2 March 2020

The U.S.-India Relationship Is Bigger Than Trump and Modi

William J. Burns
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For sheer political spectacle, encounters between Donald Trump and Narendra Modi are hard to top. Last fall in Houston, both leaders put on a show for a raucous crowd of 50,000. They clasped hands before the multitude, and lavished praise on each other. Their encore performance in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, India, later this month will be worth the price of admission, with crowds as outsize as the ambitions of the two headliners.

President Trump’s inaugural visit to India comes after two decades of effort by administrations of both major political parties in both countries to shape a partnership between the world’s largest and oldest democracies. The relationship was born of a shared sense of values, a shared economic stake in India’s modernization, a shared (if usually unspoken) concern about China’s rise, and a shared realization that Americans and Indians need to work together to tackle big, overarching challenges like climate change and transnational terrorism.

Yet beneath the public displays of affection and tangible signs of progress lie a pair of crucial questions: Will the strategic bet that America and India have made on each other deliver on its full potential? Or will the turn to narrow, transactional diplomacy and the corrosion of democratic ideals in both societies reduce the return on investment? The answers will have enormous consequences for both countries, the future of the Indo-Pacific, and the geopolitics of the century unfolding before us.

India is building nuclear submarines and ICBMs. That’s a $14 billion mistake.

By Frank O’Donnell, Alexander K. Bollfrass

India’s INS Vela, a diesel-electric attack submarine, seen in 2019. Aside from these attack submarines, India is in the process of building nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed submarines and has built two so far, but neither has begun patrols. It plans to build several more. Photo credit: Indian Ministry of Defense.

Despite struggling to modernize outdated conventional forces with the current defense budget, India is investing in two new nuclear platforms. The first is the Arihant-class submarine fleet, the second the mobile Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile. Together, their combined price tag will top $14 billion. Is this money well spent?

Pessimism about its strategic balance with China is driving India’s nuclear arms procurement. An altercation between troops of both countries in summer 2017, which came to be known colloquially as the Doklam crisis, stimulated introspection among Indian officials and experts about the future of the relationship with China. Politically, the Indian strategic community has largely concluded that the peaceful resolution of border disputes has become less likely, forecasting more rivalry than cooperation.

US-Taliban deal — a victory for Islamists?

The US and the Taliban are set to sign an agreement on Saturday to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan. But analysts say it comes with many concessions for the insurgent group. Shamil Shams reports from Doha.

The stage is set in Doha for the signing ceremony of a much-anticipated US-Taliban deal. The agreement will be inked on Saturday, with high-ranking US officials, Taliban negotiators and delegates from various countries likely to participate in the historic event. 

It is in Doha, the capital of Qatar, that US and Taliban negotiators have held several rounds of talks. Last year in August, the two sides came very close to finalizing a deal, but US President Donald Trump called off negotiations in September after the militants attacked American troops in Afghanistan.

But within weeks, the Doha talks were back on track, and in less than five months since Trump ended Qatar talks, the US and the Taliban are on the verge of signing an historic agreement. So what changed so drastically in such a short span of time that Washington is ready to seal a deal with one of its arch-enemies?

What Do Young Afghans Think About the Peace Process?

By Hamida Andisha and Metra Mehran

An Afghan National Policeman hands out school supplies during a, humanitarian aid operation facilitated by Soldiers of the 4th Platoon, Company D, 3rd Battalion, Infantry Battalion and Macedonian Army Rangers who are embedded with them at the Sar Hawza village school, June 8, 2010.

Assuming the reduction of violence deal between the United States and the Taliban holds, the signing of a peace deal is set for February 29. However, the most important part of the peace process — negotiations between representatives of the state of Afghanistan and the Taliban groups, the so called intra-Afghan dialogue — is yet to begin. It is expected that a cross-generational group of men and women representing the diverse political and ethnic spectrum of the Afghan society will soon engage in an arduous negotiation with the representatives of the Taliban groups.

As part of its protracted and complex conflict, Afghanistan has experienced a series of unsuccessful peacemaking attempts over the past four decades. The Geneva Accord of 1988, Peshawar Accord of 1992, Islamabad Accord of 1993, and Tashkent Declaration of 1999 are also instances of formal peace efforts documented by the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.

The Rocky Road From Doha to Intra-Afghan talks

By Matthew Willner-Reid

If all goes well, on February 29 the United States and the Taliban will sign a bilateral agreement in Doha that could potentially mark a turning point in the long-running Afghan conflict. In exchange for U.S. commitments on troop reductions, the Taliban will agree to cut ties and join the international community in opposing extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and, crucially, will agree to enter into negotiations with the Afghan government aimed at conclusively resolving the conflict. These “intra-Afghan” talks would likely begin within a month of the signing of the bilateral agreement. The talks will present a historic opportunity to bring peace to Afghanistan that should be seized upon by all sides.

Considering the Taliban’s consistent reluctance to talk to the Afghan government, getting the parties into the same room and talking to each other will be a significant, and essential, step in the peace process. But it will not be easy for the Afghan government and the Taliban to reach an agreement — particularly an agreement that international partners are able to live with and would see as a basis for continuing to provide the development funding that the country sorely needs. Such an agreement is within reach. But it will require commitment, patience, and moderation from the parties, and continued support from Afghanistan’s international partners.

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

When SARS broke out in 2003, I was in graduate school. Shanghai was not a hot zone, with only eight people infected out of a population of 17 million. The campus was not under quarantine, and there was no social media to spread alarm. Summer came, and the virus waned.

The new coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2 – has already infected more people than SARS. Besides the lungs and respiratory tract it can also affect the oesophagus, heart, kidneys, ileum and bladder. A definite diagnosis isn’t always easy: blood tests aren’t reliable and the standard nucleic acid test, which uses swabs from the throat or nose, produces a high rate of false negatives – especially in the middle of a public health emergency, when large numbers of people are being tested in a short space of time under conditions that are hard to monitor. The patient may have a cough or a fever, or be short of breath – but there are also many cases of asymptomatic infection, making an outbreak significantly harder to contain.

Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, where the virus emerged, was locked down on 23 January. Since then misinformation and disinformation have dominated Chinese lives. Before the lockdown, experts said there was no evidence of human to human transmission and therefore no need to panic. Business carried on as usual. Wuhan hosted the Two Sessions, an annual gathering of the regional branches of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. One city district held a mass banquet for forty thousand families, with a world record-beating 13,986 dishes, to bring in the approaching Chinese New Year. No need to disappoint so many good people with inconvenient public health alerts.

Coronavirus Could Break Iranian Society

Graeme Wood
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Picture the following sacred but unhygienic scene: Pilgrims from a dozen countries converge on one small city. They stay in cramped hotels, using communal toilets and eating meals together. For their main ritual, they converge on the tomb of a woman, the sister of a holy man, and as they get closer, they feel with rising intensity grief over her death and the deaths of her kin. The grief is a commandment: Each tear, according to one tradition, will be transformed in the afterlife into a pearl, and an angel will compensate them for their tears with a bucket of pearls that will be signs of their devotion when they arrive at the gate of paradise. But for now the bodily fluids are flowing, wiped away occasionally by bare hands, and the crowd is getting denser. A metal cage surrounds the tomb itself, and when the weeping pilgrims reach it, they interlace their fingers with its bars, and many press their face against it, fogging up the shiny metal with their breath. Some linger for minutes, some for seconds. In a single day, many thousands pass through the same cramped space—breathing the same air, touching the same surfaces, trading new and exotic diseases.

The city is Qom, Iran, and two days ago, a local health official declared on Iranian television that the coronavirus was burning through the community. The situation, he said, is grim. Iran claims that, countrywide, 26 people have died from the coronavirus illness (known as COVID-19), out of 245 total infections. All acknowledge that Qom is the center of infection, but many doubt that the numbers are accurate. Another official, a member of Iran’s Parliament from Qom, said last weekend that his city had already lost 50 people to COVID-19. That figure, assuming it’s accurate, suggests that if COVID-19 is as deadly in Iran as it is elsewhere and kills 2.3 percent of its victims, another 2,000 people have the disease in Qom alone.

Coronavirus Won't Take Down China

by Lyle J. Goldstein
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Reading the Western press, one could be forgiven for believing that China is well on its way to Judgement Day. The most ideological opponents of the PRC regime are giddy with excitement. The rest of us are watching our stock portfolios and feeling nauseous. South Korea could be the next domino to fall into crisis with Southeast Asia and Japan following in succession. Europe, according to this logic, could also be doomed, with a significant spread of the virus into Italy unlikely to be contained since the offending microbes were already there for weeks before it was apparently discovered. “Fortress America” is still looking pretty solid, albeit with a few noteworthy cracks. However, those pesky Chinese are refusing to send us Americans an adequate number of surgical masks and other pandemic paraphernalia. How dare they prioritize their own health care over ours?

Looking at the facts of the crisis, however, one realizes that this pandemic is neither the end of the world, nor the end of China (as presently configured). Like many stories hyped in today’s American media, headlines (and thus “clicks”) are optimized for advertising by moving from “crisis to crisis,” whipping up hysteria. This unfortunate phenomena, visible in all the major U.S. newspapers, is one reason that world politics are in considerable disarray, since they generate a constant focus on conflict and continuously spur rivalry. That tendency toward rivalry or what might be called the “xenophobic norm” is not helpful in present circumstances, since it is hardly conducive to the kind of intensive international cooperation that is now required against the coronavirus outbreak. Knowing well that the author is neither epidemiologist, nor economist, but rather just your humble sinologist, let us take in turn the notorious COVID-19 virus, the economic impact, and the implications for China’s future.

Don’t Forget China’s Other Viral Outbreak

By Madison Plaster

Wuhan residents rarely leave their apartments nowadays, and when they do, it is to stock up on necessary goods like food and masks. On January 23, officials banned transportation in and out of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak of a novel coronavirus that has so far infected more than 82,000 people and killed 2,810. People in Wuhan rushed to buy food and supplies. More than a month later, shelves remain bare. To increase supply and decrease the price of pork, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture of Rural Affairs decided on February 7 to release 10,000 tons of frozen pork from a Hubei reserve.

Why pork? The Chinese population loves pork more than any other country, consuming half of the world’s stock at 500 million pigs a year and 39 kg per person. Following market liberalization in the 1970s, eating pork in China came to symbolize the prosperity brought by rapid economic growth.

The Impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative on Central Asia and the South Caucasus

By Roie Yellinek

In September 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping first announced his strategic vision of “One Belt, One Road” (subsequently renamed the “Belt and Road Initiative” or BRI) during a speech at Nazarbayev University in the Kazakh capital. In essence, the BRI is a massive Chinese project, involving more than 130 countries, over $600 billion in existing commitments, and a total price tag estimated in the trillions of dollars, to redevelop the ancient Silk Road trade routes running between China and Europe. In his speech at Nazarbayev University, Xi suggested that China and Central Asia cooperate to build “the Belt,” the continental part of the Chinese vision, as opposed to “the Road,” the maritime segment. The choice to unveil this enormous project in a country with a relatively low international profile suggests the significance that China attaches to Kazakhstan specifically as well as the broader region in which it is situated. Indeed, Central Asia and the South Caucasus will be a key part of the BRI and home to a number of major associated projects.

A quick look at the map underscores the importance of Central Asia and the South Caucasus in the context of an initiative seeking to connect China to Europe by rail and road. The China-Kazakhstan border is China’s longest on its western side, and it also borders Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Together with Afghanistan and Pakistan, these countries form its western border, connecting China by land to the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and then to Europe. While Pakistan and Afghanistan are similarly situated, not only are they more southerly, which would likely make for a longer route, they also suffer from greater security concerns and political instability than the other countries to their north. It is not surprising that Central Asia will host one of the main routes connecting China and Europe under the BRI, known as “the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor.” This route runs from Urumqi in China’s north-west through Almaty, Bishkek, and Tashkent. In Tashkent the path splits, with one part heading north to Aktau, on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, and the other heading south to Ankara and Bandar Abbas on the southern coast of Iran. On the other side of the region, the South Caucasus will also be central to the Chinese initiative, especially Georgia, given its location on the Black Sea coast, which serves as the connection point on to Europe. On May 24, 2019, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Georgia and met with his Georgian counterpart as well as the country’s president. Wang emphasized Georgia’s important role in the BRI, arguing that it could serve as a major transport and logistics hub between Europe and Asia. In April 2018, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili held meetings in China with Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng and Trade Minister Zhong Shan, during which several agreements were signed.

Pentagon: China threat increasing

By Bill Gertz 
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The Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders said Wednesday that China has emerged as the most important defense and military challenge faced by the United States.

The Defense Department’s “highest priority remains China, as its government continues to use — and misuse — its diplomatic, economic and military strength to attempt to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in its favor, often at the expense of others,” said Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The Chinese Communist Party has emerged as a strategic threat to the international order and is seeking regional hegemony and global influence, said Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who joined Mr. Esper in congressional testimony. Mr. Esper and Gen. Milley testified before the House Armed Services Committee on the Pentagon’s fiscal 2021 budget request of $705.4 billion.

Mr. Esper said China is continuing to invest heavily in military modernization and expansion in areas such as space, cyberspace, electronic warfare, undersea warfare, fighter aircraft, bombers, long-range missiles and other “anti-access/area denial” (A2/AD) systems. The buildup is part Beijing’s leadership plans to become the preeminent global military power by 2049.

“To Oppress the Free”: The Iranian Basij and the Dark Side of Unconventional Warfare Doctrine

Scott J. Harr

The use of irregular resistance forces to overthrow a government encapsulates major elements of the current United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) definition of Unconventional Warfare (UW). In this context, activities such as coup d’états and populist revolutions that lead to the ouster of established governments represent successful applications of UW campaigns. While political sensitivities often limit the desired goal for US-sponsored UW campaigns to the lesser of its defined end-states (coercion and disruption), the ability to alter and influence the direction of national governments with limited (or no) use of conventional military capabilities makes UW both attractive to those looking for “low cost” regime change options as well as dangerous to those regimes plagued by ungoverned spaces, internal unrest, and/or lack of confidence from their populations. Perhaps no country understands this better in modern times than Iran. Starting with the Western-led coup d’état against its prime minister in 1953 and continuing through the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran’s current ruling elite have been both victims and perpetrators of successful UW campaigns. Bluntly, Iran understands UW – both how to conduct it and, critically, how to defend against it.

Given its extensive and (relatively) recent experiences with “activities conducted…to overthrow a government” (as doctrine describes UW), it should not be surprising that Iran, since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, has prioritized and dedicated significant resources to protecting the ruling regime from UW threats from within while (leveraging its empirically won UW principles) projecting highly capable UW forces abroad. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini wasted little time building the forces and organizations to protect his regime from UW threats as he created The Basij– a civilian militia and mass member organization that operationalized the ayatollah’s vision of a “20 million man” army to protect and secure the revolutionary ideology serving as the basis for the new Islamic Republic of Iran (Golkar, 2012). Unlike militias in the US, which sprung from a desire to protect the people from government overreach and as such often conjure up images of anti-government activities, The Basij, as noted by scholar Saeid Golkar, describes a pro-government militia (PGM) that exists to support the ruling Islamic regime. Its responsibilities (while ever-changing since its inception) cover a wide range of functions including internal security, policing, and the administering of public services all while propagating revolutionary ideology to the Iranian public at large. With branches and establishments in all sectors and strata of Iran and current membership perhaps reaching over 25 million Iranians, the Basij effectively penetrate Iranian civil society while acting as the regime’s front-line sensors detecting any hint of unrest and arresting the development of meaningful resistance against the regime. In this sense, the Basij remain the theocratic regime’s weapon of choice in its counter-UW efforts against its own population.

Iran's Drone Shootdown Shows We're Vulnerable For the Next War

by David Axe
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Key Point: The last manned penetrating ISR platform, the Mach-three SR-71, retired from Air Force service in the late 1990s.

The shoot-down of a U.S. Navy surveillance drone on June 20, 2019 underscores a weakness in the Pentagon’s surveillance forces.

Aside from a few classified vehicles, the U.S. military largely relies on slow, non-stealthy manned and unmanned aircraft for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Those ISR systems are vulnerable to the latest Iranian, Chinese and Russian air defenses.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps claimed it shot down a “U.S.-made Global Hawk surveillance drone” flying in Iranian air space near the Strait of Hormuz. 

U.S. Central Command clarified that the drone was a Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator, a prototype naval variant of the 737-size Global Hawk. BAMS-D carries cameras and a radar and is designed to swoop between high and low altitudes, alternately scanning wide areas for ships then individually identifying them.

The U.N. Won’t Save Idlib. The EU and NATO Can.

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In its latest convulsion, the war in Syria has produced its biggest humanitarian calamity yet. But the world’s attention is focused elsewhere. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military operation targeting Idlib, in the northwest of the country, has uprooted more than 900,000 civilians—the majority of them women and children—according to United Nations figures.

These internally displaced persons have found temporary refuge near the Turkish border in makeshift camps under harsh winter conditions. The latest U.N. report showcases several examples of displaced civilians burning their few belongings to fight the cold. Already, many children have died.

A humanitarian crisis of this scale should have already galvanized the international community to launch a coordinated campaign to end this suffering. But, so far, regional and global politics have stymied such efforts. And in the absence of any outside intervention, the conflict is likely to further aggravate the humanitarian consequences.

Europe Is Thinking Harder About Divorcing America

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This year’s Munich Security Conference convened under the rubric of “Westlessness.” The implication was clear: Not only are the United States and Europe staking out separate, clashing positions on everything from telecommunications to energy, but they have issued sharp disagreements on the basic building blocks of foreign relations—namely, how the international system should work. French President Emmanuel Macron seized the spotlight, and sent the hearts of European federalists aflutter, by calling for “a European way” while raising the possibility of a French-led European nuclear deterrent, a precondition for any true independence from the United States.

It is an axiom of international relations that democracies do not go to war with one another. What is less clear, however, is the conditions under which they might separate into competing strategic blocs. History is full of examples of democracies banding together into strategic alliances, but few examples of such countries decoupling and transforming into political rivals. Are the United States and its closest allies in Europe nevertheless on the path to a historic divorce?

If opinion polls are to go by, we are already separated. Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in Germany, the most important country in Europe. In January, Pew Research released a poll showing that 57 percent of Germans hold an outright unfavorable view of the United States. A few months earlier, in September, the European Council on Foreign Relations reported that 70 percent of Germans want their country to remain neutral in any conflict between Moscow and Washington.

America Alone: Why the Trump Administration Will Pay for Alienating Its Strategic Partners

by Peter Harris 

It is something of a conventional wisdom that the American Century is coming to an end if it has not already expired. Whether they attribute U.S. decline to the rise of great-power challengers or to the willful abdication of global leadership, most analysts seem to agree that the “unipolar moment” is giving way to a world system characterized by multiple centers of power. The United States will wield preponderant power for some time to come but it is no longer hegemonic.

Nobody knows if the next world order will be bipolar, with power divided between just two superpowers (most likely the United States and China); or multipolar, with three or more great powers vying for influence and authority. How this basic “structure” of world order takes shape will mostly depend upon developments within the various contenders for power. Whose economy will continue to grow and whose economy will stagnate? Whose political system will allow them to convert global ambitions into concrete actions, and who might instead be prone to domestic upheaval? 

But the number of great powers in the international system does not determine everything about global politics. The character of international society matters just as much as its underlying structure. And when it comes to understanding the character of world order—that is, the panoply of rules, norms, behaviors, and institutions that provide each era of international politics with its distinct ethos—it is important to recognize the role played by middle powers.

Get Ready for Unstoppable, Deadly Hypersonic Weapons

by Dan Goure

A new technological competition has begun, one in which America’s rivals, particularly Russia and China, may be ahead. This is the race to build and put in the field super-fast or hypersonic weapons and vehicles. The military defines a hypersonic weapon as one that travels at least Mach 5 or five times the speed of sound. In comparison, commercial aircraft fly at around Mach 1 while some military jets can push themselves to around Mach 3, but only for a short time.

There are two basic types of hypersonic weapons: super-fast cruise missiles, and boost-glide vehicles that are mounted on ballistic missiles. Hypersonic cruise missiles, which would most commonly be launched from aircraft, maintain powered flight from launch to impact. Boost-glide vehicles are lofted by a ballistic missile launched from an aircraft, ship, submarine or ground unit to the edge of space from which point they use their speed and aerodynamic design to skip along the top of the atmosphere for up to 10,000 miles.

Hypersonic weapons have several advantages over existing cruise and ballistic missiles. Because they fly so fast, they can close on their targets in a very short period of time. Compared to slower weapons, their extremely high speed means that these weapons can evade or outrun any existing air and missile defenses. Some hypersonic weapons are so fast and maneuverable that they are unlikely to even be seen by existing radars.

How the 1994 Battle of Grozny Changed Russia Forever

by Sebastien Roblin
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Key point: There was a limit to how far Russia would let its ethnic enclaves go in pushing for autonomy. However, Russia's forces were not ready yet to put down an independence movement.

On New Year’s Eve, 1994 Russian tanks and infantry fighting vehicles poured into the streets of Grozny with an assault expected to snuff out the self-declared Chechcen Republic of Ichkeria, as black smoke poured into the sky from oil tanks set ablaze by a dawn artillery bombardment. 

Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had claimed the upstart Chechens would be swept away in “a bloodless blitzkrieg” with minimal forces. But the forces entering Grozny from four axes were far from minimal, counting elements from seven motorized rifle regiments and one independent brigade mounted in wheeled BTR-80 armored personnel carriers and tracked BMP-2 fighting vehicles, two tank battalions with T-72 and T-80 main battle tanks, and two parachute regiments.


Bill Hix and Robert Simpson 

The modern slaughters of World Wars I and II are modern demonstrations that when great powers fight symmetrically, the result is costly, even globally catastrophic. While America avoided catastrophe during the Cold War, the potential for great-power conflict and its consequences have returned.

Today, America deters its great-power rivals, Russia and China, from a strategically prudent forward-defensive posture, centered in other nations’ sovereign territory. However, that deterrence and America’s strategic position depend on its ability to respond to attack by near instantaneously accelerating into a relentless offensive war of maneuver and firepower. In that regard, the US Army’s multi-domain operations concept correctly emphasizes offensive action. Still, much work remains if the Army is to assume the offensive at the speed and scale demanded by the intersection of great-power conflict and the twenty-first-century equivalent of the Industrial Revolution that powered those slaughters in last century’s world wars. Absent that, America could face a Hobbesian choice, either yielding to aggression or reversing it through carnage.

Despite the military potential of what the 2018 National Defense Strategy calls “rapid technological advancements” and related trends that have led some to suggest optimizing for the defense, doing so ill advised. History argues against such an approach, as those twentieth-century slaughters illustrate. Further, America’s strategic disposition, that of its allies and great-power rivals, and the “more lethal and disruptive battlefield … [of] increasing speed and reach” that the NDS predicts make that an unlikely path to success. Rather, the United States and particularly its Army must accelerate strategically in its transition from a defense to the offense, and continue that acceleration onward. The race goes to the swift where the winner possesses the initiative. Overcoming adversary advantages and new technologies’ military potential demands American forces accelerate to build the momentum to secure and press the initiative, retaining a relative tempo advantage over our adversaries. The past’s progressive buildup of forces and isolated, near-sequential campaigns for domain superiority will not defeat peer adversaries who themselves are advancing their operations across all potential aspects of warfare.

Can cryptocurrency become the UN money of the future?

By Annalisa Merelli

The UN may not be the most innovative of institutions, yet it does, with surprising frequency, experiment with new technology and solutions. In recent years, it’s undertaken initiatives that incorporate artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and blockchain technology.

These projects often remain confined to the realm of experiments. But a recent undertaking by UNICEF, the UN agency tasked with providing aid to children around the world, now offers what could be a glimpse of the future: The Cryptocurrency Fund, which collects contributions in cryptocurrencies, and then doles out those donations in the same currency. No exchange needed.

The crypto fund is nested within another UNICEF venture, the Innovation Fund, which provides seed funding to blockchain-based companies developing products or services that could potentially be of use in social and development settings.

Beginning in October 2019, UNICEF has been outfitted to receive donations in two cryptocurrencies—bitcoin and ether—with the first donation coming from the Ethereum Foundation, the organization that created ether. So far three organizations have received funding through UNICEF’s crypto fund.

America Must Shape the World’s AI Norms — or Dictators Will


Four former U.S. defense secretaries issue a warning about China and a wake-up call to Americans on artificial intelligence.

As Secretaries of Defense, we anticipated and addressed threats to our nation, sought strategic opportunities, exercised authority, direction, and control over the U.S. military, and executed many other tasks in order to protect the American people and our way of life. During our combined service leading the Department of Defense, we navigated historical inflection points – the end of the Cold War and its aftermath, the War on Terror, and the reemergence of great power competition.

Now, based on our collective experience, we believe the development and application of artificial intelligence and machine learning will dramatically affect every part of the Department of Defense, and will play as prominent a role in our country’s future as the many strategic shifts we witnessed while in office.

The digital revolution is changing our society at an unprecedented rate. Nearly 60 years passed between the construction of the first railroads in the United States and the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Smartphones were introduced just 20 years ago and have already changed how we manage our finances, connect with family members, and conduct our daily lives.

Intuition Is The Highest Form Of Intelligence

Bruce Kasanoff

Intuition, argues Gerd Gigerenzer, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, is less about suddenly "knowing" the right answer and more about instinctively understanding what information is unimportant and can thus be discarded.

Gigerenzer, author of the book Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, says that he is both intuitive and rational. "In my scientific work, I have hunches. I can’t explain always why I think a certain path is the right way, but I need to trust it and go ahead. I also have the ability to check these hunches and find out what they are about. That’s the science part. Now, in private life, I rely on instinct. For instance, when I first met my wife, I didn’t do computations. Nor did she."

I'm telling you this because recently one of my readers, Joy Boleda, posed a question that stopped me in my tracks:

What about intuition? It has never been titled as a form of intelligence, but would you think that someone who has great intuition in things, has more intelligence?

Why Attitude Is More Important Than IQ| 30:53

An Apolitical Military, Not a Non-political Military, is Key to Superior Strategy and National Values

Thomas A. Drohan

A cultural “firebreak” between what is broadly branded as political, and what is narrowly construed as military, is undermining effective strategy and values.

The firebreak is—military leaders avoiding political issues—being non-political. Military operations occur in deeply political contexts and narratives with long-term causes and effects, but senior military leaders generally don’t go there. The causes of this avoidance appear to be cultural, and cultural transformation tends to lag technology and threats. The firebreak shows up in policy, strategy, and doctrine — which leadership can change.

Culture. For better or for worse, the US military is a risk averse culture with respect to politics. What’s more debatable than politics? Perhaps religion. So it’s safer to be non-political than apolitical, even though the US Constitution requires of our military, the latter. Let me explain this distinction.

By non-political, I mean steering clear of political issues altogether. Such avoidance seems safe, since what’s political is a slippery topic that encompasses values, interests, and choices.

Improving Company Performance in Offensive Operations

by Lawrence Csaszar

The U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Battalions (CABs) form the core of the Armored Brigade Combat Team’s (ABCT) striking power. They include main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, 120mm mortars, and infantry squads. This impressive grouping of combat platforms and soldiers requires the company commander to skillfully employ and integrate platoons. Company commanders enable the CAB commander to rapidly combine arms. Based on observations of CABs executing offensive operations at the National Training Center (NTC), numerous shortfalls exist at the company level that impact the CAB’s ability to maintain momentum and extend operational reach. Units that can’t perform fundamental company and platoon-level tasks during the plan, prepare and execute phases of an operation will stall the CAB commander’s efforts to synchronize actions and achieve desired effects against enemy formations. To minimize this degradation in combat power, armor and mechanized infantry company commanders should consider the following best practices.

This is part of our Lessons from Atropia Series. The Company Leader is partnering with the Combined Training Centers to share lessons learned and improve the readiness of the force. Check out more posts like this one HERE. To subscribe to The Company Leader click

CTC Sentinel 13 (2)

Author Matthew Levitt, Jason Warner, Amarnath Amarasingam, Annie Fixler, Bennett Clifford, Caleb Weiss (Editors: Paul Cruickshank, Kristina Hummel)
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The articles of this edition of the CTC Sentinel focus on 1) the tactical adjustment that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, Hezbollah and other Shi’a militant groups may make following the killing of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020; 2) what the death of Soleimani may mean for Iran’s cyber operations targeted against the US; and 3) the global threat posed by jihadi attacks on prisons and jihadi riots inside prisons. The edition also includes interviews with Brigadier General Dagvin Anderson, Commander of US Special Operations Command Africa as well as Amarnath Amarasingam from Europol’s EU Internet Referral Unit.