8 October 2020

Modi’s Himalayan Dilemma

By Sushant Singh

For nearly five months now, around 100,000 Indian and Chinese soldiers have been engaged in a precarious standoff high in the Himalayas. Negotiations between military commanders and diplomats have so far prevented border clashes from escalating into a wider military conflict between the world’s two most populous countries. But after fighting in June led to the first combat fatalities on the frontier in 45 years, both sides rushed additional troops to the frontier and tensions are still running high. China has rapidly consolidated territorial gains along the border to take the upper hand in negotiations, leaving Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government with some tough choices to make in the middle of a raging pandemic and as the Indian economy craters.

The border crisis has snowballed into an intractable political, diplomatic, and economic challenge for Modi. He can’t accept Beijing’s aggression in the region without denting his own nationalist strongman credentials, but he can’t stand up to China militarily without making enormous investments in his military—investments that are impossible in the midst of an economic crisis. Modi could enlist external friends and allies, both in the region and globally, to put pressure on China, but that risks deviating from India’s long-standing commitment to “strategic autonomy”—that is, a foreign policy of self-reliance that doesn’t forge close alliances with great powers. And courting allies may be a little harder for India after Modi’s domestic policies, which have often channeled the Hindu nationalist politics of his political base, have reduced India’s attractiveness as a liberal, secular democracy. Modi, the most powerful ruler India has had in decades, now faces a moment of reckoning.

Where India stands on peace in Afghanistan | Opinion

Jayant Prasad

A significant minority in India’s policy circles questions what India has gained from its reconstruction activities in Afghanistan. India has earned (back) goodwill and traction with Afghans from all parts of the country. Before Taliban rule in Afghanistan, India had an exiguous presence in the minds of Afghans, who felt that India had turned away from them. They now know that India wants Afghans to stand on their own feet and make their own decisions. They know India is working for a sovereign, united, and peaceful Afghanistan. They believe in the commonalities between Indian and Afghan objectives, and that India will celebrate Afghan successes.

India’s effort to rebuild Afghanistan goes beyond financial support or constructing the Afghan parliament, a dam on the Hari Rud River, transmission lines and a power station to bring electricity to Kabul, and Small Development Projects for education and health. India has contributed to building institutions, developing human resources, training Afghan public officials and providing the country with a new generation of educated and skilled workers.

The Taliban gained ground in parts of Afghanistan not because they are “smart” and “tough” as Donald Trump believes, but because of American mismanagement, Afghan incapacity, and support to the Taliban from the Pakistan army. Afghanistan’s defence minister, Asadullah Khalid, told me several years ago, when he was Kandahar’s governor: “It is not that the Taliban are strong, it is that we are weak.” The Taliban profile is disproportionate to its gains on the ground.

Chinese anxiety over Tibet fuels rising tensions with India

Brahma Chellaney

Is China's insecurity over the restive Tibetan Plateau, which has already led to a major military standoff between the two Asian giants along their long and treacherous Himalayan frontier, driving President Xi Jinping's belligerent policy toward India? The extended standoff has certainly raised the risks of further localized battles or another full-scale border war.

Xi recently underscored his regime's anxieties by ordering Communist Party, government and military leaders to turn remote Tibet into an "impregnable fortress" against separatism and "solidify border defenses" to ensure frontier security with India. He also called for the Sinicizing of Tibetan Buddhism to help accelerate the Tibetan minority's assimilation into the dominant Han culture.

Several issues are fueling Xi's concerns over Tibet: controlling who succeeds the 85-year-old Dalai Lama; continued Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule; and China's growing suspicions about India, which hosts a Tibetan government-in-exile and welcomes fleeing Tibetans.

Xi has sought to ruthlessly root out all signs of unrest in Tibet, the world's largest and highest plateau that is very far from Beijing. Tibet's capital, Lhasa, is more than 3,500 kilometers from the Chinese capital, but only 1,356 kilometers from New Delhi.

Enabling the enemy – China.

by Bharat Karnad

It is not difficult to read China. But the so-called Mandarin-speaking China experts in the government who comprise the China Study Circle/Group (CSG), or whatever it is they call this unit these days made up with diplomats, and military attache and Intelligence-types — careerists all, seem intent — as is their bureaucratic habit — on configuring what they say to what they think the jefe maximo (maximum leader) wants to hear. In this context, it is less important for these officials to have their fingers on the adversary Chinese establishment’s pulse than not to rock the proverbial boat in Delhi.

Distinguished mainly for being so wrong so often about China — wrong here refers to recommending over-cautious turns in policy that actually assist, enable and advance the enemy’s cause and interests, the CSG’s greatest achievement appears to be that it is nevertheless taken seriously, relied upon for advice in crafting the larger China policy as also the tactical ploys and stratagems attending on unfolding events and crises. It says more about the country’s leaders and the quality of advice they get than about the said advisers.

Then there are the China specialists in the academe and thinktanks who cheer the CSG-GOI’s every fear-stricken move from the op-ed webinar galleries, taking care to dissemble, calling for moderation, de-escalation and standing down in the face of Chinese provocations, lest Beijing slam the door shut on their academic advancement by denying them visas, and access to official documents, official interlocuters, and the Chinese seminar circuit. The only sinologists in the world who get away with being critical of Beijing are American and then only because the power balance still tilts towards the US.

Nine Days in Wuhan, the Ground Zero of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Peter Hessler

On my second visit to the site of the former Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, at the intersection of New China Road and Development Road, in central Wuhan, I wore a mask and a pair of sunglasses with a loose frame. It was late August, and three security guards in black uniforms sat at the entrance. They examined my passport, checked my temperature, and asked me to scan a QR code that connected to a registration system. The system, though, required a national I.D. number, and the guards seemed uncertain what to do with a foreigner. I handed over the sunglasses and explained that they needed to be repaired.

The earliest documented clusters of coronavirus infections had occurred in the Huanan market. During my first visit, a week earlier, I had left after attracting the attention of a man who appeared to be a plainclothes police officer. The site remained sensitive, and a high blue wall blocked off the ground-floor stalls where the virus had spread. But the market’s second floor was open for business, which was why, when I returned, I brought the glasses.

The Epic Split. Why ‘Made in China’ is going out of style


Some people still deny that decoupling from China is happening. They say it can’t be done. In a speech earlier in the year, Chen Deming, former Commerce Minister of China, said decoupling was unthinkable. 

“To hell with decoupling!” Chen said. 

But the numbers are clear. A diversification away from China is most definitely underway. China’s era as the world’s factory is coming to an end.

In a new book on the topic, The Epic Split – Why ‘Made in China’ is going out of style, I explain the background to this fierce and escalating trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies but also how international and Chinese companies navigate these new waters of trade war, decoupling and consumer boycotts. 

As a journalist based in Hong Kong for the last decade, I have enjoyed a ring-side view of the astonishing transformation in trade and diplomatic relations between China and the West. As the global conflict deepens, I often feel more like a trade war correspondent than an Asia correspondent.

Before Trying to Get into Eastern Ladakh, China Built itself Forcefully Occupying 45% of Land. Here's How

Thirty one per cent of China is forcefully occupied. That is when we go with the official Chinese record. China forcefully occupied Xinjiang in 1949 and Tibet in 1950. As per the official Chinese record, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has an area of 1.66 million square kilometers, that is 17.68% of total land area of China, i.e., 93,88,210 square kilometers, as per the World Bank Databank.

The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has an area of 1.22 million square kilometre, i.e., 13% of the total land area of China — that makes 31% of the total land area of China. And 44.31% if we take into account the claims made by Tibetan Government in Exile in India or Central Tibetan Administration.

The Central Tibetan Administration claims historical Greater Tibet has a land area of 2.5 million square kilometers and the bulk of historical Tibet lies outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. China had already merged more than half of the Greater Tibet in other Chinese provinces before it announced the formation of TAR in 1965.

China also occupies two pieces of Indian territories. It includes Aksai Chin, a 38,000 square kilometre border area in Ladakh that China occupied in 1962 India-China war while Pakistan ceded to China 5,180 square kilometre of occupied Indian territory in 1963 under Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement.

Are Counter Violent Extremism Interventions Effective?

by Todd C. Helmus and Elizabeth Bodine-Baron

Government efforts to counter the propaganda and radicalization that lead to violent extremism are becoming more common around the world, but there's little research on whether such programs work. Funded by the Global Engagement Center at the U.S. Department of State, RAND conducted three randomized controlled trials—the gold standard in evaluation design—of what are called countering violent extremism (CVE) interventions, using radio and social media in Nigeria, Indonesia, and the Philippines. RAND also conducted a qualitative assessment of a program designed to train civil society members in the Philippines to directly counter violent extremism.

The results were mixed, but one conclusion was inescapable: countering violent extremism is not an easy task, and programmers should not always assume their content will be successful.


In communities in northern Nigeria affected by violent extremism, RAND recruited 2,064 participants via SMS/text message and assigned them randomly to listen to a CVE-themed radio talk show called Ina Mafita or to a control program (professional soccer matches) each week over two months. To monitor compliance, we texted participants a weekly quiz and correct answers earned a small financial incentive. Baseline and monthly surveys also were also delivered via SMS.

Addressing Lebanon's Ailments, Acute and Chronic

by Krishna B. Kumar and Louay Constant

Arecent explosion in Beirut captured headlines all over the world. It killed hundreds of residents and injured thousands more, and it has led to yet another round of calls for political and economic reforms in Lebanon. While such reforms are long overdue, it is hard to see how Lebanon, on its own, can repair the problems deepened by this latest catastrophe. A donor conference organized by French President Emmanuel Macron drew pledges for much-needed short-term assistance. But sustained global investment is also necessary if the country is to recover over the long run.

The situation in Lebanon was already explosive. Its economy was in shambles, corruption was endemic, job opportunities were scarce, and a brain drain (PDF) sapped the country of skill and human resources. Government profligacy in an era of low growth and capital inflows left the country's national debt at 150% of its GDP, the third highest in the world. All the while, Lebanon's confessional system, which divides the exercise of power among the country's religious groups, has furthered the damage of sectarian divides.

Add to this volatile mix an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees—the largest number (PDF) per capita in the world—and social tensions and economic anxiety had already escalated in recent years. When we visited Lebanon to study how labor markets were coping with the refugee influx, a U.S. official we interviewed likened the situation to a population the size of Texas suddenly moving into the United States. The Lebanese experts we spoke with saw the country providing a “public good” to the world by hosting this many refugees. They hoped the global community would, in return, invest in Lebanese industries and infrastructure to create jobs and growth. Indeed, despite tensions including sharpened competition for jobs, there were no systematic reprisals against refugees, and all 150 firms we surveyed had employed Syrian refugees.

Abe Shinzo's consequential premiership

Robert Ward

Narrowly measured, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Abe Shinzo, failed in many of his goals. His signature policy of constitutional reform stalled despite his government’s overwhelming parliamentary dominance. Although Japan’s economy delivered a fair performance during his tenure, two of the three ‘arrows’ of Abe’s ‘Abenomics’ economic reform programme missed their mark. 

Despite unprecedented monetary intervention since he returned to office in 2012, deflationary pressures still lurk in Japan’s economy. Fiscal reform, meanwhile, was already faltering even before the COVID-19 crisis. Large-scale government pandemic economic support measures will leave Japan with an eye-watering public debt/GDP ratio of over 250 per cent. The third arrow, structural reform, has also made only limited progress. Nevertheless, Abe is already one of Japan’s most consequential prime ministers since the end of the second world war. His main legacies will be threefold and interrelated.

A more powerful executive

The first is Abe’s significant boosting of power of the office of prime minister. In part, this stemmed from the longevity of his premiership. Tenure among key cabinet allies, notably the Deputy Prime Minister, Aso Taro, and the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Suga Yoshihide, was also stable. But institutional reforms early in his second term in office played a facilitating role. 

The Coronavirus and the Threat Within the White House

By David Remnick

From the start of his Presidency, Donald Trump has threatened the health and the security of the United States. It has now been made clear that Trump’s incompetence, cynicism, and recklessness have threatened his own welfare. Even the best security system and the most solicitous medical officers in the world could not protect him from a danger that he insisted on belittling and ignoring. On Friday, at 12:54 a.m., Trump announced by Twitter that he and the First Lady had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. By the end of the evening, “out of an abundance of caution,” the President had gone to Walter Reed hospital to spend “the next few days. ” The Trumps join the more than seven million other Americans who have contracted the virus. More than two hundred thousand have died from covid-19, the disease it causes. Most of them were older than sixty-five. Trump is seventy-four.

The contrast between Trump’s airy dismissals of the pandemic’s severity and the profound pain and anxiety endured by so many Americans has helped define the era in which we live. Hours before he announced the diagnosis, Trump claimed, in a speech recorded for the annual Al Smith Dinner for Catholic charities, that “the end of the pandemic is in sight, and next year will be one of the greatest years in the history of our country.”

Any ailing individual ought to be able to depend on the best wishes of others—and on affordable, decent health care. Trump can depend on both, even if millions of Americans cannot. We can only hope that he and his wife get through the virus in a couple of weeks with minimal suffering, and, with prime medical attention and a modicum of luck, there’s reason to think that they will. But, as President and as a candidate for reëlection, Trump should not count on the silencing of American citizens—on a deference that he has never shown to the people whom he swore to protect and has not. Because of his ineptitude and his deceit, because he has encouraged a culture of heedlessness about the wearing of masks and a lethal disrespect for scientific fact, he bears a grave responsibility for what has happened in this country. It will never be known precisely how many preventable deaths can be ascribed to his irresponsibility, but modest estimates run into the tens of thousands. Yet Trump’s insistence that Americans pay the virus little mind never ends. Just before the death toll reached two hundred thousand, last month, he declared at a rally in Ohio that the virus “affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.”

Understanding Foreign Measures Targeting U.S. Elections

by Marek N. Posard

Foreign interference in U.S. politics has been a concern since the nation was founded.

Russian information efforts aim to elicit strong reactions and drive people to extreme positions to lower the odds they will reach a consensus—the bedrock of U.S. democracy.

New technologies have made Russia's information efforts easier to implement than the propaganda campaigns that the Soviets conducted during the Cold War.

Studies about how to defend against these efforts have focused on different units of analysis: Some studies focus on the original content; others focus on how this content spreads within networks; and still others focus on protecting consumers.

To respond to foreign interference, we recommend (1) taking a holistic approach that anticipates which groups of Americans are likely to become targets and (2) designing evidence-based preventive practices to protect them.

What Happens If a Presidential Candidate Dies Before Election Day?


President Donald Trump’s battle against the coronavirus appeared to intensify today as reports emerged that the U.S. commander in chief was given oxygen before being hospitalized, with anonymous sources close to the White House warning that Trump has entered a critical stage in his treatment.

The scant reports coming out of Walter Reed Medical Center, where Trump was admitted Friday for treatment, are deepening questions among U.S. officials, allies, and adversaries about the 74-year-old president’s condition, and what might happen if Trump is rendered incapable of serving. 

To help answer those questions, Foreign Policy took a look at Trump’s prospects for recovery, the potential paths of presidential succession, and what it means less than a month before a hotly contested election.

How serious is the president’s condition?

As of Saturday afternoon, there are contradictory messages coming out of the White House, almost simultaneously. In a briefing to reporters on Saturday, White House physician Sean Conley said Trump was “doing very well” and improving from a mild cough and fatigue. But then immediately following the briefing, White House pool reporters released the following statement from “a source familiar with the president’s health”: “The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.” (Later reports suggested the anonymous source was White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.)

Everything You Think About the Geopolitics of Climate Change Is Wrong


Signs that the energy transition is picking up speed abound. One of the world’s largest oil companies, BP, recently projected oil demand may be close to peaking. The governor of California just signed an executive order to ban the sale of new gasoline-fueled cars by 2035. China, responsible for more than one-quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. And public polling shows a rising sense of urgency about the climate threat, galvanized by raging California wildfires and severe U.S. Gulf Coast hurricanes.

Transforming an industry that has defined the modern era will have profound consequences on the global order. China will rise and petrostates will fall—or so says conventional wisdom. In reality, the geopolitical fallout of a clean energy transition will be far more subtle, complex, and counterintuitive. Many of today’s predictions are likely to turn out wrong, or will take decades to unfold in unpredictable ways. If policymakers don’t get a clear-eyed understanding of how global power relations will change—not only in a future era of zero-carbon energy, but during the long and messy transition to get there—they won’t be able to manage the coming era of foreign-policy risks, and their efforts to combat climate change will be stymied.

First, take China. The Economist predicts powerful “electrostates” to take the place of today’s petrostates, with China benefiting the most by dominating rapidly growing markets for clean energy products. Yet even if China dominates the production of solar panels, electric car batteries, and other technologies, it will not derive the same measure of geopolitical influence that Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries have by dominating oil supply. The geopolitical leverage of the two is very different: China might have power over a new market for clean energy equipment by producing it most cheaply, but if China curbed solar panel exports for geopolitical reasons, the lights would not go out. Restricting battery shipments may lead to higher prices and delays for new electric cars, but would have no impact on people’s ability to get around in their vehicles today. That stands in sharp contrast to a sudden cutoff of oil or natural gas that can stymie mobility, trigger price spikes, or lead to people freezing in their homes, such as when Russia stopped gas deliveries to some southeastern European countries in the depth of winter in 2006 and 2009.

Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character

Lt. Col. John H. Modinger, PhD, U.S. Air Force, Retired

In Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character, retired Adm. James Stavridis—a two-time U.S. geographic combatant commander, former NATO supreme Allied commander, and prolific writer throughout his entire naval career and beyond—offers up another thoughtful and expansive book that reaches into history to demonstrate timeless virtues desperately needed in this time of complex, vexing problems coupled with the accelerating speed of transformation on so many fronts. It is a valuable and easy-to-read primer on ten individuals—famous or infamous—who, through their exercise of character and leadership, or at times, lapses on those counts, provide examples the reader can juxtapose with contemporary dilemmas and challenges to find a better way forward. The individuals' failures are particularly worthy for what they may convey, and the book serves to underscore those failures and show they are often just a prelude to greatness.

These chronological accounts span more than two millennia and include the likes of

Themistocles (ancient Greece),

Zheng He (Ming Dynasty, China),

Sir Francis Drake (explorer and pirate),

Russian Military Creep In Belarus Raises Security Alarms – Analysis

By Tony Wesolowsky*

(RFE/RL) — Russia’s support of Alyaksandr Lukashenka may come at a price that could alter the balance of power in Europe as the Kremlin flexes its military might on the eastern fringes of NATO and exacts concessions from the embattled Belarusian strongman.

Lukashenka, in power since 1994, finds himself facing international isolation since declaring himself the winner of a disputed August 9 election and brutally cracking down on protests and rounding up opposition leaders. The EU and United States announced they would not recognize him as the legitimate president after Lukashenka held a secret inauguration on September 23.

Putin, however, has extended a hand to Lukashenka — who in the past used the EU and Washington to counter Russia’s dominant position — including offering possible military assistance to put down what both leaders agree, without providing a shred of proof, is a foreign-inspired uprising.

Russia, which has long sought permanent military bases in Belarus, has increased its military activity in and around Belarus in what is its last friend on its border with Europe after an anti-Russian government emerged in Kyiv in 2014.

Robert Malley on the ‘Lack of Change Propelling Change’ in the Middle East

The Middle East is “a place that is both remarkably impervious to change…and at the same time always sort of on the verge of an explosion, where you always think that something quite catastrophic could happen,” says Robert Malley, president and CEO of International Crisis Group and a former special adviser on the region to former President Barack Obama.

This volatility grows out of the tension between popular demands for greater responsiveness and accountability from governments, especially since the 2011 uprisings, and the “sclerotic nature…of the Middle East system,” Malley explains. “On the one hand, it’s the stagnation that leads to desire for change. But the stagnation is because there have been inbuilt mechanisms to keep the status quo alive, and to keep it sustainable and to react whenever there is a challenge to it.”

Malley served in the Obama administration as both senior adviser for the campaign to defeat the Islamic State and as the White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region. He was also a special assistant to President Bill Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs and director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.

Fatigued Authoritarianism in Belarus?

Stephen G F Hall

Another election year in Belarus results in another fraudulent election. The victory of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was assured before the election happened. Since 1994 any alternative has been jailed, exiled or even disappeared, and the regime has dealt with any threats brutally. The limited protests that occurred after presidential elections returned Lukashenka to another five years in power in 2006 and 2010 were met with savage repression from the authorities. In the build-up to elections on 9th August 2020 the authorities denied registration to alternative candidates, and when this was not sufficient enough some contenders jailed. The authorities published absurd electoral results which gave Lukashenka 80.1%. If Lukashenka had “won” with 60% then the protests that have rocked Belarus since early August would not have been so large or state-wide. Instead the regime went for its usual tactic of overwhelming force and a large vote result for Lukashenka.

However, the authorities miscalculated and have not recognised that Belarus has undergone societal change which no longer accepts mass electoral fraud. The option of a victory at a reduced tally was not considered by the authorities. Lukashenka himself insisted that the electoral victory had to be unequivocal, hence the 80.1% of the vote. As self-confessed “father of the nation,” Lukashenka cannot countenance even a large minority of voters not electing him. This highlights the contention here that the regime has lost its adaptability and is a tired shell.

Computer-generated realities are becoming ubiquitous

As other musicians were settling down on their sofas during lockdown, Travis Scott was seizing the virtual moment. On April 23rd the American hip-hop star staged a concert that was attended live online by more than 12m people within the three-dimensional world of “Fortnite”, a video game better known for its cartoonish violence. As the show began, the stage exploded and Mr Scott appeared as a giant, stomping across a surreal game landscape (pictured). He subsequently turned into a neon cyborg, and then a deep-sea diver, as the world filled with water and spectators swam around his giant figure. It was, in every sense, a truly immersive experience. Mr Scott’s performance took place in a world, of sorts—not merely on a screen.

Meanwhile, as other betrothed couples lamented the cancellation of their nuptials, Sharmin Asha and Nazmul Ahmed moved their wedding from a hip Brooklyn venue into the colourful world of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, a video game set on a tropical island in which people normally spend their time gardening or fishing. The couple, and a handful of friends, took part in a torchlit beachside ceremony. Mr Ahmed wore an in-game recreation of the suit he had bought for the wedding. Since then many other weddings, birthday parties and baby showers have been celebrated within the game.

The Future of Warfare: Q&A with Raphael Cohen

What will the next decade of warfare look like for the United States? A team of RAND researchers sought to answer that question for the U.S. Air Force, examining trend lines and interviewing experts on four continents.

The United States has an uninterrupted record when it comes to making such predictions, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once quipped: Since Vietnam, “we have never once gotten it right.” To make their findings more reliable, the researchers took a much more holistic approach. They considered not just technological or force changes, but also how global politics, economics, and the environment will shift and evolve between now and 2030.

Raphael “Rafi” Cohen oversaw the project as the associate director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program in RAND Project AIR FORCE. He's a specialist on defense strategy and force planning, the lead author of reports on topics ranging from Israel's wars in Gaza to the citizen soldiers of the National Guard. He's also a military intelligence branched lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who served two combat tours in Iraq.

How did you start looking at the future of warfare?

The Air Force has a requirement to produce a new strategy every couple of years, and they do a strategic assessment as part of that. If you think about the time they need to build new forces or introduce new systems, they really need to look at least a decade out. That sort of long-term, visionary planning is really what RAND was created for, and so they gave that task to us.

The War for the Future of Syria and Iraq Will Be Fought on Smartphones

By Seth J. Frantzman

As Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was on his way to Washington in mid-August to discuss the continued U.S. role in Iraq, a package of smartphones was making the opposite journey to U.S. soldiers in Iraq. They had been ordered by Col. Myles Caggins, the then-spokesperson for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition. “I’m fairly certain this will be the first time iPhone 11 Pro Max are issued to public affairs soldiers—quite a breakthrough,” he told me. The phones are symbolic of a larger challenge facing the international coalition and especially U.S. soldiers: to combat fake news that spreads in Iraq and Syria and also to explain the coalition’s mission.

The United States must confront sophisticated information warfare from pro-Iranian groups, the Syrian regime, and Moscow that is designed to erode trust in the anti-Islamic State mission in Iraq and Syria. For the last six months, there have been increasing rocket and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq by groups that boast of removing Americans from the country. Videos of the attacks are put online to send a message to Washington. Pro-Iranian groups such as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba regularly put out messages accusing the United States of operating its embassy as a military base to justify further attacks. Iranian media prints claims daily alleging U.S. wrongdoing, such as looting Syria’s oil.

The Key to Armenia’s Tank Losses: The Sensors, Not the ShootersJack Watling

Dr Jack Watling

Despite the heavy Armenian armoured losses, the key lessons from the videos Azerbaijan has published online are not about armour. Rather, they reflect how the density of sensors on the modern battlefield is changing the balance in combined arms warfare.

Before tackling this, some myths need to be challenged. There is a tendency for Western soldiers to dismiss what can be learned from these incidents because the videos show limited tactical proficiency being displayed by Armenian troops. This is misguided for several reasons. The snippet videos usually show armour manoeuvring, when camouflage is hard to maintain, and which Western forces would equally have to do if they were to affect the outcome of battle. The videos have also been selected as examples of Azerbaijani successes. However, there is actually a lot of evidence of Armenian forces digging in, concealing positions, and deploying decoys, of which at least two were struck by Azerbaijani forces.

More importantly, this dismissal of evidence suggests a lack of appreciation of just how naked the modern battlefield has become. Against a peer adversary it is entirely reasonable to expect the battlefield to be swept by ground-moving target indicator (GMTI) radars, with tactical units able to scan terrain out to 150 km. Night or day, unusual cross-terrain movements, coordinated spacing, and lack of adherence to civilian roads, all make military vehicles highly distinct to trained operators.

The Day Nuclear War Almost Broke Out

By Elizabeth Kolbert

On October 27, 1962, a day that’s been described as the “most dangerous” in human history, a Soviet submarine designated B-59 was churning through the Sargasso Sea when suddenly it was rocked by a series of explosions. “It felt like you were sitting in a metal barrel, which somebody is constantly blasting with a sledgehammer,” Vadim Orlov, a communications specialist on board the sub, later recalled. “The situation was quite unusual, if not to say shocking, for the crew.”

Four weeks earlier, B-59 had been dispatched from the U.S.S.R. with three other so-called F-class subs as part of Operation Anadyr, Nikita Khrushchev’s top-secret effort to install ballistic missiles in Cuba. (The Anadyr is a river that flows into the Bering Sea; the code name was intended to make even soldiers participating in the operation believe they were headed somewhere cold.) Pretty much from the outset of the voyage, things had not gone well.

“For the sailors, this Cuban missile crisis started even before its beginning,” Ryurik Ketov, the captain of another Cuba-bound sub, once observed. The Atlantic that October was turbulent, and the pitching sea made it tough for the boats to maintain their desired speed.

Why Are Armenia and Azerbaijan Heading to War?


Fighting has intensified along the effective Armenian-Azerbaijani border around the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, with dozens of people dead and disputed claims about the destruction of helicopters and tanks. Both countries have called up their reserves and declared martial law at home, as well as a state of war in some regions. Fighting between the two is normal, with hundreds of incidents over the last few years, but this round of violence threatens to spill over into a full-blown war, as it did in the 1990s.

Wait, there was a war?

It’s the great forgotten conflict of the Soviet breakup, a war from 1992 to 1994 that both nations still obsess over and that was barely noticed by the public in the West despite at least 20,000 people dead and a million displaced through ethnic cleansing—about 70 percent of them Azerbaijanis fleeing Armenian-held territory, and the rest Armenians fleeing Azerbaijani-held territory.

The Death and Life of Terrorist Networks

By Christopher Blair, Erica Chenoweth, Michael C. Horowitz, Evan Perkoski

The Islamic State (or ISIS) is quietly “rising from the ashes” in parts of Iraq and Syria, but this is not the first time that it has recovered from a near-death experience. Its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, also reconstituted itself after nearly being defeated in 2007–8. ISIS has demonstrated extraordinary resilience; about half of all terrorist organizations fail in their first year, but it has survived for the better part of two decades despite fighting against an international coalition assembled to defeat it. 

This resilience may seem surprising, but it should not. Over recent decades, militant groups with the kind of vast international network of affiliates, allies, and supporters that ISIS has assembled have proved difficult to defeat. Alliances have helped ISIS expand and gain influence in good times and have relieved pressure by deflecting attention toward affiliates in bad times. Without defeating this whole network, accordingly, it will be hard to fully finish off the core group.

The value of alliances in geopolitical competition between states has been frequently noted in the past few years. It turns out alliances are just as important to often-stateless militant groups. The difference between a terrorist group with ideologically aligned allies and a terrorist group without them can mean the difference between survival and defeat—as the ongoing fight to destroy ISIS is making all too clear today.