21 March 2020

Takshashila Discussion Document: An Indian Approach Towards Strategic Petroleum Reserves


Energy security is a strategic imperative for India, given its strong growth aspirations. As the country does not have self-sustaining oil production, it is almost entirely dependent on imports for its energy requirements. In such a scenario, having an insurance policy, such as a strategic petroleum reserve (SPR), is in India’s national interest. SPR refers to holding oil inventories or stockpiles to help maintain national security during an energy crisis.

To ensure that India’s SPR provides oil security and mitigates risk, we propose the following policy recommendations:

For mitigating costs and improving benefits, the Union Government should have formal rules and processes to ensure oil remains available in times of emergency. This requires formalising the mobilising processes of the SPR and defining the authority which can command a withdrawal of the SPR. This also involves a mobilisation plan for oil held by petroleum refineries in India.

Houthis report capture of province bordering Saudi Arabia

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Houthi fighters enter the government center of Yemen’s al Jawf Governorate.

Following a recent offensive over the last few weeks in Yemen’s northern al Jawf Governorate, the Houthi insurgency has reported that its forces are in ‘full control’ of the area.

In a statement released earlier today, Yahya Saree, the Houthi movement’s military spokesman, announced that the insurgents had taken over most of al Jawf except for a few areas closer to the borders with Saudi Arabia.

Those areas, such as the Khub wal Shaaf district, were recently retaken by Yemeni forces of the Saudi-backed coalition. This also includes al Yatma, where the Houthis also recently attempted to assassinate the governor of al Jawf with a ballistic missile.

Despite those areas, the Houthis remain in firm control of al Jawf’s capital, al Hazm – which was captured earlier this month – and its various surrounding districts.

Photos released by the Houthis today also detail the movement’s firm control over the provincial capital.

In separate statements over the last few days, the Houthis have also claimed to have shot down several Saudi F-15s with Fatir-1 anti-aircraft missiles, which were first showcased last year.

Though only one recently claimed downing, which occurred last month, appears to be confirmed.

Nepal: Economy Coronified! An update:

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
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One of the few countries that has been badly affected by the Chinese Virus Covid-19 is Nepal. Though Nepal does not figure anywhere near other countries in terms of incidence of suspected cases, its economy that depends mainly on the tourism and hospitality industry has taken a direct hit by steps taken to contain the Corona virus both by Nepal and other countries as well.

Consider the following:

* Foreign Tourist travel has completely stopped from this week. With the denial of visas on arrival, very few tourists who were inclined to come have also cancelled the visit.

* The Hotels which would be full in the Spring season are empty and even popular places like Pokhara and Chitwan are empty.

*. Trekking expeditions by foreign tourists have virtually stopped and many of the support personnel like guides, porters, taxi drivers are without any job.

China Boomeranging


NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLESometime in late November the Chinese Communist Party apparat was aware that the ingredients of some sort of an epidemic were brewing in Wuhan. Soon after, it was also clear to them that a new type of coronavirus was on the loose, a threat they might have taken more seriously given the similar Chinese origins of the prior toxic SARS coronavirus and the resources of a Level 4 virology lab nearby.

Yet the government initially hid all that knowledge from its own people in particular and in general from the world at large. Translated into American terms, that disingenuousness ensured that over 10,000 Chinese nationals and foreigners living in China flew every day on direct flights into the United States (Washington and California especially) from late November to the beginning of February, until the Trump travel ban of January 31.

All this laxity was also known to the Communist apparat in Beijing, which must have been amused when Trump was roundly damned by his liberal critics as a xenophobe and racist for finally daring to stop the influx on January 31 — the first major leader to enact such a total ban.

The Three Essential Questions about COVID-19


NEW YORK – The single most important component of an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic is rapid use of data. I recently highlighted 19 critical data gaps regarding the novel coronavirus that we need to address. Now, with COVID-19 continuing to spread rapidly in the United States and elsewhere, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public-health specialists must urgently answer three questions in particular.

First, do people without symptoms and children spread the novel coronavirus?

If we are to know who to test and who to quarantine, it is crucial to understand whether asymptomatic people spread infection. If kids don’t account for a substantial proportion of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as they do with seasonal influenza, then there is much less reason to close schools, and perhaps those that are closed can reopen sooner. Although children up to at least age 18 appear to become very ill with COVID-19 less often, they may be able to spread infection. We need to know how much risk infected children pose to the older and more medically vulnerable people around them, especially because many of these people may be called on to provide childcare during school closures.

What COVID-19 Means for International Aid


CAMBRIDGE – We are still in the early stages of dealing with COVID-19. Yet, it is already clear that this new coronavirus will have long-lasting effects on the global economy, how we deal with pandemics, and perhaps even the architecture of international aid. This is because the COVID-19 pandemic is putting the spotlight on one of the less-noticed distortions of the international aid system: it does exactly the opposite of what the evidence requires.

To understand why, we need to distinguish between two kinds of aid. Traditional country lending seeks to improve outcomes in individual developing countries, while financing of global public goods (GPGs) aims to improve global welfare. The latter includes the development of technologies to promote agricultural productivity, actions to prevent climate change and mitigate its impact, knowledge creation, information provision, and, of course, preventing and dealing with pandemics.

Donors therefore need to decide how to allocate their funds between these two types of aid. Clearly, this decision should be informed by research regarding the relative effectiveness of country lending and financing of GPGs.

The Three Essential Questions about COVID-19


NEW YORK – The single most important component of an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic is rapid use of data. I recently highlighted 19 critical data gaps regarding the novel coronavirus that we need to address. Now, with COVID-19 continuing to spread rapidly in the United States and elsewhere, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public-health specialists must urgently answer three questions in particular.

First, do people without symptoms and children spread the novel coronavirus?

If we are to know who to test and who to quarantine, it is crucial to understand whether asymptomatic people spread infection. If kids don’t account for a substantial proportion of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as they do with seasonal influenza, then there is much less reason to close schools, and perhaps those that are closed can reopen sooner. Although children up to at least age 18 appear to become very ill with COVID-19 less often, they may be able to spread infection. We need to know how much risk infected children pose to the older and more medically vulnerable people around them, especially because many of these people may be called on to provide childcare during school closures.

The Coronavirus Could Reshape Global Order

By Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi 

With hundreds of millions of people now isolating themselves around the world, the novel coronavirus pandemic has become a truly global event. And while its geopolitical implications should be considered secondary to matters of health and safety, those implications may, in the long term, prove just as consequential—especially when it comes to the United States’ global position. Global orders have a tendency to change gradually at first and then all at once. In 1956, a botched intervention in the Suez laid bare the decay in British power and marked the end of the United Kingdom’s reign as a global power. Today, U.S. policymakers should recognize that if the United States does not rise to meet the moment, the coronavirus pandemic could mark another “Suez moment.”

It is now clear to all but the most blinkered partisans that Washington has botched its initial response. Missteps by key institutions, from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have undermined confidence in the capacity and competence of U.S. governance. Public statements by President Donald Trump, whether Oval Office addresses or early-morning tweets, have largely served to sow confusion and spread uncertainty. Both public and private sectors have proved ill-prepared to produce and distribute the tools necessary for testing and response. And internationally, the pandemic has amplified Trump’s instincts to go it alone and exposed just how unprepared Washington is to lead a global response.

China and Coronavirus: From Home-Made Disaster to Global Mega-Opportunity

by Joshua Kurlantzick

Chinese President Xi Jinping learns about the hospital's operations, treatment of patients, protection for medical workers and scientific research at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China Xie Huanchi/Xinhua/Reuters

The government first stymied the initial efforts of doctors in Wuhan to foster transparency about the virus. It then suppressed accurate information about the coronavirus within Wuhan, nationally and globally.

The confusion and lack of information led to some five million people fleeing Wuhan and spreading the virus.

Then it cracks down very hard

However, after eventually admitting the scale of the crisis, Beijing cracked down hard. Essentially, it imposed a medieval quarantine on much of the country, despite enormous economic and social ramifications.

China-Iran Relations: The Not-So-Special “Special Relationship”

By: John Calabrese

Over the years, unremitting hostility between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran has created opportunities as well as dilemmas for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, and the subsequent adoption of a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, presented mixed challenges and opportunities for the PRC. Beijing has sought to exploit the rift between Washington and Tehran without further fueling Sino-American tensions.

For the past year, Washington and Tehran have been locked in an action-reaction cycle of escalation. This dangerous spiral reached new heights with the January 2 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander General Qasem Soleimani, which was followed by retaliatory Iranian missile attacks on two coalition bases in Iraq that injured dozens of American troops. Although both sides managed to pull back from the brink of war in early January, underlying tensions remain—as does the possibility of a more direct military confrontation.

In what manner and to what extent has the current unstable situation affected China’s interests in, and relationship with, Iran? What is the likelihood that, as this latest round of high-stakes poker between Washington and Tehran continues to unfold, Beijing will seize it as yet another opportunity to profit from America’s entanglements in the wider Middle East?

China’s Not-So-Special “Special Relationship” with Iran

Iran Warns Virus Could Kill ‘Millions’ Within Its Borders

By Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell

Iran issued its most dire warning yet Tuesday about the outbreak of the new coronavirus ravaging the country, suggesting “millions” could die in the Islamic Republic if people keep traveling and ignoring health guidance.

A state television journalist who also is a medical doctor gave the warning only hours after hard-line Shiite faithful on Monday night pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines that had finally been closed due to the virus. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious ruling prohibiting “unnecessary” travel in the country.

Roughly nine out of 10 of the over 18,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the Middle East come from Iran, where authorities denied for days the risk the outbreak posed. Officials have now implemented new checks for people trying to leave major cities ahead of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on Friday, but have hesitated to quarantine the areas.

Playing For Higher Stakes: Saudi Arabia Gambles On Oil War With Russia – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

With stock markets crashing and economies grinding to a halt as the world struggles to get a grip on the Coronavirus, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could not have chosen a worse time to wreak havoc on energy markets by launching a price and production war against Russia.

Saudi Arabia’s oil spat with Russia throws a spanner into the works of the Kingdom’s long-standing effort to hedge its bets, a strategy that has taken on added significance as the Gulf comes to grips with the likelihood that the region’s security architecture will fundamentally change.

Saudi Arabia, despite a primary focus on close ties to the United States, has increasingly sought to put its eggs in multiple baskets by initially forging closer military and economic relations with Britain, France, and Germany, and more recently with Russia and China.

The Saudi strategy, stemming from mounting doubts about the reliability of the United States as an ally and protector of last resort, was showcased when China opened its first overseas defense production facility in Saudi Arabia for the manufacturing of the CH-4 Caihong, or Rainbow drone, as well as associated equipment.

The day the world stopped

OF THE SUPPOSED five stages of grief, humanity’s response to the covid-19 pandemic has seemed stuck in the first three: denial (it will not happen to us), anger (it’s another country’s fault, or our government’s) and bargaining (if we make modest changes to our ways of life, it will leave us alone). Monday March 16th may have been the day when the last vestiges of these coping strategies evaporated. Much of the world moved on to the next stage, depression—the heart-sinking realisation that billions of lives will be seriously disrupted for weeks and probably months; that, before it is over, many people will die; and that the economic implications are beyond dire. (For more coverage of covid-19 see our coronavirus hub.)

As stockmarkets in America experienced one of the worst days in their history, in many countries the incremental stepping up of relatively modest measures against the virus gave way to Draconian restrictions on travel and on daily life. This seemed to resolve a debate between advocates of two very different approaches.

Looming Recession Sparks New Oil Sell Off

By Irina Slav
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Travel bans, border closures, and recommendations for self-isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic have aggravated fears of a global recession and pushed money managers to intensify the sell off of crude oil and fuels contracts, data reported by Reuters’ John Kemp shows. While just two weeks ago things were beginning to look up for oil after the first sell-off wave, now the future looks bleak.

Money managers sold some 180 million barrels of oil and fuel contracts since February 18, Kemp reported, which doesn’t bode well for this particular commodity market as prices have been falling in this period and it hasn’t deterred funds from selling.

Just how much things could change over two weeks becomes apparent when one compares the mood in the oil market in early March to what we are witnessing now. In early March, days before the OPEC+ meeting, most expected an agreement on deeper production cuts that would mitigate the devastating effect Covid-19 was already having on the global economy. And then Russia refused to play ball and said it was going back to normal production rates.

Coronavirus Could Kill China's Central Role In Global Supply Chains

by Gordon G. Chang 
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Key point: Foreigners were strategically short-sighted in relying on an inherently unstable and belligerent regime in China for the supply of goods, yet any reliance can be problematic at times

This looks like the end of China’s central role in global supply chains. A microbe in China—and the response of a totalitarian government—is killing it.

Americans are angry. “I was on the phone with leaders from several hospitals in New York, and they told me that they had contracts with Chinese companies where they were waiting on things like plastic gloves, masks, all of this stuff where they were on the ships on their way to the U.S., and the Chinese government said ‘no, no, no, no, turn around, we need this stuff,’ ” said Maria Bartiromo on her Fox Business Network show “Mornings with Maria,” on the 19th of this month. “How is anybody going to trust China in terms of keeping up their end of the bargain again in business?”

The influential television anchor is voicing a concern heard throughout America these days. Peter Navarro, who appeared on her Fox News Channel show on the 23rd, provided more reasons for cutting links with Chinese suppliers. “China put export restrictions on those masks and then nationalized an American factory that produces them there,” said President Donald Trump’s director of trade and manufacturing policy, referring to N95 masks, used for protection against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Why Oil Could Fall To $20; And Why Saudi Arabia Will Emerge On Top

Avi Salzman posted a March 17, 2020 article to the financial news website, Barron’s, with the title above. Brent crude, as I write this note is trading below $30, at $29.14. And, with neither Saudi Arabia nor Russia likely to blink anytime soon, oilt is likely to fall even further. “There has apparantly been no progress in attempts to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Russia, with sources saying an OPEC+ meeting schedule for Wednesday of this week being called off, said Jack Allardyce, oil and gas research analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald Europe. “Neither side appears ready to blink in the short-term, with Saudi Aramco stating at an earnings call that it was likely to sustain higher output through May, and was ‘very comfortable’ with $30 oil.”

“That dynamic is likely to push the price of Brent crude down to $20 in the second quarter/2020,” according to Jeffrie Currie, the head of Commodities Research at Goldman Sachs. “He had previously had a $30 price target,” Mr. Salzman wrote. “Oil use is already down 8 million barrels per day, and supply is likely to increase by 3 million barrels per day at its peak Currie estimates,” Mr. Salzman added.

“Some analysts have predicted Saudi Arabia will eventually have to let oil prices rise, because the country’s budget is funded largely from oil proceeds and cannot be balanced until oil at least doubles.” Mr. Salzman wrote. “But, Currie expects Saudi Arabia to wait this out; and, actually emerge in a much stronger position a year from now.”

Personal Data: Its Value, Risks And Potential – Analysis

By Teo Yi-Ling*
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Singapore, with its trusted data and analytics hub ambitions, may have lessons to learn from the slew of recent moves by the US. Federal agencies made some of the country’s largest telecommunications and technology companies accountable for mismanagement of US citizens’ personal data.

On February 28, 2020, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the regulatory agency overseeing communications by television, satellite, radio, wire, and cable across the US, announced that it was going to propose some of its most substantial financial penalties against four of the largest US mobile networks carriers. 

These proposed penalties, in excess of US$200 million, would be in respect of these carriers – Sprint, T-Mobile, AT & T, and Verizon ̶ selling customers’ real-time location data. This would be the first instance of the FCC addressing this issue of location data transactions in terms of privacy invasion.
Free Market Failures

For some time now, there has been a thriving market in location data and the lack of regulation around it, as highlighted in an earlier commentary addressing the issue of data privacy erosion and security.

Climate Change: A National Security Threat Multiplier – Analysis

By Yash Vardhan Singh*
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Environmental risks arising from climate change are now considered to be powerful threat multipliers. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2020 identifies five of the top ten global risks as being of an environmental nature, owing to the confluence of climate change and ecological degradation. Recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports point to extensive impacts of climate change despite prevailing mitigation efforts, particularly for countries like India.

Even if one considers the IPCC’s middle ground predictions for temperature and rainfall variations, India will be highly vulnerable to droughts, heat stress, sea level rises, and extreme weather events including cyclones, floods etc. Furthermore, factors such as the enormous population size, socio-economic inequality, extreme poverty, agricultural dependency and high density of population along coastal areas would compound physical threats. What then would the domino effect of climate change on national security be, particularly arising from potential interactions with: a) insurgencies; b) critical infrastructure, especially nuclear installations; and c) public health? As these three domains are relevant to traditional security, infrastructure, and overall human security, they are useful case studies to gain insights on the multifaceted security implications that climate change could pose.

Russian Electronic Warfare in Donbas: Training or Preparation for a Wider Attack?

By: Yuri Lapaiev
The Russian Armed Forces are continuing their covert offensive operations in Ukraine, even as Moscow denies direct involvement. The use of sophisticated types of modern military equipment, however, clearly hints at who is behind the registered attacks. Indeed, the recently observed deployment of electronic warfare (EW) assets to Donbas reveals the extent to which Russia appears to be ramping up such activities at the moment.

Modern EW stations were used in the Donbas conflict as a tool for special operations primarily in 2014–2015 (see EDM, November 5, 2018). Since that time, there were almost no signs of them near the frontlines, except in minor skirmishes during the presidential elections in Ukraine in 2019 (see EDM, April 15, 2019). Recently, however, Russian EW stations have returned, appearing again near Ukrainian positions.

On February 27, Roman Burko, the co-founder of the private Ukrainian open-source intelligence network and conflict tracker InformNapalm, wrote that some Ukrainian individuals near the city of Schastya (Novoaydarsky District, Luhansk Oblast) received mobile phone text messages in Ukrainian that said, “Ukrainian soldier, fight like a man, do not hide behind children’s backs” (Facebook.com/burkonews, February 27). The same day, another source—Anatoliy Stefan, an officer in the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) —wrote that Ukrainian troops and civilians received multiple intimidating text messages, written in Russian. The texts claimed that UAF troops ostensibly use children and women as human shields to establish positions in civilian areas (Facebook.com/shtirlitzblog, February 27). According to Burko, these messages were sent by an international mobile subscriber identity-catcher (IMSI-catcher), one of the capabilities inherent to the Russian Leer-3 (RB-341V) EW station (produced by the St. Petersburg–based company Spetsialnyi Tekhnicheskii Tsentr). The same view is held by Heath Hardman, a former United States Marines signals analyst, who, in 2017, noted that the Leer-3 was a “pretty plausible” source of false text messages being disseminated at that time in Donbas (VOA, May 11, 2017).

Can Europe Become a True Strategic Power?

By Stephanie Liechtenstein

President Emmanuel Macron of France laid out a bold vision for Europe during the Munich Security Conference (MSC) last month. “We need a European strategy that allows us to present ourselves as a strategic power. The Europe I have in mind is a Europe that is sovereign, united, and democratic,” he said. Macron has increasingly invoked this vision as an answer to the prevailing perception in Europe that the United States is beginning to withdraw from the international stage, leaving a void that is slowly being filled by China and Russia.

More worrisome for some in Europe is the growing feeling that the US is retreating from its traditional role as security guarantor for the continent, particularly in light of US President Donald Trump repeatedly criticizing European allies for not paying more for their own defense. This on top of the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), Paris Climate Accord, and Iran nuclear deal. As German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at the MSC: “Our closest ally, the United States of America, under the current administration, rejects the very concept of the international community.”

The remaking of war; Part 2: Machine-learning set to usher in a whole new era of intelligent warfare

Abhijnan Rej 
Effective war-fighting demands that militaries should be able to peek into the future. As such, victory in battle is often linked with clairvoyance.

Let me explain. Suppose you are leading a convoy in battle and expect to meet resistance at some point soon. If you could see precisely where and when this is going to happen, you can call in an airstrike to vastly diminish the enemy's forces, thereby increasing your chances of victory when you finally meet it.

While modern satellites and sensors linked with battle units provide such a capability — first demonstrated by the US military with striking effect in the 1991 Gulf War — the quest for such a capability has been around as long as wars — which is to say, forever. Watch towers on castles with sentries, for example, are also sensors albeit highly imperfect ones. They sought to render the battlefield "transparent", to use modern terminology, in the face of cavalry charges by the enemy.

At the heart of this quest for battlefield transparency lies intelligence, the first key attribute of warfare. Our colloquial understanding of the word and its use in the context of war can appear to be disconnected, but the two are not. If "intelligence refers to an individual's or entity's ability to make sense of the environment", as security-studies scholar Robert Jervis defined it, intelligent behaviour in war and everyday life are identical. It is, to continue the Jervis quote, the consequent ability "to understand the capabilities and intentions of others and the vulnerabilities and opportunities that result". The demands of modern warfare require that militaries augment this ability using a wide array of technologies.

Use of Military Forces in the COVID-19 Emergency

As the effects of COVID-19 are increasingly felt around the United States, many officials and commentators have asked what role the U.S. military might play as part of the response. Several state governors have already called up elements of the National Guard as part of their emergency measures. This analysis addresses the distinctive roles of U.S. federal military forces and state National Guard units, the ways U.S. forces could be most helpful, the limitations on military forces, and the potential cost of employing the military to help fight the coronavirus.

Q1: Can U.S. military forces be used for domestic emergencies?

A1: Yes, U.S. military forces can be used for domestic emergencies and have seen such usage throughout U.S. history. For example, military units fought forest fires in the Western United States when local and forest service capabilities were inadequate. Troops have provided disaster relief, including after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Troops have deployed for many years to the Southwest border. Though that mission has become controversial, the president’s authorities to use troops for this purpose has been upheld in the courts.

During a Pandemic, the U.S. Military Can’t Just Retreat Into Bunkers

by David Axe
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Could one of the U.S. Defense Department’s many underground complexes work as a secure headquarters from which to direct military operations during a pandemic?

Probably not, according to new reporting from Sean Naylor of Yahoo! News.

In 2006, during a global outbreak of the H5N1 “bird flu” virus, the Pentagon conducted an exercise testing its ability to command forces from Raven Rock, a bunker complex in Pennsylvania.

The Defense Department built Raven Rock during the early 1950s as one of several possible alternate command centers during a nuclear war. “Over the years, these facilities have been incorporated into the Pentagon’s plans for how to respond to other threats,” Naylor explained.

Demystifying the American Military

By Ricardo A. Herrera
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Paula G. Thornhill has written an easily accessible work explaining the origins and evolution of the United States’ armed forces under the Constitution. She aims to make American military institutions more understandable to readers by discussing their foundations, evolving missions and organizations, how they have functioned in war and peace, and the tradition of civilian control. Thornhill argues that understanding the American military is a central element in understanding the country and its people, an interesting and even useful inversion of the contention that a country’s military institutions reflect their parent society. Thornhill has set herself an ambitious task to accomplish in 245 pages, and has succeeded admirably, albeit with a few asides.

According to Thornhill, the armed forces are a mystery for most Americans. This is likely more a constant in American history than a peculiarity of the present. Indeed, most Americans have historically been divorced from and ignorant of their armed forces. Thus, American military institutions have always been something of a mystery, and have served as a blank slate for Americans to project their military aspirations, fantasies, and fears. For much of the country’s history since 1789, waging war has been the province of a small regular force operating on continental or imperial frontiers or overseas. Considered against the broad sweep of American military history, large-scale wars have been the exceptions to this rule, aberrations in the larger, longer course of the past. Indeed, most American wars have been low-end combat operations against irregular forces. Consequently, when the United States has waged large-scale conflicts, the sheer number of civilians and militiamen under arms has swamped the small number of regulars and overwhelmed the peacetime, regular culture, as historian Marcus Cunliffe pointed out in Soldiers and Civilians: The Martial Spirit in America, 1775-1865, in 1968. But those wars, while large, were also short, and they faded into memory and the imagined and remembered past of veterans, their families, and their communities.[1]

The remaking of war; Part 1: Risk of 19th Century international politics being pursued using 21st Century military means looms large

Abhijnan Rej 

Editor's note: This is the first part of a series on the evolution of war and warfare across decades. Over the course of these articles, the relationship between technology, politics and war will be put under the magnifying glass.

The United States went to war against Iraq in 1991 prepared for the worst. Fearful of massive American casualties in the face of Saddam Hussein's battle-hardened and numerically impressive army, the Pentagon ordered around 16,000 body bags. But the Iraqi army proved to be hapless in front of a barrage of American precision-strike missiles, stealth bombers, sensors and especially battle units networked through a constellation of satellites.

For one Pentagon defence-policy wonk this experience proved a hunch he had mulling with a small group of colleagues since the late 1980s, that a revolution in warfare aided by new technologies working in tandem was on its way. As Saddam's forces crumbled, Andrew Marshall, long-time head of Pentagon’s internal think-tank, was validated.

The Yoda — as Marshall was affectionately called by his followers, after the sage-like Star Wars character — was not the only one to notice how different the Gulf War was from previous military engagements the world over. Two years later, in 1993, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army changed its strategy for the third time in its history, gearing up to wars that would be fought over a limited geography using high technology. But the source of Marshall and his acolytes' theory was a Soviet school of thinking since the 1970s that posits that new weapons-technologies configured in novel ways stood to alter the character of war permanently.

Revolutions in Military Affairs: Blending man and machine