prestige. The losers, as ever, are Syrian civilians.

JUST IN: Department of Energy Not Studying Nuclear-Armed Hypersonic Weapons

By Connie Lee

Although hypersonic missiles are a top modernization priority for the Pentagon, there are no efforts underway to arm such weapons with nuclear warheads, according to a Department of Energy leader.

“We are currently not undertaking a nuclear hypersonic [project], unlike other nations,” Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, undersecretary of energy for nuclear security, told reporters Nov. 7 in Washington, D.C. Gordon-Hagerty also serves as the administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for maintaining and overseeing the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

To counter great power competitors such as Russia and China, the Defense Department has marked hypersonic weapons as its No. 1 research-and-development priority. The systems will be capable of traveling at speeds of Mach 5 or faster and be highly maneuverable, making them difficult for enemy air-and-missile defenses to defeat.

Beijing and Moscow have publicly stated their intentions to field these types of weapons and are ramping up their R&D efforts. But unlike the United States, both governments have acknowledged that they are pursuing hypersonic missiles that are nuclear-capable. For example, Russian state media such as Sputnik News has reported that Moscow’s Kinzhal air-launched missile system is able to carry both nuclear and conventional warheads. The Congressional Research Service has noted that Russia and China may field an operational hypersonic glide vehicle by 2020. 

Change of Players, Change of Game: How States Got Left Behind on Climate Change


In September 2019, Amazon, America’s third largest company by market value ($916B), announced plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. During the announcement, reflecting on scientists’ predictions about climate change from five years prior, CEO Jeff Bezos stated, ‘Those predictions were bad but what is actually happening is dire.’ The previous month, in an NPR interview, former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister was asked why oil majors like Shell, BP, and Exxon opposed the Trump Administration’s announced rollback of Obama-era methane emissions regulations. He explained that ‘regulations that protect the water, the land and the air…are essential for the [fossil fuel] industry to be successful down the road. That’s changed in the last 20 years. And so it’s necessary for the industry to recognize that this is the way it’s going to be, and it is the way it should be.’ Meanwhile, in 2017, Walmart, America’s largest company by revenue ($514B), announced the ‘Project Gigaton initiative that aims to reduce CO2 emissions globally by one billion metric tons before 2050,’ which would be ‘equivalent to taking over 211 million cars off of U.S. roads and highways for a year.’

Germany’s Preliminary 5G Decision

by Kaan Sahin, Didi Kirsten Tatlow

Despite the security concerns of the US, EU, and Australia, Germany plans not to exclude any telecom equipment vendors, including Chinese companies such as Huawei, from its 5G network. This stance reflects a narrow view of the issue that prioritizes short-term economic interests and fails to uphold national security and democratic values. Widespread criticism, including from within the government, shows that political decision-makers in Germany need a more sophisticated, forward-looking approach to 5G.

The Crisis of Social Media

Internet freedom is increasingly imperiled by the tools and tactics of digital authoritarianism, which have spread rapidly around the globe. Repressive regimes, elected incumbents with authoritarian ambitions, and unscrupulous partisan operatives have exploited the unregulated spaces of social media platforms, converting them into instruments for political distortion and societal control. While social media have at times served as a level playing field for civic discussion, they are now tilting dangerously toward illiberalism, exposing citizens to an unprecedented crackdown on their fundamental freedoms. Moreover, a startling variety of governments are deploying advanced tools to identify and monitor users on an immense scale. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2019.

Social media allow ordinary people, civic groups, and journalists to reach a vast audience at little or no cost, but they have also provided an extremely useful and inexpensive platform for malign influence operations by foreign and domestic actors alike. Political leaders employed individuals to surreptitiously shape online opinions in 38 of the 65 countries covered in this report—a new high. In many countries, the rise of populism and far-right extremism has coincided with the growth of hyperpartisan online mobs that include both authentic users and fraudulent or automated accounts. They build large audiences around similar interests, lace their political messaging with false or inflammatory content, and coordinate its dissemination across multiple platforms.

Securing Our 5G Future

Today’s advances in fifth-generation telecommunications (5G) promise a transformational technology that is critical to enabling the next industrial revolution. 5G will provide massive benefits for future economic development and national competitiveness, including certain military applications. 5G is far more than simply a faster iteration of 4G. The benefits include its high speed, low latency, and high throughput, which enable data flows at vastly greater speed and volume than today’s 4G networks. Future smart cities will rely on 5G, autonomous vehicles will depend on this increased connectivity, future manufacturing will leverage 5G to enable improved automation, and even agriculture could benefit from these advances. The advent of 5G could contribute trillions to the world economy over the next couple of decades, setting the stage for new advances in productivity and innovation.

The United States risks losing a critical competitive advantage if it fails to capitalize upon the opportunity and manage the challenges of 5G. Today, China seems poised to become a global leader and first mover in 5G. The United States may be situated in a position of relative disadvantage. The U.S. government has yet to commit to any funding or national initiatives in 5G that are close to comparable in scope and scale to those of China, which is dedicating hundreds of billions to 5G development and deployment. There are also reasons for serious concern about the long-term viability and diversity of global supply chains in this industry. Huawei, a Chinese company with global ambitions, seems to be on course to become dominant in 5G, establishing new pilots and partnerships worldwide.

Society, technology, and future warfare

Warfare is being transformed by the information revolution. However, history has demonstrated that it is exceptionally difficult to know how new technology will redefine warfighting before the audit of battle.

It is dangerous to assume that the US will dominate the future battlefield simply because it is leading the information revolution.

It is equally dangerous to assume that future warfighting will conform to American military cultural preferences, even though those are likely to drive how the United States adopts new technology.

The key to understanding the future battlefield is that best practices, or the inherent optimum of new technologies, is just one variable among a range of societal factors.

Executive Summary

Today, military analysts are struggling to understand how the new technology of the information age will transform warfare. There is a persistent, dangerous tendency to assume that all actors will simply employ new technology according to a theoretical set of best practices—and an even more dangerous expectation that the United States will define those best practices and dominate the information-age battlefield because the US is leading the information revolution.

What is (not) asymmetric conflict? From conceptual stretching to conceptual structuring

In the second half of the 1990s, the label “asymmetric” conflict rose to prominence among scholars and strategists, as a term for capturing the rising challenge that violent non-state actors posed to the liberal world order. However, the concept soon became a catch-phrase for a range of disparate phenomena, and other buzzwords arose to describe the threats of concern to decision-makers. Conceptual confusion beset the field. This article dissects the notion of asymmetric conflicts, and distinguishes between asymmetries involving differences in (1) status, (2) capabilities, or (3) strategies between belligerents. It argues that “asymmetric” conflicts can take numerous forms depending on the combination of differences present, and offers a blue-print for keeping track of the meaning of this concept in the hope of bringing greater precision to future debates.


As the Cold War drew to a close in the late-1980s, clashes involving direct battles between centralised state armies became a more distant prospect, and irregular conflicts emerged as the main challenge to the liberal world order (OECD, 2012, p. 18). Scholars and government-affiliated strategists in the West scrambled to find labels for describing the threat emanating from violent non-state actors, often possessing weak capabilities, but organised in a decentralised fashion and adept at adapting their strategies to make the most of their position as an underdog. Some identified this turn of events as “fourth-generation warfare” (Lind, Schmitt, & Wilson, 1989), others considered them emblematic of “low-intensity conflicts” (Dixon, 1989), “small wars” (Olson, 1990), “protracted social conflicts” (Azar, 1990), or “new wars” (Kaldor, 1999). Still others preferred to call them “asymmetric conflicts” (Mitchell, 1991). Use of the latter concept peaked in the late-1990s, when “asymmetric” warfare could refer to terror attacks, rebel bombings, computer viruses, nuclear proliferation and everything in-between, as long as antagonists failed to “fight fair” (Wilson, 1998) or “deviated from the norm” (Grange, 2000).



The U.S. faces a complex strategic environment: ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the global war against al-Qaida and its ilk; a seething war in Syria; unrest in Libya and other parts of Africa; Russia-induced instability in Eastern Europe; a rising China and defiant Iran; an unrepentant North Korea still in control of its nuclear weapons; and worried allies.

The security environment at home is no less complex. A lot is at stake.

The administration might use a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of defense as an opportunity to review the procedures for its civil-military dialogue to ensure it is adequate to the environment the country faces.

Such a review might benefit from a close look at the two very different Iraq-related dialogues that took place during President George W. Bush’s administration. The first governed the period between 2003 and 2006; the second between late 2006 and 2008. The difference between the two highlights the importance of getting the dialogue “right enough,” thus increasing the probability that the final decision authority will use that authority well.

What It’s Really Like to Fight a War

By Maurice Isserman

While I was conducting research for a book on the United States 10th Mountain Division, which has fought in some of America’s most ferocious military campaigns over the last century, I came across a letter that stopped me cold. “Thanks to the failure of the press, and to the stupidity of Hollywood,” wrote Sgt. Denis Nunan, camped in a small town in Italy, to his mother on March 23, 1945, “the Home Front has no real conception of war, and only by letters home can the truth be made known.”

As a child growing up in the aftermath of Sergeant Nunan’s war, my own conception of that conflict was shaped largely by the “failure of the press” and, even more, “the stupidity of Hollywood.” I found John Wayne’s portrayal of an airborne leader on D-Day, in the 1962 epic “The Longest Day,” particularly compelling, especially the way he delivered commands like “Hit the dirt, men!” As if following the Duke’s orders, in games of make-believe war, my friends and I were forever “hitting the dirt.”

Even as I began writing my book, I repeatedly caught myself channeling my 11-year-old self. More than once in early drafts I described the soldiers of the 10th “hitting the dirt” when they came under hostile fire from the Germans in the mountains of northern Italy. Only gradually did I come to realize the full import of Sergeant Nunan’s letter, and start to work its lesson into my writing. In later revisions, I’d wince when I came across the phrase, roll my eyes and try to come up with a different way of describing their combat experience.

Decoding the Wagner Group: Analyzing the Role of Private Military Security Contractors in Russian Proxy Warfare

Candace Rondeaux

Russian private military security contractors (PMSCs) are pivotal players in ongoing proxy wars in the Greater Middle East and its periphery. Their covert operations—real and imagined—are also critical in shaping Russia’s strategy for escalation management as well as relations with adversaries and allies. This report, the product of a joint New America and ASU Center on the Future of War initiative to study proxy warfare examines what social media and other digital traces combined with interviews and other research can tell us about Russian PMSCs and their role in Russian proxy warfare strategy. Download