29 November 2020

India’s Protectionism Might Hinder Its Economic Growth — and Affect Global Partnerships

By Aparna Pande

Indians elated by projections of a post-COVID-19 economic recovery must remember that these projections are predicated on India maintaining an open economy. New Delhi may feel bullish about the recent projections by global investment conglomerates Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs that India’s economy will bounce back in 2021 and grow at over 5 percent in 2022.

But this optimism is only partly based on faith in the revival of animal spirits once the economy is reopened after months of closure. Another key assumption, however, is an Indian economy that trades more with the world and offers a level playing field to investors.

Rising protectionism, arbitrary taxation, and excessive regulation that target foreign investment do not project the image of an India that is open and welcoming. These factors could limit India’s potential and hinder growth.

U.S.-India Insight: Revisiting Good Ideas

Richard M. Rossow

When a U.S. administration changes, those focused on the U.S.-India relationship offer useful commentary on what initiatives should be started, what should change, what should end, and what will remain the same. These are important considerations, but there is another category of initiatives that should also be considered: older ideas that are dormant or are currently underperforming but can bridge gaps in the U.S.-India relationship. Some good ideas simply need a second chance or prioritization from leaders within the administration.

There are plenty of instances in U.S.-India relations of good ideas requiring patience and persistence before progress. The defense foundation agreements are a recent notable example. These agreements on logistics, communications, and geospatial intelligence were originally raised over 10 years ago but saw no movement and were dropped from government bilateral meetings. However, a fresh commitment was made to seeing them through, and the two countries’ governments signed all three agreements in the last four years. A fourth agreement was later included, which opened the door for sharing sensitive defense industry information with India’s private sector.

Here are three important initiatives rooted in prior government-to-government engagement that are timely but require renewed focus by the Biden administration:

Jean Dreze: Last-mile hurdles in NREGA payments puncture India’s techno-utopian delusions

Jean Drèze

Transaction failures in Direct Benefit Transfer payments have been widely discussed in recent times, notably in the context of wage payments under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which guarantees memebers of rural families 100 days of work a year. However, little attention has been paid to the hurdles faced by NREGA workers in accessing their wages after DBT payments are credited to their accounts.

These are known as “last mile” hurdles. A new report by LibTech India, Length of the Last Mile, paints a grim and startling picture of these last-mile hurdles, based on a careful survey of 1,947 NREGA workers in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.

This timely wake-up call extends LibTech’s earlier work on delays and other flaws of DBT payments to NREGA workers, spanning a whole decade. In an insightful foreword to the report reproduced below, economist Jean Dreze places these new findings in the context of the elusive quest for timely and reliable payment of NREGA wages.

Gilgit-Baltistan as Pakistan’s New Province could be a Game-Changer in Indo-Pacific Geopolitics

Deepak Saini

Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), formerly known as the Northern Areas, is a sparsely-populated mountainous region in the north of Pakistan, landlocked between India, China and Afghanistan. Since a treaty signed in 1846 between the British and the ruler of the Dogra dynasty, Gulab Singh, GB had been a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. In the present context and from an international perspective, however, it is disputed territory and has been under Pakistani control since the partition of British India in 1947. The 1949 secret Karachi Agreement gave the Pakistani Government direct control over the region and, despite the region relying entirely on Islamabad for its economic needs, GB has been neglected by Pakistan’s constitution to date. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has declared that he wants to elevate Gilgit-Baltistan’s legal status to that a province, which move would make the region fully autonomous and represented in the country’s parliament.

India has denounced Pakistan’s decision, claiming that GB is ‘illegally and forcibly’ occupied by Islamabad and that the latter has no locus standi to alter its status. India’s Ministry of External Affairs reiterated that ‘the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the area of so-called “Gilgit-Baltistan”, are an integral part of India by virtue of the legal, complete and irrevocable accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947’. India maintains its claim to the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir that includes Pakistan-administered Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, Aksai Chin and Gilgit-Baltistan.

How One Social Media App Is Beating Disinformation

Elizabeth Lange, Doowan Lee

For many Americans who work in tech, Taiwan has become a model for the fight against disinformation. Like the United States, Taiwan is sharply divided on major issues, including national identity, China policy, and the legalization of same-sex marriage. Urban-rural divisions have further split Taiwanese society, and two major parties, whose relations have grown increasingly acrimonious, dominate Taiwanese politics. Yet unlike the United States, Taiwan is getting disinformation under control.

Partly, that success is due to government crackdowns on groups that spread disinformation, Taipei’s initiatives to improve media literacy, and President Tsai Ing-wen’s decision to prioritize the problem, exemplified by her appointment of Audrey Tang, a software engineer, as digital minister in 2016. But the crux of Taipei’s approach lies elsewhere: namely, in its ability to harness the power of its civil society and tech industry through a robust public-private partnership initiative.

RCEP not to have a strong impact

By Yen Huai-shing

After more than eight years of talks, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed on Nov. 15, combining the individual free-trade agreements signed between ASEAN member states on the one hand, and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand on the other.

Under the leadership of ASEAN and China, most observers did not expect the RCEP to provide a high degree of openness, and the announced agreement lives up to these expectations, containing few surprises.

All products covered by the RCEP tariff reductions are agricultural and industrial products, but reductions of agricultural product tariffs are very limited, for example covering only 49 percent of Japan’s agricultural and fishery products. In addition, many of the RCEP members are only to implement the reductions over the next 10 to 25 years.

Tariff reductions on machine tools and plastics industry products, which are of Taiwanese concern, would not be very high, and while this might still have an impact, it would not be a chock.

China goes from strength to strength in global trade

Tianlei Huang, Nicholas R. Lardy 

China's economy has recovered sharply since the second quarter of 2020, while the rest of the world is still deep in the Great Lockdown Recession. China's economic output grew 0.7 percent in real terms January through September 2020, and it is projected to be the only major economy that will expand in 2020. Despite weak growth in the rest of the world, China's net exports still grew, contributing 15 percent of its growth in the first three quarters. Because global trade volume is forecast to fall 10 percent in 2020, China's share in global trade will almost surely rise substantially.


Merchandise exports, after declining in the first quarter, have rebounded since then. As figure 1 shows, China's exports in October rose 11.4 percent from a year earlier, higher than 9.9 percent in September and 9.5 percent in August. Cumulative year-to-date exports through October expanded 0.5 percent. Global trade also seems to have recovered, but more slowly than China's trade. The World Trade Organization lately forecast that global merchandise trade in 2020 would fall by 9.2 percent, while the International Monetary Fund is now projecting a 10.4 percent decline in world trade volume, including goods and services.

The Chinese Nightmare: Debt Risks Along the Silk Road

China has paid dearly for its geopolitical rise. The Corona crisis is the latest example of the risks involved with massive investment in the Silk Road. The megaproject, which is also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was launched in 2013 to underpin the rapid expansion of China’s economy by outbound investment beyond its own national borders. It encompasses infrastructure investments, development policies, investment and trade relations, and financial cooperation with the BRI partner countries. Moreover, it represents a crucial policy to foster China’s geopolitical rise, i.e., by internationalising China’s financial system and its currency, enabling a strong export-driven economy.

The recent pandemic has caused substantial economic downturn and led to an outflow of capital in many BRI countries. The outbreak adds a new hurdle to the trade and infrastructure programme by prompting delays and disruptions, e.g., through labour shortages caused by quarantine measures. This amplifies risks attached to financing investment projects in less politically and economically stable developing countries. However, not only are many countries caught in a Chinese debt-trap, but China itself needs a strategy for managing non-performing loans amid the crisis. Loan defaults on the Silk Road could jeopardise the Chinese mega-project.

China Launches Mission to Bring Back Material From Moon

By Sam McNeil

A Long March-5 rocket carrying the Chang’e 5 lunar mission lifts off at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Wenchang in southern China’s Hainan Province, early on November 24, 2020.Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

China launched an ambitious mission on Tuesday to bring back rocks and debris from the moon’s surface for the first time in more than 40 years — an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and of the solar system more generally.

Chang’e 5 — named for the Chinese moon goddess — is the country’s boldest lunar mission yet. If successful, it would be a major advance for China’s space program, and some experts say it could pave the way for bringing samples back from Mars or even a crewed lunar mission.

The four modules of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft blasted off at just after 4:30 a.m. Tuesday atop a massive Long March-5Y rocket from the Wenchang launch center along the coast of the southern island province of Hainan.

The China strategy America needs

The achievement of the Trump administration was to recognise the authoritarian threat from China. The task of the Biden administration will be to work out what to do about it.

Donald Trump’s instinct was for America to run this fight single-handed. Old allies were henchmen, not partners. As Joe Biden prepares his China strategy (see article), he should choose a different path. America needs to strike a grand bargain with like-minded countries to pool their efforts. The obstacles to such a new alliance are great, but the benefits would be greater.

To see why, consider how the cold war against China is different from the first one. The rivalry with the Soviet Union was focused on ideology and nuclear weapons. The new battlefield today is information technology: semiconductors, data, 5g mobile networks, internet standards, artificial intelligence (ai) and quantum computing. All those things will help determine whether America or China has not just the military edge (see article), but also the more dynamic economy. They could even give one of the rivals an advantage in scientific research.

To Compete, Invest in People: Retaining the U.S. Defense Enterprise’s Technical Workforce

Morgan Dwyer, Lindsey R. Sheppard, Angelina Hidalgo, Melissa Dalton

Investing in People
Geopolitical competition and the nature of modern warfare are increasingly shaped by technology. Recent modernization efforts across the defense enterprise—which created technical centers of excellence within the Department of Defense (DOD), built stronger relationships with Silicon Valley and other tech hubs, and included DOD’s largest investment in research and development in 70 years—embrace this technical future.1 However, to fully modernize and compete effectively, the U.S. defense enterprise also needs to invest in people.

For the purposes of this brief, the people in the defense enterprise include both civil servants and members of the armed forces who are employed by the U.S. military branches (i.e., the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard), defense agencies (e.g., the Missile Defense Agency and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and defense headquarters (e.g., the Office of the Secretary of Defense and combatant commands). Although the defense ecosystem—including companies, universities, and federally funded research and development labs—makes essential contributions to national defense, this brief focuses on people directly employed by the federal government.

America’s Strategic Play in the Pacific

By Michael Sobolik

While pundits and policymakers in Washington lock horns over a new strategic direction to counter China, the Department of Defense (DoD) is quietly working to blunt the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) advance into the Pacific Ocean. The plan is simple: work with allies and partners throughout the Pacific region to maintain America’s military presence and limit the PLA’s operational capacity therein.

The Pentagon’s strategy isn’t a grand plan to collapse the regime in Beijing. Rather, it’s a practical recognition of the PLA’s growing capabilities and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) appetite for global domination, as well as the actual barriers that stand in China’s way. Geography plays a key role here, for the Pacific Ocean is most unfavorable to China, hemming it in with successive land barriers, or island chains, as defense planners call them. Holding these island chains won’t save America from great power competition, but it would certainly constrain China’s advance. Conversely, bolstering these island chains undergirds America’s power projection into the Indo-Pacific, where, unlike China, it plays an “away game.”

Defense In Depth

By Kori Schake, Jim Mattis, Jim Ellis, and Joe Felter

The world is not getting safer, for the United States or for U.S. interests. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the 2017 National Defense Strategy described an international environment of increased global disorder, long-term strategic competition, rapid dispersion of technologies, and eroding U.S. military advantages. Protecting the United States requires a strategy of defense in depth—that is, of identifying and dealing with global problems where they occur rather than waiting for threats to reach American shores.

To achieve defense in depth, simply strengthening the U.S. military is not enough; nor the even more urgent task of strengthening U.S. diplomacy and other civilian elements of national power. Enhancing national security must start with the fundamental truth that the United States cannot protect itself or its interests without the help of others. International engagement allows the United States to see and act at a distance, as threats are gathering,

Will Biden Go Big or Go Backward on North Korea Diplomacy?

Van Jackson

When President-elect Joe Biden enters the Oval Office on Jan. 20, he is unlikely to have North Korea at the front of his mind, given the many other urgent crises he will confront. But the Korean Peninsula has a way of forcing American presidents to pay attention. Crucial decisions about how to approach negotiations with Pyongyang over its nuclear program, as well as how to manage the U.S. alliance with South Korea, are now overdue. If Biden chooses wisely, his administration could prove transformational for the Korean Peninsula. If he errs or defers meaningful decisions to his successor, he risks being responsible for tragedy.

The past four years have seen North Korea steadily improve its capabilities, to the point where it can now plausibly reach any location in the continental United States with nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has also diversified the delivery systems from which it can launch long-range missiles, making its arsenal more survivable against attack. And it has begun to use solid-fuel propellant in its projectiles, which improves its ability to conduct launches with little to no advance warning. As time passes without a deal to curb its nuclear and missile programs, North Korea’s arsenal grows ever more lethal, with no foreseeable endpoint.

Europe’s Faustian Bargain


NEW YORK – The second wave of COVID-19 infections has struck Europe harder than many expected. The hope of a V-shaped recovery has been replaced by the fear of a double-dip recession, implying that there will be no quick return to normal European Union budget rules. More worryingly, Europe now finds itself forced into a tradeoff between two objectives, both of which are critical to its long-term viability as a supranational political and economic bloc. Now more than ever, the EU’s commitment to the rule of law appears to be on the chopping block.

The news is not all bad. Owing to farsighted policy decisions by EU leaders, north-south relations within the Union are on a firmer footing than they have been for many years. One sign of this is that the spreads between German and Italian interest rates are at a record low, indicating that Italy’s position in the euro is now rock solid. “Spread anxiety” about the sustainability of the euro has abated across the entire southern tier of the eurozone.

Forget the political hurdles recently introduced by Central European member states with their threats to veto the EU’s budget and new COVID-19 recovery fund. Sustaining the long-awaited north-south political and economic convergence will be the EU’s top priority in the weeks and months ahead.

Turkey–Russia Partnership in the War over Nagorno-Karabakh

Daria Isachenko

By siding with Azerbaijan in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey is primarily pursuing the goal of undermining the current status quo of the region. Ankara aims above all to secure a place at the table where a solution to the conflict between Arme­nia and Azerbaijan will be negotiated in the future. The Syrian scenario should serve as an example. Turkey thus wants to negotiate with Russia in the South Caucasus, preferably without Western actors. Ankara’s plans are not uninteresting for Moscow. However, because of the complexity of Turkish-Armenian relations, there is a risk that Armenia and Turkey might become the eventual opponents in this conflict, rather than Armenia and Azerbaijan. The EU’s engagement should not be determined by its tense relationship with Turkey, but rather by the UN Security Council resolu­tions on Nagorno-Karabakh.

‘It’s time to pay.’ With these words, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan backed Azer­baijan’s demand to Armenia to vacate the Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenian troops as well as Nagorno-Kara­bakh, immediately after the start of the military escalation on September 27, 2020. Later, Erdoğan vehemently criticised the USA, France and Russia who as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group mediate in the con­flict. From the perspective of Azerbaijan and Turkey, this format is neither neutral nor efficient, as no solution has been found for nearly thirty years. Turkey is explicitly on Azerbaijan’s side and is prepared to give Baku full support ‘both on the field and at the negotiating table’. At the same time, it has repeatedly stressed its interest in resolv­ing this conflict together with Russia.

A Plan to End the War in Syria: Competing with Russia in the Levant

Aaron Stein

The United States has an interest in allowing the Russian Federation to “win” an outright victory in Syria, so long as it secures from Moscow an agreement that is favorable to the Syrian Kurds, builds in negative consequences for an external actor targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces, and establishes a “deconflict plus”-type mechanism to continue to target Islamic State- and Al Qaeda-linked individuals in Syria. A forward-looking policy that the incoming Biden administration could consider is to deprioritize the nascent threat of the Islamic State as a key factor in driving U.S. national security strategy, and instead focus more intently on long-term competition with great powers. This approach would seek to shape how Moscow spends finite defense dollars—at a time of expected global defense cuts stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic—in ways that are advantageous to the United States. It also would seek to limit the cost of the U.S. presence in Syria—to include secondary and opportunity costs not accounted for in a basic cost breakdown of the U.S. war against the Islamic State. This approach is not without risk, particularly from a nascent Islamic State insurgency in Russian-controlled territory, but seeks to match U.S. strategic priorities with action and to impose upon a long-term competitor the costs of victory for its intervention in Syria.

Chinese influence in the Baltic?

Jessica Larsen

Many Western observers consider Chinese President Xi’s projected multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to be an economic and foreign policy tool helping China reach global power status. Developing roads, ports, railways and telecom networks across the world, China is criticised for trying to take control of foreign states’ critical infrastructure, even in the EU. The Chinese logistics giant COSCO is the majority stakeholder in operations in Greece’s largest port, Piraeus, as well as in container terminals and dry ports in Spain. Increasingly, China is also approaching the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

This policy brief explains the Baltic states’ paradoxical experience, the implications for the Baltic states – and, by inference, for the EU.

China targets a Baltic sweet spot

Seeking to close a gaping Eurasian infrastructural gap since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the BRI ambitiously aims to carve out an economic corridor straight to the Baltic Sea. This means direct access to the EU’s common market and should also be seen as part of China’s interest in the Northern Sea Route as a self-proclaimed ‘near-Arctic’ state.

Army University Press

Journal of Military Learning, October 2020, v. 4, no. 2

Student-Veteran Perceptions of Combat Experience Integration in the Classroom

The Group Psychology of Red Teaming

Adapting the Art of Design: A PME Game Design Framework

Building Mutual Trust in the Classroom: Lessons for the Command and General Staff College

Paycheck to Paycheck: A Path to Financial Readiness

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Virtual Learning

Teaching Noncommissioned Officer Professional Military Education in the COVID-19 Environment

Could RCEP Help Improve South Korea-Japan Relations?

By Kyle Ferrier

The successful conclusion of the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a major development for all of its members, and for South Korea and Japan in particular. The deal will give the two countries their first ever free trade agreement (FTA) at a time when bilateral ties are struggling due to historical issues, and may at least help prevent relations from deteriorating any further.

The recent spike in tensions stems from two 2018 South Korean Supreme Court rulings that deemed several Japanese steel companies guilty of using forced South Korean labor during World War II and ordered compensation for these workers. Citing “a considerable loss of trust,” Tokyo responded by removing South Korea from its “white list” of trade partners and placed new export restrictions on three components crucial to South Korea’s lucrative semiconductor industry. In turn, Seoul threatened to withdraw from an intelligence sharing agreement and the South Korean public boycotted Japanese goods, which had a limited impact on the overall trade numbers but hit some sectors particularly hard.

Russia Now has a Position in Libya. What Next?

The Russian state-affiliated private military company known as the Wagner Group has proven adept at leveraging instability or weak institutions to further Russian influence abroad. Throughout 2020, the Russian Federation and Wagner have worked to support and enable Khalifa Khaftar, a warlord fighting against the Government of National Accord (GNA), the United Nations-recognized government in Libya, to consolidate territory. Mimicking its actions in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan, Wagner has established bases and deployed troops that help Khaftar further Russian interests in North Africa. In times of diminished U.S. leadership, Khaftar’s position in Libya will allow Wagner and the Russian state to take advantage of the instability plaguing the region, specifically the Sahel, and potentially result in a Russian naval base on the Mediterranean.
The Libyan Civil War

Civil war has wracked Libya since 2014, after a 2011 intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. The conflict soon attracted the attention of regional powers, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) backing Khaftar in the oil-rich east with weapons and money, seeing him as a strident anti-Islamist. Turkey, meanwhile, emerged as a vociferous supporter of the GNA in Tripoli, ostensibly wanting to support a Muslim Brotherhood-friendly government, but motivated by underlying Mediterranean energy politics.


Elise Swain

PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN has maintained silence for years on the controversial and continued use of so-called targeted killings — lethal strikes by drones, cruise missiles, and occasionally military special operations raids. Biden has never publicly disavowed or criticized former President Barack Obama’s legacy of expanding the use of drones, nor made clear his own policy on the continuation of targeted killing conducted by the Department of Defense and, clandestinely, the CIA.

His campaign and transition websites similarly make no mention of policy addressing drone strikes, a defining feature of Obama-era foreign policy. And no questions were asked during presidential primary and general election debates about assassination policies.

While on the campaign trail, Biden pledged to end “endless wars” without detailing how his administration would differ from those of President Donald Trump and Obama, even as lethal strikes, including against American citizens, have remained an often-noted blemish on Obama’s legacy.

The Army just got its hands on a robot .50 cal to play with


The age of weaponized robots storming the battlefield alongside humans soldiers is officially upon us.

The Army accepted delivery of its very first Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light (RCV-L) from QinetiQ Inc. and Pratt Miller Defense in early November, the companies announced in a statement last week, the first of the four systems the service plans on testing in the coming months

A purpose-built unmanned ground combat vehicle based on Pratt Miller’s Expeditionary Autonomous Modular Vehicle (EMAV) platform, the RCV-L is, essentially, a robotic weapons turret on treads. 

Indeed, photos released of the new RCV-L show the vehicle base outfitted with what appears to be a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a legacy M153 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS-J) turret developed by Kongsberg.

The Coming 5G Evolution in Network Centric Warfare: The Sensor Saturation Theory

ARLINGTON, VA (November 17, 2020) — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce a new entry in its Mitchell Forum short paper series, "The Coming 5G Evolution in Network Centric Warfare: The Sensor Saturation Theory” by Lt Col Anthony Tingle, United States Army retired. Lt Col Tingle was formerly the Concepts Evaluation Branch Chief at U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. He holds a PhD in public policy from George Mason University, an M.Eng and an MBA from the University of Colorado, and a BS in systems engineering from West Point. He writes on research, development, and the application of technology within the Department of Defense.

5G technology will transform intelligence collection and provide a new perspective on battlespace data. This paper explains how the thousands of miniature interconnected sensors in the architecture could provide new fidelity on the battlespace. Sensor saturation could provide a counterintuitive solution to the problem of wasted intelligence data collection. Through saturation, the network is strengthened. Although each individual sensor is devalued, the metadata becomes more valuable than the actual data. With these emerging technologies, analysts can approach data holistically, reducing their reliance on slower traditional intelligence gathering. The Forum presents innovative concepts and thought-provoking insight from aerospace experts here in the United States and across the globe. To afford publishing opportunities for thoughtful perspectives, the Forum provides high visibility to writing efforts spanning issues from technology and operational concepts to defense policy and strategy.

Report: Nuclear Responsibilities – A New Approach for Thinking and Talking about Nuclear Weapons


Nuclear Responsibilities: A New Approach for Thinking and Talking about Nuclear Weapons responds to the heightening nuclear risks in the world today and the deep polarisation in global politics over how to reduce them. Strategic competition among the nuclear possessors is growing, while traditional risk reduction mechanisms like arms control have uncertain futures. Between nuclear possessors and non-possessor states, the polarisation is exemplified in the heated debate between those who support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) – which in October 2020 secured the 50 state ratifications necessary to come into force – and those who declare that nuclear weapons remain essential tools for deterrence.

This report, by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS) at the University of Birmingham, makes the case for a new way of thinking and talking about nuclear weapons: the nuclear responsibilities approach. We argue that the dominant global conversation about nuclear weapons is characterised by a chronic culture of blame. This feeds dynamics of mistrust and distrust between states, holding back serious progress on nuclear risk reduction including, crucially, disarmament.

Adapting to the Hypersonic Era

Ian Williams

Since the late-1940s, the United States has used forward-based forces to deter military aggression against its allies and interests. These forces complicate an adversary’s ability to achieve a quick, fait accompli win, raising the threshold for states to engage in conflict. However, the emergence of aerial hypersonic weapons—specifically, these systems’ combination of speed, maneuverability, and atmospheric flight—challenges traditional U.S. approaches to regional deterrence and stability. Conventional hypersonic strike weapons undermine deterrence by complicating early-warning and increasing the vulnerability of forward-based forces to surprise attack below the nuclear threshold.

Nevertheless, history shows that adaptation to strategically disruptive technologies is possible. Just as the world mitigated the most destabilizing aspects of systems like the strategic bomber and the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the United States can blunt some of the risks posed by aerial hypersonic weapons. Some approaches include improving the ability to detect and track these weapons and improving active and passive defenses of forward-deployed forces. Popular media often vaunts aerial hypersonic weapons as unstoppable, but they do have weaknesses that a defender might exploit. Arms control may also be part of the solution. However, the United States will likely need to gain some advantage in offensive hypersonic weaponry to bring either Russia or China into negotiations.

What If China Launched a Surprise Attack on the U.S. Military?

by David Axe

Key point: A real surprise attack, one worse that Pearl Harbor, could set the stage for a Chinese victory. Might that be how Beijing seizes Taiwan?

The U.S. military must find ways of defeating any attempt by China to launch surprise strikes using non-nuclear weapons, analyst Sam Goldsmith argued in a new article for Naval War College Review.

“China likely would aim to confine itself to the use of conventional weapons during any potential high-intensity conflict with the United States—particularly given that China already possesses a lethal array of long-range, conventional, theater-strike options,” Goldsmith wrote in “U.S. Conventional Access Strategy: Denying China a Conventional First-Strike Capability.”

“Such a strategic, conventional, first-strike option is one that the United States should seek to deny China by developing an effective conventional access strategy.”

Will America Decline and Become “Beatable” by China in 2049?

by David Axe

Key point: China is modernizing and becoming more powerful relative to American forces in the areas closest to China. If the current trends persist, America may find itself out-matched in a far-flung fight in the Pacific.

Chinese leaders have laid out a plan for deploying the world’s best-armed forces no later than 2049. If the United States is to prevent China from becoming the world’s leading military power, it needs a plan of its own.

This first appeared earlier and is being republished due to reader interest.

That’s the sobering warning in a report for the Center for a New American Security by former deputy defense secretary Robert Work and co-author Greg Grant.

Chinese leaders’ resolve hardened in 1991 as they watched the U.S.-led coalition pummel Iraqi forces with seemingly ceaseless barrages of precision-guided munitions.

Nuclear Command and Civilian Control: Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Nuclear Weapons

Alice Hunt Friend, Reja Younis

Nuclear weapons sit at the pinnacle of military power and civilian control. The most devastating weapons in the U.S. military arsenal—designed to deter existential threats in the most extreme circumstances—can be ordered into use by one person only: the President of the United States. Some might say this constitutes maximum civilian control over maximum military lethality. Why then is command and control of nuclear weapons subject to so much controversy? Why is there a growing sense of anxiety about the roles and authorities over nuclear weapons in the case where civilian control is most absolute? 

In the conventional realm, civil-military relations in the United States have been shaped by two interactive paradoxes: a paradox of vulnerability and a paradox of control. The former expresses the trade-offs between the country’s security from external and internal aggression. Simply put, larger, more capable militaries are better able to defend against external threats but pose greater risks to abuse of power.