7 October 2020

Modi Sets His “Made In India” Plan Loose On The Indian Military

by Bharat Karnad

As part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘self-reliant India’ policy, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh issued a list of 101 defence items in August with different timelines beyond which their import will be banned, with a second list soon to follow. From December 2020, the armed forces will not be able to purchase some 69 types of foreign-sourced military goods, including many major weapons systems and platforms: ship-borne cruise missiles, diesel submarines, missile destroyers, light combat aircraft and helicopters.

Most of these are already produced in India under licence, so the government is confident the ban will force the Indian defence industry to achieve self-sufficiency within a decade. Because imports will not be allowed for any reason, the military will be compelled to become stakeholders in indigenous programs. However, there has been minor pushback, with immediate purchases from abroad being approved to fill ‘voids’ in the war wastage reserve and the war stock just in case hostilities flare up with China in Ladakh.

Singh promised contracts worth US$54 billion to the Indian defence industry, but instead spawned scepticism because this figure includes funding for procurements that are already underway. The reality is that the Indian government has awarded US$34 billion of contracts to foreign arms suppliers, far exceeding the US$20.25 billion for Indian companies. Since defence budgets are written annually, there is no hint of long-term government funding for particular programs.

The View From Olympus: A Glimpse of Future War Among Great Powers

Several weeks ago, the world got a glimpse of what future war will look like among Great Powers. The weapons were rocks and clubs.

Indian and Chinese troops battled each other over worthless ground along their undefined border high in the Himalayas. It was a classic case of two bald men fighting over a comb. But at least 20 Indian soldiers died, along with an unknown number of Chinese.

What is interesting about this skirmish is the weapons employed. Both India and China have sizable arsenals of modern weapons. They employed none of them. Instead, they fought with rocks and clubs.

I find the deafening silence over this choice of weapons, including from the U.S. military, to be interesting. It certainly should draw the attention of anyone who studies where war may be going. Why did such a bizarre scenario unfold? Because both countries have nuclear weapons.

It is probably true that neither India nor China wants a war at this point. But what limited both countries’ soldiers to the weapons of cavemen was something with general import: so terrifying is the prospect of nuclear war to anyone threatened with it that governments are willing, even eager, to go to seemingly ridiculous lengths to prevent it.

Many Obstacles Remain Before Afghanistan Will Be At Peace

by Imtiaz Gul

The 11 September launch of intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha is yet to translate into formal dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The embattled Afghan stakeholders are still labouring over modalities of talks before they can get into the nitty-gritty of the future political map and things are unlikely to get much easier.

Unusual euphoria accompanied the ceremony in Doha. Yet the intricate nature of preliminary discussions, and a simultaneous rise in violence in northern Afghanistan, suggests a tedious path ahead — a path loaded with bloated egos, ideological disagreements, and the competing interests of Afghanistan’s neighbours.

US special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad pointed to potential roadblocks hours before the inaugural ceremony. ‘There are spoilers who don’t want the peace process to take place or to go forward, and there are people who prefer the status quo to a peace agreement’, said Khalilzad when asked who might have orchestrated an attack on Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh only two days before the momentous Doha talks.

Khalilzad delivered this warning in his remarks to reporters via video conference from Doha. It coincided with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001 that changed the course of the global security paradigm.

Assessing Securitization: China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Katja Banik and Jan Lüdert

Napoleon warned: “Let China sleep; when she awakes, she will shake the world”. As China awakens, the world around it is rumbling with the rise of national populism in the West and elsewhere. Donald Trump’s “America first” policy and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), designed to revitalize the Silk Road, demonstrate an ostensible shift. World politics is experiencing a decisive historical moment. This has become evident with a number of factors: a growing cult of personality surrounding the Chinese President, China’s introduction of a Social Credit System (SCS) and, in the West, a confidence crisis in democratic institutions sweeping through the European Union (EU) – especially ‘Brexit’, as the United Kingdom’s move to leave the EU. These exist amongst parallel developments across the Atlantic with Donald Trump’s Presidential administration in the United States (US).

World politics at a crossroads

By putting in place protectionist measures, the US and China have begun to engage in a drawn-out trade war, escalating their systemic rivalry. The EU, less united than ever, contends with the impact of Brexit throughout a seemingly disjointed Union. These pressures are compounded by Europe’s disgruntled citizenry, criticizing the EU’s lack of efficacy in its response to a range of issues. The future of Europe, and its role in a global framework, have fallen into questioned as the US and China struggle for geopolitical preeminence.

A New Phase for China’s Ping-Pong Diplomacy in Syria

By Sophie Zinser

A new phase of ping-pong diplomacy is quietly beginning over China’s strategic soft-power role in the Middle East. Once flights become available, 11-year-old Syrian table tennis star Hend Zaza will trade in her long-term Olympic 2020 dream for a short-term China one. A few months ago, Zaza was set to be the youngest athlete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. She made early March headlines across Western media outlets after beating Mariana Sahakian of Lebanon – 31 years her senior – at the Western Asia Olympic Qualification Tournament for Table Tennis in Amman, Jordan. With the Olympic games postponed until 2021, the Chinese Olympic Organizing Committee has invited Zaza to China to train with the nation’s top players to keep her game up for Tokyo.

A CCTV video circulated on Weibo gives Chinese viewers a backstory on Zaza’s rise to ping-pong fame. The video features clips of the young athlete dominating tables across the Middle East. Since her victory in Lebanon last February, Hend has been training for the Olympics in her hometown of Hama, Syria for three hours a day, six days a week. When asked about her move to China, Zaza mentions looking forward to having consistent electricity and playing on new tables, saying “I am so looking forward to my trip…I can’t wait!” The video ends with Zaza claiming that world’s top ping pong player – Chinese female star Ding Ning – is her idol; a statement which resonated with many Chinese-language commenters. Encouraging Zaza with hearts of support and calls of “加油 – jia you!” or “add oil” (a common Chinese phrase of encouragement), Weibo commenters also praised Ding Ning for touching fans around the world. 

Ban on Chinese apps has a currency war angle

James Lee

NEW YORK: Since India spearheaded a wide-scope ban of Chinese apps over the summer, a couple of other democracies have followed suit to safeguard their national security, amid the covert invasion of their digital border by the CCP. Such efforts reached a new milestone in September when the White House proposed to restrict WeChat and TikTok in the United States. Despite that the path has not been all clear of obstacles, and the two apps have received a temporary reprieve thanks to the independent judicial system of the US. However, the march must carry on because the ban carries more implications than just a tech war or an election gimmick.

Yes, the process thus far has been confusing, and the credibility of the US national security apparatus has been undermined given all the commercial angles the Trump administration has been tinkering with, but there are many critically important reasons for the ban to proceed forward. This is not the time to retreat.

Banning WeChat and other Chinese apps can help shore up defence against Chinese propaganda going into the presidential election in November. It prevents metadata of the democratic citizens from feeding into CCP’s AI algorithms—a practice many publicly listed Chinese software companies have touted as the core business strategy. It is a fair act of reciprocity, given competing technologies have been banned in China for years—only those who bend to CCP demands are allowed in to satisfy their thirst for profits. One of the crucial but least covered implications, however, is the effect on the currency war angle within the grander construct of the US-China struggle.

China’s geopolitics are pumped up by its economic success

Graham Allison

When China’s top leaders met in August to review the year and assess the challenges ahead, they took satisfaction in their nation’s success compared to the floundering performance of the US and Europe in dealing with coronavirus. In President Xi Jinping’s bottom line: China had “fully demonstrated the clear superiority of Communist party leadership and our socialist system”.

After the 2008 financial crisis, China emerged as a major geopolitical force, advancing its values and interests. Today, as we see a second great economic divergence, we should expect more profound geopolitical consequences.

Official numbers for the first half of 2020 are already in. The world economy is shrinking. Every major nation is on track to have a smaller economy by the end of the year — with one exception, China. This brute fact is hard to ignore. Furthermore, we have seen this all before. After 2008, China weathered the storm, its economy growing in every quarter. In the decade that followed, China accounted for one-third of all global economic growth. 

As its economy soared, approaching parity with the US, Beijing’s sense that the nation deserved a louder voice in the world rose proportionately. Former leader Deng Xiaoping’s “hide and bide” invisibility cloak was discarded dramatically. In a confrontation with former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2010, China’s then foreign minister Yang Jiechi famously told her and several senior south east Asian officials also present: “China is a big country, and other countries are small countries, and that is just a fact.”

UK-China Relations: From Gold to Dust

By Thomas des Garets Geddes

In just a few months, the United Kingdom’s overall policy toward China has changed dramatically. Until recently, Downing Street was famously defining itself as “China’s best partner in the West” and was committed to intensifying its proclaimed “golden era” of relations with Beijing. Britain was the first G7 country to join the Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), described itself as the most open Western economy to Chinese investment and promoted an economic approach within the European Union that largely favored Chinese interests. Just before taking over as prime minister in July of last year, Boris Johnson insisted that his government would be very “pro-China” and “very enthusiastic about the Belt and Road Initiative.” Since then, however, the U.K. has become one of China’s most vocal critics, infuriating Beijing with its removal of Huawei from its 5G network, its decision to provide millions of Hong Kongers a pathway to British citizenship and its plans to clamp down on Chinese investments. 

How does one explain this startling volte-face? What have been its main drivers? Much attention has focused on the United States’ influence over the U.K.’s China policy. While this article will argue that pressure from the U.S. has played an important role, domestic dynamics are key to understanding this radical U-turn.

Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak followed by its unprecedented assertiveness abroad seem to have acted as a wake-up call for many in Britain. In the words of Sir John Sawers, the former MI6 chief, “The last six months have revealed more about China under President Xi Jinping than the previous six years.” While Xi’s regime has not changed overnight, the coronavirus outbreak was perhaps the first time that Britons fully realized that decisions taken in Beijing could also have life-threatening consequences for them. Furthermore, it exposed their country’s overreliance on an authoritarian regime for vital goods such as ventilators and personal protective equipment. Britons, like many others, came to the sobering realization that if they were to get into the Chinese Communist Party’s bad books, Xi could simply decide to turn off the supply tap.

Saving Uighur Culture From Genocide

Yasmeen Serhan

How do you protect a culture that is being wiped out?

For Uighurs, this is more than just a hypothetical. Repressive measures against the ethnic minority have progressively worsened: The Chinese government has corralled more than 1 million of them into internment camps, where they have been subjected to political indoctrination, forced sterilization, and torture.

The targeting of the Uighurs isn’t limited to the camps. Since 2016, dozens of graveyards and religious sites have been destroyed. The Uighur language has been banned in Xinjiang schools in favor of Mandarin Chinese. Practicing Islam, the predominant Uighur faith, has been discouraged as a “sign of extremism.”

Beijing frames these moves as its way of rooting out terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism. But the aim of China’s actions in Xinjiang is clear: to homogenize Uighurs into the country’s Han Chinese majority, even if that means erasing their cultural and religious identity for good. What is taking place is a cultural genocide.

The repercussions bear heavily even on Uighurs living outside the country. Their burden is more than just raising awareness about what is taking place in their homeland—a task many have taken up at great cost to themselves and their families. It’s also about preserving and promoting their identity in countries where few people might know who the Uighurs are, let alone what the world stands to lose should their language, food, art, and traditions be eradicated.

End The Dangerous Saudi Relationship Now


Jason Rezaian observes that the Trump administration missed its opportunity to change the relationship with Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi’s murder two years ago, and he spells out what the U.S. needs to do now:

When MBS arrived on the scene, many observers were overly optimistic about the prospects of his promised reforms to Saudi Arabia. They easily ignored the pointless and catastrophic war he has waged on Yemen. They have also looked past the growing list of human rights abuses that have become more egregious on his watch.

Now that we know the predictions of modern reform were wrong, the United States must correct course. We must push to hold MBS accountable — not only because it is the correct and moral thing to do, but also because it could ensure that we don’t remain entangled and dependent on a despotic leader motivated by a blind and violent thirst for power. That remains the ultimate threat to our interests and national security.

Where Are the Trump Loyalists?

By Garrett M. Graff

Now that the United States has lived through almost four years of chaos and controversies generated by President Donald Trump, it’s easy to forget that the original scandal that launched the Russia investigation was the result of actions taken by then-candidate Trump’s team of notably junior foreign-policy advisors. Had inexperienced “experts” such as George Papadopoulos and Carter Page not ranked among the campaign’s highest-profile national security figures, it’s unlikely the FBI and then-special counsel Robert Mueller would ever have launched their investigations. After all, if people with more experience and better judgment had been involved from the start, it’s unlikely they would have entertained entreaties from shadowy Russian figures—contacts that set off the initial alarms at the FBI.

It shouldn’t be surprising that a reality TV star known more for his business failures than any foreign-policy insights had trouble attracting the nation’s best diplomatic, military, and intelligence thinkers early on. His chief national security aide during the 2016 campaign, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, had been fired by President Barack Obama as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency two years earlier, and had then embarked on an odd project to cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, accepting tens of thousands of dollars to speak in Russia and attending a dinner with the Russian leader. Flynn lasted just three weeks as Trump’s national security advisor before being ousted for lying about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Far more surprising—as highlighted by a recently published letter that serves as an unintentional indictment of Donald Trump’s management of the nation’s security—is that after almost four years in the White House, the president still hasn’t managed to win the loyalty of more respected foreign-policy professionals.

The Espionage Threat to U.S. Businesses

By Bill Priestap, Holden Triplett

American companies are in a bind. They are on the front lines of a fierce new geopolitical competition that threatens their businesses like nothing they have seen before. This competition is driven by the primary lesson of the Cold War, a lesson that China and other nations have learned well: Economic power is the key to national power. Those countries with a strong economic base across a wide swath of key industries will be well positioned to advance their national agendas. They not only will have significant financial resources to direct toward their goals but also will have a multitude of economic levers with which to influence other nations.

Many authoritarian governments are doing everything they can, including using their spy services, to build successful businesses and grow their economies. Indeed, even some nonauthoritarian governments are taking this approach. The reason for this is simple: A large number of nation-states view privately owned companies within their jurisdictions as extensions of their governments. They support and protect the companies as if those entities were integrated parts of government. These nation-states are consciously building national champions to dominate industries to extend their national power—not just domestically but also worldwide.

The Lies That Infected Trump


NEW YORK – Unlike tens of millions of people around the world who have contracted COVID-19 because of their poverty, bad luck, vulnerability as essential workers, or poor decisions by policymakers, US President Donald Trump’s infection is of his own making. Trump’s disdain for science and his brazen disregard for public-health advice led directly to his own illness; far worse, they have fueled America’s soaring COVID-19 death toll – now at more than 214,000.

Since the pandemic began, public health experts around the world have begged the public to wear face masks, avoid large gatherings, and maintain physical distance from others, in order to stop the transmission of the virus. Leave it to Trump, a man of pathological disposition, to reject all such advice. Barely two days before announcing that he and the First Lady had tested positive, Trump was mocking Joe Biden for wearing one. “I don’t wear a mask like him,” Trump said at the first presidential debate. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away … and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

Rejecting appeals by public health experts and local officials, Trump had been holding large rallies both indoors and outdoors in recent months, with non-masked attendees standing close together. And Trump spurned basic precautions in the White House, including physical distancing of staff and requiring face masks in meetings.

The Road to a COVID-19 Vaccine, With Luciana L. Borio

Luciana Borio, vice president of In-Q-Tel and senior fellow for global health at CFR, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the process of developing and distributing a coronavirus vaccine.

US preps for ‘Irregular Warfare’ with China, Russia


The US Defense Department says the entire military must get better at “Irregular Warfare” to fend off the rise of not just nonstate terror groups and cyber attackers, but to stymie Russia and China as well.

The National Defense Strategy pivots the Pentagon to focus on potential conflict with those countries and other advanced militaries instead of lower-tech militants in the Middle East and Africa, according to a report by Rachel S. Cohen at Air Force Magazine.

To put it succinctly, “irregular warfare” isn’t just for special operations forces.

A newly published summary of an annex to the 2018 National Defense Strategy argues despite decades of asymmetric conflict — wars where enemies have exploited weaknesses in U.S. technology and tactics — the Pentagon is still underprepared for that kind of combat, the report said.

Americans Increasingly Believe Violence is Justified if the Other Side Wins


At the presidential debate this week, the Republican candidate voiced his concern about political violence—left-wing political violence. And the Democratic candidate likewise voiced concern about political violence—right-wing political violence.

They were both right.

Like a growing number of prominent American leaders and scholars, we are increasingly anxious that this country is headed toward the worst post-election crisis in a century and a half. Our biggest concern is that a disputed presidential election—especially if there are close contests in a few swing states, or if one candidate denounces the legitimacy of the process—could generate violence and bloodshed.

Unfortunately, we’re not being alarmist about the potential for violence; trends in public opinion that we’ve been tracking provide strong grounds for concern. Our research, which we’re reporting here for the first time, shows an upswing in the past few months in the number of Americans—both Democrats and Republicans—who said they think violence would be justified if their side loses the upcoming presidential election.

A Theory About Conspiracy Theories

By Benedict Carey

More than 1 in 3 Americans believe that the Chinese government engineered the coronavirus as a weapon, and another third are convinced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has exaggerated the threat of Covid-19 to undermine President Trump.

The numbers, from a survey released on Sept. 21 by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, may or may not taper off as communities begin to contain the virus.

But they underscore a moment when a particular brand of conspiracy theory is emerging in the mainstream: A belief that the “official story” is in fact a Big Lie, being told by powerful, shadowy interests.

At its extremes, these theories include cannibals and satanic pedophiles, (courtesy of the so-called QAnon theory, circulating online); lizard-people, disguised as corporate leaders and celebrities (rooted in alien abduction stories and science fiction); and, in this year of the plague, evil scientists and governments, all conspiring to use Covid-19 for their own dark purposes.

This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic


Why, for instance, was there such an enormous death toll in northern Italy, but not the rest of the country? Just three contiguous regions in northern Italy have 25,000 of the country’s nearly 36,000 total deaths; just one region, Lombardy, has about 17,000 deaths. Almost all of these were concentrated in the first few months of the outbreak. What happened in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in April, when so many died so quickly that bodies were abandoned in the sidewalks and streets?* Why, in the spring of 2020, did so few cities account for a substantial portion of global deaths, while many others with similar density, weather, age distribution, and travel patterns were spared? What can we really learn from Sweden, hailed as a great success by some because of its low case counts and deaths as the rest of Europe experiences a second wave, and as a big failure by others because it did not lock down and suffered excessive death rates earlier in the pandemic? Why did widespread predictions of catastrophe in Japan not bear out? The baffling examples go on.

I’ve heard many explanations for these widely differing trajectories over the past nine months—weather, elderly populations, vitamin D, prior immunity, herd immunity—but none of them explains the timing or the scale of these drastic variations. But there is a potential, overlooked way of understanding this pandemic that would help answer these questions, reshuffle many of the current heated arguments, and, crucially, help us get the spread of COVID-19 under control.

North Korea's Cyber Warfare Capabilities Are Just Getting Started

by Michael Raska

The use of cyber weapons of mass effectiveness alongside weapons of mass destruction provides Pyongyang with a unified asymmetric strategy designed to pressure the United States and the wider international community to recognise its legitimacy.

Moreover Pyongyang can effectively counter strict economic sanctions through cyber operations, raising hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Kim regime and its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

North Korea’s cyber warfare units have come a long way since the mid-1990s, when the country’s computer infrastructure was rudimentary at best. The 2009 US National Intelligence Estimate dismissed North Korea’s cyber capabilities and long-range missile programs, noting it would take years to develop them into a meaningful threat.

That same year, North Korea reportedly unified all of its intelligence and internal security services and brought them under the direct control of the National Defense Commission to cement the control of current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It merged intelligence organisations and its various cyber units such as Bureau 121 into the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB).

No, Biden Will Not End Trade Wars

By Edward Alden

If Democratic candidate Joe Biden becomes president next January, mending U.S. trade relations won’t be anywhere near the top of his to-do list. He has stated unequivocally that he would not enter into any new trade agreements “until we’ve made major investments here at home, in our workers and our communities.” Don’t expect a Biden-led United States to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Asia, restart talks on a new agreement with the European Union, or pursue trade deals elsewhere anytime soon—if ever.

But for the rest of the world, four years of being pummeled with tariffs and sanctions by President Donald Trump make better trade relations a priority. How deftly Biden handles that tug of war will determine whether the United States regains some of its tattered leadership over the international economic order—or stands by while the world further deteriorates into tit-for-tat trade wars.

From a U.S. domestic perspective, Biden’s priorities are certainly right. Lack of investment in workforce retraining, access to education, and critical infrastructure—as well as a tax code that favors shedding workers—goes a long way to explaining why Americans soured on trade. Former President Barack Obama, after running as a trade skeptic in 2008, fell in line with his predecessors in pursuing an ambitious agenda to expand trade, especially with Asia, despite growing evidence that imports from China were destroying U.S. manufacturing jobs. Discontent over trade helped Trump win the 2016 election in critical industrial states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. This year, the Democrats are determined not to make the same mistake. Biden’s plan to “build back better” plainly states that “the goal of every decision about trade must be to build the American middle class, create jobs, raise wages, and strengthen communities.”

Why America Should Bring Home Its Nuclear Weapons

by Zack Brown

American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe have outlived their usefulness and should be brought home, argued Mike Sweeney, national security expert and fellow at the libertarian think tank, Defense Priorities. 

“It’s kind of a forgotten issue,” he explained in an interview with the podcast Press the Button. During the Cold War, the United States scattered scores of smaller, so-called “battlefield” nuclear weapons throughout NATO-aligned Europe to offset the conventional superiority of Soviet forces on the Continent. 

As superpower tensions faded along with the Soviet Union, US presidents began to bring these weapons home. But roughly 150 of them remain, raising serious issues surrounding strategy and alliance politics. 

In terms of strategy, it’s unclear why the bombs are still needed in Europe. The main threat these weapons ostensibly offset - a Russian “escalate to de-escalate” strategy where a nuclear demonstration coerces NATO into backing down during a fight in the Baltics - likely doesn’t exist. 

Judy Asks: Is Peace Possible Between Armenia and Azerbaijan?


The answer is yes, because there have been significantly longer periods of peaceful coexistence between the two nations (or their historic predecessors) than of conflict—the latter of which occurred during the collapse of empires.

The resolution should address a few levels of the problem. One is the geopolitical context: Russia’s twenty-seven-year-long security domination in the Caucasus, which has clearly proved to be not a factor of stabilization but one of control, based on consolidation of Soviet legacies—expressed in conflict narratives, paradigms, institutions, and governance—must be neutralized.

This can be achieved by changing the format of negotiations and the composition of mediators.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan should understand that neither long-term peace nor consistent democratization is possible without independence from Russia.

The other way is by delegitimizing military gains in order to take away their power as bargaining tools in negotiations, thus disincentivizing any military adventures. This includes bringing more normative certainty and justice in cases of violation of international law.

The negotiations should also suggest and consider mutually beneficial deals, rather than try to achieve concessions under military pressure.

Unit Status Reports and the Gaming of Readiness

Capt. Theo Lipsky, U.S. Army

From March 2018 to November 2019, the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General conducted an audit of the U.S. Army’s active component readiness. The audit’s resultant report was, on the whole, positive. Yes, the Army could use more low bed semitrailers, towed-howitzer telescopes, and electromagnetic spectrum managers. But overall, the Army had “met or exceeded” the goal of 66 percent of its brigade combat teams (BCT) reporting the “highest readiness levels for seven consecutive quarterly reporting periods.”1

The unfortunate truth of the report, and others like it, is that it substantiates its findings with data from the Department of Defense Readiness Reporting System-Army (DRRS-A). The DRRS-A readiness data in turn comes from unit status reports (USR) provided by BCTs’ constituent battalions. This reporting labyrinth obscures what anyone who has compiled a USR knows: unit status reports are deeply flawed. The effects of those flaws are twofold: USRs not only fail to capture the readiness of reporting units, but they also actually harm the readiness of reporting units. The reports do so because they demand inflexible quantitative measurements unfaithful to the outcome they purport to depict—how ready a unit is to accomplish its mission. The commanders and staff chase readiness as the USR measures it, often at the cost of actual readiness.

This paradox, wherein organizational obsession with quantifying results corrupts them, is what historian Jerry Z. Muller has called “metric fixation.”2 The corruption in the case of readiness reporting takes many forms: the displacement of actual readiness with empty numbers, short termism among commanders and their staff, the collapse of innovation, the burning of endless man hours, and the hemorrhaging of job satisfaction. But to understand the scope of the harm, one must first understand the desired end (in this case, readiness) and the metrics used to measure it—the USR and its components.

Why Leaders Need to Learn the Skill of Writing

By Joe Byerly

Anyone who has worked directly for a battalion commander or above probably has experience writing “ghost notes.” These are emails a subordinate writes and addresses for their boss to send to other people. Ghost notes can be weekly or monthly sitreps, updates on an ongoing situation or emails asking for additional resources. No matter the type, they are the “easy button” for the commander because all they have to do is hit “send.”

Recently, I worked for a senior Army leader who encouraged his subordinate commanders to own their communications—meaning, write their own emails. As I reflected on his guidance, I realized there are benefits to communications ownership. I witnessed many of these benefits firsthand as I watched him communicate with senior military leaders, senior civilian leaders and his own commanders.

Greatness and Writing

One of the best ways to work through a problem is to write it down. Throughout history, leaders who found themselves in tough situations sat alone with their thoughts and worked through them using pen and paper.

Tesla Tanks: How the Future of War Might Be Electric

by Caleb Larson

AGerman firm just unveiled an all-electric prototype infantry fighting vehicle. It could represent the future of battlefield mobility.

The German firm Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft recently showcased one of their newest vehicles. Their Genesis, an eight-wheeled all-wheel-drive infantry fighting vehicle is just a technology demonstrator, not intended to enter full general production. The technology it is demonstrating? Alternative fuels.

In comments given to Jane’s, one of the Genesis program managers explained why the Genesis took the form it has now, saying that the Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft “settled on an 8×8 in the forty-ton class as there are many out there, however, Genesis is mainly a technology demonstrator for alternative propulsion concepts.”

The Genesis benefits from having a hybrid-electric drive system. Lithium-ion batteries power each wheel, all eight of which can be individually steered, accelerated, or braked, giving the Genesis exceptional off-road handling, according to the manufacturer, FFG.