29 March 2020

Opportunities in the Covid Crisis

March 27 , 2020 
Every crisis comes with opportunities. The Covid-19 crisis presents the country with an unprecedented opportunity to have a hard look at the present state of the economy and think of strategies to strengthen indigenous R&D and manufacturing capabilities in different sectors. Covid19 will reshape the power equations in the world. China is already taking the high moral ground for having dealt with the crisis efficiently. It is trying to emerge as the hub of manufacturing of medical devices.

If India handles the crisis well and uses it for emerging stronger, it will have a greater role to play in the world post-Covid 19.

Several initiatives of far-reaching import have been announced by the government. More is probably in the pipeline. The Rs 1.7 lakh crore (Rs 1 trillion) relief package for the poorest sections of the society is timely and highly welcome, although it’s a moot point whether this is enough considering the scale of disruption and the impact it is having on daily wage earners. The government should do a quick impact analysis and consider whether more help is needed.

The government has also given some relief to the companies by deferring tax submission deadlines and lowering the penalty rates. This is the initial step which needs to be followed up with more.

Sector-wise relief packages need to be worked out so that the economy is not entirely disrupted. Several sectors, which provide jobs, have been hit. Undoubtedly, jobs will be lost at large-scale until the economic recovery takes place. Civil aviation, railways, transport, tourism, automobile, construction hospitality, et cetera are some examples. As a result, migrant labour has started moving to their homes. This is a potentially dangerous trend which must be reversed . The government, the corporate sector and civil society should make it easier for the workers to wear the impact of the lockdown.
Simple things, get them right

Is India’s health infrastructure equipped to handle an epidemic?

Prachi Singh, Shamika Ravi, and Sikim Chakraborty

With growing number of coronavirus cases in India (and worldwide), policymakers have sprung into action – more information is being disseminated about preventive measures such as hand washing and not touching the face. Social distancing has been suggested as a tool to “flatten the curve”, or in other words, prevent the health system from being overburdened. Although the number of COVID-19 cases are still low in India, experts have warned against community spread of the disease which will lead to rapid and huge increase in demand for health facilities. Private healthcare is expensive and unavailable for many poor households in India which leaves public healthcare facilities as the only available option for them. For patients who are found to be COVID-19 positive, isolation wards are needed; additionally, for critical cases, intensive care is needed. Currently, almost all suspected cases of coronavirus are referred to government hospitals and it’s important to assess where we stand in terms of medical capacity to provide necessary healthcare to the affected individuals. 

In this piece we focus on availability of government hospital beds[1] for major states in India. Using data from National Health Profile–2019, we observed that there are 7,13,986 total government hospital beds available in India. This amounts to 0.55 beds per 1000 population[2,3]. The elderly population (aged 60 and above) is especially vulnerable, given more complications which are reported for patients in this age group. The availability of beds for elderly population in India is 5.18 beds per 1000 population. In the heatmaps below, we show the state-level variation in availability of government beds in India.

On the Political Impasse in Afghanistan

The United States is proud of our partnership with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Afghan people, and admires what Afghanistan has achieved since 2001. We have forged a deep bond, especially with Afghan security forces, through shared sacrifice in responding to threats to international peace and security since 2001. Underscoring the national priority the United States attaches to helping bring about a political settlement to forty years of devastating war, Secretary Pompeo came to Kabul today with an urgent message. He spoke directly to the nation’s leaders to impress upon them the need to compromise for the sake of the Afghan people.

The United States deeply regrets that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have informed Secretary Pompeo that they have been unable to agree on an inclusive government that can meet the challenges of governance, peace, and security, and provide for the health and welfare of Afghan citizens. The United States is disappointed in them and what their conduct means for Afghanistan and our shared interests. Their failure has harmed U.S.-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, Americans, and Coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country.

Is Islamabad’s Pathetic COVID-19 Response In Balochistan Motivated? – OpEd

By Nilesh Kunwar

In times of coronavirus, when rumour mills are working overtime and social media is pregnant with stories of sinister plots and intrigue, one has learnt to be more discerning when it comes to believing conspiracy theories.

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t think much of a piece titled ‘Pakistan is using Coronavirus as a Biological Weapon against Balochistan’ written by Dr Murad Baloch that appeared in the media last week. I would probably have missed out the weighty import of Dr Baloch’s incisive insight had Pakistan Health Minister Zafar Mirza not tried to use the SAARC video conference forum on coronavirus to rake up the issue of Kashmir in a rather fatuous manner.

However, it was a comment by a reader advising Mirza to focus more on tackling the coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan rather than worrying about Kashmir that got me thinking. After seeing a proud man like Prime Minister Imran Khan literally going down on his knees and begging the world community “to think of some sort of a debt write-off for countries like us which are very vulnerable,” the reader’s suggestion made even more sense.

The Afghanistan Exodus: Why America Must Leave Kabul Behind

by Max Frost

If America withdraws from Afghanistan, will it return to the chaos of the 1990s? Those who want the United States to stay fear that it would, with warlords and Islamists vying for control, terrorist groups proliferating and hard-won gains immediately lost. Yet another possible outcome is that regional powers would fill the vacuum and Afghanistan would become their problem instead. The United States can live with this result.

A 2019 Rand Corporation report articulates the view of those who want U.S. soldiers to remain in Afghanistan: following withdrawal, the Kabul government will “lose influence and legitimacy,” power will devolve to regional militias and warlords, and extremist groups will proliferate as the country descends into civil war. The Washington Post’s Max Boot adds that withdrawing would “squander the military’s sacrifices since 2001.” The Council on Foreign Relations argues that the United States has a “vital interest in preserving the many political, economic, and security gains.”

Experts know the new coronavirus is not a bioweapon. They disagree on whether it could have leaked from a research lab

By Matt Field

Much remains uncertain about the new coronavirus. What treatments will prove effective against COVID-19? When will a vaccine for the disease be ready? What level of social distancing will be required to tame the outbreak, and how long will it need to last? Will outbreaks come in waves? Amid all these vital forward-looking questions remains a more retrospective but still important one: Where did SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, come from in the first place? Experts seem to agree it wasn’t the product of human engineering. Much research has been focused on the hypothesis that bats passed a virus to some intermediate host—perhaps pangolins, scaly ant-eating mammals—which subsequently passed it to humans. But the pangolin theory has not been conclusively proven. Some experts wonder whether a virus under study at a lab could have been accidentally released, something that’s happened in the past.

Among the latest entrants to the debate about the provenance of SARS-CoV-2 are the authors of a March 17 Nature Medicine piece that takes a look at the virus’s characteristics—including the sites on the virus that allow it to bind to human cells. They looked at whether the virus was engineered by humans and present what appears to be convincing evidence it was not. They also considered the possibility that the outbreak could have resulted from an inadvertent lab release of a virus under study but concluded “we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”

Not all experts agree.

China Manoeuvres To Protect Its Interests While Keeping Its Hands Clean – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

The question is not if, but when the long-standing American defence umbrella in the Gulf, the world’s most militarised and volatile region, will be replaced by a multilateral security arrangement that would have to include China as well as Russia.

The United States’ perceived diminishing commitment to the Gulf and the broader Middle East and mounting doubts about the deterrence value of its defence umbrella leave the Gulf stuck between a rock and a hard place. The American umbrella is shrinking, but neither China nor Russia, despite their obvious interests, are capable or willing simply to shoulder the responsibility, political risk and cost of replacing it.

On balance, China’s interests seem self-evident. It needs to secure its mushrooming political and economic interests in the Gulf, which includes ensuring the flow of oil and gas and protecting its infrastructure investment and the expanding Chinese diaspora in the region. Nonetheless, China has so far refrained from putting its might where its money is, free-riding instead (in the words of US officials) on America’s regional military presence.

Shocking Defeat: How China Lost to Vietnam in 1979

by Charlie Gao

Key Point: Beijing may have lost the war, but it won in the long-run. Here's how the conflict helped birth painful but necessary military reforms in the PLA.

Chinese operations against Vietnam in the 1980s are often divided into four phases. In the first, the Chinese and Vietnamese further entrenched their positions along the border. This lasted until 1981. The second and third phase consisted of escalating offensive operations across the border from 1981 to 1987, gradually increasing in intensity. The last phase involved the PLA’s withdrawal from the border region. The political objectives of the Chinese incursions were to “punish” Vietnam for its continued belligerence towards Thailand and Cambodia. Since Vietnamese troops were going into Cambodia, Chinese troops would continue to do the same. Militarily, China saw the border conflict as a way to evolve the PLA from an antiquated fighting force to a modern one, by testing new doctrines and equipment on the border.

This piece was originally featured in September 2019 and is being republished due to reader's interest.

The PLA’s performance in the 1979 war was so bad, even Vietnamese commanders were surprised, according to some sources. This was a result of its reliance on Korean War–style infantry assault tactics, due to the operational inflexibility and stagnation of military thought in the PLA. The layout of the command structure, and the infrastructure that supported it, could not support maneuver warfare by smaller units of higher-quality forces.

Five Principles for the Pandemic


BUENOS AIRES – The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the world into a health and economic crisis of a magnitude that few could have anticipated but that everyone must now confront – together. Unless all countries deepen global coordination and cooperation as much as possible, the social stability of the entire planet could be at stake.

On the economic front, many economists and policymakers seem to have convinced themselves that policies to boost effective demand will be sufficient to mitigate the downturn. In fact, the problem is much more complicated, and it will not be solved with the standard stimulus measures. Because reducing social interactions is crucial for mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, most people cannot go to work (unless they are in essential industries). And, because people are not working, they will have less (or no) incomes to spend. Under these circumstances, the fear that economic activity will continue to plummet is justified, but that outcome is unavoidable in the short term.

But just because our situation is unprecedented does not mean that we lack principles that can and should guide our actions as we move forward. To stop the pandemic and rescue the world’s economies, we must abide by five in particular.

The COVID-19 Weakest Links


SINGAPORE – No health system in the world has the surge capacity to cope with an influx of tens of thousands of patients in a matter of weeks, as is the case with the COVID-19 pandemic. Add in the fact that about one in seven people diagnosed with the virus will require hospitalization, and that about one in 20 will need mechanical ventilation, and you have a recipe for systemic overload and breakdowns.

If developed countries with efficient health systems are struggling to mount an effective response to COVID-19, then what hope do far weaker systems have? After all, poorer countries generally lack the technology, training, and resources to find those infected with the virus, isolate them in suitable facilities to minimize onward transmission, and treat them adequately in order to minimize morbidity and mortality.

These countries also tend to be weaker in standard epidemiological responses such as contact tracing, as well as in procuring and ascertaining a steady supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health-care workers. True, more authoritarian regimes (which a number of poor countries undoubtedly are) may be able to impose more stringent forms of mandatory social distancing. But they may be less able to mitigate the negative consequences of such measures, especially for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.

Israel's Neighbors Never Had A Chance To Win The Six Day War

Key point: A surprise attack can go a long way.

The Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF’s, or Zahal’s) strategic invasion of the West Bank region of Jordan began at 5 pm on June 5, 1967. The assault was launched by one of two armored brigades attached to the Peled Armored Divisional Task Force (Ugdah Peled), part of Zahal’s Northern Command. Initially, the attack was aimed merely at neutralizing Royal Jordanian Army 155mm artillery fire that was striking the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF’s) strategically vital Ramat David Air Base and numerous Israeli villages and towns within range of Jordanian Samaria.

Ugdah Peled’s planning started from scratch. Absorbed for days with preparing to counter an expected all-out Arab invasion of northern Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights, the bulk of Ugdah Peled was given somewhat under five hours to figure out how to invade Samaria, and then to do it. It was not until noon on June 5 that the division commander, Brig. Gen. Elad Peled, was himself called in from a patrol along the Syrian frontier to oversee the planning.

The Junction at Jenin

It’s Time for the US and Saudi Arabia to Break Up


It was only a short time ago when Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince, was assembling world leaders at conferences in the Saudi desert and impressing global investors with grandiose plans of economic and social modernization. Next month will mark the third anniversary of MBS’s PR tour around Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and New York, pressing the flesh with titans of industry like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Disney’s Bob Iger—and convincing lawmakers on Capitol Hill that Saudi Arabia under his tutelage was a country brimming with opportunity.

Much has changed in a few years. The Saudi crown prince is no longer categorized as a widely-hailed reformer of the Middle East, but as a thick-headed, rash, and impatient young autocrat whose tenure is filled to the brim with an endless list of poor decisions. MBS’s latest gamble, which involved dumping more Saudi crude into the global market to coerce Russia into returning to the negotiating table on pricing and output quotas, has caused significant strain for American shale oil companies

It would be convenient to pin all of the blame on MBS. But the truth is that Washington bears some culpability. Lawmakers are just now waking up to the fact that the underlying premise of the special relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia—oil for security—is no longer applicable. In refusing to acknowledge reality for so long, the U.S. has given the Saudis far more leverage to shape the relationship to its own advantage.

CTC Sentinel, March 2020, v. 13, no. 3

The Hanau Terrorist Attack: How Race Hate and Conspiracy Theories Are Fueling Global Far-Right Violence

A View from the CT Foxhole: Jonathan Evans, Former Director General, MI5

The Pensacola Terrorist Attack: The Enduring Influence of al-Qa`ida and its Affiliates

Dollars for Daesh: The Small Financial Footprint of the Islamic State’s American Supporters

Addressing the Enemy: Al-Shabaab’s PSYOPS Media Warfare

An Elite Spy Group Used 5 Zero-Days to Hack North Koreans

by Andy Greenberg

MOST NORTH KOREANS don’t spend much of their lives in front of a computer. But some of the lucky few who do, it seems, have been hit with a remarkable arsenal of hacking techniques over the last year—a sophisticated spying spree that some researchers suspect South Korea may have pulled off.

Cybersecurity researchers at Google’s Threat Analysis Group today revealed that an unnamed group of hackers used no fewer than five zero-day vulnerabilities, secret hackable flaws in software, to target North Koreans and North Korea-focused professionals in 2019. The hacking operations exploited flaws in Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Windows with phishing emails that carried malicious attachments or links to malicious sites, as well as so-called watering hole attacks that planted malware on victims’ machines when they visited certain websites that had been hacked to infect visitors via their browsers.

Google declined to comment on who might be responsible for the attacks, but Russian security firm Kaspersky tells WIRED it has linked Google’s findings with DarkHotel, a group that has targeted North Koreans in the past and is suspected of working on behalf of the South Korean government.

“It’s really impressive. It shows a level of operational polish.”

It’s Not “Realism”, It’s Reality

When a friend of mine was a student at the National War College (which should be called the National College because there is no war in the curriculum), he was counseled by his advisor for “letting his realism show”. If you want to be a member of the Washington establishment, you dare not do that. You must be deeply devoted to “idealism”, the magical belief that we can somehow make every fly-blown, flea bitten hellhole country in the world into another Switzerland. All it takes is sanctions, bombing, and perhaps invasion, for which they will love us.

Now the equally wooly-minded European foreign policy establishment is facing what the idealists fear most: a reality that suddenly attaches a high price to idealism. Turkey, trying to compel Europe to back its intervention in Syria’s civil war, has opened the refugee floodgates again. Last time, Europe got drowned in a sea of more than a million immigrants, almost all Muslim, most with neither skills nor a European language. Wherever in Europe they have gone crime has risen, the welfare rolls have exploded and European voters have turned away from the Establishment to parties that want to defend their countries from invasion. Most inconvenient, that democracy stuff.

Russians Grapple With Oil Price War at a Time of Pandemic

By: Margarita Assenova

The timing could not have been worse for Russia to provoke a spat with Saudi Arabia over oil production quotas in early March. Moscow’s decision to withdraw from the OPEC+ agreement restricting oil production in order to maintain higher oil prices triggered a harsh reaction by Riyadh that sent oil prices spiraling down to below $25 per barrel in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic (Oilprice.com, March 24). The price of Russian Urals oil dipped even lower, under $19 on March 18, which will deprive the Russian budget of some $3 billion a month (Vedomosti, March 19).

The Russian economy is likely to suffer the most devastating consequences of the oil price war—just as it bore the heaviest impact of low global oil prices five years ago. This time around, however, the injury is self-inflicted, as an angry Saudi Arabia not only decided to ramp up production but also moved to grab Russia’s oil market share around the world (see EDM, March 19, 23).

On March 6, Russia’s Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak declined to accept new oil production quotas after April 1 when the current OPEC+ deal expires (Oilcapital.ru, March 10). The move targeted primarily debt-burdened U.S. shale oil companies, which were already under pressure by the advancing COVID-19 pandemic. Moscow has long resented that the U.S. oil sector has continued growing unobstructed by cartel policies and has steadily overtaken Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer. Russian energy officials took advantage of the coronavirus spread globally to deal a blow to indebted American shale oil producers who need an oil price above $40 a barrel to remain solvent (Asia Times, March 18).

Russia’s Defense Minister Shoigu, Coronavirus and Relentless Military Modernization

By: Roger McDermott

On March 20, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu led a meeting at the National Defense Management Center (Natsional’nogo Tsentra Upravleniya Oboronoy—NTsUO), in Moscow. Shoigu chaired the defense ministry board discussions at the NTsUO covering a broad range of topics, with special attention to the military’s efforts to contain the outbreak of coronavirus and the contours of the ongoing military modernization. Shoigu’s underlying message was clearly business as usual, while denying that any COVID-19 cases had been detected within the Russian military (Mil.ru, March 20).

Shoigu explained that in order to prevent the import and possible spread of the novel coronavirus within Russia’s Armed Forces, an operational headquarters was created under the leadership of Deputy Defense Minister Ruslan Tsalikov. This will facilitate frequent inspections of military educational establishments, as well as units and related defense ministry structures. Moreover, a stockpile of related medical supplies, including equipment, has already been formed. Existing programs to send military delegations abroad or to receive foreign guests in Russia has temporarily been suspended. Sporting, cultural and leisure pursuits at military bases has similarly been placed on hold (Mil.ru, March 20).

Coronavirus Stimulus Package: What's In This $2 Trillion Plan?

by Hunter DeRensis 

After days of haggling, Senate Republicans and Democrats announced early yesterday morning they had reached an agreement for a two trillion dollar stimulus package. By the conclusion of the day, last night, the bill passed 96 to zero.

The two senators most likely to vote against the Keynesian pet project, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, are currently under self-quarantine. Paul has tested positive for the coronavirus, and Lee along with his fellow Utahan (by way of Massachusetts) Mitt Romney are isolating themselves after interacting with him. John Thune, the Senate Majority Whip, missed the vote by minutes, saying he was returning home to South Dakota after not feeling well.

The most non-traditional inclusion in the bill is direct payments to Americans in the form of a one-time check. Individuals making less than $75,000 a year will receive $1,200 checks, and couples making less than $150,000 will receive $2,400. The money then scales downward until it is eliminated for individuals making over $99,000, and couples making over $198,000. An extra $500 will be given per child. These numbers were originated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and did not undergo changes in the past week.

Great Power Competition After the Coronavirus Crisis: What Should America Do?

March 24, 2020 by James Jay Carafano

Sooner or later, the world will bend the curve on the coronavirus, and the great power competition will pick up where it left off. The time to start assessing what that means for U.S. foreign and security policy in a post-pandemic world starts now. Washington ought to turn its attention first to those parts of the world most vital to U.S. interests. 
Sooner or later, the world will bend the curve on the coronavirus, and the great power competition will pick up where it left off. The time to start assessing what that means for U.S. foreign and security policy in a post-pandemic world starts now. Washington ought to turn its attention first to those parts of the world most vital to U.S. interests. 
The Greater Middle East: This region is the single biggest wild card in global affairs. There is just no telling how ravaged Iran will be. We still don’t know how aggressively the virus will spread throughout the region, the damage it will do, or how severely it will destabilize already precarious situations. 

Here the recently lightened U.S. footprint could play to Washington’s advantage. It worked out in Syria, where the administration largely avoided getting sucked into a quagmire. For now, at least, Syria’s problems remain in Syria. Neither Russia nor Iran are in a stronger position than when they started their own interventions.

But now is the time for the U.S. to build a sustainable framework for Middle East security, trade and conflict resolution. No matter what chaos COVID-19 rains down on the region, Washington must have the architecture in place to help implement appropriate responses. 

Iran remains the primary source of disruption here. Regardless of what happens, the U.S. must keep the sanctions regime—including the embargo on weapons sales—firmly in place. The best hope for a sustainable, long-term resolution of the world’s Iran problem is to pressure Tehran back to the table for a responsible deal. 

On the Integration of Psychological Operations with Cyber Operations

By Herb Lin 

In a story released on Christmas Day, 2019, the Washington Post reported that U.S. Cyber Command is “developing information warfare tactics that could be deployed against senior Russian officials and oligarchs if Moscow tries to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections through hacking election systems or sowing widespread discord.” According to this story, one option being explored is the targeting of “senior leadership and Russian elites (though probably not President Vladimir Putin, which would be considered too provocative)” to demonstrate that the “sensitive personal data” of these individuals could be hit if the election interference did not stop. The Post article also quotes Lawfare’s Bobby Chesney saying that such actions would send “credible signals to key decision-makers that they are vulnerable if they take certain adversarial actions.”

The Post described these activities as psychological operations, the internet-based equivalent of “dropping hundreds of thousands of leaflets in Iraq to persuade Iraqi soldiers to surrender to the U.S.-led coalition during the Gulf War.” Elsewhere in the story, the paper refers to such actions as influence operations and information warfare. However, the story is careful to note that the options being considered “do not envision any attempt to influence Russian society at large.”

The Intelligence Contest in Cyberspace

By Joshua Rovner 

Editor's note: This article is part of a series of short articles by analysts involved in the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, among others, highlighting and commenting upon aspects of the commission's findings and conclusion.

The ongoing competition in cyberspace is largely an intelligence contest. Although the technology is different, the underlying contest exhibits all the characteristics of traditional spy-versus-spy battles.

An intelligence contest is an effort to steal secrets and exploit them for relative advantage. Great powers today are using cyberspace with vigor, seeking to steal communications in transit and data at rest. China’s effort to steal intellectual property via cyberspace was famously described as the “most significant transfer of wealth in history.” China has attempted to exploit this effort to improve its military capabilities, with mixed results. Russia has also become more active in cyberspace espionage, targeting the United States and its partners abroad.

Measuring Strategic Success in Cyber Operations

By Brandon Valeriano 

Editor's note: This article is part of a series of short articles by analysts involved in the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, among others, highlighting and commenting upon aspects of the commission's findings and conclusion.

The international community lacks a firm grasp of the cyber domain as an operating space—a key point recognized by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission early in the process of putting together its report. Many grand statements are made about the structure of the system with little knowledge of the basic patterns. Strategies in development all promise some sort of impact in relation to a threat, but how should threat be measured? How should the government plan to evaluate effectiveness and success?

The data available in cybersecurity are generally drawn from rival interactions, painting a picture of the domain skewed toward conflict because of the focus on the actors most likely to fight. In other cases, the data are selected in an ad hoc fashion with no consideration of statistical methodologies. A complete picture of cyber interactions would highlight the diversity of players and the dynamic patterns of conflict globally, illustrating a much different vision of cyber conflict than the current focus on major players.

Doctrinal Confusion and Cultural Dysfunction in the Pentagon Over Information and Cyber Operations

By Herb Lin 

In a Lawfare post earlier this year, I questioned the wisdom of referring to cyber operations as psychological operations. These campaigns are the bread and butter of U.S. Cyber Command’s operational activities. My interest in this question stemmed from two recent articles, one on NPR and one in the Washington Post. The former discussed past activities of U.S. Cyber Command and the latter discussed possible future activities. Taken together, both articles used terms such as “information warfare,” “information operations,” “psychological operations” and “influence operations” to describe these activities.

I closed that post with a promise to comment on the doctrinal and conceptual confusions within Defense Department policy regarding all of these concepts. This post makes good on that promise.

Here’s a review of Department of Defense doctrine on “information warfare” and related terms. This review suggests that even within the Department of Defense, the terms have had elastic, imprecise and ambiguous meaning and are often used interchangeably to describe activities that are divergent in nature.


By Michael Gelles and Joe Mariani 

At the end of 2019 the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (OUSDI), in cooperation with WAR ROOM, announced an essay contest to generate new ideas and elevate thinking about insider threats and how we respond to and counter the threat. There was a fantastic response, and we were thrilled to see what everyone had to write on the topic. Ultimately, after two rounds of competitive judging, two essays rose to the top. Last week we presented the runner up’s submission. And now we are pleased to present to you the winning submission.

obedient to their words, we lie.

For all the recent press, the most famous instance of insider threat remains nothing to do with leaks, websites, intelligence documents, or hacking tools. You may not recognize the name Ephialtes, but you know him and his story all the same. Because 2,500 years ago, at a small mountain pass in Greece called the Hot Gates, he betrayed his country by showing the invading Persian army a small mountain track to flank the small defending force of 300 Spartans and allied Greeks. Ephialtes’ name means “nightmare” in Greek, and for the next two and a half millennia that is what the insider threat could be to virtually every organization facing a crisis or adversary.

Marines to reduce force by 12,000, decrease artillery units and get rid of tanks in 10 years


WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps has decided it must eliminate its tank battalions and reduce its infantry and artillery units in 10 years as it converts its force to one more aligned with taking on potential adversaries such as China, the service announced Monday.

Gen. David Berger, the Marine commandant, said in October that the Marine Corps is “not optimized for great competition. It is not optimized to support a naval campaign.” The reality of the world has forced them to “throw out old assumptions and start fresh,” he said at the time.

Since summer, the Marine Corps has undergone a review of its personnel, units, and equipment to determine what type of forces the service will need to fight future battles.

The Pentagon's 2018 National Defense Strategy puts China and Russia as the major world powers that the United States must be prepared to challenge as America’s military advantages decline. The economic policies of China and its militarization of the South China Sea and Russia’s efforts to undermine NATO and its nuclear arsenal are major concerns for the U.S. military, according to the National Defense Strategy.

Deterrence by Detection: A New Approach to Preventing Opportunistic Aggression

By Thomas G. Mahnken Grace B. Kim

As both the 2018 National Defense Strategy and the 2019 National Defense Strategy Commission conclude, the United States urgently needs to develop new operational concepts to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In an era of constrained resources, it makes sense to identify, develop, and implement concepts that make effective use of the forces and capabilities we already have.

One of the most significant challenges the United States and our allies face is the need to prevent China or Russia from launching opportunistic acts of aggression. Beijing and Moscow have used sub-conventional gray zone aggression to erode international norms, undermine the U.S-led rules-based order, and shift the balance of power in their favor, all without sparking open armed conflict with the United States or its allies. They are also developing the ability to launch aggression rapidly against states on their periphery under cover of increasingly capable defenses in an effort to achieve a fait accompli. 

The U.S. armed forces are poorly configured to meet the challenge of deterring such acts, which requires long-duration monitoring rather than episodic coverage. Most information-gathering platforms, such as satellites and manned aircraft, are scarce, expensive, and can provide only periodic coverage. Moreover, their expense both reinforces a tendency to under-invest in them and breeds a reluctance to put them in harm’s way.