4 February 2020

Sambandh as Strategy: India’s new approach to regional connectivity

Constantino Xavier

Marked by a history of political divisions, economic differences, and geostrategic divergences, the Indian subcontinent remains deeply divided, with exceptionally low levels of integration. No other regional power is as disconnected from its immediate neighbourhood as India. Recognising this disconnect as a challenge to India’s economic and security interests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made both intra- and inter-regional connectivity a policy priority in 2014. Speaking on the importance of the Indo-Pacific region at the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, he emphasised the country’s new strategic imperative. Connectivity is vital. It does more than [just] enhance trade and prosperity. It unites a region. India has been at the crossroads for centuries. We understand the benefits of connectivity. There are many connectivity initiatives in the region. If these have to succeed, we must not only build infrastructure, we must also build bridges of trust.[1]

Top US Commander Sees Increased Iranian Threat in Afghanistan

By Lolita C. Baldor

There has been an increase in Iranian activity in Afghanistan that poses a risk to American and coalition troops there, a senior U.S. commander said, as the threat from Tehran continues to churn across the Middle East.

Marine General Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan this week. He told reporters traveling with him that he is seeing a “worrisome trend” of Iranian malign interference.

“Iran has always sort of dabbled a little bit in Afghanistan, but they see perhaps an opportunity to get after us and the coalition here through their proxies,” McKenzie said. “So, we are very concerned about that here as we go forward.”

McKenzie’s warnings come just weeks after Iran launched as many as two dozen ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq where American forces are stationed. No one was killed, but several dozen U.S. troops received traumatic brain injuries. The attack was in retribution for a U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian Quds Force general.

Taliban-U.S. Afghan Peace Talks Stall Again

Ayaz Gul

The Afghan Taliban’s turbulent negotiations with the United States on a peace deal have ground to a halt over differences on how to reduce insurgent violence.

The latest standoff in the peace process, being hosted by Qatar, comes amid a sharp increase in Taliban attacks on U.S.-backed Afghan government forces over the past week despite a very harsh winter. The violence has killed scores of combatants on both sides and caused more civilian casualties across Afghanistan.

Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the Taliban’s negotiating team, told VOA on Friday that the U.S. side was to be blamed for the latest challenges facing the talks.

“We agree to provide a secure environment during the days of the signing of the agreement, but the Americans put forward do-more demands,” Shaheen said. “This has created hurdles in the process.”

Insurgent Operations

Opinion – 2020’s Dawn: Coronavirus, Natural Disasters and Political Insecurity


A new year usually is welcomed as a time of joy and opimism, however 2020 seems to have bucked that trend. 2020 began with the United States announcing that Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds Forces, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a close Suleimani associate, were killed in an attack at Baghdad’s International Airport. The killing of Suleimani, sparked fears of a conflict between the US and Iran. Three days of mourning were declared in Iran, and a vow of retribution was taken against the United States. Several days later Iran ordered an attack on US forces in Iraq. Later that same night, a Ukrainian Airlines Boeing 737 passenger plane was accidentally shot down by Iran shortly after takeoff. There were no survivors. On top of that, the Iranian Government has announced that it will continue to enrich uranium breaking its 2015 nuclear agreement. This event can be seen as the opening act of a month of fear and misery that coincided with the new year. And, when viewing it alongside other events, both natural and manmade, makes for sober reading.

Trade Deal or No, China Will Continue Its Cyberattacks

By Lee Clark

Phase One of the U.S.-China trade deal addressed issues including expanding Chinese purchases of U.S. products, regulatory changes, and legal changes for intellectual property (IP) protection. Tensions between the two nations will likely continue through Phase Two of the negotiations, which are expected to focus more on core issues in the dispute, including IP theft, technology transfer, and cyber aggression. Regardless of the final outcome of the negotiations, China’s cyber operations against the United States and its allies will likely continue.

While it is possible that the success or failure of negotiations may contribute to some small variation in targeting and damage scales in Chinese cyber operations, many ongoing activities will continue. China has long engaged in a constant multivector campaign of cyber aggression against the U.S. and allies. This campaign includes but is not limited to:
The use of shell companies to mask cyber operations against global engineering and defense firms;

Data breaches of major global firms and government entities;

How Other Countries Can Survive the US-China Competition

By Gedaliah Afterman

The signing of the Phase One trade agreement in Washington between the United States and China last month was a positive development, but unless it leads to a dramatic change in the bilateral relationship it is unlikely to substantially influence a new global trend that now seems to be in full force.

The world is now faced not only with the implications of China’s rise to superpower status and its growing economic clout and the challenges this raises, but also with a United States that is pursuing an inconsistent foreign policy and a growing sense of ongoing and increasingly strategic rivalry between the U.S. and China. This new reality is placing many smaller countries in a new and unfamiliar position, having to navigate and promote their own interests while balancing the demands of the two competing superpowers.

The realignment of global and regional actors is extremely dynamic, creating unprecedented threats, risks, and opportunities. As the United States is perceived to be decreasing its involvement in Asia and in the Middle East, regional regimes are increasingly eyeing China as a potential regional game-changer in the spheres of trade, economy, energy, as well as defense and foreign policy.

Dead in the Dark: How Good is Chinese Miltiary Grade Night Vision Gear?

by Charlie Gao

Recently, various Chinese military night vision units have been showing up on the Chinese domestic market. This provides an interesting opportunity to evaluate the capability of such units, as manufacturers publish the specifications and characteristics of these units. However, as with most night vision technology, there are caveats. Typically a night vision unit consists of two basic elements, the image intensifier (I2) tube, and the housing. The tube generally is the largest determinant of the quality and resolution of the image, while the housing affects how the unit is mounted, how durable it is, and its other ergonomic properties. While the housings available on the civilian market are fairly representative of Chinese military stock, the I2 tubes in the housings may not be representative of what’s actually issued to the Chinese military.

The BBG-011A is an interesting example of a Chinese military night vision unit on the civilian market. The unit is clearly a clone of the Thales LUCIE night vision goggles, a popular European NVG that has seen use with the German Bundeswehr and French Army. The LUCIE is notable for being relatively “flat”, having the form factor of a rectangular box with a lens in the upper right corner. The offset lens is controversial among users of the LUCIE, with users often complaining that the offset lens makes “close up” work unintuitive and clumsy. However, it’s possible that the lens is offset to interface well with carryhandle mounted optics on the FAMAS rifle, which makes sense given that the Chinese QBZ-95 is set up in a similar way.

The New China Scare

By Fareed Zakaria

In February 1947, U.S. President Harry Truman huddled with his most senior foreign policy advisers, George Marshall and Dean Acheson, and a handful of congressional leaders. The topic was the administration’s plan to aid the Greek government in its fight against a communist insurgency. Marshall and Acheson presented their case for the plan. Arthur Vandenberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, listened closely and then offered his support with a caveat. “The only way you are going to get what you want,” he reportedly told the president, “is to make a speech and scare the hell out of the country.”

Over the next few months, Truman did just that. He turned the civil war in Greece into a test of the United States’ ability to confront international communism. Reflecting on Truman’s expansive rhetoric about aiding democracies anywhere, anytime, Acheson confessed in his memoirs that the administration had made an argument “clearer than truth.” 

Risks to the Japan-China 'Tactical Detente'

This commentary is part of a new CSIS project exploring the impact of Russian and Chinese information operations in democratic nation-states. Part I of the project examines Russian disinformation campaigns in the United Kingdom and Germany and Chinese disinformation campaigns in Australia and Japan. Read the piece on the United Kingdom here.

Japan is preparing for Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s spring 2020 state visit, which will serve as a litmus test of the historically fraught bilateral relationship. The meeting could produce a signed “fifth political document” defining the relationship. While Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is known as a China hawk, he has been taking a pragmatic approach toward Japan’s neighbor since the nadir in the relationship in 2012. Over the past two years, China and Japan have established a superficial “tactical detente” or “new start” to hedge against the uncertainty from the U.S. trade war with China. Oddly, President Donald Trump’s unpredictability has worked to reduce some tensions in Asia as big rivals seek to reduce risk. Meanwhile, Japan and the United States have switched their positions on China with the United States growing more hawkish, creating anxiety in Japan about being out of sync with its ally. Long-standing tensions between China and Japan thus could reemerge and threaten the current detente. One area of risk that gets less attention is China’s influence operations, which can spark a backlash in Japan and throw relations back off track.

Will The US-Iran Crisis Raise China’s Mideast Profile? – Analysis

By Lucio Blanco Pitlo III

The death of Iranian Quds Forces Major General Qassem Suleimani pushed the Middle East closer to the throes of war. Can and will China act as a broker of peace, or will it simply let the US get bogged down in another Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan?

China’s increasing overtures in the Middle East mean the stakes are getting higher should US policy towards the energy-rich region fumble. While its alleged treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang did stir concerns among Muslim countries, Beijing’s lack of historical baggage, its tradition of non-interference and neutrality in the region’s conflicts, and its burgeoning economic ties with all sides make it an influential player in the convoluted region. Thus, continued setbacks in America’s Mideast policy, from the withdrawal from both Syria and the Iran nuclear deal, to heightened tensions post the Suleimani assassination, may create spaces for China to fill. But while it is tempting to play an enlarged role, lessons from America’s experience may temper such desire. China’s influence outside strategic issues and economics will likely remain subdued.

Restraint and the Rise of China

By Peter Harris

Two big ideas threaten to overturn decades of conventional wisdom about how U.S. power should be used overseas. The first idea is a general admonition that the United States should give up its role as guardian of the liberal international order and adopt a more circumscribed grand strategy of restraint. The second is an emerging consensus that America’s leaders should reverse the trend toward economic integration with China and should instead implement a policy of economic, political, and military containment of Beijing’s growing geopolitical clout. Each idea seems to be gaining traction with elected officials in both parties. The only problem is that the ideas might be incompatible.

Calls for restraint

The argument that the United States should severely curtail its overseas commitments is gathering steam in America’s foreign-policy community. It is easy to see why. After 9/11, the United States began a significant program of military interventionism meant to stamp out foreign threats to U.S. national security. Around 7,000 U.S. soldiers have died in those wars -- most of them in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in warzones such as Syria, Libya, and Yemen. These wars have also cost taxpayers more than $5.9 trillion. Despite these efforts, international terrorism remains an enduring and evolving threat, raising serious doubts about whether endless warfighting has done anything to improve U.S. national security.

A Battle for Supremacy in the Middle East

The struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for dominance in the Middle East has insinuated itself into nearly every regional issue, fracturing international alliances and sustaining wars across the region, while raising fears of a direct conflict between the two powers.

Saudi Arabia has ramped up its regional adventurism since Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful son of King Salman, was appointed crown prince in 2017. And it has cracked down on its opponents, including the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. That appears to have had little effect on the crown prince’s increasingly close ties to the Trump administration, though. Determined to undermine the Iranian regime, Washington has pulled out of the nuclear deal with Tehran and used its economic might to suffocate Iran’s economy. Months of tensions over Iranian provocations, including a drone and cruise missile strike against Saudi oil facilities in September, culminated in January with the U.S. assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, followed by an Iranian ballistic missile barrage targeting U.S. troops there.

Drone Strike Spillover: Why the Assassination of Suleimani Could Create a Crisis for Israel

by Itai Shapira

The chances of military escalation between Israel and Iran have steadily risen in recent months. Israel has struck Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq; Iran has retaliated. Meanwhile, Russia has done little to actively minimize Iranian presence in Syria while trying to limit Israeli freedom of action. The longer these dynamics continue unabated, the more likely a confrontation between Israel (probably backed by the United States), Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah, the Syrian military, and perhaps even Russian forces might seem. In the aftermath of the U.S. assassination of Suleimani, Iranian Quds Force Commander—these chances might even increase. This creates the possibility of an unintended escalation—such as the one Israel had already experienced in the past.

However, Iran, Syria and Russia are rational, avoid unnecessary risks, know how to differentiate between vital and ad hoc interests, and are sensitive to all forms of American and Israeli power tools. They can be deterred from reacting to Israeli and American actions relating to Syria, and perhaps even from using Syria to respond to the killing of Suleimani. However, rolling them back from preserving their mere presence and influence in Syria might prove harder.

Trump's Nuclear Waivers Irk Washington's Iran Hawks

by Matthew Petti

Republican hawks in Congress are outraged that foreign companies will still be allowed under U.S. law to work on four highly sensitive Iranian nuclear projects.

U.S. Special Representative Brian Hook Hook quietly unveiled the sixty-day waiver extensions at a Thursday morning press conference at the State Department. He originally downplayed them as “nuclear restrictions on Iran that prevent the continuation of nonproliferation projects that constrain Iran’s nuclear activities,” but the decision was a major blow to prominent Republicans hawks pushing to tear up nuclear nonproliferation agreements with Iran.

“This decision perpetuates Obama's disastrous nuclear deal and sustains Iran's nuclear infrastructure, even as Tehran continues on its path of escalation,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R–Wyo.) told the National Interest, referring to former President Barack Obama. “I urge the president to fully implement his successful maximum pressure campaign against Iran and revoke these waivers once and for all.”

Report: US Officials Believe they Killed al Qaeda Leader in Yemen Airstrike

by Tal Axelrod

U.S. officials reportedly believe they killed the leader of al Qaeda's branch in Yemen using an airstrike.

The New York Times, citing three current and former American officials, reported that the administration is confident that the al Qaeda leader, Qassim al-Rimi, was killed in a January airstrike in Yemen but has not yet confirmed the death. 

President Trump highlighted reports of al-Rimi's death on Saturday, retweeting a reporter and a member of a group that tracks terrorists online who had posted about al-Rimi’s apparent killing…

Baghdadi's Death and the Future of ISIS

By Ronald Tiersky

The killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State, is not the end of ISIS. But what ISIS becomes now is not clear either. 

Some believe that Baghdadi’s elimination is little more than a symbolic victory. Revolutionary insurgencies and terrorist organizations usually have a succession arranged in case the top leader is killed. A new ISIS leader will be named soon, and the overall danger is undiminished. ISIS will go on in various countries as a guerrilla warfighting organization and a terrorist network. It may be less centrally organized than before, but just as lethal. 

The other judgment (which I share) is that killing Baghdadi is of considerable significance. Baghdadi established ISIS. He was the founding father, the heroic leader. He was the caliph of the new Islamic State created in a blitzkrieg across Syria and Iraq, just as Prophet Mohammed’s army swept out of the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century. To his followers, Baghdadi was the personification of Islam’s long-awaited resurrection and return to dignity. Several hundred thousand local and foreign fighters traveled long distances to live in a sharia state, and they brought their families. These people pledged their lives to Baghdadi. Often the foreign fighters were the most dedicated. Only a few years after the events, it’s too easy to forget this. 

Is Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” a Self-fulfilled Prophecy?


Over 25 years have gone by since Samuel P. Huntington published his controversial essay on a supposed “Clash of Civilizations” that would take over the world after the end of the Cold War. A quarter of a century later, much has been discussed about his theory and many criticisms have been put forth. One point, however, cannot be denied: Huntington’s paradigm is still heavily influential to much of the world politics to this day. The goal of this essay is not to analyse Huntington’s paradigm in detail nor is it to criticise its many flaws. Both of those endeavours have been undertaken to exhaustion in the past two decades and a half. What this essay aims to do, however, is to understand to which point the Clash of Civilizations framework, albeit ultimately flawed, reductionist,[1] and not grounded on actual social science,[2] still shapes public opinion, influences politics and guides the relations and mutual perceptions between the Middle East and the West. In order to do that, this essay is separated into three main parts.

First, the Clash of Civilizations theory will be briefly introduced and framed as a socio-political paradigm, taking into consideration its background and goals. Then, some of its main criticism will be concisely presented with the sole purpose of contextualising the discussions around the theory. As stated above, this piece does not aim to discuss the

The US Is Losing Its Fight Against Huawei

The UK’s decision Tuesday to allow Huawei to provide noncritical components of its 5G network marked another critical win for the embattled Chinese telecom. It also raised a critical question about the multiyear, international campaign by the Trump administration and the US government to box Huawei out of Western cellular networks: Has Trump lost?

The US knew this outcome was a possibility. The British have a long history of working with Huawei through British Telecom, acknowledging the security risk but taking aggressive measures to mitigate it. UK intelligence agency GCHQ, for instance, runs a special cybersecurity lab in partnership with Huawei. But in recent weeks, a senior delegation of US officials, including deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, traveled to London to lobby against any widening of Huawei’s role. Cabinet leaders Mike Pompeo and Steven Mnuchin have both weighed in, too, calling the Chinese manufacturer a threat to national security. The British parliament has hotly debated the topic as well.

A Popular Front to Stop Trump

Garry Kasparov

As much as opposing ideologues may hate each other, there is no one they despise more than those who try to make peace between them. The peacemakers may well be blessed in the hereafter, but in the earthly realm they are treated as badly as the poor and the meek. I found this out the hard way when I retired from chess in 2005 to help create a Russian coalition movement against the rising dictatorship of Vladimir Putin.

By then, it was clear that Putin was returning at all possible speed to his Soviet and KGB roots. Elected as Boris Yeltsin’s hand-picked successor in 2000, Putin was reelected in a stage-managed landslide in 2004. Russia’s wealthiest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, had been jailed in 2003 for refusing to cease his dabbling in politics. The Russian media had been brought largely to heel by a Kremlin campaign of takeovers and threats. In April 2005, as if to remove any doubts, Putin made his infamous remark that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.”

Indonesia’s Submarine Capabilities in the Headlines with New Sea Trials

By Prashanth Parameswaran

Earlier this month, Indonesia conducted sea trials with respect to its first indigenously-assembled submarine. The development once again put the focus on a key aspect of Jakarta’s development of its capabilities in this regard.

As I have noted before in these pages, while Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic state, once operated one of the more capable submarine forces in Asia, today it is woefully underequipped relatively speaking and has been looking to boost its capabilities – with its previous full needs said to be for 12 submarines. That pursuit has continued on under the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo amid wider developments in Indonesia’s ongoing military modernization as well as the challenges therein.

South Korea is among the partners Indonesia has been turning to in order to boost its capabilities, with Jakarta initially placing an order for three submarines in a deal reached in 2011 and potential plans for more being mulled as the Southeast Asian state also gradually develops its capabilities in terms of expertise and technological know-how. That has continued to play out over the past few years, with the second submarine delivered to Indonesia in 2018.

After Brexit? Here's What Trump's Next Deal Should Look Like

by Simon Lester

With Brexit Day upon us and the United Kingdom poised to reclaim control of its trade policy for the first time in 47 years, it’s worth sharing some preliminary thoughts about an eventual free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom.

The first thing to keep in mind is that this process could take a while. The United Kingdom and the European Union are entering a transition period during which the terms of their existing relationship will continue, while they seek agreement on the terms of a new one. Understanding the rules and contours of that new relationship will be crucial to other governments interested in negotiating with the United Kingdom. In other words, it will be difficult to conclude a comprehensive U.S.-UK trade agreement until the terms of the new UK-EU relationship are settled.

Meanwhile, some less comprehensive deals between the two countries that build toward a full‐​fledged agreement are possible. But, eventually, there is likely to be a U.S.-UK free trade agreement, which we hope will move both countries closer to a state of free trade. Such a deal would reflect certain principles and include broadly liberalizing terms, as we described in a collaborative paper last year.

Brexit Is Just the Beginning

By Pippa Norris 

On the night of January 31, with little fanfare, without even a Big Ben bong, the United Kingdom will officially leave the European Union. After almost 50 years of EU membership and three years of bitter division over the vote to leave, the moment of formal departure is a historic milestone. But to say that the British are finally “getting Brexit done,” as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed ad nauseam, is hopelessly optimistic. Friday marks the beginning of a new and uncertain phase of Brexit, not its end. 

The British government still needs to negotiate the terms of its future relations with the EU, a task so complex that many doubt it can be completed by the end of the year, when another ominous deadline looms. In the meantime, the country will be stuck in EU purgatory, bound by the bloc’s laws and regulations but powerless to shape them. Trade deals with other countries remain to be hammered out. And at home, the toxic fallout of Brexit division will linger—and potentially reshape British politics for years to come.


Kozak to Replace Surkov as Putin’s Top Aide on Ukraine (Part One)

By: Vladimir Socor

Russian President Vladimir Putin apparently intends to replace Vladislav Surkov with Dmitry Kozak as principal executant of Putin’s policies toward Ukraine, including Ukraine’s Russian-occupied areas. Surkov and Kozak have also covered other “frozen-conflict” theaters in their respective portfolios until now. The Kremlin has not issued official announcements about replacing Surkov with Kozak or redistributing their portfolios as yet. Nevertheless, it is the consensus view among observers in both Ukraine and Russia that the stage is set for Kozak to take over the lead from Surkov on Ukraine policy.

Surkov is closely associated with Putin’s own implacable hostility toward Ukraine as a nation-state. However, Putin has apparently decided to create the semblance of a dialogue as a second track in the relationship with Ukraine. This necessitates sidelining Surkov to impress Kyiv, albeit without changing the substance of Moscow’s policies.

On January 24, Putin transferred Kozak from the position of deputy prime minister to that of deputy head of the presidential administration. This move lifts Kozak to the top of decision-making processes next to Putin. The president has created this post specially for Kozak (on top of two pre-existing posts of deputy head of the presidential administration) (Kremlin.ru, January 24, 2020). It is also a more senior post entailing a wider range of responsibilities, compared with Surkov’s status as presidential aide.

Africa is creating one of the world's largest single markets. What does this mean for entrepreneurs?

Gerald Chirinda

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is set to launch on 30th May. If every African country joins, it’s expected to be one of the world’s largest single markets, accounting for $4 trillion in spending and investment across the 54 countries.

The AfCFTA will give entrepreneurs across the continent access to a much larger market. It's therefore important that young African entrepreneurs understand how the AfCFTA could benefit them and their ventures. As awareness is raised, entrepreneurs should begin crafting new trade roadmaps for their businesses, informed by the agreement.

It's envisioned that the free trade area will lead to increased competition, innovation and prosperity for Africa’s people in the long term. But for the AfCFTA’s gains to be realized, entrepreneurs and policy-makers must be aligned. They must engage with each other to provide structure and clarity around how goods and services will move, and around the benefits that the agreement will bring to business. These discussions between entrepreneurs and the trade ministries of their country will also enable the review and updating of national trade policies, discussions which will benefit both the government and business communities.

Explained: The Artificial Intelligence Race is an Arms Race

by Crispin Rovere

Whoever wins it will have an advantage in every conflict around the world.

Graham Allison alerts us to artificial intelligence being the epicenter of today’s superpower arms race.

Drawing heavily on Kai-Fu Lee’s basic thesis, Allison draws the battlelines: the United States vs. China, across the domains of human talent, big data, and government commitment.

Allison further points to the absence of controls, or even dialogue, on what AI means for strategic stability. With implied resignation, his article acknowledges the smashing of Pandora’s Box, noting many AI advancements occur in the private sector beyond government scrutiny or control.

However, unlike the chilling and destructive promise of nuclear weapons, the threat posed by AI in popular imagination is amorphous, restricted to economic dislocation or sci-fi depictions of robotic apocalypse.

Can Artificial Intelligence Compensate for Strategic Shortcomings?

To frame this question, we should first note that the United States has not won a war in more than 20 years (if we count Serbia as a "win"). Nor has it has had an effective strategy. This is not a criticism of the military, but of its civilian leadership.

Second, artificial intelligence (AI) is not good at developing strategy. Perhaps this will change as the technology matures, but we cannot expect AI alone to remedy our current weaknesses. AI is a vastly improved computing tool, but it cannot conceptualize and combine interests, goals, and means in ways that develop strategy. Strategy development remains a human function.

Third, better technology does not guarantee success. Building the fastest car and giving it to a cautious driver is unlikely to win a race, particularly against skilled competitors. (How skillful our competitors are is a different question, but in key regional competitions in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, they have been more skillful than the United States at obtaining outcomes that advance their interests.) The experience in Afghanistan shows that enormously superior technology and exceptional forces, when married to impracticable strategy, do not produce success even against a primitively equipped but determined opponent.

The Future Of War: Less Fantastic, More Practical – Analysis

By Lindsey R. Sheppard

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a defining element in a societal transition from the Information Age to one dominated by data, information, and cyberphysical systems. As states now compete in “the gray zone” or through hybrid measures — tactics intended to remain below the threshold of armed conflict [i] — leveraging the massive amounts of information and data at hand is of strategic importance. [ii] Kinetic effect will no doubt remain crucial in armed conflict. However, securing advantage in a world with artificial intelligence, data analytics, and cloud computing requires mastery of data and information awareness — i.e., the non-kinetic and digital.
The AI toolbox

AI is an umbrella term that often includes various disciplines of computer science, [iii] learning strategies, applications, and use cases. AI has experienced a surge of excitement, research, and application in the past decade, driven by an increased availability of data and computing power, advances in machine learning (as distinguished from rules-based systems [iv]), and electronics miniaturisation. It has gone from largely residing in the realm of academia and research to widespread application across the public and private sectors. [v]

Drones and Air Defense

By Mike Rogers

The September 14th attacks on the Saudi oil facilities were a master class the application of new technologies in non-traditional ways. Someone fired cruise missiles and drones, circumventing an apparently advanced air defense network, scoring remarkable—if un-attributable—successes for relatively low costs.

If you take a step back, the strikes themselves were masterful in their signaling despite their opacity. From where did the attacks originate? That's unclear. Who is responsible for the attacks? That too is unclear. Houthi rebels from Yemen claimed responsibility, but such an attack is well beyond their capabilities. It is all but certain that their patron and regional destabilizer in Tehran is behind the strike, escalating the long simmering, but largely covert, conflict with Riyadh fought with proxies.

Of course, the Iranians denied any involvement, but Tehran must be patting themselves on the back at finding vulnerabilities in the armor of the Saudi air defense network. The Russians, for their part, are clearly happy with the strike.

For Moscow, it’s a new sales opportunity. Since the strike, Russia’s been not-so-quiet proffering of their S-400 as a cheaper, better (according to Moscow) solution for governments in the market for air-defense. Clearly, in their words, the American system failed. And, boy, do they have a deal for you!

Great Powers Must Talk to Each Other About AI


Even as they compete, major militaries have reason to cooperate: to avoid misunderstanding and to establish best practices and pragmatic parameters.

Imagine an underwater drone armed with nuclear warheads and capable of operating autonomously. Now imagine that drone has lost its way and wandered into another state’s territorial waters. 

Russia aims to field just such a drone by 2027, CNBC reported last year, citing those familiar with a U.S. intelligence assessment. Known as Poseidon, the drone will be nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered. 

While the dynamics of artificial intelligence and machine learning, or ML, research remain open and often collaborative, the military potential of AI has intensified competition among great powers. In particular, Chinese, Russian and American leaders hail AI as a strategic technology critical to future national competitiveness. 

The military applications of artificial intelligence have generated exuberant expectations, including predictions that the advent of AI could disrupt the military balance and even change the very nature of warfare. 

What $600 Million Looks Like: We Caught a Glimpse of the U.S. Air Force’s New Stealth Bomber

by David Axe 

That first artwork depicted a bomber that is similar in shape to Northrop’s much older B-2 stealth bomber but apparently smaller than the 172-feet-wingspan B-2 is.

The U.S. Air Force on Jan. 31, 2020 released three fresh digital renderings of its new B-21 Raider stealth bomber.

The illustrations reveal some of the new bomber’s unique design details.

The artist’s concepts appeared on the social media accounts of Air Force Global Strike Command. The images all are similar, each depicting a computer-generated B-21 in a real photo of a hangar.

The artist used as the basis of the artwork photos of hangars from each of the three bases that will host front-line B-21 wings. Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.