6 September 2020

Are the US and India on the Same Page When It Comes to the Quad?

By Abhijnan Rej

Increasingly, nothing seems to agitate the Indian strategic imagination more than the U.S.-Australia-Japan-India “quad.” Every mention of the moniker – and especially by U.S. government officials – is analyzed and, on occasion, amplified by the Indian social as well as traditional media. So, when the South China Morning Post covered a conversation between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun and former Ambassador to India Richard Verma yesterday that dwelt on the quad as well as lack of strong multilateral institutions in Asia – like NATO or the EU — many here took notice. As Tanvi Madan noted, a speech that mentions both NATO and the quad was bound to generate strong reactions.

While Biegun carefully – though at times, a bit confusingly – phrased his statements, the overall impression was clear: the U.S. does see the potential of the quad (possibly with additional members) to evolve into a formal multilateral institution even though it need not focus solely on China. Commenting on the possible evolution of the grouping into something larger, he noted: “… even NATO started with relatively modest expectations and a number of countries chose neutrality over NATO membership in post-World War II Europe.” But even with Narendra Modi — who has enthusiastically partnered with the U.S. – at its helm, India is unlikely to be comfortable with the idea of the quad growing into something that resembles an alliance.

China’s military deceit in the Himalayas could spell disaster for the region

By Barkha Dutt

Tens of thousands of Chinese and Indian troops are facing off in the uppermost reaches of the Himalayas, on the precipice of a possible war between the two major countries.

China’s incursions into eastern Ladakh across the Line of Actual Control that separates it from India should be seen as part of its global pattern of bad behavior. If left unchallenged, China’s provocative and perfidious military actions along the border with India could destabilize South Asia.

China’s massive buildup of troops and infrastructure in pockets across the border not only violates bilateral agreements, but also forces Indians to confront a new reality. India has spent decades of emotional, political and military capital on Pakistan. But the bigger adversary was always China.

For more than three months, a cloak of opacity has been thrown over the emerging conflict between the two nations that together make up nearly 40 percent of the world’s population and stand to account for one third of the global GDP by 2060. Here in India, official briefings have offered few details and, save the odd terse statement from the army, information has largely been sparse.

The Taliban is Like the Khmer Rouge. Diplomacy Simply Won’t Cut It.

by Michael Rubin
There is a certain smugness to American diplomacy. Policymakers often treat diplomacy as a panacea capable of resolving any problem, if only it was better-funded or more earnestly applied. 

“You don’t make peace with your friends,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added. “You have to be willing to engage with your enemies if you expect to create a situation that ends an insurgency,” she stated at the beginning of her State Department tenure. Every administration tends to look at the failure of diplomacy with groups like the Taliban and other rogues as due more to the lack of will or ability of their predecessors than because of the ideology of the adversary. 

The idea of negotiating with the Taliban is nothing new and, indeed, predates the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by several years. The Clinton administration, for example, talked to the Taliban on several dozen occasions up to and including a cabinet-level meeting between then-UN Ambassador Bill Richardson and Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil. 

China’s Insurgency Card in India’s Northeast Is Overhyped

By Avinash Paliwal

General Secretary of the NSCN (IM) Thuingaleng Muivah leaves at the end of a funeral service for Chairman Isak Chishi Swu at their headquarters in Hebron, Nagaland, India, 

This is the second of a two-part series on insurgencies in India’s northeastern frontier and the varying role China has played in supporting them. Read the first part here.

An underappreciated if not overlooked aspect about India’s Northeast insurgency landscape is the agency these groups enjoy vis-à-vis each other, India, and China.

With the Naga peace talks in doldrums, a crisis afflicting Sino-Indian relations, and their own future prospects dimming in the face of India’s intense counterinsurgency campaign, it would not take a genius for the United Liberation Front of Asom – Independent (ULFA-I) to see a chance to exploit the situation.

It is likely that these groups took kinetic action in Manipur’s Chandel district in July without Beijing’s intervention.

Breaking Down the Pentagon's 2020 China Military Power Report: A Quest for PLA Parity?

By Andrew S. Erickson
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The report puts key concerns front and center: arguably, China's meteoric military progress in recent years has not simply narrowed the gap in limited niches, but has in fact pursued parity and even selective superiority to the degree that, broadly interpreted, "China is already ahead of the United States in certain areas."

Overall Assessment: 

My first impression is that this is the latest and greatest of the Pentagon’s China Military Power reports since their inception two decades ago. At 173 pages, it is quite possibly the longest and most substantive. A high-water mark in public analysis from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to date, it begins with a self-critical stocktaking of previous editions, yielding striking conclusions concerning the rapidity and relative comprehensiveness of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s progress. This wake-up call regarding the current advanced state, and rapid forward advancement, of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) military capabilities, should land loudly on the desk of Members of Congress and all other U.S. foreign policy and defense community stakeholders. Essential reading, indeed!

The report puts key concerns front and center: arguably, China’s meteoric military progress in recent years has not simply narrowed the gap in limited niches, but has in fact pursued parity and even selective superiority to the degree that, broadly interpreted, “China is already ahead of the United States in certain areas”:

Semi-Submersible Heavy Lift Vessels: A New “Maritime Relay Platform” for PLA Cross-Strait Operations?

By: John Dotson


In August, naval and aviation forces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) conducted exercise activity in four different maritime regions: the Bohai Gulf, Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea. This unusual level of exercise activity represented an effort to demonstrate the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s increasing maritime capabilities (SCMP, August 24), as well as a symbolic political statement “aimed at deterring Taiwan secessionists” (Global Times, August 23). These exercises may also have been intended in part as a message to the United States and its military allies, who kicked off the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise on August 17 without Chinese participation (U.S. Pacific Fleet, August 17; USNI, August 24).

One of the noteworthy highlights of PLA exercise activity in August was a series of PLA Ground Force (PLAGF) helicopter landing and troop deployment drills at sea. These drills reportedly involved airframes and personnel from the 71st and 73rd Group Armies, as well as both PLA Navy and civilian vessels. Of particular note was the reported use of a civilian semi-submersible heavy lift vessel in some of these drills. This represents another example of the PLA’s drive to achieve “military-civil fusion”—as well as an innovative use of civilian shipping, which could potentially increase the PLA’s capabilities to conduct joint maritime operations in either a Taiwan invasion scenario or an island landing campaign.Image: A Z-9 multi-mission helicopter (background) and a WZ-10 attack helicopter (foreground), part of an unidentified aviation brigade subordinate to the PLA 73rd Group Army, conduct landing drills on the flight deck of the PLA Navy amphibious transport dock Yimengshan. The training was held in “an undisclosed sea area” on August 3. (Image source: PRC Ministry of Defense, August 12)

The Strategic Implications of Chinese UAVs: Insights from the Libyan Conflict

By: Ryan Oliver
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In recent years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has emerged as a leading producer of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms for both commercial and military use, and its technologies are being used in unprecedented ways. For example, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold in the early months of this year (China Brief, January 17; China Brief, January 29), UAVs started to appear in the skies across China. Public officials employed these UAVs to monitor the population, and to enforce restrictions (such as mandatory wearing of masks) intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 (Global Times, January 31). UAVs have also been used to monitor water levels and property damage amid the severe flooding that China has experienced this summer (China Brief, July 29; CGTN, August 15). Such innovative—if sometimes controversial—practices reflect China’s growing capabilities in the field of UAV technology.

Beyond its domestic employment of commercial UAVs, the PRC has also made rapid progress in the development and sale of military UAVs, which are increasingly prevalent in contemporary conflicts. China’s growth in this field reflects comments made by President Xi Jinping in 2016, when he emphasized that UAVs are a critical element of combat on the modern battlefield (PRC Defense Ministry, March 14, 2016). Chinese UAVs, such as the CH-5 Rainbow (彩虹-5, Cai Hong-5), reportedly operate at relatively low altitudes with more modest payloads than comparable U.S. systems. Newer UAVs in development, such as the forthcoming Wind Shadow (风影, Feng Ying), aim to expand the capabilities of China’s indigenous systems (Janes, August 4).

What war with China could look like

An Air Force B-1B Lancer with the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 8. It was one of two B-1s conducting a training mission over the South China Sea in support of strategic deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region.Senior Airman River Bruce, Air Force

Pentagon war planners can envision a conflict with China starting in any number of ways.

For example, they fear a scenario that might involve a mass of Chinese military forces posturing along China’s coast near Taiwan and the aggressive reorientation of Chinese missile systems that would start setting off alarms in Washington, D.C.

Top military leaders in Indo-Pacific Command would brace for reports of cyber attacks, satellites shutting down, vessels crowding and swarming various ships and ports across the South China Sea.

More than a dozen experts contacted by Military Times described how this hypothetical nightmare could erupt fully, perhaps as Chinese missiles start hitting targets in Taiwan. A conflict could spin out of control quickly as sensors across the region light up with simultaneous events, stretching the United States and its allies in every imaginable domain all at once.

U.S. and China Should Seek a Truce in Tech Cold War

Wang Huiyao
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The tug-of-war over TikTok is part of a larger battle. Photographer: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

Wang Huiyao is founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing and vice-chairman of the China Association for International Economic Cooperation

It would be easy to dismiss the Trump administration’s campaign against Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat as part of an election strategy to attack China from all angles. The moves, however, as well as China’s counter-response, are contributing to a deeper problem at the heart of the global economy — one that can’t be resolved unless the world’s two biggest economies work together.

Just as oil opened new possibilities for trade in the last century, data has become the lifeblood of trade growth in the 21st century. Trade in digital services, including apps such as TikTok, is booming. Data flows increasingly underpin trade in physical goods, too, supporting complex global value chains and emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. The amount of cross-border bandwidth in use increased 148 times between 2005 and 2017, according to consultants McKinsey and Co.

‘I Don’t Believe China’ Is Serious About Nuke No First Use: DASD Nukes Soofer


WASHINGTON: In the latest swipe in an increasingly contentious back and forth between Washington and Beijing over nuclear weapons, a senior DoD official said today: “I don’t believe China when they say they have no first use policy” for their nuclear weapons. 

The remarks by Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary for nuclear and missile defense policy are part of a larger push by the Trump administration to talk tough on China, while trying at the same time to get Beijing to participate in three-way talks with Russia on arms control.

On Tuesday, just a day before Soofer’s remarks during a virtual Mitchell Institute event in Washington, a new Pentagon report lamented the “ambiguity,” in Chinese statements about its commitment to no first use. “China’s lack of transparency regarding the scope and scale of its nuclear modernization program, however, raises questions regarding its future intent as it fields larger, more capable nuclear forces,” the report said.

The Pentagon estimates that China is working to double the number of nuclear warheads in its arsenal over the next decade to around 400, though even with that expected growth China’s nuclear force would still be dwarfed by the estimated 3,800 US warheads in active and reserve status. 

Most Dangerous Waters in the World Are in the Mediterranean

James Stavridis

James Stavridis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander of NATO, and dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is also an operating executive consultant at the Carlyle Group and chairs the board of counselors at McLarty Associates.

As a Greek-American who lived in Athens for three years, and as a U.S. Navy mariner, I got to know the eastern Mediterranean well. It has been a strategic crossroads throughout history for Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Jews, Phoenicians, Romans, Crusaders and more modern sea warriors.

Whenever I’ve sailed the waters, during the Cold War and afterward, there has been intense disagreement about maritime boundaries, conflicting claims for natural resources, and other geopolitical pressures stemming from the unstable relations among Greece, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus and Syria.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen things more volatile in the eastern Mediterranean than right now — even in periods when Israel has been in combat against its neighbors ashore. What are the factors driving this tension, and what is the role of the U.S.?

Lebanon Is Paralyzed by Fear of Another Civil War


A protester wearing a scarf of the Shiite movement Hezbollah chants slogans while being flanked by Lebanese police during an anti-US demonstration near the United States' Embassy headquarters in Awkar, northeast of the capital Beirut on July 10, 2020.

During the 30 years since Lebanon’s civil war, the neighborhoods of the capital Beirut have been split on sectarian lines, mirroring the country’s sect-based power-sharing constitutional system. But this political edifice has been under challenge for months. In October, Lebanese people from across the religious spectrum came out on the streets and demonstrated against their political leaders, whom they described as a corrupt and self-serving elite. Last month when an explosion ripped through the city and left some of the dominantly Christian neighborhoods in ruins, it blew the lid off the country’s sectarian fault lines.

Lebanon’s various communities are more suspicious of each other than at any time in recent memory. At the center of tensions, holding the key to both chaos and peace, is Hezbollah. It’s not clear how these vitriolic sectarian tensions will be resolved. No one wants the situation to escalate into another civil war.

Europeanising ideologies: Understanding the EU’s complex relationship with ‘isms’

For much of its history, the EU has been portrayed as an attempt to move beyond the ideological divisions present at the national level. Yet in recent decades, European integration has increasingly been criticised from the standpoint that it functions as an ideological project itself – whether as an expression of neoliberalism, federalism, or other ‘isms’. Jonathan White argues that to politicise the EU is not just to critique it: by inserting the EU into a larger, more intelligible history, we can better understand its relation to wider political struggles.

One of the striking features of recent talk of the ‘frugal four’ of European Union politics is that it implies ideological disagreement at the core of the integration project. At July’s negotiations on the Union’s future financing, French President Macron spoke of ‘different conceptions of Europe’ in play, as some leaders favoured borrowing to invest and others reductions in spending. Some of this talk has felt grandiose: on the basics of the EU’s economic model there is generally agreement, and talk of ‘frugalism’ can dress up parochial actions as something more principled. The leaders of Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden seem notably keen to reduce their own country’s contributions. Yet the suggestion of a clash of ideas is intriguing, for it departs from how EU politics tends to be viewed.

The EU has always had a contradictory relation to ideologies. It is historically the expression of two opposing tendencies – the effort to promote certain ideologies transnationally, embedding them in new institutions, and the effort to transcend ideological conflicts and build a supranational sphere beyond their reach.

Is Trump a Turning Point in World Politics?

Will Donald Trump’s presidency mark a major turning point in world history, or was it a minor historical accident? Trump's electoral appeal may turn on domestic politics, but his effect on world politics could be transformational, particularly if he gains a second term.

CAMBRIDGE – As the United States enters the home stretch of the 2020 presidential election campaign, and with neither party’s nominating convention featuring much discussion of foreign policy, the contest between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden apparently will be waged mainly on the battleground of domestic issues. In the long run, however, historians will ask whether Trump’s presidency was a major turning point in America’s role in the world, or just a minor historical accident.

At this stage, the answer is unknowable, because we do not know if Trump will be re-elected. My book Do Morals Matter? rates the 14 presidents since 1945 and gives Trump a formal grade of “incomplete,” but for now he ranks in the bottom quartile.

The Uncertainty Pandemic


CAMBRIDGE – The next few months will tell us a lot about the shape of the coming global recovery. Despite ebullient stock markets, uncertainty about COVID-19 remains pervasive. Regardless of the pandemic’s course, therefore, the world’s struggle with the virus so far is likely to affect growth, employment, and politics for a very long time.

Let’s start with the possible good news. In an optimistic scenario, regulators will have approved at least two leading first-generation COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this year. Thanks to extraordinary government regulatory and financial support, these vaccines are going into production even before the conclusion of human clinical trials. Assuming they are effective, biotech firms will already have some 200 million doses on hand by the end of 2020, and will be on track to produce billions more. Distributing them will be a huge undertaking in itself, in part because the public will need to be convinced that a fast-tracked vaccine is safe.

With luck, rich-country citizens who want the vaccine will have received it by the end of 2021. In China, virtually everyone will have been vaccinated by then. A couple of years after that, so will the bulk of the world’s population, including those living in emerging and developing economies.


Kelsey Worley

What do bicycles, Syrian refuges, synthetic opioid fentanyl, hotel acquisitions, Android phones, Djiboutian ports, fishing boats, and African coups have to do with each other? They are all elements of how opponents of the United States and its Western allies have learned and adapted since the Soviet Union collapsed and the era of American unipolarity began. This is the subject of David Kilcullen’s latest book, The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West. The book’s title plays on former CIA Director James Woosley’s 1993 warning to Congress about the post–Cold War challenges ahead: “We have slain a large dragon. But we live now in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes.” Kilcullen describes today’s strategic environment as one in which America and its allies face the emergence of dragons, large (China and Russia) and small (North Korea and Iran), while at the same time must continue to deal with the threat of terrorism and Woosley’s other snakes.

For anyone who has read the US National Security Strategy or National Defense Strategy—or who has not been living under a rock for the past decade—Kilcullen’s cast of characters should not come as a surprise. But that is the sad part, really. Despite these strategic documents’ emphasis on both dragons and snakes, we continue to be “blindsided” Kilcullen writes, “with new subversive, hybrid, and clandestine techniques of war.” That is because “our existing military model [is] ineffective [and] maladaptive.”

Covid-19 has shown the world is not prepared for potential bioweapons

By Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan

We must not confuse realistic threats with Covid conspiracies

The world was not ready for Covid - it can't afford to be unprepared for a bioweapon

The one silver lining of Covid has been rehearsing for a potentially far worse outbreak

Despite some breathless headlines in recent months, scientists now seem to agree that Covid-19 was not cooked up in a lab. The origins of the virus remain unclear – though a recent study published in Nature, co-authored by the University of Sydney’s Professor Edward Holmes, suggests a number of working theories about how exactly the virus transmitted from bats to humans.

Nonetheless, the plausibility of the laboratory theory, and the huge impact of the coronavirus itself, raise serious questions about the kind of work being done on diseases, their potential dual use as bioweapons and the ability for governments to stop them.

The key and frightening takeaway from this outbreak is that tracing the exact origins of a virus is very difficult. This bodes poorly for future outbreaks, whether accidental or deliberate.

After Disruption: Historical Perspectives on the Future of International Order

The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the debate about whether world order is undergoing a fundamental change. Cornerstones of the post-1945 system—economic globalization, democratic governance, and U.S. leadership—face headwinds. At home, some Americans question whether international institutions and the order they underpin still serve the national interest.

In this critical moment, the Project on History and Strategy asked seven leading international historians to offer their insights about the relationship between disorder and order. How is order remade after pandemics, wars, and revolutions? How do different visions of order get resolved? Who contributes to the making of new orders? Can a faltering order be rehabilitated? Does “might” always make order, or can smaller actors shape the game? Does order emerge from ad hoc responses to specific problems, or can a master blueprint become reality? Collectively the historians produced insightful essays spanning four centuries of upheaval. They recapture the interplay of personality, power, and the forgotten contingency at the core of order-building efforts.

Looking to the future, the essays serve as a potent reminder that the appeal of democracy, free markets, and the broader international architecture designed to extend those ideas across the globe hinge on whether the American people, their government, and their allies prove worthy of emulation and capable of adaptation. If they fail, others will be waiting with the vision and programs to construct a new order in their own likeness.

The Developing World Could Come Out of the Pandemic Ahead


The coronavirus could be the great global leveler for this generation.

Although the virus has spread through the entire world, its effects—both on physical and economic health—have been better managed in some developing countries than in their richer counterparts. In the United Kingdom, the official death toll at the beginning of September is 40,000, whereas Bangladesh’s official count stands around 4,000, despite having over twice the U.K.’s population. And while the British economy is expected to contract by around 9 percent in 2020, Bangladesh’s GDP may fall by around 2 percent. At the same time, developing countries may also find the post-pandemic world more hospitable to their continued rise, as the global economy becomes more digitized, more multipolar, and more fluid.

The Developing World Could Come Out of the Pandemic Ahead
Thanks to favorable demographics, digitization efforts, and quicker health responses, many countries of the global…

Op-Ed: An end to ‘endless wars’? Don’t believe it

Americans have lots on their minds these days — a deadly pandemic, a devastated economy, urban unrest, a national reckoning with racism, hurricanes and wildfires and, at the highest levels of government, epic dysfunction. Oh, yes, and a presidential election. But they would do well to pay at least a modicum of attention to the latest plot twist in what used to be called the global war on terrorism.

In accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for a second term, President Trump bragged, “I have kept out of new wars and our troops are coming home.” That statement is nominally accurate. Indeed, on Friday, his administration announced plans to reduce the number of U.S. troops still in Iraq more than 17 years after the United States invaded that country.

Yet Trump’s claim is also profoundly misleading. In fact, his promise to end America’s “endless wars” in the Middle East remains unfulfilled. Syria offers an illuminating case in point.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Puts the Spotlight on Global Health Governance

The novel coronavirus caught many world leaders unprepared, despite consistent warnings that a global pandemic was inevitable. And it has revealed the flaws in a global health architecture headed by the World Health Organization, which had already been faulted for its response to the 2014 Ebola pandemic in West Africa. Will there be an overhaul of the WHO when the pandemic is over?

Since the novel coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year, its combination of transmissibility and lethality has brought the world to a virtual standstill. Governments have restricted movement, closed borders and frozen economic activity in a desperate attempt to curb the spread of the virus. At best, they have partially succeeded at slowing it down. According to official records so far, millions of people worldwide have been infected, and hundreds of thousands have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The actual toll of the virus is far worse and will continue to climb.

Covid-19 When covid-19 becomes a chronic illness

The symptoms began in March, says Laura, a British woman in her mid-20s. At first covid-19 felt like a bad case of flu: a dry cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of smell, “horrendous nausea” and general fatigue. After three weeks of rest, things started to improve. Five months later, she has still not recovered. Sometimes her symptoms ease for a week or two, but they inevitably return. “When it’s bad I can’t even go on work calls, because if I talk too much I can’t breathe.”

In March, as covid-19 cases began their exponential rise in country after country, doctors focused on saving patients’ lives. Speedy sharing of knowledge, clinical trials and hands-on experience have made the illness less deadly. In Britain about half the patients treated in intensive-care units (icus) in the weeks to the middle of April died. By the end of June mortality was below 30%. Reductions were seen across all age groups, which means the fall cannot have been caused by fewer frail old people arriving in hospital (see chart 1). In places where the epidemic has subsided, calmer wards have meant better care. But improved knowledge about treatment probably accounts for much of the improvement.

Steroids Shown to Cut Deaths of Hospitalized Coronavirus Patients by Over 30 Percent

by Ethen Kim Lieser

Using cheap and widely available steroid drugs can help seriously ill patients survive coronavirus infections, according to an analysis encompassing seven different clinical trials conducted by the World Health Organization

The meta-analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirms a similar survival benefit reported in June, with the new data pointing toward a reduced risk of death by one-third. 

“The consistent findings of benefit in these studies provide definitive data that corticosteroids should be first-line treatment for critically ill patients with COVID-19,” Hallie Prescott and Todd Rice, professors of medicine at the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University, respectively, stated in an accompanying JAMA editorial

Based on the new evidence, the WHO has issued new treatment guidance that strongly recommends steroids to treat severely and critically ill patients—but not those with mild forms of the disease.

Such patients should receive seven to ten days of treatment, a WHO panel noted. 

Empower Naval Intelligence with Data Analytics

By Commander Henry Lange

In 2014, the RAND National Defense Research Institute published Data_Flood: Helping the Navy Address the Rising Tide of Sensor Information, a report focusing on the overwhelming amount of data an intelligence analyst must filter through as a result of the ever-increasing number of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance sensors. “Common wisdom among analysts is that they spend 80 percent of their time looking for the right data and only 20 percent of their time looking at the right data,” the report notes.1 In 2020, speed and scope of data collection has never been greater, and the insatiable demand for accurate, timely intelligence analysis persists. If naval intelligence is to remain relevant and deliver penetrating insight and decision advantage against great power competitors, it must improve data analytics and invert the 80/20 paradigm.

Since conception of the information warfare community, the professional trajectory of intelligence officers (1830s) has been toward broader and more generalized skills across the range of information warfare disciplines, as opposed to specialization in a particular geographic area or threat. Despite this shift, intelligence officers still are expected to be predictive and provide operators with accurate threat assessments. It is imperative, therefore, that the intelligence community develop the intuitive data analytic tools and practices to expand intelligence officers’ time for in-depth, predictive, cognitive analysis.



In the early 1950s, the Army created Special Forces units, which were dedicated to conducting unconventional warfare. To stay prepared for this complex mission, Special Forces Operational Detachment A trains and plans for unconventional warfare using the Army’s Military Decision Making Process.

Embracing the task to conduct training events focused on validating units in fundamental skills, our battalion, which we are not naming here, held a Military Decision Making Process training exercise. This event required each Special Forces A-Team, as a detachment is known, to plan an unconventional warfare mission in a designated European country against a peer threat.

The intent was primarily to externally evaluate each detachment’s capability to isolate and plan an unconventional warfare mission. While the detachments demonstrated the ability to follow the step-by-step Military Decision Making Process, as given in the Special Forces Detachment Mission Planning Guide from March 2006, we, the evaluators, identified trends that revealed critical failures in leadership and planning.