20 October 2020

Hybrid war, Quad or sitting it out? The 5 options for India against China


With reports now indicating that China is rotating its troops on the banks of Pangong Tso, and creating, for the first time, permanent barracks in Ngari in Tibet, it seems that Beijing is readying to dig in for the winter, never mind the several rounds of talks that have been taking place. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of about 60,000 troops opposite India, which further emphasises the fact that this is a crisis of no small proportion. Indian military planners will be working on all contingencies, while other ministries will see to oil reserves, buying defence equipment, and reaching out to the international community.

India and the Narendra Modi government’s choices in such a situation should ideally be dealt with in a tome of several thousand words. But that’s for academics. For decision-makers, and the informed public alike, the final product has to be no more than a few pages, resting on available facts and figures. I have attempted that here in a precis –taking all options, and then settling for the most favourable.

A limited war

First, the most talked-about option is that of a limited war between India and China, which is generally seen as an engagement in which scale, time, weapons used and objectives are all within certain boundaries, in what Lawrence Freedman calls a “presumption of deliberate restraint”. Those boundaries are decided by the political objectives of each side. In this case, the stated objectives are that India demands a return to pre-April status quo and China demands a recognition of the 1959 Claim Line.

Pakistan And FATF: Getting Away With Murder – OpEd

By Nilesh Kunwar

Even though the Financial Action Task Force [FATF] plenary virtual meeting to decide whether Pakistan should be excluded from the international terror financing watchdog’s ‘grey list’ is scheduled to be held from 21 to 23 October, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi already seems to be in a celebratory mood. Perhaps that’s why while addressing a public gathering in Multan last Saturday, he confidently announced that “Very soon Pakistan will be on the ‘white list’ of the FATF.” 

If what Qureshi said is true, then Islamabad needs to be congratulated for finally being able to exorcise Pakistan of the terrorism ghoul that had been wreaking havoc both within the country as well as in the neighbourhood for all these years. This would also have meant that Islamabad has ultimately been able to prevail over Rawalpindi and make it abandon its more than three decades old obsession of patronising terrorist groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba as its ‘strategic assets’ for waging proxy wars against its neighbours. But since such a drastic turn of events seemed quite unlikely, Qureshi’s unbounded optimism wasn’t shared by many and in the end, it were the nay-sayers who were proved right. 

Barely two after Qureshi’s confident announcement, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering [APG] in its first ‘Follow-Up Report on Mutual Evaluation of Pakistan’ stated that out of the 40 FATF recommendations, Pakistan was found to be “largely compliant” on nine parameters, “partially compliant” on 25 and “non-compliant” on four. So, since it was “fully complaint” only on one parameter, the APG obvious ruled that anti-money laundering [AML] and counter-terrorist financing [CTF] actions taken by Pakistan “are not yet sufficient to justify a re-rating” by FATF. Therefore, the timeline of “very soon” mentioned by Qureshi would, at least for now, remain an undetermined variable.

Water Wars: A Quiet Quad

By Sam Cohen

The Quad: Symbolism Over Substance

On Oct. 6, the foreign ministers of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“the Quad”)—the informal strategic consultation group between the United States, Australia, India and Japan—met in Tokyo for their second-ever ministerial meeting. Observers noted that there was some “symbolism of just showing up,” as representatives of “four of the most powerful democratic countries in the Indo-Pacific region.” But analysts cautioned that the meeting produced “few concrete takeaways.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took an explicitly aggressive stance toward China during the meetings, imploring the Quad to “collaborate to protect our people and partners from the [Chinese Communist Party’s] exploitation, corruption and coercion.” Pompeo specifically called out China’s actions in the “South and East China Seas, the Mekong, the Himalayas, [and] the Taiwan Strait.” In an interview, Pompeo also promoted a vision of the Quad as “a true security framework, a fabric that can counter the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party presents to all of us.” Although he was careful to describe “security” as broader than “just military,” the other members of the Quad are reluctant to transform these informal meetings into something that looks like a security-based partnership focused on China. 

The other members of the Quad did not seem receptive to Pompeo and his rhetoric. The Quad failed to produce any joint statement after their meeting, and the group remains informal, having taken no steps to institutionalize itself. Japan’s government spokesman specifically pushed back on Pompeo’s comments on China, saying, “This Quad meeting is not being held with any particular country in mind.” Japan also dismissed Pompeo’s call for building a security framework, as Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said that “the government is not sure what [Pompeo] meant.” Most commentators viewed Pompeo’s plan, which China derides as an “Asian NATO,” as “stillborn.” 

China Thinks America Is Losing

By Julian Gewirtz

The consequences of the presidency of Donald Trump will be debated for decades to come—but for the Chinese leadership, its meaning is already clear. China’s rulers believe that the past four years have shown that the United States is rapidly declining and that this deterioration has caused Washington to frantically try to suppress China’s rise. Trump’s trade war, technology bans, and determination to blame China for his own mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic have all confirmed the perception of Chinese policy elites that the United States is bent on keeping their country down.

To be sure, the idea that the United States seeks to stymie and contain China was widespread among Chinese officials long before Trump came to power. What many Americans see as disruptive effects attributable only to Trump’s presidency are, to China’s current rulers, a profound vindication of their darkest earlier assessments

China Is Now the World's Largest Economy. We Shouldn't Be Shocked.

by Graham Allison 

This week, the IMF presented its 2020 World Economic Outlook providing an overview of the global economy and the challenges ahead. The most inconvenient fact in the Report is one Americans don’t want to hear—and even when they read it, refuse to accept: China has now displaced the U.S. to become the largest economy in the world. Measured by the more refined yardstick that both the IMF and CIA now judge to be the single best metric for comparing national economies, the IMF Report shows that China’s economy is one-sixth larger than America’s ($24.2 trillion versus the U.S.’s $20.8 trillion).

Despite this unambiguous statement from the two most authoritative sources, most of the mainstream press—with the exception of The Economist—continue reporting that the U.S. economy is No. 1. So, what’s going on?

Obviously, measuring the size of a nation’s economy is more complicated than it might appear. In addition to collecting data, it requires selecting a proper yardstick. Traditionally, economists have used a metric called MER (market exchange rates) to calculate GDP. The U.S. economy is taken as the baseline—reflecting the fact that when this method was developed in the years after World War II, the U.S. accounted for almost half of global GDP. For other nations’ economies, this method adds up all goods and services produced by their economy in their own currency and then converts that total into U.S. dollars at the current “market exchange rate.” For 2020, the value of all goods and services produced in China is projected to be 102 trillion yuan. Converted to U.S. dollars at a market rate of 7 yuan to 1 dollar, China will have an MER GDP of $14.6 trillion versus the U.S. GDP of $20.8 trillion.

Demystifying China’s Role in Italy’s Port of Trieste

By Francesca Ghiretti

At the end of September 2020, Germany’s Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) concluded an agreement with the Port of Trieste, in northern Italy, to invest in the development of the port’s logistic platform. The investment includes the acquisition by HHLA of 50.1 percent of the shares of the platform, with the rest belonging to Francesco Parisi S.p.A. (about 23 percent) and ICOP (22 percent), while the remaining shares will be held by Interporto di Bologna. In Europe, and in Washington too, the move has been welcomed as it dispels the ghosts of Chinese investments and the risks these might have implied.

In March 2019, the Port of Trieste was among the signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Italy and the People’s Republic of China in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The agreement signed by the Port of Trieste with China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) amounted to little more than a declaration of intent and goodwill for the development of future relationships between the entities. Nonetheless, the MoU of March 2019 opened the way for a more specific, and to a certain degree pragmatic, bilateral MoU between the Port of Trieste and CCCC, which was signed in Shanghai in November 2019. This latter MoU envisioned three areas of collaboration between the authority of the Port of Trieste and CCCC: one in Italy, one in China, and in one in third countries.

Despite the signing of the second MoU and the enthusiastic tones of the parties involved – which at times have caused misunderstandings in the public in regard to the size and scope of the agreement – the content had very limited and precise objectives, none of which envisioned the management, let alone the ownership, of the Port of Trieste by CCCC. Yet, both after the MoU in March 2019 and the one that followed in November, fear ran high that something similar to what happened to the port of Piraeus in Greece could repeat itself in the Italian port, leading to the expansion of China’s influence in the area. Such concerns were the result of two elements: miscommunication on the Italian side on the actual content of the agreement – content often inflated by some news outlets – and the climate of tensions that through the years has developed around Chinese investments in infrastructure projects.

In order to obtain some clarity and bring the debate back to facts, we must understand what was actually in the agreement between the Port of Trieste and CCCC.

China’s Bid to Conquer Russia’s 5G Market Should Worry the Kremlin

By Danil Bochkov

Russia-China relations are at their highest level today with expanding mutual trust and increasing political cooperation. This was reinforced during an in-person meeting (a rare occasion amidst COVID-19 realities) by the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers on September 11 in Moscow. In a very comprehensive joint statement following the meeting, alongside many other areas of full-fledged cooperation, a separate paragraph is dedicated to developing digital economy and information technologies, which speaks to the high importance both countries allocate to their technological partnership.

Within that field, one questions looms large: Is Russian 5G to be “made in China”?

Such news recently occupied the front pages of Russian media, with reports of the national leading telecommunication company MTS’s plans to purchase 5G equipment from Huawei for 7.5 billion rubles ($93.5 million). In July, the company became the first telecom provider in Russia to be granted a license for deploying 5G all over the country with a mandatory deadline for completion by July 2022.

In 2019 Moscow and Beijing had signed an official agreement on cooperation in developing 5G technology in Russia with Chinese expertise. Huawei has become the major driving force behind the deployment of the technology in Russia. There are several reasons for this, starting with the obvious: Chinese technology equals the quality of global giants in the industry but offers equipment at a lower price.

China Tracks US Navy Ship’s Passage Through Taiwan Strait

By Associated Press

China says it tracked a U.S. Navy warship as it passed through the Taiwan Strait and has its forces in the area on high alert, as tensions between the world’s two largest economies and rivals for regional influence continue to simmer.

The spokesperson for its Eastern Theater Command, Maj. Zhang Chunxuan, said air and sea forces were mobilized to keep tabs Wednesday on the USS Barry, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.

Zhang said the U.S. has recently been sending “the wrong signal” to proponents of independence for Taiwan, a pro-U.S. self-governing democracy that China claims as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary.

Although the Taiwan Strait is a public waterway, China is extremely sensitive to all U.S. military moves in its periphery amid heightened tensions over Taiwan, the South China Sea, trade disputes, and other issues.

The U.S. has been “seriously undermining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region. We are asking the United States to stop making trouble through its words and actions in the Taiwan Strait,” Zhang said.

Tehran’s Worst Nightmare


The fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan comes at a particularly bad time for Iran. At home, it faces an extremely difficult economic situation thanks to U.S. sanctions. Abroad, it is involved in multiple unfinished geopolitical adventures in the Arab world—from Iraq to Syria and beyond—in which it has invested considerably in recent years.

Although it might like to involve itself in the conflict in the South Caucasus, where it has played the role of mediator before, Tehran’s bandwidth to do so is considerably less than its geographic proximity to the conflict might suggest. Worse still, Tehran does not enjoy the diplomatic independence it had in the early 1990s, when fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh last erupted on this scale and when the Iranians could more effectively work between the two sides.

Instead, this time around, Tehran has to take a back seat to Russia, Turkey, and the West as those powers shape the trajectory of the conflict. And yet, thanks to Iran’s sizable Azeri minority, at around 20 million strong, there’s a real possibility that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict could overflow and pose a serious risk to internal Iranian security. Tehran doesn’t want to lose in this conflict, but it holds a weak hand.

Japan’s Glacial Ascendance

By Phillip Orchard

For such a historic transition of power, the handover from Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving and most powerful postwar prime minister, to Yoshihide Suga was always going to be short on drama. Suga, Abe’s longtime chief of staff, faced only token competition from a handful of other ruling party bigwigs. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party commands large majorities in both houses of the Diet and doesn’t need to call for elections right away, diminishing any need to win over the public with platforms calling for sweeping change. And there’s no real reason to think Suga, a proudly uncharismatic septuagenarian technocrat without an independent power base, is especially interested in or capable of steering the country in a new direction. After all, he was instrumental in both crafting and implementing his boss’ agenda for tackling Japan’s biggest problems: its decadeslong economic stagnation, demographic decline and the rapid rise of China. This agenda remains unfinished – and bedeviled by constraints that, under Suga, will grow steeper as Japan reels from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

In other words, continuity is once again the theme of the day in Japan – a fitting fate since the country is basically locked into its geopolitical trajectory. It’s perpetually toeing the line between great ally and great power. This makes Japan nothing if not steady, a buttress to a regional order thrown in flux by China’s rise and lingering uncertainty about the U.S.’ strategic direction. But it also means Japan is not really on track to break out as East Asia’s foremost economic or military power anytime soon. So for Tokyo, which perpetually craves greater strategic autonomy from the U.S. but fears being abandoned by it, continuity will mean doing everything possible to avoid the latter.

More Latitude

The High-Stakes Competition for Control of Strategic Space Resources

Tim Ventura

The Second Space Race has started with a great powers competition for strategic space resources. We’re joined by Dr. Namrata Goswami, an independent scholar on International Relations, subject matter expert with the Future’s Laboratory, and co-author of the new book “Scramble for the Skies”. She joins us today to discuss the economic ambitions of the Second Space Race and the international competitors striving to dominate the final frontier.

Namrata, welcome! I’d like to begin by asking about your background & what your inspiration was to develop expertise in International Relations and the space industry. What led you down this path in your career?

Thank you, Tim, that’s a great way to start. I remember as a child growing up in Northeast India, my father was very much a historian looking at world politics, with a massive library of books on the subject and a vast amount of knowledge. We had many conversations on topics like WWII, the impact of international relations, the colonization on India, and much more.

He inspired me to study political science and international relations, and I chose topics to develop that expertise even in high school. After that, I worked on a Bachelor’s in Political Science with international relations as my specialization, and then completed a Master’s in Politics and Public Administration, again specializing in international relations.

Azerbaijan Is Ready To Supply Natural Gas To Europe

by Shahmar Hajiyev

Due to its rich hydrocarbon resources, the Caspian region is attracting the attention of many regional and non-regional states. Azerbaijan, with its rich crude oil and natural gas reserves, is an important energy player in this region. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020, the country's total proved natural gas reserves are equal to 2.8 trillion cubic meters (tcm) at the end of 2019. In addition, the current Bulla-Deniz, Umid, Babek fields, and the future planned Shafag-Asiman structure, Absheron, Nakhchivan, Zafar, Mashal, Karabakh, Ashrafi, and Dan Ulduzu natural gas fields will increase Azerbaijan’s current natural gas capacity.

To become a net gas exporter, Azerbaijan needed transit infrastructure to supply the natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe. Therefore, the key elements of the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) project, such as the full-scale development of the Shah Deniz gas condensate field, the expansion of the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCPX), the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project, and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project, were crucial energy infrastructures, as well as one of the key factors for the efficient management of energy resources.

Towards this end, Azerbaijan also managed to establish a viable producer-consumer dialogue on a mutually advantageous basis with Western countries to attract foreign capital investment into its energy industry. The European Union is interested in the Caspian Basin countries such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to diversify its energy supply routes and sources. Along with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan has large natural gas reserves in the Caspian Sea, making the country a valuable player for future energy cooperation. Therefore, the SGC project will play an important role for European energy security as well as future regional energy integration process.

Why Both Donald Trump And Joe Biden Are Committed To Proxy War

by Christopher Mott

For many in the commentariat, the recent calm and mostly professional demeanor of the vice presential debate seems a welcome break from the chaos and incoherence of the first presidential debate. Unlike that first event, the vice presidential debate allowed foreign policy topics to arise for discussion. But even so, a major missed opportunity was lost. One that speaks volumes about the bipartisan nature of so much of U.S. Middle Eastern policy.

While it is certainly true that Joe Biden promises to bring back the Iran nuclear deal and that Kamala Harris and many other democrats criticized the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani back in January, the lack of interrogating Vice President Mike Pence on the issue—which he brought up in the debate—was an oversight. In the wake of the worldwide outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which occurred immediately after this event, it is easy to forget just how dangerous this action made the Middle East. U.S. forces in Iraq were subjected to a missile bombardment that was played off at the time as inflicting no deaths. It later turned out that over one hundred injuries had been inflicted on U.S. personnel. Immediately after the assassination, the Iraqi parliament then demanded U.S. withdrawal from the country.

The Soleimani assassination has accomplished nothing that serves American interests and hardened global attitudes towards the United States, yet there seems to be an odd silence regarding the specifics of the fallout to his death from the opposition party and the U.S. role in the Middle East in general. With statements from Harris and many of the establishment people surrounding her on foreign policy hinting at a ‘muscular liberalism,’ it may be that such a lack of critique is intentional. After all, the last time that term was used was to justify the demolition of Libya which turned the nation with Africa’s highest living standard into a nest of warlordism, jihadist groups, and open-air slave markets.

Yes the U.S. Army Wants Even Longer-Range Drones for its Troops

by Kris Osborn

Army weapons developers tasked with writing requirements for drones, ground robots and other unmanned systems are consistently looking to adapt to changing warfare circumstances and anticipate the kinds of new “tactics, techniques and procedures” they will need to both envision and write as new technology continues to emerge quickly. 

In short, what will future drones and robots need to do? How will that change ten years from now? Well one senior Army weapons developer and requirements writer Col. Sam Edwards succinctly says two of the most crucial variables are “range and it is duration.” Colonel Sam Edwards, is the Director of Robotics Requirements, at the Capability Development Integration Directorate, Ft. Benning, Georgia. He spoke to The National Interest in an interview. 

In effect, drones and robots will need to fly much greater distances and stay operational for much longer periods of time without needing to refuel, recharge or be re-programmed. 

“One of the key things we have to take into consideration is the weight of the systems and the power required for these different systems. As you get smaller and reduce weight for UAS (drones) at the small unit level, then with that comes engineering challenges. Now I have this small weighing system, so how do I make it stay in the air and see further, fly further?” Edwards said. 

To Fix U.S. Foreign Policy, Look to the Balance of Power

By Luke Nicastro

During the vice-presidential debate on October 7th, the 2020 campaign saw its first (and possibly only) direct exchange on foreign policy. Although Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris disagreed about the details, both couched their respective visions in an explicitly moral framework. Under these terms, foreign policy is a simple matter of doing the right thing: punishing bad guys (China and Iran according to Pence, Russia according to Harris), rewarding friends (Israel for Pence, NATO for Harris), and applying American strength to the problem of evil (be it coronavirus, Russian malfeasance, or ISIS). Absent was any consideration that morality and national interest might conflict, or that Washington’s options might be constrained in any way. Such faith in American power puts one in mind of that infamous observation anonymously offered by a Bush administration official: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

Of course, whoever occupies the White House come January won’t have the luxury of creating his own reality. Either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will lead a country with less ability to influence international events than at any point since the end of the Cold War. This is partly the consequence of specific policy decisions—two decades of strategic adventurism has exacted a significant financial, military, and diplomatic toll—but it is also the outcome of larger material processes. From 2000 to 2019, the relative size of America’s GDP shrunk from 30.5% of the world total to 24%; over the same period, China’s share has risen from 3.6% to 16.4% (and if the figures are adjusted for purchasing power parity, the Chinese economy is already the world’s largest). As the historian Paul Kennedy demonstrated in his magisterial Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, geopolitical power is ultimately a function of economic strength, and “so far as the international system is concerned, both wealth and power are always relative.”

This doesn’t mean Americans should become fatalists about decline. The United States is still the most influential actor in the international system, and careful statesmanship can sustain the benefits accrued from that position for some time. But it does suggest that our freedom of action has considerably diminished and that the preservation of American power may depend above all on an understanding of its limits. Rather than striving to exercise a global hegemony we can no longer afford, clear-eyed policymakers should pursue the humbler goal of harnessing the interests—and fears—of our partners to maintain a favorable balance of power.

Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict: Clash of Civilizations?

By: Rahim Rahimov

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has framed the ongoing Karabakh hostilities as a “civilizational frontline” clash (Facebook.com/nikol.pashinyan, October 1). The fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Karabakh region and surrounding provinces erupted again on September 27, resulting in the heaviest violence there since the 1994 Russia-brokered ceasefire accords (see EDM, September 28, October 1). One of the most noticeable aspects of the present escalation (as well as the weeks leading up to it) has been mutual accusations of the warring parties that ostensibly religiously motivated mercenaries had been imported into the conflict zone (see EDM September 11). Such accusations reanimate a “clash of civilizations” discourse on the conflict—“Christian Armenia” against “Muslim Azerbaijan”—that has been picked up to one degree or another by various major international media outlets.

Baku’s sovereign claims to Karabakh and the surrounding occupied territories remain on firm ground in terms of international law, the four United Nations Security Council resolutions reiterating the inviolability of Azerbaijani state borders, as well as the history of the conflict (see EDM, October 2, 2017 and May 4, 2020). Yerevan’s strategy, in contrast, has largely sought to shift the discourse on the conflict to separate and often more emotionally charged issues that have been widely picked up by its influential diaspora around the world. And in part, that narrative has drawn on Armenia’s long-running promotion of itself as a cradle of Christian civilization and the first Christian nation (Armenpress.am, April 6, 2017).

The theoretical origins of the clash of civilizations discourse on the Karabakh conflict can be traced directly to Samuel Huntington’s famous 1993 Foreign Affairs article “Clash of Civilizations?” in which the Armenian-Azerbaijani war serves as one of the reference points to develop his thesis. Huntington calls Turkey and Azerbaijan “religious […] brethren,” with the former country supporting the latter (Foreign Affairs, summer 1993). But his argument notably disregarded at least two incongruences. First, semantically, “brethren” is hardly applicable in this case: Religiously, Azerbaijan is more closely related to Iran as both are Shia-majority countries, unlike Sunni-majority Turkey. Moreover, Iran is arguably Armenia’s second most important backer after Russia (see EDM, January 30, 2017 and October 15, 2018). Second, Turkish support to Baku during the Nagorno-Karabakh War in the early 1990s was, in fact, almost non-existent or negligible. Indeed, Azerbaijan’s most pro-Turkey president, Abulfaz Elchibey, publicly voiced frustration on Turkish TV in 1993, complaining that Ankara would not even offer his country a couple of helicopters to evacuate Azerbaijani civilians from an imminent Armenian invasion of Kelbajar province (YouTube, October 7, 2016). Today, Turkish moral or political support is based more on Ankara’s realpolitik and national interests. The rest is mostly rhetoric. And, as Huntington himself admits, religious beliefs shape identity but do not determine national interests, much less state behavior.

Which Is More Creative, The Arts Or The Sciences?

By Eurasia Review

International expert in creativity and innovation, UniSA’s Professor David Cropley, is calling for Australian schools and universities to increase their emphasis on teaching creativity, as new research shows it is a core competency across all disciplines and critical for ensuring future job success.

Conducted in partnership with visiting PhD researcher Kim van Broekhoven from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, the research explores the nature of creativity in determining if specific differences exist between creativity in the sciences and creativity in the arts.

The researchers found that creativity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is very similar to creativity in the arts, indicating that a holistic approach to teaching creativity in schools and universities, would benefit all.

UniSA’s Professor David Cropley says the study provides a valuable insight into how education systems might assess and foster students’ creative capabilities.

“The big change for education systems would be moving away from a rather fragmented and haphazard approach to teaching creativity, to a much more holistic and integrated approach,” Prof Cropley says.

Green Dealing – The Green Recovery Event


Survive: The Case for Armour

by Giles Moon

On 25th August 2020, The Times published a story claiming that the forthcoming Integrated Defence and Security Review may see the British Army losing its Challenger 2 tanks in favour of other capabilities. A cynic might observe that stories like this are a routine part of the inter-service politics that marks every defence review. Other familiar targets include the Red Arrows, the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, and the Royal Marines. The Times article summed up the commonly used arguments against heavy armour. This line of thought has gained some support at the highest reaches of Defence, with the Secretary of State, Ben Wallace, writing “for too long we have had a sentimental attachment to a static, armoured centric force structure anchored in Europe”. 

Common to other arguments, Wallace’s basis for this is that “our competition has spread out across the globe. If we are to truly play our role as “Global Britain,” we must be more capable in new domains, enabling us to be active in more theatres”. While there is undoubted merit in seeking to expand the scope of the Army to serve the needs of #GlobalBritain, and moving away from ‘an armour centric force structure’ may well be a good idea, this does not mean that the Army should rid itself of Main Battle Tanks (MBTs). Despite the claims of the defence commentariat, the British Army still requires tanks if it is to be a force capable of fighting the majority of modern adversaries.

What are the arguments against tanks?

There are a number of common arguments for removing tanks that have and they can be roughly categorised as follows:

Britain will never fight a peer-enemy again. 

An Alternative Conceptual Framework for the Marine Corps’ Doctrine on Learning

By Shawn McCann and Damien O’Connell

A major proponent of professional military education, Lieutenant General James C. Breckinridge called on the Marine Corps to adopt a culture of curiosity and challenging the status quo. As a follow-up to our previous article, “A Response to the Marine Corps’ New Doctrine on Learning,” we offer an alternative conceptual framework for Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 7 Learning (MCDP 7). We follow the process laid out by General Breckinridge—of curiosity, research, discourse, recommendation, criticism, and improvement—to encourage the Marine Corps to adopt a more comprehensive philosophy of learning. We offer a three-lens conceptual framework consisting of warfighting, the teacher-scholar relationship, and critical or radical adult education and training. Radical adult training and education refers to our capacity for action (training) and a learner-centered manner of facilitating the development of autonomous critical thinkers (education). 

As we mentioned in the first article, MCDP 7 does a commendable job of stressing the importance of learning, but it lacks a firm conceptual framework. Marines have already begun referencing MCDP 7 for their scholarly and practical work. Therefore, MCDP 7 should present a sturdy and sound philosophy from which Marines can build a practice of personal and professional development. Unfortunately, MCDP 7 makes little use of the field of adult learning and development and focuses instead on instructional design concepts, such as knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs). Our conceptual framework (as depicted in Figure 1) leverages radical adult education and provides Marines with a more cohesive and complete mental model for learning. The lens of radical adult education will provide Marines with the necessary scholarship and relevant concepts to make learning an integral part of their practice as warfighters.


Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn

As the lead Army officer for operations, I often get asked a range of questions about readiness. How should we measure readiness? Which units does the Army most need to be ready? How ready do they need to be? Or simply, what is Army readiness?

To answer any these questions effectively, we must first answer a more fundamental question: Ready for what?

The National Defense Strategy is specific about what the joint force needs to be ready for: “defeating aggression by a major power; deterring opportunistic aggression elsewhere; and disrupting imminent terrorist and WMD threats”—while also defending the homeland. The Army has used these missions, collectively known as the Four D’s, as a measuring stick for readiness. While the Four D’s provide the Army its North Star for conflict, they do not encompass the totality of Army demand nor do they include all the missions outlined in the National Defense Strategy and National Military Strategy. For these, we need a new framework. The Army’s demands include day-to-day competition across the globe, responding to crises both at home and abroad, preparing for conflict (including the Four D’s), and implementing transformational change to ensure readiness now and into the future.

These Four C’s drive a change in our mindset. They represent a timeless approach to understanding Army demands. While preparing to “deploy, fight, and win” in conflict, the Army must prepare to win in competition. While competing with adversaries across the globe, the Army must prepare to respond to crises when called. And while addressing all the demands of today, the Army must change itself to prepare for the demands of tomorrow.


David H. Ucko 

Two years after the release of the National Defense Strategy, the Pentagon has issued a declassified summary of its Irregular Warfare Annex. The seven-page text details how the Department of Defense seeks to institutionalize and operationalize this form of warfare amid the ongoing recalibration of DoD’s focus on peer and near-peer adversaries. As this is the document’s only annex, advocates of irregular warfare are hopeful that it will generate momentum similar to the defense strategy itself, which since 2018 has made headlines by shifting US strategic priorities away from counterterrorism and toward great power competition.

The focus on irregular warfare is certainly overdue. It is not just that the United States has struggled to understand the “indirect and asymmetric approaches” of irregular adversaries, both state and nonstate, but that it has paid insufficient attention to the related problems of “influence and legitimacy”—the defining concerns of irregular warfare. The right to lead is the central prize in irregular competitions; it was fundamental to the confrontations in Iraq and Afghanistan and has since returned, with a vengeance, to threaten America’s position globally.

The IW Annex is therefore a step in the right direction, but it is also inadequate in the face of the challenge at hand. The history of attempted reforms in this area suggest the unlikelihood of any one document jolting the United States into acknowledging or readying itself for the full depth of irregular warfare. In the first place, the reform effort must confront the cultural opposition of the Department of Defense; on this front, the very placement of irregular warfare as an annex is telling. Second, irregular warfare must travel beyond the Pentagon’s endless corridors and reach areas of government, even society, where it currently has no traction. Most critically, the United States today lacks the purpose, resilience, and capabilities required to compete effectively for global leadership. This competition for legitimacy and influence is fundamentally what irregular warfare is all about and, for this reason, the annex—while very welcome and important—is also insufficient for the reform and change that must now take place.

‘Machines set loose to slaughter’: the dangerous rise of military AI

by Frank Pasquale

The video is stark. Two menacing men stand next to a white van in a field, holding remote controls. They open the van’s back doors, and the whining sound of quadcopter drones crescendos. They flip a switch, and the drones swarm out like bats from a cave. In a few seconds, we cut to a college classroom. The killer robots flood in through windows and vents. The students scream in terror, trapped inside, as the drones attack with deadly force. The lesson that the film, Slaughterbots, is trying to impart is clear: tiny killer robots are either here or a small technological advance away. Terrorists could easily deploy them. And existing defences are weak or nonexistent.

Some military experts argued that Slaughterbots – which was made by the Future of Life Institute, an organisation researching existential threats to humanity – sensationalised a serious problem, stoking fear where calm reflection was required. But when it comes to the future of war, the line between science fiction and industrial fact is often blurry. The US air force has predicted a future in which “Swat teams will send mechanical insects equipped with video cameras to creep inside a building during a hostage standoff”. One “microsystems collaborative” has already released Octoroach, an “extremely small robot with a camera and radio transmitter that can cover up to 100 metres on the ground”. It is only one of many “biomimetic”, or nature-imitating, weapons that are on the horizon.

Who knows how many other noxious creatures are now models for avant garde military theorists. A recent novel by PW Singer and August Cole, set in a near future in which the US is at war with China and Russia, presented a kaleidoscopic vision of autonomous drones, lasers and hijacked satellites. The book cannot be written off as a techno-military fantasy: it includes hundreds of footnotes documenting the development of each piece of hardware and software it describes.

The Common Good: Ethical Strategy Between States and Partner Forces

Joshua O. Lehman

Partnered security operations are central to contemporary warfare, and strategists ought to employ rigorous ethics to the construction of strategies that employ other political communities. Consider American operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria as prominent examples. When partnerships occur between formal security forces of nation states, the obligations between partners are often well-codified. Long-standing alliances, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have comprehensive conceptions of the common good the alliance seeks to defend. Unlike these formal state-to-state alliances, partnerships with non-state actors present strategists with ethical problems. The American partnership with Kurdish fighters in Syria conducting Operation Inherent Resolve is a primary example. This complex situation exposes a lacuna in American strategy making, most notably a poverty of moral thought in considering the obligations that result from entering into partnerships with non-state political communities for the purposes of war. 

These communities are composed of human persons with inherent human dignity. As such, they must not be used merely as means. The philosopher Immanuel Kant described a philosophical anthropology that insists on human persons as ends in themselves according to their rational nature: “For all rational beings stand under the law that each of them should treat himself and others never merely as means but always at the same time as an end in himself.”[1] Kant’s philosophy undergirds the arguments below. The authoritative Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes universal human dignity clear: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”[2] 

Turkey Makes New Advances in Land and Naval Warfare with Introduction of Aksungur ASW Drone

By: Can Kasapoglu

Turkish drone warfare capabilities have made a significant impression in operations against Russian-supported Syrian forces in Idlib, Syria in February and March, 2020, and more recently through the ongoing Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict in Karabakh. Recently, Turkey has unveiled a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system that could play a critical role in anti-submarine warfare, potentially bolstering Ankara’s influence in a volatile region.

Meet Turkey’s Aksungur

The Aksungur unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), from TUSAS—the makers of the ANKA drone—will carry a 750-kilogram combat payload in the maritime patrol and strike package configuration, and 150-kilogram in signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) equipment (TUSAŞ, October 9). The drone will have satellite communications (SATCOM) features, which will make it more resilient in jammed environments, as well as advanced sensors such as synthetic aperture radar/ground-moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI), which enables it to strike mobile surface targets—like convoys and road-mobile launchers—in large spaces and under any weather condition (TUSAŞ, October 9).

TUSAŞ’ Aksungur has showcased promising signs in recent tests. In September 2020, the UAV flew continuously for more than a day—28 hours to be precise—with a payload of 12 Roketsan-manufactured MAM-L smart munitions loaded (Anadolu Ajansı, September 17). Prior to the armed test-flight, the platform even scored an impressive 49-hour non-stop flying capability (Anadolu Ajansı, September 2).